Auburn's newly minted starting quarterback Nick Marshall made his first appearance in front of the media since winning the job Sunday night and addressed the similarities between he and former Tigers quarterback and 2010 Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton for the first of what will be numerous times.
Marshall—a former Georgia defensive back—spent the last season at Garden City (Kan.) Community College after being dismissed from the Bulldogs in February 2012. Newton shared a similar path, leaving the Florida Gators following an off-the-field incident for one season at Blinn College in Texas before joining the Auburn program as a junior in 2010.
From the journey to the Plains, to the dual-threat capabilities to Gus Malzahn's hurry-up, no huddle system, the comparisons to Newton are unavoidable.
Marshall isn't interested in those lofty expectations.
"I really can't compare myself to him," Marshall said. "I just have to be myself."
But Malzahn can and did quite often Sunday night.
"All of the other quarterbacks I've had went through spring," Malzahn said. "Cam had a chance to go through spring. The difference is that we never went live (in practice) with Cam. If you watched Cam two-and-a-half weeks into spring practice, you wouldn't know that he was going to be the quarterback. Everything wasn't perfect."
Marshall threw for 3,142 yards and 18 touchdowns last season at Garden City and added 1,095 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns.
While statistically, Marshall and Newton appear to be similar quarterbacks, the 6'1", 210-pound Marshall is a much more slippery than Newton. His elusiveness in the pocket and ability to extend plays coupled with a cannon that can get the ball 70 yards downfield on a dime will make him a matchup nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators. If we're comparing him to recent dual-threat studs, he's more like Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel than he is Newton.
He doesn't have to be Newton though.
Malzahn's offense is predicated on a punishing, downhill rushing attack. With 1,000-yard rusher Tre Mason, spring game MVP Cameron Artis-Payne and speedster Corey Grant in house, the Tigers are fine in that department.
All Marshall needs to do is take care of the football, which was a challenge for him in his first season back at quarterback with the Broncbusters in 2012. He tossed 20 interceptions and lost five fumbles in an offense that was switched to the spread shortly before the season started.
His ability to make smart decisions in camp at Auburn is a big reason why he won the job in three short weeks.
"It's been good, because we have coaches who everyday, ream it into our heads about ball security," Marshall said. "It stuck to me now, so I'm not going to worry about turnovers."
The Newton comparisons will linger all season, especially if Marshall does turn heads early in the season in the way Newton did in 2010.
But he isn't Newton.
Newton only tossed five picks in his one season at Blinn in 2009 and was a polished passer the moment he stepped foot on campus. While Marshall was a little rough around the edges, it was his potential that won him the job.
"The day that we went live, they were flying around him, and I was right back there with him and he seemed like it was 7-on-7 mode," Malzahn said.
That doesn't mean that Marshall cannot get to Newton's level eventually. His arm strength is comparable right now, and while Marshall is more likely to run around a defender than over one, his ability to make things happen on the ground has the coaches excited about the future.
"We're always going to play to our quarterback's strengths, but he's very unique," Malzahn said. "He's a phenomenal athlete. One of the better athletes I've probably gotten a chance to coach at the quarterback position."
There may be some speed bumps along the way, but the marriage between Malzahn and Marshall will make Auburn's offense can't-miss television if—for no other reason—its high-risk, high-reward nature.
If and when it clicks, look out.
*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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How difficult is it to compare every team in every conference to a type of alcohol? Well, it’s getting laborious, that’s for certain.
After previewing the Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC, the ACC is in the season preview spotlight. Predicted records, strengths, weaknesses and notable stops on the schedule have been outlined for each team, and that’s not all. A Twitter breakdown has also been included, summarizing all ACC hopefuls in 140 characters or less.
Sometimes, saying little—perhaps with the helping hand of a hashtag and ample snark—can be more effective than drowning you in text. Plus, by now you've had your fill of previews.
Also included, as alluded to earlier, is an alcohol comparison to each team. Have you ever wandered around the biggest liquor store in your area, texting yourself potential ideas for comparisons to college football teams?
Good, me neither.
Expectations are high for Michigan football in 2013, and for good reason, as the No. 17-ranked Wolverines in the AP poll are heading into the season deeper than last year with a full head of steam.
One thing's for sure about the Wolverines in 2013: This is not your 2012 team. For one, new faces are beginning to take over at important positions.
Secondly, the schedule is actually a bit kind when compared to last year's bruising, start-the-year-off-against-the-eventual-national-champion-Alabama, debacle. Michigan dropped two of its first four contests a year ago, but do not expect that to be the case again this year.
