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Braxton Miller Reportedly Out for Season with Shoulder Injury

The worst possible scenario for the Ohio State football team is now a reality less than two weeks before the season starts.      

Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch had the initial report regarding quarterback Braxton Miller’s health Monday evening, and Brett McMurphy of ESPN provided the sobering news Tuesday:

Miller had offseason surgery on his right shoulder after injuring it during the Buckeyes’ Orange Bowl loss to Clemson. He missed spring practice and was limited for much of August training as he eased back into things. Per May, Miller reinjured the same shoulder in a second-session practice on Monday, although "he was not hit, having been off-limits from contact since off-season shoulder surgery."

Given the fact that Ohio State lost bruising running back Carlos Hyde to the NFL and four of its five starting offensive linemen from a year ago, this injury is particularly worrisome. Perhaps even more important now is the loss of QB Kenny Guiton to graduation.

Miller was seen as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate for 2014 after posting 2,094 yards and 24 touchdowns through the air, and 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground last year. Perhaps most damaging of all is the impact on Miller's potential NFL career that could have really used a boost with a productive senior season.

Somehow, life will have to move on for the Buckeyes with a season rapidly approaching. May provided some details on the contingency plan:

It likely means redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett will start when the Buckeyes open the season against Navy on Aug. 30 in Baltimore. Barrett moved ahead of sophomore Cardale Jones last week in the competition to back up Miller, Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman said. 

Adam Kramer of Bleacher Report had a nugget about that contest with Navy that is sure to interest some viewers:

It wasn’t that long ago that co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner wasn’t particularly concerned with Miller’s health, via Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors:

We’re kind of bringing him along slowly. I think we have a really good plan to get him where he needs to be Aug. 30. We definitely don’t need to rush it.

I love Braxton’s work ethic, his attitude, his mentality. His mindset is awesome. His understanding of the game is great, and his leadership has improved. We’re just letting him come along physically.

It’s part of the plan. There was no he got the hook in the middle of the day. It was all planned out. We’re doing that with some other guys who started a lot who are coming off injuries, just watching their volume until they build into it.

That is clearly no longer the case anymore. Instead, Ohio State's once promising College Football Playoff chances are in serious jeopardy. The biggest concern of all, especially given the loss of Hyde and the majority of the offensive line, is the lack of experience under center. ESPN Stats & Info provided the discouraging details in that regard:

SportsCenter on Twitter provided this interesting stat:

Turning the reins over to a freshman was once unthinkable in Columbus, but it has become business as usual in recent years. Dave Biddle of Bucknuts.com added more:

You would be forgiven if you were a glass-half-empty sports fan and you abandoned hope for a postseason appearance. However, the preseason is for optimism, and Eleven Warriors, Alex Gleitman of Bucknuts.com and Kramer provided a dose of that:

Still, even the most optimistic fans would admit that the Buckeyes are in some trouble without their star playmaker.

Remember, we are talking about the two-time defending winner of the Big Ten Silver Football as the conference’s best player and one of the most dynamic athletes in the entire country. The previously mentioned loss of Hyde and Guiton cannot be overstated either.

Hyde rumbled for 1,521 rushing yards and 18 total touchdowns in 2013 even though he missed three games and single-handedly won some nailbiters (the Northwestern contest comes to mind). Guiton threw for 749 yards and 14 touchdowns, and added 330 yards and five touchdowns on the ground last year. He also started multiple games and rescued the Buckeyes when Miller was periodically injured throughout the past two years.

Now that Miller is out for the season, the national title expectations that are in place every year in Columbus fall on the inexperienced shoulders of J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones.

Don't let the talking heads who decry a weak Big Ten every year fool you either. The Buckeyes will be tested a number of times this season, including in the non-conference portion of the slate against a dangerous Navy team, Virginia Tech and a Cincinnati squad that will be hungry to shock the state's bully.

In conference, Ohio State has to face a resurgent Penn State team under the lights in what will be the Nittany Lions' Super Bowl, square off in the annual clash with archrival and hated Michigan that came down to the last play in 2013, and play Michigan State in a rematch of the Big Ten championship game.

The Spartans contained the Buckeyes offense with Miller at the helm in a neutral-site contest last year. Playing that stout defense on the road at night with a possible playoff spot on the line is plenty of pressure for a tested senior, let alone freshman Barrett.

Fair or not, the only way a Big Ten team is getting to the College Football Playoff is by winning the conference. If the Buckeyes can't beat fellow East Division member Michigan State, they probably aren't even reaching the conference title game, given the tiebreaker scenario in this hypothetical.

