NCAA Football

Rick Neuheisel Performs College Football-Themed 'Stairway to Heaven' Spinoff

It's amazing what former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel can do with his love of college football. Luckily for him, The Dan Patrick Show allows him to showcase his talents.

Last year, the Pac-12 analyst went on the show and sang his song "Born in the SEC," a spinoff of Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." He recently got another chance to go on the show and perform another song.

Neuheisel used college football's switch from the BCS to playoffs to create "Stairway to Playoffs." Of course, that is just his version of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven."

We can't wait to hear what else he can come up with in the future.

[Dan Patrick, h/t Deadspin]

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Notre Dame Football: 5 Takeaways from the Irish's Final Depth Chart

With game week here, Notre Dame released their official two-deep depth chart on Tuesday afternoon. While Brian Kelly did his best to downplay the exercise, joking that sports information director Michael Bertsch made most of the tough decisions, it's still worth a closer look. 

As the Irish get prepared to play Rice on Saturday, the glaring lack of three key starters— receiver DaVaris Daniels, cornerback KeiVarae Russell and defensive end Ishaq Williams—confirmed that Notre Dame has no choice but to move forward until the school's academic investigation is complete. 

With a ridiculous amount of youth shuffled into the lineup to cover up the holes, here are five big takeaways from the Irish's final preseason depth chart. 

 

Not All Backups Are Created Equal

After rarely hearing some names during fall camp, a few surprises popped up on the two-deep. Namely along the offensive line, where junior Mark Harrell is listed as the team's backup at both center and left guard and sophomore Hunter Bivin backs up Steve Elmer at right tackle. 

If a starter goes down, neither Harrell nor Bivin will be the first guy into the game, with a few different scenarios likely to happen. If either Ronnie Stanley or Elmer go down at tackle, sophomore Mike McGlinchey will be the first tackle in. McGlinchey worked as the starter at right tackle during spring but is now the key backup at tackle. 

At guard, senior Conor Hanratty fills that role. He'll likely be the first man in if Matt Hegarty or Christian Lombard get hurt. If center Nick Martin needs to come out of the game, expect a few moves by Harry Hiestand, but Hanratty should be the man entering the game. 

Just as he did last year when Martin was hurt against BYU, Hegarty will move inside to center, a position he worked from during media day observation. Then Hanratty would slide into Hegarty's left guard spot, and the line would be set. 

That's not to say the future isn't bright for a young player like Bivin, but realistically a few more things would have to go wrong before he or Harrell enters the game. 

 

While Most Wrote Him Off, Senior Running Back Cam McDaniel Isn't Going Anywhere

McDaniel was named a captain yesterday by Brian Kelly, which is not all that surprising considering the leadership role he's shown this offseason and during training camp. But what was surprising was seeing McDaniel's name atop the running back position, listed before sophomores Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant. 

Kelly hedged that bet a bit by adding the "or" before his two prized youngsters, but any idea that McDaniel would shift into a third-down back or situational role doesn't seem to be all that close to happening. 

After emerging as the team's leading rusher last year, McDaniel still has the trust of the coaching staff, likely a big reason why the starting job will be his. 

 

Freshman Andrew Trumbetti May or May Not Be a Starter. But He's Definitely Splitting Time with Romeo Okwara

After emerging as the starter at defensive end, more than a few eyebrows were raised when freshman Andrew Trumbetti was listed behind junior Romeo Okwara at defensive end. Kelly backtracked from the switch but acknowledged that Okwara was going to play a lot of football. 

More than anything, the defensive end spot will be cobbled together, with Kelly naming fellow freshmen Jhonny Williams and Grant Blankenship getting action. Add into the mix little-used senior Anthony Rabasa, who profiles as a pass-rusher, and it's clear that the Irish don't have the depth at defensive end that they want, especially with the suspension of Williams.

Notre Dame is after some big fish at defensive end in the 2015 recruiting class. While it doesn't appear that they have any momentum right now at the position, it'll be clear to prospects that a job and a very favorable system await them in South Bend. 

 

A Broken Thumb Won't Be Enough to Keep Corey Robinson Out of the Mix at Wide Receiver

Kelly revealed that sophomore wide receiver Corey Robinson had a procedure on his thumb last week, but it doesn't sound like it'll be enough to keep the lanky sophomore out of the starting lineup. 

