Posts by Raymond Boone

SQ ACC Championship Preview

On Saturday, the No. 1 Clemson Tigers (12-0, Atlantic) and the No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels (11-1, Coastal) will face off to decide which team is the king of the Atlantic Coastal Conference. For the first time in history, the ACC championship game will be featuring two teams that finished the regular season undefeated

On Saturday, the No. 1 Clemson Tigers (12-0, Atlantic) and the No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels (11-1, Coastal) will face off to decide which team is the king of the Atlantic Coastal Conference. For the first time in history, the ACC championship game will be featuring two teams that finished the regular season undefeated in conference play (UNC’s only loss came to non-conference foe South Carolina at the beginning of the season), and it will be the first time in four years the ACC championship will not be featuring the Florida State Seminoles. The two teams, both featuring a bevy of offensive and defensive talent, will do battle in Charlotte, North Carolina, at Bank of America Stadium at 8 p.m. 

Storylines

Deshaun Watson Makes His Case for the Heisman: 

Watson’s strong play this season has earned him strong consideration for this year’s Heisman trophy. Depending on how he plays this weekend, the ACC championship will either solidify himself as a Heisman finalist or eliminate him from consideration. He’ll have to contend with a stingy UNC pass defense (ranked 18th nationally). However, UNC’s rushing defense has struggled this year (ranked 101st nationally). Watson should be able to open things up in the run game which, in turn, will open up the passing game. 

Elijah Hood vs. Clemson’s Defensive Line:

North Carolina running back Elijah Hood has been a star player for the Tar Heels this year. On the season, Hood has rushed 192 times for 1,280 yards and 16 touchdowns. He rushed for over 100 yards in seven games this year, including a 220-yard game in a 45-34 win over NC State during the last game of the regular season. With all of Hood’s ability, it will be interesting to see if he has what it takes to compete with Clemson’s star-studded defensive line. The Tigers are fourth-best in the country at stopping the run, surrendering just 160 yards per game. On Saturday, one of the two will have to give. Who will it be?

Will UNC’s Marquise Williams Atone for His Past Mistakes at Bank of America Stadium?:

The last time Marquise Williams played at Bank of America Stadium, he threw three interceptions in a loss — UNC’s only loss — against 3-9 South Carolina. This Saturday, he will have the chance to make up for for his past blunder. He’ll have to do a lot better this game for the Tar Heels to have a chance against the No. 1 team in the nation. 


Key Stats

160.8: This is the number of yards the Clemson defense allows on the ground. The Tigers’ ability to stop the run may have a huge impact on North Carolina’s ability to move the football. If the Tigers can limit the abilities of dual-threat quarterback Marquise Williams and 1,000-yard rusher Elijah Hood, the Heels will be in for a long night. 

208.3: Conversely, North Carolina is terrible at defending the run. This season, the Heels’ 101st-ranked defense has given up 208.3 yards per game on the ground. They’ll be facing a Clemson team that averages 229.7 yards per game, headed by dual-threat quarterback Deshaun Watson and talented running back Wayne Gallman. UNC will have to limit the run to have a chance Saturday. 

1980: The year 1980 was the last time North Carolina won the ACC championship — a 35-year drought. The Tar Heels have been bottom-dwellers of the ACC for quite some time now. Regardless of which team wins Saturday, the Heels have had a great season, and that’ something they should be proud of.


Players to Watch

This game will be a matchup of great dual-threat quarterbacks. 

For the Tigers, keep an eye on signal-caller Deshaun Watson. Watson has had a monster year and is in consideration for the Heisman Trophy. Leading his team to a perfect 12-0 record, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound sophomore has thrown for 3,223 yards (70.5 percent completion percentage), 27 touchdowns, and only 10 interceptions. Not only does Watson boast the ability to kill defenses with his arm, his mobility and flawless execution of the Tigers’ zone-read option is something to be scared of. Watson’s 756 yards on the ground (139 attempts) made him the only quarterback in the country with at least 750 yards rushing and 3,000 yards passing. He also has nine rushing TDs. When it comes to a player leading this Tigers’ team, who would think of anyone other than Watson? His great play all year has made the Tigers an elite team and even earned him ACC Player of the Year honors. 

