NCAA Football News

How Accurate Are College Football's Preseason Polls?

There are two contrasting narratives about preseason polls: First, that they're meaningless, or conversely, that they unfairly influence the final regular-season standings. 

Ultimately, though, the preseason polls' influence on college football's postseason lies somewhere in the middle. Technically, the USA Today coaches poll factored into the BCS. But polls are also bound to change—oftentimes dramatically—throughout the year. 

In other words, take the recent preseason Associated Press and USA Today Amway coaches polls with a grain of salt. Neither will officially play a role in deciding a four-team playoff, and they're nothing more than (educated?) guesses. 

But how accurate have those guesses been? A look over the past 10 years shows that, generally speaking, teams which played for the BCS championship began the year ranked in the top 25—often in the top 10. Notre Dame (2012) and Auburn (2013) were the exceptions. 

Twice—in 2004 and '05—the No. 1 and No. 2 teams went wire to wire. 

Each year of the BCS has its own story, but this is how the past 10 years of preseason polls have played out.

 

2004

2004 can be an example of revisionist history. What's easy to remember is undefeated Auburn being screwed by the BCS because Oklahoma got destroyed by USC, 55-19, in the Orange Bowl (the BCS championship). Since The Trojans and Sooners went wire to wire at No. 1 and No. 2, the Tigers were victims of starting the season in the middle of the top 25. 

Or were they?

Ralph Russo of the AP tweets an interesting point: The Tigers were perhaps a greater victim of conference perception. There was a time, believe it or not, when the SEC wasn't viewed as the dominant conference it is today. 

Was Auburn destined to be screwed because of where the Tigers were ranked to start the season? It's possible, but there could easily have been other factors at play, like conference perception, that affected the final votes. 

 

2005

2005 was among the most clear-cut seasons for the BCS. USC and Texas also went wire to wire on their path to the Rose Bowl. There were no other undefeated teams to state their cases. This was an example of pollsters getting it right from the start. 

 

2006

2006 began the SEC's string of dominance over the rest of college football. The controversy here, if you will, was over whether Florida or Michigan should have played Ohio State for the national championship—and that was only because USC lost to UCLA 13-9 to end its season. 

The Buckeyes and Wolverines were No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, heading into their Nov. 18 game, which Ohio State won 42-39. The Gators were rightfully chosen to play Ohio State in the BCS championship and won 41-14. Michigan lost to the Trojans in the Rose Bowl. And all postseason decisions were validated. 

 

2007

Ah, yes, 2007: The year no one wanted to play for the BCS championship. Besides 2011 (see below), it was the strongest indication that the championship field needed to be expanded. 

The two teams which played for the national title, Ohio State and LSU, began the season ranked in the top five of the major preseason polls. Thanks to late-season losses by Missouri and West Virginia, the Buckeyes and Tigers backed their ways in to the big game. 

 

2008

2008 is otherwise known as the year of the Big 12 tiebreaker. Or heartbreaker, if you're a Texas fan. 

Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech finished atop the Big 12 with identical conference records. The Longhorns beat the Sooners 45-35 but lost on a last-second touchdown to Texas Tech, which then lost to Oklahoma by 44 points three weeks later. 

Since the tiebreaker was decided by BCS standings, Oklahoma got the nod. Was Bob Stoops' team aided by its top-five preseason ranking? Perhaps, but more than anything, this was a result of when a team lost, which in this case favored Oklahoma. 

The Sooners would go on to lose the BCS title to Florida, 24-14. 

 

2009

Another clear-cut BCS National Championship Game came in 2009 when Alabama played Texas. Both were preseason top-five teams in the AP and coaches polls. 

There were two other undefeated teams at season's end—Cincinnati and TCU—but neither realistically had a shot to play for it all. 

 

2010

If anything, 2010 proved two things: first, that two teams could climb from outside the top 10—with help, of course—to reach the BCS National Championship Game and, second, that they could easily pass an undefeated non-BCS team along the way. 

Those were the paths taken by Oregon and Auburn, which started outside the top 10 in preseason polls but won every regular-season game. Undefeated TCU, despite beginning the year as a preseason top-10 team, didn't have a chance. 

 

2011

2011 was a quandary for voters trying to decide between two teams for one spot. LSU, a preseason top-five team, was an obvious choice for a title-game appearance after going undefeated. The question was whether voters should give the other spot to Alabama, whose sole loss came to the Tigers, or to Oklahoma State, the Big 12 champs.

Ultimately, the Tide were given another chance because of the Cowboys' stunning overtime loss to unranked Iowa State on Nov. 18. Since all three teams began the season ranked in the top 10, this was a case of determining which loss was worse. Alabama won out, and won the BCS title 21-0 in a rematch against LSU. 

 

2012

In 2012, Notre Dame proved that you didn't have to start the season ranked to end up in the BCS championship. The Irish went undefeated during the regular season but lost to Alabama in the national title. Ohio State, which also went undefeated, did not participate in a bowl game because of NCAA sanctions. 

 

2013

Auburn became the second straight team which began the year unranked to play for a BCS championship. The Tigers won the SEC and, coupled with a loss by undefeated Ohio State in the Big Ten championship, played Florida State for the crystal ball.  

 

What Does It Mean?

The accuracy of preseason polls resembles a game of horseshoes: Voters try to get close enough. Obviously, there are bound to be major misses along the way. Arkansas and Florida began the 2012 and '13 seasons, respectively, ranked No. 10. Both finished 4-8. 

The next question is whether those polls will influence the College Football Playoff selection committee even though they're not officially to be considered. In the new postseason format, the selection committee will create its own Top 25 and select the top four teams at year's end. 

Recent BCS history suggests that championship games are more closely tethered to what happens at the end of the year than where things begin. The anomaly was in 2003, when Oklahoma, the preseason No. 1 team in the coaches poll, played for the BCS title even though it had just lost its conference championship game. 

The selection committee must keep a team's entire body of work in mind, not simply what happened in the past few weeks.

If it does that, it will be on the right path to fielding the first four-team playoff. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. *Indicates team was not eligible for postseason play. 

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Predicting College Football's Offensive, Defensive Juggernauts for 2014

When you look at your team’s 2014 schedule, which opponents keep you tossing and turning in bed at night?

Think of the squads that have that rare but lethal combination of previous success, inherent skill and experience—either as an entire team or an individual unit—creating an overwhelming, destructive force. 

Some such opponents are as obvious as their win/loss record from last season, while others hide under the shadows of total team mediocrity, ready to pounce on their unaware victims without so much as a single warning. 

Here’s a look at 16 individual units that will be among the toughest nuts to crack this season—these are the matchups that we should look forward to not looking forward to.

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UCLA's Brett Hundley a Dark-Horse 1st-Pick Candidate

Every football fan in the country knows about Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, but out at UCLA there is another quarterback making a run at becoming the No. 1 prospect in the 2015 draft. The NFL knows about Brett Hundley, and fans should too.

 

The Tale of the Tape

6'3", 227 lbs

53 touchdowns, 20 interceptions (career)

320 career rushes

 

Accuracy

Many college quarterbacks are spending their Saturdays throwing checkdowns and bubble screens, but not at UCLA. The Bruins offense asks Hundley to move the ball down the field. The quarterback in this system must read the field, find the best option and deliver passes at varying levels. That's great for showcasing Hundley's accuracy and understanding of space.

Want an NFL-level play from Hundley? This throw against Nebraska shows it all.

The Cornhuskers show an off coverage at the snap—the cornerback near the top of the video is eight yards off the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped. Hundley reads this pre-snap and knows where his primary target is. 

Post-snap, Hundley does a good job of letting the play develop. He has options on the right side of the formation with the deep sideline route and the underneath seam route from the slot receiver. He holds the safety as long as possible before cutting the coverage with a sideline throw.

