NCAA Football News

Grading Depth Charts for Every Top 25 College Football Team Entering 2014 Season

All across America, college campuses are springing to life with the sounds of football. Under the sweltering August sun, 105 or so men on every Football Bowl Subdivision campus have begun practicing and preparing for what lies ahead in the final weekend of this month: the 2014 regular season.

Coaches across America claim that “every job is open,” which is only partially true. No one is dethroning Jameis Winston at Florida State or Brett Hundley at UCLA or Landon Collins at Alabama.

Here’s the truth: There are competitions across the nation, some of them more intense than others. Every team has strengths and weaknesses. Areas they know they need to shore up and areas they’ll lean on this fall.

In this feature, we’ll take a look at each Top 25 college football team’s depth chart entering the 2014 season, and grade it accordingly. We used the Amway Coaches Poll as our basis. 

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Nebraska Looking to Practice the 'Right Way' with Catapult GPS Trackers

When it comes to practice, Nebraska is looking to do it the right way with Catapult GPS trackers. While information on the trackers is still limited, the media got a first look at what the Cornhuskers are hoping to accomplish.

“They can track these guys, built up some data and learn a lot as far as making sure we’re tailoring practice the right way, not only for performance, but for injury prevention and that type of thing,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelinitold reporters.

The Catapult GPS system is new to Nebraska. In fact, it's relatively new to the college football landscape in general. On Catapult's website, only 15 NCAA programs are listed, which does not include Nebraska yet.

Florida State is one of those 15 programs listed, and Jimbo Fisher isn't afraid to credit Catapult with some of the Seminoles' success in 2013.

As CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd reported, "Fisher said the Noles suffered 88 percent less soft-tissue injuries last season using Catapult. That's less pulls, less tears, more front-line players on the field."

It's not just Florida State seeing the benefits of the Australia-based product. FIFA has also really embraced Catapult's GPS system. For example, the trackers offered some interesting statistics that were previously not available on players during the 2014 World Cup.

As for Nebraska, it's not clear how the Huskers will use the data yet. However, it's not lost on anyone that the technology is a big step forward for a typically old-school coach.

Lanny Holstein of 93.7 The Ticket suggested as much on Tuesday morning:

Of the 105 players on the roster, the Lincoln Journal Star's Brian Rosenthal indicates that roughly 55 players were wearing the trackers during the first practice. That includes men "two-deep on offense and defense, and some special teams players."

How do the players feel about the GPS trackers? As the Fremont Tribune reported, offensive lineman Mike Moudy thought it was neat but was still a bit unsure about how it worked.

"They’ve got, like, a thousand pieces of data on you. It’s kind of cool. It measures, like, your heart rate and … I don’t know, honestly. They explained it to us, but it took about 20 minutes to explain," he said.

It was clear the confusion was still there at the end of practice, too. As Rosenthal noted, strength and conditioning coach James Dobson had to interrupt post-practice interviews briefly to remove the trackers from underneath players' shoulder pads.

As practice continues, the confusion will lessen but the information gained will be valuable. While those outside of the program may not have much information on how the statistics will be used yet, it's a step in the right direction.

For Pelini, that's exactly what he wants for his players and from his practices.

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How Louisville and Notre Dame Could Keep ACC out of College Football Playoff

What if it's 2026 before the ACC sends another representative to the national championship game?

Before you dismiss that as being ridiculous—because it sounds like it is—remember, 13 years is precisely how long the ACC waited between Florida State’s appearance in the 2000-01 BCS national title game and 2013-14, when they beat Auburn for all the marbles.

Though there are a wide variety of reasons for the long period of time between the ACC’s visits, the most obvious is the lack of an undefeated or one-loss member.

Here’s a complete list of the ACC teams since 2000 that finished the regular season (including the conference championship game, which began in 2005) with one or no losses: Florida State in 2000 (11-1), Maryland in 2001 (10-1) and Florida State in 2013 (13-0).

Compare this number to the other power-five conferences over the same time period.

It’s intriguing, and slightly shocking, that the other power-five conferences have produced one-loss or better teams at a rate of four to five times more than the ACC.  This also means that the ACC had at least 10 fewer opportunities to send a representative to the national title game.

So, while there were a lot of reasons why Florida State was championship-worthy last season, the most meaningful was its 13-0 record: the gateway to the title game. 

