2019 Heisman Trophy Candidate Countdown #6: Justin Herbert

2019 Heisman Trophy Candidate Countdown #6: Justin Herbert

The second week of the 2019 Heisman Trophy countdown concludes with a senior quarterback. Here are the first nine days of the countdown:

 

#15: Michigan QB Shea Patterson

#14: Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond

#13: Texas QB Sam Ehlinger

#12: Ohio State QB Justin Fields

#11: Alabama RB Najee Harris

#10: Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins

#9: Georgia RB D’Andre Swift

#8: Clemson RB Travis Etienne

#7: Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez

 

Oregon’s Justin Herbert could have entered the 2019 NFL Draft and likely would have been a high selection, but the six-foot-five quarterback returned to his hometown college program for one final season.

 

Why he can win it

Herbert is entering his fourth season as the starting quarterback for the Ducks, so he has plenty of experience with over 7,000 passing yards and 63 passing touchdowns in his career. The Pac-12 should be wide-open after more senior quarterbacks from last year left for the NFL. Herbert is entering his third season in Mario Cristobal’s offense, so he should have full command and comfort running the show, and he’s shown he can put a team on his shoulders. The senior quarterback can make a Heisman statement in Oregon’s season opener against Auburn at AT&T Stadium before playing four of the next five games at home.

 

Why he won’t win it

Defeating Auburn to open the year will be a tough task for the Ducks, and Herbert’s performance in that game will be key for his Heisman candidacy—there are not any other noteworthy out-of-conference games for Oregon this season. The bar is high for Herbert after former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota’s Heisman season a few years ago. Durability has previously been an issue in the past for Herbert.

 

What must happen

Herbert likely needs at least a big individual performance in the first game against Auburn, and he must put up huge numbers with the Ducks losing only one or two games and winning the Pac-12.

 

Stat projection

258/396 (65.2%) | 3,485 PASS YDS | 35 PASS TD | 7 INT

67 CAR | 221 RUSH YDS | 4 RUSH TD | 3.3 AVG

 

 

 

*NOTE: White Wolf is not affiliated with the Heisman Trophy. This article is a staff opinion and is not an official Heisman Trophy watch.

2019 Heisman Trophy Candidate Countdown #7: Adrian Martinez

2019 Heisman Trophy Candidate Countdown #7: Adrian Martinez

Day 9 of the 2019 Heisman Trophy candidate countdown focuses on a player from a team that struggled last season.

 

#15: Michigan QB Shea Patterson

#14: Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond

#13: Texas QB Sam Ehlinger

#12: Ohio State QB Justin Fields

#11: Alabama RB Najee Harris

#10: Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins

#9: Georgia RB D’Andre Swift

#8: Clemson RB Travis Etienne

 

Nebraska is coming off a trying 4-8 campaign, but quarterback Adrian Martinez showed promise as a true freshman starter last season. This preseason, he’s one of the nation’s top Heisman candidates.

 

Why he can win it

Martinez has the ability to total well over 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns after totaling 3,246 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2018. Playing for Scott Frost, Martinez is simply in the perfect offense to have a ton of success while putting up eye-popping numbers. In Frost’s second season at UCF, his team made a huge jump forward and had an undefeated season, so his alma mater could have similar results in his second year at the helm; also, it helps that the Cornhuskers have seven starters returning on offense. Martinez might be the best quarterback in the Big Ten after experienced players left after last season. Nebraska has relatively low expectations after a four-win season, so the bar might be lower in terms of team success compared to other Heisman candidates expected to win their conference and be in the College Football Playoff.

 

Why he won’t win it

The Big Ten remains a very difficult conference with teams more talented than Nebraska, which will make things tough even if Martinez is the most talented quarterback in the conference. There are other great players around the country that should also put up numbers and will likely enjoy more team success.

 

What must happen

Nebraska must reach at least double-digit wins while Martinez dominates most weeks while adding Heisman-caliber moments in home matchups with Ohio State and Wisconsin.

 

Stat projection

235/361 (65.1%) | 3,357 PASS YDS | 32 PASS TD | 9 INT

160 CAR | 798 RUSH YDS | 12 RUSH TD | 5.0 AVG

 

 

 

*NOTE: White Wolf is not affiliated with the Heisman Trophy. This article is a staff opinion and is not an official Heisman Trophy watch.

2019 Heisman Trophy Candidate Countdown #8: Travis Etienne

2019 Heisman Trophy Candidate Countdown #8: Travis Etienne

After starting the 2019 Heisman candidate countdown with four consecutive quarterbacks, it continues with its fourth consecutive running back for Day 8.

 

#15: Michigan QB Shea Patterson

#14: Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond

#13: Texas QB Sam Ehlinger

#12: Ohio State QB Justin Fields

#11: Alabama RB Najee Harris

#10: Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins

#9: Georgia RB D’Andre Swift

 

Clemson running back Travis Etienne has track-star speed but has become an all-around star player entering his junior season.

 

Why he can win it

Etienne went from a 107-carry home-run threat that averaged 7.2 yards per carry as a true freshman to averaging 8.1 yards per carry on nearly double the carries last season—rushing for 1,658 yards and 24 touchdowns on just 204 attempts. This is almost certainly Clemson’s last season with Etienne before he goes to the NFL, so the workload could certainly increase a bit more, especially after Tavien Feaster transferred to South Carolina. The Tigers will be a dominant team, and Feaster, who can take it to the house in an instant at any time, could be a threat for 2,000 rushing yards and 30 rushing touchdowns. Feaster has the talent to get more involved as a receiver.

 

Why he won’t win it

Because Clemson has Trevor Lawerence at quarterback, they can open things up and throw the ball 40 times per game if they want to; Etienne might end up with not many more carries than last year. 8.1 yards per carry might be difficult to repeat, even for an exceptional player like Etienne playing behind an experience offensive line.

 

What must happen

Etienne is one of the best players in college football, so he basically must remain healthy and get a slight increase in touches while maintaining a mind-boggling yard-per-carry mark and finding the end zone like he has his first two seasons for the Tigers.

 

Stat projection

248 CAR | 1,984 RUSH YDS | 26 RUSH TD | 8.0 AVG

20 REC | 168 REC YDS | 3 REC TD | 8.4 AVG

 

 

 

*NOTE: White Wolf is not affiliated with the Heisman Trophy. This article is a staff opinion and is not an official Heisman Trophy watch.

2019 Heisman Trophy Candidate Countdown #9: D’Andre Swift

2019 Heisman Trophy Candidate Countdown #9: D’Andre Swift

The run of running backs continues for Day 7 of our 2019 Heisman Trophy candidate countdown.

 

#15: Michigan QB Shea Patterson

#14: Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond

#13: Texas QB Sam Ehlinger

#12: Ohio State QB Justin Fields

#11: Alabama RB Najee Harris

#10: Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins

 

Despite dealing with injuries last year, Georgia running back D’Andre Swift totaled over 1,300 yards with 13 touchdowns for the Bulldogs last season. He’s without question one of the top Heisman candidates heading into this season.

 

Why he can win it

Swift averaged 7.6 yards per carry as a true freshman behind future NFLers Sony Michel and Nick Chubb in 2017, and he still averaged 6.4 yards per carry last season despite injuries. With Elijah Holyfield now also gone from Georgia’s backfield, Swift could be a 250+ touch player in 2019. Swift’s electric gamebreaking ability paired with Georgia’s top offensive line could lead to a ton of big plays. Swift has shown through two college seasons that he can be a major factor as a receiver out of the backfield, with 9.2 yards per reception on 49 catches. The Bulldogs are fully expected to be in the mix for an SEC championship and College Football Playoff appearance.

 

Why he won’t win it

Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm might be the top Heisman candidate from the program at a position that has received the most recognition for the award in recent years. Swift doesn’t need many touches to put up massive numbers, but he still simply might not get enough touches compared to other running backs around the nation if the team wants to keep him fresh and healthy for the end of the year.

 

What must happen

Georgia must make Swift and their running game the foundation of their offense despite having a great quarterback to sling the ball around, and the Bulldogs must win the SEC.

 

Stat projection

233 CAR | 1,584 RUSH YDS | 16 RUSH TD | 6.8 AVG

40 REC | 368 REC YDS | 4 REC TD | 9.2 AVG

 

 

 

*NOTE: White Wolf is not affiliated with the Heisman Trophy. This article is a staff opinion and is not an official Heisman Trophy watch.

2019 Heisman Trophy Candidate Countdown #10: J.K. Dobbins

2019 Heisman Trophy Candidate Countdown #10: J.K. Dobbins

The second week of the Heisman countdown begins with a highly-touted running back. Here’s the first week of the countdown in case you missed it:

 

#15: Michigan QB Shea Patterson

#14: Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond

#13: Texas QB Sam Ehlinger

#12: Ohio State QB Justin Fields

#11: Alabama RB Najee Harris

 

After 2,456 rushing yards in his first two seasons at Ohio State, J.K. Dobbins could be ready to insert himself as a Heisman frontrunner in 2019.

 

Why he can win it

Dobbins received 230 carries for the Buckeyes last season, but Mike Weber’s departure leaves more work for the junior running back; 300+ carries should be a possibility. Ohio State also lost three senior wide receivers and their starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins, so Dobbins should be the no-doubt centerpiece of the offense while transfer Justin Fields gets acclimated as the offense’s triggerman. The quarterback getting more involved in the running game could open things up more for Dobbins. The Buckeyes are expected to be one of the best teams in the country, and Dobbins might be their best player. Dobbins has the talent to become more involved in the passing game.

 

Why he won’t win it

Last season, Dobbins had fewer rushing yards (1,053) than he did as a true freshman (1,403), despite receiving more carries (194 as a freshman and 230 as a sophomore). While Fields could help open things up in the running game by being a threat on option plays, he could also be a factor and run it in himself often by the goal line.

