No one player can determine the outcome of a game quite like a quarterback. If a team has a good one, it will win a lot more than it'll lose. If a team has a bad one, well, he may not even finish the season.
Virginia Tech senior quarterback Logan Thomas has experienced a little bit of both. As a sophomore in 2011, Thomas was outstanding. He completed 60 percent of his passes for 3,013 yards. He also tossed 19 touchdowns versus only 10 interceptions.
Thomas took a step back in 2012, completing only 51 percent of his passes, and his interceptions rose from 10 to 16.
The team took a major step back, too. The Hokies were 11-3 in 2011, played in both the ACC title game and the Sugar Bowl. The Hokies finished 7-6 in 2012, their worst record in 20 years.
The Hokies' failures in 2012 weren't all due to Thomas, however. Offensive line woes were the biggest culprit, and that trend could continue this season.
Here is a comprehensive look at Virginia Tech's best and most important player in 2013.
South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney is a favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft and is arguably the best player in college football.
Right now, he has his eyes set on college football's most prestigious award, the Heisman Trophy.
Can he claim it?
The Gamecocks' superstar defensive end possesses speed, power and a physical edge that is second to none. These skills can carry Clowney to the status of a college football legend in 2013.
Will anyone be able to slow down "The Freak" on his quest for the Heisman?
Here is a look at Clowney's Heisman odds and his outlook for the 2013 season.
Ohio State's freshman class this year may be one of the best in all of college football.
Few of its freshman shine as brightly as Scout.com's 5-star wide receiver Jalin Marshall from in-state Middletown.
Marshall, a quarterback in high school, possesses incredible speed and quickness in the open field, making him one of the most intriguing players on the Buckeyes' roster.
But can a converted quarterback have an immediate impact at wide receiver right away?
Here's our in-depth preview on the Buckeyes' electrifying freshman.
Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller set a single-season school record for total offense in 2012, throwing and running for a combined 3,310 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Those numbers were good enough to earn Miller a fifth-place finish in last year's Heisman race. Many are expecting bigger numbers and a higher finish for the Buckeyes' signal-caller this year.
The reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year will lead No. 2 Ohio State through a schedule that could yield huge numbers to the Buckeyes' offense. If Ohio State improves in Year 2 under Urban Meyer, something every team has done throughout his coaching career, the Buckeyes could be on the brink of a special season.
Will that special season include Miller winning Ohio State its eighth Heisman Trophy?
Read about Miller's chances of winning college football's highest individual honor with this slideshow.
Sometimes, things aren’t always as they appear.
The college football world was reminded of that on Aug. 22 when Oklahoma Sooners head coach Bob Stoops made a shocking announcement via The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey. Redshirt freshman Trevor Knight, not front-runner Blake Bell, would be the starting quarterback for the Sooners this fall.
Who saw that one coming?
Oklahoma opens their season this Saturday at home against Louisiana-Monroe. That leaves fans little to no time to get acquainted with the young gunslinger.
No worries, B/R has got you covered.
As the countdown to Big Ten football enters the final days, there are many players around the conference getting ready for a breakout season in 2013.
Whether these players had a great 2012 or a promising spring camp and fall camp, these will be the superstars competing for national awards and All-American status at the end of the season. Circumstances like a lot of inexperience around some of these players will also help the spotlight shine more on them than ever before.
The following players show that the top level of talent does not reside solely in Columbus and Ann Arbor. Quite to the contrary, the other teams competing for Big Ten championships are recruiting and developing solid talent as well, even if the depth may be a bit less in some programs.
Still, all it takes is a couple of injuries and an entire team—even a good one—can be derailed from success. Just ask Iowa's running back corps from the past three years.
Next week, actual football will finally be the talk. For now, enjoy the final look ahead at the players who will define how well the Big Ten will do in 2013.
The following list is in no particular order, as all 10 of the players will be huge factors in the conference championship race.
Potential can be both a gift and a curse for football recruits. Some go on to fulfill the promise they show as players, while others never reach their high ceilings.
While many recruits in the 2014 class have shown signs they are developing as players, several elite prospects still have much to learn. However, their size, speed and athleticism have made them coveted prospects, as college coaches know that if they are developed properly, they will become studs.
A cornerback has world-class athleticism and instinct, but lacks great technique. A pair of prospects who play in the trenches are raw, but with good coaching, they could be difference-makers in college. Also, if a speedy offensive player learns the nuances of the receiver position, he could be an All-American.
From Johnny Manziel to conference realignment, college football had its fair share of excellent storylines all offseason long. But what will be the biggest storylines during the 2013 season?
With how much of a factor the media is in this day and age, there are going to be juicy stories all season long.
But what's going to dominate the headlines in 2013? The Manziel saga is likely to continue and conference realignment also does not appear to be over. What about the SEC's attempt at winning its eighth straight national championship?
