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  1. #31
    Sun Belt Outlook
    July 5, 2018


    The Sun Belt splits into two divisions this season and the conference could continue to grow in stature after a strong 3-1 bowl showing last winter, plus a marquee win over the SEC in the regular season. The conference has been a proving ground for major conference coaching candidates particularly in the SEC and now having a championship game to showcase the future is bright in the SBC.

    The Sun Belt trims down to 10 this season with the departure of New Mexico State (now an independent) and Idaho (now playing at the FCS level) and forms five-team East and West divisions. That count allows for a nice schedule with only one missed opponent on the league slate but also means some imbalance in the divisions and the schedules in the debut season of the division format.

    Appalachian State and Troy tied on top of the conference standings at 7-1 last season with those teams absent from each other’s schedules last season. This year they meet in the regular season finale with that matchup expected to decide the fate of the East division champion and title game representative. Arkansas State will be the overall favorite for the conference title as the clear frontrunner in the East.

    EAST OUTLOOK

    Troy:
    The Trojans wound up 11-2 overall last season and shared the Sun Belt regular season title. The scheduling draw in 2018 is favorable in the new division format as they won’t play West favorite Arkansas State in the regular season. The big matchup with Appalachian State will be on the road as will games with Georgia Southern and UL-Monroe as the Trojans will need to maintain Neal Brown’s 9-3 S/U road record from the past two seasons to continue as a threat for the league title. Non-conference tests early with Boise State and Nebraska will be telling with Troy delivering the headline-making upset over LSU last season. Troy also must replace prolific quarterback Brandon Silvers and the top two rushers from last season but many key players return from a defense that allowed just 18.5 points per game last season and was especially stingy against the run. The offensive line should remain first rate with three All Conference caliber returnees which could help ease the quarterback transition.

    Appalachian State: Scott Satterfield has turned in winning seasons in four straight years since the Mountaineers joined the FBS level, including a combined 30-9 mark the past three seasons with three straight bowl wins with an impressive 34-0 win over Toledo last season. The Mountaineers must replace highly productive quarterback Taylor Lamb, a four-year starter however as it will be difficult to maintain the recent production. Last year’s squad didn’t match the success of the 2015 and 2016 squads as they drew a very light schedule in the SBC and still had a number of a narrow wins vs. lesser teams. Jalin Moore returns to lead the rushing attack and Victor Johnson is one of the top offensive linemen in the conference but there are questions on the front-seven on defense while quarterback play will be closely monitored replacing a school legend.

    Georgia Southern: The Eagles won nine-games in both 2014 and 2015 but made a mid-season coaching change last season with interim head coach Chad Lunsford doing enough to earn the spot full time moving forward. This year’s team has a chance to make a big move forward after winning just two games last season as there were many competitive losses and this is one of the most experienced teams in the conference. The Eagles are a deep sleeper for the conference title as they will host the three Sun Belt favorites and the road schedule is manageable once a September game at Clemson is out of the way. With an upset or two a rise to bowl eligibility looks possible as Georgia Southern should get back to its winning ways of the first half of the last decade.

    Georgia State: The Panthers went 7-5 in Shawn Elliott’s first season in Atlanta, ultimately picking up the programs first ever bowl win with a Cure Bowl victory over Western Kentucky for a successful campaign. Most of the producers from last season depart however aside from top receiver Penny Hart who could be the top target in the conference. As one of the few pass-first teams in the conference the Panthers can be a tough matchup but this was an erratic squad that had a few ugly losses last season despite the winning final record. Georgia State has a very tough road schedule in conference play this season and falling back below.500 looks like the most likely scenario for a program that has alternated disastrous and moderately successful seasons the past four years.

    Coastal Carolina:
    Coastal Carolina won its first FBS game last season but then lost nine in a row before a pair of wins to close the season. Well regarded head coach Joe Moglia missed last season for medical reasons as this team should find its footing with better depth but the SBC draw is fairly difficult missing arguably the worst team from the West draw and facing a challenging quartet of league home games. Opportunities for wins aren’t plentiful for Coastal Carolina who had a massive statistical gap with the rest of the league in most areas but Moglia has done nothing but win since taking over the program as the Chanticleers could make a bit of noise.

    WEST OUTLOOK

    Arkansas State:
    The Red Wolves slipped to 7-5 last season for a second straight season of slight decline under Blake Anderson. Four of five losses last season came by single-scores however and Arkansas State looks like the clear frontrunner in the West. The Red Wolves don’t have to play Troy from the East draw and the roster returns most of last season’s offensive talent led by quarterback Justice Hansen. This squad out-gained its foes by 150 yards per game on average in conference play but the defense regressed form the 2016 results, finishing 6-2 in league play. A tough non-conference schedule will again take a toll but the Red Wolves are deserving of the top billing in this division and the conference overall.

    Louisiana-Monroe: Monroe could be considered a threat in the West if only for giving Arkansas State a battle last season with a loss despite scoring 50 points. The Warhawks improved dramatically on offense in Matt Viator’s second season and a lot of key players return for an expected 2018 breakthrough. Boosting the chances for success in the SBC slate is the absence of Appalachian State on the schedule however the Warhawks will be playing seven road games with the program going 4-25 S/U on the road the past four years combined. The defense allowed 532 yards per game last season as and two of the unit’s top players from last season are gone as shootouts will be the norm for this group.

    Louisiana: The Ragin’ Cajuns nabbed Billy Napier as their new head coach and it won’t be a shock if he is leading a SEC squad a few years down the road. A former Clemson and Alabama assistant he was the offensive coordinator at Arizona State last season and could have instant success in Lafayette. The Cajuns won five games last season and were competitive in most losses. The offense wasn’t the issue last season and will again be the strength of the team in 2018. The defense that allowed 40 points per game last season returns just three starters however. Winnable home games are ahead as getting back to a bowl game after last season’s absence looks possible but getting stops will be a challenge.

    South Alabama: Joey Jones had a number of big wins at South Alabama but provided inconsistent season results since the program joined the FBS level. He has been replaced by Steve Campbell who has been at Central Arkansas the past four years. The offense really took a big fall last season as the Jaguars offered adequate defense by Sun Belt standards last season. This year’s team has some returning experience on both sides and should be competitive despite going through a major transition. Ultimately all six road games look likely to be losses and a similar season to 2017 looks realistic.

    Texas State: The Bobcats have posted back-to-back 2-10 seasons under Everett Withers and this squad will again be rated towards the very bottom of the FBS ranks. There is some experience back and a couple of close misses last year offers some promise for improvement. Unfortunately the best opportunities for wins could be road games with some of the better SBC teams visiting San Marcos but there are a pair of winnable opportunities at home in non-conference play. A new quarterback takes over an offense that netted just 17 points per game however and competing with the high-powered offenses in this division will be a challenge. The defense has enough talent to keep this team in a few games as improving the win count slightly is possible.

  2. #32
    CFB notebook: RB Harris considered leaving Alabama
    July 6, 2018


    Running back Najee Harris, who went to Alabama as one of the top running backs in the Class of 2017, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he considered transferring after his freshman year.

    The 6-foot-2, 227-pounder out of Antioch (Calif.) High School said he is sticking around because he believes the Crimson Tide offer him the best path to the NFL.

    "The only thing I can tell you is, I hope I'm on the field more," Harris said. "Last year was the worst feeling. That whole season was mentally challenging.

    " ... I'm so determined. I can't have fun unless I achieve my goals, or else I'll be thinking about that the whole time."

    Harris finished last season with only 61 carries for 370 yards, fourth on the team in both categories.

    After the season, Harris met with then-running backs coach Burton Burns and had two one-on-one conversations with Alabama head coach Nick Saban.

    Saban told Harris that he must polish his pass-blocking skills, but also said: "You're going to play a lot this year."

    Interestingly, quarterback Tua Tagavailova also considered leaving Alabama, but then both freshmen wound up playing key roles as the Crimson Tide rallied in the second half to beat Georgia 26-23 in overtime in the CFP national championship game.

    While Tagavailova got most of the credit after replacing starting quarterback Jalen Hurts and throwing three touchdown passes, Harris had six carries for 64 yards, including runs of 16, 35 and 11 yards.

    However, playing time still might not come easy for Harris, who is in a crowded backfield that includes senior Damien Harris and junior Josh Jacobs.

    -- Baylor University officials responded in court filings that former athletic director Ian McCaw's claim the school used black football players as scapegoats to cover up a sexual assault scandal is "blatantly false," the Waco (Texas) Tribune Herald reported.

    McCaw made the charge during a recent deposition in a lawsuit against the school that was filed two years ago by 10 women who allege Baylor mishandled their sexual assault allegations.

    "This lawsuit has become a never-ending fishing expedition based on outlandish conspiracy theories, rumors and speculation as part of a crusade to turn up any possible reason to attack Baylor," Baylor officials wrote. "The question in this lawsuit is whether any of the 10 plaintiffs were subjected to a sexually harassing education environment at Baylor in violation of Title IX."

    The school said McCaw had no personal knowledge of the matters being discussed.

    The attorney for the plaintiffs, Jim Dunnam, said McCaw's testimony is relevant because it illustrated how the university's actions to protect its brand increased the risk for female students at the nation's largest Baptist school.

    McCaw, who is white, testified June 19 after being subpoenaed, and excerpts from his testimony appeared in court documents filed about a week later by the plaintiffs' attorneys.

    During the deposition, McCaw said he was "disgusted" by the racism and the "phony" investigation document that Baylor issued in 2016 that leveled findings against the football program.

    McCaw added that he ultimately resigned because he didn't want to be part of a massive "cover-up scheme."

    Baylor was engulfed in a 2016 sexual assault scandal involving its football team that resulted in the firing of head coach Art Briles and the demotion of university president Ken Starr.

    The university has settled several other lawsuits from women who said their reports of sexual assault were mishandled or ignored.

    McCaw, now athletic director at Liberty University in Virginia, also was disciplined and resigned in June 2016.

    -- Junior quarterback Keon Howard is leaving Southern Mississippi.

    Howard announced on his Twitter feed that he made the decision "to not continue my education and football career at The University of Southern Mississippi."

    No reason was offered for the decision by Howard, who started seven games for the Golden Eagles in 2017 but did not appear in the final four games, losing the job to Kwadra Griggs.

    "I would like to thank the coaching staff, my teammates, staff members, student body and others who have supported me," Howard wrote. "I will not forget the moments spent battling at The Rock with my teammates and the loyalty from the fans in victory or defeat."

    Howard completed 56.5 percent of his passes while throwing for 1,199 yards with eight touchdown passes against five interceptions last season. He also rushed for 181 yards.

    Although he has one season of eligibility remaining, Howard did not announce any plans to transfer in his posting.

    --Defensive lineman Adam Shuler has yet to enroll at the University of Florida nearly a month after announcing he was transferring from West Virginia.

    Shuler was not listed on the Gators' latest updated roster because he is not enrolled in the school's Summer B program, which started Monday, the Gainesville Sun reported.

    A 6-foot-4, 275-pounder who appeared in 12 games for the Mountaineers in 2017, Shuler announced June 11 on his Twitter account that he was headed to Florida.

    Shuler was productive for West Virginia last season, registering 37 tackles, including 8.0 for loss, and 3.0 sacks. He appeared in 12 games as a redshirt freshman, posting 34 tackles and a sack.

    According to the newspaper, Shuler will have two years of eligibility remaining if he does eventually enroll for classes.

    --Jalen Watts-Jackson always will have a place in Michigan State history, but now he's ready to move on from football.

    Watts-Jackson said in March that he hoped to continue his college career as a graduate transfer, but now has decided to go in a much different direction.

    "I am going into the Air Force," Watts-Jackson told SpartanNation.com. "I was raised that it is a good idea to serve your country. I have family members that have served this county, including my dad. So I am excited to serve this nation."

    As a 5-foot-11, 184-pound freshman defensive back in 2015, Watts-Jackson scooped up a mishandled punt and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown to give the Spartans a 27-23 walk-off victory over rival Michigan.

    However, Watts-Jackson sustained a broken hip during the ensuing celebration and his career with the Spartans never took off. The rest of his playing time in East Lansing, Mich., consisted of nine games in 2016. He made three tackles and returned a punt 13 yards.

    Watts-Jackson, a native of Detroit, plans to become an Air Force officer in the field of cyber systems operation and security.

  3. #33
    CFB Notebook: Alabama reports one minor violation to NCAA
    July 7, 2018


    Alabama reported 13 secondary violations to the NCAA but only one involved the football program.

    The lone infraction by the football team was reported July 1, 2017, and was considered a minor violation, according to al.com.

    Per the report, an assistant coach for the Crimson Tide responded to an "unknown text message which resulted in impermissible communication with the parent of a 2019 prospective student-athlete."

    Last year, the university reported 22 secondary violations, including nine by the football program. In 2016, five of the 19 self-reported violations involved the football program.

    The Crimson Tide defeated SEC rival Georgia 26-23 in overtime in the College Football Playoff Championship Game in January. It was the school's fifth national title in the last nine years.

    --Wyoming linebacker Cassh Maluia was suspended for the season opener in the wake of his arrest a week ago.

    Cowboys coach Craig Bohl announced that Maluia will miss the game against New Mexico State on Aug. 25.

    Maluia was arrested June 30 in Laramie, Wyo., on multiple charges, including suspicion of driving under the influence. He also was charged with underage consumption of alcohol and driving without a valid driver's license.

    "Cassh Maluia will be subject to several disciplinary actions," Bohl said in a statement. "He will be assessed a one-game suspension for this coming season. ... We also view this as a learning opportunity, not just for Cassh, but for the rest of our team members."

    Bohn also noted that Maluia faces additional disciplinary action that will require mandatory counseling, the completion of an AWARE training program on campus and 50 hours of community service.

    -- West Virginia will not kick off the 2018 campaign for nearly two months, but the football program already is in midseason form -- at least on social media.

    The Mountaineers are going all out to promote returning starting quarterback Will Grier for the Heisman Trophy, launching a website devoted to hype his candidacy.

    The university touted the website -- http://www.grier7heisman.com -- on its athletics website along with the accompanying hashtag "willtowin."

    Grier, who started his college career at the University of Florida, passed for 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns against 12 interceptions for West Virginia in 2017.

    A dislocated finger on his throwing hand, sustained Nov. 18 against Texas, forced Grier to sit out the regular-season finale against Oklahoma and the Heart of Dallas Bowl matchup against Utah on Dec. 26.

  4. #34
    Handicapping Wisconsin (10)
    June 28, 2018


    Wisconsin had a very successful 2017 season, as they went 13-1, but it could have been a special season if they had not lost the Big Ten Championship Game to Ohio State. The loss cost the Badgers a spot in the College Football Playoff, but the Badgers did bounce back to beat Miami in the Orange Bowl.

    The Badgers return a lot of starters from last year’s squad including quarterback Alex Hornibrook, and the entire offensive line. If the defense comes together, especially a questionable secondary, the Badgers could be national title contenders again in 2018.

    Wisconsin Badgers 2018 Regular Season Win Total
    Over 10 (-120)
    Under 10 (-110)


    2018 Wisconsin Badgers Schedule Analysis

    Aug. 31 vs. Western Kentucky


    The regular season opener for the Badgers is an easy one, as they face a Hilltoppers team that was beaten 31-17 by Illinois last season. Very few teams go into Madison and win and Western Kentucky is not going to be one of them.

    Sept. 8 vs. New Mexico

    The second game should be just as easy for the Badgers, as the Lobos don’t have the defense to slow down the Badgers. Wisconsin should have no trouble going to 2-0.

    Sept. 15 vs. BYU

    This matchup might sound like a good one, but the Badgers won 40-6 in Provo last season. The Cougars should be better this season, but this game is in Madison and it should be a comfortable win for Wisconsin.

    Sept. 22 at Iowa

    The Big Ten opener for the Badgers is a dangerous one for Wisconsin. Iowa beat Ohio State last season and they nearly beat Penn State. The Badgers should have too much talent for the Hawkeyes, but this is not an automatic win.

    Oct. 6 vs. Nebraska

    The Cornhuskers have a new head coach in Scott Frost, so this game could be more interesting than it appears. The Badgers are at home and they are coming off a bye week, so they should get this win against Nebraska.

    Oct. 13 at Michigan

    The first big test of the season for Wisconsin comes at Michigan in mid-October. The Badgers won a tough defensive struggle last year at home and it might be a similar result this time around.

    Oct. 20 vs. Illinois

    This game comes at a good time for the Badgers, as they could have a letdown after the game against the Wolverines. It won’t matter in this game, because Illinois is a bad football team.

    Oct. 27 at Northwestern

    The Wildcats could be a contender this season in the Big Ten West, so this may not be a sure win for the Badgers on the road. Northwestern was very competitive last season in Madison, losing 33-24. Wisconsin probably has too much overall talent for the Wildcats, but this one could be tight.

    Nov. 3 vs. Rutgers

    The Scarlet Knights have been road kill in the Big Ten against top teams and it should be no different in this one as the Badgers roll to a big win.

    Nov. 10 at Penn State

    The Badgers won’t have to deal with Saquon Barkley this season, but Penn State is still a very good team and they are at home. The Nittany Lions have Trace McSorley and they have the offense to give Wisconsin trouble.

