My Winners for Today’s Semifinal Games and More.

Winston
Winston
A win in the Rose Bowl would make Jameis Winston's career record at Florida State 28-0.

Normally a piece like this would be featured in the research area of the website but I’m “blogging” it today because I just have to break down these New Year’s Day games.

Florida State (+8) vs Oregon (O/U 71) – Despite being the only unbeaten team left in college football, the Seminoles are the three-seed in the first-ever college football playoff. Frankly, there’s a couple of reasons for that and those are the relatively weak schedule and the constant need to come from behind against much of that competition.

The Ducks are out to prove a couple of things; first, that they aren’t a finesse team and second, that their Heisman winning QB is better than Florida State’s. While may will make this a game between Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston, I believe the defenses will play a significant role in who advances to the title game.

FSU has struggled defensively compared to last year and that’s giving lots of people reason to lay their money on the Ducks but there is one major concern I have here. Oregon struggles to score touchdowns in the red zone because they tend to go east and west more than north and south and they run out of room near the end zone. Offensive coordinator Scott Frost will need to make proper adjustments there.

Trends: The Ducks are 5-0 straight up in their last five games… Florida State is 1-4 against the spread in their last five games…The total has gone UNDER in four of FSU’s last five games.

The Pick: As badly as I want to take FSU here because of their penchant for comebacks this season, I have a feeling the Ducks are going to run them out of the building with an offensive pace they haven’t seen all year. Take the Ducks to cover and take the OVER.

Jones
The Buckeyes' fortunes will rise or fall behind QB Cardale Jones tonight.

Ohio State (+9) vs Alabama (O/U 58) – Ohio State comes to New Orleans with a team led by a quarterback who has started just one game in his career. Granted, Cardale Jones tore up Wisconsin in the Big Ten Title game 59-0, but he’ll face a much greater challenge in terms of both defensive talent and defensive coaching from Alabama.

The Tide under Nick Saban have always been a run-first team but behind new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, the offense has exploded. The key will be whether the Alabama offensive line can handle a very good defensive line from Ohio State. If the Crimson Tide control the line of scrimmage then it could be a long day for the OSU defense.

Trends: Alabama is 4-10-1 against the spread in their last 15 games… Ohio State is 5-0 straight up in their last five games… The total has gone OVER in 11 of OSU’s last 12 games… The Crimson Tide is 5-0 in its’ last five contests.

The Pick: With six national titles between the two of the them, Saban and Urban Meyer will have their teams ready to play. I think Bama wins but I like the Buckeyes getting the points and I like the OVER as well.

Other Bowls

Wisconsin (+7) vs Auburn – Take the Tigers to cover as the Badgers are in a bit of disarray right now.

Michigan State (+3) vs Baylor – I can’t get Sparty’s second half collapse against Oregon’s high-octane offense out of my head. Take the Bears to cover.

Minnesota (+5) vs Missouri – Are you sensing a trend? Every Big Ten team playing today is an underdog. With good reason too, take the Tigers to cover.

Mariota a Deserving and Welcome Sight as Heisman Winner; Jobs Still Open

Mariota
Mariota
Mariota is a humble and deserving winner of the Heisman Trophy.

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota deserved the Heisman Trophy. Anyone denying that is an Alabama or Wisconsin fan or has no clue what they are talking about. I would have been more than glad to listen to arguments for either Amari Cooper or Melvin Gordon but at the end of the day, the correct selection was made.

Personally I could not have been more happy with his selection. I am not an Oregon fan and I’m not a fan of their plethora of uniform changes and styles either. What I’m a fan of is guys who play hard, take success in stride and aren’t a consistent problem off of the field for their university.

I know right? What an unbelievable concept!

Last year’s Heisman Trophy celebration featured Florida State’s Jameis Winston wining the award. While his on-field success was more than worthy of the award, his issues off the field were troubling and continue to be so today.

The man who won the award the year before Winston did was Johnny Manziel. Again, a guy whose accomplishments on the field of play were more than enough to warrant him getting the award. but like Winston, he was less than a true role model off of it.

I don’t expect every guy that plays college football to be an angel. I don’t have that expectation at all and not even the Heisman Trust has stipulations on character or being a perfect gentleman off the field in its’ award document either. I do however think if we are going to be presented with the best college football player in America it would be nice if they were in fact deserving for overall conduct.

