NCAA Football

SEC Football: The 10 Best Players of the BCS Era

The SEC's streak of national championships in football ended when Florida State topped Auburn in the final minute in 2014, but one defeat doesn’t mar the league’s brilliant run through the BCS era.

No, the latter days of the BCS will be remembered as among the brightest days for the SEC—which rattled off seven consecutive titles.

Look up and down NFL rosters today and it becomes apparent that the SEC’s legacy from the BCS era isn't limited to what can be found in trophy cases.

Today we take on the unenviable task of attempting to pinpoint the top 10 SEC players from the BCS era.

Doing so isn’t easy. The SEC produced four Heisman Trophy winners during the BCS’ 16 years. It also watched its players combine for 91 consensus All-American honors over that period.

How strong is the talent on this list? Finishing a career as a two-time consensus All-American player doesn’t necessarily secure you a spot.

Here is our list.

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Re-Evaluating Nebraska's 2011 Football Recruiting Class

The 2011 Nebraska recruiting class was ranked No. 17 in the nation, per 247Sports.com. It was arguably one of head coach Bo Pelini's best classes to date.

The class boasted 20 total players, with 18 being freshman and two transferring from junior colleges. It was also the class that was well-discussed, as potential quarterback Bubba Starling was part of it.

Looking back on the class, not all players panned out as expected. On the other hand, there were some that ended up being worth much more than their star rating suggested.

But that's the tricky thing about recruiting. It's never clear what a star rating is worth until some time has passed. For the 2011 class, enough time has gone by to really look at what each position provided for the Huskers.

Read on to see how the 2011 Nebraska class ranks now.

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10 Position Groups That Will Hold Back College Football Playoff Contenders

No matter how stacked a college football team is at six of the seven major position groups—quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, offensive linemen, defensive linemen and defensive backs—the presence of just one Achilles' heel is enough to undo an otherwise promising season.

For proof of this theory, look no further than its converse: That balance among all seven position groups is the key to becoming a champion. Care to find any discernible holes on the 2013 Florida State Seminoles or the 2012 Alabama Crimson Tide?

Exactly.

One weak unit is enough to keep a team out of the College Football Playoff, and in 2014, the Playoff's first year, there will be no shortage of semi-flawed teams working to mask their biggest deficiency.

Whether said unit returns a bunch of underperforming pieces or loses most of its starters from 2013—or some combination of the two—there are reasons to believe it can hold the team back this year.

Whether it will is a different story, a narrative that depends on coaching and commitment from the players. But in all of the cases that follow, the unit has at least a couple of looming questions that could keep an otherwise championship-caliber team out of the CFP.

Chime in below, and let me know where you disagree.

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Predicting Where Tennessee Will Finish in 2015 Recruiting Rankings

After hauling in one of the nation's most well-rounded and star-studded recruiting classes in 2014, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones is looking to follow up on his success in 2015. 

When Dave Hart introduced Jones as Tennessee's newest head coach on Dec. 7, 2012, "elite recruiter" was one of the last phrases anyone who followed college football would use to describe him.

But when Jones, who declared to Rivals.com's Dallas Jackson that Tennessee would recruit with "velocity and intensity," landed commitments from 4-star safety Todd Kelly Jr. and 5-star tailback Jalen Hurd within days of each other in March 2013, the college football world began to take notice.

Those commitments started a domino effect that led to a whirlwind summer and fall of Tennessee commitment after commitment. Now that the ink is dry on the letters of intent and his prized class is officially enrolled and on campus, Jones has his eyes set on a few blue-chip prospects who could catapult the Vols' 2015 class into the national top 10.

 

Kahlil McKenzie

Regardless of Jones' recruiting prowess, it's tough to argue that he hasn't benefited from an unusual number of highly talented legacy recruits who just happen to be reaching college age during his first couple of years on the job at Tennessee.

However, luck and family ties aren't the only things that are getting those young players—including defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie, son of Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie—to sign their names on the dotted line.

