Week 5 Picks

The State Press

Hopefully none of you are actually putting any money down based on my bets. Last week I was 3-4, which drops me to 13-15 for the year.

No doubt this is the week that things turn around. Probably not. Either way, hopefully I’ll have no idea after having my mind blown to pieces by Outkast on Friday night.

No. 11 UCLA (3-0) at No. 15 Arizona State (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12)- Thursday 10 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1: Nothing like a pair of ranked conference opponents kicking off the week with their back-up quarterbacks.

Well maybe it will be with their back-up signal callers. UCLA hasn’t said whether or not Brett Hundley will play after injuring his elbow two weeks ago against Texas.

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The Sun Devils are going with Mike Bercovici as Taylor Kelly sits with a foot injury.

Bercovici has played in all three games this season, completing 9 of his 17 pass attempts for 79 yards and TD. Bruins’ No. 2 signal caller Jerry Neuheisel lead UCLA to a 20-17 win over the Longhorns, as he threw for 178 yards and two TDs.

Inexperience may show up early with the two QBs, but the key to the game will come down to Arizona State’s ability to run the ball.  UCLA is giving up just 3.8 yards per carry on the ground, and has allowed only three rushing TDs all year. Junior Arizona State tailback D.J. Foster has fun for 510 yards and five TDs, which ranks eighth in the country.

Prediction: Even with all the will he or won’t he regarding Hundley, UCLA is favored by four points on the road. I think this is  the week that the Bruins’ struggling offensive line finally costs them. I’m going with Arizona State 20-14.

Tennessee (2-1) at No. 12 Georgia (2-1, 0-1 SEC)- Saturday Noon ET on ESPN: It’s the SEC opener for the Vols, while Georgia looks to stay in contention in the East division after losing to South Carolina two weeks ago.

After two straight wins to open the year, Tennessee was shredded by Oklahoma two weeks ago. The Sooners racked up 454 yards of total offense, including 308 yards passing.

Justin Worley looks much-improved under center this season. He’s completed 58.3 percent of his passes this season, and already thrown for 721 yards (after tallying up just 1,239 all last year).

Even with an improved offense, I’m just not sure Tennessee has the defensive personnel to slow Georgia’s offensive attack. Georgia is averaging 471 yards per game, and Todd Gurley has racked up 402 yards rushing.

Prediction: Georgia is a 17-point favorite at home in this one. I think Georgia runs wild against the Volunteers 42-23.

Arkansas (3-1, 0-1 SEC) at No. 6 Texas A&M (4-0, 1-0 SEC)- Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS: Here’s what we know about these two teams- Arkansas is going to run the ball. Texas A&M is going to throw it.

The Hogs average 324.5 yards per game on the ground (seventh best in the nation), and the Aggies average 405 yards passing.

In Kenny Hill TAMU has another quarterback that could end the season in New York. The trillest signal caller in all the land is completing 69.8 percent of his passes with 13 TDs and an interception.

Arkansas should have a blue print to follow on defense for how to slow down the Aggies spread offense. The Hogs have already faced Auburn and Texas Tech this season. Auburn did rack up 595 yards, but the Red Raiders and Kevin Sumlin protege Kliff Kingsbury were held to just 353 yards in a 49-28 Arkansas win.

Prediction: Texas A&M is favored by nine points. I think Arkansas’ rushing attack will be tough enough for the Aggies to stop that they cover. I’m going Texas A&M 38-31.

No. 1 Florida State (3-0, 1-0 ACC) at North Carolina State (4-0)- Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC/ESPN 2: After escaping Clemson 23-17 in over time with a back-up quarterback, Florida State looks to make it 20-straight wins this weekend in a place they’ve struggled over the years.

Tallahasse.com

Tallahassee.com

Jameis Winston will return to the huddle after watching from the sidelines last weekend following his suspension for lacking self-awareness.

After a slow start, N.C. State has looked much better the last two weeks in wins over South Florida and Presbyterian. Former Florida QB Jacoby Brissett is completing 69.7 percent of his passes for 10 TDs and one interception. N.C. State is averaging 248.8 yards per game rushing, good for 24th best in the country.

The Seminoles’ defense still needs better play from its linebackers, and it may need to adjust some of the roles the secondary is playing, but they looked pretty darn good against Clemson. Eddie Goldman played his best game in garnet and gold, and Mario Edwards continues to hold the edge.

Prediction: Florida State is favored by 19 points on the road. I think Winston and the Seminoles go scorched earth on N.C. State 42-17.

Missouri (3-1) at No. 13 South Carolina (3-1, 2-1 SEC)- Saturday 7 p.m. ET on ESPN: Both teams enter Saturday following a disappointing performance last weekend.

Missouri brought shame to the whole SEC with a 31-27 loss to Indiana, and South Carolina needed 21-fourth quarter points to put away lowly Vanderbilt. A Tigers’ win could really throw a wrench into an already chaotic division race.

Despite being ranked 13th in the polls, South Carolina is giving up an average of 480 yards per game this year. Missouri’s offense is averaging 430 yards per game. Maty Mauk has thrown 14 touchdown passes and 978 yards.

