Baltimore Ravens 2018 NFL Draft profile

The 2018 NFL Draft is under a month away, which means that Draftmas is back. Draftmas will take a look at each NFL team heading into this year’s draft, what their needs are and who they could be targeting. Draftmas continues today with the Baltimore Ravens 2018 NFL Draft profile.

Summary

Baltimore started the season off well, going 3-2 over the first five games. The rest of the season was not good, but not bad either as they went 6-5 the rest of the way. They finished above .500 season for the first time since 2014, going 9-7.

Ultimately, they again fell short of the playoffs for a third straight year on the final week of it all, but there was a lot of improvement from last season. The offense improved greatly, ranking ninth overall in points. The passing game was below average, but the rushing really picked up. The Ravens finished 11th overall in rushing yards, giving fans hope for the future of a more balanced attack.

Baltimore Ravens 2018 NFL Draft profile

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh (Photo by Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

Joe Flacco had an average season, not really improving nor getting worse, but Alex Collins really showed he was something special. In his second year, Collins really impressed by finishing 11th in total rushing with a impressive 973 yards.

This offseason has been quite interesting with Baltimore as they added some wide receivers in John Brown and Micheal Crabtree. This addresses a major need for Baltimore as Flacco needed more targets to hit. With these two, the passing game will certainly improve after finishing 29th last year. With these additions, Baltimore might just end its postseason drought.

On the defensive side, Baltimore has to do nothing. The defense limited opponents to just 18.9 points and 325.1 yards per game. It was one of the many bright spots last season and is primed to improve this season.

Picks and needs

The Ravens have eight picks in this draft. While some of their needs were addressed in free agency, they can make some magic with what they have in the draft.

First round (1 pick): 16

Second round (1): 52

Third round (1): 83

Fourth round (1): 118

Fifth round (1): 154

Sixth round (2): 190, 215

Seventh round (1): 238

Offensive needs:

Wide receivers – Adding Brown and Crabtree will improve this position greatly. But Baltimore could still use a couple more targets just in case these guys get hurt.

Offensive tackle – There is an abundance of tackles for Baltimore. Picking up a young one cannot do any harm, especially if he is big and has speed. With Austin Howard no longer on the team, it would be wise to pick a young guy to replace him in the future.

Running back – While Collins is young and is most certainly the future of this position for Baltimore, it would not hurt to pick up a young guy in the early rounds just in case this season was a fluke or he suffers a massive injury.

Defensive needs:

Outside linebacker – The defense is looking bright. However, picking up some young linebackers could help keep the group deep and fresh.

Targets

The picks here are who the Ravens can realistically pick to address some of their needs.

First round:

Pick No. 16: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama 

Baltimore Ravens 2018 NFL Draft profile

Wide receiver Calvin Ridley catches a pass. (Photo by Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports)

The Ravens can pick arguably the best wide receiver in the draft at No. 16. This draft class is deep with wide receivers, but their primary target should be this Alabama standout, who can certainly make the team’s passing game more deadly. Ridley has some game-changing talent and blazing speed that will make him a great addition to Baltimore’s passing game.

Second round:

Pick No. 52: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

Orlando Brown is a great offensive tackle and very big compared to his father who shares the same name. Brown can bring some great talent to Baltimore’s offensive line, making it a lot easier for the passing and running game to improve.

Third round:

Pick No. 83: Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia

Nick Chubb is a great running back prospect. He is projected to go in the middle rounds, and if available, Baltimore should pick him up. He may lack third-down value, but that can easily be fixed under Harbaugh and company. This pick will insure the depth at running back stays young and fresh for years to come.

 

Conclusion

There are many more picks Baltimore can make in the later rounds to ensure the offensive needs, and maybe a few trades as well. But these are the main three they need to target in each round as they will address some needs and ensure a much better passing game. This will also make the path back to the playoffs a lot easier.

Make sure to tune in tomorrow for the Los Angeles Chargers 2018 NFL Draft profile.

 

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San Francisco 49ers 2018 NFL Draft profile

The 2018 NFL Draft is now under a month away, which means that Draftmas is back. Draftmas will take a look at each NFL team heading into the NFL Draft, what their needs are and who they could be targeting. You will find it here. Draftmas will continue with the San Francisco 49ers 2018 NFL Draft profile. 

Summary

San Francisco 49ers 2018 NFL Draft profile

49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. (Photo from usatoday.com)

For the San Francisco 49ers, the beginning of the 2017 season was a complete disaster. The 49ers lost their first nine games and entered December with a 1-10 record. They then got hot, winning their last five games in a row. This hot streak was sparked by the addition of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who came in a trade with the New England Patriots.

Offensively, the 49ers exceeded all expectations, thanks to new head coach Kyle Shanahan. The 49ers ranked ninth in passing yards per game and 12th in total offense. Their rushing attack was not as impressive, ranking 21st in the league. The struggles in the running game were mainly due to average offensive line play and constantly playing from behind last season.

The Garoppolo trade was the highlight of the year in San Francisco, and it appears that the 49ers now have their quarterback of the future. Garoppolo signed a five-year, $137 million contract extension with the team in February. The 49ers will look to add talent around their new quarterback during the offseason. They recently signed running back Jerick McKinnon and center Weston Richburg in free agency.

On defense, the 49ers ranked near the bottom of the league in nearly every category. Despite having some talented players (DeForest Buckner and Reuben Foster), the Niners struggled to stop anyone in 2017. The team signed former Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman to a three-year deal, but there is still much more work to be done.

Aside from defensive tackle and cornerback, the 49ers could use help at any position on the defensive side of the ball.

Picks and Needs

The San Francisco 49ers have nine picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. This will give them plenty of opportunities to continue rebuilding their team with young talent.

First round (1 pick): 9

Second round (1): 59

Third round (1): 70, 74

Fourth round (1): 128

Fifth round (1): 143

Sixth round (1): 184

Seventh round (1): 223, 240

San Francisco 49ers 2018 NFL Draft profile

Former Minnesota Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon. McKinnon signed a four-year deal with the 49ers this offseason. (Photo by Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

Offensive needs:

Running back – This may be an odd choice since the 49ers recently signed Jerick McKinnon to a four-year, $30 million deal. However, McKinnon and Matt Breida are both pass-catching backs. Adding a power back later in the draft for early downs will form a more complete running back room.

Wide receiver – Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin are talented pass catchers, but neither are true No. 1 receivers. Finding Garoppolo a legitimate weapon in the passing game would make this offense one of the league’s best.

Guard – The 49ers signed free agents Weston Richburg and Jonathan Cooper in free agency to help their offensive line. However, if you are going to pay your quarterback over $27 million per year, you need to do everything possible to protect him.

Defensive needs:

Linebacker – When he is on the field, Reuben Foster is a force in the middle of the 49ers defense. However, outside linebackers Malcolm Smith and Eli Harold are just average starters. Adding more talent around Foster will help unlock his full potential and fix the run defense.

Safety – The absence of Eric Reid leaves a hole in the back of the defense. The 49ers’ pass defense was below average in 2017, and a rangy free safety will help limit any big passing plays. With a new safety and an improved cornerback group, the 49ers’ secondary could greatly improve.