 

What must happen

Dobbins must get back closer to the same efficiency he had in 2017 (7.2 yards per carry), while getting a heavier workload and becoming the team’s go-to option at the goal line.

 

Stat projection

290 CAR | 1,624 RUSH YDS | 13 RUSH TD | 5.6 AVG

34 REC | 269 REC YDS | 4 REC TD | 7.9 AVG

 

 

 

*NOTE: White Wolf is not affiliated with the Heisman Trophy. This article is a staff opinion and is not an official Heisman Trophy watch.

2019 Heisman Trophy Candidate Countdown #11: Najee Harris

2019 Heisman Trophy Candidate Countdown #11: Najee Harris

The first week of our 2019 Heisman Trophy countdown ends with the first non-quarterback. Here were the first four of the top-15 Heisman candidates in case you missed them.

 

#15: Michigan QB Shea Patterson

#14: Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond

#13: Texas QB Sam Ehlinger

#12: Ohio State QB Justin Fields

 

Former No. 1 running back recruit Najee Harris has the talent to be the next great Alabama running back—and win the Heisman.

 

Why he can win it

With Josh Jacobs (first-round pick) and Damien Harris (third-round pick) gone to the NFL, Harris is locked in as the team’s starting running back after contributing with 61 carries as a true freshman and 117 carries as a sophomore. Even with Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback, Alabama is going to want to run the ball, and there are games when Harris will be the bell cow. The superb talent on the outside for the Crimson Tide could lead to lighter boxes for their running backs to exploit. Alabama might want to run the ball and get back to their identity more than in 2018 after getting blown out in the national title game.

 

Why he won’t win it

No Alabama running back has had 200+ carries in a season since 2015, and Brian Robinson—who might take a lot of the goal-line work—and Trey Sanders are among those that will also be in the backfield mix. The Crimson Tide might want to keep Harris fresh for the end of the season. Running backs must put up eye-popping numbers to win the Heisman.

 

What must happen

Alabama must decide they want to run the ball as much as they have in previous years, with Harris getting at least 250-300 carries and the majority of short-yardage opportunities.

 

Stat projection

239 CAR | 1,553 RUSH YDS | 16 RUSH TD | 6.5 AVG

15 REC | 119 REC YDS | 2 REC TD | 7.9 AVG

 

 

 

*NOTE: White Wolf is not affiliated with the Heisman Trophy. This article is a staff opinion and is not an official Heisman Trophy watch.

2019 Heisman Trophy Candidate Countdown #12: Justin Fields

2019 Heisman Trophy Candidate Countdown #12: Justin Fields

Day 4 of the 2019 Heisman Trophy continues with a player that transferred after one season at Georgia and was granted immediate eligibility to play this season.

 

#15: Michigan QB Shea Patterson

#14: Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond

#13: Texas QB Sam Ehlinger

 

New Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields was stuck behind Jake Fromm with the Bulldogs in 2018, and he transferred to Ohio State when he saw an opening at the starting quarterback spot. As always, expectations are high in Columbus, and Fields is a big part of that.

 

Why he can win it

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is a once-in-a-generation type of player, but some people thought Fields was the No. 1 college recruit of the 2018 class. Fields has tremendous dual-threat talent, which he flashed in limited action with Georgia last season, throwing for 328 yards and four touchdowns (and no interceptions) while completing 69.2 percent of his passes and rushing for 266 yards (on 42 attempts) and four touchdowns. Ohio State is ranked as a top-five team entering the season, so Fields will have an opportunity to lead one of the better programs in the nation with a chance at a conference title and College Football Playoff appearance in his first season as a starter. Fields has plenty of hype to give him a boost in the Heisman race if all goes well. The Buckeyes have one of the easiest out-of-conference schedules, and they get to play Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Penn State all at home.

 

Why he won’t win it

Despite a promising out-of-conference schedule, the Big Ten is still a challenge. If things are close at the end of the season, the weak schedule will likely hurt Ohio State in the eyes of the CFP Selection Committee, thus hurting Fields’ chances of winning the Heisman. Fields is a first-year starter that might need more experience and refinement. Teammate J.K. Dobbins might be the Buckeyes’ top Heisman candidate at running back.

 

What must happen

Both Fields and the Buckeyes must dominate their competition convincingly, likely having to go undefeated for Fields to win the Heisman.

 

Stat projection

294/431 (68.1%) | 3,715 PASS YDS | 31 PASS TD | 9 INT

130 CAR | 754 RUSH YDS | 10 RUSH TD | 5.8 AVG

 

 

 

*NOTE: White Wolf is not affiliated with the Heisman Trophy. This article is a staff opinion and is not an official Heisman Trophy watch.

2019 Heisman Trophy Candidate Countdown #13: Sam Ehlinger

2019 Heisman Trophy Candidate Countdown #13: Sam Ehlinger

Incumbent starting quarterbacks have ruled the early part of the 2019 Heisman countdown, which continues today with a starter from the Big 12 conference.

 

#15: Michigan QB Shea Patterson

#14: Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond

 

Sam Ehlinger took control of the quarterback job for the Longhorns last season, and he enters 2019 with high expectations and a couple of years of experience under his belt.

 

Why he can win it

Ehlinger put up very good numbers for Texas last season, throwing 25 touchdowns compared to just five interceptions while adding 16 rushing scores—his 41 total touchdowns arguably should have led to more Heisman consideration last season, but Ehlinger didn’t finish in the top ten of the voting. Texas head coach Tom Herman is entering his third season at the helm, so his players should be as comfortable as ever in his offense, including six-foot-six target Collin Johnson returning for his senior season. Ehlinger progressed as a passer last season, and he should show more progress in 2019. Big 12 defenses allow for big passing numbers, and the schedule doesn’t look too difficult for the Longhorns. Ehlinger will have an early-season opportunity for a statement game against LSU, and it comes at home for Texas. He’s received comparisons to former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow for his playing style.

 

Why he won’t win it

The Texas offense doesn’t shy away from calling Ehlinger’s number at the goal line, but 16 rushing touchdowns might be difficult to replicate. The Longhorns are still talented, but they lost receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey, who led the team with 86 receptions for 1,176 yards and nine touchdowns last season, to the NFL. He’ll likely need to put up really monstrous numbers—like Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray did the previous two seasons—to win the Heisman in an offense-slanted conference.

 

What must happen

Ehlinger must continue to make strides as a passer while putting up higher touchdown totals through the air, rushing for double-digit scores again, and leading his team to the College Football Playoff.

 

Stat projection

313/463 (67.6%) | 3,611 PASS YDS | 29 PASS TD | 5 INT

175 CAR | 543 RUSH YDS | 12 RUSH TD | 3.1 AVG

 

 

 

*NOTE: White Wolf is not affiliated with the Heisman Trophy. This article is a staff opinion and is not an official Heisman Trophy watch.

2019 Heisman Trophy Candidate Countdown #14: Kellen Mond

2019 Heisman Trophy Candidate Countdown #14: Kellen Mond

The second day of our 2019 Heisman Trophy continues with a quarterback from the SEC. Here’s No. 15 from yesterday in case you missed it:

 

#15: Michigan QB Shea Patterson

 

Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond took a step forward in his first season under Jimbo Fisher, and he has the talent to insert himself into the Heisman race in 2019.

 

Why he can win it

Playing in the SEC gives Mond premier matchups to make his case for the Heisman, including hosting both Auburn (in September) and Alabama (in October) and at Georgia and at LSU to end the regular season in late November. Also, the Aggies face the defending champion Clemson Tigers on September 7, so a heroic effort by Mond against the No. 1 team in the country (even in a close loss) would instantly put him high on Heisman ballots early in the season. Mond can get more consistent and more efficient in his second season under Jimbo Fisher, and he has the athleticism to do damage as a runner. Texas A&M’s receiving corps has more experience under their belt with returning starters from 2018.

 

Why he won’t win it

That tough schedule could easily lead to a few losses, which would almost certainly mean Mond won’t win the Heisman. Eclipsing 5,000 total yards and nearly 50 total touchdowns like Johnny Manziel did back during his freshman season for the Aggies in 2012 is a difficult task, so setting single-season school records likely won’t be an argument that can be made for Mond in the Heisman race.

 

What must happen

Texas A&M must at least put up an admirable effort against Clemson, with Mond putting up massive numbers in the game and throughout the rest of the season. If the Aggies lose to the Tigers, they can probably only afford one more loss for Mond to garner Heisman consideration.

 

Stat projection

259/430 (60.2%) | 3,354 PASS YDS | 29 PASS TD | 9 INT

160 CAR | 576 RUSH YDS | 7 RUSH YD | 3.6 AVG

 

 

 

*NOTE: White Wolf is not affiliated with the Heisman Trophy. This article is a staff opinion and is not an official Heisman Trophy watch.

2019 Heisman Trophy Candidate Countdown #15: Shea Patterson

2019 Heisman Trophy Candidate Countdown #15: Shea Patterson

College football is back in just three Saturdays, so we’ll be counting down the top 15 Heisman Trophy candidates for this season over the next three weeks. Players that aren’t included in the countdown will likely also be in the mix, and among the guys that narrowly missed the top 15 are:

 

LSU quarterback Joe Burrows

UCLA running back Joshua Kelley

Boston College running back A.J. Dillon

Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy

Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello

Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book

 

The 2019 countdown begins with Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson. Last season, Patterson landed at No. 10 in the Heisman candidate countdown, but he starts things off at No. 15 this year.

