Texas College Football Rankings Part 2

Kenny Hill leads his team onto the field against Oklahoma Via: TCU Athletics

So, I said every three weeks and clearly that did not happen. Life comes at you fast, but here is my new grantee: I will update these ratings one more time post-bowl season for a final ranking.

For this ranking, I have decided to only give you the top 5 teams. No offense to any program not listed here, but outside of the top five there is not much excitement. (Technically there are six teams here sharing five spots.)

No. 1, TCU

Without a doubt, the Horned Frogs are the best in Texas. Yes, they just were slapped around by Oklahoma, but that does not discredit their body of work this season. They play solid defense and have a strong offense. Gary Patterson continues to be worth every dime TCU pays him, and while the Frogs are out of the playoff picture the Big 12 title is still very much in sight.

E Washington Texas Tech Football
Justin Stockton rushes against Eastern Washingtoon Via: The Spokesman-Review

 

No. 2, Texas Tech/Texas A&M

These two teams have both been a major disappointment to their respective fanbases. For Tech, an improved defense led to hopes of a prosperous season. But kicking woes and an oddly anemic offense at times has sunken those hopes.

We can pretty much say goodbye to Kevin Sumlin, barring a miracle, so that should tell you where the Aggies are at this season. These teams could very well end with the same exact record on the season, so I feel they should share the two spot.

No. 3, Texas

Tom Herman energized the Texas fanbase, but was quickly derailed by Marlyand. Since then, the season has not been much better. The Longhorn offense has been hit by injuries, and has been inept most of the season.

That defense is scary talented, but has not been good enough to carry this team to victory often. Bowl eligibility hangs in the balance with two games left, a rough start for Herman’s tenure.

No. 4, Houston

The Cougars have fallen off following Herman’s departure, but are not a bad team. Ed Oliver is still the best defensive lineman in the country, and the offense can still produce. Mystifying collapses against Memphis and Tulsa have been a major damper on the season, but a win over Number Five SMU gives them the nod to Number Four.

No. 5, SMU

The Mustangs are finally going bowling! The downside to this is you can basically kiss Chad Morris goodbye. The program is far from rebuilt but there is finally hope for the future. The Mustang offense continues to cruise carrying this team. Defensively, the Mustangs struggle a bit allowing Navy to run all over the yard against them last week.

Tune in post bowl season for my final ranking! Let us know in the comments if you agree or disagree with these rankings. Enjoy the end of college football season, the most magical time of the year.

College Football: Power 5 conference power rankings

With the College Football season past the halfway point, it is time to rank the Power 5 conferences from best to worst.

Photo via Getty Images

No. 1, Big 10

The Big 10 has three teams in the Top 10 and five total in the Top 25. There is no doubt that it will get at least one team in the playoff. If Penn St. and Wisconsin are both undefeated going into the Big 10 championship, then it has a very good chance at getting 2 teams.

The elite coaches set the Big 10 apart from the rest as Meyer and Harbaugh are probably among the top five coaches in the game. Behind them, they have James Franklin who is proving to be capable of building a championship contender now that scholarship restrictions are lifted.

The conference has also established consistent winners in Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz and Michigan State’s Mike Dantonio.

Finally, the Big Ten has young up and coming coaches in Minnesota’s P.J Fleck and Purdue’s Jeff Brohm. With great coaches across the board, the Big Ten has the potential to dominate the college football landscape for the foreseeable future.

TUSCALOOSA, AL – SEPTEMBER 28: Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide walks the field during pregame warmups prior to facing the Mississippi Rebels at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 28, 2013 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

No. 2, SEC

After ruling the college football world for the entirety of the 2000s, the SEC has taken a step back.

Alabama is still by far the most dominant program in College Football, yet other traditional powerhouses such as LSU, Florida and Auburn have gone from perennial top 10 programs to very beatable teams typically ranked between 15 and 25. These teams still have unbelievable talent on their defensive lines and receiving cores, however, none of them have been able to find a reliable quarterback. Whether this is on the coaches or simply bad luck is unknown.

Until the majority of the SEC teams get championship caliber playmakers at the quarterback position, it will be difficult for them to re-establish themselves as college football’s unrivaled top conference.