Michigan starts the season off with a warm-up against Central Michigan from the MAC, providing a much better forecast than starting against a team like Alabama. After that, it will be smooth sailing.
That's not to say there are not tough games on the schedule. For example, going into Evanston to take on what should be a much improved Northwestern team, which went 10-3 last season, will provide a major challenge.
That's one game to look out for, but here are the ones that will truly define the 2013 campaign for Michigan.
Saturday, September 7 vs. Notre Dame
Like it or not, when these two heated rivals clash early in the season, it will go a long way toward telling us what's in store for Michigan football.
Yes, stars like Manti Te'o are gone, and the outlook for Notre Dame isn't so great. Yet Notre Dame is ranked above Michigan at No. 14. It is also a rivalry, and the two will always play each other tough. Last year the Irish shocked Michigan with a 13-6 victory early in the season.
Michigan bounced back after the loss, but having to do so two years in a row will be a season-killer.
Devin Gardner is your starting quarterback now with Denard Robinson taking his talents to the NFL in Jacksonville. The early test against the Irish will serve as a meter for how well Gardner will play in 2013 (which will be at a very high level). Last year he threw for over 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns despite playing in only four regular-season games.
He then put together a strong three-touchdown performance in defeat at the Outback Bowl.
Add in the return of talented running back Fitz Toussaint, who tallied over 500 yards and five scores a year ago, and the offense projects to be dominant. We'll find out if that projection is correct. Michigan mustered only two field goals in a loss last year.
Prediction: Michigan 20, Notre Dame 13
Saturday, October 12 at. Penn State
Bill O'Brien had quite the task in front of him last season at Penn State for obvious reasons but did the unexpected and led the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 overall record while winning games on the heels of his No. 16 overall defense.
Combine a young roster still improving under O'Brien's guidance with even more talent added via recruiting, and you have an under-the-radar team poised to shock a few teams in the conference.
Here's the thing about Penn State: The team has no shot at a postseason game. This means every chance to upset a major program is a bowl game for the players.
Michigan better beware. Traveling to Happy Valley is hard enough as is (Penn State was 5-2 at home in 2012), but doing so against an improving team with nothing to lose—literally—provides a recipe for disaster when it comes to Michigan's 2013 hopes.
Prediction: Michigan 17, Penn State 14
Saturday, November 30 vs. Ohio State
Obvious? Yes. Even more important than in recent years? You better believe it.
Last year was disappointing for Michigan as the Wolverines finished off the season narrowly missing on a major upset of the Buckeyes in Ohio Stadium, 26-21. This year has even bigger implications riding on the outcome.
See, the expectations are high for Michigan, but those pale in comparison to the expectations set on Ohio State this year. With Urban Meyer leading the way, Ohio State has its eyes set on a national championship and is the only team in college football that can actually compete with Alabama.
Braxton Miller is arguably the most talented player Michigan will face all year after throwing for over 2,000 yards and adding over 1,000 more on the ground a year ago. A talented crop of linebackers led by James Ross will have their work cut out for them if Michigan is going to keep up.
Home game or not, The Game could decide the fate of a BCS bowl bid for Michigan. Brady Hoke is now in his third year (1-1 vs. Ohio State)—the year Michigan coaches typically put it all together—and taking on this Ohio State squad will help define his legacy as coach.
Prediction: Ohio State 35, Michigan 24
Follow B/R's Chris Roling on Twitter for more news and analysis @Chris_Roling
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Although the onus to win now always weighs heavily on the shoulders of head coaches, every program leader in the country is also charged with the task of keeping a close eye on the future. The 2014 college football recruiting class is quickly taking shape, as teams seek to fill needs and reload at several positions on both ends of the ball.
Offensive innovation in college football continues to present a new batch of challenges for defensive coordinators, who must react with complex schemes centered around skilled playmakers. Those difference-making defenders are abundant in this latest crop of college recruits, putting the pressure on programs to land key commits who will be ready to contribute early in their careers.
Let's take a look at five teams that must add significant defensive firepower by landing a collection of 2014 freshman standouts.
B/R college football columnist Tyler Donohue spent three seasons with the Rutgers University football program's recruiting department, contributing to three classes (2007-09) under head coach Greg Schiano.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish enter the 2013 season with high expectations, but it will be difficult to replicate last year's success without many of the key playmakers from a year ago.