 

Why he can win it

New offensive coordinator Josh Gattis is bringing more of a spread attack to the Wolverines, which will play to Shea Patterson’s strengths and allow him to put up the big numbers required to win the Heisman Trophy today. Patterson could have left for the NFL this year, but he returned for his senior season with 20 games of playing experience under his belt, including 13 starts for Michigan in 2018 as a transfer from Ole Miss. Late in the year, Michigan plays two of their biggest rivals (Michigan State and Ohio State in games Patterson likely needs his team to win for him to win the Heisman) in the Big House. And with other big games against Wisconsin, Penn State, and Notre Dame, Patterson will have plenty of primetime opportunities to put a Heisman stamp on his season.

 

Why he won’t win it

Playing so many tough opponents and in perhaps the toughest conference in college football isn’t going to be easy. The adjustment to a new offensive system could have some growing pains for players used to an old-school, power run attack. Dylan McCaffrey could get more time at quarterback at the expense of Patterson, which would make it nearly impossible to win the Heisman.

 

What must happen

Patterson must make highlight-reel plays, which he’s shown the ability to do throughout his college career, in the big games while putting up top-tier numbers and leading Michigan to a Big Ten title and College Football Playoff appearance.

 

Stat projection

260/390 (66.7%) | 3,315 PASS YDS | 34 PASS TD | 10 INT

79 CAR | 308 RUSH YDS | 3 RUSH TD | 3.9 AVG

 

 

 

*NOTE: White Wolf is not affiliated with the Heisman Trophy. This article is a staff opinion and is not an official Heisman Trophy watch.

Clemson Tigers Top College Football 2019 Preseason Coaches Poll

Clemson Tigers Top College Football 2019 Preseason Coaches Poll

It’s August, which means college football will be played this month. Games will be here before we know it, and we’ll soon see things shake out on the field to see where programs really stand in 2019—but preseason polls can be fun. The preseason Amway Coaches Poll was just released by USA TODAY Sports, with the Clemson Tigers leading the way at No. 1 for the first time in school history. The Tigers received 59 of 65 first-place votes, while the Alabama Crimson Tide took the other six. Here’s the full top 25:

 

1. Clemson Tigers

2. Alabama Crimson Tide

3. Georgia Bulldogs

4. Oklahoma Sooners

5. Ohio State Buckeyes

6. LSU Tigers

7. Michigan Wolverines

8. Florida Gators

9. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

10. Texas Longhorns

11. Texas A&M Aggies

12. Washington Huskies

13. Oregon Ducks

14. Penn State Nittany Lions

15. Utah Utes

16. Auburn Tigers

17. Wisconsin Badgers

18. UCF Knights

19. Iowa Hawkeyes

20. Michigan State Spartans

21. Washington State Cougars

22. Syracuse Orange

23. Stanford Cardinal

24. Iowa State Cyclones

25. Northewestern Wildcats

 

The AP Poll from the media comes out later this month closer to the start of the season. Different networks use different polls while displaying teams on scoreboards and graphics until mostly everyone picks up the College Football Playoff rankings and uses them when they’re released in November and December.

 

College football kicks off on Saturday, August 24 at 7:00 PM ET when the Miami Hurricanes face the Florida Gators.

Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney Lead College Football’s Top Coaches For 2019

Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney Lead College Football’s Top Coaches For 2019

College football will be back in a little over two months, and head coaches might not be more important in any sport than they are in college football. These are my top head coaches in the nation heading into the 2019 season.

 

1. Nick Saban, Alabama

The No. 1 spot is a total toss-up between Alabama’s Nick Saban and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, but Saban’s longevity and six national titles get him the nod. Five of those championships have come at Alabama, where Saban has an insane 87.6% winning percentage in 12 seasons at the school. Since 2010, Saban’s Crimson Tide teams have lost more than one game just twice (three losses in 2010 and two losses in 2013).

 

Career winning percentage: 78.9% (87.6% at BAMA)

 

2. Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Saban has the longevity on his side, but Swinney has some time to catch up to him. Swinney has an infectious personality that makes kids want to play for him, and he steadily built Clemson into a bonafide college football powerhouse. Despite losing more talented players to the NFL, Swinney and his staff have prepared guys to step up and make another run after going 15-0 with Trevor Lawrence last season. Swinney has a 79.5% career winning percentage, but he’ll likely be up in the mid-80% range by the time he’s done, as there’s no reason to believe the Tigers will fall off under his leadership.

 

Career winning percentage: 79.5%

 

3. Chip Kelly, UCLA

Running an unstoppable fast-paced offense at Oregon (while also playing much tougher defense than many people realize), Chip Kelly won 86.8% of his games with a 46-7 record and a 33-3 record in conference play. After a Rose Bowl loss and a national title game loss his first two seasons as a head coach, Kelly led the Ducks to Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl victories before going to the NFL. Now back in college, a 3-9 record at UCLA last season shows this program has a lot of work to do, but it’s a matter of if not when Kelly gets the Bruins on track.

 

Career winning percentage: 75.4% (86.8 at ORE)

 

4. Kirby Smart, Georgia

The last couple of seasons, former Alabama assistant Kirby Smart has made his Georgia teams look a lot like the Crimson Tide with the way they play, and the Bulldogs came about as close as possible to winning it all against Alabama two seasons ago. Smart gets his defense to fly around the field and make game-changing plays, while the offense helps set the tone with a physical running game—it’s similar to the way Saban’s squads have played. Last season’s Sugar Bowl loss to Texas was an atypical showing for Georgia under Smart, and it doesn’t knock him down the rankings.

 

Career winning percentage: 76.2%

 

5. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma

There’s no question Lincoln Riley took over an ideal situation with the Sooners, transitioning into the head coach role for an established program after a great coach in Bob Stoops, with two consecutive Heisman Trophy winners at quarterback. But Riley’s offense had a big hand in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray winning the Heisman back-to-back, and he’s gone 12-2 in back-to-back seasons for an 85.7% winning percentage. Now Riley gets to coach former Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, and Oklahoma is expected to remain one of the best teams in the country.

 

Career winning percentage: 85.7%

 

6. Les Miles, Kansas

He could certainly be lower than this, but Les Miles doesn’t get close to enough respect as a former national champion head coach that had to contend with playing in the SEC West against Nick Saban for several years. Overall, Miles’ quarterback situations and passing attacks were a difficulty in Baton Rouge, but his teams always played tough and had a ton of success. Kansas is obviously a basketball school, so it’ll be interesting to see how Miles fares there—it’ll almost certainly take at least a couple of seasons to get into contention, but it might help that the Jayhawks are in a Big 12 conference that doesn’t put an emphasis on defense.

 

Career winning percentage: 72.1% (77.0% at LSU)

 

7. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

Michigan State has had 3-9 seasons and 7-6 seasons in two of the past three years, but Mark Dantonio has also had remarkable success during his tenure, helping make the Spartans the top college football program in the state of Michigan (and owning an 8-4 record in the rivalry). After starting his time at Michigan State with four consecutive bowl game losses, Dantonio is 5-2 in his last seven bowl games, and he’s had three Big Ten titles and four division titles since 2010—a great accomplishment in arguably the best conference in the nation. Dantonio is no-nonsense and gets results without a bunch of high-profile recruits.

 

Career winning percentage: 64.8% (67.7% at MSU)

 

8. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

The assumption was that Jim Harbaugh would make Michigan a perennial national championship contender within a couple of years, but the program has been relatively disappointing when compared to the expectations. Still, Harbaugh has compiled three double-digit win seasons in his four years leading his alma mater, and the Wolverines are in much better shape than they were during the several years before he took over. Harbaugh is 0-4 against Ohio State, which is the hump he must get over to win the Big Ten and get into the College Football Playoff.

 

Career winning percentage: 70.1%

 

9. Chris Peterson, Washington

Chris Peterson is one of the toughest coaches to rank, as he can easily be several spots higher, but somewhere in the back half of the top ten feels about right. Peterson benefited from playing weaker competition at Boise State, but he has a career 80.8% winning percentage (69.1% with Washington). The Huskies have won two of the last three Pac-12 titles and appeared in the 2016 College Football Playoff, but they’re 1-4 in bowl games under Peterson.

 

Career winning percentage: 80.8% (69.1% at UW)

 

10. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M

Jimbo Fisher is one of five active head coaches with a national title, so he could certainly be higher than No. 10. Fisher had a dominant run at Florida State, including a stretch of three straight ACC titles in which his team went 39-3, and he has a 77.3% winning percentage for his career. Texas A&M is in good hands, but I admittedly don’t like how his time with the Seminoles concluded with him leaving before the end of a trying 2017 season.

 

Career winning percentage: 77.3%

 

11. David Shaw, Stanford

David Shaw had the benefit of taking over for Jim Harbaugh at the right time, with Andrew Luck at quarterback, but he’s still helped Stanford become one of the most consistent programs in college football. The Cardinal have not hit double-digit wins the last two seasons, and the Pac-12 might be getting tougher, but I wouldn’t bet against Shaw getting back into the 11- and 12-win range as national title contenders in the coming years.

 

Career winning percentage: 77.4%

 

12. Scott Frost, Nebraska

This final spot could have gone to a number of coaches including Dan Mullen, Gus Malzahn, Gary Patterson, Kirk Ferentz, Tom Herman, and Mack Brown (Brown is the fifth coach with a national title, but it’s difficult to determine his rank after he was out of coaching for five years). Scott Frost led UCF to a stunning 13-0 record in 2017, and it’s going to take some time to build Nebraska back up to its past glory, but it’ll happen at some point. Don’t be surprise if the Cornhuskers make a huge jump to double-digit wins after going 4-8 last year.

 

Career winning percentage: 60.5% (73.1% at UCF)

College Football’s Top Transfer Quarterbacks For 2019

College Football’s Top Transfer Quarterbacks For 2019

The ability to transfer and play right away as a graduate student—along with the NCAA opting to give waivers for undergraduates to transfer without have to sit out a year—has caused a lot of shuffling in college football. In most cases, quarterbacks are the most impactful transfers, and there were several big names on the move again in 2019. These quarterbacks have the best potential paths to starting roles this fall and can make the biggest impact on their new programs this season.

 

Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma

Transferring to Oklahoma certainly worked out for Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray (the last two Heisman Trophy winners), so it was the ideal spot for Jalen Hurts to land after graduating from Alabama. Remember, Hurts was the SEC Offensive Player of the Year as a true freshman in 2016, so he’s a bit of a phenom like Mayfield and Murray were. He appeared to get better as a passer when he had to step in for Tua Tagovailoa and helped the Crimson Tide win the SEC title game last season, and seeing him suit up for the Sooners should be fun for college football fans, giving everyone (except Oklahoma’s opponents) someone to root for with the way Hurts handled his benching with all class in Tuscaloosa.

 

Justin Fields, Ohio State

Stuck behind Jake Fromm, who is simply too good to relinquish the starting job with the Bulldogs, Justin Fields transferred from Georgia and was granted immediate eligibility to play for Ohio State. Fields is a very talented dual-threat quarterback that some people thought was better than Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence coming out of high school, and he has the ability to make a huge impact for the Buckeyes in 2019.

 

Jacob Eason, Washington

Eason basically had to transfer the old, hard way, as he had to sit out all of last season at Washington after transferring from Georgia as the first guy that was stuck behind Jake Fromm. The patience should pay off for Eason, as he’ll take over for Jake Browning (who graduated and is now in the NFL with the Vikings) for a Huskies team that is always competitive in the Pac-12 under head coach Chris Peterson. We could see Eason in the College Football Playoff this season, and don’t be surprised if the big-armed six-foot-five quarterback gets top-five consideration in next year’s NFL draft.

 

Kelly Bryant, Missouri

Unfortunately, Kelly Bryant won’t be in the CFB Playoff no matter how well Missouri plays this season, as the Tigers are banned from the postseason after NCAA penalties. But the former Clemson starter will look to make the most of his final college season, and he’ll be playing against some of the nation’s toughest teams in the SEC. Bryant has the size to play at the next level, and he’ll look to put good things on film for NFL teams.

 

Shane Buechele, SMU

When Shane Buechele came in as a true freshman and lit up Notre Dame for 280 and two passing scores (on just 16 completions) along with another score on the ground in a double overtime victory in the 2016 season opener for Texas, it looked like he’d star at the school for three or four years before going to the NFL. However, injuries and the emergence of Sam Ehlinger changed things at Texas, and Buechele transferred to SMU for his senior season this year. Buechele is a very talented passer and will be able to sling the ball around for the Mustangs in what could be one of college football’s most electric offenses in 2019.

 

Hunter Johnson, Northwestern

Hunter Johnson was a highly-touted high school recruit, but he didn’t get a ton of playing time at Clemson as a freshman and then transferred after Trevor Lawrence’s arrival at the school. After sitting out last season as a transfer at Northwestern, he’ll get an opportunity to play two or three seasons in a pro-style offense that might help prepare him for the NFL. Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson was just selected by the Eagles in the fifth-round of this year’s draft.

 

Tate Martell, Miami

These final two quarterbacks are not as big of locks to start under-center for their new teams this fall, but they’ll at least be squarely in a quarterback competition. Tate Martell is a former high school player of the year that had a lot of hype when he committed to Ohio State, but he ultimately transferred after two seasons when Justin Fields joined the program. Granted a hardship waiver (allowing him to play right away instead of sitting out a season) and now a redshirt sophomore for the Hurricanes, Martell will be in a battle for the starting job with Jarren Williams and N’Kosi Perry in 2019.

 

Alex Hornibrook, Florida State

It was a big surprise when Alex Hornibrook announced he was leaving Wisconsin as a graduate transfer. Hornibrook started 32 games for the Badgers the last three seasons, going 26-6 in those games including an Orange Bowl win and MVP in 2017. The lefty quarterback has the experience to be in the lead for the starting job with Florida State, and he could have a huge hand in getting the Seminoles on track after a disappointing season last year.

Potential Jalen Hurts Transfer Fits Include Maryland, Oklahoma, UCLA

Potential Jalen Hurts Transfer Fits Include Maryland, Oklahoma, UCLA

Quarterback transfers are the new norm in college football. Loyalty certainly isn’t on the same level it was in decades past, but many would argue there are good reasons for some of these players to transfer. Take the Ohio State quarterback situation: Tate Martell was with the Buckeyes for two years, only to have 2018’s top recruit, former Georgia quarterback Justin Fields, transfer to the school. Martell could have stayed and competed (and Fields might not even be granted eligibility in 2019), but he’s transferring to Miami to ensure he’s not buried on the depth chart his entire college career.

 

Then there’s the Jalen Hurts situation. The former SEC Offensive Player of the Year for Alabama stayed with the school last season despite Tua Tagovailoa being pretty much locked in as the starter after his national title game heroics. Hurts was truly an exceptional, exemplary teammate all season, and he came up big when his number was called in the SEC Championship victory over Georgia. He’ll never be forgotten in Crimson Tide lore, and now no one can blame him for going to another school to be a starter for his final college season as a graduate transfer. Many programs would love to add Hurts at quarterback, but these are the five to keep an eye on as he makes his decision.

 

Maryland

There’s been a lot of smoke surrounding Hurts transferring to Maryland, and the Terps are currently the betting favorites to land the former Alabama star. Maryland’s new head coach is Mike Locksley, who was the co-offensive coordinator for Alabama in 2017 before taking over the full OC duties in 2018, makes it easy to connect the dots for a transfer. Locksley is someone Hurts is familiar with, and that familiarity will make a transition into a new program and an offense with new players easier and more comfortable. Hurts probably wants to win, though, and Maryland might not be ready to compete in the Big Ten even in a potential down year for the conference.

 

Oklahoma

He might not be guaranteed the starting job for the Sooners, but if Hurts wants to go somewhere that a national championship is realistically within reach, Norman is probably the place to go. The last two Heisman Trophy winners have come in Lincoln Riley’s offense, and Hurts has the dual-threat ability—along with improvement as a passer as displayed during his final season at Alabama—to run the explosive attack at a high level. Baker Mayfield was the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft when he came out, and Kyler Murray looks like he’ll be a first-rounder, too, so Oklahoma would also be a good spot for his professional future.

 

Miami

Again, Tate Martell isn’t eligible to play until 2020 because he’s transferring as an undergraduate, so this would be great for the Hurricanes if they could get Jalen Hurts for 2019 before potentially turning things over to Martell the next season. Hurts already took a visit to the Hurricanes (and he follows coach Manny Diaz on Twitter), so there looks to be definite interest. Also, Miami offensive coordinator Dan Enos was Hurts’ quarterbacks coach with Alabama in 2018. This would hurt the development of redshirt freshman Jarren Williams, who apparently considered transferring but opted not to, but these quarterback situations can turn into musical chairs.

 

Auburn

As stated earlier, Hurts will never be forgotten in Crimson Tide lore, but that would take a turn if he transferred to their bitter rival. Considering the faithfulness Hurts showed to Alabama, it doesn’t seem likely he chooses Auburn for his last college season. But, if underneath, he was bothered enough by losing his job with the Crimson Tide, a transfer to the Tigers and a crack at his former team in the Iron Bowl would make for an interesting storyline.

 

UCLA

The Bruins are an under-the-radar place for Hurts, and they should receive strong consideration. Chip Kelly is going to get UCLA turned around at some point, and Hurts could accelerate that process as the trigger-man of a potent offense. UCLA has some dynamic players to work with, including running back Joshua Kelley, who is returning for his senior season after rushing for 1,243 yards in 11 games as a junior. Hurts and Kelley would form one of the better combos in the nation, while Kelly’s time in the NFL—in his first year back in college, he slowed down the offense a bit and did some things pro teams still want to see, like playing more under-center—would help Hurts if he continues his football career at the next level.

Early 2019 College Football Power Rankings

Early 2019 College Football Power Rankings

Clemson routed Alabama in the CFB Playoff National Championship to win their second title in three seasons; but as Dabo Swinney said last night after the victory, there’s a team meeting Friday, and the Tigers will be ready to go for 2019. So it’s not too early to take a look at power rankings for next season, which starts with the reigning champions.

 

1. Clemson

Anyone that watched Trevor Lawrence and that extraordinary talent around him (including fellow true freshman Justyn Ross) play last night knows Clemson is going to be tough to beat. The Tigers lose senior leadership in a class that went 55-4 with four conference titles and two national titles, but the team still might be even stronger in 2019.

 

2. Alabama

The talk of last night’s loss being a “knock” or “stain” on Nick Saban’s legacy is an absolute joke and a waste of breath. Saban will have the Crimson Tide ready to go as usual next season, and they have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball to get right back in the Playoff and in the title game with Tua Tagovailoa leading the way. If they meet Clemson again, the script will be flipped, with Alabama looking for a little redemption after last night.

 

3. Georgia

Clearly, it looked like Georgia was not as energized as they could’ve been to play Texas in the Sugar Bowl, and it led to them falling behind in their seven-point loss a week ago. The Dawgs could be a force similar to Clemson and Alabama in 2019, as this season’s team had 68% freshman and sophomores, so next season will be a more experienced roster. Star cornerback Deandre Baker is among those Georgia is losing to the NFL, but they have the significantly-underrated Jake Fromm at quarterback and a strong culture.

 

4. Texas

The Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia showed the promise Texas has entering Tom Herman’s third season at the head of the program. Dual-threat quarterback Sam Ehlinger looks poised to become a star in 2019, and he’ll likely be one of the top Heisman Trophy candidates for the potential Big 12 favorite. Defensive end Malcolm Roach already announced he’s returning for his senior season, and it’d help to get wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey back as the Longhorns gear up for a potential title run.