    Nov. 17 at Purdue

    The Badgers won an ugly 17-9 game last season in Madison. The Boilermakers shouldn’t be a serious threat if Wisconsin is focused, but keep in mind they are coming off the game against Penn State.

    Nov. 24 vs. Minnesota

    The Badgers have completely dominated this series in recent years, winning the last 14 meetings. This game is in Madison so the streak should go to 15.

    2018 Wisconsin Badgers Season Win Total Prediction

    The win total for the Badgers is listed at 10, so to go over that total the Badgers would have to go 11-1. There are two very difficult road games for Wisconsin at Michigan and at Penn State and a couple of tricky road games at Iowa and at Northwestern. The Badgers would have to win three of those four games to get to 11 wins and that might be too difficult. A 10-win season seems the most likely scenario for the Badgers.

  5. #35
    Handicapping Ohio State (10.5)
    July 1, 2018


    The Ohio State Buckeyes are expected to be national title contenders in 2018, as Urban Meyer will try and get his team back to the College Football Playoff after missing out last season. The Buckeyes will have a new quarterback, but that may not be bad news, as J.T. Barrett was overrated. The Buckeyes will be very good upfront and they will have a great running game and they have some talented wide receivers. The Buckeyes are solid on defense, but they do have some questions in the secondary.

    Let’s look at the Buckeyes win total for 2018 and see if Ohio State will go over or under their total.

    Ohio State 2018 Regular Season Win Total - per BetDSI.eu
    Over 10.5 (-110)
    Under 10.5 (-120)

    Ohio State 2018 Schedule Analysis

    Sept. 1 vs. Oregon State

    The Buckeyes get a cakewalk in their opener, as the Beavers were sickening last season, going 1-11. The Beavers have a new head coach in Jonathan Smith and he is going to get a rude awakening in this game in Columbus.

    Sept. 8 vs. Rutgers
    This is another easy one for the Buckeyes, as they have beaten the Scarlet Knights the last two seasons by an average score of 57-0.

    Sept 15 vs. TCU (AT&T Stadium - Arlington, Texas)
    This will be the first test of the season for the Buckeyes and although it is technically a neutral site, the TCU campus is just about 30 miles away. The Horned Frogs went 11-3 last season and they are capable of giving Ohio State a game.

    Sept. 22 vs. Tulane
    This will be another easy one for the Buckeyes, as the Green Wave are coming off a 5-7 season in 2017. The Buckeyes might have a letdown in this one, which means they may not cover the big number, but they are going to win straight up.

    Sept. 29 at Penn State
    The Buckeyes pulled out a 39-38 win at home last season, while the Nittany Lions pulled out a 24-21 shocker at Beaver Stadium two years ago. This game could decide who wins the Big Ten East.

    Oct. 6 vs. Indiana
    The Hoosier played Ohio State tough for a while last season before losing 49-21 but that game was in Bloomington. This game is in Columbus and should be an easy Ohio State win.

    Oct. 13 vs. Minnesota
    The Gophers are coming off a 5-7 season and they pose no real threat to the Buckeyes. The teams last met in 2015 when it was Ohio State winning 28-14.

    Oct. 20 at Purdue
    This will be the first time since 2013 that Ohio State has traveled to West Lafayette. This could be a dangerous game for the Buckeyes, as Purdue has pulled off upsets in the past against Ohio State, most recently in 2011.

    Nov. 3 vs. Nebraska
    The Buckeyes will be coming off their bye week and facing a Nebraska team with first-year head coach Scott Frost. The Buckeyes have dominated this series of late, with wins by scores of 62-3 and 56-14 the last two years.

    Nov. 10 at Michigan State
    The Buckeyes rolled last season 48-3 at home, so the Spartans will be looking for revenge. This has been a pretty even series recently, and the Spartans are capable of winning this one at home.

    Nov. 17 at Maryland
    The Terrapins are getting better, but they are still not at the level of Ohio State and even at home, this will be a Maryland loss.

    Nov. 24 vs. Michigan

    The game of the season in the Big Ten could very well be the regular season finale. Harbaugh is still looking for his first win in his rivalry. The game in Columbus two years ago was a 30-27 double overtime win for the Buckeyes.

    2018 Ohio State Win Total Prediction


    The schedule really sets up pretty well for the Buckeyes in 2018. The Buckeyes have four games that will decide their season, the games against TCU, Penn State Michigan State and Michigan. If the Buckeyes win their other games as expected, they need to go 3-1 in those games to finish 11-1 and go over their win total of 10.5. There is a good chance that is exactly what they will do, so over the total is the way to go with the Buckeyes in 2018.

  6. #36
    Surprise Team - Maryland
    June 26, 2018


    Maryland could surprise in Durkin's third year

    D.J. Durkin is entering his third season as the head coach at Maryland. His first two years have been plagued by injuries at the quarterback position.

    During his first year at the helm with senior Perry Hills as his starting QB, the Terrapins raced out to 4-0 record going into a road assignment at Penn State. The Nittany Lions were only ahead 17-14 when Hills went down with an injury, but they rolled to a 38-14 triumph after he was sidelined.

    Without its starting QB vs. Minnesota at home, Maryland couldn’t generate any offense in a 31-10 home loss. However, with Hills back the following week vs. Michigan State, the Terps captured a 28-17 victory. Next, they allowed a late third-quarter lead to get away in a 42-36 loss at Indiana. With a 5-3 record, Durkin’s bunch had a trio of Top-20 opponents on deck.

    The last thing it could afford at this point was another injury to Hills, but that’s exactly what happened at the Big House the following week. Michigan, ranked No. 2 at the time, rolled to an easy 59-3 win. With Hills out vs. Ohio State and at Nebraska, Maryland scored only 10 points and was the victim of three straight blowout defeats.

    Needing a win in the regular-season finale at home vs. Rutgers to go bowling, Hills returned and helped his team to 31-13 victory. Therefore, Maryland went 6-1 in the seven games in which Hills started and finished, although it did drop a 36-30 decision to Boston College at the Quick Lane Bowl.

    The 2017 campaign started with a huge splash, as Durkin’s team went into Austin and ruined the debut of Tom Herman at Texas. Maryland won by a 51-41 count thanks to a pair of special-teams TDs and a pick-six. The victory was slightly bittersweet, though, as QB Tyrell Pigrome and senior DE Jesse Aniebonam were lost to season-ending injuries.

    After trouncing Towson 63-17 in Week 2, true freshman QB Kasim Hill tore his ACL in the first quarter of a 38-10 loss to a UCF squad that would go on to finish 13-0. Maryland bounced back nicely at Minnesota, winning 31-24 as a 13-point underdog for a second victory as a double-digit road underdog.

    With a third-string QB for the rest of the year, however, things went South fast. Maryland managed merely one more win over Indiana at home, 42-39. The final tally was a disappointing 4-8 straight-up record and a 5-7 against-the-spread ledger.

    One way to view the current state of the program is that it has lost 15 of its past 21 games. Twelve of those 15 setbacks have come by double-digit margins.

    On the flip side, you could say that Durkin is 8-2 in 10 games when his starting QB has played an entire game. Now obviously, we know it doesn’t work like that and I almost feel as if I just channeled a little Butch Jones in the doctoring of that stat.

    Nevertheless, I do feel like Maryland is flying under the radar coming into 2018. There are three impact players returning from season-ending injuries sustained in early September. In addition, Durkin’s team welcomes three transfers who will immediately start on defense.

    Let’s start with the transfers, including LB Tre’ Wallace (Illinois), CB Marcus Lewis (FSU) and DE Byron Cowart (Auburn). Wallace is a grad transfer who was the Illini’s second-leading tackler in 2016 with 102 stops, and he was third last year (65) despite missing three games. In three seasons, Wallace has made 15 starts and recorded 188 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, six QB hurries, three forced fumbles, three passes broken up, 2.5 sacks, one interception and one fumble recovery. He can step in and replace starting middle LB Jermaine Carter, who had a team-best 90 tackles in ’17.

    When Durkin was Will Muschamp’s defensive coordinator at Florida, he helped recruit Cowart. The five-star DE was a UF commit before Muschamp was fired. He decided to go to Auburn, where he vastly underachieved in ’15 and ’16 before playing junior-college ball last year. Cowart gets a fresh start in College Park.

    As a sophomore at FSU, Lewis started five games and had 21 tackles, one TFL and a huge interception in the third quarter of a comeback win vs. Ole Miss in the season opener. He sat out last season as a transfer.

    Aniebonam enjoyed a breakout campaign in ’16, producing 46 tackles, nine sacks, five TFL’s, three QB hurries, one forced fumble and one PBU. He had 23 tackles, 3.5 sacks and three TFL’s as a sophomore. Aniebonam was a third-team preseason All Big Ten selection in Phil Steele’s preseason magazine going into ’17, and he’s garnered the same honor in Steele’s mag going into this year.

    The QBs, Hill and Pigrome, missed spring practice but are expected to compete for the starting job in August. Hill completed 18-of-21 passes for 230 yards and two TDs without an interception before getting hurt. He had rushed for 60 yards and one TD on 12 attempts. Pigrome had connected on 9-of-12 throws for 175 yards with a 2/1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He had run for 64 yards and one TD on 11 carries.

    Maryland’s offensive line returns intact and has 105 career starts combined. Three of Durkin’s top-five recruits in his ’18 class were o-linemen who will provide depth. Steele’s mag ranks the Terps’ o-line as the third-best in the Big Ten and the country’s 11th-best.

    Maryland is deep at RB with its group ranking sixth in the Big Ten and 29th in the nation, according to Steele. Senior Ty Johnson has 2,129 career rushing yards and 17 TDs (14 rushing). As a sophomore in ’16, Johnson ran for 1,004 yards and averaged 9.1 yards per carry. He rushed for 875 yards and five TDs while averaging 6.4 YPC last season. Johnson also had a TD catch and a 100-yard kickoff return for a score.

    Junior RB Lorenzo Harrison is an experienced back-up who has 1,255 yards and a 5.6 YPC average in his first two years. Also, redshirt freshman Anthony McFarland is ready to contribute. McFarland was the (high) four-star prize of Durkin’s 2017 recruiting haul who had to redshirt while still recovering from a high-school injury.

    Maryland lost its best WR D.J. Moore, who was a first-round pick by the Carolina Panthers. But Tavion Jacobs returns after bringing down 47 receptions for 553 yards and five TDs in ’17. Jacobs, Johnson and OT Damian Prince, a former five-star recruit who has 30 career starts to his credit, are fourth-team preseason All Big 10 picks in Steele’s mag, while OT Derwin Gray is a third-team selection.

    Maryland plays in the toughest division in college football with Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State. Steele has the Terps’ schedule ranked as the country’s ninth-toughest. They have seven home games and five true road contests. The South Point Hotel in Las Vegas has Maryland’s season win total at five (‘under’ -125, ‘over’ +105).

    Instead of playing (at) Wisconsin and Northwestern from the other side of the league, Maryland faces Illinois at home, travels to Iowa, and takes on Minnesota for a third consecutive year.

    I think the Terps will be favored in five games – at Bowling Green, vs. Temple, vs. Minnesota, vs. Rutgers and vs. Illinois. They might be favored at Indiana, but that isn’t the best situational spot. Maryland is at Indiana on Nov. 10, sandwiched between home games vs. Michigan State and Ohio State. The Hoosiers have an open date beforehand and their previous game is on a Friday night at Minnesota (giving them another extra day of preparation).

    Are there any other potential wins? Well, Maryland is an 11-point home underdog for its opener vs. Texas. Sure, the Longhorns have the revenge angle, but that’s a game that went the Terps’ way on the road last season.

    Durkin’s club will be a heavy underdog in three games we can certainly mark as losses – at Michigan, vs. Ohio State and at Penn State (in back-to-back games to close the regular season). We will note, however, that Maryland does get two weeks to prep for the Wolverines and could be worth a look catching a ton of points.

    The other two games left on the slate are at Iowa and vs. Michigan State. These will undoubtedly be underdog situations, but I’m not sure upsets are completely out of the question if things (such as health and quality QB play) are going well.

    Whatever the case, Maryland looks like an underrated team if it can keep its QBs healthy. I’m not implying Maryland ‘over’ five wins (+105) will be a strong play for me (amount-wise), but I do expect Durkin’s luck to start turning the right way and for the Terps to be back in the postseason.

  7. #37
    2018 Conference USA Preview
    July 8, 2018


    We’re Back

    Conference USA welcomes the return of six 2017 individual award winners for the 2018 season. They include MVP Devin Singletary, RB, Florida Atlantic, Offensive Player of the Year Mason Fine, QB, North Texas, Special Teams Player of the Year Isaiah Harper, KR, Old Dominion, Freshman of the Year Spencer Brown, RB, UAB, and Newcomers of the Year Teddy Veal, WR, Louisiana Tech and Jalen Guyton, WR, North Texas.

    In addition, C-USA had six (6) individual leaders and three (3) team leaders in national statistical categories last season and each of those individual performers return for the 2018 season. Team leaders included FAU (No. 1 Interceptions-20), UTSA (No. 1 Fewest First Downs Allowed-166) and FIU (No. 1 Red Zone Offense-.976).

    It’s Us Again

    For the first time since the 2011-2012 season, Conference USA Football will feature the same configuration of teams competing for the league championship in consecutive years, each playing eight conference games, along with four non-league contests.

    In Your Face

    Conference USA teams never shy away from playing challenging non-conference competition and this season is no exception. Conference USA will face at least one opponent from each of the nine other FBS conferences in 2018 and a total of 22 games are scheduled against teams that played in a bowl game last season.

    Note: The numbers following each team name represents the amount of returning starters on offense and defense, along with the number of returning linemen, with an asterisk (*) designating a returning quarterback.

    CHARLOTTE (Offense – *8/4, Defense – 10/3, 53 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME: COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO

    A major benefit of going full-youth is that after taking your lumps, there is generally only one way to go, and that’s up. Spring chickens turn into barnyard roosters and with it an air of hidden confidence is shaped. A young core of sophomores and juniors are now upper classmen. Head coach Brad Lambert, who learned as a 10-year assistant under Jim Grobe, rebuilt lines on both sides of the ball last season while breaking in the pimply faces. As a result, his job is on the line. Thus, two new coordinators will look to revive a potentially strong ground game while better stuffing the run. An imbalanced schedule that finds the 49ers meeting bowlers in 7 of their final 8 games could prove to be the turning point.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Since becoming an FBS school, Charlotte is 1-11 SU and 4-7-1 ATS in its final six games of the season.

    PLAY ON: vs. Florida Int’l (11/17)

    FLORIDA ATLANTIC (Offense – 5/2, Defense – 10/3, 47 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME: LOOKING IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR

    Ask head coach Lane Kiffin about the trap of living off last season’s success – the best season in school history – and the coach says, “That team is over with. We made sure to understand this is a different team. We’re 0-0. That’s in the history books, a very special season. Just like the preseason rankings mean nothing.” A season-ending 10-game win skein was the catalyst. Having talented RB Devin “Motor” Singletary back is a good starting point. In addition, the defense returns 10 starters. Still, a salty schedule (all 6 road games against bowl squads) and a major bulls-eye on their back means another 11 wins are highly unlikely in 2018. Because, after all, last season is officially in the history books.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Owls are 7-19 SU in one-possession games since Howard Schnellenberger resigned, including 3-9 the L3 seasons.

    PLAY AGAINST: at Middle Tennessee (9/29)

    FIU (Offense – 7/4, Defense – 4/3, 55 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME: BUTCH BALL

    Butch Davis’ return to south Florida last season was measurably impactful when FIU doubled its win total, and then enjoyed its best recruiting class in school history during the offseason. To put it in a better perspective, SB Nation’s Bill Connelly reported, “UCF went 13-0 and claimed a share of the national title. FAU won 11 games and its first CUSA title. FIU lost by a combined 113-41 to those in-state rivals… and then out-recruited both of them.” Granted, the Golden Panthers weren’t as good as their 8-5 record suggests since they allowed more YPG than they actually gained. They also benefited mightily by returning 85% of the production on both sides of the ball last season. Let’s see if the recruiting effort offsets a natural letdown.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: FIU is 12-1 SU and 10-3 ATS versus sub .333 conference foes without Ron Turner since 2010.

    PLAY AGAINST: at Old Dominion (9/8)

    LOUISIANA TECH (Offense – *8/4, Defense – 7/3, 52 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME: SKIP TO MY LOU

    The hard-luck Bulldogs suffered three 1-point losses in 2017, and dipped to 7-6 after consecutive nine-win seasons, costing the Bulldogs a third division title in four years in the process. A 3-0 SUATS win skein left them playing their best ball of the season following a 41-point win over SMU in the Frisco Bowl. Meanwhile, Skip Holtz returns a good portion of last year’s nucleus (#30 nationally in returning production), including QB J’Mar Smith (143.5 passer rating away from home), four if its top five WRs, two all-CUSA OL, and the best player in the loop on defense in DL Jaylon Ferguson. Best of all, Holtz inked a whopping 16 three-star recruits this offseason. With Holtz in his sixth year with the program, the pieces are in place for a return to 9-win territory.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Holtz is 44-23-1 ATS as a dog in his career, including 20-2-1 ATS when coming off an ATS win of more than 8 points.

