NFL Combine

NFL Combine

Analysts, scouts and GMs have different philosophies on how much stock to put in the NFL Combine. Some think the combine can accurately predict the future success of a player others put their faith only in what they see in game film. In any case it is a wonderful opportunity for future NFL players to put some numbers on the amazing athleticism they show on the field. These are Thuuz’s top impact performers of the 2015 NFL combine.

 

Jameis Winston:

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While Famous Jameis is almost a shoo-in for the first overall selection in the NFL Draft, however, his lackluster NFL Combine performance led to many wanting more. Winston, the Florida State Heisman winner, has won a national championship with his mobility and athleticism, yet that didn’t show up on Saturday. Winston ran a disappointing 4.97 second 40 yard dash, and put up only a 28.5’’ vertical leap. While Winston still is a fantastic quarterback, the Buccaneers are probably not pleased with his being out of shape.

 

Marcus Mariota:

Mariota

Mariota is a stud, it’s as simple as that. The fantastic pocket passer has proven his worth as a dual threat, as he has been able to display his athleticism at the Combine. The Oregon Heisman-winner ran a blazing 4.52 second 40 yard dash, and has an astonishing 36 inch vertical. Mariota’s athleticism and presence has improved his stock, and could possibly allow him to be taken number one overall.

Kevin White:

Kevin White

Most people didn’t know who the wide receiver from West Virginia even was before the Combine. Yet Kevin White has now proven that he should be taken seriously, and could even get drafted in the top five. White is the perfect wide receiver for the NFL—he has great speed, height and physicality. White ran a 4.35 second 40 yard dash, and had a 36.5 inch vertical. With his 6’3” frame, White could be unstoppable at the NFL.

 

Amari Cooper:

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If Amari Cooper can play wide receiver in the NFL like he did at Alabama, then he could be a future hall of famer. Cooper is the ideal athlete in the NFL. Size, speed, strength, awareness, Cooper has it all. This highly-touted prospect backed up his worth at the Combine, with a nice 4.42 second 40 yard dash and a 33” vertical. The 6’1” Cooper should be a top five pick, and if he isn’t, some lucky GM will be pinching themselves when they see that they get to draft him.

 

Chris Conley:

Chris Conley

This year, Nick Chubb and Todd Gurley led a devastating running attack for the Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia’s success, however, also is in large part due to Chris Conley, their monstrous wide receiver. The 6’2” Conley has the ability to burn past his defenders and then rise up and snag down hail mary dimes from quarterbacks. Conley is not the biggest receiver, but he showed he can make up for his lack of size with his 45” vertical (the highest in the 2015 Combine). Additionally, scouts are still in awe over Conley’s 4.35 second 40 yard dash, and are now raising Conley on their draft boards.

 

Phillip Dorsett:

 

While the hot item this offseason has been giant wide receivers, every team has a use for a small, speedy slot receiver. Phillip Dorsett, the wide receiver out of Miami, fits this profile perfectly. Dorsett’s explosive 4.33 second 40 yard dash has made many GMs eager for a chance to grab this guy. Even though he is 5’10”, Dorsett’s 37” vertical makes him able to be a major asset in the deep ball game as well. NFL teams are alway looking for reliable players like Dorsett.

 

Danny Shelton:

 

Anyone who watched Danny Shelton play at University of Washington knew exactly what what to expect at the combine. The massive 6’2”, 339 lb nose tackle has used brute force and surprising agility to eviscerate offenses throughout his college career. Shelton’s strength was evident with a fantastic 34 reps at the bench press. Even though Shelton is big, his 5.64 second 40 yard dash showed that he is still in shape for his size. Shelton should be nabbed fairly early in the draft especially after such a strong showing at the Combine.

 

Vic Beasley:

 

Vic Beasley has all the makings of a great NFL player. The 6’3” Clemson Linebacker has a dazzling mix of size and speed, and can use his strength to stop and offensive player in their tracks. Beasley had one of the most impressive 40 yard dash times for defensive players, with 4.53 seconds. Beasley also added a strong 41 inch vertical and 35 reps at the bench press. This multi-tool player has GM’s chomping at the bit for the chance to draft him.

