Texas Tech Red Raiders

TALLAHASSEE, FL - SEPTEMBER 12: Dalvin Cook #4 of the Florida State Seminoles runs for a 24-yard touchdown against the South Florida Bulls in the third quarter at Doak Campbell Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Tallahassee, Florida. Florida State defeated South Florida 34-14. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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CFT Preseason Previews: Heisman Watch

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The 2015 season was the Year of the Running Back in college football. Alabama’s Derrick Henry became just the second ball-carrier to claim the Stiffarm Trophy since the turn of the century, and running backs accounted for the top two and five of the top eight voting slots. Three of those five are back this season. With that in mind, will running backs continue their forward momentum and claim back-to-back Heismans, and the first non-Alabama running back Heisman, since 1998-99? Or will quarterbacks wrestle it back? Or how about a wide receiver, an offensive lineman or a defensive…. okay, let’s keep this realistic.

Leonard Fournette, LSU RB: Undoubtedly the most talented player in college football. Problem is, he knows it. The talk of him sitting out the season to devote himself to a nine-month NFL Draft prep is an odd crusade for some in football, but it’ll never happen. Still, though, Fournette is already dealing with injuries this season. He knows the pot of gold awaiting him on the other side of that rainbow. Will he dig deep, put his head down and charge for those two extra yards, or will he opt for self-preservation and do his best to simply ride this season out?

Deshaun Watson, Clemson QB: He’s got the skills, and he’s got the tools around him. Better yet, Clemson’s defense will probably take a step back this season, meaning he could stay on the field for more fourth quarters as the Tigers pile on points to put people away. So, yeah, everything is here to make a Heisman run. On the other hand, how often does the preseason favorite actually win the Heisman these days? There was Marcus Mariota in 2014, yes. Before that you may have to go back to Troy Smith all the way back in 2006.

Christian McCaffrey, Stanford RB: The quarterback is new. The wide receiving corps and offensive line are re-tooling. Everyone in the stadium knows McCaffrey is getting the ball as often as possible, and in as many ways as the Cardinal can possibly get him the ball. Should his numbers remain anywhere close to his 2015 statistics, McCaffrey could benefit from voters’ desire to choose a “throw-back” candidate.

Dalvin Cook, Florida State RB: Cook’s numbers from a year ago — 229 carries, 1,691 yards, 19 touchdowns, a ridiculous 7.38 yards per carry, a full foot-and-a-half more than the next closest runner with at least 225 attempts — were Heisman-esque, yet only good enough to get him to seventh place in last year’s voting. Do that again on a team that should seriously contend for a national championship and Cook may jump all the way to first.

Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma QB: The knock against Mayfield is that he’s a system quarterback. But if you’re going to be a system quarterback, what better system to run than one with two All-America caliber running backs, playing in a conference where 40 points a game is a baseline, and with one of college football’s strongest brand names on your helmet?

J.T. Barrett, Ohio State QB: Barrett has been oddly overlooked this preseason. All he did two years ago was toss 34 touchdowns against 10 picks, hit nearly 65 percent of his throws for nine yards per attempt, finish second nationally in passing efficiency whilst rushing for nearly 1,000 yards — all as a redshirt freshman.

Quick hits on the rest of the field:

Josh Rosen, UCLA QB: Maybe the best pro-prospect in college football, but NFL scouts may like him more than Heisman voters.

Royce Freeman, Oregon RB: The overlooked running back of 2015 — 1,800 yards, 17 touchdowns. But will the Ducks’ defense hold his candidacy back?

Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech QB: The most talented in the long line of prolific Red Raider quarterbacks. But can Texas Tech get enough stops to mount him a serious campaign?

Jabrill Peppers, Michigan ATH: Could he follow another Wolverine’s path to a do-it-all Heisman win?

Myles Garrett, Texas A&M DE: If the Heisman is going to a full-time defensive player, Garrett is it. But if Suh, Clowney, et. al., couldn’t break through that glass ceiling, why would Garrett?

Watson, Mayfield headline Manning Award watch list

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 28:  Deshaun Watson #4 of the Clemson Tigers after scoring a touchdown during their game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Manning Award released its 30-member Watch List on Monday, in case you needed reminding which quarterbacks were the best in college football. The Manning separates itself from the Davey O’Brien and Unitas quarterback awards — and, more often than not, the Heisman and Maxwell, too — by taking bowl performances into account before handing out its trophy.

“We once again have a great group of quarterbacks returning to college football this fall,” said Archie Manning in a statement. “While this Watch List has many of the best returning players, we look forward to making midseason additions as teams settle on definite starters and as young players step up and make names for themselves. I’m really looking forward to getting the season rolling to see which guys will rise to the top and become Manning Award finalists.”

