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5 Bold Predictions for Clemson's 2014 Season

Whether it's claiming a team's player will win the Heisman Trophy, or stating the squad will beat the in-state rival, bold predictions are always a fun way of projecting the outcome of the season.

For the Clemson Tigers, there are mixed emotions from analysts over how many wins the team can pull off in 2014.

Bold projections don't always come true, but these are five things we think have a good chance of happening this fall.


Cole Stoudt Puts Up Numbers Similar to Tajh Boyd's from 2013

Tajh Boyd had a big season last fall, putting up 3,851 passing yards and 34 passing touchdowns. The one area Cole Stoudt likely won't match Boyd is rushing, but I think we could see fairly similar passing numbers from the senior this season.

Offensive coordinator Chad Morris' system will allow Stoudt to put up solid numbers in 2014. If you break down Boyd's numbers from last season, he averaged about 296 yards passing a game and averaged 2.6 passing touchdowns a game.

There are still talented weapons for Stoudt to utilize, and Morris will set up situations that are beneficial to the quarterback's statistics.

Charone Peake, Adam Humphries, Jordan Leggett and Mike Williams are all reliable targets for Stoudt to throw to this season, not to mention the talent of the freshmen who could compete for time.

Boyd's completion percentage in 2013 was 68.5 percent, but you should expect Stoudt to top that number this season.

As the backup last season, Stoudt completed 79.7 percent of his passes, while also recording a 166.7 passing efficiency rating.

While Stoudt won't throw as many deep passes as Boyd did in his career, the senior will still have solid numbers because of his ability to get the ball in the hands of the big targets.


Clemson Breaks the Gamecocks' Winning Streak

This is the prediction that Clemson fans certainly hope comes true this November. The Tigers have been unsuccessful at beating in-state rival South Carolina the last five seasons, but that will change in 2014.

Why? Because this year is a home game for Clemson? No, Dylan Thompson beat the Tigers in Death Valley two years ago.

Is it because the Gamecocks are without Jadeveon Clowney and Connor Shaw? No, the Gamecocks look to be a dangerous team, even without those two players.

The difference in 2014 will be the Clemson defense. Last year's game was frustrating for the Tigers because of the way in which the defense gave up yards. Clemson held Mike Davis to a season-low 22 yards, but Shaw was able to generate production on the ground.

Thompson doesn't have the mobility of Shaw, so the Tigers could take away the run game if they play like they did in the game last season.

The front seven for the Tigers is going to be really good, so they may be able to generate enough pressure to keep Thompson from throwing many deep passes.

This will be another great game that comes down to the final quarter, but an early look shows that the Tigers could turn the series around this season.


The Tigers Give Florida State a Close Game, Give Analysts a Surprise

Not many people are giving the Tigers a shot in this one, but a few analysts will be surprised next month. While I don’t think the Tigers will win this game, I do feel that the matchup could be a lot closer than most are expecting.

ESPN’s recent vote showed that all 23 college football experts picked Florida State to win the ACC, likely meaning they all think the Seminoles will beat Clemson.

The Tigers had the talent to compete with Florida State last season, but turnovers really hurt them, especially in the first quarter.

After a weeklong buildup by ESPN, the Tigers finally took the field in front of a huge national audience in the season’s first Top Five matchup. That pressure likely caused the Tigers to play timid early, and Jameis Winston took the comfortable lead and ran with it.

I expect to see fewer mistakes this season with Stoudt behind center. He manages the ball well and doesn’t turn it over much, throwing just one interception in his Clemson career.

The Tigers also don’t have the pressure of being the favorite this season. The position the Tigers were in last year—being ranked as high as third in the nation—will be the position Florida State finds itself in this season.

The Seminoles are the overwhelming favorite to repeat as national champions, so the bar is set very high for them in 2014.

Ultimately, Florida State’s offensive and defensive lines will be too much for Clemson in the fourth quarter, but I think the Tigers will be able to hang around for a few quarters in this game.


D.J. Howard Won't Be the Tigers' Leading Rusher

This is probably the “least bold” projection on the list, but some still might find it a surprise. Howard is the starter at running back for now, but we could very likely see one of the backups lead the team in rushing.

Wayne Gallman, C.J. Davidson and Adam Choice should all be solid contributors at the position this season, and they will see the field even more with gained experience throughout the season.

I would say Gallman and Davidson have the best shot at piling up the most rushing yards, but don’t be surprised to see Choice inch up there.


The Tigers End the Season With a First-Team All-ACC Wide Receiver

Clemson having an all-conference wide receiver has become an expected occurrence, but this season isn’t as promising.

The ACC has some very talented receivers, such as Florida State’s Rashad Greene and North Carolina’s Quinshad Davis, who should both have big seasons.

Don’t sleep on the Clemson receivers, though. Between Humphries, Peake and Williams, the Tigers will see one of those guys be selected to the first team.

With the absence of Martavis Bryant and Sammy Watkins, Clemson desperately needs one of the three to emerge as the No. 1 target.