The ball placement here is perfect as Hundley drops the ball between the cornerback and the closing safety. This is called "dropping it in the bucket" and is executed to perfection. Over the course of watching his 2013 season, I saw many times when Hundley threw this same route with the same ball placement.

He is able to make this throw consistently, and it is one of the most difficult passes a quarterback will be asked to make.

Hundley can get erratic at times if you're looking for a spot-on pass every throw. The good in that is his passes are generally catchable. You don't see him completely miss the mark on many throws—and every quarterback will miss several throws per game—and his missteps are still close enough to be reeled in.

 

Pocket Presence

The area where Hundley scores best right away is in pocket presence. In the pocket he's strong, fluid and moves with grace whether pressured from the front or the side.

Hundley is a physically strong player, and defenders will struggle to bring him down. He uses that strength to his advantage and doesn't get impatient in the pocket or look to tuck and run too soon. He resets his feet and shoulders well when scanning the field and has a light bounce in his step at the top of his drop.

One fix to Hundley's game for NFL scouts will be to have him avoid traveling backward away from the line of scrimmage when pressured. Many young quarterbacks like to try to spin out of pressure and start pulling themselves away from the line, and Hundley likes to do this too by reversing out of the pocket. This will set up jaw-dropping runs and moves in the pocket but is something NFL teams will want to limit.

There are times when Hundley seems to hold on to the ball for too long, but compared to the other top-tier quarterbacks in college football during the 2013 season, he was working with the least amount of NFL-caliber talent. The aforementioned problem could be a habit the NFL needs to break, but it could also be brought on by receivers struggling to get open or linemen struggling to sustain a block.

 

Mechanics

Mechanics can make or break a quarterback, especially when it comes to their lower-body mechanics in the pocket.

The Jacksonville Jaguars reinvented Blake Bortles' lower-half mechanics in the offseason, and he looks like a different quarterback through the preseason. With Hundley, no revision is needed.

When a quarterback locks on to a target and sets up to throw, you want to see alignment of the shoulder, core, hip and feet. The lead shoulder (which is Hundley's left) should point to the intended target. The core should line up with the hips in a loaded position (you want the hips and shoulders aligned as opposed to having the shoulders opposite the hips) and the front foot (again, Hundley's left) pointed to the target.

This lines up the quarterback's body and allows for a quick, powerful torque to throw the ball.

The key to improved consistency for Hundley is to maintain this platform on all throws. He has struggled with accuracy on the move because he doesn't reset his shoulders and align his body on the move. This is something the Jaguars (and quarterback coach Jordan Palmer) fixed with Bortles to great early success. Hundley can make this same tweak and will see quick improvements in his accuracy on the run.

The biggest negative in Hundley's game as it was in 2013 is that movement creates a disjointed throwing platform. This is an easy fix with repetition, though, and is only a long-term factor if he cannot adjust his motion on the move.

 

Football Intelligence (FBI)

The popularity of spread offenses in college—be it the Air Raid or the read-option—has led to fewer quarterbacks reading the entire field. Pro-style offenses, like the one run at UCLA, are becoming a rarity, and so too are quarterbacks in college with experience diagnosing coverages.

Hundley handles the complexities of the offense well and works across the entire field when scanning for a target. This is not a one-read offense. This is not a half-field offense. Hundley is expected to work the entire field, and does.

Moving to an NFL offense will not be difficult for Hundley. He will have to adapt to the speed of the pros, just like every other rookie, but from a reads and execution standpoint, he's ready.

 

Comparison

Comparisons for Hundley have ranged from Donovan McNabb to Cam Newton, but when I watch the big UCLA quarterback I see a Ryan Tannehill-like athlete. Hundley does seem much further ahead going into his senior season in terms of vision and pocket presence, but the two passers share a style.

As a runner, Hundley does remind me of Newton, thanks to his power as a runner, but he's not an explosive open-field mover. 

When looking at Hundley's pocket presence and throwing motion, I see more of a Matt Ryan-type arm. Mix Ryan's accuracy and touch with Tannehill's speed and Newton's power, and you have Hundley.

Heading into the 2014 season, Hundley is one of my favorite players in the draft class, regardless of position. He has a clear shot at being the No. 1 quarterback and No. 1 overall player taken if his play continues at the high levels seen in 2013.

On a talent grade alone, Hundley looks like a top-five pick.

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Georgia Football: Final Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

We are two weeks away from the start of the college football season, and the Georgia Bulldogs have put in a lot of work this month in order to great ready for the 2014 campaign.

The AP poll was recently released, and the Bulldogs came in at No. 12. That means the media thinks the Bulldogs will have a bounce-back season and will have a chance to win the SEC and be a part of the first-ever College Football Playoff.

But will this be the year the Bulldogs take the next step and make a run at the national title? Will they be able to survive their SEC schedule and not have any loses that would keep them from their goals?

Here’s a final look at the game-by-game schedule predictions for the Bulldogs.

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Braxton Miller Injury: How the Loss Affects Buckeyes and Big Ten Race

As first reported by Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch, Braxton Miller re-injured his shoulder during practice on Monday afternoon. The severity of the injury is yet to be known, but it appears that he did not have enough recovery time from his February surgery to be ready for full-contact football. 

While the primary story will focus on the seriousness of Miller's injury and the length of his absence, the Buckeyes now must move on quickly to prepare for a new offensive identity. At least the first part of 2014 will be dominated by a quarterback battle between freshman JT Barrett and sophomore Cardale Jones. 

And if the worst-case scenario develops, Ohio State will need to rely on one or both of these youngsters for the entire 2014 season.

But how will this new quarterback situation change the outlook for the Buckeyes and the Big Ten race at large? Let's take a look. 

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Starting with the Buckeyes, the good news is that Barrett and Jones have received all of the spring and most of the fall camp reps due to Miller's rehabilitation. That being said, Jones did not show the ability to effectively run around pressure or lead a dominant passing attack in limited playing time during the 2013 season. 

Furthermore, Barrett has apparently moved past Jones on the depth chart (as referenced in the Tim May piece linked above), so the relevant question is whether this redshirt freshman can replace Miller's role in the 2014 offense. 

Barrett likely has the natural tools to fit the mold of a Terrelle Pryor and a Braxton Miller with time. But behind an inexperienced offensive line replacing four starters, Barrett will not be able to take the extra time a freshman normally needs to consistently make the right decision. Barrett is surrounded by great skill position talent, but he will be forced into playmaking by most opposing defenses this season.

Unlike a decade ago, Ohio State is not completely unfamiliar with playing freshmen at quarterback. Both Terrelle Pryor and Braxton Miller started most of their freshman seasons, although both had a proven veteran with which to share time (Todd Boeckman for Pryor in 2008, Joe Bauserman for Miller in 2011). Here are stat lines for those seasons:

Pryor in 2008: 12 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 1,311 yards on 60.6 percent passing, 139 rushes for 631 yards, season ended with 10-3 record (highlighted by loss caused by Pryor's fumble against Penn State).

Miller in 2011: 13 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 1,159 yards on 54.1 percent passing, 159 rushes for 715 yards, season ended with 6-7 record (highlighted by losses caused when Miller had to leave field with injury, including a 21-point lead blown at Nebraska). 

Considering Barrett may have similar skills to both of these talents (as a freshman), similar numbers could likely result. Those numbers are nothing like what Pryor managed in his final two seasons, which were Big Ten championship seasons, or what Miller accomplished during back-to-back 12-0 regular seasons in the 2012 and 2013 campaigns. 

That means Ohio State will need to become a defense-first team. Part of the big difference between the success of 2008 and the struggles of 2011 was having Jim Tressel at the helm of a dominant defense. The defensive cupboard is not as barren as in 2011 thanks to Urban Meyer's great recruiting, but he and new defensive coordinator Chris Ash are building the defense from scratch after a poor run in 2013. 

