With just one more weekend to go before the start of the 2013 college football season, it's officially acceptable to make predictions for the upcoming season. The Tennessee Volunteers have had fans wondering and debating what kind of season they'll have all offseason because of the renewed energy in Knoxville.
All credit goes to Butch Jones and his relentless staff for embracing the Volunteer tradition, adding their own flair and pressing forward with their "brick by brick" strategy to get Tennessee back. Until now, Jones has done everything right.
But the one and only way he'll be graded in the long term is his on-field success. Recruiting is great. Developing is even better. But winning is king of kings, lord of lords. It's the be-all end-all to the future of a coach.
So how does the 2013 season look? I believe there are too many people on the poles on this subject—some thinking nine-plus wins, while others think an unprecedented fourth consecutive losing season is imminent.
As usual, the truth likely lies somewhere in the middle.
College teams know that they must always haul in as much offensive talent as they can to make sure they have the firepower to score a ton of points.
However, some teams go to the extreme and spend a recruiting cycle focusing primarily on offense. Defense may win championships, but offense wins the games needed to get those championship opportunities.
An SEC program known for its strong defense is using this cycle to strengthen its offensive units. Plus, an ACC program known more for its special teams is bringing in good offensive talent in 2014.
The Big Ten Conference has a competitive recruiting trail, and its schools also have to deal with neighboring Notre Dame lurking around its recruiting targets.
Ohio State and Michigan have the ability to recruit nationally, but even the two powerful Big Ten programs have to fend off other schools.
Speaking of Big Blue, the Wolverines are fighting two prominent SEC programs for a defensive end. Penn State has high hopes for a big defensive tackle, and Minnesota is trying to keep its top committed prospect away from its conference rivals.
Bo Jackson is one of a few players in the history of modern college football to transfix football experts as completely as Jadeveon Clowney does these days.
A physical phenomenon, Clowney does things on the gridiron most professional players can't touch, and he's only 20 years old. Barring an unfortunate injury, nobody would be surprised to see the junior defensive end win the Heisman Trophy this season and become a perennial All-Pro pass-rusher in the NFL for one lucky team.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame isn't out of the question, either.
This is no jest.
Clowney's potential is immeasurable.
There's a good reason he's being considered as a favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this year. With 21 sacks in 25 career games as a freshman and sophomore, Clowney has a proven track record of being one of the nation's most disruptive defenders.
The last defensive player to win the trophy was Charles Woodson back in 1997, but many, including a panel of ESPN.com experts, expect the defensive end from South Carolina to break the long drought.
If he had been eligible, Clowney would have almost certainly been the first pick of the 2013 NFL draft, and he'd have likely generated a bidding war for that pick by teams clamoring for his services.
Former NFL scout and current NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah recently polled five NFL executives with over 10 years of experience, and all five of them concluded "that Clowney was the best defensive player they had seen in college football over the last decade."
No pressure, kid.
Should the young man fail to live up to the enormous expectations being placed on his shoulders, Clowney will go down in history as one of the biggest busts in the history of football.
Thankfully, from recent reports out of South Carolina, Clowney isn't resting on his laurels. He has his own teammates catching hell from head coach Steve Spurrier for not blocking him in practice, as noted by USA Today's Willie T. Smith:
Our pass protection stinks right now. Our offensive line was not very good today, some of them. Some of them may have played decent, we'll wait and see. But obviously we act like we didn't even try to block Clowney today. I don't think at any time was he blocked. We act like we're afraid to block him, I don't know. But anyway, hopefully he's that good, but I've seen other people block him. He doesn't get to the quarterback every play like he did just about today.
Perhaps I'm alone in this, but it appears Spurrier was slyly giving his pass-rusher an underhanded compliment while simultaneously bashing his offense.
Chances are, the South Carolina offensive linemen are sick and tired of getting beat up by the freak of nature we call Jadeveon Clowney.
Clowney's legend is only beginning to take shape.
In addition to the sheer numbers he's put up and his freakish size, speed and strength, which are impressive enough, Clowney has sent millions scrambling for their computers to log onto YouTube after he destroyed Vincent Smith in the backfield before Smith ever knew what hit him.
The play earned Clowney an ESPY award for the Best Play. Yeah, it was kind of a big deal.
Just to make things interesting this summer, he flipped a blocking sled like it was made of cardboard, as noted by ESPN's SportsCenter:
In case you didn't already know this, those sleds aren't light.
