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Does the College Football Playoff Committee Have Too Much Power?

If there's a constant in college football's changing postseason, it's that there's usually something to gripe about. 

The old bowl system didn't always put the top two teams against each other, so the BCS was created. But the BCS was too controversial, the computer formulas too arbitrary. The years 2004 (five undefeated teams), 2007 (when No. 1 Mizzou and No. 2 West Virginia lost in Week 14) and 2011 (the Alabama-LSU rematch) proved to be difficult for determining the best teams. 

So, a four-team playoff was created to let more than two teams play it out on the field. 

The College Football Playoff, which begins this season, won't eliminate controversy; on the contrary, it enhances it since the field is expanded.  

The College Football Playoff's executive director Bill Hancock, the former executive director of the BCS, hasn't exactly put anxious minds at ease either. Via Vahe Gregorian of The Kansas City Star, Hancock said the voting process among the 13-person committee will involve plenty of "common sense": 

So if there’s any secret sauce this time around, Hancock said, it’s 'common sense.'

That means logical criteria such as strength of schedule, conference championships won, comparisons of head-to-head competition, comparative outcomes of common opponents (without incentivizing margin of victory).

The issue with Hancock's explanation is that "common sense" is too vague of a concept. What might be common sense to one person might not be to another.

For that matter, how wide-ranging is the definition of common sense within the committee? Getting everyone on the same page sounds like a near-impossible task. Consider, for example, this statement from Arkansas athletic director and committee chair Jeff Long, via ESPN's Brett McMurphy:  

Q: What information will the committee members consider when voting? 

A: 'I think you’re going to get 13 different views,' said Long, the committee chairman. The members will emphasize win-loss records, strength of schedule, conference championships won, head-to-head results and results against common opponents. 

Strength of schedule has been touted as an important playoff prerequisite, but it's possible, if not likely, that it is weighed differently among each committee member. Who knows, in time the metric may become obsolete. 

Long also raised eyebrows when he explained in April what the committee would be concentrating on.  

"We don’t think in terms of most deserving on the rèsumè," Long said via Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News"We’re focused on the best four teams and the best ranking in the [playoff] top 25. Again, our focus is the best, not deserving."

We're parsing words, but there's nevertheless a distinct difference between "deserving" and "best." If the four most deserving teams aren't selected to the playoff, then what was the point of the regular season?

Between statements from Hancock and Long, it's easy to see why there are trust issues among fans and media toward the selection process. There's a lot of decision-making power at hand for 13 men and women to be doing something on good faith. 

There's criteria for voting, to be sure—McMurphy broke down the five-step process in April—but public statements from the CFP come across more as a plea for trust. And fans are rarely the trusting type.  

The BCS, for all of its issues, at least had formulas and computer rankings it could point to. They were convoluted but accessible all the same—not to mention capable of taking the blame. 

Of course, the BCS was also subjective because it had human elements. Its standings were formulated by a three-pronged approach using the the USA Today Coaches Poll, the Harris Interactive College Football Poll and an average of six computer rankings. 

The selection committee is essentially getting rid of the BCS middle man, which was not human. While it's more efficient, consolidating that power is scary. One vote here is far more influential than in the days where the Associated Press determined national champions. Determining a playoff field is important to fans. Leaving that responsibility in someone else's hands is not easily done. 

When the final playoff rankings are revealed on Sunday, December 7, the fears or hopes of many will be confirmed. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

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Nebraska 2014 Quarterback Fall Practice Preview: Depth Chart and Analysis

For the first time since 2010, Nebraska is in need of a new quarterback to lead the team. After four seasons with Taylor Martinez at the helm, it's officially time for someone else to step up.

Despite losing Martinez, the quarterback position isn't in a terrible spot for the Huskers. After an injury plagued the veteran in 2013, redshirt sophomore Tommy Armstrong stepped into place. However, it was never officially his position.

Armstrong split the quarterback duties with Ron Kellogg III.

While Armstrong typically started, Kellogg came in to play quite a few series. This made the quarterback position never truly feel like Armstrong's.

With the 2014 season on the horizon, fans are anxious to see what life is like post-Martinez.

Nebraska will be looking for a player to lead and power through the growing pains of many new faces on offense. The offensive line could have some potential hiccups to start the season, which will require a confident leader to stay calm under pressure. Who will that player be?

Let's take a look at Nebraska's depth chart once fall practice begins in a few weeks.

 

Quarterback No. 1: Tommy Armstrong

The 2014 season finally belongs to Armstrong. It will be the first year when the starting job belongs solely to the redshirt sophomore.

In 2013, Armstrong got a taste of what it was like to be the leader. However, he split the duties with Kellogg, which frustrated some fans.

