Tag Archive: Marcus Lattimore


Quarterback Rankings:

1-      Matt Barkley, QB, Southern Cal

2-      Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee*

3-      Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas

4-      Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech*

5-      Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

6-      Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia*

7-      E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State

8-      Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State

9-      Casey Pachall, QB, TCU*

10-   Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma

Running Back Rankings:

1-      Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina*

2-      Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin

3-      Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas*

4-      Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State*

5-      Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina*

6-      Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh

7-      Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M*

8-      Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama*

9-      Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson

10-   Dennis Johnson, RB, Arkansas

Wide Receiver Rankings:

1-      Robert Woods, WR, Southern Cal*

2-      Keenan Allen, WR, California*

3-      Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee*

4-      Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State*

5-      Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee*

6-      Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas

7-      Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor

8-      Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

9-      Aaron Mellette, WR, Elon

10-   Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M
Tight End Rankings:

1-      Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame*

2-      Jake Stoneburner, TE, Ohio State

3-      Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA

4-      Philip Lutzenkirchen, TE, Auburn

5-      Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford*

6-      Michael Williams, TE, Alabama

7-      Jordan Reed, TE, Florida*

8-      Ryan Griffin, TE, Connecticut

9-      Colter Phillips, TE, Virginia

10-   Ben Cotton, TE, Nebraska
Offensive Tackle Rankings:

1-      Chris Faulk, OT, LSU*

2-      Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M*

3-      Ricky Wagner, OT, Wisconsin

4-      D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama*

5-      Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan*

6-      Oday Aboushi, OT, Virginia

7-      Alex Hurst, OT, LSU

8-      Justin Pugh, OT, Syracuse

9-      Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M*

10-   James Hurst, OT, North Carolina*
Offensive Guard Rankings:

1-      Barrett Jones, OG, Alabama

2-      Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina

3-      Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama

4-      Travis Frederick, OG, Wisconsin*

5-      Alvin Bailey, OG, Arkansas*

6-      Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky

7-      Omoregie Uzzi, OG, Georgia Tech

8-      Braden Hansen, OG, BYU

9-      Blaize Foltz, OG, TCU

10-   Lane Taylor, OG, Oklahoma State
Center Rankings:

1-      Khaled Holmes, C, Southern Cal

2-      Graham Pocic, C, Illinois

3-      Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas*

4-      James Ferentz, C, Iowa

5-      Mario Benavides, C, Louisville

6-      Dalton Freeman, C, Clemson

7-      Matt Stankiewitch, C, Penn State

8-      Joe Madsen, C, West Virginia

9-      Braxton Cave, C, Notre Dame

10-   Ivory Wade, C, Baylor
Defensive End Rankings:

1-      Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU*

2-      Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas*

3-      Alex Okafor, DE, Texas

4-      Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State*

5-      Margus Hunt, DE, SMU

6-      Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois

7-      Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina

8-      Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon

9-      James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech*

10-   William Gholston, DE, Michigan State*
Defensive Tackle Rankings:

1-      Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

2-      Johnathon Hankins, DT, Ohio State*

3-      Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama

4-      Bennie Logan, DT, LSU*

5-      Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina

6-      Kawann Short, DT, Purdue

7-      Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia

8-      Akeem Spence, DT, Illinois*

9-      Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida*

10-   Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Middle Linebacker Rankings:

1-      Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame

2-      Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford

3-      Kevin Reddick, ILB, North Carolina

4-      Michael Mauti, ILB, Penn State

5-      Nico Johnson, ILB, Alabama

6-      Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State

7-      Jonathan Brown, ILB, Illinois*

8-      Bruce Taylor, ILB, Virginia Tech

9-      Jonathan Bostic, ILB, Florida

10-   Christian Robinson, ILB, Georgia
Outside Linebacker Rankings:

1-      Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia*

2-      Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU*

3-      Sean Porter, OLB, Texas A&M

4-      Brandon Jenkins, OLB, Florida State

5-      C.J. Mosley, OLB, Alabama*

6-      Gerald Hodges, OLB, Penn State

7-      Jelani Jenkins, OLB, Florida*

8-      Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford

9-      Khaseem Green, OLB, Rutgers

10-   Kenny Tate, OLB, Maryland
Cornerback Rankings:

1-      David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State*

2-      Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State*

3-      Jonathan Banks, CB, Mississippi State

4-      Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU*

5-      Jonny Adams, CB, Michigan State

6-      Nickell Robey, CB, Southern Cal*

7-      Carrington Byndom, CB, Texas*

8-      Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State

9-      Micah Hyde, CB, Iowa

10-   Tharold Simon, CB, LSU*
Safety Rankings:

1-      Eric Reid, FS, LSU*

2-      T.J. McDonald, FS, Southern Cal

3-      Kenny Vaccaro, SS, Texas

4-      Robert Lester, FS, Alabama

5-      Tony Jefferson, FS, Oklahoma*

6-      Bacarri Rambo, SS, Georgia

7-      Ray Ray Armstrong, SS, Miami

8-      John Boyett, SS, Oregon

9-      Matt Elam, SS, Florida*

10-   Vaughn Telemaque, FS, Miami

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NCAA Week 5 Top 25 Picks

South Florida over Pittsburgh

BJ Daniels should have a good game and Pittsburgh struggles with close games. The trouble is, this one might not end up being that close.

