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Predicting Top College Football Week 1 Performers

Remember the last time you had college football stats for lunch?

Yeah, that would have been eight months ago in January, when bowl season wrapped up and you were left with the tail end of the NFL season and basketball to keep you warm at night.

All that changes this week with 85 college games over six days, providing you with box-score palooza, just the kind of thing to make you feel alive as summer makes its last stand.

Now we can get back to saying, “Did you see that kid run for 200 yards on Saturday or that other guy run two picks back for touchdowns?”

With a load of mismatches slated for Week 1, the possibilities for stellar individual performances are literally endless, so we’ll limit the discussion to five potential leaders for each major statistical category.

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SEC Football Q&A: Would Georgia's D or Florida's O Be Bigger Turnaround?

Our long national nightmare is over. It's game week.

Week 1 of the college football season marks the beginning of the journey for several teams, and for others, it marks the end of the offseason phenomenon known as "universal hope."

Let's kick the regular season off in style with a game-week Q&A, which has moved to Tuesdays during the regular season.


@BarrettSallee What would be the biggest turn around? roper at UF or Pruitt at UGA? If both units succeed.

— John (@jnorris10000) August 14, 2014

They both are similar in the sense that they don't need "Malzahn-like" turnarounds for their teams to be successful. They just need to be adequate.

I'd say turning around Florida's offense would be a bigger turnaround for new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper than new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt turning around Georgia's defense.

Georgia's defense actually has a solid foundation. The Bulldogs finished sixth in the SEC in rush defense last year and showed flashes of being the kind of stifling defense that can lead the program to a championship. The front seven absolutely shut down LSU and Jeremy Hill to the tune of 77 rushing yards and were particularly stout in the first half. The majority of that front seven returns sans defensive end Garrison Smith.

Florida, on the other hand, didn't have much go right for it offensively last year. It finished last in the SEC in total offense (316.7 YPG), 12th in passing offense (170.9 YPG) and 13th in rushing offense (145.75 YPG). With running back Kelvin Taylor, dual-threat quarterback Jeff Driskel—who should thrive in Roper's no-huddle system—and wide receivers Demarcus Robinson and Andre Debose on the roster, the foundation is there. 

It's just more of an uphill climb in Gainesville.

With that said, both coordinators will find relatively instant success in their first years at their respective gigs. The personnel base is there for both coaches, and that should lead to, at the very least, adequate turnarounds.


@BarrettSallee is Georgia a legitimate contender without Ramik Wilson and Malcolm Mitchell?

— Sam Simpson (@samsimpson24) August 25, 2014

Since we neglected Georgia's defense in the previous question, we'll hit more on Pruitt's crew.

Ramik Wilson—the SEC's leading tackler from a year ago (133)—was not listed as the starter at "Mike" linebacker in Georgia's Week 1 game notes. Wilson had missed several practices this fall with what is reported to be a concussion, according to The Red & Black. Because of the injury, it's not terribly surprising that he's "behind," and I'd be floored if he isn't a big part of the game plan sooner rather than later.

If not, Georgia's front seven is still rather loaded, particularly at linebacker. Amarlo Herrera is fundamentally sound, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd is a star in the making, and "Jack" linebacker Jordan Jenkins is one of the most underrated defenders in the SEC.

Malcolm Mitchell's absence wouldn't be great, but if there's any spot on the roster where Georgia can absorb some injuries, it's at wide receiver. Mitchell had his knee scoped earlier this summer and missed virtually all of last season after tearing his ACL in the opener vs. Clemson.

In his stead, Chris Conley emerged as a star, Michael Bennett continued to prove that he's a reliable target, Justin Scott-Wesley should be back after sitting out the season opener with an ankle injury/possible suspension, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Reggie Davis and Jonathon Rumph certainly have the talent to provide mismatch opportunities when offensive coordinator Mike Bobo gets creative.