That probably won't be the case in 2014.

So, how did Armstrong fare in 2013? The Huskers won seven out of the eight games that he started in, which wasn't bad. It was the turnovers that weren't as great.

"According to STATS, his rate of one for every 16 passes was the fourth-worst mark in the Bowl Subdivision for quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts," an article by The Associated Press stated.

During spring practice, eliminating turnovers was an area of focus for Armstrong. Fans are looking for the quarterback to improve upon his 52 percent completion rate. Armstrong plans to do just that.

In fact, he took time this spring to work out with Brett Favre during the offseason.

As for what fans can expect come the 2014 season, that is still up in the air. However, Armstrong's confidence is improving, which should translate onto the field.

Also, it may benefit him not to have to split duties with another player. He'll still get some competition from his backups, but with the job belonging to him, it might just be the boost he needs to make the jump forward in 2014.

 

Quarterback No. 2: Johnny Stanton

There has been a lot of excitement around Johnny Stanton ever since he arrived at Nebraska. After the annual spring game this year, that excitement only grew.

Stanton was an Elite 11 quarterback when he was recruited by Nebraska in 2012. He was ranked as the No. 9 dual-threat quarterback in 2013 by 247Sports.comESPN even called him "Johnny Tebow."

Additionally, his athleticism is outstanding. As Husker Corner's Mike Snow noted, Stanton had a 34-inch vertical and 4.79-second 40-yard dash out of high school.

Needless to say, fans were anxious to see him play. Two years later, that hasn't changed.

Stanton redshirted his freshman season in 2013. As for the upcoming season, he will likely be the backup for Armstrong. If he is asked to step up, it shouldn't be too much of a problem.

In fact, expect him to continue giving Armstrong a run for his money through fall practice. While Armstrong will prevail as the starter, Stanton will make a name for himself.

 

Quarterback No. 3: Ryker Fyfe

Ryker Fyfe is a redshirt sophomore who made a case for himself during Nebraska's annual spring game.

For fans previously unaware of him, Fyfe showed a high level of maturity and confidence. He finished the day having completed nine of 12 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown.

Those numbers were enough to have fans wondering if he'll challenge Stanton for the backup position to Armstrong. While Fyfe did have a great showing this past spring, he'll still likely settle in as the third-string guy for the time being.

Fyfe was unranked out of high school by 247Sports.com, but that doesn't mean he can't compete against Armstrong and Stanton. Being from Grand Island, Nebraska, Fyfe understands what Nebraska football means to the state, which gives him some extra motivation going forward.

While he likely won't start in 2014, Husker fans can feel good about having Fyfe on the roster. If called upon, the confidence he had during the spring game should surface.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M Commit Kyler Murray Dazzles at Elite 11 Camp, Could Jump Kyle Allen

Kyler Murray is the top dual-threat quarterback of the 2015 class. He is one of the shortest QBs in the class, standing only at 5'10", but has the running ability to make big things happen in College Station. 

Murray is in Oregon at the Elite 11 camp showing everyone why he is one of the most dynamic players in the 2015 class.

Bleacher Report's college football analyst, Michael Felder, is out in Oregon with a complete breakdown of this future Aggie. How do you think he will do at the next level?

Check out the video and let us know.

Rankings from 247Sports Composite.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Trojans 2014 Quarterback Fall Practice Preview: Depth Chart and Analysis

Boasting such names as Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer, Rodney Peete and Pat Haden, it's small wonder that NFL.com's Bryan Fischer ranked USC as the No. 1 program with claim to the title Quarterback U. 

Thus, it's somewhat ironic that in his first season as head coach, Steve Sarkisian inherited a quarterback controversy. 

As a USC assistant, Sarkisian worked with former Trojans and first-round draft picks Leinart, Palmer and Mark Sanchez. He will work to impart the same knowledge on 2014 first-string quarterback Cody Kessler.

But, if for some reason Kessler is sidelined in his second year as the Trojans' starting quarterback, ballyhooed redshirt freshman Max Browne will get the call.  

Oh, Sarkisian and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Clay Helton must also ready USC's leading signal-caller while introducing a new scheme. 

 

1. Redshirt junior Cody Kessler

Kessler's performance through the opening month of the 2013 season and his final stretch were night and day. 

His growing confidence was abundantly evident late in the season, and Kessler carried over that positive momentum into the spring. Kessler impressed Sarkisian enough to earn the coach's vote of confidence as first-string quarterback before spring practices concluded. 

"I’m confident we can go out and win a lot of football games with Cody Kessler as our quarterback," Sarkisian said in April, via Darian Nourian of the Daily Trojan

Indeed, Kessler has a proven knack for winning games. The Trojans went 10-4 in his redshirt sophomore season, and 7-2 after the dismissal of former head coach and play-caller Lane Kiffin. Kiffin's ouster turned duties over to Helton, and Helton opened the playbook to Kessler. 