South Florida by 13

Texas A&M over Arkansas

Ryan Tannehill had a pretty good game last week in a loss to Oklahoma State, and the Aggies will be looking to rebound against Arkansas just a week after they were thoroughly dominated by Alabama. Both teams really need a win here, but I think Arkansas’ defense will prove problematic against the Aggies.

Texas A&M by 6

Michigan over Minnesota (Potential blow-out)

Denard Robinson should have a big game running and possibly a big game passing against the Gophers who are trying to turn the program around under Jerry Kill. The trouble is the head coach has had trouble with seizures, and there is no way it hasn’t had an impact on his players. Minnesota is simply overmatched in this game, and I see Michigan blowing them out.

Michigan by 24

Illinois over Northwestern

Illinois is a solid team but so is Northwestern. I expect Illinois to win, but don’t sleep on Northwestern. They are well coached and have some talent, plus they never go away. If the Illini let them hang around they could make a late push.

Illinois by 7

LSU over Kentucky (Potential blow-out)

LSU is hitting on all cylinders right now and Kentucky is going to be borderline powerless to stop them. Their defense is the best in the country and their running attack is extremely tough to slow down, much less stop. I see LSU winning in blow-out.

LSU by 24

Boise State over Nevada

Boise State lost this game to Nevada last year in dramatic fashion, but I don’t see Nevada pulling off two in a row. They should be overmatched, and Kellen Moore and company won’t be merciful after what Nevada did to their title hopes last season.

Boise State by 21

Georgia Tech over NC State

Georgia Tech’s running game is absolutely gashing anyone who gets in their way, even my beloved Tar Heels last week, and NC State’s defense isn’t on the same level as North Carolina’s. I expect them to run the ball early and often and control the clock in this game, and I think Georgia Tech should win pretty comfortably.

Georgia Tech by 17

West Virginia over Bowling Green

West Virginia is coming off of a rough loss against LSU, but Geno Smith looked poised and impressive staring into the teeth of the best defense in the nation and actually carved them up to an extent by throwing for 463 yards on 38 of 65 passing (58.5% completion) and two touchdowns and two interceptions. Was it a great game? No, but it was quite good for a developing quarterback against a fantastic defense. WVU should rebound easily against Bowling Green now that they know what their offense is truly capable of.

West Virginia by 28

Baylor over Kansas State

Robert Griffin III has been absolutely amazing this year. Through three games he has completed 70 of 82 pass attempts while throwing for 962 yards (11.73 yards per attempt, an insane number), 13 touchdowns and no interceptions. Last season he threw 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 13 games, an impressive statistical season. He is on pace to throw for well over 40 touchdowns at this current pace. It’s hard to imagine him continuing to play this way especially since he is averaging only four incompletions per GAME, but if he keeps playing comparably well to how he has started the season the Baylor Bears will be tough for anyone to beat. I don’t anticipate Kansas State being the team to cool Griffin off, so the Bears should win easily.

Baylor by 21

Auburn over South Carolina (upset)

I think South Carolina is pretty overrated and I think Auburn has a chance to pull off the upset here. Gene Chizik and his Auburn Tigers have a flair for the dramatic and they are tough to beat when you let them hang around. They always seem to make the big play late in the game to keep themselves alive, and they are well coached when it comes to playing from behind late in the game. I love Marcus Lattimore, but I don’t think Steve Spurrier has much faith in Stephen Garcia and I’m not sold on South Carolina’s defense. The game is in South Carolina, but I think Auburn has a great chance to pull off this upset. It will be interesting to see if they manage to do so.

Auburn by 3

TCU over SMU

I think SMU has a small chance of pulling off an upset here, but TCU is the better team overall. It will be interesting to see which way this game goes, but if SMU gets their offense going they could be tough to keep up with. Their running back Zach Line has 463 yards and 11 touchdowns in only four games, and their top receiver Darius Johnson has 27 catches, 398 yards and two scores already. I think TCU will win, but I don’t think it will be as easy as some people might think.

TCU by 7

Clemson over Virginia Tech

This was a really tough game for me to pick. I picked Clemson to upset Florida State last week, but Virginia Tech is extremely tough at home and the Tigers have to cool off EVENTUALLY right? Perhaps, but I don’t think it will be this week. I am high on Virginia Tech’s defense though and I think they have a chance to slow down Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and the rest of Clemson’s high flying offense in this game. However, what might define the game is how well Logan Thomas and Virginia Tech’s offense is able to play. Thomas has been solid thus far with 761 yards on 60 of 105 passing (57.1% completion) but he has thrown as many touchdowns (4) as interceptions. Clemson is on fire right now, so it will be interesting to see how this game plays out.

Clemson by 7

Texas over Iowa State

The Longhorns lost this game last year and I think they will make sure they show up to this one. Iowa State isn’t a push-over this year, but I think the Longhorns will be too much for them.

Texas by 14

Oklahoma over Ball State

Oklahoma still has a legitimate argument to be the #1 team in the country, so I don’t think they will have too much trouble with Ball State.

Oklahoma by 28

Alabama over Florida

This is going to be a fantastic game. I think Alabama and Florida have the 2nd and 3rd best defenses in the country only to LSU, so this is going to be a defensive slug fest if I had to guess. I picked Alabama because I trust their offense more thanks to Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy on the ground. This should be a great, close game though.

