Apr 15, 2014 fbook icon twitter icon rss icon

College Football

Nebraska Football Players Let 7-Year-Old Cancer Patient Jack Hoffman Score TD (Video)

If you are a college football fan or someone who watches the four letter network then I'm sure you've heard or read about this story but I still felt it needed to be posted here at the blog. 

During the Nebraska Cornhuskers spring game, a seven year old cancer patient ran for a 69 yard TD. Former Nebraska stand-out RB Rex Burkhead has become involved with Team Jack and with the help of the administration and FB C.J. Zimmerer came the idea of getting Jack Hoffman involved in the spring game. 

On fourth and one, Jack Hoffman was inserted into the game in his Rex Burkhead jersey and he took a Taylor Martinez hand-off and with a little direction from Taylor, he was off to the races.

In college football it's too often that we hear about the bad things that happen. It's nice to hear about the good things once in a while. Kudos to Bo Pellini and the entire Nebraska family for bringing this to us.

Get more great college football analysis over at College Football Zealots.


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2012 College Football Review: Pittsburgh vs. Virginia Tech

Pittsburgh came into this game 0-2 with losses to Youngstown State (31-17) and Cincinnati (34-10). Virginia Tech came in at 2-0 and was ranked 13th in the country. Virginia Tech was picked to win by Vegas by 12.5 points.

Pitt came out strong with Ray Graham capping off their opening drive with a 12 yard TD run to give the Panthers an early lead. Pitt's defense held serve on the Hokies first two drives. Tino Sunseri then led an 86 yard drive with the big play being a 40 yard completion to Mike Shanahan. The Hokies finished the first quarter with two passes intercepted, one punt and down 14-0.

In the second quarter, the Panthers took advantage of a Michael Holmes fumble and Ray Graham ran for another TD to put Paul Chryst and Pitt up 21-0 as Chryst looked for his first victory at Pitt. The Panthers took a 21-3 lead into halftime after four Hokies turnovers. The Hokies pulled to within 11 in the second half after a 94 yard punt return and an 85 yard pass play from Logan Thomas to Marcus Davis but they simply dug themselves too big of a hole. The Panthers won 35 to 17 as Tino Sunseri threw for 283 yards, Ray Graham ran for two TDs and the Hokies turned the ball over four times. This game would be a turning point for the Hokies as it was the beginning of a 2-6 stretch for the Hokies.

Get more great college football analysis over at College Football Zealots.


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2012 College Football Review: Louisville vs. Florida

If this game had taken place in the regular season instead of bowl season it would have been a bit higher on the list of upsets. Bowl season can be a strange time and sometimes upsets don't feel like they have as big of an impact. That being said, Florida was a clear favorite in this game as Vegas had them favored by 14 points. 

Former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong brought his guys ready to play as they jumped Jeff Driskel early and returned an interception (that bounced off a Florida player) for a TD to take a lead just 15 seconds into this game.

Louisville would follow that up with a TD run and a TD pass and took a 24-3 lead on Florida with just three minutes left in the first half. The Gators pulled to within two TDs at halftime but Florida tried an onside kick and failed to start the third quarter. Teddy Bridgewater quickly captialized and put the Cards up 20 points which was simply too much for a marginal Gators offense to overcome. 

Biggest Upsets of 2012

#11 Oregon State 10 Wisconsin 7

#10 San Diego State 21 Boise State 19

#9 Louisville 33 Florida 23

Get more college football analysis over at College Football Zealots.


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2012 College Football Review: San Diego State vs. Boise State

This Boise State team wasn't on the same level as the teams of the last few years starring Kellen Moore and Doug Martin but it's hard to ignore the fact that they came into this home game having won 71 of their last 72 on the blue turf.

The Broncos entered this game at 7-1 (and had climbed back into the polls at #19) having lost only their season opener at Michigan State. San Diego State came in at 6-3 having lost to Washington, San Jose State and Fresno State. Not many expected the Aztecs to come out of this one as the victor. 

Statistically this game was a deadlock but the Aztecs won by being better at special teams. The Aztecs ran back the opening kickoff for a touchdown and also blocked a punt that led to an Adam Muema TD run. Boise State scored with 5:35 left in the game but failed to convert on a two point try that would have tied the game up. 

Get more great college football analysis over at College Football Zealots.


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College Football Analysis: Virginia Tech, 2013 NFL Draft, Ohio State and More

Spring practice is revving up and now is as good a time as any to open up our mailbag and answer some questions from our followers from the world of twitter:

@hokiesmash asks:

what does  think of Virginia Tech's new offensive staff?

That's a really good question and one that the jury will be out on for a bit. As an SEC fan my initial thought on the new offensive coordinator, Scot Loeffler, was...huh?

Last year, Loeffler was the OC at Auburn and they were flat out awful averaging just 18 points per game including getting shut out in two of their last three games. But I wonder how much was truly Loeffler's fault as head coach Gene Chizik decided to move from the spread to more of a pro style offense so Loeffler was working with guys recruited for the spread and trying to fit them into a different offensive system. That's kind of a tough deal, especially when you don't have a QB. Loeffler's only other OC role was at Temple in 2011 and along with Steve Adazzio they did a very good job but it was also against MAC defenses.

Jeff Grimes is another Auburn guy that was brought in as OLine coach (and running game coordinator). Grimes was with Auburn from 2009 to 2012. Aaron Moorehead was brought in from Stanford to be the WR coach. I don't know much about those guys but you have to like somebody who is brought in from Stanford and hope that it means more activity for one of the most underused positions in college football, the tight end. Grimes likes to run the football so putting two and two together, you have to like the fit these guys have with Loeffler and his history with running a pro style system with Lloyd Carr at Michigan. 

The good news for Loeffler is that he's coming in on the heels of the Hokies worst offensive season since 2008 so the expectations aren't sky high. He gets Logan Thomas back and Thomas has a ton of talent despite his struggles in 2012. If Thomas can hit the film room and become more of a student of the game he has a chance to really improve this coming season. The biggest thing that fell off for the Hokies last year was the running game and that put more pressure on Logan's shoulders. If Loeffler and Grimes can reinvigorate the running game then they can get pretty good pretty quickly. This will be a work in progress. In the long-term I think it will end up being a good hire but don't judge it based on their first game of 2013 (Alabama).

When you look at impact rookies in the NFL you have to start with running backs. Two of the top five rushers in the NFL last season were rookies (Alfred Morris and Doug Martin). Trent Richardson also had 950 yards and 11 TDs. This years RB crop doesn't look like it has any elite talent but Morris was a sixth round pick last season and Martin was the 31st pick of the draft so anybody could really come out and have an impact. A guy I like this year is Giovani Bernard (UNC). I think whoever picks him up will get a really good player who will make an immediate impact. Other guys to look at for this position are workhorse guys like Eddie Lacy and Stepfan Taylor. Depending on where they land they might be asked to tote the load from day one.

QB is another position that can have an immediate impact as we saw that last year with RG3, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson. But are there any guys out there that can have that type of immediate impact? The top candidates here are Geno Smith, Matt Barkley, Tyler Wilson and Mike Glennon. I'm not exactly going out on a limb here but I think Smith will get the biggest opportunity here and thus he should be the most successful.

In terms of non-QB/RB, two SEC guys that I really like coming out of college are Alabama's Jesse Williams (NT) and Florida's Matt Elam (Safety). They might not set the world on fire but they are two guys I'd like to have on my team.

Non-SEC, huh? There are two teams I really like right now.

The first is Ohio State. Urban Meyer showed what he could do last season with an Ohio State team that wasn't supposed to be particularly great. Now Meyer has two full recruiting cycles under him and he also has Braxton Miller. Ohio State will make noise and in my opinion they are odds on favorites to be in the National Championship Game opposite the SEC.

Another team I like is Stanford. They are just a smash mouth football team and the way they play makes me think they can hang with an SEC team from a toughness standpoint if they get to the NCG. Stanford has some losses at the skill positions but they do return QB Kevin Hogan (as well as 7 other offensive starters including 4 offensive linemen) and he went 6-0 down the stretch last year after taking over as starter (beating #20 Oregon State, #2 Oregon, Wisconsin and UCLA twice). Stanford also has a really good defense (11th in the Nation in scoring defense) and I like that they are good on both sides of the football which has been an issue recently with teams out West.

Get more great college football analysis over at College Football Zealots.


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College Football Spring Practice Preview: Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Texas A&M and More

The East preview took place yesterday and can be found here in its natural state, and today we journey through the West, addressing the issues facing each team heading into spring practice.

ALABAMA

2012 record:  13-1

Bowl result:  National Champions, PAAAWWWLLL

Biggest issues going into the spring:  According to Nick Saban, EVERYTHING. 

"No one on this year's team has done anything in 2013, so to start heaping praise on a team that has won ZERO games this season is absurd.  It offends all the fibers of my being to hear fans and you writers talk like that.

"I mean, the offensive line is gone.  Got one running back.  Defense lost some key guys on a defense that, to be frank, had issues last year.  And the quarterback, well, he played well, but I remember that thing called Texas A&M.  We got some guys who'd rather be stealing money for snacks than doing what we ask.

"And to top it all off, my salad at lunch today had 10 pieces of turkey instead of 12.  So, you know, I don't know what the hell is going on around here.  Every time I turn around I see another problem, and yet we've got people talking about repeating as a national champion.  Unbelievable.  All of this is just disgustingly unbelievable."

Reasons for 14-0 hope coming out of the spring:  Best candidates for offensive line replacements are identified, one or two of the 25 five-star running backs on campus make the leap to T.J. Yeldon's assistant, and defensive talent does not catch the bubonic plague.

Reasons for PAAAWWWLLL coming out of the spring:  Saban refers to the offensive line as a "shitstorm of softness", T.J. Yeldon accepts the responsibility of rushing for 2500 yards next season, and defensive talent catches bubonic plague.

ARKANSAS

2012 record:  4-8

Bowl result:  HAHAHAHAHA.

Biggest issues going into the spring:  Bert Bielema in unfamiliar territory, a new quarterback, new style of play, and a defense with the hot mess status of the sweat swamp behind Bert's knee after he's been sitting for at least an hour.

Reasons for Independence Bowl hope coming out of the spring:  The quarterback competition is settled, the eye test suggests that chaos has less of a stronghold on the sideline, and the defense gains praise for really frustrating the 2nd team offense.

Reasons for a season of FOIA requests coming out of spring:  Co-starting quarterbacks for August practice, offense is described as "oh man, WAY behind the defense", and a 37-man rotation on defense.

AUBURN

2012 record:  3-9

Bowl result:  NOPE.

Biggest issues going into the spring:  An offense that looked like something out of the laboratory of Houston Nutt (note: Houston Nutt's laboratory is two pieces of plywood leaning against one another), potentially no quarterback on campus, and a defense still battling TRD (Ted Roof Disorder).

Actually, Nick Saban's "EVERYTHING" would have worked here.

Reasons for Independence Bowl hope coming out of the spring:  Gus Malzahn gets Kiehl Frazier or Jonathan Wallace to a level where they sometimes believe in themselves, the new offense is picked up quickly, and the defense is awarded a participation ribbon.

Reasons for PAAAWWWLLL coming out of the spring:  Frazier and Wallace are the same quarterbacks when Malzahn first got his hands on them, lots of quotes from offensive coaches like "they're still learning and can we have like 400 more practices by August?", and the defense has a nasty relapse of TRD.

