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Why the Power-5 Conference Autonomy Vote Is Good for Nebraska

On Thursday, the NCAA announced the proposal that would give more autonomy to the five largest conferences with regards to rule-making, as discussed by the Associated Press (h/t Boston Herald).

Those power-five conferences—the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12—will now have more ability to make rules for themselves. This decision could well be the bell-weather for a seismic change in college football, one that should benefit a program like Nebraska.

So what exactly happened?

The NCAA decided that the 65 schools in the power-five conferences would now be able to make rules for themselves in a number of different areas, including things like providing additional stipends to student-athletes, providing insurance coverage for athletes during and after their participation in competition, rules limiting staff sizes and sharing of television and image-rights revenues with student-athletes.

Fundamentally, the change reflects in the NCAA rulebook the reality that has existed for some time now—that the power-five conference teams are simply engaging in a different enterprise than non-power-five conference football programs.

The staggering amounts of money that the power-five conferences generate with their television revenues allows them to do things that non-power-five conferences simply cannot afford.

Under current NCAA rules, a school like Nebraska (or Alabama, USC or any other major national powerhouse) had to be governed by the same set of rules as schools like New Mexico State and South Alabama, programs with dramatically fewer economic resources available.

The argument against the autonomy proposal was simple and straightforward—all these teams are (ostensibly) competing in the same division, and they should play by the same rules. Allowing the power-five conferences to have their own rules will give those schools a baked-in competitive advantage, even more than they already have.

And that argument is correct. Under the new autonomy rules, the power-five conference programs will have a competitive advantage over the non-power-five schools. The rich will, indeed, get richer.

That’s why the rule change is good for Nebraska. Not only is Nebraska a member of arguably the most powerful financial conference, the B1G, Nebraska itself as a program is one of the 20 most financially powerful programs in the country. If the rich are to get richer under this program, then Nebraska will clearly benefit.

More importantly, though, the rule is something that is a practical necessity. The NCAA—indeed, the entire model of amateurism and student-athletes—is under assault from a number of lawsuits dealing with everything from image likeness to anti-trust violations.

Many in the power-five conferences want to take steps, such as a “full cost of attendance” scholarship or an expansion of insurance benefits past graduation for student-athletes. But those efforts were blocked by the non-power-five conference programs because (rightfully so) those programs could not afford to offer those benefits.

With this newfound autonomy, the power-five programs will be better able to proactively address the issues that are bedeviling the NCAA. Certainly, much of the motivation for those programs will be self-preservation of the current goose laying the golden eggs of fat television contracts.

But a byproduct of that self-preservation may very well be some concrete steps to improve the lives of the student-athletes that make the Saturday spectacles we all love so dearly possible.

(And, selfishly, perhaps even come up with a mechanism to compensate student-athletes for the use of their images and likenesses, making a resurrection of the EA Sports NCAA Football video game series a possibility.)

Yes, these rules aren't fair to the non-power-five programs. But given the results of a new poll by ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy (h/t Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports) that a plurality of coaches in power-five conferences are in favor of excluding non-power-five programs from their schedules, we may be heading toward a de facto breakaway of the power-five conferences from the rest of the NCAA in football.

That breakaway, whether it be de facto by exclusive scheduling or de jure by the creation of a “Division Four” as discussed by SEC commissioner Mike Slive, has its own benefits and costs to be debated. But there is little doubt that such a breakaway will be for the benefit of the power-five programs and at the expense of the non-power-five.

As harsh as it sounds, then, the fact that the rule change is good for the rich means that the rule change is good for Nebraska.

 

If you’d like to contact Patrick, send an email to patrickrunge@gmail.com.

Or you could also always use the Twitter machine to follow @patrickrunge.

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Vernon Hargreaves Injury: Updates on Gators CB's Knee and Return

After a tremendously disappointing 4-8 campaign in 2013, the Florida Gators football team was hoping for a positive offseason and some momentum heading into the 2014 season. 

