An early top 10 for 2014

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The sun has barely set on the BCS era and, as we speak, Florida State’s Chief Osceola is riding off toward the horizon with the last Crystal Ball tucked carefully under his arm.  But now it’s time to take a break from this glorious ending and ponder: What will next season look like?

Here’s an early top 10 for 2014:

1. Ohio State — The Buckeyes return the Heisman front runner in Braxton Miller and a ton of other playmakers on both sides of the ball. After going 24-2 in his first two years in Columbus, Urban Meyer finally has the roster in place to win the first national title under the new College Football Playoff system.

2. Oregon — If Miller is the Heisman favorite, Marcus Mariota isn’t too far behind. He returns to lead an explosive Duck offense that should once again wreak havoc on opposing defenses. On the other side of the ball is a unit led by Ifo Ekpre-Olomu that could be the best defense in school history.

3. Auburn — For all the magic and luck Auburn needed to get to the BCS title game, remember that it was only Year One of the Gus Malzahn Era on The Plains. Give the man another spring ball and add a stellar recruiting class to the mix and watch him mold a new juggernaut consisting of players who buy in completely with what he’s trying to accomplish. It helps that the ever-improving Nick Marshall and a bevy of talented young defenders are set to return for another go-around.

4. Oklahoma — No one should’ve been that surprised by OU’s upset of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. It’s Oklahama, after all. This is a program that is always loaded with talent. Quarterback Trevor Knight showed glimpses of a bright future against the Tide and could develop into one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country in 2014. The Sooner defensive front seven is an elite group on par with those units from the early Bob Stoops era.

5. Florida State — What will the Seminoles do for an encore? Well, first they’ve got to figure out how many key players from this year’s squad will be heading to the NFL. Devonta Freeman, James Wilder, Jr., Timmie Jernigan and Kelvin Benjamin could all leave early for the draft, while seniors Lamarcus Joyner, Telvin Smith and Bryan Stork will all be gone, too. Still, Jameis Winston returns and the treasure trove of talent on defense means FSU should once again be the team to beat in the ACC.

6. Alabama — Next year’s Crimson Tide could be the most talented team of Nick Saban’s tenure in Tuscaloosa. Somewhere between 40 and 50 players will play in the NFL at some point. However, the Tide will need to find a quarterback to replace AJ McCarron and do a little rebuilding on defense, too. With a few minor tweaks, Alabama should have no trouble making the four-team playoff.

7. Baylor — Heisman candidate Bryce Petty returns to lead what could be the best offense in college football. Tailback Lache Seastrunk is heading to the pros, but his able backup, Shock Linwood, returns and could be even more productive. The Bears were one of the most improved defenses in the country this past season, but will have to find able replacements for Ahmad Dixon and Eddie Lackey if they want to remain in the upper echelon of the Big 12.

8. UCLA — Heisman candidate Brett Hundley bypassed millions of NFL dollars and should be in line for a huge junior season for the Bruins. He has a ton of offensive weapons at his disposal, including linebacker-turned-running back Myles Jack. The defense is deep and experienced. This should be the best UCLA team since the late 1990s.

9. Wisconsin — Stud running back Melvin Gordon returns as does quarterback Joel Stave. If the Badgers can rebuild their wide receiver and linebacker groups, they should once again challenge for the Big Ten title.

10. Stanford — The defense must replace a lot of NFL bodies, but there’s plenty of available talent ready to give it a shot. The offensive line will once again be among the nation’s best and quarterback Kevin Hogan, who is 10-1 as a starter against ranked teams, should be ready for a breakout season.

Early betting lines see Alabama open as massive favorite against Louisville

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The start of a new college football season is still a good distance away, which means taking any action on opening lines you may come across now is not for the faint of heart. However, it is never too early for some to place some wagers on the upcoming season, and initial opening lines from one sports book are making Alabama, Oklahoma, and Ohio State heavy favorites in their respective season openers next fall.