Targets

First round:

Pick No. 9: Derwin James, S, Florida State

As a former safety himself, general manager John Lynch knows the importance of an enforcer in the backfield. Derwin James is best suited as a strong safety but can play free safety as well. He is extremely versatile and can excel in almost any defensive scheme. In his time at Florida State, he displayed excellent ball skills and tackling ability. If the 49ers can pair James with their improved cornerback corps, their secondary could quietly be one of the league’s best.

Second round:

Pick No. 59: Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP

Hernandez may not make it past the first round, but this year’s draft is very deep for interior offensive linemen. This may allow Hernandez to slip to the 49ers at pick No. 59. Hernandez is somewhat undersized but has all of the traits of a starting guard in the NFL. He displayed excellent strength and run-blocking ability and performs adequately in pass protection. If Hernandez manages to fall to pick No. 59, the 49ers should jump at the chance to draft him.

Third round:

San Francisco 49ers 2018 NFL Draft profile

Georgia running back Nick Chubb. Chubb is expected to be picked between the second and fourth round. (Photo from cbssports.com)

Pick No. 70: Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia

Nick Chubb is the type of running back that could be the thunder to Jerick McKinnon’s lightning. He does not display excellent speed or catching ability but could be a solid early-down back. Chubb runs with a low center of gravity and is very strong in between the tackles. If he falls this far in the draft, the 49ers can form an impressive three-headed running back committee.

Pick No. 74: Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis

Wide receiver is not a deep position in this year’s draft, so it may be wise to wait until the later rounds to add another pass catcher. Miller is not the big-bodied threat the 49ers need but can be a strong supporting member in the passing game. He shows outstanding potential with good route running and work ethic. Miller still needs to improve his reliability and avoid costly drops. If so, he could get playing time early as the 49ers’ third receiver.

Conclusion

The San Francisco 49ers’ main goal during the draft should be to surround Jimmy Garoppolo with as much talent as possible. With a limited amount of talented tight ends and wide receivers, the 49ers may focus on improving the running game, which was one of the league’s worst in 2017. After having a solid draft, the 49ers may have a chance at making the playoffs as a Wild Card in 2018.

Enjoy the days of Draftmas here at The Game Haus! Make sure to tune in tomorrow for the Oakland Raiders 2018 NFL Draft profile.

 

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Kenneth!

Indianapolis Colts 2018 NFL Draft profile

The 2018 NFL Draft is now under a month away, which means that Draftmas is back. Draftmas will take a look at each NFL team heading into the NFL Draft, what their needs are and who they could be targeting. You will find it here. Draftmas will continue with the Indianapolis Colts 2018 NFL Draft profile.

Summary

The Colts have had a rough couple years and last year showed just how many flaws this team has. Andrew Luck didn’t play all year and his status for next year is uncertain. They went 4-12 in 2017 which was good enough for third in the AFC South. Jacoby Brissett came over in a trade right before the season and was a pleasant surprise. With the trade to the Jets, which was a steal, they have shown that they are fine with starting Brissett until Luck returns.

The Colts showed that Anthony Castonzo, TY Hilton, Luck (if he ever plays again, sorry Colts fans), Jack Doyle, Malik Hooker, Mathias Farley and Jabaal Sheard are worth building around. Other than that every position could use an upgrade or two. They have been pretty quiet this offseason, even though they need major upgrades, only resigning some backup players and signing Eric Ebron to go alongside Jack Doyle.

One major area of struggle for the Colts was the offensive line. As mentioned before Castonzo was a pretty solid tackle last year, outside of that this unit was not good. They will hope that Ryan Kelly, a former first-round pick, can stay healthy and prove he was worth the selection. They gave up 56 sacks as a unit in 2017, which would kill drives constantly.

This team did not do a whole lot right last year overall, as their offense looked anemic at times and their defense got beat at just about every level. They are in full rebuild right now as they let a lot of older players walk. This draft is going to be very important for them.

Picks and Needs

After what can only be called a steal of a trade for the third overall pick to the Jets the Colts have positioned themselves well in this draft and even got a bit for next years. They go in with nine picks:

First round (1 pick): 6

Second round (3): 36, 37, 49

Third round (1): 67

Fourth round (1): 104

Fifth round (1): 140

Sixth round (1): 178

Seventh round (1): 221

Offensive Needs:

Wide Receiver – The Colts still have T.Y. Hilton and not much else. Luck and Brissett need someone else to get the ball to in order for T.Y. to stop being double covered constantly.

Offensive Line – They should take the best offensive lineman they can get. Remember, 56 sacks led the league last season.

Image result for marlon mack

Courtesy of: SB Nation

Running Back – Frank Gore is gone and Marlon Mack has shown flashes, but a lot of teams have two good running backs these days and the Colts have maybe one.

Defensive Needs:

EDGE – Last season they only had 25 sacks which was second last in the league. With a switch to a 4-3 defense they will need someone disruptive up front.

Linebacker – There was not a whole lot going on with this group either. John Simon and Jon Bostic weren’t bad but also weren’t anything to write home about. Jabaal Sheard was mostly an edge rusher so he could go either way.

Cornerback – Vontae Davis is sadly gone. So too is Rashaan Melvin. Quincy Wilson is getting better but will definitely need some help on the other side.

Targets

First Round:

Pick No. 6: Bradley Chubb, DE/OLB, N.C. State

Courtesy of: si.com

As stated before the Colts need to put more pressure on the quarterback and there is probably no one better at this than Chubb. Even with a trade down it is likely the Colts will get exactly who they have been looking for. He is fast and has great size at 6’4″ 276 pounds. He is a freak athlete and will give many opposing tackles a tough time as he is able to get around them or go inside.

His speed is going to be key in a division where all of the starting quarterbacks, Mariota, Watson and Bortles are not afraid to use their legs. Keeping them contained, even on his side of the ball, will allow for players like Jabaal Sheard to come up and make big plays.

Second Round:

Pick No. 36: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

It is odd to see a player of his caliber still here, but many experts have him falling and some even have him as the fourth or fifth best tackle in the draft. That being said, McGlinchey boasts great technique and is able to handle either right or left tackle after getting plenty of experience from starting the last three years.

Castonzo playing opposite of McGlinchey would give the Colts two nice bookends for their offensive line. This would limit sacks which is especially important, as the Colts can only be competitive if Andrew luck is able to stay on the field. It is likely that this pick would be a great start to the overhaul this offensive line needs.

Pick No. 37: Braden Smith, OG, Auburn

Courtesy of: AL.com

Guess what? The Colt get to pick again and here is another chance to upgrade the offensive line, specifically at guard. While some may have him going later there is a significant dropoff in guard talent after him. Losing out on a chance to improve an area of significant need would be a crime.

Smith is very strong as he did 35 reps at the combine, 11 more than McGlinchey. He will be a formidable presence in the middle for this offensive line. Scouts and others worry about his quick twitch movements and balance as he allows for defenders to get in on him. It may not be a sexy pick, but Colts fans will be happy when they see Luck upright and healthy throughout the season.