Instead, Will Muschamp’s bunch received some unfortunate news regarding cornerback Vernon Hargreaves Thursday. Robbie Andreu of The Gainesville Sun provided a number of updates on the situation:

Hargreaves is one of the most talented players on the entire Florida roster and was seen as a key to the resurgence of the defense. In fact, ESPN.com ranked him as the best true sophomore in the country and the 13th-best overall player in the country in its preseason rankings.

Hargreaves earned first-team All-SEC honors last year thanks to his three interceptions, 38 tackles and 11 total passes defended. He was second in the conference in passes defended per game at 1.17 and looked completely comfortable against elite competition as a freshman.

This injury is certainly a major blow for the Gators moving forward if it is serious. Check back for updates as they develop.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Missouri Football 2014: Complete Preview and Predictions

Gary Pinkel guided the Missouri Tigers to a 12-2 record last season en route to a victory against Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl. Missouri has room for improvement and will not only look to secure an undefeated season but an SEC championship as well.

Watch as B/R's experts examine the Missouri Tigers before the 2014 season begins. 

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Arizona State Football 2014: Complete Preview and Predictions

Todd Graham's Sun Devils put together a great 2013 regular season but failed to capitalize in the postseason. Arizona State fell to Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship and couldn't overcome Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl. How will Arizona State fare in Graham's third season at the helm? Watch as Bleacher Report's experts preview Arizona State before the 2014 season begins. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Arizona State Football 2014: Complete Preview and Predictions

Todd Graham's Sun Devils put together a great 2013 regular season but failed to capitalize in the postseason. Arizona State fell to Stanford in the Pac -12 Championship and couldn't overcome Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Ole Miss Football 2014: Complete Preview and Prediction

Despite finishing with an overall record of 8-5, Hugh Freeze's Ole Miss Rebels struggled within the SEC, as they finished with a 3-5 record. However, the Rebels have managed to successfully bring in high-quality recruits in recent years. Expectations for Ole Miss continues to rise as these recruits gain valuable experience. Watch as B/R's experts weigh in on Ole Miss ahead of the 2014 season.

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Oklahoma State Football 2014: Complete Preview and Predictions

Head coach Mike Gundy enters his 10th season as Oklahoma State's head coach and looks to continue the success the Cowboys saw last season. In 2013, the Cowboys went 10-3 overall on the campaign with a 7-2 record within the Big 12 Conference. However, Gundy's squad failed to capitalize and lost to Missouri in the Cotton Bowl Classic. How will Oklahoma State rebound in 2014? Watch as Bleacher Report's experts preview the Cowboys ahead of the season.

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NCAA Board of Directors Approves Massive Changes to Division I Structure

The five biggest conferences in college football have just grown even more powerful, as the Division I board of directors has given those conferences the autonomous right to craft their own rules on several key student-athlete issues in college sports.

The final vote on Thursday was 16-2 in favor of the new changes. Michelle Brutlag Hosick of NCAA.com has more on the proposal itself:

The final model expands the Division I Board of Directors to include not only more presidents, but also a student-athlete, faculty representative, athletics director and female administrator.

A new body known as the Council will be responsible for day-to-day operations of the division and include more voices: two seats for student-athletes, two for faculty and four for commissioners.

The new model also grants flexibility to schools in the Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Southeastern conferences to change rules for themselves in a list of specific areas within Division I. The legislative process for these 65 schools, which could begin as early as Oct. 1, includes three student-athlete representatives from each conference who will vote on rule changes within those conferences.

Per the report, NCAA President Mark Emmert praised the decision:

I am immensely proud of the work done by the membership. The new governance model represents a compromise on all sides that will better serve our members and, most importantly, our student-athletes. These changes will help all our schools better support the young people who come to college to play sports while earning a degree.

The nuts and bolts of the new proposal come in the form of autonomy for the five major conferences and the new Council that has been established. The NCAA on Twitter passed along a graphic showing how the new voting system would work:

Some NCAA rules would fall outside the realm of autonomy, which would be governed and voted on by the Council. Here's a graphic from NCAA on Twitter showing the members who would comprise this Council:

It would appear that most of the issues the major conferences would have autonomy on would deal directly with student-athlete rights, from attendance stipends to the value of scholarships to medical expenses and even a student-athlete's rights when it comes to contacting agents.

