With less than 10 days until "it's football time in Tennessee," it's time to meet the new faces in the starting lineup for the 2013 Volunteers. There will be 10 such players, one of which was a coach's decision to promote over a returning starter.
Six of the ten are from the offense. The offensive line lost just one player and Rajion Neal will be returning at running back, but the rest of the offense is brand new. After a historic 2012 campaign, the 2013 offense may have some catching up to do.
The lone remaining position battle is at quarterback. Part of me believes that Butch Jones is maintaining the competition to ensure he gets the most out of his eventual starter, especially when he said that an announcement is coming Monday.
If you think you'll know the starter by Monday, you'll really know the starter today.
There is but one true freshman slated to start this fall, and even he is only doing so because of injury. There's plenty of young talent across the field, though, so if a freshman isn't a starter on opening day, he certainly could be by season's end.
Enough talk! Meet your new starting Tennessee Volunteers.
The perpetual renewal of college football depth charts is well underway around the Big Ten. Many returning starters have their positions secured, while others are using fall practice as a last chance to impress the coaches enough to earn a coveted game-day roster spot.
From incoming freshmen to returning underclassmen, each player has to earn a chance to play on Saturdays, and these players are on the cusp of doing just that.
Impressive performances this fall have attracted the attention of coaches, and these players are now beginning to see their names appear at or near the top of their team's depth chart. With the season fast approaching, the following athletes are poised to take the field come Week 1.
Joe Mixon is a 5-star running back from California with a great set of skills. He has the talent to make an early impact in college, he works hard and has a good head on his shoulders.
Racean Thomas, who is committed to Auburn, is another 5-star running back and also can do an array of things on the field. Thomas, who is from Alabama, has Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn excited about working with him on The Plains.
The pair of running backs are great prospects, but it is time to break them down and decide who is better.
The 2013 college football season is less than a week away and the Georgia Bulldogs are getting in the final preparations before they travel to Clemson on August 31 to face the Tigers.
With this being a new season, the Bulldogs will have some new faces in the starting lineup and they are expected to help the team repeat as SEC East champs.
Some of the new faces have experience and should not have any issues taking on what is expected of them. But there are a few new faces that have little to zero experience, and fans hope they are not in for a rude awakening once the season begins.
So, without further ado, here are the new starters for the Bulldogs this season.
Notre Dame held its official preseason media day on Thursday, which included an open practice as well as interview sessions with head coach Brian Kelly, assistant coaches and various players.
Kelly addressed various topics, including the naming of captains, a medical report and a recap of the first three weeks of fall camp. Notre Dame begins its 2013 season next Saturday at home against Temple. The full press conference can be heard here.
“I’m really pleased with the way our guys have focused on this year,” Kelly said. “That’s what we went to work on after the championship loss. We went to work on 2013 and not what happened in the past.”
While the biggest news of the past week was the retirement of linebacker Danny Spond due to migraine headaches, other less severe injuries have also taken their toll on the Irish, including one that is season-ending.
“[Defensive lineman] Tony Springmann is out for the season,” Kelly revealed. “He’ll have surgery. He had a dislocation that also had severe ligament damage. We think he’ll have a full recovery.”
The loss is a significant blow for the Fighting Irish at a position where depth is a concern after Eddie Vanderdoes did not enroll and Chase Hounshell re-injured his shoulder. Springmann’s absence likely means an additional freshman will be unable to redshirt.
“We’re going to have to push [true freshman] Isaac Rochell into action this year,” Kelly said.
Projected starting right tackle Ronnie Stanley was held out of Thursday’s practice after suffering a concussion but is expected to be fine by next Saturday.
“Ronnie was out with a concussion,” Kelly said. “He is on track to be back on Monday if all things continue to move in the right direction. He’s gone through his testing. We expect him to be back Monday."
Kelly also praised true freshman Steve Elmer, who has worked at various offensive line positions during camp and should see significant playing time this season.
“We like both [Stanley and Elmer] and they’re both really good. There are some younger players now that are physically able to compete at a high BCS level. That’s surprising.”