For the Tar Heels, the player to watch is quarterback Marquise Williams. No, he isn’t UNC’s best player — that would be running back Elijah Hood. However, Williams’ play will be key to the success of the Heels. Clemson boasts the No. 6 defense in the nation, led by star defensive end Shaq Lawson. Williams will have to stretch the field with his arm and keep the defense honest with his legs. All year, Williams has been doing just that. He’s no where near the caliber of a player like Deshaun Watson, but Williams is a very solid player with immense dual-threat capabilities. This season, Williams has completed 64.6 percent of his passes for 2,605 yards, 18 TDs, and only eight interceptions, and has also rushed 124 times for 786 yards and 10 TDs. 

Last Saturday against NC State, Williams set a school record for total offense. He’ll have to give his all for UNC to contend with the Tigers.


Prediction

While it’s nice to see the Tar Heels have a great season, I don’t think they have it in them to beat Clemson. The Tigers are too well-rounded of a football team. Their ability to run and pass will be too much for North Carolina’s defense to handle, and Clemson’s strong defense will give Carolina’s offense fits all game. In the end, No. 1 Clemson comes out victors of the 2015 ACC championship.

Final Score: Clemson 45 — UNC 20

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Clemson Is Very Good, And It’s Time Everyone Noticed

Nine weeks through the college football season, who predicted Florida State would already have its first loss, to 3-6 Georgia Tech no less, and the Clemson Tigers would be leading the ACC? Not too many, I would guess.

The Tigers, fueled by a high-powered offense and a great defense, are arguably the most complete team

Nine weeks through the college football season, who predicted Florida State would already have its first loss, to 3-6 Georgia Tech no less, and the Clemson Tigers would be leading the ACC? Not too many, I would guess.

The Tigers, fueled by a high-powered offense and a great defense, are arguably the most complete team in the nation. Week after week, they have completed victory after victory on the back of a fast-paced, diverse offense and a balanced defense. Their great all-around play is why I think the Tigers are a serious contender for this year’s National Championship.

The Offense

Clemson, the No. 3 team in the nation, is a very balanced, fast-paced team on the offensive side of the ball. Throughout their 8-0 start, the Tigers have displayed great versatility on offense thanks to their ability to effectively run and pass the ball. Their 19th ranked offense averages 218.1 ypg on the ground, 267 ypg through the air, and 40.6 ppg.

For the Tigers’ offense, everything begins and ends with quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson, in his sophomore season, has played brilliantly so far. At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Watson possesses the ability to hurt opposing defenses both with his arm and his legs.

Through eight games, Watson has thrown for 1,936 yards, 20 touchdowns, and only seven interceptions. He doesn’t complete too many huge passes downfield, averaging only 8.8 yards per completion, but his accuracy in the short-to-intermediate passing game is something to be reckoned with. Watson completes a solid 70.3 percent of his passing attempts per game. However, that number should be much higher. Watson’s completion percentage is negatively skewed by two bad games this year, a poor outing against Notre Dame that saw him complete only 47.6 percent of his passes and mediocre production against a great Boston College defense in which he completed only 65.9 percent of his passes (Clemson won both games, anyway). In the other six games, his completion percentage never dipped below 70 percent. He even surpassed 80 percent in a game earlier this season — in Week 1, Watson completed 81.8 percent of his passes in a 49-10 rout of Wofford. 

His accuracy delivers the ball right into the hands of his playmakers and, as a result, opens up the more explosive part of Clemson’s offense — the run game. 

Watson’s ability to hurt defenses with his arm has created ample opportunity for the Tigers to effectively run the ball. When a defense has to worry about a quarterback that can accurately distribute the ball, the defense has to be weary of the pass, creating holes and lanes for both Watson and sophomore running back Wayne Gallman to exploit. 

The successful rushing tandom of Watson and Gallman has been most demonstrative in Clemson’s use of the zone-read. The zone-read, one of the more popular plays of the spread offense, is an option play that utilizes the rushing cabilities of the quarterback and the running back. When the quarterback receives the snap both players will cross paths, and, depending upon his quick analysis of the defense’s reaction, he will either keep the ball and run or hand the ball off to the running back.

The video clip below is from Clemson’s 58-0 beatdown of the Miami Hurricanes in Week 8. The clip perfectly illustrates Clemson’s use of the zone-read. 

Clemson’s offense is set up for the inside zone-read and after the ball is snapped, Watson has to decide whether to hand the ball off to his running back or keep it himself. It all depends on what Miami’s defenders do. Seeing that Miami’s linebackers and defensive backs bite on the inside handoff, Watson is able to properly utilize the zone-read and capitalize with an explosive play. 