Without question, one of the biggest issues surrounding the NCAA today is the rights of student-athletes, specifically as they relate to the question of whether college athletes should be paid. The issue came to a head in March, when the National Labor Relations Board's regional director in Chicago determined that members of the Northwestern football team were employees, not amateurs, and could form a union.

With the NCAA opposing the end to what it has termed amateurism, however, the new rules and two seats on the Council could be seen as an olive branch to student-athletes. And along the way, they also offer the major five conferences a new degree of power and independence they have never been afforded in NCAA history. 

Ralph D. Russo of The Associated Press put into context exactly what all of these changes could mean going forward:

The proposal must still pass through a 60-day comment period, however. If 75 universities protest, the board will reconsider the decision, while the protest of 125 universities will suspend the proposal barring reconsideration. 

 

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Dee Anderson Commits to LSU: What 2016 4-Star WR Brings to Tigers

Class of 2016 wide receiver Dee Anderson, a 4-star recruit from Mesquite, Texas, committed to LSU Thursday afternoon.

He confirmed the news with a celebratory Tweet:

"I committed to LSU because it was the perfect fit for me," Anderson told 247Sports Recruiting Insider Justin Hopkins, per Sonny Shipp of Geaux 247. "From the offense to the way they use receivers to the engineering program. It was a great fit."

Anderson attended the Tigers' Elite Camp on July 24, receiving his scholarship offer at the event. From there, it took him only two weeks to decide that Baton Rouge was his future home.

According to Shipp, Georgia was his next favorite option.

Anderson is the No. 119 overall player and No. 26 receiver in the 2016 class, checking in as the No. 13 prospect from the state of Texas.

That he ranks so high is remarkable because Anderson has not played much for his high school team, West Mesquite. According to Barton Simmons of 247Sports, he's caught only two passes in his career and struggled to get on the field as a sophomore.

But with a great camp circuit this summer, where he has slowly harnessed his physical tools into technical skills and been dominant at multiple events, Anderson has rocketed up recruiting boards.

Simmons says he has 5-star potential.

What sticks out immediately with Anderson is his height (6'4") and his rail-thin frame (177 lbs). He's entering only his junior year of high school, so he has ample time to fill out before anything is expected from him at LSU, but how he adds muscle is worth keeping an eye on.

Either way, though, his long arms and athletic ability should make him a useful target outside the numbers. LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has always liked big targets that can get down the field.

Anderson joins 4-star wide receiver Stephen Sullivan, the No. 75 overall player, and 4-star dual-threat quarterback Feleipe Franks, the No. 41 overall player, as the third member of LSU's 2016 class.

Sullivan is 6'6" and Franks is 6'5". Only at LSU could a 4-star, 6'4" receiver be the lowest-ranked and shortest member of his recruiting class (however early in the cycle).

Height is becoming the norm with LSU's receivers, and the sample size of giant committed prospects is growing too big to call that a coincidence. Five-star incoming freshman Malachi Dupre is 6'2.5", and 4-star class of 2015 commit Jazz Ferguson is 6'5".

The Tigers are making a concerted effort to land big, athletic targets for Cameron to toy around with, and Anderson is a solid addition.

Because he is so raw, he has to be considered a boom-or-bust type prospect, but with Dupre, Sullivan and Ferguson (along with other blue-chip incoming freshmen such as Trey Quinn), LSU can afford to incur the risk for the potential of the reward.

The coaching staff will watch his development closely this fall, hoping that a good summer turns into his first good season on the field. Even if it doesn't, the 5-star potential Simmons alluded to will remain.

If he ever taps into it, Anderson could be a star in Baton Rouge.

 

All recruiting info refers to the 247Sports composite rankings.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Football 2014: Schedule Breakdown and Predictions

After a season that saw Lane Kiffin fired and Steve Sarkisian hired, the USC Trojans look to push on into a new era of success.

