ACC: Ohio State Buckeyes

National links: Who's No. 4? 

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
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We’re inside of two weeks until Dec. 7, when the College Football Playoff selection committee announces its four picks to appear in the sport’s first national semifinals.

There will be teams left out who can make perfectly compelling cases to be playoff participants. There will be voices raised and criticisms leveled regarding which program truly deserved the final spot in the playoff. This much is a certainty.

But which teams have the best chances of cracking the field? It still seems to be a matter of conjecture beyond the top three teams: Alabama, Oregon and Florida State.
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The top five remains steady, but Ohio State has moved a step closer to potentially breaking into that group. The Buckeyes, whose class is led by three five-star prospects, added a commitment from an eighth ESPN 300 player in offensive lineman Matt Burrell Jr. The top-10 OG is a big, tough and competitive player. He needs to continue to better blend technique with his aggressive nature, but with some work he can be a physical and productive presence in the trenches for Ohio State.

It has been a challenging season for North Carolina, but the Tar Heels, who have won three of their past four games, were able to score a big victory on the recruiting trail. With a commitment from ESPN 300 DE Jalen Dalton, North Carolina was able to keep the state's No. 3-ranked prospect at home. A lengthy and athletic defender with good upside, Dalton is a promising player who could grow into a potential playmaker for a team that needs major help on defense. Despite some of the struggles this season UNC has still managed to put together a strong class that now sits at No. 21 and features five ESPN 300 prospects.

Inside the rankings

The biggest challenge for Urban Meyer and his staff since he arrived in Columbus has been luring top-flight defensive front personnel and overall skill from the Midwest that is comparable to what he had at Florida. It has been a down period in Ohio for the 2014 and 2015 classes in terms of sheer numbers and caliber of players, which led to the Buckeyes going after guys like Joey Bosa (Florida), Raekwon McMillan (Georgia), Vonn Bell (Georgia) and many others to help supplement the roster. That trend is continuing with the commitment of 2015 athlete Torrance Gibson.

The good news for the Buckeyes is that the upcoming in-state 2016 class is much stronger and deeper, which hopefully will allow for them to not have to venture too far south this time around to supplement the roster. The Buckeyes already have four players committed in 2016 and all are from Ohio.



To read the full class rankings, click here.
This week, USA Today, in the latest of its fan index lists, catalogued the top 10 traditions in college football.

Among them, dotting the "i" at Ohio State, lighting the Tower at Texas and rolling Toomer's Corner at Auburn. All fine events, but no list of such customs in the sport is complete without the latest craze: the wait for Tuesday night.

I say that somewhat jokingly, so refrain from the angry tweets. No, I don't really think it's more fun to dream about the details of a five-minute interview with Jeff Long than to decorate an intersection with toilet paper.

But it's close.

So welcome to the fourth of seven Tuesday College Football Playoff poll unveils, where it finally gets real in the selection-committee room.

Why is this Tuesday different? Because after last Saturday, none of the remaining unbeaten or one-loss Power 5 contenders will meet in the regular season or in conference-title games.

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National links: Bias on the committee? 

November, 11, 2014
Nov 11
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I have grave news to bring you. The College Football Playoff selection committee is biased.

Yes, the 12-member panel tasked to solve the nation's problems choose the sport's first four-team playoff includes people with real-life experiences, likes and dislikes.

Some of them, apparently, have ideas about the way the game ought to be played and coached.

Take a deep breath and remember, this is what we wanted.

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Comparisons are the structural foundation of the College Football Playoff system. Is this undefeated better than the others? Which is the best one-loss team, and is it better than an undefeated?

Few teams have been the subject of those comparisons more than No. 2 Florida State. Is Mississippi State better? How would Florida State fare with an SEC schedule like Auburn’s? Heck, do the Seminoles even match up against one-loss Auburn or Alabama or even Oregon?

Those comparisons are borne of near upsets and statistics that favor most playoff contenders over Florida State. The Seminoles are 28th in game control, and, according to ESPN Stats & Information, only once since 2005 has a team entered the bowl season undefeated with a game control outside of the top 20 (Hawaii, 2007). Their 8-0 strength of record is actually worse than 7-1 Auburn’s, and the Football Power Index projects five teams would have a greater than 50 percent chance to beat them on a neutral field.

Let’s even take a step outside ESPN’s metrics. Sports-Reference.com uses the Simple Rating System, which accounts for margin of victory and opponent strength, and Florida State is ranked ninth with a score of 16.43.

