SEC lunchtime links

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
12:00
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Football season is getting closer and closer. Can you feel it? Wednesday's announcement of players who will be attending SEC media days -- which begins on Monday in Birmingham -- is just another sign of how close we really are to the start of college football. For more to whet the appetite, here are today's lunch links:

Top 10 projected CFB programs

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
11:03
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In case you missed it, ESPN Insider released its College Football Future Power Rankings on Wednesday. Travis Haney led a panel of Insider experts who voted in five categories to determine the top 25 college football programs during the next three years using this methodology. We wanted to find out if our data projections agreed.

One of the foundational elements of our annual Football Outsiders projections is our weighted five-year program ratings. According to our research, program trajectory helps forecast future performance better than previous-year data -- and not just for the upcoming season, but for seasons beyond. We calculated future winning percentages based on current program ratings data, recent program trajectory and projected schedule strength, then adjusted the FPR methodology to identify the potential for each program to be in the hunt for the four-team College Football Playoff at least once during the next three seasons.

Here are the top 10 projected teams, according to our numbers, for the next three years. Alabama is No. 1, but our experts and the data diverge significantly across the rest of the top 10.


1. Alabama Crimson Tide

Future Power Rankings Rank: 1
2013 Program Fremeau Efficiency Index Rank: 1
Projected FBS win percentage 2014-2016: 85.4 percent (minus-3.8 percent from 2011-2013 span)
Projected likelihood of at least one playoff appearance 2014-2016: 93.8 percent

Alabama has distanced itself from the pack in our program ratings trajectory analysis, a result of three national championships in the past five seasons and a top-three ranking in our opponent-adjusted drive efficiency ratings in all five. The Crimson Tide send stars to the NFL draft each year, but coach Nick Saban also brings in one of the nation's top recruiting hauls annually. An SEC West division loaded with other national contenders is the only real reason the Tide may trip up on occasion during the next three years, but Alabama has proven it has what it takes to stay on top of the college football world.

Potential 2014 SEC villains

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
10:00
AM ET
It’s over now, so you can admit it.

AJ McCarron and Johnny Manziel are gone, so it’s time to come clean.

Chances are you hated one or both. How much they won, how they won -- you hated it all. There might have been some respect for their play, but above all, most of you couldn’t stand them.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsSEC fans don't have Johnny Manziel to kick around anymore.
It’s OK. AJ and Johnny were the SEC’s necessary villains last season. And for that they will be sorely missed.

This year won’t be the same without them. Who will you boo? Who will you tune in to watch in hopes of seeing them fail?

It’s totally unreasonable, but it’s also unavoidable: SEC fans are haters.

Who will fill their unceremonious shoes in 2014? Who will be the ones SEC fans love to hate?

Note: Before we get to the candidates, let us apologize to them. We’re sorry, fellas. It’s not fun being disliked, but look at it this way: The more people boo you, the more you’re probably doing something right. So take this as a badge of honor. After all, villains make the SEC a more entertaining place.

Subjects are listed is in alphabetical order, as there is no scientifically known way to measure levels of dislike.

Jacob Coker, Alabama: He’s no McCarron. Let’s get that out of the way first. Unlike his predecessor, Coker is about as unassuming as a major talent can get. He started out as a humble three-star recruit, and his disposition has remained the same. But with the runaway hype machine that’s surrounded his landing at Alabama -- not to mention that he transferred to Alabama in the first place -- you’ve got the perfect recipe for blind dislike.

Jeff Driskel, Florida: Is anyone else tired of hearing about how Driskel is going to get better? Before you start, that was a rhetorical question. The answer, for everyone outside of Gainesville, is a resounding yes. You can hear the chants of “O-VER-RATED” now, can’t you? Because he’s Florida’s starting quarterback, Driskel has to be discussed. Because he has a cannon for an arm and good mobility, his potential is a constant source of discussion. And because he’s so discussed, he’s so disliked. If Driskel does progress into an All-SEC quarterback, he’ll have plenty of detractors. They’ll boo him because he plays for Florida and they’ll boo him because they’ll all want to know what took so long to get there.

