NCAA Football

Mike Davis Injury: Updates on South Carolina RB's Ribs and Return

The worst part of preseason football or practices is the risk of injury, and South Carolina found that out the hard way. GoGamecocks.com had an update regarding the health of running back Mike Davis:

“Top running back and Heisman Trophy hopeful Mike Davis is questionable for No. 9 South Carolina’s season-opener hosting No. 21 Texas A&M in a week.”

Wednesday marked the second consecutive practice that Davis missed with a rib injury, but he reportedly said that it wasn’t anything serious. Head coach Steve Spurrier didn’t seem quite as optimistic after practice in a Sportstalk radio network interview, via GoGamecocks.com:

“Mike Davis has been hurt, he hasn’t practiced all week. I don’t know if he’d even be able to start or not. But we got Brandon Wilds, he’s ready to go. Shon Carson, Dave Williams, so we’re in good shape there.”

The fact that South Carolina opens with an important conference game makes this situation more difficult. If it started the season out with an easier warm-up contest, caution would definitely be the way to go, but that is not the case. Davis is an elite talent, and the Gamecocks are going to need him on the field if they want to reach the College Football Playoff.

The SEC schedule is always grueling, but South Carolina avoids Alabama and LSU. There is certainly a realistic opportunity in place for the Gamecocks to win the conference’s East Division, but them having their Heisman hopeful on the field at full health would bolster those chances.

Check back for updates as they develop.

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Tre Madden Injury: Updates on USC RB's Toe and Return

USC junior running back Tre Madden has spent his collegiate career battling injuries, and it appears the start to 2014 will be no different. 

According to new head coach Steve Sarkisian, via the Orange Country Register's Michael Lev, Madden is currently sidelined due to a bout with turf toe: 

After playing linebacker as a freshman, Madden missed the 2012 campaign after tearing his ACL and was hampered last season by hamstring and ankle injuries. 

He still managed to tally 904 yards from scrimmage (703 rushing, 201 receiving) and seven touchdowns on 153 touches (138 rushes, 15 receptions) for the Trojans last year, though, and expectations remain high heading into 2014. 

"It’s really cool to see Tre out here sharing reps with Buck," quarterback Cody Kessler said this week, via the Orange County Register's Rich Hammond. "He’s definitely a big asset for this team. I think him and Buck will be a really good one-two punch."

For now that will have to put on hold, though. Turf toe is the kind of injury that can linger, and it's unclear if Madden will be ready to go for the Trojans' opener against Fresno State on Aug. 30. 

Fortunately, Sark has depth at the position. Javorius Allen was tremendous down the stretch last season, while Justin Davis averaged a scintillating 6.8 yards per carry before breaking his ankle.

"We all want to compete," Madden said. "We’re all going to get on the field, and whoever has the fresh legs is going to play. That’s what we’re looking at right now."

Despite the depth, however, USC is unquestionably in a better position to make some noise in the Pac-12 when Madden is healthy. 

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Georgia Bulldogs Football: Final Camp Stock Report

With the season-opening matchup against Clemson just over a week away, pieces are falling into place for the Georgia Bulldogs.

Here's an update on the conclusion of fall camp and the Dawgs' latest practices.

 

Georgia Secondary Taking Shape

According to Nick Suss of The Red & Black, three newcomers are poised to start in defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt's renovated secondary. Damian Swann, as expected, will occupy one starting cornerback position, but now details have emerged regarding the other positions as well.

Junior college transfer Shattle Fenteng will line up at cornerback opposite Swann.  Known for his combination of both size and speed, Fenteng has been in contention for this starting spot since arriving in Athens.

J.J. Green was expected by many to be the starter at the star position after switching sides of the ball (he was a running back in 2013), but true freshman Dominick Sanders received the first-team snaps at the position on Tuesday.

Farther from the line of scrimmage, Aaron Davis, a redshirt freshman walk-on, is set to start at safety.  Davis, of course, broke out under Pruitt during spring practice and played well at both the cornerback and safety positions.

Corey Moore, an on-and-off starter last season, will start at the other safety position.

 

New Tight Ends Impressing

As Jay Rome continues to battle health concerns, a couple of new tight ends are turning heads.

Quayvon Hicks, a former fullback, has been focusing more on tight end than fullback and H-back as of late (per Seth Emerson of Macon's Telegraph) and freshman Jeb Blazevich is acquitting himself nicely at the collegiate level.

Georgia head coach Mark Richt told Emerson, "Quayvon Hicks had a heck of a camp" and added that Blazevich has "made some strides."