Humphries could likely total the most receptions, but Peake and Williams could end the year among the ACC’s leaders in receiving yards or touchdown catches.

So there you have it, five bold projections for this season. We should have more clarity on these predictions after Saturday’s showdown with the Georgia Bulldogs.

Which of these predictions do you see the Tigers having the least likely chance of pulling off?

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Cold Hard Fact for Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fact: Following a number of deaths, former President Theodore Roosevelt avoided a potential ban of the sport of football in colleges and high schools by reforming the rules.

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Fact of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: [History.com]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football: 2014-15 Bowl Game Predictions

It’s the best time of the year. College bowl season will make the transition from the controversial BCS era to the new and hopefully improved College Football Playoff system. 

The new College Football Playoff will include six bowl games, with two of them being semifinal games. This season, the New Year’s Six will start with the Peach, Fiesta and Orange Bowls on Dec. 31 and be followed by the Cotton, Rose and Sugar Bowls on Jan. 1. The Rose and Sugar Bowl will hold semifinal games consisting of the top four teams. The two winners in those games will play for the College Football Playoff Championship on Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. 

Regarding the other lower-tier bowl games, the Bahamas, Boca Raton, Camellia, Miami Beach and Quick Lane Bowls have been added to the bowl schedule this season. 

With an exciting college football season just one day away, who will win the 2014-15 national title?

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2015 Recruits Who Will Win Awards in Their College Careers

The current crop of college prospects may be busy trying to chase down state championship trophies, but recruiting is all about projecting the potential of a player beyond present day. With that said, it's never too early to get way ahead of ourselves while evaluating talent and the impact someone could make in college.

The 2015 class assuredly includes several future All-American selections, prized NFL draft picks and a cluster of Heisman Trophy candidates. Though these athletes are still a year away from starting the next chapter of their careers, we look at a select group that seems poised to challenge for positional awards and annual honors in coming years.

Here's a glimpse at five prospects we expect to have the necessary spotlight, production and skill set to reach the podium as recipients of prestigious college football hardware.

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Why Jameis Winston & FSU Will Continue to Roll After BCS Title Win

The Florida State Seminoles and Oklahoma State Cowboys are going head-to-head during the first week of the college football season. Bleacher Report college football analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer discuss this big-time matchup and some key factors that will impact this game. Who do you think will win?

Watch the video and let us know.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Will Todd Gurley, Georgia Be Too Much for Vic Beasley and Clemson Defense?

The Georgia Bulldogs and Clemson Tigers are going head to head during the first week of college football.

Bleacher Report's College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss this big-time matchup and some key factors that will impact this game. Who do you think will win?

Watch the video and let us know.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big 12 Betting Preview: Oklahoma Sooners Favored to Reclaim Conference

Following up on a convincing 45-31 victory over Alabama in this past year’s Sugar Bowl, the Oklahoma Sooners enter the 2014 NCAA Football season as strong 4-5 favorites to win the Big 12 conference title.

The Sooners amassed an 11-2 record in 2013 (7-2 in the conference) while posting convincing victories over multiple nationally ranked teams, including No. 22 Notre Dame, No. 10 Texas Tech and No. 6 Oklahoma State.

But a 41-12 loss to the conference rival Baylor Bears sealed the Sooners’ fate and gave the 2013 Big 12 conference title to Baylor. Regardless, sportsbooks have them at 10-1 to win the College Football Playoff.

Despite their position as defending Big 12 champs, the Bears trail the Sooners to defend their title, with odds of 5-2, according to books monitored by Odds Shark. Baylor rode a potent offense to the title a year ago, recording at least 59 points in seven of their 11 victories. However, the season ended on a sour note for the Bears, who got a taste of their own medicine in a 52-42 loss to the UCF Knights in the Fiesta Bowl.

The Bears open as 33-point home chalk to SMU this weekend.

The Texas Longhorns complete the short list of favorites to win the 2014 Big 12 conference title. The Longhorns sport betting odds of 15-2 entering the 2014 campaign, following a roller-coaster season in 2013.

Texas was slow out of the gate, dropping two of their first three games against out-of-conference opponents, but the Longhorns salvaged their season and a bowl game appearance by winning seven of their next nine, finishing the regular season with an 8-4 record before losing a 30-7 decision to Oregon in the Alamo Bowl.

The Oklahoma State Cowboys posted a strong 7-2 record against Big 12 opponents in 2013 but start this season with 12-1 odds to be the top team in the Big 12. They are joined in this second tier of contenders at 10-1 by the Kansas State Wildcats, who finished at 8-5.

The Cowboys face a daunting opener against Florida State in Arlington, Texas, where they are getting 17.5 points from sportsbooks, according to Odds Shark.

The TCU Horned Frogs sit squarely in the middle of the pack with Big 12 futures betting odds of 12-1, followed by the Texas Tech Red Raiders at 20-1. The West Virginia Mountaineers lead the pack of Big 12 long shots, with odds of 66-1, while the Iowa State Cyclones and Kansas Jayhawks round out Big 12 conference betting, each sporting distant odds of 100-1.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

ACC Football Betting Preview: Florida State Favored to Dominate

Following their perfect 14-0 season a year ago, the Florida State Seminoles are once again heavy online betting favorites, with odds of 1-3 to capture their third straight Atlantic Coast Conference title and 11-2 odds to claim their second straight national championship.

The Seminoles were a dominant force a year ago, only once allowing more than 17 points in a game while extending the team’s undefeated streak to 16 games dating back to November of 2012. Florida State’s national championship futures odds of 11-2 are a slight improvement over the 13-2 odds they sported prior to last season, when they trailed favorites USC, Alabama and LSU in NCAA Football betting odds.

This year, the Seminoles were deadlocked in NCAA Football futures betting with Alabama before Bovada.lv made them 4-1 favorites earlier Wednesday (Bama was 5-1). Alabama had been expected to be Florida State’s opponent in the national championship game before they were upset in overtime by Auburn in the annual Iron Bowl.

Two teams trail the Seminoles in ACC futures wagering, each with odds of 10-1. The Clemson Tigers capped a strong 2013 season with a 40-35 win over Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. The Tigers’ 11-2 record (7-1 in the conference) likely would have been good enough to challenge for the top spot in just about any other NCAA Football conference.

The Louisville Cardinals make their ACC debut in 2014, also with odds of 10-1 to win the conference. The Cardinals capped a relatively easy 12-1 season in the American Atlantic Conference with a 36-9 victory over Miami (FL) in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Joining Clemson and Louisville at 12-1, the North Carolina Tar Heels rebounded to finish 7-6 following a brutal 1-5 start to their 2013 season, earning a berth in the Belk Bowl, where they defeated Cincinnati 39-17.

The Miami Hurricanes and Virginia Tech Hokies come next in ACC futures betting, with odds of 12-1, followed by the Duke Blue Devils at 20-1, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at 25-1 and Pittsburgh Panthers at 40-1.

The Syracuse Orange and Virginia Cavaliers are pegged as the best of the worst in ACC football online betting with odds of 66-1, followed by the North Carolina State Wolfpack at 100-1 and the Boston College Eagles and Wake Forest Demon Deacons at odds of 200-1. Wake is the first ACC team in action Thursday as they visit UL-Monroe as small road dogs.

Odds and stats courtesy of Odds Shark.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5 Bold Predictions for Oregon's 2014 Season

It’s finally here! The Oregon Ducks will officially kick off their 2014 campaign Saturday against the South Dakota Coyotes. With the season finally within reach, it’s time to do what we do best: tap into our inner clairvoyant senses and make some bold predictions!

It’s tough to make "bold" predictions for the Ducks. Suggesting that Marcus Mariota may win the Heisman or that the Ducks will take home the national championship isn’t exactly like predicting lottery numbers. The Ducks are the third-ranked team in the nation, according to The Associated Press, while Mariota is considered to be one of the top three favorites to win the Heisman, according to every human being alive.

So let’s go out on a limb here and make some bold statements. I’m talking about “throw some water on your face because you’re dreaming” type of predictions.

Here are five bold predictions for Oregon’s 2014 season.

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5 Bold Predictions for Oregon's 2014 Season

It’s finally here! The Oregon Ducks will officially kick off their 2014 campaign Saturday against the South Dakota Coyotes...

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Ohio State Football: 5 Takeaways from the Buckeyes' Final Depth Chart

Two days later than most schools, Ohio State released its first official depth chart on Tuesday, providing insight into who stands where for the Buckeyes heading into the 2014 season.

There weren't too many surprises to be found, as only three starting spots remained up for grabs as of Monday, and head coach Urban Meyer anticipates those battles continuing throughout the week. But we now have our first official look at what Ohio State's lineup should look like on Saturday, when the Buckeyes take the field in Baltimore for their season opener against Navy.

What follows is Ohio State's first official depth chart, followed by a look into what we should make of it.


Takeaway 1: Line 'Em Up?

Replacing four multiyear starters from one of the country's most talented units over the course of the past two seasons, there still appears to be a lack of clarity on the OSU offensive line, with singular starters not being named at either center or left guard. It will either be Jacoby Boren or Chad Lindsay lining up at the former for the Buckeyes, and Joel Hale or Billy Price at the latter.

That could present an issue for OSU, as cohesiveness is needed more on an offensive line than any other unit on a football roster. It could be viewed as encouraging that the Buckeyes have what's perceived as depth at both positions, but also alarming that a player hasn't grabbed hold of either spot.

With Virginia Tech's aggressive defense looming in Week 2, look for Ohio State to use this weekend to seek clarity at both positions this weekend in Baltimore. With a first-year quarterback starting behind it, all eyes will be on the OSU offensive line this season, as it certainly has lofty expectations to live up to.


Takeaway 2: Receiver/Running Back Rotation

While seniors Devin Smith and Evan Spencer reclaimed their starting spots from a season ago, that could be viewed as a "name-only" status, as Meyer stated on Monday that the Buckeyes currently possess a rotation of receivers that goes six players deep.

"I couldn't tell you the starting receivers right now," Meyer said a day ago. "All of them could march in, and they all deserve playing time, so it's just a matter of who breaks the huddle first."

It appears that those players will be Smith and Spencer, although it shouldn't be long until we see Corey Smith and Michael Thomas also on the field. Add in highly touted H-backs (and co-starters) Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall, and Ohio State appears to have a plethora of playmakers available at J.T. Barrett's disposal.

As far as running backs are concerned, it was long assumed that Ezekiel Elliott would be the Buckeyes' lone starter, but he now finds himself listed as a co-starter alongside fifth-year senior Rod Smith and true freshman Curtis Grant. Given Barrett's inexperience, Ohio State will likely rely heavily on its run game this weekend, and perhaps for the foreseeable future.

While they may be unproven as players, Meyer seems to like what he sees in his skill players this season. Those players living up to those expectations will be all the more important this season, as Barrett attempts to play the role of distributor in Ohio State's spread offense.


Takeaway 3: Defensive Depth

As opposed to a season ago, when the Buckeyes hardly rotated on any unit on the defensive side of the ball, Ohio State finally appears to possess the depth that Meyer has been craving since arriving in Columbus in 2012.

Even with Noah Spence suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season, the Buckeyes go a legitimate eight-deep on the defensive line, with the first four being as good as any in the country. The backups aren't too shabby, either, mixing a blend of experience (Rashad Frazier) and youth (Tyquan Lewis) that should help fulfill defensive line coach Larry Johnson's desire to constantly rotate players. It's also worth noting that senior captain Michael Bennett is listed as co-starter alongside Tommy Schutt, who Meyer said has had one of the best training camps of any Buckeye this fall.

Ohio State could make the most of a rotation at linebacker as well, with Raekwon McMillan spelling Curtis Grant at middle linebacker and Chris Worley possessing a skill set similar to starter Darron Lee. Cam Williams also adds experience and versatility and shouldn't be shellshocked if forced to see the field.

In the secondary, Eli Apple and Gareon Conley have been named co-starters opposite Doran Grant at corner, but each should see significant snaps in Chris Ash's press-coverage system. True freshman Marshon Lattimore was also expected to be a part of the rotation but was slated to undergo surgery on Wednesday morning.

While Cam Burrows and Vonn Bell are listed as co-starters at free safety, expect for Burrows to slide down to the dime back position when the Buckeyes are facing obvious passing situations. Erick Smith cracking the two-deep as a true freshman is also intriguing, as the hard-hitting safety from Cleveland Glenville has the potential to be an X-factor on the OSU defense.


Takeaway 4: Fear the Freshmen

Speaking of Smith, it is worth noting the number of freshmen lining the Buckeyes' depth chart, with seven first-year players finding themselves in the OSU two-deep. That's Meyer making good on a promise he made in the offseason, as he's constantly bemoaned the lack of impact that last year's freshman class made.

Of the freshmen who made the Buckeyes' first depth chart, look for Samuel to get the best look at making an immediate impact, perhaps as soon as this weekend. While not currently listed on the depth chart, Jalyn Holmes should also see his name called sooner rather than later, as Ohio State looks to improve its pass rush in Spence's absence.

Erick Smith aside, most of the impact from the Buckeyes' other freshmen could come on special teams—at least in the early part of the season. But making the two-deep this early in one's college career is certainly something worth noting, as it provides insight into who has been impressing the OSU coaching staff.


Takeaway 5: Special Unit

One of the less talked about position battles on the Ohio State roster during fall camp, true freshmen Sean Nuernberger edged out senior Kyle Clinton for the right to be the Buckeyes' starting kicker this fall. A 3-star prospect by way of Buckney, Kentucky, Nuernberger has been lauded for his leg power since arriving on campus and will get the first crack at replacing four-year starter Drew Basil.

In the return game, Ohio State should be as explosive as its been in years, as Wilson not only reprises his role as kick returner but takes over punt return duties as well. More than that, the Buckeyes now appear to have a plethora of options when it comes to returners, as Marshall and Samuel have both been lauded for their ability in open space.

Superb special teams was always a hallmark of Meyer's success at Florida, and Ohio State's makeup in that area currently resembles that of one of his Gators team.


Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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AAC Betting Odds: UCF Pegged as Favorite to Repeat in 2014

Following a stellar 2013 campaign that saw them claim the American Athletic Conference’s inaugural title with a perfect 8-0 conference record, the University of Central Florida Knights start the 2014 season as 7-4 co-favorites to repeat as AAC champs in college football future betting.

The Knights joined the newly formed AAC in 2013 following eight seasons in Conference USA, during which they won two conference titles and made five bowl game appearances.

“The American” undergoes further changes this season with the departure of the Louisville Cardinals to the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights to the Big Ten, along with the arrival of the East Carolina Pirates, Tulane Green Wave and Tulsa Golden Hurricane from C-USA.

The Cardinals’ departure following a strong 12-1 season has created opportunity for a number of teams in The American to improve their college football futures betting odds.

The Cincinnati Bearcats struggled down the stretch last season, dropping their last two games, including a 39-17 loss to North Carolina in the Belk Bowl, to finish the season at 9-4. But that has not kept Cincy from being pegged as a co-favorite in The American.

The Houston Cougars moved to the AAC from C-USA along with UCF a year ago. The Cougars posted a middling 5-3 conference record, but owned the second best defense in The American, allowing just 16 points per game against AAC competition. The Cougars start the 2014 season with betting odds of 5-2 to win the AAC title and are a 27-50 bet to win at least nine regular season games in 2014.

East Carolina completes the list of favorites to win The American conference title with betting odds of 7-1. The Pirates compiled a respectable 10-3 record in their last season in Conference USA, including a 37-20 win over Ohio in the Beef 'O' Brady’s Bowl.

The betting line on total regular-season wins by the Pirates is set at 6.5, with the over favored with a moneyline of 77-100, while the under is pegged at 9-10.

The Memphis Tigers lead the back of the pack with betting odds of 20-1 to finish atop The American this season. They are followed by the Southern Methodist Mustangs and Tulsa at 33-1, and the South Florida Bulls at 50-1.

Three teams share long-shot status in The American with the Connecticut Huskies, Temple Owls and Tulane all trailing at 66-1.

Tulane is first in action Thursday against Tulsa, and the Green Wave is a 6.5-point road dog, according to Odds Shark.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Football Props Betting: Heisman Odds, Passing, Rushing Stats

Jameis Winston is favored to win the Heisman Trophy and favored to lead the ACC in passing touchdowns, but he's only even odds to lead his conference in passing.

That is just one of the interesting wrinkles in college football odds as props kick into high gear ahead of Week 1 of the college football season.

The Florida State Seminoles quarterback is pegged as the 9-2 favorite to win his second straight Heisman award and 2-3 to lead the ACC in passing scores. But at least one sportsbook monitored by Odds Shark had him as an even-odds bet to lead the conference in passing yards.

For the serious college football betting fan, there are other props betting options focused on team and player performance over the course of the 2014 season, including betting lines on the season stat lines of a number of Heisman Trophy candidates.

The betting line on Winston’s total passing yards during the 2014 regular season is set at 3,474.5. The national championship MVP threw for 3,490 yards during the 2013 regular season, but it is the UNDER that is slightly favored in this college football props bet, with moneyline odds of 10-13.

However, Winston remains a solid 2-3 bet to lead the ACC in passing touchdowns this season, and is also a 5-6 bet to lead the conference in passing yards.

"Some of these wagers may seem quite novel but fans who follow their teams closely can churn a profit over the course of the season," said Jack Randall, an analyst at OddsShark.com, which provides daily odds to Bleacher Report.

Team props betting opportunities are also available, focused on the inaugural College Football Playoff, as well as betting lines on total regular season wins for dozens of Division I-A teams.

The Seminoles again lead the way in College Football Playoff betting, with odds of 2-5 to qualify for the four-team tourney. After finishing last season with a 12-0 regular season record, en route to a perfect 14-0 season and the national championship, the betting line on Seminoles regular-season wins is set at 11.5, with the UNDER favored with moneyline odds of 20-27.

The Auburn Tigers, who fell to the Seminoles in the BCS National Championship after posting an 11-1 regular-season record, are pegged as a solid 20-27 moneyline bet to win OVER 9 games in 2014, but enter the 2014 season as 2-7 underdogs to qualify for the football’s new Final Four.

Led by QB Marcus Mariota, who closely trails Winston with Heisman Trophy betting odds of 5-1, the Oregon Ducks start their season as heavy 20-33 favorites to go OVER their regular season win total of 10.5, and are perched among the leaders in College Football Playoff betting with 6-5 odds of qualifying for the tourney.

Stats and odds courtesy of Odds Shark. Quotes obtained firsthand.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA's Kenny Young Next Frosh Phenom to Star for Bruins

That young star you can expect to see making plays for No. 7 UCLA Saturday at Virginia, and all season long, is Kenny Young. 

A true freshman from New Orleans, Young was impressive enough at training camp to perhaps earn the starting job at inside linebacker for the Bruins' season opener Saturday at Virginia. 

"What I've seen is a young man who is very serious about being an outstanding football player," UCLA head coach Jim Mora said on Tuesday's Pac-12 coaches teleconference call.

Young arrived at UCLA boasting an already impressive resume. Billed as a high 4-star recruit, he recorded a remarkable 122 tackles with four sacks for John Curtis High School in 2013, per 247Sports. 

His outstanding play earned Young numerous national honors, including distinction as a U.S. Army All-American. Not content to rest on his prep accolades, Mora said Young is diligent in his preparation for the college game.  

"He can't get enough film study. He works hard in practice," Mora said. "He's not what you imagine a typical 18-year-old is like. He's very mature and focused." 

Mora attributes Young's maturity and focus to his prep background.   

"There's a level of intensity with him you don't see in many young men his age," Mora said. "That comes from his background. I think it comes from playing at John Curtis and playing for that family, in that conference, in that environment."  

Not coincidentally, "mature and focused" are two adjectives Mora also used to describe the Bruins' 2014 roster. To reach that point collectively, UCLA had to endure some growing pains. 

Mora has not shied from playing true freshmen in his brief tenure at UCLA. Last season, 18 of them saw action for the Bruins. 

The qualities that now define the team were shaped on the field a year ago. 

And, while a rash of injuries thrust some of UCLA's first-year contributors into contributing roles ahead of schedule, others were prepared to immediately flourish.

UCLA landed three on the Football Writers Association of America's 2013 Freshman All-American Team. Offensive lineman Alex Redmond and defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes represented the Bruins in the trenches. 

Young finds himself in a similar position to UCLA's third 2013 Freshman All-American, Myles Jack.

Jack immediately jumped into the starting rotation of a veteran linebacker corps last season and thrived. His exploits on offense that made Jack UCLA's leading ball-carrier by season's end are renowned, but he spent the two previous months wreaking havoc at outside linebacker. 

Mora said there are consistent characteristics evident in freshmen like Jack and Young that better prepare to play immediately. 

"First of all, it's a physical maturity. You have to have that physical maturity to hold up," he said. "I'm talking about strength and endurance, and probably some size and speed.

"But I think there's a mental toughness. Some guys have it innately," he continued. "Some guys learn it. Some guys never get it." 

A portion of the true freshmen who played in 2013 fall into the category of having learned the mental toughness on the job. Young's quick acclimation suggests he's more that innately tough player. 

Combine that with the experience he is about to gain, as his UCLA career begins in earnest Saturday, and Young has the pieces to be the Bruins' next star. 

"He's a special young man," Mora said. "I'm excited to see him play on Saturday. I'm excited to see him develop through his time here at UCLA." 


Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Recruiting rankings and information culled from 247Sports.com composite scores. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA's Kenny Young Next Frosh Phenom to Star for Bruins

That young star you can expect to see making plays for No. 7 UCLA Saturday at Virginia, and all season long, is Kenny Young...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

College Football Playoff Odds: Florida State, Alabama Top Betting Picks

The defending national champion Florida State Seminoles lead the way as 2-5 betting favorites to qualify for this season’s inaugural four-team College Football Playoff.

The new playoff format features four teams playing in two semi-final games, with the winners advancing to the national championship game. It replaces the controversial BCS championship, which relied exclusively on votes and was a perennial source of problems.

The Seminoles last season won their first national championship since 1999 on the strength of a perfect 14-0 season, and they enter 2014 as 4-1 favorites to repeat in college football future odds, according to shops monitored by Odds Shark.

Joining the Seminoles at the top of the College Football Playoff betting odds are the Alabama Crimson Tide. The top-ranked team in the nation through much of the 2013 season, Alabama was denied a berth in last season’s national championship game after a heartbreaking 34-28 overtime loss to the Auburn Tigers in the Iron Bowl.

However, the Crimson Tide enter the new season as 6-5 favorites to return to the top of the SEC and own 5-6 odds of qualifying for the College Football Playoff. Alabama are also the Seminoles’ closest rival to win the national championship, with betting odds of 5-1.

Despite their success in 2013, Auburn trails the favorites with 9-4 odds of qualifying for the final four. Indeed, the Tigers are heavily favored to miss the four-team playoff with odds of 2-7.

Auburn’s greatest obstacle in its battle for a top-four berth is conference rival Alabama. The Tigers trail the Crimson Tide in SEC championship betting, with odds of 9-2, and are 10-1 in national championship futures betting.

But just like last season, the battle for a berth in the SEC championship game—and a shot at a spot in the four-team playoff—may not be decided until Auburn and Alabama meet in the regular-season finale on November 29.

The Oregon Ducks and Oklahoma Sooners round out the list of top-four betting favorites to qualify.

The Ducks open their season with 6-5 odds of qualifying for the four-team playoff. Their solid College Football Playoff odds are in line with their position as EVEN money favorites to win the Pac-12 conference and 15-2 odds of winning the national championship.

After posting an 11-2 record, but falling short of a berth in last season’s Big 12 championship game, the Sooners are strong 4-5 college football betting favorites to win the Big 12 this season, and a 3-2 bet to qualify for the four-team playoff.


Odds and stats courtesy of Odds Shark.

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Florida State Football: What to Expect from 'Noles Freshmen in 2014

This is the time of year when all the time spent recruiting student-athletes pays off. Coaches are only as good as the recruits they bring to campus.

Then they must develop that talent and put players in game situations to see how they will fare (and possibly succeed).

Florida State University coach Jimbo Fisher has the luxury of utilizing a 2014 signing class that was ranked No. 4 by 247Sports. It's a group that included eight true freshmen on FSU's depth chart, which was released on Monday in advance of the Oklahoma State game.

"I don't think we had a bad area of camp as far as development of our younger players," Fisher said. "I've been pleased with all of those freshmen. They made a lot of developments."

Here's a look at the eight true freshmen on the depth chart and what they could contribute in 2014:


RB Dalvin Cook

Analysis: Florida's Mr. Football in 2013, Cook has been praised by Fisher in August for his physical running style and also his pass-blocking skills. The latter comment is a strong indicator of playing time; Fisher expects FSU's running backs to be proficient blockers, so the fact that he is able to stay on the field in passing situations will translate to plenty of opportunities. 

Cook and sophomore Mario Pender are vying for the No. 2 tailback job. Fisher likes to go with the "hot hand," so who gets more carries could be a game-by-game situation.

Prediction: Fisher loves to spread the carries among two backs. In 2013, Devonta Freeman (173), Williams (91) and James Wilder Jr. (81) shared the carries. So expect Williams to get a Freeman-like share of the rushes and for Cook and Pender to have 80-90 carries apiece. 


WR Ja'Vonn Harrison 

Analysis: Harrison is often the forgotten receiver, overlooked at times because of 5-star prospects Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane. But Harrison is 6'2'', 200 pounds and has distinguished himself as someone who can contribute.

"Nobody really talks about him much," senior receiver Scooter Haggins said. "He has the ability. You can see it in practice. He's smart. The way he's learning and how fast he is learning jumped out at me."

Prediction: Harrison will find playing time on special teams and at wide receiver late in games. With receiver Isaiah Jones declared academically ineligible, it opens up another spot for another wideout to contribute. Jones' misfortune could lead to more playing time for Harrison.


LT Roderick Johnson

Analysis: At 6'7'' and 330 pounds, Johnson is a massive yet athletic left tackle. He will apprentice under Cameron Erving, who is considered one of the nation's top left tackles. It's a perfect situation for FSU and Johnson. There's no reason to play Erving late in blowouts, and Johnson is an ideal option for the Seminoles to use with the second-team offense.

Prediction: Johnson will play often in the fourth quarter of games. It's great preparation for 2015, when he will likely start.


WR Ermon Lane

Analysis: Lane is 6'3'', 205 pounds and is technically the tallest receiver who will suit up for FSU in 2014 (Jones is 6'4'', and a large group of receivers are 6'2''). He's fast, physical and a good route-runner. Travis Rudolph and Lane are co-backups to Christian Green. Lane isn't as far along as Rudolph in terms of his grasp of the offense, but Lane's playing time will gradually increase as the year goes on.

Prediction: Lane will earn playing time in the second half of games. The experience will help him as he looks to develop into a starter in 2015 (Rashad Greene and Green will have graduated).


S Trey Marshall

Analysis: Fisher has consistently praised the versatile Marshall, who enrolled early and has quickly absorbed the defense. Marshall is a fast, physical safety in a secondary that is very deep. "That guy is going to be a heck of a football player," Fisher said. "We will find ways to get Marshall on the field."

Prediction: Marshall will likely see playing time as the dime (sixth) defensive back, similar to how Nate Andrews was used as a freshman in 2013.


LB Jacob Pugh 

Analysis: Pugh is just 235 pounds but is athletic and strong. "Jacob Pugh is doing a heck of a job," Fisher said. "I've been really pleased." 

Pugh will find that one-on-one matchups against ACC right tackles will be challenging, but will be experience for the future. He will need to learn to keep running backs contained and not let them bounce off tackles and find the open field.

Prediction: FSU likes to rotate its pass-rushers. It's fair to expect that he will be productive, accumulating some tackles and making a few sacks.


WR Travis Rudolph

Analysis: Fisher hasn't been able to contain his enthusiasm about the 6'2'', 190-pound Rudolph. He's a well-rounded receiver with no weakness and just needs more practice and playing time to refine his skills. 

"You talk about a guy who is very mature way beyond his years," Fisher said. "He has a little setback with the foot, but he’s back to full speed. He knows three or four positions. He can play the slot on both sides, he can play outside at X and Z. That is extremely rare for a guy that young."

Prediction: Rudolph may not start but will see plenty of playing time. His versatility means he could be used in three- and four-receiver sets, so there will be plenty of opportunities to make catches. For comparison, Rashad Greene had 38 catches in nine games as a freshman in 2011. Rudolph should enjoy similar success, especially over the course of a season that could be between 12 and 15 games.


FB Johnathan Vickers

Analysis: While Vickers is listed as the No. 2 fullback behind sophomore Freddie Stevenson, he likely won't play much until late in games. Stevenson will earn the majority of the playing time, and Fisher also likes to use defensive tackles as fullbacks to provide extra muscle on 3rd-and-1 or goal-line situations.

