Trae Young and the making of a celebrity college basketball player

Photo via Rob Ferguson - USA Today Sports

Pompous pull-ups from 30 plus, high-floating layups with improbable angles and perfect touches of English, step-back jumpers over outstretched hands. Swish. I’m not talking about Steph Curry, and this isn’t under the bright lights of the Bay Area. Believe it or not, this is college basketball in the last place you would expect it.

Deep in the heartland of football country, the eyes of the basketball world have descended upon a short, skinny 19-year-old with an unorthodox jump-shot and overt confidence. We’ve seen this story before. And now, everyone wants to be a part of it. These days, it seems like anybody who’s anybody in basketball has something to say about Trae Young.

“Keep going young King!! Don’t stop fam!!” exclaimed the current King of the NBA, Lebron James, on Instagram, laying early claim to a prince that could potentially be primed to one day take the throne.

“He’s unbelievable,” Steph Curry told Bleacher Report, the player Young had so clearly studied meticulously and endlessly. “I call it ‘the flair.’… when I turn on the game, [I’m] just watching him on the floor, where he is at all times.”

“He has early eyes,” repeated ESPN college basketball broadcaster Fran Fraschilla over and over as Young made one miraculous no-look pass after another in Oklahoma’s game against Alabama this past Saturday.

“If you know an NBA scout, he was in Tuscaloosa this past weekend,” declared ESPN announcer Rece Davis, a statement that would have been unfathomable just three months ago.

In the latest tally, 57 NBA scouts traveled to Alabama’s home court to watch Trae Young and fellow top prospect Collin Sexton battle it out this past Saturday afternoon. Both players are projected lottery picks in the next NBA draft, and both possess an undeniable appeal and charisma.

Just like Sexton, Young had turned down offers from perennial powerhouses to stay local. And now, at the same time these titans of industry played their Saturday games, the attention of college basketball was diverted away to a matchup most often associated with football.

Young did not want to be just another product in the basketball prospect machines of Mike Krzyzewski, John Calipari or Bill Self. Here is a player who is confident enough in his ability to take the road less travelled, who did not want to simply fit into a proven formula.

It is refreshing. Young wasn’t going to just be the next guy, he was going to be the guy. In what is a rarity nowadays, the young man is playing his one-and-done season with purpose, his home state proudly displayed on the front of his jersey.

This passion radiates in his style of play. The way Young controls his tight handle, finds the open man with his head turned in a different direction and flicks his shot from his shoulders all seem effortless.

At the same time, Young always looks like the player on the floor who is working the hardest. He jabs at opponents, waves play-calls vigorously and runs around the floor in an endless pursuit of the basketball. When the ball is in his hands, as it so often is, he is a perfectionist who consistently pries and probes for just the smallest space he needs to let it fly.

Unlike many of his fellow top prospects, Young’s presence is always felt on the court. Curry referred to this as his “magnetism.” Despite struggling in the first half of the Alabama game, only scoring five points, Young was still very much in control. On one telling play, Oklahoma freshmen Brady Manek caught the ball at the top of the key. Young ran behind Manek looking for a handoff, and when he was denied, swooped around the right side of the court and then through the paint under the basket, finally concluding his journey in the opposite weakside corner.

In the process, Young had drawn the help of a second defender, leaving big man Khadeem Lattin wide open on the block. Manek tossed an alley-oop to Lattin. Without even touching the basketball, Young’s presence on the court had shifted the entire defense and opened up space necessary for an easy two points.

For any team that goes up against Oklahoma, the game plan has only one simple objective: shut down Young. When a defense forces one of his teammates to take the shot, it is a sigh of relief. Yet despite the double teams and constant ball denial, Young still finds himself responsible for almost 50 percent of his team’s production. This is what happens when one is handed the keys to the offense and is afforded the freedom to take any shot, from any distance, without consequence.

Young is the rare college basketball player that is his very own maker. While top prospects at more historic college programs are limited by detailed, precise offense systems and checked by comparable surrounding talent, Young stands alone in Norman. He always has the ball in his hands and is given the opportunity to make decisions with it. This makes it unsurprising that he is atop college basketball’s leaderboard in points (29.6 ppg) and assists (9.6), and, as a natural consequence, turnovers (5.3).

Yet, most casual basketball fans would not know about Young’s struggles with turnovers, or that his team has already lost 10 games, including the one against Alabama, in which Young was outplayed by Sexton.

Many pundits and analysts have come to label Young’s increasing stardom as the result of the fact that he is the first of the “Steph Curry era,” the first guy whose impressionable years as a player coincided with the rise of Curry’s popularity and style of play.

