NCAA Football

USC Football 2014: Schedule Breakdown and Predictions

After a season that saw Lane Kiffin fired and Steve Sarkisian hired, the USC Trojans look to push on into a new era of success.

Watch as B/R's experts break down the upcoming season for USC in the crowded Pac-12 picture.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Football 2014: Schedule Breakdown and Predictions

After a season that saw Lane Kiffin fired and Steve Sarkisian hired, the USC Trojans look to push on into a new era of success. Watch as B/R's experts break down the upcoming season for USC in the crowded Pac -12 picture...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Alabama Football: 5 Things to Watch for in Tide's First Fall Scrimmage

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama will get its first taste of live football action on Saturday when the team takes to Bryant-Denny Stadium for the first of two preseason scrimmages.

The scrimmages are closed to the general public, and media only get to watch five or so minutes of warm-ups—enough to check roles and participation but not much else. But there is still information to be gleaned from these tune-ups in the form of select scrimmage stats provided by Alabama and coach Nick Saban’s post-scrimmage comments.

It’s all a very take-it-with-a-grain-of-salt exercise, as only certain stats are released, and they don’t necessarily represent a full game’s worth of work—often times, the stats include extra situational work like goal-line and two-minute drills.

Still, it can give you some idea about the direction of the team and who’s standing out.

With that, here are five things to watch for on Saturday.

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Ohio State Football: Examining the Buckeyes' Most Important Position Battle

As Ohio State's 2013 season came to an end, Joel Hale came to a sobering conclusion. After beginning the year as a starter on Ohio State's defensive line, the junior defensive tackle was no longer as valued of a member of the Buckeyes roster as he was at the start of the year.

The emergence of freshman defensive end Joey Bosa shifted sophomore Adolphus Washington back inside to his original position of defensive tackle, effectively pushing Hale out of the OSU lineup. But rather than be content with spending his impending senior season as a reserve, the 6'4", 310-pounder approached Urban Meyer with a career-altering proposition.

"I wasn't doing what I wanted to do for the team toward the end of the season last year," Hale admitted. "That was bugging me. That was really bothering me and sticking with me. So I just wanted to do what I could and know that I can. I know I can do a lot more for the Buckeyes because I have a lot in my heart and a lot in my mind to make this team the best it can be. I went in with a change to the O-line in mind."

Meyer obliged, and with that, the three-year defensive lineman transformed into a first-year offensive lineman fighting in the most important position battle on Ohio State's most important unit. With the Buckeyes replacing four experienced starters from last season's offensive line, Meyer's already admitted that he's found his eyes drifting to one particular vacant spot.

"Left guard, left guard, left guard," Meyer unsolicitedly repeated during his opening fall camp press conference on Monday. "That's the one. If I had to say, 'Where's all the focus?,' to me, it's that left guard. What are we going to do with the left guard?"

That just so happens to be the position that Hale now finds himself at, although he's hardly a lock to be a starter when the Buckeyes take the field for their season opener against Navy on Aug. 30. In fact, the former defensive lineman is currently practicing as Ohio State's second-string left guard, as Antonio Underwood takes reps with the first team.

A fourth-year junior, Underwood is no stranger to adversity himself, as a promising spring session a year ago was cut short when the Shaker Heights, Ohio, native tore his ACL. But despite having spent the better part of the past year recovering, the 6'3", 303-pound Underwood feels as though he's picked up right where he left off.

"Last spring, I started to gain the reputation of being consistent," Underwood said in the spring. "I've picked that up. Obviously, there's still stuff I need to work on, but I feel as though I'm getting better."

Hale isn't the only former defensive lineman making a push for the starting spot formerly occupied by Andrew Norwell, however, as Billy Price has also thrown his name into the mix. After arriving at Ohio State as a defensive tackle a season ago, the Buckeyes staff opted to move him to center midway through the year, ultimately redshirting Price to preserve an extra year of eligibility.

Now, Price finds himself vying to be a starter at not just one, but two positions on the OSU offensive line. And while he may not have the upper hand in either battle—Jacoby Boren or Chad Lindsay figure to start at center—the Youngstown, Ohio, native's status as one of the strongest players on the entire team makes him an intriguing candidate nonetheless.

"The first three days, he's practiced at guard and at center," Buckeyes offensive line coach Ed Warinner said of Price. "We rotate him in at guard as well because he's a physically talented guy. So there's a chance that if he wasn't the starter at center, he could be a starter at guard or a role player at either position."

Also mixing it up at left guard so far this fall have been fourth-year junior Chase Farris and true freshman Marcelys Jones. Both, however, are long shots to see significant playing time this season, as Farris has bounced between offense and defense throughout his career, and Jones is a likely redshirt candidate.

For now, Underwood remains the favorite to be facing off with the Midshipmen in 23 days, but Hale's veteran presence should push him to the very end. As a senior in his last go-round at a new position, the new offensive lineman has made it clear that he won't go down without a fight, as it's more than just a starting spot he's currently vying for.

"It's a huge risk," Hale admitted of his position switch. "I'm fighting for my life right now. I'm fighting everyday."

 

*All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.

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Virginia Tech Football 2014: Complete Preview and Predictions

Frank Beamer's Hokies found success in 2013, as they finished with an overall record of 8-5 and a 5-3 record within the ACC.

However, the team failed to finish the campaign on a positive note, losing to UCLA in the Sun Bowl. Beamer and the Hokies will look to start and finish this upcoming season on a stronger note.

Watch as B/R's experts examine Virginia Tech before the 2014 season begins.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M Football: Week 1 Fall Camp Stock Report

The Texas A&M football team has completed its first week of fall camp, and there were a few surprises. It is hard to get a read on where the team is at before the full pads go on, but some of the younger players on the roster have already made an impression on their coaches and teammates. 

Head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff continue to experiment with different players in different situations, so it is tough to gauge where each player ranks on the depth chart during the first week of camp. 

There are multiple positions still up for grabs. The competitions for most of these starting spots will continue until fall camp. The starting quarterback position will be decided with two weeks remaining before the August 28 opener against South Carolina. 

 

Quarterback Competition Continues

Both sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill and true freshman quarterback Kyle Allen split snaps with the first-team offense during the first week of camp. This will continue until the coaches pick a starter, and then he will get all of the snaps with the first-team offense leading up to the season opener. 

Hill had a nice moment during 11-on-11. When pressure forced him out of the pocket, he scrambled left to buy time and found running back Trey Williams in the end zone for a touchdown. That is what Hill gives you that Allen does not: the ability to extend plays with his feet. 

Hill received most of the snaps with the first-team offense Monday while Allen was stuck with the second team. The two quarterbacks will rotate snaps until the coaches are ready to make their decision. 

 

Youth Is Served on Defense

The coaches have not wasted any time throwing the newcomers into the fire on defense. Defensive ends Myles Garrett, Qualen Cunningham and Darrell Jackson all have received a serious look from the coaches. 

Garrett has shared snaps on the first-team defense with Daeshon Hall. It does not matter who the coaches decide to start on the weak side, but expect to see Garrett on the field a lot when the opposing team is expected to pass. Garrett is a true freshman but is thicker physically than Hall. 

Cunningham and Jackson have been getting snaps on the second team. The Aggies did not have a pass rush from their defensive line in 2013. It is imperative that they develop some depth at defensive end in 2014, so they can attack the opposing quarterback for four quarters. 

Both true freshmen linebackers have seen action with the second-team defense. Otaro Alaka and Josh Walker are trying to impress the coaches enough to earn some playing time and avoid a redshirt. 

 

Nothing Is Guaranteed 

The Aggie football coaches continue to experiment with different players in different formations in order to find the best combination of players to offer the team a chance at success. Senior offensive guard Jarvis Harrison has started at left guard for the past two years. 

He is currently running second team at left guard while Garrett Gramling is practicing with the first team. There is no timetable on when Harrison will move back up with the first team. 

The Aggie defenses continue to use multiple formations. Their base formation is the 4-3 defense, but they have been using 4-2-5 schemes and the 33-stack in practice. 

When the Aggies went to a three-man front Monday, they had Alonzo Williams at nose guard. When they went to an even front, they had Zaycoven Henderson at nose guard and Jay Arnold at defensive tackle. Expect the coaches to continue to mix and match players in an attempt to determine the ideal combinations. 

Sophomore linebacker A.J. Hilliard has been getting some snaps with the first-team defense at weak-side linebacker. The 6'2", 230-pound transfer from TCU has the size at linebacker that the Aggies desire. If he can earn a starting spot, then that would be a big boost to the Aggies' run defense. 