Whether he's playing Where's Waldo with Tennessee bucket hats on Twitter or enlisting the help of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden, Jones has pulled out all the stops to make sure McKenzie knows he's one of the team's top targets, according to NFL.com's Mike Huguenin

 

Drew Richmond

Of all of Jones's recruiting promises, living up to his word of owning the state of Tennessee, as reported by the Chattanooga Times Free Press' Patrick Brown, may be the most important.

Memphis has always been a hotbed of talent, but it has also been a highly contested region for the Vols, as it's geographically much closer to rival schools like Ole Miss, Alabama and Auburn. 

Richmond is the top player in Tennessee and the 40th-best player in the country, according to Rivals.com. Although Jones upgraded the talent and depth on the offensive line with the 2014 class, it's still a huge position of need for the Vols.

Landing the services of Richmond would not only help Jones continue to lock down the state and increase the overall class ranking, but it would also provide a big boost for the offensive line in the years to come.

 

Torrance Gibson

After landing commitments from in-state quarterback Jauan Jennings and Texas quarterback Quinten Dormady, it appeared that Tennessee had moved on from 5-star and top-ranked athlete/dual-threat quarterback Torrance Gibson.

But Gibson, who was in Knoxville at the time of Dormady's commitment, didn't drop the Vols from his top schools. In fact, his extended visit on Rocky Top only reinforced his preference for Tennessee over other programs like Auburn and LSU, according to AL.com's Wesley Sinor.   

Some analysts have speculated that Gibson may be better suited as a wide receiver. But no matter what position he plays, if Gibson commits to the Vols, his 5-star status will give Tennessee a sizable bump in the recruiting rankings. 

 

Tennessee's Final 2015 Recruiting Ranking: 10th in the Nation 

Jones already has the foundation of a great 2015 class for Tennessee, but it's the recruits he leads for that will make this class just as successful as the 2014 edition. 

McKenzie and Richmond are both heavy favorites to commit to the Orange and White, and their star power will give the Vols a big boost in the overall rankings. Gibson is less of a sure thing, but it won't be a surprise if he gives Jones his commitment any time between now and national signing day. 

Tennessee is also in good shape for JUCO running back Alvin Kamara, top-ranked JUCO defensive tackle D.J. Jones and in-state defensive end Kyle Phillips.

Combine those highly ranked players with current commitments like offensive lineman Jack Jones, wide receiver Preston Williams and defensive end Andrew Butcher, and it looks like Jones will have no problem cracking the top 10 on national signing day and establishing his reputation as an elite recruiter at Tennessee. 

 

All recruitingrankings and information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida State Football: Re-Evaluating FSU's 2011 Recruiting Class

Jimbo Fisher had to fight to build his 2010 signing class in just a few months after taking over for Bobby Bowden.

But, given time to build relationships, Fisher and his staff assembled 247Sports' No. 1 signing class in 2011. The group included four 5-stars—safety Karlos Williams, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, running back James Wilder Jr. and tight end Nick O'Leary—and 14 4-star prospects.

All were key players on the Florida State football team that won the 2013 national title. Williams shifted to running back and had 11 rushing touchdowns, while Wilder added eight TDs. O'Leary set a single-season record for FSU tight ends with seven TD receptions. And Jernigan was one of the leaders up front for a defense that allowed just 12.1 points per game.

The group also included tailback Devonta Freeman, who had a 1,000-yard season and 14 rushing touchdowns in 2013. And wide receivers Kelvin Benjamin, who had 15 touchdowns last year, and Rashad Greene, who had 1,128 receiving yards.

"That's a pretty good class," Fisher said last fall. "They've done a great job of going to that next level. ... We thought it was special. But I've been in this business long enough to know that sometimes they don't always pan out."

The class has panned out. Of FSU's 22 starters in the BCS championship game, eight were from the class of 2011: Freeman, Greene, Bobby Hart, Tre Jackson, Timmy Jernigan, Josue Matias, Nick O'Leary and Terrance Smith. Benjamin, Wilder and Freeman are already off to the NFL.