More profoundly, in my opinion, is that Young is one of the basketball prospects of the “Highlight Era.” Scrolling through Instagram, YouTube, Facebook or Twitter, it’s easy to find short clips of his deep line-drive threes and his no-look passes, or photos of him alongside his improbable stat lines in bold letters. While most know Trae Young, and most have something to say about his game, many less have actually watched one of his games.

Young is a basketball celebrity built by virality. For die-hard followers, internet highlights have accompanied him since high school. He is one of the first players to have grown up alongside his biggest fans. We have watched him develop as a player, each step meticulously documented through recruiting forums and highlight videos.

American culture has a nasty habit of attaching itself to a narrative. It loves to create heroes, and also villains. For skinny basketball players with overt confidence levels and unorthodox jumpshots, it is easy to become enframed in this culture.

Last year, it was Lonzo Ball and his bombastic father who captivated the prospect spotlight. Before that, there was Jimmer Fredette, with his relatable looks and brave three-point pull-ups. To a fault, we are constantly in search to bill someone as the next protege. Trae Young was next in line.
Looking past his profile, it is important to keep in mind that Young is still only 19, and is still developing as a player. He is not yet a superstar, but a prospect. Fredette could not live up his billing and shuffled around the NBA before finally relocating to China’s top league. Although Ball is showing flashes of being a more-than-capable NBA player, he does not look like the future perennial all-star he was once made out to be. Young is immensely talented, and has the perfect resume for NBA stardom. However, we must keep in mind that the alternative is still a possibility.

At the end of the Alabama game, with one minute left and the Crimson Tide up about 10 points (the contest fleeting, but still in reach), Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger made the curious decision to pull Young out. In what was in reality just another meaningless season game, I believe this move was meant as a lesson for Young. It was an opportunity for him to take in his own defeat, and accept the fact that he had been outplayed. It was an opportunity for him to think about how he could get better. For a prospect emerging into a celebrity, this was a sobering moment, an important reminder, one very much needed.

The article can also be found on the Miscellany News!

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.

[irp posts=”13361″ name=”Will non-conference marquee matchups be a thing of the past?”]

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.

[irp posts=”13348″ name=”NFL: Ryan Lipton’s top 5 Week 3 picks against spread”]

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.

[irp posts=”13337″ name=”NFL: Rob Werner’s Week 3 picks against spread”]

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.

[irp posts=”13380″ name=”3 reasons why Raider Nation should not panic”]

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.

[irp posts=”13348″ name=”NFL: Ryan Lipton’s top 5 Week 3 picks against spread”]

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.

[irp posts=”13304″ name=”Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch embracing true self is what Oakland wants and needs”]

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.

[irp posts=”8123″ name=”What needs to happen for the Alabama Crimson Tide to win national title”]

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

[irp posts=”11415″ name=”Ohio State Buckeyes top way-too-early college football top 25 rankings”]

  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.

Ohio State Buckeyes top way-too-early college football top 25 rankings

Photo via Getty Images

The 2017 season of college football is already promising to be a good one. With several teams poised to contend for the title and last year’s championship winner Clemson not yet in a position to defend its title, the top 25 looks like it could change at any moment.

With all this in mind, here is the JR Report’s way-too-early college football top 25.

Image result for jt barrett ohio state
JT Barret will need to have his best season yet for Ohio State to take the number 1 place. Photo via Getty Images

1. Ohio State

Picking Ohio State over Alabama is a bold move, considering the Buckeyes’ last game where they lost 31-0 against Clemson.

With new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and both returners and new starters to bolster the offense, OSU is looking better than it has looked in a long time.

The Buckeyes also return seven of their defensive starters, who looked great in spring games. Ohio State has a chance to keep Alabama from winning a title, but will the Buckeyes be the ones to win it?

Image result for jalen hurts
Jalen Hurts had an amazing rookie season, and is looking to do even better in his sophomore year. Photo via Getty Images

2. Alabama

Even after losing several of their key starters, the Crimson Tide look great. Jalen Hurts looked amazing in the spring games, and so did his potential backup Tua Tagovailoa.

It’s an almost sure thing that the Tide are No.1 in the AP Poll, but it won’t last if they can’t hold up in the season opener against FSU. Their offense needs significant improvement with a better receiving corps and a more consistent pass attack.

Jalen Hurts is more than up to the task, but Ohio State will likely overtake the Tide in the polls.

