Posts Tagged ‘college football’


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 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.



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.



This is just the sixth all-time meeting between these two blue bloods (Ohio State leads 3-2 SU) with the last meeting in the 2005 Fiesta bowl, a 34-20 Buckeye (-4.5) win. Notre Dame has been in the post season every year under head coach Brian Kelly, going 3-2 SU/2-3 ATS, including beating LSU, 31-28 (+8) in last years Music City Bowl. Kelly was 1-2 SU/0-3 ATS in bowls as the head coach at Cincinnati. Ohio State is 2-1 SU/ATS in bowls under head coach Urban Meyer, winning both last year to become the National Champions. Prior to Ohio State, Meyer was 7-1 SU/ATS in bowls while the head coach at Florida and Utah and he was also the wide receivers coach at Notre Dame from 1996-2000.

Ohio State was expected to repeat as National Champions after returning 14 starters, including three All-American’s! The quarterback play was inconsistent as Cardale Jones and JT Barrett alternated the first seven games and the offense unexpectedly struggled (lost offensive coordinator Tom Herman to Houston). Barrett was named the starter against Rutgers, then was suspended versus Minnesota. He returned to start the last three, but struggled in a downpour in the home loss to Michigan State and workhorse running back Ezekial Elliot was underutilized. Elliot was then given a season high 30 carries in a rout over arch-rival Michigan. The Buckeye’s averaged 429 yards per game, and are No. 7 on defense in the FBS, holding their opponents to 97 yards per game less then they average.

Notre Dame returned 17 starters. Malik Zaire won the starting quarterback job, but suffered a broken ankle and was lost for the year after two games. Redshirt freshman DeShone Kizer has done a solid job in relief. Injuries were the norm for the Fighting Irish and Kelly said that nine starters were lost for the year. Notre Dame lost by two at Clemson despite a 141 yard edge as a defensive holding/pass interference was not called on their two point conversion attempt that would’ve tied the game. They then won six straight and in their regular season finale met Stanford. They lost in Palo Alto by two, allowing the game-winning 45 yard field goal with no time left after taking the lead 30 seconds earlier. They are No. 12 in the FBS, averaging 115 yards per game more then their opponents allow on average.

Notre Dame is just a couple of plays from being undefeated and are 5-1 ATS against bowl teams, outgaining them by 78 yards per game, while Ohio State is 3-5 ATS, but outgained their bowl opponents by 98 yards per game. Urban Meyer is arguably the best big game coach in the nation as he is 9-2 in bowls with three National Titles. The Buckeyes could be in a letdown spot as they expected to be in the playoffs, while Notre Dame is 3-0 as a ‘dog this year. Ohio State is the more talented team and this should be a high scoring game.

citrus bowl

These schools have met twice with Michigan winning the 2002 Outback bowl, 38-30 (-1) and the 2007 Capital One bowl, 41-35 (+11). The Wolverines are back in the post season for the fifth time in the last six years after missing out last year. Their last Citrus bowl appearance was a 45-17 (+3) loss to Tennessee in 2001. Head coach Jim Harbaugh was 1-1 SU/ATS in bowl games while the head coach at Stanford. Florida is bowling for the 24th time in the last 25 years. The Gators beat East Carolina, 28-20 (-7) in Last years Birmingham Bowl, despite being outgained 536-339. Head coach Jim McElwain was 1-0 SU/0-1 ATS as the head coach at Colorado State.

Florida returned just 11 starters and brought in a new head coach with new schemes. Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier had the same role with Michigan last year. The Gators began the season 6-0 with redshirt freshman quarterback Will Grier and a defense that McElwain claimed reminded him of Alabama when he was there from 2008-2011. Grier was then suspended (failed drug test) before the LSU game and Treon Harris took over. They lost to LSU, but won the rest of their regular season SEC games, despite poor quarterback play. Florida needed overtime to defeat a three win Florida Atlantic squad and then were embarrassed by Florida State before getting thumped in the SEC Championship game. The Gators only averaged 231 yards per game in their last three contests, but are No. 6 in the FBS on defense, holding their opponents to 111 yards per game less then their average.

Michigan had a home-run hire in Harbaugh and had 15 returning starters from  a 5-7 team. The players bought into Harbaugh’s intense antics. They lost their opener at Utah, but gained respect with their physical play. At 5-1 they were hosting eventual Big Ten Champion Michigan State and appeared to have the game won, but lost when their punter mishandled a last second snap and they lost a game they never trailed a second of in regulation. They then won four straight, but were embarrassed in “The Game” against arch-rival Ohio State. They are No. 4 in the FBS, holding their opponents to 116 yards per game less then their average.