Senior outside linebacker Donnie Baggs has been expected to start on the weak side. His lack of size caused him to get swallowed up by offensive linemen in 2013 and become an ineffective defender. 

The starting wide receivers seem set with Josh Reynolds, Malcome Kennedy, Speedy Noil and Ricky Seals-Jones on the first team. Seals-Jones played in the slot Monday with Noil on the outside. Aggie fans should expect offensive coordinator Jake Spavital to moves Seals-Jones all over the field in order to find favorable matchups. 

It is only the first week of practice, but the coaches have to be happy with the improved depth on the team. The depth on the lines and the skill positions is particularly impressive. The Texas A&M football team is starting to physically resemble an SEC football program.  

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Eastern Michigan Unveils New Gray Turf at 'The Factory'

When teams in the Mid-American Conference visit Eastern Michigan this season, they will need to focus on their opponent, not the playing surface.

No turf is more recognizable than Boise State's. Now, more and more teams—including Eastern Michigan—have started to install some colorful turf. 

The Eagles recently unveiled new gray turf at Rynearson Stadium, aka "The Factory." Coach Chris Creighton and team captains Pudge Cotton, Lincoln Hansen and Pat O'Connor helped show off the new field.

There are plenty of pictures of the gray turf:

Check out the transformation process:

[YouTube, Instagram, Twitter; h/t SB Nation]

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Rutgers Football Team Holds Wild Ice Bath Rave Party After Practice

Two-a-days are the best and worst of times.

By the time you finish that second practice, you feel like you’ve been beaten with a sack full of Pog slammers.

The upshot, however, is you’re too tired to care. Exhaustion to the point of giddiness sets in, and if you’re on the Rutgers football team, you might find yourself waist-deep in ice water and fist-pumping to house music.

This is the strange and spectacular scene that played out after a recent double session held by the Scarlet Knights.

The team uploaded video of an absolute rager they had after a long day on the practice fields. Rutgers dubs the party “#ClubIce,” which is another way of saying Ultra with freezing water.

What you are watching is not an impromptu event. Someone set up a tent and rented out laser lights and smoke machines for this. Air horns and a disco ball were involved.

Best of all, Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood partook in #ClubIce.

Rutgers posted a picture to Instagram with a caption claiming the ice-bath party had been a surprise organized by Flood.

“Surprise at the end of the first double session, @CoachKyleFlood introduced #RFootball to #ClubIce!” read the caption.

Let it be known: Greg Schiano would never allow this.

Schiano men sit quietly in their ice baths, contemplating their shortcomings as the Dear Leader stews beans on an open fire and recounts his great grandfather’s violent run-in with a pair of rutting bison on the Tallgrass Prairie.

Flood is not a Schiano man, and that is a great thing.

So if you're looking to rage, it's going down at #ClubIce. It’s like partying at the Moontower, but you can’t feel your groin.

 

Follow me on Twitter for more sports news.

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Oregon Football 2014: Complete Preview of Ducks Offense and Defense

The Oregon Ducks are one of the most talented teams in the nation, with playmakers all over the roster.

Watch as B/R's experts break down Oregon on both sides of the ball, as the Ducks look to challenge once again for the Pac-12 championship.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon Football 2014: Complete Preview of Ducks Offense and Defense

The Oregon Ducks are one of the most talented teams in the nation, with playmakers all over the roster. Watch as B/R's experts break down Oregon on both sides of the ball, as the Ducks look to challenge once again for the Pac -12 championship...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

College Football Predictions: Sleeper Picks for Major College Football Awards

Preseason award watch lists have been released. Chances are, it says more about a player if he isn't on a watch list than if he is, but the bottom line is that there's a clean slate and everyone has a chance to win.

There are early favorites to take home some hardware, sure. Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota are just two of the names figured to be called on awards night, provided they stay healthy. 

But who are some sleeper picks who could make a surprise run during the 2014 season? We list 10 players who could have big years and take home some postseason hardware. 

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North Carolina Football 2014: Complete Preview and Predictions

Larry Fedora's North Carolina Tar Heels struggled to sustain momentum in 2013. The team finished with a 7-6 overall record and a 4-4 record within the ACC. However, UNC finished Fedora's second season as head coach by defeating Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl.