Accordingly, despite boasting one of the best defensive lines in the country (if not the best), Ohio State cannot just expect to shut all teams down like the best Tressel teams in the last decade. At multiple points in 2014, perhaps against the likes of Cincinnati and Maryland, Barrett and the offense will need to outscore the competition. 

In all likelihood, that will be a problem in at least one, if not two or three, of those games. The dreaded freshmen mistakes will probably derail the Buckeyes or make it much more difficult to win a couple of these close games. 

Despite redshirt freshmen Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston winning the last two Heisman Trophies, the trend is much more likely to go against Buckeye fans' wishes. Manziel and Winston had much better offensive lines and perhaps more natural talent, which goes a long way when determining how well a freshman season will play out. 

Assuming Miller cannot play at all in 2014, the schedule looks a bit more daunting overall for the Buckeyes. Here's how the games stack up:

  • Should Win (5): at Navy, Kent State, Rutgers, Illinois, at Minnesota
  • Tricky Tests, Still Favoring Buckeyes (3): Cincinnati, at Penn State, Indiana
  • Toss-Ups (3): Virginia Tech, at Maryland, Michigan
  • Likely Loss (1): at Michigan State

Barring a total surprise, this type of schedule analysis does not bode well for a playoff appearance in the inaugural four-team bracket. A loss to Michigan State plus one other Big Ten loss would almost certainly eliminate the Buckeyes from contention in the East Division. Which means, this team has no room for error—a tough spot to be in with a freshman (or sophomore) quarterback. 

Thus, Ohio State is likely tracking towards a similar season as in 2008: competitive but not championship material. The sky is not falling, though, as a likely nine- or 10-win season would possibly set up for a huge run in 2015, especially if Miller takes a redshirt and comes back to the team in 2015 (a real possibility considering he decided to stay to improve his draft stock this offseason).

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Turning to the Big Ten at large, this injury reshapes the East Division race in a huge way. Michigan State benefits the most, going from a co-favorite in the division to a prohibitive favorite. Mark Dantonio's defense totally stymied Braxton Miller in his worst start as a freshman, and a trip up to East Lansing is bad news for JT Barrett or Cardale Jones. 

The Spartans also get the other division contender Michigan at home, as well as the only tough crossover game against Nebraska. That means Maryland, a newcomer and relative unknown in the Big Ten race, could have the best chance to knock off the Spartans the week after the OSU-MSU showdown. It seems unlikely that Maryland will win more than six conference games in its first Big Ten season, which means there is little chance anybody other than Michigan State shows up in Indianapolis this December. 

The West Division race will likely not be affected by Ohio State's woes, although the loss of Venric Mark to Northwestern should cement that as a three-team race: Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska. The Hawkeyes get all season to prepare for the other two teams, and the Badgers and Cornhuskers have to go to Kinnick Stadium. 

The talent level might be slightly better overall at Nebraska and Wisconsin, but Iowa is due to take advantage of that schedule and have another big season. Nebraska has the only really tough East Division game at Michigan State, so expect the West Division to come down to Wisconsin and Iowa. 

Wisconsin has battled well with the Spartans, including in the first Big Ten Championship Game three seasons ago. Meanwhile, Iowa has not played particularly well against Michigan State in recent seasons, likely as a result of having an offense that plays right into Sparty's hands. 

Consequently, if Iowa makes it out of the West Division, Michigan State should be heavily favored to win the championship and likely then make the College Football Playoff. If Wisconsin survives to Indianapolis, then it will be more of a toss-up for a trip to the top bowls. 

If nothing else, the Miller injury provides a new, clear narrative for the Big Ten in 2014. How will the other teams knock Michigan State off the high perch achieved with the Rose Bowl win in the 2013 season?

Although Michigan State would rather beat a fully healthy Ohio State to bolster its resume for a playoff appearance, fate seems to be smiling on East Lansing these days. The Green and White parade should continue deep into the 2014 season thanks to this critical development. 

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How do you see the Big Ten and the Ohio State seasons playing out, assuming Miller cannot play? Please provide your comments and counterpoints in the comments section below. I look forward to bringing you more great coverage of the Big Ten in 2014. 

David is a columnist focusing on Big Ten football for Bleacher Report. He has been a Featured Columnist in 2011-2013, and you can follow him on Twitter @Buckeyefitzy for more discussion. Please provide any article suggestions you have there. Thanks for reading!

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J.T. Barrett Must Grow Fast for Buckeyes to Contend After Braxton Miller Injury

The Ohio State Buckeyes received some devastating news Monday when it was revealed starting quarterback Braxton Miller reportedly re-injured his throwing shoulder.

Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch got wind of Miller's ailment and proceeded to name Miller's prospective successor should he miss the 2014 season:

This is extremely discouraging because Miller underwent arthroscopic surgery on the shoulder in February. Now the Buckeyes will likely have to turn to another dual-threat QB in J.T. Barrett, a redshirt freshman who has never thrown a pass at the college level.

Barrett must learn the starting job and do so in swift fashion to rescue Ohio State from this potential disaster scenario.

Although he is an unknown commodity, Barrett may catch opposing defenses and NCAA football fans by surprise as a result. The S.H. Rider High School (Wichita Falls, Texas) product was a 4-star recruit and the third-ranked dual-threat QB in the class of 2013, per 247Sports' composite rankings.

That's encouraging enough—unless you're a Buckeye fan with extremely high expectations and happen to look at the following anecdote from ESPN Stats & Info:

Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman seems to believe Barrett gives the Buckeyes the best chance to win in the event Miller can't go, per Cleveland.com's Ari Wasserman:

The offense moves better when he's in there. You can throw all the completion percentages – he's probably completing more balls and making more of the right reads in the run game. But at the end of the day, the offense moves when he's in and sometimes it doesn't as much, not that Cardale is doing a bad job, but the offense moves more frequently when J.T. is the quarterback, and that's the sign of a good one.

Eleven Warriors alluded to a potential silver lining created by Miller's circumstances in the spring, too:

But ESPN college football personality Rece Davis doesn't seem confident the Buckeyes can contend for the national title, much less in the Big Ten:

Hard to blame many people for having that opinion. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller went a step further:

Braxton Miller has held the starting job since part of the way through his true freshman year and is the leader of this team. Now he is in danger of not taking to the gridiron at all, pressing a player in Barrett who had to think his chance to shine wasn't coming for at least another year.

The glowing review by Herman, someone who doesn't know Barrett as well, is a good sign, however.

The following testimony from Barrett's Rider coach Jim Garfield (h/t The Columbus Dispatch's Bill Rabinowitz), also hints there may be more reason for optimism in Columbus than meets the eye:

J.T.’s stats are not what you would call superstar stats, but it’s the hidden yards that you really can’t see from statistics. He just kept the chains moving. He kept our defense on the field. He made great decisions. He ran the ball well, threw the ball well. I can’t say enough about way he handled the game. His leadership, that’s always been the main selling point to the guys who were recruiting him. He’s great kid, one of the best personalities I’ve ever been around in coaching. He’s one of the best leaders I’ve been around in coaching. When J.T. talks, everybody listens.

It sounds as though Barrett is in the business of winning games more than putting up good numbers, which may be just what coach Urban Meyer's Buckeyes need.

As an expected Heisman Trophy contender, Miller would attract a lot of individual attention if he were to be capable of starting under center. For an offense that lost star running back Carlos Hyde to the NFL, the onus would have been on Miller to pull the weight. The media would also focus on him with scrutiny amid his senior season.

Pittsburgh Steelers first-round linebacker Ryan Shazier was a big loss from the 2013 Ohio State defense, yet he was also the only returning starter on that front seven. Thus, the Buckeyes should be as defensively sound as ever in the Meyer era.