LSU

2012 record:  10-3

Bowl result:  Lost to Clemson 25-24 LOLOLOLOLOLOL

Biggest issues coming into the spring:  Cam Cameron, yes, THE CAM CAMERON OF EVERY NFL TEAM EVER FAME, now calling the plays, Zach Mettenberger remains the favorite to start at quarterback, and like almost every year, defensive talent escapes to the NFL.

Reasons for Atlanta hope coming out of the spring:  Cam Cameron (note: must be referred to as "Cam Cameron" and never "Cam" or "Coach Cameron" as per universal announcer rules) adjusts well to college coordinating and Mettenberger, Jeremy Hill is promised 20-25 carries a game, and defense avoids bubonic plague.

Reasons for Les Miles hot seat talk coming out of the spring:  Words like "simplify", "tailor", and "adjust" are repeatedly used when describing the offense as it relates to Mettenberger's role, "a stable" and/or "committee" of running backs are used when referring to which running back will see the most playing time, and the defense catches bubonic plague.

MISSISSIPPI STATE

2012 record:  8-5

Bowl result:  THRASHED by Northwestern, 34-20

Biggest issues going into the spring:  Replacing two early-round NFL corners, new defensive coordinator, defense in general, finding new wide receivers, and Tyler Russell against equal or superior competition.

Reasons for #WeBelieve hope coming out of the spring:  Defense goes from hemorrhaging points and yards to merely lightly bleeding points and yards, wide receivers are unearthed, and Dan Mullen shifts his offense closer to the strength of Russell's abilities.

Reasons for has Mullen peaked talk coming out of the spring:  Dak Prescott (if he recovers from toe surgery) throws well against the 1st team defense, every corner on the roster gets a shot with the 1st team defense, and Mullen flatly describes the defense "coming along."

OLE MISS

2012 record:  7-6

Bowl result:  DOMINATED AND DESTROYED Pittsburgh, 38-17 in historic, tetanus and pools of water-riddled Legion Field

Biggest issues heading into the spring:  WHERE ARE ALL THOSE FIVE-STAR RECRUITS GONNA PLAY?  Only kidding, as they won't be on campus until the summer, but the answer anyway is WHEREVER THEY WANT PER THE RULES OF THEIR PAY-FOR-PLAY CONTRACTS.

Other issues include Bo Wallace most likely missing spring practice as he recovers from shoulder surgery, a defensive line (particularly defensive tackle) that is dangerously thin on experience and possibly talent, and an offensive line that is in a similar situation.

Reasons for Chick-fil-A Bowl hope coming out of the spring:  Wallace is at least throwing by the end of spring practice, a serviceable rotation develops at defensive tackle, and the offensive line finds seven to eight guys for its rotation.

Reasons for just missing out on the Compass Bowl talk coming out of the spring:  Wallace isn't able to start throwing until June or July, lots of talk about needing to see if the new players can work their way into the rotation in August, and a revolving door virus infects the cornerback depth chart.

TEXAS A&M

2012 record:  11-2

Bowl result:  Handing Bob Stoops YET ANOTHER bowl loss, 41-13 in the Cotton Bowl

Biggest issues coming into the spring:  Replacing one all-world offensive tackle, ditto a defensive tackle that will make millions in the NFL, and finding a second wide receiver to replace (insert all the words to describe Wes Welker because I'm POSITIVE they're the same exact player since they're both white and all) Ryan Swope.

Reasons for Atlanta hopes coming out of the spring:  Many of the Air Raid coaches talk about year two being the year when the offense really blows up, so if there are plenty of quotes like "it's all clicking", "this may be too easy", or "he's caught eight touchdowns and I only have six", I would consider that a good sign.  Additionally, Johnny Manziel improving his downfield accuracy, especially on the run, and a defense that finds a pass rusher or one guy that requires a double team.

