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NCAAF 2019 Power Five Preview

NCAAF 2019 ACC Preview 1 month 4 weeks ago #509090

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NCAAF 2019 ACC Preview 1 month 4 weeks ago #509091

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2019 ACC Preview
By Marc Lawrence

2019 ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE PREVIEW

A Dozen And Counting

The 2019 ACC football season marks the 67th season for the conference. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Duke’s David Cutcliffe are the loop’s longest-tenured coaches with 12 seasons each at their respective schools. Swinney’s 116-30 career record at Clemson stands out as the best mark.

Newbies

Speaking of head coaches, 4 new mentors will be on the sidelines in the ACC this season: Georgia Tech’s Geoff Collins, Louisville’s Scott Saterfield, Miami Florida’s Manny Diaz, and North Carolina’s Mack Brown. Only Diaz has never been an FBS head coach.

Like last year, Florida State’s Willie Taggart remained in a class by himself. Taggart’s 52-57 overall career mark is the only one in the league with a losing record.

Easy Peasy

According to ESPN, Virginia Tech will take on the easiest schedule of all FBS Power 5 teams in 2019 (Wisconsin held the same honor last year). The Hokies will miss Clemson, Florida State, and Syracuse. Virginia and NC State follow Tech as far as soft slates go.

On the flip side, Boston College and Duke take on the most difficult degree of schedules among ACC teams this season.

The numbers following each team name represent the amount of returning starters on offense and defense, along with the number of returning linemen, with an asterisk (*) designating a returning quarterback. The RPR represents each team’s overall, offensive and defensive rankings in overall returning production experience.

ACC ATLANTIC

BOSTON COLLEGE (Offense - *6/2, Defense - 4/1, RPR: 110/50/128)

TEAM THEME: A REVERSAL OF FORTUNE

Hmm. After owning a Top 10 ranked defense in both 2015 and 2016, the Eagles’ numbers fell off the map the past two seasons as they allowed 100 yards per game more than in their stalwart days. Instead, the offense ignited the last two seasons when it became the fifth-highest scoring unit in 120 years of school history in 2018 as QB Anthony Brown’s 20 TDs were the second-most by any sophomore in BC history. However, the Eagles ranked 7th in the nation in the highest percentage of starts by seniors (56.3) last season – which means a new rebuild is in order, starting with an overhaul of both lines. Stay tuned.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Eagles started a total of 30 players last season, 2nd in the nation to Alabama (29).

PLAY AGAINST: vs. Virginia Tech (8/31)

CLEMSON (Offense - *8/3, Defense - 4/0, RPR: 53/26/100)

TEAM THEME: TIGER PAUSE

Trevor Lawrence authored the finest season by a true freshman quarterback in FBS history when he led the Tigers to a smashing National Championship over defending champion Alabama. As a result, Lawrence is the preseason favorite in the 2019 Heisman Trophy race. And we didn’t even mention star RB Travis Etienne. Clemson’s magnificent season last year was even more impressive when you consider the fact that they downed 10 opponents that sported winning records. A 19-1 SU away mark since 2015 bodes well for a team with no back-to-back away games for the 4th consecutive season. Still, after going 15-0 and winning a national championship last season, the Tigers should be a targeted team in 2019.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Tigers have the nation’s longest current streak (100 games) without losing back-to-back games.

PLAY AGAINST: vs. Texas A&M (9/7)

FLORIDA STATE (Offense - *8/3, Defense - 8/2, RPR: 13/33/17)

TEAM THEME: WILLIE OR WON’T HE

After Florida State suffered its first losing season in 42 years in 2018, head coach Willie Taggart is sweating more than a pedophile in a Santa suit. FSU dismissed troubled quarterback Deondre Francios in February and now find themselves hitting the transfer trail. QB Alex Hornibrook arrives as a graduate transfer from Wisconsin where he was 26-6 as a starter and completed 60.5% of his passes for 5,438 yards and 47 touchdowns but had 33 interceptions. He figures to start ahead of veteran junior James Blackman. According to PhilSteele.com, the Seminoles faced 10 ranked foes, including 10 opponents with winning records last season. However, what good is a highly experienced team with little discipline?

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Taggart’s last two teams (FSU in 2018 and Oregon in 2017) have finished No. 129 and No. 126 in penalties per game.

PLAY ON: vs. N.C. State (9/28)

LOUISVILLE (Offense - *7/1, Defense - 10/4, RPR: 24/49/18)

TEAM THEME: THE LOUSE HAS LEFT THE HOUSE

On the heels of the Cardinals’ first losing season since 2009, the Bobby Petrino epitaph is finally cast in stone as far as Louisville is concerned. Scott Satterfield arrives from Appalachian State where his teams won 51 games while going 34-6 in league play in six seasons – including three consecutive Sun Belt Conference championships. Satterfield is known as an innovative offensive mind. He is the only coach to lead a school from the FCS to FBS and immediately earn three consecutive bowl victories. They will take on 10 foes in 2019 that were in bowl games last season – just as they did last season. With a boatload of experience back this year, they’ll be playing with house money.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Louisville is 1-10 ATS in Last Home Games.

PLAY ON: at Florida State (9/21)

N.C. STATE (Offense - 4/2, Defense - 7/3, RPR: 109/129/31)

TEAM THEME: CH-CH-CH-CH-CHANGES

The Pack has taken some big hits the past few seasons, losing a good portion of its defensive line, including ACC Defensive Player of the Year Bradley Chubb, to the draft last season. And now QB Ryan Finley to the NFL this year – making it five Wolfpack quarterbacks in the pros this season – along with State’s two leading WRs and top RB (Reggie Gallaspy Jr., 1,091 yards and a school-record 18 TDs). Worse, the offense for 2019 returns the 2nd fewest amount of Returning Player Production per the RPR rankings outlined above. In addition, in David Bowie fashion, NC State enters 2019 with four new assistant coaches, two new quality control coaches, and three new graduate assistant coaches. Turn and face the change.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Wolfpack are 39-6 SU and 27-12-1 ATS in games in which they outgain their opponents under head coach Dave Doeren.

PLAY AGAINST: vs. North Carolina (11/30)

SYRACUSE (Offense - 6/2, Defense - 7/3, RPR: 64/93/40)

TEAM THEME: BIGGER FASTER STRONGER

The gains Syracuse has made in the strength and speed departments over the last three seasons have been critical to the recent rise of the program. Last year marked the first time the program was ranked in the Top 25 at season’s end since 2001 – its last 10-win season. Unfortunately, QB Eric Dungey has graduated after tossing for 9,340 yards and 58 touchdowns in four years. Tommy DeVito takes over for Dungey, whose talents were immense. Much to Dino Babers’ liking, he brings a bigger arm. Also aboard is RB Abdul Adams, an Oklahoma transfer, and WR Trishton Jackson, a transfer from Michigan State.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Hall of Famers Floyd Little, Larry Csonka, and Super Bowl champion coach Tom Coughlin all shared the same Syracuse backfield in 1966.

PLAY ON: vs. Pittsburgh (10/18)

WAKE FOREST (Offense - *7/3, Defense - 5/1, RPR: 61/92/37)

TEAM THEME: SIGN ON THE DOTTED LINE

As Dave Clawson enters his sixth season in Winston-Salem, an undeniable chasm has grown between Wake Forest’s offenses and defenses the past three years. In fact, things got so bad last season that DC Jay Sawyer was fired on the spot after the Notre Dame game in September. Hoping to spur Clawson toward balancing the scales, the Demon Deacons recently signed him to an 8-year contract extension. But the truth is there’s a huge amount of work ahead if they hope to land a 4th straight bowl bid this season. For openers, in a scheduling oddity, the Demons game against North Carolina this year will be a non-conference game for both teams. A marquee win certainly won’t hurt, but the last time Wake beat a Top 10 ranked team, Harry S. Truman was in the White House (1946).

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Wake Forest was the 2nd team in 15 years to overcome a double-digit halftime deficit in a bowl game in consecutive seasons last year.

