Tag Archives: Trevor Knight

Grab Your Beer: We Have a Perfect Saturday Slate of SEC Football

I’m going to take you back to an article I wrote before the season got underway. I came up with the nightmarish scenario of only being able to watch one SEC football game per week. Then I picked the games I’d watch each week if that were the case.

Weeks 1-5, I was pretty much dead-on. Week 6 is where SEC football makes me feel a little silly.

That’s because it’s now Week 6 and there are three huge conference match-ups that I will watch. Ironically, the one that I initially picked over the others seems to be the one of least consequence here. And by that, I mean I picked the LSU Tigers visiting the Florida Gators as my one game to watch.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll definitely be watching the Tigers pay the Gators a visit. But if I had to choose just one game to watch, it might not be that game anymore.

Fortunately, my nightmare hasn’t come true and I do not have to pick only one game to watch. The schedule works out perfectly for the SEC football fan in me this week, as I get to watch three amazing games. So here’s a preview of what this perfect Saturday as SEC football fan will look like.

At noon on ESPN, the Tigers play the Gators. This game may not be the best of the weekend but it’s still intriguing in many ways.

LSU fired head coach Les Miles and left Ed Orgeron in charge for the time being. At the same time, star RB Leonard Fournette’s status is “day-by-day” with an ankle injury. Additionally, Danny Etling has taken over at quarterback instead of Brandon Harris. Yes, they beat the Missouri Tigers in convincing fashion, but that was at home against a team that was winless in SEC play. With or without Leonard Fournette, it’ll be interesting to see how this Tiger team handles a road game against a ranked opponent now that Miles is gone.

Florida has question marks, but for completely different reasons. The Gators seem to have caught the injury bug, with their whole starting defensive line suffering some kind of injury. Not to mention that their biggest hope for having a good quarterback, Luke Del Rio, injured his knee taking a low hit a couple weeks ago. It also seems like the coaching staff hasn’t really figured out an effective rotation for the running backs, as made evident by Jordan Scarlett’s absence on many snaps last game. On top of that, there are questions about Florida’s rushing defense after how they handled Ralph Webb. This group of defensive backs is always great, but can the whole defense rise to the occasion of defending someone like Derrius Guice or possibly even Fournette?

After that game, Tennessee takes on Texas A&M on CBS at 3:30. Regardless of where your loyalty lies, why wouldn’t you want to watch a battle of unbeatens?

The Vols to have destiny or the football gods or even just some good juju on their side so far this season. Josh Dobbs has come through in a clutch way, and his passing game has helped lead the Vols to some pretty great comeback wins. Unfortunately, the Vols have suffered some injuries on defense and still have some ground to make up there. And there’s also the question of whether or not this team can play a whole game of good football instead of just playing a great second half. But, with fate seemingly on their side, you just can’t count out this Vols team.

Texas A&M, once again, has gotten off to a 5-0 start this season. This is the third season in a row that they’ve gotten off to such a start. But will this be the first of those years that they also win Game 6? It very well could be. Trevor Knight has proven to be solid at quarterback, and a great supporting cast surrounds him. The Aggies are ranked in the top 50 FBS teams in passing yards, rushing yards, points for, and points against. No question marks about that.

At 7:00, flip back to ESPN to watch as Alabama pays Arkansas a visit. Alabama is always good, but Arkansas has been surprisingly good this season too. That makes this game the upset alert of the week.

Alabama, like Tennessee, has had some slow starts. Okay, their starts are like a jog to Tennessee’s walk. But they definitely can’t afford to be jogging this game. As I’ve said before, the Crimson Tide may not have a super strong quarterback this year, but that doesn’t matter. True freshman Jalen Hurts does enough to make the rest of the team shine. They actually don’t even have a go-to running back like Derrick Henry this season, and that weakness worries me. But even if Alabama wins this one, they go to Tennessee next and host Texas A&M after that.

I never know what to make of Arkansas. All I know is that at any given moment, they could pull off a borderline erotic upset win. I have my doubts after their loss to Texas A&M, but you just never know. They have a great quarterback in Austin Allen, but how will he handle an elite defense? And even more worrisome than that is the question of how the Razorback defense will handle Alabama’s potent offense. I’ll always give them the upset factor, but if they manage to pull this one off it might be just plain erotic for coach Bret Bielema.

Now I have just one request: Grab a beer (or six) and enjoy what will probably be an exciting day of SEC football.

You can email Kristen at kristen.botica@campuspressbox.com and follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Featured photo courtesy of Gainesville Apartments.

SEC Quarterbacks Are Downright Unimpressive

Anybody who knows me at all knows that I have a special place in my heart for SEC football. I really do. But I can’t sit by and be silent about this. The SEC quarterbacks, once again, look overwhelmingly bad. At the risk of sounding cliché, watching the SEC quarterback play so far this year is like watching paint dry.

I can’t think of a single SEC quarterback who actually excites me right now. Meanwhile, I can think of four or five ACC quarterbacks that do. This is madness. How does the conference with the most ranked teams have the worst quarterbacks? I just don’t get it.

Usually, the SEC East is a mess and the SEC West is great. This year, everybody except for Alabama (and maybe Texas A&M) is a mess. Yet somehow there are still eight teams ranked in the AP top 25 at the moment. I’ll let you in on a little something, though—they definitely aren’t ranked because of their quarterbacks.

So here is where I go through every SEC team, by division and in alphabetical order, to prove a point. I’ll keep the assessment for each team brief.

The Florida Gators have been starting Luke Del Rio at quarterback. On the season so far he has 762 passing yards, 6 touchdowns, and two interceptions. But unfortunately for the Gators, he’s sidelined due to a knee injury and they’ll have to rely on Purdue graduate transfer Austin Appleby for now. Just when they were getting some momentum…

The Georgia Bulldogs seemed pretty well-off as far as quarterbacks go when the season started. Both Greyson Lambert (who was solid last year) and Jacob Eason (who’s a true freshman) have taken snaps for the Dawgs, with Eason taking the majority of the snaps. Eason has racked up 643 yards passing, five touchdowns, and two interceptions. Not bad…and also not fantastic.