The Tigers have abused the zone-read all year. Gallman is the team’s leading rusher, blasting through defenses for a whopping total of 874 yards and seven touchdowns, including five games rushing for over 100 yards. And Watson, the team’s second leading rusher, has rushed for 386 yards on 78 attempts (a 4.9 yards per carry average) and four touchdowns.

As I stated before, everything in Clemson’s offense begins and ends with Deshaun Watson. His accurate passing keeps defenses honest and allows the offense to exploit opposing defenses with the effective use of the zone-read. If Watson manages to keep up his stellar play, he may soon find himself in consideration for the Heisman. 

The Defense

If you thought Clemson’s offense was good, you may be shocked to find that they’re actually much better on defense. The Tigers are ranked fifth nationally in total defense, allowing 109.1 rushing ypg, 169 passing ypg, and 17.6 ppg. 

Except for a game in which they allowed 41 points to 5-3 NC State in Week 9, the Tigers’ defense has been fantastic at keeping opposing offenses away from the endzone. They have held three opponents to 10 points or under, including holding Miami scoreless in Week 8. 

Just as everything starts with the quarterback on the offensive side of the ball, the success of Clemson’s defense hinges on the play of the defensive line. The d-line, spearheaded by the likes of Carlos Watkins, Scott Pagano, and Christian Wilkins, is the main reason behind the Tigers’ defensive success, carrying on the tradition of great Clemson defensive lines.

Clemson’s D-line does a great job in both passing and running situations.

In terms of pass defense, the Tigers’ d-line exceeds at applying pressure to the quarterback. Clemson is No. 15 nationally in team sacks with 24 (an average of three sacks per game). The amount of pressure the line puts on the quarterback makes defending easier for the safties, cornerbacks, and linebackers.  Because the opposing quarterback has often been forced into difficult situations, either having to take a sack, throw the ball away, or make a poor throw downfield, Clemson has been able to amass 10 interceptions on the year, including two that were returned for touchdowns. 

Although this defense relies heavily on defending the pass, it also does a great job at stopping the run. The defensive line, again, is the main reason for Clemson’s success in this department. All season, the Tigers’ d-linemen have done a great job of sealing gaps and hitting the opposing running back in the backfield, totaling 72 tackles-for-loss on the season (fifth nationally), 66 of them solo tackles and 12 of them assisted.

Clemson’s overall ability to stop both the run and the pass is evident in their third-down completion percentage. Clemson is No. 1 in the country in this category, allowing opposing offenses a third-down completion rate of only 21.2 percent. The Tigers, because of great defensive line play, have been able to stop the run and force offenses into difficult third-down conversion scenarios, keeping the opposing team from scoring and allowing their potent offense to get back on the field more quickly.

The Clemson Tigers are the most well-rounded team in all of College Football. They have a great offense, led by stellar quarterback Deshaun Watson, and a powerful defense, buoyed by an even more powerful defensive line. I’m not saying they are going to win the National Championship this year, but they certainly have a great shot.

We’ll know more about this team after Week 10. The Tigers face No. 17 Florida State Saturday afternoon in Death Valley. 

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Five Defenses You Don’t Want Your Team To Face Right Now

Right now, the trend in college football seems to be high-scoring offenses. Whether it's Baylor averaging 745 yards per game or Ole Miss dropping over 70 points in two consecutive games, college football has become all about offense, leaving the defense to be often overlooked and under appreciated. 

Nowadays, gaudy offensive statistics are seemingly all

Right now, the trend in college football seems to be high-scoring offenses. Whether it’s Baylor averaging 745 yards per game or Ole Miss dropping over 70 points in two consecutive games, college football has become all about offense, leaving the defense to be often overlooked and under appreciated. 

Nowadays, gaudy offensive statistics are seemingly all that matter to fans and teams alike.

But, as the popular saying goes: “defense wins championships.” With that being said, here are the top five defenses you don’t want your favorite team to face right now:

1. Michigan

After going 5-7 a year ago and firing their head coach, the Michigan Wolverines are starting to make some noise this season. The Wolverines, ranked No. 18, are 4-1, and defense is the name of the game for this squad. 

The Wolverines are ranked second in total defense (behind Boston College) and have done a fantastic job at stopping both the run and the pass. They are ranked fifth in rushing defense, allowing only 71.4 yards per game, and are ranked third in passing defense, giving up only 112.6 yards per game. In addition, the Michigan defense has only given up four offensive touchdowns all season — two rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns.

