Saturday, June 27, 2015

Who Belongs on Patriots Mount Rushmore?

Atop Mount Rushmore are the faces of four transformational men. These men have changed the landscape of this nation and have effected change of commendable magnitude and longevity. We all know George Washington, Thomas Jefferson Teddy Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln are the American heroes chosen for Mount Rushmore (or at least now we do), but what if the New England Patriots were theoretically to resurrect a Mount Rushmore? Who would be featured on that? And what traits would we want those characters to represent?

In choosing the four Patriots most representative of the franchise, I distinguished players with characteristics that I believe embody success and likeability. To crack the rocks of the Patriots Mount Rushmore, one had to fit the mold of some high standards. I looked for winners of unwavering commitment, selfless team players, and fan favorites. Furthermore, I sought to honor those Patriots that helped revolutionize the game as well as those leaders that used emotion and high status to motivate others. More than anything else, though, I looked for iconic leaders that displayed great talent, a knack for winning, and a true commitment to the team. It is no coincidence that every individual on the list started his professional career on the Patriots and either ended it there or is currently still there. To be on the Patriots Mount Rushmore, an individual has to indisputably be A PATRIOT.

Due to the sanctity of the historic monument and the plethora of players that are worthy of consideration, choosing just four faces is no simple task. But, after great contemplation, I have narrowed down a list of New England stars and have determined the faces to be carved on the Patriots Mount Rushmore. On it shall be Bill Belichick, Troy Brown, Tedy Bruschi, and the one and only Tom Brady.

Here is why:

Bill Belichick is the mastermind behind all of the Patriots’ success. Whether you are a fan or a hater, one thing is indisputable: Belichick is a winner. The football guru has led the Patriots franchise to “not one, not two, not three,” but (sorry Lebron) four Super Bowl Championships in his fifteen seasons as head coach and general manager of the franchise. For anyone keeping track of records, yes, four Super Bowls ties him with the great Chuck knoll for most all-time. In New England, he boasts an incredible 73% win percentage in the regular season and an equally daunting 72% win percentage in the postseason. Plain and simple, the 3x NFL coach of the year, along with Tom Brady, has been the backbone of this New England dynasty. And if that’s not enough, maybe the fact that the NFL adopted his proposal to lengthen extra points proves the respect Belichick has garnered in this sport. Bill Belichick may not be liked by all, but he is a winner, he has shown a duration of commitment, and he has revolutionized the game. He absolutely deserves a spot on the Patriots Mount Rushmore.

Troy Brown never possessed the star power of a Randy Moss, but to Patriot fans, that is just fine. Simply put, Troy Brown is a New England Patriot. The 1993 eighth round draft pick remained in New England for the entirety of his fifteen season career. Fifteen years! An ideal team player, Brown worked his way up from a return specialist, to a third option receiver, to a go-to target. Along the way, he kept a level head and a selfless attitude, willing to take pay cuts and play wherever his skills were most needed. Believe it or not, the fan favorite receiver had three interceptions in one season (2004) as well as started a game at quarterback. As for numbers, Troy Brown won three Super Bowl titles— playing an integral part in the 2001 Super Bowl that started Tom Brady’s stardom and New England’s dynasty—and he had 557 career receptions for 6,366 yards (both 2nd all-time for the Patriots). The franchise leader in punt returning played big when the stage was big, he was a team-first guy, a great leader, better man, and a true Patriot. For those reasons, he is on the Patriots Mount Rushmore.

Another fan favorite and Patriot legend, middle linebacker Tedy Bruschi led the team on the defensive side of the ball for thirteen great seasons. And, if the recent play of the Patriots has fuzzed your memory, here is a reminder: it was the defensive unit that carried the Patriots early in the Brady era. Whether it is Bruschi’s playing with his kids on the Super Bowl field, his four consecutive interceptions returned for touchdowns, or his hoisting of the Lombardi trophy three separate times, the former captain has filled Patriot fans with favorite moments. Bruschi started 139 games, racking up a total of 1,110 tackles, 30.5 sacks, 12 interceptions, and 8 touchdowns. The 2x All Pro earned great respect throughout the organization, exuding great perseverance and pride for the game. Overcoming a stroke in 2005, Bruschi, against all odds, came back in tip-top shape, leading the team in tackles the next two seasons. In the eyes and words of Coach Belichick, Bruschi was "the epitome of everything you want in a football player." A fan favorite, star, winner of unwavering commitment, inspirational leader, and selfless individual—Tedy Bruschi’s face has a spot on the Patriots Mount Rushmore.