PLAY ON: at Syracuse (11/30)

ACC COASTAL

DUKE (Offense - 4/3, Defense - 8/4, RPR: 106/123/45)

TEAM THEME: QB WHISPERER

SR QB Quentin Harris (played in 12 games last season making two starts) takes over for Daniel Jones, the surprising 6th choice in this year’s NFL draft. It should be noted that head coach David Cutcliffe has coached 11 QBs who earned either all-conference honors or won a bowl game. In addition, Duke ranked 10th in the nation in the highest percentage of starts by underclassmen 47.4 made by 21 players) last season. And it’s worth noting that Cutcliffe is a native of Birmingham and graduated from the University of Alabama. His Blue Devils dropped a 63-12 decision at home to the Tide in their only meeting back in 2010 – the worst non-conference loss in his career. Just sayin’.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Duke will face 11 foes in 2019 that appeared in a bowl game last season.

PLAY AGAINST: vs. Georgia Tech (10/12)

GEORGIA TECH (Offense - 5/3, Defense - 4/1, RPR: 119/115/97)

TEAM THEME: SOUR PUSS OUT

First-year coach Geoff Collins is a lock to kick up the Jackets’ energy level. But he’ll have to do it with a heavy heart as 21-year old defensive tackle Brandon Adams died just prior to spring camp from a fall in a garage. Forging on, the Yellow Jackets switch from Paul Johnson’s option attack to new OC David Patenaude’s spread system. There will be a “getting to know one another” phase with a new quarterback and a dearth of wide receivers on hand. Making matters more difficult, the Ramblin’ Wreck ranked 4th in the nation in the highest percentage of starts by seniors (59.8.) in 2018. The rebuild begins.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Collins is the only coach to be a Broyles award nominee – the nation’s best assistant coach – at three schools.

PLAY ON: vs. USF (9/7)

MIAMI, FL (Offense - *6/2, Defense - 6/2, RPR: 86/67/83)

TEAM THEME: HURRICANE TRACKER

In a huge surprise, UM head coach Mark Richt called it quits after his squad was embarrassed by Wisconsin in last year’s Pinstripe Bowl. The team was coming apart at the seams and Richt knew it. It was the Hurricanes’ 2nd worst bowl beat ever. The truth of the matter is Miami’s offense had become archaic under Richt who had only one team ranked in the Top 20 in total offense in his 18 seasons as a head coach. Former DC Manny Diaz spurned Temple to circle back and take the reins in Miami. To which we wonder: where will the points come from? Hopefully, an influx of transfers, including QB Tate Martell (Ohio State), will help.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Mark Richt’s 171 career wins were 3rd in the nation behind Nick Saban and Urban Meyer (186).

PLAY ON: vs. Virginia (10/11)

NORTH CAROLINA (Offense - *9/4, Defense - 7/2, RPR: 35/15/76)

TEAM THEME: MACK THE KNIFE IS BACK

After a five-year coaching absence, Mack Brown is roaming the sidelines again. Ironically, Brown coached his last game with the Tar Heels 20 years ago after posting a 70-46-1 SU mark with UNC. Remember this, though: in games in which he is slightly expected win, Brown is just 2-8 SU and 1-9 ATS in his career as a favorite of fewer than 8 points. So where does that leave him this year? A deeply experienced squad helps for openers, but a brutal schedule finds all 11 FBS foes in bowl games last season. Our guess is the addition of DC Jay Bateman from Army will find old Macky spearheading this program back to respectability sooner than later.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Brown is 23-3 SU in season openers in his career, including 14-0 the last fourteen.

PLAY ON: at Virginia Tech (10/19)

PITTSBURGH (Offense - *5/1, Defense - 6/2, RPR: 54/62/62)

TEAM THEME: PICKETT FENCE

Entering 2019 as the defending Coastal Division champions, the Panthers did so despite an anemic output from QB Kenny Pickett, who averaged 6.4 Yards Per Pass attempt and 142.6 Passing Yards Per Game. And with 1,000-yard RBs Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall no longer around, it won’t be as easy this season. It should be noted, though, since Pat Narduzzi took over the reins at Pitt, the Panthers have compiled the 3rd-best record (20-12) in league play among all ACC teams. Pitt ranked 10th in the nation in the highest percentage of starts by seniors (54.7) last season but the benefit from playing 15 redshirt freshmen in 2017 should help salve the wounds of a salty schedule.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: 27 of Pitt’s 31 losses under Narduzzi have occurred against teams that went on to a bowl game.

PLAY AGAINST: at Georgia Tech (11/2)

VIRGINIA (Offense - *6/3, Defense - 8/3, RPR: 55/90/38)

TEAM THEME: BRONCO ON THE LOOSE

Celebrating their first winning season since 2011 last year, and coming off a 28-0 shocker over South Carolina in the Belk Bowl, the Cavs saw 20 underclassmen make starts in 2018. That bodes well for continued success this year. The better news is that projected first-round NFL pick Bryce Hall will be returning to anchor down the CB position in 2019. Through it all, Bronco Mendenhall strung together his best recruiting class in Charlottesville this year. After a 2-10 debut with the Cavs in 2016, Mendenhall clearly has Virginia climbing the ladder of success. With only 4 foes on this year’s slate sporting winning records last year, the ride up the rungs continues.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Virginia is 3-19 SU in its final two games of the regular season since 2008.

PLAY AGAINST: vs. Georgia Tech (11/9)

VIRGINIA TECH (Offense - *6/2, Defense - 10/3, RPR: 11/77/1)

TEAM THEME: BUD BALL

For a Hokies team rich in defensive tradition, last season was an absolute nightmare. Despite returning six starters for long-time defensive coordinator Bud Foster, Tech’s usually stalwart “Lunch Pail D” suffered arguably its poorest effort ever in the Foster era. Fortunately for HC Justin Fuente, he welcomes back what is now the most experienced defense in college football. Aiding the cause this season is the fact that the Hokies led the nation last year in the percentage of most underclassmen starts (59.9% made by 23 players). With nary a single back-to-back road trip, remember this: last season’s loss to Boston College was the only game in which the Hokies blew a halftime lead under Fuente (see more on this below).

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Hokies are 22-1 when leading at the half under Fuente.

PASS
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NCAAF 2019 ACC Preview 1 month 4 weeks ago #509142

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2019 Big 12 Preview
By Marc Lawrence

2019 BIG 12 CONFERENCE PREVIEW

Four In A Row, Going for Five

Oklahoma QB and Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray won the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year award last season, marking the 4th consecutive season the Sooners have earned the honor. QB Baker Mayfield won the award in 2015 and 2017, and WE Dede Westbrook in 2016, were previous winners. In addition, the OU won the most individual conference awards (43) in the 22-year history of the Big 12.

Shrinking Big 12

The Big 12 isn't very old. The conference was born in 1996 when the remaining Southwest Conference schools - Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, and Texas Tech - joined Big Eight schools Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri, and Iowa State. However, with recent defections they are down to just 10 teams. That being said, a proposal for a Big 12, Pac-12 strategic alliance would make a lot of sense. Imagine a world in which Oklahoma’s non-conference lineup consists of Arizona, USC, and Utah all in the same season while Washington’s three out-of-league opponents that year are Oklahoma State, TCU and Iowa State. Meanwhile, Texas plays Oregon, UCLA, and Colorado. The Ducks? They get Texas, Kansas State, and Texas Tech. In this world, the Big 12 and the Pac-12 are bound together by a strategic alliance in which all available non-conference dates are filled by teams from the other league. No more FCS cupcakes. No more Group of Five opponents.

It’s one Power Five against another: 30 head-to-head matchups, season after season. The conferences would gain in stature and only the strong would survive. Bring it on!

The numbers following each team name represent the amount of returning starters on offense and defense, along with the number of returning linemen, with an asterisk (*) designating a returning quarterback. The RPR represents each team’s overall, offensive and defensive rankings in overall returning production experience.

