The first two months of Nebraska football this fall will revolve around its September 14 date with UCLA. Before this game, after this game and into the beginning of the Big Ten Conference schedule, the Huskers will not be challenged like they will against the Bruins.
And while many of the same players will returning for both teams in 2013 for the rematch, the absence of running back Johnathan Franklin for UCLA will be the biggest difference that will tip the scales in Nebraska's favor.
A season ago, the Bruins offense had success in every facet of their attack. They threw and ran the ball at will as they racked up 653 total yards against a porous and seemingly unprepared Husker defense. But despite Brett Hundley's 305 passing yards and four touchdowns, it was Johnathan Franklin's pounding on the ground that spelled disaster for the Blackshirts.
That is because everything UCLA threw at the Big Red began with Franklin.
Out of UCLA's 36 first-down plays last year, 15 were rushing plays in the hands of Franklin. And it is no wonder why he was such a focal point with a new set of downs.
Of those 15 carries, 13 went for at least three yards, and Franklin was never tackled for a loss.
Franklin's rushes set the tone for close to half of the Bruins' sets of downs, allowing the playbook to open up for Hundley's passing attack on second and third downs.
But this time around, UCLA will not have Franklin to depend on.
Instead, the majority of the carries will likely fall to Jordon James or Damien Thigpen, pending his recovery from a November ACL tear that ended his 2012 season.
No matter who steps into the starting role for UCLA this fall, he will be lacking in every-down experience.
Franklin was a work-horse back for the Bruins for the past four seasons, receiving at least 125 carries each year. James and Thigpen, on the other hand, combined for just 111 rushes a year ago.
Nebraska's defensive success is largely dictated by the performance of its rush defense, which is why it fell to UCLA in 2012. But after the departure of UCLA's Franklin, the Bruins will not have the same experience in the backfield on which to build their offense.
Instead, the Blackshirts will face a Bruins rushing attack very much in flux in the opening weeks of its first season without Johnathan Franklin since 2009. And this lack of stability and consistent production will be the biggest difference in the second act of UCLA vs. Nebraska that may give the advantage to the Cornhuskers.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
The Tennessee Volunteers have been counting down to the 2013 season since the last second ticked off the clock against Kentucky on Nov. 24 of last year. Finally, the 2013 season is upon, and I have your virtual gameday program right here.
We'll recap Tennessee's dismal 2012 season before taking a look at the depth chart, key injuries, and important players to watch this year. With such player turnover on the offensive side of the ball, there is a lot of news and updates on the Hill.
Next, we'll dive into the new coaching staff. Who are they? Where are they from? What can we expect from them? With Tennessee's fourth head coach in six years, this group seems to be compiled of some key coaches who will be here for the long haul.
Also included is a comprehensive look at the 2013 schedule's most important games, offensive and defensive breakdown, X-factors, key storylines and, of course, a win-loss prediction.
The rivalry between the Tennessee and Vanderbilt fan bases has gained steam in recent years, with the upcoming season possibly reaching the all-time boiling point. If you're unfamiliar with the history between the two teams, the majority of meetings have been dominated by the Volunteers, who have won seven or more games per decade since the 1930's.
Tennessee owns a 73-29-5 all-time record against the Commodores. Over the past 30 years, the Volunteers have won all but two games in their annual meetings with their state rivals.
However, the hire of James Franklin immediately changed the identity of the Commodores. Franklin led Vanderbilt to consecutive bowl game appearances during his first two seasons in Nashville, a feat that hadn't been accomplished since 1923.
But his team's 41-18 victory against their SEC East and state rivals may have been the signature moment of his career. The game ultimately cost former Tennessee coach Derek Dooley his job and served as the definitive example to where the programs stood.
As Vandy continued to look like a team on the rise, the once great Volunteers suffered yet another disappointing season. Vanderbilt finished with a 9-4 (5-3) record, while Tennessee fell to 5-6 (1-7), a concept that would seem outrageous in years past.
But, Tennessee fans remain optimistic that the hire of new coach Butch Jones will prove to be the ultimate factor in their much needed turnaround. With Vanderbilt fielding their most successful team in decades, fans from rival fan bases continue to argue which program truly owns the state.
The best example of the rivalry's growth is shown through fans in the Nashville area. While Nashville is home to Vanderbilt, many citizens throughout the entire state have pledged their allegiances to the Volunteers, with the capital city being no exception.
To Tennessee fans, Vanderbilt was always a "little brother" rivalry, not similar to the likes of Florida or Alabama. Vandy fans had always taken on the "little brother" mentality in terms of football, but have become much more confident with their team's recent success.
But until Vanderbilt can win more than one game every half decade, successfully out-recruit their rivals and control the majority fan base in their own state, there should be absolutely no argument that the "Volunteer state" is the Volunteers' state. However, the fact that Tennesseans are actually having this debate is a credit to Vanderbilt's recent success.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
The South Carolina Gamecocks have their eyes set on contending for a national championship in the 2013 college football season.
With an explosive offense and a stingy defense, the Gamecocks have the talent as well as the coaching to put together a special season.
To go along with a great team, South Carolina has a favorable schedule in 2013. The Gamecocks do not have to play against other potential top SEC teams such as Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M until a possible showdown in the SEC Championship Game.
While the schedule is favorable, South Carolina still has a few tough games against North Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Clemson.
In case you have forgot, I made some predictions in April. I am sticking by most of them but have made a few minor updates.
Here are game-by-game predictions for South Carolina's 2013 football season.
Nebraska fans, who needs one of those heavy, ad-filled magazines you buy outside the stadium and promptly throw away? Contained herein is everything you need to get ready for the upcoming Nebraska football season. And it's available for you at the stroke of a key or the swipe of a smartphone screen. Enjoy!
The Arizona State football team wrapped up its week-long practice at Camp Tontozona outside of Payson on Saturday and head coach Todd Graham and his staff are pleased heading into the season opener on September 5 hosting the Sacramento State Hornets.
Following the opening week matchup against a FCS foe, the Sun Devils embark on one of the toughest four-game stretches in all of college football and ASU Vice President for University Athletics Steve Patterson couldn't be happier:
With the loaded non-conference schedule and the always tough Pac-12, I think our football team has one of the marquee schedules in the nation. I'm looking forward to the chance to prove ourselves against some of the toughest teams in the country, and this is yet another reason for Sun Devil fans to be excited about the 2013 season.
If they can emerge 4-1 or even 3-2 after the opening stretch against three BCS bowl teams and the 2012 preseason No. 1 team, the Devils will be well on their way to Pasadena for their first Rose Bowl appearance in 17 years.
The buzz around Graham and the future of the Sun Devil program is huge, here is your in-depth look at everything you need to know about Arizona State football but were afraid to ask.
Nebraska football fans are thrilled knowing that the 2013 season is soon upon us. Every good politician running in the state has handed out a football schedule with his or her name on it (I've got one already!)
And fans will have gone through that schedule, game by game, and thought about how Nebraska will do in each contest. So let's walk through the schedule, with a technique I use to help make the analysis a little more objective.
I break games down into four categories: Better Win (meaning a win in every game), Should Win (meaning a win in a majority of games), Might Win (meaning a win in a minority of games) and Won't Win (meaning a win in none of the games).
I will also guess the final score of each game, thus giving me some wiggle room either way. Hey, I'm not particularly smart and handsome for nothing, you know.
Coming off a 7-6 year that saw the team beat Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl, the Virginia Tech Hokies are gearing up for an exciting 2013 season.
Traditionally one of the toughest teams in the ACC in recent memory, the Hokies are looking to improve on last season's mediocre showing.
There are plenty of promising signs in Blacksburg that indicate this team could be a mainstay in the Top 25, most notably the return of quarterback Logan Thomas. Thomas had a bad season last year but is looking to bounce back in 2013.
The Hokies will face a monumental test to kick off the year as they face the Alabama Crimson Tide, the reigning national champions, in the Georgia Dome in Week 1.
With that, here's a look at the 2013 Virginia Tech Hokies.
SEC teams have competitors at every turn on the recruiting trail. The region is an awesome hotbed of talent, so the conference's programs routinely tussle over prospects.
However, the SEC also has to worry about non-SEC schools such as USC, Ohio State, Texas, Clemson, Notre Dame and Florida State coming into SEC territory to pluck a recruit. It is not easy for SEC schools to sign their top recruiting target, as he's likely to be several other schools' top target in a recruiting cycle.
A program wants to keep a defensive end inside its state, but has to deal with another premier school who wants him. Another program wants to keep an elite running back away from a rival, while an upstart school has to fend off an in-state rival for a defensive tackle.
After a down year, the Oklahoma Sooners will try to restore order in the Big 12 this season.
Ranked No. 16 in both national polls, Oklahoma is expected to make some noise, but is not considered an elite team. However, it would be a mistake to count out Bob Stoops and his coaching staff.
Here’s a preview of what the 2013 Sooners will look like.
After an 11-win campaign in 2012, the Clemson Tigers enter this season ranked No. 8 in both the AP and Coaches Poll.
With a high ranking and loads of talent returning, Dabo Swinney and the Tigers will open the season with championship expectations hanging over their heads.
The biggest question: Will Clemson crumble under that hype as they have in the past, or will they emerge as a true title contender?
According to Pete Iacobelli of The State, Swinney thinks his team is ready to live up to those expectations.
"If we do the things we want to do, then hopefully, we can enter into that championship phase," Swinney said. "It's one step at a time as we go through this journey."
That journey starts on Saturday, August 31 in a prime-time matchup with the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs.
Click through for a detailed look at the 2013 Clemson Tigers, which includes depth charts, potential X-factors, a full prediction of the upcoming season and much more.
The USC Trojans, ranked No. 24 by both the AP and the coaches, are out to prove that last year's disappointing season won't be repeated in 2013.
In his fourth year with the Trojans, Lane Kiffin returns 16 starters and loads of talent to take on a schedule that sets up for early success.
Will the Trojans be able to replace longtime starters such as quarterback Matt Barkley and wide receiver Robert Woods? Can USC stay healthy enough to prevent its limited depth from spoiling another season?
Here's a detailed look at the Trojans, including a two-deep depth chart, players to watch and a full prediction for the upcoming season.
Ranked No. 2 in the country by both the AP and the coaches polls, the Ohio State football team enters the 2013 season as one of the few teams expected to contend for a national title.
The Buckeyes are suiting up for "The Chase" behind the strength of an experienced offense and a young, but talented, defense. Meyer is also expecting big things from his first-year players, as members of Ohio State's 2013 recruiting class have been turning heads in fall camp.
Here's a complete look at the Buckeyes, including depth charts, X-factors and their prediction for the 2013 season.
South Carolina has quickly ascended to one of the powerhouse teams of the SEC with back-to-back 11-win seasons. However, one accolade continues to elude the program—an SEC title.
Head coach Steve Spurrier has assembled some great teams during his tenure with the Gamecocks, but the 2013 squad may be his best.
With a defense led by superstar defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and an offense managed by quarterbacks Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson, South Carolina has the talent and leadership to make a run at an SEC championship.
South Carolina's schedule is favorable since it avoids SEC cross-division battles with Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M.
There are a lot of young players for the Gamecocks in 2013, but they are all talented and will improve throughout the season with experience in big games.
Is this the year that Spurrier's Gamecocks finally break free and take home the SEC title?
Here is a team program with everything you need to know about South Carolina football in 2013.
With a 4-8 record in 2012, Iowa fell short of not-so-lofty expectations.
The Hawkeyes, who had to retool their offense, were capable of winning six or seven games this past fall. But they weren't expected to be world-beaters.
This year probably won't be much different.
Without former star quarterback James Vandenberg, Iowa is in the grips of a three-way battle between Jake Rudock, Cody Sokol and C.J. Beathard for the starting role.
Production from running backs will largely hinge on how well Mark Weisman recovers from nagging ankle issues. However, even he's dueling for a No. 1 role.
The linebackers, perhaps the team's biggest strength, are headlined by a trio of seniors, Christian Kirksey, Anthony Hitchens and James Morris, who make up one of the top units in the Big Ten.
Since 2001, Kirk Ferentz has had team bowling in the postseason 10 times. Last year broke a four-year bowl run, but a new stretch could be started this fall if talent plays up to par. Variables are constant in college football, and if the Hawkeyes are to soar, Weisman and the linebackers have to assist those efforts.
Michigan State's 7-6 football season in 2012 was a far cry from what was expected.
In 2010 and 2011, the Spartans grew accustomed to competing for division and Big Ten conference championships. However, in 2012, they fell flat without the services of quarterback Kirk Cousins and his great stable of receivers: Mark Dell, Keith Nichol, Keshawn Martin and B.J. Cunningham.
In 2013, Michigan State could face a similar storyline: lots of talent, but issues at quarterback and receiver. To avoid a tailspin, head coach Mark Dantonio has to find that comfortable pace that allowed for his team's great success in 2010 and 2011.
This season, the Spartans are without star running back Le'Veon Bell, who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers. But they return a defense that is among tops in the nation, spearheaded by senior linebackers Max Bullough and Denicos Allen. Senior defensive tackle Tyler Hoover also figures to be a powerhouse for a defense that ranked No. 4 nationally in total production a year ago.
Senior quarterback Andrew Maxwell is expected to manage the games from behind center, applying some sort of offensive assistance to relieve the pressure of Bullough and Co.
Michigan's march to a Big Ten title starts this fall, and Devin Gardner is expected to have a monstrous season for a team that went 8-5 in 2012.
Despite the disappointing record, the Wolverines' confidence is high. Gardner, who enters his first season as the full-time starter, believes that his team has what it takes to compete against the likes of Ohio State, a national championship contender and juggernaut of the Midwest.
Gardner said the following about Team 134's chances during a live interview on the Huge Show, according to the Detroit News' Angelique Chengelis:
Ecstatic. That's the one word I can think of that describes this season and how I feel about it. ... We always have room for improvement, but this is definitely a championship-caliber football team that will win in the Big House against Ohio State. We don't feel we're inferior to anyone in the country, and we're going to give it our all.
Gardner is right. Michigan isn't inferior to any team. Along with the No. 4-ranked recruiting class of 2013, per 247Sports, the Wolverines return offensive lineman Taylor Lewan, an All-American left tackle and certain first-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
Experienced and steady, seniors Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo figure to give Gardner reliable targets this fall. Gallon and Gardner have the potential to combine for 1,000 yards or more of offense, while Dileo, an unheralded receiver, can provide value as a second option.
In 2012, offensive coordinator Al Borges had a difficult time establishing consistency on the ground. Other than quarterback Denard Robinson, the team didn't have much luck when running the ball, and Fitz Toussaint's lower right leg injury in Week 9 against Iowa certainly didn't help matters.
This year, Borges has a healthy Toussaint returning to the fold accompanied by Derrick Green, one of the top backs of the 2013 recruiting pull. Freshman De'Veon Smith has turned heads in practice. Redshirt sophomore Drake Johnson could contribute to the group's efforts, too.
Options. Michigan has them.
And this is the year that coach Brady Hoke truly finds out where Wolverines football is headed.
The regular season is just days away, and there is excitement surrounding the 2013 edition of the Miami Hurricanes.
After an offseason riddled with coaching changes 'Canes fan are eager for the beginning of the season to arrive. With potentially one of the nation's best offenses, Miami is a legitimate contender for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship despite a handful of new coaches.
The Hurricanes have plenty of important games, returning stars and intriguing new players to watch throughout 2013. Head coach Al Golden's team is captained by two seniors—quarterback Stephen Morris and defensive end Shayon Green.
Offensive and defensive schemes have stayed the same, but Miami is hoping for better results than its 7-5 record in 2012.Head coach Al Golden's team is captained by two seniors—quarterback Stephen Morris and defensive end Shayon Green.