2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #22: Shane Buechele

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #22: Shane Buechele

A couple of the first few players on the 2018 Heisman Trophy candidate countdown are likely to be in quarterback competitions heading into this season, and that continues today with Texas quarterback Shane Buechele. Here is the Heisman countdown to this point:

 

#25: Jalen Hurts

#24: Adrian Martinez

#23: Travis Etienne

 

If you look at Shane Buechele’s numbers from his sophomore season last year, you wouldn’t expect him to be a Heisman candidate in 2018. But about 12 months ago Buechele was considered a darkhorse for the award.

 

Why he can win it

He’s now entering his junior season, but a couple years ago Buechele became the first true freshman quarterback to start the first two games of the season for Texas. Buechele couldn’t have gotten off to a much better start, as he lit it up in an upset victory over No. 10 Notre Dame, then tossed a true-freshman-record four touchdowns the next week against UTEP. His play dropped off after the hot start, but clearly, Buechele has a lot of talent as a thrower—and he can put up some numbers. The young signal-caller has been through some downs after two seasons, but it was great experience and he should be a better player for it. Playing for a program like Texas should give Buechele a boost in the Heisman race.

 

Why he won’t win it

Last season, Buechele battled injuries and had to share playing time with freshman Sam Ehlinger, which showed in the numbers (just nine total touchdowns in nine games). If Ehlinger cuts too much into Buechele’s playing time, or even wins the job outright, he won’t have much of a chance to win the Heisman. Also, the Longhorns haven’t lived up to program expectations over the last several seasons, so a turnaround would have to happen.

 

What needs to happen

Buechele needs to win the starting job convincingly and take control of running Tom Herman’s high-potent offense. Texas must compete for a Big 12 title and become one of the top offenses in college football, with Buechele getting around 450 pass attempts with great efficiency.

 

Stat projection

292/430 (67.9%) | 3,268 PASS YDS | 26 PASS TD | 9 INT

120 CAR | 228 RUSH YDS | 4 RUSH TD | 1.9 AVG

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #23: Travis Etienne

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #23: Travis Etienne

Day three of the countdown of the top 2018 Heisman Trophy candidates continues with an extremely explosive player from a perennial national title contender: Clemson running back Travis Etienne. Previously, we went over the Heisman chances of Jalen Hurts and Adrian Martinez.

 

#25: Jalen Hurts

#24: Adrian Martinez

 

When Wayne Gallman left Clemson for the NFL, the Tigers had to replace a key member of their offense. Travis Etienne was a big part of that as a true freshman last season, and he could emerge as a Heisman contender in 2018.

 

Why he can win it

It only takes one play to see the type of ability Travis Etienne has. He has exception acceleration and top-notch breakaway speed, and there aren’t many better home-run hitters at the running back position than him. This season, Etienne should be even more comfortable with the offense after a year of experience, which could lead to a bigger role after he had 103 carries last year. Etienne’s 744 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns led the team in 2017, and he’d put up some huge numbers with more opportunities if he keeps his yards per carry up around the 7.2 it was last season.

 

Why he won’t win it

The big issue with Etienne’s Heisman chances this season is that he might not get nearly enough work. Teammate Tavien Feaster is also very talented, and the two split work in the backfield last season (they each had 103 carries). Though also explosive, Feaster is the bigger back of the two and may ultimately handle most of the load for Clemson in 2018. Feaster himself could also emerge as a Heisman candidate if he gets a heavy workload.

 

What needs to happen

Etienne needs to lead the backfield in carries (which would also mean less carries for quarterback Kelly Bryant) and contribute as a difference-making returner on special teams. Also, he needs to continue making the one-cut-and-to-the-house big plays that he did for Clemson as a true freshman.

 

Stat projection

160 CAR | 1,168 RUSH YDS | 16 RUSH TD | 7.3 AVG

20 REC | 220 REC YDS | 3 REC TD | 11.0 AVG

18 KR | 430 KR YDS | 1 KR TD | 23.9 AVG

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #24: Adrian Martinez

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #24: Adrian Martinez

The countdown of the top 2018 Heisman Trophy candidates continues with a quarterback competing for the starting quarterback job at Nebraska. Yesterday, the countdown started with current Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts.

 

#25: Jalen Hurts

 

New Nebraska head coach Scott Frost is going to bring an entirely new system and culture to Nebraska, and it could help Adrian Martinez become a Heisman candidate as early as this season.

 

Why he can win it

Scott Frost is one of the best offensive coaches in the country, and he’s likely to make things easy on his quarterbacks. Adrian Martinez is a true freshman, but he enrolled early to Nebraska and should be ready to go in 2018. For his offense, Frost said he “didn’t think there was a better fit in the country” among high school quarterbacks than Martinez, so clearly the head coach feels good about what the dual threat can do. UCF’s McKenzie Milton put up huge numbers in Frost’s offense last season, and Martinez might do the same on a bigger stage in Lincoln. If the Cornhuskers are winning while Martinez makes highlight plays and puts up huge numbers, he’ll be in the Heisman conversation.

 

Why he won’t win it

Martinez is only a true freshman, and no true freshman has ever won the Heisman Trophy, so it’s a tall task. There is no guarantee Martinez will win the starting quarterback job for Nebraska to start the season, which would obviously make it tough to win the Heisman even if he ends up playing for much of the season. Also, Nebraska might not be ready to compete in a stacked Big Ten quite yet.

 

What needs to happen

Martinez needs to win the starting quarterback job and then lead Nebraska to at least eight or nine wins during the regular season, including one or two huge upset wins at Michigan, at Wisconsin, or at Ohio State. If he does that and puts up similar numbers to McKenzie Milton last season, he might have a shot.

 

Stat projection

234/360 (65%) | 3,406 PASS YDS | 28 PASS TD | 6 INT

157 CAR | 950 RUSH YDS | 11 RUSH TD | 6.1 AVG

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #25: Jalen Hurts

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #25: Jalen Hurts

With spring practices done and the college football offseason in a bit of a lull, we’ll be counting down the top 25 Heisman Trophy candidates for 2018. Of course, guys that are not included in this countdown could also win the award, but these are our favorites as of now.

 

The countdown starts with a player that all college football fans are familiar with: Jalen Hurts.

 

Why he can win it

As a very young true freshman and true sophomore over the last two seasons for the Crimson Tide, Jalen Hurts has been one of the better players in college football. He’s had 40 passing touchdowns compared to just ten interceptions—including 17 passing touchdowns with just one interception last season—while also adding 21 touchdowns on the ground. If Hurts wins the starting quarterback job for Alabama, he would have a lot of talent surrounding him and could potentially take a big leap forward statistically. A boost in numbers while keeping high efficiency could potentially make Hurts the favorite.

 

Why he won’t win it

Hurts is only at No. 25 on the list because he might not even be at Alabama this season. Tua Tagovailoa, who came in and lit it up in the national championship against Georgia, might end up being the team’s primary option at quarterback. Given Hurts’ success and confidence, he might decide it would be better to just move on. Alabama would hopefully allow Hurts to play for another school right away with a waiver, in which case he could still end up in the Heisman race. The worst-case scenario for Hurts’ Heisman chances is if he splits time with Tagovailoa at Bama, as there wouldn’t be enough opportunities to put up numbers. It would, however, likely be his best chance at winning another national title.

 

What needs to happen

Hurts needs to win the Alabama starting job and play so well that Nick Saban doesn’t want to take him off the field. Alabama needs to win the SEC or make the College Football Playoff, with Hurts putting up bigger numbers while remaining an efficient playmaking quarterback. If he leaves Alabama, Hurts could compete for the Heisman by going to a school with a new and exciting coach like UCLA or Nebraska.

 

Stat projection

175/280 (62.5%) | 2,104 PASS YDS | 21 PASS TD | 2 INT

160 CAR | 900 RUSH YDS | 11 RUSH TD | 5.6 AVG

Five Sleeper College Football National Championship Contenders For 2018

Five Sleeper College Football National Championship Contenders For 2018

Spring college football has come to an end, so now we wait until later this summer for programs to kick into gear ahead of late August/early September season openers. It’s easy to say powerhouses like Alabama and Clemson will compete, but there are certainly some teams that could vault themselves into the College Football Playoff conversation in 2018. These are all big programs that might not be traditional sleepers, but not many people are expecting them to compete for a title.

 

Michigan Wolverines

Yes, Michigan has mostly been considered a championship contender from the moment Jim Harbaugh returned to Ann Arbor, but things have changed. It’s gotten to the point where some think Harbaugh should be fired if the Wolverines don’t compete this year. And considering people are starting to say Harbaugh is an overrated coach, it’s probably fair to put them on a list of sleepers. One big reason Michigan has a legitimate chance to win the Big Ten and make the Playoff is the arrival of former Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson. Harbaugh arguably hasn’t had a quarterback of Patterson’s caliber yet, and it’ll be fun to see them together.

 

Texas Longhorns

After the job Tom Herman did at Houston, many thought he might’ve worked some similar first-year magic at Texas. Instead, the Longhorns went 7-6, though it did end in a convincing bowl win against Missouri. Quarterback is the big question mark for Texas, as junior Shane Buechele and sophomore Sam Ehlinger both played a good amount last season and will be competing for the starting job. Two quarterbacks can work, but it might be best if one of them seizes the job. If that happens, Herman might be able to get his offense clicking and putting points on the board in 2018.