"He had a fracture. He had a pin placed in there Friday," Kelly acknowledged on Tuesday. "He was back at practice yesterday catching the football. So he's a go for Saturday."

With Daniels out right now, Robinson is a key receiver for the Irish, especially with his ability to give the Irish a size mismatch. But you've got to think that a pin and a bone fracture will make it a little bit more difficult for Robinson out there. 

The Irish are also without sophomore Torii Hunter Jr., who Kelly said was ahead of schedule as he recovers from a groin tear. But with freshmen Justin Brent in the two-deep and Corey Holmes standing by, Notre Dame is going to need to get a lot out of junior Chris Brown and sophomore Will Fuller, the only outside receivers with any true experience.

Also look for Amir Carlisle and C.J. Prosise to pick up some slack, as both inside receivers are offensive weapons Kelly can utilize. 

 

The Future is Bright for Notre Dame

Take a quick run through the Irish depth chart and you'll see a remarkable amount of youth represented. Looking at both sides of the ball, Notre Dame only loses five starters to graduation after this season. While those veteran starters will play large roles this season, their replacements are already nipping at their heels. 

Along the offensive line, Lombard has Hanratty and sophomores Colin McGovern and John Montelus ready to move into the rotation.

Koyack leads a tight end position with plenty of talented youth in sophomores Durham Smythe and Mike Heuerman (who both redshirted last year) and true freshmen Tyler Luatua and Nic Weishar.

At running back, McDaniel will graduate, but don't expect the running back position to miss a beat. Two more backs are likely to join in the 2015 recruiting class as well. 

Defensively, the group is even younger. Outside of graduate school transfer Cody Riggs, only Austin Collinsworth needs to be replaced. Even looking at the entire two-deep, only fifth-year senior Justin Utupo is in the mix.

Kelly has talked about the 17 fourth-year juniors that are on the team, stacking up the roster to be a truly veteran group next season. If competition for playing time looks rugged to open 2014, next year's starting lineup might be even harder to crack.  

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5 Bold Predictions for Clemson's 2014 Season

Whether it's claiming a team's player will win the Heisman Trophy, or stating the squad will beat the in-state rival, bold predictions are always a fun way of projecting the outcome of the season.

For the Clemson Tigers, there are mixed emotions from analysts over how many wins the team can pull off in 2014.

Bold projections don't always come true, but these are five things we think have a good chance of happening this fall.

 

Cole Stoudt Puts Up Numbers Similar to Tajh Boyd's from 2013

Tajh Boyd had a big season last fall, putting up 3,851 passing yards and 34 passing touchdowns. The one area Cole Stoudt likely won't match Boyd is rushing, but I think we could see fairly similar passing numbers from the senior this season.

Offensive coordinator Chad Morris' system will allow Stoudt to put up solid numbers in 2014. If you break down Boyd's numbers from last season, he averaged about 296 yards passing a game and averaged 2.6 passing touchdowns a game.

There are still talented weapons for Stoudt to utilize, and Morris will set up situations that are beneficial to the quarterback's statistics.

Charone Peake, Adam Humphries, Jordan Leggett and Mike Williams are all reliable targets for Stoudt to throw to this season, not to mention the talent of the freshmen who could compete for time.

Boyd's completion percentage in 2013 was 68.5 percent, but you should expect Stoudt to top that number this season.

As the backup last season, Stoudt completed 79.7 percent of his passes, while also recording a 166.7 passing efficiency rating.

While Stoudt won't throw as many deep passes as Boyd did in his career, the senior will still have solid numbers because of his ability to get the ball in the hands of the big targets.

 

Clemson Breaks the Gamecocks' Winning Streak

This is the prediction that Clemson fans certainly hope comes true this November. The Tigers have been unsuccessful at beating in-state rival South Carolina the last five seasons, but that will change in 2014.

Why? Because this year is a home game for Clemson? No, Dylan Thompson beat the Tigers in Death Valley two years ago.

Is it because the Gamecocks are without Jadeveon Clowney and Connor Shaw? No, the Gamecocks look to be a dangerous team, even without those two players.