Not having No. 5 under center will certainly make the task at hand even more difficult.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Meet UCLA Football's New Starters for 2014 Season

With the Pac-12's most experienced starting rotation returning for 2014, UCLA's lineup will not feature much in the way of new faces. 

Bruins who played significant reserve roles a season ago are vying for the few spots opened by departures. However, a high-profile transfer and highly touted recruit are also in the mix for roles in UCLA's starting lineup. 

These newcomers, coupled with proven commodities, will fill out the Bruins' starting lineup in a potential championship run. 

 

Malcolm Bunche, OT

Miami transfer Malcolm Bunche brings the Bruins front five some much-needed experience. He will also be tasked with protecting quarterback Brett Hundley's blind side, as he was named the team's starting left tackle last week.

"It's a tremendous honor playing the blind side for one of the most explosive quarterbacks in college football," Bunche said, via Abbey Mastracco of FoxSports.com. "I've just got to keep grinding and working hard on the position and protect my man Brett."

When Bunche announced his transfer to UCLA in the spring, his father, Curtis, talked about the impact Bunche could make for the Bruins. 

"They need an O-lineman to protect that Heisman Trophy candidate's blind side," he told Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald.  

Indeed, Hundley could use the protection. Last season, UCLA surrendered 36 sacks to rank No. 109 in the nation. 

 

Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE

Redshirt senior Owamagbe Odighizuwa played in all 14 games of UCLA's 2012 Pac-12 South-winning campaign. He made quite an impact with 44 tackles, six tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, three pass deflections and two fumble recoveries. 

That should have been a springboard into a monster 2013, but a hip injury sidelined Odighizuwa for the duration of the campaign. 

His return to the Bruins' defensive front is met with great anticipation. Last year when he was injured, Dan Greenspan wrote on NFL.com that a returning Odighizuwa was "likely [UCLA's] top [2014] draft prospect on [defense]." 

Pro scouts are not alone in their excitement about Odighizuwa. 

"He's come back immensely," linebacker Eric Kendricks said last month at Pac-12 media days. "He's going to make a huge impact. You guys are going to start writing about him soon, I guarantee it." 

 

Kenny Orjioke, Deon Hollins and Aaron Wallace, OLB

Replacing game-changing pass-rusher Anthony Barr is no easy feat, and the competition to do so has extended throughout the offseason.  

In fact, defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich may not even rely on any one player to step into Barr's massive shoes. Talking with Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times, Ulbrich hinted at a platoon-style shift in response to the Pac-12's many uptempo offenses:

We're going to rotate more than we have in the past. You look around at some defenses that are paired [against] tempo offenses, I think it's necessary that you start to rotate guys. Those teams are healthier towards the end of the season, and they are fresher.

The Bruins see the benefit of flexibility, as Deon Hollins told Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News

It’s much more amorphous. Since we have so many guys, you can just be so versatile. ... You can do so much with a lot of the guys we have on the field. I think Coach Brick does a great job mixing and matching looks, not having the same concepts.

Obviously, by Week 1, head coach Jim Mora and Ulbrich will place one of the three of Kenny Orjioke, Aaron Wallace and Hollins atop the depth chart. Orjioke and Wallace have each had first-string repetitions, but Wang writes Hollins is a potential difference-maker in nickel formations. 

 

Isaako Savaiinaea and Kenny Young, ILB  

Another heated competition ensues for UCLA's other starting linebacker spot. A number of candidates are vying for the position, but two standouts are Isaako Savaiinaea and Kenny Young. 

Savaiinaea was one of 18 true freshman to play for the Bruins in 2013. He appeared in all 13 games and made his first career start in the Sun Bowl rout of Virginia Tech, filling in for an injured Kendricks. 

Relieving the team's leading tackler was quite an introduction for Savaiinaea into the starting rotation, but his coaches were confident in his ability to acclimate. 

"From Day 1, he has had an uncommon maturity for a freshman," Ulbrich told Foster. "I am not worried at all."

Kendricks returns, but gone is fellow inside linebacker Jordan Zumwalt. That leaves a starting role alongside UCLA's top tackler and defensive leader Kendricks, which Savaiinaea could fill. If it's not him, look for Young to emerge. 

The true freshman Young has turned heads at fall camp and earned praise from teammate Myles Jack, a first-year linebacker breakout in his own right a season ago. 

