NCAA Football

William & Mary vs. Virginia Tech Complete Game Preview

The 2014 season is finally here for the Virginia Tech Hokies. No more talk about who will play quarterback this fall—that's settled for now with head coach Frank Beamer naming Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer the starter over the weekend—or how the Hokies will replace several defensive stalwarts.

This Saturday in Lane Stadium, the Hokies play host to the William & Mary Tribe. 

Surprisingly, these schools have somewhat of a rich history. The Hokies lead the all-time series, 40-18-4, but Beamer has only presided over one contest between the two teams—a 44-3 Hokies win in 2007. 

Both teams are coming off similar 2013 campaigns. The Tribe finished 7-5 last season but had some big wins over the likes of conference foes Delaware and New Hampshire. 

The Hokies finished 8-5 and had some disappointing losses to teams they'd previously dominated. 

Will Brewer prove the right selection for Beamer? Saturday is a bit of a warm-up for Tech as it heads to Ohio State in Week 2. But the Hokies better not overlook the Tribe.

  • When: Saturday, August 30, 2014
  • Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Virginia
  • Time: 4 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN News
  • Radio: Virginia Tech IMG Sports Network. Here is a complete list of stations by area. 
  • Spread: There is currently no spread for this game. 

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Carl Lawson Injury: Updates on Auburn Star's Knee and Return

When Auburn defensive end Carl Lawson underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL on May 1, the hope was that he would return anytime during the 2014 campaign. With rehab reportedly going extremely well, though, the new goal is being pushed up. 

"It's been a remarkable rehab and recovery," defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said on SiriusXM's College Sports Today last week, via AL.com's Joel A. Erickson. "He's way ahead of schedule, but I would say half a season would be optimistic."

That's extremely optimistic. The halfway point of the season is Oct. 11 against Mississippi State or Oct. 25 against South Carolina, which would mark a recovery time of less than six months.

Still, Lawson is a physical specimen, and head coach Gus Malzahn has been equally encouraged. 

"Carl Lawson's coming on strong," he said Monday, via Erickson. "Obviously, you know, he's very motivated and all that, working very hard."

If the recovery is indeed moving at such a fast pace, that would be huge for the Tigers. Lawson is a fantastic talent who recorded four sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss as a freshman and was expected to take a big leap following the departure of Dee Ford. 

ESPN's Travis Haney and Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo praised the Georgia native:

With Gabe Wright, Montravius Adams, Cassanova McKinzy and others, the Tigers have players who can help generate a pass rush in the meantime. 

But getting Lawson back by October or November would provide Malzahn and Co. with a massive late-season boost. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5 Bold Predictions for the Georgia Bulldogs' 2014 Season

It’s game week for the Georgia Bulldogs, and fans are looking forward to what could be a very special 2014 season.

There will be some bumps in the road, but as long as the Bulldogs can overcome the obstacles thrown at them, they will have no issues reaching their goals. But the other thing that needs to happen is that certain players need to exceed expectations. They have to play above their ability if the Bulldogs want to win the SEC and the College Football Playoff. At the same time, the Bulldogs will have to have some luck on their side, which is very possible.

So here are five bold predictions for the Bulldogs this upcoming season.

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5 Bold Predictions for Nebraska's 2014 Season

The long wait is over, and Nebraska’s 2014 season is about to begin. As Nebraska prepares to face Florida Atlantic for this year’s lid-lifter, it’s time to get crazy and think about what might happen as the season unfolds. So here are five bold, but mostly plausible, predictions for the upcoming campaign.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are from cfbstats.com.

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5 Bold Predictions for Michigan's 2014 Season

Michigan kicks off its season on Saturday looking to avenge 2007's 34-32 loss to Appalachian State—and to show the world of college football that it's a far better program than 2013's 7-6 record suggests. 

With Doug Nussmeier, the new offensive coordinator, the Wolverines are expected to revert to their former pro-style ways by attacking the ground and ruling the trenches. While at Alabama, Nussmeier had the backs and O-line to do such things. 