Watch as B/R's experts break down the upcoming season for USC in the crowded Pac-12 picture.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Football 2014: Schedule Breakdown and Predictions

After a season that saw Lane Kiffin fired and Steve Sarkisian hired, the USC Trojans look to push on into a new era of success. Watch as B/R's experts break down the upcoming season for USC in the crowded Pac -12 picture...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Alabama Football: 5 Things to Watch for in Tide's First Fall Scrimmage

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama will get its first taste of live football action on Saturday when the team takes to Bryant-Denny Stadium for the first of two preseason scrimmages.

The scrimmages are closed to the general public, and media only get to watch five or so minutes of warm-ups—enough to check roles and participation but not much else. But there is still information to be gleaned from these tune-ups in the form of select scrimmage stats provided by Alabama and coach Nick Saban’s post-scrimmage comments.

It’s all a very take-it-with-a-grain-of-salt exercise, as only certain stats are released, and they don’t necessarily represent a full game’s worth of work—often times, the stats include extra situational work like goal-line and two-minute drills.

Still, it can give you some idea about the direction of the team and who’s standing out.

With that, here are five things to watch for on Saturday.

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Ohio State Football: Examining the Buckeyes' Most Important Position Battle

As Ohio State's 2013 season came to an end, Joel Hale came to a sobering conclusion. After beginning the year as a starter on Ohio State's defensive line, the junior defensive tackle was no longer as valued of a member of the Buckeyes roster as he was at the start of the year.

The emergence of freshman defensive end Joey Bosa shifted sophomore Adolphus Washington back inside to his original position of defensive tackle, effectively pushing Hale out of the OSU lineup. But rather than be content with spending his impending senior season as a reserve, the 6'4", 310-pounder approached Urban Meyer with a career-altering proposition.

"I wasn't doing what I wanted to do for the team toward the end of the season last year," Hale admitted. "That was bugging me. That was really bothering me and sticking with me. So I just wanted to do what I could and know that I can. I know I can do a lot more for the Buckeyes because I have a lot in my heart and a lot in my mind to make this team the best it can be. I went in with a change to the O-line in mind."

Meyer obliged, and with that, the three-year defensive lineman transformed into a first-year offensive lineman fighting in the most important position battle on Ohio State's most important unit. With the Buckeyes replacing four experienced starters from last season's offensive line, Meyer's already admitted that he's found his eyes drifting to one particular vacant spot.

"Left guard, left guard, left guard," Meyer unsolicitedly repeated during his opening fall camp press conference on Monday. "That's the one. If I had to say, 'Where's all the focus?,' to me, it's that left guard. What are we going to do with the left guard?"

That just so happens to be the position that Hale now finds himself at, although he's hardly a lock to be a starter when the Buckeyes take the field for their season opener against Navy on Aug. 30. In fact, the former defensive lineman is currently practicing as Ohio State's second-string left guard, as Antonio Underwood takes reps with the first team.

A fourth-year junior, Underwood is no stranger to adversity himself, as a promising spring session a year ago was cut short when the Shaker Heights, Ohio, native tore his ACL. But despite having spent the better part of the past year recovering, the 6'3", 303-pound Underwood feels as though he's picked up right where he left off.

"Last spring, I started to gain the reputation of being consistent," Underwood said in the spring. "I've picked that up. Obviously, there's still stuff I need to work on, but I feel as though I'm getting better."

Hale isn't the only former defensive lineman making a push for the starting spot formerly occupied by Andrew Norwell, however, as Billy Price has also thrown his name into the mix. After arriving at Ohio State as a defensive tackle a season ago, the Buckeyes staff opted to move him to center midway through the year, ultimately redshirting Price to preserve an extra year of eligibility.

Now, Price finds himself vying to be a starter at not just one, but two positions on the OSU offensive line. And while he may not have the upper hand in either battle—Jacoby Boren or Chad Lindsay figure to start at center—the Youngstown, Ohio, native's status as one of the strongest players on the entire team makes him an intriguing candidate nonetheless.

"The first three days, he's practiced at guard and at center," Buckeyes offensive line coach Ed Warinner said of Price. "We rotate him in at guard as well because he's a physically talented guy. So there's a chance that if he wasn't the starter at center, he could be a starter at guard or a role player at either position."

Also mixing it up at left guard so far this fall have been fourth-year junior Chase Farris and true freshman Marcelys Jones. Both, however, are long shots to see significant playing time this season, as Farris has bounced between offense and defense throughout his career, and Jones is a likely redshirt candidate.

For now, Underwood remains the favorite to be facing off with the Midshipmen in 23 days, but Hale's veteran presence should push him to the very end. As a senior in his last go-round at a new position, the new offensive lineman has made it clear that he won't go down without a fight, as it's more than just a starting spot he's currently vying for.

"It's a huge risk," Hale admitted of his position switch. "I'm fighting for my life right now. I'm fighting everyday."

 

*All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.

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Virginia Tech Football 2014: Complete Preview and Predictions

Frank Beamer's Hokies found success in 2013, as they finished with an overall record of 8-5 and a 5-3 record within the ACC.

However, the team failed to finish the campaign on a positive note, losing to UCLA in the Sun Bowl. Beamer and the Hokies will look to start and finish this upcoming season on a stronger note.

Watch as B/R's experts examine Virginia Tech before the 2014 season begins.

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Texas A&M Football: Week 1 Fall Camp Stock Report

The Texas A&M football team has completed its first week of fall camp, and there were a few surprises. It is hard to get a read on where the team is at before the full pads go on, but some of the younger players on the roster have already made an impression on their coaches and teammates. 

Head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff continue to experiment with different players in different situations, so it is tough to gauge where each player ranks on the depth chart during the first week of camp. 

There are multiple positions still up for grabs. The competitions for most of these starting spots will continue until fall camp. The starting quarterback position will be decided with two weeks remaining before the August 28 opener against South Carolina. 

 

Quarterback Competition Continues

Both sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill and true freshman quarterback Kyle Allen split snaps with the first-team offense during the first week of camp. This will continue until the coaches pick a starter, and then he will get all of the snaps with the first-team offense leading up to the season opener. 

Hill had a nice moment during 11-on-11. When pressure forced him out of the pocket, he scrambled left to buy time and found running back Trey Williams in the end zone for a touchdown. That is what Hill gives you that Allen does not: the ability to extend plays with his feet. 

Hill received most of the snaps with the first-team offense Monday while Allen was stuck with the second team. The two quarterbacks will rotate snaps until the coaches are ready to make their decision. 

 

Youth Is Served on Defense

The coaches have not wasted any time throwing the newcomers into the fire on defense. Defensive ends Myles Garrett, Qualen Cunningham and Darrell Jackson all have received a serious look from the coaches. 

Garrett has shared snaps on the first-team defense with Daeshon Hall. It does not matter who the coaches decide to start on the weak side, but expect to see Garrett on the field a lot when the opposing team is expected to pass. Garrett is a true freshman but is thicker physically than Hall. 

Cunningham and Jackson have been getting snaps on the second team. The Aggies did not have a pass rush from their defensive line in 2013. It is imperative that they develop some depth at defensive end in 2014, so they can attack the opposing quarterback for four quarters. 

Both true freshmen linebackers have seen action with the second-team defense. Otaro Alaka and Josh Walker are trying to impress the coaches enough to earn some playing time and avoid a redshirt. 

 

Nothing Is Guaranteed 

The Aggie football coaches continue to experiment with different players in different formations in order to find the best combination of players to offer the team a chance at success. Senior offensive guard Jarvis Harrison has started at left guard for the past two years. 

He is currently running second team at left guard while Garrett Gramling is practicing with the first team. There is no timetable on when Harrison will move back up with the first team. 

The Aggie defenses continue to use multiple formations. Their base formation is the 4-3 defense, but they have been using 4-2-5 schemes and the 33-stack in practice. 

When the Aggies went to a three-man front Monday, they had Alonzo Williams at nose guard. When they went to an even front, they had Zaycoven Henderson at nose guard and Jay Arnold at defensive tackle. Expect the coaches to continue to mix and match players in an attempt to determine the ideal combinations. 

