With just over three months to go, the predictions for the 2014 college football season have begun. It’s early, but that’s not stopping the fun.
For Nebraska, the 2014 season has a lot riding on it. Head coach Bo Pelini has made his way back into the good graces of many, but others still remember his leaked audio tape, his hat-swing at a referee and his post-Iowa game dare to be fired.
Needless to say, if there has ever been a year for Pelini to win, it’s 2014.
To date, Pelini has not had a season at Nebraska with less than four losses. That will have to change if he wants to stay off the hot seat and keep the good momentum going. The Huskers’ schedule bodes nicely for the possibility of that, but there are still plenty of potential bumps in the road.
What will Nebraska’s 2014 season look like? Here’s an early game-by-game prediction for the entire season.
Every year, we hear talk that Notre Dame's schedule is among the toughest in the country. While sometimes it may be little less true than others, a quick look at the 2014 slate shows a gauntlet that should test the Irish early and often.
In Notre Dame's first season playing an ACC-aligned schedule, the Irish will take on the conference's best as they head to Tallahassee to play the defending national champions Florida State. Notre Dame will also visit Syracuse while hosting North Carolina and Louisville.
The Seminoles are far from the only elite team that Notre Dame will battle. According to early projections by Bill Connelly at FootballStudyHall.com, the Irish will play three top 10 teams, five in the top 25, and seven of the best 35.
While the challenge is steep, the last time Notre Dame faced a schedule that looked this difficult, they ran the table and made it to the BCS title game. While that might be far more difficult in 2014, getting to 11 wins could land Notre Dame a spot in the College Football Playoff, which is designed to reward schools for their strength of schedule.
Let's take an early game-by-game look at Notre Dame's 2014 schedule.
The college football season may still be three months away, but with offseason staples like national signing day and spring practice already past, fans can now shift their focus forward to the fall.
For Georgia, the Bulldogs are looking to rebound from a disappointing 2013 season that was riddled by injuries, a porous defense and special teams mishaps. Fortunately, the Dawgs will have plenty of opportunities to show that the offense is still potent—even without four-year starting quarterback Aaron Murray—and the defense will have an opportunity to prove itself under new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
Here are some early game-by-game predictions for the Dawgs' 2014 season.
Although we're only in May, it's never too early to take a look ahead at the upcoming schedule this season for Jim Mora and the UCLA football team.
It's a daunting schedule, to say the least. A nonconference tilt across the country at Virginia is followed shortly after by a high-profile contest versus the Texas Longhorns at AT&T Stadium.
The conference slate features difficult games on the road against Arizona State and Washington, followed by home clashes against the likes of Southern Cal, Oregon and Stanford.
Here's a look at a very early game-by-game prediction for the UCLA Bruins.
*UCLA's entire regular-season schedule for 2014 can be found here.
As spring gives way to summer, the college football season inches ever closer. Now that every program is finished with its offseason workouts, attention turns to the 2014 campaign.
Mark Helfrich's first season as Oregon's head coach included championship expectations, disappointment and redemption. With a veteran lineup that includes quarterback Marcus Mariota and All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, the Ducks have the talent on both sides of the ball to take another step in Helfrich's second season.
If the Ducks are indeed contenders for the first College Football Playoff, they will certainly prove it via a challenging schedule. Oregon hosts the defending Rose Bowl champion, renews its rivalry with two-time Pac-12 champion Stanford and faces the likely favorite out of the South on the road.
Plenty can change in the months until these games play out, including injury. But were the Ducks' 2014 schedule kicking off now, it might very well unfold as follows.
On Aug. 31, Michigan opens its season against Appalachian State in Ann Arbor. Yes, that Appalachian State (insert joke here).
Sure, memories from 2007 may linger, but really, these two programs are vastly different than they were seven years ago, when the Mountaineers shocked college football with a 34-32 win at The Big House. Back then, Appalachian State was months away from its third straight FCS title and the great Lloyd Carr era was coming to an end at Michigan.