With an underdog but apparent leader in Barrett, whose intangibles and grasp of the offense seem swell enough in light of what Herman and Garfield purport, perhaps Ohio State can exceed expectations under his guidance. The schedule isn't too harsh, as No. 8 Michigan State is the only Top 25 team on the slate at the moment, though that game does take place in East Lansing.

It stands to reason that even competent play by Barrett could keep the Buckeyes' high hopes for 2014 alive.

But for that to even be feasible, Barrett has to take control, limit mistakes despite his inexperience and use his legs to help drive the rushing attack. In the Buckeyes' spread system, they can keep it on the ground, control possession, lean on defense and get occasional big plays in the passing game to still be Big Ten contenders.

Getting it done in the spring is one thing. Performing on such a massive platform for Buckeye Nation, in a power conference and with the pressure that comes with it is another matter entirely. Should Miller miss the year, Barrett will make or break the Buckeyes' chances of winning both the Big Ten and national title amid a new playoff system.

Quite the tall task for a quarterback who has yet to throw a collegiate pass.

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Pac-12 Football: Every Team's Biggest Trap Game for 2014 Season

Nearly every team in the Pac-12 can break its schedule up into three parts: games that should be won, games that will likely result in a loss and, of course, toss-ups.

Unless you're Cal, which has zero automatic wins on the 2014 docket, or you're Oregon, which doesn't have any contests that look like definite losses (the same can be said for UCLA and Stanford, for that matter), every week of the season likely fits into one of those categories.

But which games in the first category (should be won) don't belong there at all? Which seemingly easy victories could end up being challenging and maybe even a loss altogether?

We're taking a look at the trap games, which don't normally stand out as dangerous or tricky on the schedule. Trap games typically come just before or right after a major showdown, and they usually happen against teams with talent and potential that haven't been able to put it together.

Oregon and UCLA are not trap games, because no one is overlooking either squad this season.

So where lie the losses we can't see coming? Which teams will be overlooked? Here's the biggest trap game for every team in the Pac-12 in 2014.

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Braxton Miller Injury: Updates on Ohio State Star's Shoulder and Return

Ohio State's national title hopes rest on the arm and legs of quarterback Braxton Miller, but his status is up in the air after reportedly suffering a shoulder injury in practice on Monday, according to Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch:

Jeremy Fowler of CBS Sports described how the injury occurred while Patrick Maks of Eleven Warriors provides more information on the type of shoulder injury the star QB endured: 

Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports reports on what's next for Miller: 

Lori Schmidt of 97.1 The Fan said the team was mum about the situation:

Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports provided his initial take on the injury:

Miller is among the most exciting players in college football due largely to his dual-threat nature. He has a penchant for making things happen with his legs when plays break down, but that also inevitably leaves him susceptible to injuries.

That was apparent last season, as Miller missed close to three games with an MCL injury and then later injured his shoulder against Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

Miller's injury history prompted the Buckeyes to enter the 2014 season with plans to reduce Miller's designed runs as much as possible in order to lower the risk of him getting hurt again, per Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com.

While Miller was somewhat limited during the offseason after undergoing shoulder surgery, he insisted in late July that he felt good and was ready to return to action in the near future, according to ESPN.com's Austin Ward:

I feel like it's stronger. Man, everything that was damaged in there has been cleaned out. So even if I didn't have that injury, I feel like everything from before that injury has been cleaned out. I barely had any rust when I came back. With my footwork and everything like that, I had been focused on that throughout the spring. That's all I was doing, going back to work on my footwork, breaking down the defenses, and I watched a lot of film to make sure everything's good. Everything is in place. I'm at the end of my recovery, feeling pretty good and ready for camp. I'm ready to go for real.

Miller did heal up in time for the start of the regular season, but there was still reason for concern considering how many ailments he dealt with in 2013. In addition to consciously minimizing Miller's workload in terms of running the ball, though, every indication was that he entered the campaign in peak condition.

Per Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports, Miller spent the offseason getting leaner and stronger:

Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer echoed Miller's comments and was extremely complimentary as the season approached, according to ESPN.com's Brian Bennett:

With so many positive reports surrounding Miller, he was viewed as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate in 2014. Despite missing a couple of games in 2013, the Huber Heights, Ohio, native had what was easily the best statistical season of his collegiate career.

He put up well over 3,000 total yards and scored 36 total touchdowns. With even more emphasis being placed on his passing as the 2014 campaign approached, the expectation was that Miller would certainly be in the conversation for college football's most prestigious individual award.

Injuries robbed Miller of that opportunity last year, and the same could potentially happen to him this season. It is difficult to say with any type of certainty how many games Miller might miss, if he misses any at all, but sitting out even one contest could destroy his Heisman hopes.

Also, the Buckeyes no longer have quarterback Kenny Guiton, who filled in admirably for Miller last season and even outperformed him at times. Without a backup of Guiton's ilk in the picture, Ohio State is very much in danger of losing if Miller has to sit.

With the College Football Playoff putting four teams in position to vie for the national championship, there is slightly more room for error than in years past, but a single loss can be devastating and demoralizing nonetheless.

The Ohio State faithful certainly hope to see Miller back on the field during the Buckeyes' opening game at Navy, but it is entirely possible that they will have to find ways to win without their best player.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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Every Top 25 College Football Team's Toughest Game in 2014

Even the most diehard college football can't deny that their team's schedule has at least one land mine.

No matter how good a team is, each year there's always that one game that causes a skip to the heartbeat, for sweat to form on the brow.

It's not necessarily going to result in defeat—often it's not the perceived "best" team on the schedule—but that game is the one that a team's fans should be most worried about. Maybe it's against a heated rival, where records get thrown out the door. Or it could be the timing of the contest, where it's being played or that it's on a weeknight or has a late (or early) kickoff.

Whatever the case, there's something about the game that just screams danger.

Using the Associated Press preseason Top 25 poll as a list, we've gone through the 2014 schedules of FBS' best teams and picked out the one game on each of their schedules that will be the most stringent challenge.

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Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon Suspended for Season by Program

The Oklahoma Sooners announced Monday that running back Joe Mixon has been suspended by the program for the entire 2014 college football season.    

NFL.com's Bryan Fischer reported the news on Twitter, and included an official statement from Oklahoma on Mixon's punishment:

Mixon was a 5-star recruit in the class of 2014 out of Freedom High School in Oakley, California. He was listed as the 21st overall prospect in the nation and the No. 4 all-purpose back, per 247Sports' composite rankings.

Unfortunately, Mixon has already made a major misstep before even setting foot on the gridiron in Norman. According to OKCFox.com's Jay Dillon, Mixon has been arraigned on charges after a physical altercation with a woman.

The report outlines more details of the incident, and Mixon had been ordered to turn himself in by 4 p.m. on Monday:

Police said they were called to investigate an assault at Pickleman's Gourmet Cafe just after 2:30 a.m. on Friday, July 25. Norman police say Mixon was an "involved party" in the incident but stopped short of calling him a suspect. Police say Mixon and a 20-year-old female got into an altercation and it turned physical and ended with the woman having injuries to her face.

SoonerScoop.com's RJ Young supplied information regarding the arraignment at Cleveland County Courthouse, which occurred hours before Mixon's suspension was announced:

Young then compared the Sooners' current crop of ball-carriers to the other loaded backfields Oklahoma has had during head coach Bob Stoops' tenure:

The Sooners lost three of their top four rushers from 2013 in Brennan Clay, Damien Williams and Roy Finch. Starting dual-threat quarterback Trevor Knight is the only one of that quartet returning. An opportunity was imminent for Mixon to have an immediate impact as a true freshman until he exercised poor judgment.

This situation has at least brought immediate closure in terms of Mixon's status for the 2014 campaign. A once bright future for Mixon is now in doubt, especially now that he is unable to establish himself and develop within the program for a significant period of time.

Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel will have to rely heavily on Knight's talents to allow Oklahoma to compete for a College Football Playoff spot this season. The next man up to potentially grab the No. 1 running back spot figures to be sophomore Keith Ford, who ran for 134 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries last year.

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Florida State Football: Final Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

Florida State just has to do one better. 

The Seminoles, the 2013 national champions after a 14-0 season, are looking to repeat. And they have to do it by going 15-0—one more obstacle required because of the new College Football Playoff.

FSU's schedule is tougher certainly than the 2013 version that included Bethune-Cookman, Nevada and Idaho. This fall, FSU will face Oklahoma State and Notre Dame in nonconference games (Florida is the one consistent nonconference opponent on the Seminoles' schedule).

Can FSU repeat? Definitely. The Seminoles are loaded with talent and have just a few question marks going into the season opener. And the schedule sets up well, giving FSU a bye week—and extra time to prepare—before games against Clemson in September and Louisville in October.

Let's take a look at FSU's 2014 schedule:

 

Oklahoma State, Aug. 30 (at Arlington, Texas)

Key stat: 29. The Cowboys lost 29 seniors, and it's tough to replace that experience and leadership.

Analysis: The Cowboys love to pass—they threw for 3,599 yards last season. Nobody defends the pass better than FSU, which led the nation by allowing just 156 passing yards per game in 2013. Oklahoma State loses its top two receivers in Tracy Moore and Josh Stewart, but there is plenty of talent returning—not to mention electric junior college transfer Tyreek Hill. FSU has the depth to adjust after losing All-American corner Lamarcus Joyner and safety Terrence Brooks. The Seminoles defensive backs, led by corners Ronald Darby and P.J. Williams and safeties Jalen Ramsey and Nate Andrews, should have their hands full in what will be a good early test. But FSU will pass the test.

Predicted winner: FSU

 

The Citadel, Sept. 6

Key stat: $440,000. That's the guarantee that The Citadel will receive to play the Seminoles (according to FSU records).

Analysis: Since Jimbo Fisher took over as FSU's coach in 2010, the Seminoles have demolished Football Championship Subdivision teams. In 2013, it was a lightning-shortened 54-6 win over Bethune-Cookman. Fans will get to see plenty of backup quarterback Sean Maguire; he'll lead the second-team offense as this game will be out of reach early.

Predicted winner: FSU

 

Clemson, Sept. 20

Key stat: 11,904. The number of passing yards by now graduated quarterback Tajh Boyd in his Clemson career.

Analysis: This fall will be a big adjustment for Clemson as the Tigers move on to life without Boyd and playmaking receiver Sammy Watkins. But Cole Stoudt has thrown for eight touchdowns (and just one interception) with a 72 percent completion percentage. This would be a much better game if it were scheduled for October or November. But with FSU coming off a bye week and Clemson still putting the pieces together on offense, expect FSU to put this game out of reach in the second half.

Predicted winner: FSU

 

at N.C. State, Sept. 27

Key stat: 0. Number of ACC wins for the Wolfpack in 2013.

Analysis: The Wolfpack are in Year 2 of the rebuilding effort under coach Dave Doeren. N.C. State will be much better—and will win ACC games—now that former Florida quarterback Jacoby Brissett is eligible to play after sitting out 2013. Brissett is very good, but he won't be able to single-handedly carry the Wolfpack. The Wolfpack have a steady receiver in Bryan Underwood, but they simply don't have enough talent surrounding Brissett to pull off an upset. And no, FSU's players haven't forgotten the stunning 17-16 loss at N.C. State in October 2012.

Predicted winner: FSU

 

Wake Forest, Oct. 4

Key stat: 14. The Demon Deacons ranked 14th (last) in the ACC in total offense in 2013.

Analysis: Wake managed very little on offense, but 2014 could be bleak. The Demon Deacons lose their quarterback (Tanner Price), leading receiver (Michael Campanaro) and top rusher (Josh Harris). FSU has defeated Wake 59-3 and 52-0 the past two seasons. It may be that ugly again in a game where FSU will surely be playing its backups after halftime.

Predicted winner: FSU

 

at Syracuse, Oct. 11

Key stat: 7-4. After a rocky two weeks to open 2013 in which Syracuse lost to Penn State and Northwestern, Terrel Hunt took over as starter and led the Orange to wins in seven of their final 11 games.

Analysis: Hunt is a dangerous, dual-threat quarterback who could present some problems for FSU, especially when considering the supporting cast. Syracuse brings back tailback Prince-Tyson Gulley along with receivers Ashton Broyld, Jarrod West and Brisly Estime. The Seminoles need to make sure they are not looking ahead to Notre Dame. 

Predicted winner: FSU

 

Notre Dame, Oct. 18

Key stat: 15. Following the academic scandal that impacts four players, Notre Dame's leading returning receiver is Chris Brown with 15 catches in 2013.

Analysis: This game could be a showdown of top-10 teams. Or maybe not. Only time will tell how much the academic fraud investigation, first reported by Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports, will affect Notre Dame. Losing three projected starters—receiver DaVaris Daniels, cornerback KeiVarae Russell, defensive end Ishaq Williams—in August is significant. And it's underscored by the fact that Notre Dame was returning just nine starters. Still, the return of quarterback Everett Golson puts plenty of excitement into the offense and this pivotal game.

 

at Louisville, Oct. 30

Key stat: 12. Number of years since Louisville upset FSU in the rain on a Thursday night in 2002. The teams again play on a Thursday this season.

Analysis: Replacing quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is no easy task, but coach Bobby Petrino returns to Louisville and has a talent in 6'5'', 230-pound Will Gardner. And Louisville has a star in receiver DeVante Parker (55 catches, 885 receiving yards, 8 TDs). Petrino loves to air it out. And FSU defends the pass well. Give Fisher an extra week to break down game film of Louisville (which also has a bye going into the game), and FSU should win this one on the road.

Predicted winner: FSU

 

Virginia, Nov. 8

Key stat: 6. Wins the last two seasons for the Cavaliers.

Analysis: The hot seat is scalding for coach Mike London. But the years of recruiting success have helped bring the Cavaliers 5-star recruits like Taquan Mizzell and Andrew Brown. Virginia has a workhorse running back in Kevin Parks (1,031 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns), but if the Cavaliers aren't more consistent in the passing game, FSU will win this one going away.

Predicted winner: FSU

 

at Miami, Nov. 15

Key stat: 49 percent. That was quarterback Jake Heaps' completion percentage in 2013 at Kansas before he transferred to Miami.

Analysis: It remains to be seen who Miami will start at quarterback three months from now. And coach Al Golden could change starters once or twice between now and then. But if the job goes to the veteran Heaps, he must make better decisions. The Hurricanes have a star in tailback Duke Johnson and a rising talent in receiver Stacy Coley. Heaps needs to be smart and put the ball in the hands of the Hurricanes' playmakers. But the defense must also be better. And it should be. Is Miami's defense good enough to force FSU to punt? The Hurricanes haven't been able to do that, as Fisher is 4-0 vs. Miami since taking over as head coach in 2010.

Predicted winner: FSU

 

Boston College, Nov. 22

Key stat: 2,177. Rushing yards from 2013 lost when Andre Williams graduated.

Analysis: Tyler Murphy is a capable one-year transfer replacement for BC after the Eagles lost Chase Rettig to graduation. But Murphy must perform better than he did for the Gators—three INTs in a loss to Vanderbilt and a 44.8 completion percentage in a loss to Georgia. If he's learned from his mistakes, BC could again push for a bowl game even without an experienced back on the roster. This is a reasonably soft game for FSU going into the regular-season finale against Florida.

Predicted winner: FSU

 

Florida, Nov. 29

Key stat: 18. The number of key players the Gators lost to injury during the 2013 season, according to ESPN.com's Jeff Barlis.

Analysis: Florida won't go 4-8 again. And Georgia Southern isn't on the schedule. How much better will the Gators be? That's a tough one to answer, but new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper's spread attack will be better suited for quarterback Jeff Driskel. If he's comfortable in the system, the offensive line improves and the receivers develop, Florida should win seven or eight games. And the defense will again be one of the nation's best. But will the defense be good enough against FSU? The Seminoles racked up 456 offensive yards, including 327 passing yards, in a 37-7 rout last November.

Predicted winner: FSU

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

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SEC Football: Every Team's Biggest Trap Game for 2014 Season

The SEC schedule is littered with potential trap games, and no team is exempt. Whether its schedule is lauded for its quality (Auburn) or ribbed for its lack thereof (Alabama), there are land-mines looming that could blow the season to pieces. 

This is not an uncommon occurrence in any of the power-five conferences: Trap games are the main reason so few teams go undefeated, and their presence is one of the many things that give college football the best regular season in sports.

So many games are losable, but every loss matters so much.

But who might be this year's South Carolina: the team who gets caught looking ahead and pays the ultimate price because of it?

Based largely on the schedule—i.e., whom the team in question plays before and after a certain game—but also on the quality of opponent, we went searching for each SEC team's most likely trap situation.

Sound off below and let me know where you disagree.

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4-Star G Josh Wariboko Announces His Top 8: Where Would He Fit Best?

Coveted Oklahoma offensive guard Josh Wariboko is beginning to narrow things down in his nationwide recruitment process. The 6'3.5", 319-pound prospect is primarily focused on eight collegiate programs, a collection he tweeted to the masses Monday:

Wariboko, rated sixth nationally among offensive guard in 247Sports' composite rankings, remains one of the most highly pursued offensive linemen in the 2015 class. The 4-star prospect originally pledged to the in-state Sooners but backed off that verbal pact in April.

Despite distancing himself from the team, Oklahoma remains in the picture for now.

"I knew I wanted to take some more trips without bringing into question my integrity or my family's integrity," Wariboko told Rivals.com's Josh McCuistion shorty after decommitting. "I didn't want to say I was committed and take trips, that didn't seem right."

You have to respect the honesty, and after exploring a variety of options, he could wind up in Norman after all. However, Oklahoma faces serious competition for his signature.

Oklahoma State would also love to keep the Oklahoma City native on his home turf, as he leaves his West Coast destinations open with USC, Cal and UCLA still in the mix. Louisville, Ohio State and Texas A&M also land on the list.

Though we don't have an indication of when Wariboko plans to finalize his decision, there's a particular cluster of squads to keep tabs on along the way.

Oklahoma can't be counted out because of his longstanding relationship with the Sooners coaching staff. However, a pair of Pac-12 squads appear to be strong contenders.

USC and UCLA each hold commitments from 5-star passers, so it's imperative the offensive line is able to keep them upright in the coming years. Wariboko is a beastly interior blocker who exhibits excellent technique when facing a pass rush.

His body will undergo a transformation on campus as he leans out and builds a stronger base for leverage. Ultimately, this comes down to Oklahoma versus UCLA.

Wariboko visited the Bruins in June and is slated to use an official visit on campus this fall. UCLA has managed to build an impressive collection of offensive skill players and now aims to beef up the offensive front to free up those skill players.

The chance for immediate action in a young, up-and-coming offense gives Jim Mora's Bruins the edge here. Wariboko will find a home at UCLA.

 

Recruit information courtesy of 247Sports. 

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How Tyler Johnstone's Injury Affects the Oregon Ducks

The two most important positions in football are quarterback and left tackle. This much is especially true when you run the most dynamic offense in college football.

Unfortunately for the Oregon Ducks, they’ve lost one half of that important battery.

News broke last week that starting LT Tyler Johnstone, whom some had graded out as a first-round pick in 2015, has re-torn his right ACL and will miss the 2014 season. Johnstone originally tore his ACL in the Alamo Bowl in December 2013 against Texas.

Not only is it a huge blow to the Ducks, but it is the second big ACL injury they’ve suffered this year—the other involves star wide receiver Bralon Addison.

While the Ducks won’t confirm the extent of the injury—according to Tyson Alger of The Oregonian, the official stance, as always, is “day-to-day”—the loss of the redshirt junior means the Oregon offensive line will now scramble to once again become a cohesive unit.

Johnstone, the 6'6", 286-pounder who has started 26 consecutive games for the Ducks, will now be relegated to helping get his replacement, Andre Yruretagoyena, ready for the 2014 season opener against South Dakota.

Marcus Mariota, the team's QB and Heisman candidate, loses his backside protection with Johnstone going down, but he suggests Johnstone can still play a vital role for the Ducks in 2014.

“Any time you have injuries, it's tough. It is unfortunate. We're praying for him but he's going to work back to getting healthy and he'll still make his contribution to this team,” he told reporters.

Mariota will now be leaning on Yruretagoyena, the 6'5" and 290-pound redshirt junior who has made 11 career appearances for Oregon.

Yruretagoyena won’t be completely unfamiliar to Mariota and the rest of the Ducks offense, as he has taken first-team reps during the spring and summer as Johnstone’s replacement.

It is now the job of the leaders, like Mariota, Johnstone and offensive line coach Steve Greatwood, to coach Yruretagoyena up and turn him into the “first-string talent” that Johnstone described when talking about his backup last week.

According to Alger, Greatwood thinks Yruretagoyena will be just fine and the reps he got with the first team this spring prepared him for the spotlight:

It immensely prepared him. You look at him and he's going against one of the premier defensive lineman in the country in DeForest Buckner every snap. That can't help but get you better and better. He's competing at a very high level. ...

I'm confident we're not going to drop off at Tyler's spot.

If the Ducks have any shot at competing for a berth in the College Football Playoff this season, they’re going to need to protect their best asset: Mariota.

The loss of Johnstone will be felt across the entire offensive line. However, the Ducks' mantra, started by Chip Kelly, has always been “next man up.” Well, next man up.

Welcome to the show, Andre Yruretagoyena.

 

Follow Jason M. Gold on Twitter @TheSportsGuy33.

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College Football 2014: Which Freshmen Will Have Biggest Impact This Season

Freshmen will have an impact across college football in 2014. Whether it be Leonard Fournette toting the rock for LSU or Jabrill Peppers roaming the secondary for Michigan, first-year players will make their presence known.

Who are some of the biggest names to watch? Watch as B/R's experts break down this year's top incoming freshmen.

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Ohio State Football: Urban Meyer's Takeaways from Buckeyes' Second Scrimmage

Initially open but later closed off to the media, the Ohio State football team held its second scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday with two weeks to go until its season opener against Navy. And while reporters weren't there to witness it, Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer met with the media afterwards to provide an update on his team in advance of its final week of fall camp.

Braxton Miller's health, the development of Ohio State's defense and a somewhat solidified offensive line dominated the conversation as the Buckeyes still face several questions heading into the 2014 campaign. But their head coach likes where they stand heading into his third season in Columbus, as Ohio State chases a spot in the first ever College Football Playoff.

 

Braxton Battling

After undergoing offseason shoulder surgery in February, Miller was supposed to be back at full strength in time for fall camp, but that didn't turn out to be the case. Instead, the two-time reigning Big Ten MVP has been severely limited in practice, even sitting out his team's first scrimmage on Aug. 9.

Miller managed to take part in the Buckeyes' second scrimmage although it was clear he was far from full-go. Meyer still maintains that he'll be ready to go when Ohio State takes the field for its season opener against Navy—he's just not there quite yet.

"Limited throws is where he's at," Meyer said. "From what [the training staff] tells me, he's right on schedule. But you'd like to have him do a bit more."

On Monday, Miller stood by during the Buckeyes' opening practice of a two-a-day session but was expected to take part in OSU's afternoon practice. More than anything from a physical standpoint, Meyer said that he can see something in his star player's demeanor that lets him know that when push comes to shove, he'll be good to go.