Reasons for Independence Bowl talk coming out of the spring:  Manziel wears the Scooby Doo costume to all the practices (though my calculations say this would only affect his performance by about 50%), the defense becomes more like an Auburn or Tennessee defense, and the ladies of College Station surround the practice fields and chant "Bring back Kliff" for hours at a time.


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College Football Spring Practice Preview: Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and More

As we stagger out of February and into March, spring practice is nearly upon us.  For Georgia and Texas A&M, that lifeline of sanity in these dry times starts Saturday, with most everyone else getting going in the next week or two.

So to prepare for the obsessing over those quarterbacks who look great running around without fear in the green or yellow no-contact jerseys, let us examine each SEC team as they head into spring practice, dissecting the biggest issues facing them and giving reasons for hope or despair coming out of spring.  Today, we'll do the East and tomorrow the West will make its appearance.

FLORIDA

2012 record:  11-2

Bowl result:  HAMMERED by Louisville in the Sugar Bowl, 33-23

Biggest issues going into the spring:  I still don't understand how this team won 11 games.  They were unbelievably bad on offense for long stretches, like 2,000% unwatchable, and if not for a Jordan Reed fumble against Georgia, they're possibly playing for a national championship.  Everything about them makes me angry.

But outside of my issues with them, their issues are quarterback, still no wide receivers to be found, and replacing some defensive talent that is currently awaiting drafting by the NFL.

Reasons for Atlanta hope coming out of the spring:  The defense restocks and obliterates whatever the offense tries to do with Jeff Driskel.  That is their one hope again.  Not screwing up on offense and waiting for the defense or special teams to save the day.

Reasons for jort-burning riots coming out of the spring:  Wildly inconsistent days from the defense, the offense being "slimmed down" to accommodate Driskel and the lack of wide receivers, and a deeper, darker blank stare from Will Muschamp.

GEORGIA

2012 record:  12-2

Bowl result:  45-31 win over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl

Biggest issues going into the spring:  Inevitable player arrests related to scooters and/or alcohol, replacing Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree, and John Jenkins on defense, and Mark Richt's ability to lose control.

Reasons for Atlanta hope coming out of the spring:  The inevitable player arrests are misdemeanors and happen to non-starters, replacements for the defense are identified, and Aaron Murray makes yet another leap in his development, going from pretty good to wails of HE'S GOING TO WRECK OUR SECONDARY. 

Reasons for Mark Richt might be on the hot seat talk coming out of the spring:  The sun rising, defense described as "kind of a mess right now", and Aaron Murray spending his summer imitating Doug Johnson, who, according to Steve Spurrier, was out all summer "playing baseball and drinking beer."

KENTUCKY

2012 record:  2-10

Bowl result:  NEGATIVE.

Biggest issues coming into the spring:  Yet to schedule spring practice dates, basketball could still be going on, and general lack of talent.

Reasons for 4-win hope coming out of the spring:  Other than a healthy Maxwell Smith, which could be considered wildly grasping, not much.  Perhaps this should be about 3-win hope.

Reasons for further despair (as much as Kentucky fans can despair about that other sport) coming out of the spring:  The end of spring practice.

MISSOURI

2012 record:  5-7

Bowl result:  AT HOME.

Biggest issues coming into the spring:  Preventing everyone on the offensive line from being injured, preventing James Franklin from being injured, and shedding the stink of the not-ready-for-the SEC label.

Reasons for Independence Bowl hope coming out of the spring:  Members of the offensive line go more than a few hours without getting hurt, James Franklin stays healthy and gets quality practice time with the offense, and the defense shows signs that it just might be able to turn a raging dumpster fire into a mostly contained dumpster fire.

Reasons for Gary Pinkel's final year talk coming out of the spring:  The offensive line looks as bad as it did last season, James Franklin spends most of the spring being "tackled" by a two-hand touch, and jumbo wine specials throughout Columbia.

SOUTH CAROLINA

2012 record:  11-2

Bowl result:  33-28 win over Michigan Men in the Outback Bowl; OBLIGATORY:

Biggest issues coming into the spring:  Finding a running back, determining whether Connor Shaw or Dylan Thompson will be temporarily benched first, and scheduling Spurrier's tee times around practice.

