Archive for the ‘College football’ Category


Last year the Iowa State Cyclones had zero returning starters on the offensive line, but still managed to rush for 163 yards per game while averaging 4.3 yards per carry and allowed 10 less sacks than in 2015.

Entering the season they figured to have one starter back in left tackle Jake Campos, who had started 23 games the previous two years. Unfortunately, Campos broke his leg in August and was lost for the entire year.

Fast forward to 2017 and the Cyclones are in much better shape as Campos returns as does starting right tackle Julian Good-Jones, who will likely move to center.

Campos was Iowa State’s top high school recruit in their 2013 class and arguably their most decorated under former head coach Paul Rhoads. He played in the US Army All-American game and was a First Team All-Iowa selection as a senior. College football expert Phil Steele rated him as the No. 31 offensive lineman in the nation.

After red-shirting his first year in Ames, Campos added 19 pounds and started the last 11 games in 2014.  He started all 12 games in 2015 when the Cyclones averaged 182 rushing yards per game, their most since 2001.

Campos is now listed at 6’8” 305 pounds. The Senior was held out of spring practices, but will be back to participating in fall camp. Steele listed him as a Third Team Preseason Big 12 selection in his annual preview magazine, nicknamed “The College Football Bible.”



The last running back that ran for over 1,000 yards for the Kansas State Wildcats was John Hubert in 2013, with 1,048.

Since then, the leading running back has had 540 yards in 2014, 692 yards in 2015, and 596 yards last year.

The leading returnee is 5’10” 198 pound Junior Justin Silmon, who had 464 yards and averaged 5.4 yards per carry in 2016.

The natural assumption would be that he would take over the lead role this year, but that honor will belong to Alex Barnes.

After rushing for 2,361 yards and 38 touchdowns as a high school Senior, Barnes picked up his second straight Conference Offensive Player of the Year award. College Football expert Phil Steele had Barnes rated as the No. 106 running back out of high school. He graduated early and arrived in Manhattan before the spring practices in 2015, but still red-shirt his initial year.

The 6’1” 221 Sophomore had just 56 carries as a red-shirt Freshman last year, but his 7.9 yards per carry average was the best ever under head coach Bill Snyder (now entering his 26th season) and led the Big 12 Conference.

Barnes was the first freshman in school history with back-to-back 100 yard games (versus Baylor and Kansas) and was never tackled behind the line of scrimmage. He missed the last two games due to injury, but was the healthiest since he arrived this spring.

He reads schemes well, sees daylight, and is aggressive. He’s also an extremely hard worker.

Quarterback Jessie Ertz ran for 1,012 yards last year, but will likely see his carries scaled back as he is coming off shoulder surgery. The Wildcats return four starters on their offensive line and Steele named Barnes pre-season fourth team Big 12 entering the 2017 campaign. There’s no reason to think he won’t earn that assuming he stays healthy.



The West Virginia Mountaineers have had plenty of offensive firepower under head coach Dana Holgorsen. In his six years at the helm, the Mountaineers have averaged less than 30 points per game just once, while averaging 294 passing yards per game in that span.

West Virginia will have a new signal caller under center  this season after Skyler Howard started all 26 games the last two years.

6’2” 204 pound junior Will Grier will take over the reigns after sitting out last year when he transferred from Florida.

Grier was the Parade National Player of the Year after totaling 4,989 yards and a nation high 77 touchdowns his senior year. College football expert Phil Steele had Grier rated the No. 3 quarterback out of high school.

After red-shirting in 2014 for the Gators, Grier won the job by the middle of the 2015 spring practices. He went on to play in six games, starting five, and threw for 1,204 yards (66 percent) with a 10-3 touchdown to interception ratio. Unfortunately, an ingredient in an over the counter supplement triggered a positive PED test and Grier was handed a one year suspension by the NCAA in October.

Grier has lived in the film room since his arrival in Morgantown. He has outstanding accuracy and can make all the throws due to his strong arm. He’s also an underrated scrambler and is more dangerous in the quarterback run game than given credit.

With the Mountaineers far less experienced than last year, Grier will have to take control of an offense that has just five returning starters, including just two on the offensive line. West Virginia must also replace its top two receivers.

Provided he stays healthy Grier will throw for over 3,000 yards and should be able to lead the Mountaineers to a fourth straight bowl game.