The statistical reviews of FSU don’t speak glowingly of the 2014 Seminoles.

They didn’t think much of Ohio State in 2002, either, but that’s one comparison Florida State welcomes. Those Buckeyes, who had a Simple Rating System score of 18.13, finished undefeated and won the national championship over 12-point favorite Miami.

“I’ve watched a ton of their games -- some of the bigger ones I’ve watched throughout -- … [and] it’s very similar to 2002,” said Bobby Carpenter, who played in every game for Ohio State that season. “The games were always close enough where we were a play or two away in the second half. I see that a lot with Florida State.”

The Seminoles have a habit of falling behind this season. They’ve mounted three fourth-quarter comebacks and run nearly twice as many plays while trailing (184) than they did during the 2013 regular season (38). Their average halftime win probability this season is 58 percent, which ranks 50th nationally.

When Florida State trailed 21-0 to Louisville, its win probability dropped to 5 percent.

The ’02 Buckeyes would challenge those Seminoles to play blindfolded if they wanted to really handicap themselves, which that Ohio State team knows all about. It could be suggested that Ohio State team could have lost eight games in 2002, so that season gave new meaning to Ohio Stadium’s nickname of The Horseshoe.
  • vs. Washington State: Ohio State trailed at halftime and passed for 71 yards.
  • at Cincinnati: Ohio State trailed entering the fourth quarter and the Bearcats dropped two passes in the end zone in the final minute and had four downs from Buckeyes’ 15-yard line to win.
  • at Northwestern: Ohio State trailed after the first quarter and led by a single score in the fourth quarter against a team that finished 1-7 in conference that year.
  • at Wisconsin: Ohio State needed a fourth-quarter comeback against the Badgers, who won two games in the Big Ten that season.
  • vs. Penn State: Chris Gamble intercepted a third-quarter pass and weaved through the Nittany Lions to give Ohio State the lead and provide the Buckeyes’ only touchdown that afternoon. Ohio State had 253 total yards in the win. (“I thought in mind after the game, if Gamble doesn’t score, there’s no guarantee we get a touchdown,” Carpenter said.)
  • at Purdue: On fourth down in the fourth quarter, Craig Krenzel unloaded a 37-yard touchdown to a diving Michael Jenkins for the go-ahead score.
  • at Illinois: A 5-7 Illinois team took Ohio State to overtime.
  • vs. Michigan: Ohio State trailed most of the game and was doubled up in first downs and had 100 fewer yards. The last two Michigan drives, both which would have won the game, had the Wolverines in position to score with a first down from or inside the Ohio State 30-yard line.

Of course the last time Ohio State trailed that season was in overtime of the national championship, which it won.

Those prior wins that came down to the final few possessions benefited Ohio State against Miami, Carpenter said.

“You become accustomed to it, and the pressure isn’t insurmountable,” Carpenter said. “It doesn’t take the toll like it does the other team because you’ve been there. You’re playing 60-plus minutes and you’re prepared for those instances.

“Florida State isn’t as good [as the 2013 FSU team] but it’s a team that finds a way to win and keep it close. Some teams might just say, ‘This isn’t our night,’ but Florida State battles back.”

Words like “resolve” or “will” aren’t often used when evaluating teams. Instead, résumé appraisals consist of terms such as “unimpressive” or “susceptible.”

At the very least, those are the words the Florida State locker room is choosing to hear and pick out. Junior P.J. Williams said after the Louisville game that the Seminoles embrace the criticisms.

“Guys always say they don’t pay attention to it, but I think it does [affect a team],” said Carpenter, who remembers hearing similar analysis in 2002. “No one believes you should ever really win, so there’s more emotional investment in the preparation, and the preparation is what wins close games at the end.”

Florida State will eagerly accept all Ohio State comparisons if its close games, including the national championship, all end the same way.
Let’s say you’re a hot, up-and-coming head coach in a Group of 5 league. You have job opportunities in every one of the Power 5 conferences. If you’re picking solely based on title path -- the fastest way to the College Football Playoff -- which conference do you choose?

Here's my ranking of every division in the major conferences, going from the most ideal to join as a new coach to the most difficult. Easiest to hardest. (I’m counting the Big 12 as one 10-team division. It’s a reasonable way to view it since, as with the divisions in the other four leagues, everyone plays everyone.)

1. Big Ten West

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Class rankings: Nov. 5 update

November, 5, 2014
Nov 5
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Three top-50 ESPN 300 prospects made commitments in the past week and sparked some changes to the class rankings. No moves were made among the top five, but one week after moving into that group Florida State strengthened its position by adding the nation's No. 5 CB, Tarvarus McFadden, to its class. After finishing third in the 2014 class rankings, the Seminoles remain very much in the running for another top-three finish.

