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The Kickoff Reacts to Preseason Coaches Poll

635566872768966781-29906170001-3763437087001-USATSI-8008126The 2015 preseason Amway Coaches Poll came out Thursday, and it was no surprise to find the defending national champions in the top spot. Second-ranked TCU and No 3 Alabama each claimed one first-place vote apiece. Tommy Duff, editor of The Kickoff newsletter, said he disagreed with where several of the teams ended up on the poll, mostly because there are so many untested quarterbacks in the mix.

“I think No. 4 Baylor, last year’s Big 12 co-champions with TCU, may be a little overrated. I’m skeptical you’re going to have that much success right away breaking in a new quarterback to replace Bryce Petty, but on offensive line, Baylor returns all 5 starters, which should provide the QB with plenty of protection,” Duff said.  “Trevone Boykin missed the TCU spring game with a wrist injury and his backup QBs were a concern.”

The Amway Coaches Poll is conducted weekly throughout the regular season using a panel of head coaches at FBS schools. Each coach submits a Top 25 with a first-place vote worth 25 points, second place 24, and so on down to one point for 25th. The Kickoff’s own Pre-season coverage, ranking the teams based on how we expect their season to end, launches later this month – take advantage of a Buy 1, Get 1 special on individual subscriptions for a limited time so you can consult the Kickoff’s Weekly Power Ratings each week during the college football season!

So much of how these teams end up hinges on how fresh talents react to the challenge. Duff believes the teams with All Conference quarterbacks returning will see a distinct advantage over those adjusting to growing pains.

“Jacob Coker has had a year to get ready to lead Alabama’s offense after failing to get the quarterback spot last fall, but he only has a year left. Oregon (ranked No. 5) is going to play well, but they aren’t going to break away without Mariota, their Heisman winning quarterback. Florida State (No. 8) is overrated, bringing in a transfer at quarterback who has just started practicing and has to pick up the system fast. I would have ranked Auburn higher (No. 7) because their quarterback has potential and has been a starter in a big game before,” Duff said.

Eight SEC teams begin the season in the top 25; five of them (Bama, Auburn, No. 13 LSU, No. 15 Ole Miss and No. 20 Arkansas) represent the West Division. Georgia is ranked at No. 9 in the Coaches poll, Missouri is No. 23 and Tennessee is on there at No. 25.

“Tennessee fans have been through a lot, from Kiffin to Dooley,” Duff said. “The Volunteers have potential to jump a lot higher because the skill positions are in place on paper. I wonder if they have the depth to rotate so the first stringers aren’t overplayed. Until they do it, they won’t move up the rankings.”

Also earning spots in the Coaches Poll Top 25 are Michigan State (6), USC (10), Notre Dame (11), Clemson (12), UCLA (14), Arizona State (16), Georgia Tech (17), Wisconsin (18), Oklahoma (19), Stanford (21), Arizona (22), and Boise State (24).

“I think Boise State could run the table with their schedule,” Duff said. They face Washington, BYU, Virginia, Hawaii, Colorado State, Utah State, Wyoming, UNLV, New Mexico, Air Force, and San Jose State. We’ll begin to know more after their first game on Sept. 4th.

This week we learned that Ohio State has suspended All-America defensive end Joey Bosa, receiver Corey Smith and H-backs Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson for its opening game Sept. 7 at Virginia Tech. The defending national champions open the season Labor Day night in Blacksburg, Virginia, against the only team to beat them last season. “That is concerning because Bosa is projected to be the number one draft pick for the NFL next year,” Duff said. “It’s a very delicate situation for Ohio State. We’ll just have to see how explosive they are.”

The Kickoff is your secret weapon to excel in your fantasy league, office pool or when talking college football with co-workers and online friends. While we aren’t affiliated with the Vegas oddsmakers, our newsletter is a useful tool in prognosticating about games. Our Power Ratings use a statistical formula, giving readers a powerful tool for comparing football programs and anticipating the outcomes. Between August and January, we publish 17 weekly issues that are available in print and electronic versions. We put out an additional 6 monthly issues (February – July) covering recruiting, spring practice and transfers.

Learn more about our Buy 1 Get 1 Pre-Season Special at  https://thekickoffstore.com/subscriptions/individual/

College Football Season is Almost Here!

College football fans

Are you excited about college football? Are you ready to make your picks?

Can you feel it? That buzz of excitement in the air?