Prediction: Vickers will pick up some fourth-quarter carries and also a couple touchdowns.


Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Stats and bio information from FSU media guide or game notes. Follow Bob on Twitter. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

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Will Auburn Dominate Arkansas Despite Nick Marshall's Suspension?

The Auburn Tigers and Arkansas Razorbacks are going head-to-head during the first week of college football.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee discuss this big-time matchup and some new faces who will make an impact in this game. Who do you think will win?

Watch the video and let us know.

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Manziel Gone, How Will Kenny Hill Handle South Carolina's Defense Week 1?

The South Carolina Gamecocks and Texas A&M Aggies are going head-to-head during the first week of college football.

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder discusses this big-time matchup and some new faces who will make an impact in this game. Who do you think will win?

Watch the video and let us know.

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Who the Experts Are Predicting to Reach First Ever College Football Playoff

Preseason picks have officially reached their due date. 

Abilene Christian and Georgia State kick off at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday, and once they do, all predictions on who will make the College Football Playoff are docked half a letter grade for this and every subsequent day they are late.

But most college football experts are better students than that; they know how to hit a deadline. Their CFP predictions were submitted with time to spare, and with all that data floating around the Interwebs, we were eager to look at the critical consensus.

Who are the majority favorites to reach the final four?

The table below cites the 23 expert predictions at ESPN.com, the 20 anonymous coaches' predictions at ESPN.com, the nine (earnest) predictions at Grantland, the seven predictions at NFL.com and the five predictions at USA TodayBeneath that, it cites a collection of non-aggregated predictions (which is where you'll find your B/R experts). A full list of those can be found on the spreadsheet here.

Here is how the numbers shook out:

Others receiving votes: LSU (5), Ohio State (4), Wisconsin (4), Stanford (3), USC (1), Virginia Tech (1), Michigan (1)


Florida State: The Team We Are All Scared to Pick Against

Florida State isn't just the majority's pick to reach the CFP; it is everybody's pick to reach the CFP. Well, almost. Of the 83 voters we tallied, one brave soul did not have the Seminoles making the final four.

The identity of that one brave soul? Good question. It came from the anonymous coaches' poll, so there's no way for any of us (save Travis Haney of ESPN) to put a name to his picks. Everyone who did sign themselves to a public prediction, however, included Florida State.

The Seminoles return a ton of talent from last year's 14-0 national champion, highlighted, of course, by reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. He'll play behind an offensive line that starts five seniors, and his defense should be just as impregnable as last year's.

Florida State's schedule also includes zero teams from the Top 15 of the Associated Press Poll, and the only two teams included in the rankings at all (Clemson and Notre Dame) both come to Tallahassee.

So, yeah. There's a reason this was near-unanimous.


Georgia is 50 Percent More Popular Than South Carolina

Georgia received 15 votes to South Carolina's 10.

On the surface, that is not particularly jarring. Both teams return a lot on offense, but Georgia returns more on the other side of the ball and made the SEC Championship Game as recently as 2012.

At the same time, though, South Carolina gets to host Georgia in Week 2 and was voted the favorite to win the SEC East during media days, per Michael Casagrande of AL.com. Thirty-one voters tabbed the Gamecocks to win the SEC at large; only 19 had the Bulldogs.

It's not clear where the discord here occurs. Has time treated the Bulldogs' outlook kindly? That is, has looking at their roster and reading the reports from fall camp actually changed voters' opinions? Or do local scribes just look less fondly on Georgia than the rest of us?

It's hard to say for sure. What we can say for sure is that Georgia is trending upward: ESPN's Desmond Howard and Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee even had it playing for the national championship:

"No," said Georgia head coach Mark Richt when asked if he agreed with his team being picked behind the Gamecocks at media days, per Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald. "I'd have us first."

Apparently he's not the only one.


The Braxton Miller Ripple Effect

This table does not include any predictions from before Braxton Miller's injury. When the two-time reigning Big Ten Player of the Year/star quarterback of a preseason top-five team goes down with a season-ending shoulder tear, folks should be allowed to readjust.

That's kind of a big deal.

The biggest ostensible beneficiary of the Miller injury was Big Ten East rival Michigan State, which surely would have placed in the top 10 of this list regardless but now becomes the No. 5 overall favorite. Even with a road game at Oregon looming as a potential (if not likely) loss in Week 2, the Spartans are sitting in a good spot. ESPN experts in particular made note of that, voting MSU into the playoff on 15 of 23 ballots.

Ohio State still got four votes despite Miller's injury, and Wisconsin and Michigan (huh?) combined to give the Big Ten another five, so it's not like Michigan State has as clear of a path as, say, FSU. But Sparty beat a Miller-led Buckeyes team by 10 on a neutral field last season, and now they get a Miller-less Buckeyes team in East Lansing for what should (still) be the game that decides their division.

Getting 37 percent of the vote feels about right.


Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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