I don't believe Scott-Wesley's absence is long term, nor do I think Mitchell's is. Even if one or both are, Georgia will still be competitive. Those injuries just can't pile up like they did last year.


@BarrettSallee which running back is this years tre mason. Bound to break out and not really known... I nominate kelvin Taylor

— YepFB (@YepFB) August 25, 2014

This year's "Tre Mason" is the man who is replacing Tre Mason—Auburn running back Cameron Artis-Payne.

The senior split carries with Mason last year before Mason got hot down the stretch, and he still managed to rack up 610 yards and six touchdowns for the Tigers during their run to the SEC title. Now, Artis-Payne is the feature back, with quarterback Nick Marshall and speedster Corey Grant still in place to replicate last year's success.

That's exactly what will happen.

Mason was a great running back in a great system, and that great system is still in place. Head coach Gus Malzahn has produced 11 1,000-yard rushers in eight seasons as either a college head coach or assistant coach. It's no secret that Grant wants more of a responsibility, redshirt freshman Peyton Barber has potential and incoming freshman Roc Thomas has the makings of a superstar. That's just making Artis-Payne better.

"It's nice having those guys, they help push me to get better every day," he said earlier in fall camp, according to Charles Goldberg of AuburnTigers.com. "I don't really worry about competition; I'm just worried about getting better myself." 

No, it won't be easy to replace Mason. But at 5'11", 210 pounds, Artis-Payne has the size to be a force between the tackles, jets to be a home run hitter and is surprisingly shifty in space. I like Kelvin Taylor, too, but Artis-Payne is in a spot that's ready-made for instant ground success.


@BarrettSallee has Bo Wallace shown enough growth over last two seasons to lead Ole Miss to SECCG or will they depend more on defense?

— Ken Sanders (@kenosando) August 25, 2014

Both, really. But I don't think either will lead Ole Miss to the SEC Championship Game.

I picked Ole Miss to tie for third with LSU in the SEC West at 9-3 but lose the tiebreaker to LSU.

Quarterback Bo Wallace is a big reason why I'm picking the Rebels to have a good year. He's thrown 40 touchdown passes over the last two seasons with a bum shoulder that was never really allowed to heal properly due to Wallace's responsibilities as a runner between the tackles. Bigger backs Mark Dodson and Jordan Wilkins should take some of that off Wallace's plate with I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton still showing off the jets on the edge, which will allow Wallace to be more of a passer and less of a runner.

Ole Miss might have one of the most underrated defenses in the SEC this year, led by a remarkably deep and talented secondary. That secondary will get a huge boost from a full season of Robert Nkemdiche at defensive tackle and a healthy C.J. Johnson at defensive end.

Will that get Ole Miss over the hump and to the SEC Championship Game? No, because that's a big hump—especially for a team that's playing its first-ever game in the Georgia Dome on Thursday against Boise State. The Rebels will, however, be competitive in most (if not all) of their games, which is still a step forward for the program.


Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.


Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oklahoma vs. Louisiana Tech Complete Game Preview

With the season opener against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs only days away, it’s finally time to see whether or not the Oklahoma Sooners are deserving of all the preseason hype.

The pressure will certainly be on the boys from Norman, as they are ranked in the Top Five in both major polls. However, backed by an impressive Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama in January, along with a stellar finish to the 2013 recruiting class, the Sooners have a lot to be confident about heading into 2014.

But as college football has taught us in the past, it only takes one game to change a team’s entire season.

Here’s everything you need to know about Saturday’s matchup.


Where: Gaylord Family Memorial Stadium, Norman, Oklahoma

When: Saturday, August 30 at 7 p.m. ET

Watch: Fox Sports regional coverage

Live Stream:Sooner Sports

Listen:Sooner Sports Radio Network

Betting Line: Oklahoma (-38), per Vegas Insider

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UCLA Football: 4 Bold Predictions for Bruins' 2014 Season

The hype surrounding the UCLA football program hasn't been seen in quite some time. Jim Mora has completely transformed an average program into one squarely sitting in the hunt for both a conference and national championship. 