With August just around the corner and the new season starting in five weeks, college football players are visiting their hometowns and resting before they report on campus to start the grueling fall practices. Soon they’ll be back in classrooms, weight rooms and practice facilities getting their bodies and minds in the right place to prepare. College football will be here before we know it!

“All eyes are on Ohio State, Alabama and Oregon as they choose quarterbacks,” said Tommy Duff, Editor of The Kickoff. “This is so important because you can’t win championships without a leader.”

Fans can’t predict how the final rankings might end up without arming themselves with some knowledge. That’s where The Kickoff comes in.

The Kickoff is historically the most accurate over the long haul when you compare Top 25 picks at the start of the season and the final rankings,” said Tommy Duff, Editor of the newsletter that publishes 17 weekly issues during football season and 6 additional monthly issues the remainder of the year. The newsletter has had some skin in the game of covering college football since 1951.

Bert Caldwell of The Kickoff said fan frenzy for college football is about to go into overdrive as people look ahead to their tailgating plans and mark their “can’t miss” games on the calendar. Soon the grills will be lit, cold drinks in the cooler, and our bodies decorated in T-shirts declaring our allegiance. What a fun time of year…

“We, as fans, most of us are looking for that edge when we make our weekly picks,” Caldwell said. “You don’t want to go into the season without The Kickoff.”

Now is also a great time to prepare by taking advantage of The Kickoff’s Preseason Special: Buy 1 First Class or PDF subscription and get one free PDF subscription for a time. It’s a great way to build goodwill with a buddy who loves the game as much as you do, but it’s only around for a limited time.

This fall, some fans will participate in office pools for entertainment purposes, seeing who has the best grasp on how the season will shake out for top teams and their favorite conferences. It’s fun to compare records week-to-week, seeing which of our friends and coworkers were right on target with their choices. There’s those who casually watch, then there’s the rest of us who make our picks public on social media or among our circle of friends, forcing us to lock in our choices with no backtracking when things are looking grim in the third quarter.

“I have yet to be in a game where luck was involved.”
– Urban Meyer

“Braggin’ rights” are at stake, and who doesn’t want to be admired by others for our keen insight into the game? It sure beats getting teased on Monday for lousy picks. Maybe you go a step further, daring a friend to perform some embarrassing stunt in public if he loses. Who knew that wearing the jersey of your hated rival hurt while being taunted all day at work would sting that much? Remember when you struggle over whether to be loyal to your alma mater despite their not being favored to win that Facebook photos and tattoos are forever.

The Kickoff’s “Power Ratings” consider different factors for arriving at a numerical prognostication of how different match-ups should fare, making the newsletter a useful resource for choosing weekly picks — definitely more helpful than just trusting a “gut feeling”, trying to read the tea leaves from news stories or simply assuming that a traditional football powerhouse is going to run away with an easy win over a lesser known foe.

The Kickoff is a great resource for previewing the games ahead and getting bite-sized bits of data on the games just played. Right at a glance, you can get scores, compare team records, see the highlighted superlatives, and quickly determine who’s hot and who is cold with the “Kickoff Thermostat” – just what you need when Friday rolls around and you’re reminded to turn in your picks for the week. Many of these features are illustrated on the website at https://thekickoffstore.com/the-newsletter/ .

On September 3rd, it will all begin anew, with every team in America having an equal shot at the national championship until the first kickoff return starts to separate the real contenders from the rest of the pack. Where will you be when the winners and the losers are sorted out?

To take advantage of The Kickoff’s Preseason Special offer, visit https://thekickoffstore.com/subscriptions/individual/

Saban VS Meyer: A Rivalry Reignited

Saban vs Meyer has become one of college football’s most fascinating rivalries. In 2009, Nick Saban appeared to have the permanent upper hand as Alabama stopped top ranked Florida and Tim Tebow from gaining a third national title in three years. The next day, Urban Meyer was hospitalized and within a few weeks, he retired and left the SEC. With Alabama winning three championships in four years and Meyer going to the Big Ten Conference, it seemed as if the intensity of the rivalry had faded.

But that spark reignited during last year’s Sugar Bowl, in which Meyer’s fourth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes defeated the top-ranked Crimson Tide by a score of 42-35 to advance to the first College Football Playoff Championship Game (which it ultimately won 42-20 over Oregon).

