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Tag Archives: Ohio State

National Signing Day, SEC Showdown in the Super Bowl

hatsontableIt’s the off-season, but it sure has been a busy week for college football fans as we followed National Signing Day on Wednesday and got excited to watch two first-round draft picks battle it out in Sunday’s Super Bowl 50.

National Signing Day

We watched the annual ritual of coaches waiting nervously by fax machines for Letters of Intent after weeks of visiting players and trying to convince them to choose their schools. Those players held press conferences at their high schools, surrounded by their families, prep coaches and the standard baseball caps for the teams in contention (to add an element of suspense) on display. Fans checked the web throughout the day, fingers crossed and hoping their alma mater would snag top talents.

We watched as some of these young men flipped on their earlier commitments at the last minute, a practice that has become so common that it surprises no one anymore. And, as expected, the traditional powerhouses reloaded with 4-star and 5-star prospects. Put simply, top teams win the national championship of recruiting by finishing the day with the greatest number of most highly-ranked players.

Scout 300’s top uncommitted prospect was 5-Star Defensive Tackle Rashan Gary of Paramus Catholic High School in New Jersey, who was pursued by Clemson, Michigan, Auburn, Ole Miss and USC; he chose the Wolverines.

Finishing the day most satisfied were fans of Alabama, Ohio State, FSU, LSU, Ole Miss, Michigan, UCLA, Texas, Georgia, and Florida. Whether these talents actually live up to the hype remains to be seen.

Many of these young men commit to college teams with a larger dream in mind: Making a big enough splash in collegiate athletics to become drafted to play for the National Football League. In the six issues of The Kickoff that we’ll publish between now and July, we’ll look at these players and the NFL Draft. Subscribe now and you can get an extra email/PDF subscription for a friend at half-price. 

Manziel Out in Cleveland

Just as some high school players won’t make it in college, many will fail to become NFL greats. This week the Cleveland Browns dismissed 2nd year quarterback Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman winner who has faced legal issues and inconsistent play since leaving Texas A&M. It remains to be seen whether another team will take a chance on him.

Manning and Newton Ready to Clash in Super Bowl 50

Elsewhere in the league, this weekend’s Super Bowl 50 marks the first time two quarterbacks taken No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft are going head-to-head. The Broncos’ Payton Manning was taken No. 1 in 1998 out of Tennessee, while Carolina Quarterback Cam Newton was taken No. 1 in 2011 out of Auburn. There is a 13-year age difference between the players, the largest in Super Bowl history, with Manning age 39 and Newton just 26.

If the Panthers win and Quarterback Cam Newton is voted the game’s MVP, he’ll become only the fifth player in history to win the Heisman Trophy and Super Bowl MVP. The only four to do it: The Cowboys’ Roger Staubach in Super Bowl VI, the Raiders’ Jim Plunkett (XV); the Raiders’ Marcus Allen (XVIII) and the Packers’ Desmond Howard (XXXI).

Newton has a chance to match Raiders RB back Marcus Allen as the only player to win the Heisman Trophy (1981), a national title in college (Southern California 1978,1979), the NFL Most Valuable Player Award (1985), a Super Bowl (1984) and the Super Bowl MVP (XVIII in ‘84). Newton won the Heisman in 2010 when he led Auburn to the college football championship and is the prohibitive favorite to win this season’s MVP.

Newton has insisted that race is of no importance to the game, but it is worth noting that if the Panthers win, he would become only the second African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl and be named the game’s MVP. Carolina coach Ron Rivera would become only the second Hispanic coach to win the Super Bowl.

Manning, who led the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl championship in 2006, will be making his fourth Super Bowl appearance. He has the advantage of experience and will be the sentimental favorite to win since he’s hinted this may be his final game.

At Tennessee, he was SEC Freshman of the Year in 1994, 1997 SEC Player of the Year, Best College Football Player in the 1998 ESPY Awards, and recipient of the Davey O’Brien Award, Johnny Unitas Award, 1997 Maxwell Award, 1997 James E. Sullivan Award, and 1997 NCAA Quarterback of the Year Award. With the Vols, he led the offense to 11,020 yards.

Manning was a runner-up for the Heisman in 1997, losing to Michigan cornerback and free safety Charles Woodson, who is still the only primarily defensive player to have won the prestigious award (Woodson played for the Raiders and the Packers, picking off Manning twice and retiring himself last December).

While at Auburn, Newton won the Heisman, Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, Davey O’Brien Award, was AP College Football Player of the Year for 2010, and the Manning Award (named for Peyton’s and Eli’s father Archie — former Old Miss QB, and QB for the Saints, Oilers and Vikings).

In his rookie year, Newton broke numerous rookie and all-time NFL records for passing and rushing yards. He became the first rookie quarterback to throw for 400 yards in his first game, shattering Manning’s first-game record by 120 yards. It will be interesting to see how these two football greats match up with such high stakes.

In Sunday’s Super Bowl, Carolina is favored by 6 points. Super Bowl 50 will kick off at 6:30 ET on CBS.

Week 4 Top 25 Reflects Teams on the Move

2016 college football

olemissAs we enter week 4 of the college football season, we’re seeing major disruption in The Kickoff Top 25.

After being upset last week by Ole Miss, who we had ranked at No. 15, Alabama slipped from No. 3 on the Kickoff Top 25 all the way to No. 12 (The AP poll now has Ole Miss ranked third behind Ohio State and Michigan State, while the Crimson Tide is also ranked No. 12 there).

Last week’s No. 13 team, Auburn, dropped out of our Top 25 altogether after losing so badly to LSU, 46-21, that Coach Gus Malzahn benched his quarterback (a pre-season Heisman candidate) this week in favor of a freshman who has never played a game at the college level but will have to rise to the challenge as the team that LSU beat by 2 points in week 2, Mississippi State, comes calling. Auburn dropped out of the AP Top 25 completely but hung on to No. 25 in the Coaches’ Poll. A mighty fall for a team that many predicted in the pre-season would earn a spot in the playoffs.

The win in Baton Rouge shot LSU from No. 11 to No. 4. AP has the Tigers ranked at No. 8. They play Syracuse on Saturday. RB Leonard Fournette was one of our superlatives this week, as he had 19 carries for 228 yards and 3 touchdowns versus Auburn, fueling LSU as the hottest team in the SEC.

While Auburn and Alabama fans are in shock, at least they did not fall as hard as USC, which has vanished from the Top 25 after losing 41-31 to then-unranked Stanford (USC was our No. 6 last week; Stanford is No. 21 on AP’s poll, No. 25 on ours). Other shocking upsets last week: UCF lost to Furman, Arkansas fell to Texas Tech, Iowa State lost to Toledo, and Colorado bested Colorado State.

Power ratings aside, Georgia has replaced Alabama and Auburn as the SEC teams most likely to be Top 4 Seeds from the Playoff committee, along with Ohio State, TCU and Notre Dame. Our pick of the first 4 out? Probably UCLA, Michigan State, FSU and LSU.

In terms of conferences, the Big 12 leads with the highest percentage of wins, followed by the Pac-12. The SEC comes in third, then the ACC, Big 10, American, Independent, MAC, C-USA, Sun Belt, and MWC.

TCU and Ohio State swapped places on our Top 25 this week as the Horned Frogs edge the Buckeyes on our Power Ratings. Georgia Tech fell from No. 9 to No. 19 in our Top 25, while Oregon, Oklahoma, FSU, Arizona, Utah, and Wisconsin are all on the upswing.

Our No. 14 team, Oregon, plays our No. 18 team, Utah, is one of our Kickoff Games of the Week. Oregon leads the series 20-8, including last year’s 51-27 rout. We’re picking them to repeat again on Saturday. Our other game of the week features two teams that have struggled in recent years but are rebuilding, Tennessee at Florida. We’re picking the 3-0 Gators to win in what might be a close one. They lead the series 25-19 over the Vols and narrowly edge them in our Power Ratings, so it should be a pretty good game with both teams about even.