The Kentucky Wildcats have played both Drew Barker and Stephen Johnson at quarterback, but Barker went down against New Mexico State and Kentucky has had more success with Johnson now anyways. He has 355 yards passing, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. In the second week at Florida, Drew Barker actually threw three interceptions to the Florida defense and only completed two passes to his own players. Oops!

The Missouri Tigers have mostly stuck with quarterback Drew Lock so far this season. A bright spot in the East, he has 1106 passing yards, nine touchdowns, and three interceptions. But, the Tigers are still struggling, only managing to win one of their first three games this season.

The South Carolina Gamecocks haven’t had all that much luck at quarterback between Brandon McIlwain and Perry Orth. McIlwain has been slightly better than his competition, with 356 yards passing, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. He also added 80 yards rushing and two more touchdowns on the ground. But with Muschamp at the helm, I don’t know if they’ll ever have great quarterback play.

The Tennessee Volunteers have had pretty much the same Josh Dobbs they’ve been behind for a couple years now. So far his passing game leaves a lot to be desired with 486 passing yards, six touchdowns, and three interceptions. On the bright side, he has added 161 yards rushing and three touchdowns on the ground. He’s also been a great leader despite being behind a shaky offensive line.

The Vanderbilt Commodores have struggled offensively (as always) behind Kyle Shurmur so far this year. He’s had 335 yards passing for two touchdowns and one interception. If Shurmur could get it together, maybe they could actually win a couple conference games this season.

But wait…there’s more! We still have another division full of mediocre quarterbacks to go.

The Alabama Crimson Tide have had Jalen Hurts take the majority of their snaps at quarterback this year. He has 563 passing yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. He’s also added 197 rushing yards and two more touchdowns on the ground. Plus, they’re Alabama. Their quarterback play won’t make or break their season.

The Arkansas Razorbacks have stuck with Austin Allen as their quarterback so far this season. Allen has 655 yards passing, seven touchdowns, and two interceptions. He’s been good so far; he just hasn’t been outstanding.

The Auburn Tigers had some fun at quarterback against Clemson to open the season, but Sean White is now taking the snaps. He has 510 passing yards, three touchdowns, and one interception so far. Meh.

The LSU Tigers started off the season behind Brandon Harris at quarterback but have since given the nod to Danny Etling. Etling has 315 passing yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He also does have one rushing touchdown. He may not be great, but I think he’s better than Harris.

The Mississippi State Bulldogs have played both Nick Fitzgerald and Damian Williams at quarterback so far this year. Fitzgerald has edged out Williams with 298 passing yards, two touchdowns, and one interception to Williams’ 237 passing yards and two touchdowns. Additionally, Fitzgerald has 219 yards on the ground and Williams has 88 yards as well as a touchdown. While they seem fairly evenly matched, neither is too exciting at this point.

The Ole Miss Rebels have Chad “Swag” Kelly, who was supposed to be the best quarterback in the nation. Kelly does have 953 passing yards and ten touchdowns, but he also has four interceptions. The Rebels will live and die by Kelly this season so those mistakes are costly.

The Texas A&M Aggies have Trevor Knight at quarterback. Knight has 830 passing yards, five touchdowns, and two interceptions. He also has 151 rushing yards and three more touchdowns on the ground. He’s no Lamar Jackson, but he’s better than most SEC quarterbacks.

Now that you’ve made it through that, maybe you can understand why I’m just unimpressed with the SEC quarterbacks at this point. You know things are rough when Missouri arguably has the best quarterback at the moment. Missouri…a team that has lost two of their first three games. I guess you could argue that Trevor Knight is just as good since he’s more of a dual-threat quarterback. But either way, those two are the best the SEC has to offer right now and that’s not good.

Now, I understand that just looking at these stats isn’t really fair in a lot of ways. Offensive lines not giving time to throw or space to run can be absolutely devastating for quarterbacks. Receivers dropping passes can be just as bad. And facing good secondary units can also be incredibly tough for a quarterback. But even with those things in mind, there isn’t a single quarterback in the SEC that has really impressed me or excited me the way quarterbacks in other conferences have. I didn’t expect there to be a Heisman trophy-winning quarterback from the SEC, but I also didn’t expect the performances to be this lackluster.

Fortunately for SEC fans and our quarterbacks, football isn’t just about that one player taking the snaps. In the SEC it tends to be more about running backs and defenses. That’s probably why there’s still a whopping eight SEC football teams ranked in the AP Top 25, like I mentioned before. And as much as quarterback play can be fun to watch, I prefer watching some hard-hitting SEC defense anyways. So maybe I should save my complaining for the day the defenses are weak.

Here’s the big question for this year will SEC teams be able to compete in the postseason when these SEC quarterbacks are playing like this? If you ask me, it depends on the team. If you have a great defense, a solid offensive line, and a good back or two, then you can compete with anyone. That’s why Alabama is virtually unstoppable. But otherwise, you’ll just become another overrated SEC team. And nobody wants that.

And then there’s the other big question. Why is this such a problem for the SEC and will it continue next year? In all honesty, I still haven’t figured out why the SEC doesn’t have the same quarterback depth that the other major conferences do. But this isn’t something new by any means. And while it may get a little better next season as some of the guys mentioned above take more snaps and gain experience, I don’t expect the SEC to have phenomenal quarterback play anytime soon. I’ll leave that to the ACC for now.

You can email Kristen at kristen.botica@campuspressbox.com and follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Image courtesy of Ken Lund.

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SEC Links: Finding Gunslingers in the Wild, Wild West

Former Auburn football head coach, and College Football Hall of Fame honoree, Pat Dye once stated, “It all starts at quarterback.” It does. The quarterback is the the leader of the offense and, often, the face of the football team. He usually receives an over-abundance of praise if the team is doing well, and he gets more than his share of the blame if his team is performing poorly.

A quarterback needs to take command of the huddle, gain the confidence of his teammates, and inspire his fellow warriors to have confidence in themselves. He needs to know not just what his assignments are, but also the particulars of those who surround him.