The difference in 2014 will be the Clemson defense. Last year's game was frustrating for the Tigers because of the way in which the defense gave up yards. Clemson held Mike Davis to a season-low 22 yards, but Shaw was able to generate production on the ground.

Thompson doesn't have the mobility of Shaw, so the Tigers could take away the run game if they play like they did in the game last season.

The front seven for the Tigers is going to be really good, so they may be able to generate enough pressure to keep Thompson from throwing many deep passes.

This will be another great game that comes down to the final quarter, but an early look shows that the Tigers could turn the series around this season.

 

The Tigers Give Florida State a Close Game, Give Analysts a Surprise

Not many people are giving the Tigers a shot in this one, but a few analysts will be surprised next month. While I don’t think the Tigers will win this game, I do feel that the matchup could be a lot closer than most are expecting.

ESPN’s recent vote showed that all 23 college football experts picked Florida State to win the ACC, likely meaning they all think the Seminoles will beat Clemson.

The Tigers had the talent to compete with Florida State last season, but turnovers really hurt them, especially in the first quarter.

After a weeklong buildup by ESPN, the Tigers finally took the field in front of a huge national audience in the season’s first Top Five matchup. That pressure likely caused the Tigers to play timid early, and Jameis Winston took the comfortable lead and ran with it.

I expect to see fewer mistakes this season with Stoudt behind center. He manages the ball well and doesn’t turn it over much, throwing just one interception in his Clemson career.

The Tigers also don’t have the pressure of being the favorite this season. The position the Tigers were in last year—being ranked as high as third in the nation—will be the position Florida State finds itself in this season.

The Seminoles are the overwhelming favorite to repeat as national champions, so the bar is set very high for them in 2014.

Ultimately, Florida State’s offensive and defensive lines will be too much for Clemson in the fourth quarter, but I think the Tigers will be able to hang around for a few quarters in this game.

 

D.J. Howard Won't Be the Tigers' Leading Rusher

This is probably the “least bold” projection on the list, but some still might find it a surprise. Howard is the starter at running back for now, but we could very likely see one of the backups lead the team in rushing.

Wayne Gallman, C.J. Davidson and Adam Choice should all be solid contributors at the position this season, and they will see the field even more with gained experience throughout the season.

I would say Gallman and Davidson have the best shot at piling up the most rushing yards, but don’t be surprised to see Choice inch up there.

 

The Tigers End the Season With a First-Team All-ACC Wide Receiver

Clemson having an all-conference wide receiver has become an expected occurrence, but this season isn’t as promising.

The ACC has some very talented receivers, such as Florida State’s Rashad Greene and North Carolina’s Quinshad Davis, who should both have big seasons.

Don’t sleep on the Clemson receivers, though. Between Humphries, Peake and Williams, the Tigers will see one of those guys be selected to the first team.

With the absence of Martavis Bryant and Sammy Watkins, Clemson desperately needs one of the three to emerge as the No. 1 target.

Humphries could likely total the most receptions, but Peake and Williams could end the year among the ACC’s leaders in receiving yards or touchdown catches.

So there you have it, five bold projections for this season. We should have more clarity on these predictions after Saturday’s showdown with the Georgia Bulldogs.

Which of these predictions do you see the Tigers having the least likely chance of pulling off?

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Cold Hard Fact for Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fact: Following a number of deaths, former President Theodore Roosevelt avoided a potential ban of the sport of football in colleges and high schools by reforming the rules.

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Fact of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: [History.com]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football: 2014-15 Bowl Game Predictions

It’s the best time of the year. College bowl season will make the transition from the controversial BCS era to the new and hopefully improved College Football Playoff system. 

The new College Football Playoff will include six bowl games, with two of them being semifinal games. This season, the New Year’s Six will start with the Peach, Fiesta and Orange Bowls on Dec. 31 and be followed by the Cotton, Rose and Sugar Bowls on Jan. 1. The Rose and Sugar Bowl will hold semifinal games consisting of the top four teams. The two winners in those games will play for the College Football Playoff Championship on Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. 

Regarding the other lower-tier bowl games, the Bahamas, Boca Raton, Camellia, Miami Beach and Quick Lane Bowls have been added to the bowl schedule this season. 