This team does not force a lot of turnovers (seven total), but that doesn’t matter. Every team they have faced (except for a very good Utah squad) has struggled to score on them. The Wolverines are ranked second in points allowed at 7.6 per game and have held their last two opponents scoreless — a 31-0 win over BYU in Week 4 and a 28-0 win against Maryland in Week 5.

However, Michigan’s most effective tool in its defensive arsenal remains its proficiency on third-down defense. The Wolverines are No. 1 in third-down conversion percentage, holding opposing offenses to a 19.4 completion percentage. In addition, the Wolverine defense forces a three-and-out 45.3 percent of the time. 

In their blowout of Maryland alone, the Wolverines forced the Terrapins to punt 13 times. This effective third-down defense keeps opposing offenses out of scoring range, and usually sets up the Michigan offense with decent field position. 

2. Northwestern

The reason the Northwestern Wildcats are ranked No. 13 and are 5-0 is because of their elite defense. The Wildcats boast the fifth-ranked defense in the nation due to a consistent rushing defense (26th overall) and a superior passing defense (seventh overall). From top to bottom, this Wildcats defense has a bevy of talented players. Lineman Dean Lowry has been solid up front with 4.5 tackles for loss and 22 total tackles. 

Linebacker Anthony Walker has been excellent this season with 44 total tackles. In addition, the trio of corners Nick VanHoose and Matthew Harris and safety Godwin Igwebuike has been solid — the unit only gives up 130 passing yards per game and has surrendered just two passing touchdowns, accumulating an 83.35 passing efficiency rating (third in the country). 

3. Florida

Amidst the terrible offensive performances during the Muschamp years, defense was always the mainstay in Gainesville. Now under first-year head coach Jim McElwain and first-year defensive coordinator Jeff Collins, defense still reigns supreme for the Gators. 

Although the unit struggled in its 28-27 comeback win against Tennessee in Week 4, it was absolutely dominant in the Gators’ 38-10 dismantling of Ole Miss in Week 5. The Rebels, a team that came into their game against the Gators averaging 53.25 points per game, were thoroughly dominated in all aspects of the game. 

Quarterback Chad Kelly was under constant pressure from the Gators’ defensive line all night, and was either getting hit, hurried, or sacked. As a result of that pressure, Kelly was sacked four times, lost two fumbles, and threw one interception. The Gators also did a fantastic job at stopping Ole Miss’ rushing attack, holding them to a putrid 69 total yards.

The key to the Gators’ success has been the excellent play of their defensive line and secondary. The D-Line, featuring stud linemen Jonathan Bullard, Caleb Brantley, Joey Ivie, Alex McCalister, and CeCe Jefferson, has created havoc all season for opposing quarterbacks and running backs. 

Bullard and McCalister are ranked fourth and fifth in sacks in the SEC with 4.5 and four sacks, respectively, and Ivie is tied for seventh with three sacks. 

As a team, the Gators rank seventh nationally in total sacks. In addition, Bullard is tied for the lead in tackles for loss in the SEC with 9.5. 

Already with the ability to stop the run, the amount of pressure Florida puts on opposing quarterbacks does not bode well for the opposing team, considering they have to throw against a secondary that includes All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, promising sophomores Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson, and hard-hitting safeties Marcus Maye and Keanu Neal. Hargreaves already has three picks in five games, and both Tabor and Wilson have one interception apiece.

The combination of intense pressure and elite coverage has allowed the Gators to take advantage of their opponents’ mistakes and create turnovers; Florida ranks 12th nationally in turnovers gained with 11, and creating turnovers has been key to this team’s success, especially in the Ole Miss game. Creating turnovers has been key to the Gators this season, as it has continuously set up its young offense with great field position. 

4. Missouri

Although this Missouri team, at 4-1, does not come close to resembling the back-to-back SEC East Championship teams from 2013 and 2014, it at least has a formidable defense. 

Mizzou has had a very solid rushing defense, allowing 109.4 yards per game on the ground, and a very good passing defense, surrendering only 154.2 yards per game through the air. These two exceptional numbers have vaulted the Tigers to eighth in the country in total defense.

What makes Missouri’s defense so formidable is the solid play of its defensive line and linebackers. The Tigers’ line has done a great job at getting into the backfield, resulting in 48 tackles for loss, which ranks first in the SEC, and second in all of college football. 

