NCAA Football News
The 2014 season is unofficially dubbed "Year of the Quarterback" in the Pac-12, thanks to 10 talented returning starters.
Leading the pack is Oregon redshirt junior Marcus Mariota. His teammates on the defensive side of the ball will have their hands full against the deepest crop of playmakers in the nation.
A variety of contrasting quarterbacking styles await the Ducks defense in 2014. Oregon will see dual-threat quarterbacks capable of exploiting openings on the ground, air-raid QBs ready to air it out all game long and under-center signal-callers.
In Pac-12 play, Oregon sees Arizona and Washington, the conference's only two teams without returning starters. Otherwise, the conference slate features one proven challenge after another.
Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics compiled via CFBStats.com.
It may be a "down" year for quarterbacks in the SEC, but Auburn's developing defense will definitely not have it easy this season.
While perennial powerhouses Alabama and LSU still have not named starting quarterbacks for 2014, other contenders in the SEC—and even one of Auburn's non-conference opponents—feature several talented quarterbacks who will be eager to test the strength of a Tigers pass defense that was shaky at best last season.
Some of these signal-callers also have dual-threat abilities that will make them even more of a challenging matchup on the Tigers' schedule, which is considered to be one of the toughest in college football. How Auburn performs against these top quarterbacks will go a long way in determining its chances at another trip to the national title game.
With a few weeks to go before the start of the defending SEC champions' 2014 campaign, let's take a look at the five best returning quarterbacks Auburn will face this season.
The classic mannequin prank never gets old.
In order to show off new equipment and uniform combinations, the Clemson Tigers set up a few mannequins at the WestZone at Memorial Stadium. However, there was a bit of a twist.
Quarterback Cole Stoudt posed as a mannequin so he could scare unsuspecting teammates, staff and fans. The results, which include Stoudt getting slapped, are fantastic.
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The 2014 college football season can't come soon enough, and along with the excruciating wait comes the infamous preseason top 25 rankings, starting with the Amway Coaches Poll.
The system has received some flak for releasing standings before a single game is even played, and it's typically wise not to look too much into the Top 25 until the season runs its course a bit. But with juggernauts like Alabama, Oregon, Auburn and especially defending champion Florida State at the top, there is plenty to be made about these opening rankings.
With that said, there might be a program not even on the list that will end up representing their school in the first ever College Football Playoff. It's far from fool-proof, as we've seen teams like Auburn go from unranked in the preseason to the cusp of a title months later.
Here is how the first Amway Coaches Poll provided by USA Today:
Breaking Down Top 25
Even before Kelvin Benjamin skied up to make the championship-winning catch that put Florida State over Auburn, there was little doubt the Seminoles would start 2014 as the top team in the land.
Jameis Winston is coming off a Heisman campaign entering his redshirt sophomore year—yes, sophomore. He only looked mortal for about one half of the entire 2013 season, which he quickly rebounded from in the BCS National Championship Game to win it all.
Winston loses a few of his top targets. But with 13 returning starters, stockpiled top recruiting classes and a nasty defense, there's no safer bet than the Seminoles to make the new playoff, as ESPN Stats and Information noted:
But if they get there, that will just be the start.
After Florida State, the Top Five is understandably packed with the SEC's elite. Never far behind—if at all behind—is Nick Saban and Alabama at No. 2.
Recent staples like A.J. McCarron and C.J. Mosley are gone, and Saban doesn't even know who his starting quarterback will be entering fall camp. But an incredible stretch of recruiting and depth-building should allow the Crimson Tide to be a force yet again, not to mention the sour taste of ending last year 0-2.
Right in the thick of things with Alabama is No. 3 Oklahoma. The Sooners ended 2013 just about as solid as you can without lifting the national title trophy, convincingly beating the Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl.
One can never count out Oregon's mix of speed and talent, either. If the three coaches who slotted the Ducks as their No. 1 team are right, Mark Helfrich's squad might rebound from a rocky 2013 to win the Pac-12 and threaten the playoff.
Of course, then there's the rest of the SEC. Alabama has four teams just from the cutthroat SEC West accompanying it in the rankings, including arch-rival Auburn—last year's Cinderella. Steve Spurrier's South Carolina team cracked the Top 10, but other powerhouses like LSU and Georgia are also lurking in the Top 15.
With title-contending schools like No. 6 Ohio State, No. 8 Michigan State, No. 7 UCLA and No. 10 Baylor also in the fold, it's splitting hairs to decide which four teams will survive and advance to the playoff.