Image result for tom bradyTom Brady. An explanation here is unnecessary. But if you insist, here you go. Forget all of that deflategate garbage; Tom Brady is the face of the NFL, a 4x Super Bowl Champion, 3x Super Bowl MVP, 6x AFC Champion, 2x NFL MVP, and the star of the New England Patriots. Walk around Boston, you are sure to see a Tom Brady jersey. Heck, walk around Wyoming, you will probably see one there, too. Tom Brady is the ultimate winner. Even before he was recognized as a top quarterback in the NFL, he was winning championships like it was nothing. He has the “it” factor, and in many ways, his stardom extends beyond football. Yet, against the belief of some, Brady is the ultimate team player. He puts in extra time with his receivers, he takes pay cuts to allow for the acquisition of more players, and he lives and breathes football. With a career record of 160-47 (77%) in the regular season and personal stats out of this world, Brady—along with Belichick—has been the main driver behind the Patriots’ success. Tom Brady fits all of my criteria and is a no-brainer for the Patriots Mount Rushmore.

Just missed the cut: Vince Wilfork, Ty Law, John Hannah, Andre Tippett, Rob Gronkowski, Adam Vinatieri

Friday, September 5, 2014

2014 College Football QB Rankings #2

Following week 1, here are our rankings of the best quarterbacks in the nation.

1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
2. Bryce Petty, Baylor
Oregon's Marcus Mariota could be a Heisman favorite in 2014
2. Jameis Winston, FSU
4. Kenny Hill, Texas A&M
5. Nick Marshall, Auburn
6. Taysom Hill, BYU
7. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
8. Connor Cook, Michigan State
9. Cody Kessler, USC
10. Kevin Hogan, Stanford
11. Everett Golson, Notre Dame
11. Connor Halliday, Washington State
12. Bo Wallace, Ole Miss
13. Rakeem Cato, Marshall
14. Devin Gardner
15. Brandon Doughty, WKU
16. Jake Waters, Kansas State
17. Trevone Boykin, TCU
18. Blake Sims, Alabama
19. Davis Webb, Texas Tech
20. Maty Mauk, Missouri