Let's take a look back at FSU's star-studded 2011 class and how those players did in Tallahassee.

Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports. Career rankings among FSU's all-time leaders courtesy of FSU media guides

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5 QB Commitments That Have Shaped 2015 Recruiting Landscape

Quality quarterback play is pivotal throughout every level of football, but stability at the position pays off at the collegiate level long before a player takes his first snap. Quarterback prospects can serve as catalysts for recruiting classes, providing incentive for other offensive playmakers to pledge to a program.

Each quarterback commit also acts like a falling domino, further altering the recruiting landscape as programs search for alternative options and other passers step into the spotlight. We review the 2015 recruiting cycle so far, highlighting five decisions that changed the course of how teams approach an impressive crop of passers.

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SEC Football: 10 Bold Predictions for Fall Camp

Summer workouts are underway, the schedule for SEC media days is set and watch lists are being released.

Before we know it, pads will be popping and fall camp will be underway around the southeast.

Quarterback battles will dominate headlines, but there are other issues around the SEC.

Which position battles will be resolved, and which will linger into the season? Our top 10 bold predictions for fall camp are in this slideshow.

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Notre Dame WR Will Mahone Arrested, Charged with Multiple Felonies

Notre Dame wide receiver Will Mahone was arrested Sunday morning and is currently facing five charges—three of which are considered felonies in the state of Ohio.

According to Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune, the felony charges are assault of a police officer, intimidation of a public servant/party official and vandalism of a government entity.

The two other charges he faces, both of which are misdemeanors, are for resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

Hansen explained the alleged incident in detail:

Police say an officer advised Mahone to calm down and get on the ground, to which Mahone responded with, "(Expletive), white boy." Police say an officer then took Mahone to the ground, but he repeatedly resisted arrest. Once Mahone finally was able to be handcuffed, police claim, he responded, "(Expletive), you white piece of (expletive). Takes these cuffs off and I'll kill you. I'll (expletive) kill you."

As Mahone was being led to the cruiser, police allege, he began to scream and shout and tried to pull away. Mahone is further accused of whipping his head back in an aggressive manor, striking a police officer on his forehead. Police accuse Mahone of trying to kick police after they again took him to the ground. At that point, an officer drive-stunned Mahone to gain compliance. As he was being taken to the cruiser, Mahone is accused of continually yelling, "Take these cuffs off, and I'll kill all of you."

Once placed in the cruiser, Mahone allegedly violently kicked the window in the back seat of the cruiser and had to be drive-stunned again. While police were outside interviewing witnesses, Mahone allegedly began to spit on the windows and the seats of the cruiser, at which time a spit net was applied over Mahone’s head.

The cruiser was on its way to the hospital to treat a cut near Mahone's eye, but police instead drove to Mahoning County Justice Center after claiming Mahone stated "Good, get me out of these cuffs and I'll kill you and all them bitches there." He's then accused of offering one more threat: "Bro, when I get out, I got a Glock 9 for your (expletive)."

The charges without context are serious enough, but the explicit (and horrifyingly candid) nature of what Mahone allegedly said and did is the most disturbing part of this story. Shouting racial epithets and death threats at a police officer, if true, is the kind of thing that could lead to an extended jail sentence—not just a team suspension.

But the facts must be allowed to come out. Bleacher Report's Keith Arnold, writing for Inside the Irish at NBCSports.com, preached patience with Mahone's case in the wake of similar incidents:

None of these details sound particularly good for Mahone's future in South Bend, though they should hardly be taken as gospel. It wasn't too long ago that Tommy Rees and Carlo Calabrese were taken in by local police with some hairy charges that eventually shrunk down to misdemeanor charges and community service.

Mahone has not seen the field much since arriving at Notre Dame before the 2012 season. He was a 4-star running back on the 247Sports Composite but has since been switched to slot receiver and struggled to get consistent reps because of injuries and competition.

A high ankle sprain relegated Mahone to just two brief appearances as a sophomore in 2013, and a broken foot knocked him out of practice this spring. He was already fighting an uphill battle to make an impact in South Bend, and the severe nature of these charges makes it reasonable to question whether he will ever play again.