If the quarterback works as hard, or harder, than anyone else on the team by staying after practice to throw with his receivers or just do a little extra work on the details of his job, then that could make the difference as to how the team finishes the season in terms of wins and losses. It could determine whether that teams wins a championship or finishes lower in it’s conference standings.

In short, the quarterback is the man.

Spring practice has, for all intents and purposes, wrapped up across SEC country, and the burning question in the minds of fans is who will serve as the signal-caller for their beloved squad.

Let’s take a look at how some of the crucial races for field generals are shaping up in the SEC.

We will first turn our eyes to the best division in all of college football, the SEC West. Let’s begin with SEC and national Champion, Alabama.

It appears that Nick Saban and his offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin, have their hands full in deciding who will be at the helm of the Crimson Tide offense. They have strong candidates but there is not an abundance of experience at the position. Kiffin worked magic with Blake Sims in 2014 and also with Jake Coker in 2015. I don’t have any idea who will emerge from what looks like a four-man pack, but I do think Kiffin will find the right guy. His track record points to that scenario.

Bama, more often than not, winds up with someone who can manage the offense. They don’t tend to find an all-world type of guy like Johnny Manziel or Cam Newton. History tells us that Bama will be just fine at the position.

Across the state, Auburn is also, desperately, in search of the player to lead the Tigers’ offense. Jeremy Johnson did not become the quarterback that he was highly-hyped to be. Sean White was serviceable but certainly not dynamic. John Franklin III, a JUCO transfer, has the skill set to become the dual-threat type of player that has succeeded in Gus Malzahn’s system at Auburn, but he needs a great deal of development to step into the role. He has a great arm and blazing speed but needs to really work on his accuracy. As much as I want Franklin to succeed, I don’t see him taking the SEC by storm and leading Auburn back to, or near, the pinnacle of the West… in 2016… 2017, maybe?

Les Miles and LSU fans are hoping Brandon Harris will finally emerge as the answer down on The Bayou. Harris has the tools to do this and his friend, former Mississippi State star, Dak Prescott, thinks the third year will be the charm for Brandon. I tend to agree with Dak on this matter. Harris will have a big year and LSU will be very much in the thick of it in November.

Speaking of Dak. What’s going on in Starkville? Mississippi State is in the unenviable position of replacing, arguably, the most outstanding player in Bulldog history. That will not be an easy task. When you throw in the factor of State’s residence in the West, then one finds little reason to believe that it will be a contender in the West. In my initial SEC column I picked the Bulldogs to finish last, and basically, having to sort through four inexperienced hopefuls at quarterback will make that a reality.

Let’s make the obvious transition to the hated in-state rival of the Bulldogs, Ole Miss. Up in Oxford things are much less complicated when it comes to quarterback. They have one. His name is Chad Kelly. Kelly had a great year in 2015 and, barring injury, he could find himself the the top quarterback in the SEC and beyond. The sky is the limit for him and Ole Miss. They will be in hot pursuit of the University of Alabama for the West crown.

Bret Bielema has an Allen returning to lead the Razorbacks in 2016. The problem is, it’s not Brandon Allen. Over the course of his career, Brandon Allen became the player and leader that everyone hoped he would be and had a very good senior campaign in Fayetteville. It’s his brother, Austin, who will now be given the reigns to help Bielema continue to build the type of program he envisions for Hawg fans. The younger Allen may be the chosen one but it will take a year of getting a true feel in the starter role before Arkansas can make a move upward.

College Station, TX will be our last stop on this tour of quarterbacks in the SEC West. Kevin Sumlin’s fanny is definitely getting warm out there in Aggieland and he needs a great signal-caller to relieve that pressure. Trevor Knight, a transfer from Oklahoma, is the man Sumlin has chosen to lead the Aggies. He had his ups and downs throughout his career in Norman and he needs his upside to assist in cooling his head coach’s backside. I don’t think it will happen. There is too much turmoil in College Station.

So, will there be an known comodity to emerge from the West and lead his team to the SEC  promised land? Could another Newton or Manziel come out of nowhere and shock the football world? Or will the SEC East produce a quarterback?

That will wrap it up for this week. Next week we take a gander at the SEC East and the interesting battles that are in progress for starting quarterbacks in that division.

Best 10 Wins of the 2014 Season

There were a lot of huge wins this year, even more than I thought once I started going through each week of the season. Many of the wins were a team’s best of the year or best in a few years. Others propelled them into the national conversation, while others locked up playoff berths. I didn’t include conference championship games because considering the stakes those could have been 1-4. It was still tough to narrow it down and there were 15 or so games that could have easily made the list. Here are my Top 10 wins of the 2014 season.

1. Week 12: Alabama 25 Mississippi State 20
This late in the season, this contest was effectively a playoff elimination game. Though the Bulldogs still hung around at 4 in the playoff rankings, it’s hard to see them staying there even if they would have won out. Alabama showed up big time, shutting down the #1 ranked Bulldogs and bursting out to a 19-0 lead. Though the final score ended up looking close, the Crimson tide were up 25-13 until a Mississippi State score with only 15 seconds to go and the Tide reasserted their position as one of the top playoff contenders.

2. Week 6: Arizona 31 Oregon 24
The Oregon Ducks, though somewhat unimpressive after their win over Michigan State, were still rolling as one of the top playoff contenders. This game put into question whether they were a good enough team to make it. Arizona came in and controlled the game from the start, keeping it low scoring. Mariota led the Ducks back to tie it half-way through the 4th quarter, but they couldn’t keep the Wildcats off of Mariota on the final drive after Arizona regained the lead with only a few minutes to go.

3. Week 6: Ole Miss 23 Alabama 17
If the college football world hadn’t been shocked enough already by Oregon’s loss on Thursday of Week 6, Ole Miss compounded that by knocking off Alabama. Ole Miss had been a nice story, and it certainly wouldn’t have been a shock for them to win going into the game, but this was the test to really determine if they were contenders. They proved that and more by stifling Alabama, defeating them using opportunistic turnovers, and launching themselves into unchartered territory in the polls.