Mariota
Mariota's win is refreshing in light of recent Heisman winners Winston and Manziel.

Go back and watch the video of Mariota accepting the stiff-arming trophy and then compare it to video of Manziel and Winston receiving their trophies. In Mariota you’ll see a humble and almost embarrassed looking young man who can hardly believe what he is achieving while with the other two you say faces of kings being crowned.

Mariota can be demonstrative on the field but he doesn’t have a signature “money” sign like Manziel does because he acts like he’s been in the end zone before. I have no problem with guys celebrating but do it with teammates. Having your own “look at me” celebration is pathetic.

I’m glad that Mariota won the Heisman and for the record, both Gordon and Cooper would have been worthy winners as well based on everything I’ve seen and heard of them. Whether Mariota’s Ducks go on to win the title or whether he goes on to NFL stardom doesn’t matter – what matters is that good guys can finish first.

Michigan, Wisconsin Remain Open

Two big college football vacancies remain open today in Ann Arbor and in Madison but I think you’ll start to see some movement as early as this week however. For Michigan, their number one target is of course Jim Harbaugh. Despite reports that he wants to stay in the pro ranks, word has it that Michigan isn’t going to away quietly.

With Harbaugh’s 49ers officially out of the playoffs now, look for some more information to come out this week. One way or another, Michigan cannot wait to long for Harbaugh because they have to get back to business sooner or later.

Further West in the Big Ten, it looks like Wisconsin is ready to bring former offensive coordinator Paul Chryst back to take over. Chryst has been running things at the University of Pittsburgh where he hasn’t exactly gotten anyone excited for college football. The Panthers continue to draw pathetic crowds and fans are less than pleased with Chryst’s coaching and recruiting.

Either way, don’t be surprised if Athletic Director and former coach Barry Alvarez goes with the familiar Chryst although I don’t think it will be a warm welcome.

Seminoles Continue to Live Dangerously

Winston
Winston
Jameis Winston threw three interceptions last night but still rallied the 'Noles past Louisvile.

During the 2013 season, the Florida State Seminoles faced very few moments of urgency. They trailed in the first half at Boston College before storming back to win and then in the national championship game they trailed Auburn by 11 points at the break. We know how that ended…

The 2014 season has seen the Seminoles in far different scenarios. Already through eight games Florida State has trailed in half of them. Last night was no exception as the ‘Noles came back from 21-0 down in the first half to defeat Louisville 42-31. This game was seen as the Seminoles’ last serious hurdle in terms of remaining unbeaten.

FSU will host Virginia next Saturday then play their final road game of the season at Miami. Home games against Boston College and Florida round out the season. Certainly anything can happen especially with those two rivalry games but the Seminoles will be favored heavily in all of their final four games.

Cards
The Cardinals just couldn't hang on to the upset over Florida State.

Great teams always find ways to win and so far in 2014 this is exactly what FSU has done. Despite all of the controversy surrounding Jameis Winston for one thing after another and then the more recent allegations against running back Karlos Williams, the Seminoles have persevered. That doesn’t mean some luck hasn’t come their way either.

Most notably was the pass interference call against Notre Dame. While I believe it was the right call, it was still a stroke of luck that it was even called in the first place. There was also the Clemson game in which Winston sat out for his stupid decision to yell obscenities in the FSU Student Union. In that game, the Tigers missed field goals which would have won them the game rather than forcing them to overtime where the Seminoles prevailed.

Last night was no different as the bounces once again went the way of Florida State. Winston threw three interceptions but on one of those he forced the interceptor to fumble the ball back to FSU. Then there was the mishandled snap near the goal line where the ball seemed to roll free for an eternity before FSU tight end ick O’Leary fell on it for a touchdown.

How long can the Seminoles keep living dangerously? My guess is that they’ll survive the final four games but the real test will be when they enter the four-team playoff where they will likely face an SEC team. There’s no question Florida State can win the national title again but the doubts are much greater than they were last year at this time. Will luck and all the bounces continue to go their way? Only time will tell at this point.

Gurley Will Return But I Have Issues With the NCAA

The fact that I have issues with the NCAA is not shocking.They are easily one of the most incompetent and over-judicious bodies I’ve ever seen. Georgia’s Todd Gurley can attest to this. I do not excuse Gurley one bit for signing collectibles and then taking money for his signature because he knew it was wrong and did it anyway. The problem I have is how easily the NCAA has just cast aside Florida State’s Jameis Winston.