Pick No. 49: Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia

It seems possible that Chubb will go before this, but if not he should fit right in. Before his injury Chubb was seen as a star in the making. This is still possible, but he is not nearly as explosive as he was before. He will have to rely on the fact that teams will be looking for the Colts to pass first. This will allow him the chance to be a quiet 1,000 yard rusher.

Chubb also fits in well with the way the NFL is moving with two running back systems. Mack can handle passing situations and some running downs to keep Chubb from overworking. Also, now the Colts have the Chubb cousins.

Third Round:

Pick No. 67: D.J. Chark, WR, LSU

There are some nice wideouts that could compliment T.Y. Hilton in the seconnd, third and possibly even fourth rounds this year and Chark is one of them. Hilton is much smaller at 5’9 and he gets double teamed, but is still able to put up big numbers. Chark would give the Colts a bigger option down the field at 6’3 and in the endzone while taking a defender off of Hilton.

Conclusion

The Indianapolis Colts need a ton of work. They are absent of talent at some pretty important positions. With Luck coming back and five picks in the first three rounds this team has the chance to start heading in the right direction.

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Robert!

2018 College Football Playoff National Championship preview

The SEC is going to win the National Championship, it’s just a matter of which team. Both Georgia and Alabama were able to win their semi-final matchups and now will go to Atlanta for the big game. Nick Saban will go up against his former defensive coordinator for a shot at his fifth national championship. Here is the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship preview:

4 Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1)

2018 College Football Playoff National Championship preview

Jalen Hurts (Photo by seccountry.com)

Alabama didn’t struggle at all with Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. Saban had his team ready to play with the defense not even allowing a touchdown. A lot of critics said that Alabama didn’t deserve to be in the College Football Playoff, but they used that as fuel to beat Clemson. Now they find themselves in the same position most great Alabama teams find themselves in: a chance to win a National Championship.

The offense wasn’t explosive, but got the job done against Clemson. Jalen Hurts completed 66.7% of his passes for 120 yards and two scores. He did what he has been doing all year, protecting the football and moving the chains. Hurts still has just one interception on the season. Protecting the ball will be at a premium once again when he goes up a very good Georgia defense.

Top receiver Calvin Ridley wasn’t the most productive he’s ever been, but had four receptions for 39 yards and a touchdown. Surprisingly defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne scored the other receiving touchdown when he was in as a fullback on the goal line. They have talent at the wide receiver position, especially with Ridley, but the key is making the most of their chances since Alabama isn’t the greatest passing offense.

Only three rushers got the ball in the semi-final against Clemson. Damien Harris led the way, like he has all year, with 77 rushing yards. Hurts added 40, while Bo Scarbrough could only muster 24 yards on 12 carries. They played an elite defensive front in Clemson, so this wasn’t a great surprise. Georgia’s defense is good, but the defensive line isn’t nearly as good as Clemson’s, so Alabama should have more success running the ball.

The defense stepped up to the challenge against Clemson and held the Tigers to under 200 total yards. They allowed wide receiver Deon Cain to do well, but for the most part didn’t let receivers get separation and completely shut down the running game. Rashaan Evans stepped up at linebacker with nine tackles, which was needed due to a lot of injuries at the linebacker position for Alabama. There are a lot of good players on this defense, who will have to step up against the Bulldog’s great running backs.

3 Georgia Bulldogs (13-1)

2018 College Football Playoff National Championship preview

Nick Chubb (Photo by fanragsports.com)

Georgia looked like they were going to lose to Oklahoma right before the half, when they were down by 17 points. They were fortunate to get a field goal before the break and then the defense started to play up to their potential in the second half. The game went into two overtime periods. In the second, Bulldog linebacker Lorenzo Carter blocked a field goal attempt and then Sony Michel ran in a touchdown to seal the victory for the Bulldogs.

Jake Fromm also did a great job of protecting the football with 210 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. If he can protect the football and help move it a little bit, the offense usually does well with the great running backs they have. He completed 20 of 29 passes in the game and didn’t waste too many opportunities.

The top receiver for the Bulldogs against Oklahoma was Javon Wims, who had six receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown. Sony Michel showed again that he can do more than run the ball with four catches for 41 yards and a touchdown. Like Alabama, the passing game isn’t the strong point of the team. The Bulldogs’ strongest position on offense is running back.

Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are the most dynamic duo of running backs in the history of college football. It is a great one-two punch, but Georgia also has freshman D’Andre Swift in the mix as well. Chubb and Michel had great games in the semi-final with 367 total yards and six touchdowns between the two. While Chubb is the more physical runner, Michel is multi-talented and has great quickness. They compliment each other really well and will need to have good games against Alabama.

The defense started off slow against Mayfield, but in the second half looked completely different. Oklahoma was only able to score 14 second half points, with seven of them coming from a defensive touchdown. While they allowed 48 points, no one is going to completely stop Oklahoma’s offense, but they hope to slow it down like Georgia did.

Roquan Smith had a rough first half, but when he stepped it up in the second half, the whole defense played better. He led the team with 11 total tackles. Smith did a good job spying on Mayfield, which will also come in hand against Alabama and Hurts. The other linebackers of Georgia are special too and will have to aid the defensive front in stopping the run.

Prediction

Beating Alabama at their own game is very tough and that is what Georgia will have to do. LSU has tried the blue print of having a pro-style offense, running the ball and playing tough defense for a while and have been largely unsuccessful against the Crimson Tide. Alabama definitely has the edge due to their history of beating teams who play similar styles.

Stopping the run is going to be something both teams focus on, which means it will likely come down to which quarterback and receivers can make the most plays. Hurts is the more experienced, has less turnovers and can run the ball well if he is pressured. He also has Calvin Ridley, one of the best receivers in college football, to throw to. The Crimson Tide have the advantage here too.

On defense, Georgia has the better linebackers. They have so many good ones they can’t even get all of them on the field all the time, while Alabama is struggling to stay healthy at the position. On the rest of the defense, Alabama is better than Georgia.

Expect a low-scoring game that centers around that style of running the ball and stopping the run. Alabama will let Hurts run, while feeding Scarbrough and Harris. If it doesn’t work, Hurts will protect the football and get it in Ridley’s hands. The Crimson Tide defense will at least be able to slow down the Georgia running backs, helping them secure the win.

 

 

NFL Draft prospects in the 2018 Rose Bowl

The Rose Bowl is a College Football Playoff game, which means the best of the best are playing. Many of these players will go onto the next level eventually and have their impact felt. Here are the top NFL Draft prospects in the 2018 Rose Bowl:

Georgia Bulldogs

Roquan Smith, LB

Smith is the most complete linebacker in the 2018 NFL Draft class and is the leader of the Georgia defense. The past two years he has produced a lot, but this year he took his game to a whole new level. He has 113 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.

He is 6’1″ and 225 pounds which is good enough size to play inside linebacker. He could play in any system that is thrown out there in the NFL. Smith will be the first inside linebacker to be selected in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Projected draft range: 1st round-2nd round

Trenton Thompson, DT

NFL Draft prospects in the 2018 Rose Bowl

Trenton Thompson (redandblack.com)

Thompson doesn’t have many stats, but the good play of a defensive tackle doesn’t always show up in the stat line. He has 33 total tackles and three tackles for loss. The lack of production is a little concerning, but he does a good job with gap integrity and stopping the run.