Dylan Thompson had his first turnover free game of the year against Vanderbilt last weekend. The Senior QB is completing 62% of his passes, has 11 touchdowns and just three picks.

Prediction: South Carolina is favored by six points at home. I’m still not sure how the Hoosier beat the Tigers last weekend, but I’m going to overlook and go with Missouri. The Tigers beat South Carolina 24-17.

Duke (4-0) at Miami (2-2, 0-1 ACC): Through four games, Duke has been flat-out dominant (albeit it against Elon, Troy, Kansas and Tulane). The Blue Devils are giving up just an average of 11.5 points per game, while putting up 43.5.

Jamison Crowder has 22 grabs for 296 yards and two scores to pace the offense.

Due to injuries and off-the-field issues Miami has been forced to play true freshman Brad Kaaya earlier than expected. The Californian has thrown for 1,052 yards with 10 TDs, but he’s been intercepted seven times.

The Hurricanes real issues have been on the defensive side of the ball. Opponents are averaging 308 yards per game, and 24.8 points. Last week Nebraska reeled off 343 yards rushing in a 41-31 victory. The Blue Devils are averaging 261 yards per game, and 6.4 yards per attempt.

Prediction: For some reason Miami is a seven-point favorite in this one. I think Duke opens up conference play with a 35-24 win.

Oregon State (3-0) at No. 18 Southern Cal (2-1, 1-0 Pac-12)- Saturday 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN: This is a pretty good way to cap off the college football weekend.

The Trojans are looking to bounce back from a 37-31 upset loss at Boston College, while Oregon State is undefeated with weak schedule thus far.

USC allowed 452 yards rushing to the Eagles two weeks ago. The Beavers top two rushers are averaging more than five yards per carry, but the passing game is what makes the offense go. Quarterback Sean Mannion has completed over 70 percent of his pass attempts in his last two games, and racked up 903 yards passing already this year.

Mannion will be without his top target on Saturday as Victor Bolden (18 grabs for 192 yards) is out with a dislocated pinkie finger.

The Beavers defense is giving up just 113 yards per game on the ground (30th best in the country), but USC is running for an average of 151 yards per game. Buck Allen is leading the way with 318 yards, but had just 31 against BC.

Prediction: USC is a nine-point favorite at home. With a week to lick their wounds, I think USC bounces back with a 35-21 win.

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Week 3 Picks

gogamecocks.com

I bounced back with a 4-3 week two to bring the picks to 6-8 for the year. This week’s slate of games doesn’t exactly jump off the screen, which means it will likely be one of the more wild weekends of the season.

Georgia Southern (1-1) at Georgia Tech (2-0)- Saturday noon ET on FOX Sports South: The Yellow Jackets have had a pair of slow starts that look much better on paper than they did on film. Wofford trailed by just five points in the fourth quarter before Tech pulled away for a 38-19 victory.

USA Today Sports

Last week on the road the Yellow Jackets kicked a field just before halftime for its first lead of the game. The second half was all Georgia Tech though, as it went on for a 38-21 win over Tulane.

Georgia Southern is 1-1 after putting up 83 points last weekend against Savannah State (seriously why does this school play football?).

The Eagles ended last year with a big win over Florida in Gainesville and very nearly had another Power 5 victory to start 2014. North Carolina State needed a Jacoby Brissett touchdown pass with 1:37 to escape the opener with a 24-23 win.

Prediction: Vegas is giving the Yellow Jackets 17 points. I think that’s awfully generous and I like the Eagles to not only cover, but I think they come to Atlanta and win. I’ll take Georgia Southern 24-21.

Central Florida (0-1) at No. 20 Missouri (2-0)- Saturday noon ET on SEC Network: Missouri dominated Toledo early last week and never looked back at is moved to 2-0 with a 49-24 win on the road. The Tigers racked up more than 500 yards of total offense in the game.

Quarterback Maty Mauk is completing 64.2 percent of his passes, and has tossed eight touchdown passes to just two interceptions. Still the Tigers haven’t faced a team as good as UCF.

UCF fell to Penn State 26-24 in Ireland in its season opener. The Kinghts offense stalled early in the game, but was sparked when Justin Holman entered the game. Holman completed 9 of 14 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for a pair of touchdowns and is now the starter.

Prediction: Home-field advantage has Missouri as a 10-point favorite in this one. While I think Holman makes UCF much more dynamic on offense than it was with Pete DeNivo under center, I still can’t overlook the Nittany Lions’ 511 yards of total offense in the game. I think Missouri’s offense will be too much for UCF, and the Tigers win 35-20.

West Virginia (1-1) at Maryland (2-0)- Saturday noon ET on Big Ten Network: The Terrapins make their Big Ten Network debut against a geographical rival, who of course plays in conference made up of southwestern teams because… College Football that’s why.

The Mountaineers are 1-1 after hanging with Alabama and shutting out Towson. Clint Trickett is completing a whopping 75.3 percent of his passes, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. The former FSU signal-caller even has a rushing TD this year as well. West Virginia’s inability to stop the run was the difference against Alabama in the Georgia Dome as the Crimson Tide racked up 288 yards on the ground.