This upcoming season also gives signal-caller Brett Hundley a chance to cement his legacy as perhaps the best quarterback to ever play at UCLA. In order to enhance his profile, he'll need to take the next step in defeating top competition (such as Oregon or Stanford). 

Ranked as the No. 7 team in the initial poll, expectations are incredibly high. Anything short of a division title will be seen as a massive disappointment. 

This piece will look at four bold predictions heading into the 2014 season. These proclamations will be listed down from the most tame to the most outlandish. 

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UCLA Football: 4 Bold Predictions for Bruins' 2014 Season

The hype surrounding the UCLA football program hasn't been seen in quite some time. Jim Mora has completely transformed an average program into one squarely sitting in the hunt for both a conference and national championship...

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Pac-12 Football: Biggest 2014 Games with Playoff Implications

2014 marks the first year that Pac-12 teams will be aiming for the Rose Bowl not simply because of the glory a win in Pasadena provides, but because winning there on Jan. 1 will earn a spot in the national championship game.

The notion of the Rose Bowl as a springboard to something bigger is yet another sign that college football is in the middle of major changes, and fans everywhere are buzzing about the new four-team playoff that will determine the sport's champion.

The top four teams in the country will play for the trophy, but each program's resume will be under the microscope more than ever, and big games will weigh heavily in the mind of the selection committee, which has the ultimate say in which squads belong in the top tier.

It's likely that given the rise of the Pac-12 in recent years, the conference champion will have a spot in the playoff. Which games will have the most say in the race to be among the top four?

Here are five such games that will go a long way in determining which Pac-12 team(s), if any, will make it into the inaugural College Football Playoff.

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Pac-12 Football: Biggest 2014 Games with Playoff Implications

2014 marks the first year that Pac -12 teams will be aiming for the Rose Bowl not simply because of the glory a win in Pasadena provides, but because winning there on Jan. 1 will earn a spot in the national championship game...

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Florida State Football: 3 Stars Who Will Break Out in 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State’s 2014 football roster is littered with household names and national-awards candidates. But who are the ‘Noles the nation doesn’t yet know about who could soon make a mark on the college football world?

Jameis Winston, Roberto Aguayo and Jalen Ramsey were just unproven players a year ago before becoming stars and helping lead FSU to its third national championship.

If the Seminoles want to go wire to wire and win a fourth crown, DeMarcus Walker, Dalvin Cook and Nate Andrews could each soon generate their own star power and play integral roles in a title quest that starts Saturday in Arlington against Oklahoma State.

Even though Walker isn’t listed as a starter on the 3-4 defense two-deep depth chart released Monday afternoon by the Florida State Sports Information Office, the sophomore defensive end is technically viewed as a starter in a pass-rushing rotation that also features Mario Edwards, Jr. and Chris Casher.

“[Walker] had one of the best camps out of any player,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said Monday in his first weekly press conference of the season. “[He’s] extremely quick, [his] weight was down just a hair, but his lean muscle mass went up quick, agility, power, consistency, I thought he had a tremendous [camp]. He’ll have a huge role for us. He’s like a starter right now—could start in two seconds.”

As a true freshman last year, Walker started in the opener at Pittsburgh before starting two more games and playing in 12 contests. He finished the season with 18 tackles and a sack.

Across the line of scrimmage, senior Karlos Williams is Florida State’s first-string tailback and considered by some to be a darkhorse Heisman Trophy candidate. But that doesn’t mean the true-freshman Cook can’t make a big impact in his first year.

A 5-star prospect and the No. 1 player in Florida in the 2014 class according to 247Sports, Cook enrolled early at Florida State but missed nearly all of spring practices after having shoulder surgery. Throughout fall camp, though, the 6'0", 200-pound rusher has shown no ill signs of the setback, instead looking every bit the elite, game-changing prospect FSU’s coaches expected him to be coming out of Miami Central High School.

