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Penn State Football: Early Game-by-Game Prediction for the 2014 Season

We're less than 100(!) days away from the 2015 football season which Penn State will kick off in Ireland against UCF in the Croke Park Classic.

The Nittany Lions have managed to hold things together thus far amid crippling sanctions that have depleted the roster and left them with around 50 healthy scholarship players at times in 2013. The upcoming season could be the most difficult to navigate through but a third consecutive winning season would give fans something to be proud of.

Gone are Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska but they've been replaced by the likes of Michigan State and a couple new additions to the Big Ten.

The out-of-conference schedule gives Franklin a test in week one followed by some winnable games. Will the kinks be worked out by the time the Big Ten schedule gets going or will growing pains and a thin roster prove too much for the Big Ten's newest coach?

Here's a week-by-week breakdown of the Nittany Lions' 2014 season.

 

All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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LSU Football: Early Game-by-Game Prediction for the 2014 Season

LSU fans are always buzzing about the Tigers. Except, at the moment, it's not about the football team.

LSU Baseball just earned a coveted national seed for the upcoming NCAA Tournament. But, as head coach Paul Mainieri gets his team prepared for another run to Omaha, it is never too early to look ahead to the upcoming football season. 

One of Les Milesmany challenges heading into the season is the arduous schedule. The Tigers have a vicious eight-game SEC slate and a non-conference opponent that has been to three Rose Bowls in the past four seasons.

Here are some far too early previews and predictions for next season.  

 

*Stats and additional information via 247Sports, cfbstats.com, LSU Sports Information and ESPN.com

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Texas A&M Football: Analyzing Aggies' Top 5 2015 Recruiting Targets

The Texas A&M football team has 10 players committed in their 2015 recruiting class. They still have a number of players they are trying to add in order to sign one of the top classes in the SEC. 

Every good recruiting class has a "jewel" or bell-cow player that fans can point to as the leader of the class. The Aggies have two players committed in the 2015 class like that, in 5-star defensive tackle Daylon Mack and 4-star tight end Jordan Davis

There are multiple athletes in Texas this year who would qualify for that moniker. The Aggies are still in the running for a lot of these recruits. If Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff can sign these recruits, he will have legitimate shot at signing the No. 1 recruiting class in the country. 

This is a look at the top five recruiting targets for the A&M class. They are going to be listed from the least important to the program and class to the most important. 

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Power Ranking College Football's 10 Best QB Depth Charts for 2014

Quarterback depth charts are a difficult thing to evaluate. Do you err toward the team with the best No. 1 option or the team with the safest amount of protection behind him?

The safest way, I think, is to use a healthy combination of the two. A team with one Heisman candidate but no other viable players under center cannot be considered to have one of the best depth charts in America. Likewise, a team with two viable players but no viable starter is discredited in a similar way.

Thus, in order for a team to make this list, a combination of two things was needed: (1) a quarterback who can be trusted to compete for a conference championship and (2) a backup who can be trusted not to let the season implode if the starter gets injured.

Oregon, for example, fulfills the first criterion with Marcus Mariota but not the second with Jeff Lockie, which is why it has been excluded. On the other hand, Michigan fulfills the second item with either Devin Gardner or Shane Morris, but neither of those quarterbacks fulfills the first category.

There is definitely some wiggle room for argument, especially in regard to the teams with blue-chip starters.

I prefer certain young high-upside backups to others, but there are arguments to be made both ways, so feel free to chime in below and let me know where you disagree.

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Dylan Thompson Projections: Will New Gamecock QB Match Connor Shaw's Success?

With the Connor Shaw era coming to an end, South Carolina's Dylan Thompson will step into the QB role. Thompson is no stranger to the offense, but he will bring a different style to the Gamecocks.

With a dynamic receiving corps and run game, Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks should have a more traditional, balanced offense. Will Dylan Thompson be able to run a successful offense this season? Can he be better than Connor Shaw? 

Watch B/R's college football analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer break down the Gamecocks starting QB. 

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

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Dorial Green-Beckham Reportedly May Sit out 2014 Season, Enter 2015 NFL Draft

After being dismissed by the Missouri football program in April, Dorial Green-Beckham may sit out the entire 2014 college football season in favor of entering the 2015 NFL draft.

Jeremy Fowler of CBS Sports reported the news Tuesday:

Chase Goodbread of NFL.com shared his thoughts on the potential move and recounted the issues that led to Green-Beckham's dismissal:

For a player with more years of college eligibility remaining (two) than productive years as a college player (one), it would be the riskiest of moves. A rash of legal problems have derailed the career of Green-Beckham, who was regarded as the nation's No. 1 wide receiver recruit out of high school in 2012. Two marijuana-related arrests preceded an incident in which Green-Beckham allegedly forced his way into his girlfriend's apartment and pushed another female resident down a stairwell.