The Watch List includes:

  • Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska
  • J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
  • C.J. Beathard, Iowa
  • Jake Browning, Washington
  • Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee
  • Dane Evans, Tulsa
  • Luke Falk, Washington State
  • Quinton Flowers, South Florida
  • Skyler Howard, West Virginia
  • Lamar Jackson, Louisville
  • Brad Kaaya, Miami
  • Chad Kelly, Ole Miss
  • Trevor Knight, Texas A&M
  • Taylor Lamb, Appalachian State
  • Wes Lunt, Illinois
  • Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
  • Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
  • Nick Mullens, Southern Miss
  • Kent Myers, Utah State
  • Josh Rosen, UCLA
  • Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
  • Cooper Rush, Central Michigan
  • Seth Russell, Baylor
  • Brett Rypien, Boise State
  • Brandon Silvers, Troy
  • Brent Stockstill, Middle Tennessee
  • Zach Terrell, Western Michigan
  • Phillip Walker, Temple
  • Deshaun Watson, Clemson

As far as snubs go, Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer and/or Malik Zaire feel like pretty big ones. If you’re the type to get upset about preseason watch lists, that is. (Which you shouldn’t be.)

The Manning Award will announce its midseason Watch List additions — which either Kizer or Zaire will be — on Oct. 12, its 10 finalists on Nov. 30, and its winner on Jan. 11.

Watson will attempt to become the first repeat winner in the 12-year history of the award. Previous winners (Matt LeinartTim TebowJohnny Manziel and Jameis Winston) are 0-for-4 in their attempts to repeat.

Arkansas State, Air Force, Northern Illinois, San Diego State on Big 12’s expansion list, too

Big 12 Trophy
Big 12 conference
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Friday it was reported that Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby will be conducting videoconferences with the 17 schools that have contacted the conference expressing interest in becoming a member of the league.  Of those 17, 14 schools were known.

Now we know the other three schools, as well as an 18th interested in membership.

As we had previously noted, San Diego State was believed to be one of the original 17 mentioned by ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy.  McMurphy confirmed SDSU is one of the now-18 that’ll state their case to the league, while also noting that the Sun Belt’s Arkansas State, Mountain West’s Air Force and MAC’s Northern Illinois will do so as well.

So, for those keeping score at home, below is a conference-by-conference breakdown of potential additions to the Big 12.

AMERICAN
Cincinnati
East Carolina
Houston
Memphis
SMU
Temple
Tulane
UCF
UConn
USF

INDEPENDENT
BYU

MAC
Northern Illinois

MOUNTAIN WEST
Air Force
Boise State
Colorado State
New Mexico
San Diego State

SUN BELT
Arkansas State

While 18 schools will be afforded the opportunity to stump for their inclusion, it’s believed that some combination of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, UCF and UConn will ultimately be part of any expansion.  While it remains to be seen whether the Big 12 expands by two or four, McMurphy also reported that it’s “less and less likely” that current 10-team conference will expand by four.

It has previously been reported that the Big 12 would like to settle the expansion issue before the start of the upcoming season, although that appears, like adding four schools, less and less likely.  Instead, a decision might not be made until a board of directors meeting scheduled for October.

Report: Big 12 will talk to 17 schools, expanding by two more likely than four

WVU vs Marshall
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While no announcement is imminent, it appears there’s some additional clarity on the Big 12 expansion front.

First and foremost, ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy is reporting, it’s becoming what sources described as “less and less likely” that the Big 12 will expand to 14 from its current 10-school membership.  Instead, the conference likely either stand pat or add just two teams.  The latter move would allow the conference to split into two six-team divisions.

As for potential expansion candidates, McMurphy reports that commissioner Bob Bowlsby will conduct videoconferences with the 17 schools that have contacted the conference expressing interest in becoming a member of the league.  Those 17 schools include oft-mentioned suspects such as Boise State, Cincinnati, BYU, Cincinnati, Colorado State, Houston, Memphis, Tulane, UCF, UConn and USF.  Additionally, East Carolina, New Mexico, SMU and Temple are part of the large group looking for inclusion.

Only 14 of the 17 schools that will be a part of the videoconferences were listed by McMurphy.  It’s believed San Diego State is another of the 17.  Air Force, Fresno State and Hawaii have also been previously mentioned as possibilities.

It’s believed that some combination of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, UCF and UConn will ultimately be part of any expansion.  The first one mentioned when it comes to presumptive front-runners will, however, have to overcome some negative attention some of its policies have received as of late.

It has previously been reported that the Big 12 would like to settle the expansion issue before the start of the upcoming season, although that appears, like adding four schools, less and less likely.  Instead, a decision might not be made until a board of directors meeting scheduled for October.

Bama’s still the favorite, but LSU makes significant gain in Bovada title odds

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 07:  Les Miles, head coach of the LSU Tigers, reacts during the first quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Back in February, four other teams had, per Bovada.lv, better odds to win the 2016 College Football Playoff than LSU.  Six months later, and less than a month before the start of a new season, the Tigers lag behind just one.

Currently, Alabama, 7/1 in February, is listed as Bovada‘s favorite at 6/1.  Right behind them is SEC West rival LSU at 7/1 and 2016 playoff runnerup Clemson at 17/2.

Ohio State, Bovada‘s wagering favorite earlier this year, has seen its odds grow longer at 9/1.  Those are the same odds hated rival Michigan (15/2 in February) is getting from the gambling website.

Houston (66/1) and Boise State (150/1) are the only Group of Five teams listed.  BYU (250/1) as a football independent (for now?) is also included.

Below are the updated odds for the 2016 College Football Playoff championship, again courtesy of Bovada.lv:

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