 

5. LSU

It’ll be interesting to see how UCF is perceived after losing a game, but LSU ending a team’s 25-game winning streak should not be discounted. Former Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow arguably played his best game in the Fiesta Bowl against the Knights, and he should be more comfortable quarterbacking the Tigers for a second season. The Tigers will have a big early test in a potential top-five showdown with Texas on September 7.

 

6. Michigan

He could’ve left for the NFL in a weaker quarterback draft class than the stacked 2019 group, but Shea Patterson returned to Michigan as the Wolverines attempt to finally win the Big Ten and get to the Playoff under Jim Harbaugh. As is the case with Burrow at LSU, Patterson should be in more control his second season leading Michigan.

 

7. Ohio State

The Buckeyes could certainly be higher than No. 7 in these early college football power rankings, but there’s some uncertainty with head coach Urban Meyer and quarterback Dwayne Haskins leaving. New head coach Ryan Day should do a great job with Ohio State, but Meyer is one of the greatest college coaches in history—his loss is big. Meanwhile, the quarterback situation is intriguing. Former five-star recruit Tate Martell has had a couple of years of watching the offense from the sideline, while top recruit and Georgia transfer Justin Fields is pushing to get immediate eligibility in 2019. The quarterback competition could be among the biggest storylines leading up to next season.

 

8. Florida

Dan Mullen had an outstanding first season as the head coach of the Gators, and the future is bright in Gainesville. Linebacker Vosean Joseph is among the players Florida will lose for 2019, but there’s a ton of speed and talent on both sides of the ball to make a push in the SEC. The consistency of quarterback Feleipe Franks will be key for the Gators.

 

9. Oklahoma

If Kyler Murray happens to surprise everyone and return to Norman for one final college season in a commitment to football, the Sooners would probably be in the top five and the Big 12 favorites. However, there’s some uncertainty with the quarterback if Murray leaves for the MLB or NFL—though Lincoln Riley makes things easy for his signal-callers, and there are fantastic weapons on the outside, including receiver CeeDee Lamb, which also helps the next man up. The defense must improve if the Sooners are going to knock off Clemson or Alabama.

 

10. Texas A&M

Jimbo Fisher had his offense cooking toward the end of the season, with point totals of 38, 41, 74 (in the historic overtime win over LSU), and 52 to end the season on a four-game winning streak and a Gator Bowl win against NC State. The Aggies played the eventual champion Tigers to the wire in a near comeback victory back in September, and they’re obvious sneaky title contenders for 2019. Quarterback Kellen Mond has great potential in his second season under Fisher.

2018-2019 CFB Playoff National Championship Game: Preview And Prediction

2018-2019 CFB Playoff National Championship Game: Preview And Prediction

College football season ends tonight, but we should get a great game to end the season as Clemson looks to even things up against Alabama in their fourth consecutive Playoff matchup.

 

CFB Playoff National Championship Game

No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 1 Alabama

Monday, January 7 | 8:00 PM ET | ESPN

 

Lines

Spread: ALA -5.5

O/U: 58.5

 

After months of great college football action every weekend, there’s no question the top two teams will be on the field tonight for the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Alabama and Clemson are the only two remaining undefeated teams in the nation ahead of their fourth consecutive matchup in the College Football Playoff, and these are arguably the two best teams the programs have had during the span. The Crimson Tide don’t have a Heisman Trophy running back like Mark Ingram or Derrick Henry, and the Tigers don’t have experienced upperclassman quarterback like Deshaun Watson when they won the title a couple seasons ago, but the offenses are as good as they’ve ever been.

 

Alabama

47.7 points per game (second in the nation)

527.6 yards per game (fourth in the nation)

7.89 yards per play (second in the nation)

 

Clemson

44.3 points per game (fourth in the nation)

530.4 yards per game (third in the nation)

7.33 yards per play (third in the nation)

 

Both offenses are simply stacked with talent and strong play at running back, wide receiver, and offensive line, but the two young quarterbacks—true sophomore Tua Tagovailoa for Alabama and true freshman Trevor Lawrence for Clemson—are exceptional players that will likely be top-two picks in the NFL draft whenever they leave school. Both players make smart decisions and give their weapons opportunities to make plays, which happens more often than not with super-accurate passes—on back-shoulders, precise deep balls, and dimes to all areas of the field—to NFL-caliber talent on the outside. The presence of former SEC Offensive Player of the Year Jalen Hurts should not be forgotten, and Alabama might have some tricks up their sleeve they were saving for this game.

 

The running game for both sides will be key to keep the offenses ahead of the chains to avoid long third-down situations against elite defenses on the other side. For the Tide, Damien Harris returned for his senior season to become a better leader and attempt to win another title; he’s a trusted runner and will likely be one of the top running backs selected in the 2019 draft, but Najee Harris, Joshua Jacobs, and Brian Robinson Jr. all get work—particularly Harris and Jacobs—behind the older Harris and can dominate. For the Tigers, Travis Etienne is one of the most underrated players in the country as someone with track-star speed that bulked up a bit from his freshman season last year and put up 1,573 yards and 22 touchdowns on 190 carries through 14 games. Etienne can take it to the house in an instant if he gets a crease; behind him are Tavien Feaster, Adam Choice, and Lyn-J Dixon. Feaster, who could be playing his last game for Clemson if he transfers, is a strong compliment to Etienne, while Choice and Dixon both average over 7.5 yards per carry.

 

Defensively, Clemson (first in scoring defense at 12.9 points per game compared to Alabama being fifth in scoring defense at 16.2 points per game) has been more dominant this season against a weaker schedule—they didn’t have to play Georgia or Oklahoma—but both teams might struggle to make stops tonight if the offenses are clicking. The Tigers not having Dexter Lawrence didn’t hurt them much against Notre Dame, but they’ll need all the help they can get against Alabama, so it’s a loss that should not be discounted The game might come down to a turnover or a non-offensive touchdown, and I usually like Alabama to win there. Also, I think the Crimson Tide corners will do a relatively good job against high-point and back-shoulder passes to the big-play receivers of the Tigers, but it could be a long night for them if not. And senior receiver and former walk-on Hunter Renfrow, who caught the game-winner for the Tigers in the 2016-2017 CFB Playoff National Championship, must be mentioned as a potential difference-maker if Clemson is going to win their second title in three seasons.

 

Both teams are among the most well-coached in the country under Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney, and I think this is a total toss-up unlike the Semifinal matchups, but Alabama is my pick—Trevor Lawrence is awesome, but Alabama has a quarterback that’s been in this situation before.

 

Winner: Alabama

2018-2019 CFB Playoff And New Year’s Six Bowl Previews And Predictions

2018-2019 CFB Playoff And New Year’s Six Bowl Previews And Predictions

Tomorrow is December 29, but the New Year’s Six Bowl games begin with the Peach Bowl, Cotton Bowl, and Orange Bowl, with the latter two working as College Football Playoff Semifinals this year. There’s a lot of other action aside from the New Year’s Six—including the Citrus Bowl between No. 14 Kentucky and No. 12 Penn State on Tuesday—but hopefully these games meet expectations.

 

Peach Bowl

No. 10 Florida vs. No. 7 Michigan

Saturday, December 29 | 12:00 PM ET | ESPN

 

Despite playing in different conference, Florida-Michigan has become a bit of a rivalry the last few years. The Peach Bowl marks the third matchup between the two schools since 2016, when the two programs met in the Citrus Bowl after the 2015 season. They then met in the season opener of the 2017 season. The Wolverines took both games rather handily, as the Gators couldn’t get much going offensively against an elite unit. But Dan Mullen is now the head coach at Florida, and his offense has shown it can put big point totals on the board when it’s clicking. Mullen was 5-2 in bowl games at Mississippi State, while Jim Harbaugh is 2-3 in bowl games in his career including 1-2 at Michigan. There’s some concern for Michigan after they were blown out in their last game against Ohio State, killing their Playoff chances, along with a few key players not playing (including potential top-five NFL draft pick defensive lineman Rashan Gary); but they have quarterback Shea Patterson set to return, which could set some good vibes as they look to get a bowl win heading into 2019.

Winner: Michigan

 

Cotton Bowl (CFB Playoff)

No. 3 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Clemson

Saturday, December 29 | 4:00 PM ET | ESPN

 

A big storyline heading into tomorrow afternoon’s Cotton Bowl between Notre Dame is Clemson is the suspensions of three Tigers players—defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, offensive lineman Zach Giella, and tight end Braden Galloway. As a key starter and potential high pick in the NFL draft, Lawrence is a massive loss for Clemson, but thankfully the team might have the best and deepest defensive line in college football for a unit that leads the nation in yards allowed per play (4.08), is second in scoring defense (13.7), and leads in sacks among Power Five schools (46). Led by true freshman sensation Trevor Lawrence at quarterback, Clemson is also fifth in scoring offense (45.4), and on paper the team is clearly more talented than Notre Dame. Honestly, I didn’t think the Fighting Irish should have been in the Playoff (especially over Georgia), so the offensive line and running back Dexter Williams must be able to run the football and keep the game close with quarterback Ian Book coming through with clutch plays and timely throws to keep drives going—which he’s done this season. Anything can happen, but I don’t think the Cotton Bowl will be very close, which could lead to people questioning the Playoff Committee’s decisions.