Kessler began making strides before Kiffin's firing, but the quarterback also suffered through three dismal performances against Hawaii, Washington and Utah State.

The former coach's revolving door behind center that had both Kessler and the since-transferred Max Wittek taking snaps through the first two weeks negatively impacted Kessler. 

"That got in my head a little bit," he told Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times

It makes sense, then, that Sarkisian would want a clear No. 1 quarterback going into preseason camp. And Kessler's earned that job. But the role is one Kessler must continue to earn each time he takes the field. 

Chemistry developed with running back Javorius "Buck" Allen and wide receiver Nelson Agholor last season will buoy Kessler into 2014. However, his grasp on the Trojans' new hurry-up offensive philosophy will shape his redshirt junior campaign. 

 

2. Redshirt freshman Max Browne

Browne arrived at USC in 2013 with fanfare en tow. He garnered 5-star billing coming out of Skyline High School in Sammamish, Washington, and was rated the nation's top overall pro-style quarterback by 247Sports. 

Browne spent his first year in the program learning the nuances of quarterbacking a collegiate offense, but the change in direction for 2014 steepened his learning curve in year two. 

Browne explained the challenges of acclimating to the college game to FoxSports.com's Rahshaun Haylock

You have so many things that are just different—new environment, new teammates, new system but then just the idea of just getting the ball differently, something that's really basic, and that took me a while to get the hang of. I felt like toward the end of the season I got there but it took time.

Despite something of a reboot in his second collegiate season, Browne has familiarity with a spread, hurry-up style from his prep days.

Running Sarkisian's system should be no problem if Browne's number is called. And, if Kessler struggles for any reason, there will be no shortage of Browne supporters calling for the redshirt freshman to see game repetitions. 

 

3. Freshman Jalen Greene

The signing of early enrollee Jalen Greene to USC's 2014 recruiting class indicated the Trojans' shift in offensive philosophy under Sarkisian.

Greene, a 3-star prospect from Southern California prep powerhouse and reliable USC pipeline Gardena Junipero Serra, is a dual-threat playmaker. His style is a departure from the traditional, dropback passer USC favored in the past. 

The southpaw Greene used his spring practices as an initiation to the collegiate game, an opportunity to hone his skills. Helton told Haylock of FoxSports.com that Greene made strides:

He has such a powerful arm and usually when you have a powerful arm if you just lean just a hair to the left that ball's going to tend to go to the right a little bit. He's trying to get everything going straight lined to his target. [He's] doing a really nice job of working that.

Barring emergency, Greene should redshirt the coming season as he continues to refine his game. 

 

Statistics compiled via CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings and information culled from 247Sports.com composite scores. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Trojans 2014 Quarterback Fall Practice Preview: Depth Chart and Analysis

Boasting such names as Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer, Rodney Peete and Pat Haden , it's small wonder that NFL.com's Bryan Fischer ranked USC as the No. 1 program with claim to the title Quarterback U...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Notre Dame Football: 4 Freshmen Who Must Shine in Fall Practices

There’s plenty of youth and unproven talent on the Notre Dame football squad heading into the 2014 season.

In addition to many of the returning underclassmen and some of the relatively untested upperclassmen, the Irish have added a 22-member class of incoming freshmen. Fall ball is not far away, and we recently looked at the rookies most likely to start this season.

This week, we’re analyzing which freshmen could help the squad with strong performances in fall practices.

In determining our list, we emphasized position needs—both in the present and future—and certain players who should be ready to jump right in and positively impact the team.

Begin Slideshow

Josh Rosen Wows at Elite 11 Camp, 'Best UCLA QB Commit Since Troy Aikman'

Josh Rosen is the top quarterback in the 2015 class, according to 247Sports composite. This California native has decided to stay on the West Coast and take his talents to the UCLA Bruins.

Rosen is in Oregon at the Elite 11 camp showing everyone why he is the top QB in the country. His impressive skill set will allow him to become a monster at the next level.

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder is out in Oregon with 247Sports' Ryan Bartow, giving a full breakdown of Rosen's ability. How well do you think he will do at UCLA?

Watch the video and let us know.

 

Rankings from 247Sports Composite

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Josh Rosen Wows at Elite 11 Camp, 'Best UCLA QB Commit Since Troy Aikman'

Josh Rosen is the top quarterback in the 2015 class, according to 247Sports composite. This California native has decided to stay on the West Coast and take his talents to the UCLA Bruins...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Florida State Football: 2014 QB Fall Practice Preview Depth Chart and Analysis

Jimbo Fisher has an eye for quarterbacks. The Florida State coach has recruited and mentored a Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston.

But he's also coached Clint Trickett, who will start for West Virginia this fall. And Jacob Coker, who graduated from FSU in May, is competing for Alabama's starting quarterback job.

FSU has Winston, but there's plenty of talent behind him. Sean Maguire was also a member of the 2012 signing class (along with Winston), and the Seminoles added John Franklin III in the 2013 class and JJ Cosentino in February.

Here's a look at FSU's four quarterbacks in 2014.

 

Jameis Winston

Winston turned in one of the finest seasons in college football history by a freshman quarterback, completing 257 of 384 passes for 4,057 yards, a school-record 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

FSU returns four of five offensive linemen, ensuring stability up front and comfort for Winston when he drops back. And all five starting linemen will likely be seniors as Austin Barron is the leading candidate to start at center. Winston's biggest adjustment is establishing a rhythm with the young receivers after FSU lost Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw to the NFL.


Sean Maguire

The 6'3'', 220-pound Maguire is good enough to be a starter on many college football teams. The 3-star prospect from West Orange, New Jersey, had interest from schools like Syracuse, Boston College, Penn State, Rutgers and Connecticut before choosing FSU.

The redshirt sophomore has a strong, accurate arm and has good touch. Maguire was clearly the No. 4 quarterback in the spring of 2013 but has moved up the depth chart after both the transfers of Trickett and Coker as well as his hard work in the offseason.

Maguire may get his chance to compete for the starting job in 2015 if Winston opts to enter the NFL draft early. He completed 13 of 21 passes for 116 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions last season. Maguire displayed more confidence this spring, writes Corey Clark of the Tallahassee Democrat, running the No. 2 offense. He completed 15 of 28 passes for 203 yards, one touchdown and an interception in the spring game.

 

John Franklin III

The 6'0", 180-pound Franklin was on the scout team in 2013, and his biggest contribution was playing the role of Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall as the FSU defense prepared for the national championship game. Franklin, a 3-star prospect from Plantation, Florida, helped FSU win the 4x100-meter relay at the ACC Outdoor Championships in April.

Franklin was the No. 3 quarterback this spring, and he completed five of 10 passes for 103 yards and one touchdown in the spring game. He has spent time this summer working with a personal quarterbacks coach, Ken Mastrole, writes Tim Linafelt of 247Sports. He doesn't have enough experience to challenge Maguire to be the Seminoles' backup in 2014, but Franklin could be in the mix (if Winston departs) for a potential wide-open competition in 2015.

 

JJ Cosentino

The 6'4'', 220-pound Cosentino has been in Tallahassee just a few weeks. But he already made a name for himself by throwing a football over an apartment complex, writes Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel. So, yes, Cosentino has a strong arm.

This fall will likely see the 4-star prospect from Pittsburgh lead the scout team, just as Winston did in 2012 and Franklin did in 2013. But Fisher has also said that he's considering using Cosentino as a punter if Cason Beatty struggles.

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained first-hand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. All stats from Seminoles.com. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

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Oregon Ducks 2014 Quarterback Fall Practice Preview: Depth Chart and Analysis

Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich has to go into preseason camp feeling pretty confident about his starting quarterback. 

After all, Helfrich had no guarantee he would embark on his second season leading the Ducks with a proven starter leading their uptempo offense—not with two-year starter Marcus Mariota projected as a possible first-round draft pick in this year's NFL draft. 

Mariota's decision to forgo the pros for at least one more year at Oregon doesn't just mean stability at quarterback. The Ducks have a Heisman Trophy contender already with two years of Heisman-worthy statistics to his credit. 

The Ducks lost two reserves to transfer in May: Jake Rodrigues and Damion Hobbs. Their departures cast some uncertainty over the depth chart. But if all goes according to plan, and Mariota remains healthy for the duration of the season, that won't be an issue. 

 

1. Redshirt junior Marcus Mariota

In his two seasons captaining the Oregon offense, Mariota has etched his name in the annals of program history alongside such Duck greats as Dan Fouts, Akili Smith and Joey Harrington. Not bad for a quarterback with 26 total games under his belt. 

Mariota returned to Oregon for his redshirt junior season to play in 15 more, the total the Ducks would face with berths in the Pac-12 Championship Game and College Football Playoff. 

Mariota played valiantly through a knee injury in the final month of the regular season. Certainly, the MCL sprain limited his productivity and directly contributed to the Ducks' 2-2 record in November. 

And yet, even with a critical element of his game hindered—Mariota's ability to scramble—he still registered 1,131 passing yards and 10 touchdowns in the final four regular-season outings. 

Mariota's exclusion from the Heisman ceremony each of the last two seasons is one of the more egregious oversights in college football. But playing behind an offensive line that returns five starters, and having one of the nation's deepest running back corps alongside him, should finally punch Mariota's ticket to New York. 

 

2. Redshirt sophomore Jeff Lockie

Coming out on top of a quarterback competition at Oregon is no small feat, as Jeff Lockie explained to Ryan Thorburn of The Register-Guard in April.

We’re at one of the top five programs in the country playing at a high, high level with high, high caliber players. I think at that point in the competition, it is not easy. ... It’s a high level. Everyone’s good. [Rodrigues] can play, I can play, Taylor [Alie] can play, Damien [Hobbs] can play.

Lockie heads into preseason camp as Oregon's No. 2 quarterback. Aside from Mariota, he's the only player with game experience—limited as it may be. 

Lockie appeared in nine games in 2013 but attempted just 13 passes. He did, however, rush for a touchdown in mop-up duty. 

 

3. Redshirt freshman Taylor Alie OR freshman Morgan Mahalak  

Walk-on Taylor Alie turned heads in spring practice. Starting tackle Tyler Johnstone was among those singing his praises. 

"[He is] one guy that gets talked about a lot on the sidelines. He makes plays out of nothing, a lot," Johnstone said of Alie to 247Sports' Matt Prehm

Morgan Mahalak was one of the centerpieces of Oregon's 2014 recruiting class. A 4-star prospect from Marin Catholic in Kentfield, California, Mahalak's skill set compares favorably to Mariota's. 

However, barring a doomsday scenario, Mahalak should follow Mariota's first-year path and redshirt. 

 

Statistics compiled via CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings and information culled from 247Sports.com composite scores. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon Ducks 2014 Quarterback Fall Practice Preview: Depth Chart and Analysis

Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich has to go into preseason camp feeling pretty confident about his starting quarterback...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

10 College Football Teams Implementing New Offensive Systems in 2014

Sometimes, all a program needs is a new offensive direction.

Such was the case at Auburn last season, when the Tigers, fresh off an embarrassing 3-9 year, hired Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee, implemented a unique strain of the uptempo spread offense, averaged more than 500 yards per game, won the SEC and came within 13 seconds of being crowned national champions.

It is more than a bit unrealistic to expect such a drastic turnaround—from any team—in 2014, but it's just as crazy to not acknowledge the possibility. We have all seen what a new offensive system can do.

On that note, let's preview 10 FBS teams that are introducing new schemes this upcoming season. Primary consideration was given to teams in the power conferences, although one reigning "group of five" conference champion was added to the list as well.

One note before we continue: This is not a simple list of teams with new offensive coordinators. Even if they were outside hires, and even though that may mean new terminology and subtle schematic differences, only teams making a marked systematic change were included. This is explained in more depth on the following slide.

Sound off below, and let me know which team from the list you think will have the best—or most improved—offensive output in 2014.

 

Note: All pace of play stats courtesy of CFB Matrix.

Begin Slideshow

PSU Commit Brandon Wimbush Blows Away Elite 11 Camp, Boasts 'Best Arm in Camp'

Brandon Wimbush is one of the top quarterbacks in the 2015 class. A New Jersey native, Wimbush has decided to play college football for the Penn State Nittany Lions. Wimbush is out in Oregon for the Elite 11 camp to show why he will be a player to watch in the future. 

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder is in Oregon with a full breakdown of this future Nittany Lion. How well do you think he will do? 

Check out the video and let us know.

 

Rankings from 247Sports Composite

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame 2014 Quarterback Fall Practice Preview: Depth Chart and Analysis

When Everett Golson returned to campus this winter after a semester-long suspension, Notre Dame finally had a quarterback that was capable of leading the Irish back to the apex of college football. But as spring football played out, sophomore quarterback Malik Zaire revealed himself as a candidate as well, out-playing Golson in front of a national television audience during the Blue-Gold game and giving Irish fans water cooler chatter to last the entire summer. 

Competition is the lifeblood of Brian Kelly's football program. So the fact that Zaire was actually competing with Golson, and not a prop devised by a savvy head coach, is a blessing. And while the starting quarterback job is Golson's as the team enters training camp next month, having a duo capable of leading the Irish—something Notre Dame didn't have last year—will be critical. 

Joined by incoming freshman DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame's three scholarship quarterbacks share a skill set that will allow Kelly and new offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock to fully re-install Kelly's spread offense that's been on the shelf since he got to South Bend. 

With a team that'll need to score a lot of points to win, let's take a look at the most important position on the roster. 

 

Everett Golson

Golson has been back working with the team since January, participating fully in strength and conditioning sessions, while reacclimating himself to college life. He stepped back in as the team's top quarterback for spring practice, though Kelly has been slow to call the competition at the position over.

That's likely a sign of respect for Zaire's talents, because there's little chance that a healthy Golson isn't behind center when the Irish kickoff against Rice. After leading the Irish to an undefeated regular season in 2012 and a date in the BCS title game, Golson represents the closest thing to the prototype quarterback that Kelly's had at Notre Dame. 

As he showed in glimpses during his debut season, Golson has the arm to make every throw in the playbook. He also has the legs to escape trouble and to make plays on his own. Far from a true running quarterback, Golson's preference is to pass—just like his head coach's. But when the pocket breaks down, Golson seems to be at his best, an accurate quarterback on the move and deadly as a scrambler. 

After an academic violation of Notre Dame's Honor Code kept him out of school for a semester, Golson's 2013 season was spent fine-tuning his craft in San Diego, while also working to put an extra coat of armor on for the 2014 season. The additional 15 pounds he added will serve him well, hopefully helping him hold up for a full season after missing the BYU game and segments of others as he spent most of 2012 battling injuries. 

This summer has been critical for Golson's development. After being spoon-fed the offense as a redshirt freshman, Golson will be expected to have complete mastery of the playbook. Tweaked NCAA rules have allowed the coaching staff to re-install the offensive system this summer before fall camp begins, a huge help to all the quarterbacks on the roster. 

Irish fans are hoping to see a new and improved Golson come autumn. Early word is coming from the Elite 11 camp, where Golson is serving as a counselor, that he's already looking the part. 

That's music to Irish fans' ears, as Golson holds the keys to Notre Dame's season. 

 

Malik Zaire

Zaire officially redshirted last season, though Kelly kept that decision internal until late in the season. While it kept opposing coaches on their toes, it also made for a frustrating season for the young quarterback from Ohio, who enrolled early with the expectation of competing for playing time.

Zaire wasn't given that opportunity, with Kelly preferring to save a year of eligibility to help the long-term health of a position group that suffered significant turnover with Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix and Gunner Kiel all exiting in the past 18 months.

But 2014 will be significantly different for Zaire. After taking limited practice reps and watching from the sideline, Zaire is one snap away from being the Irish's starting quarterback. He showed promise in the Blue-Gold game, completing 18 of 27 passes for 292 yards, including 15 of his first 19. But an intra-squad matchup is different than playing when it counts. 

Zaire is the team's most gifted running quarterback, and at 208 pounds he's sturdy enough to be a weapon as a ball carrier. While he was off limits during the Blue-Gold game and quarterback runs weren't allowed, he'll likely start his playing career as a change-of-pace runner, capable of handling a heavy option load, while also throwing the ball well enough to keep opponents honest. (Andrew Hendrix wasn't able to do that last season, and he's playing out his fifth year for Chuck Martin at Miami instead of backing up Golson.)

Not yet a good enough practice player for his head coach's liking, Zaire has performed well in the past two spring games, a telling sign that could be a hint that the young quarterback's best comes out when the lights are on. 

We'll likely see that theory put to the test sometime this season, though for Notre Dame's sake, it's dictated by game plan, not an injury to Golson. 

 

DeShone Kizer

If Zaire was redshirted last season, it'd take something pretty serious to get Kizer on the field in 2014. But that reality is a bad break or two around the corner, and summer and fall camps will be dedicated to getting the youngster up to speed as quickly as possible. 

Kizer gives Kelly a different body type at quarterback, and at 6'5", he's got the height that'll help him distribute the football from the pocket—something that isn't so easy for Golson or Zaire. And while offers from Alabama, LSU, Nebraska and Penn State point to an intriguing prospect with plenty of fans, Kizer was still waiting on offers from Ohio State and Michigan when he pulled the trigger and committed to the Irish last June.

Kizer's best football is likely a year or two in front of him. But a look at his high school highlights points to another athletic quarterback that can beat teams with his arm or legs. Part of the reason Kelly decided to hire quarterback coach Matt LaFleur instead of an established coordinator was to work with Kizer and Zaire, two quarterbacks with four years of eligibility remaining.

LaFleur will have the future of the program in his hands this fall while Kelly and Denbrock will likely spend their time tutoring Golson and preparing him for Saturday. That's two very moldable pieces of clay for LaFleur to shape. They are key roster pieces that might not be called on to do much in 2014, but developmental prospects that'll likely determine the future of Notre Dame football.  

 

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3 SEC Teams That Could Make a Surprise Run at a College Football Playoff Berth

By now, you've heard all the names.

Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and LSU will all likely land in the preseason top 15, and they'll all be considered either legitimate contenders for a berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff or, at the very worst, dark horses.

That doesn't make it impossible for some of the outsiders to make a run at the event. 

Who's this year's "Auburn," and could that team make a surprise run at the College Football Playoff?

 

Florida Gators

Yes, Florida was a joke last year, complete with a loss to then-FCS Georgia Southern and the embarrassment of two Gators blocking each other that will live in college football infamy forever.

As we saw with Auburn last season, it doesn't always have to be that way.

One tweak here and there is all a team like Florida—with top end talent up and down the depth chart—needs to get back in the title mix.

They made that tweak this offseason when they waved goodbye to former offensive coordinator Brent Pease and welcomed in former Duke offensive coordinator Kurt Roper to Gainesville.

Yes, it would take a monumental turnaround from the Gators offense to get into position to make the playoff, but the problem in Gainesville wasn't a lack of talent, it was a lack of scheme.

Driskel, was the top dual-threat quarterback in the nation in 2011, and is finally in an offense that suits his ability. Demarcus Robinson has the potential to be a game-breaker, Quinton Dunbar has the experience to help the Gators during the transition and Andre Debose has the ability to be a dangerous weapon in the slot once he's at 100 percent.

The schedule is tough, and that trip to Alabama on Sept. 20 is looming large. Get by that with a win or even an impressive loss, and it could set the tone for the season and charge back into SEC East contention.

 

Texas A&M Aggies

Before you cry foul about Texas A&M's defense, take a step back.

I know it's bad. In fact, it's worse than that. It's downright embarrassing.

But, as is the case with Florida's offense, it doesn't have to be that way.

If Texas A&M can catch lightning in a bottle with one or more of its potential stars on defense, that's all the Aggies need to do to become a playoff contender. Defense doesn't win championships anymore, "just enough defense" does. That's a blessing for head coach Kevin Sumlin, regardless of who his quarterback is.

Whether sophomore dual-threat Kenny Hill wins the job this August or true freshman pro-style passer Kyle Allen earns Sumlin's trust, the Aggies head coach has proven during his time at Houston and Texas A&M that he can win with either a dual-threat or pro-style quarterback.

It's unrealistic to expect that this year's Aggies offense will be comparable to the one led by former quarterback Johnny Manziel—one of the most dynamic college football players in recent college football history. But if it's close, all that defense needs to do is force some turnovers for the Aggies to be successful.

Besides, four of the last five national title winners and seven of the last 10 participants in the national title game have had first-year starters taking the snaps. A quick turnaround isn't the most outlandish prediction in the world.

 

Ole Miss Rebels

"But...but...Ole Miss hasn't played in an SEC Championship Game yet. Now it's a playoff contender?"

Ole Miss would certainly be a surprise, but what shouldn't be a surprise is the defense. The Rebels could boast one of the toughest defenses in the SEC, thanks to All-American safety Cody Prewitt, defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and a ton of raw talent that is primed for a breakout.

The Rebels offense has been pretty solid over the last two seasons with quarterback Bo Wallace taking the snaps, but the rising senior has struggled to fight through nagging shoulder injuries that were exacerbated by his role as a runner between the tackles. Thanks to Jordan Wilkins and Mark Dodson, he might not have that responsibility anymore. A healthy Wallace is dangerous, especially with wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and tight end Evan Engram outside.

Ole Miss has the potential to boast a surprisingly stout defense and a high-scoring offense that is multi-dimensional. That's a recipe for success.

The Rebels get Alabama and Auburn at home, and they have a manageable draw out of the East with the road trip to Vanderbilt and home stint against Tennessee. 

Ole Miss making the playoff would be a long shot, but that's exactly what we're talking about here. Long shots. 

Hey, it's better than "no shot."

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com.


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College Football Week 1 Picks: Texas A&M Aggies vs. South Carolina Gamecocks

South Carolina Gamecocks junior running back Mike Davis has averaged 5.7 yards per carry in his career, which is important to consider when making your Week 1 college football picks, as he prepares to take on the Texas A&M Aggies at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Sports bettors will find that the Gamecocks are 14-point home favorites in the NCAA football odds, with no betting total available in the marketplace.

Let's take a closer look at this Southeastern Conference matchup from a betting perspective, while offering up a prediction along the way.

 

Gambling stats via SBR Forum 

Begin Slideshow

Oregon QB Commit Travis Waller Stars at Elite 11 Camp

Travis Waller is out in Oregon at the Elite 11 Camp, and he's showing the world what he has to offer.

A recent Oregon Ducks commit, Waller has all the tools that will allow him to succeed at the next level. 

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder is in Oregon with a full breakdown of this future Duck. How much success do you think Waller will have in college?

Watch the video and let us know.