If healthy, Rome is still the starter.  His combination of size, athleticism and experience could make him a potent threat downfield.  Ideally, he gets the opportunity to earn his keep, but Hicks also gets chances in select packages.

 

The Offensive Line, as of Now

Currently the first- and second-team offensive line units look as follows:

Adding Spice to Return Game

Georgia coaches and players alike have been impressed thus far with freshman wide receiver and return specialist Isaiah McKenzie.  

Punter Collin Barber told Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald that McKenzie's athleticism and quickness is "amazing."  He added, "That dude has God-given talent, man, to field balls and scramble the way he can."

Richt went so far as to tell Weiszer that McKenzie was right in the mix to return both kicks and punts in the season opener.  "He's a heavy consideration in the return game," the head coach offered.

Georgia hasn't had a consistent threat like that since Brandon Boykin departed following the 2011 season.

 

A Rare Practice

Georgia opened up Tuesday's practice to the media and students, which is certainly an oddity.  For a full hour fans were able to pour into Sanford Stadium and get an early look at the 2014 Georgia Bulldogs.

Sam McKinstry, a junior at the university, was one of countless Bulldog loyalists who took advantage of the rare opportunity.  McKinstry was enthused by the afternoon, saying, "It was great being back Between the Hedges."  He added that the open access further cemented why Richt is his "Dawg."

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand. 

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Meet the Georgia Bulldogs' New Starters for 2014

The start of the 2014 season is right around the corner and the Georgia Bulldogs will begin their road to the Georgia Dome with a duel against Clemson at Sanford Stadium.

 This means that the veteran players will have to step up, be leaders and set the tone for the rest of the year. But the new starters will have to grow up in a hurry because the Bulldogs have little room for error in terms of winning the SEC and qualifying for the College Football Playoff.

Want to know who are the new Bulldog starters are for the 2014 season? Well, let’s take a closer look at each one.

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Braxton Miller Offers Intriguing Developmental QB Talent at NFL Level

Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller took home the last two Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year awards, but now his 2014 season is over. Miller's senior season has been cut short by an injury to the same shoulder that ended his 2013 season prematurely.

With Miller's eligibility extinguished, barring his request for a redshirt year, what will the NFL find when it looks at the Buckeye passer?

First and foremost, is Miller an NFL-style quarterback?

The Ohio State system, made famous by Urban Meyer at Utah and Florida, asks the quarterback to be a heavy runner, and Miller has done that. In his three years as Ohio State's starter, Miller ran the ball (557 times) almost as often as he passed it (666 attempts).

Meyer tells high school coaches in his clinics that the offense is a "two-back backfield," and that's true. Miller runs the ball as much as a tailback, and that will lean heavily on how NFL scouts view him.

In my conversations with three NFL team scouts in preparation for the article, not one told me they viewed Miller as a quarterback prospect for the NFL. A career as a running back or wide receiver is likelier, according to pro scouts.

What does the tape tell us, though? NFL scouts are a great resource, but that group also had members calling Robert Griffin III a wide receiver before his Heisman Trophy-winning junior season.

 

Accuracy

Evaluating a quarterback's accuracy means more than just looking at the stats and seeing what his completion percentage was. Charting the game—keeping track of catches, incompletions, drops and where the ball was thrown from/caught—is key to understanding accuracy.

Miller shows good ball placement on throws both inside and outside the hashes. The Ohio State offense does utilize many short, quick throws to get the football out in space to the athletes, and Miller's stats can be padded by these yards-after-the-catch throws.

How does Miller look making NFL-level throws? You won't see him throwing many 20-yard comebacks, but he does throw the deep ball often and is asked to work the sideline fairly often.

Miller's deep ball is good. He throws the ball with touch, enough arc and has the strength to put the ball up over the top of the receiver.

Against Michigan State, he did under-throw three deep balls, but each was still catchable. That can be chalked up to timing as well and isn't always a sign of poor accuracy.

In that same Michigan State game, playing behind an offensive line that could do nothing to slow down the Spartan pass rush, Miller threw a beautiful 30-yard pass on a rope outside the numbers from midfield. That's a pro throw from Miller, and he made it with velocity and the ball placement you want to see from a quarterback.

Evaluating Miller's true accuracy, or total field accuracy, is tough in the Ohio State scheme. He may throw fewer than five routes that extend farther than 10 yards in an entire game, which leaves you with a much smaller sample size than a Jameis Winston or Brett Hundley.

An ideal situation for Miller would be to showcase his accuracy and arm strength at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine predraft.

 

Velocity

It must be noted that Miller's injuries have been to his right (throwing) shoulder, so how much arm strength he has post-injury will depend heavily on his rehab.