However, in Ann Arbor, he's inherited somewhat of a jigsaw puzzle up front and in the backfield. Getting those two position groups back on track will ultimately be goal No. 1 for Nussmeier, who, talent-wise, certainly has enough mammoths on the line and horses in the stable to produce a 1,000-yard rusher. 

With that being said, this slideshow will throw out a few predictions regarding Team 135's season. Hopefully a few stick to the wall. 

Are you ready for football? Saturday football?! 

 

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Josh Shaw Injury: Updates on USC Star's Ankles After Rescuing 7-Year-Old Nephew

University of Southern California defensive back Josh Shaw was meant to be one of the leaders on the 2014 Trojans team at the dawn of a new era for the program. However, a valiant effort to rescue his seven-year-old nephew resulted in two high ankle sprains, putting his status in question moving forward.

As reported by Jordan Moore of USCTrojans.com, Shaw leaped from a second-story balcony and onto the concrete to save his nephew from drowning in a pool. This incident occurred in Palmdale at a family gathering, hosted by Shaw's cousin.    

Despite the risk of perhaps putting the foreseeable future of his football career in jeopardy, Shaw stated that he didn't regret his actions.

"I would do it again for whatever kid it was, it did not have to be my nephew," said Shaw on Monday, per Moore's report. "My ankles really hurt, but I am lucky to be surrounded by the best trainers and doctors in the world. I am taking my rehab one day at a time, and I hope to be back on the field as soon as possible."

NFL.com's Bryan Fischer felt Shaw was fortunate with regard to the severity of his diagnosis:

No matter how much time he spends on the field this season, Shaw's leadership and merited selection as a team captain ought to inspire the Trojans this season.

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian weighed in on Shaw's selfless act, via Moore.

"That was a heroic act by Josh, putting his personal safety aside," Sarkisian said. "But that's the kind of person he is. It is unfortunate that he'll be sidelined for a while and we will miss his leadership and play, but I know he'll be working hard to get back on the field as soon as possible."

New York Giants linebacker and former Trojans player Devon Kennard praised Shaw, too:

Ryan Abraham of USCFootball.com analyzed how Shaw's absence would impact the USC secondary:

Shaw's daring leap should go down as one of the best, most sentimental sports stories in recent memory.

It would have been nice for Sarkisian to have the talented, experienced fifth-year senior on the field to start his maiden season at the helm of the Trojans. However, Shaw made a most commendable sacrifice at the expense of altering his own life in a big way.

The cornerback position has seen USC pit many players in a heated competition, but it will indeed be on starter Kevon Seymour to help step up.

Unfortunately for Seymour, a junior, he was hospitalized for a stomach ailment, per the Los Angeles Times' Gary Klein. That will likely place the burden on redshirt freshman Chris Hawkins to pick up the slack in USC's secondary for the time being.

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Taj Griffin Injury: Updates on Oregon Commit's Knee and Return

Taj Griffin, future Oregon Duck and one of the best high school running backs in the nation, will miss his senior season after tearing his ACL.   

His father, Herb Griffin, confirmed the news to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Michael Carvell:

Yes, he’s going to be out for the year. The MRI came back and showed that he tore his ACL. But you know, he’s in positive spirits. He’s getting his mind right to go through rehab and to get his mind right for next level. That’s where we are right now.

You never want to see any player suffer such a serious injury, let alone one as talented and as young as the McEachern High School (Powder Springs, Georgia) star.  

247Sports' Justin Hopkins provided his thoughts:

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, the 4-star Griffin is the 39th-best recruit in the nation, the No. 1 overall all-purpose back and sixth-best player from Georgia. It's clearly a blow for his current team, which entered the year ranked No. 1 in the state, but it's also worth looking ahead to his collegiate career. 