All of those are likely to be talked about all season long, but what else makes the list?
Here are the 40 biggest storylines as the start of the college football season draws closer.
After a long offseason, Nebraska Cornhuskers fans can finally utter the three words they have been waiting months to say:
“It’s Wyoming Week.”
But as the new football season starts, many questions remain to be answered. Here are five of the biggest questions whose answers may determine Nebraska’s fate in 2013.
It was reported on Aug. 25 that sophomore quarterback Joel Stave will lead the Wisconsin Badgers offense in their Week 1 matchup against Massachusetts (via David Hookstead on Twitter). The announcement comes just six days before Wisconsin's opener, and it was a hotly contested position battle between Stave and sixth-year senior Curt Phillips.
Both signal callers are viable options for the Badgers, especially against an opponent like the Minutemen, a team that went 1-11 last season in their first year as a member of the FBS. UMass also happens to be a 45-point underdog as it gears up to enter the grounds of Camp Randall Stadium (via Bovada).
If things go according to plan, we should get a chance to see both Stave and Phillips on the field Aug. 31, and maybe even Tanner McEvoy—perhaps at both quarterback and wide receiver.
Plenty of players will see the field regardless of whether the Badgers are able to run away with a commanding lead, so this should have an impact on our projected statistics for Wisconsin against UMass.
PASSING STATS: 14-of-19, 170 yards, 1 TD
Joel Stave: 9-of-11, 135 yards, 1 TD
Curt Phillips: 4-of-5, 27 yards
Tanner McEvoy: 1-of-3, 8 yards
RUSHING STATS: 57 carries, 333 yards (5.84 average), 5 TDs
James White: 21 carries, 138 yards, 2 TDs
Melvin Gordon: 17 carries, 117 yards, 2 TDs
Corey Clement: 8 carries, 41 yards, 1 TD
Jeff Lewis: 4 carries, 10 yards
Derek Watt: 3 carries, 13 yards
Tanner McEvoy: 3 carries, 12 yards
Curt Phillips: 1 carry, 2 yards
RECEIVING STATS: 14 catches, 170 yards, 1 TD
Jacob Pedersen: 4 catches, 47 yards, 1 TD
Jared Abbrederis: 4 catches, 68 yards
Jordan Fredrick: 2 catches, 19 yards
Brian Wozniak: 2 catches, 11 yards
Alex Erickson: 1 catch, 12 yards
Jeff Duckworth: 1 catch, 13 yards
DEFENSIVE/SPECIAL TEAMS STATS: 6 sacks, 2 INTs, 2 FF, 1 FR, 1 TD, 10 points allowed
Kyle French: 1-of-1, 37 yards
Not only did UMass rank outside of the Top 100 in the FBS in scoring, passing and rushing, but its defense had its issues as well. It gave up 225.6 yards-per-game on the ground despite playing in a pass-happy MAC, and the Minutemen were far better in pass defense, allowing 235.8 yards through the air each contest.
There's no question that Massachusetts will key in on the run against the Badgers, but it won't matter. Wisconsin is simply too overpowering up front and will have its way with UMass' front seven.
As a result of its success running the football, Wisconsin won't find it necessary to throw the football very often. A lopsided game should allow just about everyone to see the field, which is why we have three quarterbacks listed in the passing department and seven different rushers.
There will be a few read-option looks with Phillips and McEvoy in the game—assuming both get in the game—but that's it, as head coach Gary Andersen probably won't want to give too much away for future opponents to catch on tape. Just enough to get a feel for it, and the same goes for Wisconsin's defense, which is switching to a 3-4 formation with a refined approach.
The bottom line? Football is back, and the Badgers will rout the Minutemen on college football's opening weekend.
Follow Bleacher Report's Wisconsin Badgers football writer Dave Radcliffe on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Rivalries are one of the best features of college football. They're deep, passionate and highly competitive not only on the field, but also on the recruiting trail.
Many schools enter games versus their rivals with not just bragging rights, bowl games or conference championships on the line, but also with huge recruiting implications. The 2013 season has several rivalry games that will greatly influence the conclusion of the 2014 recruiting cycle.
A rivalry game between schools only several miles apart could decide if either program signs a top-25 class. A classic rivalry game of Big Ten schools will impact not only 2014 recruiting, but also 2015. And a growing rivalry in the SEC also is on this list.
In one week, the Texas Longhorns will debut Major Applewhite's highly anticipated up-tempo offense. If all goes to plan, Texas will ride it to once again become one of the nation's premier offensive attacks.
Though the focus of the offseason has been fixing a historically bad defense, the 'Horns will go only as far as Applewhite's offense takes them. Texas has only lost two games in the last five seasons when it has scored over 30 points, and that is the kind of production it takes to win in the Big 12.