"I know he'll be ready. I've known Braxton for three years," Meyer said. "It's almost like looking at your son, and you can see in his face if he's concerned. And he's not. I trust that he'll be ready."

But ultimately, Meyer did concede that Miller's limited availability has hindered the Buckeyes to a certain degree this offseason.

"I'd like to be able to run the first team out there and go," Meyer admitted. "And we're not able to do that."

 

Looking Like A Line

Replacing four multiyear starters from a season ago, no position group on the Buckeyes roster faces more questions than Ohio State's offensive line. But with two weeks to go until the start of the season, Meyer likes what he's seen, with three players having already locked up starting spots for the coming campaign.

"Darryl Baldwin is the starting right tackle," Meyer announced on Saturday. "Darryl Baldwin is one of the most improved players on the team. You have [right guard] Pat Elflein, Darryl Baldwin and [left tackle] Taylor Decker are the three starters."

That leaves holes at left guard and center, where Meyer has plenty of options at each. The third-year OSU head coach mentioned Jacoby Boren, Joel Hale, Chase Farris, Billy Price, Antonio Underwood and Chad Lindsay as all potential starters but admitted that he's concerned that he doesn't have two from the group just yet.

"The good news is we have a couple of names in there," Meyer said. "The bad thing is that it's not solidified yet."

 

Defensive Development

It was just eight months ago that the Buckeyes defense found itself under fire after finishing the 2013 season by surrendering a combined 1,014 yards and 74 points in its final two games—both Ohio State losses. Enter new Buckeyes co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash, who was brought in from Arkansas to help overhaul OSU's defensive scheme.

So far, it's been so good, according to Meyer, who says that his defense's new philosophy is unique in that it places a premium on stopping the pass rather than the run.

"The biggest issue is the ability to think from the back end forward, which probably hasn't really been done here or many places," Meyer said. "College football has always been run the ball, stop the run. And when you're facing some really good throwing teams or you have a Sammy Watkins, you have to be able to get more than one hand on him. We have the ability to do that now. ... So far, it's exactly how I wanted to see it look."

In particular, Meyer has been pleased with his safeties, as Ohio State breaks in two new starters following the departures of C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant. But a youthful group of highly touted prospects has taken advantage of the opportunity, both on the first team as well as the second.

"Safety is strong," Meyer said. "You've got Cam Burrows, Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell and then Erick Smith right on his toes. [Ron] Tanner would be the fifth."

 

Dog Days Of Summer

Two weeks in and with two weeks to go in fall camp, it's not uncommon for a team to begin dealing with injuries at this time of year—and Ohio State is no different. Held out of the Buckeyes' scrimmage on Saturday were cornerbacks Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore as well as wide receiver Devin Smith, each of whom are expected to contribute significantly this season.

Nevertheless, Meyer maintains that his team remains on track despite a few minor setbacks.

"We're two weeks out. We're going through the camp blues or the dog days or whatever you call it," Meyer said. "That's what's going on right now."

Meyer was, however, quick to note that the Buckeyes have only endured two season-ending injuries—freshmen Kyle Berger and Dylan Thompson—to this point. But that doesn't mean that the minor health issues haven't hampered Ohio State as its battle with the Midshipmen approaches.

"The good thing is that there's been minimal season-ending injuries," Meyer said. "The bad thing is that there's been no consistency due to nagging injuries."

 

A New No. 2

While a promotion to Ohio State's second team may not be big news otherwise, it was on Saturday when Meyer announced that J.T. Barrett had passed Cardale Jones as the Buckeyes' top backup quarterback. That could be viewed as a surprise to some after Jones appeared to have a firm grasp on OSU's top understudy spot entering fall camp.

"J.T. Barrett's moved slightly ahead of Cardale in the quarterback derby," Meyer revealed "That's because of his opportunities."

Given Miller's injury history—he's yet to make it through an entire college football season fully healthy—Ohio State's backup quarterback spot is an important one, as Kenny Guiton proved a season ago. Asked what the redshirt freshman has done to seize his moment, Meyer pointed to a new sense of maturity that's apparent in both Barrett's game and mindset

"Just functionality, completing passes and understanding everything," Meyer pointed to as areas where Barrett's made strides. "He's grown up a little bit. He kind of always used to be a quiet guy. Now, he's starting to act like a quarterback."

 

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 comes courtesy of 247Sports.

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Arizona State Unveils New Copper-Themed Uniforms for 2014-15 Season

The Arizona State Sun Devils have found a way to include copper on a uniform for this upcoming season.

In order to pay tribute to Arizona's copper production, Nike has incorporated copper into every part of the Sun Devils' new uniform. The main color of the uniform is anthracite, but copper is a big part of the new look. From the helmet to the jersey to the pants, it can be found everywhere.

Here's what coach Todd Graham had to say about the new look, via the Arizona State Sun Devils:

We wanted to pay homage to this great state while keeping the team’s look consistent. We are one of the top few teams in the nation with as many looks and combinations as we have, and this plays an important role in building a national fanbase and molding Arizona State University into a household name.

Arizona State will wear the anthracite and copper uniforms at some point this season, but no game has been selected yet.

Here are some more looks at the uniforms:

 

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Projecting USC Football's New-Look Offense for 2014 Season

Steve Sarkisian joked at Pac-12 media days that the biggest change he's introducing in his first season as USC's new head coach are "glow-in-the-dark uniforms."

Fans need not brace themselves for neon duds, but Sarkisian is introducing at least one dramatic change in the coming season. 

"Obviously, the uptempo [offense] is a big change," Sarkisian said. "We're going to go fast, and that is something that will be very different than has ever been seen at the Coliseum."

This year's Trojans are abandoning the offensive style past Trojans employed, seemingly dating back to the leather-helmet era.

OK, so the pro-style may not be quite that firmly entrenched into USC tradition, but it was part of the program's identity. 

Of course, the introduction of a no-huddle system doesn't mean USC will emulate Pac-12 counterpart Washington State by lining up four or five receivers every down. Neither will the Trojans be running the zone-read option Arizona's Rich Rodriguez is known to employ. 

"The schemes are going to look similar, but we are going to go fast," Sarkisian said.

USC's new system is more of a modern twist to the traditional concepts. But what exactly does that entail? 

Nearly nine months of suspense come to a head on Aug. 30 when the Trojans' new-look offense is unveiled against Fresno State. Spring practices, fall camp and Sarkisian's 2013 Washington Huskies offer some insight into what can be expected of USC this season.

Washington took 1,023 snaps through 13 games in 2013, 17th most in the nation and 99 more than USC had in 14 games.

As this season is for the Trojans, 2013 was the Huskies' first operating in the hurry-up system, and their number of plays increased from 904 the season prior. 

That breaks down to fewer than 10 more snaps per game, which may not seem significant on the surface. But for Washington, those extra snaps were taken in three minutes, 10 seconds of possession less per game than the 2012 season. 

Extra snaps obviously equate to more touches to be spread among the offensive playmakers. And, since Sarkisian promises a continuation of USC's longstanding run-pass balance, the extra opportunities should spread to the run and the pass accordingly. 

In other words, USC should have roughly 40 passes and 60 rushes more for which to account. 

Quarterback Cody Kessler is tasked with distributing those additional touches.

Sarkisian said the redshirt junior is uniquely equipped to handle to the on-the-fly improvisation necessary to flourish in the uptempo offense.

"He can make and see things extremely well and make decisive decisions quickly," Sarkisian said. "I think that comes from his basketball experience, playing point guard, having him make those types of decisions."

Comparing the modern tempo of college football offenses to basketball is nothing new, and Sarkisian brings up an interesting point. The back-and-forth pace on the hardwood doesn't allow for huddles between each sequence, so the point guard gets his play-call from the sidelines. 