Kelly did not provide an update on sophomore running back Will Mahone, who missed the past week of practice with a leg injury. His availability against Temple remains uncertain.
For the first time since Kelly’s initial season in South Bend, there is no quarterback competition. Senior Tommy Rees, who sports a 14-4 career record, will start against the Owls. However, other starting positions have less certainty. Kelly provided updates on the battles for various starting roles, including Spond’s replacement at "Dog" linebacker.
When you look at [Dog], there’s so much going on. Ben [Councell] has a lot of experience there. Jaylon [Smith] has done remarkably well in such a short period of time. If you want to play real physical, Ben suits that really well. If you want to play an open set, Jaylon has incredible athleticism to be able to play in space.
Councell, a junior, played sparingly last season after starting the first two games of the season while Spond was dealing with complications from migraines.
Smith, meanwhile, was the star signee of the 2013 class. While immediate playing time was never in doubt, Spond’s retirement has forced Smith into a co-starting role as a true freshman at minimum.
The kicking and punting situations are both a bit muddled. Kelly stressed that both the kicker and punter positions will be week-to-week decisions, but that junior Kyle Brindza has won kickoff duties.
Nick Tausch and Kyle Brindza are going to play against Temple. Nick’s numbers have been great. I didn’t bring Nick back (for a fifth year) not to give him the chance to win the job. Kyle’s been a bit distracted because we’ve asked him to put all his time and energy in punting. We’re going to give Nick the opportunity to kick. Kyle’s going to kick off.
Tausch did not attempt a kick on American soil last season. He was the placekicker for the 2012 opener against Navy in Ireland, but Brindza handled all kicking duties for the remainder of the Irish's run to the BCS Championship Game.
Notre Dame will again have full-season captains as opposed to individual game captains. Kelly revealed that the three captains for the season are senior wide receiver TJ Jones, fifth-year senior left tackle Zack Martin and senior cornerback Bennett Jackson. Martin is just the 18th player in Notre Dame history to be a two-time captain.
With classes at Notre Dame beginning next Tuesday, fall camp formally concludes this week, with the NCAA-mandated 20-hours-per-week limit of football activities taking effect once school begins.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
When Virginia Tech opens the season against Alabama next Saturday in Atlanta, the Hokies will have several fresh faces in the starting lineup.
Each year, teams all across college football have to replace starters. Some graduate, some leave early or others depart the team for various reasons. The Hokies will have four or five new starters on offense, depending on the health of starting tailback J.C. Coleman. On defense, the Hokies will have only two new starters.
Replacing only six or seven starters means the Hokies should be in good shape, especially defensively.
In the team’s latest depth chart, released Tuesday, three true freshmen were listed as starters. Here is a look at some players who are expected to be first-time starters in 2013. Keep in mind; players like Andrew Miller, Caleb Farris and David Wang were not listed as they have started before, albeit in different positions.
By the time the dust settles in 2013, the odds are that one of the nation’s most coveted head coaching jobs will be up for grabs.
These are coaches that don’t need seven wins and a decent bowl to keep making a zillion dollars. No, Brown and Kiffin need to—at minimum—capture their respective conference titles, make a BCS bowl and be part of the national championship conversation.
Anything short of this could mean the final whistle for either.
What’s interesting about discussing Brown and Kiffin in tandem is that as much as their situations are the same in 2013, they are different.
What’s In The Cupboard?
Texas and USC have both recruited lights-out over the past several years. To illustrate, the Trojans have an average recruiting class ranking of No. 3 from 2010 to 2013 while the Longhorns are at No. 8.
This makes USC No. 3 in FBS recruiting over the past four years while the Longhorns are No. 6.
What this means is that both Brown and Kiffin have the benefit of battling huge expectations with similar levels of top talent.
What separates the two in 2013 is the level of experience their talented squads will bring to the table.
The Longhorns bring back the most starters in the FBS this season and are ranked No. 1 in Phil Steele’s experience ratings.
These numbers include the entire offensive line, the top four rushers, four of the top five receivers and the starting quarterback. On defense, six members of the front seven return, as do three members of the secondary.