Paul Nisely via SN Illustration/Getty Images

No. 3, Big 12

The Big 12 will always struggle to be a great conference with only 10 teams and no conference championship game.

They have earned the No. 3 ranking because they have three teams with a legitimate chance at making the playoff in TCU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State pending an undefeated finish. The same cannot be said for the ACC or the Pac 12.

The Big 12 has always seemed like the playground of college football, a cute place where everyone throws touchdowns, plays no defense and everyone is happy.

If Tom Herman can turn around Texas, then the Big 12 can return to the feared conference it once was when Michael Crabtree, Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy held dominion over the college football’s top five.

Until then, the Big 12 will be limited by being somewhat top heavy and not having the potential resume builder that a conference championship game provides.

Photo via Gerry Broome/ Associated Press

No. 4, ACC

The ACC is still a very formidable football conference, but it took a major step back in 2017.

The Atlantic Division, arguably the most feared sub-conference last year, has regressed mightily as Florida State and Louisville have fallen entirely out of the top 25.

Clemson is still a national title contender but, with a first-year starting quarterback, they appear much more beatable than they were last year.

On the Coastal Side, North Carolina went from a top 20 team to perhaps the worst team in the ACC after quarterback Mitch Trubisky left for the NFL.

Heading the Coastal is undefeated Miami and Virginia Tech with one loss. Any team in the ACC is not really a threat in the national championship race.

Although it is a down year for the ACC, it should improve when its teams and quarterbacks gain more experience.

Photo via Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

No. 5, Pac 12

Rounding out the Power 5 conferences is the Pac 12, who has had an extremely disappointing year.

Unlike the ACC, the Pac 12 does not have the excuse of having inexperience as USC, Washington and Washington State all returned veteran quarterbacks with legitimate National Championship hopes.

USC’s Sam Darnold, the most exciting player since Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez has been an immense disappointment throwing countless interceptions and suffering an embarrassing defeat against arch-rival Notre Dame.

Washington’s Jake Browning has been uninspiring this year, crushing their National Championship in a humiliating loss to lowly Arizona State in which they only put up a measly 7 points.

Stanford has been the same team they have been since Andrew Luck left, consistent, and might get a cute bid to the Rose Bowl, but they still lack the all-around skill and speed to dominate a season from start to finish.

In order for the Pac 12 to return to the respected conference they once were, they must establish a dominant team capable of consistently competing with the likes of Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State.

Until then, the Pac 12 will continue to occasionally submit apathetic teams to the playoff that are not truly taken seriously.

Texas college football power rankings, ranked No. 1-11

Texas is home to eleven football programs, with five belonging to Power Five conferences. But who is the best in this great football playing state? Check in every three weeks to find out.

Photo via TCU Athletics

No. 1, TCU

Going in to Stillwater and knocking off Oklahoma State was impressive, to put it lightly. The Horned Frogs under Patterson have a strong defensive identity, but the offense is not shabby by any means. Slowing down Oklahoma State’s offense is extremely difficult, but TCU was up to the task. They added another impressive win to their record after besting West Virginia. TCU is in the playoff hunt now, and they are deservedly the best in Texas.

No. 2, Texas Tech

I will admit it, I am biased here. I am a Texas Tech student, but I will try to set aside my bias and defend this rank. Beating Arizona State is a decent win, but breaking Houston’s home winning streak was the best win on the young year. Texas Tech had a shot at knocking off Oklahoma State, but fell just short in the upset bid in a 41-34 defeat. Crushing Kansas is not really impressive, but the team was finally able to win soundly. At times Tech has struggled to do that under Kingsbury, and this shows the team is developing. If the defense really is as improved as early returns indicate, this could be a good year for a program looking to get back to the glory days under Mike Leach.

Kellen Mond being pursued by Keith Holcombe of Alabama (Photo Via: 247Sports)

No. 3, Texas A&M

The Aggies were a national laughingstock after blowing a 34-point lead at UCLA. The Aggies showed heart against Alabama, but were not seriously threatening the Tide. They have a streaky offense with Kellen Mond in his freshman season, but the defense has play-makers and Texas A&M has managed to close out two dogfights against Arkansas and South Carolina.  Between A&M and Texas Tech there is very little separation. The Aggies fall behind the Red Raiders because of their collapse at UCLA, which is just an unfathomable choke.