 

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Good coaches are a theme on this list, and Scott Frost obviously falls in that category. It might take some time, but it should be a matter of if—not when—Frost turns around his alma mater. If Frost can rally the Cornhuskers like he rallied his undefeated UCF squad last season, the program might have a quicker turnaround than anyone anticipates.

 

UCLA Bruins

On Star Wars Day, it’s fitting that both the apprentice and master are on this list. So Scott Frost is Luke Skywalker, and Chip Kelly is Obi-Wan Kenobi—unless you want to go the dark side route with Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader. Either way, like Frost, Kelly will run an urgent, up-tempo program from top to bottom. The offense can make up for a shortage in talent, which could lead to immediate wins. Washington and their strong defense could give UCLA the most trouble, but the Pac-12 is winnable in 2018.

 

Texas A&M Aggies

Jimbo Fisher’s last season with Florida State was puzzling and borderline-surreal with how things just fell apart before he took the Texas A&M job. But he’s still one of the best coaches in college football and knows how to win big games, which he’ll need to do a lot of this season—including with early matchups against Clemson and Alabama. If the Aggies can somehow get past both of them (or even just one), they’ll immediately be in the Playoff conversation and could have a ton of momentum heading into October and November.

Early 2018 College Football Top 25 Rankings

Early 2018 College Football Top 25 Rankings

The deadline for players to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft passed earlier this week, and it’s always fun to look ahead to next fall, so we’re going through the top 25 college football teams for 2018. A lot will change over the next several months, but this is just an early look. The top three teams are not a surprise, but the landscape looks extremely deep, with Oklahoma, Miami, and Michigan being among the teams that could easily be well-inside the top ten.

 

1. Clemson Tigers

Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell, and Austin Bryant have all opted to return to school—and as a true sophomore, Dexter Lawrence had no choice but to return—so you can bet the big fellas up front on defense are on a mission to claim a second national title in three years.

 

2. Alabama Crimson Tide

When in doubt, go chalk with Nick Saban and Alabama. The quarterback situation is a good problem to have, with Jalen Hurts playing excellent over two seasons as a young starter but phenom Tua Tagovailoa looking like a stud in the National Championship win. Alabama might be the safest bet to be in the Playoff.

 

3. Georgia Bulldogs

They are suffering some huge losses heading into next season, with Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and Roquon Smith being among them; but quarterback Jake Fromm will be back as a true sophomore, which should help keep Georgia among college football’s elite.

 

4. Wisconsin Badgers

The first season for Jim Leonard as the defensive coordinator for the Badgers could not have gone much better, as they might have been the best defense in the country. On offense, quarterback Alex Hornibrook will enter the season with more experience, and running Jonathan Taylor is a Heisman favorite. They also have some impressive young and explosive receivers like Danny Davis.

 

5. Michigan State Spartans

2016 was clearly an anomaly for Michigan State, as the program might be the most underrated in the country. Brian Lewerke looks like an NFL quarterback, and L.J. Scott is returning to school for his senior season. With those two leading the offense, the Spartans are on the rise.

 

6. Penn State Nittany Lions

There aren’t many bigger losses than the one Penn State is suffering with Saquon Barkley headed to the NFL, but Miles Sanders is more than capable of doing some damage with a big workload. Also, quarterback Trace McSorley returns as one of the best players in the Big Ten.

 

7. Ohio State Buckeyes

Urban Meyer will have his team in the mix every year, and 2018 should be no different—even with the loss of senior leader J.T. Barrett. Greg Schiano is back as defensive coordinator after the unfortunate situation with the University of Tennessee, so the defense should be great.

 

8. Auburn Tigers

Kerryon Johnson was a big catalyst that helped make the Auburn offense go in 2017, but Gus Malzahn has shown he can get excellent play out of many running backs. If the offensive line can sustain its level of play, Auburn will be tough to beat next season.

 

9. Washington Huskies

As displayed in these rankings and every year in college football, good coaches are critical to a team’s success. Chris Peterson is among the best in the nation and he’ll have a senior quarterback in Jake Browning under center for 2018.

 

10. Stanford Cardinal

Bryce Love returns as arguably the best player in the country after he finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting. With Love pacing the offense to go along with several senior leaders on defense, the Cardinal are among the Pac-12 favorites—but they’ll have to travel at Washington in early November.

 

11. Miami Hurricanes

Next season’s opening game for Miami will be against LSU, and it might be their toughest test of the year. Many players will be back for the team that played with a ton of swagger when things were going well.

 

12. Oklahoma Sooners

Baker Mayfield was one of the most efficient passers in college football history, so he’ll be a big loss for the Sooners. Kyler Murray has some blazing speed and could deliver more of a running element at quarterback.

 

13. Michigan Wolverines

Most expected Jim Harbaugh to get the program to national title contenders by now, and 2018 might be the year. This could be way too low, but Michigan State and Ohio State have beaten him five out of six times.

 

14. UCLA Bruins

As stated earlier, coaches are critical to a team’s success, and UCLA got a great one with Chip Kelly. It might take a year or two to rebuild the program, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the Bruins were squarely in the top 25 in 2018.

 

15. USC Trojans

College football reporter Bruce Feldman has maintained USC feared UCLA getting Chip Kelly, and their fears have been confirmed. Losing Sam Darnold doesn’t help, but the Trojans always have a ton of talent on the roster.

 

16. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Scott Frost worked magic with the UCF football program, and it’s just a matter of when he does the same with results for his alma mater Nebraska. It could be in his first season.

 

17. Florida Gators

Dan Mullen is also looking to turn around a storied program, and Florida has the athletes to make a quick turnaround possible. Quarterback is probably the team’s biggest question mark.

 

18. Texas Longhorns

The Big 12 isn’t too strong of a conference that Texas can’t do some major damage in 2018. Head coach Tom Herman will be entering his second season with the team, and he’ll attempt another superb second season like he had when he was the head coach at Houston.

 

19. LSU Tigers

LSU just doesn’t seem ready to compete with Alabama and some of the other top-tier SEC teams right now, but things could switch up at any point.

 

20. UCF Knights

While Scott Frost is headed to Nebraska and they’re losing some key players, UCF still belongs in the top 25 after they were arguably a top 3-5 team in the country this season. Quarterback McKenzie Milton is a stud, and he and the rest of the team keeping the Knights in the top ten would not be surprising.

 

21. Virginia Tech Hokies

Josh Jackson has a lot of upside at quarterback for the Hokies, and Justin Fuentes appears to know it after turning down interviews for other head coaching positions.

 

22. West Virginia Mountaineers

The return of quarterback Will Grier and wide receiver David Sills has many excited about West Virginia’s chances in 2018. Those two could help get the Mountaineers back in the top ten.

 

23. TCU Horned Frogs

This might be too low for Gary Patterson’s squad, but he loses quarterback Kenny Hill, so that position is up-in-the-air heading into next season.

 

24. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

The Fighting Irish must replace running back Josh Adams, who has declared for the NFL Draft, but there’s reason to be optimistic after the program bounced back in 2017.

 

25. Florida State Seminoles

Jimbo Fisher leaving Florida State was a bit of a surprise, and Willie Taggart will attempt to get the program he loved growing up back to where it was just a couple years ago. Quarterback Deondre Francois being back after he was injured in the opening game of 2017 against Alabama should help.

2018 College Football Playoff National Championship Preview And Prediction

2018 College Football Playoff National Championship Preview And Prediction

The college football season ends tonight with the College Football Playoff National Championship in an all-SEC matchup between Alabama and Georgia. It has been a long several months dating back to winter training, and everything for these two teams culminates on the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, so there’s a good chance both sides are ready to play and we get a spectacular game. Here’s how the Crimson Tide and the Bulldogs stack up in some key statistical categories, with nation rank:

 

-Yards per game: Alabama 449.7 (27th) | Georgia 440.3 (31st)

-Points per game: Alabama 37.9 (12th) | Georgia 36.3 (17th)

-Yards allowed per game: Alabama 252.4 (1st) | Georgia 289.5 (6th)

-Points allowed per game: Alabama 11.1 (1st) | Georgia 15.7 (5th)

-Passing yards per game: Alabama 193.9 (91st) | Georgia 172.9 (109th)

-Rushing yards per game: Alabama 255.8 (10th) | Georgia 267.4 (8th)

-Passing yards allowed per game: Alabama 160.6 (3rd) | Georgia 167.6 (8th)

-Rushing yards allowed per game: Alabama 91.8 (1st) | Georgia 121.9 (20th)

-Turnover Margin: Alabama +13 (5th) | Georgia +5 (35th)

 

Stats can tell a story, but the most important thing is watching the play on the field. And if you’ve watched, these two teams have been near clone copies of each other this season—which is no surprise, as Georgia head coach Kirby Smart was Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator at Alabama from 2008-2015. A big storyline will be “teacher versus pupil,” but Smart has done a superb job with the Bulldogs and should really be out of Saban’s big shadow already.