Maryland had a strong start against James Madison and escaped South Florida with a 24-17 win last weekend. Turnovers have been the Terrapins big bugaboo early this season. C.J. Brown has thrown two interceptions this year, while back-up Caleb Rowe has also thrown a pick. USF’s first points last week came courtesy of a fumble return for a touchdown.

Prediction: Maryland is a three-point favorite in this one. I think Brown and the rest of Maryland’s rushing attack will give West Virgina problems, but I still think the Mountaineers pull it off. I’m going West Virgina 35-28.

No. 6 Georgia (1-0) at No. 24 South Carolina (1-1)- Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS: Obviously this is Saturday’s main course.

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Columbia, S.C. has been a bit of a house of horrors for the Bulldogs lately with the Gamecocks winning the last two, including a 35-7 drubbing in 2012 that’s still fresh in both fan bases’ memories. UGA avenged the loss last year in Athens with a 41-30 win.

Todd Gurley racked up 132 yards in last year’s win, and looks to be even better this year as the fully-healthy junior piled up 198 yards rushing, three rushing TDs and a 100-yard kickoff return for a fourth score in a 45-21 win over Clemson in the opener.

South Carolina bounced back with a win over ECU last weekend, after Texas A&M scored 52 points in win over South Carolina in Columbia. Even with a win over the Purple Pirates the defense gave up 453 yards of offense in the 33-23 victory.

The good news was that Mike Davis did look healthy as he rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns.

Prediction: Georgia is a favored by 6.5 points on the road. With South Carolina giving up an average of 6.8 yards per play, and Georgia looking potent offensively despite its off-season losses this one looks like it could be a Bulldogs’ blowout. I’m sure the Ole Ball Coach has mentioned this more than a few teams to his club this week, but I just don’t think South Carolina has the personnel on defense to stop UGA. I think Todd Gurley has another big day and Georgia rolls 42-23.

Tennessee (2-0) at No. 4 Oklahoma (2-0) – Saturday 8 p.m. ET on ABC: Time for Bob Stoops to back up all that SEC smack talk he’s been spewing since last summer.

The Sooners have rolled over a couple of cupcakes early in the year, averaging 508 yards of total offense per game. Trevor Knight has been impressive with 552 yards passing, three TDs and a rushing TD as well.

Oklahoma’s defense has been lights out, giving up just 3.8 yards per play against Louisiana Tech and Tulsa. OU has four sacks, and has forced five turnovers in the blowout victories, including four interceptions.

The Volunteers are also 2-0 on the year, but they haven’t been quite as impressive. Tennessee did blow by Utah Sate on Labor Day weekend, but didn’t pull away from Arkansas State until the second half, and even trailed much of the first quarter.

Justin Worely has looked good under center, with a 64.5 completion percentage, 520 yards passing and five touchdowns. Despite the lack of a running game to keep defenses honest.

Prediction: Oklahoma is favored by 21 points. Tennessee is going to look ridiculous next week against Florida thanks to Adidas, but this week they’ll only have themselves to blame. Boomer Sooner rolls 42-17.

No. 9 USC (2-0) at Boston College (1-1)- Saturday 8 p.m. ET on ESPN: The Trojans enter this one after an emotional 13-10 win over Stanford last weekend. Boston College is coming off a 10-point loss to Pitt.

USA Today Sports

Pitt ran it down the Eagles’ throat for 303 yards last week. USC is averaging 496 yards per game on offense, including 216 yards rushing. Buck Allen is leading the way with 287 yards.

The Eagles have had their own success running the ball, with an average of 5.1 yards per rush. Quarterback Tyler Murphy is the leading rusher with 210 yards. USC showed it can stop a physical rushing attack last week, limiting Stanford to 128 yards on 38 carries.

Prediction: Despite a cross-country flight, the Trojans are a 17-point favorite. I think BC is going to surprise some teams this year, but USC isn’t one of them. USC takes down the dudes 31-10.

Texas (1-1) at No. 12 UCLA (2-0)- Saturday 8:15 p.m. ET on FOX: When FOX saw they had UCLA at Texas with this week’s slate of games they had to be ecstatic. A national title contender with a pair of Heisman hopefuls, against Charlie Strong as he rebuilds one of the game’s biggest brands.

Instead what they’ve got is a pair of perhaps the most disappointing teams in college football.

Texas was embarrassed at home by BYU (yes again) 41-7 last weekend. The Cougars racked up 429 yards of total offense, including 248 yards rushing. Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes was 20 of 31 for 176 yards, a TD and an interception as BYU loaded the box and dared him to beat him with his arm.

UCLA hasn’t lost a game in 2014, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. A struggling offensive line has led to narrow victories over Virgina (28-20) and Memphis (42-35). Bruins’ fans may have been able to chalk the UVA game up to a noon game on the East Coast, but the Memphis win came in Los Angeles.

Still the Bruins have a pair of dynamic play-makers in Brett Hundley and Myles Jack. Hundley has thrown for 638 yards, three TDs and a pick, while also rushing for 65 yards and TD. Jack is again playing both ways for UCLA. The sophomore has 19 tackles, one for loss and two pass break-ups on defense. He’s only carried the ball three times on offense, but did have a four-yard TD run against Memphis.

Prediction: UCLA is an eight-point favorite at home in this one. I have no doubt that Strong will have Texas playing better this week, but he still will be missing his starting quarterback and three offensive line starters. UCLA will win this one, but we’ll find out more about them in two weeks in Tempe, Ariz. UCLA wins 24-12.

Week 1 Picks

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College Football is upon us once again. While the debut of Georgia State as a Fun Belt team was mere morsel of an appetizer,  Thursday it’s time to feast my friends.

There is a heck of a slate of games this weekend, beginning with 14 games on Thursday. I’m picking my top seven match-ups as I’ll do every week throughout the season (unless my honey-do list gets too long at home).

No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 9 South Carolina- 6p.m. ET on SEC Network: The Aggies begin life without Johnny Manziel, and South Carolina looks to find an identity on defense after Jadeveon Clowney. South Carolina has won 17 straight games at home, and Steve Spurrier is 23-1 all-time in openers as a college coach.

The Augusta Chronicle

Sophomore Kenny Hill is the new Texas A&M quarterback. He attempted just 22 passes last season, but Kevin Sumlin has been able to put up big numbers no matter who his signal caller is. South Carolina also has a new starting QB in Dylan Thompson. Unlike Hill, Thompson has plenty of experience, including playing in 10 games last year as he completed 58.4 percent of his passes for 783 yards and four touchdowns.

Last year the Aggies showed no desire in playing defense against anyone giving up 32.2 points per game and an average of 475.8  yards per game. With an offense that features running back Mike Davis, who averaged 5.8 yards per carry en route to a 1,183-yard season, I think the Gamecocks take this one pretty easily.

Prediction: Most Las Vegas books have South Carolina as a 10.5-point favorite. I’m going with South Carolina 45, Texas A&M 24.

Boise State vs. No. 18 Ole Miss- 8 p.m. ET on ESPN: Chris Petersen is gone. The BCS is gone. Thus it will be a long time before Boise State is able to prove to they truly are more than just a flash in the pan in the world of college football. A win over an up-and-coming SEC team would be a good start.

Ole Miss is favored by 11 in most books. That’s largely in part due to the fact that they’re led by senior quarterback Bo Wallace, who threw for 3,346 yards last season. Boise signal caller Grant Hedrick takes over full-time after splitting time with Joe Southwick last year.

The Rebels have a distinct advantage on defense with nine starters returning. Even though Boise State’s 6-2 record against ranked opponents since 2009 is an interesting tidbit, I don’t think this group of Broncos can hang.

Prediction: Look for Ole Miss and head coach Hugh Freeze to make statement in his third season opener. Ole Miss wins 28-14.

West Virginia vs. No. 2 Alabama- 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC/ESPN2: This game has an interesting sub-plot. Projected starting quarterbacks Clint Trickett and Jacob Coker were teammates at Florida State in 2012, before Trickett went to West Virginia last year and Coker enrolled at Alabama this summer.

AP Photo

Trickett has further taken the storyline off the field by telling reporters that his first kiss was actually Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s daughter when they were six.

As far as Vegas is concerned off the field stories are the only intriguing aspects of this Chic-fil-A Kickoff game, with the Crimson Tide as a 27-point favorite.

The Mountaineers spread offense will be a good test for an Alabama secondary that wasn’t up to Saban’s lofty standards a year ago.

Prediction: I think Alabama is one of the best teams in the country, but I’m thinking West Virginia will cover here. I’m going Alabama 35, West Virginia 17.

Arkansas at No. 6 Auburn- 4 p.m. ET on SEC Network: This is a game that Vegas really wants you to put your money on. Auburn starting quarterback Nick Marshall won’t start the game, and no one knows if he’ll play at all thanks to a marijuana citation this off-season.

The Tigers are a 19.5 favorite despite Marshall’s suspension, because Vegas wants you to bet on the Razorbacks. But don’t fall for it. Auburn’s No. 2 QB Jeremy Johnson can play. He was a four-star prospect out of Montgomery, Ala. and was named Mr. Football as a senior.

Arkansas has won three of its last four trips to Jordan-Hare Stadium, but I don’t have much faith in a fourth victory.

Prediction: I think Auburn wins this one in a boat race. I’m taking the Tigers 42-20.

No. 16 Clemson at No. 12 Georgia- 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN: This was an awesome game last year, with two veteran quarterbacks battling it out as Clemson held on for a 38-35 win.

This year it looks like another great match-up, just with a pair of inexperienced QBs this time around. Georgia will start senior Hutson Mason who has waited his turn the last three years behind Aaron Murray. Clemson will also go with a senior to start year in Cole Stoudt, but true freshman Deshaun Watson could also see time this season.

Clemson’s defense has the edge in this one with Vic Beasley one of a handful of veteran defenders who returned, but UGA has the X-factor with Todd Gurley.

Prediction: Georgia is favored by 7.5 in this one. I think that the Bulldogs win, but in another thriller 27-21 over Clemson.

No. 1 Florida State vs. Oklahoma State- 8p.m. ET on ABC: Jimbo Fisher wants his team to display an attitude of dominance in 2014. Dominance is what Vegas expects in this one with FSU favored by 18.5 points.

The Seminoles are loaded again, and the big stage in Dallas will be nothing new to them. Oklahoma State returns just 10 total starters on offense and defense from a team that appeared in the Cotton Bowl last year.

Prediction: FSU rolls in this one I think. I’m taking the Seminoles 42-16 over the Cowboys.

No. 14 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 LSU: This all smash-mouth football fan could ask for. Two big physical teams, with a pair of the best running backs in the country.

Madison.com

Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon ran for 1,609 yards last year and is considered by some to be a darkhorse Heisman candidate. LSU’s top tailback is a 6-foot-1, 224-pound freshman named Leonard Fournette, who has Jameis Winston-hype around him as he makes his collegiate debut in Houston on Saturday.

LSU will rotate quarterbacks with both Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris both expected to play. Wisconsin will start Tanner McEvoy, who played safety for the Badgers last year. McEvoy brings a dual-threat element to the quarterback position that could make Wisconsin’s vaunted rushing attack even tougher to defend.

LSU is a five-point favorite in this one, and I think the Tigers athletes on defense get them by the Badgers.

Prediction: I’m going with LSU 21, Wisconsin 14.

Heisman Contenders

The Heisman Trophy is perhaps the hardest award in all of sports to project. Last year I predicted that Braxton Miller would win the award, while Jameis was mentioned in the few more for the road section of my other contenders post.

If he wasn’t out for the year with a shoulder injury, I would probably again tell you that Miller was my preseason favorite to win the award. But unfortunately for Ohio State and Miller he won’t be playing this season, so here are my top preseason Heisman contenders.

USA Today Sports Images

1. Jameis Winston, Florida State QB: Last year Winston became the third Florida State quarterback to win the award as he led the Seminoles to a national title win over Auburn. This season he’ll try to become the first player since Archie Griffin in 1974 and ’75 to win back-to-back Heismans.

This year Winston will face even more scrutiny than he did last year in the midst of a sexual assault allegation that ultimately never led to any charges being filed. Every stone in Winston’s past has been overturned by the media since his breakout year, and his little crab legs incident during baseball season will give voters even more Winston fatigue this year.

Last year Winston was unreal as he completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 4, 057 yards and 40 touchdowns. FSU is again loaded on offense, even with the departures of Kelvin Benjamin, Kenny Shaw, Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. Winston could very well be just as good as he was a season ago, but it will be hard to statistically do as well. Still if FSU is dominant again in 2014, then voters will have a hard time punishing Winston’s on-filed performance because of what they perceive about him off the gridiron.

AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jason Getz

2. Todd Gurley, Georgia RB: The Junior tailback is a different breed. He led Georgia in rushing despite playing in just 10 games as he battled an ankle injury. In those ten games Gurley averaged six yards per carry, ran for 989 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Quarterback Aaron Murray is gone, and senior Hutson Mason takes over the reigns at quarterback, meaning the heavy lifting will belong to Gurley. Unlike last year, there isn’t much star power in the SEC at quarterback- which means Gurley could become the darling of the country’s most poplular conference if UGA gets off to a great start against Clemson and South Carolina early in the year.

The biggest thing that could hamper Gurley is Mason’s inexperience and lack of a deep threat. Until Mason proves otherwise, teams will likely stack the box assuming the senior QB can’t beat them and they’ll need the extra man power to stop the 6-foot-1, 226-pounder running back.

(Read: Which Heisman contenders will make the first College Football Playoff)

3. Marcus Mariotta, Oregon QB: Marcus Mariotta may have the school record for career rushing yards by a QB with 1,467, but make no mistake this Duck is mostly an aerial threat. The Hawaii native has completed .658 percent of his career pass attempts. Last year he tossed 31 touchdowns with just four interceptions.

Like Gurley, Mariotta suffered an injury last season that prevented him from reaching his full potential, as the QB sprained his MCL midway through the year. Mariotta will have a chance in week two to announce his 2014 Heisman candidacy as Oregon hosts Michigan State in Eugene, Ore.

If the redshirt junior can lead Oregon past Michigan State early in the year he could be in the driver’s seat for the award for much of the year.

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4. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama RB: Anytime you’re the featured back in Nick Saban’s offense at Alabama, you’re in the Heisman discussion. In his first season as the No. 1 running back in Alabama’s offense Yeldon rushed for 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns. He averaged six yards per carry and 102.9 yards per game.

Despite not knowing who will start at quarterback, Alabama does have plenty of weapons at wideout that will prevent teams from stacking the box to contain Yeldon. Whether Jacob Coker or Blake Sims are under center, the offense will run through Yeldon.

Teammate Derrick Henry could pose a threat to Yeldon’s candidacy as he will have a large part in the offense this season too. The 241-pound sophomore could also play the role of touchdown vulture in goal-line situations that could make casual voters look past Yeldon’s overall role in the offense.