Reasons for Atlanta hope coming out of the spring:  Connor Shaw/Dylan Thompson make enough of a leap that Spurrier refers to either one of them as "he's alright", a starting running back or a rotation of running backs emerges, and the defense keeps up its stingy ways.

Reasons for well, we'll at least beat Georgia talk coming out of the spring:  Connor Shaw/Dylan Thompson lead Spurrier to spend many a late afternoon at the driving range wondering what he's going to do with that mess, the running back decision is tabled until the fall to allow some freshmen to get in the mix, and "lost" and "uninterested" are the words used to best describe the defense.

TENNESSEE

2012 record:  5-7

Bowl result:  DELICIOUSLY NONE.

Biggest issues going into the spring:  New coach, new system, blah blah blah, finding a quarterback who is both talented and avoids beer bottle-throwing contests, jet ski tricks, and generally poor decisions everywhere, and repairing a defense that was as fond of preventing yards and points as Tyler Bray was of Derek Dooley.

Reasons for Liberty Bowl hope coming out of the spring:  A competent starting quarterback is found, wide receivers are found, and an entire defense is found.

Reasons for not attending games and adding to Tennessee's debt coming out of the spring:  Quarterback competition is pushed into August, walk-ons are encourage to contact the football office, and the dreaded "simplified, with a more attacking style" label is slapped on the defense.

VANDERBILT

2012 record:  9-4

Bowl result:  38-24 win over NC State in the Music City Bowl

Biggest issues coming into the spring:  Replacing a senior quarterback, a senior running back, and, I can't believe I'm typing this, avoiding a regression to the old Vanderbilt ways.

Reasons for Chick-fil-a Bowl hope coming out of the spring:  The transition from Jordan Rodgers to Austyn Carta-Samuels (MINUS A MILLION POINTS TO HIS PARENTS FOR THAT "Y") goes smoothly, Zac Stacy's replacements appear to be able to match his production, and the defense maintains its steady, but nothing overwhelming state.

Reasons for ignoring Vanderbilt football until five minutes before the first game coming out of the spring:  This will happen no matter what.

Get more great college football analysis over at Belly of the Beast.


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Ole Miss Recruiting Secret: Handwritten Letters

Last week, Ole Miss continued to make news in the field of recruiting when Clifton Garrett, a linebacker who will have or already has a bajillion offers to play college football in 2014, tweeted a picture of 54 letters from Ole Miss, all of which were handwritten.

On a side note, Arizona State should either mail smaller pieces or slap a "do not bend" stamp on their letters that will be ignored by the post office.  Also, Todd Graham should give up the Garth Brooks microphone because only Garth Brooks can do the Garth Brooks microphone.

But as for Ole Miss' assault of letters, these were not 54 letters saying how much the Ole Miss coaches enjoyed watching Clifton Garrett play and can't wait for him to get to Oxford for a visit to show him all the great things happening at Ole Miss.  That would be silly, and there's no room for silliness in the serious, non-insane, perfectly normal business of recruiting.

Instead of losing a 17-year old's attention somewhere between the second and third sentence of the second letter, Ole Miss chose to go with a more interactive approach, giving Clifton Garrett the chance to choose his own recruiting adventure.

A sample of the adventure provided by Hugh Freeze and staff:


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11Don’t Count on Finding a Quarterback in 2013 NFL Draft

So, you’re looking for a quarterback, eh? That’s right, I’m talking to you Bills, Browns, Cardinals, Chiefs, Eagles, Jaguars, Jets, Raiders, and probably a few other teams. Here’s some advice: take out your wallet, start making some calls, and do what you can to bring in someone like Alex Smith, Matt Flynn, or maybe if you feel like taking a risk, Tim Tebow.