 

Trae Waynes:

 

As there is an influx of great wide receivers this draft, NFL teams need great cornerbacks to buff up their defenses. This means that Michigan State’s Trae Waynes is going to be a hot commodity at the NFL Draft. Waynes led cornerbacks with a 4.31 second 40 yard dash, and added a solid 38” vertical. Waynes can keep up with any deep threat, and is strong and big enough to break up passes. This is a prime example of a player’s Combine performance helping them greatly in the eyes of NFL GMs.

NBA Trade Deadline: Winners & Losers

Winners:

Goran Dragic and the Heat

It’s safe to say that Dragic and the Miami Heat were the blue-ribbon winners at the trade deadline. Dragic wanted out of Phoenix, and realizing that they would need to pay their third point guard this summer, the Suns front office obliged. The Heat acquire the point guard they desperately needed to go along with Dwayne Wade, Hassan Whiteside, and Chris Bosh (who is hopefully OK). Dragic’s stats have dropped this year but that is attributed more to splitting time with Isiah Thomas and Eric Bledsoe as opposed to a drop in performance. Expect big things from the Slovenian slasher over the final thirty games of the season. He could be what the Heat need to rise up to fifth or sixth in the Eastern Conference standings.

 

Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder obtained some much needed front court depth. They acquired Enes Kanter along with D.J. Augustin, Kyle Singler, and Steve Novak at the net cost of Reggie Jackson, Kendrick Perkins and a future first round pick (Grant Jerrett too, but I’ve never heard of him). Kanter provides some offensive firepower in the front court, an area where Nick Collison, Steven Adams, and Mitch McGary have struggled. I also like the acquisition of D.J. Augustin, who is a good fit to backup Russell Westbrook. With all of their new pieces and the Suns shooting themselves in the foot, the Thunder look poised to make some noise in the playoffs.

 

Portland Trail Blazers

Portland got the second-unit scorer they needed in Arron Affalo at the cost of NBA scraps and a  2016 protected first round pick. Affalo will boost a bench that has little to no scoring potential, and take some pressure off Nicolas Batum, who has been absolutely dreadful this season. This is a sneaky good move for a team that is very well put together. Though they don’t get much attention, but come playoff time we could very well be seeing Portland in the conference finals.

 

Losers:

Phoenix Suns

Ryan McDonough blew it up. I have no problem with GMs blowing their teams up. But blowing your team up while tied for the last spot in the playoffs is very questionable. Yes, Thomas and Dragic both wanted out of town and could have been cancerous in the locker room. But the Suns are mortgaging their present for their future, which isn’t a great move in the heat of a playoff race. They got three first round picks, but won’t see any until 2016 at the earliest. That leaves nearly a season and a half for coach Jeff Hornacek to figure out how this team is going to mesh, which will be a tall task. Phoenix took themselves out of the playoff hunt on deadline day this year.

 

Philadelphia 76ers

From an economical perspective the Sixers pre-deadline moves have their merits. Michael Carter-Williams was probably going to get overpaid in the next couple of years and K.J. McDaniels was due to leave this year anyway. But at some point you’ve got to keep some of the players that are going to win you games . What gets lost in valuing all these players as assets and not people is that with every move it becomes harder and harder to build team chemistry. Continuity is important for the development of young players, and Sam Hinkie seems to care nothing for it. Developing young players like Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel becomes more difficult when every player is on the chopping block. It will be interesting to see when Sam Hinkie finally decides which Sixers aren’t expendable, and starts to try and actually build a team.

 

Brandon Knight

Poor guy. Knight was having a career year on a Bucks team that was the feel-good story in the East. He’s now second banana on a Phoenix team that likely will miss the playoffs. At least the weather is better in Arizona.

2014/2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Preview

The 2014 NCAA men’s basketball season is already underway, and it is full of exciting storylines. Here is a comprehensive overview of the top conferences this season, and a prediction for the March Madness tournament.

ACC

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Powerhouses: Duke has the perfect recipe for success this year, and will be the favorite to win the ACC, and maybe even the national championship. Start with the leadership of Coach K, add the experience of Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon and the freshman talent of Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow, and Duke will be a force to be reckoned with this year. Additionally, North Carolina is looking very strong behind veteran coach Roy Williams. Marcus Paige is easily one of the best players in the nation, and UNC’s strong rookie class consists of Justin Jackson, Joel Berry and Theo Pinson. Expect a very strong season from the Tar Heels.

Contenders: Louisville will step into its first year in the ACC ready to fight. Coach Rick Pitino has lost players from his last championship run, but will have a strong core left to begin the year with. The Cardinals will be stacked with Montrezl Harrell, Chris Jones and Terry Rozier. Add the team’s freshman talent, and they will be looking at success leading up to March. Virginia exploded onto the national spotlight last year when they won the ACC, and they should be looking to carry over their success into this season. Malcolm Brogdon remains the key piece for this Cavalier team, and will be joined by London Perrantes, Anthony Gill and Justin Anderson. Expect a good season, but a rough time against the top ACC teams for Virginia.

Pretenders: Boston College is in for a rough season under a new coach. The team finished second to last last season, and should expect the same this season. The lone bright spot for this struggling squad is one of the best players in the country, junior Olivier Hanlan. Virginia Tech will round out the bottom of the ACC this season, as they did last season. Don’t expect great things from new coach Buzz Williams as he tries to salvage the wreckage of this team.

Big Ten

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Powerhouses: Wisconsin might be the absolute best team in the country, and will easily sweep the Big Ten. Led by Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, this squad is potent and fully loaded. Nigel Hayes rounds out the rest of the starting five, and each player will be producing at a high level. The Badgers have a legitimate shot at the championship this year. Michigan State surprises nobody with yet another top season. Tom Izzo is a fantastic coach, and should be able to lead a group of youngsters to glory. Additionally, the key weapon for the Spartans is Dawson, who will explode this season.

Contenders: Ohio State had a rough year, losing to Dayton in the first round of the tournament, and losing star point guard Aaron Craft. However, the Buckeyes once again have a great recruiting class, and D’Angelo Russell will mix well with the returning seniors to make a lethal combination on the court. Michigan will be another deep team, even though they lost their star Nik Stauskas. The Wolverines have brought in the touted recruit Kameron Chatman, who should be able to dominate no matter where he is on the court, due to his large frame. Additionally, guard Caris Levert should be watched as he will hope to lead this team to success this season.

Pretenders: Northwestern no longer has Drew Crawford, who was their only good player last season. Now this team will struggle to find a point-producer, and with little defense as well, the Wildcats will sink to the bottom of the Big Ten this season. Don’t expect much from Penn State either this season, as the Nittany Lions have little to no depth. The only bright spot for this struggling squad is Brandon Taylor, but he is the only good thing going for this team.

Big 12

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Powerhouses: Kansas is one of the absolute best teams in the country, and will no doubt win the Big 12. The main concern for the Jayhawks is their loss of several key players, such as Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. But Bill Self has assembled a young new squad, anchored by veteran Perry Ellis. The youngsters consist of Cliff Alexander, Kelly Oubre and Devonte Graham, and will be dominating the court. Expect a very strong showing from Kansas this season. Also a top performer is Texas. Texas had a fantastic season last year, and they will be losing no key players. Instead, the Longhorns are adding one of the best freshmen in the country in Myles Turner. Expect Turner to inject a shot of energy into this squad to propel them to a high ranking this year.

Contenders: Iowa State lost a few key players in the offseason, yet gained a much more important transfer in Dejean Jones from UNLV. While the team has to replace some stars, they still have talented players from last year in Jameel McKay and Abdel Nader. Dustin Hogue and Georges Niang will round out this talented squad in what looks like a very successful season for the Cyclones. Oklahoma will have a solid season no matter what, yet one player will decide if it will be very successful, or not so much. Transfer TaShawn Thomas is a force to be reckoned with, and will round out a great Sooner team filled with the likes of Dante Buford and Buddy Hield. Watch for the Sooners’ season to go one of two ways.

Pretenders: Texas Christian is looking shoddy in the upcoming season, after a no-win season last year. Incoming freshman Trey Ziegler is literally the only thing the team has going for it. In dead last in the Big 12 will be Texas Tech, after losing four top players to graduation and transfers. Justin Jamison and Devaugntah Williams will be arriving, and will hopefully add some talent to this lacking team.