Torrance Gibson became the 10th five-star prospect to commit and the third to join Ohio State's 2015 class. The addition of the No. 2 athlete helped the Buckeyes to push closer to the top five.

Oregon picked up a win over Stanford on Saturday and followed that with a big recruiting win after ESPN 300 DE Canton Kaumatule chose the Ducks. With its sixth ESPN 300 commit, Oregon has pushed past UCLA for the second-best class in the Pac-12.

Virginia Tech might be fighting through a three-game losing streak on the field, but in recruiting the Hokies were able make some positive strides. The Hokies landed former South Carolina commit Austin Clark, an in-state four-star OT, and moved into the top 40.



To see the full class rankings, click here.
Each Tuesday, we ask the College Football Insider team to answer three big questions. On tap today: Which College Football Playoff matchups would be the most interesting? Which coach has done the best job so far? And which team truly boasts the most dominant defense?

Which coach has done the best job so far this season?
Travis Haney: Rightful homage is being paid to the coaches in Mississippi, but I want to go a different direction. Kyle Whittingham has Utah 6-1 after some doubted whether he could handle the Pac-12 transition. The Utes' offense isn't great at all -- 84th in yards per play -- but that further illustrates the job Whittingham has done to make Utah a complete team on defense and special teams. The win over Stanford in 2013 didn't look fluky, and neither did wins over UCLA or USC in 2014. The Utes will be a headache for Oregon in a couple of weeks, especially coming off the Stanford game

Tom Luginbill: Nobody was talking about Utah prior to the season, and all the Utes have done is take care of business with average QB play (plus an injury) and stellar special-teams performances. Utah is the one team that can truly throw a wrench into the Pac-12 playoff picture.


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National links: Beware the big day 

October, 28, 2014
Oct 28
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Welcome to terrific Tuesday. Or terrible Tuesday. All depends on your perspective.

The College Football Playoff selection committee began deliberations on Monday in Grapevine, Texas. Tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET, Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long will unveil to a most curious audience the first-ever CFP rankings.

It's a historic time -- and surely chaotic.

Marc Tracy of the New York Times, in assessing the moment, writes that “historians will most likely date the end of the era of good feelings to 7:31.”

With that in mind, some advice for fans from the Big Ten to the SEC:

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In the spring, when quarterback Matt Joeckel decided to transfer from Texas A&M to TCU, the Frogs' coaching staff exhaled.

[+] EnlargeAmeer Abdullah
Eric Francis/Getty ImagesAmeer Abdullah set a Nebraska record with 341 all-purpose yards in a win over Rutgers.
Finally. Gary Patterson and his assistants could move Trevone Boykin to his natural position, receiver, and let Joeckel, who was familiar with a fast-paced offense as an Aggie, handle the transition to the hurry-up, tempo offense.

A funny thing happened during those summer months: Boykin took to TCU's new offensive assistants, playcaller Doug Meacham and quarterbacks coach Sonny Cumbie.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Boykin never relinquished the position. He never made it over to receiver.

Now look where we are.

TCU, a program founded on stingy defense, scored 82 points Saturday against Texas Tech. Eighty-two. TCU very much remains a playoff contender, even after its late collapse at Baylor.

And Boykin, after a school-record seven touchdown throws in three quarters, is now in the heart of the Heisman conversation.

“I told people before the year this would happen, that he was going to have this type of year,” Frogs running back Aaron Green told ESPN.com. “Seeing how comfortable he was in the offense, I was like, ‘You’ll see. You’ll see.’”

Boykin now has 24 total touchdowns and just four turnovers and is averaging a healthy 8.1 yards per pass attempt.

Scoring 50.4 points per game, TCU is the only FBS school averaging more than half a hundred. Now’s a great time to remind you the Frogs scored 25.1 points per game a year ago. They went 4-8.

It’s been an incredible turnaround and a recreation of the program’s identity. Credit Patterson for the willingness and adaptability to do it. Credit the hires of Meacham and Cumbie, who should be co-favorites for the Broyles Award for the country’s top assistant coach.

And of course, credit Boykin for growing into the position.

I’ll have Boykin third on my Heisman Watch poll this week. Here’s how the rest of the top five looks as we enter the stretch run for the award:

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The program has been there before, and Frank Beamer still expects his Virginia Tech team to act like it.