Freshman lineman Walter Brady and sophomore lineman Charles Harris have been particularly spectacular this year. Brady, through five games, has racked up five sacks (tied for second in the SEC) and 7.5 tackles for loss. Meanwhile, Harris has accumulated three sacks (tied for seventh in the SEC), and is tied for the SEC lead in tackles for loss with 9.5. 

In addition, senior linebacker Kentrell Brothers is arguably the best defender for the Tigers. Brothers has built on a 2014 season in which he registered 122 tackles, making him the top returning tackler in the SEC. Brothers registered double-digit tackles in four of Mizzou’s five games, including a 16-tackle effort in a Week 1 34-3 win against Southeast Missouri State. He also had 16 tackles and two interceptions in a Week 2 win against Arkansas State. 

Gary Pinkel, the head coach of the Tigers, recently said that Brothers is on a whole different level now with his instinctive approach to the game. “He can see everything and, certainly, he’s a really good athlete,” he said. “He has the potential to be really, really good.”

5. Alabama

I think Alabama’s Week 3 loss against Ole Miss was a fluke. The Crimson Tide lost that game 43-37, and gave up 341 yards and three touchdowns through the air to Mississippi’s Chad Kelly. However, for the year, the Tide’s defense has been solid, and they made a statement in their 38-10 demolition of Georgia in Week 5. 

However, this Crimson Tide team is not great against the pass. They rank 37th nationally, giving up 189.4 passing yards per game. The strength of their defensive unit lies in their ability to stuff the run. The vaunted rushing defense, headed by A’Shawn Robinson, Jonathan Allen, Jarran Reed, and Reggie Ragland, only give up 84 yards per game on the ground, ranking them 10th nationally, and first in the SEC. 

By stopping the run, Alabama has been able to force its opponents into third-and-longs — Alabama has held opposing offenses to only a 26.2 completion percentage on third down. This, coupled with the Tide’s proficiency in forcing turnovers (11 total), has been Alabama’s reason for success.

The Ole Miss game was a real statistical oddity. Other than the 43 points it surrendered to the Rebels, Alabama has held opponents to a lowly average of 9.25 points per game. 

Alabama should fair well against teams that favor running the football — as seen with the Georgia game. 

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This Is Leonard Fournette’s Case For The Heisman

Not only is LSU running back Leonard Fournette busting his way through opposing defenses, he's also bulldozing his way into the record books and into consideration for the 2015 Heisman Trophy. 

Fournette's play has been simply jaw-dropping this season.

This 6-foot-1, 230-pound back out of New Orleans, Louisiana, has been utterly unstoppable for the Bayou Bengals through

Not only is LSU running back Leonard Fournette busting his way through opposing defenses, he’s also bulldozing his way into the record books and into consideration for the 2015 Heisman Trophy. 

Fournette’s play has been simply jaw-dropping this season.

This 6-foot-1, 230-pound back out of New Orleans, Louisiana, has been utterly unstoppable for the Bayou Bengals through the first four games of the season (their Week 1 game against McNeese State on Sept. 5 was cancelled).  

In four games, Fournette’s 864 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns rank first in all of college football in those categories. He is also averaging 216 rushing yards per game. The nearest competitor, San Jose State’s Tyler Ervin, averages 160.2 yards per game. 

Prior to Week 5’s game against Eastern Michigan, Fournette became the first LSU player to eclipse the 600-yard mark through three games and the first LSU player to record eight rushing touchdowns through three games.

The last three games–a 45-21 beatdown against Auburn in Week 3, a 34-24 win against Syracuse in Week 4, and a 44-22 win against Eastern Michigan in Week 5–are what have thoroughly propelled Fournette into the driver’s seat for this year’s Heisman.

In those three games, Fournette has rushed for 228 yards and three TDs, 244 yards and two TDs, and 233 yards and three TDs, respectively, making him the first player in SEC history to rush for over 200 yards in three straight games–an unbelievable achievement. 

To provide some context regarding Fournette’s achievements, the SEC’s second leading rusher, Georgia’s Nick Chubb, who is also considered a Heisman contender, has rushed for 745 yards and seven TDs. Chubb has also played one more game than Fournette. 