Pac 12

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Powerhouses: Arizona already has a lot to prove this season after a disappointing overtime loss in the Elite 8 last year. It will be even more difficult for the Wildcats this year, after having lost stars Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson. Luckily for Arizona fans, the team still has a very strong team centered around the core of Brandon Ashley and T.J. McConnell. Additionally, the Wildcats recruited very well, and were able to grab an elite recruit in Stanley Johnson. Look for this deep Arizona team to easily win the Pac 12. Utah is another strong team in the conference, who will be once again led by point guard Delon Wright. This team will be making an all-out effort to win the Pac 12, as they brought back four starters from last year. The Utes’ schedule is tougher this year, but this team should be able to handle their opponents.

Contenders: Colorado is fired up and ready to get back to winning after a frustrating blowout loss to Pittsburgh in the tournament. Spencer Dinwiddie and Josh Scott are back and ready for action as they hope to lead this young squad to another successful season. UCLA won the Pac 12 tournament last year, but will be taking a huge hit after losing several key players. Only senior Norman Powell remains, and he and coach Steve Alford must lead a team of youngsters to the promised land. Look for UCLA to be just on the brink of success this season.

Pretenders: Washington State has coach Ernie Kent and guard Davonte Lacy and not much else. This Cougar team better hope for solid production from its freshmen if it hopes to not have a complete disappointment of a season. Oregon State is also in the same boat, as it has only one returning starter in Langston Morris-Walker. This team will have an abysmal season, and the only other bright spot is the transfer of Gary Payton II.

SEC

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Powerhouses: Kentucky is an absolutely dominant team, and will have an easy time winning the SEC. Coach Calipari has a great class of freshmen with Karl Towns, Trey Lyles, Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker. These youngsters will be joining the already proven talent in the Harrison twins, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein. Expect the Wildcats to have a dominant season, and get to the NCAA Championship Game. The SEC is also stacked with several other great teams, like Florida. The Gators have quite a few players to replace, yet their core remains in tact. Hill and Walker will get good movement of the ball going from the arch to the paint, and this team will dominate most of their games.

Contenders: Arkansas is another solid team with a great coach, Mike Anderson. Although the Razorbacks are not very deep, they have good stars in Rashad Madden, Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls. Expect this team to put up a solid fight this year, and even make surprises with upsets. Louisiana State also has lots of potential this year, even if they have lost players at the point. On the other hand, the LSU paint is absolutely dominant with Jordan Mickey, Jarrell Martin and Elbert Robinson III. Watch for a good season from the Tigers.

Pretenders: Tennessee has a fantastic player in Josh Richardson, and not much else. Richardson is the team’s only returning starter, and cannot produce enough to keep an entire team afloat. It will be an interesting and disappointing season for the Volunteers. Mississippi State has had an excellent football season, but that success will not transfer over to the basketball season. The Bulldogs haven’t recruited well enough to get talent to be able to compete with the SEC elite, so don’t expect much from them.

Other Top Teams

Wichita State should be expected to have another great year, and is ranked 11 in the AP preseason poll. Gonzaga, VCU, San Diego State and Connecticut are ranked 13, 15, 16 and 17, respectively. These squads come from non-major conferences, yet should all be looked out for as they will all post successful seasons and interesting performances in March.

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National Championship Winner:

The title game will pit two top teams against each other, with Kentucky facing Duke. While the Blue Devils have produced some fantastic regular seasons, they have stumbled recently in the tournament. This year, however, will be different with Coach K’s leadership guiding an elite group of veterans and eager youngsters. Look for the Blue Devils to steal this one from Coach Calipari and his Wildcats.

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2014 MLB Playoffs Preview

The 2014 MLB Postseason begins on September 30 with the Oakland Athletics going to Kansas City to face the Royals in the American League one game Wild Card matchup, and the winner will go on to face the Los Angeles Angels. On October 1, the San Francisco Giants will go to Pittsburgh to face the Pirates in the National League one game Wild Card round, with the winner moving on to face the Washington Nationals. After these two games, the regular divisional round of the playoffs will begin on October 2. Here are Thuuz’s predictions for the the 2014 MLB Postseason.