No. 4, Texas

After a disappointing loss against Maryland at home, the Longhorns are showing some of the talent that their recruiting class rankings promised. While the Longhorns are struggling mightily on offense, the defense has been superb since the Maryland game. Sam Ehlinger might be the new answer at quarterback for Texas after leading a comeback victory over Kansas state. Tom Herman has his work cut out for him, but Texas is moving in the right direction.

Derrick Willies being tackled by Cougar defenders (Via:  The Venture)

No. 5, Houston

You thought I was just going to stick the Power Five teams this high up here didn’t you? Two words whenever Houston is mentioned: Ed. Oliver. This man among boys is the best defensive player in college football. I dare anyone to prove that statement false. I watched as Texas Tech triple-teamed him and he was still able to bring pressure. Houston struggles offensively, but Ed Oliver is good enough to change the game. The rest of the defense is not shabby either, and if the offense can improve Houston could be poised for a run at the AAC title.

No. 6, SMU

SMU has relied on a stellar offense for their success thus far. A deep receiving core led by Courtland Sutton have led the offensive attack. While SMU was dispatched by TCU in a 20-point defeat, the Mustangs put up a good fight early demonstrating the progress Chad Morris has made. SMU still has much more to prove, and losing to Houston showed they still are not ready to compete in the AAC.

UTSA celebrates a touchdown during their upset bid over Baylor (Photo Via: SportsDay)

No. 7, UTSA

Stunning Baylor earns them the seventh spot above the Bears. I would have loved to see the match-up against Houston, but Hurricane Harvey had other plans. UTSA is playing good football, and this could shake up to be one of the best years for the program.

No. 8, Baylor

Man, Baylor is really bad. The winless Bears under new Head Coach Matt Rhule have shown some signs of life, but the program is in shambles. I can’t say I am shaken up about the Bears’ collapse, considering the scandal under the previous regime led by Art Briles. Matt Rhule is trying to do things the right way, but it will be awhile before Baylor is even close to heights it reached just a few years ago.

No. 9, Texas State

A positive for this program are that they played Appalachian State close, and that is something to build on.

No. 10, Rice

Rice is in a rough state, but a win over UTEP gives them the nod to the 10 spot.

No. 11, UTEP

Sorry to anyone who is a big UTEP fan, but they are the worst in Texas as of now. Just an all-around struggling program, UTEP needs a drastic turnaround to leave the cellar of Texas football.


Michael Macon is a contributing writer for The JR Report.

Former UNC quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to start his first NFL game

Former UNC QB Mitch Trubisky (Photo via Getty Images)

After four weeks on the bench, former North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will get his first NFL regular-season snaps next week.

Trubisky will start for the 1-3 Chicago Bears next Monday night, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Dan Graziano.

Trubisky will be going up against the Minnesota Vikings, who have allowed just 19 points per game this season, on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. It’ll be a tough test for the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft. Fortunately, the Bears had a mini-bye week, as they played last Thursday against the Green Bay Packers. This gives Trubisky almost 11 days to prepare for his first career start.

If one is not familiar with the situation, here is how the former Tar Heel got to this point.


Read more on the Daily Tar Heel!

Ryan Lipton is the founder of The JR Report. For more news and The JR Report updates follow him on twitter @rytime98.

Three notes ahead of UNC football’s game against Georgia Tech

Photo via The Associated Press

The North Carolina football team travels to Georgia Tech this weekend with a chance to win its first ACC game.

The 1-3 Tar Heels have been plagued by injuries and outscored 54-20 in the fourth quarter this season. It will only get tougher on Saturday against a strong Yellow Jackets team. Here are three things to keep an eye on heading into the matchup in Atlanta.

ACC struggles

Head coach Larry Fedora hasn’t been in a tougher position at UNC than he is now.


Continue reading on The Daily Tar Heel!

Ryan Lipton is the founder of The JR Report. For more news and The JR Report updates follow him on twitter @rytime98.

The JR Report’s way too early CFB Playoff predictions

Even though the college football season is just four weeks complete, it is never too early to predict who will be the last four teams standing.

Here are the JR Report’s predictions for the College Football Playoff.