Notre Dame officials released the following statement Monday morning, according to Hansen.

"The University is aware of this incident and is confident that it will be handled in a prompt and professional manner through the criminal justice system. Internal discipline is handled privately, in accord with our own policies and federal law."

We'll keep you updated as we find out more.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Re-Evaluating Miami's 2011 Recruiting Class

Headlined by 5-star Anthony Chickillo, the Miami Hurricanes brought in a 20-man recruiting class during the 2011 cycle. According to 247Sports, the 'Canes' haul was the No. 33 group in the nation, and it was sixth in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

As the majority of signees become seniors, how have they fared while continuing their football careers at Miami—or even elsewhere?

While re-evaluating the overall unit, remember Al Golden was hired as head coach in mid-December, leaving the ex-Temple coach less than two months to retain current commits and convince others to join.

Prospects who slipped away will be mentioned when pertinent, but focusing on whether or not Golden and his staff developed their players is more important.

Note: All rankings courtesy of 247Sports Composite. Players will be classified into playing position at Miami, not as recruited.

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Re-Evaluating Penn State's 2011 Recruiting Class

While it's fun to grade and rank recruiting classes in the present, the truth is no one really knows how a group of kids is going to work out until after the fact.

Penn State's 2010 class was ranked 11th in the country and included the likes of Silas Redd, Khairi Fortt, Rob Bolden, Paul Jones, Dakota Royer and Kevin Haplea. Four years later, that class has become a bit of a punchline after each one of those players transferred or didn't finish his career as a Nittany Lion.

As fate would have it, the 2011 class—ranked 31st nationally—introduced us to the "Supa Six" and provided Penn State with arguably its best receiver ever as well as a group of kids who held the program together through trying times. 

Let's take a look back at the 2011 class after the fact and see how those players have worked out compared to expectations.

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Oregon Football Recruiting: Re-Evaluating Ducks' 2011 Signing Class

If Oregon ends the upcoming season with a Pac-12 or national championship, the 2011 signing class will be a primary reason why.

Former head coach Chip Kelly landed an impressive collection of recruits in 2011—certainly one of the program's best ever as far as individual talent.

The 2011 signing class features highly touted recruits who met their expectations and plenty of under-the-radar talents whose production at Oregon has vastly exceeded the scores they received as high schoolers.

 

Who Signed?

RB Antwan Baker: N/A

ATH Devon Blackmon: 4-star

RB Tra Carson: 3-star

LB Rahim Cassell: 3-star

LB Tyson Coleman: 3-star

DT Jared Ebert: 3-star

CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu: 4-star

OT James Euscher: 3-star

OT Jake Fisher: 3-star

ATH Christian French: 4-star

LB Carlyle Garrick: 3-star

LB Rodney Hardrick: 3-star

WR Miles Johnston: N/A

OT Tyler Johnstone: 4-star

DE Koa Ka'ai: 3-star

WR B.J. Kelley: 3-star

TE Colt Lyerla: 4-star

QB Marcus Mariota: 3-star

OT Jamal Prater: 3-star

WR Tacoi Sumler: 4-star

WR Rahsaan Vaughn: 3-star

LB Anthony Wallace: 4-star

OT Andre Yruretagoyena: 4-star

 

Re-Evaluation

De'Anthony Thomas was the lone 5-star prospect of the class, and the Crenshaw High School star lived up to his prep accolades from the very outset of his Oregon career.

The multiskilled Thomas evolved from a primary receiving weapon and return specialist into an explosive running back, as well. He bolted early for the NFL draft after three standout seasons. Thomas, along with tight end Colt Lyerla, who was dismissed from the program early last season, are two 2011 recruits whose absences will leave noticeable voids on the Ducks offense.

Nevertheless, the remaining 2011 signees help make the 2014 Oregon offense one of the most fearsome in college football.

The diamond-in-the-rough mined on the recruiting trail in 2011 was quarterback Marcus Mariota. Mariota was just a 3-star prospect coming out of Honolulu's Saint Louis School.