Miller makes many uncontested throws in the Ohio State offense, but when he must throw with speed and velocity to a tight window, he's shown that he can do so.

Miller's entire body takes on a transformation when asked to throw passes that require velocity, as his front knee bends and he uses more of his core and back to get into the throw. The downside is that this lowers the release point for a quarterback who is already shorter (6'2") than the NFL would like.

There are times when Miller tries to loft or flick the ball out to space—especially if he's rolling and throwing the same direction—and those passes tend to sail high on him.

Learning to step into those throws when possible or turn his shoulders to match his hips—as opposed to throwing with his chest flat and hips turned—will fix the issue and help pull the ball down while building velocity.

 

Offensive Assignments

Route Progressions

Watching four games of Miller's (Michigan State, Wisconsin, Penn State and Clemson), you don't see many plays where he works through to a second or third receiver. Miller loves to work his primary target from the pocket but does work through his progressions on the run.

A common play for Miller is rolling or scrambling right and going through deep-intermediate-dump progressions.

He is at his best under pressure and will work to checkdowns with his eyes as the pocket closes around him.

When afforded time, Miller likes to get the ball to his first read. Adjusting to an NFL offense will vary in difficulty depending on where he's drafted.

A scheme like New England's would be a sharp adjustment for Miller, but an offense like the one Colin Kaepernick ran in his first two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers would be an easier move for Miller to handle right away.

 

Pre-Snap Reads

Without having the Ohio State playbook in front of you, it can be tough to see what Miller is asked to see pre-snap. What we can do is look at the defense and then see where Miller goes with his eyes post-snap to evaluate his reads.

The Ohio State offense gives Miller combination routes on one side of the field the majority of the time.

In this offense, Miller can recognize coverage pre-snap—ex. Is the cornerback playing up on the line of scrimmage or off the ball?—and determine before he even has the ball which side of the field he's going to.

The play above was used against Michigan State and shows a common read for Miller.

If the safety bites hard and comes up to play the slot receiver, Miller can throw over the top to the outside wide receiver. If the safety plays loose, and he did in the Spartans game, the dig route is there all day since the outside linebacker had inside leverage.

This is much of what we see in the NFL now, too. Quarterbacks are making many of their decisions before the ball is snapped, and then the pass goes to whichever receiver the defense doesn't react to.

On this particular play, Miller made the right call and got the ball out to the flats. He could have challenged man coverage and thrown the deep route, but he had a given first down on the dig.

 

Pocket Presence

Miller is an phenomenal athlete, which is why some have suggested the move to running back as a possibility. You see that athleticism in the pocket when pressured.

Miller is able to make jaw-dropping moves on defenders and shows impressive strength for a smaller quarterback. He's shifty, light on his feet and shows good balance in the pocket.

He also has a bad habit of trying to make something out of nothing.

You can call this Johnny Manziel Syndrome, as too many quarterbacks are trying to spin out of pressure and look for big plays—be it a run or pass. The act of spinning out of the pocket creates more negative yardage, though, and when the quarterback is sacked here it can be a crippling thing for the offense.

There will be big plays and highlights from Miller and other quarterbacks, but the NFL wants to see a smart player in the pocket who will either climb the pocket, scramble to gain yardage or throw the ball away.

Miller has a ways to go in terms of pocket discipline, but he displays the running ability to become a threat when the pocket collapses.

 

The Final Word 

Miller, based on his 2012 and 2013 film, projects as a late-round quarterback prospect. He's a developmental player who would need time to acclimate to the NFL and a more complex passing system.

Mechanically, he is fine, but a lack of ideal size and experience with a passing game similar to the pros are detriments to his prospects.

Miller is similar to Tajh Boyd in that his negatives (size, offensive style, inconsistent accuracy) are big enough to throw NFL teams off. Unfortunately, Miller won't have the chance to showcase any improvements he made over the offseason with this injury.

The biggest question NFL teams will have about Miller is his throwing shoulder. If that's a problem team doctors feel will continue to plague him, a move to running back may be the best option.

That may seem counterintuitive given his injuries and a position that asks him to be hit more often, but teams will not want to invest even a late-round pick in a quarterback with shoulder issues.

I see Miller as a quarterback prospect, but one with the positional flexibility to move if he struggles as a passer.

Will Miller stay in school, as he's announced he will do?

That's doubtful given his petition to the NFL Draft Advisory Board for a grade after his junior season. Miller may feel like he wants to return to the Buckeyes in 2015 right now, but another injury while playing for free is what every smart agent in the country will be warning him about between now and January 2015.

If I had to bet on it, I would say Miller starts rehabbing and then working toward the 2015 NFL draft sooner rather than later.