Today, the Mountaineers, who now belong to the FBS, are in the midst of a changing of the guard as Scott Satterfield enters his second season as head coach. Not anywhere near its former level, Appalachian State went 4-8 in 2013 and doesn't seem to pose an immediate threat to a Big Ten program.
As for the Wolverines, they're still trying to rekindle that spark that capped 2011 with an 11-2 record and Sugar Bowl victory. Since then, they've gone 15-11 (1-2 in bowls) under Brady Hoke, who enters his fourth season with less firepower as stars Taylor Lewan (LT) and Jeremy Gallon (WR) have moved onto the NFL.
Team 135's season opener is, without question, a pivotal game for Hoke and the program. It's no longer David vs. Goliath—it's rebuilding power vs. rebuilding power, plain and simple. Picking against the Wolverines probably wouldn't be a wise bet, though. In all likelihood, the staff would probably immediately resign after dropping another homestand to a perceived lower-tier opponent.
A loss would be unbearable and embarrassing. That's why it can't, and won't, happen. If the Wolverines fail to pummel the Mountaineers, they might as well pack it in for the year. Anything short of a shellacking would be unacceptable.
Prediction: UM 49, ASU 14.
By now, you've picked up on where this is going.
The rest of this slideshow will give a look at the remaining 11 regular-season opponents, as they appear in late May, and (loosely but as logically as possible) predict the outcomes of each meeting. There may even be a player-of-the-game pick or two thrown into the mix.
Note: Early predictions are obviously subject to change. If nothing else, consider them a starting point for conversation. Rosters and even coaching staffs could change before kickoff 2014.
The summer is prime time for enjoying the outdoors, barbecuing and pursuing the nation's best recruits. For the Texas Longhorns, that means giving Kendall Sheffield and Malik Jefferson the full-court press.
After a rough start, Charlie Strong and his staff are gaining some steam on the recruiting trail at just the right time. Having reeled in four commits since April, the 11th-ranked class is starting to take shape, allowing the staff to spend the summer focusing on filling the remaining holes.
Based on need, talent level and availability, the emphasis for that time frame should be on adding Kendall Sheffield, Malik Jefferson, John Burt, Chris Warren and at least of the state's better defensive tackles.
The Auburn Tigers are less than 100 days away from the start of the 2014 season, which they hope will end with another trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.
Auburn returns most of its starters from the 12-2 season as BCS National Championship finalists, and Gus Malzahn's team is projected to be a major player in the first season of the new College Football Playoff system.
The Tigers offense will look for more balance with a more experienced receiving corps after dual-threat quarterback Nick Marshall led the way in the nation's top rushing attack. On defense, Auburn wants to see more improvement following a season with great fourth-quarter and red-zone performances but less-than-ideal results between the 20s.
Preseason hype is at a new high on the Plains with all of the returning talent, but Auburn will have to battle through a tough schedule that features trips to both rivals, Georgia and Alabama, for the first time in program history.
With three months left before the season's first kickoff at Jordan-Hare Stadium, here are my game-by-game predictions for Auburn's 2014 slate.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The large patch of dirt on the corner of Volunteer and Lake Loudoun Boulevards may not be the most obvious sign of progress at the University of Tennessee, but for those familiar with the campus, it's the most noticeable.
It's here on this barren spot where Gibbs Hall—Tennessee's primary residence hall for athletes since 1963—was recently razed along with historic Stokely Athletics Center.
The demolition of the two brick dinosaurs will make way for a new residence hall, dining facility and parking garage, along with adding two more football practice fields.
It's the latest in a long line of recent renovations at Tennessee that has aided coach Butch Jones in his efforts to recruit some of the nation's top players to UT and restore the Volunteers to their traditional perch.
"I think all the things you see around campus is a direct reflection of a vision of what's going on at Tennessee," Jones told Bleacher Report in an exclusive interview. "Everything is about painting that vision. There is so much positive energy and commitment going on here right now, it's exciting.
"It's one of the most exciting times in the history of Tennessee football and the history of the University of Tennessee's entire athletics programs. You're seeing progress. You see strides being made every day."
Walking around campus, it's impossible not to notice the evolving Tennessee brand. Jones' fresh fingerprints are all over the traditional program.