Winner: Clemson

 

Orange Bowl (CFB Playoff)

No. 4 Oklahoma vs. No. 1 Alabama

Saturday, December 29 | 8:00 PM ET | ESPN

 

At first, I was thinking Alabama might just blowout Oklahoma, and Vegas seems to think the same with the Crimson Tide coming in as heavier favorites than Clemson in the Cotton Bowl, but I’m starting to believe the Sooners have a decent chance of pulling off the upset—at least a better chance than the Fighting Irish in the first Semifinal. The quarterback matchup between Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray and runner-up Tua Tagovailoa is being billed as one of the best head-to-heads of all-time, but Jalen Hurts shouldn’t be counted out of making a huge impact, especially after he was the hero in the SEC Championship Game; and also, Tagovailoa might not be 100% for tomorrow night. Star defensive lineman Quinnen Williams was seemingly set to say he doesn’t think Murray is that good in an unintentionally-hilarious press conference, which was interesting, as it could indicate Alabama (or at least just Williams) is confident they’ll be able to contain the dual-threat playmaker. Murray having top receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown will certainly help, and he’s expected to play after injuring his foot in the Big 12 title game. Everyone talks about the Sooners offense being amazing, but the Crimson Tide might be just as good if not better—and there’s no debate the SEC champions boast a far superior defense. I think a special-teams play or non-offensive touchdown in favor of Alabama could be a difference if the Orange Bowl is close.

Winner: Alabama

 

Fiesta Bowl

No. 11 LSU vs. No. 8 UCF

Tuesday, January 1 | 1:00 PM ET | ESPN

 

This year’s Fiesta Bowl is a highly-anticipated matchup as UCF looks to extend its nation-best 25-game-win streak with a win over an SEC school in a New Year’s Six Bowl for the second consecutive year. LSU is favored in the game, but they might not be happy with a lower ranking (No. 11) than UCF (No. 8) and could use that as motivation. The Tigers will be without big defensive lineman Ed Alexander and top cornerback Greedy Williams, both of whom are skipping the bowl game ahead of the 2019 NFL Draft, but the defense will have star linebacker Devin White, a potential top-ten pick who opted to play. LSU will look to stop a fast-paced UCF offense led by backup quarterback Darriel Mack Jr., who had six total touchdowns in his first career start in the AAC Championship Game, but the more important matchup might be LSU’s offense against UCF’s underrated defense. Joe Burrows, who has played better than his numbers indicate, should lead a balanced attack that helps pull off a tough win and finally end the Knight’s streak.

Winner: LSU

 

Rose Bowl

No. 9 Washington vs. No. 6 Ohio State

Tuesday, January 1 | 5:00 PM ET | ESPN

 

The Rose Bowl might be my favorite bowl to watch each year, and this is a solid, classic matchup between the Pac-12 champion (Washington) and the Big Ten champion (Ohio State) after the Buckeyes were left out of the College Football Playoff. Urban Meyer has had one of the best coaching careers of all-time, and he’s looking to cap it with a win in his first Rose Bowl, which would be a fitting end that could probably only be topped by another national title. Meanwhile, the Huskies are in their first Rose Bowl since 2000, led by a senior quarterback (Jake Browning) and a senior running back (Myles Gaskin) that have accomplished a lot as four-year starters for the program. Both Browning and Gaskin will be done their playing careers for Washington after the game, and the same could be the case for Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Dwayne Haskins if he makes the jump to the NFL as the potential No. 1 quarterback available. Washington has a defense (No. 5 in points allowed) that might be able to at least contain Ohio State’s offensive attack, but it won’t be easy—that’ll likely be the key for the Pac-12 champs getting a win. With two of the best coaches in college football, the Rose Bowl should be a well-played game, but I like Meyer to get a win in his last game on the sideline.

Winner: Ohio State

 

Sugar Bowl

No. 15 Texas vs. No. 5 Georgia

Tuesday, January 1 | 8:45 PM ET | ESPN

 

I don’t think there’s any question Georgia is one of the top-three teams in the nation along with Alabama and Clemson, so I believe they should’ve been in the College Football Playoff. Look for Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs come out fired up and ready to prove they belonged—especially if one or two of the Semifinals turn into blowouts—with a convincing effort in the Sugar Bowl against Texas. Tom Herman, who is 2-0 in bowl games, and the Longhorns could have some tricks up their sleeve as they look to pull off the upset, though; but it’ll be hard for them to keep up with Georgia if Jake Fromm and the offense plays the way they have in big games the last couple of seasons. Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker, a potential top-ten pick in this year’s draft, skipping the game should be a boost for Texas receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey and an offense that must make plays on the outside against one of the nation’s best defenses. In the first matchup between the two prestigious schools since their 1984 Cotton Bowl, which Georgia won by one point, I like the Bulldogs to win more handily in the Sugar Bowl.

Winner: Georgia

 

NOTE: This article was updated to reflect an inaccurate game time for the Fiesta Bowl.

Potential 2019 NFL Draft Quarterback Prospects To Watch During Bowl Season

Potential 2019 NFL Draft Quarterback Prospects To Watch During Bowl Season

With Christmas passed, bowl season is really going to heat up leading up to New Years. For NFL fans watching the games, quarterback is always a position of interest, so here’s background for some of the top guys playing in bowl games the next several days.

 

Jake Browning, Washington

The winningest quarterback in Pac-12 history doesn’t get a ton of praise from casual fans, but he’s a tough player that has plenty of experience as a four-year starter at Washington. Browning has 110 total touchdowns in his career (94 passing, 16 rushing), with his best season coming in 2016 when he was surrounded by future NFL receivers John Ross (first-round pick in 2017) and Dante Pettis (second-round pick in 2018). The lack of a big arm will likely lead to Browning falling outside the first few rounds of the draft, but at the very least he should be able to become one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league. He could work his way into the early rounds with a big performance against Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.

 

When: Rose Bowl, Tue. 1/1, 5:00 PM ET (ESPN)

 

Ryan Finley, NC State

Ryan Finley started his college career at Boise State for two years, but he’s become a three-year starter at NC State. Finley has gotten better every season, boosting his numbers across the board each year—including completion percentage from 60.4% to 65.1% to 67.9%. The fifth-year player helped take the team from 7-6 in his first year as starter to 9-4 last season, and he’s looking to help the Wolfpack get its first double-digit-win season since 2002. At six-foot-four, Finley has the height many teams are looking for in their quarterback.

 

When: Gator Bowl, Mon. 12/31, 7:30 PM ET (ESPN)

 

Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State

As a Heisman Trophy finalist, Dwayne Haskins doesn’t need much of an introduction. The Ohio State quarterback threw 47 touchdowns with four rushing scores this season, leading the Buckeyes to a Rose Bowl appearance against Jake Browning and the Huskies, so The Granddaddy of Them All is a game that could have two future NFL signal-callers on the field. Keep in mind that Haskins is just a redshirt sophomore and could opt to return to school for not just one, but two more seasons. Most assume he’ll enter the NFL after the Rose Bowl, though.

 

When: Rose Bowl, Tue. 1/1, 5:00 PM ET (ESPN)

 

Daniel Jones, Duke

Duke quarterback Daniel Jones is one of the most intriguing players in the 2019 draft. He’s been under the tutelage of head coach David Cutcliffe, who coached both Peyton and Eli Manning during his coaching career, so it’s easy to connect things and believe Jones has obvious potential as a pro. Jones has more ability as a runner than the Mannings, but clearly, he’s not quite where the two former No. 1 overall picks were as passers coming out of college. With another year of eligibility as a redshirt junior, Jones could garner big-time hype if he returns to school in 2019. However, this year’s draft class doesn’t look close to as good as 2020.

 

When: Independence Bowl, Thu. 12/27, 1:30 PM ET (ESPN)

 

Brian Lewerke, Michigan State

This has been an injury-riddled season for Brian Lewerke, who might not even be starting in the Redbox Bowl against Oregon, so the best option for him might be to return to school for one more season to get healthy and rebuild his draft stock. Lewerke was a potential first-rounder as a tough, pro-style quarterback leading one of the nation’s best programs coming into the year, but he could end up being a steal in a relatively weak quarterback class if he declares after the bowl game. If Lewerke doesn’t play, you can at least look ahead to 2020 with Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert on the other side against the Spartans.

 

When: Redbox Bowl, Mon. 12/31, 3:00 PM ET, (FOX)

 

Drew Lock, Missouri

Of all the draft prospects at any position, Drew Lock might be the most polarizing as any. The Mizzou starter has a cannon for an arm, and he put up an SEC-record 44 passing touchdowns last season before coming back down to 25 passing touchdowns his senior year. Lock has upped his completion percentage to 63.2% (from 57.8% last season) though, which some people want to see (even if it’s an unsound judgement of a quarterback as an NFL prospect). Given his natural ability as a thrower, an MVP performance in the Liberty Bowl could get the hype train rolling into the draft process.

 

When: Liberty Bowl, Mon. 12/31, 3:45 PM ET (ESPN)

 

Trace McSorley, Penn State

Because he isn’t “prototypical” size with all the qualities some look for in an NFL quarterback Trace McSorley could be going under the radar as a potential franchise quarterback in this year’s draft. Despite being undersized, McSorley has a very good arm and excels on deep balls down the field—especially back when he had current NFLers Chris Godwin and DaeSean Hamilton running elite routes for college players and getting open deep. All college football fans should be tuned in for the last game for one of the best players in the nation the last few years and one of the most prolific players in the history of a prestigious Penn State program, but NFL fans should keep an eye on McSorley, too.

 

When: Citrus Bowl, Tue. 1/1, 1:00 PM ET (ABC)

 

Jarrett Stidham, Auburn

Despite another year of eligibility, Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham already announced his intentions to enter the NFL draft after the Music City Bowl against Purdue. Stidham entered this season with expectations that he’d take another step forward and potentially become a strong Heisman candidate in his second season leading Gus Malzahn’s offense, but the Tigers struggled to find a consistent running game with 2017 SEC Offensive Player of the Year Kerryon Johnson now in the NFL, making things tougher on Stidham. His size and athleticism make him an intriguing prospect that could be selected in the first couple of rounds in the draft if the process leading up to April goes well.