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Miami Football: Final Fall Camp Stock Report

Fall camp is entering its terminal stage for the Miami Hurricanes, so the opening week of the 2014 college football season has almost arrived.

The 'Canes second and final scrimmage took place, and that brought one notable surprise along with it. Otherwise, it has been a relatively quiet third week at the GreenTree Practice Fields—though a couple workouts remain.

Since Miami's opener against Louisville is on Labor Day, the Hurricanes have a few extra days to prepare for their new ACC opponent. According to Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, head coach Al Golden said that process will begin Sunday.

Of course, with an unsettled quarterback situation looming, the Miami offense will benefit from the additional time it gets through next week.

 

Quarterback Competition

Brad Kaaya and Jake Heaps are still battling for the starting quarterback job during the season opener. However, Heaps did not participate in the second scrimmage, which was a surprise considering the emphasis Miami coaches have placed on those days.

"Jake's body of work is what he's running on right now," Golden told WQAM, per Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post. "That 30 or 40 plays the other day, that wasn't worth setting him back."

The transfer's "body of work" isn't necessarily a good one, yet Golden appears determined to keep him at the front of the competition. While Heaps' experience is unquestionably valuable, Kaaya has remained impactful, tossing a pair of touchdowns in his competition's absence.

Ultimately, decision day is approaching, but there is not a specific target date. Golden said to Porter:

I always feel like intuitively, when it's decided, you have an idea. Where at this moment, everybody feels like this is the guy, and you go with it. When we feel that moment comes, we'll announce it and we'll move forward.

 

True Freshmen Continue to Impress

Golden and his coaching staff signed a well-rounded class in February, and many prospects were expected to immediately contribute in some manner. The true freshmen are creating headlines throughout each week of August, and the second scrimmage highlighted two more beyond Kaaya.

Per a UM release, Joseph Yearby led the offense with 71 rushing yards, which is an extremely welcomed sign after two early-camp scares. He missed one practice session and also exited the field early as a precautionary measure in another.

Those two instances were initially causes for concern, but Yearby's scrimmage performances help relieve any doubts about his health.

One week after being tabbed the No. 2 kick and punt returner, Braxton Berrios showed his value on offense, hauling in five receptions Monday.

"The UM defense has been unable to effectively cover quick, shifty freshman slot receiver Braxton Berrios," Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald said. "He's going to be difficult to keep off the field."

Yearby has essentially solidified his role as Duke Johnson's backup, and Berrios' successes are demanding attention.

 

Perryman Blows Up Edwards...Again

During the spring game, Denzel Perryman absolutely destroyed sophomore Gus Edwards, a hit that was captured on helmet cam and spread online like a virus.

Last week, Perryman called class back into session and taught Edwards, who was tentatively running toward the sideline, another hard-earned lesson. Porter said it best:

Two things are for sure: Edwards needs to run with his pad level lower, and Perryman's hit-stick is ready for the 2014 season.

Fortunately, the senior's sound tackling is only a few days away from being unleashed on someone other than his teammate.

 

Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

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The 10 Best Ineligible College Football Players for 2014 Season

A virtual all-star team of college football talent won't see the field during the 2014 season because of ineligibility.

Whether it's because of academics, NCAA transfer rules or disciplinary action that resulted in a suspension or dismissal from the team, plenty of big-time players will not be eligible again until 2015 at the earliest. Most of them would likely have played a significant role in their team's performance this fall, but instead they'll either be on the sidelines or away from the stadium altogether each Saturday.

Nearly every team in FBS lost a player to the ineligible list during the offseason, but some stand out more than others. We've compiled a list of the most notable ineligible players based on the significance of their absence to their respective teams.

Only players suspended for the entire 2014 season were considered, while those not officially ruled out for the year also were left off. That's why you won't see Notre Dame receiver DaVaris Daniels and three other teammates being investigated for possible academic fraud because they're being held out only of preseason practice.

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Penn State vs. UCF Season Opener Threatened by Potential Volcanic Eruption

Football is billed as the game that can be played in all conditions. Rain, snow, sleet, hail. You name it, a football game has likely been played in it. 

It seems the exception might be a volcanic eruption nearly 900 miles away.    

A report from The Associated Press (via ESPN) indicated the season-opening contest between Penn State and Central Florida in Dublin, Ireland, on Aug. 30 might be in jeopardy due to increased volcanic activity in Iceland. The country's Civil Protection Department said residents near the stratovolcano Bardarbunga have been evacuated as a safety precaution.