4. Week 2: Virginia Tech 35 Ohio State 21
Yes, it was only JT Barrett’s second start, but it’s not like the Buckeyes’ offense struggled mightily in games before or shortly after this contest. Some predicted a Virginia Tech upset, but it was the way the Hokies’ defense dominated the Ohio State offense that was shocking. Going into Columbus to do so made it even more impressive. Considering how the Hokies finished, and Ohio State hasn’t lost a game since, this was definitely one of the better wins of the year.

5. Week 2: Oregon 46 Michigan State 27
Oregon was favored by a fair amount going into the game, but it was a way to start off the season right against a powerful opponent and had huge playoff ramifications. An Oregon loss could’ve affected a lot considering how the rest of the season played out. Ohio State would’ve defeated an 11-1 Michigan State and may have comfortably been in the playoff as the 2 or 3 seed. Oregon would have been a two loss Pac-12 champ and with a best win of UCLA or Arizona, would have been the team battling Baylor/TCU for the final playoff spot. In pulling away from the Spartans, they showed they weren’t going to be bullied by tough teams.

6. Week 7: Baylor 61 TCU 58
This may have been the most entertaining game of the season. Baylor kept their undefeated hopes alive while showing they had the mental toughness to come back from a huge deficit in the fourth quarter. They assumed control of the Big 12 (if only for a week) by putting up over 700 yards of offense against a TCU defense that was pretty good for most of the year and handed the Horned Frogs their only defeat of 2014.

7. Week 7: Mississippi State 38 Auburn 23
Auburn rolled into Starkville ranked second in the country after playing in the championship last year, and Mississippi State was still trying to prove it belonged though they were ranked in the Top 5. The Bulldogs did that and more, jumping out to a 21-0 first quarter lead and not looking back. The win kept them undefeated and left them in a great position to make the playoff if they didn’t lose more than once the rest of the way.

8. Week 6: TCU 37 Oklahoma 33
Oklahoma came in ranked #4 and looking like the team many had picked to make the playoff. Everyone knew TCU was improved, but at #25 were they really a contender? They showed that they were by shocking the Sooners in Norman by holding Trevor Knight to 40% completion percentage and using a late pick six to seal the deal and catapult themselves into the playoff discussion.

9. Week 10: Auburn 35 Ole Miss 31
This game will be remembered more for ending the Rebels’ playoff hopes and Ole Miss losing LaQuan Treadwell to injury at the finish. But Auburn had bounced back from a loss two weeks earlier to Mississippi State and needed to play on the road against a 7-1 Rebel squad with one of the best defenses in the country. Auburn merely went to Oxford and put up 500 yards on that defense and left only a month away from a possible playoff berth.

10. Week 5: UCLA 62 Arizona State 27
After a month of football, UCLA looked nothing like the team many thought could make the playoff in the pre-season, struggling with mediocre opponents. Arizona State on the other hand came into this game ranked 15 with a chance to crack the Top 10 with a victory and gain a lot of early season momentum. UCLA showed up in a big way, blasting the Sun Devils by five touchdowns in their own house. Brett Hundley had 300+ yards and 4 touchdowns, the Bruins had a 100 yard rusher, and UCLA’s defense and special teams each had touchdowns as well.

Top 10 Non-Playoff Bowl Games

As a college football fan, conference championship weekend is both the best and the worst weekend of the year. It usually has a handful of the best games you’ll see all year and this year that included playoff implications. On the other hand, it signals the end of regular college football action for nine months. But at least we have bowl season as a send-off, a two week flurry of action where you can find multiple games to watch almost every single day. We know the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl will be huge and exciting because they are the playoff games and you have the best teams involved. What other games are there to look forward to during bowl season? I rank the Top 10 non-playoff bowl games to watch.

1. Cotton Bowl: Michigan State vs. Baylor
This game is almost up to par with the two playoff games that will be played later on New Year’s Day. Two teams that had playoff aspirations coming into the year and had good seasons but fell just short. Both teams have NFL talent on each side of the ball. Each squad has a potent offense that can beat you through the air or on the ground. Baylor’s defense certainly wasn’t a huge strength this year and Michigan State’s defense got rolled in its two games against top competition (Oregon and Ohio State) so I expect a shootout.

2. Peach Bowl: Ole Miss vs. TCU
Ole Miss spent time at number one this year and even though they faltered in the last month, ended the year on a high note by ending rival Mississippi State’s playoff chances and finishing in the Top 10. TCU thought it had a playoff spot locked up right up until the selection show. They have an exciting offense led by Trevone Boykin to go with a stout defense and will be out to prove they should have been one of the playoff committee’s selections.

3. Russell Athletic Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Clemson
This game loses some luster because of Clemson QB Deshaun Watson being out but there’s still plenty to look forward to. It will be a defensive battle with two of the best defenses in the country. Oklahoma’s defense didn’t always play up to its potential this year, but I have a feeling it will look more like the unit most thought we’d see this year going up against Cole Stoudt. It will also be interesting to see if Trevor Knight can have the kind of bowl game he had last year against Alabama.

4. Fiesta Bowl: Boise State vs. Arizona
Boise State is no stranger to the Fiesta Bowl and comes in on an eight game win streak. Arizona comes in having been trounced in the Pac-12 championship game against Oregon after flirting with an outside chance at a playoff spot for parts of the year. The extra practice time should do wonders for Wildcat freshman QB Anu Solomon and will be opposed on the other side by one of the best running backs in the country, Boise State’s Jay Ajayi.

5. Orange Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Georgia Tech
This Orange Bowl will be hard-pressed to live up to last year’s shootout between Clemson and Ohio State but it still pits a Mississippi State team which was in the playoff hunt the whole year against a Georgia Tech team that was an onside kick away from potentially knocking off Florida State. Dak Prescott was a Heisman contender the first half of the year and should find success against the Yellow Jacket defense. On the flip side, can Georgia Tech mix in enough passes to take advantage of the Bulldogs’ pass defense which was one of the worst in the nation?

6. Boca Raton Bowl: Marshall vs. Northern Illinois
This game has two of the best offenses many people don’t know about. Marshall was 5th in the country at 45 points per game and has a balanced attack which averaged over 200 yards on the ground and in the air each game. At 12-1, their loss against Western Kentucky two weeks ago prevented them from a potential Fiesta Bowl appearance. Northern Illinois comes in as the 11-2 MAC champion and led by their run game, 15th best in the country, should be able to put up points against a Marshall defense that gave up 67 of them in their lone loss.