 

When: Music City Bowl, Fri. 12/28, 1:30 PM ET (ESPN)

 

Kyle Shurmur

If the name is familiar, that’s because it should be. Kyle Shurmur is the son of Giants head coach Pat Shurmur. Like a few of these guys, he has the size many teams are looking for in a franchise quarterback, and he has the toughness and smarts as the son of a former Michigan State center who is now one of the best offensive coaches in the NFL. Shurmur is a three-year starter that also had experience as a freshman (103 pass attempts), and he’s gotten better every year as one of the best signal-callers in a tough SEC conference.

 

When: Texas Bowl, Thu. 12/27, 9:00 PM (ESPN)

 

Clayton Thorson, Northwestern

After starting with a four-year starter in Jake Browning, we’re ending with a four-year starter in Clayton Thorson. The Northwestern captain also has the size some require from a quarterback, and in a crowded and unclear quarterback draft class, he might make a push as one of the first players selected at his position. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said he believes Thorson is an NFL talent. While Thorson certainly isn’t an outstanding runner, he has a knack for the end zone with 27 rushing scores in four seasons. If you’re looking for something to do in the early part of the evening on New Year’s Eve, Thorson and the Wildcats play at 7:00 PM ET.

 

When: Holiday Bowl, Mon. 12/31, 7:00 PM ET (FS1)

Early 2019 Heisman Trophy Favorites

Early 2019 Heisman Trophy Favorites

Kyler Murray made it two straight Oklahoma Sooners quarterbacks to win the Heisman Trophy. He’s headed to either the Athletics or the NFL after the season, so there’ll be another new Heisman winner crowned next season. A lot can change, but these are the early 2019 Heisman favorites. [NOTE: 2018 season stats are before bowl games.]

 

1. Tua Tagovailoa | Alabama QB

If not for getting injured during the SEC Championship Game in which Jalen Hurts came in and led the Crimson Tide to victory over Georgia, Tua Tagovailoa might already have Heisman Trophy. The sophomore quarterback had the second-most voting points for a Heisman runner-up in history, and he’ll be the heavy favorite in his second full season as the starter for Alabama next year.

 

2018 season stats:

67.7% | 3,353 YDS | 37 TD | 4 INT

48 ATT | 290 YDS | 5 TD | 4.0 AVG

 

2. Dwayne Haskins | Ohio State QB

As a redshirt sophomore, Dwayne Haskins might make the jump to the NFL after the Rose Bowl, in which case he obviously won’t be in the running for the Heisman in 2019. But if he returns to Ohio State for another season, he’ll obviously be among the Heisman favorites coming off a year where he set Ohio State and Big Ten records and put up over 50 total touchdowns. Also, soon-to-be new Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day might want to set the tone and put up monster numbers in his first year running the program.

 

2018 season stats:

70.2% | 4,580 YDS | 47 TD | 8 INT

73 ATT | 122 YDS | 4 TD | 1.7 AVG

 

3. Jonathan Taylor | Wisconsin RB

Assuming the bowl game against Miami doesn’t go very poorly for himself and Wisconsin, Jonathan Taylor should eclipse 2,000 rushing yards rushing on the season, and he could get up over the 2,100- or 2,200-yard mark if he has one of his huge games. The Badgers must bounce back as a team in 2019, but Taylor will make a strong push for well over 2,000 yards no matter how good the team is next season.

 

2018 season stats:

280 ATT | 1,989 YDS | 15 TD | 7.1 AVG

8 REC | 60 YDS | 7.5 AVG

 

4. Jake Fromm | Georgia QB

Next season, Jake Fromm will be entering his third year as the starter and an experienced and accomplished player with two SEC title game appearances and one conference title. If the offense is opened up and allows Fromm to sling it around like he did against Alabama in the tough conference championship loss, he could push for 35-40+ passing touchdowns for one of the better teams in the nation. Teammate D’Andre Swift should also be in the mix as a potential candidate.

 

2018 season stats:

68.4% | 2,537 YDS | 27 TD | 5 INT

 

5. Trevor Lawrence | Clemson QB

Trevor Lawrence will enter 2019 as the unquestioned starter not needing to split time or practice reps like he did with Kelly Bryant entering this season. The six-foot-six phenom has plenty of talent, and he has plenty of weapons around him to make gamebreaking plays. As is the case with Fromm, his top running back (Travis Etienne) will also be strongly in the mix for the prestigious honor. It helps that Lawrence plays for a Clemson team that’ll probably be near the top of the rankings all next year.

 

2018 season stats:

64.8% | 2,606 YDS | 24 TD | 4 INT

47 ATT | 151 YDS | 1 TD | 3.2 AVG

Top Ten Tuesday: 2018-2019 College Football Bowl Games

Top Ten Tuesday: 2018-2019 College Football Bowl Games

The full 2018-2019 college football bowl schedule is out, so this week’s Top Ten Tuesday goes over the best games of the slate. There will be a lot of good football throughout this month, but these are our picks for the top ten games.

 

10. Outback Bowl: No. 18 Mississippi State vs. Iowa (Jan. 1, 12:00 PM ET, ESPN 2)

The Gator Bowl between NC State and No. 19 Texas A&M—which has two potential future NFL quarterbacks in Ryan Finley and Kellen Mond—just misses the cut, but the Outback Bowl makes the top ten for 2018-2019 bowl games. Mississippi State (No. 3) and Iowa (No. 7) both have top-ten defenses in terms of yards allowed, while the Bulldogs are first in scoring defense and the Hawkeyes are eleventh in the category. In a day and age with offensive fireworks every week, a hard-fought defensive battle should be refreshing.

 

9. Redbox Bowl: Michigan State vs. Oregon (Dec. 31, 3:00 PM ET, FOX)

The Redbox Bowl features an unranked matchup between Michigan State and Oregon, but it should be a well-played game. Mark Dantonio’s squad hasn’t had the season they expected after starting the year at No. 11 in the AP poll, but they’re looking for a strong finish to build momentum into 2019. The Spartans are 5-1 in their last six bowl games, so they’re as successful as almost any team this time of year. On the other side, Oregon’s star quarterback Justin Herbert will either look to either build momentum heading into the draft or heading into another season with the Ducks next year depending on what he decides. These two programs met in 2015, with Michigan State winning a thriller in East Lansing.

 

8. Camping World Bowl: No. 16 West Virginia vs. No. 20 Syracuse (Dec. 28, 5:15 PM ET, ESPN)

If you aren’t excited about potential defensive battles in the first two bowl games on the list, the Camping World Bowl between West Virginia and Syracuse should get you excited. The game features two of the best quick-strike offenses led by senior quarterbacks Will Grier and Eric Dungey. Also, another cool part about the game is that it’s a throwback matchup, as the Mountaineers and Orange used to play each other in the Big East.

 

7. Citrus Bowl: No. 14 Kentucky vs. No. 12 Penn State (Jan. 1, 1:00 PM ET, ABC)

The Citrus Bowl annually features one of the best non-New Year’s Six games, and this year is no different. Kentucky boasts Nagurski award winner Josh Allen, while Penn State features senior quarterback Trace McSorley in what should be one of the best offense-versus-defense matchups this bowl season. McSorley is playing in his final college game after setting a bunch of school records for the Nittany Lions, so all college fans should tune in.

 

6. Peach Bowl: No. 10 Florida vs. No. 7 Michigan (Dec. 29, 12:00 PM ET, ESPN)

The Peach Bowl might be higher if not for Florida and Michigan already playing in the 2016 Citrus Bowl and the 2017 season opener, as it’s a matchup we’ve surprisingly seen often. It is interesting that the Gators are looking for their first win over the Wolverines, as the Big Ten school is 4-0 against the SEC foe, including wins of 41-7 and 33-17 in their last two matchups. Assuming Michigan bounces back from their bad loss to Ohio State, we’ll see great defense from both sides in this one.

 

5. Sugar Bowl: No. 15 Texas vs. No. 5 Georgia (Jan. 1, 8:45 PM ET, ESPN)

The Sugar Bowl is always great, but this year is an intriguing matchup with two schools looking to prove different things. Georgia is obviously looking to make a statement and show they belonged in the College Football Playoff, and they’ll have an opportunity to shut down a Texas team that beat Playoff participant Oklahoma earlier this season before falling to the Sooners in the Big 12 title game. Meanwhile, Texas is looking to continue its resurgance as they attempt to notch their first ten-win season since 2009. It’s good to have the Longhorns back in a big bowl game, but hopefully they can keep it close against a Bulldogs team stacked with talent including Jake Fromm and DeAndre Swift.

 

4. Rose Bowl: No. 9 Washington vs. No. 6 Ohio State (Jan. 1, 5:00 PM ET, ESPN)

It’s hard to top the Rose Bowl, so Washington and Ohio State don’t have a bad consolation despite having big-time Playoff aspirations entering the season. For Washington, it’ll be the end of accomplished careers by a senior class led by quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin. And one of the most notable storylines of bowl season is the end of Urban Meyer’s coaching career. The two-time national champion has had a remarkable run, and the Buckeyes would probably love to send him out with a Rose Bowl win in his first appearance in “The Granddaddy of Them All”.

 

3. Fiesta Bowl: No. 11 LSU vs. No. 8 UCF (Jan. 1, 1:00 PM ET, ESPN)

If star quarterback McKenzie Milton, who unfortunately suffered a heartbreaking season-ending knee injury, was playing in this game, it might be No. 1 in the rankings of 2018-2019 bowl games. However, it remains at No. 3 because redshirt freshman Darriel Mack Jr. (six touchdowns in the AAC title game) has shown he can flat-out play. And UCF is looking to extend its nation-best winning streak to 26 games while making it two straight undefeated seasons that are capped by bowl wins against SEC squads. LSU isn’t going to make it easy, though, and they’re coming off one of the craziest games in the history of sports after falling in overtime, 74-72, to Texas A&M to end the regular season. The Fiesta Bowl just feels like it’s set up for an awesome 60 minutes (or more).