Although Iceland and Ireland are nowhere close to one another—the distance from Dublin to Bardarbunga is roughly 875 miles—the AP notes travel restrictions may force the schools to stay home. Airborne particles and ash could make air travel untenable for a significant period of time.

The two teams are scheduled to play at Croke Park, the first time either university has played in a game overseas. Notre Dame and Navy played in Ireland in 1996 and 2012.

For Penn State, the logistics of going across the pond for one game has already been a logistical headache. Travis Johnson of the Centre Daily Times profiled the difficulties of the process, which include transporting player equipment, ensuring personnel have updated passports and numerous smaller things that could complicate the entire trip. 

“It’s an ongoing, fluid process,” Michael Hazel, Penn State's director of football operations, told Johnson. “It’s a challenge. There’s just a lot of moving parts that exist when you are going overseas.”

The news of a possible volcanic eruption in another country was a complication for which no one could have planned. The unpredictability factor means the teams could be barred from flying into the country or, even worse, not allowed to fly out after the game.

Penn State is scheduled to host Akron on Sept. 6. In 2010, an Icelandic eruption caused more than 100,000 flights to be canceled. It is unclear how long flights would be delayed or canceled in this case—or if they would be canceled all.

"We're aware of that, and we're monitoring that situation," Hazel told reporters. "That's kind of out of our area of expertise." 

UCF does not play again until Sept. 13, so it has a slightly larger margin for error. Neither school has indicated whether a contingency plan is in place in case flights are canceled. UCF visited Penn State last season, so one would assume the Knights would have first hosting rights. The sides will also want to get the matter solved quickly for students, alumni and fans who are following their teams across the Atlantic Ocean.

Unfortunately, the volcano is likely unaware a football game hinges on its decision whether or not to erupt. (If the volcano is aware, well, that's another conversation—and hopefully a reality show—entirely.)

For now, it seems both sides are satisfied crossing their fingers and hoping this is just a false alarm.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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Missouri Coach Tries to Teach Players How to Dougie

The Missouri Tigers needed to learn how to do the Dougie, and luckily, defensive coordinator Dave Steckel was there to teach them.

There's not much better than a coach who isn't afraid to have a little fun with his players.

[Mizzou Football]

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Remembering Top 2014 Heisman Contenders as College Football Recruits

Every Heisman Trophy campaign comes from humble beginnings. Dedication and attitude are developed during youth football, before physical and mental maturity transform boys into young men at the high school level.

Many of the perceived 2014 Heisman contenders carved out reputations as elite playmakers at early stages, receiving plenty of interest from collegiate recruiting departments. Piles of letters arrived first, eventually followed by formal scholarship offers.

The choices these prospects made on national signing day sent them down a path toward stardom that could ultimately lead to the winner's podium in Manhattan this December. Now established college standouts, the fates of their quests for individual glory and overall program success hang in the balance each week for the next four months.

Before we focus on what lies ahead for these difference-makers in 2014, let's take a look back to simpler times, when the national spotlight didn't shine nearly as bright.

Here's a review of the recruitment processes that put these Heisman hopefuls in position to excel.

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Complete Predictions for Every SEC West Team in 2014

Game plans are being put together, depth charts are being finalized and it's time for the rubber to meet the road.

That goes for football programs as well as preseason predictions.

Nobody thought Auburn would emerge from the SEC West last season to claim the SEC crown, but the Tigers did it on the heels of the a punishing multi-dimensional running game, a defense that played big when it needed to and two of the most unbelievable finishes in college football history to close out the regular season.

Will the Tigers repeat, or will Alabama re-claim its throne atop the SEC West? Will LSU reload enough to contend? Can the Mississippi schools take the next step.

Final SEC West predictions are in this slide show.

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Marcus Mariota Will Take Advantage of Oregon's Schedule in Hunt for Heisman

The strength of schedule often does aid in enhancing the resume of a potential Heisman Trophy contender.

This upcoming season, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is undoubtedly one of the top contenders to win the iconic award. The Ducks' schedule in 2014 provides multiple opportunities for the talented signal-caller to display his ability against top competition.

The nonconference slate features a showdown against Michigan State—perhaps the best team in the Big Ten in this season. Mark Dantonio's squad has been ranked eighth in the first 2014 AP Top 25 Poll.

Oregon is currently ranked third.

The theater on Sept. 6 at raucous Autzen Stadium will be absolutely fantastic. A true dichotomy exists: The explosive, offensive juggernaut that is Oregon battling the staunch, fundamentally sound defense of Michigan State. 

The classic green and white of the Spartans should mesh beautifully with the eclectic, ever-changing garb of the Ducks.

Assuming neither team loses its opening game, both will compete against each other as Top 10 teams. In essence, this could be the first massive contest of the entire 2014 college football season.