Moving into the College Football Playoff era, a perfect or near-perfect record becomes even more crucial.  The math is simple: four playoff slots versus five power conferences.  No matter how you slice it, one conference will be left out each year.

Not only has the ACC struggled more than any other power conference to produce an undefeated or one-loss team since 2000, it experiences two critical changes in 2014 that will make the road to perfection even bumpier.

 

The Louisville Factor

The net effect of Louisville’s move from the American Athletic (formerly Big East) to the ACC is that it replaces Maryland.  So, if you were going to play the Terrapins, you are now going to face the Cardinals.

Based on recent results, it’s fair to say that this will be a more difficult task.  Take a look at the two programs' win-loss marks over the past five years.

Even though Louisville’s most recent surge only began two seasons ago, it still won more games than Maryland two of the three years it wasn’t in double digits.  These additional wins are huge because they mean that another team had to lose the same game.  Though these weren’t all conference games, it’s logical to conclude that ACC teams have a better chance of losing to Louisville than they did to Maryland.

What really hurts the ACC, at least in the short term, is Louisville’s placement in the ACC's Atlantic Division, putting it in direct competition with the league’s best chance at the national limelight—Florida State and Clemson.

The last three ACC champions (Clemson in 2011, Florida State in 2012 and 2013) beat Maryland by a combined score of 160-59.  The last time the Terps beat a ranked ACC team was in 2010 when they edged No. 21 N.C. State 38-31. 

This is significant to both Clemson and Florida State, who have been ranked in the Top 25 every week since the beginning of the 2012 season.

If you’re thinking that the Cardinals have a new head coach, replacing the guy who went 23-3 over the last two seasons, and that playing in the ACC is more difficult than the American Athletic, take a look at the following numbers.  It is outgoing coach Charlie Strong versus incoming coach Bobby Petrino, in a battle of stats compiled at the same school, Louisville.

Not only was Petrino clearly more successful at Louisville than Strong, he went on to post a 34-17 record in four seasons at Arkansas, including two top-12 finishes.  Those numbers are from the SEC West, which trumps the difficulty of even the ACC Atlantic.

 

The Notre Dame Factor

How lucky was the ACC to ink its loose football relationship with Notre Dame? 

Did the Big Ten really miss the boat by not convincing the Irish to be its permanent football partners?  Well, the ACC may sell more tickets and generate additional TV revenue due to the deal, but it may pay for it with College Football Playoff bucks.

In other words, they’ve just made it more difficult for their members to get to the playoff.

Take a look at the last five ACC champs and the teams they beat out of conference in the year they won the title.  

Given that only one of these teams managed to clean their non-league slate and go on to win the ACC title, it’s safe to say that throwing Notre Dame into the mix in place of another nonconference opponent will increase the chance of losing exponentially.

Though ACC teams will face Notre Dame on a rolling schedule—five teams will have to play the Irish each year. When your number is up, it could make the difference between going undefeated or losing only once, or not. 

Here’s Notre Dame’s ACC schedule for the next three years.

Each season, the ACC will sacrifice one of its potential contenders for Notre Dame to pluck off the road to a championship.  Next season, it will be reigning national champion Florida State, in 2016 it's Clemson and in 2017 it’s Miami (Florida) and Virginia Tech, teams which could be the class of the Coastal.

And keep in mind that if the Irish sweep their ACC slate and win a national title, it will count as an Independent winning the big enchilada, not a quasi-ACC member.

Where on one hand, a win against a ranked Notre Dame team will look great on an undefeated resume submitted to the College Football Playoff committee, staffed with real humans, a loss will mean that your credentials won’t even make it to the “must review” stack.

No, your application won’t even be considered.

 

Statistics courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.  Schedule data courtesy of FBSchedules.com.

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Nebraska Football: 5 Best Quarterbacks Cornhuskers Will Face in 2014

Nebraska football fans will be looking at the quarterbacks facing NU in 2014 and wondering who will be the greatest challenge.

While it is fair to say that 2014 does not present a murderer’s row of opposing signal-callers, some of the opposing quarterbacks will give the Blackshirts fits. Here are five of the toughest.

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Georgia Football: 5 Best QBs the Bulldogs Will Face in 2014

Fall camp has begun for the Georgia Bulldogs, and they are currently in the middle of a stretch where they will practice for nine consecutive days, including some days with full pads and some days with two-a-day workouts.