 

The determining factor in the game might come down to who runs the ball better and first and second down to set up more manageable third-down situations that allow for play-action and big plays down the field. While Alabama has the number one run defense in the nation, Georgia is led by senior runners Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, and both can break a game wide open. In the Rose Bowl against Oklahoma, Chubb and Michel combined for 25 carries for 326 yards and five touchdowns on the ground (and Michel added a receiving touchdown) for an absurd 13.04 yards per carry. As a Big 12 team, Oklahoma is obviously not close to the stout defense that Alabama is, but Georgia can run wild on anyone if they’re in a rhythm on offense.

 

Statistically, Alabama isn’t that far behind Georgia in terms of running the ball. They do have some excellent runners including Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough that can put teams away late in games, but Georgia has the more explosive running game overall. Quarterback Jalen Hurts is also a big threat as a runner, and Georgia’s athletic linebackers like Roquan Smith will need to contain him when he breaks the pocket.

 

Another big key for Georgia on defense might be containing Calvin Ridley, who can make big plays down the field for the Crimson Tide. If Bama is able to run the ball consistently, it might be difficult to stop Hurts moving out of the pocket and hitting Ridley when he’s in single coverage. Hurts might not be the most precise passer, but he can be a handful when Alabama’s offense is clicking, and he has the big-game experience despite being just 19 years old as a true sophomore.

 

On the other side, true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm has shown he has ice in his veins as Georgia’s starter. Last week in the College Football Playoff Semifinal win against the Sooners, Fromm delivered pinpoint passes to his receivers, giving them a chance to make plays; and he never looked close to being rattled, including when he threw a strike on a dig route for a first down late in the game. This could be a future number one overall pick in the NFL Draft, and he’ll attempt to win a national title in his first college season.

 

Initially, I thought Georgia would win the title game. Then I thought a healthy Alabama team that looked to be on a mission against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl would win. But I’m going with my initial feeling, as Georgia has two elite senior runners and a calm freshman quarterback that I am confident in. Either way, hopefully this game is as good as many think it might be.

 

Prediction: Georgia 24, Alabama 21

2017-2018 College Football Playoff Semifinal Game Picks

2017-2018 College Football Playoff Semifinal Game Picks

Since the College Football Playoff started with the 2014-2015 season, there have been some very exciting games that have matched the hype built around the actual selection of the teams. While there is some major discourse again this season, with the Big Ten champion not getting in the Playoff, these two games tonight still have the look of great ones. Vegas has 2.5 lines on both games, and they are basically complete toss-ups. I won’t be surprised with whatever happens later today, but here’s how I see the games playing out.

 

Rose Bowl Game | No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 2 Oklahoma | 5:00 PM ET, ESPN

You know this game should be awesome when it might be more highly-anticipated than Clemson and Alabama facing off again. It’s the Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield and the 44.9 point-per-game Oklahoma offense (fourth in the nation) against Georgia’s 13.2-point-per-game scoring defense (third in the nation)—a classic battle between offense and defense. Mayfield and the Sooners dominated against Ohio State earlier this season, but they haven’t played any team close to as strong as the Bulldogs in the Big 12. And offensively, Georgia has one of the best rushing attacks in the country led by Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, with freshman quarterback Jake Fromm bringing balance to the offense. If Fromm plays as well as he’s played all season, the SEC champions are going to be tough for Oklahoma to stop. Mayfield has been outstanding this season, but I think Georgia is too strong overall.

Winner: Georgia Bulldogs

 

Sugar Bowl | No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 1 Clemson | 8:45 PM ET, ESPN

If the last two national title games are any indication, this year’s Sugar Bowl could be one of the best in the history of the classic bowl. Both teams are obviously stacked from top to bottom and might have the two best coaches in college football, so we should expect a well-played game that goes down to the wire. For some reason, Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts is getting some criticism despite leading the team to two straight College Football Playoffs. The kid just turned 19 years old in August, and he left the title game last season with the lead before Deshaun Watson broke the hearts of Alabama fans—how impressive he’s been at such a young age cannot be overstated. Now Kelly Bryant is in at quarterback for the Tigers, and the game might come down to that position for both teams. I think Hurts will make a lot of plays, but that the Clemson pass rush will make plays of their own late to win a close one.

Winner: Clemson Tigers

Stay Or Go: Predicting Decisions By Potential Top Prospects In The 2018 NFL Draft

Stay Or Go: Predicting Decisions By Potential Top Prospects In The 2018 NFL Draft

Some college football players have made the decision to declare for the NFL Draft—such as Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen and Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander—but there are still many decisions to be made. I don’t want to advocate for a student-athlete to leave school or stay in school, so these predictions are what I think will happen with some of the players that have a choice to make by January 15.

 

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen

Most assume Rosen is headed to the NFL, but this isn’t a complete slam-dunk. UCLA alumni Troy Aikman could be trying to get Rosen to stay at the school, and it’d be unwise to turn the Hall of Fame quarterback’s advice down. And Chip Kelly now coaches the Bruins, so he’ll bring NFL experience that Rosen can use and take to the next level in 2019. I think Rosen will declare for the draft, though, as it seems like he wants to find his way to New York to play for the Giants.

Prediction: heads to the NFL

 

USC quarterback Sam Darnold

The quarterback from across town also has a tough decision to make. If Darnold declares, there is little doubt he’d be a top-five selection in the draft, but there are some things mechanically that he can clean up before entering the NFL—though getting with the right coach at the next level might fix things quickly. Unlike Rosen, there doesn’t appear to be any concerns about not wanting to play for a particular franchise. Darnold’s decision might come down to his performance in the Rose Bowl against Ohio State—he might not want to go out with a loss, he might want to stay in school and try to win a national title if they win, who knows? This is a major toss-up, and if he stays in school it’s not because he isn’t good enough for the NFL.

Prediction: stays in school

 

Missouri quarterback Drew Lock

There is no question Drew Lock has the arm strength to play in the NFL, and he tossed an SEC-record 43 touchdown passes this season for Mizzou—he might feel his stock can’t get much higher and declare for the draft. The NFL Draft Advisory Board told Lock that he doesn’t have a first- or second-round grade, but based off his gunslinger type of playing style, he might not really care.

Prediction: heads to the NFL

 

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson

Whenever Lamar Jackson enters the NFL Draft, he might be the most polarizing prospect available, just because that’s how things are with the media. I don’t think there is any question he’s worth a top pick in the draft, and he would probably end up as such if he comes out in 2018. However, I feel like the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner wants to continue his outstanding collegiate career and return to Louisville next season. Archie Griffin remains the only two-time Heisman winner, but Jackson would give him a major run for his money in 2018. And Jackson also probably wants to make another run at a conference title and potentially national title before he heads to the next level.

Prediction: stays in school

 

Stanford running back Bryce Love

If you’ve ever listened to Bryce Love talk, you know the 2017 Heisman finalist has a good head on his shoulders. He’s going to Stanford majoring in Human Biology and studying stem cell research, so it’s not like he’s just wasting his time at school like Cardale Jones. Ultimately, Love might sit down with the NFL Draft Advisory Board to determine where he might be selected if he were to declare.

Prediction: stays in school

 

Penn State running back Saquon Barkley

It would not be a total shock if Saquon Barkley decided to give it another go with Penn State after they didn’t get to where they wanted as a team this season, but he’s an elite, elite talent that should be an easy top ten pick in the draft. And he could find himself in an excellent situation with the Colts, 49ers, or Bucs—teams that are presumed to have franchise quarterbacks that could turn their fortunes around in 2018.

Prediction: heads to the NFL

 

LSU running back Derrius Guice

Teams looking for a running back early in the 2018 Draft would have a great backup plan if they miss out on Saquon Barkley and Derrius Guice declares. Guice is a beast of a runner that was arguably every bit as good as former teammate Leonard Fournette, who was the fourth pick in the 2017 Draft, at LSU. Consdering his physical running style, he’ll probably declare for the draft after LSU’s bowl game—which he is playing in.

Prediction: heads to the NFL

 

Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley

From the moment Ridley said he was going to school at Alabama, people called him the next great Crimson Tide receiver to follow the path of Julio Jones and Amari Cooper into a first-round selection in the draft. That’s probably exactly what’s going to happen, as Ridley has already been a part of a national championship team and appears set to take his talents to the next level after this season is concluded.

Prediction: heads to the NFL

Top Ten Tuesday: 2017-2018 College Football Bowl Games

Top Ten Tuesday: 2017-2018 College Football Bowl Games

There have already been some very entertaining games this bowl season, but things should get a lot more exciting starting today through New Year’s Day. We’ve ranked the ten best games to watch over the next several days, including the two College Football Playoff games.

 

10. Camping World Bowl: 22 Virginia Tech vs. 19 Oklahoma State (Thursday, December 28 at 5:15 PM ET)

The best part about this matchup for NFL fans is probably seeing Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph and his top receiver James Washington—both hopeful first-round picks—play in their final college game. Tonight’s Cactus Bowl between Kansas State and UCLA was close to being on the list, but Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen (concussion) is not expected to play in the game.

 

9. Alamo Bowl: 13 Stanford vs. 15 TCU (Thursday, December 28 at 9:00 PM ET)

Heisman finalist Bryce Love headlines the Alamo Bowl between Stanford and TCU, but this is also a big battle between the Pac-12 and Big 12—conferences that seem to be fighting for one Playoff spot annually. Both teams are balanced and well coached, making this a potential nail-biter.