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

2014/2015 College Football Predictions: Breakout Players

True Freshman that I expect to turn heads:
  1. Jabril Peppers, Michigan- I expect him to be one of the best players in the BIG 10. 
  2. Jalen Tabor, Florida
  3. Nick Chubb, Georgia
  4. Elijah Hood, North Carolina
  5. Nifae Lealao, Vanderbilt
  6. Roc Thomas, Auburn 
  7. Jalen Hurd, Tennessee
  8. Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
  9. Brandon Harris, LSU 
  10. Drew Barker, Kentucky
  11. Travis Rudolph, Florida State
  12. Speedy Noil, Texas A&M
  13. Thomas Holley, Florida
  14. Toa Lobendahn, USC
  15. Parrker Westphal, Northwestern
  16. Josh Malone, Tennessee
  17. Donte Thomas-Williams, West Virginia
  18. Marlon Humphrey, Alabama
  19. Malachi Dupre, LSU
  20. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
  21. Adoree' Jackson, USC
  22. Tre' Williams, Auburn
  23. Arrion Springs, Oregon
  24. Jeb Blazevich, Georgia
  25. Raekwon McMillon, Ohio State
  26. Malik McDowell, Michigan State
  27. D.J. Calhoun, Arizona State
  28. Kyla Allen, Texas A&M
  29. Josh Malone, Tennessee
  30. Chris Hardeman, Oklahoma State
  31. Dillon Bates, Tennessee
  32. Chad Thmas, Miami
  33. Lorenzo Carter, Georgia
  34. Cameron Robinson, Alabama
  35. Leonard Fournette, LSU
  36. T.V. Williams, Kentucky
  37. Thadeus Snodgrass, Kentucky
  38. Nate Brown, Missouri
  39. Caleb Scott, Vanderbilt
  40. Dallas Rivers, Vanderbilt
  41. Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
  42. Dominick Sanders, Georgia
  43. Shaun Dion Hamilton, Alabama
  44. J.T. Gray, Mississippi State
  45. Sione Teuhema, LSU
  46. D.J. Chark, LSU
  47. Tyshun Samuel, South Carolina
Other Breakthrough athletes:
  • Kelvin Taylor, Florida, RB
  • Derrick Henry, Alabama, RB
  • O.J. Howard, Alabama, TE
  • Ramik Wilson, Georgia, LB
  • Artie Burns, Miami, DB
  • Al-Quadin Muhammad, Miami, DE
  • Elijah Hood, North Carolina, RB
  • Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame, LB
  • Trevor Knight, Oklahoma, QB
  • Emmanuel Moseley, Tennessee, DB
  • Tarean Folston, Notre Dame, RB
  • Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss, WR
  • Johnathan Gray, Texas, RB
  • Adam Butler, Vanderbilt, DL
  • Andrew Williamson, Vanderbilt, S
  • Marquez North, Tennessee, WR
  • Skai Moore, South Carolina, LB
  • Demarco Robinson, Kentucky, WR
  • Leon McQuay III, USC, S
  • Jordan Cunningham, Vanderbilt, WR
  • Darius Philon, Arkansas, DL
  • Shaq Roland; South Carolina, WR
  • Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma, WR
  • Robert Foster, Alabama, WR
  • D'haquille Wiliams, Auburn, WR
  • De'Andre Coley, Arkansas, S
  • Chris Thompson, Florida, WR
  • Jonathan Truman, Kansas State, LB
  • Chuckie Hunter, TCU, DL
  • Quandre Diggs, Texas, DB
  • Buck Allen, USC, RB
  • Justin Davis, USC RB
  • Henry Anderson, Stanford, DE
  • Jalen Ramsey, Florida State, DB
  • Ronald Darby, Florida State, DB
  • Carl Davis, Iowa, DL
  • Oren Burks, Vanderbilt, S
  • Matthew Thomas, Florida State, LB
  • Mike Mitchell, Texas Tech, LB (if eligible)
  • Owamagbe Odighizuwa, UCLA, DE
  • Jordan Payton, UCLA, WR
  • Charlie Moore, Oklahoma State, WR
  • Jaxon Shipley, Texas, WR
  • Caleb Bluiett, Texas, DE
  • Greg Bryant, Notre Dame, RB
  • Josh Robinson, Mississippi State, RB
  • Ro'Derrick Hoskins, DE, Florida State
  • Leonard Floyd, Georgia, LB
  • Darreon Herring, Vanderbilt, LB
  • Serderius Bryant, Ole Miss, LB
  • JT Surratt, South Carolina, DT
  • Za'Darius Smith, Kentucky, DE
  • Ra'Shaad Samples, Oklahoma State, WR
  • Rick Seals-Jones, Texas A&M, WR
  • Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt, RB
  • Tre Bell, Vanderbilt, DB
  • Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina, WR/ATH
  • Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh, WR
  • Kris Frost, Auburn, LB
  • JoJo Kemp, Kentucky, RB
  • Braylon Heard, Kentucky, RB
  • Rashard Robinson, LSU, DB
  • Jimmy Bean, Oklahoma State, DE
  • Danielle Hunter, LSU, DE
  • Jake Ryan, Michigan, LB
  • Trae Waynes, Michigan State, DB
Potential Heisman Finalists
Brett Hundley 
Jameis Winston 
Dak Prescott
Todd Gurley
Bryce Petty
Marcus Mariota
Mike Davis

Comeback Player of Year: Everett Golson

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Why I Love College Football More than the NFL

Sure the NFL players are older, stronger, and more polished, so I don't blame people when they ask "Why college football?" It's a good question, one that can be difficult to provide a full answer to and one that we may struggle to grasp an answer to at all. But I will try to capture at least part of why I, and others, prefer the amateur version of the game.