Given the magnitude of the myth he's already created, the weight of carrying out such an epic vision is one most of us could never fathom.
Should he overcome the pressure of his own hype and continue to blossom as a football player, the majority of fans will only appreciate his physical feats of might.
They would all miss the beautiful truth.
Far greater than his raw speed and power, more impressive than a multitude of sacks and more meaningful than winning the Heisman Trophy, measuring up to the legend of Clowney will be Jadeveon's greatest feat.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78
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The 25 best uncommitted recruits are certainly focused on their upcoming seasons and trying to finish their career strong. However, recruiting never stops, and they must also begin to narrow their lists.
With the start of the season now only days away, that is a sign the recruiting cycle is moving to a pivotal stage. Some of the best uncommitted prospects are close to making a decision, while several remain open.
A defensive end has three schools who are standing out for him, while a cornerback could still like upwards of 10 programs. Also, one receiver is facing pressure to stay home, but several major schools are trying to lure him away.
After a resurgent 12-1 season last year, you may have hopped on the bandwagon by calling yourself part of the most loved, most hated and most relevant fan base in the world.
Before you avow your allegiance to the Fighting Irish faithful, make sure you're ready to take the next step. It's not always easy being green, and not everyone is cut out to be a loyal son or daughter of Notre Dame.
Think you're already there? Here are 13 surefire signs that you might be a Fighting Irish fan:
A week from this Thursday, the 2013 college football season kicks things off with a healthy slate of games. The action spills over to Friday before Saturday’s jam-packed schedule takes center stage.
For good measure until the NFL gets underway, there are also a pair of games on Sunday and a Monday night ACC clash between No. 11 Florida State and Pittsburgh.
To get you ready for all the action in this five-day extravaganza of games, the following is a brief preview of some of the top matchups on Week 1’s slate along with the opening lines as provided by BetOnline.
The first game on ESPN next Thursday pits No. 6 South Carolina against North Carolina in a border war between the SEC and the ACC. The Gamecocks have been opened as 11-point favorites with the total set at 57.
These two last met in 2007 with South Carolina coming away with a 21-15 victory as a seven-point road favorite. The expectations are once again running high for the “Old Ball Coach” Steve Spurrier with Connor Shaw back at quarterback and all-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney anchoring a defense that allowed an average of 18.2 points a game last season.
The No. 2-ranked team in the nation will take to the field in a high noon kickoff on Saturday, Aug. 31 when Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes face the Mid-American Conference’s Buffalo Bulls. After posting a 12-0 record in 2012 that included an 8-0 run through the Big Ten, Meyer has his eyes set on a BCS title this time around.
His team was serving a one-year postseason ban last year, but the only thing that can stop the Buckeyes this season is themselves. In what should amount to nothing more than a brisk scrimmage, Ohio State has been opened as a 37-point home favorite in its season opener with the total set at 60.5.
Johnny Manziel will open his sophomore season at Texas A&M against Rice in a 1 p.m. start on ESPN. Manziel led his team to an 11-2 mark last season, which included a stunning upset of Alabama and winning a Heisman Trophy with one of the most electrifying performances by a quarterback in recent memory.
Manziel will have to be able to put a tumultuous offseason behind him and get back to doing what he does best. The No. 7-ranked Aggies should have little problem getting past their Conference USA foes as 26.5-point home favorites. The total has been set at 71.5 points.
This season’s Texas Kickoff Classic at Reliant Stadium in Houston pits the SEC’s Mississippi State Bulldogs against the No. 13 Oklahoma State Cowboys, who have been listed as +265 favorites to win the Big 12 title. The Cowboys have also been opened as 12.5-point favorites in their season opener with the total set at 66.
The game is set to get underway at 3:30 p.m. and will be broadcast nationally on ABC.
Alabama begins its quest for a third-straight BCS title in a 5:30 p.m. start against Virginia Tech in another opening-day SEC/ACC clash. This neutral-site showdown will be played at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta and broadcast nationally on ESPN.
The Crimson Tide have been opened as +250 favorites to win the final BCS title before college football switches to a four-team playoff format in 2014. They have also been opened as 19-point favorites to make short work of the Hokies on Saturday afternoon with the total set at 45.5.
Saturday night features probably the best matchup on Week 1’s schedule when the SEC’s No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs travel to Clemson to square off against the No. 8-ranked Tigers out of the ACC in an 8 p.m. start on ABC.