BAYLOR (Offense - *8/3, Defense - 7/2, RPR: 20/59/7)

TEAM THEME: THE FIX IS IN

Following a similar pattern, Matt ‘The Fixer’ Rhule’s first year teams at Temple and Baylor went 2-10 and 1-11 respectively. In Year Two with those programs, they improved to 6-6 and 7-6. So what does the 3rd year hold for Rhule, you ask? If Temple’s 10-4 record is any indicator, the Bears should start making holiday reservations now. Sporting the most returning experience in the Big 12 this season, QB Charlie Brewer is back after tossing for more than 3,000 yards and 19 TDs in 2018. However, the Bears’ rush defense allowed 5.4 yards per carry, and gave up more than 200 ground yards in five contests, despite going 4-1 in those games. That will need to be addressed.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Rhule is 15-3 ATS against conference foes coming off a double-digit win.

PLAY AGAINST: as a favorite at Kansas (11/30)

IOWA STATE (Offense - *8/5, Defense - 8/3, RPR: 80/98/53)

TEAM THEME: WIN IN THE DARK

The good news is 67.8 percent of starters are back in 2019, including the entire defensive front. However, gone are offensive stars in RB David Montgomery and WR Hakeem Butler, along with starting CB’s D’Andre Payne and Brina Peavy who made 78 career starts combined. Blossoming QB Brock Purdy made great strides last season and he’ll look to take advantage of four home games in ISU’s first five contests. It’s the one road game in between that troubles us, though, as ascending Baylor thoroughly outplayed ISU in a 14-point home loss last season. Remember, as we called out last year: the Cyclones theme was “Win in the Dark”. The concept was simple. Games are won or lost in the offseason when nobody is watching. We’re watching, for sure.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: 14 of head coach Matt Campbell’s 22 career conference losses have come by a TD or less.

PLAY AGAINST: at Baylor (9/28) - *Key as a favorite

KANSAS (Offense - 5/3, Defense - 5/1, RPR: 112/107/89)

TEAM THEME: LES IS MORE

The Les Miles era in Lawrence begins, and it couldn’t come soon enough. Miles won two SEC championships and a national championship at LSU before being fired four games into the 2016 season. He’s anxious to get back to work, and while sometimes one should be careful of what one wishes for, the Mad Hatter inherits a Jayhawks team that finished No. 2 in the nation in turnover margin (+1.33 last season). Sure, their starting quarterback, three of their top four wide receivers and the entire defensive line must be replaced, but Miles was 114-34 overall and 62-28 in the SEC at LSU. What more could Kansas ask for?

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Kansas is 5-82 SU in conference games since 2009.

PLAY AGAINST: at TCU (9/28) - *Key

KANSAS STATE (Offense - *8/4, Defense - 8/4, RPR: 31/46/28)

TEAM THEME: SWEET DREAMS, GRAMPS

Recently retired Bill Snyder was only the fourth person in the history of college football to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as an active coach. In fact, he’s the only college coach to have a football stadium named after him while he was still coaching. Enter new coach Chris Klieman, tremendously successful at North Dakota State where his teams captured three FCC championships over the past five seasons. He brings QB Courtney Messingham from NDSU where he won two national championships the past two seasons, and Messingham will battle Skylar Thompson (71.5% completions in 2018) for the No. 1 QB spot. In addition, the Wildcats welcome back their top two WRs and a stellar OL. Don’t fall asleep on this team.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Klieman’s 69 wins and .920 winning percentage the last five years is tops among all Division 1 (FBS and FCS) head coaches.

PLAY ON: at Kansas (11/2)

OKLAHOMA (Offense - 4/1, Defense - 9/3, RPR: 57/109/13)

TEAM THEME: LOVE HURTS

Former Alabama QB Jalen Hurts had enough of Nick Saban’s love of him as a backup. In transferring to Norman this season, Hurts realizes Baker Mayfield transferred to Oklahoma and Kyler Murray did the same as each went on to win the Heisman Trophy the past two years. The question is can Hurts make it three-for-three? If so it will likely start on the defensive side of the ball where the Sooners are deeply experienced and anxious to play for new DC Alex Grinch (Ohio State). With four Big 12 championships in the last four seasons and just three conference losses, Boomer remains the team to beat in 2019.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Oklahoma is 133-28 in regular season Big 12 games since 2000. That’s 24 more wins than the next best school (Texas).

PLAY AGAINST: vs. West Virginia (10/19)

OKLAHOMA STATE (Offense - 6/4, Defense - 5/0, RPR: 74/91/56)

TEAM THEME: NO SWEAT

As we called out last year, Mike Gundy has spent more than half of his life either quarterbacking or coaching at Oklahoma State. The man loves what he does. And he loves winning. Coming off his 13th straight winning season and a seventh bowl victory in the last nine years, Gundy suffered significant personnel losses and as a result, will welcome a new offensive coordinator, offensive line coach and starting quarterback in 2019. The change at quarterback means the Cowboys will have their third different starter in as many seasons. But given Gundy’s track record, it should be no problem as the Cowboys have ranked in the top 10 nationally in passing offense in each of the past four seasons.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Cowboys are 12-0 SU and 10-2 ATS off consecutive wins versus an opponent off consecutive losses under Gundy.

PLAY ON: vs. Baylor (10/19)

TCU (Offense - 7/4, Defense - 5/2, RPR: 85/36/111)

TEAM THEME: WHERE HAS ALL THE OFFENSE GONE

Head coach Gary Patterson’s first priority this season is resurrecting an offense that has slipped miserably each of the last three years, going from 42 points and 563 yards per game in 2015 to 23 points and 368 yards last season. Yes, the Frogs won 4 of their final five games of the campaign last season but they did so averaging just 16 points and 307 yards per game in the process. The QB race is on as two signal callers suffered injuries during spring camp while Kansas State transfer Alex Delton was learning the system. The good news is 4 starters are back from an OL that led the Big 12 in pass protection last year.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: TCU forced 76 TOs the last four seasons. The Horned Frogs forced 100 TO’s the prior three seasons.

PLAY ON: vs. Texas (10/26)

TEXAS (Offense - *5/2, Defense - 3/0, RPR: 121/88/123)

TEAM THEME: NO MORE BATTLE BRUING

The USA TODAY reports UT ranked 124th in plays of 40 or more yards. They also ended the season as one of only two teams without an offensive gain of 50 or more yards for the season, which is shocking for a 10-win team that toppled Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Meanwhile, another quarterback battle was potentially shaping up with former 5-star recruit Bru McCoy announcing that he was transferring in from USC to battle Sam Ehlingher (Is it us or does Ehlinger seem to always have to “win” his job back every season?). However, McCoy balked at coming to Austin and is said to be going back to USC as a wide receiver. With a bevy of senior starters that made 56.5% of all starts (6th most in the country) gone, it won’t come easy for the Horns in 2019.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Longhorns head coach Tom Herman is 12-2 ATS in his career as an underdog.

PLAY AGAINST: vs. Texas Tech (11/29)

TEXAS TECH (Offense - *8/4, Defense - 7/3, RPR: 78/82/67)

TEAM THEME: WELLS ENDOWED

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury sat on the hot seat so long at Texas Tech (three straight sub .500 seasons) that he was hired away by the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL. Go figure. It had to be a Patrick Mahomes / Kyler Murray thing. Nonetheless, Utah State head coach Matt Wells takes over Air-Raid U and with it, he’ll turn the keys to the offense over to QB Alan Bowman, who showed signs of brilliance as a freshman last year before a collapsed lung ended his campaign the final week of October. Behind arguably the best offensive line in the league, Wells’ offense ranked 2nd in the nation in scoring last year should not miss a beat.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Red Raider pass defense ranked No. 128 in yards allowed last season.

PLAY AGAINST: vs. TCU (11/16)

WEST VIRGINIA (Offense - 4/2, Defense - 6/1, RPR: 105/118/58)

TEAM THEME: WHAT BROWN CAN DO FOR YOU

Consider this: less than 1% of all WVU team starts last year were made by freshmen, meaning former head coach Dana Holgorsen went all-in to win last season, not for the future. To that we say: no fear, Neal Brown is here. Brown is one of only six FBS coaches to win 10-plus games the last three years. And during the past four years, his, defense ranked No. 2 nationally in takeaways and No. 7 in interceptions. Replacing QB Will Grier will be challenging but Austin Kendall transfers in from Oklahoma where he backed up Heisman Trophy winners Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield. Safe to say, we’re big Brown boosters.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: WVU is 14-1 SU and 12-3 ATS away against foes coming off a SU favorite loss since 2005.
Last Edit: 1 month 4 weeks ago by Shazman.
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NCAAF 2019 ACC Preview 1 month 4 weeks ago #509143

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2019 Big Ten Preview
By Marc Lawrence

2019 BIG TEN CONFERENCE PREVIEW

Bowlers Welcome

Twelve Big Ten teams will square off against at least one non-conference team that participated in a bowl game last season, with 21 of all 42 non-conference games featuring opponents coming off bowl trips. Michigan and Purdue will each face bowl teams in all three of their 2019 non-conference contests, while Maryland, Michigan State, and Penn State will each play two bowl opponents outside the conference schedule.

Counting conference and non-conference contests, every Big Ten team will face at least six teams that played in a bowl game last season. Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Penn State, Purdue, and Wisconsin lead the way with eight such contests, followed by Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern and Rutgers with seven.

Welcome Aboard

The Big Ten will welcome a pair of new head coaches to the sidelines for the 2019 campaign in Maryland’s Michael Locksley and Ohio State’s Ryan Day. Locksley brings over 20 years of coaching experience, including two separate stints at Maryland, totaling 10 years with the Terps. The winner of the 2018 Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant coach, Locksley has spent the last three years working under Nick Saban at Alabama. Day, the Ohio State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach who led the team to a 3-0 record at the start of the 2018 season, took over as head coach of the program on January 2, following Urban Meyer’s retirement.

The numbers following each team name represent the amount of returning starters on offense and defense, along with the number of returning linemen, with an asterisk (*) designating a returning quarterback. The RPR represents each team’s overall, offensive and defensive rankings in overall returning production experience.

BIG 10 EAST

INDIANA (Offense - *7/2, Defense - 7/2, RPR: 12/25/23)

TEAM THEME: FINE TUNING

With the Hoosiers stuck in neutral the past two seasons, head coach Tom Allen tweaked his coaching staff with the addition of OC Kalen DeBoer, who comes over from Fresno State where the Bulldogs posted a school record 12 victories. DeBoer also assumes associate head coach and quarterbacks coach duties. In addition, Kane Womack was named IU’s DC. The former LB coach inherits a suddenly wobbly stop-unit. Before last season, since Allen’s arrival, Indiana was the most improved team nationally in total defense (169.4 YPG). Behind a deeply experienced squad, the Hoosiers will need to get back to that standard in 2019 in order to achieve their first winning season since 2007.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Over the last 23 years, the teams for which Allen has been a member of the coaching staff have posted a combined 232-83 record (.737).

PLAY ON: at Penn State (11/16) - *KEY

MARYLAND (Offense - 4/2, Defense - 5/1, RPR: 70/47/92)

TEAM THEME: BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY

New Terrapin head coach Mike Locksley marks the arrival of Maryland’s fourth mentor in as many years. A promising 5-3 start to the season last year cratered out with four season-ending losses, including a gut-wrenching 52-51 OT defeat to Ohio State. Locksley enters from Alabama where he was the offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach when the Tide won the national title in 2017 – and pounding the ball on the ground was his cup of tea. New defensive coordinator Jon Hoke brings 40 years of experience, including most recently with Tampa Bay in the NFL. The rebuild will take time, especially knowing that 52.1 % of starts last season were made by seniors – the 13th most in the nation.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Terps are 0-11 SUATS following a win from Game Seven out the last five years.

PLAY ON: vs. Indiana (10/19)

MICHIGAN (Offense - *8/4, Defense - 5/1, RPR: 68/30/106)

TEAM THEME: HOWLING AT THE MOON II

The good news for the Wolverines in 2019 is that QB Shea Patterson decided to return for his senior season. He’ll be working under his sixth offensive coordinator in the last six years (dating back to high school) in Josh Gattis, former Alabama OC. And this one, he feels, fits his skill set the best. Michigan’s new up-tempo, no-huddle shotgun offense is called RPO, or run-pass-option, and with an array of talented wide receivers, it could prove potent. Still seething over season-ending blowout losses to Ohio State and Florida, the Maize-and-Blue face a salty schedule in 2019, with non-conference tilts against three bowl teams. Expect them to be up for the challenge.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The SU winner ‘In The Stats’ is 47-5 in UM games with Harbaugh as its head coach.

PLAY ON: vs. Ohio State (11/30) - *KEY as a dog

MICHIGAN STATE (Offense - *8/3, Defense - 8/3, RPR: 48/24/99)

TEAM THEME: LOCKED AND LOADED

The Spartans return five seniors on defense who have earned All-Big Ten honors in their careers, including first-team All-American and Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year Kenny Willekes, who led the conference with 20.5 tackles for loss in 2018. In addition, first-team All-Big Ten middle linebacker Joe Bachie has led the team in tackles the past two seasons (100 in 2017, 102 in 2018) and returns for his third year. After fielding one of the youngest teams in the nation in 2017, the rush defense ranked No. 1 in the land last season. Should fifth-year SR QB Brian Lewerke rebound from last season’s shoulder injury, that groundwork should pay big dividends in 2019.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Mark Dantonio became the first coach in Big Ten history to record five 11-win seasons in a six-year span. Prior to Dantonio’s arrival, MSU had not recorded an 11-win season in its history.

PLAY ON: at Northwestern (9/21)

OHIO STATE (Offense - 4/1, Defense - 9/3, RPR: 62/117/8)

TEAM THEME: A NEW DAY DAWNING

Changes abound for the Buckeyes in 2019 as former assistant Ryan Day takes over the reins from Urban Meyer while Georgia transfer QB Justin Fields steps in for Dwayne Haskins. Fields was a five-star prospect rated No. 1 overall by ESPN in 2018. A soft non-conference schedule finds Brutus taking on the likes of FAU, Cincinnati and Miami Ohio. Plus they will host three of their biggest foes at the Horseshoe in Michigan State, Penn State, and Wisconsin. Last year’s dynamic duo of running backs is down to just one in J.K Dobbins n 2019. Expect him to have a breakout season while Day relies heavily on an ultra-experienced defense.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Ohio State has played only 3 back-to-back road games in five years.

PLAY AGAINST: vs. Penn State (11/23)

PENN STATE (Offense - 6/3, Defense - 6/2, RPR: 100/116/55)

TEAM THEME: DEAD LIKE ME

The Grim Reaper appears to have paid a visit to Happy Valley during the offseason and it wasn’t pretty. The team witnessed a mass exodus of underclassmen to the NFL Draft. As a result, they rank near the bottom of the barrel in returning starter production. Fifth-year senior QB Tommy Stevens is expected to replace Trace McSorley, the school’s all-time passing leader and winningest quarterback. With it, James Franklin’s coaching abilities will be put under the microscope in 2019 – and we’re not necessarily sure that is a good thing, especially considering our ‘Stat You Will Like’ below. Not when they tackle 8 bowl foes, including each of their final four treks.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Franklin is 2-11 SU and 1-12 ATS away in his career against greater than .666 conference opponents.

PLAY AGAINST: at Iowa (10/12)

RUTGERS (Offense - *8/3, Defense - 5/2, RPR: 87/32/116)

TEAM THEME: ASHES TO ASHES

Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising statement made by head coach Chris Ash at the conclusion of the season last year was when he said, "We're going to have the same offensive coordinator coming back." It was news given the fact that Rutgers has used 9 different offensive coordinators in the last nine years. Strange also given the fact that the Knights are coming off their worst season in a decade and a half following last year’s 1-11 debacle. Meanwhile, returning starting QB Artur Sitkowski was one of 21 underclassmen making starts last year, which should help. But if Ash fails to deliver this season, he could be residing inside a coaches urn in 2020.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Rutgers has outgained 4 foes in 36 games under Ash: Kansas, Morgan State, Norfolk State, and Texas State.