It will give Mariota an opportunity to prove himself early against what should be a phenomenal defense.

Last year, Michigan State ranked No. 4 in total defense. In '14, safety Kurtis Drummond and all-everything defensive lineman Shilique Calhoun will lead what should be another very good unit across the board.

Mariota will also go head-to-head against one of the most underrated signal-callers in the country—and perhaps a dark horse for the Heisman—n Connor Cook.

Moving down the schedule, Oregon has a monumental Pac-12 clash with upstart UCLA on Oct. 11 in the Rose Bowl.

This will be Oregon's toughest road game of the season. The Bruins are also ranked as a Top 10 team heading into this year and poised to break into the upper echelon of the conference.

A considerable sub-headline exists in regard to Mariota competing against fellow Heisman candidate Brett Hundley. UCLA's signal-caller is attempting to propel himself into the conversation as the best quarterback not only in the conference, but also the country.

UCLA also has NFL talent littered all throughout its defense—including the likes of Eric Kendricks, Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Kenny Clark, Eddie Vanderdoes and Myles Jack.

Again, this contest provides Mariota with a chance to boost his potential Heisman stock even further. A victory on the road against a Top 10 team—and most notably against a fellow candidate for the award—would theoretically look very good in the voters' eyes.

It could also derail Hundley's prospects in the process.

The last notable game on Oregon's schedule comes in the form of Stanford. Oregon's archnemesis in the Pac-12 North has been a major thorn in the program's side for the past few years.

In 2012, Stanford upset Oregon 17-14, virtually knocking the Ducks out of the BCS National Championship Game. Last year, the Cardinal upended Oregon by a score of 26-20.

As has been the case in recent memory, this game could determine the Pac-12 North winner. Conventional wisdom suggests both teams will be ranked fairly high by the time Nov. 1 rolls around.

This would yet again be an opportunity for Mariota to enhance his Heisman resume and defeat a marquee opponent.

Mariota is also 0-2 in his career versus the Cardinal. This could be even more of a motivating factor.

The gigantic elephant in the room when it comes to Mariota's Heisman chances is Jameis Winston. The Florida State signal-caller will head into 2014 as the clear-cut favorite to repeat as the trophy winner.

Comparing both players is a fascinating endeavor:

2013 StatisticsTDINTCompletion PercentageRushing YardsPassing YardsMarcus Mariota 31 4 63.5 715 3,665 Jameis Winston 40 10 66.9 219 4,057

The strength of schedule between both teams is nearly identical. Phil Steele (h/t FBSchedules.com) has Florida State with the 46th-toughest schedule in the country. Oregon is close at No. 48.

The NCAA strength-of-schedule method (h/t FBSchedules.com) has the Ducks at No. 49, while the Seminoles sit at No. 47.

When looking at Oregon's schedule as a whole compared to Florida State's slate, it appears as if Mariota will be facing tougher competition.

Based on the first AP poll of 2014, Oregon will play four ranked teams (Michigan State, UCLA, Stanford, Washington). Three of those squads—UCLA, Michigan State, Stanford—are ranked within the Top 11 in the country.

At the moment, Florida State would play two ranked teams (Clemson, Notre Dame). Looking at the number of teams from each conference in the Top 25 would indicate the Pac-12 is superior to the ACC.

The schedules for both players represent a minor aspect in winning the Heisman Trophy. Both will need to perform at exceptional levels for success on both a personal and team level.

However, Mariota's quest to win the Heisman Trophy will be buoyed by a strong schedule. If he does indeed win the award, the impressive competition he had to perform against will surely be a contributing factor.

As Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost told Daniel Uthman of USA Today, "I think [Mariota] is one of the very best players in all of college football, if not the best, and I think he was last year."

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Marcus Mariota Will Take Advantage of Oregon's Schedule in Hunt for Heisman

The strength of schedule often does aid in enhancing the resume of a potential Heisman Trophy contender. This upcoming season, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is undoubtedly one of the top contenders to win the iconic award...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Miami LB Denzel Perryman Utterly Destroys RB in Practice Scrimmage

The U is back! Or something like that!

University of Miami football may not be fully resurrected, but sweet Jehoshaphat—one of the Hurricanes linebackers is conjuring up the ghosts of hit sticks past in Coral Gables.

Redditor Nemoran (h/t Big Lead’s Ty Duffy) tailored a GIF of a monstrous hit laid down by Miami linebacker Denzel “The President” Perryman during a recent team scrimmage. 

Yup. Perryman is a bad, school-of-Ray-Lewis dude.