A little way down Lake Loudoun from the Gibbs construction site sits the sparkling new Anderson Training Center, which houses Jones' office as well as all the athletics offices and a state-of-the-art weight room (complete with a full nutrition bar).
A Hail Mary away is Neyland Stadium, which looms archaic but stately on the bank of the Tennessee River. The old girl's metal guts still gleam in the afternoon sun, but a recent face-lift left the historic home of the Volunteers more aesthetically appealing to fans and recruits.
That modern upgrade has been repeated throughout UT's athletic facility enhancements from the past few years. The end is nowhere in sight, either, as an athletic department already lauded by recruits for lavish facilities rushes to catch up (and pass) the nation's top programs.
The enhancements around Tennessee are certainly noticeable to recruits.
"It was my first real big place to visit, and growing up a UT fan, walking into the training center—they'd just built it—I was in awe, really," said UT 4-star offensive line commit Jack Jones. "I was like, 'Dang.' And they're still adding on and getting better stuff. It's awesome.
"The facilities are second-to-none. Obviously, in the SEC, everybody is going to come out with something new every year, but the past few years, Tennessee has done a good job of staying up with the times. I'm excited to just get up there and break in the new facilities a little bit."
Andrew Butcher, a four-star defensive end, said UT's facilities were "head and shoulders" better than any of the schools he'd visited, which includes Georgia, Clemson, Vanderbilt and Auburn.
To hear the buzz around Tennessee these days is impressive considering the bleakness that permeated the program during the Derek Dooley tenure.
UT has not only been in the midst of a major down cycle that has been low-lighted by four consecutive losing seasons, but the athletic department has also struggled across the board.
The department is finally on its way up from a budget crisis that has seen its reserve fund drop to one of the lowest in the SEC at "well below $5 million," according to VolQuest's John Brice (subscription required).
Also, an Academic Progress Rate grade that had UT's football program in real danger of major NCAA penalties boasted a school-record score of 962 in the 2012-13 year, according to The Associated Press.
Jones said he has felt "zero hindrances" in recruiting from the APR or the budget issues. He called the one-year APR improvement "the greatest victory in the history of Tennessee football." Part of the progress in that area was getting athletic control of tutoring and recommitting to that area by making some personnel changes.
Prior academic issues have turned to progress, and yet another selling point for Jones.
"It just shows all the hard work is paying off in the classroom," Butcher said, "and it will on the field very soon—competing for SEC championships again."
That's Jones' plan. As he speaks, UT is putting the finishing touches on a state-of-the-art studio that will be available for the SEC's new television network. It's yet another of the major innovations Tennessee has been on the front end of as it moves into what it hopes is a more lucrative era.
In the near future, UT hopes to return to the success of its past. It's no coincidence that by 2016, the new dormitory and expanded outdoor football practice facility expansion are expected to be completed. That's also when the football team should be ready to start competing for championships again.
And Jones' pitch will only be strengthened by the shiny facilities surrounding him.
"We're working to get Tennessee back to its rightful place among the elite of college football every day," Jones said. "You look at the new dormitories, the new residential halls being developed, the Anderson Training Center, the new practice fields. There's progress being made each and every day. We have great people in place that are totally aligned, have the vision, same energy, same passion to be at Tennessee. And we have a great product to sell.
"It's an exciting time. I know our players feel it, and our prospective student-athletes—our recruits—feel that energy. We know it’s just a matter of time."
All recruiting rankings and statistics courtesy of 247Sports.
Brad Shepard is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Brad on Twitter here:
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For college football fans, the first Wednesday in February is akin to a high holiday.
Recruits across the nation put pen to paper, signing national letters of intent with their college of choice, and for one day, fax machines in football offices all over the United States are relevant again.
National signing day is a special day, one football coaches consider like Christmas morning; it's a day when they can finally unwrap their gifts.
Here’s a dirty little secret, though. It isn’t as relevant as it should be.
A growing number of players who ink on national signing day are already on campus as early enrollees, a trend that gains momentum with each passing year.