The most exciting aspect of this showdown is that each team has aspirations beyond just competing for a conference title this season, but only one team will remain on track for a BCS title berth after this game. The Bulldogs have been opened as slight 1.5-point road favorites with the total set at 68.
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The 2013 UCLA Bruins football team faces one of the most daunting schedules in the entire nation.
Road trips to Nebraska, Arizona, Oregon, Stanford and Southern Cal don't give the Bruins much margin for error. The upstart Arizona State Sun Devils will also pay a visit to to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. This contest could decide the eventual winner of the Pac-12 South Division.
Jim Mora's bunch will have to display a great deal of resolve in order to repeat as the winner of the Pac-12 South Division.
Let's take a look at game-by-game predictions for the 2013 season.
Hey, college football fans! There is now another college bowl matchup for you to look forward to beginning in 2014. ESPN Regional Television, a subsidiary of ESPN, has announced that the Camellia Bowl will be held in Montgomery, Alabama in December of next year.
The game will be a matchup between the Sun Belt Conference and Mid-American Conference, and will be played in the Cramton Bowl. The new bowl will be televised nationally before Christmas on ESPN or ESPN2.
ESPN couldn't be happier with this addition, says Pete Derzis, Senior Vice President & GM, ESPN Regional Television, per the report:
The Raycom All-Star game helped shine a new light on the city of Montgomery, and we took notice, said Derzis. From stadium improvements and opportunities for quality hospitality, to the downtown hotel properties, rich history and the wonderful museums like the Rosa Parks Center, it all came together for us. We have two conference partners excited about the bowl, a community we believe is hungry for a quality postseason event and civic and business leaders that have a great can-do spirit.
The potential teams that could play in this matchup include Arkansas State or Louisiana-Lafayette from the Sun Belt and Bowling Green or Northern Illinois from the MAC.
The Cramton Bowl does hold a lot of history and is a neat venue to host college football bowl games. Once home to Alabama Crimson Tide (off and on) from 1922 to 1954, the stadium has also held baseball games and high school football matchups through its 90 years of existence.
What helped push this deal through were the recent renovations that Cramton Bowl has experienced.
The stadium now holds 25,000 people and has up-to-date press boxes and locker rooms. The renovations are a drastic improvement from the 12,000 people the stadium held in 1946.
Alabama has proven time and time again that it lives and breathes college football. From the success of the Crimson Tide to the passionate fanbase that shows up regardless of where the team plays, there aren't many other places that deserve more recognition than Alabama.
The Camellia Bowl will join the GoDaddy.com Bowl (Mobile) and the BBVA Compass Bowl (Birmingham) as annual bowls that are held in Alabama.
The GoDaddy.com Bowl has conference tie-ins with the Sun Belt Conference and Mid American Conference, while the BBVA Compass Bowl is tied in with the The American and SEC with alternates being the C-USA and the MAC.
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If you don't know Gus Malzahn, his rapid rise from high school football coach to head coach of Auburn University is stunning. However, if you met him anywhere along the way, you're not surprised at all. No matter where Malzahn was, he prepared like the head coach of a major SEC football program.
Today, I am starting a new series of articles where we will take an in-depth look at all 14 SEC head coaches over the next 14 days.
The first piece of this series will look inside the life of the Auburn head coach and detail how he continues to succeed against all odds.
Malzahn graduated from Fort Smith Christian High School (AR) in 1984. He was a good football player, but not elite. There were no coaches from big-time college football programs begging for his commitment.
While he was not an elite athlete, he was good enough to walk on at the University of Arkansas. Malzahn worked hard and got the most out of his talent while practicing with the Razorbacks.
Malzahn wanted more, though, so he transferred to Henderson State University, a Division II school located in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.
Malzahn finally got the playing time he desired, but perhaps not at the position he thought. While he did catch 24 passes for 288 yards during his two years at Henderson State, it was his punting that kept him on the field.
He averaged 35.3 yards per punt in his junior season and 37.7 yards in his senior season. He had a career long of 64 yards and was selected All-AIC Honorable Mention in his senior season.
Just like with his playing career, there were no big-time programs lining up to hire the coach who would later be tabbed as a mad scientist.
In fact, his first coaching job was not even on the offensive side of the football. Instead, Malzahn was hired as defensive coordinator of a small high school in Arkansas named Hughes High School.