This is true for a quarterback running a no-huddle offense. And, like a basketball team getting out in transition, the hurry-up offense's goal is putting the defense back on its heels. 

Kessler's ability to do that effectively will be an immediate boon for his individual production. 

The change in systems benefited Washington's Keith Price last season virtually across the board. His completion percentage, yards per pass attempt, touchdowns and interceptions all improved markedly. 

Price also distributed his passes more evenly among his teammates. His total number of attempts dipped in 2013, yet he connected 20 or more times with six different receivers. In 2012, he found just four different targets for 20 or more receptions. 

That uptick in distribution bodes well for Kessler with Marqise Lee gone for the NFL. Lee was the focal point of the Trojans' passing attack in 2012 and through the first half of 2013, before battling injury. 

USC returns talented playmaker Nelson Agholor, who last season caught a team-high 918 yards on 56 receptions. Agholor is likely to exceed 60 catches in his junior campaign. 

Darreus Rogers is a breakout candidate, and Victor Blackwell was involved in some noteworthy plays during fall camp. 

George Farmer is a potential X-factor. Injuries and position changes have hindered Farmer thus far into his USC career, but Kessler is seeing him develop into a weapon. 

"He's making cuts he wouldn't have made eight months ago," Kessler said last month at Pac-12 media days. "He's really starting to get back into the swing of football." 

Keeping Kessler upright is crucial for USC to push the tempo, but last year protecting him was sometimes an issue. The Trojans gave up 34 sacks to rank No. 104 in the nation. 

That was bad, but Washington's 38 sacks allowed in 2012 were worse. Price's struggles in his junior campaign were partially attributable to porous protection.

The Huskies shaved eight off that total in 2013—not necessarily ideal, and not particularly impressive on the surface. But with Washington running almost 120 plays more in 2013 than 2012, sacks were coming far less frequently. 

And, in general, Price was able to operate with far less duress. Similarly, Kessler's acclimation to the hurry-up will rely heavily on the offensive line's development. 

Offensive line play is USC's biggest question mark heading into the season, so look for the Trojans to particularly emphasize building from the rush through the first few weeks.  

Past USC teams have employed multiple ball-carriers, and that won't change with the arrival of the no-huddle. 

Sarkisian leaned primarily on one, workhorse back to shoulder much of the responsibility in his time at Washington, whether it was Chris Polk or Bishop Sankey. But Sarkisian didn't have two proven No. 1 backs at Washington, as he does in USC's Javorius "Buck" Allen and Tre Madden. 

Madden rushed for 703 yards on 138 carries last season, and he exceeded 90 yards in each of the first five games.

Getting him back healthy from a hamstring injury means opposing run defenses will get no relief from a relentless ground attack. 

"[Madden is] definitely a big asset for this team," Kessler told Rich Hammond of the Orange County Register. "I think him and Buck will be a really good one-two punch."

Sophomore Justin Davis also figures to be in the mix. Davis has impressed in fall camp and appears to be fully recovered from the foot injury that shelved him midway through last season. 

The trio should split somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 carries. Allen and Madden could combine for around 400 of those. However, Davis is fast making his case to be more than just a change-of-pace option. 

No matter who is getting the touches, Allen told Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times the no-huddle offense means one thing: 

"There's enough to go around," he said.  

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics compiled via CFBstats.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why Recent Recruiting Losses Shouldn't Worry Crimson Tide Fans

The script flipped for Alabama this past weekend, as a pair of SEC opponents plucked two prized prospects from the Crimson Tide's clutches. Well on his way to an unprecedented fifth straight No. 1 recruiting class, head coach Nick Saban certainly won't wallow in despair about the duo's sudden departure.

Supporters of the team in Tuscaloosa and beyond should adopt a similar attitude after experiencing a slight—and rare—step backward on the recruiting trail.

Keep calm and roll on.

Did Alabama lose a versatile 2015 defensive end when Jonathan Ledbetter pledged his allegiance to Georgia? Sure.

Would defensive tackle Benito Jones have become a foundational member of the Tide's 2016 class had he not jumped over to Ole Miss? Probably.

However, in today's recruiting climate, few programs overcome a bump setbacks en route to national signing day like Alabama. Do you think offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is still lamenting the loss of 5-star quarterback Ricky Town?

The Tide acted swiftly following his flip to USC and identified multiple targets, many of whom have dual-threat skill that simply haven't been featured at the position during an incredibly successful run.

National champions Greg McElroy and AJ McCarron combined to rush for five touchdowns during the past five seasons. Town, another prototypical pocket passer, would have maintained that mold. Instead, Alabama altered its course and appeared intent on landing a dual-threat talent.

Saban found his man in Southern California quarterback Blake Barnett, who initially committed to Notre Dame last year.

"Coach Kiffin and Coach Saban were very fond about the idea of their quarterback being able to run the ball several times in each game," he said following an Elite 11 practice in Beaverton, Oregon. "It's something they were looking for, and it made sense as a fit for me."

A sensational summer and Elite 11 title sent Barnett soaring in national rankings, moving ahead of Town in the process. Barnett projects as a playmaker who can challenge for the starting job as an underclassman and bring a new dynamic to Alabama's talent-laden lineup.

"When a play breaks down and the pocket starts to close in, I can make things happen," he said. "I think I'll be able to bring that element to the offense and maybe open things up for other teammates."

That's one heck of a way to fill the massive hole left behind by Town.

Alabama has lost three commitments during past month (Jones, Ledbetter and top-ranked inside linebacker Leo Lewis), but the Tide managed to plunder other recruiting classes in the process.

Earlier this month, Alabama bolstered its secondary by flipping 4-star defensive backs Rico McGraw (Georgia) and Ronnie Harrison (UNC). They join a stacked backfield that already includes 2014 5-star signees Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey.

Both of those coveted cornerbacks committed during the final stretch toward last signing day. They filled needs created by the departures of Stephen Roberts and Kalvaraz Bessent, who flipped to Auburn and didn't carry the same clout in recruiting rankings as their eventual successors.

When it comes to replacing Ledbetter and Jones, just look at the impressive list of defensive linemen who've expressed interest in attending Alabama. Rest assured, Saban will find new beasts up front.

Rashan Gary, a 5-star 2015 defensive tackle, deserves to be in the conversation when it comes to naming America's top rising junior. The New Jersey native has expressed significant interest in Alabama since receiving an offer.

He currently maintains strong communication with assistant coach Mario Cristobal and listed the Tide, Michigan and Ohio State as teams "I’m talking to the most," per Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports.

While speaking at The Opening, he admitted an opportunity to play in the SEC could eventually create an advantage for Alabama.

"It felt like things really reached a new level when the SEC offers started arriving," Gary said. "When I realized those teams decided early that they want me, it was an honor. That's grown-man football."

More immediate attention is needed when it comes to replacing Ledbetter, who is rated fifth nationally among strong-side defensive ends in 247Sports' composite rankings.

Alabama already has a superb stable of talent at the position but remains in pursuit of pass-rushers in this class who can dominate the edge. Top possibilities include CeCe Jefferson (Florida) and Kyle Phillips (Tennessee).

Though some rivals may have reveled in a rough weekend for Alabama's recruiting efforts, any hopes for a full-scale class implosion is foolhardy.

Saban has set a sky-high standard in Tuscaloosa and should feel confident he can raise the bar even higher by the end of this cycle.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football: Final Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

In less than two short weeks, the Alabama football team will finally hit the field in a competitive game against somebody other than itself for the first time since a crushing 45-31 loss to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl to end the 2013 season.

Can the Crimson Tide get back to the top of the college football mountain?

That will be the question on just about everybody’s mind during the 2014 season. The talent is certainly there, but Alabama also has more question marks than it has had in recent memory—not the least of which is at the game’s most important position.

And so, as things stand right now, here are our final Alabama game-by-game predictions for the 2014 season.

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