It’s important to note that the running back flattened in this case was sophomore Gus Edwards—a 6’2”, 230-pound body. Perryman, listed at 6’0”, 242 pounds, is two inches shorter and a sick Pug heavier than his quarry.

Regardless of size, any linebacker who fires into the backfield untouched is going to do some damage. This wasn’t the first tattoo Perryman has applied, either. 

Here’s a mix tape of The President dropping the doom hammer on opponents. Make sure to stick around for No. 2, where Perryman can be seen delousing Edwards in Miami's 2014 spring game.

Carry on, Mr. President. I’m just going to stay here by my desk—far, far away from anything resembling a grass field in South Florida.

 

Follow Dan on Twitter for more sports and pop culture news.  

 

 

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Meet the New Oregon Ducks Starters for 2014

The Oregon Ducks will still look like the Oregon Ducks when they hit the bright green turf of Autzen Stadium in one of their neon uniform combinations on August 30th. They’re going to score a lot of points, they’re going to run the ball up and down the field and the defense is going to rotate more players than a hockey team doing 30-second line shifts. 

While the Ducks were supposed to return nine starters to the second-ranked offense in the country from 2013, injuries to wide receiver Bralon Addison and left tackle Tyler Johnstone have decreased the number of returnees to seven. Fear not Duck fans, Oregon’s offense isn’t going to score less. There’s just likely to be some different names doing the scoring.

On defense, the Ducks only return five starters—defensive end Tony Washington, defensive tackle Arik Armstead, middle linebacker Rodney Hardrick, middle linebacker Derrick Malone and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. However, the Ducks, under new defensive coordinator Don Pellum, use more defensive players than almost any team in the country. What that means is that the backups from last year have a lot of game experience and should be ready to take over.

Philadelphia Eagles coach, and former Oregon boss, Chip Kelly used to use the mantra “next man up” when discussing players having to fill holes on the roster. Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich has taken his mentor's advice. It’s “next man up” in Eugene this year.

So who’s up next for the Ducks? It’s time to meet your new Oregon starters.

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Meet the New Oregon Ducks Starters for 2014

The Oregon Ducks will still look like the Oregon Ducks when they hit the bright green turf of Autzen Stadium in one of their neon uniform combinations on August 30th...

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Kent State Center Jason Bitsko Passes Away at Age 21

Kent State offensive lineman Jason Bitsko, 21, passed away on Wednesday. The cause of death is unknown after a roommate found him unresponsive.  

A release posted on the university's official athletics site states police believe an "undetermined medical issue" was a factor. It also included comments from both director of athletics Joel Nielsen and head football coach Paul Haynes.

"Kent State University and the entire Kent community mourns his passing," Nielsen said. "We are heartbroken by the news of Jason's death. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, teammates and everyone whose lives he touched."

"Our players, coaches and everyone involved with our team are hurting because he was family," Haynes said. "As a team, we will come together and get through this one day at a time."

The Golden Flashes were made aware of the situation at the conclusion of the day's morning practice. All further activities scheduled for the team on Wednesday were canceled.

Bitsko started all 12 games for Kent State last season at right tackle and was slated to become the team's starting center heading into his junior campaign. The Huber Heights, Ohio, native had developed into one of the most reliable and versatile linemen in the Mid-American Conference.

His bio on the school's athletics site notes he was a co-recipient of the Read Award, which is handed out for "exemplifying hard work and dedication beyond the call of duty." College football writer Phil Steele also named him to the Preseason All-MAC Second Team. 

Dri Archer, who played college football at Kent State before being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in May, sent out a message of condolence:

New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, who also starred at Kent State, provided support for the family as well:

No further details were provided as to how Kent State plans to move forward following the tragedy.

The Golden Flashes are currently scheduled to start the regular season at home in 10 days against Ohio.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football: Blake Sims Isn't Going to the Bench Without a Fight

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama’s quarterback competition was going to be as much of a competition as an Alabama-Chattanooga game, right?

Highly touted Florida State transfer Jacob Coker was going to come in and immediately be anointed starter, win a Heisman or two and ride off into the sunset after two years with a lot of hardware under his belt.

All of that could still come to fruition, but Coker hasn’t even been named the starter yet and doesn’t appear to be close to doing so, either. There is a very real chance that Blake Sims is Alabama’s starting quarterback for the 2014 season, and he won’t be relegated to backup duty for the third straight year without a fight.

“I would like to see somebody take the bull by the horns from a leadership standpoint, a consistency standpoint and win the job here sometime,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said on Tuesday. “But we're not going to make a decision until somebody does that.”

The biggest thing Sims has on his side in all of this is leadership.