Rankings from 247Sports

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon QB Commit Travis Waller Stars at Elite 11 Camp

Travis Waller is out in Oregon at the Elite 11 Camp, and he's showing the world what he has to offer. A recent Oregon Ducks commit, Waller has all the tools that will allow him to succeed at the next level...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

LSU Football 2014 Quarterback Fall Practice Preview: Depth Chart and Analysis

The backup quarterback might return as the most popular person at LSU in 2014. 

LSU has uncertainly at quarterback for the first time in two years. Zach Mettenberger was the unquestionable starter for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. This stability was a breath of fresh air for Tigers fans who were always torn between Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson in years prior.

But now, LSU is back in a quarterback quandary. Head coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron must choose between two youngsters to lead the team. They know whoever they pick will probably go through growing pains, thus making the backup the big man on campus. 

Miles and Cameron also have some adjusting to do. The two players likely to replace Mettenberger have the ability to make plays with their legs, which will make Miles change up his philosophy, according to Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee

Here is an early look at how things might shape out this fall. 

 

Brandon Harris 

Early enrollee freshman Brandon Harris started and finished as the most buzz-worthy player at spring practice, and for good reason. Harris proved he has all the tools to be the starting quarterback.

He throws a spectacular deep ball and can move the chains with his legs. But his pocket awareness and accuracy for a player who is barely scratching the surface is amazing.

LSU fans got a brief, yet favorable, glimpse of Harris at the spring game. His four combined touchdowns and no interceptions were the highlight of the afternoon. 

This offseason, Harris worked with quarterback guru George Whitfield, who already thought highly of the talented gunslinger before the summer began. Whitfield said in mid-April that Harris reminds him of a young Jameis Winston, per Shea Dixon of Geaux247.com.

Harris was joined by fellow freshman and 5-star receiver Malachi Dupre at Whitfield's "Shark Week," per Bruce Feldman of FoxSports.com. And he has continued working with Dupre. The duo both tweeted a photo after a workout that also featured former LSU receiver Jarvis Landry, who led the Tigers in receptions, yards and touchdowns last season.

  

Anthony Jennings

LSU sophomore quarterback Anthony Jennings has proved to be a clutch college quarterback. 

Jennings' signature moment came against Arkansas as a backup after Mettenberger was sidelined with an injured knee late in the fourth quarter. Down by four with less than two minutes remaining, he orchestrated a 99-yard touchdown drive for the win. 

Jennings was not able to replicate the success in his only start, which happened the game after against Iowa in the 2014 Outback Bowl. He went 7-of-19 for 82 yards and an interception, and he was also sacked four times. 

The struggles continued the next time he played in front of LSU fans. He threw two interceptions in the spring game, both of which were returned for touchdowns. 

Jennings has a year of experience learning from Cameron, which is certainly valuable. He can fit the ball into tight spaces, and his mobility makes him dangerous when a play breaks down, but he is far from a finished product.

Jennings ran with the first unit to start spring practice. But his snaps will be shared more with Harris as spring ball progressed. 

 

 

The Rest

LSU would be in some trouble if Harris and Jennings were to get injured. Quarterbacks Hayden Rettig and Stephen Rivers transferred this offseason, which leaves three quarterbacks left on the roster.

Junior Brad Kragthorpe, son of LSU special assistant to the head coach Steve Kragthorpe, is likely the third-string quarterback. Following him is transfer Brandon Bergeron, who is in his first year in Baton Rouge. Redshirt freshman Jake Clise rounds out the group.

The Tigers also have senior Rob Bolden, who made the switch from quarterback to receiver over the offseason. Bolden was a former starting quarterback at Penn State who could get the nod before Kragthorpe or Bergeron if need be. 

 

Conclusion 

Miles said he is not opposed to playing both Harris and Jennings next season, per Scott Rabalais of The Advocate. But Harris' performance at the spring game proved he has more potential in every aspect of quarterbacking. 

LSU would be in good hands with Jennings if Miles and Cameron chose the talented sophomore. Either way, expect the Tigers to pound the football on the ground behind an experienced offensive line and talented running back trio of Leonard Fournette, Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard. 

 

*All statistics and rankings were provided by LSU Sports Information, CFBStats.com and 247Sports.com. Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower

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Elite 11 Buzz: Florida State Emerges as Leader for 4-Star QB Deondre Francois

Deondre Francois is one of the few uncommitted quarterbacks left in the 2015 class. He is currently showing interest in two big-time programs that would both love to have his talents on campus.

Francois is out in Oregon at the Elite 11 Camp, and he's showing exactly why he is such a dynamic player.

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder is in Oregon with a full breakdown of Francois. Where do you think he will land?

Watch the video to find out.

Rankings from 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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