"I love his natural instincts to the ball," Jack told Foster. "Even when the play is not to his side, he's shedding blockers, making his way to the football. He just has a knack for getting to the ball." 

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics compiled via CFBstats.com

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Meet UCLA Football's New Starters for 2014 Season

With the Pac -12's most experienced starting rotation returning for 2014, UCLA's lineup will not feature much in the way of new faces. Bruins who played significant reserve roles a season ago are vying for the few spots opened by departures...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Tennessee Football: Final Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

With only a few days left until the Tennessee Volunteers open their 118th football season in Neyland Stadium, it's time to take stock one last time of the upcoming schedule and predict the wins and losses.

First, a sobering fact: Tennessee hasn't had a winning season since 2009 when it won seven games under Lane Kiffin. In fact, the Vols have enjoyed only three winning seasons since 2005, with the other two coming in 2006 and 2007 during the twilight years of Phillip Fulmer's tenure as head coach.

Based on his stellar recruiting efforts, second-year head coach Butch Jones appears to have the Vols on the right track toward competing in the SEC, but first he needs to get Tennessee above .500 for the season and back to a bowl game—something the vast majority of players on the roster have never experienced. 

Unfortunately for Jones, simply breaking even this year is a tall task, given the difficulty of the Vols' schedule in 2014. That said, there are some glimmers of hope, as the team's speed and athleticism received a massive upgrade with the arrival of the 2014 recruits.

In addition, Tennessee's opponents have many question marks as well, as several are breaking in new quarterbacks and adjusting to new coaches and coordinators. 

The margin for error this season is razor-thin for Jones and his young team, but there's enough talent on the roster to make the postseason for the first time since 2010.

Here's a breakdown of how they're going to get there. 

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USF's Jerseys Will Feature 'The Team' on Nameplates on Back of the Jerseys

The name on the front of the jersey is usually more important than the one on the back, but in the University of South Florida's case, the name on the back is pretty important as well.

This upcoming season, the Bulls will wear jerseys with "The Team" on the nameplate on the back of the jerseys.

It's a good concept for teamwork. When the players put on the jerseys, there is no question who they are playing for. Individual stats are great, but South Florida wants its players to play for each other.

[ESPN, h/t SB Nation]

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Dish Network Gives JaMarcus Russell a Chance to Relive the Glory Days

Dish Network has already given USC quarterback Matt Leinart, Tennessee quarterback Heath Shuler and Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth a chance to relive the glory days. Now, former LSU signal-caller JaMarcus Russell is joining those former college stars.

The No. 1 pick in the 2007 NFL draft had a backyard barbecue with the trio of former stars. Given the chance to relive his college days, Russell decided to join in on the fun.

[DISH, h/t Dr. Saturday]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football: Don't Sleep on Kenyan Drake in 2014

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Much has been made about Alabama’s vaunted backfield this offseason.

There’s T.J. Yeldon, the returning starter who’s rushed for more than 1,000 yards in both of his first two seasons on campus and has a good chance at breaking Alabama’s career rushing record. And there’s sophomore Derrick Henry, a 6’3”, 241-pound beast of a human who, in his first significant game action of the season, rushed eight times for 100 yards and a score and took a screen pass 61 yards to the house against Oklahoma.

Lost in all of this has been Kenyan Drake, a junior who was Yeldon’s backup for most of last season and electrified with his speed, but whose fumbling issues relegated him for the Sugar Bowl. He didn’t help his cause with a July arrest for crossing crime-scene tape, either.

But he’s putting together a productive fall and shouldn’t be slept on in that talented backfield. That’s not to say that he’s going to explode to the top of the depth chart and take over the offense. Just that he still has a meaningful role, and his presence could give Alabama yet another dimension in its skill positions to make the offense even more dangerous.

Drake’s speed is his No. 1 asset, and he very much uses it to his advantage. When he came in off the bench as the No. 2 in 2013 and the No. 3 in 2012, he was always a threat to break the big play and did that several times.

“Kenyan, he has great speed,” tight end O.J. Howard said. “He's really a scatback kind of guy. He's really quick. He can make you miss with one move. He gets you open space, it's hard to bring him down.”

His yards per carry stats support that, too:

What’s held Drake back, though, has been a combination of on- and off-field issues.

Off the field, while he hasn’t done anything too drastic, he hasn’t exactly had a clean slate either.

He was suspended for a late-season game against Western Carolina in 2012, his freshman year, for a violation of team rules that coach Nick Saban didn’t specify, though he said that Drake had already been warned once before. Last year, he didn’t make the trip to Atlanta for the season opener against Virginia Tech.

