Posts by David Street

SQ Orange Bowl Preview

The playoffs are nearing. The Orange Bowl and the Cotton Bowl will decide who participates in the National Championship. And today, I will be previewing the Orange Bowl between the Clemson Tigers and the Oklahoma Sooners. Clemson has had its most successful season since 1981 when it last won a championship, while Oklahoma has bounced back from a

The playoffs are nearing. The Orange Bowl and the Cotton Bowl will decide who participates in the National Championship. And today, I will be previewing the Orange Bowl between the Clemson Tigers and the Oklahoma Sooners. Clemson has had its most successful season since 1981 when it last won a championship, while Oklahoma has bounced back from a disappointing 8-5 season last year to win the Big 12 title.

Storylines Heading Into The Game

Deshaun Watson lives up to the hype: Going into the season, Deshaun Watson had high expectations and he has lived up to them. He was the most electrifying dual-threat quarterback in the nation, as he was the only player to pass for 3500+ yards and rush for 800+ yards. He passed for 30 touchdowns and added 11 touchdowns on the ground. His arms and legs are a big reason why Clemson is 13-0 and one game away from playing in the National Championship.

Lincoln Riley proves to be a genius hire: In 2014, the Sooners were 24th in total offense (465 YDS/G) and20th in scoring offense (36.2 PTS/G). Although are neither of those stats are bad per se, Bob Stoops knew his offense could be better. So he went and snatched offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley from East Carolina and made transfer Baker Mayfield the starter. The results proved to be effective. Under Riley, the Sooners experienced a surge in offense, as they ranked 6th in total offense (543YDS/G) and 3rd in scoring offense (45.8 PTS/G). Mayfield was one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, as he passed for 3389 yards and 35 touchdowns while rushing for 420 yards and adding seven touchdowns on the ground. Although he didn’t have the same season that he had last year, running back Samaje Perinewas still very productive, as he rushed for almost 1300 yards and 15 touchdowns.  

Is Clemsoning officially dead? Clemsoning, the notion that Clemson loses football games it absolutely should not lose, seems to be an afterthought now. In perhaps the most epic rant of the 2015 college football season,Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney made sure that “Clemsoning” would never be mentioned again. He was right. Clemson is undefeated for the first time since 1981. It has not lost to an unranked opponent since 2011 and has defeated three top ten teams this year (Notre Dame,FSU and UNC). 

Key Stats  

122.5: In his last two games, Watson is averaging 122.5 rushing yards per game. He has rushed for over 100 yards in four of his last five games and has added seven rushing touchdowns during that span. Oklahoma’s rushing defense is one of theteam’s weak points, allowing 149.2 rushing yards per game. If Watson can take advantage of that, it will be a long game for the Sooners.  

19: Oklahoma has 19 interceptions this season, which is the 8th most in the nation. Cornerback Jordan Thomas had a provided key production for the Sooners’ secondary with five interceptions and 153 returned yards. He will likely be lined up against Artavis Scott, Clemson’s top receiver. If Thomas and the rest of the Oklahoma secondary are able to contain Clemson’s receiving unit, the Sooners should be able to come out on top.

166.9: Clemson has given up an average of 166.9 passing yards per game in 13 games this season. That ranks 5th best in the nation. Overall, Clemson has one of the best passing defenses in college football. In addition to ranking 5th in passing yards given up per game, it also ranks 1st in opposing completion percentage (46.1%), 14th in yards per pass attempt givenup (5.9) and 7th in opposing quarterback rating (102.2). The one area that it needs to work on is passing touchdowns given up. Clemson has allowed 16 passing touchdowns, which is tied for 40th in the nation. If the Tigers can contain Baker Mayfield and make things difficult for him, they should be able to limit his touchdown throws.   

Key Players  

ShaqLawson, DE, Clemson: Lawson was an absolute monster for the Tigers this season. The junior had 10 sacks and 22.5 tackles for losses, which was the best in thenation. He was one of three players in the nation to have 10+ sacks and 20+tackles for losses. His explosiveness on defense is a key reason for Clemson’s undefeated season. 

 

SterlingShepard, WR, Oklahoma: Shepard was Mayfield’s favorite target. He had 1,201 receiving yards and caught 11 touchdown passes this season. In his last five games, Shepard is averaging 130.4 receiving yards per game and has caught six touchdown passes. He is not Oklahoma’s best player, but his receiving abilities have contributed to Mayfield’s fantastic season.   

Why Clemson Wins  

The Tigers are the most balanced team in the nation. They are the only team to average over 500 yards per game and give up an average of less than 300 yards per game. Watson can take over a game with his arms and his legs. He’s also playing behind a stout offensive line that has allowed him to be sacked only 12 more times. If the line can provide Watson the protection he needs, Clemson should be able to punch its ticket to the national championship      

Why Oklahoma Wins  

Oklahoma can win this game because its offense is as good as it gets. Baker Mayfield and Samaje Perine are one of the best quarterback-running back duos in the nation while Sterling Shepard provides a spark at wide receiver. It has also beaten opponents by an average of 25 points, the best mark in college football. When it comes to running away from the competition, there is no better team in college football than Oklahoma.   

Prediction 

This was extremely tough for me to decide. I do believe that this is going to be the best matchup in the playoffs. Both teams are extremely talented and well-coached. Mayfield is one of the best quarterbacks in the country but he’sfacing one of the best secondary units in college football. At the same time,Clemson has given up quite a few touchdowns and Mayfield could take advantage of that. 