Built perfectly for the fast-paced Oregon offense, the 5'10", 175-pound Griffin has blazing 4.35 wheels and knee-buckling elusiveness. ACL surgery is especially concerning for a player with this kind of speed and agility.

Fortunately for the Ducks, Byron Marshall, Thomas Tyner and Royce Freeman should all still be in Eugene for the 2015 season, limiting the need to rush Griffin or even play him next season. 

While this is a really unfortunate blow for Griffin during his senior year, it shouldn't affect his future at Oregon.  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Taj Griffin Injury: Updates on Oregon Commit's Knee and Return

Taj Griffin, future Oregon Duck and one of the best high school running backs in the nation, will miss his senior season after tearing his ACL...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

UCLA vs. Virginia: Betting Odds and Predictions

The No. 7 UCLA Bruins will kick off their quest for this year's inaugural College Football Playoff with a trip to the East Coast to face the Virginia Cavaliers this Saturday afternoon at Scott Stadium in a Pac-12-ACC clash. The game is set for noon ET and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.

The Bruins finished last season with a 10-3 straight-up record that included a 42-12 romp over Virginia Tech as seven-point favorites in the Sun Bowl. They went a profitable 9-4 against the spread, and the total stayed "under" in seven of the 13 games. UCLA was 6-1 against the spread as a favorite last year.

Virginia finished at the bottom of the ACC's Coastal Division last season with a 0-8 straight-up record in conference play, and its overall record on the year was 2-10. The Cavaliers posted a 5-6-1 record ATS in 2013, and the total went "over" in nine of the 12 games. They were 4-4-1 ATS as underdogs last season.

 

Storylines

The Bruins have been working their way back to respectability in the Pac-12 for the last two seasons under head coach Jim Mora with back-to-back winning records, and he enters his third season at the helm with a number of key starters back from last season's squad.

The name at the top of that list is Heisman Trophy-hopeful quarterback Brett Hundley. He threw for 3,071 yards in 2013 while completing 67.2 percent of his 369 attempts. Hundley tossed 24 touchdowns against nine interceptions, and he also proved to be a dual threat with a team-high 748 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.

The Bruins also return six key members of a defense that was ranked 35th in the nation in points allowed, giving up an average of 23.2 points per game.

Virginia is obviously in the midst of a major rebuilding process after a disastrous campaign in 2013, and there is little doubt that head coach Mike London could quickly find himself on the hot seat if this team gets off to a poor start. Things looked promising on opening day last year with a stunning 19-16 victory over BYU as a 2.5-point home favorite, but it was all downhill from there with double-digit margins of defeat in nine of the 10 losses.

The Cavaliers return 16 starters from last year's squad, so experience is in their favor, but that may not be the case when it comes to having the talent to turn things around. The offense was ranked 111th in the FBS when it came to scoring, averaging 19.8 points a game, and Virginia's defense was not that much better, allowing an average of 33.3 points a game. Look for Greyson Lambert to get the call as the starting quarterback this Saturday, replacing an ineffective David Watford.

 

Betting Odds and Trends by Doc's Sports

Point Spread: UCLA -21

Total Line: 57.5

The Bruins are 4-0 ATS in their last four nonconference games, and they went 5-2 ATS in their last seven games on the road. The total has stayed under in their last six road games.

The Cavaliers are 7-17-2 ATS in their last 26 games overall and 3-11-2 ATS in their last 16 games at home. The total has gone over in six of their last seven home games.

This will be the first meeting between these two teams in recent memory.

 

Prediction

If UCLA wants to work its way to the top of rankings in the nation, it is going to have to win games such as this with relative ease. You never want to give up this many points in any team's home opener, but there is no reason that the Bruins do not win this game by more than the three-touchdown spread.

UCLA (-21) over Virginia

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4 Bold Predictions for Notre Dame's 2014 Season

SOUTH BEND, Indiana — Game week is finally upon us, as Notre Dame football begins its 2014 season Saturday when it hosts Rice.