Associated Press

5. Myles Jack, UCLA LB/RB: Myles Jack is the most intriguing player in college football to me. Last year as a freshman he racked up 75 tackles on defense at linebacker, and ran for seven touchdowns on offense at running back. He was named Pac-12 freshman of the year on both offense and defense.

Jack had seven tackles for loss, one sack, and two interceptions, and averaged seven yards per carry. A defensive player hasn’t won the Heisman since Charles Woodson in 1997. Jack will play mostly linebacker this season, but even if he just 38 total carriers on offense like he did last year it could be enough to get him in the conversation.

In addition to playing primarily on defense Jack’s other uphill battle will be getting the West Coast vote. Jack isn’t the Bruin’s only Heisman candidate as UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley is actually a 10/1 favorite to win the award according to Bovada. Jack will also have to try and sway votes away from Mariotta.

The advantage he will have for voters deciding which West Coast candidate is Heisman worthy, is that he will actually go head-to-head with Mariotta this season. Voters will only be able to compare stats and composure between Hundley and Mariotta, but Jack will have the chance to physically stop Mariotta while on defense. A game-changing sack or an interception against the Ducks would not only put UCLA in great position to win the conference, but it could push Jack to the forefront of voter’s minds.

It’s Just Business

Julie Bennett/jbennett@al.com

Just eight days after winning a national championship as the defensive coordinator for Florida State, Jeremy Pruitt was announced as the new Georgia defensive coordinator on Tuesday.

This move isn’t indicative of SEC money ruling all, Jimbo Fisher’s ability to work with others or Pruitt’s commitment to a university. It was a business decision. Nothing more. Nothing less.

And in case you forgot, college football is big business.

After all Mark Richt only had an opening on his staff after Todd Grantham left to become Louisville’s new defensive coordinator for the cool price of $1 million per year over five seasons. Pruitt will earn $850,000 per year according to ESPN, at FSU he was making $500,000.

This is a really good hire for Richt and Georgia. Pruitt, although inexperienced, has a terrific track record as a recruiter throughout the southeast. This season FSU was No. 1 in scoring defense and No. 3 in total defense. UGA already had the 3-4 personnel from Grantham in place to run Pruitt’s system.

As for FSU the sky is not falling. The Seminoles will lose some very talented players on defense to the NFL next season, but the roster is loaded with young talent. Fisher has two very capable in-house candidates in Charles Kelly and Sal Sunseri, who both have coordinator experience.

Kelly, who has experience as a secondary coach, would be the in-house frontrunner considering how Fisher has said he prefers a DC who coaches from the back-end when he hired Pruitt last year. Pruitt was one of six assistants that Fisher replaced prior to this season’s title run and Fisher will have plenty of qualified candidates knocking on his door (or Jimmy Sexton’s, he does control this whole thing).

The ones left in the cold with this move are current players and prospective recruits. Yes 2014 recruits have time to switch their commitments and sign wherever they please, but many built a bond with Pruitt (or insert any assistant coach in America here) and now will have to decide in a short amount of time if they trust the new staff enough, or if they need to move on.

As for current players, they would have to sit out an entire season if they wanted to switch schools like coaches are free to do. Sure schools could release players if they wanted out, or the NCAA could decide to change it’s practices to do what’s best for the student athlete, but that just wouldn’t be good business.

And business is good.

Five Christmas Gifts That Prove College Football Rules The World

With the Christmas season coming to an end, I take a look at five gifts I saw this season that prove College Football really does rule the world.

5. Florida State themed pasta salad

Photo from @tiptap007

Photo from @tiptap007

That’s right, garnet and gold pasta salad, with a gameday vinaigrette. This bad boy includes three different recipes, one for each phase of the game.

It’s a little hard to make out what exactly the actual pasta is in the shape of, but let’s hope it’s not Tommy Wright’s face. Hopefully it’s just little footballs and things like that.

This one was shared with me by Tap Cathcart on Twitter, so thank you sir. I hope the pasta salad tastes like victory.

4. SEC coloring books

photo(2)My fiancée’s little cousins opened these bad boys the day I arrived in Alabama for quick Christmas visit.

You can either choose to stay inside the lines with Alabama’s Al the Elephant or Georgia’s UGA. Unfortunately the Georgia book did not teach the kids about which knee ligament is which, it would be a valuable lesson for Dawg fans after this seasons.

The family is a split household of both Auburn and Alabama fans, so the kids decided they would just give Al an Auburn jersey on a couple of pages.

No word on how many class credits you get at SEC schools for successfully staying inside the lines in an entire book.

3. Florida Gators crock-pot

1537648_10104553828822351_1564469422_oThis cooking device popped up on Facebook feed courtesy of a two-time Florida graduate.

As you can see it’s designed to mirror the Gators’ helmet. I like to imagine that when the timer goes off it’s just Will Muschamp screaming boom!

I don’t think there is a gift that better represents Florida’s offensive philosophy. The food from crock-pots are slow developing, generally bland and more often than not disappointing.

2. Cotton Bowl tickets

This one was featured on Deadspin, but it’s worth a look if you haven’t seen it yet.