Sophomore linebacker A.J. Hilliard has been getting some snaps with the first-team defense at weak-side linebacker. The 6'2", 230-pound transfer from TCU has the size at linebacker that the Aggies desire. If he can earn a starting spot, then that would be a big boost to the Aggies' run defense. 

Senior outside linebacker Donnie Baggs has been expected to start on the weak side. His lack of size caused him to get swallowed up by offensive linemen in 2013 and become an ineffective defender. 

The starting wide receivers seem set with Josh Reynolds, Malcome Kennedy, Speedy Noil and Ricky Seals-Jones on the first team. Seals-Jones played in the slot Monday with Noil on the outside. Aggie fans should expect offensive coordinator Jake Spavital to moves Seals-Jones all over the field in order to find favorable matchups. 

It is only the first week of practice, but the coaches have to be happy with the improved depth on the team. The depth on the lines and the skill positions is particularly impressive. The Texas A&M football team is starting to physically resemble an SEC football program.  

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Eastern Michigan Unveils New Gray Turf at 'The Factory'

When teams in the Mid-American Conference visit Eastern Michigan this season, they will need to focus on their opponent, not the playing surface.

No turf is more recognizable than Boise State's. Now, more and more teams—including Eastern Michigan—have started to install some colorful turf. 

The Eagles recently unveiled new gray turf at Rynearson Stadium, aka "The Factory." Coach Chris Creighton and team captains Pudge Cotton, Lincoln Hansen and Pat O'Connor helped show off the new field.

There are plenty of pictures of the gray turf:

Check out the transformation process:

[YouTube, Instagram, Twitter; h/t SB Nation]

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Rutgers Football Team Holds Wild Ice Bath Rave Party After Practice

Two-a-days are the best and worst of times.

By the time you finish that second practice, you feel like you’ve been beaten with a sack full of Pog slammers.

The upshot, however, is you’re too tired to care. Exhaustion to the point of giddiness sets in, and if you’re on the Rutgers football team, you might find yourself waist-deep in ice water and fist-pumping to house music.

This is the strange and spectacular scene that played out after a recent double session held by the Scarlet Knights.

The team uploaded video of an absolute rager they had after a long day on the practice fields. Rutgers dubs the party “#ClubIce,” which is another way of saying Ultra with freezing water.

What you are watching is not an impromptu event. Someone set up a tent and rented out laser lights and smoke machines for this. Air horns and a disco ball were involved.

Best of all, Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood partook in #ClubIce.

Rutgers posted a picture to Instagram with a caption claiming the ice-bath party had been a surprise organized by Flood.

“Surprise at the end of the first double session, @CoachKyleFlood introduced #RFootball to #ClubIce!” read the caption.

Let it be known: Greg Schiano would never allow this.

Schiano men sit quietly in their ice baths, contemplating their shortcomings as the Dear Leader stews beans on an open fire and recounts his great grandfather’s violent run-in with a pair of rutting bison on the Tallgrass Prairie.

Flood is not a Schiano man, and that is a great thing.

So if you're looking to rage, it's going down at #ClubIce. It’s like partying at the Moontower, but you can’t feel your groin.

 

Follow me on Twitter for more sports news.

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Oregon Football 2014: Complete Preview of Ducks Offense and Defense

The Oregon Ducks are one of the most talented teams in the nation, with playmakers all over the roster.

Watch as B/R's experts break down Oregon on both sides of the ball, as the Ducks look to challenge once again for the Pac-12 championship.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon Football 2014: Complete Preview of Ducks Offense and Defense

The Oregon Ducks are one of the most talented teams in the nation, with playmakers all over the roster. Watch as B/R's experts break down Oregon on both sides of the ball, as the Ducks look to challenge once again for the Pac -12 championship...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

College Football Predictions: Sleeper Picks for Major College Football Awards

Preseason award watch lists have been released. Chances are, it says more about a player if he isn't on a watch list than if he is, but the bottom line is that there's a clean slate and everyone has a chance to win.

There are early favorites to take home some hardware, sure. Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota are just two of the names figured to be called on awards night, provided they stay healthy. 

But who are some sleeper picks who could make a surprise run during the 2014 season? We list 10 players who could have big years and take home some postseason hardware. 

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