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Photo via Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

1. Alabama

There is no controversy when talking about the No. 1 team in college football, the Alabama Crimson Tide.

The Clemson Tigers are a top-tier program and the defending champions, however, Alabama is just that dominant. Their defense is stout, their offense has playmakers in the backfield and Nick Saban is the greatest college football coach ever.

After slapping Vanderbilt into the earth, Alabama looks like a lock for the one seed once again.

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Photo via Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

2. Clemson

In 2016, former Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson, along with a dominant defense, led Clemson to a surprise National Championship victory over Alabama.

Despite Watson’s move to the NFL, the Tigers haven’t taken any steps back.

The lack of a drop-off was apparent when Lamar Jackson’s Louisville Cardinals received a rude awakening in a 42-21 rout.

Current Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant was never expected to replace Watson, but rather just do his best not to be a liability. But the kid can ball and is especially dangerous running the football averaging nearly five yards a carry.

With Florida State crippled under center, Clemson does not have a legitimate threat to the ACC title. Even though the Tigers suffered a scare against Boston College, a betting man should consider the Tigers a playoff lock barring a catastrophe.

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Oklahoma Sooners QB Baker Mayfield (Photo via Getty Images)

3. Oklahoma

Just like Clemson, Oklahoma learned it is better to win ugly than lose pretty. They survived a late-game surge against Baylor to remain perfect on the season.

Baker Mayfield broke the 1,000-yard passing mark and has still not thrown an interception.

The Heisman hopeful leads a powerful Sooners offense which has amassed over 1,000 yards through the air and over 400 on the ground.

Defensively the Sooners are shaky. Baylor, still winless on the season (cough karma cough) torched the Sooners for 461 yards through the air and 41 points.

But still, Big 12 offenses can score with the best of them, so occasionally having a bad defensive night is expected.

Oklahoma State and TCU seem to be the Sooners’ biggest threat but OU still has a clear path to the College Football Playoffs after dominating its out of conference slate.

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Photo via Associated Press

4. Penn State

Iowa is not Baylor or Boston College bad, but still an unranked opponent Penn State was expected to handle. And like Oklahoma and Clemson, the Nittany Lions struggled mightily in an ugly victory.

Penn State has perhaps a Heisman winner on their roster in running back Saquon Barkley. Barkley is averaging an unholy eight yards per carry on 38 attempts. His 211 yards against Iowa furthers his cause to be at the award ceremony in New York.

Trace McSorley has been solid this season with nine touchdowns to only two interceptions.

Moreover, PSU’s defense is elite, pitching two shutouts and still not allowing a team over 20 points.

The Big 10 Championship is probably the hardest to predict this year, but Penn State looks very likely to come out on top of the scrum and earn that coveted playoff spot.


Michael Macon is a contributing writer for The JR Report.

Will non-conference marquee matchups be a thing of the past?

Florida State Seminoles QB Deondre Francois (Photo via Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports)

These first few weeks of college football used to be unwatchable. Now a trend towards scheduling big time out of conference foes has arisen.

For instance, the Alabama Crimson Tide just open up the season against the Florida State Seminoles at a neutral site. Two national championship favorites, two-storied programs, two rabid fan bases. This game had legendary written on all the headlines before the opening kick. And legendary it was, with Alabama eventually claiming victory in a true slugfest.

But was it worth it?

Seminoles quarterback Deondre Francois, Heisman hopeful and star of the team, is hurt. Worse still, the injury ends his season forcing Florida State to start a true freshman quarterback.

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Alabama defensive back Ronnie Harrison (15) hits Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois (12) during the second half of an NCAA football game, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, in Atlanta. Alabama won 24-7. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Would Francois have been hurt playing a lesser opponent?

And did playing Alabama help the Seminoles? Alabama? No, it didn’t. Look at Washington last year. Their weak out of conference schedule doesn’t impact their title hopes at all.

At the end of the day, dominant teams have incentives to just go out and find wins in the non-conference schedule. That is because being undefeated in a Power5 conference guarantees a seat at the table.

The committee could prove me wrong on that point but, the least likely scenario is an undefeated champion being left out. So, is it still worth it to schedule these games? Yes, because despite the risks the decision makers who control scheduling have a lot of reasons to keep rolling out these headliner games.