AL Wild Card

Athletics at Royals: Although it’s very early, this could go down as one of the best games in the playoffs. These teams finished with almost identical records, 89-73 for the Royals and 88-74 for the Athletics, and are both coming off of winning two of their last three games of the regular season. Jon Lester (16-11) will be pitching for the Athletics, and while he is very strong, it will be very difficult to match the dominance of the Royals’ James Shields (14-8). While the Royals are strong defensively, they are no match for the high-powered Oakland offense, which is led by third baseman Josh Donaldson, who has 29 home runs, 98 RBIs and a .255 batting average. Watch the A’s squeak out a gritty win in Kansas City.

NL Wild Card

Giants at Pirates: The Pirates are a very good team and finished with a record of 88-74, but they will be no match for the postseason-electric Giants team, who coincidentally finished with the same regular season record. The Pirates will be pitching one of their solid pitchers in Edinson Volquez (13-7), but he will be outshined by Giants’ ace Madison Bumgarner (18-10). The Giants last made the playoffs in 2012, and before that in 2010, and both times they won the World Series. The Giants just seem to have a magic about them in October, and their entire team is stepping up right now. Look for Joe Panik, Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval to join team offensive leader Buster Posey, who has 22 home runs, 89 RBIs and a .311 batting average in lighting up Volquez. Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen are no match for this time, and the Giants will move on to the divisional round.

AL Divisional Round

Angels vs. Athletics: While this was one of the best series throughout the entire regular season, the Athletics’ performance has noticeably declined. The Angels are the best team in baseball with a record of 98-64. The Angels have been looking forward to another playoff appearance since their last one in 2009, and now they have the best player in baseball in Mike Trout, who has 36 home runs, 111 RBIs and a .287 batting average. Look for this incredibly balanced team to shut down the Athletics very quickly and easily. Everywhere you look, the Angels win this matchup. Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Howie Kendrick are better than Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick. The Angels also win the pitching matchup, with Jered Weaver (18-9) and CJ Wilson (13-10) being better than Scott Kazmir (15-9), Sonny Gray (14-10) and Jon Lester (11-6). Watch the Angels blaze past Oakland on their quest for their first World Series title since 2002.

Orioles vs. Tigers: While the Tigers barely won the AL Central in the last days of the season, they will not be as fortunate in this matchup. The Orioles are 96-66, and the Tigers are just 90-72. This season, the Orioles have been dominant offensively, being led by Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis. Cruz has 40 home runs, 108 RBIs and a .271 batting average, which is strong compared to the Tigers’ best hitter, Victor Martinez, who has 32 home runs, 103 RBIs and a .335 batting average. While the Tigers also have slugger Miguel Cabrera, their offensive depth lowers dramatically after these two. Wei-Yin Chen (16-6), Bud Norris (15-8) and Chris Tillman (13-6) have all been electric for the Orioles, compared to Max Scherzer (18-5), Justin Verlander (15-12) and Rick Porcello (15-13) for the Tigers. However, the Orioles hitting will propel them to the ALCS.

NL Divisional Round

Nationals vs. Giants: The Nationals are best team in the National League with a record of 96-66, but they will be looking at a major upset against a well-rounded San Francisco squad. The Giants have Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval to lead them offensively, among various other key players, and a stacked bench. The Nationals have Adam Laroche with 26 home runs, 92 RBIs and a .259 batting average, Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon. Overall, the Giants have great depth, and win the offensive matchup slightly. But the Nationals true strength is their pitching, and this is where they outweigh the Giants. Doug Fister (16-6), Tanner Roark (15-10), Stephen Strasburg (14-11), Jordan Zimmerman (14-5) and Gio Gonzalez (10-10) make up one of the absolute best rotations in the MLB. Madison Bumgarner (18-10) is one of the top pitchers in the entire league, and Tim Hudson (9-13), Ryan Vogelsong (8-13), Jake Peavy (6-4) and Yusmeiro Petit (5-5) have proved to be a great rest of the rotation. While the Nationals have better pitching, look for the hot Giants bats to lead them to the NLCS.

