NCAA Football News

Nebraska Football: What to Expect from Huskers in 2014

The Huskers enter the 2014 season ranked No. 22 in the AP Poll. That's not bad, but it doesn't tell fans much. As Bo Pelini prepares for his seventh season at the helm of Nebraska football, fans want to know what to expect.

So, what will Pelini and his team accomplish in 2014? Let's take a look at the top expectations fans can count on and look for during the new season.

 

Ameer Abdullah will Break 1,000 Yards (Again)

If there is one thing Husker fans can count on in 2014, it's that I-Back Ameer Abdullah will surpass 1,000 yards this season. If he does so, the senior will be the first three-time 1,000-yard rusher in school history.

Abdullah made it clear that he's about more than just the accolades. That doesn't mean he won't obtain those accomplishments, though.

The depth at the wide receiver position will likely have Abdullah's carries lower that in the past. However, an improved offensive line should still increase his production.

Needless to say, expect at least 1,000 yards from Abdullah in 2014. Don't be surprised if he smokes that number, though.

 

Improvement on Turnovers

It's no secret that turnovers have been an issue for the Huskers under Pelini. In fact, Hail Varsity's Brandon Vogel took a look at the issue in both 2012 and 2013.

During the 2014 offseason, turnovers were a focus. As Grant Muessel of Hail Varsity reported, John Papuchis is aware of just how important it is to fix the turnover problem:

One of the things that you hear a lot about our football program is our turnover margin, we’ve got to get better at it. Well, half of that is on us…getting takeaways is half of the battle in terms of the turnover margin, and we gotta hold up our end of the bargain. In some of the games where we may have had some turnovers and people point at that, we didn’t have very many takeaways either, so there’s a lot to be said for a defense equaling things out, so that’s something we’ve been stressing and harping on.

The time and attention during fall camp and the offseason should help. Plus, quarterback Tommy Armstrong now has some experience under his belt that should help potential turnovers.

While he had eight interceptions in 2013, per Huskers.com, Armstrong knows what he needs to do. He talked extensively about his role on the team during Nebraska's annual fan day.

Pelini also talked about the need to show improvement in this area during Friday's Big Red Breakfast.

What should fans expect? The easy answer is less turnovers. That's a simple expectation to have, but it's a major factor in keeping Nebraska from a Big Ten Championship title.

 

10 Wins or Bust

Pelini's first six seasons with Nebraska have had at least nine wins. That also means four losses. That's not bad, but it's not what fans want.

So, will 2014 be different? As CBSSports.com put it, "Aside from a quarterback who needs some seasoning (Tommy Armstrong), the Huskers have the goods to take the East (weaker of the two reconfigured divisions). Bo Pelini has loosened up to the point that a 10-win season - finally! - seems likely."

The 2014 season just feels like one where Pelini will finally break the nine-win trend. However, that could always mean it goes the other way, which would be a bust.

Fans can expect either a season that finally puts an end to the annual four losses or a season that falls apart at the seams. It just doesn't seem likely that the middle-of-the-road season (or nine wins) is on the agenda.

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Ole Miss Unleashes the Hit Stick on Boise State, Levels Every WR in Sight

Boise State received a violent gut check Thursday night.

The Broncos came into their season opener at the Georgia Dome looking for an upset. Instead they found Ole Miss lying in wait with a boom stick, fully prepared to dish out a painful and unceremonious welcome to the South.

Bystanders watched as the Rebels defense—a project long in the works—unloaded pound after pound of hurt on Boise State receivers.

Every time a Bronco caught the ball, a crimson blur snapped his body backward.

Vine user @sp0rts brings us footage of the carnage laid down by Ole Miss defensive back Cody Prewitt (No. 25), linebacker Keith Lewis (No. 24) and DB Tony Conner (No. 12).

They are terrifying men. Remember their names.

While it made for excellent television, Ole Miss' "destroy first, count the bodies later" defense came at a price.

An above-the-shoulders hit by Serderius Bryant on Boise State quarterback Grant Hedrick in the first quarter ended in ejection for the Ole Miss linebacker.

Officials flagged Bryant for targeting and sent him to the locker room to decompress. The linebacker maintains that he scarcely touched Hedrick.

"I barely even hit him, to tell you the truth," Brant told Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel. "If I had hit him hard, then I think it [would have been] worthy of a flag, but I barely hit him."

Here's a GIF of the hit, courtesy Nick Bromberg of Yahoo Sports. You be the judge:

In any case, this is not your typical Ole Miss defense.

This is an entirely different monster, and if Thursday night was any indication, more than one opposing receiver will leave Vaught-Hemingway Stadium icing his kidneys this season.

 

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Meet QB Jarrett Guarantano, the Best First-Year Starter in High School Football

Years before he took over as a full-time high school starter, Jarrett Guarantano began receiving scholarship offers. The New Jersey quarterback now holds nearly 30 of them despite throwing just three varsity touchdowns.

Guarantano, a junior at Bergen Catholic High School, is among the most coveted class-of-2016 prospects and has a chance to match the hype this season as he assumes primary duties behind center. The 6'4", 200-pound passer began to see significant playing time during the final stretch of his sophomore campaign, closing out a frustrating two-win season with four starts.