Fortunately for Applewhite, putting up 30 a night should be no problem. He gets 10 out of 11 starters back from a unit that put up over 35 per game last season. He also returns a full stable of running backs and gets a more experienced David Ash under center. Applewhite could do some special things with this group and the 80 plays he plans to run per game.
The goal for this offense should be to put up 40 per contest. With the help of the conference's best quarterback, a 1,000-yard rusher and a breakout campaign from a speedy sophomore, he will do just that in taking Texas back to the top of the Big 12.
Nebraska football fans have much to be excited about entering the 2013 season. But perhaps the biggest reason for optimism in Lincoln is the favorable early season schedule that will allow the Cornhuskers to rise into the Top 10 before playing Michigan on November 9th.
A Top-10 ranking certainly seems like a stretch for a team facing as many questions on defense as Nebraska. But the Huskers' surplus of home games and back-loaded Big Ten schedule make the first two months of the season very manageable.
In its non-conference slate, Nebraska should handle Wyoming, Southern Miss and South Dakota State with ease. Although nothing is ever certain in college football, the Huskers should feel very confident against three opponents that combined for four FBS victories a season ago.
The one potential stumbling block is UCLA in Nebraska's third game.
The Bruins return roughly 14 of 22 starters from their 2012 team that brutalized the Huskers in Pasadena and narrowly missed out on a Rose Bowl berth. But in part two of this dual, Nebraska will benefit greatly from home-field advantage and the absence of former UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin as it exacts revenge for last year's defeat.
After finishing the non-conference schedule unscathed, Nebraska must survive two more tough tests before heading to Ann Arbor.
The first is a trap game at Purdue on October 12th.
Even though the Boilermakers struggled in 2012, they will host a young group of Blackshirts experiencing their first road game. Any lack of focus or composure from the Husker newcomers could cause the Big Red problems in West Lafayette.
After a bye week and a trip to Minnesota, Nebraska will face Northwestern in a pivotal game in the Legends Division race. The athleticism of Kain Colter and Venric Mark will once again give the Blackshirts trouble. But the offense will not turn the ball over like they did in Evanston last season and will outgun the Wildcats in a high-scoring afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
So, with five comfortable wins, a revenge victory over UCLA, a survival of their first road test and a difficult but confident win over Northwestern, the Huskers will awake November 3rd with an 8-0 record.
There will still be doubters, though. And perhaps for good reason. Critics will scoff at victories over Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota and claim UCLA and Northwestern to be middle-of-the-road contenders.
But like last year, when the Week 10 BCS Standings ranked every 8-0 team, save Louisville, one through four, the polls will have no choice but to vault Nebraska well into the Top 10.
The Huskers will have taken over two months to attain their lofty ranking, but they will then need one quality afternoon at the Big House to prove they deserve it.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Until late last season, college football followers outside of the Big Ten weren't all that familiar with Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner.
That's because he wasn't one prior to Week 8, when he re-debuted as the Wolverines' No. 1 with 234 passing yards and two touchdowns during a 35-13 throttling of Minnesota.
Gardner posted a 3-2 record as a starter, which includes a three-touchdown showing during the Wolverines' 33-28 Outback Bowl loss to South Carolina.
His barely-above-.500 record may not jump out as overly impressive, but his offensive numbers were: 1,219 passing yards, 11 passing touchdowns, seven rushing touchdowns and a Big Ten-leading 161.7 efficiency rating.
And he completed just under 60 percent of his passing attempts.
He's a likely candidate for Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors and a potential dark-horse Heisman contender.
But there is more to Gardner.
After churning out one of the best seasons you'll ever see from a first-year quarterback, Oregon's Marcus Mariota enters 2013 not as a little-known kid from Hawaii, but as a Heisman Trophy favorite and one of the biggest reasons the Ducks are once again expected to contend for a national title.
In case you've forgotten the numbers, Mariota threw for 32 touchdowns, rushed for five more, completed nearly 70 percent of his passes and led the Ducks to 12 wins, including a throttling of one-loss Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl.
He moves around in the backfield like a savvy veteran, keeping his eyes downfield until the last possible second before galloping downfield like the wind, whipping past defenders.
His accuracy was on display from the moment the 2012 season started. He completed 18 of 22 passes against Arkansas State in the home opener.
This year, his receivers are back and his offensive line has more experience, talent and depth than ever before. So what will Oregon's star quarterback do for an encore?
Click ahead to find out everything you need to know about Marcus Mariota, including a special look at his odds of winning the Heisman Trophy.
With 13 games standing between Lane Kiffin and his fate at USC, the Trojans need to be firing on all cylinders to prove that he is indeed football’s young genius.
In 2012, Kiffin and the Trojans went from the heights of a preseason No. 1 to being unranked by the final game of the regular season.
When the dust settled, it was one of the biggest free falls in history, with the once-top team in the nation finishing 7-6, including a 21-7 loss to unranked Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.