The Trojans, on the other hand, return the 24th most starters in the FBS and are ranked No. 80 in Phil Steele’s experience ratings.
Though USC returns four members of the offensive line and four of the top five receivers, gone is quarterback Matt Barkley. Also missing is the No. 2 rusher—Curtis McNeal—who accounted for 718 of USC’s 1,958 rushing yards.
On defense, five of the front seven are back while only two return from the secondary. This needs to be quantified by pointing out that USC gave up gave up 30-plus points in three of its last five regular-season games in 2012.
This all adds up to Brown trumping Kiffin in having athletes who will hit the field game-ready when the season starts.
Texas also has an edge in on-field leadership, a component that has been missing in Austin since 2009.
The most direct route to becoming BCS bowl-eligible is winning a BCS conference.
For Brown this means finishing the season with the best record in Big 12 play. For Kiffin it means first winning the Pac-12 South and then beating the best team from the North in the conference championship.
The lack of an extra game against a high-quality opponent makes Brown’s goal of a top-tier postseason game easier than Kiffin’s.
Scheduling nuances may never be more important for Brown and Kiffin than they are in 2013.
Suddenly the list of opponents stand not only between a coach and his prize, but a coach and the continuation of his paycheck.
Brown and the 'Horns have non-conference games against New Mexico State and Ole Miss at home and BYU on the road. They get Kansas State, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech at home while Iowa State, TCU, West Virginia and Baylor are road games.
Phil Steele rates the Longhorns’ schedule the 15th most difficult in the FBS.
Kiffin and the Trojans have non-conference games against Boston College and Utah State at home and play Hawaii and Notre Dame on the road. They draw Washington State, Oregon State, Cal and Stanford from the North, leaving Oregon off the regular-season slate. The UCLA and Stanford games are both at home in Los Angeles.
Phil Steele rates the Trojans’ schedule the 35th most difficult in the FBS.
Despite Steele’s nod to Texas’ schedule difficulty, both slates will provide a serious hurdle to Brown and Kiffin’s quests to stay employed.
The difference between Brown and Kiffin’s respective relationships with their employers comes down to the results they’ve each produced.
Brown is 150-43 in 15 seasons at Texas. He’s led the Longhorns to a national championship, two Big 12 titles and six South division crowns.
He’s managed to get to BCS bowls on four occasions and is 3-1 in BCS play. The Longhorns finished in the final AP Top 25 every year of the Brown era with the exception of 2010 and 2011.
Kiffin, on the other hand, is 25-13 in three seasons at USC. He’s led the Trojans to one Pac-12 South title and one final AP ranking. He is 0-1 in bowl play.
Kiffin’s performance should be quantified by pointing out that USC was ineligible for postseason play during his first two seasons.
This means that though either guy could be fired due to poor results in 2013, Kiffin will be easier to let go of because he has less history—and results—with his school.
Think about it this way, is it easier to walk away from a relationship that was amazing for one year out of four, or one that was hot and steamy for 14 of its 16 years and produced one beautiful crystal football-shaped child?
Brown will turn 62 years old later this month while Kiffin turned 38 this past spring.
This makes the answer to the question “where do I go next?” different for each guy.
Whereas Brown likely retires if he gets ousted after this season, Kiffin—with a young family and a career in front of him as opposed to behind—has to find another job.
And this will be more difficult to achieve if he’s just tanked with top recruits, amazing facilities and stacks of cash at USC.
Who’s Got a Bigger Target On His Back?
With what both Brown and Kiffin have to work with at Texas and USC this season, neither will have much of an excuse not to be in—at the very least—the conference championship conversation.
But, that said, Kiffin is the guy who will experience more of an “under the gun” situation.
Not only will Kiffin try his luck against a difficult schedule with less-experienced players, but he doesn’t have the history at USC to be afforded much saving grace.
What tips it over the edge for Kiffin is that his age puts him in more of a “desperation” situation.
The pressure is squarely on him to produce NOW or face getting fired. For a young guy in coaching this would mean settling for an assistant job or a lower-tier head job.
Brown, on the other hand, has the comfort of a ring and his solid reputation to retire with.