Cook’s speed, balance, vision and strength have been on display throughout FSU’s practices. He entered camp No. 4 on the tailback depth chart but passed sophomore Ryan Green after the latter sustained a minor hamstring injury and has readily pushed redshirt sophomore Mario Pender for the No. 2 role. Entering the opener, both Cook and Pender are listed as co-No. 2 on the depth chart.

In the Seminoles’ final scrimmage before Oklahoma State game preparations began, Cook impressed the coaching staff.

“He looked really good,” Fisher said. “He made a lot of good plays and caught the ball…ran inside and outside. Very disciplined in his running. He read his cuts, understood the blocking schemes—where he wanted to be and how he wanted to be there and really took care of the football.”

No matter where Cook is positioned on the depth chart, he’s going to play and should make his mark; Fisher’s offenses traditionally feature multiple tailback at-bats, and the Seminoles’ could utilize a two-back formation that sees Cook in the game at the same time with Williams or Pender.

Cook is also in the mix for kick-return duties behind incumbents Williams and Kermit Whitfield.

As for Andrews, the true sophomore safety was often overlooked in 2013 while his classmate Ramsey drew national praise for his early value and importance to the defense. But the Fairhope, Ala. native was also a solid contributor as a rookie, playing in all 14 games and starting one.

Andrews actually led the ‘Noles with four interceptions despite playing in a secondary with Ramsey, future NFL draft picks Terrence Brooks and Lamarcus Joyner and perhaps college football’s best cornerback duo in P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby.

Andrews’ quick grasp of FSU’s defensive responsibilities made him a key part FSU's effectiveness on that side of the ball and helped him grab hold of Brooks’ vacated starting safety spot entering the 2014 season—despite the fact he missed spring practices with an injury.

“Nate is a really smart player,” redshirt junior linebacker linebacker Terrance Smith said at FSU’s medic day earlier this month. “He knows where he needs to be on each play to make an impact.”

On a team full of big names with big-play ability, Andrews—like Cook and Walker—could become one of the reigning champs’ best players in 2014.


Brandon Mellor is a Florida State writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of Seminoles.com. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Follow @BrandonMellor on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Sends Recruit Shy Tuttle a Photoshopped Beyonce Cover

If you're trying to convince a recruit to come to your school, putting him next to one of the hottest female celebrities in the world can only help.

Five-star defensive tackle Shy Tuttle shared this Photoshopped Rolling Stone cover, where he is next to superstar recording artist Beyonce. The magazine spoof also includes why Mrs. Knowles-Carter thinks Tuttle belongs at Tennessee.

It appears the Vols may have upped the ante on recruiting tactics.

Will it work?

Only Shy knows.

[Shy Tuttle, h/t SB Nation]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Clemson Tigers vs. Georgia Bulldogs Complete Game Preview

The stage is set in Athens, Georgia, for the Clemson Tigers to take on the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday night. After what feels like an eternity leading up to the game, it’s time to completely break down the upcoming matchup. We will look at the keys to victory for both teams and also give a prediction for the game.

Dabo Swinney and the Tigers will look to pick up a big road win Saturday in Athens, but the Bulldogs will be aiming for revenge.

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William & Mary vs. Virginia Tech Complete Game Preview

The 2014 season is finally here for the Virginia Tech Hokies. No more talk about who will play quarterback this fall—that's settled for now with head coach Frank Beamer naming Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer the starter over the weekend—or how the Hokies will replace several defensive stalwarts.

This Saturday in Lane Stadium, the Hokies play host to the William & Mary Tribe. 

Surprisingly, these schools have somewhat of a rich history. The Hokies lead the all-time series, 40-18-4, but Beamer has only presided over one contest between the two teams—a 44-3 Hokies win in 2007. 