Okay, so maybe not that last guy, but if you’re looking for a quarterback for the 2013 season, your best bet is to look at guys that spent 2012 on an NFL roster, because the quarterbacks available in the draft this year carry a lot of risk, and little guarantee of success.

Coming off a season in which three rookie quarterbacks guided their teams into the postseason, with a couple more showing plenty of promise as well, the pickings are slim for the quarterback class of 2013. There are plenty of quarterbacks available, and based on need, a lot of them will be picked within the first two rounds, but that doesn’t make them good choices or valuable draft picks.

Last year there was not only consensus for the top quarterback in the draft, but consensus for the top two quarterbacks in the draft, who also happened to be the top two players available overall. However, this year there is no consensus as to who the best quarterback available is, and if there was, he certainly would be far from being the top player available overall. It would be a stretch to take any quarterback in the top five picks, much less the top overall pick, no matter how big of a need a team has at the position. In fact, few quarterbacks exhibit the talent and potential of a first round pick. However, most quarterbacks chosen in this year’s draft will be taken out of a desperate need at that position, and as a result, most quarterbacks will be selected earlier than their talent level and potential warrants them being selected.

That’s not to say that there won’t be quality quarterbacks that come out of this draft class, because odds are that at least one or two will emerge as legitimate NFL starting quarterbacks. The problem is that it’s too difficult to say who those quarterbacks are going to be. All of them have drawbacks and deterrents, much more so than the class of quarterbacks that entered the league last year. So if teams must resort to picking up their franchise’s next quarterback on draft day, they better do their research and find the right quarterback that is the right pick for them.

As we know, picking the wrong quarterback can set an organization back several years, and with drafting a quarterback from this year’s crop being nothing short of a crapshoot, it’s going to be hard to find the right one and quite easy to make a mistake. So, for all those teams that are in need of a quarterback, I’ll repeat my advice to you: take out your wallet, make some calls, and try to acquire a quarterback that was on an NFL roster in 2012, because if you end up having to settle for drafting a quarterback, the odds are stacked against you being able to find a good one.


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2013 College Football Season Preview: Mississippi State Bulldogs

Have the Bulldogs gone as far as they can under Dan Mullen? Over the last three years, Mullen and his Bulldogs have averaged an 8-5 record and their best conference finish has been 4-4. Last year the Bulldogs went 0-4 against the Top 25 and 8-1 against everyone else. 

The Bulldogs return seven starters on offense including their QB Tyler Russell. They finished ninth in the SEC in scoring offense, tenth in rushing offense and seventh in passing offense. But when you look at how they fared against Top 25 opponents they dropped way down to just 14.3 points per game. Russell returns for his senior season and he should continue to progress but he will have to replace his top four receivers (Chad Bumphis, Chris Smith, Arceto Clark and Marcus Green). That's going to hurt. The strength of his offense will be the RB corps as they return everybody including 1,000 yard rusher LaDarius Perkins. They also return four offensive linemen which should help the running game even more.

The Bulldogs return six starters on defense. They finished eighth in the SEC in scoring defense, eleventh in rushing defense and seventh in passing defense. A big area of concern was their third down defense as they finished thirteenth in the conference (only Kentucky was worse) letting their opponents convert on 42% of their attempts. The Bulldogs will replace two of their top ten tacklers (Cameron Lawrence and Johnthan Banks) and four of their top ten overall. Based on who's returning and who left, I would expect the defense to be very similar to last season if they don't take a small step backwards.

Mississippi State looks poised for another 7-6 or 8-5 season under Dan Mullen. The Bulldogs are stuck in the middle and the big question will be if they get overtaken by teams that will be on the rise this year like Ole Miss and teams that will rebound like Arkansas and Auburn.

Previous SEC First Looks:

Arkansas Razorbacks

Auburn Tigers

Kentucky Wildcats

Missouri Tigers

Ole Miss Rebels

Tennessee Volunteers

Get more great college football analysis over at College Football Zealots.


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