It will be a rough stretch for the Bulldogs, but it will be needed because they face Clemson in less than a month.

The Tigers will be led by quarterback Cole Stoudt, who has been the backup for Tajh Boyd the last three seasons. Stoudt is talented and has been solid when he has entered the game.

But is he one of the best opposing quarterbacks the Bulldogs will face all season?

Read on to find out the five best quarterbacks the Bulldogs will face all season.

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Michigan State Spartans' Locker Room Sign Features Misspelling

The Michigan State Spartans are ranked as one of the best teams in the country this season and have a new sign outside their locker room. Unfortunately, the sign features a misspelling.

As The Big Lead points out, the sign features a misspelling on the word "accurate," which is the most ironic word to misspell on the entire sign.

[Twitter, h/t The Big Lead]

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Texas Quarterback David Ash Opens Up on Returning from Injury

AUSTIN, Texas — Roughly one year has gone by since Texas quarterback David Ash was made available to speak with the media, but that drought ended Monday morning.

"How are y'all doing? Did y'all miss me?" Ash joked as he sat down for his first media interview since suffering a concussion against BYU on September 7, 2013.

The redshirt junior is not usually known as a player who is eager to speak with the media. Often times, if he is asked a closed-ended question, he will likely answer it with "Yes" or "No."

But he looked a lot more at ease Monday. Maybe it was a fluke, or maybe it was just his eagerness to start fall camp shining through his answers. But this Ash spoke openly about the struggles he has faced since last season.

"It was hard," Ash said of his head injury. "A concussion is something where nobody sees a cast. Nobody really knows what is going on. It's a tough deal. But that's past, and we're moving on to the future now." 

After suffering his initial concussion against BYU, Ash returned in time for the Kansas State game on September 21. He led his team to a 17-7 lead heading into halftime, but he did not return for the second half due to experiencing concussion symptoms.

That was the last time he was seen playing in a game for the Longhorns.

The concussion symptoms lasted for the rest of the season, which caused a lot of speculation about his future as a football player. 

"A lot of people told me, 'You need to give it up. You need to quit,'" Ash said. "But I honestly never really thought about it. In my mind, I always knew that I was going to play again. I feel like this is where God has placed me. These are the talents He has given me. And whenever I work hard and play hard, I feel like it pleases Him and gives Him glory.

In January, Ash was cleared to return to the team and was expected to compete for the starting role during spring practice. He worked hard to win over head coach Charlie Strong and quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson, but he experienced another bump in the road when he suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot that sidelined him for the last portion of spring ball.

"Oh man, I thought I was off the struggle bus," Ash laughed. "I hopped right back on for a little bit. You get off the struggle bus eventually. I'm off of it now. I'm getting ready, and I'm just thankful to be back."

Ash said he is completely recovered from his Jones fracture and is confident that there will not be any lingering issues from the injury.

"The medical staff, doctors, surgeons did a great job with that whole thing," Ash said. "They got me back as fast as they could and made sure that the broken bone there is sturdy, strong and is not supposed to give me anymore issues."

A lot of questions still surround Ash as he prepares for his redshirt junior season. His injury-prone past will continue to be brought up until he proves he can stay healthy. But he is confident in his ability, and he has taken to heart the advice Strong has given him about staying healthy.

"He has told me that I have to get down. And he's right. I have taken a lot of hits that were not necessary," Ash said about his conversations with Strong. "He made it clear that's not what I have to do in order to play.

"I'm going to start being smarter. I need a little baseball practice to help with sliding, I need to get out of bounds and not take those hits anymore."

Ash said he does not have any expectations for himself other than growing more as a leader and working hard day in and day out. But one of the most important takeaways he learned from his struggles is being grateful for having the opportunity to play football.

"I'm so thankful to get to do this. Nothing is guaranteed. I for sure learned that. I just feel so blessed to get another opportunity to play this game."

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow her on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

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Ohio State Football: First Impressions from 2014 Fall Camp

Addressing his team for the first time during fall camp, Urban Meyer made it clear that last season's disappointing finish is no longer on his mind.

"The past? Who gives a s--t?" the Ohio State head coach asked rhetorically, referring to the Buckeyes' losses to Michigan State and Clemson in the Big Ten Championship Game and Orange Bowl to close the 2013 campaign.

