An early top 10 for 2014

56 Comments

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.

Walk-on UCLA TE Greg Dulcich rewarded with scholarship on his birthday

UCLA football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Courtesy of UCLA football, those weary of the misery that’s engulfing our country at the moment can find a reason to smile a little in this post.

Greg Dulcich would’ve been entering his third season as a walk-on for the UCLA football team. The key phrase there, of course, is “would’ve been.” Late last week, the Bruins announced that Dulcich has been placed on scholarship.

Arguably the best part? The announcement came on the redshirt sophomore’s birthday.

Dulcich received the news from UCLA football head coach Chip Kelly. Following the phone call, the in-self-isolation tight end celebrated with family.

From the Los Angeles Times:

When I hung up the phone,” Dulcich said, “it was pretty loud in here.”

He sprinted over to the dining room to give his mom a hug before his siblings converged for what Dulcich described as “a big ol’ family hug.” They celebrated over a birthday dinner of chili cheese dogs and chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, the dessert made just the way Dulcich likes it.

Kelly made it clear to Dulcich that the scholarship was not a birthday present so much as a reward for all of his hard work. Dulcich caught a 20-yard touchdown pass last season against San Diego State and has made the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll, requiring at least a 3.0 grade-point average, during every quarter since his arrival.

“He was pretty adamant about making me feel like I earned it,” Dulcich said, “and that was really cool of him to put it like that.

The past two seasons, Dulcich has appeared in 14 games for the UCLA football team. Because he played in just three games during the 2018 season, he was able to take a redshirt and save a season of eligibility.

In that action, the California native has caught nine passes for 111 yards and a touchdown. Eight of catches, 105 of the yards and the lone score came this past season.

Tulane shows off fresh new turf for football season

Tulane Athletics
Leave a comment

We don’t know, officially, when college football will return to our lives. When it does, Tulane will have a brand new playing surface waiting to be broken in.

Tulane shared a look at the updated turf in Tulane’s Yulman Stadium, complete with the signature fighting green wave logo sitting at midfield. But the most noticeable update is a consistent green pattern as opposed to the alternating shades of green on the previous turf. The ends zones also have a fresh coat of paint, doing away with the white checkerboard pattern and replacing it with a light blue backdrop with “Green Wave” painted in green and outlined in white in each end zone.

The loss of the checkerboard end zones is slightly upsetting, but overall this is a worthy upgrade. Keeping the midfield logo was essential, and the blue end zones are certainly a pleasant upgrade.

Tulane is coming off a 7-6 season capped by a victory in the Armed Forces Bowl. After back-to-back winning seasons and bowl victories, Tulane and head coach Willie Fritz will hope to take advantage of their new turf and take the next step toward playing for the American Athletic Conference championship in 2020.

Despite New York shutting down construction, work on Syracuse’s Carrier Dome continues

Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Like many states around the country, New York has issued a state-wide shutdown of all non-essential businesses. The updated order from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has included a ban on non-essential construction projects, which is notable to Syracuse University. Just weeks after deflating the roof of the Carrier Dome for the final time as renovations were underway, whether or not the Carrier Dome classifies as essential construction or not is still being debated.

As noted by Syracuse.com, stadiums did not fall under the list of construction projects that could be considered essential. Essential projects have included those on roads, bridges, transit, utilities, hospitals and affordable housing, just to name a few. Clearly, the Carrier Dome does not fall under any of those categories. But, of course, that has not stopped some officials from stating the construction on the Carrier Dome should be allowed to continue.

The Dome project should be exempt,” Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said recently, according to Syracuse.com. “I already had a call with the state on this. Regardless on the Dome project, it has to be exempt because that big metal structure on the Dome isn’t secure. They’re still putting it up. We’re not going to stop construction and have 50 mph winds present another public health challenge. I called the state and just put everybody on notice on that. I talked to the contractor.”

Syracuse will be replacing the roof after a new railing support system is in place. The renovations to the Carrier Dome are priced at $118 million and the original plans were to have the project completed in full by 2022, although some parts of the renovations were likely to be completed in time for the 2020 college football season. Whether that will remain the case or not remains to be seen as the entire sports world and beyond has been put on ice amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Minnesota coach PJ Fleck has encouraging words for everyone during COVID-19 pandemic

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
1 Comment

If there is one coach in college football that can be trusted to find the silver lining in times like these, it has to be Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck. Always one of the most uplifting and positive-thinking coaches sin the game, Fleck shared a message to everyone that may help you feel at least a little better about everything going on right now with the COVID-19 pandemic taking a toll on our lives.

In an interview last week with Pat Mcafee on his YouTube show, (The Pat McAfee Show), Fleck was asked what his message would be to people if they need a little bit of encouragement. Naturally, Fleck was up to the task;

“[There] are no problems, only situations, and from a situation creates opportunity,” Fleck said. “So for us, it’s about how we’re going to be able to respond to this, how are we going to be able to get back to this norm? everybody wants to keep chasing this norm. When’s normal coming back? I got news for you. Normal’s not coming back!”

Even as someone who is optimistic that things will return to “normal,” I can’t help but think Fleck is probably correct in this line of thought. He continued.

“Whatever your view of normal is, it’s not coming back. There are going to be ways and things that we implement that becomes the new norm,” Fleck explained. “But if you’re afraid of that, who says the new norm can’t be better? Why can’t our world be better? Why can’t our nation be better? Why can’t we continue to grow? Why can’t we be intentional with our intentions to make this a better world after we get through this? Who’s to say it has to be worse?”

“We all have a role in this, and we can all row the boat together,” Fleck said, working in his own personal motto that has worked so well for him over the years for good measure. “We can all look at our problems, look at them as situations and create these opportunities that make this world better. Here’s the one thing. We all affect this. every single one of us have an impact of how we actually change the future of this nation.”

I don’t know about you, but I feel a little better moving forward. Maybe we need to hear from Fleck every day until things do return to whatever the newly established “normal” shall be.

Here is the video clip of Fleck’s interview, via McAfee’s Twitter account;