This being said, I’m going to have to go with Oklahoma. I do think Clemson is the better overall team but Oklahoma has been a different animal since its ugly loss to Texas, beating its last seven opponents by an average of 32.6 points. They also got destroyed by Clemson last year by a score of 40-6, so they will be playing with a chip on their shoulder. This game could go either way, but my gut tells me to go with the Sooners here.

FinalScore: Oklahoma 49 – Clemson 40 

Read More 1080 Words

SQ College Football Top-25 Preview: #2 Alabama

The college football staff at SQ have created rankings of the top-25 teams heading into the 2015 season. To prepare our readers for this upcoming season, we are previewing each team. Today’s focus: #2 Alabama.

Team: Alabama

SQ Ranking: 2

2014 Record: 12-2

Finish in AP Poll: 3

Head Coach: Nick Saban (9th year)

Key Arrivals: WR Calvin Ridley,

The college football staff at SQ have created rankings of the top-25 teams heading into the 2015 season. To prepare our readers for this upcoming season, we are previewing each team. Today’s focus: #2 Alabama.

Team: Alabama

SQ Ranking: 2

2014 Record: 12-2

Finish in AP Poll: 3

Head Coach: Nick Saban (9th year)

Key Arrivals: WR Calvin Ridley, CB Kendall Sheffield, DT Daron Payne, RB Damien Harris

Key Departures: QB Blake Sims, WR Amari Cooper, S Landon Collins, RB T.J. Yeldon, LB Xzavier Dickson  

Previewing the Alabama offense: Losing Amari Cooper is a big blow for the Crimson Tide. The electrifying playmaker was second in the nation in receiving yards (1,727), first in receptions (124), and second in receiving touchdowns (16) in 2014. He won the Fred Biletnikoff Award as college football’s top receiver and was taken by the Oakland Raiders as the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft. Who replaces him as Alabama’s primary receiving threat? That answer will not come easy. Including Cooper, three of Alabama’s top receivers have moved on to the NFL. ArDarius Stewart is projected to be a top receiving threat for the Crimson Tide in 2015. The true talent that he possesses has yet to be seen. He has never had 100+ receiving yards in a college game. Nick Saban, however, has a lot of faith in him. 

“He’s probably been our most consistent guy out there in terms of ability to execute,” Saban said earlier in August. “He’s making plays every day. I think his confidence is growing, and I think he’s the next guy that we need to sort of be the man when it comes to playing receiver and playing with consistency.”

Who will throw the ball? As of right now, Saban has yet to decide who his number one signal-caller will be. Whoever it will be will be protected by an offensive line that is projected to be one of the best in the nation. FWAA Freshman All-American left tackle Cam Robinson is a returning starter and so is center Ryan Kelly. Three starters from the line, however, are gone so line coach Mario Cristobal will have his work cut out for him. 

The one position on this Crimson Tide offense that is not an uncertainty is the running back position. Other than 2014, Alabama has been a mostly run-heavy offensive team under Nick Saban. In fact, 2014 was the first time since 2010 that Alabama did not have a 1,000-yard rusher. That could change in 2015. Derrick Henry led the team in rushing yards in 2014 (990) despite having 22 fewer carries than leading carrier T.J. Yeldon (172). He rushed for 100+ yards in 2014 three times and tied with Yeldon for the most rushing touchdowns on the team with 11. With the uncertainty at the quarterback position, the departure of Yeldon, and Henry being the unit’s only proven offensive threat, look for Henry to break 1,000 rushing yards this season for the first time in his college career and carry the team to another dominant season. 

The x-factor to look out for is RB Kenyan Drake. His 2014 season was cut short as he suffered a devastating leg injury. The year before that, he had 694 rushing yards eight rushing touchdowns. If he’s healthy, he could be another very reliable running option for the Crimson Tide in 2015.

Previewing the Alabama defense: Alabama’s defense has always been a very strong unit under Saban and that should be the case in 2015. They have an absolutely loaded front seven spearheaded by LB Reggie Ragland who led the front seven members in tackles in 2014 (93) and DT A’Shawn Robinson who had three passes broken up and four QB hurries. The unit contributed greatly to Alabama’s fourth-ranked rushing defense in 2014. Alabama has been below the top ten in rushing defense only once since Nick Saban became the team’s coach and that was during his first year with them. Look for them to be a top ten rushing defensive unit for the eighth straight year. 

The secondary, unlike the front seven, is a concern for Alabama’s defense. In 2014, Alabama ranked 82nd in the nation in passing defense, 43rd in passing touchdowns allowed, and 31st in opposing quarterback rating. The secondary allowed over 220 passing yards per game, the first time since 2007 that they allowed 200+ passing yards per game. 

Nick Saban brought in Mel Tucker to be the team’s new secondary coach. Tucker spent the last 10 years in the NFL. He has returning starter Cyrus Jones and former five-star CB prospects Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey to work with. He has holes to fill at the safety position which lost both Landon Collins and Nick Perry. 

The one bright spot on the team’s secondary was that it contributed to Alabama having the SEC’s fifth most passes defended in 2014 (50).

The x-factor to look out for is DE Jonathan Allen who was second on the team in sacks in 2014 with six. 2014 sack leader Xzavier Dickson is gone so look for Allen to possibly lead his team in that category. 

Three Key Games:

1. Alabama vs. Wisconsin, September 5th: Alabama begins its 2015 season against a ranked opponent, #20 Wisconsin. Although 2014 leading rusher Melvin Gordon is gone, Wisconsin has another player that is very capable of being its next great running back. Corey Clement was the team’s second leading rusher in 2014 with 949 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns. He had four 100+ rushing yard games, all of them coming against bowl teams. Alabama is all too familiar with Big Ten running backs shredding their front seven so they need to be extra prepared for Clement.