Both teams are coming off similar 2013 campaigns. The Tribe finished 7-5 last season but had some big wins over the likes of conference foes Delaware and New Hampshire. 

The Hokies finished 8-5 and had some disappointing losses to teams they'd previously dominated. 

Will Brewer prove the right selection for Beamer? Saturday is a bit of a warm-up for Tech as it heads to Ohio State in Week 2. But the Hokies better not overlook the Tribe.

  • When: Saturday, August 30, 2014
  • Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Virginia
  • Time: 4 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN News
  • Radio: Virginia Tech IMG Sports Network. Here is a complete list of stations by area. 
  • Spread: There is currently no spread for this game. 

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Carl Lawson Injury: Updates on Auburn Star's Knee and Return

When Auburn defensive end Carl Lawson underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL on May 1, the hope was that he would return anytime during the 2014 campaign. With rehab reportedly going extremely well, though, the new goal is being pushed up. 

"It's been a remarkable rehab and recovery," defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said on SiriusXM's College Sports Today last week, via AL.com's Joel A. Erickson. "He's way ahead of schedule, but I would say half a season would be optimistic."

That's extremely optimistic. The halfway point of the season is Oct. 11 against Mississippi State or Oct. 25 against South Carolina, which would mark a recovery time of less than six months.

Still, Lawson is a physical specimen, and head coach Gus Malzahn has been equally encouraged. 

"Carl Lawson's coming on strong," he said Monday, via Erickson. "Obviously, you know, he's very motivated and all that, working very hard."

If the recovery is indeed moving at such a fast pace, that would be huge for the Tigers. Lawson is a fantastic talent who recorded four sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss as a freshman and was expected to take a big leap following the departure of Dee Ford. 

ESPN's Travis Haney and Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo praised the Georgia native:

With Gabe Wright, Montravius Adams, Cassanova McKinzy and others, the Tigers have players who can help generate a pass rush in the meantime. 

But getting Lawson back by October or November would provide Malzahn and Co. with a massive late-season boost. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5 Bold Predictions for the Georgia Bulldogs' 2014 Season

It’s game week for the Georgia Bulldogs, and fans are looking forward to what could be a very special 2014 season.

There will be some bumps in the road, but as long as the Bulldogs can overcome the obstacles thrown at them, they will have no issues reaching their goals. But the other thing that needs to happen is that certain players need to exceed expectations. They have to play above their ability if the Bulldogs want to win the SEC and the College Football Playoff. At the same time, the Bulldogs will have to have some luck on their side, which is very possible.

So here are five bold predictions for the Bulldogs this upcoming season.

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5 Bold Predictions for Nebraska's 2014 Season

The long wait is over, and Nebraska’s 2014 season is about to begin. As Nebraska prepares to face Florida Atlantic for this year’s lid-lifter, it’s time to get crazy and think about what might happen as the season unfolds. So here are five bold, but mostly plausible, predictions for the upcoming campaign.


Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are from cfbstats.com.

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5 Bold Predictions for Michigan's 2014 Season

Michigan kicks off its season on Saturday looking to avenge 2007's 34-32 loss to Appalachian State—and to show the world of college football that it's a far better program than 2013's 7-6 record suggests. 

With Doug Nussmeier, the new offensive coordinator, the Wolverines are expected to revert to their former pro-style ways by attacking the ground and ruling the trenches. While at Alabama, Nussmeier had the backs and O-line to do such things. 

However, in Ann Arbor, he's inherited somewhat of a jigsaw puzzle up front and in the backfield. Getting those two position groups back on track will ultimately be goal No. 1 for Nussmeier, who, talent-wise, certainly has enough mammoths on the line and horses in the stable to produce a 1,000-yard rusher. 

With that being said, this slideshow will throw out a few predictions regarding Team 135's season. Hopefully a few stick to the wall. 

Are you ready for football? Saturday football?! 