Alabama by 10

Wisconsin over Nebraska

This game is going to be fantastic. I have been waiting for this game ever since I heard that Russell Wilson might sign with the Badgers. Wisconsin’s run defense might be problematic against Nebraska, but I think Wisconsin’s offense is more than potent enough to put up points on the Cornhuskers. It should be a great game that is close right until the end, and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds. I do expect Russell Wilson to give the Badgers the push they need to win this game. A year ago I couldn’t have picked Wisconsin, but with Wilson at the helm I expect them to win.

Wisconsin by 7

Stanford over UCLA

Stanford is just too talented and well coached to be slowed down by UCLA.

Stanford by 21

Arizona State over Oregon State

Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler is a player that I am really warming up to, and I expect that he and the Sun Devils won’t have a lot of trouble with the win-less Oregon State Beavers.

Arizona State by 17

I was 16-3 last week, so let’s see how I do this week! Thanks for reading, and enjoy the games!

–Tom

NCAA Top 25 Picks Post

Here is a post where I make some picks for the games the top 25 teams are playing for the week. I’ll try to do this every week, but I might not always have time. I’ll track them to see how well (or poorly) I do over the course of the season. Enjoy!

Week Four NCAA Picks Post:

Oklahoma over Missouri

Analysis: Oklahoma’s offense and defense are both very good, and Missouri didn’t prove they could win against Arizona State, losing 37-30 in OT. James Franklin will probably struggle to carve up the Oklahoma defense like he did the ASU secondary, and I wonder just how much pressure their defense will be able to apply to Landry Jones. Jones will make poor throws when he has pressure in his face, so that will be the key to hanging in on this game. The problem is, I don’t think Missouri’s secondary can hold up consistently if the Tigers are forced to blitz to create pressure.

Oklahoma by 17

LSU over West Virginia

Analysis: LSU’s defense is the best in the country as far as I’m concerned. They were tested right off the bat against Oregon and stood very tall. I’ve never seen a defensive tackle rotation like theirs in all my years of watching football. I believe that they have four starting caliber defensive tackles, and they arguably have three starting caliber cornerbacks in Morris Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon. Claiborne is a junior and Mathieu and Simon are both sophomores, but they might be the best trio of cornerbacks in the country. LSU’s run defense and pass defense are both very good and their defense is very fast, and I think they are going to cause a lot of problems for Geno Smith and his offensive counterparts. On defense, West Virginia will have to pressure Jarrett Lee, but also stop LSU from establishing the running game because they love to run play action after establishing the run (and they’re quite good at it). Without the play action fake LSU struggles to threaten downfield due to Lee’s lack of arm strength. However, I think WVU will struggle to take away the run game, end up loading the box, and therefore allowing Rueben Randle, Odell Beckham and Deagnelo Peterson to get behind the secondary.

LSU by 16

Alabama over Arkansas

This one was tough for me to call. Alabama probably has the #2 defense in the country behind LSU (at least as far as I’m concerned, but it’s definitely close) and they have a quarterback with limited experience as well in AJ McCarron. Luckily, they have two talented running backs to take the pressure off of him in Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy. Marquis Maze has stepped up as I thought he would and has 15 receptions, 186 yards and 1 TD in the first three contests. I think Alabama will be able to move the ball on offense against Arkansas’ defense, but I think that Alabama will be able to slow down the Razorbacks offensive attack. I love their WR’s, led by Cobi Hamilton as of now (13 receptions, a team leading 252 yards, 19.4 average per catch and 1 TD) and Tyler Wilson has stepped in to fill the void left by Ryan Mallett like I thought he would. However, Alabama’s defense is vastly better than Missouri State, New Mexico, Troy (the three teams he has faced this year) and much better than Auburn’s defense that struggled mightily to stop big, physically gifted receivers every time they matched up against them. Arkansas won’t get shut out by any means, but Alabama is going to be Tyler Wilson’s first real taste of what it’s like to play against a SEC caliber defense, and I don’t think he’s going to enjoy it.

Alabama by 13

Boise State over Tulsa

This really isn’t a hard pick in my opinion. Boise State’s defensive line is fierce and I expect Billy Winn and company to be in GJ Kinne’s face for the majority of this game. Boise State’s offense is still clicking thanks to Kellen Moore, so I expect this to be a relatively easy win. Kinne has a chance to show talent evaluators what he can do though, as his team is clearly overmatched.

Boise State by 21

Wisconsin over South Dakota

This shouldn’t be much of a contest either, as Wisconsin’s offense has the potential to be one of the best in the Big 10 if it isn’t already the best. Their running game and play action game will be way too much for South Dakota to handle, and hopefully they have continued to work on their run defense. If they don’t have it tuned up soon they will have a lot of trouble stopping Nebraska.

Wisconsin by 21

Texas A&M over Oklahoma State

This one was very tough for me to call as well. This could very easily go either way considering it is a rare battle between the #7 and #8 teams in the country. Oklahoma State’s offense is a juggernaut still led by Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, but Weeden has thrown 6 interceptions already this season, so that is a concerning stat for OSU fans. However, Joseph Randle has stepped up to replace Kendall Hunter very nicely, running for 378 yards and 7 TD’s on only 62 carries (6.1 average). Ryan Tannehill is a dangerous quarterback though, and he’s got a number of weapons to work with. I’m not sure which defense is better than the other, but I do think that Texas A&M will miss Von Miller rushing the passer in this game. However, Oklahoma State’s defense is traditionally their weakness, so that is why I had to go with Texas A&M. I will be at an away game during this contest and I am very angry that I will miss it. It should be a great game. But I had to give A&M the slight edge.