Cobbs_AA WR Top Unit Page

When Simmie Cobbs signed to play at Indiana in 2014, he was their No. 17 overall rated recruit out of 26 signees. He was considered the third best receiver in the signing class behind top overall recruit Dominique Booth and J-Shun Harris.

All three played all 12 games as true freshman with Harris having the most production, starting six games and being named the teams “Offensive Newcomer Player of the Year.”

Cobbs was considered intriguing, started twice, and his 16.3 yards per catch average led the team. Former head coach Kevin Wilson said the then 6’4” 210 pounder was, “Physically more mature than the other receivers.”

Booth didn’t start any games and had just 70 yards.

Cobbs enhanced his stock over the off-season and was named the Hoosiers most improved player after the 2015 spring practice. He stepped up as a leader over the summer and took on additional pressure after both Harris and Booth were lost for the year during fall camp due to injuries.

While he had some troubling drops, Cobbs went on to earn Third Team Big Ten honors after leading Indiana in catches and yards. His 1,035 yards were third best in the conference, while his 60 catches ranked eighth.

Last year Booth was medically disqualified due to concussions, while Harris was again lost for the year due to an ACL injury.

Cobbs missed the opener, but started versus Ball State in game two. Unfortunately, he then suffered an ankle injury and was lost for the year, finishing with zero catches.

Cobbs and Harris are both expected to be 100 percent by the fall. Cobbs is now 220 pounds and earned the “Outstanding Special Teams” award after Spring practices. While not a burner, he has a big catch radius and attacks the ball.

So much is thought of of Cobbs, that college football expert Phil Steele made him a preseason First Team All-Big Ten selection.

New offensive coordinator Mike DeBord did a fine job at Tennessee the last two years and returns to the Big Ten, where he served as a Michigan assistant for 11 years.

Quarterback Richard Lagow returns to lead the offense and look for Cobbs to emerge as his favorite target.



Northwestern must replace two of it’s three leading receivers from last year, including Phil Steele’s Third Team All-American Austin Carr. The leading returnee is Flynn Nagel, who had 40 catches for 447 yards in 2016.

Carr was the lone Big Ten player that had over 1,000 receiving yards last year, but his loss won’t be as big as expected.

Joining the Wildcats over the off-season was Jalen Brown, a 6’1” 200 Junior grad transfer from Oregon. Brown was rated as the No. 17 receiver in the nation out of high school according to Steele’s rankings.

Carr had just 23 career receptions before breaking out last year, and Brown enters this season with 26 career receptions. Both are the exact same size. Brown is described as being explosive and made six starts for the Ducks last year.

Despite not playing a down for Northwestern, Brown was named a 2017 preseason second team Big Ten selection by Phil Steele.

Chris James

Wisconsin has produced a 1,000 yard running back 11 of last 12 years.  The Badgers head into 2017 having to replace their top two leading rushers from a year ago. Their leading returnee is sophomore Bradrick Shaw, who had 457 rushing yards. Junior Taiwan Deal has 667 career rushing yards, but underwent ankle surgery over the off season. While either would be a logical choice to take over as the feature back, there’s another player that will likely assume the role.

Chris James ran for 690 yards, averaging 4.8 yards per carry over 23 games for Pitt in 2014-’15. As part of head coach Paul Chryst’s last recruiting class with the Panthers, James played in every game as a true freshman, rushing for 437 yards, while averaging 5.0 yards per carry. He transferred to Wisconsin last year, playing on the practice squad during the season.

The 5’10” 216 pound junior has been compared to 2016 first team Big Ten running back Corey Clement. He has speed and quickness to make big plays in the open field, while also being sturdy enough to run between the tackles. He’s powerfully built and shifty. Despite just eight career receptions, he has the skill-set to accumulate more and is stout in picking up the blitz.

James should benefit from an offensive line that loses just 1 starter. College football expert Phil Steele said this was by far Wisconsin’s best offensive line since Chryst took over as head coach in 2015 and right guard Beau Benzschawel and center Michael Deiter each made Steele’s preseason All Big-Ten team.

It shouldn’t be a surprise if James rushes for the most yards in a season by a Badger under Chryst, provided he stays healthy. It also shouldn’t be a surprise if James is the Big Ten’s leading rusher at seasons end.