[+] EnlargeLane Kiffin
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesNew Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has said some things that caused a stir in SEC country.
Lane Kiffin, Alabama: Coordinators are rarely the subject of such scorn, but the hate for Kiffin burns more intensely than for any head coach in the SEC. And the naysayers need only focus on his tumultuous time at Tennessee. There, he “turned in” Urban Meyer for a recruiting violation only to find that no violation was committed and that he, in fact, was the one violating an SEC rule by mentioning a recruit by name. He also made the Alshon Jeffery “pumping gas” comment, which didn’t exactly ingratiate himself to the rest of the league. Then, after one season, he left the Vols to return to USC. And now, after flunking out of Southern Cal, he’s back as offensive coordinator at Alabama.

Nick Marshall, Auburn: He’s as quiet as a church mouse, but Marshall has baggage. His unflattering dismissal from Georgia ruined whatever reputation he had long before he found his way to Auburn. Then he led the Tigers to the BCS title game and invoked the ghosts of Cam Newton. Marshall might not have invited the limelight a fraction of the way Newton did, but hate is unreasonable like that. They’ll obsess over his supposed shortcomings as a passer and neglect his utter effectiveness as a runner and orchestrator of Gus Malzahn’s offense. Marshall’s quiet nature ultimately will be mistaken for cockiness and fans will hate him just the same.

Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss: He’s been a rock star since he was 16 years old, and that alone is enough to do him in. It’s a matter of overexposure and jealousy. By simply choosing to commit to Ole Miss in the first place, he offended every other fan base that was actively pursuing him. In many ways, Nkemdiche is the face of Hugh Freeze’s out-of-the-blue 2013 signing class. Fans cried foul when the Rebels finished in the top five of the recruiting rankings that year, and Nkemdiche was the primary target. The fact he plays with so much fire will be wrongly taken as showboating, and if he dominates on the defensive line the way he should, he’ll accumulate haters quickly.
Yesterday we combed through the ESPN Stats & Information group's preseason predictions for SEC teams which established Alabama as the leading contender to win the conference championship.

The data -- based on the group's preseason Football Power Index -- uses statistical analysis to predict teams' win totals (overall and in conference play), chances of going undefeated, individual game results and point differentials, among other categories. Think of it as our own little version of preseason Vegas odds.

In yesterday's post, we focused on the big picture, breaking down the Stats & Information's predicted win totals and chances of winning the SEC and divisions for each team. Today we'll take a closer look at the predictions for each team's individual games.

In addition to conference play, we'll also focus on at least one key nonconference game per team since there are so many premium games featuring SEC clubs this season.

Most play at least one marquee nonconference game, often at a neutral site (like LSU-Wisconsin, Alabama-West Virginia and Ole Miss-Boise State). Tennessee and Auburn are taking ambitious midseason road trips to Oklahoma and Kansas State, respectively. Some SEC teams face two top-tier nonconference opponents (Georgia hosts Clemson and Georgia Tech) or will travel to face a tough traditional opponent (Kentucky to Louisville and Florida to Florida State). And some should be ashamed of themselves. (They know who they are).

Let's see what the numbers say:

Alabama
Nonconference: The Crimson Tide is predicted to have a 94.1 percent chance of beating West Virginia in the opener, winning by a predicted 20.0-point differential.
Otherwise: Alabama has at least a 64.5 percent chance of victory in every game except LSU (57.5 percent, 2.9-point win differential) and Auburn (57.8, 3.0). The Tide is predicted to win by at least 10.1 points in every game except Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M (7.9) and Ole Miss (5.7).

Arkansas
Nonconference: The Razorbacks have a 34.2 percent chance of victory against Texas Tech, which is favored to win by 6.3 points on Sept. 13 in Lubbock.
Otherwise: Arkansas has better than a 50 percent predicted chance of victory in three games: Nicholls State, Northern Illinois and UAB. It's an underdog in every SEC game, with its low being a 9.2 percent chance to win the opener at Auburn, which is a 20.6-point favorite in that game.