Fournette has been so dominant this season that he even earned the praise of former Georgia Bulldogs running back and 1982 Heisman winner Herschel Walker. Walker, one of the greatest running backs of all time, told TMZ that Fournette is better than he ever was–kind words from the former three-time All-American and two-time NFL Pro Bowler. 

In addition, some people are calling for the NCAA to bend the rules and allow Fournette to enter the NFL Draft after this season.

What’s so amazing about Fournette is his uncanny combination of elite size and speed–the next Adrian Peterson, anyone? 

Fournette is able to crush opposing defenses with his sheer size and strength, adding up to a lot of yards-after-contact. You can call him a bruiser, but the most appropriate term is “launching pad.” Just ask Auburn defensive back Tray Matthews. Fournette tossed Matthews over his shoulder, twirling through the air and into the atmosphere, on his way toward a 40-yard touchdown. Every game, Fournette consistently bulldozes his way through defenses en route to the endzone.

Fournette also possesses blazing speed, especially for someone of his size. Reportedly, he runs a 4.35-second 40-yard dash. If this is true, that’s .09 seconds faster than six-time NFL Pro Bowler Adrian Peterson. Not only will Fournette run you over, he’ll blow by you just as easily. 

Leonard Fournette, barring injury or a similar catastrophe, is the clear choice for the 2015 Heisman Trophy, plain and simple. In doing so, he would be the first running back to win the award since 2009 when Alabama’s Mark Ingram took home the trophy. And at the moment there’s no one even close. It’s Fournette or go home.  

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Can The Volunteers Flip The Script Against The Gators?

This was their year. 

This was the year the Tennessee Volunteers were finally going to beat the Florida Gators. 

With the pressure of nine straight losses breathing fire down their necks, the Volunteers marched down the field in the final minutes at Neyland Stadium looking to reclaim their lost lead. The Vols led 9-0 for

This was their year. 

This was the year the Tennessee Volunteers were finally going to beat the Florida Gators. 

With the pressure of nine straight losses breathing fire down their necks, the Volunteers marched down the field in the final minutes at Neyland Stadium looking to reclaim their lost lead. The Vols led 9-0 for three quarters until the Gators, on the young shoulders of freshman quarterback Treon Harris, made a ferocious fourth-quarter comeback to take a 10-9 lead. 

The seconds dripped off the clock in the final minute as senior quarterback Justin Worley marched his team into the teeth of the Gators’ intimidating defense. 

Catastrophe struck for the Vols with 51 seconds left when Worley threw his second interception of the day into the outstretched arms of Florida sophomore safety Keanu Neal.

The life drained from the orange and white checkered crowd with one word in mind: ten. 

Ten straight losses to the University of Florida. A decade of mediocrity against a team so desperately despised in Knoxville. Defeat — again. 

The 2015 new-look Volunteers have a shot at redemption this year, as the Vols will square off against the Gators at 3:30 p.m. in Florida’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. This year’s Tennessee squad boasts a bevy of offensive and defensive talent that should give the Vols a great chance to end their decade-long slump against the Gators.

On offense, UT has upgraded at the quarterback position with 6-foot-3 junior Joshua Dobbs. Dobbs burst onto the scene last year when he led the Vols in a furious fourth-quarter comeback against South Carolina — a game in which he threw for 301 yards and rushed for 166 yards. But Dobbs has yet to repeat that level of success through three games this year (2-1 record), throwing for 474 total yards, five touchdowns, and one interception. 

UT also possesses a talented running back in sophomore Jalen Hurd. Hurd came to Tennessee with a huge upside, but did not quite get to display his supreme talent last year. This season, however, the 6-foot-4, 240-pounder is coming up big for his team. Hurd opened the season with 123 yards and three TDs in a 59-30 win over Bowling Green, and so far this season, he has rushed for 300 yards and five TDs, and also has one receiving TD. 

Both Dobbs and Hurd will have to establish some sort of consistency this Saturday against a Florida defense that is starting to find its footing. If they don’t, it could be a long day for the Vols. 

But the Vols will need more than these two offensive threats to end their losing streak. Thankfully, Tennessee also possesses one of the SEC’s scariest defenders. Standing at 6-foot-3 and 257 pounds, defensive end Derek Barnett was an absolute monster last year for the Vols. Now a sophomore, Barnett is looking to build upon a freshman season in which he registered 10 sacks, eight QB hurries, and 47 solo tackles. Barnett should be licking his chops come Saturday when he faces a young and inexperienced Gators offensive line. 

