Go back to Week 2 of the college football season last year. This was the Big Ten’s big opportunity to make a statement in nationally televised spotlight games, and the conference came up empty. Ohio State lost at home to Virginia Tech. Michigan State let one get away from them at Oregon. Michigan was no match for Notre Dame. On top of that, Nebraska needed Ameer Abdullah to provide a miracle to avoid overtime against McNeese State and Northwestern was defeated at home by Northern Illinois. It was a rough day for the Big Ten, and many around the country were quick to write the conference off as a result. Well, we know how that all worked out.
This offseason has been nothing short of renewed praise for the Big Ten’s resurrection, but the conference is still quite top heavy at the moment. Sure, the Big Ten may be heading in a positive direction and the expectations are high for Jim Harbaugh and Michigan and continue to rise with James Franklin at Penn State, but there is still plenty of work to do to follow-up the way last season ended for the Big Ten. Following up one of the more successful postseason runs by the conference, highlighted by Ohio State’s national championship and supplemented by Michigan State’s tremendous effort in the Cotton Bowl, the Big Ten is now tasked with keeping the momentum going.
Here are some of the key games the Big Ten will need to win in order to keep things going its way at the start of the 2015 season.
Michigan at Utah (September 3): The Harbaugh Era kicks off in Pac-12 territory. Utah roughed up Michigan last season so there is a bit of a revenge factor at stake. And winning against the Pac-12 to open the season always helps with the image.
Minnesota vs. TCU (September 3): On the same night, Minnesota hosts Big 12 favorite TCU. The Horned Frogs may very well leave with a win, but the Gophers can put up a fight. If they can’t win it, keeping it competitive and close will still represent the Big Ten well in this one.
Nebraska vs. BYU (September 5): BYU may not be in a power conference (as much as they would love it), but they are not exactly a cupcake either. A win by Nebraska over BYU is worth respect, especially now that conferences like the ACC and SEC recognize the Cougars as a power conference-equivalent opponent.
Northwestern vs. Stanford (September 5): The academic bowl between the Wildcats and Cardinal could be a tough one for Northwestern, but they get the home field advantage. A win against one of the top programs in the Pac-12 the last few years would not go unnoticed.
Wisconsin vs. Alabama (September 5): Here is the biggie of the opening week. The Badgers take on defending SEC champion Alabama and will hope to be able to do what Ohio State did in the Sugar Bowl. It would also give Wisconsin the rare opportunity for a Big Ten team to have consecutive wins against Auburn and Alabama. A win would be huge for the Big Ten on the big stage in Arlington.
Ohio State at Virginia Tech (September 7): The Buckeyes take on the Hokies in primetime looking to avenge their only loss from last season. This Ohio State team should be much better than the one that stumbled last season, but a road victory in an ACC stadium would be a good way to cap the opening weekend.
If everything goes well for the Big Ten, and that is a big if, the conference could own wins against the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC (including wins against defending champions or co-champions in the SEC and Big 12) after just one week of play. Just putting together a winning record in those games would be a nice bragging point for the conference and would help carry over the momentum from last season. And that is just the start for the Big Ten. Week two sees Michigan State host Oregon and Michigan hosting Oregon State. Rutgers hosts Washington State to get in on the fun, and Iowa visits Iowa State. Iowa will also face Pittsburgh and Illinois will take on North Carolina. These are the types of games the Big Ten needs to win to move up the conference power rankings and prove the depth of the conference goes beyond the Buckeyes and Spartans.
Hugh Freeze may be dealing with what was a significant health issue, but he’s still working his first-year roster at Liberty.
On his personal Twitter account Tuesday evening, Tim Kidd-Glass announced that he “would like to thank God for allowing me to have another opportunity to further my football career… at Liberty University.” The announcement comes a couple of weeks after the safety triggered a move from North Carolina State by entering his name into the NCAA transfer database.
As a graduate transfer, Kidd-Glass will be eligible to play for the Flames in 2019.