7. Sun Bowl: Arizona State vs. Duke
This could be a shootout between two teams who both average over 30 points per game on the year but have also had their share of games getting lit up on defense. Both teams will be looking to cap off the year by getting to double digit wins and will feature two extremely talented wide receivers in Jaelen Strong and Jamison Crowder.

8. Las Vegas Bowl: Utah vs. Colorado State
Coach Jim McElwain’s departure to Florida puts a bit of a damper on Colorado State’s 10-2 year, but I’m sure the players will be out to prove they can win without him there. Colorado State is led by their offense which finished just outside the Top 10 nationally in yards per game and will try to defeat a Utah team that finished 8-4 after a 6-1 start.

9. Liberty Bowl: West Virginia vs. Texas A&M
If this list is any indication, it appears I have a thing for high-scoring affairs. West Virginia and Texas A&M could be another one. Neither team could crack the Top 70 in scoring defense this year and we’ll get to see two different types of offense. Texas A&M’s spread air attack and West Virginia’s spread option should both have success in this game. Potential first round WR Kevin White of the Mountaineers and the young Aggie receivers who could be future high draft picks could all run wild.

10. Texas Bowl: Texas vs. Arkansas
This might be the most hyped game ever between teams 6-6 teams. Arkansas comes in riding high after scoring their first two conference wins in forever in shutouts against LSU and Ole Miss and then barely losing on the road to SEC East champ Missouri. Then there’s Texas, who won three straight Big 12 games before ending the year by losing to playoff-caliber TCU. Both teams showed improvement throughout the year and will look to continue that momentum into the off-season with a bowl victory.

Who's Left Standing? Predictions For the Weekend's Biggest Games

This weekend in college football sure should be something. I think I might be looking forward to it more than Christmas. Save the gifts, just give me another Saturday with this many ranked matchups. This very well may be the biggest weekend in recent memory in college football, at least in the regular season. There may have been other weekends with multiple ranked matchups, but this weekend has two programs (Ole Miss and Mississippi State) with chances at making a case they are elite. Throw in the potential playoff implications and chances are you’ll be glued to your seat for twelve or so hours Saturday. On a normal college football weekend, Baylor at Texas and Arizona State at USC would be marquee, entertaining matchups to look forward to all week. This week those two barely crack the Top 10. So which teams will begin to separate themselves from the pack and make early resume building statements? Let’s take a look at the week’s top games.
Arizona at Oregon
We have drastically different memories of these two teams. Arizona won its last game on a Hail Mary as time expired, while Oregon struggled to overcome Washington State on the road. Though Oregon’s defense isn’t great, I think their last game was a bit of a fluke compared to what we saw up to this point from them. Arizona has been one of the nation’s top offenses to this point and will put up points on the Ducks. Fortunately for Oregon, Arizona’s defense is worse than theirs. Anu Solomon will keep the Wildcats in the game for a while, but he’s still a freshman and this is his first time in a road environment like this. If Oregon were playing a team besides Arizona, I could see them over-looking this game a bit with UCLA next week, the way Arizona embarrassed them last year will have the team focused. The Marcus Mariota Heisman train keeps steaming ahead as the Ducks win 47-30.
LSU at Auburn
LSU suffered a somewhat shocking loss a couple weeks ago, losing at home to Mississippi State. Luckily they effectively had a bye week last week to recover before this Saturday at Auburn. These are similar teams who run the ball well, are hit and miss through the air, and have some question marks on defense. As Mississippi State showed, LSU’s defense is vulnerable compared to recent years and Auburn will find some success on the ground. I think the difference here is that Auburn’s aerial attack is less effective than the Bulldogs’ so LSU will be able to focus more on stopping the run. Arkansas was able to run the ball on Auburn in the opener and LSU will have similar success. Brandon Harris will do just enough in the passing game and lead the Bayou Bengals to a potential season-saving win, 38-34.
Oklahoma at TCU
The Oklahoma buzz saw has been rolling to start the year, but this will be their toughest game to date. Both teams have stifling defenses, and TCU’s will keep them in this game. The Horned Frogs have played minimal competition so far, but if you only give up 219 yards per game on defense you’re doing something right. Each team is similar at quarterback as well. Trevor Knight has played above average, but not nearly the potential Heisman candidate some had hoped. But he has been the pass/run threat the Sooners imagined coming into the year. On the flip side, TCU signal caller Trevone Boykin is a pretty similar player and if the two swapped teams, Boykin would be getting a lot more love nationally. This wouldn’t be the huge upset some think, but in the end the Sooners have playmakers at the skill positions that TCU doesn’t, and will help Oklahoma survive 24-20.
Texas A&M at Mississippi State
After the Bulldogs’ huge win at LSU, can they follow it up with an equally impressive win and get into the Top 10? It will take a sizeable effort, and Dak Prescott will have to match A&M QB Kenny Hill play for play. Both teams have sound running games as well, so the scoreboard operator should get a good night’s sleep. Mississippi State will have to be successful on offense to keep their defense off the field. It’s a defense that is ranked #124 in passing yards allowed per game. At least Texas A&M’s offense isn’t predicated on throwing the ball. Oh wait, Kenny Hill is only the nation’s third leading passer in yards. The Bulldogs are flying high right now, but they’ll be falling hard Saturday after Kenny Hill carves up Mississippi State’s secondary and gets back in the Heisman conversation. Aggies win on the road 37-31.
Stanford at Notre Dame
Stanford and Notre Dame will give us the type of game we don’t see much of anymore. In today’s college football, even SEC teams are running some hurry up and spread offenses and on rare occasions do we get a classic defensive battle. It will be a nice change of pace compared to the scores likely put up in the day’s other big matchups. The teams are relatively equal at quarterback between Stanford’s Kevin Hogan and Notre Dame’s Everett Golson. Each defense has been in lock-down mode so far as well, but Notre Dame hasn’t been tested the way Stanford has. The Fighting Irish’s biggest win was against Michigan, which isn’t exactly looking like a great win anymore. Notre Dame will still keep Stanford’s offense in check most of the game, but they won’t be able to overcome the Cardinal defense. Stanford is giving up 74 passing yards a game (is that even possible?), and Notre Dame doesn’t have a dynamic running game to fall back on. Whoever makes the fewest mistakes will take home this game, and that’s going to be Stanford, 16-13.
Alabama at Ole Miss
How long have Ole Miss fans waited for this day? Undefeated, ranked 11, and a Top 5 Alabama team rolling into town. Both teams have great defenses statistically, but Bama’s has been challenged more than the Rebels’ has. They each rank Top 5 in total yards allowed, but Alabama is giving up only 62 rushing yards per game. This means the game is likely going to come down to the quarterbacks. This will be Blake Sims’ first true road start, but for some reason I still trust him more than Bo Wallace. Maybe it’s because Wallace has already thrown six interceptions this year against defenses nowhere near the quality of Alabama’s. The Tide will also be able to grind out more yards on the ground putting less pressure on Sims than what Wallace will shoulder. Even with turning the ball over way too much, Alabama dominated Florida. Ole Miss is much better than Florida, but they’re in for a rude awakening here. The Rebels could find themselves in the Top 5 after this week if things break right, but that won’t happen. The Tide gets an easier-than-the-score-indicates win 31-20.
Nebraska @ Michigan State
This might be the Big 10’s biggest game of the rest of the season so they better make it count. The Spartans won’t have another challenging game until the conference championship besides a visit from Ohio State on November 8th. They have waited almost a month to get a chance at proving themselves after the Week 2 loss at Oregon. While it isn’t nearly the signature win they would like, a dominating performance would help restore Michigan State’s image of being playoff worthy. That’s something they should be able to do here. Nebraska looks good on paper because they’re 5-0 and ranked 19th, but they haven’t really played anybody. They can run the ball almost at will, but the defense hasn’t really been tested and against the toughest team they played (Miami), Brad Kaaya threw for over 300 yards and Duke Johnson averaged over five yards per carry. That’s not a good sign heading into a game against a Michigan State offense that is adept at both passing and throwing behind Connor Cook and Jeremy Langford. Nebraska will also have to travel for this game. Trae Waynes and Kurtis Drummond will neutralize Nebraska’s passing attack (if you can call it that). Drummond didn’t play well against Oregon, but Marcus Mariota and that offense can make a lot of defenses look bad. And Tommy Armstrong ain’t Marcus Mariota. This will allow the Spartans to stack the box and limit Heisman candidate Ameer Abdullah. The Huskers won’t be able to do enough on offense and the Spartans get back in the playoff hunt, winning 38-20.