Auburn
Nonconference: The Tigers have an 81.0 percent chance to win the Sept. 18 visit to Kansas State and are predicted to win by 13.5 points.
Otherwise: Auburn is favored in every game except the rematch of last season's memorable Iron Bowl. Auburn has a 42.2 percent chance at Alabama but has at least a 60 percent chance in every game except Alabama and Georgia (54.4, 1.7). Among the highlights are predicted wins against LSU (73.2, 9.6), Mississippi State (60.0, 3.9) and Texas A&M (69.9, 8.1).

Florida
Nonconference: The Gators are a heavy underdog against defending national champion Florida State, which the Stats & Information group says has the best chance to go unbeaten of any team in the nation. Florida has an 8.9 percent chance of victory on Nov. 29 in Tallahassee and is a 20.8-point underdog.
Otherwise: Florida has at least a 50 percent chance to win seven games, but there are several that look like they could go either way. Florida is a double-digit underdog against Alabama (20.7, 12.6) and FSU. Key games include what is essentially a toss-up against LSU (49.9, 0.1-point underdog), South Carolina (45.6, 1.7-point underdog), Georgia (35.7, 4.7-point underdog), Tennessee (64.1, 5.6-point favorite) and Missouri (67.7, 7.1-point favorite).

Georgia
Nonconference: The Bulldogs are the favorites against both Clemson (63.4 percent, 5.3 points) and Georgia Tech (84.9, 16.0) in the opening and closing games of the regular season.
Otherwise: Georgia has at least a 63.4 percent chance of winning every game except its visit to South Carolina (41.1, 3.5) and Auburn (45.6, 1.7). The Bulldogs are favored by double digits against Kentucky, Georgia Tech, Charleston Southern, Troy, Tennessee and Vanderbilt and are a 9.3-point favorite at Arkansas.

Kentucky
Nonconference: Kentucky has a 37.8 percent chance of winning at Louisville on Nov. 29 and is a 4.8-point underdog.
Otherwise: The Wildcats are favored against UT-Martin, Ohio, Vanderbilt and Louisiana-Monroe. They have no better than a 37.8-percent (Louisville) or 37.9-percent (Tennessee) chance in any other game according to ESPN's predictions. Kentucky is a double-digit underdog against Georgia, LSU, South Carolina and Florida, is a 9.6-point underdog against Mississippi State and a 9.7-underdog against Missouri.

LSU
Nonconference: LSU has a 63.7 percent chance of beating Wisconsin by a predicted 4.5-point differential in the opener.
Otherwise: Like Florida, there are a handful of games that could go either way for LSU. As previously mentioned, the Oct. 11 visit to Gainesville is essentially a toss-up, with LSU enjoying a 50.1 percent chance to win by only a 0.1-point margin. The Tigers have at least a 60.3 percent chance of winning the other seven games where it is the favorite. LSU is the underdog against Auburn (26.8, 9.6), Texas A&M (38.0, 4.7) and Alabama (42.5, 2.9).

Mississippi State
Nonconference: Mississippi State is a huge favorite in its first three games (Southern Miss, UAB, South Alabama), including a 98.7 percent chance of victory against USM, by a predicted 20.6 points.
Otherwise: The Bulldogs are underdogs in four SEC games: LSU (39.7, 4.0), Auburn (40.0, 3.9), Alabama (25.5, 10.1) and Ole Miss (47.0, 1.2). They're a narrow favorite against Texas A&M (52.4, 0.9).

Missouri
Nonconference: The Tigers are favored in all four nonconference games, with the closest predicted to be wins against Central Florida (69.4, 7.8) and Indiana (63.7, 5.4).
Otherwise: Missouri is the favorite in eight games overall, while it's an underdog against South Carolina (21.9, 12.0), Georgia (36.6, 5.3), Florida (32.3, 7.1) and Texas A&M (22.2, 11.8). It's a small favorite against Tennessee (54.5, 1.7).

