Tag: Texas A&M
Complete SEC preview for the 2018 season.
After winning its fifth title in nine seasons last year, Alabama is primed for another run at the national championship and SEC title in 2018. The Crimson Tide are the pick in 2018 SEC predictions to edge Auburn and win the West Division and knock off Georgia in the conference title game to claim the league championship. The Bulldogs are also primed for another run into the CFB Playoff. Coach Kirby Smart continues to add elite talent on the recruiting trail, and there’s a strong foundation to build off the 2017 season. Auburn is Alabama’s biggest challenger in the West, followed by Mississippi State and Texas A&M. The race to finish second in the East is wide open. Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky or Missouri are next up, with Tennessee and Vanderbilt projected at the bottom of the division.
Offensive coordinator Dan Mullen embraces the incredible expectations that drove his former boss, Urban Meyer, to retire for a season and cost Will Muschamp and McElwain their jobs at Florida. Mullen’s ability to develop quarterbacks is critical given the long-standing issues under center. He and his staff must prove to be strong recruiters to rebuild Florida’s talent level and depth after four straight classes outside the top 10. The 46-year-old will benefit from a favorable schedule. Doubling last season’s total of four wins is within reach.
Georgia doesn’t have the experience coming back that it did last year, but it may have as much talent. It’s just younger and inexperienced talent, and that does matter, and would be a reason not to expect another CFB Playoff run. Then again, the schedule is far from daunting. Georgia has to go to LSU, and September games at South Carolina and Missouri could be troublesome. Auburn visits Athens.
Georgia should be a heavy favorite to repeat as SEC East champion. Everything else probably depends on how quickly the defense reloads.
If Kentucky can find a competent quarterback, there is enough experienced talent at the other positions to envision the Wildcats breaking through the seven-win plateau for the first time in the coach Mark Stoops era. If not, the Wildcats could be in danger of taking a step back by either falling to a lesser bowl than the last two seasons or missing postseason play altogether.
There’s just enough turnover to give one pause, but most of the reasons for last year’s second-half surge return. That suggests a pretty high floor in a division that features quite a few teams that bottomed out in 2017.
If a Will Muschamp-coached team is ever going to get the offense going, this would seem the year with QB Jake Bentley and WR Deebo Samuel in the fold. The defense has personnel question marks, but Muschamp and 3rd year defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson have earned the benefit of the doubt on that side of the ball.
With Florida and Tennessee in transition thanks to coaching changes, South Carolina can realistically enter the season with its eye on second place in the SEC East, the same spot it claimed a year ago. It’s probably a bit much to expect the Gamecocks to compete with defending conference champion Georgia, but South Carolina gets the Bulldogs in the second game of the season at home, so there’s always hope.
Tennessee doesn’t have much margin for error, particularly with a challenging schedule that opens with offensive juggernaut West Virginia. The Vols plan to be efficient with a low-risk offense, mindful of turnovers while featuring aggressive blitz packages and coverage schemes. New coach Jeremy Pruitt hopes that recipe is good enough to produce (at least) six wins in Year 1.
The overall win total dropped by only one game from 2016 to 2017, but a deeper dive into the numbers reveals that the Commodores took a significant step back in coach Derek Mason’s fourth season. To get his team back into the bowl picture — and to stay off the hot seat — Mason will need to solve the Commodores’ defensive issues. Even if QB Kyle Shurmur and the offense continue to progress — a realistic proposition with an improved offensive line and the addition of Ke’Shawn Vaughn in the backfield — Vanderbilt will struggle to stay out of the SEC East cellar if the defense is allowing 40-plus points in league games.
There was a different feel to Alabama’s most recent national title. For one thing, the Tide had to overcome a bewildering rash of injuries and a November loss to Auburn. There also were the emotional swings of the title game, topped off by the iconic second-and-26 walk-off winner.
The end result was the same, though — a fifth national title in the past nine seasons — and the expectations remain, thanks to many of the players who were involved in the crucial moments of that wild night in Atlanta. Alabama will begin the season ranked No. 1 in the nation. And there’s a good chance the Tide will end the season in that spot as well.