For some, it may simply be that their hometown does not have a professional football team--or any professional sports teams, for that matter. But for most it goes far beyond that.

I'll start by saying that I believe that college sports fans often feel a much deeper connection to their team/s than do professional sports fans.

Michigan student section
Some fans attended the university, walked the same halls and paths as the athletes, cheered in the same student section as the one they still see at games, and maybe even took some of the same classes as some of the players. Other graduates may have even known some of the players during their time... or at least walked by one once and got a head nod. To remain a part of the fan base and university, many of these people donate to the university, attend games, and continue to bleed the colors of their school.

They bleed their school colors because at heart, they never have graduated. Fans are eternally connected to a network of other faithfuls with whom they can naturally hit it off with through a mutual passion for the same team. Strangers become friends, and an awkward situation walking in the opposite direction as someone is often mitigated by a simple "Roll Tide," "Fight On!" or "Go Dawgs." This is much less customary of professional sports fanaticism.

Overall, whether it is the team pride displayed on the streets (as mentioned above), the tailgating, or the actual in-game experience, the college fans seem to simply do it better.

Packing some of the largest, most iconic stadiums in the country, college football fans are the loudest and most passionate out of any sport. College crowds also know better than anyone else how to color coordinate a stadium to create a beautiful aesthetic. More importantly, college football fans have an influence on the game; they create a home field advantage. Nearly 63% of college football games are won by the home team, a tilt significantly in favor of the home team. Compare that to the NFL's historical 57%, and it is clear that a crowd has a greater impact in the college game.

Sure, the crowd has a factor in winning, but honestly, a day isn't 100% made or broken by the outcome of the game. Each college campus offers its unique gameday experience. The strong traditions in college football that exist in the locker rooms, on the fields, in the crowds, and outside the stadiums are intriguing to anyone that is willing to tune into a game. Traditions such as Howard's Rock at Clemson or the "Play Like A Champion Today" sign at Notre Dame pique the interest of even fair weather fans.

Washington's version of sailgating.
And then there are the tailgating traditions, such as Ole Miss' "The Grove" and Tennessee's "sailgating." These exciting, lively celebrations of schools and football teams exude school spirit and pure enjoyment. While the outcome of the game matters most, fans cherish the relationships and experiences that are created before the game, and this applies to colleges that tailgate less extravagantly than the Ole Miss's of the world too.

And how could I mention the gameday experience without mentioning the marching bands, students, and mascots that each provide a unique feel and sound to their school's stadium? Marching bands tie the school together with the sports programs and help make students a greater part of the game. And this is symbolic of gameday in general, as Saturdays bring together an entire school; it is the day in which students and fans emanate school spirit the most, and it is the day in which almost the entire student body is performing, whether it be as a player, fan, drummer etc.

Another aspect of college football that I prefer is the entire roster dynamic.

Unlike in professional sports, college athletes choose their university and team; for the most part, they actually want to be there, and their commitment often confirms that there is no other school they would rather represent. Even more, these players are playing with other like-minded players. That is, each player is surrounded by a team of individuals that want to be there just as much. This sense of team is far less evident in professional sports, in which players are just doing their job, playing where they can make the most money, and are looking out for their own well-being over the well-being of their teammates. Of course this brotherhood somewhat exist in professional sports, but it tends to be to a much lesser degree, especially because of constant trading and free agency moves. Due to the strong sense of team and family, college athletes seemingly play for their teammates, coaches, administrators, assistants, fellow students, and fans. It's not about money, and it's not about oneself; it's about winning and sharing great moments with your teammates, your brothers.

Victories in college football aren't just wins for the team, but wins for the entire school.
Due to player graduation and early enrollment in the draft, college football rosters are always changing; yet, while players may be leaving the roster, they never lose pride in their team and school. This further proves my previous point of selflessness. NFL players often associate themselves with several teams, none of which they can truly call a home; but more times than not, these players have a college that they indisputably can always root for and identify with. This adds to the tradition and spirit at each school and provides current players with a standard to live up to.

The continually changing rosters also allow for way more predictions before the season and much more variability from season to season.  During the off season, we can always conjecture which players we think will step up, which freshmen will contribute most, and which position changes will pay off best. But the reality is that nobody has any idea how the season will end; each college football season begins as a great unknown. This speculation on players and strengths of teams never ends either. Each day players are developing and teams are changing. Also, each week, we learn something new about each team, and thus we are given more data and information to rank teams. Still, though, we never know enough to create an indisputable ranking. As a result, rankings often frustrate fans, especially fans of underrated teams. Nonetheless, we can all acknowledge that this imperfect art gives us something to discuss, debate, or brag about.

The craze of recruiting keeps the off season eventful.
Talking about constantly changing rosters, who could forget the excitement of recruiting? As fans, we may grow sick of the long off-season, but college football is never dead. Recruits are always narrowing down their choices and committing; these commitments are 1) a sense of pride for teams, and 2) something to be excited about in the future. There is not much greater than bringing in the "right" recruits and seeing them develop into star athletes and hopefully strong role models. Since these kids are so young, all we can do is make educated guesses with recruits, but doesn't that just add to the excitement?

I've touched on many of the great aspects of college football, but I haven't even touched on the game itself. Admittedly, the talent in the pros exceeds that in college, but if you are looking for the best display of an up-tempo offense, best wildcat offense, or even best spread offense, you'll usually find it in college. With well over one-hundred teams, there is just so much more variety; we see more formations, more play variability, more interesting match ups, more games, and more uniforms. Also, worth noting is that offensive athletes in college can showcase their speed and athleticism much more so than in the pros. In the NFL, speed is almost unimportant for running backs because there is too much size, quickness and intelligence on NFL defenses. This eliminates the excitement of the outside running game and diminishes the frequency of big plays. Speed is much more of an asset in college football than it is in the NFL for running backs, quarterbacks, and even receivers. I can't disparage the NFL for having superior defensive schemes and better talent, but it limits the diversity of offenses as well as the number of spectacular plays, making the games less interesting to watch.

Also -- adding even more excitement to college football --  the NCAA has created a fairer, far more exciting overtime than any other football league. One possession for each team starting just 25 yards from a touchdown equates to ample scoring, the possibility of several overtimes, and unparalleled intensity. One watching an overtime game in college football can experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in the matter of seconds, so it is no wonder why fans observe overtime with a volatile and apprehensive state of mind.

What also makes college football games so great is the emphasis on the regular season. In college football, every game matters. Each loss truly affects a team, as does each win. This does not hold true in the NFL --or really any other American sports league -- where the regular season is nearly meaningless as long as you reach the playoffs. Since College Football's four team playoff is so exclusive, all games are critical. The fact that bowl placement entirely depends on regular season performance ensures that the regular season counts. Also a team's record carries on into recruiting; a weak season could potentially cripple a school's reputation for recruits and a strong season can build great momentum around a program. Each new season may be a fresh start, but the previous years' outcomes tend to loom over programs more so than in the NFL.

Big out of conference match ups draw lots of attention.
The regular season also stands out because of the marquee games. Every in-conference match up contains history and these games are always rivalries one way or another. One team is trying to avenge a loss from a previous season, while the other refuses to give in to their foes. Out-of-conference games often produce an equal amount of excitement, especially if two powerhouses from different regions of the country come together for a rare match up. Also, out of conference games aid in determining the strength of a conference, so all followers of a given conference have stake in these games, since rankings strongly depend on conference prestige.

And then there are the true rivalries, the ones that fans wait for all year round, and in which a program's confidence can skyrocket or be shot. The true rivalry games tend to have lots of history behind them, and the tension in these match ups surpass all others in American sports. These match ups only come once a year at most, excluding the possibility of conference championships, so bragging rights are always on the line.

Better fans, better stadiums, more variety, a greater focus on each individual game, tantalizing conference play, recruiting, selflessness, and a way better overtime are some of the reasons I prefer college football. What about you? Comment below why you prefer college football over the NFL or vice-versa.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Average Weights of Players for Each SEC Team

While the average weight of a team's roster probably means nothing, it is still interesting to see how much the average SEC player weighs, and which teams have the heaviest rosters. Heavier rosters could be due to having more linemen on the squad, a greater emphasis on weight training, or many other factors. It will be cool to look at this at the end of the season to see if there is any correlation between size and winning.

Average Weights in lbs.

Kentucky: 235.66
Missouri: 231.90
Tennessee: 231.87
Vanderbilt: 230.92
Georgia: 228.08
Florida: 227.63
South Carolina: 227.23

Alabama: 244.13
Arkansas: 236.68
Mississippi State: 236.37
Auburn: 231.78
Texas A&M: 231.65
LSU: 230.53
Ole Miss: 229.93

Well, Alabama appears to be the heaviest team by a long-shot, and the SEC West definitely rosters heavier players overall. What sticks out is that many of the teams expected not to do too well this year have heavier teams, whereas most of the contenders seem to have slightly lighter teams. Of course, Alabama is an outlier and there is no certainty that listed weights are fully accurate of how much the players will weigh come game time.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

2014/2015 College Football Predictions: Conference Standings

Conference Predictions

Atlantic Division
The Miami Hurricane have a chance to shock the nation in 2014.
FSU 11-1
Clemson 9-3
Louisville 8-4
NC State 7-5
Syracuse 6-6
Boston College 5-7
Wake Forest 4-8

Coastal Division
Miami 10-2
Virginia Tech 8-4
Duke 8-4
Pitt 7-5
UNC 7-5
Georgia Tech 6-6
Virginia 5-7

FSU wins ACC and earns a spot in the College Football Playoff

North Division
Oregon 11-1
The Bruins are favored to win the South, as they enter a season of unprecedented hype
Stanford 9-3
Washington 9-4
Oregon State 7-5
Cal 4-8
Washington State 4-8

South Division
UCLA 10-2
USC 9-3
Arizona State 8-4
Arizona 7-5
Utah 5-7
Colorado 4-8

Oregon wins Pac-12 and earns a spot in the College Football Playoff

Trevor Knight expected to be a leader for the Sooners in 2014
BIG 12
Oklahoma 10-2
Baylor 10-2
Kansas State 9-3
Oklahoma State 8-4
Texas 7-5
TCU 7-5
Texas Tech 6-6
West Virginia 5-7
Iowa State 3-9
Kansas 3-9

Oklahoma wins Big 12, but is not invited to the College Football Playoffs.

BIG 10
East Division
Ohio State 12-0
Michigan State has a chance to repeat as B1G Champions
Michigan State 11-1
Penn State 9-3
Michigan 8-4
Indiana 5-7
Maryland 5-7
Rutgers 3-9

West Division
Wisconsin 10-2
Nebraska 10-2
Iowa 9-3
Northwestern 8-4
Minnesota 5-7
Illinois 4-8
Purdue 2-10

Ohio State wins Big 10 and earns a spot in the College Football Playoff

South Carolina 10-2
South Carolina's success will greatly depend on tailback Mike Davis
Georgia 8-4
Vanderbilt 8-4
Missouri 8-4
Florida 7-5
Tennessee 6-6
Kentucky 4-8

Alabama 11-1
Auburn 9-3
LSU 9-3
Mississippi State 8-4
Ole Miss 8-4
Texas A&M 6-6
Arkansas 5-7

Alabama wins SEC and advances to the College Football Playoffs.

CFB Playoff Projections:
Ohio State

Thursday, July 31, 2014

S3C's Preseason Top 25 College Football Rankings (1-10)