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Oct 11, 2014; Waco, TX, USA; Baylor Bears wide receiver Corey Coleman (1) catches a touchdown pass over TCU Horned Frogs cornerback Ranthony Texada (11) during the first half at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Tough schedules are pretty much necessary

Barring an undefeated season, which seems to just be getting harder since parity is increasing, teams must schedule hard to have a shot at the College Football Playoff.

TCU and Baylor in 2014 have already proven that. Weak non-conference matchups hurt both teams dearly in 2014 keeping both out of the title hunt.

Branding and co-champion shenanigans also factor in but say TCU or Baylor had played a big brand, solid Power5 football team and won. We would likely be wondering when Urban Meyer will win a title as Ohio State, not praising him for winning one with a third-string quarterback.

Baylor played the worst of the worst to start the season 3-0, leaving them as an afterthought in the playoff discussion when they were downed by West Virginia. Washington this past year took a weaker schedule and waltzed into the playoffs. But they benefited from the Big12 champion having two losses.

If Oklahoma had beaten Houston, one could basically guarantee we would have seen the Sooners making another playoff appearance.

Conferences have pushed for mandating their teams to play tougher matchups to boost conference prestige. Perception of conference weakness hurt TCU and Baylor badly in 2014 and has scarred the Big12 for the last several years. On the other side, the SEC used this perception to its advantage for years which has shown a significant impact on the committee.

These games also generate an incredible amount of money as the attendance will always he high consistently leading to sellouts and millions will tune in to watch. Therefore, making ESPN richer and the schools as well.

As always, money talks in collegiate athletics.


Michael Macon is a contributing writer for The JR Report.

College football quick hits: AP top 25 preseason poll

Photo via Getty Images

Earlier this week, the first AP top 25 Poll of the college football season was released. While a lot of the poll went according to expectation, there are a couple surprises later in the rankings.

While Alabama dominated the rankings and Ohio State took what many believed to be the obvious second, there was some debate over who should take third place.

In the end, FSU took third and USC took fourth, much to the dismay of Trojans fans.

The Crimson Tide are looking to start and end the season at No.1, with a championship to boot, a feat not accomplished since 2004 when USC took the trophy.

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The SEC remains dominant, but by a less significant margin than in previous years—they sport six teams in the top 25, while the Big 12 and ACC have five apiece and the Big Ten and Pac-12 following them up with four. USF, the poster child of the AAC, is its sole representation.

Below are official AP Poll rankings with some commentary by The JR Report.

Photo via USA Today Sports

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  1. Alabama (52 votes)

Alabama seems to be impenetrable, although their pass defense leaves something to be desired. Anyways, the Crimson Tide deserve the top spot.

  1. Ohio State (3 votes)

There was little debate over who should be No. 2 in the rankings. Ohio State has shown that they deserve the ranking, and they’re the favorite for the championships in many people’s minds.

  1. Florida State (4 votes)

This wasn’t a surprising choice, but a good amount of projections had USC in the No. 3 slot. The Seminoles have an extremely strong-looking team, and they’ll be tested in Week 1 against Alabama, where the Noles are a heavy underdog.

  1. USC (2 votes)

USC fans are undoubtedly bitter, but the placement makes sense. It will be interesting to see how their season goes, because with a relatively easier schedule than the other three teams at the top, USC has little room for error.

  1. Clemson

No surprise Clemson isn’t No. 1 coming off their championship win. In fact, the JR Report had Clemson a No. 6 behind Penn State. Clemson lost a ton of talent, including Deshaun Watson, and it will be interesting to see how well they can handle themselves after this.

  1. Penn State

If Penn State wasn’t No. 5, they deserve this ranking at least. Fans believe they should’ve gotten a chance at the playoff last year, and now they have another chance. The Nittany Lions have an all-star offense, so it isn’t hard to project them clinching a spot in the playoff.

  1. Oklahoma

Clearly, the AP Poll thinks that legendary coach Bob Stoops’s retirement isn’t as much a cause for concern as the JR Report does. While we have them at No. 9, the AP Poll is a little bit more generous. As it is, the offense led by quarterback Baker Mayfield is absolutely explosive.

  1. Washington

Washington doesn’t have the toughest schedule, but they deserve this ranking for now. Time will tell if they have the strength to be a serious late-season contender, but they’ll most likely win the Pac-12.

