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KABOOM! MAGAZINE.COM 2014 COLLEGE FOOTBALL PREVIEW (HEY DON’T FORGET ABOUT US & WILD CARDS)

KABOOM! MAGAZINE.COM 2014 COLLEGE FOOTBALL PREVIEW (HEY DON’T FORGET ABOUT US & WILD CARDS)
College Football is headed into a new era, or what Kaboom! would like to call it…..”The Playoff Era” Last season was filled with crazy finishes, Johnny Football last ride at A&M, a Florida freshmen winning the Heisman and National Championship, and who can forget Auburn incredible run to the BCS National Championship Game highlighted by a field goal kick return for the ages. The 2014 season brings some big changes to the college landscape in the form of a new 4-team playoff system to decide a national champion; leading to more questions than ever before. Questions like “Can Florida State repeat?”, “Is Jameis Wiston the next Archie Griffin?”, “How will Oregon thrive in the new playoff system?”, and “Is Alabama still ALABAMA?” We will answer these question any many more in our 2014 Kaboom! Magazine College Football Preview. LET THE NEW GENERATION OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL BEGIN! Yesterday, we talked about teams who are the considered the favorites to appear in the first-ever college football playoff series. Today, we will be focusing on other playoff contenders, as well as a few wild card teams that may come from out of nowhere and crash the party. Hey! Don’t Forget About Us Teams that have the experience, star power, and determination to make it to the first-ever college football playoff series. New-Oklahoma-Football-Alternate-Uniforms-2014-Season-1 Oklahoma: EVENTHOUGH THEY BEAT BAMA…..IS THE BOOM BACK IN BOOMER SOONER? Last fall, Bob Stoops’ bunch enjoyed a return to true national relevance with an 11-2 record, finished by a Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. Fourteen starters return from that team, led by sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight, who ripped the Crimson Tide for 348 yards and four touchdowns. Nine starters return on defense, with linebacker a particular area of strength. All three starters are back, led by sophomore Dominique Alexander, the Big 12’s Defensive Freshman of the Year (80 tackles in 2013) and junior Eric Striker. The defensive line is very deep as well; returning starters like sophomore defensive tackle Jordan Wade and senior defensive end Chuka Ndulue are not guaranteed starting roles this fall. The Sooners schedule is favorable, with defending league champ Baylor visiting for what should be the league’s game of the year on Nov. 8. Rival Oklahoma State also visits for the season finale on Dec. 4. Assuming some questions are answered at the offensive skill positions, this is a strong College Football Playoff contender. -05a7ee96bb9b1f9d Michigan State: DO THE SPARTANS HAVE YOU FEELING SOME TYPE OF WAY THIS SEASON? Michigan State enjoyed a breakthrough season last fall, going 13-1 with a Big Ten title and Rose Bowl victory. Mark Dantonio’s Spartans return 12 starters from that group.They have a deep defensive line that features two returning starters led by junior end Shilique Calhoun, the reigning Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, and senior end Marcus Rush, a four-year starter. Juniors Joel Heath and Damon Knox are solid at defensive tackle, and freshman Malik McDowell will also push for playing time. At tailback, senior Jeremy Langford, who rushed for 1,422 yards and 18 scores a year ago, leads a strong backfield with fellow senior Nick Hill as a backup. Junior Connor Cook emerged in 2013 as an unflappable starter, and he should be even better this fall. A Week 2 trip to Oregon will test the Spartans, and back-to-back home dates against Michigan and Ohio State won’t be easy. But this team should be a serious Big Ten and College Football Playoff contender. hi-res-1ce0ac538fcd446a2af98e32c76992ea_crop_north UCLA: CAN UCLA FINALLY BE THE BEST TEAM ON THE WEST COAST? Jim Mora Jr. is building an emerging power in Westwood. Last fall, UCLA piled up a 10-3 record with a Sun Bowl win over Virginia Tech, and 14 starters return from that group. Junior dual-threat quarterback Brett Hundley returned for one more season of college football and is a Heisman Trophy candidate. He’ll be protected by three returning offensive line starters and will throw to a talented group of receivers led by juniors Devin Fuller, Jordan Payton and Devin Lucien. Seven defensive starters return as well. The defense is keyed by a strong secondary led by junior cornerbacks Fabian Moreau and Randall Goforth. The linebackers are led by senior Eric Kendricks and sophomore Myles Jack, who was the Pac-12’s Defensive and Offensive Freshman of the Year last fall. The Bruins schedule is favorable, featuring home games with Oregon, Stanford and USC. There is room for Mora’s bunch to take another step forward this season in both the Pac-12 and nationally. stanford-cardinal Stanford: AFTER SHOWING FLASHES THE PAST TWO SEASONS, DOES STANFORD FINALLY HAVE ALL THE PIECES IN PLACE FOR