Texas A&M by 6

Nebraska over Wyoming

Not a very tough call on this one. Nebraska should win this game easily even if Taylor Martinez doesn’t dazzle as a passer.

Nebraska by 28

Oregon over Arizona

This one wasn’t as easy for me to pick as I thought it might be. Oregon has a pretty good defense, but Arizona can move the football pretty well. I’m still confident in Oregon, but Nick Foles has a habit of surprising people when they sleep on him. I don’t think Oregon will take him for granted though especially after losing a tough one to LSU in Cowboys Stadium, and that’s why I think they will end up with a big Pac-12 win here.

Oregon by 14

Clemson over Florida State (Upset)

Clemson is absolutely on fire right now, and this is the worst time for Florida State to be playing them. This isn’t a guarantee by any means, but Clemson’s offense is firing on all cylinders and Florida State didn’t get consistent pressure on Landry Jones last week. Clemson’s offensive line isn’t nearly the equivalent of Oklahoma’s, but they have enough weapons on offense to at least make this a plausible upset. I don’t think Clemson has the defense to keep them in the game if they can’t score, so unless their defense steps up and slows FSU down they are going to make me look foolish for this pick.

Clemson by 7

South Carolina over Vanderbilt

This isn’t as easy of a pick as I thought it would be, especially since South Carolina is in a state of flux and Vanderbilt is undefeated for the first time in recent memory after three weeks. I don’t think Vanderbilt will be able to hold off South Carolina, but stranger things have happened. If it was ever going to happen, I think it would happen now. Steve Spurrier doesn’t seem to have much faith in Stephen Garcia and even though they have one of the best backs in the country in Marcus Lattimore you just never know what will happen in the SEC. I don’t expect Vanderbilt to pull it off, but this is one I would watch as a POSSIBLE upset.

South Carolina by 10

Virginia Tech over Marshall

Analysis: This shouldn’t be much of a challenge for Virginia Tech, but it should be a good tune-up game for Logan Thomas. I think he has tons of upside, and it’ll be interesting to see how he develops throughout the season.

Virginia Tech by 17

Florida over Kentucky

Analysis: Kentucky isn’t a terrible team, but Florida’s defense is vastly better than I expected it to be even without Janoris Jenkins. Chris Rainey really impressed me last week and if he can stay healthy I think he could really improve his draft stock. I’m pretty high on Jonathan Bostic, Jaye Howard and Dominique Easley on their defense, so I’m excited to see them play against Kentucky again. I don’t anticipate the Gators having a lot of trouble in this game.

Florida by 14

Baylor over Rice

Analysis: Robert Griffin has been absolutely LETHAL this year. He’s 41/49 for 624 yards (83.7% completion), 12.74 yards per attempts and he has 8 touchdowns and no interceptions. On top of that, he has 116 yards rushing. Kendall Wright has been huge for Baylor with 20 receptions (14 more than the next receiver), 312 yards (184 yards more than the next receiver) and 3 TD’s. I don’t think Rice has much of a chance to slow Griffin down. The first time he might slow down in my estimation would be October 15th against A&M once they get into the real meat of their schedule. I haven’t been able to watch much of him, but it will be interesting to go back and watch him play to see if he has corrected any of the things I said he needed to work on in my preseason scouting report.

Baylor by 21

South Florida over UTEP

Analysis: South Florida is having one of their best seasons in recent memory, at least to start the season, and BJ Daniels seems to be maturing rather nicely. As long as he continues to develop the sky is the limit for USF, and I don’t think UTEP will have much of a chance to slow them down this week.

South Florida by 17

TCU over Portland State

Analysis: TCU lost a tough one against Baylor in week one, but they seemed to have bounced back in recent weeks. Portland State shouldn’t pose much of a threat, even with an inexperienced quarterback still getting a feel for the starting role.

TCU by 17

Michigan over San Diego State

Analysis: Brady Hoke welcomes his former team into the Big House as the Head Coach of the Wolverines this week as pretty heavy favorites. Denard Robinson isn’t my favorite quarterback but he is incredibly fast and I’m not sure SDSU has the speed to keep up with him in this game. Junior Hemingway has really stepped up this year (even though he looks like a TE rumbling downfield sometimes on go routes). It’ll be interesting to see how Michigan does in this game, but I would be pretty surprised if they botched this game after clawing their way into the top 25.

Michigan by 17

USC over Arizona State

Analysis: Before the game against Illinois last week I might have picked Arizona State in this one, but Brock Osweiler is still developing and even though the Sun Devils had a huge win against Missouri a couple weeks ago I don’t think they are ready to knock off USC. USC has a big chip on its shoulder because of the bowl ban that was placed on them, and I think they will approach this game with something to prove even though they are favored.

USC by 10

Illinois over Western Michigan

Analysis: This shouldn’t be a challenging game for Illinois. Western Michigan isn’t a bad program, but I don’t think they have the firepower to stick with Illinois on either side of the ball. They just fought their way into the top 25, so I don’t think they’ll get upset after just earning their #24 ranking.