If Green-Beckham does decide to sit out the 2014 season, he would finish his college career with just 87 receptions for 1,278 yards and 17 touchdowns. While he did put together a big 2013 season with 883 yards and 12 touchdowns, one season might not be enough to convince scouts to take a risk on him in the draft.

The former Mizzou receiver spoke about his struggles to stay on the field, per Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

First and most importantly, I take responsibility for my conduct and my mistakes. Don’t blame my girlfriend or her friends for anything. I am not looking for sympathy. I thank those who have given me concern.

I have been young and dumb. I want to be better. During my suspension I’m entering counseling. With help, I know I can be stronger emotionally and spiritually. My relationship with God, my family, friends, teammates and coaches are most important in my life, not football.

It may not be possible to fix everything, but it won’t be for not trying.

While Goodbread doesn't believe sitting out will be the best option for DGB, David C. Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune has other thoughts:

Meanwhile, Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead still sees the wideout as the top receiver in next year's draft if he enters:

While Green-Beckham has clearly made his fair share of mistakes, the 6'6", 225-pound receiver is viewed as one of the best players in the 2015 class. If he does skip the entire year, the former Mizzou wideout might still get a chance with an NFL franchise hoping to turn his career around.

Of course, it will be interesting to see how Green-Beckham handles himself if he does sit out. He will need to remain dedicated to staying in top physical shape as well as avoid further mistakes off the field.

After a mostly unsuccessful college tenure with the Tigers, the former No. 1 overall player in the 2014 247Sports composite rankings still has the talent to play in the NFL. As for which team might take that flier to see if he can still produce, that will be determined when the upcoming draft rolls around if he decides to enter it.

 

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UCLA Football: Analyzing Bruins' Top 5 2014 Recruiting Targets

UCLA's quick rise in the Pac-12 under head coach Jim Mora is due in no small part to the program's recruiting efforts. 

Mora's first three signing classes, starting in 2012, have ranked fourth, third and first in the conference, per 247Sports. It's no wonder then that the Bruins are primed for league contention. 

UCLA's 2015 signing class is shaping up to be arguably Mora and his staff's best yet. The Bruins currently have six commitments and are firmly in the mix for several coveted recruits. 

The theme atop UCLA's list of uncommitted targets is Southern California. Mora and Co. are working hard to plant their flag firmly in the local recruiting scene with highly rated prospects. 

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UCLA Football: Analyzing Bruins' Top 5 2014 Recruiting Targets

UCLA's quick rise in the Pac-12 under head coach Jim Mora is due in no small part to the program's recruiting efforts. Mora's first three signing classes, starting in 2012, have ranked fourth , third and first in the conference, per 247Sports...

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4 Likely Replacements for Jamal Marcus at Ohio State

Backup defensive end Jamal Marcus, who was expected to start the first two games of next season while Noah Spence finishes his three-game suspension, has left the Ohio State program.

The earliest report came from Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors and said Marcus had been dismissed from the team along with receiver Brandon Ojikutu for a violation of team rules.

But according to a later report from Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch, Marcus is simply transferring from the program, and his departure was a mutual decision between school and player.

Marcus started for Spence against Clemson in the Orange Bowl and played the best game of his career, finishing with six total tackles and frequently making plays in the backfield. "I feel like get me on the field, I can make plays whenever I get the opportunity," Marcus said after the performance, per Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com.

According to Rowland, however, Marcus was "conspicuously quiet" during spring drills and took reps with the second- and third-team defenses. The writing was kind of on the wall.

This loss does not cripple one of the nation's top defensive lines, but it does present some questions about depth on the edge. Here are some guys who must step up to help replace Marcus in the rotation.

 

Steve Miller

This is the luxury of being Ohio State. When one backup defensive end transfers, another capable replacement stands waiting in the wings.

And not just any capable replacement—a veteran one.

Steve Miller will be a senior in 2014 and has contributed for the past two seasons. He was the No. 61 overall player in the 2011 recruiting class, per the 247Sports Composite, and although he hasn't panned out like a star, he has always been a steady enough contributor.

Miller finished last season with 12 tackles and six tackles for loss, most of which came in garbage time. But his pedigree suggests he should be able to handle a bigger workload—and maybe even start the season opener against Navy—without too much trouble.