The Volunteers have all the pieces in place to finally topple the Florida Gators. This Saturday has the potential to either release 10 years worth of frustration for the Vols or lead to another question — will they ever beat the Gators? 

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The Top Five Freshmen Performances From Week 1

In last week's article Five College Football Freshmen To Watch In Week 1, I wrote about which freshmen I believed would have the biggest impact in Week 1 of the college football season. 

This week, I will be writing about which are the top five freshman that stood out during that first

In last week’s article Five College Football Freshmen To Watch In Week 1, I wrote about which freshmen I believed would have the biggest impact in Week 1 of the college football season. 

This week, I will be writing about which are the top five freshman that stood out during that first week.

So here it goes.

1. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

Rosen, by far, was the most impressive freshman last Saturday. Rosen torched the Virginia Cavaliers’ secondary to the tune of 351 passing yards and three touchdowns. Rosen led the No. 13 Bruins to a 34-16 win over the unranked Cavaliers. He completed 28 of his 35 passes with no interceptions, and finished the game with a QBR of 90.8 (ninth among all quarterbacks in the nation). The 6-foot-4 freshman dazzled the fans with a variety of accurate throws — the very first throw of his collegiate career came on a 50-yard, play-action bomb that went right through the hands of junior receiver Kenny Walker. Rosen showed little nerve in front of an announced crowd of 68,615, and his play against the Cavs was enough to earn him college football’s National Player of the Week honors. 

Look for Rosen to continue with his great play in Week 2. The Bruins will be visiting the UNLV Rebels on Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET. Rosen will be facing a Rebels defense that gave up 360 yards to NIU’s Drew Hare in its Week 1 matchup. 

2. Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

Christian Kirk is the first of two wide receivers to make this list. Kirk was phenomenal in the Texas A&M Aggies’ 38-17 win over the No. 17 Arizona State Sun Devils. Kirk racked up 106 receiving yards on only six receptions. He also recorded his first collegiate receiving touchdown in the Aggies’ victory. The 5-foot-11 freshman led all A&M receivers in receiving yards, and shared the lead in receptions with sophomore receiver Ricky Seals-Jones.

In addition, not only was Kirk spectacular in the receiving game, he was also just as amazing on special teams. Kirk finished the game with 224 all-purpose yards and took a Sun Devils’ punt 79 yards to the house. 

Kirk’s outstanding play in Week 1 was enough to earn him the honor of SEC Freshman of the Week.

The Aggies will face off against the Ball State Cardinals at 7 p.m. ET in College Station.

3. Iman Marshall, CB, USC

Last week, I predicted Marshall would be an impact freshman in Week 1. It turns out, I was right. Marshall was all over the field in the No. 8 Trojans 55-6 victory over the Arkansas State Red Wolves. The true freshman defensive back led the Trojans’ defense with a pair of pass break-ups. He also recorded six tackles — second most on the team.

Marshall will continue to be a key figure in the Trojans’ secondary for the remainder of the season. USC will square off against the 0-1 Idaho Vandals this Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. 

4. Jovon Durante, WR, West Virginia

West Virginia’s Jovon Durante is the second receiver to make this exclusive list. And like Kirk, Durante was nothing short of spectacular. Durante was integral in the Mountaineers’ 44-0 win over the Georgia Southern Eagles. Durante finished the game with 121 receiving yards on three receptions. Yes, you read that correctly. The 6-foot-1 receiver from Miami, Florida hauled in only three receptions and accumulated over 100 receiving yards — that’s an average of 40.3 yards per catch. 

Durante’s first (and, so far, only) TD came on a 41-yard bomb a little over a minute into the first quarter.

Look for Durante to have continued success this Saturday when West Virginia takes on Liberty University at 3 p.m. ET in Morgantown. 

5. Daylon Mack, DT, Texas A&M

Christian Kirk was not the only Aggies freshman to have a significant impact last Saturday. Daylon Mack, at 6-feet-2 and 340 pounds, was an absolute force in the trenches during the Aggies’ 38-17 win over the Sun Devils. Mack finished the game with six tackles and one tackle-for-loss. 

Mack will continue to be a key player in an Aggies defensive line which recorded seven of A&M’s nine sacks last Saturday.

As stated previously, the Aggies will host the Ball State Cardinals at 7 p.m. ET this Saturday in College Station.  

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Freshmen To Watch In Week 1

It's that time of year again!