It would be unreasonable to believe the Razorbacks could go from 1-7 in conference play to a contender in the SEC West in the course of one offseason. Quarterback play will likely go a long way in determining whether the offense builds up steam in coach Chad Morris’ debut. And the defense — which gave up a staggering 7.1 yards per play in SEC games — needs major help at all three levels. The debut of Morris should provide some splash and dash, but the Razorbacks need a further injection of speed and depth across the board to make a significant move in the brutal SEC West.
Gus Malzahn faces some lofty expectations. The Tigers’ sixth-year head coach just signed a seven-year contract extension for $49 million, with $36.75 million guaranteed, after a 10–4 season in which he won the SEC West and defeated both National Championship Game participants (Alabama and Georgia). Now, though, many fans will define an Auburn season as a success or failure based on whether it defeats those two rivals, and the Tigers must do so on the road in 2018. Good luck, Gus.
LSU’s schedule isn’t conducive to finding a path back into the SEC’s upper echelon. The Tigers will face two teams that played in the College Football Playoff (Alabama and Georgia) and two teams that played in New Year’s Six bowls (Auburn and Miami). Add games at home with Mississippi State and at Texas A&M, and it’s difficult to picture the Tigers being able to challenge for SEC West supremacy. The key for coach Ed Orgeron is not to slip so far that he’s facing a must-win-big scenario in 2019 to keep his job.
When Dan Mullen left Mississippi State after nine seasons to return to Florida, the school elected to go outside of the SEC and hire Joe Moorhead as coach. There’s some risk there (mostly related to recruiting), but the hire was hailed by outside observers, and 2018 could prove why immediately. Mississippi State lost very little of consequence from its 2017 team, and despite a fairly challenging schedule, there’s reason for optimism in Starkville. Eight wins are expected, and some believe that this could be a 10-win team with the right breaks.
Coach Matt Luke led the Rebels to a 6-6 mark in a tumultuous 2017 that included the cloud of the NCAA investigation hovering above. His candidacy for the full-time job was not looking strong until the Rebels won three of their last four games, including a 31-28 upset at No. 16 Mississippi State.
Barring a reprieve, Ole Miss is banned from a bowl game for the second straight season. The Rebels have enough firepower on offense to pose some serious problems, but they will need to show significant improvement on defense — most notably against the run — to reach the six-win mark again.
Weary from four consecutive seasons with eight wins or fewer, A&M pulled off a major coup and lured Coach Jimbo Fisher to College Station. The Aggies have bet $75 million over 10 years that Fisher can duplicate the success he had at Florida State, where he won the 2013 national championship. Fisher inherits 15 returning starters and some top-flight talent. But the Aggies have lacked the physicality and depth to compete for championships in the rugged SEC. If significant strides are made in those areas, A&M could make a run at exceeding the eight-win plateau. Competing immediately for an SEC championship may be asking for too much too soon.
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Do the Aggies have another upset in them?
It’s been a pretty good NCAA Tournament for Michigan so far with two wins while getting to watch rival Michigan State fall to Syracuse as an upset. The Wolverines knocked off Montana and got a miracle long-range shot from freshman Jordan Poole to beat Houston. They have now won 11 straight games and have dispelled any issues with the long layoff after the early Big Ten Tournament.
Texas A&M meanwhile had to beat Providence and North Carolina to get here. The Aggies looked like the team they were back in November as they outmuscled the Tar Heels last time out, soundly beating the defending national champions by 21 points in Charlotte.
West Region: No. 7 Texas A&M (22-12) vs. No. 3 Michigan Wolverines (30-7)
Time: 7:37 p.m. ET (Thursday)
Where: Staples Center (Los Angeles)
Keys for Texas A&M
Crash the boards like the Aggies have been in this tournament. They grab 34 percent of their offensive rebound opportunities and they are the bigger team in this matchup. Texas A&M took advantage of its size differential against North Carolina, out-rebounding the Tar Heels 50-34. Going into that game, North Carolina was one of the nation’s top teams on the glass, enjoying a rebounding margin of nearly 10 per game (9.8).