And that’s the case even if he falls short of the big expectations in 2013 and is forced to resign. Brown doesn’t have the added pressure of needing to salvage the job at Texas in order to find one somewhere else.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
As Nebraska football fans anxiously await the first game of the season, and as depth charts begin to be announced throughout the country, many fans will be getting their first look at the players who will be replacing departing stars.
So let’s take a closer look at the new faces on Nebraska’s depth chart for the 2013 season.
Months removed from appearing in the National Championship Game, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have lost as much as any other team in college football. Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te'o, leading receiver Tyler Eifert and leading rusher Theo Riddick are in the NFL, while quarterback Everett Golson is on academic probation.
The question is, which Notre Dame players will rise up and become All-Americans in 2013-14?
There's no guarantee that any players on Notre Dame will earn that distinction, but faith remains in its ability to contend. Notre Dame is No. 11 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 14 in the AP Top 25, per ESPN, which suggests that the Irish will have the opportunity to shine.
Here are the players who will shine, regardless of how Notre Dame fares as a team.
George Atkinson III
Position: Running Back/Kick Returner
2012 Season Statistics
51 ATT, 361 YDS, 7.1 YPC, 5 TD; 22 KR, 441 YDS
George Atkinson III will have the opportunity to shine as an offensive playmaker working out of the backfield as the most experienced running back. He could emerge as an All-American candidate for that reason.
With that being said, his inclusion on this list derives from a different role he serves: kick returner.
In this freshman season in 2011, Atkinson III returned 35 kicks for 915 yards and two touchdowns. That's good for an average of 24.7 yards per return, which wasn't elite but displayed his big-play ability.
In a season in which the offense is a major question mark, expect Atkinson to play a major role by determining the quality of the team's field position. As a result, he has a chance to earn a spot on the All-American squad as a return man.
The long shot here is he might earn that recognition as a runner, as he and Amir Carlisle carry the run game. Fortunately for Notre Dame, Atkinson III is a proven commodity who ran for 361 yards in 2012 on an outstanding average of 7.1 yards per carry.
Look for him to break out and earn a spot amongst the All-Americans, potentially as an all-purpose player.
Position: Defensive Tackle
2012 Season Statistics
50 tackles, 20 solo, 7.5 TFL, 2.0 SACK, 1 FF, 5 PD
Much has been made about the departure of Eddie Vanderdoes, but not enough praise is being given to Louis Nix III. Nix, the No. 7 player on Mel Kiper of ESPN's inaugural Big Board, is one of the best defensive tackles in the nation.
With the departure of interior linemen such as Sharrif Floyd, Johnathan Hankins and Star Lotulelei, the All-America squad will have holes to fill.
Nix III is currently on the watch list for both the Bednarik and Maxwell Awards. That alone should tell you how skilled a player he is. The senior defensive tackle can disrupt the run or break into the backfield and pursue the quarterback.
Most importantly, he'll open up the offensive line for linebackers to break through and stop the run.
Nix won't jump off the page like an Ndamukong Suh or Geno Atkins, but he's a disruptive force whom any team would love to have clogging the middle. That's exactly why he's a top-10 prospect and the driving force behind his potential as an All-American.
At this point, we're left wondering whether anyone can stand in his way of an All-America appearance.
Position: Defensive Lineman
2012 Season Statistics
47 tackles, 24 solo, 12.0 SACK, 3 FF, 1 FR, 1 TD
Stephon Tuitt is a physical monster with a legitimate chance to become a top-10 pick in the 2014 NFL draft. Before he hears about his caliber as a prospect, however, he will take the field for Notre Dame in 2013.
Much like Louis Nix III, he has an opportunity to become an All-American in 2013.
Tuitt is not without praise, as CBS, ESPN and Sports Illustrated all named him to their 2012 All-America squad. This year, he'll be a front-runner for multiple postseason awards and a virtual lock for the first-team All-American squad.
The only thing keeping him from that honor is an unforeseen collapse.
Tuitt finished the 2012 season with 12.0 sacks, ranking 13th in the nation. He also forced three fumbles, recovered one for a touchdown and made 24 solo tackles.