He begins the fall on a mission to help a proud program rebound by meeting high individual expectations.

"This year is big for Bergen Catholic and for me," Guarantano said. "We both have a lot to prove."

 

Sky-High Potential

Guarantano finished the fall by throwing for a career-high 151 yards against Don Bosco Prep, per MaxPreps. His 449 total passing yards provided a small sample size of what he can do, though senior quarterback Colin McGovern (993 yards, six touchdown passes in 2013) received the bulk of snaps as starter.

Now the undisputed offensive leader, Guarantano has a chance to consistently show off skills that have colleges clamoring. He described those attributes during a self-assessment.

“I’m more of a pro-style quarterback who operates better under center then a guy who wants to take off running all the time," Guarantano said. "I can read coverage, go through my progressions and get the ball out in a hurry. But I can also use my feet when I need to. I’m a good enough athlete to get around the corner.”

He flashes a lively arm, above-average mobility and displayed improved passing mechanics during Nike's April football camp at the New York Jets' facilities. Those abilities have many anticipating a bounce-back season for his squad.

Expectations continue to mount as he finally takes the keys to Bergen Catholic's offensive attack. Early returns are impressive, including a 395-yard, four-touchdown passing performance in a scrimmage last Thursday, per JJ Conrad of NorthJersey.com.

"It's all about making improvements to get where you want to be," Guarantano said. "Proving yourself is important."

 

Focusing on His Finalists

Collegiate coaching staffs across the country are already believers. His offer list includes Penn State, Louisville, UCLA, Michigan State and Tennessee, along with several other Power 5 conference members.

Guarantano, the son of Rutgers Hall of Fame wide receiver James Guarantano, landed his first verbal offer from the Scarlet Knights as a rising freshman. Interest quickly spread beyond the state borders.

His recruitment became so regionally diverse that none of his four "finalists" share a conference.

He identifies Ohio State, Oklahoma, Clemson and Alabama as teams still under consideration. The choice to narrow his focus to just a few teams sends the message that Guarantano plans an early commitment.

"Cutting my list down to four teams gave everyone an opportunity to see that I’m really looking to reach a decision rather than wait a long time and have this process go into next season," he said.

Guarantano, rated sixth nationally among 2016 pro-style quarterbacks in 247Sports' composite rankings, is targeting late winter as the time frame to end his recruitment. There's plenty to consider before then.

"There's a lot to think about during the recruiting process," he said. "It's important to collect as much information as you can."

Guarantano has already been diligent in that regard, visiting three of his four finalists. Oklahoma is the one exception, though he can cross them off his list in September.

 

Oklahoma

He plans to attend the team's Sept. 13 matchup against Tennessee. It's a big weekend for the Sooners, who will also welcome 5-star Florida quarterback prospect Torrance Gibson to campus.

Guarantano views the program as a proven bridge between high school and professional football.

"Oklahoma always seems to produce NFL quarterbacks because of the way they use and prepare players at the position," he said. "My main goal after college is to play in the league, so Oklahoma stands out. I’m excited to get out there for a visit and see how they get their quarterbacks ready for games."

 

Ohio State

Guarantano already has a solid understanding of the process at Ohio State, where Urban Meyer made a strong impression on him during camp and throughout his recruitment.

“I’d have to say my closest relationship is with Coach Meyer," he said.

The two-time national champion has produced multiple first-round picks at the position and routinely puts quarterbacks in Heisman Trophy contention. Guarantano gained a strong indication of how the Buckeyes view him when Meyer compared elements of his game to two star quarterbacks he's coached.

"He made it clear to me that I’m more like Alex Smith with my passing abilities, but he thinks I’d also be able to run the read-option offense like Braxton Miller does," Guarantano said. "Ohio State likes that I can do both."

Guarantano admires the way Miller competes and is compelled by the offense partially because of his success in Columbus. He was saddened to hear the Buckeyes leader will miss this season.

“It’s just awful what happened to Braxton, especially right before his senior year," he said. "He could have been a Heisman Trophy candidate and helped get Ohio State to the national title game. He’s definitely one of the country’s best players.”

 

Alabama

Guarantano weighed in on another hot topic in preseason college football conversations: Alabama's quarterback battle. Nick Saban has yet to officially announce whether the Crimson Tide will roll with Jake Coker or Blake Simms.

“I think Coker will wind up as the starter," he said. "Alabama has handled the situation very well in my opinion. They’re letting things play out and giving both guys a chance to earn the job."

Whoever takes over the spot is in good hands with Lane Kiffin calling plays, according to Guarantano. The first-year offensive coordinator is a big part of the reason he views Tuscaloosa as a possible landing spot.

“USC was a team I always grew up watching because I loved their offense and what they did with quarterbacks," Guarantano said. "With Coach Kiffin in Alabama, I think it’s going to be a big deal, especially with all the talent they bring in down there.”

 

Clemson

He views Clemson as another program currently stockpiling playmakers on offense. The promise of a strong supporting cast with the Tigers presents an alluring opportunity.