At 6’4″ and 295 pounds, Thompson is a perfect fit as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme. Defensive tackles don’t usually go high in the draft, but should be selected on day two.

Projected draft range: 2nd round-3rd round

Nick Chubb, RB

Chubb is one of the best running backs in SEC history. He has battled injuries, split carries and played against tough competition and has still produced. In his career he has 4,599 rushing yards and 42 touchdowns for the Bulldogs. He isn’t the best running back in the class, but has some of the best production.

He is 5’10” and 225 pounds which is good enough for the NFL. Day two of the NFL Draft is likely when Chubb will hear his name called.

Projected draft range: 2nd round-4th round

Other Georgia prospects: RB Sony Michel (3rd round-5th round), TE Jeb Blazevich (7th round-undrafted free agent), OL Isaiah Wynn (2nd round-4th round), LB Lorenzo Carter (2nd round-4th round), LB Davin Bellamy (4th round-6th round), LB Reggie Carter (7th round-undrafted free agent), CB DeAndre Baker (4th round-6th round), S Dominick Sanders (4th round-6th round)

Oklahoma Sooners 

Baker Mayfield, QB

NFL Draft prospects in the 2018 Rose Bowl

Baker Mayfield (Photo by newsok.com)

Mayfield is the best player in college football as the Heisman Trophy winner. That doesn’t always translate into a good pro prospect, but he has done about everything to prove that he can make it in the NFL. In his career, he has 14,320 passing yards, 129 touchdowns and 29 interceptions.

Size is a big issue with Mayfield, as he is 6’1″ and 225 pounds. This doesn’t mean he can’t be successful, but NFL executives want prospects to meet their measurables.

Projected draft range: 1st round-2nd round

Orlando Brown, OT

Brown has a lot of experience blocking for a very explosive offense. It has afforded him the opportunity to get a lot of reps run blocking or pass blocking. He has NFL bloodlines, as his dad played in the NFL. Brown hasn’t shown the greatest mobility, but is still a good prospect.

At 6’8″ and 345 pounds, not many tackles are bigger than Brown. NFL teams will try to take Brown because of his size and try to mold him into a player for their system.

Projected draft range: 1st round-2nd round

Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, DE/OLB

Okoronkwo is a good pass rushing prospect and one of the few players from Oklahoma’s defense that can make it to the next level. In his Oklahoma career, he has 157 total tackles, 33 tackles for loss and 20 sacks. That is impressive given that he has only had two years of solid playing time.

He is a little undersized at 6’1″ and 241 pounds, but has production. He will need to show good speed rushing skills in order to move up draft boards.

Projected draft range: 2nd round-4th round

Other notable Oklahoma prospects: TE Mark Andrews (2nd round-4th round), CB Jordan Thomas (4th round-6th round), S Steven Parker (6th round-undrafted free agent)

2018 Rose Bowl preview

The first College Football Playoff game is the 2018 Rose Bowl between Georgia and Oklahoma. Conflicting styles will go at it with one high-powered offense going up against a good defense. Here is the 2018 Rose Bowl preview:

3 Georgia Bulldogs (12-1)

2018 Rose Bowl preview

Roquan Smith (Photo by profootballfocus.com)

Georgia is one of the few teams that had a chance to avenge a loss and did so by beating Auburn in the SEC Championship Game. They were tested and beat plenty of tough teams in Notre Dame, Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina, Kentucky and Auburn. Facing Oklahoma is a new challenge, but they have some really good players who can make an impact.

The offense scores 34.9 points per game and is fueled by a good running game. Nick Chubb is the leader of three running backs who gain a lot of yardage. Chubb has 1,175 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Sony Michel chips in with 948 yards and 13 touchdowns. Freshman D’Andre Swift is the best third-string running back in the country with 597 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

When Jacob Eason went down with an injury, a lot of Bulldog fans got nervous, but Jake Fromm has stepped up to lead this team to an SEC Championship. He doesn’t have the biggest stat line, but has made some nice throws. He has 2,173 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and five interceptions on 63% completion. Javon Wims and Terry Godwin are the two leading receivers for the Bulldogs. Wims has 631 receiving yards and six touchdowns, while Godwin has 540 receiving yards and six touchdowns.

Their defense has been great and will need to be at its best against Oklahoma. They allow just 13.2 points per game, which is fourth best in the country. Georgia is 11th against the run and second against the pass. The best player on their defense is linebacker Roquan Smith. The SEC Defensive Player of the Year has 113 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks this season.

2 Oklahoma Sooners (12-1)

2018 Rose Bowl preview

Baker Mayfield (Photo by wsj.com)

The Sooners have ridden the great play of quarterback Baker Mayfield to the College Football Playoff. Oklahoma only lost to Iowa State this season and has some pretty impressive wins. They beat Ohio State, Oklahoma State and TCU twice.

They have a potent offense that averages 44.9 points per game. While Mayfield gets a lot of the headlines, the running game is good too. Rodney Adams leads the team with 960 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. Trey Sermon and Abdul Adams also get a lot of carries and produce. Sermon has 710 rushing yards and five touchdowns, while Adams had 542 rushing yards and one score.

Mayfield has had a great season that has garnered him the Heisman Trophy. He has thrown for 4,340 passing yards, 41 touchdowns and five interceptions on 71% passing. This Georgia defense will put him to the test, but he hasn’t shown he can be totally stopped. His leading receivers are Marquise Brown and tight end Mark Andrews. Brown has 981 receiving yards and six touchdowns, while Andrews finished with 906 yards and eight touchdowns.

The defense is average, but only has to get a few stops a game with the good offense. They allow 25 points per game, with them ranking 41st against the run and 88th against the pass. Pass rusher Ogbonnia Okoronkwo has 70 total tackles, 17 tackles for loss, eight sacks and three forced fumbles this season.

Prediction

Baker Mayfield is a premier player who isn’t easily stopped. While he will be slowed down by Georgia’s great defense, the Sooners will come out on top. They can throw the ball and run it well, which will keep Georgia off balance. On defense Oklahoma will key on stopping the run and will make Jake Fromm try to keep up with Mayfield. Mayfield will come out on top.

Oklahoma Sooners 34 Georgia Bulldogs 30

 

 

 

 

Five things to watch in week two of college football

We finally have a full week of college football in the books and are ready for week two, which features some big games. Four top 25 matchups will really show everyone who is pretend and who is for real. It is one of many separation Saturdays this fall. Here are five things to watch from the big weekend:

1. Stanford’s rushing attack vs. USC’s defense

Five things to watch in week two of college football

Bryce Love (Photo by zimbio.com)

This game will say a lot about both teams, but will highlight their differences. Sam Darnold will get a lot of attention after not playing his best against Western Michigan in the opener. The thing that may decide this game though is the physicality of Stanford and their ability to run the football.

Bryce Love is averaging a whopping 13.8 yards per carry after his first game against Rice. He looks ready to carry the load for the Cardinal offense and be the next star of the backfield. Love will be running against an experienced offensive line that helped gain Christian McCaffrey fame.