With an exciting college football season just one day away, who will win the 2014-15 national title?

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2015 Recruits Who Will Win Awards in Their College Careers

The current crop of college prospects may be busy trying to chase down state championship trophies, but recruiting is all about projecting the potential of a player beyond present day. With that said, it's never too early to get way ahead of ourselves while evaluating talent and the impact someone could make in college.

The 2015 class assuredly includes several future All-American selections, prized NFL draft picks and a cluster of Heisman Trophy candidates. Though these athletes are still a year away from starting the next chapter of their careers, we look at a select group that seems poised to challenge for positional awards and annual honors in coming years.

Here's a glimpse at five prospects we expect to have the necessary spotlight, production and skill set to reach the podium as recipients of prestigious college football hardware.

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Why Jameis Winston & FSU Will Continue to Roll After BCS Title Win

The Florida State Seminoles and Oklahoma State Cowboys are going head-to-head during the first week of the college football season. Bleacher Report college football analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer discuss this big-time matchup and some key factors that will impact this game. Who do you think will win?

Watch the video and let us know.

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Will Todd Gurley, Georgia Be Too Much for Vic Beasley and Clemson Defense?

The Georgia Bulldogs and Clemson Tigers are going head to head during the first week of college football.

Bleacher Report's College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss this big-time matchup and some key factors that will impact this game. Who do you think will win?

Watch the video and let us know.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big 12 Betting Preview: Oklahoma Sooners Favored to Reclaim Conference

Following up on a convincing 45-31 victory over Alabama in this past year’s Sugar Bowl, the Oklahoma Sooners enter the 2014 NCAA Football season as strong 4-5 favorites to win the Big 12 conference title.

The Sooners amassed an 11-2 record in 2013 (7-2 in the conference) while posting convincing victories over multiple nationally ranked teams, including No. 22 Notre Dame, No. 10 Texas Tech and No. 6 Oklahoma State.

But a 41-12 loss to the conference rival Baylor Bears sealed the Sooners’ fate and gave the 2013 Big 12 conference title to Baylor. Regardless, sportsbooks have them at 10-1 to win the College Football Playoff.

Despite their position as defending Big 12 champs, the Bears trail the Sooners to defend their title, with odds of 5-2, according to books monitored by Odds Shark. Baylor rode a potent offense to the title a year ago, recording at least 59 points in seven of their 11 victories. However, the season ended on a sour note for the Bears, who got a taste of their own medicine in a 52-42 loss to the UCF Knights in the Fiesta Bowl.

The Bears open as 33-point home chalk to SMU this weekend.

The Texas Longhorns complete the short list of favorites to win the 2014 Big 12 conference title. The Longhorns sport betting odds of 15-2 entering the 2014 campaign, following a roller-coaster season in 2013.

Texas was slow out of the gate, dropping two of their first three games against out-of-conference opponents, but the Longhorns salvaged their season and a bowl game appearance by winning seven of their next nine, finishing the regular season with an 8-4 record before losing a 30-7 decision to Oregon in the Alamo Bowl.

The Oklahoma State Cowboys posted a strong 7-2 record against Big 12 opponents in 2013 but start this season with 12-1 odds to be the top team in the Big 12. They are joined in this second tier of contenders at 10-1 by the Kansas State Wildcats, who finished at 8-5.

The Cowboys face a daunting opener against Florida State in Arlington, Texas, where they are getting 17.5 points from sportsbooks, according to Odds Shark.

The TCU Horned Frogs sit squarely in the middle of the pack with Big 12 futures betting odds of 12-1, followed by the Texas Tech Red Raiders at 20-1. The West Virginia Mountaineers lead the pack of Big 12 long shots, with odds of 66-1, while the Iowa State Cyclones and Kansas Jayhawks round out Big 12 conference betting, each sporting distant odds of 100-1.

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ACC Football Betting Preview: Florida State Favored to Dominate

Following their perfect 14-0 season a year ago, the Florida State Seminoles are once again heavy online betting favorites, with odds of 1-3 to capture their third straight Atlantic Coast Conference title and 11-2 odds to claim their second straight national championship.