North Carolina over Georgia Tech (Upset)

Analysis: I have to admit that I am a UNC fan, so that may have had something to do with this pick (which really isn’t much of an upset, though technically it is). I think UNC’s offense can score on Georgia Tech’s defense, and I think UNC’s defense is fast enough and disciplined enough to slow down Georgia Tech’s option offense that absolutely dominated Kansas last week. Georgia Tech is flying high, but UNC usually plays them pretty well and they are talented enough to pull this off. I really wish I could see this game, but I will be traveling and working while it goes on.

Those are my picks for this week. Hopefully you enjoy them and I look forward to seeing some good football this week. Thanks for reading!

–Tom

E.J. Manuel's performance this year will either be the reason Florida State climbs back to the top of the ACC or the reason they have a mediocre season. If he plays well, the old FSU could be back. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

6. Florida State- Florida State lost quarterback Christian Ponder but outside of that they return a LOT of starters, key starters too. Jermaine Thomas at RB will be huge for them, they have talent at receiver, and they return a quality offensive line (especially their tackles Andrew Datko and Zebrie Sanders). They also have one of the best pass rushers in the country in Brandon Jenkins, who should draw considerable attention this year as he attempts to mimic his incredible success from last year. Florida State’s saving grace will be E.J. Manuel’s considerable playing experience considering he was the back-up to Ponder all this time, but because of Ponder’s injuries he not only has regular season experience but bowl game experience. While he wasn’t dominant or spectacular in all of his playing time, he definitely showcased ability and should play well enough to give Florida State a good shot at an ACC title. If he plays really well then they may have a shot at a great bowl game or even a chance to win the National Championship.

7. South Carolina- South Carolina is returning a lot of talent and has a great recruiting class coming in. They have a number of players ready to emerge, and if Stephen Garcia can finally get his act together (and keep it together, which is usually the tricky part) South Carolina should have a great season. Garcia, Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffrey will make the offense viable provided the offensive line helps them out, and South Carolina should have a fierce pass rush if Devin Taylor emerges like I expect him to. South Carolina definitely has a lot of talent, and this may be the ole ball coach’s best chance to win a SEC title in a long time, with Alabama, Auburn and Florida all in a significant transition stage.

Trent Richardson has incredible upside and should help carry the Crimson Tide offense while A.J. McCarron adjusts to his new role as the starter. (AP Photo/ Butch Dill)

8. Alabama- It’s tough to ever count Alabama out of the top 5 or 10, but if there was a year to do it this would probably be the year. They lost a quarterback who is apparently allergic to losing in Greg McElroy, a Heisman winner and future NFL stud in Mark Ingram, a dynamic wide receiver in Julio Jones, multiple offensive linemen (most notably James Carpenter, who I might have had an interview with had I not projected him to go in the 3rd round) and Marcell Dareus, just to name a few. Losing four first round draft picks plus a quarterback who lost less times in his college career than I do when I play a full NCAA Football on Xbox is about as bad as it gets for a college program, but Alabama is an elite program now and like USC used to do they aren’t going to rebuild, they are going to reload. The problem with that is, while they can reload at most positions and they return a LOT of talent on defense, QB is going to be a question mark. A.J. McCarron is expected to be the starter, but he has little playing experience and will only be a redshirt sophomore. The QB position is incredibly important, especially for a possible national title run, and while I expect ‘Bama to be formidable because of their defense and a very dynamic running back in Trent Richardson and a receiver I am high on in Marquis Maze, if McCarron doesn’t step up in a big way they will lose at least a couple games even with a favorable schedule for a SEC school.

9. Oklahoma State- Oklahoma State had a fantastic season last year and they return some key starters this year, specifically Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, two of the key cogs in what may have been the most explosive offense in the country last year. They lost Kendall Hunter though, a very effective RB who really was the final piece to their explosive offense puzzle, so replacing him with another effective player will be critical if they want to have similar success on offense again this year. On defense they have some talent, but it will be a question mark until they step up in my opinion. They haven’t had much on that side of the ball in a while but it has been overshadowed by their high octane offenses. If their defense can step up then Oklahoma State has a chance to give Oklahoma a run for their money.

Russell Wilson may not have played for Wisconsin last year, but this year he could be the key to unlocking the potential of multiple players on offense, most notably wide receiver Nick Toon.

10. Wisconsin- Wisconsin is returning a lot of quality players, such as Montee Ball, James White, Nick Toon, Ricky Wagner, Peter Konz, Kevin Zeitler, Louis Nzegwu, Chris Borland (coming back from injury), Antonio Fenelus, Devin Smith and Aaron Henry, to name a few. They will still have a very good offensive line as they return three good starters and already have a replacement for Carimi in place at LT in Wagner. RT will be an area of concern, as well as the DE spot opposite Nzegwu, previously occupied by the #11 overall draft pick J.J. Watt. They do have a significant upgrade on the way at QB though, and Russell Wilson’s transfer to Wisconsin makes them a favorite to win the Big-10 this year. Their pass defense is concerning to me though, because they lost two established starters in J.J. Watt and Niles Brinkley and while they might have solid replacements for them Wisconsin’s pass defense was an issue before they even lost them (see Rose Bowl game against TCU). If they can generate a quality pass rush and play better pass defense then Wisconsin could go a long way, but that back end is concerning to me.

Thanks for reading my most recent installment of my Preseason Top 25 Rankings! The top five teams will be unveiled tomorrow!