 

8. Holiday Bowl: 18 Washington State vs. 16 Michigan State (Thursday, December 28 at 9:00 PM ET)

You might think of a high-powered offense when you think of Mike Leach’s Washington State squad, but they’ve been playing some very good defense in 2017. And we know Mark Dantonio’s Spartans always play strong defense. On the offensive side of the ball for Michigan State, keep an eye on sophomore quarterback Brian Lewerke, who has the look of a potential top pick in the NFL draft in a year or two.

 

7. Citrus Bowl: 14 Notre Dame vs. 17 LSU (Monday, January 1 at 1:00 PM ET)

LSU has a top-15 defense in terms of both scoring and yardage, and they should give Notre Dame all they can handle in the Citrus Bowl. Look for the Tigers to try and stop Josh Adams and the running game of the Fighting Irish, and look for Notre Dame to try and do the same against Derrius Guice. Guise is a load of a runner and potential first-rounder in the 2018 NFL Draft, so he’s someone to keep an eye on for NFL fans.

 

6. Orange Bowl: 6 Wisconsin vs. 10 Miami (Saturday, December 30 at 8:00 PM ET)

The playoff-hopeful Miami Hurricanes dropped two straight, including a blowout win in the ACC Championship against Clemson, while Wisconsin was undefeated all season until a close loss in the Big Ten Championship against Ohio State. They’re both well-coached teams that’ll look to end the season on a high-note instead of on a losing streak. Miami is missing a couple of its top weapons on the outside on offense, and hopefully the long layoff helped the unit figure things out. Whatever happens, both teams should be proud of their ouststanding seasons this year.

 

5. Peach Bowl: 12 UCF vs. 7 Auburn (Monday, January 1 at 12:30 PM ET)

Auburn is unsurprisingly a heavy favorite to take down the non-Power Five UCF Golden Knights in the Peach Bowl, but there’s something special about the underdog team in Florida. Scott Frost took the head coaching job at his alma mater Nebraska, but he’s still coaching UCF in a unique situation that shows the comradery within the entire program. Gus Malzahn coaches an excellent Auburn team led by Kerryon Johnson and a stellar defense, but this probably won’t be an easy one for them.

 

4. The Fiesta Bowl: 11 Washington vs. 9 Penn State (Saturday, December 30 at 4:00 PM ET)

Washington and Penn State both have two losses, but they would probably compete and have a real shot at a national title if they were inserted into the four-team Playoff. The Huskies were in the field last season, and the Nittany Lions probably should’ve been last season after they won the Big Ten. This could be a classic bowl game with two really good teams, and it could be the last time we see superstar running back Saquon Barkley play for Penn State.

 

3. Cotton Bowl Classic: 8 USC vs. 5 Ohio State (Friday, December 29 at 8:30 PM ET)

This year’s Cotton Bowl is about as big of a matchup as possible without it being a College Football Playoff game. It features two conference champions from two of the best programs in the country. USC holds a seven-game win streak over Ohio State, but the last time the two teams played was in 2009. Senior leader J.T. Barrett is playing in his last game for the Buckeyes, and he’s had one of the best careers in the school’s history. On the other side, Sam Darnold could be playing his last game for the Trojans if he decides to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft. Make sure you tune in for this one.

 

2. Rose Bowl Game: 3 Georgia vs. 2 Oklahoma (Monday, January 1 at 5:00 PM ET)

The first Playoff matchup on New Year’s Day is huge on so many levels. Obviously, the biggest thing is getting a spot in the national championship game—but it’s also the SEC champion against the Big 12 champion, offense versus defense, and two big-time programs facing off. And on more of an individual level, Baker Mayfield is looking to cement a draft stock that appears to be skyrocketing against an elite Georgia defense.

 

1. Sugar Bowl: 4 Alabama vs. 1 Clemson (Monday, January 1 at 8:45 PM ET)

It’s pretty easy to be hyped about Alabama and Clemson playing in the College Football Playoff for the third time in three seasons. This time isn’t in the title game, but it’s still a rubber match of sorts between perhaps the two most successful college football programs over the last several years. While Alabama has lost the last three times they’ve been in the Sugar Bowl, they have a totally different team than their last loss in 2014, so that shouldn’t matter much. It might come down to the quarterbacks—Clemson’s Kelly Bryant and Alabama’s Jalen Hurts—as whoever makes plays against the elite defense on the other side of the ball could be the difference in the game.

The Top Ten Candidates For The 2018 Heisman Trophy

The Top Ten Candidates For The 2018 Heisman Trophy

Baker Mayfield was just crowned the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner, but it’s not too early to start thinking about the favorites to take home the best individual award in amateur athletics next year. While it might not happen, this projection considers Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Kerryon Johnson, and Bryce Love all heading to the NFL—with Lamar Jackson staying another year at Louisville.

 

1. Lamar Jackson

Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino and the school appear to be planting the seed that Jackson could become the best college football player ever. Jackson himself said last night that injuries are what kept the team from accomplishing their Playoff aspirations this season, so it sounds like he might want to give it another go in college next season. If he remains in school. He’ll be the favorite for the Heisman with a very real possibility of becoming the first two-time winner since Archie Griffin.

 

2. Jonathan Taylor

If you paid attention to college football this year, you know true freshman Jonathan Taylor looks like the next great Wisconsin running back. Taylor had 1,847 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns in 13 games while pacing the Badgers offense on the way to a Big Ten Championship appearance. He could get 2,000 rush yards

 

3. D’Andre Swift

This guy is dynamic. In the SEC Championship win against Auburn, Swift broke a 64-yard touchdown run where he showed his track speed, basically sealing the victory for the Bulldogs. While he’s behind Nick Chubb and Sony Michel right now, Swift, who had 597 rushing yards on only 73 attempts this season (8.2 yards per carry), will be the leader in the backfield next season.

 

4. J.K. Dobbins

J.K. Dobbins is another extremely explosive true freshman running back, making it three-straight on the list. As a true sophomore next season, Dobbins has a chance to have a similar season as Ezekiel Elliott did as a true sophomore at Ohio State when he ran for nearly 1,900 yards.

 

5. Jalen Hurts

Unbelievably, Jalen Hurts just turned 19 in August, and he’s already led his team to the College Football Playoff in consecutive seasons. Alabama’s young signal-caller has room for growth, and he plays for a team that is as good of a bet as any to be in contention all year next season. Hurts probably has the potential to be the best player in the nation.

 

6. Kelly Bryant

Like Jalen Hurts, Kelly Bryant’s Clemson team should be among the best teams in the country all next season. Remember, this was Bryant’s first season as the starter for the Tigers. There’s definitely room to grow for him heading into next year, and he could take the leap into complete superstardom—which might happen starting with this year’s College Football Playoff.

 

7. Jarrett Stidham

This season, Jarrett Stidham had pretty good stats—2,827 passing yards with 17 touchdowns and four interceptions—but his play was even better than the numbers indicate. With Gus Malzahn sticking with Auburn despite the rumors of him heading to Arkansas, Stidham could put up monster numbers and be in Heisman consideration next year.

 

8. Jake Fromm

Georgia has an excellent team with awesome coaches, but they probably would not have won the SEC without impressive true freshman Jake Fromm leading the passing offense. The talent of Fromm throwing the football is evident, and he’ll have a year under his belt next season. Also, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel will be gone, so more might be put on Fromm’s right arm.

 

9. Khalil Tate

I didn’t see it, but a lot of people had Khalil Tate in consideration for the Heisman toward the end of this season. On the ground, Tate’s 1,343 yards and 12 touchdowns were impressive. He just needs to improve through the air (nine touchdowns, eight interceptions) to have a legitimate shot at the Heisman in 2018.

 

10. Trace McSorley

Entering this season, Penn State was a popular choice to win the Big Ten and make the College Football Playoff, as they arguably should’ve made it last year after winning the conference. Next season, Trace McSorley will be a senior with two years of starting experience. If Penn State is among the top five at season’s end, McSorley would be a great bet to be among the top players in consideration for the Heisman.

2017 Heisman Watch: Baker Mayfield Appears Poised To Win The Award

2017 Heisman Watch: Baker Mayfield Appears Poised To Win The Award

It appears to be a foregone conclusion that Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield will win the Heisman Trophy tomorrow night in New York, joining a prestigious group that’s won the most highly-coveted individually-awarded trophy in college sports. Mayfield had a spectacular year, as he currently tops his record-setting passing efficiency rating from last season and led his team to its second College Football Playoff in two seasons. He’s the overwhelming favorite to hoist the trophy and become the third Oklahoma quarterback to win the Heisman since 2003.

 

But what if the voters decide against the bold and audacious Mayfield? Crazier things have happened, and there’s a couple really good candidates that have also been invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony. Let’s get into why they might have a shot to win the Heisman.

 

Lamar Jackson

To make the argument for Lamar Jackson winning the Heisman this year, look no further than what happened last season. Clemson’s Deshaun Watson had 43 total touchdowns while leading his team to the No. 2 ranking heading into the College Football Playoff. When taking into account the defenses Watson had to face compared to the ones Mayfield had to face this season in the Big 12, and you can say Watson’s season last year (despite 15 interceptions) was more impressive.

 

Despite the heroics of the all-time college great Watson, Jackson beat him out for the Heisman with his electric year that included 51 total touchdowns and over 1,500 yards rushing from the quarterback position. This season, Jackson has been every bit as unstoppable as last. While his numbers took a slight dip, they’re still mind-boggling and worthy of strong consideration for the Heisman.

 

Bryce Love

Bryce Love came just 27 yards short of 2,000 for the season, and that number alone would’ve given the voters a little more to think about when casting their votes. The thing that really killed Love’s candidacy was the ankle injury against Oregon on October 14. Before the injury, which forced him to miss a game, Love was averaging over 198 rushing yards per game—including at least 147 yards in each game. After that, he had to battle through the high-ankle sprain, which is very tough to get over, and still put up very good performances.

 

It’s fair to wonder what his numbers would look like if he didn’t suffer that ankle injury in middle of the season. Maybe the voters will consider how much he toughed it out to help get Stanford to the Pac-12 title game. But it probably won’t be enough to stop Mayfield from winning the award.

2017 College Football Conference Championship Game Picks

2017 College Football Conference Championship Game Picks

It’s conference championship week. Not only will teams win titles that etch them in history, but there’s big-time College Football Playoff implications on the line ahead of the Committee releasing the full bowl slate on Sunday morning. There’s a lot to be determined over the next couple of days, starting tonight with the Pac-12 Championship.

 

Pac-12 Championship: No. 12 Stanford vs. No. 10 USC (8:00 PM ET, ESPN) [Friday]

The Pac-12 champion isn’t likely to make the College Football Playoff this year, but both these prestigious programs know what a conference title means. Defensively, Stanford has the advantage in this one, as they were second in the conference in points allowed this season. However, the Trojans were in control of their first matchup of the season back in September—and we’ve seen their leader Sam Darnold play his best football when the lights are brightest. Heisman hopeful Bryce Love can hit 2,000 rushing yards on the season with 152 yards tonight, and he’ll probably need a performance like that for Stanford to win. I just see USC having too much offense and winning the game. Unfortunately, the winner of this one won’t be headed to the Rose Bowl, as it serves as a Playoff bowl this season.

Winner: USC

 

AAC Championship: No. 20 Memphis vs. No. 14 UCF (12:00 PM ET, ABC)

The UCF Golden Knights are looking to get into a New Year’s Six Bowl, and I really like their chances against Memphis in the AAC title game. In their September 30th matchup in Orlando, UCF dominated in convincing fashion, 40-13. UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton was named AAC Offensive Player of the Year, and coach Scott Frost was named AAC Coach of the Year. I like the combo too much, and I expect the breakneck pace of the offense to allow the Golden Knights to run away with it.

Winner: UCF

 

Big 12 Championship: No. 11 TCU vs. No. 3 Oklahoma (12:30 PM ET, FOX)

This is the first Big 12 Championship since 2010 (which Oklahoma won over then-Big 12 Nebraska). Baker Mayfield already plays with a bit of a chip on his shoulder in every game, and he’s a good bet to play with a ton of energy after he was beat out by Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph for the Johnny Unitas Award given to the best senior quarterback in the nation. In the early-November matchup between the Horned Frogs and the Sooners, Oklahoma absolutely overwhelmed TCU offensively in the first half, outscoring them by 24 points—but OU didn’t score in the second half. If TCU is able to pull off the upset, they’ll have an outside chance to make the Playoff if the Committee decides they should get in over Alabama and others. But I think Mayfield will be in the Playoff again.

Winner: Oklahoma

 

SEC Championship: No. 6 Georgia vs. No. 3 Auburn (4:00 PM ET, CBS)

Rematches are the theme for the first four championship games, as the SEC title game features another rematch. Typically, it’s difficult to beat a team twice in a season, as the team that lost usually comes back with more of an edge—and perhaps a more drastic switch in gameplan—the second time around. Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson, who was huge in the win over the Bulldogs a few weeks ago, is a game-time decision, and his status could be a huge determining factor in the game. Right now, it’s really difficult to pick against Auburn with the way they’re playing. However, I think Kirby Smart’s squad might pull out a very close one as the slight underdogs in a play-in game for the Playoff.

Winner: Georgia

 

Mountain West Championship: No. 25 Fresno State vs. Boise State (7:45 PM ET, ESPN)

This is a legitimate rematch right here, as Fresno State and Boise state just played last weekend, with Fresno coming out on top, 28-17. The second matchup is now in Boise on their trademark blue turf, which could make a big difference for the Broncos, who are the favorites in the game. As difficult as it is to pick against Boise State on their home turf, Fresno State might have their number.

Winner: Fresno State

 

Big Ten Championship: No. 8 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Wisconsin (8:00 PM ET, FOX)

I am certain that the players on Wisconsin have felt disrespected all season, as the Committee finally just put them in the top-four of their rankings and they are underdogs against Ohio State despite being the only undefeated Power Five team in the country. In total defense (236.9 yards per game) and yards per play (4.02), Wisconsin is the number one in the entire nation—and they’re second in points allowed per game (12.0). Ohio State’s offense can really struggle at times, and quarterback J.T. Barrett just had surgery on Sunday. Take Wisconsin likely playing with the hunters and mix it with Barrett’s injury for the Buckeyes—the Badgers are my pick to win and lock up a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Winner: Wisconsin

 

ACC Championship: No. 7 Miami vs. No. 1 Clemson (8:00 PM ET, ABC)

Miami is down to No. 7 after their loss to Pitt on Black Friday, but most believe this is still a play-in game against Clemson for a Playoff spot. Receiver Ahhmon Richards, who was named a freshman All-American, suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice during the week, which is a big loss for the Hurricanes. With tight end Chris Herndon already out for the season after an injury during the loss to Pitt, Miami is in a hole against the No. 1-rated team in the country. Clemson already boasts one of the nation’s best defenses, and while it wouldn’t be surprising to see Mark Richt’s team fight to a victory, the Tigers are the pick.

Winner: Clemson

2017 Heisman Watch (Week 13)

2017 Heisman Watch (Week 13)

1. Saquon Barkley | Penn State RB | Junior | Last week: 1

Many don’t have Saquon Barkley near the top of the Heisman conversation, but his all-around game and ability as a receiver is what keeps him in the top five. His receiving numbers are superb for a running back, and it needs to be taken into account when discussing the best player in the country. Unlike everyone on the list except Lamar Jackson, though, Barkley doesn’t have a conference championship to play in this weekend. So those below him, including Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, have a chance to make a final statement for the voters.

 

Season stats:

199 ATT | 1,134 YDS | 5.7 AVG | 16 TD

47 REC | 594 YDS | 12.6 AVG | 3 TD

15 RET | 426 YDS | 28.4 AVG | 2 TD

100% | 16 YDS | 1 PASS TD

 

2. Baker Mayfield | Oklahoma QB | Senior | Last week: 2

He didn’t start against West Virginia, but Baker Mayfield had as many incompletions as touchdowns, with just three. Mayfield simply throws darts all over the field and allows his receivers to make plays, and he averaged a whopping 16.5 yards per attempt in the win over the Mountaineers. The confident gunslinger will look to light up TCU again in the Big 12 Championship.

 

Season stats:

71.4% | 4,097 YDS | 37 TD | 5 INT

79 ATT | 245 YDS | 3.1 AVG | 5 TD

 

3. Lamar Jackson | Louisville QB | Junior | Last week: 3

Things got chippy between Lamar Jackson’s Louisville squad against the rival Kentucky Wildcats, and the reigning Heisman winner was right in the middle of it. During the game, all Jackson did was add another two touchdown tosses along with another 156 yards rushing, and his 42 total touchdowns and 4,932 yards are unmatched in college football. He doesn’t have any more games before the Heisman voting, but there’s a clear argument that he did enough to be the second-ever two-time winner of the prestigious trophy.

 

Season stats:

60.4% | 3,489 YDS | 25 TD | 6 INT

208 ATT | 1,443 YDS | 6.9 AVG | 17 TD

 

4. Bryce Love | Stanford RB | Junior | Last week: 4

Bryce Love didn’t put up a huge performance with a lot of scoring, but he totaled 125 yards on 20 attempts, including a long of 31 yards in the victory over Notre Dame. He’ll have another primetime opportunity in the Pac-12 Championship on Friday night against USC, and it could be the game that gets him over 2,000 rushing yards for the season.

 

Season stats:

215 ATT | 1,848 YDS | 8.6 AVG | 16 TD

6 REC | 33 YDS | 5.5 AVG

 

5. Kerryon Johnson | Auburn RB | Junior | Last week: 5

Alabama did a good job of limiting Kerryon Johnson in the Iron Bowl, but they couldn’t fully contain the Le’Veon Bell-esque back, who carried 30 times for 104 yards and a touchdown in the victory to help send his team to the SEC Championship. The injury suffered toward the end of the win is an obvious concern, but Johnson is expected to be out there against Georgia and certainly has a chance to put up a performance that could swing some voters in his direction.

 

Season stats:

250 ATT | 1,276 YDS | 5.1 AVG | 17 TD

21 REC | 187 YDS | 8.9 AVG | 2 TD

2017 College Football Power Rankings Week 13

2017 College Football Power Rankings Week 13

A crazy weekend in which both No. 1 and No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings were defeated makes an intriguing second-to-last rankings reveal this Tuesday. These rankings will be different than the Committee’s, but this is where everyone stands heading into conference championship week.