A Missouri fan’s father opens up tickets (sounds like he’s an Alabama fan) and pretends that they’re Sugar Bowl tickets, but uh-oh turns out these tickets are for some game in Dallas. That’d be the Cotton Bowl, you know the game with Missouri and Oklahoma State?

The Tigers’ fan reacts with a “Are you shittin’ me?!?” Pretty awesome reaction, and a nice gift from his family, even if you can grab tickets for as low as $29 according to SeatGeek.

1. BCS Championship tickets

instagram.com/johnmilt

instagram.com/johnmilt

Of course the most popular gift I saw this Christmas season on my social media pages were tickets to the BCS National Championship game between Florida State and Auburn in Pasadena, Calif.

The tickets pictured to the left are from my buddies Instagram page. He wasn’t the only one I saw posting pictures of their tickets on social media (shout out to @BigGuy21 who sent me pic of his tickets on twitter).

The cheapest pair of tickets online as of Sunday December 29 are listed at $450 each.  There’s no better gift to an Auburn or FSU fan than the chance to see your team compete for championship in person.

There’s not as many reaction videos on Youtube for Championshp tickets this year, and nothing close to last year’s winner (an Alabama fan’s father freaking out).

Here is this year’s winner so far is Collin, an Auburn fan freaking out that his parents got him tickets.

Power Rankings

SEC-ACCAfter a one-week hiatus let’s check back in on the SEC and ACC power rankings.

SEC Power Rankings

14. Kentucky (1-6, 0-4 SEC): After falling in an early hole, the Wildcats almost came up with their first SEC-win of the year, only to fall short to Mississippi State 28-22. Mark Stoops’ defense continues to be the weak link. The Bulldogs racked up 447 yards of offense and converted 10 of 18 times third down. Alabama State comes to town just in time.

13. Mississippi State (4-3, 1-2 SEC): I hope Bulldog fans enjoyed the last weeks, because starting on Saturday Mississippi State faces South Carolina, Texas A&M and Alabama all in row. Not good news for a team that let Kentucky hang around.

 

12. Arkansas (3-4, 0-3 SEC): After a BYE week the Hogs face their fifth straight ranked opponent on Saturday. In its last two losses Arkansas gave up 52 points, and Auburn is averaging 37 points per game. Brett Bielma should probably just lay low for a while, but now he’s questioning the tapes that Auburn provided him. His baptism to the SEC continues this weekend.

11. Tennessee (4-4, 1-3 SEC): After a big win over South Carolina two weeks ago, the Volunteers were dismantled by the Alabama machine last weekend. Rajion Neal is on a roll at running back, but that likely ends this week with a trip to Missouri on Saturday.

10. Vanderbilt (4-4, 1-4 SEC): Like Tennessee, Vanderbilt came back down to earth this weekend in a 56-24 loss to Texas A&M after beating Georgia two weeks earlier. Vandy takes a week off before a four game stretch to end the year. The Commodores have a chance to win three of those four en route to second straight bowl game.

9. Florida (4-3, 3-2 SEC): Florida’s offense is still a pile of hot garbage and last week’s 36-17 loss to a Missouri team playing with its second-string QB really showed just how much of a toll injuries have taken on the Gators’ defense. A loss on Saturday to Georgia could really put Will Muschamp’s job in jeopardy.

8. Ole Miss (5-3, 2-3 SEC): Thanks to a win over LSU two weeks ago, The Rebels have a really good shot at getting to eight wins this season. It’s late in the season and you can see Hugh Freeze’ young and talented roster is finally starting to click a little bit. These aren’t your daddy’s Rebels.

7. Georgia (4-3, 3-2 SEC): With the exception of perhaps this weekend’s opponent, no team’s season has taken a nose-dive quite like Georgia’s. Mark Richt’s team comes into the Cocktail Party with virtually no chance at a repeat trip to Atlanta. The good news is the return of Todd Gurley could spurn a strong finish for a young UGA team.

6. LSU (7-2, 3-2 SEC): After stumbling against Ole Miss, LSU made quick work of Furman 48-16 last weekend. LSU’s young defense should benefit from a week off before traveling to Alabama in two weeks. Zach Mettenberger’s legacy as a Tiger will likely be defined by how he performs against the Tide.

5. Missouri (7-1, 3-1 SEC): Just as Gary Pinkel and Missouri got the whole country ready to buy in on this team, the Tigers lose in double-overtime to South Carolina. Missouri still controls it’s own destiny in the division formerly known as the SEC East. The Tigers should get back on track the next two weeks against Tennessee and Kentucky before a defining final two weeks of the season.

4. South Carolina (6-2, 4-2 SEC): After losing to Tennessee two weeks ago, the Gamecocks kept their season alive with a big double-overtime win against Missouri. South Carolina just needs to take care of business against Mississippi State and Florida and they will have a great shot at an SEC East title with Missouri facing Texas A&M to end the regular season.

3. Texas A&M (6-2, 3-2 SEC): The Aggies bounced back from its loss to Auburn with a convincing win over Vanderbilt. Texas A&M’s defense continues to struggle, but with Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans that won’t matter much until the final two weeks of the season. They finish their horrid non-conference slate this week against UTEP.