Gainesville is only 112 miles away from this venue, but the Michigan faithful will travel well. Both teams feature average offenses, but top ten defenses. The Wolverines are better on special teams and Harbaugh has more experience as a head coach in big games. Since the loss of Senior nose tackle Ryan Glasgow, Michigan has given up over 300 yards rushing against Indiana and Ohio State. This should be a low scoring game.


This is the playoff semifinal. These schools are meeting for the fifth time, the third time in a bowl. Clemson embarrassed Oklahoma in last years Russell Athletic Bowl, 40-6 (+5). This is the eight straight bowl game for the Tigers under head coach Dabo Swinney and they’re 4-3 SU/ATS. Oklahoma has been bowling all 17 years under head coach Bob Stoops and are 8-8 SU/6-10 ATS in those.

When the Sooners enter the season under the radar and not ranked in the pre-season Top ten, watch out. The last two times that happened, they won a National Championship in one and finished No. 6 in the other. They returned thirteen starters and brought in new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley to install the “Air Raid” offense and Texas Tech transfer quarterback Baker Mayfield has thrived. They started the season 4-0, but then were stunned in the “Red River Rivalry” as a 16.5 point favorite, losing 24-17 . Oklahoma then won seven straight, including back-to-back-to-back wins over the Big 12 elite of Baylor, TCU, and Oregon State, and arguably are playing the best football of any team. Oklahoma is No. 15 in the FBS, averaging 111 yards per game more then their foes allow on a average and are #5 in the FBS, allowing 115 yards per game less then their foes average.

Clemson returned just three starters on defense and quarterback Deshaun Watson was coming off an ACL injury. They survived a close home game against Notre Dame, winning by two despite being minus 141 yards and then weren’t challenged again until their home game against Florida State, which they passed with flying colors. After that win, the Tigers no longer needed style points, so they won the rest of their regular season games without having to dominate. Clemson beat North Carolina in the ACC Title game, getting some help from the referees when a phantom offside penalty was called on the onside kick. They are No. 4 in the FBS, averaging 160 yards per game more then their foes allow on average and No. 9 in the FBS, holding their opponents to 101 yards per game less then they average. Watson finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting and is a true dual threat option.

Oklahoma’s offense has been on fire since the loss to Texas, as they are averaging 300 rushing yards per game and 293 passing yards per game! The Sooners are a bit of an unknown still, as they beat their strongest conference opponents all without their starting quarterbacks. Clemson should feel disrespected as a ‘dog in this game, despite being ranked No. 1, but Oklahoma typically does well in revenge games under Stoops.

cotton bowl

This is the Playoff semi-final. Alabama won the only prior meeting, 49-7 (-8) in the 2010 Capital One Bowl. The Crimson Tide were in a similar spot last year as they were nearly a double-digit favorite against Ohio State and lost, 42-35 (-8). Head coach Nick Saban is is 5-3 SU/ATS in bowls at Alabama and was 4-5 SU/ATS in bowls while the head coach at LSU and Michigan State (first meeting against Sparty). Michigan State is bowling for the ninth straight season. They beat Baylor, 42-41 (+2.5) in last year’s Cotton Bowl and head coach Mark Dantonio is 6-4 SU/ATS in bowls.

Michigan State entered this year a legit National Title contender and haven’t disappointed. They got past Oregon, despite being outgained by 104 yards and got a miraculous win at Michigan on a blocked punt returned for a touchdown. They lost at Nebraska on a questionable non-penalized touchdown pass (receiver came back from being out of bounds) with under thirty seconds left. Quarterback Conner Cook was injured in the win over Maryland and missed the Ohio State game. Despite alternating two backups at quarterback, the Spartans beat the defending champs, holding them to just five first downs and 132 total yards (game-winning field goal with no time left). They beat Michigan and Ohio State without leading a single second in regulation. Michigan State beat Iowa in the Big Ten Championship game as they went 82 yards in 22 plays, scoring the game-winning touchdown with 27 seconds left. They are No. 13 in the FBS, allowing 88 yards per game less then their opponents average and their strength is along both lines of scrimmage.

Alabama lost to Ole Miss via a deflected pass, but then steamrolled the rest of their foes in a rare down year for the SEC. Running back Derrick Henry broke Herchel Walkers conference record for most rushing yards in a season and won the Heisman Trophy. They are No. 1 in the FBS, allowing 155 yards per game less then their foes average and held eight of their opponents to either their fewest or second fewest yards.

While Michigan State has one of the top offensive/defensive line combinations in the country, Alabama’s is even better. The Crimson Tide have better talent at every position with the exception of quarterback. Dantonio is 12-1 ATS as a ‘dog, winning nine outright! The Spartans also play their best in big games. Oregon, Michigan, Ohio State, and Iowa combined to average 219 (5.2) rushing yards per game, but Michigan State held them to 81 (2.5), so they matchup well against Henry.