Michigan forward Moritz Wagner, the team’s leading rebounder (7.1 rpg), has been in a bit of foul trouble in a few games this season so he will need to be able to stay on the court or the Aggies could really have their way in the paint and on the boards. Robert Williams and Tyler Davis have the advantage down low over both Wagner and John Teske. But the Texas A&M big men also have to be aware of the Wolverines’ shooters, like Duncan Robinson, and guard all way out to the 3-point line at times. In the first two games, the Aggies have held opponents to 12 of 51 (23.5 percent) shooting from beyond the arc.
Keys for Michigan
Continue the great defense that the Wolverines played in Wichita, holding Montana and Houston to under 35 percent shooting from the field. Texas A&M has been hot as of late, especially from behind the 3-point line. After shooting 31.1 percent from the arc during the regular season, the Aggies made 10 of 24 attempts (41.7 percent) in the victory over the Tar Heels. Zavier Simpson has to be able to keep TJ Starks in check, as the Texas A&M guard poured in 21 points against North Carolina. He has had a high usage rate this season so Simpson will be busy. Finally, stay out of foul trouble. Wagner did not play that much last game and that can’t keep happening if the rest of the offense continues to slump.
Points will be at a premium in this one. These two teams have similar strengths and weaknesses and the key could be who will start the fastest. As I said above, it’s imperative for Wagner to stay on the court and help battle Texas A&M’s bigs. I think in the end, we may see another upset from the Aggies, who are in better form right now than the Wolverines.
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NCAA Football 2017-18 Season
SEC West Preview
The SEC West division’s Crimson Tide are once again the preseason favorite to win it all , with LSU and Auburn returning enough talent to rank as top 10-15 teams. Outside of the top contenders, Mississippi State and Arkansas headline some of the dark horse teams to watch in 2017. Get ready for college fantasy football at FanPicks.com
New LSU coach Ed Orgeron retained defensive coordinator Dave Aranda (now the highest-paid college assistant coach at $1.8 million per year) and hired Matt Canada as offensive coordinator to break LSU out of its predictable offensive patterns. Talent always abounds at LSU, although there’s still work to do to catch up with Alabama in the trenches.
A tough schedule awaits — the Tigers have only three SEC home games — so a 10–2 record would probably be the ceiling, which is not a bad goal in the Tigers’ first full year under Coach O.
Auburn was in the College Football Playoff mix well into November last season before injuries took their toll. The core of that offense is back, along with seven of 11 starters on defense. The addition of QB Jarrett Stidham and presence of a new voice in offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey should propel the Tigers into that same conversation in 2017. If they’re not, athletics director Jay Jacobs will have some tough decisions to make after the season. This Tigers team is too loaded to be an afterthought on the national level.
Alabama Crimson Tide
This figures to be a classic Nick Saban team. The offense will be rooted in its ability to run the ball with a deep group of backs and a dangerous quarterback in Jalen Hurts. How Alabama rebuilds the front seven will say a lot about the effectiveness of a defense hit especially hard by graduation.
The opening weekend should be tremendous — a matchup with Florida State in Atlanta’s new dome. The result won’t knock the loser from playoff talk, but it’ll add a degree of difficulty before conference play even starts.
A defense that struggled in 2016 has gotten younger, but there is renewed enthusiasm that the scheme change under defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads’ watch will lead to better results. The offense has potential, but some untested receivers will need to step up to complement receiver Jared Cornelius, and quarterback Austin Allen must continue to progress.
Another winning record and bowl game is highly likely, but the Hogs will have to show significant improvement all the way around to contend in the SEC West.
Mississippi St. Bulldogs
Mississippi State can still hang its hat on rising to No. 1 in the polls during the 2014 season, but the program slipped to 5–7 in the regular season in 2016 and made a bowl game only because of its high APR score. But that was a rebuilding year, and everyone knew it going in. With the quarterback position now settled and some emerging stars on defense, Mississippi State could be back in line to begin another ascent up the SEC West standings — if not to the top, at least into the middle of the pack with a seven- or eight-win season.
But there are question marks, especially along the offensive line, so it would not be surprising to see Mississippi State need its good grades to get it into another bowl game.