    PLAY ON: at Florida Atlantic (10/27)

    MARSHALL (Offense – 9/5, Defense – 9/4, 52 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME: BACK TO THUNDERING

    Roll back the clock. The only Group of 5 program to record a third straight 10-win season in 2015, the Herd went from a thundering 33 wins in three seasons to a blundering 3 victories in 2016. Strangely, Marshall committed only 16 turnovers in 2016, the fewest for the program since it entered FBS waters in 1997. Shell-shocked, the Herd stormed back with 8 wins last season, including three losses during the final month of the campaign by a combined total of just 8 points. The challenge this season will be replacing QB Chase Litton (declared for the NFL draft, with Alex Thomson the likely successor) and both coordinators. Fortunately 9 starters are back from a defense that improved 113 YPG in 2017. That should make the Herd relevant again.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Marshall is 8-0-1 ATS at home with revenge against greater than .800 opponents.

    PLAY ON: at Florida International (11/24) - *KEY

    MIDDLE TENNESSEE (Offense – *8/3, Defense – 8/3, 47 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME: BACK FROM THE ICU

    Let’s tell it like it is. Injuries wrecked any chance at improvement last season when both starting quarterback Brent Stockstill and star WR Richie James missed at least half of the season (the Raiders were 5-2 with Brent and 2-4 without him). QB Stockstill returns while James bypassed his final year of eligibility for the NFL Draft. Still, behind a deep squad, MTSU rates a solid chance to win the CUSA as the Blue Raiders return every running back and their top three wide receivers (other than James), along with two all-conference linemen on offense. Plus, six of the top seven defensive linemen, as well as three of four linebackers and five of eight defensive backs, are also back. Despite three road games at SEC schools that won 25 games last season, we’re on the Stockstills like Ozzie on Harriet.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: MTSU has been bowl eligible nine times in 12 years under HC Rick Stockstill, competing in seven bowl games.

    PLAY ON: at Vanderbilt (9/1) – KEY as a dog

    NORTH TEXAS (Offense – *9/4, Defense – 8/2, 44 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME: FROM GREEN TO GO

    After inheriting a 1-11 team, head coach Seth Littrell has won 14 games and a division title in his first two years in Denton. How much of an improvement did the Mean Green make in 2017? Consider: after having gone 2-17 SU and 4-15 ATS away the previous three years, outyarded by 175 YPG, they proceeded to go 3-3 SU and 4-2 ATS while being outgained by only 29 YPG in road games last season. It’s what happens when you possess a Top 25 ranked offense. Those numbers are likely to ascend in 2018 behind JR QB Mason Fine (4,052 yards, 31 TDs last season), who has his top three WRs back, including walk-on Michael Lawrence – a likely NFL slot receiver – while being tutored by OC Graham Harrell, the ex-Texas Tech quarterback.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Mean Green are 36-6 ATS in games in which they score 32 or more points.

    PASS

    OLD DOMINION (Offense – *9/4, Defense – 7/3, 46 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: A WILD RIDE

    After their FCS debut in 2009, the Monarchs have suffered highs (10-win season in 2016) and lows. Through a series of injuries and inexperience, last year was taking on the appearance of the Titanic until a 3-1 finish literally salvaged the ship. Seventeen year-old true freshman QB Steven Williams stepped in and saved the day (71% completions in his last 3 starts with a 146.2 passer rating). He’s back, along with five OL with at least 10 career starts. In addition, four of last year’s five leading WRs, and leading RB Jeremy Cox (2,115 career yards) combine to form an offensive assault that promises to more than make up for last year’s 102-yard slippage. We’re putting the danger warning on Old Dominion. Beware.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Old Dominion has sold out all 60 home games in school history and has a 44-16 SU record in those games.

    PLAY ON: at Western Kentucky (10/20)

    RICE (Offense – *6/2, Defense – 5/2, 46 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME: OWLS IN FLIGHT

    Following four straight years of regression, the David Bailiff regime at Rice is finally over. Somehow through it all, Bailiff recorded the 2nd most wins in school history. Replacing him is Mike Bloomgren, a former OC at Stanford. He’ll turn the keys over to SO QB Miklo Smalls, who stepped in late last season when the Owls offense improved from 13.1 PPG over their first eight games to 22.5 over the last four. New DC Brian Smith, a former Michigan DBs coach, must patch a defense that has allowed more then 36 PPG the last three seasons. It starts with a rush unit that has coughed up 200 rushing YPG at 5.2 yards per rush clip. A new voyage is about to begin.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Rice is 30-9-3 ATS as a conference home dog, including 16-1-2 ATS when taking less than 7 points.

    PLAY ON: vs. UAB (10/13) - *KEY as a dog

    SOUTHERN MISS (Offense – *5/3, Defense – 4/2, 42 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME: BACKWARDS THINKING

    Last year we called for an uptick in the Golden Eagles program and they delivered the goods, improving their production both straight up and against the spread. The problem now, though, is the “Smith Barney” syndrome. Simply put, they didn’t ‘earn it’ as their overall stats declined on both sides of the ball. Compounding the issue, Jay Hopson was forced to go the JUCO route and will hope three-star transfer QB Jack Abraham beats out incumbent Kwadra Griggs. USM will lean heavily on a trio of returning WRs, including Korey Robertson, who had a breakout season in 2017 with 76 receptions, 1,106 yards and 12 TDS. Still, when reconstructed teams look to rely on JUCOs, the results seldom meet expectations.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Golden Eagles’ seniors started 59.4% of their games last season, the 3rd most in the nation.

    PLAY AGAINST: vs. Marshall (11/3)

    UAB (Offense – *10/4, Defense – 7/2, 55 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME: YEAH, WE’RE BACK

    After closing the football program down for blasphemous reasons in 2015 and 2016, the Blazers re-emerged in a statement-making way last season. After going 6-0 at home, 6-2 in CUSA and fielding a 41st-ranked defense – and going bowling for only the second time in school history – it meant little losing 41-6 to Ohio U in the Bahamas Bowl. UAB was back and was indeed the feel-good story in college football last season (sorry, UCF, but you’ll need to get in line). The better news is the offense returns literally everyone and the defense is stacked. The bad news is a huge contingent of seniors will be gone after this season. Rest assured, Bill Clark’s troops will savor every moment, especially going up against the 2nd easiest schedule of all FBS schools in 2018 with foes going 57-91 (.385) last season.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Blazers are 7-1 ATS under Clark when facing an opponent coming off a win, including 5-0 ATS when UAB is coming off a loss.

    PLAY AGAINST: 11/3 vs. UTSA

    UTEP (Offense – *5/0, Defense – 6/2, 50 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME: LONG IN THE TOOTH

    New Miners’ head coach Dana Dimel has been tasked with reviving arguably the worst program in the FBS, one whose offense gained a mere 230.5 yards and 11.8 points per game in 2017 – dead last. And if that isn’t bad enough, the UTEP defense allowed 446.6 yards and 36.8 points per contest. Egad. A 30-year veteran Dimel, is a former Kansas State assistant under Bill Snyder, as well as a former head coach at Houston and Wyoming. That Dimel, just 4-17 ATS as a conference favorite, hired 33-year veteran Mike Canales as his OC speaks volumes as Canales’ North Texas teams as OC under Dan McCarney finished No. 122 in offense in both 2014 and 2015. And this offense is worse. Meanwhile, 30-year veteran Mike Cox will run the defense.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Miners are 9-65-1 SU and 16-54-3 ATS in the last 75 games in which they have been outgained in the stats.

    PASS

    UTSA (Offense – 4/2, Defense – 6/3, 38 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: BEDROCK QUARREL

    It’s safe to say that UTSA will take the field with a massive chip on its shoulder. Not only did they measurably improve their numbers on both sides of the ball while leading all FBS teams in First Down Defense, they also finished No. 2 in fewest Passing Yards Allowed. In the process, they outgained 8 of their 11 opponents and finished with a winning record – only to peculiarly be shut out of a bowl invite. Faced with numerous personnel and coaching changes, they will need to heavily rely on that massive chip we alluded to. Leaving no stone unturned, our guess is the rebuilding Roadrunners may likely be referred to as the Slate Rock and Gravel Company this season. Yabba dabba doo.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Roadrunners are 2-19 ATS in SU conference losses.

    PLAY ON: at Southern Miss (10/20)

    WESTERN KENTUCKY (Offense – 4/2, Defense – 7/2, 55 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME: MORE OIL, PLEASE

    Talk about a bummer. When WKU hired former assistant Mike Sanford as its new head coach last year, they were fully expecting to win the CUSA for a third straight season. After all Sanford, one of college football brightest offensive minds, returned SR QB Mike White from the nation’s top scoring offense. What he didn’t count on was the total disappearance of a rushing game that was MIA on both sides of the ball all season. The Hilltoppers’ dead-last ranked rush offense declined 124 YPG while its rush defense deteriorated 73 YPG. That’s a combined total of 197-degenerated rushing yards. As a result, they fell from 23-5 to 6-7 and recorded their first losing season since 2010. With White gone, Sanford is burning the midnight oil as you read this hoping his replacement – FR QB Kevaris Thomas – lives up to his billing.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: WKU has gone OVER its season win total five of the last six years.

    PLAY ON: at Florida Atlantic (11/10) *KEY as a dog

  8. #38
    Auburn QB Stidham gets engaged
    July 8, 2018


    Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham has a number of memorable victories under his belt, however his greatest triumph came this weekend when he proposed to his longtime girlfriend.

    Stidham fell to one knee and proposed to Baylor soccer player Kennedy Brown in Lake Brownwood, Texas. Both members of the happy couple posted their happiness on Instagram.

    "She said yes and I get to marry the girl of my dreams. Here's to forever Kenn, I love you," the 21-year-old Stidham wrote on Saturday.

    In Stidham's eyes, her answer likely trumped Auburn's victories over Alabama in the Iron Bowl or top-ranked Georgia.

    The couple met while Stidham was a player at Baylor in 2015. He sat out a season at McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas before transferring to Auburn in December 2016.

    Stidham started every game under center for the SEC West champion Tigers in 2017. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound redshirt sophomore passed for 3,158 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, becoming the second Auburn quarterback to throw for 3,000-plus yards in a season.


    *******************************


    CFB Notebook: Alabama reports one minor violation to NCAA
    July 7, 2018


    Alabama reported 13 secondary violations to the NCAA but only one involved the football program.

    The lone infraction by the football team was reported July 1, 2017, and was considered a minor violation, according to al.com.

    Per the report, an assistant coach for the Crimson Tide responded to an "unknown text message which resulted in impermissible communication with the parent of a 2019 prospective student-athlete."

    Last year, the university reported 22 secondary violations, including nine by the football program. In 2016, five of the 19 self-reported violations involved the football program.

    The Crimson Tide defeated SEC rival Georgia 26-23 in overtime in the College Football Playoff Championship Game in January. It was the school's fifth national title in the last nine years.

    --Wyoming linebacker Cassh Maluia was suspended for the season opener in the wake of his arrest a week ago.

    Cowboys coach Craig Bohl announced that Maluia will miss the game against New Mexico State on Aug. 25.

    Maluia was arrested June 30 in Laramie, Wyo., on multiple charges, including suspicion of driving under the influence. He also was charged with underage consumption of alcohol and driving without a valid driver's license.

    "Cassh Maluia will be subject to several disciplinary actions," Bohl said in a statement. "He will be assessed a one-game suspension for this coming season. ... We also view this as a learning opportunity, not just for Cassh, but for the rest of our team members."

    Bohn also noted that Maluia faces additional disciplinary action that will require mandatory counseling, the completion of an AWARE training program on campus and 50 hours of community service.

    -- West Virginia will not kick off the 2018 campaign for nearly two months, but the football program already is in midseason form -- at least on social media.

    The Mountaineers are going all out to promote returning starting quarterback Will Grier for the Heisman Trophy, launching a website devoted to hype his candidacy.

    The university touted the website -- http://www.grier7heisman.com -- on its athletics website along with the accompanying hashtag "willtowin."

    Grier, who started his college career at the University of Florida, passed for 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns against 12 interceptions for West Virginia in 2017.

    A dislocated finger on his throwing hand, sustained Nov. 18 against Texas, forced Grier to sit out the regular-season finale against Oklahoma and the Heart of Dallas Bowl matchup against Utah on Dec. 26.

  9. #39
    Games to Watch - Week 1
    July 9, 2018


    Must Bet College Football Week 1 Odds & Picks

    The clock is now officially counting down as we draw ever nearer to the opening day of the 2018 college football season. Week 1 will kick-off on August 25th with a handful of games featuring lesser teams. The real action, though, gets underway on September 1st, as that is when the big guns will be taking to the field for the first time this year.

    The reigning champs, the Alabama Crimson Tide, will be out to once again defend their crown when they take on the Stanford Cardinal, and while many of the early favorites to win the National Championship have what appear to be slam dunk games, there are a few big ones on the schedule.

    So let’s get on college football mode, review the current odds listed at YouWager.eu and take a closer look at the must bet college football games for Week 1 of the 2018 season.

    Michigan Wolverines (-1 ½) at Notre Dame Fighting Irish

    The honeymoon period for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan is now over, and there is now a sense that he needs to get this team to the playoffs this season. This is not to suggest that he is in the hot seat, but the warm and fuzzy happy times are certainly now in the rearview mirror. Picking up Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson will give the Wolverines an immediate upgrade at the QB position, and he will get a stern test in Week 1 with a visit to Notre Dame, a team looking to build on what was a very solid 2017. This is undoubtedly the game of the week, and I am looking at Michigan to get a big road win.

    Auburn Tigers (-2 ½) vs. Washington Huskies


    If you're a big fan of hard hitting, defensive football, this may well prove to be the best game on the opening week calendar for you. The Auburn Tigers are sure to still me smarting after losing to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game last season, as that loss killed their playoff hopes. They will be looking to get things rolling early with a big win over a PAC-12 opponent that is about as defensively sound as it gets. This one should be an epic battle where points will be a premium, but I think it will be Auburn that does enough to get the win in this neutral venue match-up.

    LSU Tigers vs. Miami Hurricanes (-3)

    It was very nearly a year to remember for the Miami Hurricanes, with Mark Richt leading them to an improbable 10-0 start to the season before the wheels came off in the final 3 weeks of the season. There was always a feeling that this team was ahead of schedule, so this may actually be the year where they get better. We will find out very quickly, as they will open up at the AT&T Stadium in Texas with a neutral site game against the LSU Tigers, a team that always has one of the stingiest defenses in the league. I see a defensive struggle and a Miami win here.

    Alabama Crimson Tide (-25) vs. Louisville Cardinals

    While this match-up, which will be played in Florida, lost some of its luster with Lamar Jackson heading off to the NFL, it is still going to be interesting to see how the defending champions start the season. There is a little bit of a QB controversy in Alabama as we head into the new year, with Tua Tagovailoa staking his claim to the starting position by coming on in the second half of last season’s National Championship game and turning it around. While I certainly think Alabama will win this one, that big spread make me a little nervous.

  10. #40
    CFB notebook: Alabama LB Lewis has torn ACL
    July 10, 2018


    Alabama linebacker Terrell Lewis sustained a torn ACL in his right knee last week, the school announced Tuesday.

    "Terrell Lewis suffered a torn right ACL last week while training," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said in a statement. "He underwent successful surgery today, and a timeframe for his return is unknown at this time."

    Lewis was projected to be a starter in the upcoming season. The torn ACL is the second significant injury Lewis has sustained in less than a year. He suffered an elbow injury in the season opener against Florida State that sidelined him 10 games last season.

    Lewis recorded 16 tackles and a sack during the final four games of the season. Lewis' injury comes one day after the Crimson Tide announced fellow linebacker VanDarius Cowan was dismissed from the program for a violation of team rules.

    --Iowa cornerback Manny Rugamba is leaving the school and plans to transfer.

    Rugamba, who will be entering his junior season, announced his decision via his Twitter account but offered no reason for his departure.

    "I would like to first thank the whole Iowa Coaching staff for the last two years of life lessons both on and off the field," wrote Rugamba. "The relationships that I've made are some that will last a lifetime. With that being said I have opened my recruitment and plan to transfer and find another home this fall."

    Rugamba started eight games as a sophomore in 2017 after sitting out the season opener due to a suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules. He had 36 tackles and four passes defended.

    --USC wide receiver Joseph Lewis was released from jail after serving a 21-day sentence.

    Lewis, whose was freed on Friday, has been on suspension from the school since he was arrested in February in connection with two domestic violence incidents.

    In May, Lewis pleaded no contest in May to two misdemeanor counts of domestic battery with an injury. A school spokesman told the Los Angeles Times that Lewis remains off the team roster.

    As part of the plea agreement, Lewis still has to fulfill 36 months of probation, a one-year domestic violence treatment course and comply with a protective order to stay at least 100 yards from the victim, the newspaper reported.

  11. #41
    A preseason quiz for FCS 2018
    July 10, 2018


    (STATS) - The arrival of conference media days this month marks the unofficial start to the college football season, so it's time to get in the FCS game.

    Sure, North Dakota State and James Madison have become the national powers, but how well do you know the national landscape?