Image result for deondre francois
Deondre Francois has some more improvement to do if he hopes to be considered for the Heisman. Photo via Bobby Ellis / Getty Images

3. Florida State

The Seminoles are looking great for the preseason. It wouldn’t be surprising if they’re ranked worse, but No. 3 is a good place for them. They will have a lot to prove in their first game against a first or second-ranked Alabama, but they’re ready for a dog fight.

Five-star running back recruit Cam Akers is prepared to take up the job that Dalvin Cook left for him, and safety Derwin James is finally healthy enough to tear up the field.

Quarterback Deondre Francois seems to have improved on the field, and as he gets more and more comfortable in his role, opposing teams have more to worry about.

Image result for sam darnold
Sam Darnold is already being projected as the 2018 NFL No.1 draft pick. Photo via Otto Gruele Jr. / Getty Images

4. USC

It’ll be interesting to see if the Trojans live up to all the off-season hype. True, Sam Darnold is a Heisman-caliber quarterback and it’s unlikely that he’ll have a bad season, but the strength of schedule is a recurring question for USC.

USC played the spring game with plenty of injuries, so we didn’t get a good picture of how the offense is shaping up for 2017. The Trojans are a favorite for the college football playoff, but it remains to be seen where they can ascend to despite their poor schedule.

If the Trojans can get over all the injuries and come into the season at 100 percent, No. 4 is the perfect ranking for them.

Image result for saquon barkley
Running back Saquon Barkley is undoubtedly one of the best backs in the game right now. Photo via USA Today Sports

5. Penn State

There’s no doubt that Penn State and its fans are still unhappy about being edged out of the playoff despite winning the Big Ten title.

With the trio of quarterback Trace McSorley, running back Saquon Barkley, and redshirt sophomore receiver Juwan Johnson, the Nittany Lions will once again be a contender for the Big Ten championship.

The Nittany Lions have a lot to prove if they want to show that they deserve a place in the college football playoff, but this year’s team makes it look possible.

Image result for dabo swinney
Head coach Dabo Swinney has a lot of rebuilding to do if he hopes to keep the Tigers on top. Photo via Getty Images

6. Clemson

Although the Tigers lost star quarterback Deshaun Watson, they have some good players fighting for the position. In addition, the Clemson defense is one of the best defenses in the team’s history and will contend with Alabama for the best defense in the nation.

Clemson’s early schedule will be the perfect testing ground for the young team with games at Auburn and Louisville—there, we will see if the Tigers’ offense is reloaded enough to be a serious threat to FSU in the ACC.

Image result for jake browning
Jake Browning should be healthy by the start of the season after his shoulder surgery. Photo via Otto Gruele Jr. / Getty Images

7. Washington

Washington had a couple hiccups in the offseason like quarterback Jake Browning’s shoulder surgery and losing wide receiver John Ross to the NFL, but they are back and ready to compete.

Although the Huskies face tough opponents like Colorado, Stanford, and Washington State, they won’t face serious challenges beyond these teams until they play in the Pac-12 title game. Until then, they’ll stay on top of their side of the Pac-12 and likely in the top 10 nationally.

Image result for mason rudolph
Mason Rudolph is looking to make a splash in the Big 12 this season. Photo via Sue Ogrocki / AP Photo

8. Oklahoma State

The offseason was the perfect storm for Cowboys fans: their biggest rival Oklahoma lost both legendary coach Bob Stoops and outstanding running back Joe Mixon.

In addition, quarterback Mason Rudolph and his receiving corps are one of the best offenses in the nation. With returning receiver James Washington and LSU transfer wide receiver Tyron Johnson, the Cowboys are prepared to take on the Sooners’ offense better than they have in a good number of years.

If the Cowboys can bolster their mediocre defense and stay dominant offensively, this could be the year that they beat Oklahoma for the Big 12 crown.

Image result for bob stoops
Legendary coach Bob Stoops recently announced his retirement–how much will this impact the Sooners’ 2017 season? Photo via CBS Sports

9. Oklahoma

Despite Oklahoma’s recent misfortune, they’re still Oklahoma. Legendary coach Bob Stoops announced his surprise retirement last week, and many are wondering what this means for the Sooners.

Although star quarterback Baker Mayfield returns with his entire offensive line, the Sooners lost a lot of other offensive depth, such as wide receiver Dede Westbrook, running back Joe Mixon, and running back Samaje Perine.

The offense should still be explosive headed by Mayfield and Oklahoma will still have a good chance of winning the Big 12—now, they just have to try a little harder.

Image result for jarrett stidham
Baylor transfer quarterback Jarrett Stidham seems to be a good fit for the Tigers. Photo via Peter G. Aiken / Getty Images

10. Auburn

Auburn fans are excited this season, and rightly so—some are saying this is the Auburn team that can beat Bama for the first time since 2013.