Then in July, he was arrested for obstructing governmental operations when police said he crossed crime-scene tape because his car was inside the marked-off area. Saban suspended Drake after the incident, but Drake was at practice to open fall camp and has been working with the team ever since.

The individual incidents on their own aren’t really cause for concern, but collectively they could be.

His biggest issue on the field is ball security. According to TeamRankings.com, Drake fumbled four times and lost three last season, but it was the timing that made them worse.

Against Kentucky, he fumbled inside the 5-yard line and on the goal line against Tennessee, killing two drives.

So it’s been a point of emphasis for Drake and the running backs as a whole this offseason.

"It's something that you drill in practice," Saban said, according to Andrew Gribble of AL.com. "I think because you practice so much against each other, the better your defense is at finishing and trying to create turnovers, and the more ball awareness and ball security you actually develop on offense."

The fumbling and off-field issues seemed to make Drake a long shot to play meaningful snaps in 2014, but his fall camp performance might say otherwise. So far, he’s put up impressive stats in the two fall scrimmages.

Both scrimmages were closed to the public, so it’s difficult to put context to those numbers, though Saban did say that one of Drake’s touchdowns was a 65-yard reception, so he’s still making big plays.

He’s also drawn praise from his teammates, who note his explosiveness. Saban and new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin also called him a “mismatch” player who could create problems.

And his presence would give Alabama three running backs with very different skill sets who could throw almost anything at opposing defenses.

“Drake's more of the speed guy,” Yeldon said. “Derrick's power and speed. And [Henry and I are] both power and speed, too.”

Drake seemed to get lost in the shuffle this offseason, but a productive Drake would just give Alabama another dimension to its offense.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats come from CFBStats. All recruiting information comes from 247Sports.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

How Braxton Miller's Injury Will Cause College Football Playoff Madness

The Ohio State Buckeyes have taken a huge hit with Braxton Miller re-injuring his right shoulder, as he will reportedly miss the entire 2014-15 season due to the injury, according to Brett McMurphy of ESPN. Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss how Miller's injury will affect the Big Ten and the College Football Playoff.

Which four teams do you think will end up in the College Football Playoff?

Watch the video and let us know.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Cold Hard Fact for Monday, August 18, 2014

Fact: Alabama has been ranked one or two in five straight preseason AP polls. The record is six, held by Ohio State from 1954 to 1959.

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

Source: ESPN Stats & Info

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Video: Houston Cougars Head Coach Tony Levine Can't Avoid Ice Bucket Challenge

Tony Levine had some fun with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

After explaining certain bylaws of the challenge exempted him from participating, Levine was immersed in copious amounts of ice water the way head football coaches traditionally receive the honor, as two University of Houston football players sneak up on him from behind.

Levine called out people he's been told he looks like to take the challenge next, including actor Stanley Tucci, Houston Texans quarterback Case Keenum and meteorologist Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel. 

 

Kelsey McCarson covers University of Houston football for Bleacher Report.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Under Armour Unveils Notre Dame Football's Uniforms for 2014-15 Season

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have made the change from Adidas to Under Armour, but the team isn't making any drastic changes to its uniforms.

The football team has a very traditional look. Fans who were worried that the team may get a new look with the change to Under Armour can breathe a sigh of relief.

Notre Dame will wear blue jerseys at home.

The Fighting Irish will wear white jerseys on the road.

[Under Armour]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Clemson Football: Final Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

It’s time to take one last look at Clemson’s 2014 schedule, which will begin with Georgia in less than two weeks. The 2014 slate offers a couple of tough road games, and features home games against surprise teams within the ACC.

There are a couple of trap games for the Tigers, but the three big games will once again determine the outcome of the season.

Begin Slideshow

Why Alabama Quarterback Battle Won't Be over Before the Beginning of 2014 Season

While quarterback battles in Aggieland and on Rocky Top have come to a conclusion, the most high-profile one in the SEC continues to burn white hot.

Senior Blake Sims and Florida State transfer Jacob Coker are still vying to become AJ McCarron's replacement as the quarterback for the Alabama Crimson Tide, and there doesn't appear to be an end in sight.

Head coach Nick Saban hasn't provided stats following either scrimmage during fall camp, and according to AL.com beat writers Andrew Gribble and Michael Casagrande, Sims may actually have an edge over Coker—a guy who reportedly pushed eventual Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston for the top spot on Florida State's depth chart in 2013.

Surprised?

Maybe a little bit.