Much of the college football world got their wish when the four-team College Football Playoff was announced, and we're only a few gridiron-packed months away from figuring out who it will feature.
But with so many contenders vying for four exclusive spots, the stakes will be enormous from Week 1 all the way to the conference championships.
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Nick Saban has led Alabama to three national championships since 2009, so he's kind of a big deal to the team's fans. Watch the video to see just how much Crimson Tide fans love their coach.
Fans sprinted across the field at Alabama's annual Fan Day at Bryant-Denny Stadium just to stand in line to wait to get Saban's autograph. Fans can get autographs from their favorite players as well, but the coach easily had the longest line.
As we know, football is all that matters to Crimson Tide fans. Even for Fan Day, some fans really get into it. AL.com's Alex McDaniel reported that one fan camped out from Wednesday to Sunday to make sure that he was the first one in line.
An Auburn fan has already set some of the video to the "Kick Six" radio call (h/t SB Nation):
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Finally, after years of clamoring from fans and the allure of a huge television contract becoming too much to bear, the NCAA has finally relented on a College Football Playoff. The four-team format goes into place for this season, creating a system whereby the constant controversy surrounding the title picture should cease.
With everything new in sports, though, comes one question: What in the world is going on?
The concept of a playoff is easy to understand in other sports. Win more games than your divisional opponent and you're in. Win enough games to earn a wild-card berth and you're in. Everything is black, white and easy to understand; even tiebreakers have spelled-out rules.
College football's playoff teams are decided on a much more subjective level.
Winning 12 games in the MAC is not as good as winning 11 in the SEC. When given the choice between an undefeated mid-major and two-loss major-conference team, there is no guarantee the team with the better record gets the bid. Because, of course, unlike professional sports, not all collegiate programs are playing on an even field.
Strength of schedule, quality of opponent and scoring margin—things that matter in pro sports but aren't factored into playoff berths—play an important role. This isn't even a system like the NCAA basketball tournaments, which guarantees an opportunity for each conference tournament winners.
Four teams. That's it. How are they determined? Let's take a quick look at the format and break it all down.
College Football Playoff Format
Pretty much nothing changes about the college football regular season. Teams play their schedules, go through the motions and then see where they end up. However, instead of there being only two slots to compete for a potential national championship, the number has doubled to four.
Even the general gist of the past BCS era stays the same. Similar to how the computer rankings would start publicly trickling out midseason, the same goes for the College Football Playoff poll. Each week beginning Oct. 28, the 13-person panel tasked with selecting the four finalists will release a Top 25.
"The concept will be, if the season ended today, these will be the rankings," College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock told reporters in May.
This creates a few problems. Notably, part of the point of creating a committee rather than using computerized polls was eliminating the week-to-week headaches of percentage points. The committee is required to use a generalized criteria featuring the same tenets of the BCS: strength of schedule, head-to-head record, conference strength, etc.
By releasing a poll every week, some of the more methodical nature will be eliminated. The NCAA college basketball committee, for instance, does not release a top 68 the entire season until it is time to select the final field. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, as schools should immediately get an idea of what the committee is judging.
The final rankings are released the week of the conference championship games. The four teams selected are then seeded based on their ranking—like a general bracket. The top-ranked team in the country plays No. 4, with No. 2 and No. 3 going head-to-head.
Semifinal matchups take place on New Year's Day, with the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl playing host this year. (The semifinals will be on a rotation between the six biggest bowl games—Rose, Sugar, Cotton, Orange, Peach and Fiesta.)
On Jan. 12, the two semifinal winners will go head-to-head for the national championship. This year's game will be played at Arlington's AT&T Stadium. Each title game is subject to a bidding process and will take place on the second Monday in January in most cases.
College Football Playoff Predictions
No. 1 Florida State
The Seminoles are atop nearly everybody's preseason poll for good reason. That reason being that they are very good at playing football. Florida State returns 13 starters from its 2013 team—a unit that happened to, surprise, be very good at playing football as well.
Jameis Winston enters his sophomore season as the favorite to become the second back-to-back Heisman winner in history. While his offseason has been ripe with controversy, Winston has never shown any signs of breaking on the field. He threw for 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns against just 10 interceptions last season.
Those numbers should provide a benchmark for the Seminoles, who return nearly all their firepower from last year's attack. Four of the five offensive linemen who protected Winston return and so does leading receiver Rashad Greene and his 1,128-yard producing self. Losing Kelvin Benjamin, Kenny Shaw and Devonta Freeman hurts, but Jimbo Fisher has enough talent in the stable to make it work.
Karlos Williams and Ryan Green should be a strong one-two punch in the backfield. Jesus Wilson's suspension and arrest were ill-timed, yet he still has the potential to be special out of the slot. Christian Green, a redshirt senior, will finally get his opportunity to shine.
The concerns in Tallahassee are surprisingly more on the defensive side.
The Seminoles lost five starters from last year's world-beating unit and might not possess the complete lockdown dominance they did against the pass. P.J. Williams is going to have to come back from his national championship Defensive MVP status and become one of the nation's best cornerbacks.
Between Williams and Ronald Darby, Florida State might have the most talented defensive back duo in the nation.
This is a reloading season, not a rebuilding one. Florida State remains the title favorite until proven otherwise.
No. 2 Alabama
Another year and it's another awesome Alabama team. The College Football Playoff feels like it was designed for Nick Saban. No one in the sport is better at meticulously breaking down an opponent's strengths than Saban. He's lost just two bowl games since arriving at Alabama and holds an 8-4 bowl record since the turn of the century.
It also helps that he consistently works with the best talent in the country. Alabama has come away with the best recruiting class in the country each of the last four years, per 247Sports, and is now becoming fully reliant on those players' development.
The Tide return eight starters on offense, though one that is missing is arguably the biggest.
For the first time in three seasons, someone other than AJ McCarron will be playing quarterback. Who that signal-caller will be, though, is perhaps the biggest offseason storyline for Alabama. Jake Coker and Blake Sims have been battling all spring and summer to land on top, with neither player having much of an edge.
Sims, a redshirt senior, has a ton of support in the locker room. He's kept his head down for four seasons as a backup and has worked tirelessly to earn his moment under center. Cooker, a Florida State transfer, has a ton of talent. He is also more of the traditional Saban mold, a pro-style caretaker who won't be prone to many mistakes.
Once the quarterback situation is settled, the offense should fall into place. T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry give Alabama perhaps the nation's best thunder/lightning situation at running back. Amari Cooper should be in for a breakout junior season after battling injuries and inconsistency in 2013. The Tide have enough talent that they should never have anything less than an elite offensive line.
While only five starters return on the defensive side, Saban's young unit has a ton of talent. A'Shawn Robinson, Dillon Lee and Brandon Sylve should be in for major strides this upcoming season. Plus...Nick Saban da gawd at defense. That perfect piece of prose is how we will choose to end this subheadline.
No. 3 Oklahoma
We follow Alabama with the team that waxed the Tide in last year's Sugar Bowl. After years of getting lambasted as being unable to win big games, Bob Stoops has quietly captured four bowl wins in the last five years—two of which came on the BCS stage.
The Sooners come into 2014 with national championship hopes, thanks in large part to a bevy of returning talent. Sixteen starters from an 11-2 squad are expected to be in the Week 1 lineup, including nine on the defensive side.
Eric Striker, Dominique Alexander and Frank Shannon comprise a linebacking corps that is quietly among the nation's best.
Mike Stoops has followed an interesting trajectory since coming back to Oklahoma in 2012, but he seems to finally be putting together a defense in his image. Oklahoma allowed just 22.1 points per game last season—pittance in the offense-oriented Big 12—and should be even better with so many young guys getting reps.
Worth noting: Only four projected starters are seniors. Barring early departures for the NFL, the Sooners are going to have an elite defense for at least the next two seasons. Times are good in the Stoops household.
On the flippity flip, the offense remains largely unsolved. After a largely miserable freshman season, Trevor Knight will again get to ply his trade at quarterback. Knight was marvelous in the Sugar Bowl, throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns, but that performance was an anomaly when judged against his seven other appearances.
Take away the Alabama triumph and Knight was a 52.2 percent passer with one more touchdown than interception. Stoops will have to hope Knight's considerable talent starts shining through. Otherwise, Stoops' best team in more than a half-decade could go down in flames.
No. 4 Ohio State
Let's call this an obligatory mention. Ohio State, as is the case most seasons, is demonstratively better than any other Big Ten team. Wisconsin and Michigan State are the only teams within shouting distance, and the Badgers might have been a little overrated by the coaches at No. 14.