Quarterback Jarrett Stidham has been performing well in practice and in the spring game. With running backs Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson behind him, the Tigers offense is ready to go.

With a stellar recruiting class and a reloaded defense, the Tigers will be a big contender in the top 10, even if they lose the Iron Bowl.

Image result for derrius guice
Derrius Guice is the perfect running back answer to LSU’s offensive problem. Photo via Bill Feig / The Advocate

11. LSU

With the arrival of offensive coordinator Matt Canada, Tigers fans are cautiously optimistic about the 2017 season. A lot of this optimism stems from hopes about running back Derrius Guice. Guice is set up to be one of the best running backs in the nation next year.

The Tigers don’t have a running problem, and they definitely won’t have a defense problem after completely turning around the defense under defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.

The main problem for LSU going into next season is quarterback Danny Etling. If he can show improvement next season, the Tigers will be another thorn in Alabama’s side in the SEC.

Image result for jim harbaugh
Jim Harbaugh has a lot of rebuilding to do to shape Michigan into a team like last year’s. Photo via Getty Images

12. Michigan

Jim Harbaugh’s team will likely be good once again, but the important question is whether they have the talent to be a top-10 team. With the way things are looking now, the answer is not quite.

Michigan lost 18 starters, but Harbaugh excels in turning a team of rookies into a high-caliber team. The Wolverines boast one of the top recruiting classes in the nation which has convinced many that while Michigan will be a different team next year, they will still be great as long as Harbaugh is in charge.

Image result for alex hornibrook
Alex Hornibrook is a more than adequate quarterback for a solid Badgers squad. Photo via Jeff Hanisch / USA Today Sports

13. Wisconsin

Wisconsin is a solid pick to play well every year. The Badgers, under new defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, look to dominate the Big Ten West via defense.

The Badgers also have the duo of solid quarterback Alex Hornibrook and wide receiver Jazz Peavy, so there is still the potential to make a major impact offensively.

Wisconsin won’t have a particularly difficult schedule, either. They only face Michigan as far as powerful Big Ten teams go, which should go as a big advantage for them staying on top of their division and staying ranked all season.

Image result for nick chubb
Nick Chubb has been a celebrity in Athens for his years at UGA. Photo via Dale Zanine / USA Today Sports

14. Georgia

The well-known running back duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel return for the Bulldogs along with the passing attack from sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason.

The Dawgs’ defense is also nothing to joke around about. With 10 returning starters, the Georgia defense will be one of the best in the league. Along with Auburn and LSU, the Bulldogs are among the SEC teams with the capability of finally beating Alabama.

Image result for mark richt miami
Miami head coach Mark Richt is hard at work figuring out a replacement for quarterback Brad Kaaya. Photo via Luis M. Alvarez / AP Photo

15. Miami

The only thing different between this year’s Miami team and last year’s will be the quarterback. With Brad Kaaya’s departure, the Canes are choosing between three potential replacements.

The Hurricanes have an impressive receiving and running game, as well as a stellar defense. If the quarterback choice meshes well with the rest of the offense, Miami will clinch the ACC Coastal division.

Image result for lamar jackson
Lamar Jackson, one of the best quarterbacks in the league, leaps over a Syracuse defender. Photo via Rich Barnes / USA Today Sports

16. Louisville

Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson returns to Louisville this season, and every season that he’s on the team is a season where the Cardinals will be good.

The biggest concern for the Cardinals is protecting Jackson. If they can improve their offensive line, Jackson won’t need to be worried about being sacked 46 times again this season.

Louisville may have a similarly disappointing season to last year’s 9-4 finish, but they will certainly start off strong.

Image result for keller chryst injury
Keller Chryst suffered an injury late last season, but hopes to return for 2017. Photo via Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

17. Stanford

With quarterback Keller Chryst injured and hoping to return before next season, the Cardinal have put some confidence in backup quarterback Ryan Burns. The Cardinal will have an uphill battle to remain relevant in 2017 with an early game against USC.

Stanford isn’t worried about things on the other side of the ball, and will tout one of the best defenses in the Pac-12.

Image result for quinton flowers
Quinton Flowers has put the USF Bulls in position for a breakout season. Photo via USF Athletics

18. USF

USF is the AAC team receiving the most hype coming into the 2017 season led by dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate and star quarterback Quinton Flowers.

Charlie Strong has made great strides as the incoming coach for the Bulls making the offense is stronger than it has ever been. More importantly, the defense is also looking strong.

With the way things are going and the rise of the AAC, it wouldn’t be surprising to see USF as a top-10 team by the end of the season.

