An early top 10 Heisman list for 2014

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Jameis Winston’s reign as the 2013 Heisman winner is less than 24 hours old, but it’s never too early to start thinking ahead.

Who are the front runners for the 2014 Heisman?

Here’s an early top 10 list based on the information we have now. We think most of these players should be back in 2014. If so, they should enter next fall as serious contenders for the Heisman:

in alphabetical order

Melvin Gordon, Jr., Wisconsin* — With backfield mate James White graduating, Gordon could be set for a monster season in Madison, if he chooses to return for his junior year. He had 1,466 yards and 10 touchdowns while averaging eight yards per carry in 2013.

Todd Gurley, Jr., Georgia — When healthy, Gurley might be the best running back in the country. His combination of size and speed are impressive. He rushed for 903 yards and 10 scores and caught 30 passes for five more TDs despite missing three full games and parts of others.

Brett Hundley, Jr., UCLA* — As a sophomore, Hundley had over 3,400 yards of total offense and 31 touchdowns with a very young supporting cast around him. Those players will be a year older and it should result in excellent production for Hundley if he chooses to return.

Myles Jack, So., UCLA — Jack was the Pac-12 freshman of the year on both offense and defense. Heisman voters love throwback players who excel on both sides of the ball — see: Woodson, Charles — and assuming he continues to play both running back and linebacker, he’ll get lots of attention.

Marcus Mariota, Jr., Oregon — Mariota was the Heisman front runner for a large chunk of this season. Losses to Stanford and Arizona knocked him out of the race, but he should be better in 2013. If he can finally get Oregon past Stanford, he’ll probably make a trip to New York.

Nick Marshall, Sr., Auburn — No quarterback in the country improved as much as Marshall did over the course of this season. His 2014 campaign could begin by leading the Tigers to a national championship in January.

Tre Mason, Sr., Auburn* — If Mason chooses to return for another season, he’ll join his teammate as a front runner for 2014. He finished sixth in the Heisman vote this season while rushing for 1,621 yards and 22 scores.

Braxton Miller, Sr., Ohio State* — Miller might’ve won the Heisman this year if an injury hadn’t forced him to miss the better part of three games. Assuming he returns for his senior season, he’ll probably be the early Heisman favorite. He is 24-1 as a starter over his last two seasons.

Bryce Petty, Sr., Baylor — Petty finished seventh in the Heisman vote after throwing for 3,844 yards and 30 touchdowns with just two interceptions while leading Baylor to the Big 12 title. He could have even better numbers as a senior and, assuming Baylor is again a national title contender, he’ll be in the Heisman conversation.

Bishop Sankey, Sr., Washington* — Sankey is very quietly putting together a brilliant rushing career for the Huskies. He’s got 3,401 yards and 35 touchdowns in three seasons and was third in the country this year with 1,775 yards and 18 scores. If he chooses to come back for another season, he should really flourish in Chris Petersen’s system

T.J. Yeldon, Jr., Alabama — Yeldon notched his second-straight 1,000-yard season despite being limited in some games by an ankle injury. With the Tide set to break in a new quarterback, he could become the main weapon for Alabama in 2014.

* – could enter NFL draft

Wait, what about Jameis Winston?

I don’t have Winston on this list because I believe there will never be another two-time winner of the Heisman. Archie Griffin of Ohio State is the only player to do it, way back in 1974-1975. Since then, Ty Detmer, Jason White, Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow, Mark Ingram, Sam Bradford and Johnny Manziel have all failed in their attempts to repeat. The fact that players like Leinart, Tebow and Manziel couldn’t get it done points to how difficult it is to win two trophies. The Heisman electorate is very fickle and, as we saw with Manziel, the punditry tries its best to find reasons not to give away that second Heisman.

Everything has to fall perfectly into place just to win the award once. Winning it twice?

Forget about it.

Colorado AD says Denver won’t be option for future CU-CSU games after 2020

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Colorado and Colorado State are scheduled to wrap up their current scheduling agreement in 2020, and the future of the in-state rivalry remains in question beyond that. Both schools are in talks to continue the series beyond 2020 once scheduling vacancies are available, but there is no target date currently in sight. What is known, however, is any such scheduling arrangement will not include games being played in Denver if Colorado’s athletics director has his say.

We won’t have any future games in Denver with CSU in any kind of new relationship,” Colorado athletic director Rick George said in a story published by The Daily Camera.  George did state he and his counterpart at Colorado State, Joe Parker, share an interest in keeping the series going on in the years beyond the current deal in place.

As it stands right now, Colorado State will host the final game in the current arrangement in 2020. No games will be possible in 2021 and 2022 because Colorado’s non-conference schedule is currently booked. The Buffs will face UMass, Texas A&M, and Minnesota in 2021 and TCU, Air Force, and Minnesota in 2022. Colorado currently has scheduling vacancies in 2023 and beyond, making 2023 the earliest possible year the series could be rekindled. The concern, at least for Colorado, will be overexerting the strength of schedule with games against TCU and Nebraska already lined up in 2023.