GAMEWEEK!

— Kerry Cooks (@CoachKerryCooks) August 25, 2014

In one week it all starts for @NDFootball#WeAreNDpic.twitter.com/ATQqiK39rN

— The Fighting Irish (@FightingIrish) August 23, 2014

We’ve spent the summer months predicting and analyzing everything from position battles to the schedule to recruiting. Now it’s time to focus in on the actual season.

With just a few more days remaining until kickoff, here are some bold predictions for the upcoming season. Now these very well could end up wildly wrong, but hopefully they’ll still provide us with some insight into particular aspects of the Irish squad.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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5 Teams That College Football Analysts Can't Agree on Heading into 2014 Season

The college football media-at-large agrees on many things this preseason: Florida State is the consensus best team, for example, and Todd Gurley is the consensus best running back. Will Muschamp needs eight or nine wins to save his job.

But not every issue breeds such crisp, clean consensus—especially on the subject of individual teams.

Which got us thinking: Whom do we disagree on most? 

So we've compiled all the individual voting data (here) from the Associated Press Preseason Poll to look for some answers.

Of course, 60 voters is not representative of the entire college football media, but it's a big enough sample to work with. The results are, at the very least, strongly correlated with how the larger group of college football analysts think.

For the five teams listed, though, that thinking is basically a big ol' shrug of the shoulders.

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Arizona Christian Records 100-Yard Punt Return in 1st Game in Program History

In their first ever college football game, the Arizona Christian Firestorm have already found their way into the record books.

With Arizona Christian trailing Evangel University 30-9 in the third quarter, a high bounce on a punt deflected off returner Gabriel Jordan's hand and into the end zone, which threatened to make the score even more lopsided.

Instead, Jordan kept his composure. He broke one tackle as he picked up the ball and then let his blockers do their jobs.

It's important to note that this punt return officially goes down as a 100-yard touchdown, even though Jordan picked the ball up near the back of the end zone.

The Firestorm dropped their first game in program history, 40-16.

[YouTube, h/t AZCentral and Deadspin]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Introducing the 2014 College Football Playoff Champions: The Oregon Ducks

The business of offering predictions in a sport that rarely follows a clear linear path can be a volatile one in which to stake a claim. Unpredictability is college football’s greatest currency; it also makes this part of the year appreciably more taxing for those tasked with connecting the dots as “analysts" or “writers."

That’s basically a fancy way of saying “professional educated-guesser.” Others might use a much different, less favorable description. So consider this particular prognostication as you will.

Oregon will conquer its demons this season. It will win the Pac-12, solve its Stanford problem and single-handedly remove the doubt hovering around a program that has been one or two wins away from cracking elite status.

With game week upon us, that’s my final prediction. The comment section should begin to spontaneously combust accordingly.

Full disclosure: Ohio State was my pick to win the national championship before Braxton Miller went out with a shoulder injury. While the Buckeyes can still be better than many realize, an injury of that magnitude is too significant to ignore.

So Oregon, you’re the next man up. As for why I’m pegging the Ducks and not Florida State, Alabama, Oklahoma, or [insert your team here that you are undoubtedly angry about being omitted], let’s explore how this educated guess came about.

 

The Obvious: Marcus Mariota

When you have the best college football player on the planet, you have a chance. That’s the first thing they teach you in football science, and it feels even more than appropriate when you assess just how perfectly Mariota fits his team and this offense.

That’s no knock on Jameis Winston, Brett Hundley, Bryce Petty or the slew of deserving names that warrant mention in this conversation. But Mariota—when healthy—stands on a pedestal by his lonesome.

The “when healthy” disclaimer is crucial for this discussion. Late last season Mariota dealt with a knee injury that hampered his performance. Although the numbers didn’t suddenly reach a screeching halt, the difference was obvious. He wasn't the same player.

Not so coincidentally, this was around the same time the Ducks’ 2014 season unraveled.