  1. Wisconsin

It’s an interesting decision to put Wisconsin in front of Auburn, Michigan, and Oklahoma State. They’re a solid pick, and the AP Poll sees promise in incoming defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard. Along with a tough offense and a not-too-strenuous schedule, it will be interesting to see where the Badgers end up.

Photo via Getty Images
  1. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys have created the team that might be able to take down the Sooners for the first time in three years. Although the Cowboys have a dominant offense, all signs point to them having a rather mediocre defense.

  1. Michigan

Both the AP Poll and the JR Report have Michigan hovering just outside the top 10. The Wolverines lost 18 starters, enough to scare any team, but Jim Harbaugh is a stellar recruiter and next year’s Michigan team will be exciting to watch.

  1. Auburn

The Tigers have an amazing running back duo and a reloaded defense. Is it enough to win the classic Iron Bowl? Auburn deserves a slightly higher rating—we have them at No. 10—but will quickly prove they deserve to be a top 10 team.

  1. LSU

There’s a lot of optimism surrounding the LSU offense, with incoming offensive coordinator Matt Canada and star running back Derrius Guice. The SEC has another powerhouse this year, and LSU might contend for the conference championship.

  1. Stanford

This is a surprisingly high ranking for Stanford. The JR Report had them at No. 17, on account of the quarterback worries and some unclear aspects of their incoming team. Their defense looks strong and should come out strong in the Pac-12.

  1. Georgia

This ranking is pretty close to accurate. The Dawgs return most of their defense, and return their all-star running duo, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. They’ll be another strong contender in the SEC.

  1. Louisville

The JR Report had Louisville as No. 16 as well. Heisman winner Lamar Jackson is back to prove that he’s still relevant, but the team’s main concern is their lacking offensive line.

  1. Florida

Yet another strong SEC coming into the year, the Gators are headed by untested quarterback Feleipe Franks. The Gators most likely will not retain a ranking in the top 20 for long, but they may just surprise us.

  1. Miami

The Hurricanes are impressive on both sides of the ball, and their only concern is whether the quarterback replacement will be up to the task of keeping Miami relevant.

  1. South Florida

We had the Bulls at No. 18, so it seems we weren’t far off from what the AP Poll had in mind. The Bulls have a ton of talent, a new coaching staff, an underrated quarterback star, and a thirst to prove themselves.

Photo via Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports
  1. Kansas State

The Wildcats have a quality quarterback and a potential to upset the big names in the Big-12 like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

  1. Virginia Tech

There was some ambiguity as to whether Virginia Tech would be ranked (we had them as “just missing” the top 25). The Hokies will have a tough run in a surprisingly strong ACC, but if they hold up on their end we could see them in the conference championship against FSU or Clemson.

  1. West Virginia

Will Grier, the quarterback transfer from the University of Florida, is already turning heads in Morgantown. WVU is strong on the offensive side of the ball, but if they can’t keep their defense up to snuff they won’t be ranked for long.

  1. Texas

The Longhorns have been disappointing lately, but it looks like Tom Herman has been turning it all around. We have them at No. 25, because it’s really unclear as to whether it’s all show or if we can expect great things in the next couple years.

  1. Washington State

Quarterback Luke Falk is shaping up to be a great quarterback, and the Cougars should make the game against Washington a good one. They have quality upset potential.

  1. Tennessee

Tennessee has a lot of work to do if they want to climb in the rankings—not because they’re not a good team, but because the competition in the SEC East is stiff this year. We’ll see if they can challenge regional rivals Georgia and Florida.


Nicholai Babis is a lead contributor for The JR Report. For more news and JR Report updates follow him on twitter @nibabis.

Crimson Tide vs. Seminoles: CFB opener of the century

Photo via Chris Kirschner/ SEC Country

The college football season draws inexorably closer, and the hype is mounting for what some are calling the season opener of the century: Alabama Crimson Tide vs Florida State Seminoles.

Most predict that the Crimson Tide will be ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll when it comes out, and most estimates put the Seminoles at either third or fourth. Regardless of their actual rankings starting out the season, nobody can deny that this will be one of the biggest games of the year.