The Seminoles were a dominant force a year ago, only once allowing more than 17 points in a game while extending the team’s undefeated streak to 16 games dating back to November of 2012. Florida State’s national championship futures odds of 11-2 are a slight improvement over the 13-2 odds they sported prior to last season, when they trailed favorites USC, Alabama and LSU in NCAA Football betting odds.

This year, the Seminoles were deadlocked in NCAA Football futures betting with Alabama before Bovada.lv made them 4-1 favorites earlier Wednesday (Bama was 5-1). Alabama had been expected to be Florida State’s opponent in the national championship game before they were upset in overtime by Auburn in the annual Iron Bowl.

Two teams trail the Seminoles in ACC futures wagering, each with odds of 10-1. The Clemson Tigers capped a strong 2013 season with a 40-35 win over Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. The Tigers’ 11-2 record (7-1 in the conference) likely would have been good enough to challenge for the top spot in just about any other NCAA Football conference.

The Louisville Cardinals make their ACC debut in 2014, also with odds of 10-1 to win the conference. The Cardinals capped a relatively easy 12-1 season in the American Atlantic Conference with a 36-9 victory over Miami (FL) in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Joining Clemson and Louisville at 12-1, the North Carolina Tar Heels rebounded to finish 7-6 following a brutal 1-5 start to their 2013 season, earning a berth in the Belk Bowl, where they defeated Cincinnati 39-17.

The Miami Hurricanes and Virginia Tech Hokies come next in ACC futures betting, with odds of 12-1, followed by the Duke Blue Devils at 20-1, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at 25-1 and Pittsburgh Panthers at 40-1.

The Syracuse Orange and Virginia Cavaliers are pegged as the best of the worst in ACC football online betting with odds of 66-1, followed by the North Carolina State Wolfpack at 100-1 and the Boston College Eagles and Wake Forest Demon Deacons at odds of 200-1. Wake is the first ACC team in action Thursday as they visit UL-Monroe as small road dogs.

Odds and stats courtesy of Odds Shark.

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5 Bold Predictions for Oregon's 2014 Season

It’s finally here! The Oregon Ducks will officially kick off their 2014 campaign Saturday against the South Dakota Coyotes. With the season finally within reach, it’s time to do what we do best: tap into our inner clairvoyant senses and make some bold predictions!

It’s tough to make "bold" predictions for the Ducks. Suggesting that Marcus Mariota may win the Heisman or that the Ducks will take home the national championship isn’t exactly like predicting lottery numbers. The Ducks are the third-ranked team in the nation, according to The Associated Press, while Mariota is considered to be one of the top three favorites to win the Heisman, according to every human being alive.

So let’s go out on a limb here and make some bold statements. I’m talking about “throw some water on your face because you’re dreaming” type of predictions.

Here are five bold predictions for Oregon’s 2014 season.

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5 Bold Predictions for Oregon's 2014 Season

It’s finally here! The Oregon Ducks will officially kick off their 2014 campaign Saturday against the South Dakota Coyotes...

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Ohio State Football: 5 Takeaways from the Buckeyes' Final Depth Chart

Two days later than most schools, Ohio State released its first official depth chart on Tuesday, providing insight into who stands where for the Buckeyes heading into the 2014 season.

There weren't too many surprises to be found, as only three starting spots remained up for grabs as of Monday, and head coach Urban Meyer anticipates those battles continuing throughout the week. But we now have our first official look at what Ohio State's lineup should look like on Saturday, when the Buckeyes take the field in Baltimore for their season opener against Navy.

What follows is Ohio State's first official depth chart, followed by a look into what we should make of it.

 

Takeaway 1: Line 'Em Up?

Replacing four multiyear starters from one of the country's most talented units over the course of the past two seasons, there still appears to be a lack of clarity on the OSU offensive line, with singular starters not being named at either center or left guard. It will either be Jacoby Boren or Chad Lindsay lining up at the former for the Buckeyes, and Joel Hale or Billy Price at the latter.

That could present an issue for OSU, as cohesiveness is needed more on an offensive line than any other unit on a football roster. It could be viewed as encouraging that the Buckeyes have what's perceived as depth at both positions, but also alarming that a player hasn't grabbed hold of either spot.