A number of college football coaches want the game to adjust to the times, favoring an early signing period in either August or December. The ACC will bring a proposal for an August 1 signing day to the Conference Commissioners Association meeting in June.
It’s the right move. College football would be well served with an early signing period that would allow recruits to begin their college careers and also shift focus to those who are truly undecided in early February.
It is Memorial Day, and of the top 50 recruits in 247Sports’ Top 247 of the 2015 class, 18 have already announced their commitments, with more sure to come in June’s rush of camps and unofficial visits.
Why not allow them to make their choices on their own timetables?
With the growing number of recruits who are choosing early, some programs spend January focusing more on players in the following year’s cycle more than those who are choosing their destinations in February.
Clemson, for example, hosted only three uncommitted prospects in January 2014.
Central Florida coach George O’Leary favors a December signing period that would allow junior college players to sign and enroll early. He told CBSSports.com that hosting players who have already committed on official visits is wasteful.
What are we doing? We're spending thousands of dollars to fly and rent a car for a kid that's already verballed. The recruiting calendar changed and we never adjusted. It's like making a reservation at a hotel.
For coaches with early commitments, the final part of the recruiting period isn’t so much about wooing. It’s about maintaining relationships and assuring that the player will indeed put pen to paper when the time matters.
There are several interesting options for an early signing period. One would be August, which would allow a player to commit and sign before playing his senior season of high school football, giving him security over his options.
If the school’s coaching staff was fired or moves on following the season, he could be given an option to reopen his recruitment and sign again in February, although that isn’t ideal.
Schools with higher academic standards, like Stanford, are also not in favor of the plan since it would require early signees to be assured that they would be able to enter the program of their choice.
CBSSports.com reports that Stanford coach David Shaw called the plan "terrible."
Having a December signing period would alleviate some of those concerns, but it would also allow schools to build their classes early and shift a lesser focus to February.
The NCAA is already taking steps toward an early signing period. Last fall, it began allowing players who were expected to be early enrollees to sign financial-aid agreements with their college of choice (or, in some cases, multiple colleges of choice) before they signed their national letter of intent.
Unlike a letter of intent, the financial-aid agreement does not bind a player to a school, but it does bind a school to a player by agreeing to provide all the aid that comes with a scholarship.
Currently, players are not allowed to make an official visit to a program until Sept. 1, but with an early signing period, that could change. It would be a change for players and coaches and likely increase the amount of official visits during the season itself, but programs already host numerous players for unofficial visits during the season alongside the official visitors. It shouldn’t be too hard to accommodate a few more official visits in August as well as during the season.
The plan also has support among college football coaches: CBSSports.com conducted an informal survey, and among 25 respondents, 19 favored some form of an early signing period.
The model of a dual signing period has worked well for college basketball, which features a period in November as well as one that begins in mid-April.
Coaches want an early signing period. Players would take advantage of it. Adding it to college football’s calendar would be the smartest move possible for everyone involved.
Connect with Greg on Twitter: @gc_wallace.
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Ohio State hasn't lost a regular-season game since 2011, when Luke Fickell and the Buckeyes fell to Michigan in the Big House, 40-34. Since then, Urban Meyer has led the Buckeyes to 24 consecutive regular-season victories. Back-to-back postseason losses, though, linger with Ohio State as the 2014 season approaches.
How far will the Buckeyes' regular-season streak go this season? Can they go 3-of-3 in perfect regular seasons under Meyer?
Here's an early game-by-game prediction for Ohio State's 2014 season.
With the month of June right around the corner, we’re quickly approaching the college football season. Don’t worry, you only have to experience a few more weekends without football. Take advantage of them while you still can.
Spring football is in the books, and fall camp will be here before you know it, so it’s time to throw out some game predictions for the Florida Gators. It’s still early, but we have a good idea of how things are shaping up and what to expect when Florida puts the pads on for real this season.
The schedule isn’t easy, and the Gators offense has to make drastic improvements if this season is going to be remotely successful. However, after breaking the games down, you’ll notice the Gators do get some breaks here and there.
Here are the early game predictions for the Florida Gators.