FSU is considered the underdog coming into the contest, but you can’t rule out Jimbo Fisher’s squad and their prowess.Alabama has to wash the bad taste of their national championship loss to Clemson out of its mouth, while FSU has to prove they have what it takes to be considered for the CFB playoffs. Although the game isn’t the end of the world for the loser, it shows the college football world who the clear powerhouse will be for much of the season. Whoever wins will have one of their hardest-fought victories of the entire season out of the way early.

Alabama has to wash the bad taste of their national championship loss to Clemson out of its mouth, while FSU has to prove they have what it takes to be considered for the CFB playoffs. Although the game isn’t the end of the world for the loser, it shows the college football world who the clear powerhouse will be for much of the season. Whoever wins will have one of their hardest-fought victories of the entire season out of the way early.

Here’s some ways that either team can win.

Why Alabama will win

Alabama is a clear favorite to win this one in many people’s minds. The Alabama team is as powerful as ever, and Saban’s incoming recruiting class is one of his best.

Image result for tua tagovailoa
Quarterback recruit Tua Tagovailoa might give Jalen Hurts a run for his money. Photo via ROBERT SUTTON / ALABAMA ATHLETICS

The Tide bring in running back Najee Harris, a 6-foot-2, 224 pound powerhouse. They also bring in 5-star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, a native Hawaiian who some say might be able to challenge Jalen Hurts for quarterback dominance. Along with these two guys, the Alabama team brings in a whole slew of other talent.

As far as opening games go, Nick Saban has a pretty hard record to beat at Alabama. In fact, he hasn’t lost a single one and is 10-0. Additionally, the Crimson Tide don’t just have history on their side: their defense is the best in the nation every year.

Although Alabama lost six of their best defensive players, the incoming recruiting class looks promising, and whispers from Saban’s closed practices suggest that this year’s defense might be even greater than last year’s.

If this is the case, FSU is going to have a hard time getting anything through the Alabama line. Unless the incoming FSU offensive talent is as good as it can be, the Tide defense is going to keep the Seminoles to quite a low score during the game. Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick makes a case for being one of the best in the league at his position, and this game gives him the perfect opportunity to show what he’s got.

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DB Minkah Fitzpatrick is the key to the Alabama defense this year. Photo via Rolltide.com

In addition, there are still some questions surrounding the FSU offense. The team still isn’t 100 percent clear who they’re fielding at running back, and much of their receiving corps is untrained.

This year there is much to be said about the 2017 Tide offense. Although a lot of it is hype, Jalen Hurts has matured since we saw him last. He has another offseason under his belt and has a great offensive unit to back him up once again. The offense has a lot going for it, but will it be enough in the face of FSU’s surprisingly strong defense?

Why Florida State will win

Last year’s FSU team would have lost to last year’s Alabama team. This year, however, it’s a lot more difficult to make the same argument. Although many do not want to get their hopes up, FSU’s team this year has the chance to bring down Alabama.

Image result for derwin james
After missing almost all of the 2016 season, Derwin James has a lot to prove in the upcoming season. Photo via Greg Oyster / 247 Sports.

The hopes and dreams of the Nole nation ride not on the offense, but on the defense: specifically, on safety Derwin James. He’s being hyped up by virtually every college football commentator, and it’s easy to see why. In his true freshman season back in 2015, James racked up 91 tackles with 4.5 sacks. Last season, he was injured for all but two games.

If he lives up to the hype, he might very well stop Jalen Hurts and his offense in their tracks. Along with the rest of the Seminole defense, James will own the night when they go up against Alabama.

A victory from the Seminoles also comes down to how well quarterback Deondre Francois can deliver. He’s top ten in almost all “Heisman prediction” lists, and is predicted as being one of next year’s best quarterbacks.

Heading into his second year, you can tell that he’s confident in himself in his abilities. His teammates point to him having taken on a key leadership role after the departure of Dalvin Cook. He needs to, now that passing power might be FSU’s greatest strength.

Against Alabama, who has put up an iron grid against run plays, effective passing is a must.

The FSU defense is up to the challenge, but is the offense?

The winner is…

Alabama. It’s hard to predict against them, and this time FSU just doesn’t have the steam. It’ll be a close game, but Francois won’t be able to locate his targets often enough. It’s the season opener, his first chance of the season to test his chops, and it’s against the best team in the nation.