Ole Miss
Nonconference: The Rebels are a comfortable favorite (79.6 percent) to beat Boise State by a projected 10.6 points in the opener.
Otherwise: Ole Miss has at least a 77.7 percent chance of victory and is predicted to win by at least 10.6 points in each of the first four games (Boise State, Vanderbilt, Louisiana-Lafayette and Memphis) but is an underdog in four of the next five -- Alabama (35.5, 5.7), Texas A&M (31.2, 7.6), LSU (34.7, 6.1) and Auburn (35.0, 5.9). The Egg Bowl looks like another toss-up, with Ole Miss slightly favored (53.0, 1.2) over Mississippi State.

South Carolina
Nonconference: Although it has controlled the series lately, South Carolina is a narrow underdog on Nov. 29 at Clemson (47.5, 1.0).
Otherwise: The Gamecocks are favored in 10 games, although there could be some close ones, starting with Texas A&M (58.6, 3.4), Georgia (58.9, 3.5) and Florida (54.4, 1.7). In addition to Clemson, South Carolina is an underdog at Auburn (30.4, 7.9) on Oct. 25.

Tennessee
Nonconference: Tennessee is a huge underdog in its Sept. 13 visit to Oklahoma (13.0, 17.4).
Otherwise: The Volunteers are favored in five games, but its chances of victory are 21.0 percent of less against Oklahoma, Georgia (14.0), Ole Miss (21.0), Alabama (16.8) and South Carolina (13.7). The Vols are a narrow underdog against Missouri (45.5, 1.7) and a narrow favorite against Vanderbilt (56.7, 2.6).

Texas A&M
Nonconference: The Aggies have at least a 91.5 percent chance of victory in each of their four nonconference games (Lamar, Rice, SMU, Louisiana-Monroe), with the closest projected to be SMU (91.5, 21.2).
Otherwise: Texas A&M is an underdog against South Carolina (41.4, 3.4), Mississippi State (47.6, 0.9), Alabama (30.5, 7.9) and Auburn (30.1, 8.1). It's the favorite to beat LSU (62.0, 4.7) in the regular-season finale at Kyle Field.

Vanderbilt
Nonconference: The Commodores are favored to win all four nonconference games (Temple, UMass, Old Dominion, Charleston Southern), with the closest projected to be against Old Dominion (65.2, 6.0).
Otherwise: Vandy is an underdog in every SEC game. The worst odds are against Mississippi State (9.5, 20.2) and Georgia (7.4, 22.4). The closest are Tennessee (43.3, 2.6) and Kentucky (31.3, 7.5).

 
The annual SEC media days begin Monday, which means we are in for another preseason circus in Hoover, Alabama.

It also means we are that much closer to the start of fall camp and the college football season. I wonder if any fan base will dwarf the Alabama fans who'll be lined up inside the lobby of the Wynfrey Hotel. Probably not. That's Tide turf, and everyone knows it.

Media days run from July 14-17. The SEC's official website, ESPN, ESPNU and WatchESPN will have continuous coverage of all the festivities.

MONDAY

Session I: 12–3:30 p.m. ET

Commissioner Mike Slive

Auburn
Session II: 3:40–6:40 p.m. ET

Florida
Vanderbilt
TUESDAY

Session I: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. ET

South Carolina
Mississippi State
Session II: 2–5 p.m. ET

Texas A&M
Tennessee
WEDNESDAY

Session I: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. ET

Steve Shaw (SEC coordinator of officials) / Justin Connolly (ESPN Senior Vice President of College Networks)

Missouri
Session II: 2–5 p.m. ET

LSU
Arkansas
THURSDAY

Session I: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. ET

Georgia
Ole Miss
Session II: 1–4 p.m. ET

Alabama
Kentucky

SEC lunchtime links

July, 9, 2014
Jul 9
12:00
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How about that World Cup match yesterday? Germany 7, