The USC Trojans kick off their 2013 season against the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, with the hopes of redeeming themselves after a tumultuous 2012 effort. With new coaches, new talent and a new quarterback under center, the Trojans have grown substantially over the past month in fall camp, though they still have a long way to go.
In addition to opening its season, the Trojans are celebrating 125 years of athletics in 2013, and are certainly looking for a win to set the year off right.
USC could not have asked for a better opponent for its two green quarterbacks Cody Kessler and Max Wittek to debut against. The Rainbow Warriors and the Trojans have clashed eight times since 1930, and USC has emerged the victor each time. And USC hasn't just won—it's won big. The Trojans have beaten the Warriors on average 49-14, and 49-10 in their most recent tilt in 2012.
This season the Trojans have yet to cement a starting quarterback and in addition to that minor problem, their leading rusher Silas Redd will miss the season opener as he continues to heal from a torn meniscus sustained in spring camp. The secondary is loaded with talent, though largely inexperienced at the collegiate level. For Hawaii, the Rainbow Warriors are fielding a team with many returners, though whether or not they can hang with the Trojans has yet to be determined.
But first, the vitals:
KICKOFF: 8:05 p.m. PT
PLACE: Aloha Stadium
TV: CBS SPORTS
Radio: 710 ESPN
Spread: USC (-21.5) at Hawaii
South Carolina's college football season kicks off Thursday night when Jadeveon Clowney and the Gamecocks take on Bryn Renner and the North Carolina Tar Heels. In a battle between the Carolinas, both teams will need their star players competing at their full potential.
Clowney has made it known that he will be striking fear into opposing quarterbacks throughout the season. The season-long mission begins with Renner.
Renner is a 6'3", 223-pound gunslinger quarterback who has a lot of experience as he enters his senior year. That big frame helps him to manage the pocket with ease.
Coming off a 28-touchdown season in which he only threw seven interceptions, Renner will be a challenge for Clowney and the South Carolina. Slowing him down is no easy task.
Here are three things Clowney and the defense need to do to stop the Tar Heels quarterback.
1. Apply pressure early.
Early on, the Gamecocks need to make Renner feel uncomfortable. When a quarterback, especially one like Renner, has all day to sit back and throw in the pocket, it becomes a long day for the defense.
Knock Renner around early in the game.
Clowney needs to be the first player to do this. Clowney needs an early sack or at least an early hit on Renner. This will have Renner thinking and can create some discrepancies in the offensive line.
The rest of the defensive line is very good, so once Clowney gets pressure and receives added attention, the other players can step in and keep pressuring Renner.
2. Work the "Rabbit" package and other difficult-to-read schemes.
South Carolina runs a four-defensive end heavy pass-rush package known as the "Rabbit".
With Clowney, Chaz Sutton, Darius English and other pass-rushers on the line, Renner will be pressured to release the ball quickly. A line like this is scary for a quarterback.
This formation can also have ends drop into coverage.
Mind games with the "Rabbit" package and other blitz schemes can make it difficult for Renner to read those formations.
Getting inside the poised quarterback's head will be key for the Gamecocks' defense.
3. Stick to your man.
Renner's passing abilities will test the South Carolina secondary.
Hampton is the leader back there. His squad around him will need to have tight, consistent coverage on the Tar Heels' wide receivers. If players aren't open, this allows the defensive line a little more time to land some hits and post some sacks.
Clowney and his squad will not object to some more time to get to Renner.
This secondary needs to have good coverage, and Renner will have a long day of getting hit by Clowney and the defensive line.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
The 2013 season will open the same way as it did in 2009 for the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Virginia Tech Hokies.
The Crimson Tide hope it ends the same way, too.
Alabama, of course, went on to an undefeated season and won the first of its three BCS National Championships in the last four years. The 34-24 Crimson Tide victory was the springboard to its current run of dominance.
The Hokies, coming off a disappointing 7-6 season, would love nothing more than to knock Alabama off its perch atop the college football world on opening weekend in what would be a program-defining victory.
Here's everything you need to know.
Time: 5:30 p.m. ET
Place: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga.
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, VirginiaTech IMGSportsNetwork
Spread: Alabama by anywhere from 18 to 20.5 points, according to Andrew Gribble of AL.com, the biggest spread Virginia Tech has faced since 1992.
All quotes and paraphrases were obtained either firsthand or via phone, where noted.
It was a simple question—at least I thought so. Nick Saban did not.
It was Tennessee week, and I, a sophomore journalism student asking Saban my first question ever, wanted to know if conference expansion could affect the annual rivalry.
The rest was history. Saban unloaded on me after a string of frustrating questions, and my journalism career was off to the races. The clip was played on ESPN all week, and Saban apologized two days later.
I learned a lot that day: about Saban, about covering Alabama, and about not worrying about what people—even Nick Saban—think about you when they don't like a very reasonable question you ask.
Since that day I've covered two national championship football teams, became the sports editor of The Crimson White, reported on low student attendance at football games, broke the news about players being sent home before the BCS National Championship Game and talked to the Wall Street Journal about student apathy.
I've interned with The Tuscaloosa News and The Tennessean just outside my hometown of Franklin, Tenn. I've also done freelance work for The Baltimore Sun, The Salt Lake Tribune and others. And now, I'm excited to join the team at Bleacher Report, bringing you inside access into the Alabama program.
You'll be seeing a lot of me this season, so let's get to know each other better. I'll answer a few questions about covering Alabama and their upcoming season. Feel free to drop a comment below if there's anything else you'd like to know.
Best athlete or coach to interview
Alabama gymnastics coach Sarah Patterson. I've covered the UA gymnastics team for two years, and Patterson is always very open and very accessible, even to a humble student journalist like myself. She'll sit with you in her office until you've asked everything you need to and will be open and honest with you in her answers.
She was hired by Bear Bryant when he was athletics director, so she's been around awhile and always has great stories to tell.
If I had to choose a football player, it would be Chance Warmack or Damion Square, two seniors from last year's championship team. They were always very thoughtful and honest.
And I'm a sucker for a good Les Miles quote every now and then.
Best player or team covered
The 2012 Alabama football team. I watched that team from when it opened fall camp and covered every game in person until confetti reigned down in Miami.
From the thrilling comeback in Baton Rouge to the crushing loss to Texas A&M and then all of the crazy upsets that put them back in the title hunt, it was truly a season to remember.
Most memorable game ever covered
The 2012 SEC Championship Game—it isn't even close. The Georgia Dome was deafening from start to finish, as neither team really could hold onto control of the game.
I got down to the field just in time for Amari Cooper's game-winning touchdown and was standing in the end zone where he caught it.
Two physical, talented football teams squared off in a game that I'll remember forever. The national championship wasn't decided in Miami; it was decided in Atlanta.
Is AJ McCarron or T.J. Yeldon likelier to take home the Heisman?
McCarron is. Yeldon is one of the most talented backs in the country. But quarterbacks always get the advantage, and McCarron will have an unparalleled arsenal of weapons with which to work.
Just about anyone on the three-deep at all three receiver spots could start at many schools across the country. Amari Cooper, who headlines the group, could be the best receiver in the country.
Which opponent is the biggest threat to Alabama in 2013?
LSU. I'm not buying the hype behind this year's "Game of the Century" in College Station. The SEC West will be decided in Tuscaloosa on November 9.
Nick Saban's record in "revenge" games speaks for itself, as does his record against Miles and LSU. LSU always comes ready to play in what is usually an NFL Draft preview show as well. And remember the last time the Tigers came to Tuscaloosa?
What adjustments does Kirby Smart need to make to shut down Johnny Manziel in Week 3?
I think the adjustments need to come on the other side of the ball.
The Crimson Tide defense was caught sleeping on its first couple of drives against Manziel but contained him for the most part after that disastrous first quarter.
But the offense couldn't keep up. McCarron threw two interceptions, and the offense never really got going until the deficit was too much. The defense won't be caught by any kind of surprise this year, so it'll be up to the offense to put big points up on the board.
Which freshmen will play the biggest role for Alabama?
Derrick Henry and Reuben Foster.
We've all seen Henry's high school highlight tapes—a 6'4" monster bowling through helpless high school defenders. Even at the college level, his size and speed will translate very well.
Foster might not be a regular on defense, but will make his presence known in mop-up duty and on special teams.
2013 Season Prediction for Alabama
At this point, it just doesn't make sense to pick against Saban and Alabama. The Crimson Tide is the most talented, disciplined and well-coached team in the country. I like Alabama to make history and win its fourth BCS title in five years.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
We have exhausted the term “dynasty,” choosing to toss it around ubiquitously rather than examining if it’s actually warranted. In the instance of Alabama football, however, it’s most certainly applicable.
The question, however, is where is the ceiling?
Alabama will enter the 2013 season as an overwhelming favorite; a favorite so robust even Las Vegas is struggling to process how to handicap it. It has unmatched talent and depth, the nation’s best head coach by a significant margin and a schedule that is surprisingly manageable on paper.
But it’s never that easy, and if Virginia Tech isn’t able to topple the chalk in Week 1, someone else most certainly could. For as much talent as Alabama has, it is not without its concerns at a handful of key positions.
A three-peat would be unprecedented in today’s ultra-competitive world of college football, but it is also within reach.
The Case For Alabama
Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer summed it up best when talking about the canyon-sized obstacle ahead in Week 1.
Frank Beamer on Tech Talk Live about Alabama: "This is the best team we've ever played." #Hokies— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) August 27, 2013
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron has the distinct possibility of leaving campus with more national championships than losses as a starter. It’s a stat that will undoubtedly win you a beer off your buddy in bar trivia, and one that will likely be realized if Alabama ends up on top once again.
McCarron is remarkably gifted—perhaps not as physically impressive as other quarterbacks in the conference but still immensely talented. More so than his talents, however, McCarron provides a comfort at the game’s most important position—especially when it comes to the biggest moments. There is no moment too big.
Helping him along the way will be a team deep in so many areas. Alabama has NFL talent and depth all over the place, a luxury that is a testament to the unbelievable recruiting wave Nick Saban has been on over the past five years.
Former NFL scout turned NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah noted this while reviewing the talent in Tuscaloosa for the upcoming season.
Alabama can make a strong case that they have the top player in CFB at these positions: WR, RB, LT, ILB and FS.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) July 15, 2013
And thus, Saban has the best football problem on his hands: How does he get all of his former 4-star and 5-star running backs carries?
At wide receiver, Amari Cooper is probably the best wideout not named Marqise Lee, and this group is immensely deep and versatile. It was ravished by injuries in 2012, but Kevin Norwood—who has become a national championship fixture—will join DeAndrew White, Kenny Bell and Christion Jones, giving this team options through the air.
The defense is, well, where to begin.
At linebacker, Alabama is simply loaded. C. J. Mosley and Adrian Hubbard are without question the best linebacking duo in the country, and there is depth (shocking, really) at this position as well. Top recruit Reuben Foster has made “tremendous progress” according to his head coach—rare but noteworthy praise.
Don’t be surprised if you see this sooner than later.
At safety, HaHa Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri will get the starting nods, and both were superb last season. Landon Collins—yes, the same talented player most notably known for his disapproving mother—will play much more of a role on passing downs. Clinton-Dix and Sunseri are already stars, and Collins isn’t far behind.
Aside from having a roster clearly up for the challenge, the schedule—especially by SEC standards—isn’t exactly the conference’s most daunting. Alabama will be favored in every game (perhaps by double digits or at least close), and the toughest road test will come early on at Texas A&M.
Given the uncertainty surrounding Johnny Manziel, however, even this game doesn’t have the same feel—at least not right now—as it once did.
Alabama will also play Ole Miss and LSU, two teams that could surpass expectations heading into the season. Still, Alabama’s toughest test may not be until the SEC Championship Game or—if Saban’s “process” plays out—the BCS National Championship.
The Case Against Alabama
Perhaps Virginia Tech linebacker Jack Tyler said it best when barraged with the customary “do you guys have a chance?!” questions that are now anticipated when attempting to take down college football’s giant.
#Hokies LB Jack Tyler on Bama: "They’re big, physical, great athletes at every position, great QB. But they’re not gods. They’re beatable."— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) August 26, 2013
The response, of course, means zero to the outcome of the game (or season, really), but it serves as more than just a rallying cry. Yes, the Alabama roster has unmatched talent, but it also has positions of concern.
Granted, “concern” is relative compared to others, but the concerns are real.
The offensive line has received rave reviews from Saban all offseason, but it will enter 2013 without three key cogs from the outstanding 2012 group. D.J. Fluker, Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones helped this team average 5.59 yards per carry last season (good for sixth in the nation), and they are off to the NFL.
New offensive line coach Mario Cristobal will be tasked with bringing this new group together, and it helps to have a left tackle like Cyrus Kouandjio. He is one of the best offensive linemen in football, and there’s certainly potential around him.
Still, the offensive line was integral to the team’s overall success, and it made it look almost easy at times.
Cornerback is another area of note, especially with the departure of Dee Milliner, who is also in the NFL. Deion Belue will be asked to be the team’s top corner, and he has had a tremendous offseason.
Geno Smith was recently suspended following a DUI arrest, but he will return and contribute. Others such as John Fulton will be called upon and could exceed expectations. It doesn’t help to have future NFL players in front of and behind them.
The defensive line is also being fine-tuned, and the loss of Jesse Williams at nose guard is the most notable departure on the roster. Williams' production may not have shown up on the stat sheet, but he allowed the defenders behind him to do their jobs. Brandon Ivory will have the task of making life easier on the defensive ends and linebackers in '13.
More so than any roster deficiency—because clearly this is nitpicking at its finest—winning the BCS National Championship requires an incredible amount of luck. It doesn’t matter how much more talented a team might be, luck looms large—always.
A single injury can derail an entire season, and the room for error under the BCS is remarkably small. Alabama played its way into the title game the past two years, but it also needed losses from other teams to get there after it suffered a loss of its own.
If Alabama is perfect, it won’t need any help. But bringing it each and every Saturday—regardless of the gap in talent—is a challenge. As good as Alabama was in 2012, and it was far and away the best team in football, it was a few plays away from losing to both LSU and Georgia.
That’s not to say that Alabama wasn’t deserving, but rather a realistic approach of how difficult it is and how easy they make it look at times.
It won’t be cakewalk getting through a full SEC slate. A worthy adversary in the SEC Championship Game and another challenging opponent in the BCS National Championship—if it reaches these landmarks, of course—could pose trouble.
But the blueprint for another national title is on the table. The talent is in place, the coach is never, ever satisfied and the path—while still ripe with landmines—could be much more treacherous.
There will be ample time to examine the dynasty and where a three-peat would stand on the greatness spectrum if and when Alabama arrives. Nothing is ever a given in college football, although this team is poised to push this theory—again.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Texas head coach Mack Brown enters his 16th season in Austin with one goal in mind—getting the Longhorns back to the Texas standard.
At Big 12 media days, Brown said Texas is about to make another run at a national title (subscription required).
The first step to a title will come Saturday when the No. 15 Texas Longhorns host the New Mexico State Aggies at DKR Texas Memorial Stadium.
With 19 returning starters, Texas enters 2013 as one of the most experienced teams in college football. The Longhorns are coming off of a 9-4 record and are preparing to unveil a new uptempo offense run by junior quarterback David Ash.
Following a 1-11 season, the Aggies are ready to progress in 2013 under new head coach Doug Martin and offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon. The Aggies return 14 starters—seven on offense and seven on defense—and will feature new starting quarterback Andrew McDonald.
The Longhorns hold a 4-0 record over the Aggies, and the last meeting in 2003 ended in a 66-7 Texas blowout.
Can New Mexico State break its Texas losing the streak?
When: August 31, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: DKR Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas
TV: Longhorn Network
Radio: KVET; Sirius Ch. 117; XM Ch. 202
Spread: Texas (-42), per VegasInsider.com
2012 results: Clemson 11-2, ACC Atlantic co-champions, beat LSU 25-24 in Chick-fil-A Bowl
Georgia 12-2, SEC East champions, beat Nebraska 45-31 in Capital One Bowl
Most important storylines of the week:
Can Clemson handle the hype?: 2012 marked the first time since 2000 that Clemson began and ended the season in the national top 25. In 2000, 2004, 2006 and 2008, the Tigers began in the top 25 but fell out by season’s end. 2008 was the most egregious example; Clemson began No.9 nationally but took a wicked 34-10 season-opening beating from Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic. It was the beginning of the end of Tommy Bowden’s decade-long tenure at the Tigers’ helm; he resigned under pressure just over a month later.
Clemson’s Chick-fil-A Bowl win over LSU showed they could compete with an elite SEC team, but can they back it up? Make the Bulldogs heel, and they’ll have an impressive start to 2013 that should quiet many of their national detractors.
Can Georgia’s secondary slow Tajh Boyd?: Boyd has established himself as one of the nation’s elite quarterbacks; a two-time ACC Player of the Year and returning All-American, he threw for 3,896 yards and accounted for 46 touchdowns last fall (36 passing, 10 rushing). Boyd has a stable of talented wideouts, led by junior Sammy Watkins, one of four players ever to be named a first-team Associated Press All-American as a true freshman, as well as juniors Martavis Bryant and Charone Peake and highly-touted freshman Mike Wiliams.
Junior cornerback Damian Swann is the secondary’s only returning starter from 2012, and the unit has been further thinned by suspensions and injuries. Projected starting safety Josh Harvey-Clemons will miss this week due to a suspension connected to a May incident involving marijuana possession. And freshman Tray Matthews, a projected starter at free safety, only returned to practice this week while battling shoulder and hamstring injuries which have limited him this month.
Can Clemson’s secondary slow Aaron Murray and Georgia’s offense?: The secondary was Clemson’s Achilles heel in 2012; the Tigers yielded 240 passing yards per game to foes. Veteran cornerbacks Martin Jenkins, Darius Robinson and Bashaud Breeland have returned from injuries that sidelined them for parts or all of last season, but along with junior Garry Peters, no clear starters have emerged. In addition, sophomore Travis Blanks (a freshman All-America at strongside linebacker) and junior Robert Smith will be making their first career starts at safety.
Murray is one of the nation’s top quarterbacks; he threw for 3,893 yards and 36 touchdowns against 10 interceptions as a junior last fall, completing 64.5 percent of his passes. Combine his arm with the powerful backfield duo of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, and you have a pick-your-poison scenario for Clemson’s defense. The Tigers’ front seven will be a strength, but can it overcome a questionable secondary?
Time: 8:22 p.m. EDT
Place: Memorial Stadium, Clemson, S.C.
TV: ABC (national)
Radio: Clemson and Georgia radio networks (regional); Compass Media Network (nationally syndicated).
Spread: Georgia -2 via Bovada
Devonte Fields is without a doubt one of the best defensive ends in the country. As a freshman last season, he racked up 10 sacks, 53 tackles and was named the AP's Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
His prowess on the field alone is why TCU Horned Frogs head coach Gary Patterson should start Fields.
It's been circulating that Fields, despite being suspended for the first two games for violating team rules, will be suited up for the team's opener against the LSU Tigers, according to Matt Jennings of TCU 360. According to Jennings, Patterson said that Fields is a "game time" decision for Saturday's game. Much of the speculation comes from TCU's updated depth chart, which lists Fields as a starter at defensive end.
In Jennings' report, Patterson states that the primary purpose of Fields' suspension has already been served.
“The deal with Devonte is a three month ordeal where he’s already been embarrassed,” Patterson said. “He’s already done everything the university has asked him to do.”
Obviously, the on-field talent that Fields brings to the table is a clear reason to start him. But there are other reasons why Fields should take the field on Saturday against the Tigers.
For starters, Patterson clearly indicated that Fields has been embarrassed over the past three months, when he was originally suspended. Fields didn't get to represent his team at Big 12 Media Days despite being one of its stars and has been subjected to intense scrutiny.
Fields has served his punishment. A summer of criticism from the media is enough for a guy who clearly proved that he was mature enough to start for a Big 12 team in 2012, despite being just a freshman.
Secondly, if Jeremy Hill, the Tigers running back who became infamous for a video that showed him fighting, is still allowed to even be on a college football team, than Fields should be allowed to play against LSU.
The video of Hill shows the running back sucker-punching someone from behind outside a bar. That ended with Hill pleading guilty to misdemeanor battery, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN). What's even more disturbing about Hill's case is that the battery was a violation of his probation, which was his punishment from having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old in high school, per CBS 9 WAFB.
So not only does Hill use his strength to attack others, but he has had sex with women below the age of consent.
Hill doesn't deserve to have the privilege of playing college football. Yet LSU head coach Les Miles hasn't even indicated whether or not Hill will miss time, per the AP report.
If Hill can play, than Fields should be able to as well.
Ultimately, Fields is a player who has done everything right since making whatever undisclosed mistake he made a few months ago. He's remained quiet about the reason and hasn't gotten in any trouble since.
Patterson should give Fields a chance to start against the Tigers.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
It's safe to say I'm usually the only one in Florida's press box rocking a pink dress and heels. Hey, I'm not the one on the field, so it's totally acceptable.
Hey, y'all. I'm Allison. I'm currently 22, so Taylor Swift's song made this year especially enjoyable. I spent my four years at the University of Florida nabbing my journalism degree and reporting on just about every Gators sport the Swamp has to offer. From gymnastics to baseball to football to swimming (post Ryan Lochte, thank God), I've done it. I'm no newbie, and I'm amped to continue my career as Bleacher Report's Lead Writer for the Gators.
Best coach to interview
Coach Will Muschamp is always a treat on the other end of the recorder, but my interview fave is actually next door to the football stadium.
I'm talkin' about Florida's head basketball coach, Billy Donovan. Billy D is a real standup guy. He's not only a true master of his craft, but he actually knows how to talk about it with true finesse, too (at length, giving you all the quotes you could ever possibly need and more). He's transparent with and respectful to the media (a rarity at Florida) and is an all-around phenomenal guy who's life/work off the court is undoubtedly inspiring. Plus, his New York accent just automatically makes everything that comes out of his mouth awesome. Oh, and the widows peak? Legendary.
Best team covered
Covering an underdog never gets old. So writing articles on the doubted Gators' rise to a 11-2 record was sick. However, my top nod has to go to the 2011 Gators Gymnastics team. These chicks were some of the hardest working athletes I've ever had the pleasure of covering and hello, the entire sport involves doing flips and tricks in the air in sparkly outfits. Reporting on this bunch was the closest thing I can equate to what feels like being on tour with Britney Spears (before babies/shaved head).
Most memorable rivalry game covered
It doesn't get any better than the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, y'all. The Florida-Georgia rivalry is one of the most iconic matchups in college football, and even though last season's meeting didn't end well for the Gators, it was an incredible event to report on. It's held in the neutral site of Jacksonville, Fla., in an NFL stadium (OK, it's the home of the Jags, but it's still a pro field). No team holds an advantage and all the wasted fans just go buck wild on each other. Of course the drama on the field isn't slim, either. No one can forget the infamous "Gator Stomp" of 2007 when the entire Bulldogs team (as instructed by UGA coach Mark Richt) stormed the Gators' end zone after Georgia's first touchdown. Unsportsmanlike conduct history, anyone?
Can the Gators recover from losing seven starters on defense?
There's no questioning that the defense carried this team on its back last season. Combined, these guys had 48.5 tackles for loss making Florida's D No. 5 in the NCAA and No. 2 in the SEC . They stepped up in a huge way for a Gators team that was in its first year under a new offensive coordinator and QB. Can this squad "recover" from losing a huge chunk of starters (including Sharrif Floyd and Matt Elam)? Sure, under the notion that this year's D shouldn't be expected to pull as big of a weight as last year's did. On an individual level, this season's defense still maintains sizable talent with leadership including spitfire Dominique Easley, a recently returned Ronald Powell and a more talented Dante Fowler who are all sure to make impacts of their own.
What does Jeff Driskel need to do to live up to his potential in 2013?
The weeks before the 2012 season, the big story was Florida's coaching staff dancing around the quarterback question. Though Jeff Driskel obviously got the job, he came into the spot splitting reps with Jacoby Brissett. Now that Driskel has a full season as the offensive leader under his belt along with the growing pains and learning that go with it, it's time for him to peak. He's going into the season knowing exactly what his job his. His jitters should be gone and he should be more comfortable with his routes, but most importantly, he must make his decisions on the field faster. Last season, Driskel was growing into his role at QB, so it was expected that he show hesitation. But to live up to his potential this year, he just has to go. He has to be comfortable enough to make his decisions more quickly than he did last year. Driskel has to start being the guy to make those big plays. With the loss of an incredible defense that could make up for offensive missteps, it's crucial that Florida's star QB leads this offense to bear more of the burden on the field and the scoreboard.
Who will lead the Gators in rushing in 2013?
Well, Gilly has been freed… to the Dolphins, and unfortunately for Florida, its new go-to running back Matt Jones is out for the season opener against Toledo recovering from a viral infection. But I'm expecting Jones to be back and making a major impact by the time Miami rolls around. Though he's sidelined for a hot minute, it's his time to lead UF in rushing this season. No question he's got huge, mad fast shoes to fill. Last year's RB (slash absolute monster) Mike Gillislee rounded out his career at Florida with a total of 2,024 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns. Gilly finished fourth in the SEC in rushing yards last season and was the first UF player to rush more than 1,000 yards since 2004. Yeah, the rushing standard for Florida has been set high -- like, real high. But in just his first year, Jones finished third on the team in rushing yards (275) and clocked time in 12 games. He also powered three touchdowns during his freshman season. Jones enters this season (a wee bit late) well rested, with more experience and a bigger role for the Gators, and I'm betting he'll show up in a big way.
2013 Season Prediction for the Gators
9-3. Florida faces nationally ranked SEC hard hitters South Carolina and LSU on away turf this season and with a developing team, I see those opponents/ environments presenting trouble for the UF's record. I'm also still doubtful that Florida can escape Jacksonville with a win versus a No. 5 Georgia.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Hi, everyone. My name is Erin Sorensen, and I believe matte helmets and "Seven Nation Army" are a sin. That’s all you really need to know about me.
Oh, I am also Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. That's important, too.
I was born and raised a Husker fan, so covering the Huskers is a pretty perfect role for me. I grew up around the 90s Nebraska teams, have attended every home game since 2006 and owned one of those Husker Starter jackets back in the day. (Man, those were cool.) What I’m trying to say is that I bleed Nebraska football. It’s very much a part of who I am.
For those that don’t know me yet, I look forward to getting to know you. For those that follow me over at HailVarsity.com, I look forward to providing you with even more Husker content here at Bleacher Report. I can’t promise I’ll ever come around on the matte helmet thing, but I promise that we’re going to have some fun this season.
That’s really all that matters, isn't it?
Athlete I’d Love to Interview
I would really like to interview Taylor Martinez. As the Huskers' starting quarterback, it's no surprise that he's a hard interview to get. Having been on the Martinez bandwagon for many years (often times alone), it would be an interview to remember for me.
I'm running out of time to make it happen, though. Keep your fingers crossed for me, will ya?
Best Team Covered
The 2011 Nebraska team was one of my favorites to follow. Players like former wide receiver Brandon Kinnie and current wide receiver Kenny Bell were exceptionally welcoming to me and made following the team a lot fun. Plus, I got to go behind the scenes with the Nebraska football video crew and equipment staff for practices, fan day and their annual football faceoff.
Nebraska's first season in the Big Ten took me to Madison, Wis., to stand midfield at Camp Randall and back to a freezing cold Nebraska practice where former tight end Ben Cotton laughed at how ridiculous I was for not having brought a warm-enough coat.
By the end of it all, the Huskers were 9-4. It was a less-than-desirable outcome, with a loss to South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl, but overall that season really instilled in me a love for covering sports, especially Husker football.
I was busy and stressed a lot of the time, but I would never trade the lessons that season taught me for anything.
Most Memorable Game Covered
Going along with my most memorable season, I would say the 2011 Nebraska-Ohio State matchup.
The game was at Memorial Stadium. It was a cold, rainy and all-around miserable night. The first half of the game was no better. Nebraska went into halftime 21 points down, and the stadium was filled with boos for Martinez. Husker fans don't leave early, but if it were acceptable, I'm positive many would have.
Second half rolled around, and Martinez came to life. The sophomore ran for a touchdown and passed for two others, bringing the Huskers back into the game and making up the 21-point deficit. Memorial Stadium has never been louder.
When I-back Rex Burkhead (now with the Bengals) snagged the go-ahead touchdown with a little of five minutes left in the game, it was Nebraska's to win.
The atmosphere was wild, and fans were on their feet. The stadium shook. I'll never forget that as long as I live.
Is Bo Pelini the Coach Who Can Get the Huskers Back to the National-Title Game?
I fully understand that there are a lot of Bo Pelini critics out there, but I am not one of them.
I do see flaws in the head coach, e.g. his sometimes-tense relationship with the media. Pelini is very protective of his team, which can give him an unfairly bad rap with the media and some fans. That can be changed over time and with experience.
Ultimately, I think Pelini has as good of a shot getting Nebraska back to a national-title game as any other coach out there.
The bonus there is that winning silences critics, and I foresee less attention on how he handles the media and fans once he has a Big Ten title under his belt.
I mean it when I say I'm rooting for the Youngstown, Ohio, native to get the job done for the Huskers.
What Does Taylor Martinez Need to Do in 2013 to Take the Next Step as QB?
To be honest, I think it’s less about what Martinez needs to do and more about what the rest of the team needs to do for Martinez. Over the last two seasons, there have been struggles with the veteran quarterback, but his team has struggled around him as well.
Martinez is helping score as many points per game as Eric Crouch did in 2000. The difference is that Martinez’s defense gives up nearly as many points as the offense is able to score.
Crouch did not have that problem.
So really, it comes down to what the team can do, not just what Martinez can do.
What Are the Keys to Success for the Young Blackshirts?
Can a key be "have confidence?" I'm going to say so, because that's what these young Blackshirts need. What they lack in experience can be compensated for in confidence. Fake it till you make it, right? Just don't tell Pelini I said that, because he has made it clear that he accepts no player to "fake" his way on his team.
Otherwise, I believe that the success of the 2013 season will rely heavily on Nebraska's linebackers. This group is young but talented.
While inexperienced, true freshmen Josh Banderas and Nathan Gerry are projected to get a good number of snaps. Fans should expect to see Banderas and Gerry starting somewhere down the line. For the time being, Gerry will share snaps with redshirt freshman Jared Afalava.
JUCO transfer Zaire Anderson (who has been recovering from last season's ACL tear) and sophomore Michael Rose should also make impacts.
Nebraska's only real veteran in this group is sophomore David Santos. He had 24 tackles in 2012 and should help lead this group forward in 2013.
It'll be an interesting season for the linebacker position, but it's going to be vital. The talent is there. Throw in a little confidence, and this defense should find its way.
2013 Season Prediction for Nebraska
If you want to be bold, I've predicted that Nebraska will beat Ohio State in the Big Ten championship. With that, I've predicted a 10-2 season, with a projected loss at Penn State for sure.
That second loss could potentially be to Michigan, but I've decided to leave that one a little more open ended. The faceoff between Michigan and Nebraska could determine who heads to the Big Ten title game, so losing to the Wolverines would be a huge blow.
I'm still keeping the second loss there for good measure, but the Huskers could easily be 11-1. I am also fully aware that if I'm wrong on the Huskers winning the Big Ten title, everyone will hold it against me in December. If I’m right, though, I plan to never let it go.
I also predict a big season for Martinez, who will receive an invite to New York City as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
Basically, I see this being a successful season for the Huskers. Call me crazy, but 2013 feels like the year. That’s the beauty of predictions, though. You never know if you’ll be right.
I’m liking my chances this year.
Follow Erin Sorensen on Twitter at @helloerinmarie.
Hi, everyone. My name is Erin Sorensen and I believe matte helmets are a sin. That’s all you really need to know about me.
I’m just joking. While I actually don’t like matte helmets, I am excited to be joining Bleacher Report as the Lead Writer for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. I’ve written for Bleacher Report before where I had the opportunity to talk about an array of topics from the Big 12 to the Pac-12 to the ACC and Big East. This time, however, I definitely feel more at home.
After all, I was born and raised a Husker fan. I grew up around the 90s Nebraska teams, have attended every home game since 2006 and owned one of those Husker Starter jackets back in the day (Man, those were cool). What I’m trying to say is that I bleed Nebraska football. It’s very much a part of who I am.
For those that don’t know me yet, I look forward to getting to know you. For those that follow me over at HailVarsity.com, I look forward to providing you with even more Husker content. I can’t promise I’ll ever come around on the matte helmet thing, but I promise that we’re going to have some fun here at Bleacher Report. That’s really all that matters, right?
Athlete I’d Love to Interview
I’m focusing on Nebraska here by saying Taylor Martinez. As the starting quarterback for the Huskers, it wouldn’t be the easiest interview to get. If I had the chance to sit down with the senior for just 30 minutes and just pick his brain, I would love it. I’ve been on the Martinez bandwagon since the beginning though.
Best Team Covered
The 2011 Nebraska team was one of my favorites to follow. Players like former wide receiver Brandon Kinnie and current wide receiver Kenny Bell were exceptionally welcoming to me and made following a team even more fun. Plus, I got to go behind-the-scenes with the Nebraska Football Video crew and the equipment staff for practices, Fan Day and their annual football face-off. It was the season that took me to Madison, WI to stand mid-field at Camp Randall and back to a freezing cold Nebraska practice where former tight end Ben Cotton laughed at how ridiculous I was for not having a warm enough coat. It was that season that instilled in my why I love covering sports. It’s random and it’s fun. The 2011 team and season taught me that.
Most Memorable Game Covered
Arguably the 2011 Ohio State-Nebraska game where the Buckeyes traveled to Lincoln, NE was my most memorable game. It was brutally cold, rainy and all around miserable. When the game began shifting in the Huskers favor, it was like none of that existed. Memorial Stadium was louder than I’ve ever heard it in my life and the atmosphere was something I cannot even begin to describe. It was a special night.
Is Bo Pelini the coach who can get the Huskers back to the national title game?
I fully understand there are a lot of Bo Pelini critics out there, but I am not one of them. I do see flaws in the head coach, but they are things that can be fixed over time (and with experience). Ultimately, I think Pelini has as good of a shot getting Nebraska back to a national title game as any coach.
What does Taylor Martinez need to do in 2013 to take the next step as QB?
To be honest, I think it’s less about what Martinez needs to do and more about what the rest of the team needs to do for Martinez. Over the last two seasons, there have been struggles with the veteran quarterback but his team has struggled around him as well. Martinez is helping score as many points per game as Eric Crouch did in 2000. The difference is that Martinez’s defense gives up nearly as many points as the offense is able to score. Crouch didn’t have that problem. So really, it comes down to what the team can do, not just what Martinez can do.
What are the keys to success for the young Blackshirts?
Confidence. I believe in faking it till you make it. For this defense, it’s going to be about faking it until everything comes together. Just don’t tell Pelini I said that because he doesn’t accept anyone faking it when it comes to football.
2013 Season Prediction for Nebraska
I’m predicting a 10-2 season, with losses to Michigan and Penn State. I also predict Nebraska will go to the Big Ten Championship where they will face Ohio State. If you want to get really bold, I have predicting Nebraska will win the Big Ten Championship, which I know everyone will hold against me in December if I’m wrong. If I’m right though, prepare for me to never let that go. I also predict a big season for Martinez, who will receive an invite to New York City as a finalist for the Heisman. Basically, I see this being a big season for the Huskers. Call me crazy, but 2013 feels like the year. That’s the beauty of predictions though. You never know if you’ll be right. I’m liking my chances this year though.
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Notre Dame and Temple kick off their 2013 seasons on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish look for a repeat trip to the BCS National Championship Game, this time looking to win it all. Notre Dame was trounced, 42-14 by Alabama in that game, and it was a rocky offseason that included Brian Kelly's flirtation with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax and quarterback Everett Golson's suspension.
Temple, meanwhile, will be playing its first game under new coach Matt Ruhle. Ruhle, a former Temple and New York Giants assistant, faces a tough opening act as he takes his team into historic Notre Dame Stadium.
Time: 3:30 p.m. (Eastern)
Place: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind.
Spread: Notre Dame by 30
Utah State used the 27-20 win as a springboard into the best season in program history: 11 wins, the final Western Athletic Conference championship and billing in the both Top 25 polls.
For Utah, the 27-20 loss set the tone for a disappointing second season in the Pac-12 Conference. The Utes missed the postseason for the first time in a decade, and Kyle Whittingham suffered his first losing season since succeeding Urban Meyer in 2005.
Not long ago, Utah football was in the role Utah State now occupies—that of an up-and-coming, non-automatic qualifying conference spoiler out to make noise against its BCS conference competition.
Putting Utah's 2012 disappointment behind them starts on Thursday, when Utah State visits Rice-Eccles Stadium in as much of a must-win game as any Pac-12 team faces in Week 1.
Despite losing head coach Gary Andersen to Wisconsin in the offseason, the Aggies bring a veteran team that includes seven returning starters from the nation's No. 7 scoring defense, as well as dynamic dual-threat quarterback Chuckie Keeton.
"We expect that they'll be every bit as good as last year," Whittingham said during his weekly conference on Tuesday.
Last season's encounter certainly showed UU just how good this USU program (once the Beehive State's also-ran) has become. Keeton flourished, passing for 216 yards and two touchdowns and picking up another 86 yards on the ground. The defense stymied Utah for almost the entire first half, and in overtime when it counted most.
The win over the Utes was no fluke, either.
The Aggies were very nearly BCS bowl game busters in 2012, something Utah did twice as members of the Mountain West Conference. Their only losses were to Wisconsin and BYU by a combined five points.
"Losing by one point, and by four points...is kind of the monkey on our back that we never got off," Keeton said at July's MWC media day. "The guys coming back remember that getting ready for this season."
Coming so close to the BCS only further motivated the Aggies in the offseason, explained linebacker Zach Vigil.
"[Playing in the BCS] is within our reach, and a goal that we obviously have. We're competitors and want to win every game," he said.
To that end, Utah is now in the role that teams like Michigan and Oregon State, or Arizona, North Carolina and Texas A&M, filled for the Utes' two BCS-busting teams.
When it made the Pac-10 into 12 two years ago, Utah ostensibly became Goliath to a program like Utah State's David. Realistically, UU is still adjusting.
Part of acclimating to the Pac-12 included bringing on an offensive coordinator with experience as head coach at three different stops in the conference. Dennis Erickson provides veteran insight to complement the youthful exuberance of former Ute quarterback-turned-coordinator Brian Johnson.
Rectifying the team's offensive woes from a year ago is vital for this season's Utes to rebound. Quarterback Travis Wilson is a centerpiece, playing in a quicker tempo system.
Thursday should provide an accurate barometer of where that refurbishing project is along in the process, because the Utes' struggles were readily on display in last September's Utah State tilt.
"We went 2-17 on third down against the Aggies last year," Whittingham said. Failure on third down consistently vexed the Utes' struggling offense, which ranked No. 106 in conversion percentage.
"If we're going to compete in the Pac-12, [converting on third down] has to happen," Whittingham said.
Kyle Kensing is the Pac-12 Lead Writer. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Kyle on Twitter @kensing45.
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For this season opener, No. 10 Florida hosts a Toledo team that has never—I mean, never—faced an SEC football opponent.
The Rockets' first stab at the conference in the hot, sticky Swamp certainly won't be a gentle welcome either.
The Gators capped last season's 11-2 showing with a stinging loss versus the Louisville Cardinals in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. It was a letdown that has been motivating UF players throughout this offseason.
Florida enters 2013-14 play with junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, who is expected to lead a more experienced offense after getting into his groove as the starter all last season. While Driskel returns to the QB spot, the Gators will not return seven of last year's starters from their No. 5 nationally ranked defense.
Toledo, a member of the Mid-American Conference, comes to Gainesville also bearing a loss from its last matchup after falling to Utah State, 41-15, in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The Rockets finished 9-4.
Toledo is led by senior quarterback Terrance Owens, a veteran who has started a minimum of three games every year dating back to his first season at Toledo. The Rockets' offense is expected to be extremely sharp, as the team returns nine of its starters.
So who's going to "come out alive" from Week 1? Will Florida further its 23-game season-opening winning streak or will Toledo serve an upset in its first go at the SEC?
When: 12:21 p.m. ET
Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Fla.
TV: SEC Network
Radio: Sirius Ch. 136, XM Ch. 201
Live Stream: ESPN3
Spread: Florida (-23.5)
Greetings, Bleacher Report. My name is Taylor Gaspar and I will be your Texas Longhorns lead writer this season. I will be attending every Texas press conference, weekly player interviews and football games, to provide you with the most comprehensive Longhorn coverage on the web.
I am a native of Mission Viejo, California, the youngest of five children and a self-proclaimed tomboy. Sports were introduced to me at a very young age, by my father, Rod Gaspar, a member of the 1969 World Series champion Miracle Mets and my brother, Cade, the Detroit Tigers 18th overall pick in the 1994 MLB draft. I currently reside in Austin, Texas and enjoy anything that involves sports/competition, cooking and food.
In 2008, I got my start in the media at ESPN Radio - Austin, covering the Texas Longhorns, Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers and San Antonio Spurs. After two years of working at ESPN Radio, I made the move to Yahool! and Orangebloods.com to cover Texas athletics, Texas recruiting and the Big 12.
Here are some of the reasons why I love my job and what to expect from the 2013 Texas Longhorns.
Best Coach to Interview
I have covered a variety of coaches at Texas, but one of the best coaches to interview is Texas defensive backs coach Duane Akina. If you do not follow Texas football, you may be thinking, "Who?" If you are a Texas fan and are asking the same question, then shame on you.
In his 13 years as Texas defensive backs coach, Akina has coached Thorpe Award winners Michael Huff and Aaron Ross and helped send 16 Longhorn defensive backs to the NFL, including Pro Bowlers Michael Griffin and Earl Thomas.
Akina is a ball coach, that is all. He's not one to give sugar-coated answers to tough questions. He's not out in the public, shaking hands and kissing babies. He is all about football. When talking to the media, Akina often talks X's and O's, in a manner that helps reporters understand how his game plans work. He is not always the easiest coach to quote, unless you are writing an article on the X's and O's, but his passion for the game, skins on the wall and ability to relate to the team make him the best Texas coach to interview.
Most Interesting Team Covered
The easy answer would be the 2009 Texas Longhorns, who lost to Alabama in the 2009 BCS National Championship. I have never been one for the road more traveled, so I am going with the 2011 Longhorns.
After Texas went 5-7 in 2010, Mack Brown started an overhaul of the football department, hiring six new coaches from all over the country. The expectations for the 2011 Longhorns were not high and from a fan perspective, 2011 was likely a year to forget.
It was a year where Texas was forced to rely on 18 true freshman players due to some recruiting misses from the previous two years. It was a year ESPN launched the Longhorn Network, which many people believe led to Texas' 100-year rival Texas A&M bolting for the SEC. It was a year where players and coaches were forced to overcome adversity, especially after a 55-17 blowout by Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry. It was, by no means, a banner year in Texas Longhorns football history.
The team finished the season 8-5, with a Holiday Bowl win over Cal, but from my perspective, 2011 was much more than wins and losses on the football field. It was the year that followed one of the most astonishing collapses in program history, it was a rebuilding season, which included a complete schematic transition of one of the most polarizing programs in college football.
It was a year six new coaches attempted to work together to coach athletes they did not recruit and it was the year when Texas made history signing a controversial 20-year, $300 million deal with ESPN to launch its own network. Sure, the 2011 Longhorns were nowhere near the "best" team Texas has produced, but it absolutely was the most interesting team I have and probably will ever cover in my career.
Most Memorable Game
The most memorable Texas football game I have ever witnessed was the 2008 Red River Rivalry between No. 5 Texas and No. 1 Oklahoma.
Texas entered this game as the underdog, lead by veteran quarterback Colt McCoy and a defense that had only given up five touchdowns in the first five games of the season. Oklahoma entered the Cotton Bowl as the defending Red River Rivalry champs, with soon-to-be Heisman trophy winner Sam Bradford calling the snaps. Texas trailed Oklahoma 35-30 with 12 minutes left in the game, but McCoy took the reigns and lead Texas to a 45-35 win.
The Red River Rivalry is arguably one of the greatest game-day atmospheres in college football, with the 50-yard line division between Texas and Oklahoma fans creating a deafening atmosphere from start to finish. But the roars that were heard in the fourth quarter of the 2008 Red River Rivalry was the loudest I have ever witnessed the Cotton Bowl.
What do the Longhorns have to do to beat the Sooners in 2013?
Out of all of the games on Texas' 2013 schedule, an absolute must-win matchup will come October 12th against rival Oklahoma. Texas enters 2013 as one of the most experienced teams in the Big 12, with one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the conference and a new style of offense that is built to wear down opposing defenses. Mack Brown has expressed his confidence in the direction of the Texas program, and a win over rival Oklahoma could be Brown's saving grace this season.
Oklahoma has not received a lot of preseason recognition, ranking 16th in both the AP and the Coaches Polls, and it's difficult to set high expectations for the Sooners as they will start the season with redshirt freshman quarterback Trevor Knight. Oklahoma could have a down year in 2013, but this is not the approach Texas should take when the two teams face off in the Cotton Bowl.
Oklahoma holds a three-game winning streak over Texas, with the Sooners averaging 59 points and 565 yards in the last two years. In order for Texas to break the streak, the Longhorns need to enter the game angry, with a chip as big as the state of Oklahoma on their shoulders. The Texas defense, which likes to talk about playing physical, needs to show that "physical" play on the field and be ready to shut down Oklahoma's offense.
Last, but certainly not least, David Ash, who has been less than stellar in the Cotton Bowl the previous two seasons, needs to step up his game, period. Historically speaking, the team with the best quarterback play usually wins this game. Ash will need show the best game management skills and poise of his career when he enters one of the most deafening atmospheres in all of college football.
Will Major Applewhite's new up-tempo offense help or hurt David Ash?
Texas deciding to change to an up-tempo, no-huddle offense should help quarterback David Ash. Ash is familiar with fast-paced offense from his days playing at Belton High School, where he led the Belton Tigers to the second round of the 5A Texas high school playoffs his sophomore season. At Big 12 Media Days, Ash discussed his experience transitioning to the new offense.
"It's what I love. I was recruited by Greg Davis, who I believe was a great coach. He had one bad year and unfortunately had to go," Ash said. "When coach [Bryan] Harsin came in, the offense changed. We wanted to be a downhill, ground running attack with play action shots and shifting motion. I learned a lot from coach Harsin, but now I have coach Applewhite, who I love playing for. I love the way he teaches, I love his style and competitive nature and I love his offense. I'm looking forward to running the new offense."
Is Mack Brown on the hot seat?
The short answer to this question is no. I understand that may not be the answer some Texas fans are looking for, considering the Longhorns' 11-15 Big 12 record since 2010 and a three-game losing streak to Oklahoma. But in big-picture terms, Mack Brown is still one of the winningest football coaches in college football. Earlier in August, Brown told Yahoo! Sports Pat Forde he will not be fired and as long as he is healthy and Texas wins, Brown wants to finish up his contract at Texas, which expires in 2020. I think if Brown wants to hang it up, he will do so on his own terms.
What are the biggest keys to turning around the Texas defense in 2013?
The Texas defense finished the 2012 season as the worst statistical defense in school history, meaning the defense cannot be any worse in 2013, right?
The injury bug hit the Texas defense hard early in the year, most notably with the season-ending injuries of linebacker Jordan Hicks and defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. The Longhorns were forced to rely on many young, inexperienced players on defense, which rarely ends well for any team.
One of the biggest struggles the Texas defense faced in 2012 was tackling. There were many games where I watched the defense and wondered if their arms were somehow not attached to their torso. The only word to accurately describe it is awful. Just plain awful.
The good news for Texas is, barring injury, the defense will have nowhere to go but up in 2013.
At the 2011 Texas football banquet, Mack Brown said Texas will be back in contention for a national title within the next two to three years. The time is now for the Longhorns to show the college football world that they can once again be in the mix for a national championship. With 19 returning starters, Texas returns one of the most experienced teams in the country in 2013, leaving no reason for the Longhorns to not be in the national title picture come December. But until Texas decides to show up against the Sooners and other top ranked opponents, the critics will continue to question the Longhorns' ability to get back to the Texas standard.
If the Texas defense can fix its 2012 tackling woes, while playing physical football and Ash plays consistently well this season, I think Texas could be in the mix for the Big 12 Championship and a berth in a BCS bowl game. If any of those factors do not occur, it could be a very long season for Texas football fans.
Prediction: 10-2 playing for the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic.
Unless otherwise noted all quotes obtained firsthand.
Follow Taylor on Twitter @Taylor_Gaspar.
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After waiting through months of offseason, Nebraska football fans are now finally able to sink their collective teeth into an actual game week.
Productivity at workplaces throughout the state will dip this week as fans imagine how Nebraska will do against Wyoming, their first opponent.
So let’s think ahead a little and take a stab at what Nebraska’s stat line might look like on Saturday evening after Week 1 is in the books.
The offseason has certainly been full of compelling college football storylines, but the season is now upon us, and it's back to the business of actually playing football games (thank goodness). That leads us to wonder more about the future than the past. What are going to be the biggest storylines of the upcoming 2013 season?
The Big Ten is eager to get down to business, especially now that there are some legitimate national powers emerging in the conference—something the Big Ten has truly lacked for what seems like an eternity. Ohio State begins the season as a national championship contender, and there are rumblings about programs like Michigan and Northwestern taking the next step toward BCS contention.
What about Purdue and Wisconsin? New head coaches are always cause for concern or celebration, depending on how the first few weeks turn out. Then, of course, we're all still curious about Penn State and its future.
No doubt, the media will spend an inordinate amount of time talking about all these storylines—and more—over the course of the season. But what else will we be talking about during 2013?
Here are the 10 biggest college football storylines of 2013 in the Big Ten.
A new, fast-paced offense, along with the shallow secondary and the outstanding linebacker corps, will make for some interesting storylines going into the game.
Taysom Hill will start for the Cougs under center, and we will see plenty of options in the rushing game, from Jamaal Williams to Algernon Brown. The receivers have plenty of depth also, and if the passing game gets rolling, it could be a really fun game to watch.
Kyle Van Noy will lead the Cougar defense against young, inexperienced quarterback David Watford, and if he can receive sufficient help from the rest of the unit (especially the secondary), the defense will not fall much from last year's elite level.
The offense will come out of the gates a little bit rusty, as it is still a work in progress. The defense will hold them in the game, but by the second quarter, Hill will be making big plays and the line will be opening holes.
With questionable depth at several positions on the field, no matter if BYU can run away with an early lead, we should see plenty of different players on the stat sheet.
PASSING STATS: 21-of-36, 178 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
Taysom Hill: 20-of-33, 171 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Ammon Olsen: 1-of-3, 7 yards, 0 TD
RUSHING STATS: 52 carries, 291 yards (5.59 average), 2 TD
Jamaal Williams: 18 carries, 113 yards, 1 TD
Michael Alisa: 11 carries, 85 yards, 1 TD
Adam Hine: 8 carries, 46 yards
Taysom Hill: 5 carries, 25 yards
Paul Lasike: 6 carries, 12 yards
Iona Pritchard: 4 carries, 10 yards
RECEIVING STATS: 24 catches, 178 yards, 2 TD
Cody Hoffman: 6 catches, 56 yards, 1 TD
Skyler Ridley: 4 catches, 43 yards
JD Falslev: 4 catches, 28 yards 1 TD
Ross Apo: 4 catches, 22 yards
Brett Thompson: 2 catches, 17 yards
Mitch Mathews: 1 catch, 12 yards
DEFENSIVE STATS: 3 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 FR, 7 points allowed
Daniel Sorensen: 1-of-1, 29 yards
BYU's high-tempo offense will start a little bit shaky, but holes will start to open for the running backs as the game progresses.
We will see solid performances on the ground from several players, namely Jamaal Williams and Michael Alisa, which will lead to opportune plays through the air.
Taysom Hill may struggle with his accuracy—something that has nagged him throughout fall camp—but there is no shortage of options on the receiving end of his passes.
Cody Hoffman will likely be singled out by the defense, so we may not see as much of him as we have recently, but there are plenty of others that can make big plays.
Last year's third-ranked defense will come out strong against a solid UVA line, but inexperienced backfield. BYU's defensive line will likely lose the battle, at least early on, while Virginia will open Cavalier running holes. The linebackers will do their job in pass coverage, though, and come away with an interception.
In the end, it will be a close game, but BYU's offense will wear out the opposing defense by the fourth quarter. They will then break away with a substantial lead.
Football is almost here, and BYU should get a big win on the road this Saturday.
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Hurd is a versatile player who projects to several different positions in college. His size, speed and deceptive skill set make him one of the most intriguing recruits in the 2014 class. The Vols and their fans will fall in love with him immediately after arriving in Knoxville.
Hurd's great talent, monster junior season and bright future warrant a closer look before he heads to Rocky Top.