The FSU signal caller has far more of his stuff than does Gurley on the website where their wares are hocked. Yet amazingly, the NCAA seems to be uninterested in this fact and takes Winston’s word that he didn’t accept money.

So let’s see; Gurley signed far less stuff and was paid. Winston has been in trouble since he set foot on the Florida State campus yet no one believes he accepted money. Actually, no one can prove he accepted money. I mean, I’m sure the Beats headphones Winston wears all over the place were purchased with money he found lying on the street right?

Winston Situation is a Referendum on the Whole Darn Problem

Winston
Winston
While I'm pretty sure Jamies Winston is guilty of several things, getting money for autographs shouldn't be one of them.

Off the field, the last seven days have been pretty bad for the reigning Heisman Trophy Winner Jameis Winston. His school, Florida State University, has opened an investigation into his sexual assault allegations. According to Title IX rules, FSU is within its’ rights to investigate the alleged assault on their own. Winston has also been linked to the same sports’ memorabilia people that have cost Georgia running back Todd Gurley his season.

On the field, Winston was brilliant in leading the Seminoles over Syracuse in Western New York on Saturday. He was 30 for 36 for 318 yards and three touchdowns and is proving once again that he seems to play better the more the off-field scrutiny he is under.

Signing autographs for anyone is not against the law nor is it against the rules of the NCAA. Accepting so much as a dime however is a violation of NCAA rules and to this point Winston claims he never accepted any money. ESPN’s Darren Revell said the signatures on 500 pieces of memorabilia were in the same location on each piece and were signed with the same marker.

While that doesn’t mean Winston did anything wrong, it suggests that he did these signings at one time which under almost all circumstances results in a payment.

Gurley
Todd Gurley was suspended for making money on his name. Georgia makes millions on it but that's OK.

I don’t have the answers here and I’m not going to claim to but I’ve been around long enough to know that where there is smoke, there is almost always fire. Going back to the FSU investigation for a minute, while this will not result in any jail time or legal ramification, it could be a tremendous thorn in Winston’s side from here on out in his personal and professional life.

He has the right to remain 100% silent while being questioned by FSU authorities but what has already been uncovered is disturbing. Florida State officials have admitted what many of us assumed about the Tallahassee Police Department’s investigation. It was poorly done and was essentially swept under the rug to make things easier for Winston and the football program.

Regardless of how this investigation turns out, the real issue here is the eventual death of amateurism.

My personal opinion is that a player should be allowed to make money any way possible (within the law obviously). Take Gurley for example who is currently suspended for signing jerseys for money. Why can’t he make money for this when the University of Georgia is making money hand over fist by selling his jersey on their own website?

Move away from football for second… There was a time in amateur athletics when athletes basically lived on whatever they had. Corporate sponsorship was not allowed at the time so many Olympic hopefuls had to rely on their families for financial support.

Now, look at a guy like Michael Phelps who apparently got bored being an average citizen and was arrest two weeks ago for his second DUI. Phelps has made millions off of sponsorships like the ones he’s had with Subway, Under Armor and several swimming apparel companies. The mere fact we call Olympians ‘amateurs’ anymore is a joke.

While I firmly believe Winston has screwed up royally and much of it due to feelings of entitlement, the system still needs to be overhauled. College athletes need to be allowed to take advantage of their fame especially considering the money they bring in for their universities.

College Football Provides More Talking Points

Fisher Winston
Fisher Winston
Jimbo Fisher and Jameis Winston must have some kind of relationship.

What is it about college football that it seems to provide us with no shortage of great, terrible or just plain kooky moments? Yesterday was no exception as there were upsets, big wins and coaches seats that got hotter. Let’s start with the kooky stuff first.

Earlier in the week, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was suspended for the first half of last night’s eventual OT win against Clemson. On Friday, FSU was not satisfied with Winston’s explanation and suspended him for the full game. So it was with some surprise that as the Seminoles took the field for warm-ups that Jameis Winston was fully dressed and participating.