How will the Tar Heels fare in year No. 3 with Fedora at the helm? Watch as B/R's experts preview UNC ahead of the 2014 season.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida Football 2014: Complete Preview of Gators Offense and Defense

In 2013 the Florida offense ranked an abysmal 114th in the country in points scored at 18.8 per game, while the defense checked in at 15th in the nation, allowing 21.1 points a contest.

Watch as B/R's experts weigh in on the Gators' offensive and defensive outlooks ahead of the 2014 season.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Preseason College Football Rankings 2014: Best and Worst of 1st Coaches Poll

There is always an excitement when the first college football top 25 coaches poll is released, but this season feels different for various reasons. The adoption of the four-team playoff system undoubtedly is at the top of the list. 

As much as we look forward to the release of the polls, it's important to remember that no one knows anything at this point. All the rankings are based on last year's results and talent potential for the upcoming season. 

That's also what makes analyzing the poll so much fun, because we know how dramatically the entire top 25 is going to shift throughout the year that it's fun to look at what's expected to happen before the first snap. 

We are going to criticize, critique and praise the first coaches poll of the 2014 season, looking at which schools are getting too much love by reputation, which school is underrated because of history and things in between. 

 

2014 Preseason Amway Coaches Poll Rank Team (1st-Place Votes) 1 Florida State Seminoles (56) 2 Alabama Crimson Tide 3 Oklahoma Sooners (3) 4 Oregon Ducks (1) 5 Auburn Tigers 6 Ohio State Buckeyes (1) 7 UCLA Bruins 8 Michigan State Spartans 9 South Carolina Gamecocks (1) 10 Baylor Bears 11 Stanford Cardinal 12 Georgia Bulldogs 13 LSU Tigers 14 Wisconsin Badgers 15 USC Trojans 16 Clemson Tigers 17 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 18 Arizona State Sun Devils 19 Mississippi Rebels 20 Texas A&M Aggies 21 Kansas State Wildcats 22 Nebraska Cornhuskers 23 North Carolina Tar Heels 24 Texas Longhorns 25 Washington Huskies

Source: USAToday.com

 

Best Selection: Florida State at No. 1 

Even though it seems easy to put Florida State as the top team in the country coming off a national championship season and returning Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston, look at the quality depth around college football. 

Alabama has played in the BCS five of the last six years, had the top-ranked recruiting class in 2014 according to 247Sports.com and Nick Saban is still coaching the Crimson Tide. Oregon has won at least 11 games in each of the last four years and returns quarterback Marcus Mariota. 

Despite all of those obstacles, the Seminoles pass the smell test for a team that can go back to back. A deep study of the schedule shows Florida State is still the favorite to win the 2014 national championship, per ESPN.com's Stats & Info on Twitter:

Some of the confidence in Florida State likely comes from a softer ACC schedule than what Alabama will see in the SEC (at LSU, vs. Auburn) or Oregon will see (vs. Michigan State, vs. Stanford, at UCLA). 

However you want to slice it, the Seminoles have earned their spot at the top and will be up there until someone knocks them off their perch.

 

Overrated Selection: Oklahoma at No. 3

This is a clear-cut case of voters overrating one win last year in a bowl game after Saban said the Sugar Bowl was basically a glorified "consolation game" for Alabama following that heartbreaking loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl. 

Whether that means Alabama players weren't focused is another story that we will never know the answer to, but when you go from the high of nearly playing for a national title to "settling" for another bowl game, regardless of its profile, and have more than a month in between games to hear people talk about how crushing the Auburn loss was, there will be some lingering effects. 

Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops was more than happy to fire back at Saban during Big 12 media days in July, via ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy:

Yet, where is the signature regular-season win for Oklahoma in the last four years? Maybe Oklahoma State in 2010, though the Cowboys haven't played defense since Mike Gundy took over as head coach. Florida State in 2011 when the Seminoles were an overrated No. 5 team? 

This isn't to say that Oklahoma is a bad team—far from it. But putting the Sooners ahead of Oregon, Michigan State, UCLA or even conference rival Baylor is a gross misrepresentation of how good the team is going to be. 