PASS

BIG 10 WEST

ILLINOIS (Offense - 7/4, Defense - 10/3, RPR: 16/45/15)

TEAM THEME: STUCK IN LOVE

Lovie Smith signed a small but impressive recruiting class in the offseason, including six 3-star prospects and two elite 4-star players in QB Isaiah Williams and DB Marquez Beason. But like a die-hard mentor staying true to his school, Lovie stuck with a youth movement last season when 25 underclassmen accounted for 55.3% of all starts – the 4th most in the land. While Smith’s overall record with the Illini is only 9-27, last year’s 4-8 record was his best thus far. Meanwhile, the offense improved a whopping 130 yards per game, but the defense slipped 90 yards per game while allowing 508 yards per contest. With it, Lovie will take over DC duties in 2019.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Illinois is 4-42 SU and 16-30 ATS in its last forty-six Big Ten games versus .500 or greater opponents.

PLAY ON: vs. Northwestern (11/30)

IOWA (Offense - *6/3, Defense - 4/0, RPR: 49/39/84)

TEAM THEME: GOING BOLDLY WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE

Kirk Ferentz heads into his third decade as the Hawkeyes head coach – and the winningest coach in the University of Iowa history. Senior quarterback Nate Stanley led the Hawkeye offense to an average of 31.2 points per game and has tossed 26 touchdown passes in each of the last two seasons. However, Stanley loses stud TE’s T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, both first-round picks in this year’s NFL draft. Iowa was seventh in the nation in total defense and has led the nation with 41 interceptions over the past two seasons. However, four key players on the defensive line from a year ago are no longer around. Thus, September becomes a critical month for Captain Kirk’s starship.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Ferentz is the longest-tenured FBS head football coach in the nation.

PLAY ON: at Northwestern (10/26)

MINNESOTA (Offense - *9/3, Defense - 7/2, RPR: 10/4/61)

TEAM THEME: FIRST RESPONDERS

No team in the land featured more starts by freshmen (32.9%) than the Gophers when underclassmen combined to make 22 starts overall. That works in tandem with the fact that 37 of 44 players from last season’s two-deep are back. Hence, Minnesota will be highly experienced, if nothing at all, this football season. It starts with sophomore QB Zack Annexstad, who along with Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield, are the only two true freshmen walk-on quarterbacks to start a Division-1 game in Week One. With three RBs as lethal as any in the country operating out of the backfield, and super safety Antoine Winfield now healthy, head coach P.J. Fleck should be rowing up a storm this season.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Fleck’s teams are 33-1 SU in their L34 games in which they’ve won the stats, including 22-0 the last 22.

PLAY AGAINST: at Fresno State (9/7)

NEBRASKA (Offense - *7/3, Defense - 6/2, RPR: 93/79/94)

TEAM THEME: BEND THE KNEE FOR HIS ICENESS

It was an excruciating yet rewarding first season for Scott Frost as coach of his alma mater. The Cornhuskers lost their first six games by an average 15 PPG, but they won four of their last six by 12.5 PPG while nearly beating Northwestern, Ohio State and Iowa on the road. QB Adrian Martinez, electric as a freshman despite lingering knee problems, appears on the verge of a breakout season in 2019. Still, despite taking on four opponents with new coaches, Frost has his work cut out for him this season after losing four of his top five tacklers. With Frost setting a Nebraska season record for total offensive YPG last year, football is king in Lincoln once again.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: 2019 marked the first time since 1962 that no player from Nebraska was selected in the NFL draft.

PLAY ON: at Colorado (9/7) - *KEY

NORTHWESTERN (Offense - 5/2, Defense - 6/2, RPR: 72/97/42)

TEAM THEME: PURPLE REIGN

Despite their first winless non-conference season since 1992, the Wildcats rebounded nicely to win 9 games in 2018, including an impressive 31-20 bowl win over Utah – marking the first time in school history that NU won three straight bowl games. “Now it’s become a consistent theme of our program, becoming champions,” insists head coach Pat Fitzgerald. With it, they begin defense of their Big West title minus the services of four-year starting QB Clayton Thorson, selected in the 5th round by the Philadelphia Eagles in this year’s draft. Lest we forget, this from our database: Fitzgerald is a ‘good dog’ (59-37-2 ATS) and a ‘bad favorite’ (27-41-1 ATS). In these two roles last season he went 10-2-2 ATS. Play accordingly.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Pat Fitzgerald has never had a player selected in the first three rounds since taking over the program 13 years ago.

PLAY ON: as a dog vs. Ohio State (10/18)

PURDUE (Offense - 3/2, Defense - 9/4, RPR: 103/124/35)

TEAM THEME: THE PERFECT BROHMIDE

Not only did head coach Jeff Brohm say no to Louisville, his alma mater, his electrifying star WR Rondale Moore also returns after leading the nation with 114 receptions, good for 1,258 yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman last year. Moore also returned kicks for 744 yards while setting a school record with 313 yards... in his first career game! Through it all, the offense averaged 30 PPG last season for the first time since 2007 under Joe Tiller. QB Elijah Sindelar returns after opening the 2018 season as the starter before giving way to since-departed David Blough. Meanwhile, just 32 players started a game last season – only three teams in the land started fewer.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Brohm is 15-2 SU and 14-3 ATS from Game Eleven out.

PLAY ON: at Northwestern (11/9)

WISCONSIN (Offense - 5/1, Defense - 6/2, RPR: 29/7/78)

TEAM THEME: BOWL ME OVER

A five-game home stand from September till mid-October practically insures an 18th straight bowl game for the Badgers. For what it’s worth, with its 35-3 win over Miami in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Wisconsin won its 5th-consecutive bowl game – becoming the first team to win 5 straight bowls as a member of the Big Ten Conference. UW’s run of 5 straight bowl victories is tied for the nation’s longest active streak, along with Louisiana Tech. Badgers’ freshmen made 21.3% starts in 2018, the 5th most of any team in the nation, while underclassmen totaled 24 overall starts. QB Alex Hornibrook transferred to Florida State but Doak Walker Award-winning RB Jonathan Taylor returns.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Wisconsin and Penn State are the only Big Ten teams that have posted a winning season the last 14 consecutive years.

PLAY ON: at Minnesota (11/30
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NCAAF 2019 ACC Preview 1 month 2 days ago #510504

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2019 Pac-12 Preview
By Marc Lawrence

It Was So Bad That...

On the heels of a disastrous 2018 campaign, the PAC-12 is in need of a makeover, the likes of which no plastic surgeon can immediately change the look of this plummeting Power-5 Conference.

It was so bad that UCLA and USC each suffered a losing season in the same year for the first time since 1958. It was so bad that the PAC-12 has gone 7-15 SU and 3-19 ATS in bowl games the last three years ... with only ONE WIN by more than 3 points. It was so bad that since the College Football Playoff was introduced, the Pac-12 has made two appearances — going 1-2 — and failed to appear in three of the five seasons, missing out each of the last two years. Sheesh.

Newbie

Unlike five new head coaches that entered the league last season, the highest number of new coaches on the sidelines in one season for the Pac-12, the loop welcomes just one newbie in 2019 – Colorado’s Mel Tucker.

Ralphie has been running in the wrong direction for far too long. During the past 13 years, the Buffs have produced one winning season and fired three coaches. Competing in the PAC-12’s soft South division, Tucker looks to reverse the Buffaloes path this season.

The numbers following each team name represent the amount of returning starters on offense and defense, along with the number of returning linemen, with an asterisk (*) designating a returning quarterback. The RPR represents each team’s overall, offensive and defensive rankings in overall returning production experience.

NORTH DIVISION

CALIFORNIA (Offense - *4/3, Defense - 7/1, RPR: 52/104/21)

TEAM THEME: UNBEARABLE THOROUGHFARE

Thanks to a Top 10 nationally-ranked defense that led the Pac-12 in Yards Per Play (4.59) and improved 113 yards per game, head coach Justin Wilcox guided the Bears to the Cheez-It Bowl in his second campaign with Cal. The good news is the defense returns 13 players – including leading PAC-12 Defensive Player Of The Year candidate LB Evan Wheeler - that started a combined total of 135 starts last season while losing only 5 that made 45 starts a year ago. Signature wins last year included surprises over Pac-12 champion Washington and at USC. The challenge this year will be to improve on last year’s accomplishments. To do so they will need to navigate a salty conference road slate with visits at Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Utah, and Washington. Gulp.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Cal finished last season ranked No. 129 (last) in both red zone offense (.718) and most turnovers lost (31).