    Our 10-question quiz about the fast-approaching season will show if you're in the end zone or punting.

    The answers follow, so don't scroll to them before it's time.

    QUESTIONS

    1. North Dakota State has won six of the last seven FCS national titles, tying for the most in history. Which program will the Bison try to break away from to establish a new record?

    2. Name the program that has dropped back to the FCS level from the FBS and the program joining the FCS from the Division II ranks? You need both answers right.

    3. For the ninth time in 10 seasons, an FCS program is playing the defending FBS champion. This year, the honor falls to which team: Charleston Southern or The Citadel?

    4. Jacksonville State has the longest conference winning streak in the FCS. Is it 28, 30 or 32 games long?

    5. This player led Division I in receptions per game and finished third in the STATS FCS Walter Payton Award voting last season. Who is this 2019 NFL Draft prospect?

    6. From the subdivision, only Montana and former FCS program Appalachian State have had more NFL Draft picks in the 2010s than this surprising program, which produced its sixth selection this year. Is it Maine, South Carolina State or Tennessee State?

    7. Let's see if you remember this question from last year: The FCS is played at 124 schools across 37 states and the District of Columbia. What is the most common nickname: Bears, Bulldogs or Tigers?

    8. "The Game" turns 135 in 2018. Where are Ivy League rivals Harvard and Yale playing this year's matchup?

    9. Who has thrown for the most touchdowns among returning FCS quarterbacks - Northern Arizona's Case Cookus, Samford's Devlin Hodges, Eastern Washington's Gage Gubrud or San Diego's Anthony Lawrence?

    10. The last three years, a coach has finished fifth, third and second in voting for the STATS FCS Eddie Robinson Award at two different schools. Who is he?

    ANSWERS

    1. Like North Dakota State, Georgia Southern won six FCS national titles, winning in back-to-back years three times. The Eagles now play on the FBS level.

    2. After 22 seasons on the FBS level, Idaho has returned to the Big Sky Conference. North Alabama is transitioning into the FCS from Division II, playing as an independent this season before joining the Big South Conference in 2019.

    3. City rivals Charleston Southern and The Citadel have a showdown in September, but The Citadel is the FCS team holding the date with defending FBS champion Alabama. The Bulldogs had the same opportunity against Clemson last season.

    4. Jacksonville State has won 32 straight games in the Ohio Valley Conference, last losing to Eastern Illinois and Jimmy Garoppolo in 2013.

    5. UC Davis wide receiver Keelan Doss averaged 10.5 receptions per game as a junior, catching 115 passes for 1,499 yards.

    6. With six NFL Draft picks in the 2010s, MEAC member South Carolina State trails only Montana and Appalachian State, which both have seven.

    7. Nine FCS schools share the Bulldogs nickname: Alabama A&M, Bryant, Butler, Drake, Gardner-Webb (Runnin' Bulldogs), Samford, South Carolina State, The Citadel and Yale.

    8. Harvard and Yale are meeting for the 135th time at Fenway Park on Nov. 17. It will mark the 50th anniversary of the epic 1968 meeting, which famously ended in a 29-29 tie.

    9. That was an impressive list of gunslingers, but, surprise, Anthony Lawrence from Pioneer Football League power San Diego has thrown 81 touchdowns - the most of returning FCS players.

    10. Mike Houston has been on the cusp of winning the Eddie Robinson Award, finishing fifth at The Citadel in 2015, then third and second, respectively, the last two years at James Madison. Each team won a conference title and JMU was the 2016 national champ.

    STARTER, BACKUP OR KEEP WORKING

    So how did you do?

    The questions were at a reasonable level. With six or more correct answers, consider yourself a starting player. Five right and you are on the two-deep. Less than half right, well, keep following the FCS.

  12. #42
    2018 Predictions - SEC
    July 10, 2018


    College Football Predictions: Southeastern Conference

    While college football has a huge following all across the country, it is the south that is perhaps home to the most fanatical fans of the game. In some parts, anything less than a National Championship is considered a total failure. It should come as no surprise that the southern states have become breeding grounds for the best players in the college game while also having arguably the best conference in college football for years now.

    The SEC is that conference, and it is home to the current National Champion, the Alabama Crimson Tide, as well as last year’s runner-up, the Georgia Bulldogs. Both of those team’s figure to be contenders again this season, but can any other team in the SEC touch them?

    Let’s take a closer look.

    SEC CONFERENCE - ODDS TO WIN

    Alabama: +100
    Arkansas: +5000
    Auburn: +650
    Florida: +800
    Georgia: +250
    Kentucky: +8000
    LSU: +1000
    Mississippi State: +1200
    Missouri: +2500
    Ole Miss: +6500
    South Carolina: +1600
    Tennessee: +2500
    Texas A&M: +1300
    Vanderbilt: +12000

    SEC East Preview and Predictions

    The Georgia Bulldogs made a huge breakthrough in Coach Kirby Smart’s second year in charge, making it all the way to the National Championship Game. As good as the Dawgs were last season, it is worth remembering that they were a team stacked with an elite class of returning seniors. Most of those guys will be plying their trade in the NFL this season, which means that there are going to be a lot of holes to plug, especially on the defensive side of the football. It certainly helps that the incoming recruiting class was about the best on paper. The East is still Georgia’s to lose.

    The South Carolina Gamecocks would appear to be the biggest challenger for Georgia in the East, and they can get a leg up on the defending champs if they can beat them in Week 2 of the season. This is a team very much on the rise, and if they can take another step forward this season, they could prove to be serious challengers to the East crown.

    The Florida Gators had an awful season in 2017 but have a new coaching staff in place who have some very nice pieces to work with. Dan Mullen will make this team better quite quickly but asking him to turn them into a division winner this season is probably asking way too much.

    That should be your top 3 in the SEC East.

    SEC West Preview and Predictions


    Let’s be perfectly clear here, Alabama are National Champions for a reason. They have the best coach in the college game, and are able to keep reloading year after year, regardless of how many players they lose to the NFL draft. The Crimson Tide look like a shoe-in to win the SEC West, although there are some questions at the QB spot. Tua Tagovailoa will likely steal the spot from Jalen Hurts after his amazing second half performance last season.

    Joe Moorhead will be the new man in charge at the Mississippi State Bulldogs, and it’s fair to suggest that he is walking into a great situation, with 16 starters returning to the fold. Let’s not forget that this is a team that won 9 games last season. If Moorhead can get this group to buy into his system early, they could prove to be a major threat.

    The Auburn Tigers would certainly appear to be the main contenders here, especially when you consider that they won the West last season before losing to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. They will be coming into this season with a bit of a chip on their shoulder, and they will know that they will need to win their games against Georgia and Alabama if they are to be playoff bound this year.

    That rounds out your top 3 in the SEC Wes

  13. #43
    Handicapping Michigan (8.5)
    July 11, 2018


    The Michigan Wolverines are coming off a very disappointing 2017 season, but they bring back 18 starters for 2018 and expectations are very high for Jim Harbaugh’s squad.

    The pressure is mounting on Harbaugh to deliver, as Michigan is 1-5 under Harbaugh against their top rivals and Michigan has yet to play in the Big Ten title game under Harbaugh.

    How successful the Wolverines are in 2018 could be determined by how well new quarterback Shea Patterson plays. He is an Ole Miss transfer who takes over the starting job.

    Let’s look at Michigan’s schedule for 2018 to see if they will go over or under their win total of 8.5.

    2018 Michigan Wolverines Regular Season Win Total
    Over 8.5 (-110)
    Under 8.5 (-120)


    2018 Michigan Wolverines Schedule Analysis

    Sept. 1 at Notre Dame

    You can make a strong case that the loser of this game will have no real chance to make the College Football Playoffs. Harbaugh will need to have Patterson ready because Michigan can’t win this game simply with defense.

    Sept. 8 vs. Western Michigan
    These teams haven’t met since 2011 and it has been a one-sided series, as the Broncos have never beaten the Wolverines. That shouldn’t change this season.

    Sept. 15 vs. SMU
    The Mustangs are going to score with new head coach Sonny Dykes in charge but they won’t stop anyone. Michigan’s defense is very good and SMU may score some points, but this will still be a Michigan blowout.

    Sept. 22 vs. Nebraska
    The Cornhuskers have a new head coach in Scott Frost and it may take him some time to turn things around at Nebraska. It is hard to see the Cornhuskers winning this one in the Big House.

    Sept. 29 at Northwestern
    The Wildcats may not have starting quarterback Clayton Thorson as he tore his ACL in last year’s bowl game and may not be ready to return yet. Michigan has won the last five in this series and they should make it six straight this year.

    Oct. 6 vs. Maryland
    This should be a name the score game for Michigan, as they have won the last three matchups against the Terps by a combined margin of 109 points.

    Oct. 13 vs. Wisconsin
    The first huge Big 10 game of the season for Michigan is at home as they host the Badgers. These teams are usually tight, but the Wolverines will have the home field advantage and should get the win.

    Oct. 20 at Michigan State
    The Wolverines gave away last year’s game so they will be playing with revenge, but it won’t be easy on the road against a talented Spartans squad that returns 21 starters.

    Nov. 3 vs. Penn State
    This looks to be a good one, as two years ago it was Michigan winning big at home, but last year it was the Nittany Lions winning big at home. These teams are very evenly matched and this game could come down to the final possession.

    Nov. 10 at Rutgers
    This is a letdown spot for Michigan, but it shouldn’t matter. The last time Michigan visited Rutgers they won 78-0.

    Nov. 17 vs. Indiana
    The Wolverines have won the last 22 games against Indiana going back to 1987. The last three meetings in the series have been close, but this one is in Ann Arbor, so the Wolverines should win easily.

    Nov. 24 at Ohio State
    This game could decide the Big Ten East Division. The Wolverines will likely be listed as road dogs against their hated rivals.

    2018 Michigan Wolverines Regular Season Win Total Prediction

    The Michigan win total comes down to five games because the Wolverines should have seven sure wins. The key games are at Notre Dame, home vs. Wisconsin, at Michigan State, home vs. Penn State and at Ohio State. To go over the total of 8.5, the Wolverines have to win two of those five games. Winning two of those five games is definitely possible for Michigan and it is not out of the question that Michigan could win four of the five. It all comes down to the play of Patterson at quarterback. If he delivers in a big way then Michigan could be a national title contender and definitely a team that goes over 8.5 wins this season.

  14. #44
    2018 Predictions - Pac-12
    July 11, 2018


    College Football Predictions: Pac-12

    The 2018 college football season is going to be one where the PAC 12 teams need to work hard o re-stablish their conference as a true power in the sport. After all, they did not send a team to the college football playoffs last season and only had two teams with 10 or more wins.

    To further compound the issue, PAC 12 teams only managed 1 win versus 8 losses in bowl games. Say what you want about the validity of bowl games, that record does no inspire a lot of faith in this conference. There is certainly enough talent to go around in the PAC 12 but can any of the teams in that conference make a major breakthrough this year. We are going to look at the PAC 12 odds listed at YouWager.eu, check the North and South and pick 3 teams in each who might just have a shot at being in the playoff picture.

    Pac-12 CONFERENCE – ODDS TO WIN

    Arizona: +1200
    Arizona State: +2500
    California: +2500
    Colorado: +1600
    Oregon: +550
    Oregon State: +10000
    USC: +200
    Stanford: +400
    UCLA +1200
    Utah: +1200
    Washington: +120
    Washington State: +1000


    Pac-12 North Division Preview

    Washington Huskies


    This is not just the team to beat in the North, they are also the class of the entire conference. One of the reasons why they are so heavily favored this season in that they have no less than 16 starters returning from what was a very good team last year. They will continue to have senior QB Jake Browning under center, which is a definite bonus, but it will once again be the defense that is the star of the show. They gave up a touch over 16 PPG last season, which is a staggeringly good number. Their main issue is going to be a lack of big play guys at the receiver position, but if the defense holds up, this team will be very dangerous indeed.

    Stanford Cardinal

    Stanford are the defending champions in the North Division and are likely to be challenging for the top spot once again. The biggest concern that the Cardinal have coming into this season is their defense. In 2017, they were very susceptible to the run game, and with their best defensive players all leaving for the NFL, those gaps might just get a little bigger. On offense, the outlook is much better, with Heisman nominated RB Bryce Love returning to the fold.

    Oregon Ducks

    The Oregon Ducks got a little better in 2017 but will have a whole new coaching staff in place this year. The schedule looks favorable for the Ducks, with their biggest games of the season all set to be played at home, but with that said, I’m not so sure that this group will be able to transition quickly enough to challenge for the division. Second spot is probably the best they can hope for.

    Pac-12 South Division Preview

    USC Trojans


    It should be noted that the 3 teams listed in the South are in no particular order, as this division could go either way. The biggest issue for USC is going to be replacing Sam Darnold at QB, but the good news there is that they have a good enough offensive line to protect whomever is under center. They also have a very good running game and a defense returning 6 starters. Get the QB problem solved and the South could belong to the Trojans.

    Utah Utes

    Of the 3 teams listed in the South, it is the Utes who have the toughest path to a division’s crown. Their schedule is brutal, but the bonus here is that they could well be a lock for a playoff spot if they somehow get through it and emerge as PAC 12 champions. It will once again be the defense that will carry this team on its shoulders.

    Arizona Wildcats

    If I had to really go out and pick one of these 3 teams to win the South, my money would be on the Wildcats. Arizona have always had some problems on the defensive side of the football, but with 9 starters returning to the fold, they should take a step forward this season. One thing they will not have to worry about is scoring points, as I think Khalil Mack at QB could end up being the star of the conference.

  15. #45
    2018 GOY - Best Bets
    July 11, 2018


    Odds per Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook

    Week 2

    South Carolina +14.5 vs. Georgia


    I’ve already explained how bullish I am on South Carolina this season. I made this number UGA -4.5, but fully expected it to come out around seven. When South Point opened it at -11 back in June, I was salivating. Turns out, the book moved it to UGA -14 quickly, and now The Westgate SuperBook has opened the Bulldogs at -14.5. Will Muschamp’s team has a great chance to win this game outright. Catching more than two touchdowns at home with a veteran QB, two of the nation’s top wide receivers and Muschamp’s defensive game plan? This is a Week 2 gift! Remember, USC easily cashed tickets in Athens last year as a 24-point road underdog in a 24-10 loss. Let’s also note how Deebo Samuel didn’t play in that game, either. This is a heavy play for me. I’d suggest at least five units and when the money-line return becomes available, at least one unit on that as well.

    Week 3

    Syracuse +9.5 vs. Florida State


    Let’s start by stressing how Syracuse’s 4-8 record last season was such a poor indicator of what sort of team this was. Dino Babers’s second squad was off to a 4-3 start with a win over Clemson, a team that finished 12-2 with its only other loss coming to Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinals. At that point, the Orange’s only defeats were in a trio of close games. They lost 30-23 at home to Middle Tennessee when the two Blue Raiders’ stars, QB Brent Stockstill and WR Richie James, were healthy. The other two L’s were easy spread covers as double-digit underdogs at LSU (35-26) and at N.C. State (33-25). The Tigers and Wolfpack combined to outgain the ‘Cuse by merely 48 yards of total offense. Syracuse took its 4-3 record down to Miami and committed four first-half turnovers. Nevertheless, the Orange rallied in the second half and they were driving deep in UM territory late in the fourth quarter while trailing 27-19, only to come up short. Then in Tallahassee the next week, star QB Eric Dungey injured his foot early in the first quarter and missed a good chunk of the first half. He would return in the second quarter and lead the Orange to 463 yards of total offense. Meanwhile, FSU could muster just 343 yards of total offense. However, Syracuse kicker Cole Murphy, who would earn third-team All-ACC honors and came into the FSU game with 16-of-18 field-goal accuracy, would go 1-of-3 including a 43-yard miss on the game’s final play that would’ve forced overtime. In addition, Babers opted to pass on a short field goal deep in the red zone on a fourth-and-three play with less than a minute remaining in the first half. The 'Cuse failed on the fourth-down attempt. Furthermore, FSU was inexplicably not called for a clear neutral-zone violation on a fourth-and-one stop in the final stanza that proved to be crucial. ‘Cuse fans were also irate about two holding calls that weren’t flagged on a 54-yard TD run from FSU RB Cam Akers. Dungey wouldn’t play in the last three games, all losses, including a home setback to Wake Forest when the Orange allowed a double-digit halftime lead to get away. Before those final three outings sans Dungey, Syracuse was +817 vs. its first nine foes in total yardage. The Orange was minus seven in turnover ratio in those final three games. They bring back eight starters on offense, six on defense and lost just 18 lettermen. I like the home underdogs here for two units in Week 3 and don't be surprised if the Orange wins outright.

    Week 7

    South Carolina +2.5 vs. Texas A&M


    USC is 53-16 in its home games at Williams-Brice Stadium since 2008. The Aggies will be playing their third game outside of College Station in a four-week span, while the Gamecocks will be playing their fifth home game in seven weeks. Since 2009, South Carolina owns a 9-3 spread record in 12 games as a home underdog. Meanwhile, Texas A&M is 6-9 against the spread in its past 15 games as a road ‘chalk’ since 2011. I’d make Muschamp’s bunch a 3.5 or four-point favorite on a neutral field. Let’s go with 2.5 units on USC here for this Oct. 13 encounter.