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Josh Shaw Injury: Updates on USC Star's Ankles After Rescuing 7-Year-Old Nephew

University of Southern California defensive back Josh Shaw was meant to be one of the leaders on the 2014 Trojans team at the dawn of a new era for the program. However, a valiant effort to rescue his seven-year-old nephew resulted in two high ankle sprains, putting his status in question moving forward.

As reported by Jordan Moore of USCTrojans.com, Shaw leaped from a second-story balcony and onto the concrete to save his nephew from drowning in a pool. This incident occurred in Palmdale at a family gathering, hosted by Shaw's cousin.    

Despite the risk of perhaps putting the foreseeable future of his football career in jeopardy, Shaw stated that he didn't regret his actions.

"I would do it again for whatever kid it was, it did not have to be my nephew," said Shaw on Monday, per Moore's report. "My ankles really hurt, but I am lucky to be surrounded by the best trainers and doctors in the world. I am taking my rehab one day at a time, and I hope to be back on the field as soon as possible."

NFL.com's Bryan Fischer felt Shaw was fortunate with regard to the severity of his diagnosis:

No matter how much time he spends on the field this season, Shaw's leadership and merited selection as a team captain ought to inspire the Trojans this season.

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian weighed in on Shaw's selfless act, via Moore.

"That was a heroic act by Josh, putting his personal safety aside," Sarkisian said. "But that's the kind of person he is. It is unfortunate that he'll be sidelined for a while and we will miss his leadership and play, but I know he'll be working hard to get back on the field as soon as possible."

New York Giants linebacker and former Trojans player Devon Kennard praised Shaw, too:

Ryan Abraham of USCFootball.com analyzed how Shaw's absence would impact the USC secondary:

Shaw's daring leap should go down as one of the best, most sentimental sports stories in recent memory.

It would have been nice for Sarkisian to have the talented, experienced fifth-year senior on the field to start his maiden season at the helm of the Trojans. However, Shaw made a most commendable sacrifice at the expense of altering his own life in a big way.

The cornerback position has seen USC pit many players in a heated competition, but it will indeed be on starter Kevon Seymour to help step up.

Unfortunately for Seymour, a junior, he was hospitalized for a stomach ailment, per the Los Angeles Times' Gary Klein. That will likely place the burden on redshirt freshman Chris Hawkins to pick up the slack in USC's secondary for the time being.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Taj Griffin Injury: Updates on Oregon Commit's Knee and Return

Taj Griffin, future Oregon Duck and one of the best high school running backs in the nation, will miss his senior season after tearing his ACL.   

His father, Herb Griffin, confirmed the news to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Michael Carvell:

Yes, he’s going to be out for the year. The MRI came back and showed that he tore his ACL. But you know, he’s in positive spirits. He’s getting his mind right to go through rehab and to get his mind right for next level. That’s where we are right now.

You never want to see any player suffer such a serious injury, let alone one as talented and as young as the McEachern High School (Powder Springs, Georgia) star.  

247Sports' Justin Hopkins provided his thoughts:

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, the 4-star Griffin is the 39th-best recruit in the nation, the No. 1 overall all-purpose back and sixth-best player from Georgia. It's clearly a blow for his current team, which entered the year ranked No. 1 in the state, but it's also worth looking ahead to his collegiate career. 

Built perfectly for the fast-paced Oregon offense, the 5'10", 175-pound Griffin has blazing 4.35 wheels and knee-buckling elusiveness. ACL surgery is especially concerning for a player with this kind of speed and agility.

Fortunately for the Ducks, Byron Marshall, Thomas Tyner and Royce Freeman should all still be in Eugene for the 2015 season, limiting the need to rush Griffin or even play him next season. 