In our most recent edition of The Kickoff, published Sept. 21st, we have news and notes, a listing of the 78 most highly paid coaches in college football, complete FBS and select FCS schedules and results thus far in the season, our Kickoff Top 25, information on those games of the week, our Kickoff Playoff Seeds, information about the “targeting” rule (which we’ve seen applied in some games this year), and, of course, our Kickoff Power Ratings with the teams playing this week, along with our picks to win, comparative ratings, and last year’s score so you have the data you need at a glance to make your selections in your office pool.

To subscribe, visit . You’ll get all of our issues so far in the season and a new newsletter each Monday (email/PDF subscribers only, during the week for first-class mail subscribers to our printed edition). For a limited time, when you subscribe to our email/PDF version for just $20, you can sign up a friend to receive The Kickoff in his or her email inbox for FREE. What a great buddy that would make you!

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Also, test your knowledge of college football by participating in our Thursday Throwdown questions. We’ll see whether we can stump you (no cheating).

Talk to us this weekend while we watch the games. Which upsets are you expecting? How is your team doing so far this year? Sound off! Use the hashtag #thekickoff on Facebook and Twitter so we can follow your conversations.

Enjoy this weekend’s games. We’ll be watching alongside you.

Written by Steven Stiefel

Week 3 Preview: An Infamous Rivalry Revived and an SEC Showdown

alabama-vs-ole-miss-its-black-bear-season-L-kGkseMIt’s already Week 3 of the College Football season with some great games ahead this weekend. The Kickoff Games of the Week are Georgia Tech at Notre Dame and Ole Miss at Alabama.

The Yellow Jackets enter the game ranked at No. 9 on the Kickoff Top 25 this week, jumping two spots from last week. The Fighting Irish, right behind them on our rankings, lead the series 27-6-1, including a 15-3 record when hosting. The teams are meeting as part of a deal with the Notre Dame and the Atlantic Coast Conference. This has been a heated rivalry over the years with Tech fans pelting visiting fans with fish during the sixties and seventies, as portrayed in the movie Rudy. Their last meeting was in 2007. It will be fun watching them battle it out again.

After beating Wisconsin and MTSU, the Crimson Tide (ranked No. 3) continues to look strong as they enter Conference play against the Rebels, who won their last two games 76-3 and 73-21 versus Tennessee Martin and Fresno State, earning a No. 15 rating on our Top 25. Without about 3.2 points difference on our Power Ratings, we expect Alabama to win this one. The Tide has history on their side, leading the series 24-1 when hosting Ole Miss and 48-8-2 overall since 1907. Ole Miss QB Chad Kelley was one of our superlatives for his performance last week as he went 19-24 for 360 yards and four touchdowns.

Bama’s bitter rival, Auburn, tumbled 10 spots in our Top 25 after struggling to beat FCS opponent Jacksonville State in overtime at home last weekend. We were as guilty as anyone for buying into the pre-season hype about the Tigers and Quarterback Jeremy Johnson as Playoff and Heisman contenders. Saturday’s game in Baton Rouge was supposed to be one of the better games all year, but we expect LSU (now ahead of Auburn on our Top 25 at No. 11) to have vengeance on their minds after seeing Auburn’s struggles so far and remembering the 41-7 loss last year in Jordan-Hare. Whether it’s a close game depends on if Auburn took last week’s humiliating near-loss as a wakeup call. Will Muschamp will have to figure out how to stop Leonard Fournette, who had 28 carries last week for 159 yards and three touchdowns.

No. 1 Ohio State should have no problem putting away Northern Illinois. Same with our No. 2, TCU, as they host SMU. Michigan State jumped 3 spots in our Top 25 to No. 4 after upsetting Oregon, which fell from No. 6 to No. 16 (the Spartans play Air Force while the Ducks will take out their frustration on Georgia State). Baylor remains at No. 5, followed by USC, Georgia, and Clemson (who play Rice, Stanford, South Carolina, and Louisville respectively). Louisville, by the way, is 0-2 for the first time since 1998 after being upset by Houston 34-31 last week.

Tennessee dropped out of the Kickoff Top 25 while Oklahoma jumped from No. 21 to No. 17; the Sooners showed a lot of determination last week in a hostile environment, beating the Vols 31-24. Last week’s No. 16, Boise State, also leaves the Top 25 after losing to No. 18 BYU 35-24. The same can be said for last week’s No. 22 Arkansas, now 1-1; the Razorbacks were expected to be much better than Toledo. Texas A&M joins the Top 25 at No. 21 after defeating Ball State 56-23 while Arizona State enters at No. 25 after beating Cal Poly 35-21.