And with that, the Buckeyes 2014 campaign was officially underway.

Losses may no longer linger in Columbus, Ohio, but a changed atmosphere was apparent on the first day of Meyer's third fall camp as Ohio State's head coach.

Music ranging from Kanye West to Bruce Springsteen blared from loudspeakers—as did vulgarities from the soundtrack and coaches alike—as the Buckeyes embarked on a redemption tour of sorts in the coming season. But familiar themes rang throughout Ohio State's first fall camp session of the year as well, with Meyer explaining to his team that his "four to six seconds of relentless effort" culture was "non-negotiable."

Whether mixing a looser atmosphere with his permanent philosophy will lead to improved results for the Buckeyes this season remains to be seen. But there was plenty to take away from Ohio State's first practice session of the year, as the Buckeyes set sail on a pivotal season under their two-time national champion head coach.

 

Braxton's Back

After missing the entirety of Ohio State's spring practice session following offseason shoulder surgery, star quarterback Braxton Miller was back on the field for the Buckeyes in what Meyer described as "the best shape of his life." The third-year OSU head coach insisted that his senior signal-caller is now 100 percent recovered, although he admitted that Monday's heat took a toll on Miller.

"He wasn't as sharp today. When he got tired he started raising his left shoulder a little bit," Meyer said of Miller. "But he'll be fine. His attitude is tremendous."

With just one season of eligibility left, time is ticking on Miller's already impressive Ohio State legacy. And while he already has two Big Ten MVP awards and an undefeated season to his credit, Meyer knows that there are still goals remaining on Miller's college career checklist.

"I know the one thing he's missing is a championship," Meyer said. "The great players are measured by championships. We haven't had that conversation yet, but we will. And he knows."

 

Fresh Faces

Although it didn't technically count as a two-a-day, the Buckeyes held two separate practice sessions on Monday. First-year players—including true freshmen and Alabama graduate transfer Chad Lindsay—practiced in the morning, while Ohio State's returning veterans took the field in the afternoon.

And although Meyer was pleased with the productivity he saw in both sessions, he was particularly impressed by what 247Sports.com's third-ranked recruiting class has already brought to the table for the Buckeyes.

"We're going to try to get those guys ready to play," Meyer said of Ohio State's true freshmen. "It was a really good first day with the young guys."

It should, however, be noted that two true freshmen were noticeably absent from the Buckeyes' A.M. session, as neither linebacker Raekwon McMillan nor wide receiver Johnnie Dixon were on the field. That's because they already received their respective calls up to the big leagues, with Meyer inviting each to practice with OSU's veterans in the afternoon.

"It's rare," Meyer admitted. "They act like grown men, so we let them practice with the grown men today."

With both McMillan and Dixon vying for starting spots this season, it's hard to imagine either of their college careers getting off to better starts.

 

Buckeye Battles

Speaking of position battles, one in particular has caught Meyer's eye already. As the Buckeyes attempt to replace four experienced starters from a season ago on the offensive line, the OSU head coach is particularly interested in seeing who will replace Andrew Norwell, as Antonio Underwood, Billy Price, Chase Farris and Joel Hale slug it out at left guard.

"That's the one," Meyer admitted. "If I had to say, 'Where's all the focus?,' to me, it's that left guard. What are we going to do with the left guard?"

Another interesting personnel development in Monday's afternoon practice came when Vonn Bell found himself with OSU's second-team defense. Presumed to be a starter this season, Bell will battle with Tyvis Powell and Cam Burrows to earn that right and appears to have already used his current spot on the second team as motivation.

"He had a really good day," Meyer said of Bell. "That's a three-man race right now. All three of them think they're going to play and you throw Erick Smith in there champing at the bit too. You just gotta keep them healthy. Yeah, that's a good battle right there."