Tanner Lee courtesy of AP

Of the 14 teams in the Big Ten, eight have returning starters at the quarterback position for the 2017 season. While names like JT Barrett, Trace McSorley, and Wilton Speight are well known, there’s another player that has a chance to outshine them all.

Tanner Lee is expected to win the Nebraska job, taking over for four year starter Tommy Armstrong. Huskers head coach Mike Riley favors a pass oriented offense and Lee fits the mold much better than Armstrong did.

Lee transferred to Nebraska last year from Tulane and ran the offense on the scout team. He started 19 games with the Green Wave, and while his numbers weren’t overwhelming (54%, 23-21 ratio) the talent surrounding him now is far superior.

Following his appearance at the Manning Passing Academy in the summer of 2015, Archie Manning gave him the ultimate compliment, saying he “Put (Jared) Goff to shame. No comparison.” Goff would later become the first overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft.

Lee worked with famed quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr this past off-season and entered spring practices 15 pounds heavier. He’s now listed at 6’4” 220 pounds. Lee has an NFL level delivery, gets rid of the ball quick, and has a very strong knowledge of Riley’s pro-style offense.

Provided he stays healthy, Lee should put up the most passing yards by a Husker quarterback since at least 2008, when Joe Ganz threw for 3,568 yards. College football expert Phil Steele tabbed Lee as a pre-season 3rd Team Big Ten selection. Nebraska is also a legitimate contender in the Big Ten West Division, thus giving Lee additional exposure and for those that aren’t familiar with his talent level, surely will know about him by seasons end.



I know, I know.  “There’s too many bowls.” I hear this all the time. I, for one like the bowl games and will share some reasons to maybe change your mind enough to tune into the New Orleans Bowl (Southern Miss Golden Eagles vs Louisiana Ragin Cajuns).

  1. These schools were former rivals, having met 50 previous times with the 1st game played in 1923 and the last in 2008.
  2. Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens completed 63% of his passes with a 22-10 ratio and Louisiana counters with Phil Steele’s #106 ranked pass efficiency defense.
  3. Louisiana running back Elijah McGuire was the Sun Belt’s Player of the Year in 2014. He’s been banged up this year, but is as healthy as he’s been all season and the Golden Eagles allow 149 (4.7) rush yards per game. Can I also mention that McGuire walked on to the Ragin Cajuns basketball team last season?
  4. Despite being an underdog in 3 of the 4 New Orleans Bowl games they’ve been in, Louisiana has won all 4. They are a 6.5 point underdog this year.
  5. Southern Miss is 6-6 this year, but actually outgained 11 of their 12 opponents.


I know, I know.  “There’s too many bowls.” I hear this all the time. I, for one like the bowl games and will share some reasons to maybe change your mind enough to tune into the Camellia Bowl (Appalachian State Mountaineers vs Toledo Rockets).

  1. Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside led the FBS with 43 touchdown passes! How will he fare when he looks across the field at Phil Steele’s #10 ranked pass efficiency defense that only allowed 10 td’s while intercepting 19 passes?
  2. Toledo set a school record averaging 530 yards per game. While Appalachian State allowed non conference opponents to gain 420 yards per game, they did hold Tennessee to just 4.4 yards per play.
  3. Appalachian State runs the option offense that averages 247 (5.6) rush yards per game and Toledo allows 166 (4.7) rush yards per game.
  4. Toledo tight end Michael Roberts was named 1st Team Mid American Conference and the best tight end the Mountaineers faced this year was 3rd Team Sun Belt Buck Cowan from Idaho and he finished with 10 receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown.
  5. This is likely going to end up as a high scoring affair so if points is your thing, you will be entertained.


I know, I know.  “There’s too many bowls.” I hear this all the time. I, for one like the bowl games and will share some reasons to maybe change your mind enough to tune into the Cure Bowl (Arkansas State Red Wolves vs UCF Knights).

  1. This game is being played in UCF’s former home venue
  2. UCF is the lone team to go from winless to a bowl the next year since 2002 (and this is the 2nd time they’ve done so in that span)!
  3. Arkansas State has the Sun Belt Player of the Year in defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones (conferences career leader in sacks).
  4. A big special teams play is bound to happen as UCF has Phil Steele’s #23 ranked unit, while Arkansas State rates just #70.
  5. If you prefer defense, points in this game will likely be scarce.