2. Alabama at Georgia, October 3rd: Georgia, who is heavily favored to win the SEC East, is always in the title talk. Head coach Mark Richt has already decided that Greyson Lambert will be his starting quarterback but that really shouldn’t matter as stud running back Nick Chubb is likely to get a lot of touches this season. In addition, Georgia is loaded at the linebacker position and has arguably the best offensive line in college football. Alabama has arguably the best defensive line in college football. This could be a very intriguing matchup. 

3. Alabama at Auburn, November 28th: Ah yes. The Iron Bowl. No matter what team you root for, this one is always a classic to look forward to. From high scoring games to endings that make you jump out of your seat in awe, this game is sure to provide college football fans with lots of excitement and entertainment. Auburn enters this season with a lot of hype and title aspirations. If any team is capable of ruining their chances of a title run, it’s Alabama. It will not come as an easy task, however. Considering that Alabama struggled against the pass last season and Auburn QB Jeremy Johnson is likely to be one of the nation’s best passers, the Crimson Tide have their hands full.

Final Analysis: Even though Amari Cooper is gone, the quarterback position is at an uncertainty, and the secondary remains to be a concern for Alabama, I still think this team is loaded and deep enough to contend for a national title. Never, ever count out a Nick Saban-coached squad. Considering that last year was a “rebuilding” year for them and they made it all the way to the national semifinals, there’s always reason for hope when it comes to Alabama football. My prediction: Alabama goes 11-1 in the regular season, the one loss coming against Auburn who is my pick to win it all. Will that still be enough for a playoff invite? We shall see. 

Read More 1209 Words

SQ College Football Top-25 Preview: #6 Auburn

The college football staff at SQ have created rankings of the top-25 teams heading into the 2015 season. To prepare our readers for this upcoming season, we are previewing each team. Today’s focus: #6 Auburn.

Team: Auburn

SQ Ranking: 6

2014 Record: 8-5

Finish in AP Poll: 18

Head Coach: Gus Malzahn (3rd year)

Key Arrivals: DE Byron

The college football staff at SQ have created rankings of the top-25 teams heading into the 2015 season. To prepare our readers for this upcoming season, we are previewing each team. Today’s focus: #6 Auburn.

Team: Auburn

SQ Ranking: 6

2014 Record: 8-5

Finish in AP Poll: 18

Head Coach: Gus Malzahn (3rd year)

Key Arrivals: DE Byron Cowart, RB Jovon Robinson, OLB Jeffery Holland, WR Darius Slayton, S Jordan Colbert

Key Departures: QB Nick Marshall, WR Sammie Coates, RB Cameron Artis-Payne

Previewing the Auburn Offense: There is a lot of hype surrounding the Auburn Tigers and much of that has to do with the potential that they have on offense. Gone is the trio of QB Nick Marshall, WR Sammie Coates, and RB Cameron Artis-Payne. The new trio, however, could be even better. Jeremy Johnson was Nick Marshall’s back-up the last two years, and during that time, he threw for 858 yards with nine touchdown passes and two interceptions while completing over 70% of his passes. In the first half against the Arkansas Razorbacks in 2014, he completed 12 of 16 of his passes (75%) and threw for 243 yards while putting up two touchdowns. His body is ideal for a quarterback as he stands 6 feet 5 inches with a weight of 240 pounds. He’ll be protected by one of the best offensive lines in the nation (allowed Nick Marshall to be sacked only 14 times in 2014) which has six starters returning.

Duke Williams was Auburn’s second-leading receiver in 2014 with 730 receiving yards off of 45 receptions and five touchdown catches. He had four 100-yard receiving games, all of them coming against bowl teams (Arkansas, Kansas State, Mississippi State, and Alabama). Coates’ departure and the potential that Johnson has at quarterback could lead to Williams having a breakout year.

Jovon Robinson, the nation’s top junior college transfer, will likely be the team’s number one running back. He won the NJCAA National Offensive Player of the Year award in 2013, rushing for 2,387 yards (a junior college record) and 34 touchdowns. 

The x-factor to look out for is Ricardo Louis. Although he is primarily a wide receiver, he’s also a threat as a rusher. In 2014, he averaged a much higher yards per carry (12.2) than 2014 team-leading rusher Cameron Artis-Payne (5.3). Look for head coach Gus Malzahn to possibly use him as a dual-threat option from both the air and the ground.

Previewing the Auburn Defense: This was Auburn’s weakness last year. In 2014, Auburn had the 80th ranked passing defense and the 44th ranked rushing defense. They surrendered 26.7 points per game, good for only 63rd in the nation. One bright spot on the defense was that they snatched 22 interceptions, tied for first in the SEC. 

To beef up the defense and hopefully give them a new identity, Malzahn has brought in former Florida head coach Will Muschamp to be the team’s defensive coordinator. Muschamp, who has arguably the best defensive mind in college football, has had success pretty much everywhere on the defensive side of the football. While Florida’s offense was inept under him, the defense was consistently great. It ranked ninth, sixth, fifth, and fourth in total defense, respectively, during his tenure. Muschamp has actually served as Auburn’s defensive coordinator before, from 2006-2007. In his final season there, he guided them to the sixth best defense in the nation.

Team-leading tackler Jonathan Ford is returning. In addition to 94 tackles, he also had three interceptions and one forced fumble. Second-leading tackler Cassanova McKinzy is also returning. He had 91 tackles in addition to one interception and one forced fumble. 