Before his knee became an issue, however, Mariota entered a new stratosphere of stardom and he did so without anyone really noticing. We acknowledge just how good he is now, but the transition from open-field highlight creator to complete, all-world quarterback happened somewhat seamlessly.

The next thing we knew, he was who he is today (and undoubtedly a more polished player than what we saw last year). What he has become is where Oregon’s national championship hopes come into focus.

Review national championship teams over the past 20 years or so and you will see one glaring trend: To win at this rate, you need a special player under center. There are exceptions, of course, but when you have a quarterback that can create, improvise or simply beat you the ol’ fashion way, you have the foundation for something truly spectacular.

 

The Pieces: A Shutdown Corner and a Potent Three-Headed Attack

Marcus Mariota’s return to Oregon had company in the “good news” department. Cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu—a Bleacher Report first-team All-American—also passed on the draft for another year in Eugene.

In a conference bursting with elite quarterbacks, talented wide receivers and gifted offensive play-callers, having an elite corner is crucial. Ekpre-Olomu gives the Ducks security and flexibility on the back end. In turn, other areas—linebacker and safety, for starters—should also thrive because of his presence alone. It’s only one player, but his impact cannot be limited to that.

On the other side of the ball, Mariota will not be doing this whole thing by his lonesome. There will be moments where he makes it look like it, although the supporting cast on both sides will be an integral factor when it comes to breaking down barriers.

The Oregon running backs should have no issue breaking through things. Or around things. Or past things. There may not be a more impressive stable of physically gifted runners in the country, and they are incredibly versatile.

Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner ran for more than 1,700 yards and found the end zone 23 times last season. Both are back and should be utilized plenty, sometimes on the field at the same time. Royce Freeman—one of the nation’s premier running back recruits in the 2015 class—will also join the group. Freeman, who’s listed at 229 pounds on his Oregon bio, adds a unique element to the explosiveness already in place.

"He's at the point where Tyner was at the end of last year," Oregon running backs coach Gary Campbell told Tyson Alger of The Oregonian. "He's fast. He's big and he's tough. A lot of times you get guys like him that come in and have great success in high school and they haven't really had to work at it and when they get into tough competition at the college level they shy away from it.”

An answer at corner and running back shouldn’t immediately have you screaming championship; that part comes next. But forcing turnovers and scoring obscene amounts of points is a part of this team’s identity.

 

The Necessary: Solving the Stanford (and Now Michigan State) Problems

In some ways, the reputation is unfair. After watching Stanford physically dominate Oregon at the line of scrimmage over the past two seasons, the Ducks have acquired a “soft” label because of the outcome in these two games.

While Stanford's brutish style has clearly been a problem, Oregon held up rather well late in games against quality opponents. Just last year the Ducks outscored UCLA and Washington—two ranked, physical teams that hung around the first two quarters—52-17 in the second half.

Oregon can play that brand of football, although it has come undone on the biggest stages. There’s no arguing that. The only thing that can help cool this conversation is a plan to fix what has been its undoing. At the very least, things are in place that tell you this is possible.

The Ducks will feature one of the nation’s premier offensive lines. The loss of starting left tackle Tyler Johnstone due to an ACL injury is crushing, but this unit should still be immensely talented (and experienced) without him. If you’re into quality center play, make a point to focus in on Hroniss Grasu as often as you can. No direct quarterback protector does it better.

On the other side of the ball, the answers aren’t quite as concrete. Still, there are reasons for optimism.

This is where this prediction takes a leap of faith. By picking Oregon to win the national championship, I'm banking on defensive linemen Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner realizing their immense potential. Each is powerful, checking in at least 6’7” and 290 pounds. Thus far, however, their play hasn’t matched the foundation.

According to their head coach, they have looked the part this spring. Take this coachspeak for what it's worth.

Helfrich: "Arik Armstead's really learning how to practice and has done a really nice job leading those guys along w/ DeForest (Buckner)."

— Andrew Greif (@AndrewGreif) August 10, 2014

How all this comes together against Stanford—and an early out-of-conference matchup against Michigan State, who plays a similar brand of football—will dictate this season (and the proclamation of a title) greater than any item on the championship checklist.

 

The Verdict: The Perfect Time for a Breakthrough

The schedule is by no means easy. Outside of Michigan State and Stanford, Oregon will travel to UCLA, Utah and Oregon State. The Ducks will also welcome Washington and Arizona—a foe it knows quite well after last season’s 42-16 beatdown.

Chances are there’s at least a loss on there. That’s not a knock on the Ducks, but rather a realistic and honest observation that can made about every program not named Florida State.

Finishing a regular season unbeaten is incredibly demanding. Finding your way into the College Football Playoff won’t be quite as trying—with four teams now included in the mix—although the room for error remains minuscule. You need luck—quality bounces, favorable injury fortune, game-to-game breaks—and this certainly applies to Oregon. In fact, it applies to everyone.

Even if you benefit from all of these things, nothing should be assumed. There are plenty of exceptional, fortunate teams that never come close to a championship. Reaching that next echelon of success—the one Oregon is seeking out—is just really, really difficult.

The doubt that has slowly crept its way into the usual discussions when it comes to Oregon football will surface until that breakthrough finally arrives. Points, stats and neon-flavored tempo have done wonders for the brand; now it’s a matter of that next, next step. At the very least, the pieces are in place to wonder if 2014 is the year it finally comes together.

With a quarterback teetering toward video game cheat code, plentiful weapons at positions Oregon relies on and a working blueprint to stop the Stanford TNT from blowing the whole thing up yet again, this has all the makings of being that kind of year.

That is my opinion as a certified educated guesser.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Introducing the 2014 College Football Playoff Champions: The Oregon Ducks

The business of offering predictions in a sport that rarely follows a clear linear path can be a volatile one in which to stake a claim...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Navy Midshipmen Complete Game Preview

Even before Braxton Miller went down with a season-ending injury, Ohio State's season opener with Navy was hardly viewed as a warmup game for the Buckeyes. The Midshipmen's triple-option offensive attack is certainly a unique challenge for any opposing defense and one unlike any other on Ohio State's 2014 schedule.

Throw in redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett making his first career start at quarterback for the Buckeyes, and this weekend's Ohio State-Navy showdown has all of the makings of one of the most intriguing matchups of college football's opening weekend. Playing away from the friendly confines of Ohio Stadium doesn't bode well for the Buckeyes either, as the Midshipmen will serve as the host team in Baltimore for this weekend's game.

Add it all together, and Ohio State faces its most uncertainty in a season opener since perhaps 2002, when the Buckeyes welcomed Kliff Kingsbury's Texas Tech squad into Columbus. Led by a freshman running back named Maurice Clarett, that proved to be the start of a magical run for Ohio State, which ended with the Buckeyes hoisting the crystal ball in Tempe, Arizona.

Will another freshman step to the forefront this weekend and ease the mounting concern in Columbus this year? Only time will tell. But until then, here's everything you need to know about Ohio State's matchup with Navy:

Date: Saturday, Aug. 30

Time: 12:00 p.m. ET

Place: M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland.

TV: CBS Sports Network

Radio: Ohio State Football Radio NetworkNavy Football Radio Network

Spread: Ohio State (-14) Vegas Insider

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Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Florida Atlantic Owls: Complete Game Preview Template

Nebraska kicks off its 125th season of college football against Florida Atlantic on Saturday. When the matchup was originally scheduled, fans expected to see a battle of the Pelini brothers. That won't be the case, after all.

Carl Pelini resigned from Florida Atlantic last October a midst drug use allegations. The news overshadowed the Owls' 2013 season. Despite having a good November, the team still finished 6-6 overall, which was not what FAU envisioned for the season.