Stewart Mandel of FoxSports.com asked the question about Oklahoma being significantly higher than Baylor in his analysis of the coaches poll:

Oklahoma will boast an experienced and athletic defense, but voters are blindly assuming that Trevor Knight and the offense will look more like they did that one night in January than the 12 games before that, ranking 81st nationally in yards per attempt (6.8).

Put it this way: What happened over the offseason that lifted OU seven spots higher than a Baylor team that won the Big 12 last season and beat the Sooners 41-12?

Consistency from year to year is a hallmark of Stoops' tenure in Oklahoma. The team has won at least 10 games in each of the last four seasons and been in the top 10 twice, but never higher than sixth. 

 

The Sleeper: Clemson at No. 16

There's always a team that starts outside the top 10, puts together a fantastic year no one saw coming and finishes inside the top 10. Last year, Florida State was 12th in the initial coaches poll and won the national title. Two years ago, Notre Dame wasn't even ranked when the season started and wound up playing for the national title. 

This year, while there are solid options to choose from—Georgia being a good example—the team that immediately jumps out is Clemson at No. 16. The Tigers have a lot of talent to replace, with quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant going to the NFL. 

Eddie Timanus of USA Today noted some of the issues Clemson will face in trying to replace all that talent before putting a positive spin on things:

New signal caller Cole Stoudt is a senior who's been in the system but never started a game. WR Mike Williams could emerge as the new deep threat. There's better news on defense, where DEs Vic Beasley and Corey Crawford and DT Grady Jarrett will create havoc in opposing backfields.

This is where we see the strength of Dabo Swinney's underrated and overlooked defense play a key role for the Tigers in 2014. That front seven was fantastic, and the team finished with 42.5 sacks and 24th in points allowed per game. 

All-American defensive end Vic Beasley will anchor one of the best front fours in the ACC, and Cole Stoudt is not without experience at quarterback, with 119 attempts over the last three years and a completion percentage of 72.3 with eight touchdowns and one interception. 

If the Tigers are going to be a contender in 2014, we will know right away. Their first three games are at Georgia, home against South Carolina, at Florida State and home against North Carolina. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 

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Washington Football 2014: Complete Preview and Predictions

The Washington Huskies enjoyed a successful 2013 season. They finished with a 9-4 overall record, a 5-4 record in the Pac-12 and a victory against BYU in the Fight Hunger Bowl.

Chris Peterson takes over at head coach after Steve Sarkisian departed for the same position at USC. Now, all eyes will be focused on Peterson and whether he can improve the program Sarkisian guided to success.

Watch as B/R's experts examine the Huskies before the 2014 season begins.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Washington Football 2014: Complete Preview and Predictions

The Washington Huskies enjoyed a successful 2013 season. They finished with a 9-4 overall record, a 5-4 record in the Pac-12 and a victory against BYU in the Fight Hunger Bowl...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Ohio State Football 2014: Complete Preview of Buckeyes Defense

In 2013, the Ohio State Buckeyes defense ranked 28th in the country in points allowed, with 22.6 per game. It was the weak link of one of the top teams in the nation.

Watch as B/R's experts weigh in on the Buckeyes' defensive outlook ahead of the 2014 season.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football 2014: Complete Preview of Irish Offense

In 2013, the Notre Dame offense ranked 75th in the country in points scored at 27.2 per game.

Entering 2014, the race for starting quarterback is a tight one between Everett Golson and Malik Zaire. Whoever wins the battle will be tasked with turning around a relatively disappointing year of production from the unit a year ago.

Watch as B/R's experts weigh in on the Fighting Irish’s offensive outlook ahead of the 2014 season.

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Arkansas Football 2014: Complete Preview and Predictions

Bret Bielema's Arkansas Razorbacks struggled in 2013. The team finished with a 3-9 overall record and went winless within the SEC.

With plenty of room for improvement, Bielema will be expected to guide his program to achieve greater success.

Watch as B/R's experts weigh in on Arkansas before the start of the 2014 season. 

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Kansas State Freshmen Receive Hilariously Awful Haircuts at Training Camp

This time of year, we see a lot of rookies in the NFL getting terrible haircuts from their veteran teammates.

As it turns out, some college freshmen receive the same treatment.

A group of first-year Kansas State players now have a new look after their teammates got a hold of them. They're some pretty awful cuts.

It's tough to pick the worst of the bunch, isn't it?

[Twitter, h/t Busted Coverage

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