Te'o may have been the leader, but Tuitt was an absolute stud. In 2013, we'll be reminded of his prowess as the 6'7" and 322-lb lineman terrorizes quarterbacks everywhere.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Alabama and LSU are not only dominant in the SEC, but they are also juggernauts on the national stage. The programs bring in elite recruiting classes on an annual basis, and the 2014 recruiting cycle has done nothing to disturb that trend.
While the Tide and Tigers take different approaches, both teams have assembled classes full of fine talent that each warrant a closer look. However, supporters of both programs debate nonstop about which program is better, and now the debate extends to who has a superior 2014 recruiting class.
That debate will be ended now.
In 2013, the majority of Alabama’s new starters have been heavy contributors as backups or are rising upperclassmen who have been groomed for larger roles.
One of the primary reasons that Alabama has been able to reload every year is because of the wealth of quality players that Nick Saban continues to lure to Tuscaloosa.
Which players will Saban select to step into starting roles this fall? Read on to find out.
While USC still does not know who its starting quarterback is, the Trojans have cast a wide net to bring in their top recruiting targets. USC is no longer feared on the recruiting trail, but a strong 2014 class would re-establish Troy as a great place for elite recruits.
Head coach Lane Kiffin and his staff are working hard, but much of their 2014 recruiting success will be based on the kind of season USC has in 2013. A great showing on the field would seal the deal with several great prospects, while another subpar year would bring wholesale changes in Los Angeles.
The Trojans would love to keep several highly-touted local prospects home. However, they will also try to beat out a few SEC teams for a receiver, along with reeling back in a former offensive line commitment.
Fall practice is wrapping up for Wisconsin football, which means positions in question are coming into focus.
The Badgers return 14 starters from their 2012 B1G title squad, which means at least eight positions are up for grabs entering the 2013 season.
Considering the issues at wide receiver and the depth concerns on the offensive line, there's a chance even more than eight players could become first-time starters.
The biggest turnover will be in the secondary—Wisconsin lost 75 percent of its defensive backfield from a season ago. And while the quarterback competition is coming down to sixth-year senior Curt Phillips and Joel Stave, both players started games last season.
So you don't have to ask "Who's that guy?" when first tuning into the Badgers' Week 1 matchup against Massachusetts on Aug. 31, get to know the Badgers' 8 new starters for 2013.
The Ole Miss football frenzy will reach a fever pitch 8:15 p.m. CT Thursday evening, when Hugh Freeze's Rebels (and possibly the entire town of Oxford, Mississippi) invade Vanderbilt Stadium for the nightcap of ESPN's Thursday Night Football season opener.
It's a contest that's loomed large ever since Commodore wide receiver Chris Boyd pulled in a late fourth-quarter, come-from-behind, game-winning 26-yard touchdown strike last season at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The game still haunts Rebel fans.
As if good ol' revenge weren't motivation enough already, reclaiming the Golden Egg for the first time in three years, going bowling for the first time since the 2010 Cotton Bowl, and signing ESPN's No. 5 recruiting class for 2013 have pumped a level of excitement and hope into the program. That's quite honestly been missing since a guy named Eli was tossing passes in Oxford.
Make no mistake about it, folks. This one's of epic proportions for Ole Miss.
One Big Game for Rebel Nation
With a win, the momentum keeps on rolling. Assuming the Rebels take care of business at home the next weekend against Southeast Missouri State (SEMO), Ole Miss would be 2-0 traveling to Texas.
A win at Vandy would be a springboard to what could ultimately turn into a very special season.
A loss wouldn't minimize any of the positive things that have taken place since the Vandy loss in 2012. However, leaving Music City in defeat would make the immediate road ahead an uphill battle, as the Rebs travel to Texas, Alabama and Auburn to round out the first five of the season.
Furthermore, it wouldn't exactly build confidence in the minds of the epic 2013 recruiting class.
Enough of the hype, though.
Anyone familiar with the transformation Freeze has underway at Ole Miss understands what a win against a Commodore team that went 9-4 a year ago will mean for the upstart Rebels.