With fewer than 2,000 people in the city, few would have guessed it was the first step for a future SEC head coach. In fact, the high school no longer even has a football program.
Malzahn did what he always does and made the most of the situation.
After just one season as a defensive coordinator, he was promoted to head coach. While he had not yet developed into the offensive mastermind he is today, he found ways to put his players in the best position to succeed.
With very few players and perhaps even less talent, Malzahn guided Hughes High School to unimaginable heights. In 1994, he led the team to the Class AAA state championship game, where it fell just yards short of a state championship despite barely having enough players to dress a full squad.
The loss was devastating to Malzahn. However, he had shown his potential on a bigger stage and people took notice. One program that took notice was Springdale, Arkansas' Shiloh Christian.
In 1994, Malzahn was hired to replace the well-respected Dennis DeBusk.
His first season at Shiloh was filled with mixed reviews. He did lead the Saints to a conference championship and into the second round of the state playoffs, but they finished a mediocre 6-6.
During the spring of 1997, he developed the hurry-up, no-huddle philosophy that would transform high school football in the state of Arkansas.
Over the next four seasons, the Saints would compile an overall record of 57-2-1. Moreover, they would win two state championships and finish as state runner-ups twice.
Malzahn loved Shiloh, but it was not the national powerhouse that it is today.
As a result, Malzahn would need to make another move. In 2001, Malzahn become the head football coach at Springdale High School.
Much like his experience at Shiloh, he started off with a mediocre 7-5 record. However, as has always been the case, Malzahn turned things around quickly by leading Springdale to state championship appearances in 2002 and 2004 before finally capturing the elusive title in 2005.
His 2005 team was loaded with Division I talent. So when Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt offered Malzahn his vacant offensive coordinator position, people outside of the state of Arkansas were shocked.
This had to be Nutt giving a job to a high school coach to secure its top players, right?
Well, all doubters were quickly silenced. Despite Arkansas only winning four games in the season prior to Malzahn's arrival, the Razorbacks won 10 games and the Western Division crown.
The college football world was shocked, as Arkansas won more games in 2006 than it did over the two previous seasons combined.
For reasons laid out by AL.com, Malzahn left Arkansas after one season to become offensive coordinator at Tulsa. The results were fast and impressive. In his first season as offensive coordinator, the Golden Hurricanes won 10 games and a divisional crown.
Tulsa ranked No. 1 in the nation in total offense with the rare combination of a 5,000-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher.
Malzahn's second year with the program was just as impressive. Tulsa finished the season 11-3 and as a divisional champion for the second consecutive season.
Tulsa once again was the No. 1 offense in the nation in total yards and the second-highest scoring offense in the history of major college football.
After the successful season, Malzahn packed his bags and headed back to the SEC—this time to the Auburn Tigers, who had fallen on hard times.
However, as is always the case with Malzahn, the hard times didn't last long.
In Malzahn's first season as offensive coordinator at Auburn, the Tigers increased their win total by three games. Moreover, Auburn's scoring offense improved from 110th to 17th with over 33 points per game.
The wide open offense did not go unnoticed by the media and young recruits. Malzahn's offense was one of the primary reasons JUCO transfer Cam Newton would choose Auburn University.
The rest, as they say, is history. The combination of Newton and Malzahn was golden and led to the 2010 BCS National Championship after a perfect 14-0 season.
Malzahn would last one more season in Auburn before accepting his first head coaching job at the college football level. The results? As expected, Malzahn led Arkansas State to a 9-3 record and Sun Belt Conference Championship with a blowout win over Middle Tennessee State in the championship game.
Now Malzahn is back at Auburn. The doubters are back out in full force. They refuse to notice that his offenses were great far before Newton ever stepped on campus.
They refuse to acknowledge that the colleges that Malzahn coached at averaged 5.67 wins the season prior to his arrival and over 10 wins per season during his tenure. They dropped back to 5.3 wins the season after his departure.
Coincidence? Not at all. Malzahn is a winner and can do more with less than almost any of his peers. Auburn will be improved this season and Malzahn will be the reason.
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The "Blurred Lines" craze has now made it to college football legends.
Former University of Georgia and NFL player Herschel Walker was filmed dancing to the hit song from Robin Thicke, but it doesn't appear that Walker will be replacing any of the girls from the video for Thicke's next track.
If you're wondering why Walker looks like he's tending bar, it's likely that he was filmed at the Athens, Georgia restaurant he owns, Herschel's Famous 34.
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