 

Extra Points

  • Meyer confirmed that defensive lineman Tracy Sprinkle has been reinstated to the Ohio State roster. The redshirt freshman was charged with possession of drugs, drug paraphernalia and rioting/failure to disperse after an incident in Lorain, Ohio, in July, but he recently had his drug-related charges dropped and passed a drug test. Although he has been reinstated, Sprinkle will be removed from scholarship for the remainder of the summer and suspended for the Buckeyes' season-opener against Navy, according to Meyer.
  • Meyer also confirmed the transfer of offensive lineman Tommy Brown. The redshirt junior and Akron, Ohio, native failed to make much movement on the OSU depth chart in his three seasons in Columbus and will spend the remainder of his college career at the University of Akron.
  • One position that Meyer doesn't have much concern about right now is punt returner. The Buckeyes head coach said that wide receiver/running back Dontre Wilson is currently working with the first team, but he expects Corey Smith, Jalin Marshall and Marshon Lattimore to make pushes for playing time on special teams as well.
  • Redshirt freshman cornerback Gareon Conley missed practice with flu-like symptoms. Meyer said that he anticipates him returning to practice on Tuesday. Conley is expected to battle with Armani Reeves and Eli Apple for the right to start opposite senior Doran Grant.
  • Former Texas quarterback and offensive coordinator Major Applewhite observed Ohio State's practice.
  • After suffering a season-ending injury early last year, defensive lineman Michael Hill was officially granted a medical redshirt and will have four years of eligibility remaining starting with the upcoming season.
  • Initially listed as a tight end, freshman Sam Hubbard is now listed as a linebacker on the OSU roster. Wearing uniform No. 49, Hubbard will still be eligible to receive passes should the Buckeyes opt to use him on offense.

 

*All quotes obtained firsthand, unless noted otherwise.

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BYU Football Team Lip-Syncs Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Gangnam Style and More

The BYU football team knows how to have a good time.

Teams bond in different ways. No matter what a team does, it just needs to be able to have some fun while doing it. It's easy to see that the Cougars were able to accomplish that with this lip-sync battle.

The players lip-synced and danced to everything from Justin Bieber to Carly Rae Jepsen to Psy. 

They deserve a couple of light practices for pulling off something this good.

[BYU Football, h/t Football Scoop and SB Nation]

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Florida State Football: It Finally Feels Like Jimbo Fisher's Program

Seven months removed from winning a national title, Jimbo Fisher will not allow complacency to set in.

But as he begins his fifth year as Florida State's head coach, there is some comfort in realizing what has been accomplished and how far the program has come. 

FSU returns to remodeled locker rooms and coaches' offices as well as a plush, new residence hall that will house freshmen and sophomores. Those improvements, as well as the opening of the indoor practice facility in August 2013, indicate a significant financial commitment by boosters to fulfill Fisher's vision for the program.

FSU was a dynasty under legendary coach Bobby Bowden, finishing in the top four in the Associated Press poll for 14 straight seasons (1987-2000). There were national titles in 1993 and 1999, but FSU's last ACC title under Bowden came in 2005 and the program began to slide. Bowden hired Fisher to re-energize the offense in 2007, and Fisher was named head-coach-in-waiting the next year.

Since taking over for Bowden at the start of the 2010 season, Fisher is 45-10. There have been growing pains, of course, but there have also been back-to-back ACC titles and a national title. Under Fisher, FSU is 4-0 against Miami, 3-1 against Florida and has won 14 straight ACC games.

''We wanted to have a culture that expected to be great,'' Fisher said on Monday afternoon. ''It's easy to expect to be great. It's easy to say, 'I want to do this.' But to put the pieces in place… We're getting there.''

The Seminoles returned to the practice field on Monday afternoon for the first of three weeks of preseason practice. Then the fun begins as FSU begins game-week preparation for the season opener against Oklahoma State on Aug. 30 in Arlington, Texas.

On Monday, a reporter asked Fisher how FSU can improve on 2013. It was tough enough to go 14-0, but FSU will need to go 15-0, including a pair of wins in the playoffs. To Fisher, though, wins are just part of the equation, not every piece of the puzzle.

"It's not about the record," Fisher said. "It's about the program. How it improves our people… Your record, as they saw, is who you are. But you can still improve in so many ways and not have won every game. That's our goal and that's what we plan on doing, but at the same time, it's about the culture in which you create and the people in which you develop."

Fisher acknowledged that there are a number of position battles that need to be settled but said he is confident in the team's abilities and leadership.

''We have a very good team. I love our team,'' Fisher said. ''We still have warts like everybody else. We have to develop depth at certain places, we have to develop starters at certain places.''

While Fisher has often stated that FSU is not ''defending'' and is instead looking to ''repeat'' as champion, one thing he would like to see carry over from 2013 is the team's chemistry.