Highly touted DE prospect Byron Cowart (number one recruit on ESPN’s 300 rankings) could impact this defense immediately. Only a freshman, he has already received high praise.

“We feel like he’s going to be great for us this year. We trust him and we know that once he gets our system, it’s going to be sky’s the limit for him,” Auburn linebacker Kris Frost said. 

The x-factor to look out for is defensive back Jonathan Jones. In 2014, Jones was tied for first on the team in interceptions with six and had one forced fumble. In Muschamp’s defensive system, that production could go up.

Three Key Games:

1. Auburn vs. Mississippi State, September 26th: The media has not been too kind to Mississippi State this year and that may be just enough to tick off a Bulldog team that wants to prove that last year was no fluke. Dak Prescott, the team’s signal caller, is the SEC’s only legitimately proven quarterback at this point. In 2014, he was third in the SEC in passing yards (3,449 ), second in passing touchdowns (27), and had the fourth highest QBR (151.72). Auburn will have to get through an angry Mississippi State team if it wants a real shot at the playoffs.

2. Auburn vs. Georgia, November 14th: Georgia is heavily favored to win the SEC East. Although there is still uncertainty at the QB position, their star running back, Nick Chubb, will be an absolute nightmare for opposing defenses. In 2014, Chubb rushed for 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns. He stepped his game up in his final eight contests during Todd Gurley’s absence, rushing for 1,323 yards and 12 touchdowns. Auburn will have to neutralize Chubb in order to secure a key victory.

3. Auburn vs. Alabama, November 28th: The Iron Bowl is always a classic. Last year, in an offensive shootout, the Crimson Tide beat the Tigers by a score of 55-44. The year before that, Auburn beat Alabama in the most dramatic way ever. Never count out Alabama. They are always in the hunt and continue to be a part of the SEC’s elite. This battle of arguably the two best teams in the SEC West could be a joy to watch, with the winner possibly advancing to the playoffs.

Final Analysis: I’m really high on Auburn this year, so high that I’m predicting them to run the tables in 2015 and win the national championship with a 15-0 record. I absolutely love their offense and think it will be by far the best in the SEC as well as top five in the nation. Their defense should experience a significant rise in production under defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and with the help of top prospect Byron Cowart. The combination of an elite offense and a defensive unit under the guidance of a great defensive coach could be lethal for other teams.

It certainly will not be easy, however. Teams don’t go from 8-5 one year to national champions the next year just like that. But if any team can do it, it’s the Auburn Tigers. 

Read More 1039 Words

SQ ACC Preview

Conference Champion: Florida State 13-1 (8-0). Defeated Georgia Tech in ACC championship game 37-35.

Coach of the Year: Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

After two straight seven-win seasons, Paul Johnson's Yellow Jackets broke through with a 11-3 record (6-2 in conference play). The 2014 Jackets led all ACC teams in total offense,  rushing yards, rushing yards

Conference Champion: Florida State 13-1 (8-0). Defeated Georgia Tech in ACC championship game 37-35.

Coach of the Year: Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

After two straight seven-win seasons, Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jackets broke through with a 11-3 record (6-2 in conference play). The 2014 Jackets led all ACC teams in total offense,  rushing yards, rushing yards per game, points, and points per game. This came a year after a mediocre 7-6 season. The vast one-year improvement, not to mention the fact that it was the first time in five years Georgia Tech won at least 10 games, gave Johnson his 3rd ACC Coach of the Year award. 

Offensive Player of the Year: RB James Conner, Pittsburgh

This is no surprise. Conner was an absolute beast for the Panthers and emerged as one of the best running backs in college football. He led all ACC runners in rushing yards (1,765 yards) and touchdowns (26, no other runner was even close to him in that category). He had seven 100+ rushing yard games, six 150+ rushing yard games, three 200+ rushing yard games, and one 250+ rushing yard game. 

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Vic Beasley Jr., Clemson

Beasley anchored the nation’s top ranked defense by leading all ACC defensive players in sacks (12.0) and tackles for loss (23). He was an intimidating presence for opposing offenses despite constantly being double and triple-teamed. 

Three Memorable Games:

1. Florida State 23 vs. Clemson 17 OT, Sep. 20th-Without starting QB Jameis Winston who was suspended one game for shouting a derogatory, sexist remark, the Seminoles managed to escape the Clemson Tigers in OT to move up to 3-0 in their season. Backup QB Sean Maguire threw for 304 yards, completed 54% of his passes, and threw a costly interception that gave the Tigers the ball in FSU territory with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter. Just when things started to look bleak for the Noles, Clemson RB C.J. Davidson fumbled at the FSU 18 to give Florida State the ball back. Florida State RB Karlos Williams would eventually seal the deal for the Noles in OT with a 12-yard touchdown run. 

2. Georgia Tech 27 vs. Virginia Tech 24, Sep. 20th-The Jackets overcame a 16-10 halftime deficit and a 24-17 fourth quarter deficit to defeat the Hokies by a score of 27-24. Georgia Tech QB Justin Thomas threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to WR DeAndre Smelter to tie the game at 24 and Harrison Butker kicked a 24-yard field goal to give the Hokies the victory.

3. NC State 24 vs. Syracuse 17, Nov. 1st-In the Wolfpack’s first ACC win in nearly two years and first road win since 2010, DE Pharoah McKever returned an 82-yard interception to give spark NC State to the victory. The Orange were up 14-9 and were in Wolfpack territory late in the third quarter when QB A.J. Long threw an interception to McKever that would prove costly in the end. 