What We Learned in Norman

Last Saturday night, the Tennessee Vols faced their most daunting challenge since Oregon in 2013. They had to fly into Norman, Oklahoma, face a Sooner team that was ranked #4, and try to come out victorious despite missing two of their (Vols) biggest playmakers. The nation was giving the Vols absolutely no chance in this game, and some were even predicting a five-touchdown loss for the Vols. Instead, Tennessee came out, showed great discipline on the road, and gave the Sooners a run for their money. Even though the Vols still lost by 24, the game was unbelievably close at many points. I think it’s safe to say that Tennessee surprised everyone, maybe even Bob Stoops himself. Volnation learned a lot about the direction the program is headed as well as the toughness & discipline the players showed on the road in a hostile environment like Norman.
The first, and maybe most important thing we learned from the game Saturday was how calm, collected, and ready to play Butch Jones & the Vols were. Butch has always preached preparedness, maturity, and staying calm on the road, and the Vols couldn’t have done a better job. Butch had the players (mostly freshmen) approach the game just like any other, which led to the confidence they expressed on the field. We had very few mental mistakes throughout the game, including only 1 penalty THE ENTIRE GAME. I have never seen a more disciplined Vols team since the glory days of Phillip Fulmer. In my opinion, that stat is the most revealing. The fact that a very inexperienced team full of freshmen (possibly the most inexperienced in the nation) can go into Norman, Oklahoma, and the crowd/atmosphere have absolutely no effect on them is almost unbelievable. Whether it was because they play in front of 102,455 SEC fans I’m not sure, but one thing’s for sure, OU’s noise was weak compared to any other SEC team. I’m proud of the players and coaches for preparing for this game, and not letting anything become a distraction. It’s a great sign that Butch has already taught his team how to play on the road. Not to mention this was the freshmen’s first game against a well-coached powerhouse program, who just happened to be #4 in the country, and a team that most people predict to be in the playoffs this season. Butch has this program on the way up, and it’s only a matter of time before the Vols bust out some top ten wins.
NCAA Football: Tennessee at Oklahoma
Thought to be the strength of the team by many this year, the Volunteers’ defense came to play against the Sooners. Anchored by Cam Sutton, A.J. Johnson, Curt Maggitt, and Jalen Reeves-Maybin, the Vols defense held Trevor Knight to a mediocre game at best. In fact, Knight played better against the Crimson Tide in last year’s Sugar Bowl. The Vols held Trevor Knight to 308 passing yards, 1 TD, & 1 INT. For the QB of the “great” Oklahoma Sooners, that just isn’t good enough. Again, a super young Vols defense made Trevor Knight look like just another quarterback. Tennessee’s defensive line (no returning starters) made Knight uncomfortable all night, which caused him to make more mistakes than he would against his Big 12 opponents. Without a doubt the most impressive stat was Tennessee’s ability to win 3rd down on defense. Oklahoma was 3-12 on 3rd down, a stat that usually foreshadows an offense’s efficiency. It doesn’t matter if the Vols are in Neyland or on the road in “a hostile environment”, they want to win 3rd down.
If the defense continues to force turnovers and win 3rd down, the SEC should watch out, because this Vol defense is dangerous.
The one problem I had with the defense on Saturday night was the inability to cover pass catchers, and sometimes, blow entire coverage’s. Butch has to keep preaching to the secondary about knowing their assignments on every single play, and executing them to the “(Power) T”.
Justin Worley, Quentin Hayes, Chuka Ndulue
The offense had their fair share of problems throughout the game, and the only bright side was Justin Worley’s performance. Worley showed all of Volnation how tough he is, and how resilient he can be. Just like the defensive line, Tennessee’s offensive line returned no starters this year. They had an extremely tough matchup against a Sooner defensive line that took advantage of our fledgling O-line. Justin Worley probably had an average of 1.5 seconds to throw the ball before some 300-lb lineman was spearing him into the ground. Yet every time, Worley got up, and continued to fight for his school. You cannot expect any quarterback to play well when he is getting hit before he finishes his drop back. Justin finished the game with 201 yards, 1 TD & 2 INT’s. Not the greatest performance from a statistics standpoint, however it was a valiant performance considering how little time he had to throw the ball. Volnation has FINALLY embraced Worley as their quarterback after treating him like the devil last year. Hopefully Volnation isn’t too ignorant to realize that Justin Worley is the only person who can lead this year’s Tennessee team to a bowl game, and for that reason I encourage all Vol fans to get behind him 110%. Justin Worley has proven his dedication to the University of Tennessee, and worked his butt off to be a good quarterback. Worley is paving the way for every quarterback who comes after him, and showing them what it means to be a Tennessee QB. His performance against Oklahoma showed every player how a Tennessee Vol handles adversity; he fights back even harder. As a Tennessee fan, that’s all you can ask for, and if you aren’t on the Worley train, then don’t jump on the bandwagon when we start winning SEC games.