But after a couple years out of the spotlight, maybe the Hokies deserve a little bit of slack when their exuberance spills over and their emotions catch the attention of the officials.

That won’t really be determined until an early morning meeting Wednesday, when Beamer will sit down with his Shmoney-dancing tight end Bucky Hodges. Saturday night and the wee hours of Sunday morning were reserved for an old-fashioned Virginia Tech party, even if the program happened to get started too early before officially thrusting itself back in the national picture by upsetting Ohio State 35-21 at the Horseshoe.

[+] EnlargeBucky Hodges
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsBucky Hodges' go-ahead touchdown against Ohio State set off a Virginia Tech celebration -- albeit one that officials deemed excessive.
“We’ve got some things to clean up -- excessive celebrating for sure,” Beamer joked. "What’s the penalty? Well, we’ll show it to the team, and we’ll see how Bucky dances. And then he’s got an appointment with me on Wednesday morning at 6 a.m. We’ll check his dance moves out then.”

Hodges couldn’t resist flashing them after snagging the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, an athletic grab in the corner of the end zone that was merely one of many eye-popping plays that were a callback to Virginia Tech's heyday under Beamer.

There hasn’t been nearly as much for the Hokies to feel good about, coming off consecutive seasons with at least five losses, disappointing campaigns that kept them out of the preseason polls and far removed from any conversations about the College Football Playoff after long being a fixture in the Bowl Championship Series. But almost from start to finish, it was the Hokies who looked every bit the part of a national contender and not the Buckeyes, who were playing in front of a record-breaking crowd, hadn’t lost a regular-season game under Urban Meyer and still hadn’t lowered their expectations despite the loss of star quarterback Braxton Miller.

They couldn’t resist cutting loose and having a some fun while reminding the country the program is alive and well.

“It had had been on my mind, and when I finally scored, I just felt like I had to hit the dance,” Hodges said. “The coaches were hot, and they were letting me have it. ... Was it worth it, though? Yeah.”

The Hokies clearly weren’t intimidated by the noise or the long win streak, and there was nothing the Buckeyes did on the field that appeared to really bother them, either.

Quarterback Michael Brewer was harassed throughout the game by a talented Ohio State defensive front, but he weathered every hit, kept rattling off third-down conversions and never looked fazed. There was no true standout at the skill positions, but the Hokies found a way to manufacture four scoring drives by giving touches to 16 different players as either rusher or receiver.

That was more than enough to complement another virtuous performance by the defense, with coordinator Bud Foster ruthlessly unleashing his full array of pressure packages and racking up seven sacks of Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett.

“Yeah, the last couple years haven’t been what we wanted,” Foster said. “But I think every program goes through that at some point in time. We had been on a stretch of pretty special years and putting them back-to-back-to-back-to-back. You look at every program in the history of football, even this program, there are down years here and there.

"But this was a credit to the kids and our staff. We had a good plan, they were well-prepared, and they played really hard.”

They even seemed to dial it up when the stakes were highest, looking every bit like a program that played in six BCS bowl games should.

The Hokies were challenged late after Barrett delivered a touchdown strike in the face of a blitz and Ezekiel Elliott tied the game by slicing through a handful of defenders for a 15-yard scoring run. But Brewer and Hodge answered with the throw that launched a dance party, and the defense supplied repeated uppercuts with six sacks in the fourth quarter before Donovan Riley landed the knockout blow by nabbing Virginia Tech’s third interception and returning it 63 yards for a touchdown.

Of course, there was also an unsportsmanlike penalty after that play, but by then there was no stopping the celebration for the Hokies.

A coming-out party? No. More like a welcome-back affair.

“The last two seasons, they were not bad seasons,” cornerback Brandon Facyson said. “Some things didn’t go our way, but I feel like everybody has overlooked us. When it comes to big games now, they still overlook us.

“I hope this win has really opened up some eyes. We are still a dominant team. We are not out of it by any means. We are still a team to be reckoned with.”

The Hokies have obviously been on the big stage before. Now they’re acting again like they belong there.

Virginia Tech 35, No. 8 Ohio State 21

September, 7, 2014
Sep 7
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Michael Brewers threw for 199 yards and two touchdowns in Virginia Tech's 35-21 win over Ohio State.

ACC morning links

September, 3, 2014
Sep 3
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Syracuse dodged a minor bullet Tuesday, as the Orange learned they will have their starting quarterback with them when they take the field again in two weeks.