Linebacker Manti Te'o, tight end Tyler Eifert and quarterback Everett Golson led the charge last season, along with running back Theo Riddick and safety Zeke Motta—all of whom are absent this year, for one reason or another.
New leaders must emerge on both sides of the ball in order for Notre Dame's football program to come close to matching last year's impressive 12-1 record and BCS title game berth.
These players must come through in a big way for Notre Dame to achieve that daunting task. Should they put forth anything less than a stellar effort this season, the program will take a step back from last year's breakout campaign.
Tommy Rees, Quarterback
Perhaps no single player has more pressure on his shoulders this season than Rees, who was thrust into the starting role when Golson was suspended by the university this summer due to poor academics.
During his tenure as the team's starter before Golson took his job last summer, Rees displayed plenty of positive traits, but he lost his job for a reason, and it wasn't just because of his one-game suspension for off-field trouble.
Rees' propensity to turn the ball over isn't a good fit for what Brian Kelly wants from his offense. Throughout his time at Notre Dame, he's passed for 34 touchdowns and 24 interceptions—a ratio that doesn't translate to consistent wins.
Though he's unquestionably the team's starting quarterback leading into the season, Rees must prove he's gotten over his turnover-happy ways and take better care of the football.
Louis Nix, Nose Tackle and Stephon Tuitt, Defensive End
The strength of Notre Dame's second-ranked scoring defense last year was its ability to stuff the run. Manti Te'o received plaudits for his fine play, and many fans likely thought he was the reason Notre Dame was so strong against the run. But without Nix, Te'o would have been exposed badly.
Nix is the key to the entire defense. His ability to occupy multiple blockers and stone them at the line of scrimmage allowed Te'o and the other linebackers to flow to the ball.
Tuitt is a perfect complement to Nix.
He's a strong pass-rusher who has incredible quickness and deceptive speed, and he helps build up a wall on the edge with skill against the run.
Both players are expected to be first-round picks in the 2014 NFL draft, and rightly so.
That said, they must be even more dominant this season than they were last year, as the absence of Te'o and Motta will be strongly felt in the middle behind them.
Prince Shembo, Linebacker
Notre Dame's secondary is solid, but the team lacks any true star power at the defensive back positions. As a result, getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks will be incredibly important to the team's success on the defensive side of the ball this year.
Tuitt is a monster up front, but he'll be without defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore (six sacks) this year, and Prince Shembo must step up and pick up the slack in his absence.
After showing some promise in his first two seasons at Notre Dame, Shembo had his coming-out party last season, posting 7.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Those numbers were impressive, but he'll need to ramp up his level of intensity this season and become a mad dog of a pass-rusher this season in order for the Irish to dominate on defense.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78
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It doesn't seem like that long ago that the Florida State Seminoles were setting an NCAA record with 14 consecutive top five finishes in the AP football poll. However, their final placement in the top five AP rankings was in 2000.
During that 14 year span, the Seminoles had a combined record of 152-19-1, for an average record of 11 wins and only one defeat per season.
Since the conclusion of that 2000 season, however, Florida State have been a shell of the former self and a model of inconsistency. Over the past 12 seasons, the Seminoles have had complied a mediocre record of 105-52 and zero top five AP rankings.
With that said, the Seminoles appear to be getting back on track and could be close to ascending back to the elite of college football. Last season, head coach Jimbo Fisher led the Seminoles to a 12-2 record, a conference championship and an Orange Bowl victory.
Make no mistake about it—the Seminoles are at a cross roads. Will they take the next step in becoming a national powerhouse again? Or, will the turnover, both on the roster and coaching staff, lead to an extended stay in the land of mediocrity?
The college football world has been looking for the return of the mighty Seminoles since their surprising departure from the elite in 2001.
Urban Meyer's time at Ohio State has been quite exciting after he led the bowl-banned Buckeyes to a 12-0 season in 2012.
This year, the Buckeyes are off of a bowl ban and are among the favorites to unseat Alabama and win a national championship for the first time since the 2003 Fiesta Bowl.
Led by Heisman-hopeful Braxton Miller, the Buckeyes appear to be a much better team, at least offensively, than last year's undefeated team, which could be bad news for the rest of the Big Ten.
But how does their season look on a game-by-game basis?
For the sake of this breakdown, we will avoid speculating on the conference championship and bowl games, and focus solely on the regular season.
Here's a game-by-game breakdown of the Buckeyes' 2013 season.