 

Tyquan Lewis

Tyquan Lewis took a redshirt in 2013, but he is not your average redshirt freshman. At least in terms of experience, that is.

He enrolled early last January and has now been through two full spring camps in addition to last regular season. Even though he has not seen a snap of live action, he has been through a lot with the team and should know the defensive playbook fairly well.

Lewis ironically came to Ohio State from North Carolina—just like Marcus, whose departure has provided this opportunity.

He was a 4-star recruit on the 247Sports Composite and the second-highest rated defensive end in the Buckeyes' 2013 class, trailing only Joey Bosa. Listed at 6'3", 260 pounds on the Ohio State website, Lewis should have the beef to contribute, at the very least, in run support.

That could come in handy against Navy, which runs a triple-option offense and finished second in the country (trailing only Auburn) with 325.38 rushing yards per game in 2013.

 

Rashad Frazier

Perhaps the most intriguing name on this list, Rashad Frazier transferred from Purdue as a walk-on but earned a scholarship.

According to Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch, he had two sacks in the first nine minutes of the spring game, recovering the first in the end zone for a defensive touchdown:

This success may have come out of nowhere to some, but according to Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors, Frazier was talked up all spring by defensive line coach Larry Johnson and teammate Michael Bennett:

As a potential contributor, it is hard to take Frazier seriously until he proves he can produce in a real game. Spence's suspension and Marcus' transfer might give him that opportunity early.

If the spring was any indication, Frazier is ready to answer the call.

 

Jalyn Holmes

The highest-rated defensive lineman in the Buckeyes' 2014 class, Jalyn Holmes was the No. 80 overall player on the 247Sports Composite and the No. 51 overall player on the site's subjective rankings.

Urban Meyer went to Virginia to land Holmes, who was also fancied by Florida State during his recruitment. And it's no wonder why all the big-name recruiters were after him: He is 6'5", 225 pounds with a rangy frame and good athleticism.

That said, 225 pounds does not sound like an ideal playing weight for the next level. Holmes did not enroll early and get a chance to work out with a college weight program, so it remains to be seen if he's ready to crack the defensive line rotation as a true freshman.

Marcus' dismissal ensures, if anything, that Holmes will be given a close look as a potential contributor in year one.

But it does not guarantee immediate playing time.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

4-Star ATH Deon Cain Sets Decision Date, Will Choose from Top 5

Deon Cain is days away from deciding where he plans to play college football, with five programs still in the picture.

The Tampa Bay Tech High School (Tampa, Florida) standout will announce his selection Friday, May 30 at 2:30 p.m. EDT, according to 247Sports reporter Ryan Bartow (via 247Sports' Shea Dixon). His head coach, Jayson Roberts, shared the details and said five teams remain in contention for Cain's commitment.

"He will choose from his Top 5," Roberts said. "Florida, Clemson, Georgia, Tennessee and LSU."

Cain, a 6'1", 190-pound playmaker, is viewed as a versatile prospect capable of playing a variety of positions at the next level.

Rated No. 9 nationally among wide receivers in 247Sports' composite rankings, he is reportedly viewed as a quarterback by LSU. The Tigers extended an offer earlier this month.

Cain completed 49 percent of his 245 pass attempts in 2013, per MaxPreps. The 4-star recruit threw for 1,945 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

His speed (clocked at 4.40 seconds in the 40-yard dash, per 247Sports) shined when Cain kept the ball as a runner. He averaged more than five yards per carry, rushing for 731 yards and four scores.

Though his high school snaps have occurred almost exclusively behind center, Cain is viewed as a legitimate downfield threat who can grow into his role as a receiver in college.

Jamie Uyeyema of Son of a Coach highlighted his raw receiving skills in a recent scouting report.

Cain did get take reps as a wide receiver at both the Rivals and Nike camps in Orlando. He ran routes against good defensive backs while looking explosive with his routes and flashing outstanding hands. He was a natural hands catcher and attacked the ball in the air.

LSU will compete with SEC rivals Florida, Tennessee and Georgia for his services. Receiver-rich Clemson also remains in the mix.

The decision may ultimately come down to which position he prefers to play. If there's a strong desire toward a particular spot on the field, that would greatly influence his thought process leading up to Friday.

Several notable squads were left off Cain's list of finalists. His lengthy offer sheet also includes Alabama, Miami, Michigan State, Auburn, Ole Miss and Ohio State.

Cain is projected to sign with Clemson by 67 percent of expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball. Prognosticators view Florida as the Tigers' greatest threat, giving the Gators a nod in 19 percent of picks.