Knight in Sliding Armor

Trevor Knight, the teams returning leader in rushing yards, was injured last year in week 2 of the regular season in a win against West Virginia. He took some pretty big hits all through 2013, and was injured a couple of times. This was due to the aggressive nature of Knights running. If he saw open space, he would make the best of it and go for as long as he could. Nothing wrong with that, but there was a problem with the way he went down and was constantly taking hits. In last years Sugar Bowl, it looked like Knight learned the key to staying healthy. Sliding. Before Trevor Knight, Oklahoma went 6 years without a running quarterback. Sam Bradford and Landry Jones were pocket passers who only scrambled when needed to (Jones never did).
So it was nice last year to see Knight electrify Gaylord Memorial-Stadium with a huge runs throughout the season. But this offseason the Sooners starting QB learned to not be so aggressive, and take the yards given before making contact.
Which is why this past Saturday in the first quarter of their game against Louisiana Tech, when Knight was facing 2nd & 7 in Tech territory, Knight tucked the ball and rolled out to scramble. He got the first down and perhaps got of got even more, but he did the right thing and slide down to protect himself before the Tech defender could get there. It showed Knight’s maturity and how he’s progressed as a leader since last season. The Sooners then went down and scored to go up 7-0. The first of many drives that Knight lead the team down the field.

Knight, 9, will look to build off his week one performance against Tulsa this Saturday.

This is something he’ll have to do the whole season if Oklahoma is to go undefeated and win the Big 12. The Sooners can’t afford to lose Knight this season. The Sophomore is considered a veteran on this young offense, his leadership will be key for Oklahoma come conference play. In other words, he needs to stay injury free this season. Right now, it looks like he’s on the right path.
The path to the college football playoff that is.
Knight threw for 253 yards and lead OU down the field their first four possessions to put the game away early. He also tossed a beautiful 16 yard pass to Sterling Shepard for a touchdown.
The Sooners play Tulsa next week at 12 p.m. ET. Tulsa won their opener 38-31 in 2OT against Tulane. Tulsa only won three games last season, but they should be bowl eligible this season if their quarterbacks keep up their level of play.

#3 Oklahoma Looks To Start Off With Bang Against Lousiana Tech

It’s finally here.
The moment we’ve all been waiting for, it’s finally Week 1 of the college football season. Every FBS team has a chance at the playoffs and no one has a loss. It’s also the only college football season that involves every fan base being happy at one time. It’s almost too good to be true, because for the first time in history college football will have playoff implications.
While the Sooner’s start off at #3,  they have lots of room for improvement. After all they have the youngest running back group in Bob Stoops’ tenure at OU and the receivers will be seeing some new faces as well. The defensive secondary will also be replacing kast year’s veterans Gabe Lynn and Aaron Colvin, while Julian Wilson and Zach Sanchez will step into bigger roles than ever before. Also the whole country is dieing to see Trevor Knight’s encore performance from the Sugar Bowl where he played better than any quarterback in Oklahoma history given the circumstances.
They start off facing Lousiana Tech, who has been up and down the past couple of seasons. Last year they went 4-8, but the year before they went 9-3, and in 2011 they finished a respectable 8-5. Their 30-30 record over the past five seasons should tell you I’m not playing around when I say they had their ups and downs. This season, I have them finishing 7-5 with losses to Auburn, Rice, North Texas and wins over UTEP, UTSA, and Lousiana. That would put them into position to make their second bowl bid in three seasons.

Kenneth Dixon, 28, should surpass over 1000 yards on the ground in his junior year. Dixon rushed for over 900 last season but couldn’t hit the 1000 mark.

The LA Tech Bulldogs are lead by running back Kenneth Dixon who was picked to the Preseason Conference USA First-Team. They are coached by Skip Holtz, son of legendary coach and announcer Lou Holtz. Cody Zokul looks to be the starter for the Bulldogs after transferring from Iowa last season, but it could go either way between Zokul and Ryan Higgins, who started 6 games for Tech last season.
The defense gave up 26.3 points per game last year with a relatively weak schedule, but they return seven starters on that side of the ball.
Those seven was 92nd in rushing defense last season, something that will have to be nearly perfect if the Bulldogs have any chance at upsetting the Sooners in Norman.
The passing defense placed 31st in the country right behind Oklahoma, so the Bulldogs may be able to stop Trevor Knight through the air early on before he gets comfortable.
Once he gets comfortable, I don’t think the Sooners will look back, which is why I don’t think it’ll be a close game.
From the home field advantage, to the weak rushing defense of Tech, to the fact that the linebackers of OU will get a chance at a young quarterback, all signs point to Oklahoma starting off with a huge bang to begin the season.
Keith Ford, 21, breaks tackles in last year’s home match against Tulsa. Ford averaged 6.47 yards per carry in that game with one score.