In the end, the Crimson Tide can perform just a bit better offensively in spite of FSU’s defense.

Alabama 14 FSU 10


For a more in-depth analysis of the game, check back on the JR Report a couple days before the big game.

Nicholai Babis is a lead contributor for The JR Report. For more news and JR Report updates follow him on twitter @nibabis.

2017 Heisman Trophy race should be tight with many stars

Photo via Getty Images

Almost every Heisman race is a tight one, with few exceptions. This year’s Heisman Trophy race will prove to be no different. There are the several obvious candidates that will shine as well as some dark horse candidates with a realistic shot at winning.

Despite the plethora of contenders, there are a couple of names that top every list of betting odds to win the Heisman. Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield and J.T. Barrett top almost every list.

Also frequenting the lists are names like Mason Rudolph, Deondre Francois and Saquon Barkley. The list goes on with the ever-exciting dark horse candidates such as Quinton Flowers and Cam Akers.

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Here are the reasons why each of the top four players has what it takes to bring home the trophy.

Sam Darnold — QB, USC

Although it’s definitely early, Sam Darnold emerges as the clear favorite for the Heisman crown. His name has been on everyone’s radar since the second half of last season, when he won USC’s last nine games and won the Rose Bowl for the Trojans.

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In his starting season, Darnold threw for 3,086 yards, completed 67.2 percent of his 366 attempted passes and threw for 31 touchdowns. This is an impressive feat on its own and it becomes even more impressive when one considers that he only threw nine interceptions throughout the entire season.

As a relatively inexperienced quarterback, these numbers spoke to Darnold’s poise on the field and natural talent at his position.

Add Darnold’s talent to USC’s less-than-tough schedule and he’s a recipe for Heisman success.

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Lamar Jackson — QB, Louisville 

Although Lamar Jackson’s name still shows up near the top of every list, the defending Heisman champion has a tough crown to defend as he goes up against USC favorite Sam Darnold.

Jackson’s 2016 run was nothing short of miraculous. He ended the season with 3,543 passing yards, 1,571 rushing yards and 51 aggregate touchdowns.

What’s more? Jackson is new and improved, according to both himself and his team. A better Jackson would usually mean another Heisman, but with Darnold as a contender there are no guarantees.

In addition, Louisville may be looking towards some tough times. Their schedule isn’t easy and they lost many of their key starters.

If Jackson wants to take his team to glory, he will have to shoulder even more responsibility, but one should not discount him as he is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in history.

Baker Mayfield — QB, Oklahoma 

One can’t have a 2017 Heisman discussion without talking about Baker Mayfield.

Mayfield transferred from Texas Tech to Oklahoma after the 2013 season, sat out a year, and then entered the fray. In 2015 and 2016, he had standout seasons passing for 3,700 yards in 2015 and 3,965 the following year. What’s more impressive is his deadly accuracy—he had a 70.9 percent completion rate in 2016 while only throwing eight interceptions.

The Oklahoma quarterback is a favored runner-up for the Heisman and for good reason. He’s poised for another breakout year, but some have misgivings because of the departure of Bob Stoops and some key players on the Sooners’ offense.

However, the offensive line is shaping up to be one of Oklahoma’s best. That kind of protection will give Mayfield plenty of time to make his way to the Heisman podium.

J.T. Barrett — QB, Ohio State

The college football fan won’t hear nearly as much Heisman hype around Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, but a good case can be made for the Buckeye.

Many expected Barrett to have a breakout year in 2016, but he didn’t deliver. While he threw for 2,555 yards and 24 touchdowns, these stats weren’t quite up to snuff to be seriously considered for the trophy. This season, however, oddsmakers think that he’ll transform into one of the top candidates.

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The secret is in the new additions to the OSU squad. The Buckeyes come into the season with new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day.

Will Urban Meyer’s star break his Heisman drought and take home the trophy? He has a lot of competition and will need Ohio State to stay on top of the rankings all year.

There are several more candidates who deserve serious consideration for the trophy, but one thing is clear about this upcoming year. It will be an exciting race to the finish line. Whoever wants to win the Trophy will have to put up record numbers to even be considered.

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