A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP? Stanford coach David Shaw has built a consistent winner in Palo Alto, and this fall should be no different. Shaw returns 13 starters from a team that won 11 games and a Pac-12 championship and doesn’t figure to take much of a step backward this fall. The secondary is a major strength, with three returning starters and senior Kyle Olugbode the favorite to take over the vacancy at strong safety. The Cardinal defensive line is young but talented, keyed by senior starters Henry Anderson and David Parry. Senior Ty Montgomery and junior Devon Cajuste lead a talented receiving corps that will catch passes from junior quarterback Kevin Hogan (20 touchdowns, 10 interceptions in 2013). The Cardinal host USC but travel to Notre Dame, Oregon and UCLA, although all three big road games are in October and November, giving a young team time to find its legs. bryce-petty-ncaa-football-fiesta-bowl-baylor-vs-central-florida3-850x560 Baylor: CAN ANYONE SLOW DOWN BAYLOR? Art Briles has built a powerhouse in Waco, and his staff’s work paid off in a big way last fall, with Baylor finishing 11-2 with the program’s first outright league title since 1980. However, Briles and Co. face some issues in repeating that feat. Just nine starters return from a year ago, including only one on the offensive line. Still, quarterback Bryce Petty is a Heisman Trophy candidate who’ll have talented targets in wideouts Antwan Goodley and Corey Coleman, and sophomore tailback Shock Linwood is poised to emerge as a star this fall. Baylor returns only four starters from 2013’s defense. Junior Terrell Burt is the lone returning starter in the secondary, and senior linebacker Bryce Hager is the only returning starting linebacker. The defensive line is deep, particularly at defensive tackle. The Bears must travel to Oklahoma for what will be the Big 12’s game of the year Nov. 8, but if the offensive line can find a way to protect Petty, the Bears should score points in bunches and be a national contender again this fall. south-carolina-gamecocks-2001-entrance South Carolina: CAN THE OLD FOOTBALL COACH TAKE THE GAMECOCKS TO NEW HEIGHTS? Steve Spurrier has built a juggernaut in Columbia, piling up 33 wins over the last three seasons. One of the biggest losses offensively is do-everything quarterback Connor Shaw, but senior Dylan Thompson has plenty of experience as his backup. A talented, bruising offensive line will clear big holes for junior tailback Mike Davis and backup Brandon Wilds. A wide receiver corps that features junior Shaq Roland, senior Damiere Byrd and sophomore Pharoh Cooper will give Thompson plenty of targets. The defensive line must be rebuilt without end Jadeveon Clowney, the NFL’s No. 1 overall pick, and defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles, who was actually the team’s sack leader in 2013. Linebacker will be a strength with sophomore Skai Moore and junior Kaiwan Lewis. Texas A&M and Auburn rotate onto the schedule, which will make matters more difficult, but the Gamecocks should be a team to be reckoned with again in the SEC. hi-res-7791914_crop_north LSU NEW TEAM……SAME GOALS DOWN BY THE BAYOU! Another 10-win season in Baton Rouge, another Jan. 1 bowl win and another season of replacing heavy NFL draft losses. This is the reality at LSU, which reloads instead of rebuilding. Coach Les Miles returns 14 starters, keyed by a strong offensive line which brings back four starters, as well as a deep defensive line led by ends Danielle Hunter and Jermauria Rasco. The quarterback position will be in the spotlight this month, with early-enrollee freshman Brandon Harris pushing sophomore Anthony Jennings, who was inconsistent following senior Zach Mettenberger’s torn ACL in the regular-season finale. Whoever wins the job will throw to sophomore Travin Dural, as well as signees Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn. Freshman tailback Leonard Fournette is one of the nation’s most hyped recruits and could emerge as an instant star. The SEC West is never easy, but LSU should be a contender again, assuming the newcomers live up to their billing and a capable quarterback emerges between Harris and Jennings. The Wild Cards Teams that is capable to come out of nowhere and crash the party and end other teams national championship dreams in the process. hi-res-6917998_crop_north Notre Dame: CAN EVERETT GOLSON LEAD THE FIGHTING IRISH Notre Dame regressed in 2013 from a BCS title game appearance to a 9-4 record, but the Fighting Irish were without junior quarterback Everett Golson, who missed the season due to an academic violation. He’s back this fall and joins 11 returning starters. He’ll have a deep, talented group of receivers to throw to led by junior DaVaris Daniels. NFL first-round pick Zack Martin is gone, but the Irish return three starting offensive linemen. Defense is a question mark under new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder; junior defensive tackle Sheldon Day and sophomore linebacker Jaylon Smith are the only returnees in the Fighting Irish’s defensive front seven after NFL defensive line departures in Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt. As usual, the schedule is not easy, but the Irish should be a solid contender and a top-25 presence all season long. hi-res-460993567-the-university-of-texas-longhorns-new-head-football_crop_north Texas: EVENTHOUGH THERE IS A NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN…..IT’S STILL TEXAS! When Charlie Strong arrived from Louisville, he brought with him a record of doing more with less. The Cardinals are not a traditional power, but Strong went 23-3 in his final two seasons at Louisville, including a Sugar Bowl rout of Florida. He was hired at Texas to improve the Longhorns’ toughness. Strong has done plenty in his first months on the job to enforce that idea. Brown left 12 starters from 2013’s 8-5 team for Strong to work with. Seven return to a defense which was middle-of-the-pack in the Big 12. Senior Cedric Reed had 10 sacks a year ago, and junior tackle Malcom Brown is also talented. The secondary is also a talented group, with senior cornerback Quandre Diggs emerging as a leader. Senior tailbacks Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray also provide backfield stability, but quarterback David Ash needs a full season of health after missing the final nine games of 2013 with concussion symptoms. The Longhorns will be tested early with BYU and a neutral-site game against UCLA in Arlington, Texas, but they also host Baylor and play their annual Red River Showdown game against Oklahoma in Dallas’ Cotton Bowl. This might not be a national title contender, but Strong’s first season in Austin should be successful. hi-res-452666685-quarterback-cody-kessler-of-the-usc-trojans-throws-a_crop_north USC: YOU CAN NEVER TALK ABOUT NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP WITHOUT TALKING ABOUT THE TROJANS! A year ago, USC went through three head coaches but still finished 10-4 with a Las Vegas Bowl win over Fresno State. The Trojans have depth issues after losing 30 scholarships over the last three recruiting classes due to NCAA probation, but new coach Steve Sarkisian saw enough positives to leave a solid program in Washington to take over for Lane Kiffin. Look for multitalented junior Nelson Agholor to emerge as one of the nation’s most exciting players as a prime target of junior quarterback Cody Kessler. Defensively, eight starters come back, led by three returning starters in the secondary and two returning starting linebackers. There are issues with depth on the offensive line, although three starters do come back. The Trojans are an exciting team across the board, and if they can stay healthy, they’re a dark horse to compete for the Pac-12 championship. VTWNJRPPYKBRSIT.20131113162222 Arizona State: SUN DEVILS ARE LOOKING TO RAISE HELL IN THE PAC-12! Senior quarterback Taylor Kelly is a talented, prolific dual threat who had 4,243 yards of total offense as a junior, and junior tailback D.J. Foster will be a name on the tongues of college football fans across the nation (well, at least those who stay up long enough to watch Pac-12 games). ASU returns three starting offensive linemen, and Auburn transfer Christian Westerman should fit in at left guard. The Sun Devils have serious questions on defense, as they return only two starters (sophomore linebacker Salamo Fiso and senior free safety Damarious Randall). Junior college transfers will be leaned upon heavily on the defensive line, and it’s a fair bet that the offense will carry a bigger load as the defense gets up to speed early on. The Sun Devils avoid Oregon and host both UCLA and Stanford, as well as Notre Dame. If the newcomers jell quickly, there’s reason for optimism in Tempe. todd-gurley-runs Georgia: DON’T LOSE FAITH IN THE BULLDOGS JUST YET! 2013 was a disappointing season in Athens. Injuries on offense made life tough for Georgia in an 8-5 season, but room for improvement exists. New starting quarterback Hutson Mason was a highly prolific quarterback in Georgia’s high school ranks but was stuck behind Aaron Murray, the SEC’s all-time leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns. Now, he gets his chance as a starter with Murray gone. Juniors Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall comprise one of the nation’s top backfields. The wide receiver corps is deep and talented with seniors Chris Conley and Michael Bennett and sophomore Reggie Davis and junior Justin Scott-Wesley battling for snaps. Even after losing multiple secondary members to offseason disciplinary issues, Georgia returns nine defensive starters to a unit that will get a fresh approach from new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Senior linebacker Ramik Wilson is a first-team All-SEC returnee and will lead the Bulldogs defense again this fall. If Mason is a capable leader and the offense stays healthy, the Bulldogs could challenge for the SEC East championship this fall. DO YOU DISAGREE WITH US? 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