Coker wouldn't be in Tuscaloosa unless Saban and new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin expected him to win the job, and the hype surrounding this kid has elevated him to near-superhero status before ever taking a meaningful snap in Tuscaloosa.

"Physically, he's just so gifted," ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit said. "He's been around now for a number of years, and even though he hasn't been getting a ton of reps at Florida State, but he's been around some pretty good stuff."

But the odd set of circumstances with Coker still learning the offense on the fly, coupled with Alabama's early-season schedule, allows the coaching staff to let the battle wage a little longer than others around the country.

"The big thing that none of us know about him is how he's going to react when he gets out there and faces some adversity," Herbstreit said. "Is he going to be able to check into good plays and check out of bad plays? Is he going to be able to recognize coverages? Recognize fronts? Avoiding disastrous plays is a big part of it."

It will last into the season, just as the fight to win the job did for McCarron, who didn't win the job over Phillip Sims in 2011 until Week 2 on the road at Penn State.

Luckily for Saban, the staff and the quarterbacks, Alabama's schedule lends itself to a similar situation unfolding again in 2014.

Sure, when Alabama signed on to play West Virginia in the 2014 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, the Mountaineers were coming off of a 70-33 thrashing of Clemson in the Orange Bowl. But head coach Dana Holgorsen's crew has lost 14 of its last 20 games and is a far cry from the team that was routinely contending for BCS games.

After that, Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss will provide a nice tuneup for the Tide before the vaunted Florida defense rolls into town on Sept. 20.

"It's smart if there is any doubt to get both of those guys out there and get them game reps," Herbstreit said. "You'd think with defense and special teams alone they'd be able to win those games by running the football. We don't have preseason in college football, so the only way you really find out about your quarterbacks is to play them when they're in front of 80,000 or 90,000 people on national TV."

Coker was brought in to be the guy, and while it's unfair to Sims—a senior—that a newcomer gets the benefit of the doubt, that's the bed the coaching staff made for itself. For Saban and Kiffin, sleeping in it shouldn't be an issue.

Whoever emerges at the top spot on the quarterback depth chart, he'll have a solid running game to fall back on and weapons at receiver all over the place.

If it takes a few auditions in real games for one to step up, so be it. Considering the circumstances and the schedule, that might actually be an advantage for Alabama.

 

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.

 


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Nebraska Football: How Huskers Can Withstand Aaron Curry's Departure

Another one bites the dust for Nebraska football.

After two weeks of fall camp, the Huskers have lost another player. This time it's junior defensive tackle Aaron Curry, per Rivals and SoonerScoop.com, via the Omaha World-Herald. Can Nebraska withstand his departure?

The short answer is yes. While the loss of Curry is not ideal from a depth concern, he spent most of spring and fall camp practicing with the No. 2, and occasionally the No. 3, defense, per the Omaha World-Herald.

While Curry started eight games in 2013, his experience was put to the test by sophomores Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine. As fall camp went on, it was clear he would likely be playing backup to both and that his playing time would be much less than last season.

While it was a less-than-ideal situation for the junior, he provided good security behind Collins and Valentine. Who will step up instead? It seems likely that sophomore Kevin Maurice will now back up Collins and Valentine.

Junior Kevin Williams could also back Collins and Valentine up, but his status is currently unknown. As Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star reported, Williams went down during the Aug. 18 practice with a lower leg injury. Bo Pelini calls Williams' injury a "day-to-day thing."

Until more is known, Maurice has the talent alongside Collins and Valentine to make an impact.

When word of Curry's departure first came to light, it seemed like he would be transferring to Oklahoma. However, Carey Murdock of SoonerScoop.com learned that wasn't the case.

Regardless of where he lands, Curry has officially been released from Nebraska, per the Omaha World-Herald.

The biggest loss Curry leaves behind is depth. ESPN 590's Joe Quinn made a good point on the matter.

Beyond depth, what the Huskers lose in Curry is experience. The junior played in 17 games during his two seasons with the Huskers, which includes all 13 games in 2013. According to Huskers.com, Curry has 30 tackles overall, with 26 of those from last season.

That experience is a definite loss. However, as stated, the Huskers have a strong and talented group at defensive tackle. Beyond those listed previously, Nebraska has freshmen Mick Stoltenberg and Peyton Newell to look forward to.

However, before Curry's departure, it was clear that Collins and Valentine were going to be the starters. They've been impressive through fall camp, which should give plenty of Husker fans something to look forward to.