–Tom

Hi everyone, sorry my posts have been a bit infrequent lately. I am currently in Mexico on vacation with my family and I don’t have internet in the house I am staying at. I didn’t bring my phone with me either, so in a way it is nice to get away from it all for a while. However, I watched the Sugar Bowl at a restaurant that had a TV and paid attention to some specific players and also noticed some who performed well. So despite not having internet where I am staying here are my notes on Arkansas and Ohio State from the Sugar Bowl!

Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas– Mallett had a bit of a tough night. He had his ups and downs and his receivers dropped at least five catchable balls, some of them which would have been big plays, but he had his share of very inaccurate throws himself. He was routinely pressured, so credit Ohio State’s defensive line and blitz packages for that, but he did not do a good job of finding hot reads and getting the ball out quickly in this game. He held onto the ball too long and eventually had to take a sack or throw an off balance pass that was either somewhat catchable or in the dirt. He has a pretty good sense of when to move up in the pocket when the pressure is getting there, but once the pressure forces him out of the pocket he was not accurate in this game. He had no interceptions all season when throwing outside of the pocket until this game when he threw his only interception of the night late in the fourth quarter after being forced outside the pocket yet again. He had a number of impressive throws in this game though, particularly on fade routes. He showed nice touch, good arm strength and impressive accuracy to put the ball on the right shoulder and where only his receiver could make a play on it a number of times on fade routes. However, he had a few bad decisions too like he always does. He isn’t afraid to throw into double coverage and even without his feet set he is sure he can throw the ball pretty much wherever he wants, which isn’t always the case. His footwork still leaves a lot to be desired for this reason, because when he sets his feet he can put the ball wherever he wants it thanks to his terrific arm strength and good (but inconsistent) accuracy.

Like Jay Cutler, when he is on he is really on, and can sling the ball all over the field. But he was noticeably frustrated against Ohio State because his receivers dropped some passes they really should have caught, and it culminated with Mallett forcing a pass into coverage and getting picked off by a defensive end dropping into coverage. Suffice it to say, I’m still not a Ryan Mallett fan. I think his ceiling in the NFL is a Jay Cutler type of QB who can really sling it when he is having a good day, but unless he improves his footwork he will always be inconsistent from game to game and season to season. However, Mallett’s floor is also a low one in my opinion, because I have no idea what kind of character he possesses and I have heard there are a number of scouts and GM’s who have significant enough problems with his character to not have him on their draft board at all. If these rumors are true and Mallett turns out to have character issues (not because of off-field incidents, but more like Jimmy Clausen’s character issues about being too cocky/arrogant, etc.) then I think it will hurt him on draft day like it did Clausen.

I’m still unimpressed with Mallett as a leader and as a “clutch” player late in games because I still don’t think I have seen him get the ball late in a game and methodically drive his team down the field for a late touchdown or field goal to take the lead. The announcers mentioned a three play, 73 yard touchdown drive before the punt block occurred, but that is a misleading statistic. The first two throws on that drive were pretty easy throws to open receivers, and the third throw, while impressively placed between the cornerback and the safety down the sideline, was caught by Greg Childs who made the safety miss and then was clear to jog into the end zone for the final 30+ yards of the drive to take the lead. Not exactly a magical drive from Mallett I wouldn’t say. Anyways, I was wondering if he had it in him to make a couple of good decisions and throws in this game to win it late (even though they got really lucky with the short field from the punt block) but a dropped pass and then an off balance throw that was easily intercepted by a defensive end took care of that threat. Because Mallett is not a proven “winner” in my opinion I don’t see him developing into one once he gets to the NFL. There are too many things going against him: Poor footwork, inconsistent accuracy/ball placement, inconsistent decision making, potential character concerns, little experience leading come-backs late in the 4th quarter and significant evidence to say that he is a “System Quarterback” given the fact that none of the QB’s Petrino has coached in his system have gone on to have NFL success. I said earlier this year that I thought Knile Davis was the best prospect on Arkansas’ offense and I still feel that way. It will be interesting to see how the draft process unfolds for Mallett, and even though I’m not a fan I would feel like a jerk if I didn’t wish him good luck the rest of the way. Honestly, he may need it.

Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State– I have probably not hidden the fact that I am not a Terrelle Pryor fan either, so I have to start this post off by saying that even though he had a great statistical performance in this game I am still not a fan at all. He had a ton of production in this game, and like he usually does he converted some huge first downs for Ohio State with his legs and I believe he ended up with well over 100 yards rushing, which is impressive considering Arkansas’ ability to create sacks and negative plays (for those who don’t know, in college when the quarterback is sacked the yards lost are considered a negative rushing play and taken out of their rushing total. That is why some pocket passers will end games with negative yards rushing even though they rarely, if ever, crossed the line of scrimmage). He even looked pretty good as a passer in the first half. I was surprised how well he handled some of Arkansas’ pressure, but I can’t say I have a lot of faith in their secondary so it’s not a surprise that some of his receivers were getting separation. I’m still not sold on him as a passer, but he got the ball out under duress better than I thought he would. Like last year in the Rose Bowl he impressed me by saving his best performances for big games, so you have to give him credit for that. I may not be sold on him as a NFL QB, but I will always like players who despite all the things that may happen leading up to a game (such as getting suspended for the first five games of your senior season for selling old memorabilia from your career) can still put on a show when it counts.