While this is a really unfortunate blow for Griffin during his senior year, it shouldn't affect his future at Oregon.  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Taj Griffin Injury: Updates on Oregon Commit's Knee and Return

Taj Griffin, future Oregon Duck and one of the best high school running backs in the nation, will miss his senior season after tearing his ACL...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

UCLA vs. Virginia: Betting Odds and Predictions

The No. 7 UCLA Bruins will kick off their quest for this year's inaugural College Football Playoff with a trip to the East Coast to face the Virginia Cavaliers this Saturday afternoon at Scott Stadium in a Pac-12-ACC clash. The game is set for noon ET and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.

The Bruins finished last season with a 10-3 straight-up record that included a 42-12 romp over Virginia Tech as seven-point favorites in the Sun Bowl. They went a profitable 9-4 against the spread, and the total stayed "under" in seven of the 13 games. UCLA was 6-1 against the spread as a favorite last year.

Virginia finished at the bottom of the ACC's Coastal Division last season with a 0-8 straight-up record in conference play, and its overall record on the year was 2-10. The Cavaliers posted a 5-6-1 record ATS in 2013, and the total went "over" in nine of the 12 games. They were 4-4-1 ATS as underdogs last season.



The Bruins have been working their way back to respectability in the Pac-12 for the last two seasons under head coach Jim Mora with back-to-back winning records, and he enters his third season at the helm with a number of key starters back from last season's squad.

The name at the top of that list is Heisman Trophy-hopeful quarterback Brett Hundley. He threw for 3,071 yards in 2013 while completing 67.2 percent of his 369 attempts. Hundley tossed 24 touchdowns against nine interceptions, and he also proved to be a dual threat with a team-high 748 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.

The Bruins also return six key members of a defense that was ranked 35th in the nation in points allowed, giving up an average of 23.2 points per game.

Virginia is obviously in the midst of a major rebuilding process after a disastrous campaign in 2013, and there is little doubt that head coach Mike London could quickly find himself on the hot seat if this team gets off to a poor start. Things looked promising on opening day last year with a stunning 19-16 victory over BYU as a 2.5-point home favorite, but it was all downhill from there with double-digit margins of defeat in nine of the 10 losses.

The Cavaliers return 16 starters from last year's squad, so experience is in their favor, but that may not be the case when it comes to having the talent to turn things around. The offense was ranked 111th in the FBS when it came to scoring, averaging 19.8 points a game, and Virginia's defense was not that much better, allowing an average of 33.3 points a game. Look for Greyson Lambert to get the call as the starting quarterback this Saturday, replacing an ineffective David Watford.


Betting Odds and Trends by Doc's Sports

Point Spread: UCLA -21

Total Line: 57.5

The Bruins are 4-0 ATS in their last four nonconference games, and they went 5-2 ATS in their last seven games on the road. The total has stayed under in their last six road games.

The Cavaliers are 7-17-2 ATS in their last 26 games overall and 3-11-2 ATS in their last 16 games at home. The total has gone over in six of their last seven home games.

This will be the first meeting between these two teams in recent memory.



If UCLA wants to work its way to the top of rankings in the nation, it is going to have to win games such as this with relative ease. You never want to give up this many points in any team's home opener, but there is no reason that the Bruins do not win this game by more than the three-touchdown spread.

UCLA (-21) over Virginia

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4 Bold Predictions for Notre Dame's 2014 Season

SOUTH BEND, Indiana — Game week is finally upon us, as Notre Dame football begins its 2014 season Saturday when it hosts Rice.


— Kerry Cooks (@CoachKerryCooks) August 25, 2014

In one week it all starts for @NDFootball#WeAreNDpic.twitter.com/ATQqiK39rN

— The Fighting Irish (@FightingIrish) August 23, 2014

We’ve spent the summer months predicting and analyzing everything from position battles to the schedule to recruiting. Now it’s time to focus in on the actual season.

With just a few more days remaining until kickoff, here are some bold predictions for the upcoming season. Now these very well could end up wildly wrong, but hopefully they’ll still provide us with some insight into particular aspects of the Irish squad.


All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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