PLAY ON: at Stanford (11/23)

OREGON (Offense - *10/5, Defense - 7/2, RPR: 32/37/46)

TEAM THEME: JUSTIN TIME

With the bloodletting the Pac-12’s reputation has suffered the past two seasons, including nary a playoff team, they desperately need a team to emerge and raise the conference’s stock. With 6’ 6” QB Justin Herbert – 4.06 GPA with 7,070 passing yards with 63 TDs and 17 INTs – shirking the NFL Draft in favor of returning for his senior season, the Ducks just maybe the placebo the loop needs. But the fact of the matter is head coach Mario Cristobal has yet to prove himself at this level. With no consecutive road games, and behind a 2019 signing class that ranks among the best in OU history, there should be no excuses in 2019.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Oregon averages 39.4 PPG in Herbert’s 27 starts for the Ducks.

PLAY ON: at Stanford (9/21) - *KEY

OREGON STATE (Offense - *7/2, Defense - 9/2, RPR: 23/73/3)

TEAM THEME: WAKE UP CALL

Jonathan Smith’s debut in Corvallis put Beaver backers to sleep last season. The team was 1-10 against FBS foes and ranked dead last in the Pac-12 in Yards Per Play allowed – by nearly a yard-and-a-half. In addition, Oregon State finished the year last in sacks allowed (4.0 per game) and second-last in overall scoring defense (45.7 PPG). Compounding matters, OSU has dropped 34 of its last 38 Pac-12 performances. When asked about re-building the culture in Year Two, Smith intoned, “We feel good on the direction we’re headed.” To that, we say it can only be up. It starts with an experienced squad of returning starters and overall production with 6th-year senior Jake Luton at the helm.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Beavers have been outyarded in 24 of their last 25 away games.

PASS

STANFORD (Offense - *4/2, Defense - 5/2, RPR: 108/112/70)

TEAM THEME: WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?

Questions abound on The Farm these days. The running game slumped to 11th in the Pac-12 last season behind an injured Bryce Love, but having to replace WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside (last year’s leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns) might prove more critical than losing Love to the NFL. Nonetheless, QB K.J. Costello (17-7 as a starter) will carry the burden. The bigger concern is a defense that has slipped badly in the last two years. The 410 yards allowed last year is the most ever allowed under Shaw, breaking 2017’s yield of 405 YPG. Still, while Shaw is no Vince Lombardi, he remains highly respected among his peers. Look for him to deliver answers this season.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The team that won the stats in Cardinal conference games last season went 3-6 SU and 3-5-1 ATS.

PLAY ON: vs. Washington (10/5)

WASHINGTON (Offense - 7/4, Defense - 2/1, RPR: 118/53/130)

TEAM THEME: YOUNG PUPS

Coming off three-straight double-digit win seasons, including three consecutive New Year’s Six bowl games, it’s safe to say head coach Chris Petersen is going to miss both 3-year starting QB Jake Browning and RB Myles Gaskin this season. With it, Petersen must replace the winningest class in school history. The rebuild begins with five-star Georgia transfer QB 6’ 6” Jacob Eason, who comes in to take over for Browning. Eason promises to be the PAC-12 Newcomer of the Year. On the defensive front, the Huskies must replace all but two starters – including the entire defensive line – as well as LB Ben Burr Kirven, whose 176 tackles were nearly 100 more than any other Washington player last season. A favorable schedule finds them at home in four of their first five games. Unfortunately, it may not be enough.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Head coach Chris Petersen is 1-11 ATS in his career in games when coming off a SU favorite loss.

PLAY AGAINST: vs. Utah (11/2) - *KEY

WASHINGTON STATE (Offense - 7/4, Defense - 6/2, RPR: 77/84/65)

TEAM THEME: TRANSFER U

QB Gage Gubrud transfers in from Eastern Washington where he tossed for nearly 10,000 yards to fill Gardner ‘Ginsu’ Minshew’s shoes. And big shoes they are as Minshew passed for 4,779 yards and 38 touchdowns while leading Wazzu to its first 11-win season last year after transferring in from East Carolina. The bad news is standout LT Andre Dillard departs. The good news is the rest of the OL is back. The better news is Gubrud will have all four of last year’s top targets back in 2019, which means the mad scientist (read: head coach Mike Leach) should be up to the task of replicating the 9 wins a season he’s averaged the last four years.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Cougars are 11-1 ATS as conference road dogs under Mike Leach vs. winning foes coming off a SUATS win.

PLAY AGAINST: vs. Stanford (11/16)

SOUTH DIVISION

ARIZONA (Offense - *7/4, Defense - 8/1, RPR: 33/76/11)

TEAM THEME: FATE BY TATE

Kevin Sumlin came up short – real short – in his first year with the Wildcats last season. A majority of the disappointment can be attributed to the wobbly condition of star QB Khalil Tate. An early-season ankle injury saw Tate’s rushing yardage drop from 1,411 yards to 224 last year. This was after Tate dominated the conference in 2017, earning an unprecedented four-straight Pac-12 Player of the Week awards. The upside to the injury is that Tate’s passing game improved leaps and bounds as he threw for 26 TDs (as opposed to 14 in 2017). Healthy this season, Tate figures to become a dual-threat for a team loaded with returning experience.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Arizona is 5-1 SU and 5-0-1 ATS in Last Home Games.

PLAY ON: at Arizona State (11/30)

ARIZONA STATE (Offense - 8/4, Defense - 7/1, RPR: 44/103/14)

TEAM THEME: SOPHOMORE BLUES

Herm Edwards’ first year on the job started strong but ended a bit flat when the Sun Devils’ 7-6 record mirrored that of the 2017 squad. Nonetheless, they were picked to finish last in the Pac-12 South but finished second instead. The largest degree of improvement came on the defensive side of the ball where ASU improved by 8 points and 45 yards per game thanks to the extraordinary play of freshmen linebackers Darien Butler and Merlin Roberson. The offense loses two key components this season, though, in QB Manny Wilkins and star WR N’Keal Harry. The good news is workhorse RB Eno Benjamin returns along with most of the offensive line. Still, Year Two could have Herm singing the blues.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Sun Devils are 13-2-1 ATS as conference home dogs of more than 5 points.

PLAY AGAINST: at Michigan State (9/14)

COLORADO (Offense - *8/4, Defense - 6/1, RPR: 43/44/63)

TEAM THEME: TUCK RULES

New head coach Mel Tucker is a defensive guru who has never been a head coach in college football. However, Tucker served as interim head coach with Jacksonville in the NFL. His most recent stops were as a defensive coordinator at Georgia and an assistant head coach at Alabama. Meanwhile, Colorado will debut a new up-tempo offense in 2019 that will alternate pistol and play-action formations that will change on a dime behind dual-threat SR QB Steven Montez. It will be interesting to see if this new offense - led by future NFL WR Laviska Shenault - combined with an always reliable Tucker defense can carry the Buffaloes to only their 2nd winning season in the past 14 years.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: After a 5-0 start to the season last year, Colorado closed out the campaign going 0-7.

PASS

UCLA (Offense - *9/4, Defense - 10/3, RPR: 34/75/16)

TEAM THEME: BETTER INGREDIENTS, BETTER RESULTS

A 3-9 season under first-year coach Chip Kelly was disappointing, but the Bruins showed signs of life from mid-October out when they averaged nearly 30 PPG over that span. UCLA also eclipsed its 2017 rushing totals by more than 400 yards last season. And therein lies the key to success: Kelly’s non-stop offense evolving into a more balanced attack to keep opposing defenses back on their heels. Big Chip’s mission this season is to reclaim a passing attack that compliments the ground game and this season, Kelly’s recruits fit his system (last year he inherited Jim Mora’s kids). With a year under his belt and a boatload of experience returning, look for Chip to fulfill that mission.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Kelly was 28-1 SU against sub .800 college football opponents until last season (3-5).