The Buckeyes return only 12 starters, but they do so at important positions. Braxton Miller has to become the superstar we've all been fed the last couple of seasons.
Miller's progress has been incremental since his breakout freshman campaign. He's still yet to show consistent accuracy with his ball placement, he's really struggled against top-level defenses and his injury-riddled campaign last season proved his body might not be up to playing Urban Meyer's style over the long haul.
Miller is also in the process of recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.
Miller told reporters at Big Ten media days:
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.
Devin Smith and Evan Spencer give Miller two senior wideouts to act as his top targets. While running backs Dontre Wilson and Ezekiel Elliott are largely unproven, both come with elite pedigrees and were effective in limited carries last season.
The big worry for the Buckeyes will come on the offensive line, which is undergoing a complete overhaul. If Miller, Wilson and Elliott start the season slow, we might want to start craning our necks at the big guys up front.
Ohio State has additional questions in the secondary, with Bradley Roby departing early for the NFL and Christian Bryant graduating.
The team will also be dealing with the loss of Ryan Shazier, which leaves a hole in the linebacking corps and the locker room. With the Buckeyes hosting Michigan and Virginia Tech and their only difficult road game coming against Michigan State, 2014 might be the season the Meyer era truly kicks off.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.
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Jabrill Peppers was the top athlete in the class of 2014, according to 247Sports Composite. Currently in Ann Harbor, Peppers is grinding right now to prepare for his first season as a Michigan Wolverine.
He took some time out to talk with Bleacher Report about the top 10 things he is most excited for at Michigan.
How well do you think he will do during the 2014 season?
Watch the video and let us know.
Rankings from 247Sports Composite.
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The SEC's quarterback talent pool isn't as deep in 2014 as fans have grown accustomed to seeing over the league's past few decorated seasons.
Couple that with the Tennessee Volunteers not having to face Auburn (and Nick Marshall) this season, and head coach Butch Jones' youthful defense can be thankful that its schedule isn't brimming with top-shelf signal-callers.
That doesn't mean that the Vols can breathe easy, though.
Even with stars such as Johnny Manziel, Aaron Murray and A.J. McCarron gone and stalwarts Connor Shaw and Zach Mettenberger moving on as well, UT must face plenty of capable quarterbacks.
That Florida's Jeff Driskel—who threw up career numbers against the Vols two seasons ago—didn't make the list of most dangerous quarterbacks on UT's schedule is enough evidence that there are plenty of defensive tests looming.
From speedy dual-threat players who've given the Vols fits for years to dropback passers with the players around them to produce big numbers, UT's schedule is rife with capable field generals.
A couple of out-of-conference quarterbacks carrying plenty of preseason hype will boost the competition as well.
So, let's take a look at the top five quarterbacks the Vols will face in 2014.
The ranking criteria were based on several factors, including the quarterbacks' skill sets versus Tennessee's perceived defensive weaknesses, as well as the weapons around them and their ability to get them the football.
The 2015 recruiting class is comprised of star performers from every part of the country, creating a compelling mix of future college football standouts. Just six months separate us from national signing day, and members of the group are set to embark on one final high school season.
It's an appropriate time to reassess a special collection of playmakers, from golden-armed quarterbacks to the disruptive defenders ready to spend their upcoming years chasing them down. Updated national rankings provide us with an opportunity to analyze the top competitors in this class.
We broke down their potential based on game tape and in-person evaluations at The Opening, an annual invite-only prospect showcase we attended at Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, this summer.
Here's a look at the top 200 college football recruits of this 2015 cycle, with an eye on how each could impact the college game for years to come.
This article is part of Bleacher Report's CFB 200 Recruiting Rankings Series. The overall rankings are based on the 247Sports composite system, which takes into account every recruiting service's rankings. The positional rankings also correspond with those composite scores.
2014 will be a difficult year for the Trojans given their well-known depth issues due to the just-completed sanctions that cost them 30 scholarships over the last three years.
To make things even more problematic for USC is the fact that they will be playing a very difficult schedule this year in a Pac-12 conference that features no less than six teams ranked in the USA Today coaches preseason poll.
Along the way, the Trojans will face several top quarterbacks on their schedule and, despite having a top-notch defense, these gunslingers will present major challenges for the men of Troy.
This slideshow will take a look at the quarterbacks the Trojans will face in 2014 and rank them in terms of the obstacles they present to Justin Wilcox's defense.