 

1. Wisconsin (12-0) | Last week: 3

Most people still seem to have Wisconsin outside of the top four in their rankings, but the Badgers are the only Power Five team that’s still undefeated. The argument is they haven’t had an extremely difficult schedule compared to other teams, but the bottom line is they’ve taken care of business and beaten everyone in front of them. A loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship would cause them to drop out of the top four, but for now, they belong in the top spot.

 

2. Clemson (11-1) | Last week: 4

The Friday the 13th loss in October to Syracuse, when they looked nothing like the elite team they are, seems like a distant memory at this point. Clemson, who just destroyed rival South Carolina on Saturday, is the favorite in the ACC Championship over Miami, which would guarantee a spot in the College Football Playoff. Even if they lose a close game, it’s not out of the question they still get in the Playoff if other stuff happens (an Oklahoma loss, for example).

 

3. Auburn (10-2) | Last week: 6

Auburn’s two losses have been at Clemson and at LSU in one-possession games, and right now, there might not be a team in the country that’s playing better than them. The Bulldogs have wins over the No. 1 team in the nation (Georgia and Alabama) in two of their last three games, and they now have a chance to win their conference. They could’ve lost to both Georgia and Alabama and the talk of getting rid of Gus Malzahn would’ve still probably been crazy. It’s even crazier now.

 

4. Alabama (11-1) | Last week: 1

As the number one team for basically the entire season, one loss to an Auburn team (in Jordan-Hare) that’s playing lights out isn’t going to drop Alabama out of the Playoff discussion. Oklahoma’s loss in Norman to Iowa State was worse than Alabama losing at Auburn, and Bama would be favorites over the Sooners if they were to play on a neutral field. However, there are still conference championships to be played this weekend while Alabama is sitting at home, so a lot can change in a week.

 

5. Oklahoma (11-1) | Last week: 5

Despite some of the controversy surrounding him, one of the best players in the country, Baker Mayfield, leads the Sooners and gives them a chance to win every game. Oklahoma already blew out TCU in their first matchup of the season three weeks ago in Norman, and now they square off in AT&T Stadium for the Big 12 title. The lack of defense in their conference is a concern, but Oklahoma should probably get in if they win the Big 12.

 

6. Georgia (11-1) | Last week: 7

Georgia has had the SEC East locked up for a while now, and Kirby Smart is a good bet to have his squad ready to play when they face an Auburn team that convincingly beat them earlier in November. If Georgia wins the SEC, they’ll clearly leapfrog a few spots and be in the top four for their first appearance in the College Football Playoff.

 

7. Miami (10-1) | Last week: 2

The loss to Pitt isn’t the end of the world for Miami, but now they have to beat Clemson in the ACC Championship to get in the Playoff. If their only loss of the season was a close one in the conference title game to the Tigers, they would’ve still had a good case to be in the top four anyway. Mark Richt and his team still must know a win over what might be rated as the No. 1 team in the nation when the rankings are released on Tuesday night and an ACC championship would make it difficult to leave them out of the Playoff.

 

8. Penn State (10-2) | Last week: 8

It really is mind-boggling that everyone continued to talk about a two-loss Notre Dame as a Playoff contender while completely ignoring Penn State. The Nittany Lions lost in Columbus to Ohio State by one point in an extremely close game, and then they lost at Michigan State by three points after a long delay which might’ve been very uncomfortable in the small visitor locker rooms in East Lansing. Based off the eye test, Penn State is a scary team—and they should be in the discussion if TCU beats Oklahoma.

 

9. Ohio State (10-2) | Last week: 9

A win in the Big Ten Championship over the only undefeated Power Five team remaining would be a huge sticker on the helmet for the Buckeyes, and it would vault them right into the discussion for a spot in the College Football Playoff. J.T. Barrett’s health is a bit of a question mark, but it’d be surprising if the senior leader wasn’t out there for Ohio State on Saturday night.

 

10. UCF (11-0) | Last week: 10

Scott Frost’s team is very fun to watch, as his program gives a glimpse of what a Chip Kelly-led UCLA team could become in a couple seasons. The Golden Knights’ offense is a huge challenge for opposing defenses, as it’s not just a traditional spread offense that a lot of teams are running. It’d be fun to see UCF in a New Year’s Six bowl, but they need to beat Memphis in the AAC Championship.

The Best Quotes From Chip Kelly’s Introductory Press Conference At UCLA

The Best Quotes From Chip Kelly’s Introductory Press Conference At UCLA

Today, UCLA introduced Chip Kelly as their next head football coach—the 17th in school history. There were reportedly over 200 people—boosters, alumni, reporters, and otherwise—in the room, and the excitement over the hire of Kelly is evident. UCLA great Troy Aikman, who was a big part of the search committee to target and hire Kelly, spoke after the press conference and is clearly optimistic about the hire. And after Kelly knocked the press conference out of the park and gave some insight into his mindset as a person and a football coach, there’s certainly reason for optimism for those not aware of the former Oregon and NFL coach. Here are some of the best quotes from the press conference, which can be viewed here.

 

“Not be a lot going on in LA today, I can see from this crowd.” The coach that Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie inexplicably said had no “emotional intelligence” (whatever that means), immediately showed he has a sense of humor and personality.

 

“To be aligned with the right people is the most important thing.” Frankly, the two previous jobs he had did not have the right ownership. The search committee for UCLA sounds like it does.

 

“That’s also the longest I’ve talked in my life, so.” After his introduction, Kelly wittingly added that before the Q&A started.

 

“I think sometimes your hubris can probably get the best of you, and you say, ‘Well I’ll just go there and change everything’ where sometimes it’s a lot easier when everybody’s already rowing the boat in the right direction.” Hindsight is 20/20 and he might have felt it was a fit at the time, but the situations in Philadelphia and San Francisco didn’t work out because of toxic people in those organizations.

 

“No, all those players graduated, so.” When asked about having the same type of offense he had at Oregon.

 

“We’re not going to say, ‘In two or three years, when we get our guys in here.’” I met with my guys today.” The players currently at the program and recruits should love to hear that. The team is a family, and if you’re a part of the team you’re a part of the family. Keep in mind the way Kelly handled the LeGarrette Blount situation at Oregon, when Blount punched a Boise State player—Blount is still having a very good NFL career that wouldn’t be possible if Kelly just kicked him out of the program.

 

“I’m there to assist in any way if I can help those guys, but especially those seniors, because I won’t get an opportunity to coach them, but those guys deserve to go out the right way.” Again, players are going to love to hear that stuff, and Kelly has a great outlook on everything.

 

“We all have to remember the student-athlete experience is the main thing, and let’s keep the main thing the main thing.” There’s no doubt Kelly wants to win, but he knows it’s about the young men that are about 18-22 years old. And for most of them, UCLA will be the last time they play football.

 

“I actually did, but no one paid attention to me.”  Kelly, saying that he did live and breathe the game every day during his year-absence from coaching.

 

“For you to grow as a person you have to get out of your comfort zone. So I got out of my comfort zone by joining the media.” Much of the media probably thinks they know more about football than Kelly, so you can’t blame him if he didn’t like dealing with some know-it-all media members throughout the years.

 

“I think the only expectation that you can have is what people do on a daily basis.” When asked about his expectations at UCLA. Kelly clearly has a growth mindset, not unlike someone like Tom Brady. If they take care of business every single day, they’ll be where they want to be.

 

“I’ve never been a comparison person. Teddy Roosevelt said comparison is the thief stealing your joy. So it’s not worrying about that. What we really want to look at is how are we going to get better every single day and how do we compete with ourselves?” Kelly once said, “run from being good. Chase being great.” Comparisons shouldn’t matter if you personally attempt to go from good to great.

 

“There was a great coach that said, “be quick, but don’t hurry.” That great coach, was of course, UCLA’s John Wooden.

 

“I’d like to be able to just stay in the Luskin Center. I’ve heard it’s expensive to live here, so if we could work out a deal where I could just stay in the Luskin Center, that would be great. We could put ‘Luskin’ on our back or on the sideline or something. So when you talk about a football set-up, when you have a hotel, a practice field, and an office all within like 200 yards, I think it’s the best in the country.” Kelly got some applause after that one. The UCLA fans, donors, and recruits will love to hear that.

 

Chip Kelly basically shared more wisdom in under 30 minutes than you’ll get from most people in 30 months. UCLA’s new football coach is a great articulator and is clearly one of the most impressive guys you’ll hear speak. And he’s a darn good hire for the Bruins.

Chip Kelly Is Not Just A “College Coach”

Chip Kelly Is Not Just A “College Coach”

This weekend, Chip Kelly is expected to make a decision on his future, as he’s reportedly set to select between Florida and UCLA. Kelly is clearly a football guy, so it’s a good bet for him to get back into coaching in some capacity—though I wouldn’t be shocked if he ends up declining both Florida and UCLA and tries to see about an NFL opportunity after the season.