“The amount of athletes they're getting at Clemson is pretty crazy," Guarantano said. "That definitely matters as a quarterback because you want to play with talented guys who can make big plays. The Clemson coaching staff is one-of-a-kind, and they're getting the job done."

 

Possibilities Loom Large

Though Guarantano is set on four finalists moving forward, he's leaving the door open for a pair of programs that could soon extend offers.

"Stanford and Notre Dame stand out," he said. "I’ve had a lot of contact with them lately, and I’d really like to get offers from both programs. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to earn those this season."

He hopes to visit Palo Alto sometime soon. Stanford recently offered fellow New Jersey quarterback Brandon Wimbush, a 2015 Penn State commit whose team faces Guarantano and Bergen Catholic on Sept. 11.

If the Cardinal decide to reach back into the Garden State for a 2016 passer, interest would be mutual.

“Stanford is one of the best schools to have an opportunity to attend because of their academic history," Guarantano said. "Their football team isn’t too shabby either. They’ve had a lot of success lately, and there’s a lot to like about the offense.”

The Fighting Irish are on his radar particularly because he likes the positional outlook. Head coach Brian Kelly may not pick up a passer in the 2015 class, creating an obvious need for 2016 recruiting efforts.

“Notre Dame’s depth chart at quarterback looks like I could have an opportunity to compete early," he said. "That’s important to me, and I think there’s some potential there."

Potential is the key word when breaking down Guarantano's game. We still aren't exactly sure what to expect from the coveted signal-caller this season due to limited reps at the varsity level.

Based on strides he made late last season and improvements that have followed during camp appearances and preseason scrimmage, Guarantano appears to be on the verge of validating early praise and earning his spot among America's elite quarterback prospects.

"I'm ready for the challenge, and I know my team is too," he said. "It's an opportunity I've been waiting for."

 

All quotes obtained firsthand by B/R national recruiting analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Alabama Brewery Finds a Way to Work Lane Kiffin into 'The Birth of Venus'

Lane Kiffin has yet to be on the sidelines for an Alabama game, but one brewery has taken the liberty of turning the Crimson Tide offensive coordinator into a work of art.

The former Oakland Raiders head coach is known for being a good offensive mind, so someone decided to work him into Sandro Botticelli's The Birth of Venus. The new work of art is titled The Birth of Offense.

Given that Kiffin has yet to make an appearance with Alabama, it's a bold move to create a mural of the offensive coordinator. This shows just how much people in Alabama love their football.

[Twitter]

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College Football Rankings 2014: Updated Outlook Before Week 1 Saturday Games

Thursday’s packed schedule of college football games has created a genuine buzz among fans of the sport, and the start of the 2014 season has put the focus on the rankings as Saturday’s slate of games approaches.

With No. 1 Florida State, No. 2 Alabama and 19 other ranked teams in action on the first Saturday of the regular season, college football fans must find a comfortable chair, kick their feet up and enjoy a schedule full of action.

Here are the full Amway Coaches and the Associated Press Top-25 polls and a preview of Saturday’s most intriguing matchup.

 

 

Saturday’s Must-Watch Game: Penn State vs. UCF

One of the most intriguing games of the Week 1 schedule is the battle between Penn State and UCF Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m. ET in Croke Park, Dublin, Ireland. You read that correctly—these two teams will go to battle overseas to start the regular season.

The Nittany Lions are entering a new era under head coach James Franklin. The 42-year-old coach spent the last three seasons as the leader of the Vanderbilt Commodores and took the Penn State job during the offseason.

Franklin will be leaning heavily on sophomore starting quarterback Christian Hackenberg to start the year fast, but there are plenty of weapons on the offensive unit. With wide receivers like Geno Lewis and DaeSean Hamilton, plus a tough running back like Bill Belton, the Nittany Lions will be dangerous on offense.

While much of the focus for fans will be on the revamped Penn State offense, the defense has made strides this offseason as well. With several fifth-year seniors returning for one last shot at glory, the Nittany Lions could be a major contender if the chemistry is there from Day 1.

Using a strong defensive line to cause havoc in the rushing and passing attacks, the program’s vaunted linebacker group led by Mike Hull, Nyeem Wartman and Brandon Bell and a secondary that includes hard-hitting players like cornerback Jordan Lucas and safety Adrian Amos, Penn State should be able to pull out the victory on Saturday.

UCF will not go down without a fight, though.

The Knights will begin the season with redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo as the starting quarterback, so Penn State should be expecting a simplified offense for a player who has never taken a snap in college football before.

Look for the team to lean heavily on running backs William Stanback and Dontravious Wilson as DiNovo gets acclimated to the offensive system. A strong group of receivers, which includes Rannell Hall, J.J. Worton and tight end Justin Tukes, will help make the transition easier, but expect the Nittany Lions to bring pressure on the inexperienced QB early and often.

There will be no home-field advantage across the Atlantic Ocean, so the stage has been set for the best overall team to walk away victorious. While the Knights were the better team last season, the lack of Blake Bortles will doom UCF on Saturday morning.

Penn State should roll to a decisive victory.

Predicted Winner: Penn State 40, UCF 20

 

*Stats via CFBStats.com.

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