Although USC will see many top quarterbacks this year and all will present hurdles for the defense to surmount, here are the five who are the best on the Trojans' 2014 schedule.
Note: Rankings are predicated on the quality of the quarterback, teams the quarterbacks play for and, to a lesser extent, the venue where the game will take place.
While they say defense wins championships, college football has become a quarterback league more than ever, and the position has made a massive impact on the outcome of the game. In other words, games a lot of times are only as difficult as the quarterback who is leading that particular team.
The good news is that the SEC lost a ton of last season’s starting quarterbacks, which should make life a little easier for the Florida Gators. No more AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray or Johnny Manziel. Instead, the quarterbacks the Gators will face this season have potential but aren’t nearly as accomplished as the guys who were just starting last season.
Besides a Heisman Trophy winner, the Gators have a rather easy slate of quarterbacks they’ll face this year.
The Pac-12 in particular is no joke when it comes to quarterback play. Without question, the conference boasts the best collection of talent at the position in the entire country.
Jim Mora and the UCLA football team will have to compete against quality signal-callers week in and week out. This piece will look at the best quarterbacks UCLA will face this upcoming year. The opponents will be listed in order starting with the fifth-toughest signal-caller, to the quarterback posing the biggest challenge.
Here's a look at the top quarterbacks the Bruins defense will have to go up against in '14.
Training camps are starting up all over the country for college football teams, the beginning of roughly four weeks of preparation for the opening games of the 2014 season in late August. It will be the first chance for coaches to see their returning players and a full crop of newcomers working together at one time, and the practices will help finalize lineups for those first contests.
The vast majority of starting jobs are locked up, either by returning starters or key reserves from 2013. In some cases, freshmen who enrolled early or transfers earned themselves a starting spot during spring practice. Whatever is undecided will get taken care of during training camp.
While every starting position is important for that specific school, there are a handful of unfilled jobs that are so critical to a team's performance and success in 2014 that they'll be the main focus of fall camp. And it's not just internally; it's from a national standpoint.
Here's a look at the 10 biggest position battles to keep an eye on during fall camp.
There will be plenty of Big Ten teams eager to make a run at a conference championship in 2014 and secure the likely resulting berth in the College Football Playoff. In order to make those dreams a reality, programs certainly need great coaching and steady on-field leadership from the upperclassmen.
Moving a team from good to championship-caliber greatness often requires some unexpected contributions from unexpected placed—like the freshmen.
Here, we'll take a look at each Big Ten football program and identify a first-year player (usually meaning true or redshirt freshmen) who can truly make a difference for his team.
Brady Hoke won't accept anything less than full cooperation and genuine dedication. Players are either in or they're out, and he made that clear while opening Michigan's fall camp.
Announced Sunday, via a press release, the fourth-year Wolverines coach has shelved wideout Csont’e York. According to the statement, due to rules violations, the 6’3”, 180-pound sophomore wasn’t invited to fall workouts.
“Csont’e York is suspended indefinitely for failing to meet team standards and will not report for fall camp,” Hoke said (via media contact Derek Satterfield). “We demand that every person in our program represent the University of Michigan and the Michigan football program the right way on and off the field. When people fall short of that, there are consequences.”
As of Sunday night, details of York’s transgressions hadn’t been made public. However, he’s allegedly "subject to an Ann Arbor Police Department investigation," according to Kyle Feldshrer of the Ann Arbor News (via Joshua Henschke of Maize n Brew).
Bouncing a likely contributor for who knows how long was the right move; eliminating the potential or probability of larger issues is the smart approach. Hoke needs his players and staff—not to mention the fans—to be focused on the guys on the field, not the ones screwing up away from it.
If you were looking for someone to immediately set the tone, look no further than Hoke, who is clearly all business as his team prepares to rebound from a disappointing 7-6 slide in 2013. By emphasizing the fundamentals, such as responsibility and chemistry, Hoke has the Wolverines in the position to move forward.
His players are developing, and he has Doug Nussmeier, the new offensive coordinator, to assist in jumpstarting Team 135. Plus there’s Greg Mattison’s defense.
This could be Hoke’s year.
Devin's the Dude (at WR)
By now, you’re aware that Devin Funchess is now a full-time receiver and no longer a tight-end-turned-receiver. In terms of the swap, the 6'5", 230-pound junior says he's all-in when it comes to his new post, per MLive.com’s Brendan F. Quinn:
Game on. With 748 yards in 2013, Funchess returns as the team's leading receiver and has two more years of destroying defensive backs ahead of him. However, his collegiate future has been the subject of rampant speculation for months.
