johnson_gary_wvu_p1702a CONF

Texas WLB Gary Johnson was named pre-season 1st Tm B12 for 2018 by Phil Steele

Texas was one of the most dominant teams in the nation at the turn of the century. From 2000-2009, the Longhorns went 110-19 with seven Top 10 finishes including a National Championship in 2005.

Fans in Austin have been longing a return to relevancy since. Texas went just 46-42 in the following seven years, making two coaching changes in the process. After three consecutive losing seasons, the Longhorns made a splash by hiring Tom Herman last year.

While the 7-6 record Texas finished with was hardly overwhelming, they did win their first bowl game since 2012. The offense surprisingly regressed under the tutelage of the offensive minded Herman. The defense, however, showed major improvement, going from allowing 448 yards per game and 31.5 points per game in 2016 to allowing 366 yards per game and 21.2 points per game in 2017. With four of their losses by five points or less, Texas was basically one play away from finishing 11-2!

The 2018 season appears that it will be very kind to the Longhorn faithful. Texas has seven returning starters on each side of the ball, eight on offense if you include both quarterbacks Sam Ehlinger and Shane Buechele. The offense will be improved in the second year of Herman’s system. Not only do the Longhorns return experience at quarterback, but also their top two wide receivers in 6’2” Collin Johnson and 6’4” Lil’Jordan Humphrey. Leading running back Daniel Young also returns, but don’t be surprised if he is beaten out by incoming true freshman Keaontay Ingram, a 6’1”, 200 pound speedster. Texas features four offensive lineman that have been full-time starters.

The front end of the schedule is a little daunting, specifically a brutal four week stretch when they host USC and TCU, followed by road trips to Manhattan versus Kansas State and Dallas for the Red River Rivalry. If Texas can manage that stretch and remain healthy, their last six games will be much easier and some blowouts in November will force the College Football Playoff committee to pay attention.

Texas has the talent to finish in the Top 10 of the rankings for the first time since 2009 and with a little luck, could find itself in the Playoffs.

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International Boxing Federation World Champion Simon Brown made the first defense of his title after stopping Jorge Vaca at 2:05 of round three at the National Arena in Kingston, Jamaica on July 16th, 1988. Brown scored five knockdowns overall and led 20-15 twice and 20-13 on the scorecards at the time of the stoppage. The 24 year old Brown improved to 26-1, 20 KO’s, while the 28 year old Vaca slipped to 42-8-1, 36 KO’s.

World Boxing Council Welterweight World Champion Milton McCrory made the fifth defense of his title after stopping Carlos Trujillo at 2:03 of round three at the Stade Louis II in Fontvieille, Monaco on July 14th, 1985. The 23 year old McCrory led 20-18 twice and 20-17 on the scorecards at the time of the stoppage and improved to 27-0-1, 22 KO’s. The 24 year old Trujillo dropped to 19-3, 14 KO’s.

Stanley Morgan Jr.

First Team All-Big Ten wide receiver Stanley Morgan

The Nebraska Cornhuskers failed to make a Bowl game last year for the first time since 2007 and their four wins were the fewest in a season since 1961. Fortunately for Nebraska fans, they won’t have to wait long to see improvement.

After failing in their attempt to shift to a pass offense for a second time (first was from 2004-2007) Nebraska is moving to a spread option attack under new head coach Scott Frost, who led the ‘Huskers to their last National Championship as the quarterback in 1997. Frost was named the National Coach of the Year after leading the UCF Knights to the only undefeated season in the FBS in 2017.

The change in offensive philosophy perfectly suits quarterback Adrian Martinez, a 6’2” 205 pound true freshman from Fresno, Ca. Martinez threw for over 2,500 yards and ran for nearly 1,500 with 39 total touchdowns as a high school Junior, but missed his Senior season due to a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. Still, expert college football prognosticator Phil Steele rated Martinez as the No. 17 quarterback in the 2018 recruiting class. Martinez enrolled early and took part in spring practices, showing he’s recovered from the injury.