Looking Ahead to 2015:

Conference Favorite: Clemson

The Noles lost 11 players to the 2015 NFL draft. The biggest loss by far was Jameis Winston, who was selected first overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson is likely going to be FSU’s new starting QB, but how well will he fit in to Jimbo Fisher’s system? That remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the Clemson Tigers are looking to win their first conference championship since 2011 and there’s a very good chance of that happening. Quarterback Deshaun Watson should likely emerge as a Heisman favorite. He had extremely solid stats for the Tigers as he passed for 1,466 yards in eight games, with 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Mike Williams, who had 1,030 receiving yards (leading all Clemson receivers) and nine touchdowns, is returning and poised to have an even better year. Second leading receiver Artavis Scott (965 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in 2014) is also returning. The WR duo of Williams and Scott will be dangerous for opposing defenses and help Watson achieve a very memorable year for the Tigers. Although they lost a few key pieces on defense (particularly Vic Beasley Jr.), they should have just enough firepower on offense to claim their first ACC conference crown in four years.

Conference Dark Horse: Georgia Tech 

It’s weird calling Georgia Tech a dark horse considering they’re coming off an 11-win season. The reason why I’ve labelled them as such is because they’re not getting nearly enough respect, especially when compared to other ACC squads like Florida State and Clemson. Justin Thomas, one of the nation’s most electrifying dual-threat QBs (1,719 passing yards, 18 passing touchdowns, 1,086 rushing yards, and eight rushing touchdowns in 2014) is returning and so is leading receiver DeAndre Smelter (715 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in 2014). These stats are not the most eye-popping, but Georgia Tech is the real deal and could have another double-digit winning season.

Most Improved Team: Miami

Miami is coming off a disappointing 6-7 season, but there’s reason to believe that they’ll be better in 2015. QB Brad Kaaya won ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year, throwing for 3,198 yards with 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He will be joined by a pair of two very solid four-star freshmen in running back Mark Walton and wide receiver Lawrence Cager. In addition, Miami’s 2015 schedule is pretty favorable. Nebraska, Cincinnati, Florida State, Clemson, Duke, and Georgia Tech will not be easy, but they are all beatable.

Freshmen to Watch:

1. Josh Sweat, WDE, Florida State-Sweat was considered the top high school prospect until he fell victim to a major injury knee injury. But even with these injury concerns, the weak defensive end provides the Noles with an immediate boost in their front seven. Sweat was an intimidating presence for High School QBs; he racked up 22 sacks, 31 tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles in 2013.

2. Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson-Wilkins, the 6th ranked DT recruit in the nation, gives Clemson’s front seven an added boost. In his senior season, he tallied 71 total tackles and 22 tackles for loss. He also had an outstanding performance in the 2015 Under Armour All-America Game where he recorded a sack and blocked an extra point and returned it for a score.

3. Johnny Frasier, RB, NC State-There’s no guarantee that the former FSU commit will become the Wolfpack’s primary runner, but if he does, look out. He was a monster in high school, rushing for 3,042 rushing yards and 45 rushing touchdowns in 2013.

Offensive Player of the Year Prediction: Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

I’m pretty high on Watson. He’s got a cannon of an arm and his two primary targets (Williams and Scott) should help him out tremendously. In limited action in 2014, he had 14 touchdowns and two interceptions (as mentioned before). In addition those overall numbers, he had a very solid four game stretch in which he passed for 1,122 yards and 11 touchdown passes to go along with just one interception. As of now, he is my early favorite to win the Heisman.

Defensive Player of the Year Prediction: Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

Fuller anchored the ACC’s fourth best secondary with a conference leading 15 passes broken up. He was tied for first in passes defended (15 passes broken up, two interceptions) and is widely regarded as one of the best corners in the nation. With Gerod Holliman off to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Fuller has a chance to become the ACC’s premier defensive back.

Three Games to Watch:

1. Clemson vs. Florida State, Nov. 7th-This is a game that everybody should have marked on their calendars. Florida State and Clemson are hands down the two best teams in the ACC. With Winston now gone from Florida State and Watson being Clemson’s QB, this could be Clemson’s game to lose, but I would not bet on it. Jimbo Fisher-led teams should never be counted out. Let’s not forget that Fisher’s record without Winston is 32-10, so it isn’t a guarantee that, just because Winston is gone, the Noles will be much worse. Clemson will need to put in an excellent all-around performance in order to earn their first win over the Noles since 2011.

2. Clemson vs. Georgia Tech, Oct. 10th-This should be another good one. Can Georgia Tech repeat their magic from last year? We’ll see, but I certainly think so. After getting pounded by the Jackets 28-6 last year, the Tigers will be looking for some revenge in the 2015 rematch. This game could mean a lot to Clemson if they stay in the thick of the playoff race. 

3. Miami vs. Virginia Tech, Oct. 17th-It will be interesting to see how Miami QB Brad Kaaya continues to evolve as he’ll have to eventually face one of the best secondaries in the ACC in Virginia Tech. Kendall Fuller is a beast and can strike fear in a quarterback’s eyes, so Kaaya might try to avoid throwing to him. This game might be a bit meaningless considering both of these teams were mediocre last year but hey, teams always bounce back, right? 

Read More 1444 Words

2015-16 NFL Awards Predictions

Greetings, SQ fans! The 2015 NFL season is upon us and a lot of you may be wondering what prestigious awards certain players are going to collect. Well, I am wondering too, and I have made a list of who I think the award winners will be. So, without further ado, let's get started!

MVP:

Greetings, SQ fans! The 2015 NFL season is upon us and a lot of you may be wondering what prestigious awards certain players are going to collect. Well, I am wondering too, and I have made a list of who I think the award winners will be. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

MVP: Andrew Luck (QB, Indianapolis Colts)-Did you know that Andrew Luck has more passing yards in his first three years than any other quarterback in NFL history? The Stanford grad had extremely high expectations entering the league and he has not disappointed. He has taken the Colts to the playoffs in his first three years, advancing farther into the playoffs each year. 

This year, he not only has his favorite receiver TY Hilton (who just signed a big contract) to throw to, but he also has veteran receiver Andre Johnson who spent the majority of his career with the Houston Texans. Together, this wide receiver duo could help Luck achieve his best statistical year ever. In addition, running back Frank Gore was added to the mix and should take pressure off of Luck’s hands (Luck was 3rd in the NFL in pass attempts in 2014, likely a result of Indy’s overall terrible running game, causing him to throw the ball a lot).

Offensive Player of the Year: Andrew Luck-As mentioned before, the wide receiver duo of TY Hilton and Andre Johnson could help Luck achieve his best statistical year. Although he is prone to turnovers, I believe Frank Gore will be able to prevent that. He is by far the best running back that Andrew Luck has had and he should be able to lessen the load on Luck’s shoulders and help his turnover rate go down.

Defensive Player of the Year: Earl Thomas (FS, Seattle Seahawks)-This might be a bold prediction. Although widely considered to be the best safety in the NFL, Thomas is considerably underrated. He doesn’t get a whole lot of attention from the media, particularly because he does his job on the field and keeps his mouth shut off of it. But make no mistake, Thomas is the glue that holds the infamous Legion of Boom secondary together. I predict that Thomas will become the first defensive back to win Defensive Player of the Year since Troy Polamalu five years ago.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Melvin Gordon (RB, San Diego Chargers)-The San Diego Chargers finished with the 30th ranked rushing attack in 2014. Melvin Gordon should change that immediately. The former Wisconsin Badgers running back was an absolute beast in college, setting records in carries taken to reach 2,000 rushing yards in a season (241) and career average rushing yards per carry (7.79). He was selected by the Chargers as the 15th pick in the 2015 NFL draft and I believe he is going to give Chargers fans a lot to be excited about.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Eric Kendricks (LB, Minnesota Vikings)-Kendricks was recognized as the best linebacker in college in 2014, winning the Butkus Award and Lott Trophy. The 2nd-round pick should impact a potentially loaded Vikings defensive squad right away especially with the help of head coach Mike Zimmer who has arguably the best defensive mind in the game. It is a bold prediction, however, as a player who was picked past the 1st round has not won this award since DeMeco Ryans, a 2nd-round pick, won it nine years ago.

Coach of the Year: Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings)-I don’t know about you guys, but Zimmer is the kind of coach that I would love to have. He is a no-nonsense guy who expects nothing but the best from his players. In his rookie season with the team in 2014, he guided them to a respectable 7-9 record with a rookie quarterback and without Adrian Peterson. 

The defense improved tremendously under him, going from 31st in 2013 to 14th in 2014. With a full year under Zimmer’s system, the defense should be even better in 2015 and be potentially top ten, maybe even top five. Also, AP is back and Bridgewater, who had a very solid rookie season, is poised to take his skills to a new level in his 2nd season. Don’t sleep on the Vikings. 

Comeback Player of the Year: Sam Bradford (QB, Philadelphia Eagles)-The last time Bradford played a full season was in 2012. He has since torn his ACL twice. He was recently traded from the Rams to the Eagles and is expected to be the starting quarterback for the Eagles. Why is Sam Bradford injury prone? My answer: because he played behind a terrible Rams o-line, that’s why. 

Philly’s o-line is easily better and cold give Bradford the protection that he needs. It’s important to note that in 2013, he was on pace to finish with his best season before tearing his ACL. In seven games, he finished with 1,687 passing yards, 14 touchdown passes, and four interceptions (projected to be 3,856 passing yards, 32 touchdown passes, and 9 interceptions in a full 16-game season). When healthy, he is a very solid quarterback. 

What do you think of this list? Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comment section! And thanks for reading!

Read More 813 Words

Whether You Like It Or Not, Tom Brady Is A Legend

Recently, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell upheld New England Patriots QB Tom Brady’s four game suspension, which he received for his alleged involvement in January's "Deflategate." The ongoing debacle has cast a dark cloud over the NFL legend, leading to an outpouring of criticism from fans and critics who say he’s a cheater and that he lacks integrity. But,

Recently, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell upheld New England Patriots QB Tom Brady’s four game suspension, which he received for his alleged involvement in January’s “Deflategate.” The ongoing debacle has cast a dark cloud over the NFL legend, leading to an outpouring of criticism from fans and critics who say he’s a cheater and that he lacks integrity. But, is it really that bad? Or are people just blowing this whole issue completely out of proportion? Brady may have a few blemishes on his record, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. I’m here to tell you that he’s still one of the best quarterbacks of all time, because, like it or not, he is. 


“He’s a cheater! He’ll never make the Hall of Fame!” 

Did you know that wide receiver Jerry Rice, who happens to be in the Hall of Fame, openly admitted to using stickum in his career? Stickum is a sticky substance that you put on your gloves to make the football easier to catch. It became illegal in 1981, four years before Rice was drafted. Despite this, he is still widely considered to be the greatest wide receiver of all time. By the way Jerry, didn’t you call out the Patriots for cheating, even though you cheated yourself?