So why does this particular matchup mean so much? USC could not stop Western Michigan on the ground in their season opener. The Broncos rushed for 263 yards against the Trojans and are a shell of the rushing attack Stanford has. The Trojans lost the majority of their defensive front from last season and will need to slow Love and Stanford down in order to win the game.

If USC can stop the run they will win, but if they can’t they will have to win a shootout.

2. Baker Mayfield vs. Ohio State’s secondary

Five things to watch for in week two of college football

Baker Mayfield (Photo by newsok.com)

Ohio State playing Oklahoma is drawing a lot of interest this week, because both teams are College Football Playoff contenders. Lincoln Reilly will also be tested in his first big game as head coach of the Sooners. His offense, which is led by Baker Mayfield will be going up against an Ohio State unit that struggled in their opener.

The Buckeyes lost three of four starters in the secondary to the NFL and it showed in their season opening win against Indiana. Ohio State allowed over 400 yards passing to the Hoosiers. Indiana is a good offensive team, but the Buckeyes need to improve if they have National Championship hopes.

Mayfield has two straight appearances as a Heisman Finalist, but has not won. He wants to avenge a loss to the Buckeyes from last year in Norman. He has over 10,000 career passing yards with a completion percentage of 95% in his first game this season. His efficiency is going to be key against Ohio State.

The secondary of Ohio State won’t be able to completely shut down Mayfield, or even play as well as last year, but need to get key stops in order to win.

3. Jake Fromm vs. Notre Dame’s defense

five things to watch for in week two of college football

Jake Fromm (Photo by saturdaydownsouth.com)

The Fighting Irish will host Georgia for the first time in history. In a game involving teams with so much history, anything can happen. Both teams looked good in week one, but Georgia’s starting quarterback Jacob Eason got injured and had to be replaced by Jake Fromm. Now Fromm is getting thrown into a very tough road game at Notre Dame Stadium.

Fromm went 10 of 15 for 143 yards and a touchdown after relieving Eason in the Bulldogs opening game. Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and the running game will have to take some pressure off Fromm, but he will need to make some key throws. Fromm is no slouch and is a former four star recruit by most websites and has the capability, he just needs to show composure.

Notre Dame’s defense was anemic last season. They allowed over 27 points per game and only return four starters. They looked much better against Temple in their first game, but Temple is a program that is likely rebuilding after the loss of head coach Matt Ruhle to Baylor.

With a bad defense and an inexperienced quarterback, something is going to give on Saturday night in South Bend.

4. Quarterback play in the battle of the Tigers

Five Things to watch in college football week two

Jarrett Stidham (Photo by reddit.com)

Both Clemson and Auburn had good defenses last season and should continue to have good ones this season. Where they need players to step up is at the quarterback position. This game will likely be decided by which quarterback plays better between the two teams.

Kelly Bryant got sporadic playing time throughout his first two years at Clemson, but now is the lead man. Against Kent State last week he threw for 236 yards and a touchdown, with one interception. He added 77 yards rushing on seven carries as well. His challenge will be tough, as Auburn had the seventh best scoring defense in the country last year.

Leading Auburn’s offense will be Jarrett Stidham, the Baylor transfer. Stidham played a little bit for Baylor two years ago, before deciding to transfer. He looked a little sloppy in his first game for Auburn, but has experience and production in his past. If he is efficient, Auburn has a chance to upset Clemson.

5. Boise State at 20 Washington State

Five things to watch in week two of college football

Luke Falk (Photo by usatoday.com)

One game that is not getting a lot of recognition features the Broncos and Cougars. Last season the two teams played and Boise State came out on top. This season, Washington State is looking for revenge and possibly to compete in the Pac-12 North.

Boise State may not be the same program that they were ten years ago, but they are still a very solid program. They won 10 games last year and have their quarterback Brett Rypien back for another season. The Broncos outlasted a good Troy team in week one and look like they will be solid again.

Mike Leach and the Cougars dodged their yearly loss to an FCS team in week one by beating Montana State. Luke Falk has already racked up 311 passing yards and thee touchdowns this season and doesn’t show signs of slowing down. His ability to chuck the ball all over the field will give Washington State a chance to be a very successful team.

This game should be a close one, especially since Boise State loves the role of the underdog.

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Ten best non-conference games for college football in 2017

The college football season is just about to start and most teams will start with non-conference games to start their seasons. There are some great non-conference games this season that not only feature matchups of teams with a lot of history, but also games that will impact the College Football Playoff. Here are the ten best non-conference games for the 2017 college football season:

10. 22 West Virginia vs. 21 Virginia Tech (Landover,MD), Sep. 3

Best Non-conference games

(Photo by manhattanhokies.com)

This is on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend to help kick off the college football season. There will be no NFL games to compete against, so this game will have a lot of viewers.

Both teams came out in the AP Top 25 poll that was recently released. This game may be a little overshadowed by some other big games in the opening weekend, but it will have a huge impact on the college football season.

West Virginia finished last season with a 10-3 record and get new life at the quarterback position in Will Grier. In the first year of the new Big 12 Championship Game, the Mountaineers could beat out Oklahoma or Oklahoma State for a spot. With a win in the non-conference against a good team like Virginia Tech, the Mountaineers can catapult their way to the College Football Playoff if a lot of things go their way.

Virginia Tech won the ACC Coastal Division last season and will likely do so again this season. They have a great back seven of the defense, which will be challenged by Grier. The offense will give us the first view of Josh Jackson who will be a good dual-threat quarterback for the Hokies.

9. Notre Dame at 14 Stanford, nov. 25

Best Non-conference games

One of many close games in the Stanford-ND rivalry happened two season ago. (Photo by youtube.com)

Notre Dame may have missed out on the AP Poll for the Preseason, but have a lot of intriguing games considering their history and talent. They still received 65 votes, which means if they win in week one they will be in the top 25. This rivalry game happens on the last weekend of the regular season, so Notre Dame will have to win some games to help earn this spot on the list.

It is a make it or break it year for Brian Kelly. If the season is going poorly this could be his last game at Notre Dame. If the Fighting Irish can play up to their potential and only have two or so losses heading into this game, a win in this game could get them into a New Year’s Six Bowl Game. For Stanford they could be in a position where they have won the Pac-12 North and this game comes before the Pac-12 Championship game, or they could be trying to make their resume look better because they lost the Pac-12 North.

This game features a good offensive line at Notre Dame against a very good Stanford defense, that ranked 18th in the country in scoring last season. If all goes as planned for both schools, some of the bigger names on the team could be fighting for draft position or for postseason awards. Mike McGlinchey can cement his status as a top tackle in the NFL Draft, while Bryce Love of Stanford can rack up more rushing yards.

8. 15 Georgia at Notre Dame, Sep. 9

Best non-conference games

Notre Dame Stadium will be packed for the Georgia game. (Photo by und.com)

SEC teams don’t often play Notre Dame, but two staffers met at a seminar and now we have two historic teams playing once this year and once in 2019 in Athens. If both teams win in week one, this will be a game between ranked opponents, making it even bigger.