There’s a lot of hype surrounding transfer quarterback Will Grier. Photo via Kelsie VanderWijst / BGS

19. West Virginia

Florida transfer quarterback Will Grier already seems to be finding more success at West Virginia than he ever did for the Gators. He performed well during spring games and the hype is building in Morgantown.

Grier will benefit from a solid running back and wide receiver corps, so the offense isn’t the main worry for the Mountaineers.

The main concern is the defense, and if WVU can find its defensive stride they will be a contender for the Big 12 championship.

Image result for feleipe franks
There are a lot of questions surrounding the Gators this year, and a lot of their success rests on Feleipe Franks. Photo via David Bowie / Gator Country

20. Florida

Redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks has made some waves in Gainesville after he won the quarterback battle.

The Gators hope to clinch the SEC East, but they will face stiff competition from Georgia and a surprisingly strong Tennessee team.

Image result for jesse ertz
Wildcats quarterback Jesse Ertz battled injury last year, but will most likely be healthy for 2017. Photo via Bo Rader/ the Wichita Eagle via AP Photo

21. Kansas State

The Wildcats are shaping up well, and all three avenues of offensive playmaking are wide open. Dual-threat Jesse Ertz should be cleared after his shoulder surgery, and he’s got a deep corps of receivers and running back Alex Barnes as options.

Kansas State also returns a significant amount of defenders, and they will prove to be a force to be reckoned with in the Big 12. They’re an outlier like West Virginia and TCU, but they have upset potential for opponents such as Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Image result for willie taggart oregon
Former USF coach Willie Taggart is ready to revamp the Ducks’ football program. Photo via Chris Pietsch / The Register-Guard

22. Oregon

2016 was a year of disappointment for the Ducks after they dipped below five wins for the first time since 1991 and had their first losing season since 2004. It was  a wakeup call for Oregon, and with incoming coach Willie Taggart the Ducks are looking to climb their way back to the top again.

Oregon is an iffy choice for the top 25 at this point, but they have the tools they need to stage a comeback in 2017. With a surprisingly strong recruiting class, the Ducks will rack up at least seven wins and will remain hovering around the rankings all season.

Image result for luke falk
Washington State quarterback Luke Falk is underrated coming into 2017, but he’ll prove himself quickly. Photo via USA Today Sports

23. Washington State

The Cougars look great coming into the 2017 season headed by quarterback Luke Falk. Falk has a great spread of receivers to pass to, as well as a strong running corps.

Washington State should field a good defensive line as well, and the Cougars are set up to be good competition for their in-state rivals, Washington.

Image result for quinten dormady
Volunteers’ quarterback Quinten Dormady is raising hopes in Tennessee. Photo via Andrew Bruckse / Tennessee Athletics

24. Tennessee

Vols quarterback Quinten Dormady shined during the spring game, and Tennessee is looking good on both sides of the ball for 2017.

Tennessee faces stiff competition in the SEC East against Georgia and Florida. They have upset potential, however, and will be looking to try for the SEC East crown.

Image result for tom herman
There are already noticeable changes in the Texas program under new head coach Tom Herman. Photo via the Associated Press

25. Texas

After a disappointing decline for the Longhorns’ football program, head coach Tom Herman is looking to turn it around with a complete program overhaul. Herman’s recruiting and redesigning has brought new life to Austin.

The Longhorns are looking to retake their place as one of the strongest college football programs, and although a change like that doesn’t happen overnight, they will be contenders to edge into the top 25 next season.

“26”. TCU, Virginia Tech, Boise State

These three teams are right on the edge of the top 25, and could very well see their names on the list when the first polls are published.

 

Predicting the winner of every power 5 college football conference, plus one

Photo via Ty Russell / SoonerSports.com

It’s never too early to think about the winners of the Power Five conferences in College Football. In addition, the American Athletic Conference is turning some heads as a potentially powerful conference for next season. This year will prove to be an exciting year, as several of the potential winners aren’t last year’s champions.

As such, it should prove to be an exciting year, as several of the last season’s winners are not expected to repeat.

Image result for deondre francois
Deondre Francois is set up for a standout season as the head of the Seminoles’ offense. Photo via Wayne McGahee III

ACC: Florida State 

Usually, the ACC is one of the toughest conferences to predict, but it often ends with the Clemson Tigers or Florida State Seminoles representing the Atlantic Division.

This year, however, Clemson will downgrade significantly at the quarterback position. With no clear replacement for quarterback Deshaun Watson, they won’t pose any threat offensive threat to the Seminoles.