He's a projected first-rounder. Will he decide to enter the 2015 NFL draft? If he chooses to do so, Wolverines fans should sit back, enjoy the ride and expect their team to get the most out of the former Farmington Hills Harrison star.
While the onus is on Funchess to produce, he's not the only one who's in line to flourish: Freddy Canteen, a true freshman, seems like the best option for the slot position; Amara Darboh, a redshirt sophomore, could be a breakout contributor; and Jehu Chesson could get some serious playing time this fall, too.
The video is dated, but it reinforces the idea of getting more in 2014.
After falling flat during its 31-14 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against Kansas State, Michigan turned to Nussmeier, then Alabama's OC, for guidance.
Renowned for his touch with quarterbacks, not to mention his success with the Tide's Grade-A running game, Nussmeier faces the task of turning Devin Gardner into a reliable leader and pushing the backfield to new (old Michigan) heights.
To say that Wolverines fans expect the world from him would probably be accurate. After watching Team 134 struggle mightily just to score a few touchdowns, fans want to see Team 135's Nuss-infused offense properly utilize its talent and blow the doors off the opposition.
During Big Ten media days, Gardner was praised by opponents as one the Big Ten's best. On top of that, Nussmeier has two highly rated running backs (maybe a third if Ty Isaac is cleared), a group of solid but generally untested receivers and a bunch of big guys up front.
Needless to say, fighting just to get 17 or 21 on the board should be a thing of the past under Nussmeier, who has streamlined things in Ann Arbor.
Want to hear Nussmeier at work? MGoBlue recently provided an inside look at one of his practices.
It's still under construction. What's new? With freshman left tackle Mason Cole in the mix, expect to see healthy competition for one of college football's storied positions. There are certain responsibilities that come with being a Wolverines blindsider. Whether Cole gets the job is entirely up to him.
After serving his one-game suspension for a violation of team rules, Graham Glasgow should be the No. 1 center. Kyle Kalis and Kyle Bosch are likely in line for the guard posts.
There will be more as camp rolls along. However, tying up loose ends and tightening up all the moving parts prior to full immersion seems to be Michigan's No. 1 priority.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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Ohio State may not play in the SEC or face the toughest schedule, but in 2014, the Buckeyes will take on a number of quarterbacks capable of derailing their title hopes.
The Buckeyes had a hard time defending the pass a season ago, allowing 268 yards per game. That ranked 110th nationally, and their deficiencies in the secondary ultimately cost them a shot at Florida State and a national title.
New co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash was brought in to overhaul Ohio State's pass defense. His ability to do so could determine whether the Buckeyes make a run at this year's College Football Playoff.
Some of these quarterbacks have hurt Ohio State in the past, while others are ranked mainly because of their elite skill set. One runs a unique and proven offensive system, while another has a supporting cast that makes him a dangerous threat.
Here are the five best signal-callers Ohio State will face in 2014.
The Georgia Bulldogs are a mere three practices into fall camp, but already concerns are being addressed, new stars are emerging and injuries are taking a toll. Here are some first impressions from the Dawgs' 2014 fall practice.
Jay Rome Establishing Himself at Tight End
When he signed with Georgia in 2011, Jay Rome was supposed to be the next great Bulldog tight end. The progression of Arthur Lynch and a series of untimely injuries derailed that destiny for Rome—at least temporarily. Now, the redshirt junior is battling back to good health and a prominent role in the Bulldog offense.
I’ve basically been working in and doing what I feel comfortable doing. I’m getting a lot better. I can see a whole bunch of improvement. Still a little rusty, a little shaky on a few different things but it’s just some stuff that I’m going to have to work through and just keep getting better every day and just monitor.
No other tight end on Georgia's roster boasts Rome's experience, and that will serve him well once he's back to full speed. He told Weiszer that his play will "speak for itself."
Freshmen Here to Play, Especially on Defense
Several of Georgia's newest Bulldogs are already making an impact on the defensive side of the ball.
Lorenzo Carter, the prize recruit of this year's class, has already made an impression on his teammates. Offensive tackle John Theus had nothing but praise for Carter when speaking to Seth Emerson of the Telegraph, pointing out the outside linebacker's speed, size and "nasty streak."