First off I would like to thank God for allowing me to have another opportunity to further my football career back in the 4️⃣ at Liberty University🔥🔥 #goflames !!! pic.twitter.com/UYxHrZtMeD
The 2018 season ended with Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence emerging as the next big college football star destined for greatness. Despite being a true freshman, Lawrence had his way with Alabama in the national championship game after leading the Tigers past Notre Dame in the semifinal of the College Football Playoff. Lawrence’s glory led to a disappointing ending to the season for Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, who was among the preseason favorites to win the Heisman Trophy before the 2018 season started. Now, a year later, Tagovailoa is once again being tabbed as one of the Heisman Trophy favorites, with Lawrence riding in the same boat as the top picks to take home the trophy this fall.
Preseason Heisman Trophy favorites can sometimes be a total guessing game, but both Lawrence and Tagovailoa are young and experienced enough at a high level of competition to prove worthy of the preseason hype as college football’s best players. Although Tagovailoa had a rough end to the 2019 season, there is enough reason to believe he will have a solid season in 2019 while leading Alabama right back to the College Football Playoff. Lawrence should do the same with Clemson as they look to defend their national title from a year ago. If all goes according to plan, they will meet in New York City when the most iconic individual award in sports is awarded. And if the oddsmakers are on the ball, one of these two young quarterbacks will be going home with the award.
So how do these two quarterback phenoms stack up against each other in 2019? Let’s see if we can dig in a little bit and determine if there is a clear edge one way or the other.
Who passes for more yards?
As a freshman, Lawrence passed for 3,280 yards in 15 games. Of course, Lawrence didn’t become the full-time starter until after the fourth game of the season, replacing Kelly Bryant at the end of September. Had Lawrence been the full-time starter instead of splitting time, perhaps the freshman would have climbed higher than 22nd in the nation in passing yards. Alabama’s Tagovailoa finished the season with the 5th most passing yards, just shy of joining the 4,000-yard club last season (Tagovailoa finished the season with 3,966 passing yards).
Each of the last two Heisman Trophy winners, Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield, managed to cross the 4,000-yard mark for the entire season, although it is not necessarily the difference-maker in the Heisman Trophy race. Louisville’s Lamar Jackson had 3,543 passing yards in 2016, although Jackson piled up stats in other offensive categories as well to help his case. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota threw for 4,454 yards in 2014. It should be noted, however, that these passing yard totals also include postseason games played after the Heisman Trophy has been awarded. Last year’s season passing leader, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, was merely a Heisman Trophy finalist and he ended the season with 4,831 passing yards.
Who has more touchdowns?
Aided by being the full-time starter for his team from the start of the season, Tagovailoa easily had more touchdown passes than Lawrence last season. The Crimson Tide QB tossed 43 touchdowns on the year, with 37 coming before the Heisman Trophy ballots were due. Tagovailoa was picked off just four times all season prior to the College Football Playoff, but two of those came in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia. As far as timing is concerned, throwing half of your picks in the season in the conference championship game is far from ideal for most Heisman Trophy candidates.
Lawrence connected for 30 touchdowns to just four interceptions all season long. When the Heisman Trophy votes were counted, the freshman had 26 touchdown passes in the books and he had not thrown an interception since Nov. 11 at Boston College. Those stats were not nearly good enough to jump into the Heisman Trophy race for those concerned about the stats over the wins as a newcomer on the scene. Similar numbers in 2019 may not be as much concern unless other quarterbacks are outpacing those stats for playoff contenders.
Murray threw 40 touchdowns before the College Football Playoff. So a race to 40 touchdowns may be worth paying attention to.
Who rushes for more yards?
Does a running quarterback have a leg up in the Heisman Trophy competition? Not necessarily. Kyler Murray was a 1,000-yard rusher last season with 12 rushing touchdowns, but Baker Mayfield had just 311 rushing yards and five touchdowns the year before. But production on the ground can certainly help, as it did for Lamar Jackson in 2016. Jackson rushed for 1,571 yards and 21 touchdowns to compliment his 3,543 passing yards and 30 touchdown passes for the entire season. Neither Lawrence nor Tagovailoa should be expected to put up that kind of production on the loaded teams they are a part of.
