Ed Oliver

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CFT 2017 Preseason Previews: College Football Players to Fall in Love With

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A new college football season is nearing, and it will feature some terrific playmakers you should be well aware of. Odds are you are familiar with some of the players you should know, but now is a good a time as any to introduce the experienced and the brand new fans of college football to some of the top players to keep you entertained in 2017. You will have a blast watching these players do their thing this season and you will want to watch every game they play for the chance to witness greatness.

Without any further adieu, here are the players that will keep you most entertained this fall.

Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
In a season that has a number of good running backs around the country, Penn State’s Saquon Barkley may be the best there is. Penn State’s offense may be the best in the Big Ten, and Barkley is one of the reasons why. Barkley has shined in big games for the Nittany Lions the past two seasons, including in the Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin and Rose Bowl against USC, and he will have his opportunities to lead Penn State to some big wins this season with his moves.

Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
Leonard Fournette
may have been the star attraction out of LSU’s backfield the past few years, but Derrius Guice made a name for himself last season as one of the top running backs in the SEC. Now, Guice steps into the leading role without any question and he should be the main cog in LSU’s offense this fall while the Tigers try to get a passing game figured out.

Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
Keeping with the running back theme (and there are a number of others that could have been mentioned), we stay in the SEC to remind you that Georgia still has Nick Chubb ready to carry the ball. Chubb should be a key player in Georgia’s season, even though he will be splitting running calls with Sony Michel. But Chubb’s ability to burst through the line and get downfield with authority will be an essential ingredient to Georgia’s offensive game plan.

Derwin James, S, Florida State
Some will argue Florida State’s best player may actually be the best player in the nation. Derwin James is ready to make plays on every snap, and after missing the bulk of the 2016 season due to a knee surgery, James is ready to make up for some lost time. Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles will have James lining up all over the field, and he will be a key player in the highly-anticipated Week 1 matchup with Alabama.

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
Ed Oliver’s recruiting to Houston took the recruiting world by storm, and he has had quite the impact in his young career at Houston. Expect more of the big man to destroy the line of scrimmage this fall. Oliver would be a beast to contain in any conference, but do not look past his performance in the AAC this fall. Oliver will continue to show just how much fun watching a defensive tackle can be this fall.

Quinton Flowers, QB, USF
If there was one thing Charlie Strong really needed to be successful at Texas, it was his Longhorn version of Teddy Bridgewater. Now at USF, Strong has his quarterback in Quinton Flowers. Flowers is among the top players from the Group of Five and will give the Bulls as good a chance as any to not only win the AAC, but also guide the Bulls to a New Years Six bowl game.

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Louisville’s quarterback may have won the Heisman Trophy last season, but a brutal finish to the season has left the reigning Heisman Trophy winner laying in the shadows this offseason it seems. Expect that love affair with the dynamic quarterback to be rekindled quickly as Jackson looks to pile up big numbers to start the season once more to remind us all why he captured the nation a year ago. History may be against Jackson’s chances of winning the Heisman Trophy again this season, but do not be surprised if he manages to return to New York as a Heisman finalist.

Honorable mentions: Sam Darnold (QB, USC), Justin Jackson (RB, Northwestern), Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma), Nick Bosa (DE, Ohio State), Mike Weber (RB, Ohio State), J.T. Barrett (QB, Ohio State), Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA), Royce Freeman (RB, Oregon), Jordan Whitehead (S, Pittsburgh), Da’Shawn Hand (DE, Alabama), Myles Gaskin (RB, Washington)

CFT Previews: Las Vegas Bowl Presented by Geico

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WHO: Houston (9-3) vs. San Diego State (10-3)
WHAT: The 25th Las Vegas Bowl
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
WHERE: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Nevada
THE SKINNY: The Las Vegas Bowl may be the scene for one of the top bowl games in the month of December considering some of the talent to be put on display. Mountain West Conference champion San Diego State rides into their second Las Vegas Bowl on the strength of star running back Donnel Pumphrey, while Houston comes in with Major Applewhite making his head coaching debut with players like quarterback Greg Ward Jr. and All-American freshman defensive lineman Ed Oliver to count on.

Truth be told, the Las Vegas Bowl is a far cry from the New Year’s Six hopes both Houston and San Diego State had for much of the season. Houston padded their profile with a pair of victories over top five teams this season, Oklahoma and Louisville, but stumbled three times in the American Athletic Conference to fall out of contention for a second straight conference title and blocking their chance of a return to the New Years Six bowl lineup. For a program that started the season being discussed as a potential College Football Playoff contender, playing in the Las Vegas Bowl is clearly not where the Cougars wanted to be. San Diego State was in the mix for the New Year’s Six for a while as well until a blowout loss in the regular season finale all but knocked the Aztecs out of the running even if Western Michigan (who will play Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl) had stumbled.

The Las Vegas Bowl will offer a contrast in offensive styles. San Diego State owns the nation’s seventh-most productive rushing offense with Pumphrey being one of just two players to rush for 2,000 yards this season (2,018 rushing yards; D’Onta Foreman of Texas being the other with 2,028 rushing yards). Pumphrey should end the season as the nation’s leading rusher as he trails Foreman by just 10 yards entering the Las Vegas Bowl. Houston will be more likely to take to the air with Ward Jr. having already passed for 3,328 yards and 22 touchdowns with nine interceptions this season. Although Tom Herman has left Houston for Texas, it should be expected new head coach Applewhite will continue the same offensive philosophies he used as offensive coordinator. Houston’s passing game will look to avoid making turnovers against a San Diego State defense that leads the nation with 22 interceptions.

This one should be good. You will want to make sure you are watching the final game played by Pumphrey and Ward Jr.

THE PREDICTION: Houston 32, San Diego State 29

Tom Herman lands Houston’s highest-rated recruit in over a decade, possibly ever

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Houston’s new head coach has yet to coach a game, but he’s already making things happen. As best we can tell right now, new Houston head coach Tom Herman has broken down a wall that Houston has yet to climb since as far back as 2002.

Class of 2016 defensive tackle Ed Oliver, rated four stars and the seventh-best defensive tackle in the nation by Rivals, has given Herman and Houston his verbal commitment. This, of course, is a long way from becoming officially official with National Signing Day not until next February. It is, however, a sign that Herman is already having an impact on the recruiting trail at his new gig. While Oliver receives four out of five stars from Rivals, other recruiting services are a tad higher on him (he has a five-star composite ranking according to 247 Sports).

As it stands now, Oliver is choosing Houston over offers from programs like Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Texas, Texas A&M, UCLA and more.

Per Rivals, Wide receiver Deontay Greenberry was Houston’s most recent four-star recruit in the Class of 2012. Since 2002, Houston has signed a total of five four-star players.

Go to work, Herman.

Helmet sticker to The Student Section.