Dodgers vs. Cardinals: The Dodgers and the Cardinals are two of the best teams in baseball with records of 94-68 and 90-72, respectively. While the Cardinals have stellar pitching with ace Adam Wainwright (20-9), Lance Lynn (15-10) and Shelby Miller (10-9) all having great seasons. However, the Dodgers have even better pitching. Clayton Kershaw (21-3) is the best pitcher in the MLB, and Zack Greinke (17-8) and Hyu-Jin Ryu (14-7) have been lights-out as well. Additionally, the Dodgers beat the Cards in the offensive category. Adrian Gonzalez has 27 home runs, 116 RBIs, a .276 batting average and Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig have all been fantastic. For the Cardinals, Matt Holliday has 20 home runs, 90 RBIs and a .272 batting average, and Jhonny Peralta, Matt Adams and Matt Carpenter have all been good. The Dodgers have an all-around better team, and should cruise to the NLCS with relative ease.

AL Championship Round

Angels vs. Orioles: The Orioles will be coming off of a tough, long series with the Tigers, whereas the Angels will have easily defeated the Athletics in a short series. While both teams are similar in that they have excellent hitting, pitchings is what is going to win the AL Pennant for the Angels. Weaver and Wilson are all better than Chen, Norris and Tillman. And another factor that cannot be matched is Mike Trout. Trout will be playing in his first playoffs ever, and will be good for numerous home runs, RBIs and great defensive plays. Watch the Angels move on to the World Series in five or six games.

NL Championship Round

Dodgers vs. Giants: The Dodgers won this season series 9-10, but this will not be the case in the NLCS. The Giants are just too hot, and are ready to get payback on the team that stole the NL West from them. In addition to Buster Posey, big bats like Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval, Michael Morse and Travis Ishikawa will make the Dodgers’ pitchers pay, yes, even Clayton Kershaw. Also, the Dodgers pitchers have looked excellent on paper, but Kershaw is the only real untouchable one. Plus, Bumgarner is incredible, and the Giants pitching staff is really growing well and having great performances. Look for the Giants to win this series in seven games in what will be one of the all-time great postseason series’.

World Series

Angels vs. Giants: When the Giants get on a roll in the playoffs, they just don’t stop until they are holding up the World Series trophy. They won in 2010, then in 2012, and are on track to win every other year, and 2014 should be no different. If the Giants can get through the Dodgers pitching staff, the Angels’ pitchers should not be a problem. Look for the Giants offense to only get hotter and hotter as they try to relive their famous postseason magic of recent years. Look for the Giants to be victorious in seven games in a magnificent rematch of the 2002 World Series, in which the Angels won in seven games.

2014/2015 College Football Conference Previews

ACC- With Louisville joining the ACC, and the defending National Champions Florida State in the conference, the ACC should be fairly strong this year.  The Florida State Seminoles are the obvious choice to lead the ACC. Having won the national championship last year, the team should have high hopes and spirits for the upcoming season.  Coach Jimbo Fisher is considered legendary, and defending Heisman trophy winner Jameis Winston only got better in the offseason. With Winston on the field and Fisher on the sideline, the Seminoles have a shot at repeating their success from last season.

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Big Ten- As the Big Ten expands to 14 teams; the competition is growing evermore fierce.  Both Rutgers and Maryland are joining the Big Ten this year, but that isn’t the biggest talk in the conference. Everyone is talking about the Ohio State program, as the Buckeyes are predicted to take first in the Big Ten this year.  Even though Michigan State was first last year, their defense was hit hard by players moving on in their careers.  The Buckeyes have the number one defensive line this year, so it is going to be hard to get any run game going. While Ohio State should be strong, Penn State and Michigan are emerging contenders, and shouldn’t be tossed aside. The best player in the Big Ten this year should be Braxton Miller, the Ohio State Quarterback. Look to this young man to put the offense on his back and carry the team to the end zone.

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Big 12- In the past, the Big 12 has been regarded as a lower tier conference when compared to the SEC, Pac-12, and ACC. However, after Oklahoma’s Sugar Bowl win against Alabama, the conference is finally getting the respect that it deserves. Baylor and Texas have also built up a highly competitive football program to help the Big 12 rep. Oklahoma is predicted to take the top spot in the Big 12 this year, but Baylor shouldn’t be far behind. The stand out player of the Big 12 is expected to be Baylor’s Quarterback, Bryce Petty. 2013 was his first year in the starting spot, but he proved that he deserved the spot. With 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns, the returning Petty has put Baylor in contention for the conference title, as well as the national championship.