As relayed by Brett McMurphy via Twitter, 5Dimes has released a handful of opening lines for some games of interest in Week 1 of the 2018 season. Among them is Alabama’s season opener in Orlando against Louisville. The defending national champion Crimson Tide are opening as a lopsided 29.5-point favorite against the Cardinals, who begin a season without NFL-bound and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson at quarterback. Alabama would have been a considerable favorite against the Cardinals even if Jackson was coming back next season, but to be a nearly 30-point favorite against a team like Louisville is incredible.

Other heavy favorites will include defending Big Ten champion Ohio State giving 31 points to Oregon State in Columbus and defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma spotting Lane Kiffin and FAU three touchdowns in Norman. Of note, Miami is also a one-point favorite against LSU in their season opener in Arlington, Texas, and Auburn is a four-point favorite against Washington in Atlanta.

Kevin Sumlin is a 7.5-point favorite in his coaching debut with Arizona against BYU and Texas is a 10-point favorite on the road against Maryland (Maryland topped the Longhorns in Austin in last season’s Week 1 matchup). Notre Dame is a slight two-point favorite against Jim Harbaugh and Michigan in their Week 1 primetime contest (7:30 p.m. on NBC, for those wondering).

See any early lines you like? Or will you be holding off until closer to the start of the season to put your money where your mouth is?

After leaving Michigan State, Hunter Rison lands at K-State

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Less than two weeks after leaving East Lansing, Hunter Rison is headed a little bit further west to continue his collegiate playing career.

On his personal Twitter account this weekend, Rison revealed that he “will be furthering my athletic and academic career at Kansas State University.” The announcement came nearly a dozen days after Rison’s father, former Michigan State wide receiver Andre Rison, confirmed during a radio interview that his son would be transferring from his alma mater, citing a desire for more playing time.

After sitting out the 2018 season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws, the wide receiver will have three years of eligibility remaining.

Rison was a four-star 2017 signee, rated as the No. 46 receiver in the country and the No. 9 player at any position in the state of Michigan. The 5-11, 200-pound Rison was one of four four-star recruits signed as part of MSU’s February 2017 recruiting class.

As a true freshman, he caught 19 passes for 224 yards. In the September loss to Notre Dame, he set career highs in receptions (four) and receiving yards (73).

Former Ohio State assistant leaving Minnesota for Michigan

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An assistant with history on one side of The Game rivalry is headed to the other side. reportedly.

FootballScoop.com first reported that Minnesota’s Ed Warinner (pictured, center) is leaving Minnesota to take an unspecified job at Michigan. SI.com‘s Bruce Feldman subsequently confirmed the initial report.

While the Wolverines have not yet confirmed the addition of Warinner, the coach’s updated Twitter profile indicates that he’s now at U-M. As Jim Harbaugh already has his allotment of 10 on-field assistants, it appears likely that Warinner will serve as some type of offensive analyst.

Warinner spent the 2017 season as the offensive line coach and running-game coordinator at Minnesota. Prior to that, He was the line coach at Ohio State from 2012-16. In 2015, he added the title of co-offensive coordinator.

Oregon officially confirms swiping of assistant from Wazzu

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Washington State’s coaching loss will prove to be a fellow Pac-12 member’s gain.

Following up on reports that had surfaced throughout the latter part of this past week, new head coach Mario Cristobal announced that he has hired Jim Mastro as his new running backs coach. Mastro will also serve as the Ducks’ run-game coordinator.

Mastro had spent the past six seasons as the running backs coach at Washington State.

“We are thrilled to add Jim to the staff,” Cristobal said in a statement. “He has extraordinary leadership skills which will be of great benefit in developing our talented group of running backs. Jim possesses a wealth of experience both coaching and recruiting on the West Coast, and he has consistently been a tremendous innovator on the offensive side of the ball.”

Prior to Wazzu, Mastro spent one season (2012) as the tight ends coach at UCLA. For the 11 seasons prior to that first taste of the Pac-12, Mastro was the running backs coach at Nevada.

Mastro has also spent time on FBS coaching staffs at Idaho (1998-99) and San Jose State (1995).