Moreover, Brad Johnson, quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their 2003 Super Bowl victory, admitted to paying people to tamper with footballs during the game! Why is there no outcry over that? Is it because Brad Johnson is not a future Hall of Famer? Oh, it is? Okay, gotcha. 

And then of course, there’s ‘Spygate,’ the controversial event that pitted the Patriots against the world. They were despised by fans of pretty much every NFL team but their own. But what a lot of people did not (and probably still don’t) know was that the Patriots were not the only team who tried to steal signals from other teams (allegedly, of course). Former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher has said that everyone tried to steal signals. 

Before you think I’m condoning Brady’s cheating (that is, if he actually did it), I’m not. Past injustices obviously do not make present ones okay. But the NFL is not the bastion of integrity that many people want it to be. People in the league have been trying to gain competitive advantages for years, and will for many years to come. If you think Brady and the Patriots are the only ones trying to do that, then I ask you to please open your eyes. 

This isn’t just about Brady’s “cheating” though. He was one of the league’s most scrutinized quarterbacks ever, even before deflategate. Let’s take a look at what Brady critics and pundits constantly say about him.   


“He’s a system quarterback! The fact that the Patriots went 11-5 in 2008 without him proves that!” 

It proves that Bill Belichick is a great head coach. The fact that they went 11-5 with Matt Cassel, of all people, as their starting quarterback is a testament to Belichick’s coaching. However, the fact remains that Brady was injured for most of the season and, without him, the Patriots missed the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Had Brady not been injured, there’s a very good chance that the Patriots would have made the playoffs and perhaps have even made a Super Bowl run. 

When people say that Brady is a system quarterback, what exactly do they mean? Brady has had to deal with three different offensive coordinators in his professional career and he has flourished under all three of them. Let’s face it though, Tom Brady is basically an offensive coordinator himself. 

Look, even if Tom Brady is a product of New England’s system, he’s obviously by far their best product. Let’s take a look at the things that Tom Brady has accomplished as a “system” quarterback: 

  • First quarterback in NFL history to lead his team a 16-0 regular season 

  • First quarterback to lead his team to 12 division titles     

  • First quarterback to throw 50 touchdown passes in a season   

  • Most career playoff wins (21) 

  • Most consecutive playoff wins (10) 

  • Most career playoff touchdown passes (53) 

  • Most career playoff passes completed (683) 

  • Most career Super Bowl touchdown passes (13) 

  • Most passes completed in a Super Bowl (37) 

  • Most Super Bowl appearances (6, several players) 

  • Most Super Bowl victories by a starting quarterback(4, tied with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw

  • Most Super Bowl MVPs (3, tied with Montana)  

Tom Brady has accomplished all of that as a “system”quarterback. Not bad.  


“He should thank Adam Vinatieri for his first three rings!” 

And Adam Vinatieri should thank Tom Brady for driving the team down the field and giving him field position good enough to kick those field goals. People act like Vinatieri did literally everything for the Patriots. According to their logic, he was not only the kicker, but he was also the quarterback, a defensive tackle, a wide receiver, and the running back. Without Tom Brady, Vinatieri would have never been in a position to kick those field goals. Brady did his part and Vinatieri did his. Football is a team sport.   


“Well if Pete Carroll hadn’t made the dumbest play call ever, the Seahawks would have won the Super Bowl! They gave that game away!” 

First of all, no they did not. I was under the impression that in order to give a game away, you actually have to have the lead and the Seahawks did not have the lead. Tom Brady did his job (like Belichick says, “Do your job”). He led his team from down 10 points in the fourth quarter to an eventual 28-24 victory. Before, no team had ever overcome a 10-point fourth quarter deficit in the Super Bowl. Watching the game, for a moment I thought Seattle was going to run away with a blowout victory. They were up 24-14 and seemed to be on their way to a second straight dominating Super Bowl victory. But I forgot that Tom Brady is, well, Tom Brady. He’s one of the clutchest quarterbacks of all time and that fourth-quarter comeback solidifies that. 

As for that actual play call, many people, myself included, wondered why Carroll chose not to give the ball to one of the best running backs in the NFL. Even as someone actively rooting aganst the Seahawks, I was absolutely furious with Carroll. 

“You have Marshawn Lynch, one of the best running backs in the game, and you don’t hand him the ball??? What the heck is wrong with you???” 

But later on, I learned that the call itself wasn’t bad, even if the result was. Had the call actually worked, everyone would be calling Carroll a genius for catching the Patriots off-guard. Instead, it backfired in the absolute worst way and Carroll had to suffer an intense backlash of criticism. 

People believe that if Lynch was handed the ball, it would have been an automatic victory for Seattle. But that might not have been the case. Did you know that Lynch, despite being one of the best running backstoday, had terrible goal line stats? In 2014, he only scored one touchdown in five attempts from the 1-yard line. So it was not a given that handing the ball to Lynch would have automatically secured a Super Bowl victory for Seattle. Maybe it would have. But the numbers suggest it most likely wouldn’t have.   

I know what you’re thinking. “This writer is obviously a biased Tom Brady fan.” I am here to tell you that I am not a Tom Brady fan. In fact, I used to hate him. But now, I’ve come to respect to him. Like SQ member Max Holm noted in his great article about LeBron James, holding on to a negative emotion eventually becomes a waste of time. 

How many quarterbacks can say that they were drafted as late as Brady was (the 6th round) and have had the success he has? It’s an incredible underdog story that’s impossible to not respect. Stealing signals and letting air out of footballs does not lead to records and championships. Raw talent and hard work do and Brady has the former and has put in the latter. No matter what competitive advantage you try to gain, you still have to have the talent and put in the work. 

