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The American

Michigan State, while losing some of a fierce D-line (Shilique Calhoun remains), retain a good secondary and QB Connor Cook’s offense figures to be even better. Ohio State QB Braxton Miller, dinged in 2013, is now out for 2014. Can redshirt freshman QB JT Barrett keep Ohio State in the hunt? QB Christian Hackenberg makes Penn State better than they are. Michigan seems rarely to reach the level they should do, but they could contend for 2nd in the East. In the West, Wisconsin has a comparative cakewalk of a schedule (LSU opener aside). RB Melvin Gordon and their O-line put them in the playoff hunt. Nebraska will find a way to come 2nd ... even if they’re offered 1st. Iowa is the 3rd-place ‘watch’ team almost by default. Northwestern’s unionization vote is less a distraction than the late transfer of RB Venric Mark and the news WR Christian Jones will miss the season. They still have QB Trevor Siemian, and last year’s injury rash could still prove a valuable experience rush.

BIG 12

Following their Sugar Bowl shellacking of Alabama, Oklahoma is up there with FSU in preseason predictions. However, with the Sooners whooped by Baylor a few games earlier, and Baylor losing an unbeaten record in a romp by Oklahoma State (who themselves lost only one game in their first 11 – to lowly West Virginia)... well, nothing is a given in the Big 12. Oklahoma’s schedule is a real helpful one though: Texas at a neutral site, Baylor, Oklahoma State at home. Their 2013 leading passer is now a TE, and Trevor Knight – ’Bama game aside – isn’t heavily road tested. But they have everything it may take to win the big one. Baylor are offensively awesome and, while the Bears as National Champs seems unthinkable, the Bears as BIG 12 champs was unthinkable for decades too. As with Oklahoma, they return much of what made them great last season, although some defensive losses could be the difference between first and maybe third. I have difficulty thinking of K-State as league champs, but they flash star potential at safety, end, certainly WR Tyler Lockett, and maybe QB Jake Waters. Texas should have done better than 8-5 last year; if David Ash (multiple concussions) is ever the QB he might be, coach Charlie Strong will peak out from Mack Brown’s shadow. Texas Tech have an OL, Oklahoma State have some RBs, but graduations mean neither may make last year’s noise. West Virginia and TCU’s bids for relevance rest on new QBs, FSU transfer Clint Trickett and

Texas A&M grad Matt Joeckel respectively.

Other Conference Picks

Did I say one ‘big five’ champ doesn’t make it? How about two? Notre Dame has Everett Golson back under center for the first time since the 2012 season, when they played for the National Championship, a real good roster, and the beefiest strength-of-schedule in the land ... Among armed forces teams, QB Keenan Reynolds gives Navy a shot at 10 wins, Air Force should be back to winning ways with a solid O-line and 9 returning starters on defense, and even Army may manage a level record. The AAC lost star QB power, with Bortles and Bridgewater now NFL

names. However, Gunner Kiel competes with Munchie Legaux at Cincinnati, Shane Carden’s East Carolina is in the league mix, and Houston’s John O’Korn and SMU’s Neal Burcham could step up ... In C-USA, Marshall are about to make more noise than they have since the millennial golden era of Chad Pennington and Randy Moss with a combination of being pretty good and having a powder puff schedule, an early test for littleleague unbeatens in the playoff era. But Rice upset Marshall in last year’s title game, and UTSA field a massive number of returnees ... MAC: The conference belongs to Bowling Green. QB Matt Johnson and RB Travis Greene are too hot to handle ... Mountain West: No Derek Carr or David Fales but

PAC-12 Hollywood blockbusters galore: The Return of USC – new coach Steve Sarkisian will be judged on three games: at Stanford Sept 6, and after at least 8 straight wins, at UCLA and hosting ND. They’re 0-4 against those two teams the past two years. A high tempo offence is fine, but that’s a lot of extra plays for a team that still lacks the depth they had before NCAA sanctions. They could beat Stanford, go 10-0, yet wear out in November, surrendering the division tiebreaker to UCLA ... All-Action Oregon – The Ducks might have gone unbeaten last season, were it not for Marcus Mariota being hobbled late. He is protected by a wholly returned O-Line, and the defensive front seven also boasts experience and strength, CB Ifo EkpreOlomu must lead an otherwise new secondary. It’s a chink in the armor. The schedule includes a visit to UCLA, Oct 11, but there’s no USC or Stanford visit. Any less than the national playoffs will be considered falling short and a waste of Mariota’s final season ...UCLA: Real Deal Hundley. Mariota isn’t the only Heisman candidate QB around here. If the Bruins triumph Oct 11 (and don’t look past an early visit to Arizona State, who soundly beat UCLA last year), Brett Hundley and UCLA will be in the national spotlight. What’s not to like? Coach Jim Mora, the QB, a packed backfield, two-way X-factor Myles Jack, a mostly-returned defense... they have the air of a team that produces the goofy moments that extend the run

– as Auburn did last year – and break into the very big time ... Stanford: Brains’n’Brawn... n’Building. Stanford are smart, sturdy, disciplined, but rarely the sexiest pick in the Pac-12. QB Kevin Hogan, OT Andrus Peat and WR Ty Montgomery will all get a long pro look next draft, however. Plenty of the defense is back, and the Cardinal return the essential names of one of the nation’s best special teams. However, they still have to insert enough new names on both sides of the ball that a killer schedule points to either a step back record-wise, or else the best playoff case of any team in the nation outside of the SEC ... Washington: Petersen goes Big-time. Last year, perennial fly in the ointment Boise State began the season by getting destroyed by Washington. When Steve Sarkisian took the USC job, Chris Petersen clearly remembered the talent base up there, and finally makes the jump to the big leagues. QB Cyler Miles flashed some big-time talent in his one game last season.

Cardinal catcher Ty Montgomery strikes a pose. See overleaf for Heisman hopefuls.




The American September 2014 Issue 736  

The American has been published for Americans in Britain since 1976. It's also for Brits who like American culture.

The American September 2014 Issue 736  

The American has been published for Americans in Britain since 1976. It's also for Brits who like American culture.