He’s been around for four years now, going on five, so he is as familiar as anyone in that locker room with the other players. His teammates and coaches have spoken in the preseason about how he’s embraced that role.

“He’s definitely improved a lot,” wide receiver Chris Black said. “He’s more focused, being way more vocal, really stepping up as a leader, kind of trying to take control of the offense.”

That could go a long way for Sims in this competition. Having teammates who believe in you is half the battle for a quarterback, maybe more.

“Immensely. He's taken on a leadership role, at least a vocal role, on the offense,” center Ryan Kelly said. “Between him and Jacob, they're huge competitors. That's all you want out of a quarterback. When you get up to the line of scrimmage and you know you got those two guys behind you, you know they're going to give you everything they got. As an offensive line, it's awesome that we can work for someone like that. Whoever wins the job, I know they're going to do a great job competing for us.”

Off the field, Sims has been doing just about everything he can to improve as a passer.

He spent spring break and some of the summer in Florida with Ken Mastrole of the Mastrole Passing Academy. Mastrole has worked with the likes of E.J. Manuel, Tajh Boyd and Teddy Bridgewater and liked what he saw from Sims.

“He’s got the tools, definitely, to be the guy for Alabama,” Mastrole said in the spring. “Like I’ve been saying all along, just a good kid, he’s got very good leadership qualities, I think he really cares about this offseason and this year, about being the guy. He’s been patient. He does all the things that you want. He’s gonna walk the straight line, he’s going to represent the program well.”

The big question for Sims is his accuracy and learning how to manage using his feet to make plays.

Saban has, in the past, criticized him for going “rat-trap”—giving up on a play too early and trying to make something happen on the ground too quickly. He said on Tuesday that that’s changing.

“Blake's really improved first of all his knowledge of the offense,” Saban said. “He's capable of doing a lot more things. Really improved as a passer and because he's improved as a passer, I think he's more confident.

“So he doesn't go what I call rat-trap and start running around. He really has enough confidence to throw the ball on time and throw it to the right place and feel like he can make a completion and not have to do everything himself. I think those are probably the two areas that I think he's improved in the most.”

Alabama’s quarterback battle will likely go down to the wire between Sims and Coker, possibly all the way until the fourth game of the season, when Alabama plays Florida.

Coker came in as the favorite, but Sims is staking his claim for the starting job and has a very real chance of being Alabama’s quarterback in 2014.

“He's doing everything he's got to do to try to win the job,” Kelly said. “Him, Jacob and all the quarterbacks. When you step in to play quarterback for this offense, you know you're going to need to know the entire playbook in and out. Every quarterback has tried to do that, and they're still working on it everyday. Nobody is perfect on offense. Everybody is going to have a bad day. It's how you overcome it. They're both huge competitors.”

 

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Western Michigan Gives Wheelchair-Aided Son of Former Player a Chance to Play

The 2014-15 college football season hasn't started yet, but the Western Michigan Broncos have already gotten the scoring underway—in a special way.

John Mulhearn, who is in a wheelchair, is the son of former Broncos linebacker Sean Mulhearn. He is one of Western Michigan's biggest fans, so the team wanted to give him a chance to make a play.

With his dad helping him all the way, John was able to score a touchdown during a recent Broncos practice. The touchdown set off a big celebration in the end zone.

As the video title indicates, this touchdown is worth more than points to the Mulhearn family.

[Bronco Video, h/t Dr. Saturday]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Wisconsin Football: Final Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

Coming into 2014, there is plenty of optimism between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona for the Wisconsin Badgers.  Last season, the Badgers won most of the games they were supposed to, lost the ones they were underdogs in and fell apart at home against Penn State.

This season, despite heavy losses on both sides of the ball including linebacker Chris Borland and wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, both of whom will be recognized in the coming years for their outstanding achievements while wearing Cardinal and White, there are plenty of signs of hopes for the Badgers.

The biggest thing for the Badgers is their relatively soft strength of schedule, though it is of no fault of their own.  In their non-conference schedule, the Badgers are playing a game in Houston against LSU and taking on the MAC champions in Bowling Green.

Their Big Ten schedule, which is scheduled by the league and not the teams themselves, have them playing Big Ten newbies Maryland and Rutgers in their "crossover" games, avoiding heavyweights Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State.

All of this adds up to Phil Steele's 72nd-ranked strength of schedule, which should mean a good shot at double-digit wins and a bowl berth locked up halfway through their Big Ten schedule.  Beyond that, the Badgers have a realistic chance to play in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

With all of that being said, let's take a look at game-by-game predictions for each of the Badgers' 12 regular-season games, starting at NRG Stadium in Houston.

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