Rebs Look to Buck Trends
Ole Miss hasn't been as successful against Vandy of late. Despite the fact that the Rebels lead the all-time series 47-38-2 and are 22-6 at home against the Commodores, Ole Miss is 21-27-2 in road games versus their perennial Eastern Division foe.
Since 2005, the Rebels are only 1-3 in road games against the 'Dores. Furthermore, Vandy has won the past three games in the series and six of the last eight overall.
However, quite possibly the most important trend Ole Miss hopes to halt is giving up second-half leads.
In addition to letting the Vandy game slip away last year, the Rebels blew second-half leads against Texas A&M and LSU. If Freeze's squad wants to improve upon the surprising 7-6 campaign in 2012, finishing games in the fourth quarter will be absolutely vital.
If opportunity is knocking late Thursday evening, Ole Miss must close the deal. Period.
Big Moment for the Vanderbilt Program
As for James Franklin's squad, don't think for a minute that his kids won't be prepared to play their hearts out and persevere through the negative press of the awful rape case (generated by the alleged actions of only a few 'Dores).
For a guy (Franklin) who does things right and has won quickly at one of America's greatest academic institutions, it's extremely unfortunate that only a handful of young men have cast a cloud of suspicion around a program that's doing things the right way.
Despite everything that's happened, don't forget it was just last season that Vanderbilt went to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history, won more games in SEC play than any Vanderbilt club since 1935 and reeled off seven straight wins to end the season, finishing with a 38-24 win over N.C. State in the Music City Bowl.
Win, lose or draw Thursday, for the first time since the troubling rape allegations surfaced, Franklin's club finally gets to focus its attention on an actual ballgame (in front of the home crowd, nonetheless).
Vandy Hope to Fill Voids
The Commodores return 17 starters in 2013, but they did lose some significant contributors from last year's squad. While there are several losses along the defensive front, the departures of quarterback Jordan Rodgers, running back Zac Stacy and offensive guards Josh Jelesky and Ryan Seymour will likely be felt early in the season.
NFL-ready WR Jordan Matthews will be on the field against Ole Miss, having racked up a season-high 153 receiving yards last year against the Rebels. But Boyd won't be. Having been indicted as a part of the case, he's suspended indefinitely.
It's a hefty loss for the Commodore offense. Boyd was responsible for five scores and 774 yards receiving on 50 receptions in 2012.
Without Boyd's services in the season opener, Vandy must to look to an inexperienced group of receivers to create opportunities for redshirt senior QB Austyn Carta-Samuels. Further, the team depth-chart now lists only two starting wide receiver positions.
The Tennessean's Jeff Lockridge wrote,
That void (Boyd) will be filled by fullback Fitz Lassing or H-back Kris Kentera, depending on which set Vanderbilt uses to start a game. Freshman Jordan Cunningham and junior walk-on Trey Wilkins are the backups behind starting receivers Jordan Matthews and Jonathan Krause.
The Rebels will have their eye on the veteran Matthews, but they should also keep tabs on Cunningham. The 6'1'', 175-pound true freshman ranked as ESPN's No. 13 wide receiver prospect in 2013, and he'll be looking for every opportunity to upstage the nation's top wide receiver recruit, Ole Miss' Laquon Treadwell.
With the defensive attention expected to be thrown at Rebel standout WR Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss fans may soon be chanting "Feed Treadwell," in addition to "Feed Moncrief."
The Return of Bo Wallace
After sitting out spring drills as he recovered from shoulder surgery, Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace returns as the starter against the Commodores this week.
Without question, he's the centerpiece of Freeze's no huddle, fast-break offense. He'll need to return in top shape, as the options at backup QB are anything but ideal to begin the season.
Behind Wallace, the Rebels only have an inconsistent senior (Barry Brunetti) and one of two talented true freshman (Devante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan) as viable options at No. 2. The Brunetti experiment simply hasn't worked out the past couple of seasons, and throwing a true freshman against an SEC defense would be a tough call.
Again, it's crucial Wallace shakes off any cobwebs early and plays like he did late last year.