Georgia is on a quest to win the SEC East and doing so is very possible. If they get to the SEC Championship with only a loss or two they could be in a “win and you are in” situation for the College Football Playoff. That is easier said than done, but a win at Notre Dame would be a nice feather in their caps. Jacob Eason, Nick Chubb and the Georgia offense will have a chance to light up a Notre Dame defense that struggled last season. The defense can help set the tone on what could be a great season.

The Fighting Irish will likely be in the AP poll in the second week and be tested with a very good Georgia team. Brandon Wimbush will be thrown into the fire against a Bulldog defense that returns 10 starters. The matchups to watch in this game are endless for a variety of different reasons: How many yards can the Georgia offense get? How will Wimbush fair against a good Georgia defense? How will the NFL talent on the Notre Dame offensive line do against the NFL talent in the Georgia front seven?

Even if this game becomes a blowout for one side or another, it will give fans a good idea of where each program is headed this season.

7. 4 USC at Notre Dame, oct. 21

best non-conference games

No matter what side you root for, everyone remembers the “Bush Push”. (photo by insidesocal.com)

USC will take a break from their Pac-12 schedule to play this rivalry game with Notre Dame. Yes, Notre Dame is in a third straight game on this list, but they do play a great non-conference schedule with their 12 games to fill.

The Trojans want to make the College Football Playoff this season, that is for sure. Sam Darnold could be the next in a long line of Heisman Trophy winners out of USC. He has a chance to light up the scoreboard at Notre Dame Stadium and do it in front of a national audience.

After the Georgia game, the Fighting Irish have a chance to go on a win streak. They play Boston College, Michigan State, Miami (OH) and North Carolina before their two weeks to prepare for USC. Optimally they would be 6-0 at that point, but they have more talent than everyone, but Georgia. If they are 5-1 with a loss to Georgia this game would have huge implications. If their record is anything less than 4-2 at this point of the season, Kelly is likely looking at a new job.

One interesting battle to watch from this game is Iman Marshall and Jack Jones covering Equanimeous St. Brown of Notre Dame. All will be playing on Sundays in a few years and will like the challenge of playing against one another.

6. 23 Texas at 4 USC, Sep. 16

USC certainly didn’t take it easy in the non-conference schedule. They get a rematch of the BCS National Championship Game, arguably the greatest one of all time, when Vince Young ran in the game-winning touchdown and unofficially ended the USC dynasty under Pete Carroll.

The Trojans are a little bit ahead of the Longhorns right now in terms of getting back to a National Championship, but this game will be big nonetheless. With their aspirations to make it to the College Football Playoff, USC needs to take care of business out of conference. A key to this game is that they play Texas a week after Stanford and will likely be banged up from a physical game.

Texas has hired Tom Herman to get them back to their winning ways. They have the talent on the roster, but needed a man in charge to get them where they want to go. Shane Buechele will get a chance to show his improvement against a USC defense that should be pretty solid. Malik Jefferson is a star at linebacker for the Longhorns and will want to play well against a good offensive unit like USC to improve his NFL Draft stock.

5. 17 Florida vs. 11 Michigan (Arlington, Texas), Sep. 2

Best non-conference games

Jim Harbaugh and Jim McElwain will square off in week one. (photo by youtube.com)

The second best game of the opening weekend features two teams that finished with nine wins last season and two teams that struggled on offense. Both will try to have their defenses lead them to victory again in 2017.

Florida made the SEC Championship Game last year and have the capability to do it this year as well. They have talented players on their defense, but only four returning starters, so new stars will get their chance in a big game. The offensive line returns four starters, but the thing that they have lacked is a quarterback as Feleipe Franks tries to give them one. They will have to deal with seven players being suspended for the misuse of financial aid, including star wide receiver Antonio Callaway.

The Wolverines have problems of their own to worry about. They only have one returning starter on defense and four on offense, which struggled against good competition last year anyways. Their hope is that Jim Harbaugh’s recruiting pans out. Wilton Speight needs to take a step forward on offense, while the defense needs star recruits like Rashan Gary to step up.

This game will provide the chance to get to know a lot of the new faces on both of these teams and also allow fans to see if these teams have what it takes to win their divisions.

4. 3 Florida State at 17 Florida, Nov. 25

Best non-conference games

Florida State celebrating after a victory over Florida (Photo by cbssports.com)

At this point in the season, Florida State may be trying to stay in contention for the College Football Playoff, while Florida may be getting ready as the SEC East representative in the SEC Championship Game. Whether this rivalry game has as much riding on it as we expect is unknown, but it will be a good way to cap off the regular season for both teams.

The Seminoles may have one or two losses at this point in the season, but could still make the College Football Playoff. Deondre Francois will have already been tested by the defenses of Alabama, Clemson and Louisville, so this will provide him with another opportunity to see what he can do.

Florida lost to Florida State last year in this game and then had to prepare for the SEC Championship the next week. They will have a good defense again, but will need Franks to step up in this game especially. The Gators will need him to have a career day against the likes of Tarvarus McFadden and Derwin James.

This game will likely have a lot riding on it, as it did last season and will also feature a lot of talented players going up against each other once again.

3. 12 Auburn at 5 Clemson, Sep. 9

Best non-conference games

Gus Malzahn and Dabo Swinney will square off again. (Photo by seccountry.com)

Clemson’s first big test as reigning champs is taking on Auburn, a team that has a lot of high expectations themselves. Auburn is looking to get back in the National Championship picture and can use this game to show people that they are for real.

The Clemson defense will likely be very good again with seven returning starters and a lot of good recruits waiting to fill in. Offensively Deshaun Watson will be replaced by Kelly Bryant (or Hunter Johnson), an this will be the first time to shine for a new quarterback. It won’t be an easy task for the new quarterback because Auburn was seventh best scoring defense in the country in 2016 and returns eight starters.

Auburn looks to Jarrett Stidham to get them back to their high-scoring ways on offense. He was successful at Baylor before transferring. With six starters on offense back, he should have a lot of the tools he needs to make things happen. The defense will be good again and will be trying to force an inexperience quarterback into turnovers.

The fun part of this game to watch is Stidham and the Auburn offense against the talented Clemson defense. If Stidham can live up to the hype, it could be a great game.

2. 7 Oklahoma at 2 Ohio State, Sep. 9

Best non-conference games

Baker Mayfield and J.T. Barrett will go head to head a second time. (Photo by thefootballbraniacs.com)

This game last year featured a lot of trash talk leading up to it, but Ohio State escaped Norman victorious, 45-24. With both teams having legitimate College Football Playoff aspirations, it makes it easy to call it one of the top two non-conference games of 2017. This will give fans a chance to see how Lincoln Reilly does in his first big game as head coach of the Sooners.

Ohio State lost a lot of talent to the NFL, but returns 15 starters and a lot of talent. J.T. Barrett will try to get back on track with new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. He had a great game against the Sooners last year and will likely do so again in 2017. The defense has an inexperienced secondary that will be tested by Baker Mayfield.

Mayfield should put up points, but needs new weapons to step it up after losing a lot of key players to the NFL and graduation. His offensive line returns to protect him, which is a huge factor in this game. Defensively, Oklahoma isn’t great and needs that to improve for this game in particular. They have talented players, but because they can’t stop that many teams, they need to force turnovers.

The players to watch in this game are the ones in the trenches. Oklahoma features a good offensive line, including Orlando Brown. Ohio State has a good defensive line with Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Nick Bosa. A lot of NFL talent will be going at it in this game.

While this game doesn’t rule a team out of College Football Playoff contention, Ohio State’s margin for error would be less and Oklahoma would have a lot of help needed with a loss.

1. 3. Florida State vs. 1 Alabama (Atlanta,GA), Sep. 2

Best non-conference games

Deondre Francois and Jalen Hurts. (photo by sbnation.com)

This is a game that we could be seeing again in the College Football Playoff. Both teams are that good. It is the perfect way to kick-off the season and both teams will be trying to make a statement.

Alabama is coming off of a loss to an ACC team in the National Championship Game. Nick Saban is going to try to make the ACC pay in this one. Jalen Hurts is back, but won’t be able to run as much on this very athletic Florida State defense. He will have to use his arm, which was average at best last year. He will have help from Calvin Ridley on the outside. The defense will continue to plug in players like they do every season and will once again be elite.

Florida State has a lot of tough games this season, so winning this one would be a huge relief and give them a chance to make a mistake later on in the season. The offensive line will be tested by the good Alabama defense. They have to protect Deondre Francois long enough for him to make good throws. On defense the Seminoles will try to make Hurts beat them with his arm, which will be tough with McFadden and James in the secondary.

Watching Calvin Ridley and the Alabama receivers try to get separation from the Florida State secondary will be fun to watch in this game.

Thank the football gods for this game. It is a great game in week one and should get everyone hyped for a great season.

 

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College football preseason 2017 top 25: 10-6

The football season is right around the corner so let’s dive into more rankings. This installment will go over top ten teams that will be vying for a title. For a spot on this list, teams need to have a lot of talent on their rosters.

To look at the previous list of teams, go here.

10. Georgia Bulldogs

College football top 25

Jacob Eason (Photo by 247sports.com)

Kirby Smart had a decent first season as head coach of the Bulldogs and helped them finish 8-5. They won the Liberty Bowl to finish last season, beating TCU 31-23. Smart will have 15 returning starters to work with, which includes 10 on the defensive side of the ball. This season the Bulldogs look to take a step forward and win the SEC East.

Offensively, the Bulldogs are set in the backfield. Jacob Eason will be entering his second season and there are high hopes for his career. He was a highly-touted prospect that threw for 2,430 yards as a freshman. He will have two good running backs in Nick Chubb and Sonny Michel. They will get the bulk of the carries and have amassed almost 6,000 yards on the ground during their time in Athens. Chubb is the lead man and averages 6.4 yards per carry over his career.

The offensive line returns two starters and will be the key to the Georgia attack. There isn’t too much experience returning at the receiver position, but tight end Isaac Nauta is getting a lot of hype. At 6’4″ 246 pounds he provides a good target for Eason, while the receiving unit as a whole needs to step up.

There may not be a weak point on the defense with how much experience they have returning. John Atkins returns in the middle of the defensive line, while Trenton Thompson returns at defensive end. Thompson had five sacks last season. The linebackers might be the most talented unit on the defense. Lorenzo Carter is a good pass rusher from outside linebacker, while Roquan Smith is a good run stopper from his inside linebacker position.

Dominick Sanders is the most talented out of the secondary players and has the most interceptions returning to the team from last year with three. Georgia’s defense was good last year and now must take the step forward to become elite.

Tough non-conference games will be had against Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. Their games that could give them trouble in conference are Tennessee, Florida and Auburn. Georgia has the talent on their roster to win every game on the schedule. They will likely drop two of the tough games on the schedule and go 10-2 on the season, with a spot in the SEC Championship Game.

9. Clemson Tigers

College football top 25

Christian Wilkins (Photo by si.com)

The Tigers lost a lot from the team that won the National Championship last season, but some respect has to be shown to the fantastic job Dabo Swinney has done recruiting. They do still return 12 starters from last year’s team and will be looking to get back to the College Football Playoff.

Clemson will win a lot of games because of the play of their offensive line, which returns four starters. This includes Mitch Hyatt, who is a 2018 NFL Draft Prospect. The running backs getting carries behind this offensive line will change a lot, but C.J. Fuller looks to be the lead man.

Kelly Bryant has to fill some big shoes that were left by Deshaun Watson. The junior was a good prospect himself out of high school and has all the tools to be successful. If he does end up struggling, Clemson has recruited freshman Hunter Johnson to step in. Deon Cain is a good receiver that now gets his chance to shine without Mike Williams on the team. Hunter Renfroe will continue to do work and make clutch plays from the slot.

The defensive line will be stacked with talent, with Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Dexter Lawrence returning. All three were highly productive for the team last year, with Ferrell leading them all with six sacks. Kendall Joseph leads the linebackers now after the departure of Ben Boulware, but is pretty accomplished himself with 124 tackles last season.

Van Smith is the leader of the secondary from his safety position and has the most interceptions returning with two. The pass defense will likely take a slight step back, while the run defense will stay about the same.

The schedule is tough and will be tougher with the fact that now Clemson will have a target on their back. They have games that will challenge them in Auburn, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Georgia Tech and South Carolina. For the most part Clemson should be able to manage these tough games, but will likely drop two or three of them.

8. Oklahoma Sooners

College football top 25

Baker Mayfield (photo by usatoday.com)

Oklahoma’s ranking would’ve been higher had Bob Stoops still been the head coach. Lincoln Reilly takes over now and will have a good team to work with. They went 11-2 last season and beat Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. With a lot of talent returning, the Sooners will be looking to make the College Football Playoff.

The offense will start with Heisman Trophy Finalist Baker Mayfield. He has had a storied career so far for Oklahoma and will continue to put up big numbers this season. The problem is that he doesn’t have all the weapons he had in previous years. Jeff Badet transferred in from Kentucky and should provide a spark to a receiving core that only returns one starter, Jeffrey Mead.

There is good news for Oklahoma fans: The offensive line returns every starter. Orlando Brown is getting looks from the NFL and is a dominant force. The bad news is that there isn’t much experience returning at running back and Abdul Adams and Rodney Anderson will fight for carries.

Defense for the Sooners was average at best in 2016. The secondary gave up a lot of passing yards, but does return some good players. Jordan Thomas is a good college corner, but teams find a way to throw around him and pick up a lot of yardage.

Ogbonnia Okronkwo returns at linebacker and leads the pass rush with nine sacks last season. The Sooners will be inexperienced up front, with no returning starters on the defensive line.

Oklahoma gets to play Ohio State, Texas (neutral), Kansas State and Oklahoma State all away from home. West Virginia travels to Norman to give them plenty to focus on for this year. The Sooners’ offense will be high-powered enough to get them 10 wins this season and a spot in the new Big 12 Championship Game.

7. Oklahoma State Cowboys

College football top 25

Mason Rudolph (Photo by ncaa.com)

The Cowboys finished 10-3 last season and blew Colorado out in the Alamo Bowl. Mike Gundy has one of his most talented teams ever. His team is good enough to win the Big 12 and get to the College Football Playoff, but they have a long road a head and a lot of history to overcome.