    Week 8

    Mississippi State +3 at LSU


    Mississippi State has two weeks to prepare for this trip to Baton Rouge on Oct. 20. On the flip side, LSU will be playing its eighth game in eight weeks. The Tigers are at Florida and then host Georgia before facing the set of Bulldogs from Starkville. That’s a brutal three-week span and let’s remember that Ed Orgeron’s bunch must take on Miami at Jerry World and travel to Auburn in September. Before MSU blasted LSU by a 37-7 count last season, the three previous encounters had been decided by 10 combined points. The Bulldogs won 34-29 at Tiger Stadium in 2014 and lost a 23-20 decision in ’16. This is only a one-unit wager for me simply because I’m a tad hesitant with MSU until I see that star QB Nick Fitzgerald is healthy after that gruesome injury at the Egg Bowl. Both schools finished 9-4 last year, but MSU brings back nine starters on offense and eight on defense. LSU return just 10 total starters, five apiece on each side of the ball.

    Week 8

    Utah +4 vs. Southern California


    Three of the past four games in this rivalry have been decided by eight combined points. Since 2012, Utah is 6-3 ATS in nine games as a home underdog. As for USC, it has limped to a 15-24 spread record as a road favorite dating back to 2008. This will be the fourth road assignment for the Trojans in seven weeks. Utah hosts Arizona on a Friday night the previous week, giving it an extra day of preparation. The Utes will be in revenge mode after allowing a 21-7 intermission lead to get away at The Coliseum last year. They missed a two-point conversion with 42 ticks left in a 28-27 loss. Utah went just 7-6 straight up last season, but it finished 10-3 ATS with four defeats coming in one-possessions games. Three of those L’s were by seven combined points. Kyle Whittingham’s punter and place-kicker are back and they were both All-Americans last season. Let’s go with 1.5 units on the Utes in this Oct. 20 Pac-12 showdown.

    Week 8

    Arizona pick ‘em at UCLA


    UCLA lost its head coach, a QB who was the 10th overall pick in the first round of the NFL Draft, its two best wide receivers and its best player on defense. We have a huge edge at the QB position with Arizona’s Khalil Tate, who rushed for 230 yards and two TDs in a 47-30 win over the Bruins last year. I think UA is a Pac-12 South contender, while I have UCLA pegged for the basement of this division. We also have an extra day of preparation with the Wildcats playing at Utah the Friday before. This is another 1.5-unit wager on Oct. 20.

    Week 10

    Stanford +9.5 at Washington


    I’m bullish on both teams this year. Washington is playing its 10th game in 10 weeks in this spot. Stanford has beaten the Huskies in four of the past five season and 10 of the last 13. The Cardinal has lost by double digits only seven times during David Shaw’s seven years at the helm that covers 95 games. They’re 13-4-1 in 18 games as underdogs on Shaw’s watch, winning outright in all three contests in which they were ‘dogs of 9.5 points or more. Stanford has the nation’s best RB (Bryce Love), perhaps the country’s best TE (Kaden Smith), a solid QB (K.J. Costello), two outstanding WRs (J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Trenton Irwin) and the fourth-best offensive line (per Phil Steele’s national unit rankings). Other than at Alabama, I’d probably take the Cardinal +9.5 against any team at any venue. Two units here on Stanford in this Nov. 12 scrap that’ll likely decide the winner of the Pac-12 North.

    Week 13

    South Carolina +23 at Clemson


    Clemson has outscored South Carolina by a combined score of 90-17 in the past two meetings. However, this is Muschamp’s best team and I’d take the Gamecocks +23 against any opponent at any venue this season. Clemson wins by 10-17 points. Just a small one-unit play here.

    Several other leans not mentioned include Stanford pick ‘em at Oregon (9/22), Wisconsin -16.5 vs. Nebraska (10/6) and West Virginia +9.5 at Texas (11/3).

  16. #46
    CFB notebook: Florida to induct Tebow into Ring of Honor
    July 11, 2018


    Former quarterback Tim Tebow will be inducted into Florida's Ring of Honor, the school announced on Wednesday.

    The two-time national champion and 2007 Heisman Trophy winner will be recognized during the Gators' game against LSU on Oct. 6. Tebow's name will be unveiled and displayed in the north end zone of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

    "I am so humbled and thankful to be able to receive this blessing, being inducted into the Ring of Honor," the 30-year-old Tebow said in a statement. "I know in my heart that I truly couldn't have done it without amazing coaches and teammates who loved and sacrificed for each other so that we could accomplish our goals.

    "Loving Florida wasn't just something I did for four years, but it has been a lifelong passion. I want to thank the University of Florida and all the fans for making Gator Nation so special. I was born a Gator, I played as a Gator, and I'll always be a Gator!"

    Tebow is the sixth player to receive the honor. He will join linebacker Wilber Marshall, running back Emmitt Smith, 1966 Heisman winner and coach Steve Spurrier, 1996 Heisman winner Danny Wuerffel and defensive end Jack Youngblood.

    A three-time Heisman Trophy finalist, Tebow posted a 35-6 mark during his four seasons (2006-09) at Florida.

    --Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun told reporters that he is under no obligation to name the team's defensive coordinator.

    The team hasn't named a replacement for Steve Russ, who became the Carolina Panthers' linebackers coach in January. Russ had spent the previous four seasons as Air Force's defensive coordinator and defensive backfield coach.

    Calhoun told ESPN.com on Tuesday that the experience of the defensive staff and its ability to collaborate on play calls and scheme creates little urgency for a designated coordinator.

    Potential in-house candidates for the position are Tim Cross (assistant head coach, defensive line coach), Ron Vanderlinden (inside linebackers), Brian Knorr (edge defenders), John Rudzinski or Chip Vaughn (secondary) and Matt Weikert (outside linebackers).

    --Rutgers defensive back K.J. Gray and linebacker Brendan DeVera have been dismissed from the program for violating team rules, multiple media outlets reported.

    Gray, a junior, and DeVera, a sophomore, were expected to play key roles on defense and special teams this season.

    The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Gray recorded a secondary-best 58 tackles last season to go along with two interceptions.

    DeVera, who is listed at 6-1 and 242 pounds, notched two tackles while playing in 11 games as a true freshman last fall.

    --Defensive end Mark Brown has left San Diego State and transferred to Texas Tech, the Red Raiders confirmed after several weeks of rumors that he would make the move.

    Brown, who played at Arlington Heights High in Fort Worth, Texas, was a three-star recruit for the Aztecs in 2017 and took a redshirt year as a freshman last season.

    Although he did not play in a game, Brown made an impression at San Diego State, being named as the program's Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year.

    Brown will sit out this season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules and have three years of eligibility remaining.

    --Georgia wide receiver Michael Chigbu, who during the spring indicated he might give up football because of injuries, is not listed in the Bulldogs' 2018 media guide.

    The 6-foot-2, 213-pound Chigbu, once a highly rated prospect who would be a senior this season, has battled shoulder and knee injuries the last two years.

    Head coach Kirby Smart acknowledged in April that Chigbu "may be thinking about hanging it up."

    As a sophomore at Georgia, Chigbu enjoyed his best season by starting seven of the nine games in which he played and making nine receptions for 88 yards. Chigbu did not catch a pass last season and has 13 receptions and 116 receiving yards for his career.

  17. #47
    Handicapping Northwestern (7.5)
    July 12, 2018


    The Northwestern Wildcats are coming off a 10-win season, but they have to replace their all-time leading rusher and they have to hope that quarterback Clayton Thorson is healthy. Winning 10 games again in 2018 will not be easy, but most of the tough games for Northwestern in 2018 are at home and they don’t have to play Ohio State or Penn State.

    Let’s look at the Wildcats schedule to see if they will go over of under their win total of 7.5.

    2018 Northwestern Wildcats Regular Season Win Total
    Over 7.5 (-115)
    Under 7.5 (-115)


    2018 Northwestern Wildcats Schedule Analysis

    Aug. 30 at Purdue
    The Wildcats don’t have a non-conference opponent to fatten up on to start the season, as they have to get right into Big Ten play against Purdue. The Wildcats should win this game, but only if Thorson is completely healthy and ready to go.

    Sept. 8 Duke
    This is a tricky home opener for Northwestern, as Duke is capable of springing the upset. The good news for Northwestern is that they have won the last two games in this series.

    Sept. 15 Akron
    This should be a breather for the Wildcats before they have to run the gauntlet. The Zips have not won a game against a Big Ten team this decade and they shouldn’t win this one.

    Sept. 29 Michigan
    The first huge game of the season comes in late September, as the Wildcats host Michigan. The Wolverines are expected to be improved, so this is a huge litmus test for Northwestern and a likely home loss.

    Oct. 6 at Michigan State
    The Wildcats have actually won the last two games in this series, so Michigan State will not be overlooking Northwestern. This looks like a road defeat for the Wildcats.

    Oct. 13 Nebraska

    The Cornhuskers have a new head coach in Scott Frost and a new outlook. This could be a tough home contest for the Wildcats.

    Oct. 20 at Rutgers
    The Scarlet Knights have been an easy win for most Big Ten teams, as Rutgers is just 5-22 in the Big Ten since 2015. This should be a road win for Northwestern.

    Oct. 27 Wisconsin
    The Wildcats have the home field edge in this contest, but Wisconsin is considered one of the top teams in the Big Ten, so this looks like a home loss.

    Nov. 3 Notre Dame
    The Wildcats get to play at home again, but they will be home underdogs to a Notre Dame team that could be a national title contender.

    Nov. 10 at Iowa
    The Wildcats have won the last two in this series, but this game is on the road and Iowa is normally very good at home.

    Nov. 17 at Minnesota

    The Gophers will want revenge for last season when they were shutout by Northwestern. This will not be an easy game for the Wildcats, but one they need to win if they are to finish with a winning record.

    Nov. 24 Illinois
    This is a rivalry game and it should go the way of the Wildcats, as they are at home and they have taken four of the last five in the series.

    2018 Northwestern Wildcats Regular Season Win Total Prediction


    The Wildcats don’t have to play Ohio State or Penn State, but their schedule is still difficult. The only real advantage they have is getting to play some of their tough games at home. That may not be enough of an edge, as Northwestern is not known as a team that has a big home field advantage.

    The win total for the Wildcats is set at 7.5 games. That number seems too high, considering the team will have to win eight games to go over that number. Breaking down the schedule we find five games that Northwestern should win (Purdue, Duke, Akron, Rutgers, Illinois), four games they are likely to lose (Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Wisconsin) and three toss-up games (Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota). The Wildcats would need to win all three of their toss-up games to get to eight wins and go over their win total of 7.5.

    That seems unlikely, so we’ll go under the win total of 7.5 for the 2018 Northwestern Wildcats.

  18. #48
    2018 MAC Preview
    July 15, 2018

    2018 MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE PREVIEW


    FU Northwestern

    A promising high school career for Damair Roberson, a dynamic 6-foot-2, 195-pound receiver/linebacker/return man and a three-star prospect, is over abruptly. He will miss his entire senior high school season this fall after re-injuring the same knee mid-season last year.

    The betrayal that Roberson felt after learning the scholarship offer from Northwestern University was no longer valid really hurt. Even after the second injury, Western Michigan University honored its commitment to Roberson and kept its offer on the table. In turn, Roberson rewarded that loyalty with a commitment to the Broncos. Remember his name down the road.

    Rivalries Abound

    The MAC has its fair share of intense rivalries, including the Battle of the Bricks (Ohio vs. Miami), the Michigan MAC Trophy (Central, Eastern and Western Michigan), the Battle of I-75 (Toledo vs. Bowling Green) and the Wagon Wheel (Akron vs. Kent State). Rest assured, despite being Group of Fivers, these rivalries remain intense.

    Bowl Busts

    The MAC has disappointed in bowl games, especially the past 10 seasons as they are just 15-41 SU and 18-36-2 ATS overall.

    Worse, in bowl games against foes coming off a loss the MAC has gone 3-21 SU and 4-19-1 ATS since 2008, including 0-6 SUATS as either a pick or a favorite. Yikes.

    Note: The numbers following each team name represents the amount of returning starters on offense and defense, along with the number of returning linemen, with an asterisk (*) designating a returning quarterback.

    AKRON (Offense – *6/3, Defense – 9/3, 58 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME:
    AS GOOD FORTUNE WOULD HAVE IT

    The saying “you’re better off being lucky than good” applied in spades to the Zips last season when Terry Bowden’s troops went bowling despite surrendering 126 YPG more than they gained. However, thanks to a +10 net turnover ratio, and winning three games by a total of 5 points, Akron somehow won the MAC East title in 2017. They were ultimately obliterated by Toledo and Florida Atlantic in the MAC title and Boca Raton Bowl games, respectively, when they surrendered 95 points and 1,153 yards. To top it off, longtime DC Chuck Amato has retired. Fortunately, the Zips bring back an experienced crew of underclassmen. Soph QB Kato Nelson holds promise, but they’ll likely need Lady Luck to come calling again.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Zips head coach Bowden is 3-18 SU and 4-16-1 ATS as a home dog against .400 or greater opponents.

    PLAY AGAINST: at Kent State (10/20)

    BALL STATE (Offense – *9/4, Defense – 7/0, 51 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME: A NEU APPROACH

    After a 2-1 start last season under new coach Mike Neu, it appeared that Ball State was about to shake a 4-year losing skid. And then faster than you can say there goes Riley (QB Neal, 68% completions in his first three games, then done with an injury), the season went to hell in a hand bag thanks to a cruiseship of injuries as the Cardinals were forced to close out with a group of replacemant “neubies”. By season’s end, they were down to a 4th string freshman signal caller. Their starting WRs played a combined 5 games and only half of the starters on defense made it through unscathed. Neal’s 5,000 career passing yards are back along with a skill corps loaded with experience, led by RB James Gilbert. Take two.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Ball State freshmen started 32.2% of all games last season – the 2nd most in the nation.

    PLAY ON: vs. Eastern Michigan (10/20)

    BOWLING GREEN (Offense – *6/3, Defense – 8/2, 38 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME:
    LO JINKS ERA OFF TO ROUGH START

    When new coaches inherit 10-win programs, there is almost always no place to go but downhill. In Mike Jinks’ case, the Falcons have been on a slippery slalom run with just 4-and-2 win seasons in his tenure with Bowling Green. The good news is that after inking strong recruiting classes the last two years (26 three-star recruits), the course finally appears manageable. Sophomores (from Jinks’ first class) logged plenty of playing time last season, led by QB Jarret Doege (64% completions with 12 TDs and 3 INTs) and RB’s Andrew Clair and Matt Domer (819 combined rush yards on 6.5 YPR). FYI: Doege is the younger brother of former Texas Tech QB Seth Doege. With new DC Carl Pelini in tow, look for the ascent to begin.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Falcons have gone 37-5 SU in games in which they won the stats, and 5-30 SU in games in which they lost the stats over the last six years.

    PLAY ON: vs. Akron (11/17)

    BUFFALO (Offense – *8/3, Defense – 6/2, 51 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME:
    BREAK ON THROUGH TO THE OTHER SIDE

    Call the 2017 season a steppingstone for the Bulls. A 6-6 record saw all six losses coming by a combined 29 points. Despite being forced to start three different quarterbacks due to injuries, they rolled up a school-record 5,183 yards of total offense while leading the MAC in passing yardage. It’s not often a team features a QB (Drew Anderson) that threw for a conference-record 597 yards and seven TDs in one game that may not be its starter. He’ll be in a heated battle with talented incumbent starter Tyree Jackson. On defense, the firepower comes from SR MLB Khalil Hodge who ranked second in the nation in tackles in 2017, and owns 277 total the last two seasons. No bull. This team looks primed for a breakthrough season.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Since joining the MAC in 1999, Buffalo is 9-59 SU versus winning opponents.

    PLAY ON: vs. Akron (10/13)

    CENTRAL MICHIGAN (Offense – 4/2, Defense – 6/2, 40 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME: GIMME FIVE

    After winning 7, 6, 7, 7 and 6 games each of the previous five seasons, the Chippewas broke rank last year to go 8-5, thanks largely to a 4-0 record in one-possession games, and a five-game season-ending win skein. Michigan transfer QB Shane Morris produced an eyebrow-raising 164.1 passer rating during his final five starts for the Chips last season, but he and four of his top five targets are gone. In addition, RB Jonathan Ward also stepped up down the stretch, rushing for 625 yards (7.1 YPR) over the same span late in the season. If 6’7” sophomore QB Tony Poljan can fill Morris’ shoes, CMU should reach its 5th straight bowl game in 2018. Stay tuned. STAT YOU WILL LIKE: CMU is 18-7 SU and 19-6 ATS away from Game Six out the last six years.

    PASS

    EASTERN MICHIGAN (Offense – 6/5, Defense – 7/2, 46 Lettermen)


    TEAM THEME: TURN UP THE GREEN

    Head coach Chris Creighton has put his stamp on the EMU program. One of 14 active FBS coaches to record more than 150 wins, the 49-year-old Creighton guided the school to its first win in 126 seasons over a Big Ten or Power Five team last season. The Eagles’ 12 wins over the last two seasons is Eastern Michigan’s best two-year stretch since 1988-89. More important, nine of those 12 wins have been by a TD of less, meaning they’ve learned how to win close-call games. It’s no coincidence that Creighton’s teams at Drake sport the highest win percentage in school history (21-2 in home games). It’s now time he takes this program to the next level. Don’t bet against him.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Eastern Michigan allowed the fewest points (280) in school history last season.

    PLAY ON: at Western Michigan (10/6)

    KENT STATE (Offense – 7/3, Defense – 6/2, 49 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME:
    FLASH: EVERYTHING NEW IS OLD AGAIN

    The Paul Haynes experiment lasted five years before the Flashes finally pulled the plug, as a 14-41 record was all the proof they needed. What more could you expect from a team that finished dead last in Red Zone Defense last season, and a program that’s won more than six games in a season just once in the last 30 years. Enter new boss Sean Lewis, a former Dino Babers assistant at Syracuse. And with Lewis comes a major shift in offensive identity. But for a team that does not have the proper personnel on the roster to effectuate the planned attack – and one that might not find itself favored in any game this season – expecting immediate improvement is certainly a stretch for KSU.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Flashes were 4-40 SU and 9-34 ATS in games in which they scored less than 24 points under Paul Haynes.

    PLAY ON: at Buffalo (11/6)

    MIAMI-OHIO (Offense – *8/5, Defense – 8/3, 47 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME:
    MY FAVORITE MARTIN

    Despite a seventh consecutive losing season, the RedHawks are actually 11-8 in their last nineteen games overall – with five of the losses coming in one-possession games. Read: Miami is making strides under Chuck Martin who, unfortunately, will likely have to win this year if he wishes to return next season. The good news is Miami welcomes back 18 seniors, including one at nearly every position. A settled offensive line (an unstable one last year that started eight different linemen) operates in front of QB Gus Ragland (10-6 as a starter and an all MAC nominee). Coupled with a defense loaded with upperclassmen that finds seven of the top eight linemen, four of the top five linebackers and five of the top seven defensive back all returning, this team looks ready to turn the page.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Miami is 5-17 in one-possession games under Chuck Martin.

    PLAY ON: vs. Marshall (9/1) - *KEY

    NORTHERN ILLINOIS (Offense – *8/5, Defense – 6/2, 54 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME:
    BEWARE OF THE DOGS

    Talk about a statistical anomaly: despite improving from 5 wins to 8 last season, the Huskies’ offense evaporated 85 YPG, whereas the defense finished No. 26 overall in the land, improving 113 YPG. The bad news this season is NIU’s first three non-conference games are against Power 5 bowlers, including visits to Florida State and Iowa. The good news is most of the starters from the stop-unit are back, including DL Sutton Smith who led the nation in Tackles For a Loss last season. Should they finally find continuity behind center (forced to use 8 different quarterbacks over the past 31 games) to go with the best Group of 5-defense while facing a daunting non-conference slate, NIU becomes the team to beat in the MAC this season.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Huskies are 30-10 SU and 27-12-1 ATS in their last forty road games.

    PASS

    OHIO (Offense – *8/4, Defense – 5/2, 50 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME:
    FRANKLY SPEAKING

    As we alluded to last year on this page, in Frank Solich’s 73 years on this earth, including 13 with the Bobcats, they’ve managed to win four MAC division titles while also going bowling 9 of the last ten years. It would have been five had they not folded during the final two games of last season. Safe to say, Solich is certainly battle tested. The former head coach and running back at Nebraska has raised OU from the depths of despair to a highly competitive program, one that seems to play an abundance of close games (21 decided by a TD or less the last four seasons). Star QB Nathan Rourke and RB A.J. Ouellette each return along with a boatload of other starters from an offense that improved 13 PPG last season. Mixed in with the Bobcats taking on 3rd easiest schedule of all Group of 5 schools in 2018 with foes going 59-88 (.401) last season, we frankly expect more from OU in 2018.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: For the second season in a row, the Bobcats will face only two teams this year that owned a winning record last season.

    PLAY ON: vs. Buffalo (11/14)

    TOLEDO (Offense – 6/2, Defense – 6/1, 53 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME:
    CANDLE IN THE WIND

    For the first time in 13 years, the Rockets return as MAC champions. This year, though, they must replace 2017 MAC Player of the Year quarterback Logan Woodside, who set just about every Toledo passing record in the books. That being said, they will not be lacking at wide receiver as UT is the first team in NCAA history to return three players – Cody Thompson, Diontae Johnson and Jon’Vea Johnson – who have earned all-league honors and caught at least 10 TD passes in a season. In addition, the offensive line returns five players with starting experience. Like his predecessor Matt Campbell with 20 wins under his belt in his first two seasons at Toledo, Candle could move up to a Power 5 school sooner than later.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The straight-up winner In The Stats in Toledo’s games last season won every game on the scoreboard.

    PLAY ON: as a dog vs. Miami Florida (9/15)

    WESTERN MICHIGAN (Offense – *8/4, Defense – 5/3, 29 Lettermen)

    TEAM THEME:
    LES IS MORE

    The warning signs were in place for first year head coach Tim Lester last season. Inheriting the winningest program in WMU history, he was left to ‘row the boat’ sans a stud QB and his three top WRs, including Corey Davis (a first-round pick in the NFL Draft). In addition, Lester lost his best offensive lineman, his top pass rusher and his top safety in the second game to season-ending knee injuries. The poor guy never stood a chance. To his credit, though, Lester reeled in the second-best class in the MAC with 19 three-star recruits. Add to that 74 career starts back on the OL to protect QB Jon Wassink, who shined over the second half of the season. Suddenly, the oars are back in the water.

    STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Broncos were No. 2 in the nation in fumbles recovered last season.

    PLAY ON: vs. Northern Illinois (11/20)

  19. #49
    Miss State Breakdown
    July 16, 2018


    Expectations are understandably high for Joe Moorhead’s first season as the head coach at Mississippi State. The former Penn State offensive coordinator under James Franklin went 38-13 as HC at FCS Fordham from 2012-15. Moorhead takes over for Dan Mullen, who left Starkville to take the Florida gig after guiding the Bulldogs to eight consecutive bowl games during his nine-year tenure.

    Moorhead walks into an outstanding situation. MSU returns nine starters on offense and eight on defense from a team that finished last year 9-4 straight up and 8-5 against the spread.

    There are questions, though. The defense will have its fifth different coordinator in the past five years. Todd Grantham’s hire as DC before the 2017 campaign was a stroke of genius by Mullen. His 3-4 scheme turned around a stop unit in ’16 that allowed 31.8 points per game. On Grantham’s watch, the MSU defense gave up merely 20.9 PPG last season.

    But this unit is going back to a 4-3 under veteran DC Bob Shoop, who was at Tennessee the last two years after running PSU’s defense in 2014 and ’15. Former South Alabama head coach was hired to coach special teams, while Moorhead’s first OC is Luke Getsy, who had been on the Green Bay Packers’ staff for the past four seasons, coaching WRs the last two years.

    Another concern is the health of star quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who sustained a dislocated ankle in the Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss in late November. If he’s healthy, Fitzgerald is one of the SEC’s premier signal callers.

    His strength is his ability to make big plays with his legs. Fitzgerald garnered third-team All-SEC honors in ’16 when he finished second in the SEC in rushing yards (1,375) and tops in rushing touchdowns (16). He also threw for 2,423 yards with a 21/10 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

    Fitzgerald, who averaged 7.1 yards per carry in ’16, ran for 984 yards and 14 TDs last season while averaging 6.1 YPC. He completed 55.6 percent of his passes for 1,782 yards with a 15/11 TD-INT ratio.

    With Fitzgerald going down in the first half vs. Ole Miss, it gave back-up QB Keytaon Thompson a chance to gain valuable experience as a true freshman. He ran for 121 yards and one TD on 26 carries against the Rebels. Then in a 31-27 win over Lamar Jackson and Louisville at the Taxslayer Bowl, Thompson rushed 27 times for 147 yards and three TDs.

    His throwing is still a work in progress. Thompson completed just 11-of-20 passes for 127 yards with one interception vs. U of L. For the season, he connected on 48.5 percent of his throws for 388 yards with a 2/2 TD-INT ratio. Thompson ran for 446 yards and six TDs with a 5.9 YPC average.

    The Bulldogs bring back their top six rushers, including junior running back Aeris Williams, who ran for 1,108 yards and six TDs with a 4.7 YPC average. They also return their top two WRs in Jesse Jackson and Keith Mixon.

    The entire defensive line returns, including a pair of first-team All-SEC selections in senior DE Montez Sweat and junior DT Jeffery Simmons. Sweat recorded 48 tackles, 10.5 sacks (tied for tops in the SEC), five tackles for loss and four QB hurries, while Simmons produced 60 tackles, five sacks, seven TFL’s, five QB hurries and one PBU.

    Phil Steele’s preseason magazine ranks MSU’s defensive line as the nation’s third-best in his national unit rankings. Steele has Sweat ranked as the country’s sixth-best DE in terms of projection to next year’s NFL Draft, while Simmons is slotted fourth among DTs who will be draft-eligible in the spring of 2019.

    Another defensive standout is senior safety Mark McLaurin, who led MSU in tackles (79) and was tied for the SEC lead in interceptions (six). He also had six PBU, two TFL’s and 1.5 sacks.

    The non-conference schedule has three home games (vs. SF Austin, vs. Louisiana and La. Tech) and a Week 2 road assignment at Kansas State. Steele ranks MSU’s schedule as the fifth-toughest in the SEC and No. 32 nationally.

    The foes from the SEC East are Kentucky and Florida. The Bulldogs travel to Lexington to face UK on Sept. 22 and then they host UF and their former coach on Sept. 29 at Scott Field.

    Two teams get an extra week of preparation for MSU. The Ragin’ Cajuns have an open date before coming to Starkville, as does Texas A&M for an Oct. 27 date. The Bulldogs are in a situational advantage at LSU on Oct. 20 since their open date comes the prior weekend. They get the Aggies at home one week after going to Baton Rouge.

    MSU has 12/1 odds to win the SEC at Sportsbook.ag. The offshore website has the Bulldogs listed as three-point favorites at KSU in its Games of the Year. They’re three-point home ‘chalk’ vs. the Gators, seven-point home underdogs vs. Auburn (with a -120 price), three-point underdogs at LSU, four-point home favorites (with a -120 price) vs. A&M, 19.5-point road ‘dogs at Alabama and 10.5-point road ‘chalk’ at Ole Miss.

    Moorhead’s squad has a win total of eight (-120 ‘under’, -110 ‘over’). MSU’s odds to make the College Football Playoff are 15/1 and it has 70/1 odds to win the CFP. The Bulldogs’ opener vs. SF Austin is not lined for now, but gamblers will probably get a spread for that game about 24 hours before kickoff.

    Steele’s power rankings have MSU at No. 16 and his projection is for the Bulldogs to finish the season at No. 21 come January. I have the Bulldogs at No. 13 in my preseason power rankings.

    When I first broke down MSU’s schedule, I marked it 6-1 with five swing games. Those five include at KSU, vs. UF, vs. Auburn, at LSU and at Ole Miss. As I explained last week, I’m on Mississippi State +3 at LSU. I lean to the Bulldogs +7 vs. AU, but that game falls one week after hosting the Gators. With all the emotion that’ll go into that UF game going against Mullen, I simply worry that a major letdown scenario could be in play if MSU beats UF.

    I’m going to call for MSU to win at LSU and avenge last year’s Egg Bowl defeat. We saw Auburn get extremely fortunate to escape Kansas State with a win in 2014. With some uncertainty about how healthy Fitzgerald will be in September, I’ll say that MSU gets clipped by the Wildcats on the road in Week 2.

    As for the back-to-back home games vs. AU and UF, I’ll call for a split. I have no idea what sort of QB play the Gators are going to get but if it’s decent, UF’s got a good shot in Starkville because MSU might be a little too amped for that game. If the Bulldogs can get past the Gators, that’s a tough spot vs. the Tigers, who host a pair of weak teams in Arkansas and Southern Miss in the two contests beforehand.

    I loved Moorhead’s offense at PSU, but it’s a ‘wait-and-see deal’ with him as a head coach. I’ll call for a 9-3 campaign, but I’m not recommending a play on ‘over’ eight for the win total. That’s because I like to have a 1.5-game cushion to make a play on a win total. In other words, MSU’ tally would have to be 7.5 for me to push an ‘over’ wager or 10.5 to tout an ‘under’ bet.

    **B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

    -- Here’s how Steele had MSU in his national unit rankings: No. 14 at QB, No. 19 at RB, No. 43 at WR, No. 20 on the offensive line, No. 3 on DL, No. 29 at LB, No. 18 at DB and No. 51 on special teams.

    -- My rankings of MSU’s best players:
    1-Simmons
    2-Sweat
    3-Fitzgerald
    4-Williams
    5-McLaurin

    -- MSU has high hopes for DB Brian Cole, who redshirted last year after transferring from Michigan. Another transfer who adds depth to the defensive line is Chauncey Rivers, who started his career at Georgia before going the juco route.

    -- The top two recruits in Moorhead’s first class are WRs. Stephen Guidry is expected to step into the starting lineup right away after the juco transfer chose MSU and participate in spring practice. The other is Devonta Jason, a four-star signee who left high school early to be in Starkville for spring practice.

    -- Moorhead’s first recruiting haul was ranked 25th nationally by Rivals.com. There were 23 players signed, including seven four-star players and 14 three-stars.

    -- MSU’s 2019 class is currently ranked 19th nationally at Rivals.com. There are 17 players verbally committed, including a quartet of four-star players and 11 three-stars. However, this class is ranked higher at 247Sports (12th as of 7/16/18).

    -- 247Sports also has MSU assistant Mark Hudspeth ranked second nationally in its 2019 Recruiter Rankings. Hudspeth just completed a seven-year tenure as the HC at Louisiana before getting fired after a 5-7 campaign. He led the Ragin’ Cajuns to four straight 9-4 seasons to start his run with the school, including four straight wins at the New Orleans Bowl (three in which they were underdogs).

  20. #50
    Tuesday’s 6-pack

    — Best part of the All-Star Game will be seeing Nick Markakis getting introduced; 2,171 hits, 1,020 runs scored, but his very first All-Star Game.
    — Phillies lead the NL East, despite being 7-11 against Marlins/Mets.
    — They drew 38,071 fans in Washington Sunday for the Futures game.
    — Each NFL team cashed in $255M in revenue sharing LY, up 4.9% from 2016.
    — Suns’ Dragan Bender played 110:00 in summer league, took no foul shots. Not good.
    — Umpire Ben May has worked 12 games behind plate this year; road team won all 12.

    Quote of the Day
    “Young guys…….YOU HAVE TO PLAY BASKETBALL IN THE SUMMERTIME TO BE GOOD AT PLAYING BASKETBALL……. ”
    Damien Wilkins, who played 10 years in the NBA

    Tuesday’s quiz

    In the movie Rounders, what actor plays Russian gangster Teddy KGB?

    Monday’s quiz
    2003 was the last time two brothers played in the same All-Star Game, when Bret and Aaron Boone both made the All-Star team.

    Sunday’s quiz
    Texas Rangers were the Washington Senators before moving to the Lone Star State.


    Tuesday’s List of 13: Some of my favorite (non-sports) movies:

    1) Rounders— Movie about a law student/poker player; this movie is credited with helping the poker boom in the late 90’s.

    2) Dave— Kevin Kline is hired to “stand-in” for the President because he looks just like him, but then the President has a stroke, and Kline has a new job.

    3) The Bodyguard— Kevin Costner is a former Secret Service agent hired to protect a famous singer, who has a contract out on her.

    4) Last Vegas— Four senior citizens who are lifelong friends head to Las Vegas for a bachelor party; their 70-year old friend is marrying a 30-year old. Morgan Freeman wins $87K playing blackjack, because, doesn’t everyone win in Vegas?

    5) Begin Again— Down and out music producer discovers a talented young singer; together they produce an album, using New York City as the background.

    6) Good Will Hunting— Robin Williams is a counselor who tries to help a young delinquent (who is also a Math genius) find his way.

    7) The Verdict— Paul Newman is a down-on-his-luck lawyer who has a chance to win a big case and rehabilitate his career.

    There is a scene in this movie that would never fly today; Newman’s character has a girlfriend in the movie- turns out she is a double-agent, working for the opposing lawyer to gain intel on the big case.

    When Newman finds out, he meets the girlfriend in the lounge of a bar and decks her with one punch. Ouch.

    8) Leap of Faith— Steve Martin runs amok as a traveling preacher; Debra Winger is his partner, Liam Neeson is the local sheriff trying to shut his act down. Meat Loaf is part of the music group that travels with the preacher.

    9) Let It Ride— Richard Dreyfuss is a degenerate gambler who has one big day at the racetrack.

    10) This Is Where I Leave You— After their father dies, four grown siblings return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week.

    11) Lincoln Lawyer— Matthew McConaughey plays a lawyer whose office is the back seat of his Lincoln Continental.

    12) Prince of Tides— Nick Nolte is a high school football coach from South Carolina who travels to New York and falls for his sister’s therapist (Barbra Streisand).

    13) One More Time— Christopher Walken is a past-his-prime lounge singer trying for one last comeback.

  21. #51
    Handicapping Iowa (7.5)
    July 17, 2018


    The Iowa Hawkeyes are coming off a very inconsistent season, as they had huge highs, like a win over Ohio State, but bad lows, including a loss to Purdue. Head coach Kirk Ferentz must find a way to replace a number of key players, but Iowa does return quarterback Nate Stanley.

    The Hawkeyes have a favorable schedule in 2018 that has them playing almost all of their tough opponents at Kinnick Stadium, and Iowa also avoids Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State.

    Let’s look at the Hawkeyes schedule to see if they will go over or under their win total of 7.5.

    Iowa Hawkeyes 2018 Regular Season Win Total
    Over 7.5 (-115)
    Under 7.5 (-115)


    Iowa Hawkeyes 2018 Schedule Analysis

    Sept. 1 vs. Northern Illinois
    The Hawkeyes don’t get a cupcake in the opener, but the Hawkeyes have not lost a home opener since 2013. The opponent just happened to be Northern Illinois, but the Huskies are not as good now as they were five years ago.

    Sept. 8 vs. Iowa State
    The Hawkeyes have won the last three in this rivalry matchup, including 44-41 last season. The Cyclones have won two of the last three at Iowa, but the Hawkeyes have more talent than Iowa State and should get this win.

    Sept. 15 vs. Northern Iowa
    This is another instate game, although not really a rivalry game. The Hawkeyes won’t be overlooking Northern Iowa, as they only won by eight points in this matchup four years ago.

    Sept. 22 vs. Wisconsin
    The first big game of the season for Iowa is at home, as they host the Badgers. This should be a defensive war and the winner will take the early lead in the division.

    Oct. 6 at Minnesota
    The first road game of the season for the Hawkeyes doesn’t come until October. They get a bye to prepare and Iowa has won the last three and five of the last six in the series.

    Oct. 13 at Indiana
    These teams have not played since 2015, but Iowa has dominated the series of late, winning six of the last seven. This should be a road win for the Hawkeyes.

    Oct. 20 vs. Maryland
    The Hawkeyes return home for what should be an easy matchup against the Terps. The Terps have won just one road game against a Big Ten West team since they joined the conference.

    Oct. 27 at Penn State
    The toughest road game of the season for Iowa is at Penn State in late October. The Hawkeyes nearly beat Penn State last season but the Nittany Lions got a last second game winning TD pass. The Hawkeyes have lost their last two at Penn State and neither game was close.

    Nov. 3 at Purdue
    This could be a dangerous game for Iowa, as it is the fourth road game in five weeks. Iowa will be playing with revenge though, as they were upset at home last year by the Boilermakers.

    Nov. 10 vs. Northwestern
    This is not an automatic home win for Iowa, as the Wildcats have won the last two meetings in this series. This could be the second-toughest home game of the season for the Hawkeyes.

    Nov. 17 at Illinois
    The Hawkeyes have dominated this series of late, winning four straight and eight of the last nine. This should be a good road win for the Hawkeyes.

    Nov. 23 vs. Nebraska
    The regular season finale is on a Friday and it could be a huge game for both teams in the division. The Cornhuskers will have a new head coach this season in Scott Frost and he will have his system fully in place by the time this game rolls around.

    2018 Iowa Hawkeyes Win Total Prediction

    The Hawkeyes have a very favorable schedule, as they really only have two games in which they should be listed as underdogs, and one of those games is at home. If the Hawkeyes win their other 10 games they would go 10-2 and easily go over their win total of 7.5. Even if they drop a couple of those games they would still go 8-4 and go over their win total for the 2018 regular season.

  22. #52
    The Latest: Coach says WVU QB Grier ready for Heisman grind
    July 17, 2018

    FRISCO, Texas (AP) The Latest on Big 12 football media days (all times local):


    4 p.m.

    Oklahoma State Mike Gundy has plenty of questions at quarterback and receiver. He doesn't have one at running back.

    Justice Hill will chase his third 1,000-yard season in three years with the Cowboys. His 1,467 yards rushing last season were the most at Oklahoma State since Kendall Hunter had 1,548 in 2010.

    Gundy says Hill's ''leg strength, his power, his experience playing in games, his understanding of our offense, his pass protection, all of that got considerably better,'' as a sophomore. The coach says the third year is ''really a year if you're as talented as he is and you can relax and play.''

    The Cowboys are trying to replace Mason Rudolph, who threw for a school-record 4,904 yards before getting drafted in the third round by Pittsburgh. Both 1,000-yard receivers from last year, James Washington and Marcell Ateman, also are gone.

    Gundy says ''the interesting part of that question is how well our quarterbacks can play early in the year, compared to the immaturity we have at the wide receiver spot.''

    ---

    2:45 p.m.

    Kansas State coach Bill Snyder brought his top two quarterbacks to Big 12 media days while several of his fellow coaches, notably Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley and Tom Herman of Texas, decided against it.

    Alex Delton and Skylar Thompson were two of the five quarterbacks to make the trip to the Dallas area for the annual preseason meeting with reporters.

    Snyder said he saw it as ''a great opportunity to imply some preseason pressure so you've got to practice the things you're going to experience so there is a little bit of pressure in them being here.''

    Delton and Thompson are battling for the starting job for the Wildcats and could share time.

    Riley didn't bring Kyler Murray, who was picked ninth overall by Oakland in the June baseball draft and reached a deal with the A's that lets him play a year of football. Riley says Murray hasn't won the job. Herman left behind Sam Ehlinger and Shane Buechele after they split time at the position for the Longhorns last season.

    Snyder says he understands ''as everybody in here does that that quarterback is under a little more scrutiny than most positions.''

    ---

    1:30 p.m.

    Texas coach Tom Herman isn't ready to say how many championship-caliber players he has on the roster going into his second season.

    The 43-year-old Herman was a bit thrown by the question of how many potential All-Americans he thought he had as the Longhorns try to close the gap on rival and three-time defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma. The Sooners have made the four-team playoff two of the past three years.

    Herman said on the second day of Big 12 media days Tuesday that ''if I'm being honest'' Texas has more impact players on defense. The Longhorns ended a three-year streak of losing seasons in Herman's debut, and the defense often carried a sluggish offense.

    Herman adds that ''every coach that sits up here will tell you not enough, even the ones that are playing for and winning national championships.''

    The former Houston coach said ''it's been a fantastic year since the last time we were here,'' but acknowledged that 7-6 is not a good enough record for a title-chasing program.

    ---

    11 a.m.

    West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen didn't hesitate giving his blessing to a Heisman Trophy campaign for quarterback Will Grier.

    The Florida transfer is the Big 12 preseason offensive player of the year, and the Mountaineers hope will become the conference's second straight Heisman-winning quarterback following Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield.

    Holgorsen said on the final day of Big 12 media days Tuesday that he ''would never approve a campaign unless I felt like a player can handle it.''

    Grier is the only returning QB among the top six passers in the Big 12 last season. He threw for 3,490 yards with 34 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in his first season for West Virginia after sitting out a year.

    Grier's season ended in the first quarter of the 11th game against Texas because of a hand injury.

    Holgorsen says spring football showed the game slowing down for Grier and that he ''knows that he's got a lot of good players around him and that he doesn't have to go out there and be Superman.''

    ---

    9 a.m.

    Tom Herman returns to Big 12 football media days as a winner with Texas.

    Herman and the Longhorns are among the five teams that will take part Tuesday to wrap up Big 12 media days.

    When Herman was on the podium in Frisco for the first time last summer, the Longhorns were coming off three consecutive losing seasons and he hadn't yet coached a game for them.

    Texas lost the first and last games of its regular season, but finished 7-6 after a 33-16 win over Missouri in the Texas Bowl.

    West Virginia, with preseason Big 12 offensive player of the year quarterback Will Grier, will also be featured Tuesday, along with Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State.

  23. #53
    Handicapping Minnesota (6)
    July 18, 2018


    The first season for P.J. Fleck at Minnesota didn’t go as planned, as the Golden Gophers went 5-7 overall and just 2-7 in the Big Ten. The Gophers badly need a quarterback if they are to take a step forward.

    The battle for the starting job this season looks to be between redshirt freshman Tanner Morgan and true freshman Zack Annexstad. Oddsmakers believe the Gophers will be improved this season, as they set the win total for Minnesota at six.

    Let’s look at the schedule for Minnesota to see if they will go over or under that number.

    2018 Minnesota Golden Gophers Regular Season Win Total
    Over 6 (-110)
    Under 6 (-120)


    2018 Minnesota Golden Gophers Schedule Analysis

    Aug. 30 vs New Mexico State


    The Gophers begin the season on Thursday night in what is simply a must-win game. The Aggies went 7-6 last season and won their first bowl game in 57 years. These teams have split their two previous meetings.

    Sept. 8 vs. Fresno State

    This is no sure win for the Gophers even though it is at home. The Gophers and Bulldogs have never met, but Minnesota has played 15 games against teams from the Mountain West and they are 12-3.

    Sept. 15 vs. Miami (OH)

    The Gophers get a third straight home game and it should be a win against the RedHawks. Miami went just 5-7 last season and the Gophers are 3-0 all-time against Miami.

    Sept. 22 at Maryland

    The Big Ten opener for Minnesota is on the road against the Terrapins. The Terps are not a good team but neither is Minnesota and this game is on the road. The road team has won this meeting the last two years.

    Oct. 6 vs. Iowa

    The Gophers get an extra week to get ready for this game. This is a Homecoming game for Minnesota and they are 59-37-3 all-time in Homecoming games. Minnesota leads the all-time series against Iowa 62-47-2.

    Oct. 13 at Ohio State

    The Gophers have no chance to win this one. Minnesota is 7-44 all-time against the Buckeyes. The only question is how bad it gets for the Gophers.

    Oct. 20 at Nebraska

    The Gophers won last season 54-21, but Nebraska has a new head coach in Scott Frost and they should be vastly improved. The Gophers lead the all-time series with the Huskers 32-24-2.

    Oct. 26 vs. Indiana

    This will be a Friday night game for the Gophers and one that they need to win if they are to have any chance to become bowl eligible. Minnesota is 38-26-3 all-time against the Hoosiers.

    Nov. 3 at Illinois

    The Gophers are 38-29-3 all-time against Illinois and they have won the last three meetings. If the Gophers are going to get to six wins this is another must-win.

    Nov. 10 vs. Purdue

    The Gophers lead the all-time series 37-33-3 and they have won four of the last five meetings.

    Nov. 17 vs. Northwestern

    The final home game of the regular season is not an easy one for the Gophers, as they face a Northwestern team that went 10-3 last year. Minnesota is 53-35-5 all-time against the Wildcats and they have won the last two home meetings.

    Nov. 24 at Wisconsin

    The Gophers have no real chance to win this game, as they have not won at Wisconsin since 1994. The Badgers are considered national title contenders and they are not going to lose at home to the Gophers.

    2018 Minnesota Golden Gophers Regular Season Win Total Prediction

    The schedule for Minnesota is reasonable, but the problem is that the Gophers simply are not that good. The only sure win on the schedule is the game against Miami. The Gophers will probably beat New Mexico State and Indiana, but that only gets them to three wins. For the Gophers to get to six wins they would have to win games against Fresno State, Maryland and Illinois. They would then need to win another game to get to seven wins and go over their win total. The more likely scenario is that the Gophers go 4-8 or 5-7 and go under their win total in 2018.

  24. #54
    The Latest: Swofford says ACC in 'best shape ever'
    July 18, 2018


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Latest on ACC Media Days (all times local):

    11 a.m.

    Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford says he's excited about the future of his conference, saying at the opening of the ACC Media Days that ''we are in the best shape we have ever been as a conference with football and basketball.''

    He also said the ACC's proposed early signing period change ''has been a positive addition to the recruiting calendar. The early signing period was initiated by the ACC, as was the new redshirt rule.''

    ---

    1:50 a.m.

    The Atlantic Coast Conference opens its preseason media days Wednesday with a focus on the Coastal Division.

    The division hasn't had a repeat champion since 2011. This time, Miami is trying to hang onto that top spot after Mark Richt's Hurricanes had their first 10-win season since 2003.

    The Coastal also features two of the longest-tenured coaches in the league, with Duke's David Cutcliffe and Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson entering their 11th seasons.

    Four of the seven division teams - Miami, Virginia Tech, Duke and Virginia - played in bowl games last year. North Carolina finished last in an injury-riddled three win season, which came just two seasons after the Tar Heels won 11 games and claimed the Coastal crown.

    The two-day session concludes Thursday with the Atlantic Division teams.

  25. #55
    Big 10 Season Outlook
    July 18, 2018


    Last week I began my preseason college football look with a breakdown of the ACC Conference and what to expect from those programs in 2018. Clemson is clearly going to be the class of that conference, but they will have a challenger or two in what is overall a conference that lacks depth.

    That can't really be said about this week's conference I'm taking a look at as the Big 10 is always among the better conferences in college football and should have a handful of teams competing for a CFB Playoff spot.

    So where is my money going here?

    Big 10 Outlook


    2017 was the first time since the CFB Playoff format was introduced that a Big 10 program did not find it's way into one of those four coveted spots as there was too much beating up on one another in the end. Three Big 10 schools finished the year ranked in the Top 10 (Ohio State #5, Wisconsin #7, Penn State #8) but a bad loss by eventual conference champion Ohio State (55-24 @ Iowa as -21 favorites) was too much to overcome and get into the playoff picture.

    I'm not sure if it will be Ohio State in 2018, but I do expect one Big 10 team to find its way back into the Top 4 come Bowl selection time and be involved in the playoffs once again. It will likely be one of the usual suspects (Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Penn State) as a bunch of them are among the favorites to win it all. Ohio State is third in the country in terms of odds (+800) to lift the National Championship trophy, while Michigan (+1400), Penn State (+2000), Wisconsin (+2500) and Michigan State (+3300) are not far behind at 5th, 6th, 11th and 14th respectively. All in all, it's going to be another highly competitive campaign in the Big 10 and hopefully for the conference's sake, we don't see another perfect storm of Team A losing to Team B but beating Team C to keep everyone out of the playoff picture again.

    Most Intriguing Big 10 Future Bet

    Michigan to win the Big 10 (+600)


    Michigan HC Jim Harbaugh was brought back to his alma mater at the start of the 2015 season to help bring this program back to prominence and for the most part he's done that. He had a pair of 10-win campaigns in his first two years before taking a step back with a 8-5 SU season a year ago, and hopes to get back to competing for a conference crown again this year. He brought in Ole Miss transfer QB Shea Patterson who can hopefully spark this Wolverines passing attack that has been their Achilles Heel during the Harbaugh era (Patterson passed for more yards then the entire Michigan offense last year and he played in just seven games at Ole Miss), as the defense should be it's consistent dominant self.

    But for Michigan to go all the way and win this conference at +600, it's more about their schedule then anything else. They start the year with a tough test @ Notre Dame (Michigan is currently a -2.5 road favorite) and a win there could be exactly what this program needs to kick start a great season. They get to host Wisconsin and Penn State this year, visit their rivals Michigan State, and end the regular season with a trip to the horseshoe against Ohio State.

    It's that regular season finale against Ohio State that could end up being for all the marbles and that's what intrigues me most about this Michigan future wager. Harbaugh was brought in to build this Wolverines program back up, but so far he's 0-3 SU against Ohio State in a rivalry game you've got to win a few times as Michigan head coach if you want to stay employed. Going winless against the Buckeyes with an entire class (Michigan's senior class which were Harbaugh's first recruits here) would likely have Harbaugh getting canned and while the pressure there is enormous (especially if a berth in the Big 10 Title game is on the line), it's those big moments that Harbaugh has lived for throughout his coaching career. Obviously a lot of things can happen between now and then for both schools, but if Michigan wins that game and heads to the Big 10 championship, they'd be favored over whomever comes out of the West and then you've got a +600 ticket in your pocket with a favorite. Intriguing to say the least.

    Best Future / Best Season Win Total Under Bet

    Penn State Under 9.5 Wins (-130)


    Similar to Michigan taking a step back in 2017 after they lost a bunch of their best players to the NFL, 2018 looks like Penn State will fit that description to a tee. Gone are All-World RB Saquon Barkley and dynamic TE Mike Gesicki, who was often QB Trace McSorley's go-to guy in crunch time or when the Nittany Lions needed a play. McSorley is still there and should still grow as a great pocket passer, but without a known commodity in the backfield with him that opponents have to key on, he's going to be put on his ass a hell of a lot more this year and that's not ideal. So with defenses keying on McSorley now (either through the air or with his legs), moving the ball is going to be much tougher for Penn State this year and they are already up against some very good defenses in the conference.

    Schedule-wise, things could actually be alot worse for Penn State, as they host Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin, with a trip to Ann Arbor to face Michigan their only tough true road game in conference play. However, even with a bye week in-between their home games against Ohio State and Michigan State, I would expect a split (at best there), a loss in Michigan, and at least one more loss in conference play. They probably top out at 9 wins this year which is just good enough for this bet to cash, although a 7 or 8 win season is just as likely as well.