These schools have met six times previously, with USC winning all of them, but the last meeting was in 1966! This is the fourth straight bowl game for the Trojans and they played in this exact bowl last year, beating Nebraska 45-42 (-7). In their previous three non New Years Day bowl games, USC is 2-1 SU/ATS. Head coach Clay Helton is 1-0 SU/ATS in bowls (interim in 2013). Wisconsin is bowling for the 14th straight season. They beat Auburn 34-31 (+6.5) in last years Outback Bowl, and are 4-2 SU/3-3 ATS in non New Years Day bowl games since 1996. Head coach Paul Chryst was 1-1 SU/ATS in bowls while the head coach at Pittsburgh. 

Despite just returning 11 starters with a new head coach, Wisconsin was expected to win the Big Ten West division. Corey Clement was expected to replace Melvin Gordon, but he’s been banged up. They went 3-1 in the non-conference portion of their schedule with an expected loss to Alabama, then lost their first conference game to eventual West division champion Iowa. The Badgers then won five straight, but were upset at home against Northwestern as a double-digit favorite. They finished the season with a win over Minnesota. Wisconsin held six of their opponents to either their lowest or second lowest yards total and are No. 6 in the FBS allowing 114 yards per game less then their foes average. They have a top notch defense, being superior both against the pass and the run.

USC looked like a National Title contender when the season began as their sanctions ended. At 2-0, they hosted eventual Pac-12 champion Stanford as nearly a double-digit favorite, but lost by 10. After a loss to Washington, head coach Steve Sarkisian was let go for personal reasons and defensive coordinator Clay Helton took over. They then lost to Notre Dame, but after beating Utah, controlled their fate in the South division. The Trojans went 4-1 down the stretch, losing only to Oregon as a ‘dog. USC again lost to Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship game. Helton was hired as the permanent head coach, but has let go of five defensive assistants since the end of the regular season.

Wisconsin enters this game plus 110 yards per game and outgained Iowa by 99 yards in their home loss. USC played against 11 bowl teams and were plus 48 yards per game, while the Badgers played just five bowl teams. While Wisconsin does have the defensive edge, USC has an abundance of skill players on offense and it will be interesting to see what side comes out on top.


This is the sixth all-time meeting with the last two being in the 1963 Liberty Bowl (MSU won 16-12) and the 1994 Peach Bowl (NCST won 28-24, +6). This bowl has been called the Queen City, Continental Tire, and the Car Care Bowl. North Carolina State played here twice, beating South Florida, 14-0 (-3.5) in 2005 and Louisville, 31-24 (-2) in 2011. They won the St Petersburg Bowl, 34-27 (+2.5) versus Central Florida last year, making head coach Dave Doeren 2-0 SU/ATS in bowls. This is Mississippi State’s sixth straight bowl under head coach Dan Mullen (3-2 SU/2-3 ATS) and lost to Georgia Tech in last years Orange Bowl, 49-34 (-6).

It was going to be tough to match last year’s 10 win season as Mississippi State returned just seven starters, but that did include dynamic quarterback Dak Prescott. They won their opener, then lost by just two against LSU. The Bulldogs then won six of seven with their lone loss at Texas A&M and were ranked a season high No. 20 into their showdown with Alabama. They had a 20-13 first down edge, but lost by 25, then upset Arkansas, but then lost the Egg bowl. Prescott threw for 300+ yards six times, including 508 against Arkansas and leads the team in rushing. They are No. 21 in the FBS, averaging 75 yards per game more then their opponents allow on average. Their defense did lose lockdown cornerback Will Redmond and another defensive back starter late in the year.

Wolf Pack head coach Doeren had his best team since taking over in Raleigh as North Carolina State returned 15 starters from an 8-5 team, including quarterback Jacoby Brissett. They went 4-0 in the non-conference portion of their schedule, but struggled in conference play as not once did they string together back-to-back ACC wins. With the exception of their loss against Louisville, they won every game they were favored in and lost every game they were a ‘dog in. Running back Matthew Dayes was having a great season and was off a 200 yard effort when he injured his foot versus Clemson and was lost for the year. North Carolina State has a solid pass defense, but are average against the run.

Against eight bowl teams, Mississippi State was plus 1.6 yards per game, but North Carolina State was minus 124.2 yards per game against five bowl teams. Look for Prescott to rebound from his poor effort in his final home game as he is too good of a quarterback to struggle at the end of his career. The Wolf Pack will be more excited to play in this bowl game as the Bulldogs had higher aspirations, but due to their lackluster effort in last years bowl and coming off a loss against their rival, Mississippi State will have plenty of motivation.