''I thought the selflessness of our team and the true cohesiveness of our team was extremely critical [last year], and was one of the best that I had been around,'' Fisher said. ''There's no reason to say that this one can't be, but that has to develop each year.''

 

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter.

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Can New Georgia RB Commit Chris Carson Take over for Todd Gurley in 2015?

Georgia added another critical piece to its 2015 recruiting class with the addition of 3-star JUCO running back Chris Carson on Sunday, according to Rusty Mansell of Dawgs247.

With standout junior Todd Gurley a candidate to leave early for next year’s NFL draft, Carson told Mansell he is ready to compete against a loaded stable of young and talented backs for the right to eventually replace Gurley in 2015.

With Todd (Gurley), I know that is going to be gone, and with Keith Marshall, he could be gone, but if he is still there, I can learn from him, those freshman are really talented. They need more than just one running back in this league. They want multiple running backs. I like the competition.

At 6’1”, 200 pounds, Carson is a big back who is physical at the point of attack, yet he also possesses breakaway speed. While those attributes are similar to Gurley’s strengths, it’s way too early to anoint Carson as the clear-cut front-runner to succeed him.

There are a few reasons why that’s the case.

For starters, in the event Gurley and fellow star junior Keith Marshall leave school early, there are plenty of options for Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo to turn to.

Georgia brought in a pair of highly touted backs in its 2014 class in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. In particular, as B/R’s Barrett Sallee notes, the 5’10”, 225-pound Chubb—who rushed for 101 touchdowns and nearly 7,000 yards over his final three prep seasons—is a physical freak who compares more favorably to the 6’1”, 226-pound Gurley.

Additionally, based on Carson’s career to this point, there’s not enough evidence to suggest that he’s ready to produce at the elite level of a talent such as Gurley.

As a freshman last season at Butler (Kansas) Community College, Carson rushed for 611 yards and eight touchdowns. However, he also fumbled six times and lost four of those, according to his page on Butler's home site. 

The flip side to that argument is that most coaches recruit JUCO players because of their ability to fill an immediate need.

Alabama’s Nick Saban has done it with players such as Terrence Cody and Jesse Williams in recent years. Auburn’s success with JUCO quarterback imports Cam Newton and former UGA player Nick Marshall is another example.

In Georgia’s case, the addition of Carson gives the program another quality option at a position where depth is critical in a league as physical as the SEC is.

Given Carson’s comments about embracing competition, it’s clear that he’s confident in his ability to step in and earn a spot in the backfield rotation.

However, he nor any of the current backs on UGA’s roster can be mentioned in the same breath as Gurley until they can mirror his exploits on the field in the fall.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Big 12 Football: Each Team's Odds to Win the Conference

The NCAA has instituted a four-team playoff system to determine the national champion in football starting this season. A ranking system has also been put in place to try and ensure that the best four teams in the country will be included in this select field.

A power conference such as the SEC may have an outside shot at getting two teams into the four-team field if everything falls into place, but for the other four majors one would think that winning the conference championship would be a prerequisite to getting into the playoffs.

Doc’s Sports has recently updated its NCAA football futures odds for all five of the major conferences in Division I-A football, including the Big 12.

The Oklahoma Sooners currently top the conference at prohibitive 2-3 odds to win this year’s conference title. There is no championship game in the Big 12, so this title is determined by a team’s conference record and head-to-head play as a potential tiebreaker.

The Sooners come into this season with their most talented roster in years. Their offense will be led by Heisman hopeful quarterback Trevor Knight, and their defense will return nine starters from last year’s squad.

Knight should be an interesting study as much of his hype has been generated by his performance in a single game. Last January he shredded Alabama’s vaunted defense for 348 yards passing and four touchdowns on the way to Oklahoma’s stunning 45-31 victory as a 17-point underdog in the Sugar Bowl.

If he can duplicate that level of play throughout the 12-game regular season this year, the Sooners’ lofty odds will be justified.

Just in case Oklahoma stumbles along the way, bettors might want to take a closer look at the value in Baylor’s 11-4 odds to win a second straight Big 12 title this year.

The Bears came out of nowhere last season to go 8-1 in conference play behind an offense that led the nation in scoring with an average of 52.4 points per game.

Baylor also has a Heisman-caliber quarterback in Bryce Petty. He is a more proven commodity than Knight after throwing for 3,844 yards and 30 touchdowns last season.