Terrel Hunt will not face additional punishment from the ACC after being ejected from Friday's opener, a conference spokesperson confirmed to ESPN.com. Hunt, as most know by now, threw a punch in the second quarter, leaving the officials with little choice but to dismiss him.

Getting Hunt back for the Sept. 13 tilt at Central Michigan is big for Syracuse, which struggled mightily in defeating FCS Villanova in its double-overtime opener. Hunt's numbers in that contest were nearly identical to those of Austin Wilson, as Hunt went 10 of 17 for 94 yards and Wilson went 11 of 17 for 89 yards. Still, Hunt added another 25 yards on the ground, and it was clear that the offense missed his presence after he was ejected.

Offensive coordinator George McDonald had said that "90 percent" of the gameplan was meant for Hunt. Given the circumstances, Wilson was solid. He did nothing fancy. He protected the football. In the end, he gave the Orange just enough to win.

But this is Hunt's offense, as we had been told so many times this summer. The redshirt junior certainly looked ready to take that next step at the end of last season, and now he needs to show signs that he is capable of just that.

Perhaps a bye week couldn't have come at a better time for Hunt or his team. Time will only tell.

Elsewhere in the ACC ...
Boston College coach Steve Addazio remembers an era when players wanted to redshirt as true freshmen to better prepare them for the final four years of their college career.

"Now it's 'I want to play,' " Addazio, 55, said. "If you're talking about not playing them early, the majority are like 'What do you mean?'"

So, the ability to play or possibly even start as a true freshman has become a regular sales pitch for coaches from the Power Five to the Group of Five. It's certainly a tool in the belt for Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. Last week, Fisher alluded to the number of freshmen All-Americans he's coached the last four seasons. Twenty-four hours later, it was on the program's official recruiting Twitter page.

"The last [four] years we've had 14 freshmen All-Americans," said Fisher, condensing multiple outlets' freshmen award teams into one, concise Florida State propaganda poster. "If you come in ready to play, we're willing to put you on the field. It's critical for guys to come in saying 'When I'm the best, I'll play.'"

Fisher has the goods to back up his claims, even if the numbers are obviously skewed to best represent his program. But how does his résumé compare to those coaching some of the country's other top programs?

I tried to come up with a way to accurately discern which schools play the most freshmen and decided true freshmen letterwinners was the simplest and most effective way to crunch the numbers. To earn a letter, a player has to actually play consistently through the season. The disclaimer is each program can use different benchmarks when awarding letters, but there is never going to be a perfect way.

I began with Florida State's, looking back at the 2011-2013 classes. To properly quantify the data from Florida State, I decided I'd look at the five schools ranked highest in the preseason polls that have had its coach in place at least five seasons. Oregon's Mark Helfrich was offered an exemption because he was promoted from within and is in his sixth season with the Ducks. Coaches in place at least five years was the stipulation since an incoming coach might be susceptible to playing the prospects he recruited or having a number of transfers that could open up starting or rotational spots.

The criteria: Each class was looked at and the total number of signees was pared down to just those who enrolled as members of the football team in the fall. Junior college signees were excluded, as were any recruits who were academically or medically disqualified before playing a game. That explains why the total number of freshmen for our purposes might look different than what might be seen on RecruitingNation. Any true freshmen who spent a year at a post-graduate or prep school was also excluded. Redshirt freshmen were disqualified, too.

Bottom line is if the player was not a part of the football team the fall following his high school graduation, he was excluded.

Nearly all of the data was collected after poring through media guides and archives, although the communications departments at some of the schools were also helpful providing numbers and deserve recognition.

So, here is the actual data:

 

It is hardly a coincidence that Fisher and Alabama's Nick Saban, who mentored Fisher at LSU, have identical percentages of true freshmen earning a letter. Fisher and Saban arguably have been the two best recruiters over the last few cycles, and, the data shows those two are not going to keep young talent off the field simply because of age. Nearly half of the true freshmen at Alabama and Florida State lettered over the last three seasons.

Mark Dantonio has built Michigan State into a national title contender in a different manor, relying on experience. Only 12 percent of true freshmen lettered over the last three seasons. Recruiting to Michigan State is not the easy task it is at some other top-10 programs, and the Spartans are not recruiting as many ESPN 300-level players as the likes of Alabama and Florida State.

It should be noted Michigan State, Oklahoma and Oregon don't have quite the recruiting base Alabama and Florida State do.