Texas A&M Aggies
The Aggies are trying to end a trend of three consecutive 8–5 seasons that have featured late-season collapses. Also, they haven’t finished higher than fourth in the SEC West since 2012. Inexperience at quarterback, issues in run defense and dependency on unproven players render the season outlook quite suspect. The schedule won’t do them many favors, either, with road trips to UCLA, Florida, LSU and Ole Miss, where they typically struggle.
Coach Kevin Sumlin’s job could be in jeopardy if the Aggies cannot break out of their 8–5 rut. Ironically one of Sumlin’s best coaching efforts may be required this season for A&M to post eight victories.
Ole Miss Rebels
If the opportunity to play in a bowl game is the only motivation, the 2017 season is already lost. Ole Miss players insist it is not. They found out in late February they have no chance at bowl game, not because of what may or may not happen on the field, but because of the school’s own ban, part of its self-sanctioning amid an NCAA investigation that approaches its fifth birthday.
Spring practice also showed that Ole Miss is still pretty good on offense. And that question marks remain on defense. The Rebels want to make amends for a disappointing season that saw them ranked as high as No. 11 before falling to 5–7.
Gonzaga sprungs into first place
Gonzaga takes over the men’s basketball poll top spot from Kansas in what was the craziest week of the college basketball season. For the second time in school history, 22-0 Gonzaga is the No. 1 team in the nation. The Zags last held the top spot during the 2013 season, for a period of three weeks.
A week ago, it was all about West Virginia’s two disappointing losses to Oklahoma and Kansas State. Fast-forward to today, and the Mountaineers are a solid top-10 team after knocking off Kansas and Texas A&M. The Jayhawks made West Virginia look even stronger by handling Kentucky in Lexington on Saturday; just when you think foes have solved the press, WVU reminds you that it’s one step ahead of the pack. The Aggies coughed the ball up 23 times in Morgantown two days ago.
Setting up the madness early
College basketball is a sport that too often gets relegated to one month’s worth of relevance. Outside of March, it’s hard to generate buzz that surpasses that of the NFL, NBA or even college football. The men’s basketball election committee announced Tuesday it will reveal its in-season top 16 seeds during a CBS broadcast on February 11 at 12:30 p.m ET (set up with seeds 1-4 in each assigned region). The actual, final bracket will be unveiled on Selection Sunday, March 12.
“We are excited about giving the fans a glimpse to what the men’s basketball committee is thinking at this point of the season, and creating a buzz as we look towards Selection Sunday,” committee chairman Mark Hollis said in a statement. “It’s important to recognize after this list has been released, there is still a significant portion of the regular season to be played and every league must stage its conference tournament.”
Following in the footsteps of big brother… kind of
This announcement follows three years of College Football Playoff in-season ranking shows, which drew a ton of attention and outrage on a weekly basis. College basketball’s power brokers did not replicate that, opting instead for a one-time preview of the four top seed lines.
“Some of the reaction the last couple of years of teams being surprised where they were seeded … that’s where the thought process started for me,” Gavitt said in 2014. “Are there things we can do that would better communicate what’s the likeliness? Frankly, I didn’t think there were a whole lot of very different seeds going in. There seemed to be consternation. If you were to do something along the way to be more transparent, maybe there would be a better understanding but an understanding that this didn’t come out of left field.”
Creating some buzz
And, even if data points shift as résumés change over the final month of the season, fans should get that. Unlike rankings put out on a weekly basis, like college football’s, it’s harder to get boxed into a team being in a certain position or one piece of a résumé being emphasized over another. College basketball has so many data points for each team and so many games that will be played over the final month that it lends itself well to a sneak preview. The understanding that seed lines could change depending on how teams (and their opponents) perform that final month.
Plus, it allows CBS and the selection committee to reap benefits from a cottage industry they have created… the bracketology. Almost every national sports outlet and some regional ones hire bracketologists to project the field throughout the season leading into Selection Sunday. Yet CBS and the people actually tasked with evaluating, seeding, scrubbing and bracketing the real field haven’t had any of those pre-March eyeballs. Until now.
