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.
According to reports out of Notre Dame's fall camp, Brian Kelly's offense will run the pistol formation this season.
ESPN's Matt Fortuna reported on his reader mail blog that he had only seen the players actually run the pistol once but had heard the players talking about it "here and there."
During a press conference Fortuna attended, Kelly was asked about comments made by DaVaris Daniels that the Irish were intending to incorporate the formation in 2013. The Irish head coach—in classic Kelly style—responded, "Daniels doesn't know what the hell he’s talking about," indicating he did not wish to reveal any additions to his offensive playbook just yet.
Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune reported observing more widespread use of the formation, writing, "the offense ran it extensively with quarterback Tommy Rees, tailback George Atkinson III and the first-unit offensive line."
The pistol would bring much needed change to Kelly's spread offense. As I stated in my previous article about power rushing, Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin have the O-line muscle to tighten up the line and run power plays.
In the traditional pistol, the quarterback is close enough to the line of scrimmage to be able to read the defense, as with rush formations such as the I. The handoff occurs two to three yards closer to the line of scrimmage than the more widely used shotgun.
The pistol also gives the option of playing man-to-man coverage—as opposed to zone—enabling offensive linemen to focus on opening holes for the backs to penetrate and is conducive to the all-important power rush.
Here are the guys from Behind the Schemes explaining the pistol:
The pistol in its current incarnation was popularized by Nevada head coach Chris Ault. In 2009 Nevada used a pistol driven offense—helmed by current San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick—to lead the nation in rushing at 345 yards per game. The Wolf Pack also became the first team in college football history with three 1,000-yard rushers in the same season.
As you can see from the numbers above, the pistol formation has great potential for the Fighting Irish. One issue Kelly will need to address is that the pistol—historically speaking—has been most successful when run by a dual-threat quarterback such as Kaepernick.
If the offense is to run the pistol as Hamilton observed with George Atkinson III as the primary rusher, he will need to maximize his potential as a power back. At 6'1", 220 pounds, Atkinson has the build to run with power but will need to get more comfortable rushing through coverage.
The inclusion of the pistol will benefit the Fighting Irish by enabling Rees to read defenses better, setting up the power rush and signifies the offense moving away from an underdog play-style of the spread and into the powerhouse Kelly will need if he wants to bring the crystal football to South Bend.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
The Texas Longhorns will boast one of the most talented running backs corps in the country, and a big piece of that will be sophomore running back Johnathan Gray.
Gray was forced into bigger action much earlier than anticipated with Malcolm Brown suffering an injury midseason, but Gray managed to roll with the punches and performed about as well as one could have expected from a true freshman.
With the Longhorns moving with more tempo on offense, the running backs have been getting a myriad of looks in the passing game. Gray has performed solidly in that area, along with his two counterparts, Brown and Joe Bergeron.
Gray was Texas' top performer in the backfield a season ago, and a seasoned offensive unit could definitely help his numbers increase as a sophomore.
The best defensive prospect of the post-Lou Holtz era at Notre Dame has arrived at long last.
Jaylon Smith, a 5-star linebacker, per 247 Sports, has been listed on the Irish's official fall roster along with the other members of the freshman class that jovially refers to itself as the "Irish Mob."
The Fort Wayne, IN, native is one of a handful of those freshmen making a fierce charge up the depth chart, hoping to become fixtures within the rotation at their respective positions.
How has the outset of Smith's Notre Dame career fared thus far?
For that answer and more, check out our preview of the Irish's star-studded freshman linebacker.
When West Virginia takes the field for the first time on Aug. 31 against William & Mary, the team that exits the tunnel will be almost unrecognizable to some.
Gone are stars Tavon Austin, Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey and many others. Now a completely different crop of athletes has taken root and will lead the program through its next chapter.
The 2013 Mountaineers will lean on a number of junior college transfers on both sides of the ball.
But perhaps the biggest change will be seen in the backfield, where a pair of FBS graduate transfers are expected to lead head coach Dana Holgorsen's high-powered offense as WVU enters its second year in the Big 12 Conference.
Note: WVU has not yet released an official depth chart. This article is based on a depth chart projection seen in Bleacher Report's 2013 WVU Team Program and could change once the official depth chart is released.
As he prepares to begin his senior season, there’s little that Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron has yet to accomplish on the college level.
The Mobile native has compiled a 25-2 record as a starter with a pair of national championships on his resume. In the process, the narrative about McCarron has slowly shifted from game manager to standout gunslinger.
Heading into 2013, McCarron is squarely on the radar as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate.
What are McCarron’s chances of becoming Alabama’s second Heisman winner, and what can Tide fans expect this fall from one of the most decorated signal-callers in school history?
Although college football is one of the most unpredictable sports out there, fans can always count on one thing at the dawn of a new season.