PLAY ON: at Stanford (10/17)

USC (Offense - *6/2, Defense - 5/2, RPR: 79/21/118)

TEAM THEME: CAUTIOUS CLAY

Graham Harrell, the ex-Texas Tech quarterback who put up big numbers the last three seasons as the OC at North Texas, should prove to be a good hire for the Trojans this season. “I’m very excited for the 2019 season,” said a concerned Clay Helton, who has seen more than a third (10) of his overall coaching victories come over AP Top 25 teams, including 3 Top 5 wins. Things went terribly sideways for USC last season after witnessing a 19-game win streak at the Coliseum under Helton go down the tubes with three consecutive losses in their final three home games. It’s time for SO QB JT Daniels to deliver.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: 1965: the last time both USC and Florida State each failed to go bowling in the same season.

PLAY ON: at California (11/16)

UTAH (Offense - *7/2, Defense - 7/4, RPR: 21/3/81)

TEAM THEME: BOWL ME OVER

When starting QB Tyler Huntley was forced to miss last year’s Holiday Bowl with a broken collarbone, and leading rusher Zack Moss was kept out with a knee injury, it dropped head coach Kyle Whittingham’s record to 11-2 SU all-time in bowl games. Fortunately, with Huntley and Moss back, the Utes return a bevy of experience on offense. The bad news is the top four tacklers on defense have departed. The Utes can thank their lucky stars to have DE Bradlee Anae, a PAC-12 Defensive Player Of The Year candidate, back in 2019. The biggest holes this season, though, will be replacing two national-award winners in PK Matt Gay and P Mitch Wishnowsky. A favorable schedule finds no consecutive away games, thus paving the way to another bowl season for Whittingham and the Utes. Utah should prove to be the team to beat in 2019.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Head coach Kyle Whittingham is 17-5 SU against the other four Power Five conferences.

PLAY ON: vs. Arizona State (10/19)
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NCAAF 2019 ACC Preview 3 weeks 4 days ago #510979

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2019 SEC Preview
By Marc Lawrence

Coach Me Up

Several SEC teams changed coordinators, adopting new styles or systems on offense and defense. Meanwhile, in years of no head-coaching turnover, the biggest trend is the success of the newer coaches who take significant jumps in Year Two. In 2006, Les Miles won 11 games at LSU, and Urban Meyer won his first national title with Florida. Mark Richt won 10 games in 2017 with Miami, and last year Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley and Texas’s Tom Herman took the top two spots in the Big 12 while Matt Rhule led Baylor to a bowl victory. This seems like good news for the fan bases at Texas A&M (Jimbo Fisher), Tennessee (Jeremy Pruitt), Arkansas (Chad Morris), Mississippi State (Joe Moorhead) and Florida (Mullen) entering year two for their coaches. Stay tuned.

Fast Facts

The Crimson Tide is the only FBS school to make it to all five College Football playoffs ... Only one time since 2007 has Alabama or Auburn failed to win the SEC West division (LSU in 2011) ... Georgia will face five FBS foes (all SEC) in 2019 that will be playing with a week of rest. Alabama, Tennessee, and Texas A&M are next with 4 such opponents

Note: The numbers following each team name represent the amount of returning starters on offense and defense, along with the number of returning linemen, with an asterisk (*) designating a returning quarterback. The RPR represents each team’s overall, offensive and defensive rankings in overall returning production experience.

EAST DIVISION

FLORIDA (Offense - *5/1 Def - 8/3RPR: 26/27/43)

TEAM THEME: MAN ON A MISSION

Florida’s six-victory improvement under first-year head coach Dan Mullen in its “mission season” last year was among the best in the FBS, and Mullen’s 10 victories were more than what Urban Meyer and Steve Spurrier won in their first season at Gainesville. Through it all, the Gators’ 7th-ranked offense finally ranked inside the Top 10 in the SEC for the first time since 2009, no thanks to the unsteady play of QB Feleipe Franks, who ranked 10th in the SEC in passing. With only one starting OL back in 2019, Mullen will have his hands full matching last year’s production – especially with all six games away from the Swamp coming against bowl teams.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Dan Mullen’s teams have won the stats in 20 of their 26 games the past two seasons.

PLAY ON: at Missouri (11/16)

GEORGIA (Offense - *6/4 , Defense - 7/2 RPR – 69 /99/36)

TEAM THEME: QUE UP THE DAWGS

The Bulldogs started 11 freshmen or sophomores in 2018, and head coach Kirby Smart added a second-straight top-two recruiting class. Through it all, four juniors left early for the NFL Draft, while five-star QB recruit Jacob Eason has transferred out to Washington. Despite the offseason turmoil, QB Jake Fromm returns after having made 28 starts in a row, winning 23 of those games. With only 4 true road games for the second straight season, the Dawgs must deal with no less than 10 foes that were in bowl games last year, including their final 7 contests of the season. Nonetheless, Georgia returns 20 players who made starts as underclassmen last season. And the five 5* recruits they landed this year are the most in college football. Color them dangerous, again.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Bulldogs have scored 31 or more points in 20 of their last 24 victories under Kirby Smart.

PLAY AGAINST: at Tennessee (10/5)

KENTUCKY (Offense - *4/2, Defense - 4/2, RPR: 114/64/127)

TEAM THEME: GUT CHECK

The schedule maker was certainly kind to Kentucky this season, sending them out on the road only 4 times in 2019. That should aid the Cats’ chances this season given the fact this team was gutted by player losses. It will be extremely difficult replacing the more than 2,000 rushing and 2,000 passing yards the Wildcats have tallied each of the past three seasons (they had accomplished this only two other times in school history). Replacing RB Benny Snell will be problematic, too, as he is the only player in UK history to rush for 1,000 yards three straight seasons. Fortunately for HC Mark Stoops, QB Terry “Touchdown” Wilson returns after passing for 1,889 and rushing for 547 yards last year.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Last season marked the first time since 1958 that both Kentucky and Duke each appeared in the same AP Top 25 poll.

PLAY AGAINST: vs. Florida (9/14)

MISSOURI (Offense - 7/3, Defense - 6/2, RPR: 81/94/57)

TEAM THEME: FROM ONE TIGER TO ANOTHER

The loss of QB Drew Lock, the SEC’s second all-time passer, leaves large shoes to fill but former starting Clemson QB Kelly Bryant transfers in nicely. Bryant completed 65.8% of his passes with Clemson. With three starting OL and three of the top four WR’s back, a Tigers’ offense that has averaged 35 points and nearly 500 yards per game under head coach Barry Odom looks to be in good hands in 2019. Meanwhile, the Mizzou defense has improved 91 YPG from their first season to last behind Odom. With five straight home games from September thru mid-October, the mojo figures to continue all year, especially with Missouri banned from bowling this season for academic fraud by the NCAA.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Tigers are 40-9 SU and 31-14 ATS the last six years in games they manage to outgain their opponent.

PLAY ON: vs. South Carolina (9/21)

SOUTH CAROLINA (Offense - *7/3, Defense - 7/3, RPR: 45/51/64)

TEAM THEME: TIME IS NOT ON MY SIDE

While 7 wins and a bowl game is often considered a successful season, we were disappointed in South Carolina’s effort last season. For openers, seventy-percent of USC’s roster in 2017 was composed of underclassmen, meaning immediate improvement was in the offing. The offense held up its end of the deal, but a usually stout defense did not. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact the Gamecocks ranked dead last in the nation in Time of Possession in 2018: the more the offense is on the sidelines, the more the defense is on the field. That’s a major correction that will need to be dealt with this year. Good luck with that. That and the fact that Carolina will take on the saltiest schedule of all FBS teams in 2019 with this year's foes owning a collective .679 win percentage last season.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: South Carolina will be tackling 9 bowlers in its final 10 games of the campaign this season.