Nebraska can, and will, withstand Curry's departure by continuing on. Valentine will be able to provide some experience to the team, which is beneficial. He had 21 total tackles in 2013, per Huskers.com.

Continuing to focus on him and Collins is exactly what Nebraska needs to keep doing. As for the rest of the group backing those two up, it's all about staying healthy.

Curry's decision is understandable. For the Huskers, it is survivable. Pending no additional injuries, this unit should recover just fine.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon Commit QB Travis Waller Makes Bold Prediction for Marcus Mariota, Ducks

Travis Waller is one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the 2015 class. His accuracy and mobility provide him with a great set of tools to build upon at the next level. This Oregon commit took some time to talk with Bleacher Report about Eugene and his predictions for the 2014 season. 

How well do you think Waller will do at the next level?

Watch the video and let us know.

 

Rankings courtesy of the 247Sports composite system.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon Commit QB Travis Waller Makes Bold Prediction for Marcus Mariota, Ducks

Travis Waller is one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the 2015 class. His accuracy and mobility provide him with a great set of tools to build upon at the next level...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

How Accurate Are College Football's Preseason Polls?

There are two contrasting narratives about preseason polls: First, that they're meaningless, or conversely, that they unfairly influence the final regular-season standings. 

Ultimately, though, the preseason polls' influence on college football's postseason lies somewhere in the middle. Technically, the USA Today coaches poll factored into the BCS. But polls are also bound to change—oftentimes dramatically—throughout the year. 

In other words, take the recent preseason Associated Press and USA Today Amway coaches polls with a grain of salt. Neither will officially play a role in deciding a four-team playoff, and they're nothing more than (educated?) guesses. 

But how accurate have those guesses been? A look over the past 10 years shows that, generally speaking, teams which played for the BCS championship began the year ranked in the top 25—often in the top 10. Notre Dame (2012) and Auburn (2013) were the exceptions. 

Twice—in 2004 and '05—the No. 1 and No. 2 teams went wire to wire. 

Each year of the BCS has its own story, but this is how the past 10 years of preseason polls have played out.

 

2004

2004 can be an example of revisionist history. What's easy to remember is undefeated Auburn being screwed by the BCS because Oklahoma got destroyed by USC, 55-19, in the Orange Bowl (the BCS championship). Since The Trojans and Sooners went wire to wire at No. 1 and No. 2, the Tigers were victims of starting the season in the middle of the top 25. 

Or were they?

Ralph Russo of the AP tweets an interesting point: The Tigers were perhaps a greater victim of conference perception. There was a time, believe it or not, when the SEC wasn't viewed as the dominant conference it is today. 

Was Auburn destined to be screwed because of where the Tigers were ranked to start the season? It's possible, but there could easily have been other factors at play, like conference perception, that affected the final votes. 

 

2005

2005 was among the most clear-cut seasons for the BCS. USC and Texas also went wire to wire on their path to the Rose Bowl. There were no other undefeated teams to state their cases. This was an example of pollsters getting it right from the start. 

 

2006

2006 began the SEC's string of dominance over the rest of college football. The controversy here, if you will, was over whether Florida or Michigan should have played Ohio State for the national championship—and that was only because USC lost to UCLA 13-9 to end its season. 

The Buckeyes and Wolverines were No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, heading into their Nov. 18 game, which Ohio State won 42-39. The Gators were rightfully chosen to play Ohio State in the BCS championship and won 41-14. Michigan lost to the Trojans in the Rose Bowl. And all postseason decisions were validated. 

 

2007

Ah, yes, 2007: The year no one wanted to play for the BCS championship. Besides 2011 (see below), it was the strongest indication that the championship field needed to be expanded. 

The two teams which played for the national title, Ohio State and LSU, began the season ranked in the top five of the major preseason polls. Thanks to late-season losses by Missouri and West Virginia, the Buckeyes and Tigers backed their ways in to the big game. 

 

2008

2008 is otherwise known as the year of the Big 12 tiebreaker. Or heartbreaker, if you're a Texas fan. 

Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech finished atop the Big 12 with identical conference records. The Longhorns beat the Sooners 45-35 but lost on a last-second touchdown to Texas Tech, which then lost to Oklahoma by 44 points three weeks later. 

Since the tiebreaker was decided by BCS standings, Oklahoma got the nod. Was Bob Stoops' team aided by its top-five preseason ranking? Perhaps, but more than anything, this was a result of when a team lost, which in this case favored Oklahoma. 

The Sooners would go on to lose the BCS title to Florida, 24-14. 