This game should see Knight and the offense struggle early in the first quarter against the experienced defense before they start to click. The ground game will carry Oklahoma from start to finish before it ends with a K.O early in the second half with Knight and Shepard making plays left and right. RB Keith Ford should amass over 100 yards and have a couple of scores on the ground for the third ranked Sooners.
Prediction : 42-6, Oklahoma

Sooners Best and Worst Case Scenarios In 2014

In a little less than two weeks , college football  will have officially taken over our life’s as we know it. That means no more preseason polls, hype or fussing about who’s conference is better than who’s (Pac 12 may be the winner this year). That also means no more dreaming about undefeated seasons, because odds are it’s not happening. But before the preseason is over, lets look at the best and worst case scenarios for the team I write about, the Oklahoma Sooners.
The best case scenario is usually the only one fans think of. You’re either thinking about that one game against your rival where you’re certain your team is going to win or you might be looking ahead to this year being the year where it all comes together and you win it all. Perhaps you are a little more like me and your’e worrying about trap games; i’m looking at you West Virginia and Iowa State. Either way you are absolutely pumped.
Here i’m assuming that the Sooner’s current roster is the way it’s going to be on game day. No Frank Shannon, Baker Mayfield, or Dorial Green-Beckham.

Best Case Scenario – The preseason #3 gets a jump start against Louisiana Tech while Trevor Knight throws 3 touchdowns and rushes for another. Sooners win 55-7. The next week at Tulsa the defense takes over and so does the rushing game, the Sooners win this one 34-3. In a SEC showdown against (2-0) Tennessee, Big Game Bob delivers at home on the offensive side of the ball and win in dominating fashion, 49-14. After the bye week the Sooners start conference play at Morgantown where last time they narrowly escaped by one point. This time around, West Virginia doesn’t score a point and Oklahoma moves on to 4-0, winning 28-0. The Sooners start to get some first place votes, but stay at #3.
Oklahoma travels to play undefeated #17 TCU in the next week, and the Horned Frogs battle the Sooners until a last second field goal propels them to victory, 27-24. In the Red River Rivalry the following weekend, Oklahoma gets their revenge on #23 Texas and force 3 turnovers to win it, 38-17. Halfway through a perfect season, the Sooners continue their streak of always winning the game after Texas and beat #13 Kansas State in an offensive showdown, 42-38. Alabama loses, and the Sooners are #2 in every single poll. Trevor Knight gets more and more Heisman talk, right behind Jameis Winston and Leonard Fournette. After a nice week off, the Sooners play Iowa State in a cold Saturday night in Ames, Iowa. The Sooners barely beat the Cyclones, in a sloppy 20-14 performance. Oklahoma is now 8-0 looking on to play #9 Baylor in a battle for the Big 12 crown. Baylor keeps it competitive, but the Sooners close it out with a late pick six and win the game 41-33. They are now almost locked for the Big 12 crown heading into Lubbock. The Sooners are still riding their win against Baylor, but fall short against Texas Tech. Knight throws two interception and Keith Ford fumbles the football late in the fourth as Oklahoma drops to 9-1 and #6 in the polls.
The Sooners take out their anger on the Jayhawks and win that game by four touchdowns. In the bye wee after, Florida State loses to Florida and Penn State beats Michigan State while Alabama beats Auburn to get the Sooners to #4 in the country. In conference championship week, Oklahoma hosts OSU and sends them to 7-5 on the year, running their way to a 31-21 victory. That sends Oklahoma to the innagural College Football Playoff as the number three seed set up to play Oregon.

The Ducks start off strong with a 10-0 lead early, but the Sooners defense takes over after that and they tie it up at halftime. Knight proves clutch again in big games and the offense goes on a 24-7 run to end the game, 24-17. That sets up a National Championship game against Florida State. The Sooners score first and never look back, as Jameis Winston throws multiple interceptions in the second half . Big game Bob and the Oklahoma Sooners capture their 8th national championship while Knight gets player of the game after throwing for 3 touchdowns and leading the offense to a surprising blowout, 35-16.
13-1 record, Big 12 Champions, College Football Playoff Champions
Now for the less promising season that puts me in tears.
Worst Case Scenario – Oklahoma and Trevor Knight starts off shaky against Lousiana Tech, winning narrowly in the opener 24-20. The next week Oklahoma looks a little more comfortable the week after, and gets the job done against Tulsa, 35-13. Against Tennessee, the defense plays the best it has all year in a 31-7 beatdown in Norman. That sets up conference play where the West Virginia Mountaineer defense makes it a nightmare in Morgantown, the Sooners drop the conference opener 20-17, and fall to #10 in the polls. The next week isn’t so pretty either, but the Sooners beat TCU 28-20.
Against Texas the Sooners play the best they have all season, as Bob Stoops hasn’t lost a revenge game since 2009. The defense plays solid and OU wins 31-10. The Sooners rise to #8 in the polls and sit at 5-1. They play sloppy against Kansas State, but pull out the late field goal to go up 30-28 in the final seconds. They get a nice week off and are #7 in the country before heading to Iowa State. The Cyclones give the Sooners trouble on offense, and pull out the upset late 31-27. The loss sets Oklahoma back to #14 and a 6-2 record. The Sooners then host undefeated #4 Baylor in Norman, but in a high scoring overtime game Trevor Knight leads the offense in a 45-41 OT victory and keeps up their hopes for a Big 12 title. They climb back to #9, but not before they face Texas Tech on the road. Oklahoma loses a shootout, 38-34. They drop to 4-3 in conference play and #17 in the polls. They beat Kansas 24-3 heading into their final regular season game against Oklahoma State. The Sooners once again play a great against a rival and win this one 42-17.

At 9-3 and #14 in the country the Sooners get a bowl invite to the Valero Alamo Bowl against USC, where the Sooners get some revenge from the distant 2004 BCS National Championship against the Trojans, and win a sluggish battle 23-17.
10-3 record, Alamo Bowl Champions
Let me tell you, I was a lot happier writing the first part than I was the second as it took me back to the Landry Jones era of mediocrity.
12 days until gameday.