Quarterback Deondre Francois has developed significantly since starting on the team, and with the top-rated running back recruit in the nation Cam Akers and a crop of new receivers, the FSU offense will have the strength to take down any ACC team.

[irp posts=”8472″ name=”What needs to happen for Florida State to win national title”]

Image result for jalen hurts
At only 18 years old, Jalen Hurts surprised everyone with his level-headed approach to the QB position. Photo via AP Photo / Brynn Anderson

SEC: Alabama

The Crimson Tide return this year stronger than ever. With an outstanding recruiting class and developing quarterback Jalen Hurts, the Tide have already proved they’re national championship material.

Alabama returns most of its defensive prowess as well, and the only teams in the SEC that even stand a chance against them are LSU, Georgia, and Florida.

[irp posts=”8123″ name=”What needs to happen for the Alabama Crimson Tide to win national title”]

Image result for JT barrett
J.T. Barrett announced that he would return for his senior season, and the Buckeye has something to prove before he goes pro. Photo via Art Foxall / UPI

Big Ten: Ohio State

The Big Ten, maybe the most competitive conference in the country, will end with Ohio State taking the crown narrowly with Penn State, Wisconsin, and Michigan all close behind.

That being said, the Buckeyes will be one of the best teams in all of college football. They put together one of the best defenses in the country and return Heisman-hopeful quarterback J.T. Barrett.

[irp posts=”9648″ name=”What needs to happen for Ohio State to win national title”]

Image result for sam darnold
Sam Darnold is a prime candidate for the next Heisman Trophy. Photo via Otto Greule Jr / Getty Images

PAC-12: USC

USC, a college football playoff favorite, is the heavy favorite in the PAC-12.

Quarterback Sam Darnold is one of the biggest reasons for the team’s success after throwing for 3,086 yards and 31 touchdowns last season while not starting until the team’s fourth game.

In addition to Heisman-contender Darnold, USC has the extremely talented five-star running back Stephen Carr to add a new dimension to the Trojan offense.

USC’s main competition, Washington, will have a tough time catching the Trojans as the Huskies have a much tougher schedule and has to play Colorado, Washington State, Oregon, Stanford, and Utah.

[irp posts=”9144″ name=”What needs to happen for USC to win national title”] 

Image result for bob stoops
Legendary Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops announced his retirement recently, but will this be a barrier for the Sooners going into next season? Photo via USA Today Sports

BIG-12: Oklahoma

Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield will once again have an outstanding season with their new and skilled recruiting class. As such, they’ll take the BIG-12 throne once again.

One thing to cause them worry—and one thing that will probably be a barrier between them and anything beyond the conference title—is the fact that Bob Stoops retired last week.

Oklahoma’s only real threat is offense-heavy Oklahoma State, and at the end of the day, the Sooners should have an easy time getting past their contender in the conference championship game.

Image result for quinton flowers
Quinton Flowers impressed many last season with his dual-threat approach to the quarterback position. Photo via AP Photo

American: University of South Florida 

The AAC has been one of the most exciting conferences to follow for the last few seasons. With breakout teams such as Houston, Navy, and Temple, the AAC is a surprisingly stacked conference.

Temple will lose 16 of its starters and is projected to fall behind in USF’s division, leaving the Bulls an open trip to the conference championship.

Houston, Navy, and Tulsa will all battle for the AAC West title, with no clear favorite.

Quarterback Quinton Flowers has been gaining national attention for the last year or so as one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country. Flowers chalked up 2,812 passing yards and 1,530 rushing yards during his junior season.

Under head coach Charlie Strong, the Bulls will continue to improve. Their roster remains strong from last year and they should find no serious conflict in their schedule besides games against Houston and Tulsa.

Vegas releases early college football win total predictions

Photo via John Kuntz/The Plain Dealer

The oddsmakers over at OddsShark have released their predictions for win totals—as well as over/under odds—for the top teams in college football, Alabama and Ohio State, come out on top with 10.5 wins.

In second place comes a tie between Oklahoma, USC, FSU, Wisconsin, Washington, and Penn State—Vegas predicts they’ll finish the regular season at 9.5 wins.

By this metric, these eight teams have a pretty good chance of making the playoff just based off of wins.

This is in line with what others have been predicting, but there’s a pretty notable absence with these odds.

Notably missing from the list is Clemson, who’s at nine wins on the season. After their championship year, the Tiger can’t be pleased.

On the surface, a championship team should play well the next year, but there are too many holes in the Clemson roster to give someone much hope that they can do it all again.