 

2009

Another clear-cut BCS National Championship Game came in 2009 when Alabama played Texas. Both were preseason top-five teams in the AP and coaches polls. 

There were two other undefeated teams at season's end—Cincinnati and TCU—but neither realistically had a shot to play for it all. 

 

2010

If anything, 2010 proved two things: first, that two teams could climb from outside the top 10—with help, of course—to reach the BCS National Championship Game and, second, that they could easily pass an undefeated non-BCS team along the way. 

Those were the paths taken by Oregon and Auburn, which started outside the top 10 in preseason polls but won every regular-season game. Undefeated TCU, despite beginning the year as a preseason top-10 team, didn't have a chance. 

 

2011

2011 was a quandary for voters trying to decide between two teams for one spot. LSU, a preseason top-five team, was an obvious choice for a title-game appearance after going undefeated. The question was whether voters should give the other spot to Alabama, whose sole loss came to the Tigers, or to Oklahoma State, the Big 12 champs.

Ultimately, the Tide were given another chance because of the Cowboys' stunning overtime loss to unranked Iowa State on Nov. 18. Since all three teams began the season ranked in the top 10, this was a case of determining which loss was worse. Alabama won out, and won the BCS title 21-0 in a rematch against LSU. 

 

2012

In 2012, Notre Dame proved that you didn't have to start the season ranked to end up in the BCS championship. The Irish went undefeated during the regular season but lost to Alabama in the national title. Ohio State, which also went undefeated, did not participate in a bowl game because of NCAA sanctions. 

 

2013

Auburn became the second straight team which began the year unranked to play for a BCS championship. The Tigers won the SEC and, coupled with a loss by undefeated Ohio State in the Big Ten championship, played Florida State for the crystal ball.  

 

What Does It Mean?

The accuracy of preseason polls resembles a game of horseshoes: Voters try to get close enough. Obviously, there are bound to be major misses along the way. Arkansas and Florida began the 2012 and '13 seasons, respectively, ranked No. 10. Both finished 4-8. 

The next question is whether those polls will influence the College Football Playoff selection committee even though they're not officially to be considered. In the new postseason format, the selection committee will create its own Top 25 and select the top four teams at year's end. 

Recent BCS history suggests that championship games are more closely tethered to what happens at the end of the year than where things begin. The anomaly was in 2003, when Oklahoma, the preseason No. 1 team in the coaches poll, played for the BCS title even though it had just lost its conference championship game. 

The selection committee must keep a team's entire body of work in mind, not simply what happened in the past few weeks.

If it does that, it will be on the right path to fielding the first four-team playoff. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. *Indicates team was not eligible for postseason play. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Predicting College Football's Offensive, Defensive Juggernauts for 2014

When you look at your team’s 2014 schedule, which opponents keep you tossing and turning in bed at night?

Think of the squads that have that rare but lethal combination of previous success, inherent skill and experience—either as an entire team or an individual unit—creating an overwhelming, destructive force. 

Some such opponents are as obvious as their win/loss record from last season, while others hide under the shadows of total team mediocrity, ready to pounce on their unaware victims without so much as a single warning. 

Here’s a look at 16 individual units that will be among the toughest nuts to crack this season—these are the matchups that we should look forward to not looking forward to.

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UCLA's Brett Hundley a Dark-Horse 1st-Pick Candidate

Every football fan in the country knows about Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, but out at UCLA there is another quarterback making a run at becoming the No. 1 prospect in the 2015 draft. The NFL knows about Brett Hundley, and fans should too.

 

The Tale of the Tape

6'3", 227 lbs

53 touchdowns, 20 interceptions (career)

320 career rushes

 

Accuracy

Many college quarterbacks are spending their Saturdays throwing checkdowns and bubble screens, but not at UCLA. The Bruins offense asks Hundley to move the ball down the field. The quarterback in this system must read the field, find the best option and deliver passes at varying levels. That's great for showcasing Hundley's accuracy and understanding of space.

Want an NFL-level play from Hundley? This throw against Nebraska shows it all.

The Cornhuskers show an off coverage at the snap—the cornerback near the top of the video is eight yards off the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped. Hundley reads this pre-snap and knows where his primary target is. 

Post-snap, Hundley does a good job of letting the play develop. He has options on the right side of the formation with the deep sideline route and the underneath seam route from the slot receiver. He holds the safety as long as possible before cutting the coverage with a sideline throw.