 

Recruit ratings and information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Meet the Next Sean Taylor, Kam Chancellor Combo: 4-Star Safety Marvell Tell

2015 4-star safety Marvell Tell is one of the top overall prospects in his class. The 6'2", 175-pound prospect has phenomenal size and superb athleticism to go with it.

Bleacher Report caught up with Tell, who discussed his recruitment, what makes him such a good safety and what it would mean to receive an offer from Stanford.

Watch the video, and meet a future star at the next level.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

Rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big Ten's Biggest Trap Games to Watch for in 2014

It's a trap! 

Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014, will be almost seven years to the day since Appalachian State stunned No. 5 Michigan in the Big House, 34-32. The Mountaineers will get another swipe at the Wolverines to open this season.

Though time has passed, and Michigan has new coaches and players, no one in Ann Arbor has forgotten that day. Expect Michigan to prepare as such. No matter the result, Michigan won't overlook Appalachian State this time. 

But what are some other Big Ten trap games in the making this year? With this season less than 100 days away, it's time to gaze into the crystal ball and predict which under-the-radar games could be problematic. 

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2016 4-Star TE Naseir Upshur: 'I Believe I Can Be the Best Tight End Ever'

2016 4-star tight end Naseir Upshur is an absolute playmaker. The 6'3", 231-pound athlete not only has phenomenal hands, but takes pride in his ferocious blocking.

Bleacher Report caught up with Upshur to discuss his recruitment, blocking ability and what his goals are for the future.

Watch the video and meet a future star at the TE position.

 

Highlights courtesy of xosdigital.com. Star rating courtesy of 247Sports.com.

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Why Alabama's O.J. Howard Could Emerge as College Football's Top Tight End

In an offense that's loaded with talent at running back and wide receiver, Alabama's biggest weapon might be one that isn't playing one of those glamour positions.

Tight end O.J. Howard.

The rising sophomore for the Crimson Tide caught 14 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns last season, including a 52-yard catch-and-run in the second quarter against LSU last year.

That wasn't good enough to earn freshman All-SEC honors, as Arkansas freshman Hunter Henry (28 rec., 409 yds., four TDs) brought home those honors.

For Howard, though, the best is yet to come.

The 6'6", 237-pounder from Prattville, Alabama, has great hands, runs like a deer and presents matchup nightmares for opposing defensive coordinators who have to deal with weapons in the backfield and outside at receiver in Alabama's offense.

He and fellow sophomore running back Derrick Henry are being counted on to provide depth and versatility for new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin's offense, and know that they need to be more consistent this year, according to B/R's Christopher Walsh.

“We always push each other, what we both need to work on to get better,” Howard said. “We both had our flashes, but this year we can become an all-around player at both our positions and be consistent with our play.”

He'll get his chance to shine this year.

New quarterback Jacob Coker is still very much a mystery, and a quarterback's best friend is a reliable safety valve. Howard can be that safety valve.

He's also playing in an offense for a coach who loves to use the tight end.

Xavier Grimble had 10 catches for 127 yards and a touchdown in Kiffin's five games as USC's head coach last season before Kiffin was let go after a loss to Arizona State. Over the last five years coaching in college, a tight end on Kiffin's team has finished among his team's top three receivers three times, and Fred Davis and Dominique Byrd each enjoyed solid careers as tight ends under Kiffin when he was an assistant at USC in the mid-2000s.

Texas Tech's Jace Amaro, North Carolina's Eric Ebron and Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins made appearances on the AP All-American team at tight end last year. Amaro topped 1,000 yards, and Ebron was on the cusp, but Seferian-Jenkins only had 36 catches for 450 yards and eight touchdowns.

All three of those players are gone, and Howard's ability to create mismatches and become a threat in the red zone make him a perfect candidate to fill their shoes.

Howard has to become more reliable in pass protection, according to head coach Nick Saban (via Walsh):

"I think he needs to continue to improve in some of those areas because he’s a great pass-receiver, but we continue to work with him and try to improve him as a blocker and get him to pay attention to detail and the importance of that part of the game as well," Saban said.

He'll join senior Brian Vogler as the two top tight end targets for the Crimson Tide, with Vogler more of a blocking threat and Howard's upside being as a receiver in the passing game. 

Howard has the physical ability to be the next big superstar tight end in college football, a host of weapons around him to occupy the attention of defenders and create mismatches and a coach in Kiffin who knows how to make those mismatches happen.

In an offense loaded with talent, Howard could emerge as not only one of its biggest weapons but one of the biggest weapons in all of college football.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report.


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