The two programs last met in 2009, where the Huskers put up a 49-3 victory in the season opener at Memorial Stadium. It's the only time the two have met until now.

Who will come out victorious in this Week 1 matchup?

 

Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.

When: Saturday, August 30 at 3:30 p.m. EST

Watch: Big Ten Network

Listen: Husker Sports Network or Sirius Channel 146, XM 201

Betting Line: Nebraska (-23)

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Florida State vs. Oklahoma State Complete Game Preview

Florida State has depth and experience nearly everywhere on the field.

Oklahoma State has talent but little depth and even less experience.

The Cowboys have just six players on their roster who have 10 starts or more, Noles247's Chris Nee notes. By comparison, FSU has six offensive starters with 10 or more starts (including an offensive line that combined has 106 starts).

And FSU's edge in depth will surely come into play in the second half. The Seminoles, for example, will start Karlos Williams at tailback but also will mix in Dalvin Cook and Mario Pender—ensuring that a fresh running back will be pounding head-first at a Cowboys first-team defense that will likely be winded in the second half.

Here's a look at keys to victory for both teams, players to watch and a prediction:

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Alabama Crimson Tide vs. West Virginia Mountaineers Complete Game Preview

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Game week is finally here.

No more empty Saturdays pondering the days until college football season is here. This Saturday, Alabama will hit the Georgia Dome turf for some real, live football against the West Virginia Mountaineers.

Two years ago when this game was scheduled, it looked like a doozy, with the Mountaineers looking like a team on the rise under Dana Holgorsen after putting up 70 against Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

Not so much anymore. West Virginia proceeded to lose 14 of its next 25 and come stumbling into 2014 looking for answers.

Nick Saban, though, had plenty of good things to say about the Mountaineers on Thursday, the day before the Crimson Tide started putting in West Virginia-specific work.

“They’re a very explosive team, have a lot of team speed, scored a lot of points on a lot of people last year,” he said. “I think when they played well defensively they were a pretty good team. When they didn’t…

“They got a lot of players back on defense, and watching their spring game they looked very good on defense. It’s going to be a real challenge for us as all first games are, but it’s also a great barometer to see where you are. So we’re looking forward to it.”

Here’s everything you need to know:

Date: Saturday, Aug. 30

Time: 2:30 p.m. CT (3:30 ET)

Place: Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia

TV: ABC/ESPN2

Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, MSN Radio

Spread: Alabama by 26-27 points, according to Vegas Insider.

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B/R Digital Exclusive: 4-Star WR Van Jefferson Commits, Reaction

Van Jefferson, a 4-star wide receiver, has officially decided where he will be playing his college football. Jefferson had to pick between Tennessee, Georgia and Ohio State. He took the time to sit down with Bleacher Report to give his digital exclusive commitment. Where do you think he will go?

Watch the video to find out.

Rankings courtesy of 247Sports composite.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football: 5 Key Takeaways from Tide's Final 2014 Depth Chart

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It’s become a local holiday of sorts around these parts: Depth Chart Day.

Alabama coach Nick Saban released the first—and only—official depth chart of the season. He always warns that this is in no way concrete and should be taken with a grain of salt.

So let’s break it down.

Below is the depth chart handed out to media members on Monday and a few takeaways from it.

 

1. Freshmen in key roles

It was all but official up until Monday, but it looks like Alabama will enter the season with a true freshman at left tackle. Cam Robinson, a former 5-star recruit, will be tasked with protecting the quarterback’s (whoever it is) blind side. While Saban said he couldn’t remember ever having started a freshman at such a key spot, it shows the confidence Saban has in the freshman.

Elsewhere, plenty of members of Alabama’s No. 1 2014 recruiting class dot the depth chart.

Joshua Frazier or Da’Shawn Hand could see some playing time on the defensive line, while Saban said Rashaan Evans has impressed at outside linebacker. Two 5-star freshman corners, Marlon Humphrey and Tony Brown, are both listed as second-team corners.