Mason Rudolph returns at quarterback, after flirting with the idea of going pro. He will put up big numbers while protecting the football, which makes him an elite college quarterback. The good news for him was that his teammate and top target James Washington also chose to return to school. Tyron Johnson, an LSU transfer, will be eligible to play this season and will provide another good target for Rudolph.

Three offensive linemen return, but the unit will be more than capable of protecting Mason Rudolph. Oklahoma State found their running back of the future last season in Justice Hill. Hill ran for 1,142 yards and six touchdowns as a freshman last season. He will be asked to put up similar numbers in 2017.

In terms of scoring defense, Oklahoma State ranked third in the Big 12, but that isn’t saying too much. Essentially they were an average defense. Five starters return including two in the secondary. Ramon Richards and Tre Flowers will be starting again at safety, while new corners are broken in.

Chad Whittener returns to the linebackers and will be asked to step up his production this season after finishing with 71 tackles a year ago. The Cowboys don’t have much returning in the middle of the defensive line, but do have a lot of experience at defensive end. Both starters return as well as Trelund Webber, who comes off the bench to rush the passer. He returns as the team leader in sacks in 2016 with six.

The schedule features games against Pittsburgh, Texas, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kansas State. Oklahoma State will win at least nine games, but probably finish at 10-2, getting them a rematch with Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game.

6. USC Trojans

College football top 25

Sam Darnold (photo by dailynews.com)

The Trojans went on a magical run to the Rose Bowl last season and beat Penn State in a thriller. Clay Helton did a fine job last year as head coach, but has a new challenge this year. Only 10 starters return, meaning a lot of players will need to step up to help USC win the Pac-12.

Sam Darnold is the potential number one overall pick in the 2018 draft. He still has a lot to prove, but finished the season with 3,086 yards and 31 touchdowns, which is even more impressive considering he didn’t start the first few games of last season. Darnold won’t have an elite receiver to throw to this season, unless someone really improves, but Deontay Burnett is the leading returning receiver with 670 yards in 2016.

Ronald Jones II is overlooked because of how well Darnold played last year, but he can flat out run the football. His 1,082 yards and 12 touchdowns will be improved upon this season. Just two offensive linemen return this season. If the newcomers don’t step in and do their jobs the whole offense will suffer.

The linebackers return the most experience, with three of four starters returning. Porter Gustin and Cameron Smith are both playmakers. Smith had 83 tackles last season. Only one of three returns on the defensive line, Rasheem Green. Green had six sacks last season and will need to improve production to lead the pass rush.

Iman Marshall returns at corner and will now be asked to shut down the other teams’ best receivers, as Adoree Jackson is now in the NFL. He has a chance to be drafted early, like Jackson was, in the 2018 NFL Draft. Marveil Tell is back at safety and Chris Hawkins will be solid at the other starting safety spot in 2017. The defense was good last year and if they want to get to the College Football Playoff, need to improve this year.

USC has a tough schedule, which includes games against Stanford, Texas, Washington State, Notre Dame and UCLA. While they should have their fair share of struggles, they will have at least 10 wins entering the Pac-12 Championship Game. At that point it may be a play-in game for the College Football Playoff.

 

Featured image by usatoday.com.

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Best 2018 NFL Draft prospects: Running Backs

Running backs are a position that aren’t usually highly sought after in the NFL Draft, but in the 2017 NFL Draft eight were selected in the first three rounds. This upcoming class may not have as many stars as last year, but there are still some good NFL prospects who will be rushing through college defenses this fall.

Saquon Barkley, Penn State

There is a lot of hype around Penn State after last year’s great run to the Rose Bowl and it is in large part thanks to their best player, Saquon Barkley.

Barkley rushed for 1,496 yards in the Nittany Lions’ 14 games last season. He had a nose for the end zone as he scored 18 touchdowns on the ground. Not only did he do damage as a rusher, but also did well as a receiver, finishing the season with 402 yards receiving and four touchdowns.

He put up an impressive performance in the Rose Bowl and will look to carry that momentum into this upcoming season. Barkley has games against Pitt, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio State and Michigan to help increase his stock. He is an early front-runner to be the first running back selected in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Nick Chubb, Georgia

Nick Chubb (Photo by: macon.com)

Georgia seemingly always reloads at the running back position. Chubb is now a senior after an up and down career because of a major injury in 2015 against Tennessee. When healthy and 100%, Chubb is a dynamic playmaker. He played all 13 games last season and is looking to have an improved senior season to get his draft stock up.

Last season was Chubb’s worst in terms of yards per carry, as he finished with just 5.0 after having years of 7.1 and 8.1 in the previous two seasons. He still finished with 1,130 rushing yards to bring his career total up to 3,424. He isn’t a threat as a receiver, but when Jacob Eason hands him the rock this season, watch out.

The Bulldogs are trying to regain SEC East supremacy this season under Kirby Smart. Chubb has a chance to lead them to these heights and improve his draft stock. The key games for Chubb to show it all to NFL scouts are: at Notre Dame, at Tennessee, vs. Florida, at Auburn and at Georgia Tech.

Royce Freeman, Oregon

Freeman could have easily declared for the 2017 NFL Draft and been selected in the top three rounds. He dealt with knee injuries last year and is looking to have a healthy season in 2017.

The stats for Freeman are eye-popping with 4,148 rushing yards and 44 rushing touchdowns in his career. He has added 650 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns. Last year was his worst in terms of production, but that was due to his injury.

Oregon is under new leadership in Willie Taggart, who will be looking to keep up the numbers of a traditionally good offense. Freeman will be the key in this and will have these key games to impress NFL Scouts: Nebraska, Stanford, UCLA, Utah and Washington.

Derrius Guice, LSU

Derrius Guice (Photo by: theadvocate.com)

Last year Leonard Fournette was injured and couldn’t play in every game, but this let the world see the potential that Guice had. He filled in well and is looking to have a great season as a featured back.

In his limited time behind Fournette, Guice finished with 1,387 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns on 7.6 yards per carry. His best game of last season was at Texas A&M, where he rushed for 285 yards and four touchdowns. He has a great combination of power, speed and vision that he used to his advantage and will continue to do so.

Teams will likely stack the box against Guice, with no quarterback threat on LSU’s roster. The Tigers will play big games against BYU, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Texas A&M and Tennessee.

 

Bo Scarbrough, Alabama

Alabama split carries between multiple running backs, but Scarbrough came on late in the season to have some big games. He is a big physical runner, who looks like he is in the weight room 24/7.

His best performance was an 180 yard game against Washington. He finished the season with 812 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. Scarbrough will likely continue to share carries with a loaded Alabama backfield. His vision as a runner has to improve if he wants to play in the NFL, as he can’t run over NFL level talent.

The Crimson Tide have plenty of big games this season for Scarbrough to prove he is more consistent. Alabama plays Florida State, Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn. Against these good teams and some top level defenses, Scarbrough will get his chance to prove he is a good NFL Draft prospect.

 

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