1. Florida State- The reigning champs bring back Heisman winner Jameis Winston as well as very lucrative offensive weapons, such as Karlos Williams, Rashad Greene, and Nick O'Leary. The offensive line mostly returns, and the defense is stacked with young talent. Look for Mario Edwards, Eddie Goldman, Chris Casher, and Jalen Ramsey to have breakout seasons.
2. Alabama- Bama has it's questions. Will Florida State transfer Jacob Coker be as good as advertised? Will Trey DePriest fill the shoes of C.J. Mosley? Will Landon Collins become a household name? And most importantly, can they beat an Auburn team that returns countless talent? These questions will be answered soon, but my best bet is that the answer will be "yes" to many of these.
3. Auburn- Despite losing in the final BCS National Championship, The Tigers can still rejoice knowing they won the SEC last year, and in stylish fashion -- if I do say so myself. Many publications will have Auburn between 4 and 6 in preseason polls, but the fact is this team should be superior to last year's team, at least on paper. Most people think Auburn's magic will die, and they will be forced to face reality, but with obvious Heisman candidate Nick Marshall returning, anything could happen.
4. Oregon- Most seasons I am not too high on the Ducks, but I am quite intrigued by Oregon's 2014 roster. Mariota returns, Tyner is poised for a breakout season, Byron Marshall also returns at running back, Braylon Addison could put up monster numbers at receiver, and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu may be the best corner in the country. I would say the last guy will become a household name, but honestly nobody will be able to say his name. We may have to call him I-E-O, or Vowels. But I digress, Oregon definitely enters 2014 as Pac-12 favorites; and this year I actually buy the hype.

Marcus Mariota
5. Ohio State- Since Urban Meyer's arrival, the Buckeyes have been dominant in a declining Big-10 conference. I expect this dominance to continue. Here's why. Braxton Miller is absolutely electric and could propel any team towards the top of its conference. Yep, it's as simple as that. But it's a team sport, so I'l say more. I expect Dontre Wilson to emerge at receiver, and Ezekiel Elliot to be a top running back in the Big-10. Defensively, Joey Bosa, Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Michael Bennett will more than hold their own in the trenches, while Doris Grant, Curtis Grant, Armani Reeves and many others hone their respective crafts.
6. Michigan State- If you thought Ohio State would have it too easy this year in the B1G, you thought wrong. The Spartans are back, primed for another great season. Connor Cook returns to resume his role at quarterback, while Jeremy Langford looks to dominate the running game. I expect an improved team offensively for the Spartans. On the defensive side, Michigan State loses a lot, yet with the likes of Shilique Calhoun, Taiwan Jones, and Kurtis Drummond, expect this to still be a punishing defense.
7. Oklahoma- Can Trevor Knight consistently trouble defenses like he did against Alabama in last year's Sugar Bowl? Was that bowl game just a preview for what is to come? These are the questions that everybody is asking. What we do know is that Oklahoma returns 16 starters, 9 defensively, so this group should be experienced. If that Bama game was no fluke, expect Oklahoma to make a run to the playoffs this year.
Sharrod Golightly
8. South Carolina- Talk about an easy situation to come into as a new starting quarterback. Running back Mike Davis is one of the best players that is seldom talked about, and Shaq Roland, Damiere Byrd, Nick Jones all return at receiver. Most of the offensive line has play time under its belt too. I expect Dylan Thompson to thrive in this offense, and let's not pretend he has no experience; Thompson played in South Carolina's unforgettable comeback at Missouri. This offense could overpower nearly any defense in the country. On the other side of the ball, J.T. Surratt should be a top DT, and Sharrod Golightly and Chaz Elder should also provide a valuable presence.
9. UCLA- A Heisman candidate in Brett Hundley at quarterback, a star linebacker in Myles Jack, and a total of 16 returning starters, 9 on offense... Watch out! This is UCLA's year to truly contend for a national title; Jim Mora has stacked up a few elite recruiting classes in a row now, and this is the year that it should all come together. Of course, the Pac-12 is deep, so It'll be no easy task to make it to the College Football Playoffs, or even the Pac-12 championship, for that matter.
10. Stanford- The Cardinal are often not given the respect they deserve during the off-season; to be honest, I myself usually underestimate how good Stanford is going to be most seasons. For that reason, I have bumped them into the top 10, despite the losses of Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy. Many offensive linemen will need to mold into new starting roles, but I fully anticipate this to be an elite line -- one of the best in the nation by the season's end. Kevin Hogan has proven himself as a top quarterback, and Ty Montgomery is primed for a lucrative senior season. The defense returns seven starters, and while they may take a slight step back, they should still be an asset to a strong team.