In the secondary, freshman Malkom Parrish and junior college transfer Shattle Fenteng are turning heads in the early parts of fall camp.
Parrish is playing both the cornerback and star position, and as Jake Reuse of UGASports.com points out, fellow defensive back J.J. Green thinks the freshman can play:
Meanwhile, Green told Emerson that size and length really set Fenteng apart at the cornerback position. "You see his size and think: He plays corner? He’s rangy, he’s lean. He can make plays that short people probably can’t make."
Injuries Still a Factor
Just a few short days ago, optimism surrounded Georgia's deep wide receiver rotation thanks to the return of Malcolm Mitchell, arguably the most talented playmaker of the bunch.
As Chip Towers reported for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mitchell is now expected to miss at least "the first part" of training camp.
Last year, Mitchell suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first quarter of the Dawgs' first game. Now, his future is yet again unknown. As a result of Mitchell's latest setback and an unknown timetable for the return of Justin Scott-Wesley, some fans fear the Bulldogs may once again be without a truly elite deep threat.
In reality, a number of Georgia players are capable of going the distance and getting behind opposing secondaries.
Storylines to Watch This Week
Georgia will move into full pad practices this week. A few developments worth keeping an eye on:
- Physical Freshmen: How will talented youngsters hold up against collegiate hits for the first time? Look for Carter and running back Nick Chubb to use their unique combinations of size and athleticism to make an impression.
- Offensive Line Lock-in: John Theus continues to rotate between left and right tackle and both guard positions remain somewhat up for grabs. With real pressure and real banging taking place in the trenches, a starting lineup should soon emerge.
- Defensive Secondary: Similarly, pads should bring some separation in the secondary, where new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has thus far utilized a deep rotation with little differentiation.
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"Ah, the quarterback. The player most responsible for making or breaking an entire offensive unit," says Laura Keeley of the Raleigh News & Observer.
The Miami Hurricanes will be tested by plenty of talented quarterbacks, but some are significantly better than the others. Strangely enough, every mentioned player's respective team must travel to Sun Life Stadium when slated to play the 'Canes.
A Virginia Tech player is missing, which is a noticeable change following successive years of a serious threat dating back to Michael Vick's college days.
Who was included instead?
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU fall camp is officially underway, and Les Miles is undoubtedly excited.
"We are looking forward to the practice schedule. Looking forward to improving," said Miles.
The Tigers reported to campus today and practice will begin tomorrow. This will be the first official full practice that includes most of the highly touted 2014 recruiting class.
Unfortunately for Miles, the entire team was not on campus.
LSU junior safety and projected starter Jalen Mills was arrested for second-degree battery in early June and was released less than 24 hours later, per The Daily Reveille. Mills was suspended indefinitely from the team.
“I really don’t know. I have not tried to, nor do I intend to, pressure the process in any way. Jalen Mills has a responsibility to handle his business. This is his business," said Miles.
Incoming freshman defensive tackle Travonte Valentine has yet to pass the academic qualifications required from NCAA Clearinghouse. Valentine has taken summer classes in South Florida and has yet to officially enroll at LSU, according to Geaux247.com.
"The reality is the high school and the Clearinghouse have to communicate. I think they're doing that, I think they're trying," said Miles.
Miles addressed a few more topics in his opening press conference.
LSU's starting quarterback will be either sophomore Anthony Jennings or freshman Brandon Harris. Miles was asked if there was a deadline for naming a starter and his answer, as it has all offseason, remained the same.
"Never have and never will. We'll have to see each day how they proceed," said Miles.
Miles did share what he was looking for from both Jennings and Harris.
"I think maturity is the key for both of them. Recognizing the style of throw, the kind of play and seeing them understand what we are trying to get accomplished. How we are attacking the defense," said Miles. "There is going to be that time in the game where you have the opportunity to extend the play and make a play. And their self interpretation at some point in time will be, in my opinion, the criteria in which you pick the starter."
There is no telling who will win the job, but experts seem to believe that Harris is the more gifted of the two.
"In terms of pure physical tools, he (Harris) is more talented than what LSU has," said ESPN's National Recruiting Director Tom Luginbill at SEC Media Days. "He can make all the throws."
LSU's offensive line returns four of its five starters, led by projected first-round NFL draft pick La'el Collins. Miles was asked if the group is the best he has ever had.