 

However, based on multiple reports (though perhaps fake), it sounds like Kelly will go back into the college ranks after his five-year absence that included four years in the NFL and one year on television. If you are unaware, Kelly was previously the head coach for the Oregon Ducks, taking the program to unprecedented heights while going 46-7 with four BCS bowl appearances (including a national championship loss to a Cam Newton-led Auburn team), two bowl wins, and three top-five postseason finishes of No. 3, No. 4, and No. 2.

 

Now that he appears poised to head back to college football, you will hear some takes (stupid ones) that Kelly is a “college coach” that belongs in college. He’d be one of the best coaches in college football if he were to return, but the narrative that he’s a college coach is just wrong.

 

If Kelly was just a “college coach,” he wouldn’t have won ten games in each of his first two seasons in the NFL with Philadelphia.

 

In Kelly’s third NFL season, he had no choice but to take control of the football operations after current Eagles executive vice president Howie Roseman jettisoned (or stabbed in the back) personnel man Tom Gamble, and he made moves to go from good to great and was given less than a year to see the plans through. Today, we’re seeing the Eagles reap the benefits of what Kelly did by getting rid of some selfish players, setting the groundwork for a team that appears to have great chemistry.

 

And in San Francisco last year, Don Shula probably would’ve had trouble winning games with that roster—which is clearly improved this season, yet Kyle Shanahan’s squad only has one win so far.

 

If Kelly was just a “college coach,” Super Bowl winning defensive coordinator Wade Phillips wouldn’t have praised his offense, unprompted.

 

The bottom line is Kelly’s offense is incredibly difficult to defend. In that final season in Philadelphia, the interior offensive line really struggled, and it didn’t allow them to run inside zone with bruisers DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews like Kelly wanted. Had he been given a fair amount of time to build the roster, there’s not much question his offense wouldn’t become a tough task for opposing defenses.

 

If Kelly was just a “college coach,” NFL people in general wouldn’t hold him in such high regard.

 

After the first time Kelly was fired, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick gave his thoughts on the matter:

 

Yeah, I would say it’s really disappointing. I mean Chip Kelly to me is a really good football coach. I think he does a great job. I think he’s done a good job with that team. It’s disappointing to see. Or Josh [McDaniels] in Denver – there are a lot of examples but pretty much everybody is on a one-year contract in this league. I don’t know how you build a program in one year. Chip is a great coach. He’ll end up somewhere and he’ll do a great job there. I’d say a lot of the players that were on the Eagles that are no longer on the Eagles aren’t really doing too much for anybody else, either.

 

Belichick also previously brought Kelly in for some tips on the no-huddle offense, and he’s clearly not just going to hand out compliments for no reason. Now, you can disagree with the greatest coach of all-time and act like you know more about who’s a good coach and who isn’t. But I won’t.

 

Tom Coughlin, Troy Aikman (who’s reportedly really pushing for Kelly to coach his alma matter), Jon Gruden, Tony Dungy, Bill Polian, Nick Saban, and Bill Parcells are all among the believers in Kelly as a coach. His critics are basically a couple of players that were angry he traded or cut them, and a bunch of people that apparently don’t pay attention enough or listen to the overly negative know-it-all media that think they know more than those that live and breathe the game.

 

Chip Kelly isn’t just a college coach. He’s an elite football coach in general, and whoever gets him—in college or in the pros—will be lucky to have him.

2017 Heisman Watch (Week 12)

2017 Heisman Watch (Week 12)

1. Saquon Barkley | Penn State RB | Junior | Last week: 1

Saquon Barkley still has another year of eligibility, but if Saturday was his last game in Beaver Stadium it was a great way to go out. Barkley totaled over 200 yards and three touchdowns, and he did nothing to dissuade the Heisman voters while leading a top-ten team in the country.

 

Season stats:

183 ATT | 1,057 YDS | 5.8 AVG | 14 TD

46 REC | 590 YDS | 12.8 AVG | 3 TD

14 RET | 423 YDS | 30.2 AVG | 2 TD

100% | 16 YDS | 1 PASS TD

 

2. Baker Mayfield | Oklahoma QB | Senior | Last week: 2

The Heisman stock of Oklahoma’s leader might’ve taken a hit in Saturday’s win over Kansas, as his inappropriate actions on the sideline have led to him being benched to start this weekend’s West Virginia game. Mayfield could come in an light it up, but every snaps could matter in a tight Heisman race like this.

 

Season stats:

70.8% | 3,816 YDS | 34 TD | 5 INT

77 ATT | 240 YDS | 3.1 AVG | 5 TD

 

3. Lamar Jackson | Louisville QB | Junior | Last week: 3

The disrespect the reigning Heisman Trophy winner gets right now is unbelievable. Khalil Tate is having an outstanding season for Arizona and nothing should be taken away from him, but I saw ESPN had on their “Bottom Line” that Tate was ahead of Jackson in the Heisman race. Keep in mind, their teams have the same record. But Jackson has been more spectacular and he has better numbers.

 

Season stats:

59.8% | 3,273 YDS | 23 TD | 6 INT

190 ATT | 1,287 YDS | 6.8 AVG | 17 TD

 

4. Bryce Love | Stanford RB | Junior | Last week: 4

Bryce Love’s Heisman chances might skyrocket this Saturday when Stanford takes on Notre Dame in a primetime matchup. If he puts up a huge performance near 300 yards, he’d go over 2,000 yards for the season with all the voters (hopefully if they’re doing their jobs) watching—it’d be quite the statement against the Fighting Irish.

 

Season stats:

195 ATT | 1,723 YDS | 8.8 AVG | 16 TD

6 REC | 33 YDS | 5.5 AVG

 

5. Kerryon Johnson | Auburn RB | Junior | Last week: 5

Auburn played Louisiana Monroe, but Kerryon Johnson still put up another big performance in the blowout victory. With a huge matchup in the Iron Bowl with a trip to the SEC Championship Game on the line, Johnson has the opportunity to make a big-time declaration in an exceedingly close Heisman race.

 

Season stats:

220 ATT | 1,172 YDS | 5.3 AVG | 16 TD

18 REC | 166 YDS | 9.2 AVG | 2 TD

2017 College Football Power Rankings Week 12

2017 College Football Power Rankings Week 12

In a week that included a lot of tune-up games heading into Rivalry Week, the entire top ten remained the same. No. 3 Wisconsin had the toughest test of the week, pulling away from then-No. 24 Michigan. There will certainly be some changes over these next couple of weeks, with some huge games coming up.

 

1. Alabama (11-0) | Last week: 1

The stakes in this year’s Iron Bowl are about as high as they can get, with a trip to the SEC Championship on the line. We’ve seen some instant classics over the years between the two squads, and this one should be no different. There’s still a scenario of Alabama getting into the Playoff even with a loss, but Nick Saban will have his guys ready to play on Saturday.

 

2. Miami (10-0) | Last week: 2

They might have been dealing with a bit of a hangover after the huge win a couple Saturdays ago over Notre Dame, but Miami separated from Virginia with 30 unanswered points in the convincing win. The Hurricanes now need to get past Pitt—a team that’s had its share of upset wins over the last two seasons—before facing Clemson in the ACC Championship.

 

3. Wisconsin (11-0) | Last week: 3

Michigan might not even be ranked in the top 25 this Tuesday, but Wisconsin still had a great win over them. They continue to beat the teams in front of them, and they should be ranked in the top four. Despite the apparent disrespect from the Committee, the Badgers should control their standing over the final two games before the four Playoff teams are determined.

 

4. Clemson (10-1) | Last week: 4

It would’ve been one of the biggest shockers in the history of sports if Clemson lost to Citadel, so it’s no surprise they easily took care of them last Saturday. Now the Tigers have a rivalry game against South Carolina where anything can happen—they can’t look ahead to the ACC Championship versus Miami.

 

5. Oklahoma (10-1) | Last week: 5

It started with the Kansas captains not shaking Baker Mayfield’s hand, but it ended with Mayfield acting immaturely toward the Jayhawks. And in between, Oklahoma won by 38 points. They aren’t a lock for the top four after next week, as an Alabama loss would probably mean Auburn vaults ahead of them while the Crimson Tide remain above them.

 

6. Auburn (9-2) | Last week: 6

This Saturday against Alabama is another de facto Playoff elimination game for Auburn, and if they win and then win again in the SEC Championship over Georgia, they would have to be in the top four. 3:30 PM ET on Saturday should be a blast.

 

7. Georgia (10-1) | Last week: 7

Georgia versus Georgia Tech is almost always close, and GT has won two the last three against the Bulldogs. While Georgia has an SEC Championship to play in a couple weeks, a loss to Georgia Tech could still be the end of their Playoff hopes. They should be able to get it done.

 

8. Penn State (9-2) | Last week: 8

The Nittany Lions cannot get into the Big Ten Championship game, but there’s still a scenario where they make the Playoff. They’ll obviously need some help, but Saquon Barkley and Penn State in the top four would be a major threat to whoever they play.

 

9. Ohio State (9-2) | Last week: 9

While they’ll be facing an unranked Michigan team, it’d be a surprise if “The Game” wasn’t close. The Wolverines play tough defense and, though a lot of their players from last season are gone, they’ll want to get some redemption after they felt the officials cost them last year’s game. If Ohio State wins, they might be in excellent Playoff position heading into the conference championship against Wisconsin.

 

10. UCF (10-0) | Last week: 10

Scott Frost and undefeated UCF continue to dominate almost every game they are in behind one of the best offenses in college football. Now they’ll face one-loss South Florida in perhaps the biggest matchup between these two schools since they’ve started playing each other.

Chip Kelly To The University of Florida Rumor Roundup With Analysis

Chip Kelly To The University of Florida Rumor Roundup With Analysis

It’s only November, but two head coaching positions at big-time programs are already open around the country at the University of Florida and the University of Tennessee. After the NFL season, there will be some more head coaching gigs open—and if teams want a head start, perhaps even sooner than season’s end. In college football, Florida and Tennessee already have gotten head starts—and if you do a quick search on Twitter, you’ll see the majority of fans from both schools want to hire former University of Oregon, Philadelphia Eagles, and San Francisco 49ers head coach Chip Kelly.

 

Gator fans in particular have been going crazy trying to figure out if their school will seal the deal and bring Kelly on board. Fans have been relentless in telling Florida’s Athletic Director, Scott Stricklin, to just make the hire already. We’re tracking the situation, and here’s everything you need to know about Chip Kelly potential coaching the Gators.

 

A couple of days ago, there were rumors Stricklin was in Connecticut meeting with Kelly, who currently works for ESPN there. However, Stricklin attended a sports administration class and answered some questions:

 

 

 

Since that time, there have been various people saying Kelly to Florida is a done deal—though it has been nowhere near confirmed yet. What has seemingly been confirmed is that the Gators do indeed want Kelly as their next man to lead the football program. Yesterday, Darren Heitner of the Sports Agent Blog reported Florida is “looking at” Kelly as the next head coach, while adding the SEC has given the OK if they want to hire him (Kelly’s Oregon program violated NCAA rules before he left for the NFL in 2013).

 

Now today, Heitner reported an interesting update:

 

 

However, Steve Spurrier flat-out denied it:

 

 

And to top it off, Stricklin comically gave some advice for the day, which is at the very least a wink and nod to those keeping up with the rumors.

 

 

That makes it seem likely that Stricklin is at least optimistic about getting the man he wants for the job—whether it be Kelly or someone else. The inner politics, which ruins many organizations today, might be a factor, but it appears Chip Kelly is the guy Florida wants to take over the program.

 

Kelly wanting the job is a completely different story. The University of Florida is undeniably one of the best all-around sports universities in the country, and Kelly would have many, many great players from the state of Florida (and other places) that would love to be a Gator for him. His success at Oregon (46-7 record) happened because he’s an excellent coach and should be atop every team’s wish list.

 

However, Kelly wants to be in the National Football League, and he’s not the type of person to just take a job as a stepping stone to another job—he’s said as much himself. So taking the job at Florida would, in all likelihood, mean at least another two or three years of not being in the NFL. Also, Kelly probably doesn’t want to deal with having to deal with the many boosters at Florida (at Oregon, friend Phil Knight could do most of the boosting). Ultimately, this might come down to whether Kelly wants to take the Florida job—which might be the best college job to come available this year—or hope an NFL team (the Browns?) gives him another opportunity.

2017 Heisman Watch (Week 11)

2017 Heisman Watch (Week 11)

1. Saquon Barkley | Penn State RB | Junior | Last week: 1

He put up another two touchdowns, including one set up by a hook-and-ladder where he made an insane hurdle, but Saquon Barkley’s Heisman lead is slipping if not non-existent. Baker Mayfield is right there with Barkley, and Mayfield probably has more big games to finish the year on a very high note with the voters.

 

Season stats:

166 ATT | 899 YDS | 5.4 AVG | 11 TD

40 REC | 517 YDS | 12.9 AVG | 3 TD

14 RET | 423 YDS | 30.2 AVG | 2 TD

100% | 16 YDS | 1 PASS TD

 

2. Baker Mayfield | Oklahoma QB | Senior | Last week: 2

Another three touchdowns along with 333 yards passing in another win over a ranked opponent has most people calling Mayfield the easy Heisman choice. It’s certainly no easy selection at this point, but there is a big-time argument for Mayfield at number one. His ability to buy time with his legs while scrambling behind the line of scrimmage before delivering perfect passes to his receivers is difficult for any defense to stop.

 

Season stats:

71.2% | 3,559 YDS | 31 TD | 5 INT

73 ATT | 231 YDS | 3.2 AVG | 5 TD

 

3. Lamar Jackson | Louisville QB | Junior | Last week: 4

Because of Louisville’s record and the fact that Jackson had an outstanding Heisman season last year, it seems he’s going under the radar right now. No one talks about it, but Jackson just put up another four-touchdown performance which included 147 yards rushing—and that’s been his lowest rushing in the last four games.

 

Season stats:

60.2% | 3,003 YDS | 21 TD | 6 INT

178 ATT | 1,176 YDS | 6.6 AVG | 15 TD

 

4. Bryce Love | Stanford RB | Junior | Last week: 5

A monster performance by Bryce Love led Stanford to their big-time upset at home against Washington, and his Heisman candidacy is back in full swing. Love appears to be fully over his ankle injury, as evident by his 30 carries (which tied a season high) for 166 yards and three touchdowns. Stanford’s finish to the season will likely be huge for Love’s Heisman chances.

 

Season stats:

181 ATT | 1,622 YDS | 9.0 AVG | 15 TD

5 REC | 31 YDS | 6.2 AVG

 

5. Kerryon Johnson | Auburn RB | Junior | Last week: NR

Gus Malzahn says his running back should be in the Heisman race, and he’s definitely right. Kerryon Johnson showed his amazing running ability, as he looked a lot like All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell, which is not a coincidence considering he watches a lot of film on him. Johnson is now up over 1,000 yards for the season, and he had one of his best performances in the awesome win over the number one Georgia Bulldogs

 

Season stats:

198 ATT | 1,035 YDS | 5.2 AVG | 15 TD

15 REC | 152 YDS | 10.1 AVG | 2 TD

2017 College Football Power Rankings Week 11

2017 College Football Power Rankings Week 11

Notre Dame, TCU, and Washington are all knocked out of the top ten after their losses over the weekend, so other teams have some big openings as they make a final push for the College Football Playoff. We also have the first non-Power Five team in the rankings this week, as the 9-0 UCF Knights get in at No. 10.

 

1. Alabama (10-0) | Last week: 1

It looked like Alabama was going to suffer their first loss of the season at the hands of Mississippi State in Starkville, but quarterback Jalen Hurts and the team stayed calm and improved to 10-0. Now the Crimson Tide have what should be a cakewalk against Mercer before they play in the Iron Bowl.

 

2. Miami (9-0) | Last week: 6

Miami wasn’t getting enough respect from the Playoff Committee, but not many people expected them to put the beat down on Notre Dame that they did. If the Hurricanes are not in the top four when the rankings are released, there’s a problem.

 

3. Wisconsin (10-0) | Last week: 3

Wisconsin is 10-0 for the first time in school history, and like Miami, they aren’t getting enough respect for their season. The Badgers are one of three undefeated Power Five teams, and they completely dominated against an Iowa team that’s given almost everyone in the Big Ten trouble this season. It’s time to start showing Wisconsin more respect for what they’ve done so far this year.

 

4. Clemson (9-1) | Last week: 4

The fourth quarter was closer than many expected, but Clemson still pulled away and won a rivalry game against Florida State. They control their own destiny and need to take care of business against Citadel and South Carolina before facing Miami in the ACC Championship on December 2.

 

5. Oklahoma (9-1) | Last week: 5

If you want to put Oklahoma in the top four, there’s certainly a good argument for it. The Sooners have two straight wins over top-11 teams, and they’ve both been in convincing fashion with stellar offense led by Baker Mayfield. The defense is what has OU at number five for now.

 

6. Auburn (8-2) | Last week: NR

Remember, Auburn’s only two losses of the season were at Clemson and at LSU. Both were one-possession games, and they were in control of the LSU game—though a loss is a loss. Bottom line is Auburn is a very good team, and if they win out—which would include a win over Alabama and another win over Georgia in the SEC Championship—they have to be in the Playoff.

 

7. Georgia (9-1) | Last week: 2

Despite getting destroyed by Auburn, this is not the end of the world for the Bulldogs. Georgia already has a spot in the SEC Championship Game locked up, so they’ll face either Alabama or have another shot at Auburn in a few weeks. A one-loss SEC champion would be awfully difficult to keep out, so Georgia is still in control.

 

8. Penn State (8-2) | Last week: 10

After two straight losses, Penn State got back on track against Rutgers—and they basically got what they needed with some teams losing. They need some help, but if they end up in the Big Ten Championship against Wisconsin, we’ll see if the Committee puts them in.

 

9. Ohio State (8-2) | Last week: NR

An obvious favorite of the Committee, Ohio State could also work their way back up the Playoff rankings. Both Penn State and Ohio State being in it despite having two losses already shows how crazy this season has been so far.

 

10. UCF (9-0) | Last week: NR

They haven’t lost a game, it’s time to put UCF in the top-ten. True, they don’t play in a Power Five conference, but they’ve beaten the teams in front of them. Head coach Scott Frost has done an outstanding job with this team, and it’ll be interesting to see where they’re ranked after some of the losses that occurred over the weekend.