The video, which I’m guessing you’ve seen by now, shows Head Coach Jimbo Fisher clearly disgusted over his QB’s decision. What I found really odd was that after Winston returned to the field without pads, you can clearly see Fisher apologize to him. My question is why and for what? Just what in the wide wide world of sports is going on at FSU?

How does your QB not know he shouldn’t be dressed for action? How forgets to tell him this nugget of information? Fisher apologizing to him tells me everything I need to know about who runs the team and it sure isn’t anyone named Fisher.

Muschamp
Will Muschamp has to be feeling the pressure as his Gators struggle.

Time to dust off the resumes’ for Hoke and Muschamp

It wasn’t exactly a secret when the season began that Michigan’s Brady Hoke and Florida’s Will Muschamp were both skating on thin ice in regards to their respective jobs. After yesterday’s performances I don’t think either man should plan to do any skating any time soon.

In Tuscaloosa, Muschamp’s Gators hung tough with his mentor’s Alabama Crimson Tide thanks to Bama miscues but in the end lost 42-21. The loss was one thing but the fact the Gators gave up a school record 645 yards and tallied only 200 of their own will not sit well with the Florida faithful. Prior to 2009, the Gators owned the SEC but now they will struggle once again to even reign in their own division.

In Ann Arbor, if were possible for a head coach to be fired during an actual game, this instance may have occurred while the Michigan Wolverines and Utah Utes waited out a storm delay of several hours with Utah holding a 26-10 lead. The frustration on social media was running hot and with good reason. Michigan would eventually lose by the same score.

During the game, Hoke was seen in a verbal argument with defensive coordinator Greg Mattison which will not do Hoke any favors as his team falls to 2-2 with wins against Appalachian State and Miami,OH. Going back to last year, the Wolverines lost five of their last six games and nearly lost games to UConn and Akron as well. Hoke may be a ‘Michigan Man’ but he is not getting the job done in any way, shape or form.

Other Items of Note

Raise your hand if you had Indiana as the one Big Ten team to salvage a significant non-conference win. The Hoosiers, who lost to Bowling Green last week, knocked off #18 Missouri in Columbia 31-27… Michigan State scored 73 in a win over Eastern Michigan and Georgia hit 66 in a win over Troy… Not to be outdone was East Carolina who bested North Carolina 70-41.

Winston Proves That College Athletes Just Can’t Be Normal Students

Winston
Winston
Jameis Winston still hasn't figured out that he's not a typical college student.

I took part in a very interesting debate yesterday that centered around just how much blame athletes deserve when they screw up. The bulk of the conversation started and centered on Florida State’s Jameis Winston.

As you know by now, Winston has been suspended for the first two quarters of tomorrow’s game against ACC rival Clemson. The suspension was the result of Winston climbing atop a table in the FSU student union and then yelling a very popular yet obscene phrase.

With Winston as the backdrop, the question ultimately that was raised was this; Why are college athletes held to this higher standard than the rest of their peers?

For example, if a biology major at Florida State had done the exact same thing that Winston did, what would have been the response? Would he have been suspended from FSU? Kicked out? Arrested? Fined?

Fisher
Jimbo Fisher is likely setting Winston up for more hero-worship if brings the Seminoles back from a halftime deficit.

Would anyone have even cared?

The discussion went further and perhaps to the real heart of the matter when I posed the question, “Is it Jameis Winston’s fault for his behavior or is because of what society has allowed college athletes to become?”

The easy answer is that Winston is a 20-year old college student who should know better and yes, it is his fault but why is there so much emphasis placed upon one 20-year old student and not others?

The answer is that we have allowed these athletes to be placed on pedestals well above their peers at colleges and universities across the country. It might not be Jamies Winston’s fault that everyone has high expectations from the starting quarterback but let’s not be mistaken here. Winston and Johnny Manziel and Peyton Manning and Matt Leinart and so on knew what they were signing up for.

But shouldn’t Winston know better? How many more stupid decisions is he going to make before he finally gets it?

ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. has already said he expects Winston to fall should he enter the draft simply because teams are afraid of his poor decision-making. I saw another NFL draft guru who spoke with two NFL scouts. They both said as of right now, they wouldn’t touch him in the draft simply because of the headaches.

There’s a lot of time between now and the draft and if you recall Winston’s father says his son will play one more season at Florida State anyway. I’ll believe that when I see it but either way, Winston needs to mature for any number of reasons. His maturity needs to match his ability because right now, fair or not, that’s what is expected of him.