With Virginia Tech's aggressive defense looming in Week 2, look for Ohio State to use this weekend to seek clarity at both positions this weekend in Baltimore. With a first-year quarterback starting behind it, all eyes will be on the OSU offensive line this season, as it certainly has lofty expectations to live up to.

 

Takeaway 2: Receiver/Running Back Rotation

While seniors Devin Smith and Evan Spencer reclaimed their starting spots from a season ago, that could be viewed as a "name-only" status, as Meyer stated on Monday that the Buckeyes currently possess a rotation of receivers that goes six players deep.

"I couldn't tell you the starting receivers right now," Meyer said a day ago. "All of them could march in, and they all deserve playing time, so it's just a matter of who breaks the huddle first."

It appears that those players will be Smith and Spencer, although it shouldn't be long until we see Corey Smith and Michael Thomas also on the field. Add in highly touted H-backs (and co-starters) Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall, and Ohio State appears to have a plethora of playmakers available at J.T. Barrett's disposal.

As far as running backs are concerned, it was long assumed that Ezekiel Elliott would be the Buckeyes' lone starter, but he now finds himself listed as a co-starter alongside fifth-year senior Rod Smith and true freshman Curtis Grant. Given Barrett's inexperience, Ohio State will likely rely heavily on its run game this weekend, and perhaps for the foreseeable future.

While they may be unproven as players, Meyer seems to like what he sees in his skill players this season. Those players living up to those expectations will be all the more important this season, as Barrett attempts to play the role of distributor in Ohio State's spread offense.

 

Takeaway 3: Defensive Depth

As opposed to a season ago, when the Buckeyes hardly rotated on any unit on the defensive side of the ball, Ohio State finally appears to possess the depth that Meyer has been craving since arriving in Columbus in 2012.

Even with Noah Spence suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season, the Buckeyes go a legitimate eight-deep on the defensive line, with the first four being as good as any in the country. The backups aren't too shabby, either, mixing a blend of experience (Rashad Frazier) and youth (Tyquan Lewis) that should help fulfill defensive line coach Larry Johnson's desire to constantly rotate players. It's also worth noting that senior captain Michael Bennett is listed as co-starter alongside Tommy Schutt, who Meyer said has had one of the best training camps of any Buckeye this fall.

Ohio State could make the most of a rotation at linebacker as well, with Raekwon McMillan spelling Curtis Grant at middle linebacker and Chris Worley possessing a skill set similar to starter Darron Lee. Cam Williams also adds experience and versatility and shouldn't be shellshocked if forced to see the field.

In the secondary, Eli Apple and Gareon Conley have been named co-starters opposite Doran Grant at corner, but each should see significant snaps in Chris Ash's press-coverage system. True freshman Marshon Lattimore was also expected to be a part of the rotation but was slated to undergo surgery on Wednesday morning.

While Cam Burrows and Vonn Bell are listed as co-starters at free safety, expect for Burrows to slide down to the dime back position when the Buckeyes are facing obvious passing situations. Erick Smith cracking the two-deep as a true freshman is also intriguing, as the hard-hitting safety from Cleveland Glenville has the potential to be an X-factor on the OSU defense.

 

Takeaway 4: Fear the Freshmen

Speaking of Smith, it is worth noting the number of freshmen lining the Buckeyes' depth chart, with seven first-year players finding themselves in the OSU two-deep. That's Meyer making good on a promise he made in the offseason, as he's constantly bemoaned the lack of impact that last year's freshman class made.

Of the freshmen who made the Buckeyes' first depth chart, look for Samuel to get the best look at making an immediate impact, perhaps as soon as this weekend. While not currently listed on the depth chart, Jalyn Holmes should also see his name called sooner rather than later, as Ohio State looks to improve its pass rush in Spence's absence.

Erick Smith aside, most of the impact from the Buckeyes' other freshmen could come on special teams—at least in the early part of the season. But making the two-deep this early in one's college career is certainly something worth noting, as it provides insight into who has been impressing the OSU coaching staff.

 

Takeaway 5: Special Unit

One of the less talked about position battles on the Ohio State roster during fall camp, true freshmen Sean Nuernberger edged out senior Kyle Clinton for the right to be the Buckeyes' starting kicker this fall. A 3-star prospect by way of Buckney, Kentucky, Nuernberger has been lauded for his leg power since arriving on campus and will get the first crack at replacing four-year starter Drew Basil.