2. Auburn (7-1, 3-1 SEC): Is Auburn really the second-best team in the SEC? Probably not, but after Alabama the whole conference is a whole lot of average. Gus Malzahn and Nick Marshall get most of the attention in Auburn’s quick turnaround this season, but the defense has come up with big stops lately. If that continues Auburn might have a shot at knocking off Bama.

1. Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC): The Crimson Tide’s methodical march towards a third-straight national title has gone exactly as planned this season. Alabama has only been tested by Johnny Manziel, and they now have a week off before facing LSU on November 9. There’s really no one in the SEC on Alabama’s level this season.

ACC Power Rankings

14. Virginia (2-6, 0-4 ACC): Let’s just face the facts, Virgina won’t win a game in the ACC this season. As bad as North Carolina is, I think the Tar Heels will win in two weeks and the Cavaliers aren’t taking down Clemson, Miami or Virginia Tech. Seriously BYU, what the hell happened?

13. North Carolina (2-5, 1-3 ACC): Don’t call it a comeback. No really don’t. North Carolina finally got back in the win column Saturday with a 34-10 trouncing of Boston College, but it was more exception than the rule. UNC finishes the year with four wins is my guess.

12. North Carolina State (3-4, 0-4 ACC): Look on the bright side N.C. State, you finished strong against FSU. The bad news- all recruits and fans changed the channel when you went down 35-0 13 minutes in. The Wolfpack are bad, but they have a chance to secure some bragging rights to end the season with a game against UNC this weekend and Duke and ECU still on the slate.

11. Boston College (3-4, 1-3 ACC): Steve Addazio just needs to convince his team ever game is the first half against Florida State or Clemson, because outside of that things haven’t been very pretty for the Eagles this season. BC fell to lowly UNC 34-10 this weekend. They face Virginia Tech on Saturday.

10. Syracuse (3-4, 1-2 ACC): After defeating N.C. State, Syracuse looked poised to have a solid debut season in the ACC. Then the Orange lost to Georgia Tech 56-0. To that GT team. After a week off Syracuse looks to salvage its dignity against Wake Forest this weekend.

9. Wake Forest (4-4 2-3 ACC): Wake Forest has looked like a different team the last three weeks. The Demon Deacons came up just short in a last-minute 24-21 loss to Miami on Saturday, but Wake has picked up wins over N.C. State and Maryland. It’s still going to be an uphill battle to get bowl eligible.

8. Pittsburgh (4-3, 2-2 ACC): Losing to Navy the week before facing Georgia Tech is never a good sign. Pitt’s defense is a decent one, but they didn’t look good against Navy. Quarterback Tom Savage had a nice day. Pitt fans may be longing for the Compass Bowl by the end of the year.

7. Georgia Tech (5-3, 4-2 ACC): The Yellow Jackets have bounced back wit ha couple nice wins the last two weeks. They’ll face a tough test in Pitt on Saturday, before a Thursday night trip to Clemson. A loss on Saturday would really make Tech boosters take a long hard look at Paul Johnson’s buyout (they should anyway but that’s besides the point).

6. Duke (6-2, 2-2 ACC): Duke has rattled off four straight wins and has a legitimate shot at representing the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship Game thanks to last weekends 13-10 win over Virginia Tech. Aaron Boone just has to not turn it over in the last four weeks of the season and the Blue Devils will share the North Carolina State Championship with ECU.

5. Maryland (5-3, 1-3 ACC): A promising start has gone by the wayside for Maryland in its final ACC season. The Terrapins lost to Wake Forest 34-10 two weeks ago and let Clemson run away from them 40-27 last weekend. The Terps have a shot to win out, starting with Syracuse in two weeks.

4. Virginia Tech (6-2, 3-1 ACC): Someone must have shown Logan Thomas the rankings during the BYE week, because he came out on Saturday and threw up all over himself. Thomas ran for 101 yards and a TD, but he also threw four interceptions as the Hokies lost to Duke AT HOME. If I’m a Hokie defender I have hard time honoring the non-contact jersey in practice. If VT doesn’t slip up again this weekend  against BC, then they still control their own destiny with a trip to Miami on November 9.


3. Miami (7-0, 3-0 ACC): Miami almost revealed it’s true self last weekend as it escaped Wake Forest 24-21. Still Miami is undefeated and comes into Saturday’s nationally televised game against FSU ranked No. 7. Miami. I do think the Hurricanes are an up and coming program, but the passing game lacks a game-changer.

2. Clemson (7-1, 5-1 ACC): Clemson started slow against Maryland, but avoided the slip-up with a big second half. If Clemson doesn’t lose focus the rest of the season, it’s rivalry game against South Carolina on November 30 could be for a BCS at-large bid. The Tigers still have one of the best offenses in the country and their remaining opponents aren’t exactly offensive juggernauts (save for maybe USC).

89-004311. Florida State (7-0, 5-0 ACC):  There’s not a poll in the country that I wouldn’t have Florida State number one in. The Seminoles have been absolutely dominant this season. Jameis Winston is that dude, and the defense is allowing just 13 points per game. As long as FSU continues to win convincingly then they’ll have a shot to jump Oregon.