Mariota was one of college football's premier players each of the last two seasons, certainly playing more at a 5-star level than 3-star.

An outstanding offensive line has helped Mariota establish himself as one of the top dual-threat playmakers in college football, and fellow 2011 prospects Tyler Johnstone and Jake Fisher are two cornerstones. Andre Yruretagoyena will provide much-needed depth, and potentially start early on as Johnstone recovers from a knee injury.

Oregon's defense also owes plenty of its strength to the 2011 class, particularly at linebacker. Much like 3-star prospect Mariota outperformed his ranking, the Ducks linebacker corps is loaded with former 3-stars who have developed into top-level contributors.

Rodney Hardrick is key to the Ducks' run-stopping efforts, and Rahim Cassell provides invaluable depth. Pass-rusher Tyson Coleman is expected to see a more prominent role at strong-side linebacker 2014.

Meanwhile, drop-end and former 4-star recruit Christian French should get his opportunity to break out this season. French has drawn comparisons to former Ducks star Dion Jordan.

"I look up to him a lot. That's my idol right there," French said of the versatile Jordan in a 2013 interview with Adam Jude of The Oregonian.

The face of the Oregon defense is another 2011 recruit, cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. He earned 4-star billing at Chino Hills High School in Chino, California and has since developed into a true shutdown cornerback.

 

Grade

Quarterbacks: A+

Running Backs: A

Wide Receivers: C

Tight Ends: B-

Offensive Line: A

Defensive Line: D

Linebackers: A-

Secondary: A

 

Recruiting rankings culled from 247Sports.com composite scores.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon Football Recruiting: Re-Evaluating Ducks' 2011 Signing Class

If Oregon ends the upcoming season with a Pac -12 or national championship, the 2011 signing class will be a primary reason why...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Re-Evaluating Crimson Tide's 2011 Recruiting Class

When the University of Alabama football program celebrated national signing day in 2011, safety Vinnie Sunseri enjoyed seeing it from both sides for once, as he had already enrolled.

His joy was obvious. Sunseri's dad was part of Nick Saban's coaching staff, and everything had fallen just right so that the father and son could be together with the same team.

"Growing up I didn't get to see him too often because he was always out recruiting, always talking to other kids and stuff and I grew up envious of that," Sunseri told reporters that day. "Actually being able to be with him 24/7 is something that I'll remember the rest of my life. He is my hero."

While 2011 will always be remembered for the Crimson Tide winning the national championship after the devastating April tornadoes that went through the state, including Tuscaloosa, Alabama first won another recruiting title.

Even before offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio flipped from Auburn (three after signing day), Alabama was No. 1, according to 247Sports and Rivals, while ESPN and Scout gave the nod to Florida State.

"Recruiting is a big part of football," linebacker Trey DePriest said after enrolling early as well. "It makes your program what it is.

"We have a great class. I can't wait until they all get here in the fall."

With Kouandjio's addition, Alabama signed three 5-star recruits and 15 4-star recruits in 2011. Those who were incoming freshmen would now be seniors (juniors if redshirted), but five players from the class are already in the National Football League, including two who were junior college transfers.

The two things in particular that coaches coveted were leadership and more athletic defensive linemen, which on paper the Crimson Tide appeared to add.

"I think we have a lot of good players in this class. I think Trey (DePriest) and Vinnie (Sunseri) both, and maybe because they've been here so they were involved on a couple of recruiting weekends, you're talking about guys who are everything you could wish for if your children grew up to be like them," head coach Nick Saban said during his signing day press conference. "They have a lot of ability, they are hard workers, they are very committed, but they're very personable and caring for other people and can put somebody else ahead of themselves in terms of what they're doing and what their commitment is. Those two guys have been very impressive to me as well."

He added about the defensive line: "Even though we had some good players last year and I was pleased with the progress our defense made throughout the course of the year, so I'm not in any way trying to be critical, we weren't quite as athletic, we didn't have as many good pass-rushers."