The Seminoles are projected to replace the Tigers as the kings of the ACC, highlighting Deshaun Watson’s absence and the hype surrounding quarterback Deondre Francois coming into next season.

[irp posts=”7141″ name=”Way-too-early ACC football power rankings”]

Check out the full odds at OddsShark for over/under predictions, but here’s a list of the top five teams’ full odds:

Alabama: 10.5 wins  |  Over -260  / Under +200

Ohio State: 10.5 wins  |  Over -205  /  Under +165

Oklahoma: 9.5 wins  |  Over -155  /  Under +125

USC: 9.5 wins  |  Over -150  /  Under +120

Florida State: 9.5 wins  |  Over -140  /  Under +110

Bama is projected to take their place back on the top of the college football world, but Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes are not far behind.

Once again people think that the Tide will take the top of the SEC, even in the face of a strong LSU, Florida, and UGA opposition.

[irp posts=”7575″ name=”Way-too-early SEC power rankings”]

USC is placed in fourth place, which makes sense considering their relatively weak schedule.

For an analysis of USC’s chances on the national title, click here. 

For an analysis of FSU’s chances, click here. 

For an analysis of Alabama’s chances, click here. 

POLL: Should the Bengals have drafted Joe Mixon?

Photo via Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Football is never a stranger to controversy, and as the 2017 NFL draft finished up this weekend, another questionable decision was made. Former Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon was drafted in the second round by the Cincinnati Bengals.

It’s hard to forget Mixon’s past. By this time most people have seen the 2014 footage of Mixon punching a female student and breaking four bones in her face. He was suspended during the entire 2014 season, and never really made a comeback until the 2016 season.

Let’s ignore the debate about whether he should’ve been a first-round draft pick—he definitely has the talent. In his senior year, Mixon ran for 1,274 yards, had 538 receiving yards, and scored  15 touchdowns.

There’s a moral component to think about which the Bengals seem to have justified in their heads.

The thought process goes, “well he’s a bad guy, but we drafted him in the second round, so its okay!” And somehow this is supposed to make it better.

Everyone wants to think that character is important in sports. These are guys that we look up to as we see them go through college, get drafted, and have careers in the spotlight. Athletics host many household names, but, as we know, many of them fall short in the role model department.

There is a long history of teams compromising their moral fiber to pick up a good player, and the Mixon pick is just another part of the saga.

Has Mixon stated his regret? Yes. Were his actions deplorable? Undoubtedly. Should he have been drafted? It is hard to say.

We are finally learning that character doesn’t make even a tiny difference in professional sports. There are always amazing, larger-than-life guys in sports and we shouldn’t forget those guys. However, the Bengals just cared about what player could help them win on Sundays.

I watched the video of Mixon’s altercation again this morning, and it left a bad taste in my mouth.

We will see in the coming years if Mixon has truly changed and won’t get into trouble off the field. Nonetheless, I side with the idealistic notion that he shouldn’t have been drafted at all.

Idealism doesn’t have much of a place in the NFL if it could jeopardize a chance of winning more football games.

Allstate Sugar Bowl Preview and Predictions

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Who: #7 Oklahoma vs #14 Auburn

When: January 2, 8:30PM EST

Where: New Orleans, Louisiana

Watch: ESPN

Winner: Oklahoma

This is a hard game to predict. Both teams are very strong programs with impact players and have been battle tested throughout the year.

Strengths for Auburn

The Tigers have a super strong defense, and have only allowed 30 points once this season (vs. Alabama). They have good pass rushers that could make it very difficult for Baker Mayfield.

Sean White’s offense is just as strong…when he’s healthy (see: weaknesses). If White’s shoulder is good to go, the Tigers will present a very impressive pass attack. He completes 65.2 percent of his passes and should be a thorn in the Sooners’ side if he is healthy and ready to go.

RB Kamryn Pettway is also healthy now, and he should prove to be a strong force for Auburn. He has had 1,123 yards in only 9 games this season.

Weaknesses for Auburn

If Sean White isn’t as healthy as he seems, or he hasn’t found his stride by halftime, the Tigers will have a really hard time moving the ball down the field.

Auburn took big losses from Georgia and Texas A&M which were pretty embarrassing and worrisome. Their only win since November 5 was against Alabama A&M, and they just lost to their rival Alabama. They’ll be looking to redeem themselves, but is it enough?

Strengths for Oklahoma

Baker Mayfield is an amazing QB. He has 3,669 yards this season, and so far has thrown 38 touchdowns. If he is able to heat up early, it’ll be a short day for the Tigers.