In this week’s issue, we shared the Conference Breakdown through week three, ranking on home attendance last season, the largest attendance increases from 2013-14, the Football Bowl Subdivision Standings, the Football Championship Series standings, our Kickoff Playoff Seeds (including the first four projected out), our Power Ratings for this week’s games, and the schedules and results for every FBS team (and select Division I FCS schools).

When you subscribe to The Kickoff newsletter, you get all of this information delivered to your email inbox on Monday mornings or a printed version delivered to a physical inbox during the week.  To learn more about what you get, visit and to subscribe, visit

For a limited time, we’ve extended our special so that when you buy one First Class or PDF subscription to The Kickoff, you can get one FREE PDF subscription to give a friend. If you are a business owner looking for a great way to keep yourself in front of your customers, check out our business subscriptions at

Also, test your knowledge of college football by participating in our Thursday Throwdown questions. We’ll see whether we can stump you (using Google to look up the answer is like under-inflating a ball to win a playoff game, but we don’t have access to your search history – thank goodness for that!)

Talk to us this weekend while we watch the games. Which upsets are you expecting? How is your team doing so far this year? Sound off! Use the hashtag #thekickoff on Facebook and Twitter so we can follow your conversations.

Written by Steven Stiefel

Week 2 Preview: Oregon/Mich State, Oklahoma/Tennessee

checkboardOur Kickoff Games of the Week are Oregon at Michigan State and Oklahoma at Tennessee. These two evening games should be fun to watch.

Oregon (ranked No. 6 on our Kickoff Top 25, No. 7 by AP) and Michigan State (our No. 7, AP’s No. 5) have played five times since 1979, both winning games they respectively hosted. The Ducks lead the series, 3-2, and are favored over the Spartans by a very slim margin, making this one a tough one to call. Oregon won last year, 46-27, en route to the playoff game. They play in East Lansing at 8 pm Eastern with the game on ABC.

Saturday marks just the third time No. 23 Oklahoma (19 on the AP ranking) and No. 21 Tennessee (23 for AP) have played each other since 1938, the Sooners winning two of those, including last year’s 34-10 game in Norman. The teams have played each other twice in the Orange Bowl. The Volunteers have earned a higher power rating based on what we saw last week. Kickoff is at 6 pm at Neyland Stadium, televised on ESPN.

In Monday’s edition of The Kickoff in our Top 25, TCU traded places with Ohio State. This was based on the scheduling of the Ohio State opener after our last issue went to press earlier that day. The Buckeyes defeated Virginia Tech 42-24 in that opener and remain at the top of the AP poll. It’s worth noting that Bovada has named Cardale Jones as a 7/1 favorite to win the Heisman after he won the starting QB job while giving Boykin 9/1 odds. The Horned Frogs should have no problem putting away Stephen F Austin on Saturday. The Buckeyes are also favored over Hawaii.

Alabama and Auburn switched spots as No. 3 and No. 4 on our Top 25 after Jake Coker showing he could lead the Crimson Tide while the much-hyped Jeremy Johnson stumbled with three interceptions. Bama meets up with MTSU as Auburn plays Jacksonville State. The AP moved Alabama to No. 2 behind Ohio State while Auburn was unchanged at No. 6 after beating Louisville 31-24 last week.

In the rest of our Top 10, Baylor, USC, Georgia, Clemson are unchanged in ranking from week one in spots 5, 8, 9, and 10 respectively. Baylor plays Lamar, USC plays Idaho, Georgia is favored to win over Vanderbilt, and Clemson shouldn’t have any problems with Appalachian State.

In the rest of our Top 25, FSU, UCLA and Notre Dame moved ahead while LSU fell a spot (not playing last week due to the rainout) . Boise State and Oklahoma State moved ahead of Wisconsin (after the 35-17 loss to Bama last weekend). Ole Miss jumped from 22 to 18. Arizona and Tennessee moved up 1 spot each. Oklahoma jumped 2 spots from 23 to 21. Arkansas also impressed us, moving from 24 to 22. Utah entered our Top 25 while Missouri was unchanged at No. 25. Gone from the Top 25 is Arizona State (which debuted at No. 12), after losing last week to Texas A&M, 38-17.