In fact, neither quarterback should be expected to do a ton of damage with their legs. Last season, Lawrence ended the year with 177 rushing yards and one touchdown and Tagovailoa had 190 rushing yards with five touchdowns. As far as these two candidates are concerned, the Heisman Trophy race likely won’t be decided by what they do running the ball. Each team will have solid running backs for these players to hand the ball to when the action stays on the ground.
Who has more Heisman Moment opportunities?
This is where the difference could be made for Lawrence and Tagovailoa. For voters who are looking for a defining moment in which a Heisman Trophy candidate lifts the team up in a pivotal point, the search for Heisman Moments will be important in swaying a ballot or two one way or the other. What will these great quarterbacks do when the pressure is ultimately on?
Lawerence may have a great opportunity to make some early highlights with games against Georgia Tech, Texas A&M and Syracuse to start the season. The schedule after that could potentially turn into a bit of a drag with Clemson being a lopsided favorite the rest of the year. Could Lawrence actually be punished for Clemson’s dominance while other candidates such as Tagovailoa may have some more marquee matchups in the spotlight?
While Lawrence gets a good start to the season with the schedule, Tagovailoa may have a chance to pile up some big numbers early before the nitty-gritty of the Alabama football schedule kicks in. Tagovailoa will lead Alabama on the road to Texas A&M (a chance to compare results with Lawrence due to a common opponent) and a potential top-10 matchup with LSU on early November could carry some significant weight down the stretch. Throw in a possible opportunity to go up against a highly-ranked Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, the edge in notable showcase games as the Heisman Trophy race winds down probably leans in favor of Tagovailoa.
The flip side of that is Tagovailoa needs to shine in those game sin order to take advantage of the spotlight, and the magnifying glass that goes with it if the race is close. Tagovailoa struggled in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia last year when he completed just 10 of 25 pass attempts for 164 yards with just one touchdown to two interceptions before being replaced by Jalen Hurts. A better showing may not have changed the final outcome in the Heisman voting enough to dethrone Kyler Murray, but Tagovailoa’s performance in Atlanta didn’t help his case.
So, who’s it going to be?
It is difficult to see how Lawrence loses steam this season. A chance to jump out to an early lead with some big games to start the year gives Clemson’s young phenom the perfect opportunity to back up his hype as the preseason Heisman favorite, and the chance to rack up stats the rest of the year could be enough to stay ahead of the pack. History would suggest Lawrence will not win the Heisman Trophy though because rarely does a player start the year as the favorite and end up winning it. They can’t all be Marcus Mariota, right? Lawrence may be in a good position to pull it off though.
Wednesday, the Hurricanes’ head coach confirmed that, as the Miami Herald put, Martell is receptive to a potential position change. The Herald also noted that Martell wasn’t wearing the traditional orange jersey normally worn by quarterbacks and also met with the running backs and wide receiver positional groups following practice earlier today.
“It’s like anybody else we have,” Diaz said of a potential position change for Martell. “Anybody will help by doing anything that’s available, so yeah.”
The intimation coming out of South Florida seems to be that, if Martell loses out on the backup job to N’Kosi Perry, he would then shift his focus to another position, although that has yet to be officially acknowledged.
Martell was a four-star member of OSU’s 2017 recruiting class, rated as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the country. After redshirting as a true freshman, Martell threw for 269 yards and a touchdown on 23-of-28 passing this past season while also running for another 128 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.
Report: West Virginia LB VanDarius Cowan suspended four games
Even as he left Alabama, it doesn’t appear VanDarius Cowan has been able to leave off-field issues behind.
According to a report from 247Sports.com, Cowan has been suspended for West Virginia’s first four games of the 2019 season. The only reason given was unspecified “NCAA eligibility issues.”
The suspension will sideline Cowan for games against James Madison, Missouri, NC State and the Big 12 opener against Kansas. The linebacker would then be eligible to return for the Oct. 5 game against Texas.