The ball placement here is perfect as Hundley drops the ball between the cornerback and the closing safety. This is called "dropping it in the bucket" and is executed to perfection. Over the course of watching his 2013 season, I saw many times when Hundley threw this same route with the same ball placement.

He is able to make this throw consistently, and it is one of the most difficult passes a quarterback will be asked to make.

Hundley can get erratic at times if you're looking for a spot-on pass every throw. The good in that is his passes are generally catchable. You don't see him completely miss the mark on many throws—and every quarterback will miss several throws per game—and his missteps are still close enough to be reeled in.

 

Pocket Presence

The area where Hundley scores best right away is in pocket presence. In the pocket he's strong, fluid and moves with grace whether pressured from the front or the side.

Hundley is a physically strong player, and defenders will struggle to bring him down. He uses that strength to his advantage and doesn't get impatient in the pocket or look to tuck and run too soon. He resets his feet and shoulders well when scanning the field and has a light bounce in his step at the top of his drop.

One fix to Hundley's game for NFL scouts will be to have him avoid traveling backward away from the line of scrimmage when pressured. Many young quarterbacks like to try to spin out of pressure and start pulling themselves away from the line, and Hundley likes to do this too by reversing out of the pocket. This will set up jaw-dropping runs and moves in the pocket but is something NFL teams will want to limit.

There are times when Hundley seems to hold on to the ball for too long, but compared to the other top-tier quarterbacks in college football during the 2013 season, he was working with the least amount of NFL-caliber talent. The aforementioned problem could be a habit the NFL needs to break, but it could also be brought on by receivers struggling to get open or linemen struggling to sustain a block.

 

Mechanics

Mechanics can make or break a quarterback, especially when it comes to their lower-body mechanics in the pocket.

The Jacksonville Jaguars reinvented Blake Bortles' lower-half mechanics in the offseason, and he looks like a different quarterback through the preseason. With Hundley, no revision is needed.

When a quarterback locks on to a target and sets up to throw, you want to see alignment of the shoulder, core, hip and feet. The lead shoulder (which is Hundley's left) should point to the intended target. The core should line up with the hips in a loaded position (you want the hips and shoulders aligned as opposed to having the shoulders opposite the hips) and the front foot (again, Hundley's left) pointed to the target.

This lines up the quarterback's body and allows for a quick, powerful torque to throw the ball.

The key to improved consistency for Hundley is to maintain this platform on all throws. He has struggled with accuracy on the move because he doesn't reset his shoulders and align his body on the move. This is something the Jaguars (and quarterback coach Jordan Palmer) fixed with Bortles to great early success. Hundley can make this same tweak and will see quick improvements in his accuracy on the run.

The biggest negative in Hundley's game as it was in 2013 is that movement creates a disjointed throwing platform. This is an easy fix with repetition, though, and is only a long-term factor if he cannot adjust his motion on the move.

 

Football Intelligence (FBI)

The popularity of spread offenses in college—be it the Air Raid or the read-option—has led to fewer quarterbacks reading the entire field. Pro-style offenses, like the one run at UCLA, are becoming a rarity, and so too are quarterbacks in college with experience diagnosing coverages.

Hundley handles the complexities of the offense well and works across the entire field when scanning for a target. This is not a one-read offense. This is not a half-field offense. Hundley is expected to work the entire field, and does.

Moving to an NFL offense will not be difficult for Hundley. He will have to adapt to the speed of the pros, just like every other rookie, but from a reads and execution standpoint, he's ready.

 

Comparison

Comparisons for Hundley have ranged from Donovan McNabb to Cam Newton, but when I watch the big UCLA quarterback I see a Ryan Tannehill-like athlete. Hundley does seem much further ahead going into his senior season in terms of vision and pocket presence, but the two passers share a style.

As a runner, Hundley does remind me of Newton, thanks to his power as a runner, but he's not an explosive open-field mover. 

When looking at Hundley's pocket presence and throwing motion, I see more of a Matt Ryan-type arm. Mix Ryan's accuracy and touch with Tannehill's speed and Newton's power, and you have Hundley.

Heading into the 2014 season, Hundley is one of my favorite players in the draft class, regardless of position. He has a clear shot at being the No. 1 quarterback and No. 1 overall player taken if his play continues at the high levels seen in 2013.

On a talent grade alone, Hundley looks like a top-five pick.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA's Brett Hundley a Dark-Horse 1st-Pick Candidate

Every football fan in the country knows about Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota , but out at UCLA there is another quarterback making a run at becoming the No. 1 prospect in the 2015 draft...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

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