That’s not to say he locked this game up with his arm, he was really ineffective in the second half, probably because Arkansas started to mix in more zone instead of pressuring him. Scrambling QB’s are tricky to prepare for because sometimes if you blitz them and you get to them you can force turnovers, but if they can escape pressure (like Pryor was able to for the entire first half and even in the second half) then there will usually be a lot of room to run or a wide open receiver as a result of a broken play. Mike Vick was great at escaping from pressure (especially against average or worse defenses), as is Pryor, and at picking up first downs because of his legs. Despite some of the impressive throws Pryor had in this game I am still not sold on him as a passer. When it was crunch time he converted with his legs, not his arm, and he didn’t seem comfortable reading zone coverage and had to exit the pocket and scramble to buy more time so one of his receivers could come open. I’m not sure how good his anticipation is as a QB, and because I watched this live I won’t be able to evaluate it until I re-watch it later, but it seems to me he wouldn’t have struggled to find receivers to throw to against Arkansas’ more zone-heavy scheme in the 2nd half if he could anticipate where his receiver would be and throw him open in the hole in the zone. Because he wasn’t able to do that he had to extend plays with his legs and I can think of probably three or four horrible throws that were off his back foot with tons of air under them that he had to thank God that they went out of bounds. He had a couple of potential interceptions dropped by the Arkansas’ secondary additionally, and at least one of them was an absolute “gimme” where two defenders went for it and neither came away with it.

So, while Pryor played well overall and had a very productive game with what was probably about 350 yards of total offense by himself I am still not sold on him as a NFL QB. He is a great athlete and he has good arm strength but very inconsistent accuracy. He just isn’t a very good passer from the pocket when it comes down to it. His pocket presence is not very good because his tendency is always to run or scramble when pressure comes instead of stepping up into the pocket, keeping his feet set and throwing his receiver open. He seemed to struggle reading zone coverage, I’m not sure how well he does finding his hot reads and I still don’t trust his decision making. So while he had a great game and got Ohio State (and the Big 10) a much needed BCS win against an SEC team he still hasn’t impressed me as a passer. For his sake I hope he comes back next year and serves his suspension just on the off chance he develops some more.

Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas– I am a huge fan of Knile Davis. He had a good game against Ohio State even though he had a costly fumble in the 2nd half. He was fighting for extra yards and even though he had the ball tucked away safely in one arm he should have covered it up with two to make sure it didn’t get stripped. I believe Arkansas recovered it anyway, but still it was a mistake on his part. Other than that I thought he played great. He showed impressive burst, acceleration and pretty good vision all game. He tried to bounce one or two runs outside (that I can remember from just watching it live) that I didn’t think he should have but mostly he was good at getting North and South from what I remember. He had another 100 yard game, his sixth of the season even though I believe he only started nine games all year. He really helped take Arkansas from a dangerous passing offense to a juggernaut balanced offense this year with his emergence, and though Mallett had a huge hand in making big plays in the passing game a lot of it was set up by Davis forcing teams to creep up and respect the run.

If Mallett leaves as I expect him to I am really excited to see if Davis can have a huge season next year even though Tyler Wilson will be stepping in at QB. Wilson showed some flashes of what he can do in Petrino’s offense against Auburn with a 400 yard, four touchdown performance in a loss but I think it’s clear that even though Mallett is extremely physically talented a player with less physical gifts like Wilson (who actually showed some pretty nice zip on his passes in that game from what I remember) can still operate the offense and make it explosive. So congratulations to Knile Davis on a fantastic season and I really hope he has a great junior season and that he stays healthy so he can end up being picked in the 1st round next year. The SEC should have a ton of talented RB’s to watch next year by the way: Knile Davis at Arkansas, Marcus Lattimore and Kenny Miles at South Carolina, Trent Richardson at Alabama (assuming Ingram leaves), Brandon Bolden at Mississippi, Vick Ballard at Mississippi State, Tauren Poole at Tennessee, and Washaun Ealey at Georgia. It should be fun to watch as some of those programs start to feature those running backs a lot, especially now that the conference has some young, promising talent at QB.

Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas– Adams had a huge game statistically but it could have been even bigger if he didn’t drop three catchable passes. I love his speed in the slot so that he can turn a short drag route into a twenty yard gain and his speed to challenge down the seam or down the sideline vertically. Plus he is elusive after the catch and plays with a feisty attitude which I like. However, his hands just aren’t quite what you want in a wide receiver yet. The first deep shot of the game was to Adams and it bounced right off his hands which really set the tone for Arkansas in the first half. The whole time the announcers talked about how Ohio State has been good at preventing the big play all season which is why they don’t give up a lot of yards but they had an early opportunity to make a big play and get some momentum but Adams let it bounce right off his hands. He dropped two other passes that I can remember, one that would have been for a touchdown, and that really hurts his grade for his overall performance in this game. If he didn’t have those three costly drops I would have said he is exactly what the Falcons needed at wide receiver because of his ability to stretch the field, make guys miss for yards after the catch and because of his tendency for explosive plays.