While injured WRs Vince Sanders and Korvic Neat will be unavailable for a few weeks, Wallace will have the opportunity to mix quality receivers like Cody Core, Quincy "Q" Adeboyejo and Jordan Holder into the receiving rotation. The faster Wallace can begin to get production out of these three, the faster receivers like Moncrief, Treadwell and Ja-Mes Logan will find more open space in enemy territory.
Freeze stated after the Thursday, August 21 practice (per OleMissSports.com),
I love his (Treadwell's) body. He is a big guy and you don't realize it until you're standing right beside him. I think that being able to move him, Donte (Moncrief) and Ja-Mes (Logan) around, particularly in the red zone, is going to pay dividends for us.
Play Keep-Away Better
As much as the Ole Miss offense improved under Wallace in 2012, Rebel quarterbacks still combined to toss a league-worst 18 picks. That's far too high for a team searching for eight, nine or 10 wins.
The Rebels' "landshark" defense did its part in 2012, pulling in 15 interceptions to tie with South Carolina for No. 5 in the SEC, but Wallace has to be smarter when he gets in trouble.
Special Teams, Play Special
Ole Miss special teams were rough last season. It's that cut and dry.
Behind the leadership of two redshirt seniors in 2013, kicker Andrew Ritter and punter Tyler Campbell, the kicking and punting games for the Rebels should be much improved.
There's no denying the ability of the Rebel offense to score on any given play. However, Ole Miss punt and kick return team production was anything but solid last year.
In 2012, the Rebels finished dead last in the SEC with a punt return average of 5.6 YPR, only No. 82 in kickoff return average (20.02 YPR). The lone bright spot was true freshman RB Jaylen Walton, whose 24.7 YPR average ranked No. 4 in the conference.
With another year under his belt, not to mention being complemented by a guy like DB Trae Elston or RB Kailo Moore, Walton should develop into an even better return man.
On punt returns, senior RB Jeff Scott should get the lion's share of the work in 2013.
A quality backfield rotation, including Walton, I'Tavius Mathers, Mark Dodson and Kailo Moore, should lessen the offensive workload on Scott, providing the Miami, Florida speedster with the fresh legs needed to be dangerous fielding punts.
Freshmen, Freshmen, Freshmen
The talk of national signing day this past February, several Rebel recruits will be on full display at Vanderbilt Stadium. Among the freshmen expected to play are DE Robert Nkemdiche, WR Laquon Treadwell, OT Laremy Tunsil, S Tony Conner, TE Evan Engram and RBs Mark Dodson and Kailo Moore.
How will they respond in their first college game, not to mention an SEC game on national TV?
While there will be hiccups at times, remember these are kids fresh out of high school. Several of these players have the potential to make game-changing plays as early as Thursday night in Music City.
Could a true freshman be the difference this week?
Difference in the Game: The Landshark Defense
Franklin's biggest worry against the Rebels has to be the inexperience of his receiving corps (largely created by Boyd's suspension), coupled with Carta-Samuels' first significant action under center since 2010.
However, replacing two players (QB Rodgers and RB Stacy) who combined to produce 26 touchdowns in 2012 is something that won't be overcome in the first game or two of the season. Franklin has recruited well in Nashville and he has guys ready to step up, but it's going to take a little time.
The Commodore defense will challenge Wallace in his return and look to create confusion for newcomers like Dodson, Treadwell, Adeboyejo and Moore. But the challenge the Vandy offense will face against defensive coordinator Dave Wommack's "Landshark" defense will be too much to overcome.
Behind the leadership of passionate LB Denzel Nkemdiche, look for the visitors to create a couple of costly turnovers against the home team and not-so-little brother Robert to make a statement in his college debut. The biggest unknown for the Rebels will be how CBs Charles Sawyer and Senquez Golson come back from injuries this summer.
If this were another November matchup, Vandy would look more crisp, with Carta-Samuels having had time to get back into the swing of "game" action.
However, it's the season opener in 2013.
The Rebels leave Music City 1-0, and Ole Miss fans contribute heavily to the downtown Nashville economy.