The only other true freshman starter, though, is at punter, where JK Scott is set to handle those duties.

 

2. Rotation at inside linebacker

Alabama has three capable options at inside linebacker in senior Trey DePriest, junior Reggie Ragland and sophomore Reuben Foster. It looks like the three of them will all play at some point in certain situations.

Foster is one of Saban’s higher-profile recruits, a 5-star from Auburn High School that Alabama snatched from its in-state rival. He’s dealt with frequent neck-stinger injuries stemming from poor tackling form. Saban said he’s learning and improving in that area.

“Reuben is one of these guys that loved to duck his head when he tackled,” he said. “I'm not saying he wasn't an effective tackler. That's what created a lot of problems with his stingers. We've had to re-, sort of, teach him how to take on blockers, how to tackle, so that he is not doing that. Now he's been able to stay healthier and he's been able to make it through scrimmages and he's not had the same issues. I think that's important because I think he can be a player who can contribute a lot to this team this year, especially with the depth situation we have at inside backer.”

It looks like Foster will have a big role on this defense, as he’s listed in that “/” spot at both starting linebacker spots. He’s likely to contribute based on the opponent and the situation at hand.

 

3. Versatility on the defensive line

One of Saban’s frustrations in releasing a depth chart is that things don’t always stay the same in terms of formations or personnel.

A’Shawn Robinson is the perfect example.

The 6’4”, 320-pound defensive lineman could play inside or outside up front, depending on the type of offense Alabama faces. Against West Virginia, he’ll likely play in the middle at nose against a spread-out, uptempo attack, where Alabama wants to have some speed. Against a power team like LSU, though, that role could go to Brandon Ivory, with Robinson outside.

“Really, with the defensive line situation that we have, if we're playing against a team that was in regular, we would play A'Shawn at five-technique and Ivory at nose because they're the best guys to stop the run,” he said. “In nickel situations, we try to get more athletic when we play nickel.

“So now, whether it's Jarran Reed or A'Shawn, they kind of go in and play nose and three-technique with some of our other guys, whether it's Jonathan Allen or Dalvin Tomlinson or whatever, so that we're a little bit more athletic in the pass-rush part of it, got a little more speed on the field, guys can chase down screens better, all those types of things.”

That kind of versatility on the defensive line is a luxury Alabama has with so many diverse options. The three-deep is loaded with quality talent all around who can play in any number of scenarios.

 

4. Running back rotation

While there were plenty of back-slashes across the depth chart, there wasn’t one at running back, where Saban has seemingly decided on a hierarchy in the backfield, with Derrick Henry passing Kenyan Drake.

He still, though, appreciates the diversity that all three bring to the table and wants to get all three involved in the offense.

“Derrick Henry and T.J. (Yeldon) probably are more of the sort of inside, downhill, do-it-all kind of runners,” Saban said. “Kenyan Drake, because of his great speed, can do those things but is also a really good receiver as well as a regular runner. I think all three of those guys are guys we definitely want involved in the game that have playmaking ability. We're very confident that all three of them can make a significant contribution to our team in some kind of way this year.”

 

5. Not settled on a quarterback

If you were expecting a resolution to Alabama’s quarterback competition, you were disappointed on Monday, with both Blake Sims and Jake Coker listed in the No. 1 slot.

It may seem like a given that both will play equally in the opening game, but Saban wasn’t even ready to go that far yet.

“We don't have any plans to do that at this point in this game,” Saban said. “But that doesn't mean that whatever pitcher starts the game is necessarily going to pitch nine innings. I mean, Joe Girardi tells Tanaka he's starting in the game, he's not telling him he's going to pitch nine innings. Does he tell them that, or does he just pitch until he doesn't pitch well any more?”

He later said, “That decision has not been made yet” when asked if both quarterbacks would play.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats come from CFBStats. All recruiting information comes from 247Sports.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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