On another topic before I go… I’ve seen some criticism of Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota that I don’t know that I’m buying. One of the critical comments centered around whether he has the ‘fire’ to be a great NFL quarterback. So at a time we hear of college players who need to tone it down, we now have someone saying a top QB isn’t ‘excited enough.’

The other criticism is that he may be too long and lean and won’t be able to stand up to the roughness of the NFL. Much of this has come this week in light of yet another injury to Robert Griffin III.

Listen, there’s no perfect quarterback and Mariota won’t be perfect either but I’m not being these critical comments. There have been plenty of quarterbacks who have succeeded without being rah-rah type players. As for his body type, he’s a much better passer than RGIII at this stage in my opinion and I honestly don’t think you’ll see him doing a lot of read-option at the pro level anyway.

Let’s let him get through his season before we start criticizing too much.

 

What an Opening Saturday in College Football!

Miles
Miles
More Les Miles' magic propelled the Tigers to a comeback win over Wisconsin.

If this is what we are going to get every Saturday through January of 2015 then I think we’ll all be quite pleased. While there will be weekends with more upsets and perhaps more exciting action, this opening Saturday proved one important thing; I don’t think there is one dominant team out there at the moment. Let’s start with the two big games in Texas.

LSU rallied to beat Wisconsin last night in Houston by scoring 21 unanswered points to win 28-24. The Badgers have to be violently ill this morning after having a powerhouse SEC team on the ropes only to get knocked out in the end. Badgers’ QB Melvin Gordon carried his team with 140 yards rushing and a touchdown but new QB Tanner McEvoy could do nothing in the passing game. He went just 8 for 24 for 50 yards and two picks.

The Tigers meanwhile looked uninterested, fundamentally unsound and lazy while falling behind Wisconsin early and into the second half. Les Miles as expected started Anthony Jennings who was miserable at QB. Brandon Davis came in for a series and didn’t look much better. Jennings was able to find a groove in the second half though throwing two touchdown passes to rally the Tigers to victory.

Wisconsin will have to figure out the QB situation because those numbers by McEvoy won’t get it done. LSU meanwhile has tons of work to do but can build on the comeback win.

Fisher
FSU's Jimbo Fisher has some things to work on despite winning last night in Arlington.

Up the road in Arlington, defending national champion Florida State survived 37-31 against a very tough and game Oklahoma State team. The Seminoles were thought to be as good on defense as they are on offense but giving up 364 yards and 8 of 16 on third downs is not going to get this team a return trip to Cowboys Stadium for the title game.

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston was great when he needed to be despite two turnovers. He threw for 370 yards, a touchdown and a fantastic 28-yard TD run. The big concern going forward for FSU is the running game which put up just 106 yards. The Seminoles’ offensive line is considered the best in the country but they looked anything but against a younger, more inexperienced defensive front from Oklahoma State.

Sometimes it’s games like these that give you a shot in the arm or are a real wake up call. If I’m Florida State this morning I’m hoping that this is exactly the case.

Other games of note…

UCLA needed three defensive touchdowns to win on the road against Virginia 28-20. If Brett Hundley expects to be a Heisman candidate then he has to play better than he did… Ohio State defeated Navy 34-17 to begin the ‘season without Braxton Miller’ campaign. The Midshipmen actually led 14-13 in the third quarter… There was no gigantic upset in the Big House this time as Michigan rolled to a 52-14 win over Appalachian State. This was a much less talented Mountaineer team than was the 2007 team however… Second ranked Alabama survived a tough contest with West Virginia winning 33-22 in Atlanta. The Tide rolled to over 500 yards of offense with running backs Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon both going over 100 yards on the day. The alarming part for Bama is that WVU QB Clint Trickett threw for 365 yards which is the most ever against a Saban-coached Bama team. He broke the record set in the Tide’s last game which was a Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma… The clear front-runner in the Heisman race has to be Georgia’s Todd Gurley who rushed for 198 yards and three TDs in the Bulldogs’ 45-21 rout of Clemson. He also had a 100-yard kickoff return for touchdown too.

The Open Wrap-Up Plus Thoughts on Jameis Winston’s Comments

McIlroy
McIlroy
Rory McIlroy blasted his way to the Open Championship title yesterday.