"I'm not ready to describe them as the best offensive line ever just yet. But I agree with how they are perceived, talented and capable," said Miles. "I need them to come to the field ready to play before I give them that tag."
The only vacancy is at right guard. Miles has yet to make a decision between Hoko Fanaika and Evan Washington, but he did say to expect both to see the field.
Freshman Wide Receivers
Replacing Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry will not be easy, especially while breaking in a new starting quarterback. The Tigers will need to have young players step in and make plays right away.
The Tigers' best overall position in their heralded 2014 recruiting class was arguably wide receiver, and the influx could not have come at a better time. Expect two of the four incoming freshman receivers, Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn, to eventually be in the rotation.
Miles said despite their youth, they will be ready to go.
"I've never had a problem with backup receivers learning how to play, especially with guys as talented as these guys," said Miles. "I can't imagine they won't have success doing the things we are going to ask them to do. I think they will put some real heat on the guys who might be starting."
LSU's No. 1 option will be Travin Dural, who returns as LSU's leading receiver. The rest of the returnees, which includes talented redshirt freshman John Diarse and senior Quantavius Leslie, will need to perform at a high level to challenge for a starting spot.
LSU lost starting defensive tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson this offseason. Johnson and Ferguson played a majority of the snaps last season and often got tired as them game went along.
LSU must have better depth at the position. If not, teams like Wisconsin and Alabama will wear them down with simple runs up the middle.
Despite uncertainty with Valentine's future, Miles feels comfortable with his starters and backups.
"(Christian) LaCouture and Quentin Thomas have had great summers, both of which played a lot of football a year ago," said Miles. "The next guys that go in the game, Frank Herron is a large defensive end with real mobility that has moved inside and I look forward to having a look at him. Qued (Marquedius) Bain has always been real athletic and (Greg) Gilmore has lost 20 pounds, which might be the lightest he has been since he has been here."
Miles is looking to make his practices as efficient as possible. LSU is only 29 days away from its season opener against Wisconsin and the coaching staff must make tough decisions at critical positions.
Repetitions are as important as anything for the youthful Tigers, especially learning all the nuances of Cam Cameron's offense and John Chavis' defense. Miles has decided to create an "emphasis period" in an effort to simulate the speed of an actual game.
At the back end of practices, we are going to call an 'emphasis period," said Miles. "We are not going to have contact, we are not going to have tackle football. But we are going to have competition. And the emphasis period is going to be as close to game-like conditions as possible and do it routinely...That will give those young guys getting snaps in game-like situations starting in the first practice even though it is not with the pressure of contact.
Miles emphasized his talented backups when further describing how the practices will be set up.
"We are going to divide the practices. There will be a two-deep morning practice and a two-deep afternoon practice with the offense and defense. We are going to take our best seconds (second string) and start them in the afternoon practice."
By switching up personnel groupings, Miles will also get a better look at who his most talented players are. There are plenty of backups who could easily take over starting roles by the season opener.
Miles will also switch up his quarterbacks often. This will allow Harris and Jennings to work with the first group, which gives both an equal opportunity to work with the best receivers.
"One day one will work with the morning group and the next day the guy will work with the afternoon group. We'll go back and forth between practices.
Defensive end Jermauria Rasco and safety Corey Thompson sat out spring practice while they recovered from injury. Miles said both are full speed and ready to go for fall.
Rasco is projected to start at defensive end alongside Danielle Hunter. The Tigers have plenty of depth behind them, but those two are the best and most experienced players at the position.
The uncertainty of Mills' future makes the Thompson news even better for LSU. Miles mentioned the names of Thompson, Ronald Martin, Rickey Jefferson, Jamal Adams and John Battle as players who could fill the two starting openings at safety.
Martin and Jefferson are the likely front-runners for now, but anything can happen with the talent the Tigers have in their secondary.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
The Texas A&M football team began fall practice Friday in preparation for their road-opener against South Carolina on Aug. 28. It was readily apparent that there have been some changes to this team since the end of the 2013 season.
The 2014 version of the Aggies will be younger than their 2013 counterpart, but more experienced and more talented. Head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff have done an excellent job turning the roster over and replenishing it with SEC-level talent.
The Aggies look like an SEC football team now. Whether or not that translates to more victories on the field remains to be seen. The absence of Johnny Manziel and his confident demeanor at practice is apparent.
This is a new team with new players waiting to step up and make their mark on the program. This is a look at some of the first impressions from the first couple of day of the Aggies' fall camp.