And don’t forget there are only two programs in the FBS that have recruited better than USC over the past four years (Alabama and Florida). This adds up to few viable excuses for Kiffin, and this is true even with the string of injuries in 2012 and the NCAA sanctions that continue to limit scholarship numbers.
Of all of the hurdles standing in Kiffin’s way to get to double-digit wins in 2013, the one he can’t afford to trip over is team trust.
If Kiffin loses the confidence of his team, it won’t matter how talented they are or what they were predicted to do.
This is why this past week’s story about Marqise Lee’s concerns over the quarterback controversy is more than just fluffy stuff to get us through to opening weekend.
It is significant because it indicates that Kiffin may be in danger of losing his team’s trust.
According to an article by Stuart White for FanSided, Lee expressed his desire to have the decision between Cody Kessler and Max Wittek wrapped up by the end of last week.
Dude, this is crazy. I am still waiting. I don’t know when coach Kiffin is going to actually decide but I hope it’s Friday because that’s when we start our (preparation for Hawaii)…It would be good to know by Friday but it’s up to coach Kiffin and at the end of the day I’ll be waiting just like you guys.
Though the comments were reported to be lighthearted, the message is clear, “Dude, the season is about to start, we need a starting quarterback…”
Lee’s public comments are not isolated, which lends more credence to the theory that Kiffin may be losing player confidence.
According to an article written in April by Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports, former USC quarterback Matt Barkley had some interesting observations from his time with Kiffin.
You put your faith in your coaches, but when you see trends, things not happening the right way, and when the team rests on your shoulders, it’s almost like you have to step up. You can’t just let these things go by and watch them disintegrate in front of you. You’ve got to put the glue in somewhere. Looking back, I wish I’d been more forceful.
Another sign of loss of control comes via a USA Today report from January regarding a fight that broke out in the Trojan locker room after the Sun Bowl loss.
According to source Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News, “10 to 15 players were involved in a locker room altercation.”
The incident started when some freshmen questioned the leadership of the team’s seniors and whether they gave 100 percent effort for the Sun Bowl. This led to an argument that eventually escalated according to witnesses.
Wolf quotes one player, “who did not wish to be identified,” as saying, “It was one of the worst things I’ve seen in a locker room."
ESPN.com's Gene Wojciechowski reported in January that a few weeks after the Sun Bowl, a USC player—who wished to remain anonymous—told him that “Kiffin had ‘lost’ the USC locker room." He went on to describe the defeat to Georgia Tech as, "getting boat-raced by a high school football team."
Even though USC AD Pat Haden has been outspoken in his support of Kiffin, it’s not Haden’s confidence he’ll need on the 13 game days of the 2013 season.
No, when the whistle blows, it will be the full support of the 100-plus members of USC’s roster that will decide whether Kiffin stays or goes.
To capture the confidence of his team, Kiffin must make the shift from being a brilliant strategist to a master motivator.
In his own words, according to ESPN.com, Kiffin said that he had invested so much time into “X’s and O’s and what it takes to win, that I hadn’t grown enough to understand the other stuff that matters.”
Kiffin’s game plans—which may look unstoppable on paper—will come alive and prove fruitful only if he can connect with, motivate and inspire the talented athletes who grace his roster.
This is the “other stuff” that desperately needs his attention.
Putting anything ahead of this could spell disaster more so than another bungled media encounter or questions regarding his suitability as the offensive play-caller.
It all goes back to helping the players, but individual players being successful makes the team successful. Now everybody always says there is no “I” in team, but there is an “I” in win, because the individuals make the team what it is, and how they think and what they do is important to the team. So when you act like the individual is not important, well, its damn important who these people are and what they are.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Duke Johnson, star running back for the Miami Hurricanes, is one of the Atlantic Coast Conference's top players, and, along with his quarterback Stephen Morris, Johnson is a sleeper candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
Johnson burst onto the national scene in his collegiate debut as a freshman in 2012 when he scored two 50-plus-yard touchdowns against Boston College. Using that performance as a springboard, he went on to have one of the best seasons in school history.
Fast-forward to the 2013 campaign, and Johnson is a player who certainly could be a Heisman contender come November—the final month of the regular season.
But if he wants to remain in the Heisman picture for the remainder of the year, Johnson must shine during a couple of key games.
College football is a game won by yards, inches and execution.
Boise State knocked off Oklahoma in 2005 in the most shocking upset in history, by virtue of excellent execution on the old "statue of liberty" play.
Georgia lost to Alabama in the 2012 SEC title game when the team couldn't get the ball successfully the last few yards needed for a touchdown.
Little actions, performed by incredible athletes at high rates of speed, can mean the difference between a conference or national title, and relative obscurity.
The 25 players, coaches and teams listed here are the 25 who have the greatest chance at surprising this season, and leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of college football.