With the first week of the college football season only a few days away, here is my list of the top five freshmen who should be on your radar come Saturday:

1. Alabama WR Calvin Ridley

Ridley, a native of Coconut Creek, Florida, is primed to be an instant

It’s that time of year again!

With the first week of the college football season only a few days away, here is my list of the top five freshmen who should be on your radar come Saturday:

1. Alabama WR Calvin Ridley

Ridley, a native of Coconut Creek, Florida, is primed to be an instant success for the Crimson Tide. The 6’1, 188 lbs Monarch High School product was rated a five-star prospect by 247sports and ranked the No. 1 overall player at his position in the 2015 recruiting class. Ridley, even as a freshman, has the talent to be one of the best   receivers in the country. Not only does he possess all the physical tools to be a great receiver — great size, speed, athleticism and hands — he also plays with a very high football IQ. In addition, at 20 years old, Ridley is already more mature than the typical true freshman.

    

With the departure of Amari Cooper to the NFL, Ridley will most certainly have big shoes to fill. Replacing the Tide’s all-time leader in receptions (229), receiving yards (3,463) and receiving touchdowns (31) will be a tall order for the team, but Ridley seems more than up to the task.

No. 3 Alabama will face off against No. 20 Wisconsin this Saturday at 8 p.m. ET in Arlington, Texas.   

2. USC CB Iman Marshall

Next up on this list is USC’s Iman Marshall. 

The Long Beach, California native was rated the No. 1 cornerback and the No. 4 overall prospect in the 2015 recruiting class. However, USC does return two excellent starting cornerbacks in Adoree’ Jackson and Kevon Seymour, so it remains to be seen how much playing time Marshall will get. But what you can count on is that he will be a significant piece in the Trojan’s defense — even as a freshman. At 6’1 and 195 lbs, Marshall has the physical tools to be successful at guarding the best of receivers. Marshall does not have elite speed but is fast and quick enough to guard most receivers down-field. Marshall’s best attribute, however, is his instincts. Marshall has a very high football IQ and possesses a great ability to read and react to plays. 

    

No. 8 USC will square off against the Arkansas State Red Wolves this Saturday at 11 p.m. ET in what should be an easy win for the Trojans.

3. Florida State S Derwin James 

Derwin James, of Haines City, Florida, will be a must watch come Saturday. 

James, a product of Haines City High School, was rated the No. 1 safety and the No. 8 overall prospect in the 2015 recruiting class. At 6’2 and 202 lbs, James has the prototypical build for an elite safety. Although he is not the most polished player, James possesses great athletic ability. He boasts a quick first-step and has excellent acceleration. James is also a heavy-hitter when it comes to tackling.

    

Keep an eye on James this Saturday when No. 10 Florida State takes on the Texas State Bobcats in Tallahassee at 8 p.m. ET. 

4. Florida State WR George Campbell

Florida State captured a beauty when East Lake High School athlete George Campbell committed to the Seminoles. Campbell, rated the No. 1 athlete and No. 7 overall prospect in the 2015 recruiting class, has tremendous upside and should greatly help the ‘Noles aerial attack — especially after the departure of star receiver Rashad Greene to the NFL. Campbell, at 6’4, 190 lbs, is a big-bodied receiver and should pose as a huge target. Campbell also possesses blazing top-end speed. According to ESPN, Campbell runs a 4.37 second 40-yard-dash. Campbell’s size and speed will be in the nightmares of opposing defensive backs come Saturday night.

    

Look for Campbell to have a good night against a Texas State defense that was ranked 99th in total defense in 2014.  

5. Florida DE CeCe Jefferson 

After the departure of star defensive end Dante Fowler to the NFL (and a No. 3 overall pick at that), the Florida Gators were in desperate need of an elite pass-rusher. Enter,   CeCe Jefferson. 

The 6’1, 275 lbs defensive end out of Baker County High School was rated the No. 2 player at his position and the No. 9 overall prospect in the 2015 recruiting class. While Jefferson may not start for the Gators come Saturday, he will most certainly have a significant impact for the Gators’ defense this season. Fresh out of high school,   Jefferson already has the physique of an NFL defensive end. He boasts all physical tools capable of making him an elite talent in SEC football. However, his greatest quality is his defensive versatility, which makes him an interesting prospect for first-year Florida Defensive Coordinator Jeff Collins.

    

Florida will play against the New Mexico State Aggies at 7:30 p.m. in the Swamp.

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