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Advocare v100 Texas Bowl Preview
Texas A&M Aggies vs Kansas State Wildcats
This will be the first meeting between these two teams since Texas A&M departed for the SEC after the 2011 season (Enter Contest). The matchup between the Wildcats and Aggies should be an intriguing one for the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl, which has witnessed back-to-back blowouts by the SEC team (Arkansas and LSU) over a Big 12 opponent (Texas and Texas Tech).
Kansas State isn’t flashy on offense, but coach Bill Snyder’s team averages 232.9 rushing yards per game and will test a Texas A&M defense that struggled to stop the run and tackle in the second half of the season. Quarterback Trevor Knight returned from a shoulder injury and played in the Aggies’ Thanksgiving night loss to LSU. Knight should be at full strength for this game, and the time off should also benefit end Myles Garrett, who was also banged up throughout the 2016 season. The Wildcats led the Big 12 in scoring defense but were vulnerable to the pass. Will Texas A&M’s offense control the tempo and jump out to an early lead? Or will K-State dictate the pace of the game by a strong ground attack, which controls the line of scrimmage and keeps the Aggies on the sidelines.
ABOUT TEXAS A&M (8-4, 4-4 SEC)
The Aggies allowed Derrius Guice to run for an LSU-record 285 yards in the regular-season finale, but they also couldn’t stop the Tigers’ passing game as Danny Etling torched their secondary for 324 yards and two scores. “We were 6-0 and No. 4 in polls at one point. Here we are three weeks later, and we are unranked (in College Football Playoff rankings). Quarterback Trevor Knight (16 passing TDs, 10 rushing) hasn’t thrown for 250 yards in a game since early September, although Trayveon Williams (1,024 rushing yards, eight TDs) gives the team plenty of offensive balance. First-team All-American defensive end Myles Garrett (8.5 sacks) is a force who could end up as the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NFL draft.
ABOUT KANSAS STATE (8-4, 6-3 Big 12)
The Wildcats don’t get much help from their passing attack, as quarterback Jesse Ertz’s season high is 207 passing yards and he only has eight TD passes on the year. However, the junior has 10 rushing scores, which ranks second on the team behind Winston Dimel’s 12. He gets plenty of help from Charles Jones (577 yards), Alex Barnes (442) and Justin Silmon (387) as well. Kansas State’s defense is trending in the right direction, as the team has allowed decreasing point totals in four straight games.
Louisiana State University Tigers vs Texas A&M Aggies
Texas A&M and Louisiana State University went from SEC contenders to third place in the West Division over the last few weeks and just hope to close out the respective seasons strong. The 22nd-ranked Aggies, who still have a shot at second place in the West, will try to put together back-to-back wins when they host LSU on Thursday in a Thanksgiving battle (Enter Contest).
Texas A&M was in fourth place in the first College Football Playoff rankings but dropped its next two games to Mississippi State and Ole Miss to drop to 25th before recovering with a 23-10 victory over non-conference foe UTSA on Saturday. The Aggies are still a possibility for a Sugar Bowl berth, which would go to the second-highest ranked team from the SEC, and would finish in second place in the SEC West with a win on Thursday and an Auburn loss against Alabama. The Tigers, who lost to Auburn earlier in the year, have no shot at second place and could be playing for interim coach Ed Orgeron’s job on Thursday. LSU won three straight after Orgeron took over for Les Miles. They’ve since dropped two of three while looking unimpressive on the offensive end.
ABOUT LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY(6-4, 4-3 SEC)
Orgeron was expected to spark the Tigers offense but watched his team score one touchdown in five goal-to-go chances on Saturday at home against Florida. Star running back Leonard Fournette was hobbled by an ankle injury that has plagued him on and off all season. He was limited to 40 yards on 12 carries on Saturday and will likely be a game-time decision again on Thursday. Fournette ran for 159 yards and a TD in LSU’s 19-7 home win over the Aggies last season. The Tigers are the only team in FBS to hold each of their opponents to 21 or fewer points in every game this season.
ABOUT TEXAS A&M (8-3, 4-3 SEC)
The Aggies’ biggest star, defensive end Myles Garrett, has been hobbled most of the season as well but finally looked fully healthy on Saturday and recorded 4 1/2 sacks in the win. Garrett, who is expected to go high in the first round of the next NFL draft, became the eighth player in SEC history to record 30 or more sacks in his career (32 1/2). He needs one sack to pass Von Miller (33) for fifth place on Texas A&M’s all-time list. Texas A&M, which lost starter Trevor Knight to a shoulder injury in the loss to Mississippi, is still getting used to Jake Hubenak at quarterback, and the junior threw for 248 yards and a touchdown against UTSA.
College Football Playoffs Rankings
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The College Football Playoff selection committee released its first set of rankings on Tuesday night. As expected, Alabama took the top spot, with Clemson at No. 2 and Michigan at No. 3 The big surprise came at No. 4, as the committee went with Texas A&M over Washington. The Huskies checked in at No. 5, while Ohio State, Louisville, Wisconsin, Auburn and Nebraska rounded out the top 10. Western Michigan was the top Group of 5 team at No. 23, and Oklahoma was the first Big 12 team at No. 14.
If the college football playoffs started today, No. 1 Alabama would play No. 4 Texas A&M at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and No. 2 Clemson would square off against No. 3 Michigan at the Fiesta Bowl. The winner of those semi-final match-ups face each other at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, on January 9th 2017 for the National Championship.
The Aggies’ lone loss this season was at Alabama on Oct. 22, when A&M fell 33-14. Although Washington remains undefeated, the Huskies have only one road win against a ranked opponent in the Utah Utes. They are in the outside looking in for now, as the college football playoffs final rankings will now be updated every Tuesday moving on.
Major Bowls Projections
The Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual still gets the Pac-12 champ, which would be No. 5 Washington, and because No. 3 Michigan is in the semifinal, the Rose Bowl would host the next-best Big Ten team: No. 6 Ohio State.
The Allstate Sugar Bowl is guaranteed the Big 12 champ, which would be No. 14 Oklahoma, but because the SEC champ and Texas A&M are both in the semifinals, the Sugar Bowl would take the next-highest SEC team, No. 9 Auburn.
The Capital One Orange Bowl is guaranteed the ACC champion, but because Clemson is in a semifinal, the Orange Bowl would take the next-highest ACC team, No. 7 Louisville. The Orange Bowl then chooses the next-highest team from the SEC, Big Ten or Notre Dame. In this case, it would be No. 8 Wisconsin.
The highest-ranked Group of 5 champion is guaranteed a spot in a New Year’s Six Bowl. As such, No. 23 Western Michigan would go to the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, which can then choose an at-large team from any FBS conference, and No. 10 Nebraska is the highest-ranked team available.
Texas A&M (6-0) vs Alabama (7-0)
Even the tougher opponents are finding it hard to compete with top-ranked Alabama, which looks for its 12th straight victory over ranked programs when it hosts No. 6 Texas A&M in Saturday’s SEC showdown (Enter Games of the Week Contests). The Crimson Tide are looking for their 20th consecutive overall win and are coming off a complete dismantling of then-No. 11 Tennessee as they delivered a 49-10 shellacking. Alabama has scored an amazing 11 non-offensive touchdowns (eight on defense, three on punt returns). Unbeaten Texas A&M is Alabama’s lone remaining challenger in the SEC West.
ABOUT TEXAS A&M
The Aggies lead the SEC in total offense (532.8 yards per game) and rushing offense (274.3) and will be trying to penetrate an Alabama unit that leads the nation in rushing defense (69.2) and allows just 2.2 yards per carry. Standout freshman running back Trayveon Williams (SEC-leading 704 rushing yards, five touchdowns) has been superb with an 8.6 average per carry while senior quarterback Travis Knight has been effective as both a runner (502 yards, nine scores) and a passer (1,500 yards, nine touchdowns). Junior defensive end Myles Garrett (28 career sacks, team-leading four this season) is getting closer to full strength from an ankle injury and senior strong safety Justin Evans leads Texas A&M with 48 tackles and three interceptions. Aggies sophomore WR Christian Kirk leads the SEC with 40 receptions but is averaging just 8.8 yards per catch.
Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts has become a big-time star and has accounted for 17 touchdowns (nine passing, eight rushing) while passing for 1,385 yards and rushing for 428. Sophomore running back Damien Harris (572 yards) averages an impressive 8.3 yards per carry while sophomore wideout Calvin Ridley has 39 receptions for 477 yards and four touchdowns. Senior defensive end Jonathan Allen has five sacks to raise his career total to 23, two behind second-place Kindal Moorehead (1998-2002) on the Crimson Tide’s all-time list while senior safety Eddie Jackson has a superb 25.8 punt-return average and has scored three total touchdowns (two on punt returns, one on an interception).
Alabama holds a 6-2 series edge after posting a 41-23 road victory last season. The Crimson Tide had three interception-return touchdowns in last year’s win over Texas A&M. Two of them came from now-sophomore cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick and the other one came from Jackson.
Saturday’s Featured Late Evening Games
NCAA September 17, 2016
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#17 Texas A&M (2-0) vs Auburn (1-1)
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin sees a lot of similarities between his No. 17 Aggies and host Auburn heading into Saturday’s SEC opener. Both teams have recorded big offensive games, have shown improving defenses and have fan bases expecting more wins.
The Tigers have been solid against the run, allowing 108.5 yards on the ground after allowing 182.7 yards last year, and the Aggies have also improved their rushing-defense numbers, allowing 78.5 rushing yards after holding Prairie View A&M to 32. Texas A&M features some of the league’s top receivers while Auburn has built a balanced attack behind sophomore quarterback Sean White. The teams have split their four meetings since the Aggies joined SEC with the road team winning each time.
Notre Dame might have the toughest first-month schedule of any contender for the College Football Playoff, and it is still looking for a signature win. The 18th-ranked Fighting Irish opened the season with a double-overtime loss at Texas but declared DeShone Kizer starting quarterback for Week 2 and rolled past Nevada to even its record. The Spartans have had two weeks to prepare for Notre Dame due to an early bye in Week 2.
Ohio State was expected to go through a few growing pains this season, as the team returned only six starters. It’s the fewest in the BCS. Yet after two impressive wins, the expectations are sky high. The Buckeyes have won 18 straight road games. It’s a school record and the longest active streak in the nation.
USC (1-1) vs #7 Stanford (1-0)
Visions of Stanford star Christian McCaffrey looks to be still fresh in USC’s memory. McCaffrey had a school-record 461 all-purpose yards to help Stanford clinch last season’s Pac-12 title with a 41-22 victory over the Trojans in December.
The junior running back began this season’s Heisman Trophy quest strong, and looks to get back inside their opponents mind. Stanford defeated USC twice last season and has won six of the last eight meetings, but seven of the past 10 games have been decided by eight points or fewer. The Trojans will need an even better performance to keep pace with Stanford and McCaffrey, who has collected at least 200 all-purpose yards in seven consecutive games.
#11 Texas (2-0) vs California (1-1)
Texas looks to avenge last year’s narrow loss to California on Saturday as the 16th-ranked Longhorns head out on the road for the first time this season to face the high-powered Golden Bears. While Texas is seeking its first 3-0 start since 2012, Cal is hoping to bounce back after allowing 334 rushing yards in last Saturday’s 45-40 loss at San Diego State.
Coach Charlie Strong recorded his 50th career win last Saturday against UTEP.
This game figures to be a shootout reminiscent of last season’s 45-44 Cal victory, with Texas averaging 45.5 points and 466.5 yards through its first two games. The Longhorns were 1-4 on the road last season but have the weapons to keep pace with a Cal offense led by senior quarterback Davis Webb, who has thrown for 963 yards and nine touchdowns in games against Hawaii and San Diego State. Cal ranks 125th nationally defending the run while allowing 291 yards per game and could struggle to slow down Texas quarterback Shane Buechele and backup Tyrone Swoopes, who rushed for three scores in the season’s opener against Notre Dame.
NCAA Football Preview
Top Transfers 2016 season
While college players have been transferring to new schools for years, it seems like they’re having a much bigger impact on the college football landscape now than ever before. A large reason for this is the graduate transfer rule that allows players to move to a new school after receiving their degree and not have to sit out for a season. To start off the 2016 NCAA Football preview (play at FP), here are five of the top transfers for the upcoming season.
5. Duke Catalon, RB, Houston: Catalon had originally committed to Texas out of high school. He became a four-star member of Texas’ 2014 recruiting class, but never really gained traction in Austin. He redshirted his inaugural season on campus, then, for whatever reason, he decided to transfer and moved on to Houston where he sat out last season.
Now, Catalon is in a prime position where he could play a large role in an offense that was very dangerous last season. Houston QB Greg Ward Jr. was the show for the Cougars. He prepares to be that again in 2016 with some reinforcement. Kenneth Farrow, Houston’s second-leading rusher last season behind Ward, is now holding a position with the San Diego Chargers. This opens the door for Catalon to step in and have a major impact in Tom Herman’s offense.
4. Hardy Nickerson Jr., LB, Illinois: Cal hasn’t exactly been recognized for its defense in recent years. When the Bears did make a tackle, odds are it was Hardy Nickerson dragging the ball carrier to the dirt. Nickerson had 112 tackles for the Bears last season, and 245 in his Cal career.
Nickerson has now transferred to Illinois, where his father, former Tampa Bay Buccaneer linebacker Hardy Nickerson, is now the team’s defensive coordinator. Junior steps into a situation where he’ll be sorely needed, as Illinois lost its three leading tacklers from last year, including two linebackers. Illinois will need Nickerson to continue being the tackles machine he was at Cal.
3. Kenny Hill, QB, TCU: Kenny Hill showed up at Texas A&M as a four-star recruit in 2013. He saw a little bit of time as a true freshman behind Johnny Manziel. The following year Hill began the season as the Aggies starter. He threw for 511 yards and three touchdowns in A&M’s opening game versus South Carolina. With a incredible month of September, his name started to be tossed around as a Heisman candidate. He even got fitted with the nickname of Kenny “Trill”. In October, it all came crumbling down. The losses started piling up, and eventually Hill lost his starting gig after a 59-0 stomping against Alabama.
Hill transferred the following season, and after sitting out last year, he seems to be the apparent heir to Trevone Boykin at TCU. It will be large shoes to fill, but if Kenny “Trill” shows up again for the Horned Frogs, they’ll once again be a major factor in the Big 12.
2. Dakota Prukop, QB, Oregon: For the second year in a row, Oregon is counting on a graduate transfer from FCS to fill it’s QB slot. Last season it was Vernon Adams making his way to Eugene from Eastern Washington, and this year Dakota Prukop comes from Montana State. During his two seasons as a starter at Montana State, Prukop threw for 5,584 yards and 46 touchdowns while also rushing for 1,743 yards and 24 touchdowns. The Ducks will need him to keep on being productive if they want to compete for a Pac-12 title and College Football Playoff berth this season.
Last year, Vernon Adam wasn’t able to enroll at Oregon until mid-august, which left him a month to get himself acquainted with the new team. The Ducks won’t have the same issue with Prukop this year. He has been at Oregon since January, so he’ll have gone through spring and fall camp before the season begins.
1. Trevor Knight, QB, Texas A&M: It looked like Trevor Knight was on his way to becoming another star quarterback for the Sooners a couple of years ago. In Oklahoma’s 45-31 win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl following the 2013 season, Knight threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns. After that game however, things were not good anymore. Knight struggled a bit in 2014, throwing for 2,300 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in nine games before suffering a scary neck injury. That injury cost Knight the rest of the season. He lost the starting job to Baker Mayfield. Mayfield later led Oklahoma to a Big 12 title and a CFP berth.
Following that, Knight chose to transfer to Texas A&M. The move was made right after both Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray left the Aggies. He’s now poised to take over the reins of Texas A&M’s offense. He’ll also have plenty of explosive weapons surrounding him. If Knight can limit the turnovers that plagued him in 2014, the Aggies offense could become a major force in 2016.