Javorius Allen

With Cody Kessler back in 2015, USC thinking about College Football Playoff

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Following a nailbiter of a win in the Holiday Bowl against Nebraska, USC quarterback Cody Kessler intends to return for his final season with the Trojans. Kessler announced his decision to return for the 2015 season when meeting with the media following the victory in San Diego.

Kessler passed for 3,826 yards and 39 touchdowns with just five interceptions during his junior season for USC. Those are typically numbers that throw a quarterback into the Heisman Trophy conversation, but Kessler could have used a couple of more wins on the year to make that a reality. However, if he is going to coming back in 2015 then he odds are very good he will be considered one of the top Heisman Trophy candidates next season with those kinds of numbers at USC.

Kessler also mentioned the chance to compete for a national championship, which USC could be in a position to compete for under Steve Sarkisian, his second season on the job. USC has plenty of first-team talent, and the roster will continue to get deeper now that the sanction phase is behind the program. That appeared to be the case for the Trojans this season; plenty of talent, but not enough depth.

Kessler will have an offensive line protecting him that was young this season. Another year to grow together as a unit could be beneficial. Kessler will also look to have the bulk of his supporting cast back next season as well, including wide receiver Juju Smith. Veteran wide receiver Nelson Agholor is receiving information regarding his NFL Draft stock before making his decision. Running back Javorius Allen is also awaiting NFL feedback before making his decision. If Agholor and Allen decide to come back to USC in 2015, the Trojans could be very dangerous on offense.

Doak Walker semifinalists headlined by B1G contingent

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For pretty much the entire 2014 season, four Big Ten running backs have been among the top 10 rushers yardage-wise at the FBS level.  For three of them, their in-season production has the potential to be rewarded in the postseason.

Of the 10 semifinalists for the 2014 Doak Walk Award, three came from the Big Ten: Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, Indiana’s Tevin Coleman and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah.  Those three are first, second and ninth, respectively, in  rushing yards.

That conference could actually make a case that it was gypped as Minnesota’s David Cobb, seventh nationally in rushing, wasn’t named a semifinalist.  The only other conference outside of the B1G with more than one semifinalist was the ACC with two (Pittsburgh’s James Conner, Miami’s Duke Johnson).

Another fair gripe would be Western Michigan true freshman Jarvion Franklin, who is sixth in rushing and second in rushing touchdowns.  The same could be said for San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey, fifth in rushing.  Cobb, Franklin and Pumphrey are the only players in the top 10 in rushing not named as semifinalists.

There are six junior semifinalists, with two each for the senior and sophomore classes.

Gordon and Abdullah are the only 2013 semifinalists named again in 2014.  Neither were finalists for the award won by Boston College’s Andre Williams.

Gordon and Johnson were also named as semifinalists for the prestigious Walter Camp Award Wednesday as well.

Below are the 10 semifinalists for the 2014 Doak Walker Award.

Ameer Abdullah (Sr.) Nebraska
Jay Ajayi (Jr.) Boise State
Javorius Allen (Jr.) USC
Cameron Artis-Payne (Sr.) Auburn
Matt Breida (So.) Georgia Southern
Tevin Coleman (Jr.) Indiana
James Conner (So.) Pittsburgh
Melvin Gordon (Jr.) Wisconsin
Devon Johnson (Jr.) Marshall
Duke Johnson (Jr.) Miami

Bednarik, Maxwell Award semifinalists announced

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The Maxwell Club announced 20 semifinalists for the Maxwell Award (nation’s top player) and Bednarik Award (nation’s top defensive player) on Monday.

The Maxwell breakdown: 12 QBs, 6 RBs, 2 WRs. Bednarik: 8 DEs, 6 LBs, 3 CBs, 2 S, 1 DT. By conference, between the two lists:

SEC: 9
Pac-12: 9
Big Ten: 7
Big 12: 6
ACC: 6
Notre Dame: 2
C-USA: 1

MAXWELL

Ameer Abdullah, Sr. Nebraska RB
Javorius Allen, Sr. USC RB
Trevone Boykin, Jr. TCU QB
Rakeem Cato, Sr. Marshall QB
Tevin Coleman, Jr. Indiana RB
James Conner, Soph. Pitt RB
Connor Cook, Jr. Michigan State QB
Amari Cooper, Jr. Alabama WR
Everett Golson, Sr. Notre Dame QB
Melvin Gordon, Jr. Wisconsin RB
Brett Hundley, Jr. UCLA QB
Duke Johnson, Jr. Miami (Fla.) RB
Marcus Mariota, Jr. Oregon QB
Nick Marshall, Sr. Auburn QB
Bryce Petty, Sr. Baylor QB
Dak Prescott, Jr. Mississippi State QB
Bo Wallace, Sr. Ole Miss QB
Jake Waters, Sr. Kansas State QB
Kevin White, Sr. West Virginia WR
Jameis Winston, Soph. Florida State QB

BEDNARIK

Vic Beasley, Sr. Clemson DE
Joey Bosa, Soph. Ohio State DE
Shilique Calhoun, Jr. Michigan State DE
Landon Collins, Jr. Alabama S
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Sr. Oregon CB
Senquez Golson, Sr. Ole Miss CB
Randy Gregory, Jr. Nebraska DE
Vernon Hargreaves III, Soph. Florida CB
Jordan Hicks, Sr. Texas LB
Gerod Holliman, Soph. Louisville S
Hau’oli Kikaha, Sr. Washington LB
Benardrick McKinney, Jr. Mississippi State LB
Shawn Oakman, Jr. Baylor DE
Nate Orchard, Sr. Utah DE
Denzel Perryman, Sr. Miami (Fla.) LB
Shane Ray, Jr. Mizzou DE
Danny Sheldon, Sr. Washington DT
Jaylon Smith, Soph. Notre Dame LB
Leonard Williams, Jr. USC DE
Scooby Wright III, Soph. Arizona LB

USC RB Tre’ Madden officially calls it a season

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After weeks of false starts and what turned out to be even more false hope, Tre’ Madden has officially turned his football attention to 2015.

Following a meeting Thursday that involved the player, his parents and the USC coaching staff, it was determined that the running back will sit out the remainder of the 2014 season.  Madden suffered what turned out to be a significant case of turf toe early on in summer camp this past August and has yet to play a down in 2014.

Madden will have one more year of eligibility remaining.  It could be two as he missed the 2012 season with a knee injury, meaning he’d be a near-lock for a sixth season of eligibility from the NCAA if that’s the tack he decides to take.

“We’re moving forward,” Tre’s father, Curtis Madden, told the Orange County Register. “It’s disappointing that he’s not going to be able to contribute this season. But there’s next year and the year after that.”

During the first five games last season, Madden rushed for 583 yards and three touchdowns. The last eight, three of which he didn’t record a carry, Madden totaled just 120 yards and didn’t find the end zone. His 703 yards were second on the team to the 785 yards for Javorius Allen.

With Allen widely expected to make the early plunge into the NFL draft pool, Madden and Justin Davis would ostensibly enter the 2015 season as the Trojans’ top two backfield options.

Top wide receivers on display as No. 16 USC leads ASU 17-15 at halftime

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Two of the nation’s top wide receivers are on the field when the No. 16 USC Trojans host the Arizona State Sun Devils.

Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong won the individual battle against USC’s Nelson Agholor through two quarters, yet it’s Agholor’s Trojans who hold a 17-15 lead.

Strong was nearly a one-man show for the Sun Devils in the first half. The talented junior wide receiver caught five passes for 102 yards and both Arizona State touchdowns. The rest of the offense managed 77 yards.

It’s an impressive effort from the wide receiver considering USC claims the nation’s 10th-best passing defense. Prior to Saturday, the Trojans only allowed 155.5 yards per game through the air.

Agholor, meanwhile, will be content with a solid first-half effort and the lead. The fellow junior also caught five passes and finished with 56 yards. But, the wide receiver’s primary damage came on special teams. Agholor struck first with a 53-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Otherwise, USC’s offense was far more balanced than Arizona State’s. The Trojans accumulated 242 yards. The team’s second touchdown came courtesy of a one-yard plunge from running back Javorius Allen.

As both teams approach the second half, Arizona State needs to remain aggressive on defense and find ways to diversify its offense. The Sun Devils should also attempt to establish a ground game after gaining only 10 yards on 15 carries. USC will have to identify exactly where Strong is at all times, while continuing to the spread the ball around on offense.