However, I think he should go back to school, work on his hands all summer and hopefully he will come back with Tyler Wilson to form a new big three of Wilson, Davis and Adams now that Mallett and Childs should both be gone. This kid has a ton of potential but as stupid as it sounds for a wide receiver, he just has to improve his hands. He has the speed and burst to improve as a route runner (I’m not sure how good he is at this point) and that can be coached up, but if he wants to improve his hands that is on him. There are plenty of examples of receivers who didn’t have great hands who came into the NFL and improved them over their first three seasons, and if Adams wants to be one of those guys all he needs is the work ethic. However, there are even more guys who had tons of potential because of their speed and play-making ability in college who never capitalized on it in the NFL because their hands held them back. I really hope Adams doesn’t end up being the latter.

DeMarcus Love, OT, Arkansas– Love had a tough game. I can honestly say I didn’t pay too much attention to him because I was trying to see how Mallett, Davis, Adams and D.J. Williams were doing but when I did notice him it was usually bad news. He had a lot of trouble with Cameron Heyward and that isn’t surprising, I think Heyward is a top 20 lock, and probably the #2 3-4 DE prospect after Marcell Dareus in this entire draft. His strength and power gave Love a lot of issues, and routinely Love got beaten by Heyward which led to pressure on Mallett before the play could really develop. That’s not good for Love’s draft prospects because I’m not sure he has the lateral agility and athletic ability to stick at left tackle, but at right tackle teams are going to be looking for a guy who can be a road-grader in the running game and take away whatever pass rushers they are up against, unless of course they have to face a guy with good/great speed off the edge. I will have to re-watch this game closely to see how Love does, but depending on his athletic ability and how well he gets to the second level I have a feeling his NFL future may be inside at guard. But like I said, I need to re-watch this game before I come to any conclusions about Love as a prospect. I just noticed that he struggled mightily at times in this game.

D.J. Williams, TE, Arkansas– I like D.J. Williams as a prospect, and I think he has developed into a solid blocker. I don’t know that he will ever be a great blocker but being able to be solid blocker will really help his value as a prospect, because without that ability he would be a horrible fit in an offense that asks their TE’s to block a lot like Atlanta’s. Now he is a potential fit because of that ability, and he seems to have a good work ethic so there is reason to hope that he could improve with coaching. His real value comes as a receiver though. I have heard him be compared to Tony Gonzalez which is a comparison I don’t like at all, but he is a good receiver. His hands are pretty good even though it was his drop that preceded Ryan Mallett’s game ending interception for Arkansas. I see him let passes into his pads at times though which is a bad habit, but he has good hands overall in my opinion. I’m not sure how much he will be able to challenge down the seam in the NFL because I don’t really buy that he has 4.6 timed speed, but he is good at finding holes in the zone and he catches the ball effectively in traffic. He is also very hard to bring down after the catch, and he routinely picks up extra yardage not with speed and great elusiveness but by lowering his shoulder and running through tacklers. I personally think Lance Kendricks is a better TE prospect but that probably has something to do with me seeing a lot of him over the past three years, and I think that if Rudolph declares he will still get picked before Kendricks and Williams. I would be surprised if those two were not the next TE’s off the board barring additional junior declarations.

Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State– I am a big Heyward fan and I really think he should be off the board in the top 20 selections. He is the perfect 3-4 DE in my opinion and if a team in the top 20 needs one he should be high on their wish list. He has great size, he’s really strong and he has great hand usage to shed blocks. I’m not sure he has the best motor, but he stands up well at the point of attack versus the run and is quick enough that he can penetrate into the backfield with one move and close on the ball carrier. He seems to be a pretty good tackler, though I haven’t scouted him enough to be sure of that. However, when it comes to the basics of playing DE in a 3-4, he has them down. He is strong enough at the point of attack to control two gaps, he is very good at shedding blocks because of his strong and active hands, he is at least a solid tackler and he has good quickness for his size to penetrate and make plays in the backfield when given the opportunity. And if that 3-4 team goes into a nickel defense and has four down lineman he can play LE or DT depending on whether it is a running or passing situation, potentially making him even more valuable.

I just think he is a very well-rounded player and he had a great game against Arkansas. He was pretty much a one man wrecking crew and he could not be blocked with just one guy, regardless of whether he was playing outside at DE or inside at DT. Like I said before, I like players that show up big in big games and Heyward certainly did that against Arkansas. He was constantly pressuring Mallett, penetrating versus the run and generally wreaking havoc whenever he was in. And perhaps even more impressive was the fact that it was extremely noticeable when he came out because of his elbow that was bothering him. Arkansas moved the ball much better as soon as he came out, and when he came back in his impact was immediately felt. It is rare for a defensive lineman to have that kind of impact on a game, but Heyward did and it really impressed me. If I was a big fan before I am an even bigger fan now. I’m not sure he will test all that well as far as 40 time and what not, but he has great size, good short area quickness and he is really strong, so even if he doesn’t run the fastest 40 for a guy his size he shouldn’t be docked too much for it. I look forward to seeing him at the Senior Bowl if he does indeed go. I imagine it will be more of the same of him dominating blockers one on one for the most part if he does.

Thanks for reading, hopefully you can watch and enjoy the remaining bowl games! I will do what I can to put up predictions for the Cotton Bowl and the National Championship game, but internet access is infrequent for me. That is why I wasn’t able to put a prediction post up for the Sugar Bowl. For the record I did predict their comeback in the second half, just ask my Mom (who watched the game with me and lost a 50 cent bet about Arkansas’ potential comeback).

–Tom