Ole Miss 37, Vandy 23
Come the end of the year, remember to look back at the Vanderbilt game when sizing up what kind of season Ole Miss had in 2013. Consider Vanderbilt the barometer for Ole Miss this season.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
With the 2013 college football season rapidly approaching, fans are craving any and every taste of what is to come in what should be an invigorating year. As we inch closer to the action kicking off on Aug. 29, I'll release schedule analysis for a new ACC school every other day. For now, let's take a look at the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Aug. 29: at South Carolina
Sept. 7: Middle Tennessee State
Sept. 14: Open
Sept. 21: at Georgia Tech
Sept. 28: East Carolina
Oct. 5: at Virginia Tech
Oct. 12: Open
Oct. 17 - Miami
Oct. 26: Boston College
Nov. 2: at N.C. State
Nov. 9: Virginia
Nov. 16: at Pittsburgh
Nov. 23: Old Dominion
Nov. 30: Duke
Schedule obtained from the official website of North Carolina athletics
Depending on how you view North Carolina's 2012 season, the Tar Heels were extremely close to an 11-1 finish, but also not far from a 6-6 record. No matter how you analyze the results, though, it's obvious that Giovani Bernard was a key player throughout the year.
His play was also instrumental in close wins over Miami and N.C. State.
UNC is now without Bernard, and quarterback Bryn Renner is expected to be the face of the program in 2013. Renner and his teammates open things up with a tough road trip to South Carolina, and their next five matchups don't make things much easier.
We'll likely know by the middle of October whether or not head coach Larry Fedora has a contender in the Coastal Division. If things go right for the Tar Heels, it's certainly possible.
Renner has been a very good quarterback throughout his career, but he takes his game to the next level this season. Racking up over 3,000 yards for the third straight year, he leads a dynamic North Carolina offense along with wide receiver Quinshad Davis and tight end Eric Ebron.
Neither A.J. Blue nor Romar Morris can replace Bernard, but together they are able to fill the hole at running back. Tackle James Hurst turns in the All-American season he's capable of, and offensive coordinator Blake Anderson puts together one of the most explosive units in the nation.
The defense lost its most talented players in defensive tackle Sylvester Williams and linebacker Kevin Reddick, but their second year in the 4-2-5 goes more smoothly, and a healthy secondary keeps the Heels from getting lit up through the air.
North Carolina pulls off wins in four of its first six and goes undefeated from there. The program enjoys its first 10-win season in 16 years.
Just when you thought the defense couldn't get any worse, it does. A lousy defense becomes even more pitiful after losing its top two contributors and the offense is forced to score 50 points just to win games.
Without Bernard, Renner is unable to be as efficient under center, and the running backs are forced to carry a greater load as a result. Former offensive guard Jonathan Cooper's impact becomes more apparent as the O-line struggles and Anderson's group takes a step back.
South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Miami each get the best of UNC, and a demoralized team limps out of a rivalry game at N.C. State with a loss.
Talk in Chapel Hill takes an early shift to basketball season before the guys on the gridiron wrap up their 5-7 year.
The Coastal Division is a four-team race, and the Tar Heels are a part of it. Like it or not, Renner is not only one of the top quarterbacks in the conference, he's one of the most experienced. If the fifth-year senior is consistent in making smart decisions and steps up in crucial moments, he'll put his team in excellent position within the division and go down as the most decorated signal-caller in school history.
Renner can't do it all, though, and the defense needs to improve drastically if this team has a shot at an ACC Championship. For that to happen, someone is going to have to unexpectedly step up. It's tough to think of who that will be after North Carolina gave up over 30 points on six different occasions in 2012.
This program has a chance to win its first conference title in over three decades, but just like last season, the performance of one player is enough to separate a .500 record from a championship year.
Also check out:
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Schedule analysis for Pitt
Schedule analysis for Virginia
Schedule analysis for Clemson
Schedule analysis for Florida State
Schedule analysis for Boston College
Schedule analysis for Wake Forest
Schedule analysis for NC State
Schedule analysis for Maryland
Schedule analysis for Syracuse
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