How ironic it was that while Tiger Woods quietly and covertly was driven off in a darkened Mercedes, that 25-year old Rory McIlroy worked on his game. He still had about 90 minutes before he even teed off. The unfolding scene couldn’t have been more appropriate as hours later, the classy McIlroy hoisted the Claret Jug at the very place Tiger Woods’ last did.

One can argue about just how classy McIlroy is considering the break-up of his engagement in May but I think we can all agree it’s still a far cry from Tiger Woods’ off course relationship issues.

I always find it ironic how when Tiger starts a tournament well the commentators will give him a literal tongue bath but as soon as things went south in the final three rounds, the excuses became nauseating.

As for McIlroy, he is a champion that we can embrace. He doesn’t talk about his round with typical cliches and doesn’t make excuses when he plays poorly as Woods often does. With his win, McIlroy joins Jack Nicklaus and Tiger as the youngest to win three different Major Tournaments. Only the Masters has avoided his grasp.

Earlier last week I picked Sergio Garcia to win and end his drought of Major Championships and although he didn’t win, he certainly didn’t disappoint. The Spaniard finished in second along with Rickie Fowler and neither guy gave McIlroy the title. Remember that McIlroy started with a six-shot lead. Garcia closed it to two shots with four to play but then a drive found a pot bunker and that was that.

ESPN’s Ian O’Connor is already leading the “Tiger will be back” surge of articles that follow every time he loses another major. He cites the fact that Tiger won five times on tour last year and that he was close to winning the Masters in 2013 as reasons why he’ll win another major. O’Connor might be right but I don’t think he or the other shills are considering the young talent that now surrounds Woods.

Regardless, McIlroy is a worthy champion and does things the way a champion should.

Winston
Let's hope Jameis Winston follows the words he was told to say in a recent interview.

Jameis Winston Should Follow His Own Words, If They’re Actually His

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner sat down with ESPN during the ACC Football Media Day to discuss the upcoming season. While there is no doubt about the enormous talent and maturity that Winston has on the field, he has shown anything but off it.

I wish I could tell you that what Winston said was from the heart and in his own words but I think that most of what he said has been beaten into him through rehearsal and Winston certainly wouldn’t be the first to have this happen but read this excerpt courtesy ESPN.

“You always have to have a smile on your face. Leadership isn’t just on the field. It’s off the field, too, and I know I have a lot of young guys looking up to me, and I know I have a lot of support from my teammates as well.”

So what type of leadership was Winston portraying when he walked out of a Publix Grocery Store with crab legs and other sea food he didn’t pay for? Oh, that’s right. He forgot to pay and just hadn’t come back to pay for them yet before the police showed up at his apartment right?

This is what we call entitlement. Winston was punished by Florida State as a baseball player so he won’t face any action during the football season. Hopefully Winston has grown since this incident but I have a feeling he won’t. If he didn’t learn his lesson after being accused of sexual assault then why would he after stealing crab legs?

New Quarterbacks to Lead Major Programs in the NCAA

The NCAA football season is just over a month away from the opening kickoff. Teams’ rosters have changed from last year as players have left to enter the NFL draft or graduated and moved on.

If you look at the futures for the College Football Playoff on Bovada or sportsbook.com, you will see most of the contenders have at least one thing in common: experience at quarterback.

One example that jumps out at once is Florida State. The Seminoles on betonline and topbet are No. 1 choice on the futures board.

Much of that is due to Florida State having Jameis Winston last season’s Heisman Trophy winner returning under center.

On the flip side, Winston also is an example that experience does not always matter, since last season he was a freshman and led the team to a BCS National Championship.

Here are 5 schools facing key changes at quarterback and one just might lead their team to a national title:

  • Alabama for the past four seasons has had A.J. McCarron under center. However, McCarron has moved on to the NFL and will be replaced by Jacob Coker who transferred from FSU. Coker has good size and can move in the pocket. Coker is surrounded with offensive weapons so he does not have to be great, just limit his mistakes.
  • Huston Mason will replace Aaron Murray at Georgia this season. Mason started two games last season after Murray went down with a tear in his ACL. Mason is a fifth-year senior and looked sharp during the spring. He will have help from two, top running backs that will shoulder much of the offensive load.
  • Tommy Rees will be replaced as the quarterback at Notre Dame by former starter Everett Golson. Golson as a freshman led the Fighting Irish to the BCS Championship game in 2012, but he was suspended from the team last season. In 2012 when he was a starter, Golson ended the season 10-1.
  • Dylan Thompson will take the place of Connor Shaw at quarterback for the South Carolina Gamecocks. Thompson in 2012 threw for 310 yards with 3 TDs against Clemson. His touchdown pass was a game winner against Michigan that season as well. He is filling big shoes, as Shaw had a touchdown to interception ratio in 2013 of 24 to 1.
  • Tajh Boyd will be hard to replace at Clemson, but Cole Stoudt will likely get the nod to do so over Deshaun Watson. Stoudt is a senior and will be pushed by Watson a true freshman. Stoudt or Watson will help the Tigers, but the team will not score an average of over 40 points per game as they have done for two straight seasons.

Your Never-Too-Early Look At Heisman Trophy Favorites

Winston
Winston
Jameis Winston's biggest problem in defending his Heisman Trophy may be himself.

It may seem like Kelvin Benjamin just came down in the end zone to give Florida State a national championship win over Auburn but in reality, training camps will open across the country in just a couple of months. While I’ll be certainly going over national title contenders throughout the summer, today I’m giving you a very early look at the favorites for college football’s biggest individual award.

In my own personal view, the Heisman Memorial Trophy has become relatively meaningless these days. I say that because no longer does the award truly honor the nation’s best college football player. Instead it honors the nation’s best player on the best team or at the very least, one of the best teams. Certainly a candidate for the Heisman Trophy should be on a good team, but many of the country’s greatest players are often overlooked because of their position an because of the poor surrounding cast.

I hope that changes some day and I just might suggest this is the year for it to happen. Read on won’t you?

Jameis Winston, FSU QB, 5/2 – Reigning Heisman Trophy Winner Jameis Winston’s biggest threat will be himself. He can ill-afford any more legal issues because already people are hammering at Florida State for their continued protection of his behavior. On the field, Winston must deal with the loss of Benjamin, plus his top two running backs.

The schedule is a tad more grueling that last year as well with a neutral site game to open the season against Oklahoma State plus road games at NC State, Miami and Louisville. The Noles will also have to play Clemson, Notre Dame and Florida at home.

Braxton Miller, OSU QB, 11/2 – Miller’s biggest enemy in 2013 was himself as injuries plagued him throughout the season. Should he be able to stay healthy all season then his chances to win the Heisman run parallel to those of Winston. Miller will no longer have Carlos Hyde in the backfield and the defense has many members to replace as well.

The Buckeyes have home dates with Virginia Tech, Big Ten newcomer Rutgers and rival Michigan. Away games include a rematch with Michigan State, a trip to Penn State and a first-ever conference game at Maryland.

Mariota
NFL scouts love Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Heisman voters might too.

Marcus Mariota, Oregon QB, 11/2 – The Ducks’ signal-caller will enter the 2014 season as the NFL’s highest rated QB prospect because of his ability to both run and pass with power and accuracy. While top offensive weapons like D’Anthony Thomas are gone, Oregon will reload and provide Mariota with plenty of skill guys. The problem facing Mariota is his location. Can he generate enough buzz on the West Coast to be a factor?

The Ducks have just two road trips between their opener on August 30th and October 12th. Home dates include Big Ten Champion Michigan State, Arizona and Stanford. Road trips include visits to UCLA and Oregon State. The schedule actually sets up pretty good for the Ducks.

Bryce Petty, Baylor QB, 10/2 – Let’s get right to it with Petty. His Bears must travel to Austin, Norman, Morgantown and Lubbock. Petty will put up big numbers in Coach Art Briles’ offense but his team is not goo enough all-around to get him to New York.

Todd Gurley, UGA RB, 12/1 – Since 1998, only three running backs have won the Heisman Trophy (R. Williams, R. Bush and M. Ingram). That stat alone should drip Gurley significantly. Also throw in the fact that he’ll have to deal with a quarterback not named Aaron Murray and it could be a tough year for Gurley.

The guy to keep an eye on… Myles Jack, UCLA LB 33/1 – Linebackers typically have no shot but consider Jack’s contribution to the Bruins’ offense last year. If that happens again and UCLA is having a big year, then watch his candidacy rise drastically.