 

2. Cotton Bowl: No. 3 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Clemson (Dec. 29, 4:00 PM ET, ESPN)

The intrigue of College Football Semifinals gets the Cotton Bowl and the Orange Bowl into the top two spots for best bowl games this year. We believe Clemson is in the top-three trio of Alabama, them, and Georgia as best and most-talented teams in the country, and there might be a decent a chance they blow out Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish play solid all-around football, so they’ll look to hang around and win it in the end for a trip to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Freshman phenom Trevor Lawrence and the offense, along with the talented and experienced defense, will look to put them away early to advance to another title game. If Notre Dame doesn’t make it close, there’ll be a lot of talk about whether they should’ve been in the Playoff as an independent without a conference championship, and it could affect them in future years when the Committee makes decisions on the final four teams.

 

1. Orange Bowl: No. 4 Oklahoma vs. No. 1 Alabama (Dec. 29, 8:00 PM ET, ESPN)

There’s a reason the Orange Bowl is given the primetime slot on December 29. As is the case with the other Semifinal, there’s a chance this game is a blowout—if Alabama can contain Oklahoma’s offense, that’s probably what’ll happen given the likelihood of Alabama’s offense being able to move the ball with ease on OU. But the Sooners have piled up an absurd 577.9 yards and 49.5 points per game, and they can probably score on any defense. The Crimson Tide is just worried about winning the game, but they’ll also be able to rep their conference with a convincing win after their battle against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game that narrowly knocked the Bulldogs out of the top four. The Orange Bowl features the potential top-two finishers in the Heisman Trophy race, and it’s still very much up in the air as to who will win the prestigious honor; whoever wins it, the voting will be a huge storyline heading into the game—Tua Tagovailoa and Kyler Murray might not need any extra chip on their shoulders, though. And remember, A+ teammate and improved thrower Jalen Hurts is ready to go if needed.

2018 College Football Power Rankings Pre-Bowl Games

2018 College Football Power Rankings Pre-Bowl Games

Georgia put up a heck of an effort against Alabama in the SEC title game, but the Committee didn’t believe it was enough to get them into the College Football Playoff. We believe the Bulldogs are clearly a top-three team, but the top four teams in the power rankings ahead of bowl season is made up of the Playoff participants.

 

1. Alabama (13-0) | Last week: 1

It’s hard to imagine someone handling this entire quarterback situation as well as Jalen Hurts has for the past 11 months, and he admirably stepped up and helped deliver another SEC championship for Alabama. And potential Heisman winner Tua Tagovailoa should be ready to go for the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma after leaving the conference championship game with an ankle injury. The Crimson Tide probably don’t mind not having to face the Bulldogs again.

 

2. Clemson (13-0) | Last week: 2

Clearly, the team with the best chance to knock off Alabama in the CFB Playoff is Clemson. In fact, the Tigers belong in the same class as the team they’ve faced in the Playoff the last three seasons (and the national title game twice). Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne lead a balanced offensive attack, and this senior class with four straight conference titles (the first time in ACC history) is unbelievable. Alabama and Clemson facing off for a fourth straight year seem likely.

 

3. Oklahoma (12-1) | Last week: 6 (+3)

Oklahoma didn’t have a perfect regular season like Alabama and Clemson, but they were able to avenge their only loss to Texas and captured a fourth straight Big 12 title in the process. Kyler Murray and the offense should be able to put points up on any team, which is probably part of why the Committee ignored a defense that’s really struggled this season. The Sooners need the defense to step up to have a good chance of advancing to the title game.

 

4. Notre Dame (12-0) | Last week: 5 (+1)

Notre Dame is the Playoff team we think could have easily been left out of the field, but the Committee but them at No. 3. They deserve a boost for scheduling tough out-of-conference games (including an opening-game victory at Michigan), but they don’t have a conference title and they would be clear underdogs against the trio of Alabama, Clemson, and Georgia. However, the Fighting Irish will get a chance to prove they belong in the Playoff when they face Clemson in the Cotton Bowl.

 

5. Georgia (11-2) | Last week: 3 (-2)

The Committee has been extremely inconsistent with how they’ve determined whether a team should get into the Playoff or not. Clearly, we believe Georgia is a top three team that should have been included in the top four. They had two losses, but one was in Death Valley and the other was in a nail-biting conference championship against Alabama—they just happened to be in the same conference as the No. 1 team in the nation. Jake Fromm is playing as well as anyone at quarterback, and the Bulldogs will look to end a great season with a Sugar Bowl win over Texas.

 

6. Ohio State (12-1) | Last week: 4 (-2)

Considering they won a championship in arguably the second-best conference, Ohio State probably has a stronger case than the Committee seemed to believe given their No. 6 ranking. The Buckeyes would be favored over the Fighting Irish, but a perfect record ultimately trumped a Big Ten championship. This is the second consecutive season without a Big Ten team in the College Football Playoff.

 

7. UCF (12-0) | Last week: 7

It was looking shaky early in the game for UCF, but they shut down Memphis’ offense in the second half (three points allowed), and freshman quarterback Darriel Mack Jr. accounted for six touchdowns—four on the ground—in the Knights’ 56-41 American Conference Championship Game win. The program with the nation’s longest winning streak now has a chance to pick up another New Year’s Six Bowl win against an SEC team when they face LSU in the Fiesta Bowl.

 

8. Michigan (10-2) | Last week: 8

This season hasn’t gone quite the way Michigan expected, but a New Year’s Six Bowl gives them a big opportunity to cap it off nicely. They play Florida in the Peach Bowl; the Wolverines destroyed the Gators in the Citrus Bowl in 2016, and they followed it up with a big victory to open the 2017 season, so the team is likely to be confident against a talented SEC squad.

 

9. Washington (10-3) | Last week: NR

Like Michigan, Washington hasn’t had the season they expected, with Playoff aspirations coming into the year. However, the Huskies have ended the season with an Apple Cup win, a Pac-12 Championship Game win, and now they’ll go to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2000. The senior class led by Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin will look to end their careers with a win in one of the most prestigious bowls.

 

10. Florida (9-3) | Last week: 9 (-1)

Both LSU and Florida get New Year’s Six Bowls, and they both could have easily been in this No. 10 spot. While the Tigers will look to knock off LSU, the Gators will look to get some redemption against Jim Harbaugh’s squad after two losses to them the last few seasons. They’ll kickoff the NY6 games on December 29 at noon.

2018 Heisman Watch (Final Edition)

2018 Heisman Watch (Final Edition)

With one final opportunity for the top three Heisman Trophy candidates to state their case, the Heisman race is about as close as it can get heading into this Saturday’s trophy presentation. Who should take home college football’s most prestigious individual honor in one of the closest races in recent memory?

 

1. Tua Tagovailoa | Alabama QB | Sophomore | Last week: 1

Tua Tagovailoa had his worst game of the season when he had an opportunity to basically lock up the Heisman Trophy, and the subpar performance makes it a very interesting situation. Heisman voters must consider that Tagovailoa put up these numbers with not close to as much playing time as Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins, as the Crimson Tide blew almost everyone out during the season. Any of the top three is very deserving of the award.

 

Season stats:

67.7% | 3,353 YDS | 37 TD | 4 INT

48 ATT | 290 YDS | 5 TD | 4.0 AVG

 

2. Kyler Murray | Oklahoma QB | Senior | Last week: 2

As stated last week, 40+ passing touchdowns and 10+ rushing touchdowns would be quite the feat, and Kyler Murray accomplished it with a big performance in the Big 12 Championship Game against Texas. Murray already broke Oklahoma’s single-season total offense record in one less game than Baker Mayfield (last year’s Heisman winner) played last season. The future Oakland A might hoist the Heisman on Saturday night.

 

Season stats:

70.9% | 4,053 YDS | 40 TD | 7 INT

123 ATT | 892 YDS | 11 TD | 7.3 AVG

 

3. Dwayne Haskins | Ohio State QB | RS Sophomore | Last week: 3

Dwayne Haskins also has 51 total touchdowns this season, but he’s done it a little differently than Kyler Murray, throwing for 47 scores while rushing for four more while leading the Buckeyes to a Big Ten title. A red-hot late-season stretch helps give Haskins a legitimate shot to win the award, and he should be sweating it out on Saturday night, as his name could be the one that’s called after the amazing season he’s had.

 

Season stats:

70.2% | 4,580 YDS | 47 TD | 8 INT

73 ATT | 122 YDS | 4 TD | 1.7 AVG

 

4. Jonathan Taylor | Wisconsin RB | Sophomore | Last week: 4

Jonathan Taylor isn’t going to win the Heisman, but we now know he’ll be playing the Hurricanes in the Pinstripe Bowl as he looks to hit 2,000 yards rushing. He shouldn’t have much of an issue hitting the mark with just 11 yards to go. Taylor should probably get an invite to New York, but it might not happen.

 

Season stats:

280 ATT | 1,989 YDS | 15 TD | 7.1 AVG

8 REC | 60 YDS | 7.5 AVG

 

5. Gardner Minshew | Washington State QB | Senior | Last week: 5

It’s not the Rose Bowl, but Gardner Minshew will look to cap his outstanding graduate transfer season with an Alamo Bowl victory over Iowa State. Minshew also might get invited to New York, but he’s unlikely to win the Heisman despite the exceptional year.

 

Season stats:

70.6% | 4,477 YDS | 36 TD | 9 INT

52 ATT | 103 YDS | 3 TD | 2.0 AVG