There are always plenty of roster changes for their favorite team.
The Florida Gators are no exception to this rule in 2013. With Sharrif Floyd, Mike Gillislee and other key contributors now graduated or in the NFL, many new faces will be asked to carry the load at their respective positions.
The Texas A&M football team has a tough road schedule in 2013. While the Aggies only play four road games, all four are at challenging venues against Southeastern Conference opponents.
The Aggies have a favorable 2013 slate with eight home games. After playing six games on the road in 2012, it is a welcome change for Texas A&M players and fans.
When you have national championship aspirations, the way the schedule breaks down is very important. The Aggies are in the hunt for a national title in 2013 with a preseason ranking in the top 10.
If they take care of business on the field, they will find themselves in the BCS title game in January, but first the Aggies need to navigate their road schedule.
This is a look at Texas A&M's 2013 road schedule.
The LSU Tigers' 2013 season depends on Zach Mettenberger.
The line between success or failure is hidden under the helmet of this star.
If Mettenberger plays like the quarterback fans witnessed in the second half of the Alabama game last year, the Tigers will be a national title contender. The array of talent and high-caliber coaching staff at LSU should handle the rest.
However, if Mettenberger plays like he did against Texas A&M and Florida a year ago, it's going to be a long season for LSU fans—immense talent or not. No pressure, Zach.
So with everything riding on Mettenberger in 2013, fans should know as much as they can about the man taking the snaps for the Tigers. Educate yourselves inside.
The Arizona State Sun Devils are poised for a breakout season in 2013, and there will surely be some freshmen who become household names come year's end.
Last year, D.J. Foster made an immediate impact for ASU as a true freshman.
Foster accounted for over 1,000 all-purpose yards and scored six touchdowns last year. His unique playmaking ability made him an asset even as a freshman.
This year, there are a few young guns looking to make names for themselves just like Foster did.
Look for Cameron Smith, Marcus Ball and Zane Gonzalez to each have an immediate impact on ASU's success in 2013.
ASU had plenty of problems with its wide receivers last season. Therefore, it was important for head coach Todd Graham to sign some guys who would be able to bolster the talent level of that group.
Smith is one of those guys.
He runs a 4.40 40-yard dash, is 6'0'' and has a good set of hands. His high school coach Joe McBride says Smith is a good talent on the field but an even better guy off of it, per the school's official website:
He's a tremendous player who's extremely fast. He's a smart kid with great character who is a great route runner and has great hands. He's a very humble and quiet kid off the field, but on the field he is a fierce competitor and always plays hard
Smith seems to be a perfect fit for Graham's style.
Brad Denny of AZfamily.com asked Smith what fans should expect from his game in 2013, and in the words of Ricky Bobby, he said he wants to go fast:
Speed for sure. That's what they tell me, at least. I'm really driven to succeed, so that I can help the team out. I'm not proud of what I've done so far. I have a long ways to go, in my opinion. I just think that I have something I can improve upon.
While he probably won't see extended playing time until later in the year when he knows the system better, Smith is still someone offensive coordinator Mike Norvell can throw out there to stretch the field or possibly run a few times.
His blazing speed makes his a threat anytime he has the ball in his hands.
OK, maybe Ball won't be able to make an immediate impact for ASU due to his recent injury, but when his shoulder heals expect him to make some big plays on defense.
Ball is a physical safety who can play the pass and run. He played quarterback and safety in high school and signed with ASU as an athlete.
He could really make an impact on both sides of the ball, but it appears likely that after his injury his spot will be with the defense.
Ball is one of those players who has a nose for making plays, and he's shown that in practice.
Graham told AZcentral.com's Doug Haller he wants Ball on the field saying, “I’m going to have a hard time not finding a place for him because of his athleticism and what he can do."
There was even talk that Ball would become a starting safety as a true freshman before he went down with his shoulder injury.
Once he's back and healthy, though, expect Ball to be on the field somewhere and to make big plays.
For the past few years, the kicking position has garnered its fair share of hatred and disdain from Sun Devil fans.
Between Thomas Weber and Alex Garoutte, the Sun Devils have seen wins fall just short or flutter wide.
Gonzalez may be the solution.
Doug Haller writes that while ASU's kicking game was a major concern this offseason, Gonzalez has solidified the position:
Freshman Zane Gonzalez has performed brilliantly on field goals. Through three weeks, special-teams coach Joe Lorig said Gonzalez made 92 percent of his attempts with a long of 49 yards. Last season, the Sun Devils made 65 percent of 23 attempts.
That's music to any Sun Devils' ears.
Gonzalez made every kick and extra point during his senior year and missed only two kicks his junior year.
Fans should expect Gonzalez to finally provide some quality and stability to ASU's kicking game in 2013.
All stats and info, unless otherwise indicated, come from ESPN.com and thesundevils.com.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com