Helping Martinez transition to the college game will be an elite pair of wide receivers in Senior Stanley Morgan and Sophomore JD Spielman. Nebraska may be changing their offensive scheme, but that doesn’t mean they will be eliminating their passing attack altogether.

Frost’s UCF offense averaged 332 passing yards per game in 2017. Sure, having an All-American quarterback certainly allowed for more passing in the playcalling, but that also shows that Nebraska’s offense should be able to matchup against different defensive formations thrown its way.

Morgan set a ‘Husker record with 986 yards last year while earning First Team Big Ten honors. Spielman’s 830 yards was the most ever by Freshman in Lincoln.

Nebraska enters this season on a four game losing streak and after losing back-to-back non-conference games last year for the first time since 1957, should have little trouble starting 3-0 in 2018 before beginning Big Ten play.

While their conference schedule is brutal with road games at Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Ohio State, and Iowa (all bowl teams), Nebraska should be favored at home versus Purdue, Minnesota, and Illinois.

After being outscored by an average of 36-26 and outgained by an average of 51 yards per game in 2017, Steele projects Nebraska to get outscored by just three points per game and outgained by five yards per game in 201, despite the tougher schedule.

Nebraska should get back to a bowl game and while six wins certainly won’t appease most ‘Husker fans, it certainly beats staying home for the holidays. The record won’t show a drastic improvement, but the play on the field will and Nebraska is certainly trending in the right direction.

International Boxing Hall of Famer and World Boxing Council Light Heavyweight World Champion Matthew Saad Muhammad made the fourth defense of his title after stopping Yaqui Lopez at 2:03 of round 14 at the Great Gorge Playboy Club in McAfee, New Jersey on July 13th, 1980. The contest was named Ring Magazine “Fight of the Year” with round eight named the “Round of the Year” by the same publication. The 26 year old Saad Muhammad dropped the 29 year old Lopez four times in round 14 in improving to 27-3-2, 19 KO’s. Lopez fell to 49-10, 33 KO’s. This was the second time they fought each other with Muhammad winning the initial encounter, also by stoppage, in round 11 in 1978.

World Boxing Council Jr Middleweight World Champion Maurice Hope made the second defense of his title after stopping Rocky Mattioli at 2:52 of round 11 at the Conference Centre in Wembley, London on July 12th, 1980. Hope led 98-91 twice and 98-92 on the scorecards at the time of the stoppage. This was a rematch from March of 1979 when Hope won the WBC title after stopping Mattioli in round 9. The 28 year old Hope improved to 29-2-1, 24 KO’s, while the 26 year old Mattioli dropped to 59-6-2, 46 KO’s.

McSorley_Trace (A-17-Iowa-MS) 5260

Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley

A school that for years was known as “Linebacker U” has gotten much more attention on the other side of the ball recently. More specifically at quarterback.

Trace McSorley returns for his Senior season in Happy Valley after starting all 27 games the last two years. While slight in frame at six feet tall and just 198 pounds, McSorley set Nittany Lion records after throwing for 3,614 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2016. He followed that up by throwing for 3,570 yards and 28 touchdowns in one less game last year. McSorley earned second team Big Ten honors the last two years and is 1,089 yards away from passing Christian Hackenberg to become Penn State’s career pass yards leader. He’s also the first in school history with back-to-back 3,000 yard passing seasons.

McSorley has a strong arm with a quick release and is highly accurate. He makes others around him better and can extend plays with ease due to his playmaking ability with his feet. Noted college football prognosticator Phil Steele has tabbed McSorley pre-season first team All-Conference.

McSorley doesn’t have any injury history, but serving as his backup is Junior Tommy Stevens, who has seen action in 16 games last two years. At 6’5” and 232 pounds, Stevens has the prototypical size for the next level. Defensive coordinator Brent Pry claims that Stevens would be a starter at 75 percent of the schools playing in the FBS. Despite his size he is actually faster than McSorley and was just beaten out as the starter in 2016.

The extremely deep quarterback room doesn’t end there. Redshirt freshman Sean Clifford was rated by Steele as the No. 15 quarterback in the nation coming out of high school in 2017. Clifford, who has characteristics similar to McSorley, saw a lot of reps this spring and has shown tremendous maturity despite his youth. Sophomore Jake Zembiec was the Gatorade player of the Year in New York as a high school senior, but injuries have limited his college career thus far. Joining the room this fall will be 6’3” 220 pound true freshman Will Levis, who threw for 2,793 yards and 27 touchdowns in his final high school season.

Steele projects the Nittany Lions to average 298 passing yards per game in 2018 so assuming McSorley remains healthy, he’ll obliterate the school record.

Penn State won’t be put in a bad situation when McSorley’s eligibility is exhausted as they’ve built up their quarterback room to be the best in the nation. Whether its Stevens, Clifford, Zembiec, or Levis, the Nittany Lions will have a formidable option under center for years to come.

International Boxing Hall of Fame member and lineal Super Bantamweight world champion Wilfredo “Bazooka” Gomez made the first defense of his title after stopping Raul Tirado at 2:59 of round five at the Coliseo Roberto Clemente, in San Juan, Puerto Rico on July. 11th, 1977. The 20 year old Gomez improved to 16-0-1, 16 KO’s.

World Boxing Council Super Lightweight World Champion Bruno Arcari made his first defense of his title when Rene Roque was disqualified for head butting at 1:29 of round six at Stadio Beach, Lignano Sabbiadoro, Italy on July 10th, 1970. The 28 year old Arcari improved to 40-2, 22 KO’s, while the 28 year old Roque dropped to 43-8-6, 6 KO’s. Arcari would go on to make nine successful defenses before vacating the belt to move up to welterweight.

Football at Iowa State

LB Joe Dineen earned 2nd Tm AA Honors in 2017

Every year college football prognosticator Phil Steele releases an experience chart that compares every FBS team and ranks each them accordingly. The factors include career offensive line starts returning, percentage of tackles returning, percentage of yards returning, percentage of letterman returning, and Seniors listed as starters or in the two-deep. Teams ranking high on the chart are typically improved from the prior season.

Surprisingly, the most experienced team on the chart in recent years however, hasn’t always shown the normal improvement.

In 2015 Steele graded UMass as the most experienced team in the country entering the season with a point total of 83.6. Coming off a season in which they finished 3-5 in conference play and 3-9 overall, the Minutemen ended 2015 just 2-6 in conference play with the same 3-9 overall record.

Kent State was Steele’s most experienced team in 2016 with a point total of 79.9. The Golden Flashes were 3-9, including 2-6 in conference play in 2015. Unfortunately, Kent State finished with the exact same marks.

Last year Florida Atlantic earned the title from Steele as the most experienced team entering the season (80.3 grade). The improvement was substantial as the Owls went from 2-6 in conference play and 3-9 overall, to 9-0 in league action and 11-3 overall including a blowout Boca Raton Bowl win!

Kansas has the most experienced team in the nation according to Steele this year with a point total of 85.5. The Jayhawks return 19 starters from a team that finished 1-11 overall, including 0-9 in the Big 12 in 2017. They will be a ‘dog in all nine of their conference games this year, meaning they will need to pull an upset to avoid another winless B12 season. They could, however, double their overall win total. A victory over FCS member Nicholls in the opener should be attainable. While Kansas has lost 49 straight games away from Lawrence, they will be playing with revenge at a Central Michigan squad that is picked to finish last in the MAC West.

Wins and losses may not be a fair assessment of the improvement Kansas could show this season. They were outscored by over three touchdowns and outgained by 139 yards per game last year, but Steele is projecting the Jayhawks to get outscored by just over a touchdown this year while being outgained by 68 yards per game.

While Jayhawk fans are likely in for another long season with a coaching change imminent, at least the faithful should see a more competitive product on the field and the amount of blowout losses will be reduced.