“With this College Football Playoff game now, there’s a lot of discussion on strength of schedules,” George said. “We certainly don’t want to over-schedule ourselves, but at the same time, we want to be in a position as we continue to compete on a yearly basis for championships, we want to be in the conversation. We don’t want the schedule to be a deterrent to us longer term.”

Geroge has previously expressed his interest in continuing the series if it could be agreed to play the games on campus sites instead of neutral fields. George has said it is not in Colorado’s best interest to continue the series. His latest statements about the strength of schedule keep in line with that logic. Having a potentially very good Group of Five program on top of previously announced games against power conference opponents in addition to a nine-game Pac-12 schedule becomes quite challenging. Having a less threatening opponent from the FCS provides a better chance to keep making money on a home game and increasing the chances for a win to rely on.

Colorado and Colorado State have faced off 88 times since 1893, with the Buffs holding a 64-22-2 edge in the all-time series. Colorado won last year’s meeting in Denver by a score of 44-7 for its most lopsided victory in the series since a 47-7 victory in Boulder in 1956. Colorado and Colorado State have played annually since 1995.

Mark Richt tweets his best wishes to Georgia

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A new college football season is just about here (there will be actual college football played this week), and Miami head coach Mark Richt has plenty to look forward to with the Hurricanes. A show at coaching Miami to its first appearance in the ACC Championship Game is right in front of him, but Richt spent a quick moment on Twitter to extended his best wishes to his former program; the Georgia Bulldogs.

Richt recruited the majority of the players currently on Georgia’s roster, and by all accounts, Richt had as healthy a relationship with Georgia’s players than any coach could hope to have. With that in mind, there is no shock in seeing a coach of one program offer this kind of warm and fuzzy feeling to his former program. This is also not the first time Richt has wished Georgia well under new head coach Kirby Smart. In May 2016, Richt was praised for his classiness toward Smart and Georgia for the upcoming season just months after being fired.

Georgia parted ways with Richt following the 2015 season despite a long and successful tenure as head coach (although without as many SEC titles as some would have liked, and a lack of national title appearances during a run that saw the SEC dominate the BCS era). Richt was quickly hired by Miami, and this season Richt is expected to help lead the Hurricanes forward another step toward national prominence.

If there is a college football god watching from the skies above, then we will be blessed with a bowl matchup between Miami and Georgia. Richt said in December 2015 that he believes the two programs are on a collision course for a national championship.

There is a solar eclipse tomorrow, but Nick Saban has work to do

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Stores may be sold out of special solar eclipse glasses for what some are dubbing the Great American Eclipse on Monday, but Alabama head coach Nick Saban may be more likely to be found in his office preparing for a mega matchup to open the season next week.

Besides, Saban has seen how an eclipse works already because he is a devoted fan of The Weather Channel.

“I watch the Weather Channel every day,” Saban said Saturday, according to AL.com. “They’re already saying what it’s going to look like in every city in America. So, what’s going to be significant? Watch the Weather Channel and you’ll see what it’s going to be like in Portland, Oregon.”

That Saban sure is a curmudgeon, isn’t he? But that’s part of the legacy of Saban. Unless the eclipse can help Alabama win a game against Florida State in Atlanta next week, Saban has little time to worry about such nonsense. Otherwise, it is business as usual for Saban and Alabama. However, Saban will allow his players to take advantage of what is, for some, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“We’ll set it up so if the players want to go out there and get some sunglasses, I guess they can,” Saban said.

The eclipse is having a slight impact on some football practices around the country, including in the NFL. The Tennessee Titans, for example, have modified their practice schedule for Monday due to the eclipse and will organize a team party around the event.

“I thought what a cool thing to do, but then I thought I’d like them to finish practice and give them time to put the glasses on and really enjoy the experience,” Titans head coach Mike Mularkey said (per ESPN.com). “I wanted to be on the field when it happened, as a team, I thought it’d be a neat memory for these guys.”

Clearly, Mularkey is not watching the Weather Channel on a daily basis.

Kansas surprised four walk-ons with scholarships at Royals-Indians game

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There has been no shortage of videos and stories about walk-ons at various college football programs receiving scholarships by surprise. It is an annual tradition around college football during the offseason, and the fun and pure joy of the moment never gets old.

The Kansas Jayhawks took the game to a whole new level, and a whole new playing field this weekend.

Kansas took its football team out on Friday night to enjoy a Major League Baseball game between the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians. During the course of the game, four walk-on players — defensive end Mazin Aqi, offensive lineman Beau Lawrence, punter Cole Moos, and running back Reese Randall — were shown sitting next to each other on the video screen in Kauffman Stadium. As they were shown on the screen, a message popped up congratulating them on being awarded a scholarship.

Video of the players soaking in the moment and realizing they had just had their lives changed was captured by the Royals.

It sure beats the heck out of a stadium proposal.