In the return game, Ohio State should be as explosive as its been in years, as Wilson not only reprises his role as kick returner but takes over punt return duties as well. More than that, the Buckeyes now appear to have a plethora of options when it comes to returners, as Marshall and Samuel have both been lauded for their ability in open space.

Superb special teams was always a hallmark of Meyer's success at Florida, and Ohio State's makeup in that area currently resembles that of one of his Gators team.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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AAC Betting Odds: UCF Pegged as Favorite to Repeat in 2014

Following a stellar 2013 campaign that saw them claim the American Athletic Conference’s inaugural title with a perfect 8-0 conference record, the University of Central Florida Knights start the 2014 season as 7-4 co-favorites to repeat as AAC champs in college football future betting.

The Knights joined the newly formed AAC in 2013 following eight seasons in Conference USA, during which they won two conference titles and made five bowl game appearances.

“The American” undergoes further changes this season with the departure of the Louisville Cardinals to the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights to the Big Ten, along with the arrival of the East Carolina Pirates, Tulane Green Wave and Tulsa Golden Hurricane from C-USA.

The Cardinals’ departure following a strong 12-1 season has created opportunity for a number of teams in The American to improve their college football futures betting odds.

The Cincinnati Bearcats struggled down the stretch last season, dropping their last two games, including a 39-17 loss to North Carolina in the Belk Bowl, to finish the season at 9-4. But that has not kept Cincy from being pegged as a co-favorite in The American.

The Houston Cougars moved to the AAC from C-USA along with UCF a year ago. The Cougars posted a middling 5-3 conference record, but owned the second best defense in The American, allowing just 16 points per game against AAC competition. The Cougars start the 2014 season with betting odds of 5-2 to win the AAC title and are a 27-50 bet to win at least nine regular season games in 2014.

East Carolina completes the list of favorites to win The American conference title with betting odds of 7-1. The Pirates compiled a respectable 10-3 record in their last season in Conference USA, including a 37-20 win over Ohio in the Beef 'O' Brady’s Bowl.

The betting line on total regular-season wins by the Pirates is set at 6.5, with the over favored with a moneyline of 77-100, while the under is pegged at 9-10.

The Memphis Tigers lead the back of the pack with betting odds of 20-1 to finish atop The American this season. They are followed by the Southern Methodist Mustangs and Tulsa at 33-1, and the South Florida Bulls at 50-1.

Three teams share long-shot status in The American with the Connecticut Huskies, Temple Owls and Tulane all trailing at 66-1.

Tulane is first in action Thursday against Tulsa, and the Green Wave is a 6.5-point road dog, according to Odds Shark.

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NCAA Football Props Betting: Heisman Odds, Passing, Rushing Stats

Jameis Winston is favored to win the Heisman Trophy and favored to lead the ACC in passing touchdowns, but he's only even odds to lead his conference in passing.

That is just one of the interesting wrinkles in college football odds as props kick into high gear ahead of Week 1 of the college football season.

The Florida State Seminoles quarterback is pegged as the 9-2 favorite to win his second straight Heisman award and 2-3 to lead the ACC in passing scores. But at least one sportsbook monitored by Odds Shark had him as an even-odds bet to lead the conference in passing yards.

For the serious college football betting fan, there are other props betting options focused on team and player performance over the course of the 2014 season, including betting lines on the season stat lines of a number of Heisman Trophy candidates.

The betting line on Winston’s total passing yards during the 2014 regular season is set at 3,474.5. The national championship MVP threw for 3,490 yards during the 2013 regular season, but it is the UNDER that is slightly favored in this college football props bet, with moneyline odds of 10-13.

However, Winston remains a solid 2-3 bet to lead the ACC in passing touchdowns this season, and is also a 5-6 bet to lead the conference in passing yards.

"Some of these wagers may seem quite novel but fans who follow their teams closely can churn a profit over the course of the season," said Jack Randall, an analyst at OddsShark.com, which provides daily odds to Bleacher Report.

Team props betting opportunities are also available, focused on the inaugural College Football Playoff, as well as betting lines on total regular season wins for dozens of Division I-A teams.