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Pac-12- Even though the SEC remains the top conference, the Pac-12 is quickly closing the gap. With four teams being top contenders for the Pac-12 championship, the Pac-12 looks like it’s going to have an exciting year. Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, and USC are all fighting for the top spot, but right now it looks like Oregon will just barely win the conference. The Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is the player to watch this year in the Pac-12 because if he stays healthy, it fares very well for Oregon.

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SEC- As always, the SEC is predicted to be the strongest conference this year. Even though the SEC didn’t take home the national title last year, there is a good chance that they reclaim the trophy. With Alabama, Auburn, and Georgia all coming into the season as favorites, the SEC has a lot of teams that could potentially by great this year.  Alabama is predicted to take the top spot over Auburn, taking revenge over the tigers for the last minute win in 2013. While ‘Bama lacks the Quarterback that they have had in past years, their running game and defense is as strong as always.  The top player in the SEC for the 2014 season is predicted to be Todd Gurley, the Georgia running back that was injured in the LSU game last year. After he got hurt, the Bulldog’s season began a downwards spiral. His previous two years Gurley carried the ball for 2,374 yards and 27 touchdowns, and he’s only gotten faster and stronger.  If Gurley stays healthy, Georgia will be a threat to every team in the country.

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AAC- Even though the conference has been fairly unstable for the last few years, American Athletic is stable once again. While no team in the American Athletic conference is looking at the national championship, some teams are looking at some large bowl games. The top of the conference is very evenly matched, with Cincinnati, East Carolina, and UCF all being top contenders. Even though Cincinnati is predicted to finish in the top spot of the conference, American Athletic is kind of a toss up. Cincinnati has a strong defense, and their offense is looking increasingly better, especially with the addition of Gunner Kiel, a Notre Dame transfer. Kiel should bring a spark to the Cincinnati offense, and help lead the team to a conference championship and even a bowl game.

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Conference USA- Even though Conference USA is not one of the strongest conferences, the C-USA teams may be able to prove themselves this year. Marshall is favored for every game in their schedule, and are predicted to go undefeated for the year.  If that happens, Marshall will definitely get a bid to a big bowl game, and they will get the chance to prove that their conference packs a punch. Marshall is the obvious favorite for C-USA, and is coming into the season with something to prove. The team will have 13 returning seniors, and the dynamic senior quarterback, Rakeem Cato, will lead the offense.  Cato is the star of C-USA, and the entire league will look to him to show the country what C-USA is made of.

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FBS Independent- As usual, Notre Dame will lead the Independent teams, but Notre Dame isn’t in for a stellar year. While star quarterback Everett Golson is returning after a 1-year ban, he doesn’t have much to work with. Wide Receivers are going to have to step up to help put the ball into the end zone, but most of the weight rests on Golson’s shoulders.  The defense will also have to step up big time in order to help the team. While there are some good players on D, there are some big holes that still need to be filled.

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MAC- Even though the new four game playoff increases the gap between the top conferences and the lower ones, teams from the lower conferences still have the opportunity to show up on the national stage through bowl games.  This year Bowling Green has the chance to get to a big bowl game. Bowling Green averaged 38 points per game last year, and with a new head coach and returning quarterback Matt Johnson, that number is only expected to increase. Toledo is the hardest game on Bowling Green’s schedule, and even that isn’t too tough of a game. Bowling Green is rallying behind Johnson to help lead the team to a bowl game this year.

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Mountain West- The Mountain West is no longer the conference it was in 2013, or the year’s prior. The losses of coaches and players really hurt the conference’s power.  Boise State lost their head coach but acquired the offensive coordinator from Arkansas State. Injuries hurt the Broncos last year, but if they remain healthy, they should win the conference. However, if Boise suffers injuries again, the Utah State Aggies will win. Aggies’ Chuck Keeton returns to the starting quarterback position after tearing his ACL last season. If Keeton can come back strong, the Aggies have a chance to take the conference from under Boise.

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Sun Belt- The Sun Belt conference is a fairly small conference with fairly unknown teams. However, UL Lafayette is proving to be quite strong, at least for their conference. They are predicted to go 8-0 within Sun Belt and 10-2 overall.  The Ragin’ Cajuns are led by quarterback Terrance Broadway and their wide selection of running backs. Broadway led the team to average 33.8 points per game in 2013, and he will be looking to increase that number to give the Cajuns even more leverage over their opponents.

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