“Alabama did not look like the more talented team,” recalled Tommy Duff, Editor of The Kickoff newsletter, which covers the world of college football. “With that game, Meyer bridged the perceived talent gap with Alabama and the SEC. Since Meyer came to Ohio State, the Buckeyes appear to be on an even footing, which is not to say that the league is as good as the SEC, but Ohio State is as strong of a program as any in the country. After embarrassing losses to LSU and Florida in the past, people previously said things like, ‘OSU may be 12-0 in the Big Ten, but they’d be 8-4 if they were playing in the Southeastern Conference.’ That perception has changed with Meyer. Ohio State ended 2014 by winning the championship with their third string quarterback.”

Saban pointed to poor team chemistry and the timing of NFL Draft grades as an excuse for the Sugar Bowl loss, saying he believes some of his players were more focused on avoiding injury than advancing to the national championship game.

Even Paul Finebaum, speaking at this week’s SEC Media Days, said that the Southeastern Conference may be overrated.

“Paul Finebaum bases his observations on whether a team is going to win another national championship,” Duff said. “In the SEC, there could be 11 teams, top to bottom, who go to a bowl game this year. Just because the best team in the conference lost a playoff game last year does not mean a death spiral.”
Duff said the SEC may actually be stronger this year because of the likely reemergence of the Tennessee Volunteers under 3rd year Head Coach Butch Jones and traditional powerhouses expected to be competitive.

“We don’t know what the direction of Florida will be under first year Coach Jim McElwain, but expectations are high in Knoxville for the first time in years. Keith Marshall at Georgia was even more highly touted than Todd Gurley coming out of high school. All of the spotlight at LSU continues to shine on sophomore RB Leonard Fournette, but success for the Tigers will undoubtedly rest on improvement made in the quarterback position,” Duff said.

The state of Alabama continues to make a strong showing in the playoff hunt. The Kickoff has Auburn ranked pre-season at #3 and Alabama at #5. The difference between those in-state rivals? Certainty at the quarterback position.

“Auburn is expected to make a very strong showing this year with Jeremy Johnson as the starting quarterback, plus Will Muschamp joining as defensive coordinator. Alabama has the same problem they had last year: they haven’t announced a starting QB,” Duff said.

“It’s not who Saban ultimately picks, it’s the fact that there’s no standout leader. Jacob Coker was supposed to be the handpicked successor to AJ McCarron, but he couldn’t beat out Blake Sims, who is now gone. Redshirt freshman David Cornwell was highly recruited, but he’s not elite and has never taken a snap in a college football game. In contrast, Johnson at Auburn, we’ve seen him start an SEC game, and he’s better than the quarterback they had last year who took them to the BCS National Championship Game in 2014. Johnson has long been considered to be a star in the making: a pocket passer with a cannon, solid accuracy, and the ability to scramble when the play breaks down. It was telling when former AU great and current co-OC Dameyune Craig stated that he expects Johnson to break most of his passing marks in 2015.”

The question marks are not to suggest that Alabama will experience a bad season – just, perhaps, not the all-out domination we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in recent years.

“I expect Alabama will win 10 or 11 games minimum and finish the season as a Top 10 team,” Duff said.

The Crimson Tide, well aware of the changed perception, will certainly use the talk as motivation to earn respect. Will we see a rematch between Nick Saban and Urban Meyer at the end of the season? Time will certainly tell. OSU starts their season Sept. 7th against Virginia Tech at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg (8 pm on ESPN) while the Crimson Tide face the Wisconsin Badgers Sept. 5th at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas (8 pm on ABC).

With all three signal callers returning, Meyer has a tough decision to make. Neither Barrett nor Braxton Miller participated in the spring game, leaving Cardale Jones the chance to make the most of the opportunity. Jones was inconsistent during the spring game, leaving the door open for either Barrett or Miller to reclaim their starting QB slot this fall.

Beyond individual games to be played, Saban and Meyer are locked in a battle of records. Both coaches have won a national championship at two different schools. Meyer’s overall head coaching record in college football stands at 141-26, Saban’s at 177-59-1, but for now, Saban edges Meyer with four national titles to three. Urban Meyer’s goal headed into this fall will be to even things up a bit. With Meyer being 13 years younger than Saban, there’s a good chance he may eventually catch up and surpass the Alabama coach.

For fans of college football, it sure will be fun to watch him try.