Oklahoma has two great running backs (again, see the weaknesses section) who will hopefully turn out to play well. Samaje Perine is a great back with a lot of talent (974 yards on 179 attempts and 11 touchdowns). This is decidedly less than his last two seasons, but everyone knows he is still extremely talented.

Joe Mixon is also an amazing back who can be used as a threat in the running game and the passing game with 1,183 rushing yards and 449 receiving yards this season.

Weaknesses for Oklahoma

There’s only one problem with Mixon: he reportedly physically assaulted a woman in 2014. The video was released, and the controversy is heating up again. He has been cleared to play, but I’m wondering if his head will be able to put the distractions to the side and focus on winning the game for the Sooners.

The Sooners have a hard time defending the run, and this should prove to be a problem with Pettway healthy.

Prediction

I could easily see this game going either way. However, I will have to go with the Sooners. Their diverse offense, with a great quarterback and two great running backs, will prove difficult to contain.

College Football Week 12 Run Down

Photo via Getty Images

This week is definitely an off week for most of the top 10. With the exception of my predicted upset from Houston and the showdown between #8 Oklahoma and #10 West Virginia, all of the teams expect to hold their rankings and get ready for competitions down the road. The * denotes “good games to watch.”

#1 Alabama vs. Chattanooga — Winner: Alabama 

If the Crimson Tide doesn’t roll over Chattanooga, there’s a problem. While Bennifield is a strong QB, the Mocs can’t even begin to compete on the level of Saban’s franchise.

#2 Ohio State vs. Michigan State — Winner: Ohio State

In any other year, I wouldn’t be so quick to choose OSU as the winner of this matchup; after a surprisingly disastrous season, however, I don’t think the Spartans have nearly enough talent or momentum to come out on top.

* #3 Louisville vs. Houston — Winner: Houston 

On paper, this seems like a huge upset, but Houston has proven time and time again that they are more than a match for high ranking programs. After some good upsets earlier in the season, Houston lost a lot of the momentum they’d gained in a shocker vs. Navy. If their defense has a strong showing, I think the Cougars can be a hard team to beat.

#4 Michigan vs. Indiana — Winner: Michigan 

Michigan comes into the game with a strong defense that the Hoosiers will be unable to overcome. Indiana is still reeling after a loss to Penn State, and their hopes of bowl eligibility will only come to fruition with a win over Purdue, not Michigan.

#5 Clemson vs. Wake Forest — Winner: Clemson

The strong Tigers team will be more than a match for the Demon Deacons, and while Clemson will win I feel like Wake will put up more of a fight than anyone thinks. They held their own in the first half against Louisville, and Clemson undoubtedly has their loss to Pitt fresh in their minds.

#6 Wisconsin vs. Purdue — Winner: Wisconsin  

This’ll be a no-contest, bread and butter win for Wisconsin. The Badgers have proven their worth as a powerhouse football program this year and will have no problem taking care of Purdue’s mistake-prone offense.

* #7 Washington vs. Arizona State — Winner: Washington

I was almost tempted to predict an upset here. Washington fell to USC last week in an embarrassing loss, and now nurses a 9-1 record—amazing to be sure, but not where they would like to be right now. On the other hand, Arizona State is not nearly as powerful as a team as I expected they would be. At 5-5 with four straight losses, they simply do not have the momentum to punch through the hole opened up by Washington’s recent loss. ASU has won the last 10 matches against the Huskies, but this will break their streak.

#8 Oklahoma vs. #10 West Virginia — Winner: Oklahoma 

This is really the game to watch out for. Both teams are hoping for a Big 12 championship spot, and both have the right type of momentum coming into today’s game. WVU’s pass defense will prove to be a thorn in the Sooners’ side, and the Mountaineers will ride their home field advantage as far as they can. It’s gonna be a tough win for Oklahoma but I think they’ll pull it off. They have a strong offense and a 7-game winning streak to show for their effort this season. It’s going to be a very close game, and I expect it’ll be within 6 points by the time it’s over.

#9 Penn State vs. Rutgers — Winner: Penn State

Penn State will make short work of the 2-8 Rutgers squad. It never helped Rutgers that they had an extremely hard schedule this year, but there isn’t much of an excuse for a 2-8 team.

Non-Top 10 Games to Watch Out For

#11 Utah vs. Oregon — Winner: Utah

Remembering how good Oregon looked the last couple of years, it’s strange to reconcile that with their record. Plain and simple, the Ducks aren’t performing well at all. While this is the perfect spoiler game—the perfect game to call an upset for—I just don’t think the Ducks will be able to prevail. The Utes will have a hard time with this win because Oregon doesn’t seem very formidable at 3-7, but in the end, they’ll come out on top. Barely.