    Best Season Win Total Over Bet

    Iowa Over 7.5 Wins (+130)


    The fact that this wager is +130 clinched it for me to put it in this spot as I did consider Michigan for this position (Over 8.5 at -200) as well. But Iowa has always been a model of consistency for the most part under Kirk Ferentz, and the veteran coach actually has a very good team this year that should threaten Wisconsin's standing atop the West Division.

    That level of consistency should transfer over to QB Nate Stanley this year who was amazing in their blowout win over Ohio State a year ago (as well as a few other games) but also put up some clunkers as well. As long as Stanley stays healthy for the entire slate, this team should make plenty of noise in the West division simply because their schedule is actually quite soft.

    Iowa gets to completely avoid Ohio State AND Michigan this year from the cross-division games, gets a home game at the end of September against Wisconsin, and their toughest road game is probably going to be their trip to Penn State and you already know my thoughts on the Nittany Lions this year. That's about as good as a Big 10 schedule can look this year and although Iowa may not have the talent that other teams in this conference do, threatening to reach a double-digit win campaign should be a reality for this program in 2018.

    Who Plays in the Big 10 Championship Game?

    Michigan vs Wisconsin

    Answering that question was always going to be the toughest part of this piece as it could be any one of four teams (Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State) coming out of the East to face what will likely be Wisconsin – who is still going to be the class of the West – but with Penn State likely entering a down year and Michigan State tough to trust, it really comes back to that final regular season game between Ohio State and Michigan for me.

    If everything goes according to plan for both programs and they meet that final week with a division title and Big 10 Title game berth on the line, you know Ohio State will be laying significant points – sportsbooks in Vegas who release “Games of the Year” lines have that spread as Ohio State -9 there. It's probably not the smartest decision now to go against a number like that outright, but Harbaugh's winless streak vs Ohio State will be a huge topic of conversation that week, and it's hard to think he could possibly move on from the Michigan gig without a victory over the hated Buckeyes.

  26. #56
    Vanderbilt Breakdown
    July 18, 2018


    For the first time since he arrived at Vanderbilt in 2014, Derek Mason can claim his roster is filled “with all of my guys.” When James Franklin bolted Music City to take the head-coaching job at Penn State, Mason scored the Vandy gig after a nice run as defensive coordinator at Stanford.

    He faced a daunting task following Franklin’s run of three straight trips to bowl games and a pair of 9-4 campaigns. Remember, other than a trip to the postseason under Bobby Johnson in 2008, the Commodores hadn’t been bowling since 1982 until Franklin was hired. In fact, Vandy’s bowl appearances in program history were limited to four prior to Franklin’s three-year tenure.

    Mason is 18-31 overall and 6-26 in SEC play. After 3-9 and 4-8 seasons in 2014 and ’15, Vandy won four of its last six games to finish 6-6 and garner an invite to the Independence Bowl in ’16. The Commodores lost four one-possession games, but they trounced Ole Miss (38-17 as 9.5-point home underdogs) and Tennessee (45-34 as 7.5-point home ‘dogs) to finish the regular season with authority.

    Although Vandy dropped a 41-17 decision to N.C. State in Shreveport, it seemed to carry over its late-season momentum into September of last season. The Commodores jumped out to a 3-0 start with their defense giving up merely 13 combined points and 595 yards. They beat 18th-ranked Kansas State by a 14-7 count to begin a four-game stretch versus ranked opponents.

    The optimism of the 3-0 start was smashed when top-ranked Alabama came to Nashville and destroyed Vandy, 59-0. The blowout loss started a five-game losing streak, including four losses by 14 points or more. I don’t know that saying the season was salvaged by the regular-season finale would be accurate, but it’s always a big deal when Vanderbilt beats Tennessee.

    When it does so in Knoxville by a 42-24 score with a 529-238 advantage in total offense, it certainly puts a smile on the faces of alums. Mason has thumped the Volunteers in back-to-back seasons, so it’s probably a stretch to imply he’s on a boiling hot seat going into 2018. Nevertheless, with Gus Malzahn signing a lucrative extension to stay at Auburn rather than bolt to Arkansas, there are only three SEC coaches who can’t feel great about their job security: Mason, Kentucky’s Mark Stoops and LSU’s Ed Orgeron.

    Vandy finished last year 5-7 straight up and 4-8 against the spread. It was Mason’s first losing season for our purposes (ATS-wise). The Commodores return seven starters on offense and five on defense. They lost the school’s all-time leading rusher in Ralph Webb, who had 4,178 career yards on the ground.

    With the exception of two games last year, senior QB Kyle Shurmur was outstanding. In fact, he had an incredible 20/3 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his team’s first nine games. However, he was intercepted seven times in home defeats vs. Kentucky and Missouri. Shurmur recovered to complete 20-of-31 passes for 283 yards and four TDs without an interception in the win over UT.

    Shurmur, who has 30 career starts to his credit, was second in the SEC in TD passes (26), third in passing yards (2,823), fourth in completions (220) and sixth in QB Rating (137.62). He was intercepted only 10 times.

    Shurmur loses his two favorite targets in Trent Sherfield and C.J. Duncan, but he does have his big-play man back in Kalija Lipscomb. The junior wideout was tied for fifth in the SEC in TD catches with eight. Lipscomb had 37 receptions for 610 yards, averaging 16.5 yards per catch.

    Vandy also adds WR Alex Stump, a transfer from Ohio State who didn’t play last season and is expected to start. The Commodores also scored a recruiting coup with the signing of Cam Johnson, a local 4-star product out of storied Brentwood Academy who led the high school to three consecutive state titles. Finally, starting TE Jared Pinkney returns after making 22 catches for 279 yards and three TDs as a sophomore in ’17.

    Mason is hoping RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn, a transfer from Illinois who sat out last year, will emerge as an adequate replacement for the four-year starter out of Gainesville, FL. (Webb). Vaughn ran for 1,024 yards in two years with the Illini and will have two years of eligibility remaining. There’s also senior Khari Blasingame, who rushed for 449 yards and 10 TDs while averaging 4.6 yards per carry as a sophomore in 2016. However, he failed to find paydirt last year and was limited to 147 rushing yards and a meager 3.3 YPC average.

    Phil Steele’s preseason magazine ranks Vandy’s offensive line 11th in the SEC, but it’s a veteran group that returns all five starters. It will be imperative for this unit to keep Shurmur healthy.

    Senior LB Charles Wright garnered second-team All-SEC honors last season by recording 43 tackles, nine sacks, eight QB hurries and 1.5 tackles for loss. Senior DE Dare Odeyingbo produced 36 tackles, 6.5 TFL’s, 4.5 sacks, four QB hurries and a pair of passes broken up.

    Mason is hoping a pair of true freshmen can contribute immediately at the LB position. He inked a pair of 4-star players in Alston Orji and Salua Masina. Senior safety LaDarius Wiley, who had a team-best 88 tackles last year, is back to anchor the secondary.

    After his defense struggled his first season by giving up 33.3 points per game, Mason took over the DC duties with big-time success in ’15 and ’16. The ’15 stop unit held foes to 21.0 PPG, while the ’16 group held foes to 24.0 PPG. However, the defense fell apart after the loss to Alabama last year and ended up surrendering 31.3 PPG.

    Therefore, Mason has brought in a new DC in Jason Tarver, who has spent the past 16 years as an NFL assistant, including a stint as the Oakland Raiders’ DC from ’12-14. Andy Ludwig remains the OC and the new special-teams coach is Shawn Mennenga, who was a special-teams assistant for the Cleveland Browns the past seven years.

    Vandy’s season win total is 4.5 (‘over’ -120, ‘under’ -110) at Sportsbook.ag. The offshore website has the odds for the Commodores to win the SEC at 500/1. They are one-point home underdogs in their regular-season finale against the Vols in the Westgate’s Games of the Year.

    The non-conference slate includes three home games vs. Middle Tennessee, Nevada and Tennessee State, in addition to a road assignment at Notre Dame. The games versus the SEC West are at home vs. Ole Miss and at Arkansas, which is an excellent draw. Mason’s team has an extra week to prepare for a Nov. 10 home game vs. Missouri, while Kentucky gets two weeks to prep for the ‘Dores in Lexington on Oct. 20.

    I’m confident in four wins for Vandy. Those games are at home vs. Middle Tennessee, Nevada, Tennesee State and Tennessee. I see six losses, but the only definitive ones are at Notre Dame, at Georgia and at Missouri. I have Mason’s squad falling at home to South Carolina and Florida and at Kentucky, but it probably won’t be a double-digit underdog in any of those spots.

    That leaves two swing games that’ll dictate a postseason invite and/or Mason’s future in NashVegas. Those consist of an Oct. 27 trip to Fayetteville to face Arkansas and a home date vs. Ole Miss on Nov. 17.

    **B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

    -- I think Mason needs to win six games to retain his job. A 5-7 might be acceptable if it includes embarrassing UT for a third straight year and there are some gut-wrenching losses in the equation. In other words, he can’t get beat in blowout fashion four weeks in a row like he did last season.

    -- Vandy finished last year minus five in the turnover department. If the ‘Dores can get to plus five this year, they’ll win at least six games.

    -- Mason owns a 9-6 spread record in 15 games as a home underdog.

    -- Mason is 4-8 ATS as a home favorite. The Commodores are likely to be home ‘chalk’ in at least three games and possibly four (UT being the fourth).

    -- I’m going to call for a 5-7 campaign for Vandy. I do think it’ll be a competitive 5-7, however, and I’m not necessarily calling for a change of the head coach. Also, as this space has repeatedly noted for well over a decade when it comes to season win totals, I don’t make a play unless I have a 1.5-game cushion in terms of confidence. In other words, I would only bet Vandy ‘over’ 4.5 wins if I had it pegged for at least six regular-season wins. Likewise, I wouldn’t take ‘under’ 4.5 unless I was convinced it would be a 3-win season or worse.

  27. #57
    Handicapping Nebraska (5.5)
    July 19, 2018


    There is finally some optimism at Nebraska, as Scott Frost takes over as head coach for the 2018 season. The Cornhuskers have been a major disappointment in recent seasons, as they have not won a Big Ten division title since 2012.

    It may take some time for Frost to get his system in place and to get the players he wants, but the future looks bright for Big Red. The question is how fast everything comes together for Frost.

    Let’s look at Nebraska’s win total for 2018 and their schedule to see if they will go over or under their win total of 5.5.

    2018 Nebraska Cornhuskers Regular Season Win Total Odds
    Over 5.5 (-105)
    Under 5.5 (-125)


    2018 Nebraska Cornhuskers Schedule Analysis

    Sept. 1 vs. Akron

    The Scott Frost era should start off with a win, as the Zips don’t look to be capable of winning on the road against a Big Ten team.

    Sept. 8 vs. Colorado
    This is another favorable matchup for the Cornhuskers, as Colorado has done nothing but lose in the Pac-12 in recent seasons. There is a good chance the Cornhuskers will start the season 2-0.

    Sept. 15 vs. Troy
    At first glance this should be a win for the Cornhuskers, but this is a dangerous game, as the Trojans are 21-5 the last two seasons under Neal Brown. Keep in mind Troy went into Baton Rouge and beat LSU last year.

    Sept. 22 at Michigan
    The fun ends for Nebraska this week, as Frost gets his first road game. It is hard to see Nebraska winning this one on the road, especially if the Wolverines have Shea Patterson at quarterback.

    Sept. 29 vs. Purdue
    The Cornhuskers simply have to win this one if they want to go bowling this season. The Boilermakers are respectable under Jeff Brohm, but they are not an elite team.

    Oct. 6 at Wisconsin
    It is hard to believe that Frost will have his team ready to win a game like this one in his first year. The Badgers have owned the Cornhuskers, winning six of the last seven meetings. Nebraska has lost in Madison by an average score of 43-19.

    Oct. 13 at Northwestern
    The Wildcats are a good team under Pat Fitzgerald and the Cornhuskers will be road dogs. The Cornhuskers best hope is that Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson doesn’t play.

    Oct. 20 vs. Minnesota
    This is a must-win game for Frost and the Cornhuskers. The last time these two met it was a 33-point win for the Gophers. That is simply unacceptable in Nebraska, as the Cornhuskers should never be losing to Minnesota.

    Nov. 3 at Ohio State
    There is no real chance for the Cornhuskers to win this one in Columbus. It has been so bad for Nebraska against Ohio State recently that the Buckeyes have won by an average score of 60-18.

    Nov. 10 vs. Illinois
    There are some winnable games for Nebraska this season and this is another of them. This is a game the Huskers should win to give them hopes of playing in a bowl.

    Nov. 17 vs. Michigan State
    The Cornhuskers always seem to play the Spartans tough and this game is at home and Nebraska has a shot. They played a 39-38 thriller the last time they met with Big Red getting the win.

    Nov. 23 at Iowa
    A bowl game might come down to winning at Iowa for Nebraska. The Cornhuskers want revenge for last year’s 56-14 humiliation. The Hawkeyes will be home favorites, but Nebraska is not without a chance to win this one.

    Nebraska Cornhuskers 2018 Regular Season Win Total Prediction

    The schedule for Nebraska this season looks to be favorable, as there are a number of games they should win, some they will lose and a couple of toss-ups. If Nebraska does what they are supposed to do then they will go 6-6 and make a bowl game in the first season under Frost.

    Nebraska can’t afford to slip up and lose any of their six winnable home games or else they will need to steal a game against Michigan State or Iowa to get to six wins.

  28. #58
    Malzahn to preview Auburn's outlook
    July 19, 2018


    ATLANTA (AP) Gus Malzahn's Auburn Tigers are coming off an interesting 2017 season, enjoying the highs of wins over eventual SEC champion Georgia and national champion Alabama before losing to the Bulldogs in the SEC championship game.

    Auburn also lost to Central Florida in the Peach Bowl to finish their season.

    Malzahn returns 14 starters, including quarterback Jarrett Stidham, and will discuss the Tigers' outlook on the final day of the SEC Media Days on Thursday.

    Auburn finished 10-4 overall and 7-1 in the SEC last season and will return to Atlanta on Sept. 2 to open their season against Washington.

    Also scheduled to speak on Thursday will be Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason and South Carolina coach Will Muschamp.

  29. #59
    The Latest: Malzahn says Auburn is hungry to take next step
    July 19, 2018


    ATLANTA (AP) The Latest on SEC Media Days (all times local):

    11 a.m.

    Derek Mason is enjoying his new life as Vanderbilt's coach.

    ''Head coach only,'' he said for clarification.

    Though Mason actually is entering his fifth season with the Commodores, he is dropping the additional duties of defensive coordinator. Mason hired good friend Jason Tarver, a former NFL assistant with the Raiders and 49ers, to lead the defense after serving as his own coordinator the last three years.

    Mason says shedding the extra title allows him to focus on ''being head coach and CEO.''

    Vanderbilt finished only 5-7 overall and 1-7 in the SEC last season. Even so, offered an optimistic outlook for his team. He says ''I believe it is our time.''

    Mason says Kyle Shurmur is ''one of the most dynamic and underrated quarterbacks'' in the league and a reason the Commodores should improve this season.

    ---

    9:52 a.m.

    Gus Malzahn says his Auburn Tigers are motivated to take the next step after coming so close to their championship goals last season.

    Auburn took regular-season wins over Alabama and Georgia when each team was ranked No. 1 last season. The Tigers won the Southeastern Conference's Western Division before losing to Georgia in the SEC championship game - costing them a shot to compete in the College Football Playoff.

    Malzahn says at SEC Media Days his Tigers will be ''a hungry team trying to take that next step.''

    Auburn will return to Atlanta to open its season against Washington on Sept. 1. Malzahn says the game will be ''a good measuring stick for where this team is.''

    The Tigers are expected to have a strong offense led by quarterback Jarrett Stidham and running back Kam Martin.

    ---

    2:27 a.m.

    Gus Malzahn's Auburn Tigers are coming off an interesting 2017 season, enjoying the highs of wins over eventual SEC champion Georgia and national champion Alabama before losing to the Bulldogs in the SEC championship game.

    Auburn also lost to Central Florida in the Peach Bowl to finish their season.

    Malzahn returns 14 starters, including quarterback Jarrett Stidham, and will discuss the Tigers' outlook on the final day of the SEC Media Days on Thursday.

    Auburn finished 10-4 overall and 7-1 in the SEC last season and will return to Atlanta on Sept. 2 to open their season against Washington.

    Also scheduled to speak on Thursday will be Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason and South Carolina coach Will Muschamp.

  30. #60
    Clemson takes center stage on Day 2
    July 19, 2018


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Clemson Tigers will take center stage Thursday as the Atlantic Coast Conference turns its attention the Atlantic Division at the preseason media days.

    The Tigers are 40-4 over the past three seasons, winning three straight conference titles under coach Dabo Swinney.

    The biggest question mark for the Tigers is who'll handle the quarterback duties this year - incumbent Kelly Bryant or Trevor Lawrence, widely considered the No. 1 overall recruit in 2018.

    North Carolina State, which finished 6-2 in the conference last season, is expected to provide the biggest competition for the Tigers.

    Wake Forest, Boston College and Louisville all finished 4-4 in conference play last year, while Florida State was 3-5. Syracuse was 2-6, although the Orange did upset Clemson 27-24 at the Carrier Dome.

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