The Kickoff publishes 23 issues a year (17 weekly issues during the season and an additional six monthly issues during the off season). For a limited time, get a 17 week email Subscription for just $20, at https://thekickoffstore.com/subscriptions/

 

2015 Heisman Odds: The Favorites to Win

The Heisman Trophy.

The Heisman Trophy.

It’s impossible this early to predict who will win the 79th Heisman Trophy for his work in the 2015 college football season, but The Kickoff has a few thoughts on the leading candidates to have their name called in Times Square this December.

Tommy Duff, Editor of The Kickoff, said the uncertainty of who will be the starting quarterback for defending national champion Ohio State against Virginia Tech on Sept. 7th alone makes it tough to prognosticate. The starting quarterback chosen by Urban Meyer will almost certainly begin the season as a Top 5 contender for the Heisman, which typically goes to a running back or quarterback.

J.T. Barrett was the Big Ten POY last year, but as of now, he is not the favorite to land the starting job,” Duff said. “He still has three years of eligibility left and may have to wait his turn. Bovada gives him odds of 25/1 to win the Heisman.”

Senior Braxton Miller told The Columbus Dispatch this week that he plans to return this season as a fifth-year senior, suggesting he’s best positioned for success and the Heisman as “the best athlete in college football.” Unless something changes, however, chances are we won’t see much of Miller in his final year of eligibility. As of July 7, Bovada has his odds at 10/1 to win the Heisman.

As for Ohio State Junior Cardale Jones, how much can one predict when you have only started three games? According to odds makers, a whole lot when you look at the opposition in those three games (Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon). Bovada gives him odds of 20/1 to win the Heisman.

Some other favorites in the mix at this stage in the preseason (given odds of 25/1 or better by Bovada) include:

  • Trevone Boykin (QB, TCU… 6/1) “Arguably one of the frontrunners for the 2015 trophy, but it will be difficult to meet the expectations he set in 2014.”
  • Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia… 10/1) “One wonders what Chubb can do with a full season as the starter. He was brilliant in his freshman year.”
  • Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State… 7/1) “With 3 potential candidates fighting for the starting QB position, Elliott is the one Buckeye on this list who is firmly entrenched as the starter.”
  • Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU… 14/1) “Can you say hype? Fournette has gotten it since the moment he stepped on campus last year. Though he started slowly, he gradually grew to meet the insane expectations.”
  • Derrick Henry (RB, Alabama… 16/1) “Henry will no longer have to share carries, and barring injury, his numbers will explode in Lane Kiffin’s offense this season.”
  • Jeremy Johnson (QB, Auburn… 10/1) “Another case of a QB receiving attention who has a limited resume. The fact is that Johnson was outstanding during the time he did play, and will get even better on a stacked Auburn team.”
  • Cody Kessler (QB, USC… 12/1) “Kessler turned the corner in 2014, putting together AA type numbers. Second year in Sarkisian’s system should pay off in Kessler’s last season.”
  • Samaje Perine (RB, Oklahoma… 20/1) “Set the NCAA single game rushing record last season as a freshman with 427 yards. Somewhat underrated because of the number of stud underclassmen at position.”
  • Paul Perkins (RB, UCLA… 20/1) “Underrated RB had been overshadowed by Brett Hundley, but this year he will be the main attraction in the UCLA backfield.”
  • Dak Prescott (QB, Miss State… 12/1) “For much of 2014, Prescott was the assumed leader in the Heisman race. We think it will be difficult to repeat those numbers with the loss of talent around him.”
  • Deshaun Watson (QB, Clemson… 16/1) “The hype is justified when it came to Watson in 2014. His impact was felt from the moment he stepped onto the field; a game-changer who will improve in 2015.”
  • Connor Cook (QB, MI State… 25/1) “Cook has been a steadying hand at Michigan State. If the Spartans continue their winning ways Cook could be in contention late in the season.”
  • Everett Golson (QB, Florida State… 25-1) “One wonders what to expect from Golson as he transferred for his final year. 5th year transfers rarely pick up their new system and mesh with teammates without growing pains.”

The July issue of The Kickoff included our watchlist of every potential Heisman candidate, along with Tommy’s commentary on each of the players. This is exactly the type of content we put together in the newsletter to inform our readers as you size up your favorite teams and players throughout the season.

We produce 23 issues a year (17 weekly issues during the season and an additional six monthly issues during the off season). For a limited time, get a 17 week email Subscription for just $20, at https://thekickoffstore.com/subscriptions/

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