I am not saying that you have to like Tom Brady. You can still hate him. But I am asking that you look past your hate and recognize that you’re lucky to watch him play. You may call him a cheater. History will call him one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. Whether you like it or not, Tom Brady is a legend and when he retires, the NFL will not be the same. 

(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Read More 1560 Words

SQ College Football Top-25 Preview: #18 Mississippi State

The college football staff at SQ have created a rankings list of the top-25 teams heading into the 2015 season. To prepare our readers for this upcoming season, we are previewing each team. Today's focus: #18 Mississippi State.


Team: Mississippi State

SQ Ranking: 18

2014 Record: 10-3

Finish in AP Poll: 11

Head Coach:

The college football staff at SQ have created a rankings list of the top-25 teams heading into the 2015 season. To prepare our readers for this upcoming season, we are previewing each team. Today’s focus: #18 Mississippi State.


Team: Mississippi State

SQ Ranking: 18

2014 Record: 10-3

Finish in AP Poll: 11

Head Coach: Dan Mullen (7th year)

Key Arrivals: RB Nick Gibson, WR Donald Gray, ILB Leo Lewis, OT Martinas Rankin, S Jamal Peters.

Key Departures: RB Josh Robinson, S Jay Hughes, S Justin Cox, FB Malcolm Johnson, C Dillon Day, OLB Preston Smith, ILB Benardrick McKinney

Previewing the Mississippi State Offense: Dak Prescott was the engine that drove this offense in 2014, passing for 3449 yards with 27 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. His passing ability helped Mississippi State rank 4th in the SEC in passing offense. He was also dangerous on the ground as he ran for 986 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns. Everything about Mississippi State’s offense revolves around him. However, he won’t be the only unit’s contributor.

RB Josh Robinson, who rushed for 1,203 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2014, has moved on to the Indianapolis Colts. Could Prescott, who was the team’s second leading rusher, be the team’s leading rusher in 2015? It’s certainly possible. Brandon Holloway will most likely be the team’s starting running back and while his 2014 rushing yards stat may not look convincing (294 rushing yards), he did average a higher yards per carry (6.5) than Robinson did (6.3). 

Overall, Mississippi had a very strong rushing attack, ranking 23rd in the nation and 3rd in the SEC. Robinson is the only major departure, so Mississippi State should once again have a very solid rushing offense. 

Mississippi State’s offensive line was slightly above average in 2014, conceding 23 sacks, which was 42nd in the nation. It will have to be even better in 2015 in order to protect Prescott. 

One x-factor to look out for is De’Runnya Wilson. He was the team’s leading receiver in 2014 (680 receiving yards, 9 receiving touchdowns) and could see his stats increase if Prescott becomes even better in 2015.

Previewing the Mississippi State Defense: Mississippi State’s defense in 2014, for the most part, was not that good. The team was 80th in the nation in total yards allowed (123rd in passing defense and 21st in rushing defense) and gave up about 22 points per game. There were some bright spots however. They had 70 passes defended, which was by far the best in the SEC, and 37 sacks, which was good enough for 2nd in the SEC. They also had the best red zone defense in the nation, allowing only a 63.6 scoring percentage in the red zone. 

ILB Benardrick McKinney, the team’s 2014 leading tackler with 72 tackles, has moved on to the Houston Texans. OLB Preston Smith, the team’s 2014 sack leader with 9 sacks, is now with the Washington Redskins. These are two huge departures that could have an impact on Mississippi State’s defense. 

Beniquez Brown will most likely be the team’s main contributor in tackling (he was 2nd on the team in tackles in 2014 with 62 tackles), while Ryan Brown’s sack production could improve (4 sacks in 2014, tied for 2nd on the team).

As for the x-factor, look for Beniquez Brown and Ryan Brown to be both the team’s pivotal players on defense.

Three Key Games:

1. Mississippi State vs. LSU, September 12th: The LSU Tigers have historically not been kind to the Mississippi State Bulldogs, holding a 71-34-3 record over them and beating the Bulldogs for 14 straight years from 1999-2013. Mississippi State finally beat LSU in 2014, but they will want to prove that last year’s win wasn’t a fluke so this game should be very important to them.

2. Mississippi State at Auburn, September 26th: Mississippi State beat Auburn last year pretty convincingly with a 38-23 victory. Auburn, however, returns a much stronger team this year and is a heavy favorite to be one of the four playoff teams. If Mississippi State wants to prove its legitimacy, it will have to take down powerhouse Auburn for a 2nd straight year.

3. Mississippi State vs. Alabama, November 14th: Alabama is still the king of the SEC until proven otherwise. Taking down the “king” could prove Mississippi State’s worth. The good news? The game is played in their stadium. The bad news? They have not beaten Alabama since 2007. 

Final Analysis: In the end, all eyes will be on QB Dak Prescott, the team’s heart and soul, to once again carry the team to respectable heights. While their offense should be solid for the most part, their defense is a bit concerning. Defensive coordinator Geoff Collins has agreed to become the defensive coordinator for the Florida Gators football team, so the Bulldogs may need time to adjust to new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.

If Prescott can maintain his 2014 form, this team could definitely win around 9-10 games and be a bowl team. However, it will not be easy as Mississippi State has a brutal schedule playing teams like LSU, Auburn, Alabama, Missouri, and Arkansas. All of those games are definitely winnable, though, as long as Prescott drives this offense smoothly and makes little mistakes. 

Read More 788 Words