The Seminoles again lead the way in College Football Playoff betting, with odds of 2-5 to qualify for the four-team tourney. After finishing last season with a 12-0 regular season record, en route to a perfect 14-0 season and the national championship, the betting line on Seminoles regular-season wins is set at 11.5, with the UNDER favored with moneyline odds of 20-27.

The Auburn Tigers, who fell to the Seminoles in the BCS National Championship after posting an 11-1 regular-season record, are pegged as a solid 20-27 moneyline bet to win OVER 9 games in 2014, but enter the 2014 season as 2-7 underdogs to qualify for the football’s new Final Four.

Led by QB Marcus Mariota, who closely trails Winston with Heisman Trophy betting odds of 5-1, the Oregon Ducks start their season as heavy 20-33 favorites to go OVER their regular season win total of 10.5, and are perched among the leaders in College Football Playoff betting with 6-5 odds of qualifying for the tourney.

Stats and odds courtesy of Odds Shark. Quotes obtained firsthand.

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UCLA's Kenny Young Next Frosh Phenom to Star for Bruins

That young star you can expect to see making plays for No. 7 UCLA Saturday at Virginia, and all season long, is Kenny Young. 

A true freshman from New Orleans, Young was impressive enough at training camp to perhaps earn the starting job at inside linebacker for the Bruins' season opener Saturday at Virginia. 

"What I've seen is a young man who is very serious about being an outstanding football player," UCLA head coach Jim Mora said on Tuesday's Pac-12 coaches teleconference call.

Young arrived at UCLA boasting an already impressive resume. Billed as a high 4-star recruit, he recorded a remarkable 122 tackles with four sacks for John Curtis High School in 2013, per 247Sports. 

His outstanding play earned Young numerous national honors, including distinction as a U.S. Army All-American. Not content to rest on his prep accolades, Mora said Young is diligent in his preparation for the college game.  

"He can't get enough film study. He works hard in practice," Mora said. "He's not what you imagine a typical 18-year-old is like. He's very mature and focused." 

Mora attributes Young's maturity and focus to his prep background.   

"There's a level of intensity with him you don't see in many young men his age," Mora said. "That comes from his background. I think it comes from playing at John Curtis and playing for that family, in that conference, in that environment."  

Not coincidentally, "mature and focused" are two adjectives Mora also used to describe the Bruins' 2014 roster. To reach that point collectively, UCLA had to endure some growing pains. 

Mora has not shied from playing true freshmen in his brief tenure at UCLA. Last season, 18 of them saw action for the Bruins. 

The qualities that now define the team were shaped on the field a year ago. 

And, while a rash of injuries thrust some of UCLA's first-year contributors into contributing roles ahead of schedule, others were prepared to immediately flourish.

UCLA landed three on the Football Writers Association of America's 2013 Freshman All-American Team. Offensive lineman Alex Redmond and defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes represented the Bruins in the trenches. 

Young finds himself in a similar position to UCLA's third 2013 Freshman All-American, Myles Jack.

Jack immediately jumped into the starting rotation of a veteran linebacker corps last season and thrived. His exploits on offense that made Jack UCLA's leading ball-carrier by season's end are renowned, but he spent the two previous months wreaking havoc at outside linebacker. 

Mora said there are consistent characteristics evident in freshmen like Jack and Young that better prepare to play immediately. 

"First of all, it's a physical maturity. You have to have that physical maturity to hold up," he said. "I'm talking about strength and endurance, and probably some size and speed.

"But I think there's a mental toughness. Some guys have it innately," he continued. "Some guys learn it. Some guys never get it." 

A portion of the true freshmen who played in 2013 fall into the category of having learned the mental toughness on the job. Young's quick acclimation suggests he's more that innately tough player. 

Combine that with the experience he is about to gain, as his UCLA career begins in earnest Saturday, and Young has the pieces to be the Bruins' next star. 

"He's a special young man," Mora said. "I'm excited to see him play on Saturday. I'm excited to see him develop through his time here at UCLA." 

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Recruiting rankings and information culled from 247Sports.com composite scores. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA's Kenny Young Next Frosh Phenom to Star for Bruins

That young star you can expect to see making plays for No. 7 UCLA Saturday at Virginia, and all season long, is Kenny Young...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

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