Inquiring minds want to see how that 45 percent stacks up to some of the other top programs in the country, so even though they did not fit the criteria I looked at a few other schools with coaches in place at least five seasons and lately in the top half of the rankings. LSU was worth a look considering it's Les Miles' 10th season in Baton Rouge and, like Fisher and Saban, has recruited exceptionally well for a long period of time. Mark Richt is in his 14th season at Georgia and, like Miles, usually has a highly-regarded recruiting class. Steve Spurrier is in his 10th season at South Carolina and has steadily improved the Gamecocks' class to the point that the 2015 class is No. 5 nationally. Dabo Swinney has turned Clemson from a perennial disappointment into a two-time BCS bowl participant. And Ohio State and Texas A&M, mainly because it's worth seeing how third-year Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer fares considering he frequently voices his preference to avoid redshirting. Kevin Sumlin is also in the process of trying to build an SEC power that can compete with Alabama and LSU in the SEC West.

 

For the Buckeyes, out of the 69 true freshmen to land in Columbus, Ohio, from 2011-2013, 31 lettered -- the same 45 percent. Looking at just Meyer's two seasons, however, he is decimals ahead of Fisher and Saban at 46 percent (21 out of 46), thanks in large part to 14 freshmen letterwinners in his first season.

Georgia's Mark Richt has a percentage of nearly 50 percent, but the Bulldogs' numbers might be the most skewed. Along with South Carolina, the Bulldogs had several recruits that either did not qualify or spent time at a prep school or junior college. Also, Georgia's long list of dismissals and transfers is well documented, and all of the departures has opened up spots for freshmen to earn immediate playing time.

It is Miles, though, who plays a higher percentage of freshmen than all of the others. Twelve true freshmen lettered for LSU in both 2012 and 2013, and another nine earned a letter in 2011. There were a total of 65 applicable freshmen to enter LSU during that span and 33 of them lettered. That's a percentage of 51 percent.

Certainly the numbers will fluctuate year to year, and coaches at every single program are playing freshmen more frequently than ever before. When taking into account the timeline is over three years, LSU averages just one more freshman letterwinner per season than Alabama and Florida State. For our intents and purposes, though, the data shows which top programs consistently play the most freshmen in this new era of freshmen phenoms.

And, uh, FYI, Alabama has 19 ESPN 300 players prepping for their freshmen season this fall. LSU has 16, and Florida State isn't far off with 13 of their own.

ACC's biggest battles: Nos. 9 & 10

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
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The 2014 college football season starts in 15 days. We're getting you ready by counting down the ACC's 10 biggest battles of the fall. We start today with Nos. 10 and 9.

No. 10

The matchup: Virginia Tech at Ohio State

Date/Location: Sept. 6, Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio (8 ET, ESPN)

Last meeting: The two programs have never played each other before.

Why it matters: This is one of several high-profile Power Five matchups for the ACC, which is looking to further improve its national image after putting an end to the SEC's seven-year national title streak last season. The Hokies are feeling a bit of pressure after posting just 15 wins over the last two seasons, and this trip to the Horsehoe will provide them with a great opportunity to knock off a preseason national title contender, as the Buckeyes debuted at No. 6 in the preseason coaches poll. Ohio State remains the biggest name program nationally for the Big Ten, and with Clemson beating the Bucks in last season's Orange Bowl, a Virginia Tech win in Week 2 would give the ACC two wins against Ohio State during a three-game span. That could pay huge dividends for the ACC, not to mention Virginia Tech's Coastal division hopes.

No. 9

The matchup: Miami at Nebraska

Date/Location: Sept. 20, Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb. (8 ET, ABC/ESPN/ESPN2)

Last meeting: The two storied programs have met 10 times, splitting five games apiece. Their most recent meeting was for the 2001 BCS national championship on Jan. 3, 2002, at the Rose Bowl. Behind Ken Dorsey and Andre Johnson, the Hurricanes beat the Cornhuskers, 37-14, to win their fifth national title.

Why it matters: Forget the history between the two teams, as both have struggled in recent years to get back to their glory days. This game, like the Hokies-Buckeyes tilt before it, could prove to be huge for the images of both conferences. When it comes to College Football Playoff talk, the Big Ten, in the eyes of many, consists of Ohio State, Michigan State, and then everyone else. The same can be said for the ACC, which is top-heavy with Florida State and Clemson. A win for either No. 22 Nebraska or Miami could provide a big boost for the rest of the season, which could really bolster either conference's depth. And that could, ultimately, be a decisive point should a Big Ten and an ACC team be jockeying against each other for a playoff spot at the end of the season. The Big Ten's West division, like the ACC's Coastal, is wide open as well, so a signature win by either side will have it feeling good once it hits the heart of league play.

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