There are a total of six starters back from that dynamic scoring machine, including wide receivers Antwan Goodley and Corey Coleman. Goodley hauled in 71 receptions for 1,339 yards and 13 touchdowns, while Coleman added another 35 catches for 527 yards.

The team that has caught my interest, though, is the Texas Longhorns at 15-2 odds to win the Big 12 this season in head coach Charlie Strong’s first season at the helm.

After a disappointing run over the past few seasons, the Longhorns appear poised to once again assume their role as perennial contenders for the Big 12 crown.

Strong has already established himself as a no-nonsense disciplinarian with the dismissal of seven players from the team since his arrival in Austin, and you just know that he will work diligently to have this attitude carry over to the players that on the field on game day.

Texas’ primary strength on offense will be its running game behind Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray. This duo combined to produce 1,684 rushing yards last season, and it will help take some of the pressure off the quarterback if they can replicate those numbers this season.

The Longhorns will have to improve a defense that was ranked 57th in the nation last season in points allowed to successfully compete with the likes of Oklahoma and Baylor, but they remain a sleeper in this title race.

The odds to win the Big 12 for the rest of the teams in the conference start with Oklahoma State and Kansas State at 10-1, followed by TCU at 14-1. Texas Tech comes in at 20-1 odds, and West Virginia is next on the list at 66-1. The two programs with the longest odds to win the Big 12 this season are Iowa State and Kansas at 100-1.

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Nebraska Football: Tommy Armstrong Prepared to Be Leader the Cornhuskers Need

Tommy Armstrong is prepared to be the leader the Cornhuskers need. At Nebraska's Fan Day press conference, the quarterback wasn't shy to say so.

During his time at the podium, Armstrong reflected on the 2013 season and the need for him to be a leader going forward. He also acknowledged he was a little in over his head at times last season. It wasn't until his ankle injury during the Iowa game that it all began to click.

"I think it slowed down for me a lot after getting hurt and being able to sit and watch a little bit and see it all starts off with me,” Armstrong said. “As much as I want to panic sometimes, you don’t have to do that. Have trust in your teammates and everything will fall in place."

When pushed a little further on what exactly shifted his thinking, Armstrong continued to credit his injury.

“I think I needed the injury honestly. That kind of gave me a reality check, like nothing is guaranteed," he said. "You can’t just go out there and just play. You actually have to put in the work. I think last year I struggled in areas I could have fixed, but I felt like it was going to happen. I think this year I did a better job actually going out there and trying to fix them.”

Since then, Armstrong has used his time on and off the field to build his confidence.

He spent time with former NFL quarterback Brett Favre, who provided some insight to the sophomore. "(Favre) helped me out a lot," Armstrong said. "As far as just preparing for games and how to look at film, what to mainly look at."

From there, it's been all about working with the other Husker starters. Armstrong says that time has built chemistry between him and his teammates.

“Being around with the ones, it helps me get that chemistry down,” Armstrong said. “Being able to be that leader on and off the field and make the team stronger, because anybody can settle for just being good, but we have to strive for being great.”

While the chemistry grows, Armstrong has had to learn to not be so critical of himself. It's a point offensive coordinator Tim Beck has had to remind him of.

"Coach Beck always tells me, ‘Don’t be your biggest critic and don’t go out there and be hard on yourself all the time. That’s our job,'” Armstrong said. “I try not to do it, but sometimes I do it anyway.”

In addition to the injury and his fellow teammates, there is one specific person that has motivated Armstrong to become a better leader. That person happens to be a very beloved Nebraska running back.

"Ameer [Abdullah] told me that [I] was one of the reasons he came back this year. That really touched me that a veteran guy like that would tell me that,” Armstrong said. “That made me strive to be the best leader I can this year.”

During his time at the podium on Fan Day, Armstrong sounded more confident than ever. The expected starter didn't shy away from any topic and was very forthcoming with his answers.

The key message that Armstrong delivered? He wants to be the leader that the Huskers need.

After a win over Georgia in the 2014 Gator Bowl and a successful offseason, it appears Armstrong is on his way. With fall practice beginning, he knows it's now time to walk the walk.

There are bound to be some remaining growing pains for the sophomore, but fans can take comfort in Armstrong's demeanor. After all, if his confident attitude off the field transfers to the field, he truly will be the leader Nebraska needs.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand at Nebraska's Fan Day press conference.

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