PLAY AGAINST: vs. Vanderbilt (11/2)

TENNESSEE (Offense - *10/4, Defense - 7/0, RPR: 2/2/25)

TEAM THEME: ROCKY FLOP NO MORE

Tennessee’s failure to produce during its 4-win season in 2017 was like waiting 20 minutes in the rain for a black Toyota Camry at the airport. You hoped it would pull up... but it never did. Now it’s time for the Volunteers to deliver the goods under second-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt. Showing improvement on both sides of the ball last year in Pruitt’s rookie season, Rocky Top brings back one of the most experienced teams in the FBS in 2019. With no less than six SEC games on this year’s slate ripe with revenge from last season, look for a smoother ride this campaign from JP and the Vols, provided of course they can overcome a nasty 1-13 SU and 2-12 ATS mark in SEC games against foes coming off a win.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: All eight SEC games this season are against foes that played in a bowl game last season.

PLAY ON: vs. Vanderbilt (11/30)

VANDERBILT (Offense - 7/2, Defense - 5/2, RPR: 91/38/119)

TEAM THEME: PEST CONTROL CALLING

One might think that with two bowl appearances in the last three years that head coach Derek Mason’s job is as safe as a bug in a rug. But unless he can do better than 8-32 in conference games, with nary a winning season overall, he’s on a Terminix watch list. To stave off an impending spray-down, Mason will need to keep his offense engaged, especially after the Commodores scored more points than they allowed last season for the first time in his tenure. And for the first time in four years, there will be a quarterback competition with five scholarship QBs competing for the starting spot. Remember, Vandy has recorded 24 losing seasons in the last 27 years.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Commodores are 0-18 SU and 2-16 ATS in Game Six of the season the last 18 years.

PASS

WEST DIVISION

ALABAMA (Offense - *6/2, Defense - 6/1, RBR: 63/54/80)

TEAM THEME: 15 MILLION REASONS WHY

According to USA TODAY, the Tide will pay its 10 assistants $7.541 million for the 2019 season, an increase of $1.4 million over what Alabama paid its assistants last season. Ironically the lead elephant, Nick Saban, will earn more than all of his assistants combined. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will make $1.55 million this season. Pete Golding, who was promoted to defensive coordinator, will be paid $1.1 million. And the 4-and-5-star athletes... they receive scholarships, just like the collegiate football factory’s business plan calls for. Leading the charge for Bama is top Heisman Trophy candidate QB Tua Tagovailoa, who is so talented he forced former SEC Offensive Player of the Year Jalen Hurts to leave for Oklahoma. He’s just another reason the Tide stands 47-1 SU in its last 48 regular season games.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Alabama is 2-4 SU and 0-6 ATS in its final game of the season the last six years.

PLAY AGAINST: as a favorite vs. LSU (11/9)

ARKANSAS (Offense - 6/2, Defense - 6/2, RBR: 73/63/79)

TEAM THEME: HANGING CHAD

Some say that after its first 10-loss season in school history, the Arkansas faithful were ready to wring Chad Morris’s neck. To that, we say phooey. Along with DC John Chavis from LSU, he brought a modified spread playbook with him. Let’s see what happens when Ben Hicks, his quarterback at SMU, transfers in this year. Hicks’ 51 TD passes in two years with the Mustangs should be the missing elixir. Three 4-star wide receiver recruits (among the 25 three-and four-star recruits they hauled in this offseason) won’t hurt, either. With 7 of the last 8 games coming against bowl teams, look for Arky to get out of the gate in quick fashion.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Hogs have played UNDER their season win total in five of the last six seasons.

PLAY ON: vs. Colorado State (9/14)

AUBURN (Offense - 7/5, Defense - 7/3, RBR: 84/95/59)

TEAM THEME: KEEP THE FOOT ON THE BUS, GUS

With Gus Malzahn resuming play-calling duties last season, the Tigers’ 63-14 pummeling of Purdue in the Music City Bowl carries the momentum forward as they set an SEC record for most points in a bowl game. However, the loss of QB Jarrett Stidham to the NFL draft hurts. Word is five-star true freshman Bo Nix, son of Auburn great QB Patrick Nix, may win the job. Whoever starts for the Tigers will be the 9th new QB to start the season in the last eleven years. And he’ll have to go up against bowlers in 5 of his first six games of the campaign. Meanwhile, the defense received a big boost when star junior defensive tackle Derrick Brown decided to return in 2019. The 6-foot-5, 325-pound force had 45 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 2018. Perhaps he’ll help Malzahn carry past a muddled 6-13 SU mark against ranked opponents the last 4 years.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Over the last three regular-season campaigns, the SU stats winner is 35-3 in Tigers’ games.

PLAY AGAINST: at Arkansas (10/19)

LSU (Offense - *8/4, Defense - 8/4, RPR: 15/12/49)

TEAM THEME: DO NOT SWALLOW

Despite a 10-win season in 2018, LSU was highly inconsistent – finishing seventh in the SEC in scoring, seventh in passing and ninth in total offense. It’s an Ed Orgeron trait. The Mongolian sword-swallower (try deciphering what he says in post-game interviews) used seven different combinations on the offensive line last year. And therein lies the problem. The big ‘O’ will hope the nation’s No. 1 guard and No. 1 running back recruits will work in tandem with returning QB Joe Burrow to iron things out. A testy road slate finds them at Alabama (8 straight losses) and Texas. Let’s hope the Tigers’ post-game interviews are short.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Ed Orgeron is 9-23 SU as a head coach against winning SEC foes in his career.

PLAY ON: vs. Texas A&M (11/30)

MISSISSIPPI (Offense - 3/2, Defense - 10/4, RPR: 116/130/41)

TEAM THEME: ALWAYS A REBEL

After being forced to replace the most players of any team in the nation from 2017’s 2-deep roster last year, head coach Matt Luke got his Rebels off to a 5-2 start. However, the season concluded with an ugly 5-game losing skid. Luke’s roots run deep at Ole Miss, spanning three generations, including four years as a starting center. Despite losing a few stud players to the NFL draft, he’ll benefit this season from back-to-back Top 25 recruiting classes along with deeply experienced returning production. With no back-to-back road games in the way – and after avoiding NCAA sanctions that would ban them again from post-season play – the Rebs look to be bowl-bound in 2019.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Ole Miss is 28-2 SU and 23-7 ATS as a favorite in lined games against non-conference foes.

PLAY ON: vs. Vanderbilt (10/5)

MISSISSIPPI STATE (Offense - 7/3, Defense - 4/0, RPR: 92/81/90)

TEAM THEME: WE WANT EVEN MO

When former offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead came over from Penn State to take over the reins from Dan Mullen last season, it was thought there would be an offensive fireworks show in Starkville, with the defense taking a back seat. In Moorhead’s previous four years as a head coach at Fordham, he took the Rams from a 1-10 team to 38 wins behind an innovative offense. Winning 8 games in his first year behind a scoring defense that finished No. 2 in the land (13.2), while taking on a rugged SEC schedule was certainly commendable. But a defense that finished the season ranked No. 1 in the nation was not only praiseworthy, but it was also unforeseen as well. How well QB Keytaon Thompson replaces Nick Fitzgerald will determine MSU’s fate in 2019. That and 5 new assistant coaches joining the staff in 2019.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Bulldog defense has improved 19 points and 196 YPG the last two seasons.

PLAY ON: vs. LSU (10/19)

TEXAS A&M (Offense - *7/3 , Defense - 4/1, RPR: 102/71/108)

TEAM THEME: NEW LOOKS GOOD ON YOU

A&M won nine games for the first time since 2013 in Jimbo Fisher’s debut season with the Aggies despite facing the toughest regular-season schedule in 2019 (foes 97-47 / .674). Meanwhile, A&M inked a Top-5 recruiting class for the second straight year. Better yet, the Aggies improved on both sides of the ball in 2018 with the offense up 64 YPG and the defense 60 YPG. To top it off, QB Kellen Mond and his entire receiving corps are back in 2019. Still, another daunting schedule this season finds them at Clemson in Week Two, and then back-to-back road games at Georgia and LSU to button up the season. Hang on.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Jimbo Fisher is 28-1 SU and 16-4 ATS against .900 or fewer non-conference opponents in his career.

PLAY ON: vs. Auburn (9/21)
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