On our Kickoff Thermostat this week, we had Notre Dame, UCLA and Boise State trending up. Penn State’s 27-10 loss to Temple was the most shocking of the first week upsets.

Which games are you most fired up to watch? Which teams do you expect (or hope) to see an upset this week? Let us know.

Who Will Win the Quarterback Races?

quarterback-2With less than two weeks before the start of the regular season, it is crunch time for teams to choose their starting quarterbacks.

Will it be JT Barrett or Cardale Jones at Ohio State? Jake Coker or David Cornwell at Alabama? Everett Golson or Sean Maguire at Florida State? We’ll soon know.

Braxton Miller simplified things a little bit by moving to receiver for the Buckeyes, but we still don’t know for sure who will take the first snap against Virginia Tech. Urban Meyer promised no announcement will come before Sept. 7, but he’s in a good position with two proven winners in the running locked in a fierce competition for the starting job. It’s possible that Barrett may start under center with Jones running the option. That’s a scenario sure to cause headaches for defensive coordinators.

“Coach Meyer has a tough decision to make,” said Tommy Duff, Editor of The Kickoff newsletter, which covers college football with 17 issues weekly during the season. “Neither Barrett nor 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 Barrett to reclaim his starting QB slot this fall.”

We questioned whether the quarterback questions at Alabama are reasons to feel the Crimson Tide is overrated in preseason polls. After all, Jake Coker was supposed to set the world on fire last year and ended up as a backup QB. You’d think he would be the sure pick with another year under his belt to learn the system, now there’s word Coker’s dealing with a foot injury and has missed practices. That heightens speculation about redshirt freshman David Cornwell becoming the starter if Coker isn’t healthy. Of course, with so much talent, Nick Saban also has true freshman Blake Barnett or Alec Morris or Cooper Bateman to throw in the mix. The Tide starts the season Sept. 5th at AT&T Stadium.

“Coker failed to really separate himself from the pack, due to inconsistent play throughout spring practice. The spring game official rosters had Coker listed first team and Cornwell 2nd. That being said, it was Coker who had the best spring game showing, though Saban refrained from naming him the starter at that point,” Duff said.

Jimbo Fisher faces the daunting task of replacing Jameis Winston. Golson, the former Notre Dame quarterback, seems more likely to fill Winston’s shoes – if he’s had time to learn the FSU offense. The Seminoles open at home against the Texas State Bobcats on Sept. 5th.

“The conventional wisdom is that Maguire has done enough to separate himself from his
competition to replace Jameis Winston, but coach Fisher noted his inconsistent play during the spring game,” Duff said.

Things have gotten interesting in Oregon after dual-threat player Vernon Adams passed summer school. Jeff Lockie was Marcus Mariota’s backup, so he may be better positioned to get the job. The Ducks play Michigan State on Sept. 12th.

“Oregon has one of the more intriguing QB stories of the offseason,” Duff said. “Adams transferred from Eastern Washington and was initially overlooked by FBS schools because of his size (5’11” 170 lbs.), but had led the FCS program to victory over Oregon State and put up 475 yards of total offense in a close loss to Washington during the last two seasons.”

At Oklahoma, two-year starter Trevor Knight may lose the job because of past turnovers to Baker Mayfield if the Texas Tech transfer hasn’t been affected by “shoulder fatigue” reported in the offseason. Also in the mix is Cody Thomas. The Sooners play Akron on Sept. 5th.

“Knight entered the 2014 season expected to have a breakout season after leading the team to a victory in over Alabama in their bowl game. It was much different this spring (after an injury shortened and disappointing season) as Knight found himself in a 4 way competition to hold onto his job. Some around the program had expected Mayfield to take over the spot, but he threw costly picks in the spring game. None of the four QBs were able to make any real separation in spring,” Duff said.

We’ll know the answers to these questions in just a few days!

buy-1-get-1The 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.

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Written by Steven Stiefel

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