Here's a look back at the Class of 2011. Rankings are the composite listings by 247Sports, nationally, position and by state. Positions are where the player was initially recruited:

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Best Fit for 6'7", 275-Pound Stud DE Canton Kaumatule to Succeed at Next Level

Canton Kaumatule, a 6'7", 275-pound defensive end from Hawaii, is one of the top playmakers in the 2015 class. Still uncommitted, Kaumatule is being recruited hard by some of the biggest programs in the country. 

His unique combination of size and speed gives him the potential to be an impact player immediately. CFB Analyst Michael Felder breaks down where Kaumatule will flourish at the collegiate level. 

Which program will give him the best chance to succeed at the next level?

Watch the video to find out.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

Rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA Football: Power Ranking Bruins' 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

Reaching the championship heights to which UCLA aspires in 2014 means navigating one of the most difficult schedules in college football.

Head coach Jim Mora leads the Bruins in a slate that features two power-conference opponents in the nonconference portion, as well as each of the top three finishers from the Pac-12 North a season ago in cross-divisional play.

With the top-to-bottom strength the Pac-12 exhibited last year only expected to solidify more in 2014, the Bruins' schedule embodies the cliche of "no weeks off."

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UCLA Football: Power Ranking Bruins' 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

Reaching the championship heights to which UCLA aspires in 2014 means navigating one of the most difficult schedules in college football...

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World Cup Counterparts for College Football's Top 2014 Teams

Summer is a difficult time for college football fans. The days are long and the news cycle is short, and it feels like an eternity stands between the middle of June and fall practice.

This year, though, the summer is a little less difficult—or at least it can be with an open mind. The FIFA World Cup, which is played every four years, has taken to Brazilian shores and is already in its infant stages. It is a spectacle like few (if any) in the sporting world.

It can make your summer go by faster.

Fans of the sport of soccer already understand this and are grateful for the World Cup's presence. Fans of college football alone do not and are not, which is why we have put together this list.

Not every World Cup nation has a close college football analogue, but many of them do. Drawing such comparisons—while far from a scientific exercise—can help put some of the games into context and, if all goes well, add a little intrigue for casual soccer viewers.

Sound off below, and chime in with any suggestions!

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Power Ranking Notre Dame's 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

Don’t look now, but we’re only two-and-a-half months out from the return of Notre Dame football.

The Irish commence their 2014 campaign Aug. 30 against Rice at Notre Dame Stadium and wrap up the regular season Nov. 29 against USC in the L.A. Coliseum.

Notre Dame’s slate of games features six tilts at home, three on the road and three at a neutral site—the Shamrock Series game against Purdue at Lucas Oil Stadium, and two away games, against Navy and Syracuse, at FedEx Field and MetLife Stadium respectively. 

In ranking those 12 matchups from easiest to toughest, we’ll consider the projected quality of the opponent, the venue and the time of the season.

Let’s see how the schedule is shaping up.

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Insider Buzz: The 5 Players Atop Texas A&M's 2015 Recruiting Big Board

The Texas A&M Aggies are trying to build on their recruiting success by landing a monster 2015 class, and five names are currently at the top of their list.

Bleacher Report's Adam Lefkoe checked in with Billy Liucci of TexAgs.com to discuss the names atop the Aggies big board and which recruits will most likely end up in College Station.

Watch the video, and learn the latest on Texas A&M recruiting.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bleacher Report's College Football Locks of the Year for 2014

More then 200 college football games now have point spreads, a luxury made possible by the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas.

For the eighth consecutive year, the Nugget released its CFB "Games of the Year" lines (h/t SB Nation), an exercise that has soared in popularity, especially in recent years. It began as a small 25-game release for the true degenerates. Now, it features point spreads from every week of the college football season, all laid out and available for your enjoyment.

Of course, much can change between now and August 30. Even more can (and will) change between now and late November.

But because we have betting options, it’s almost an obligation to handicap some of our favorite early picks. And to showcase the broad buffet of selections, each week of the college football season has been handed one “lock” along with a list of the notable opening numbers.

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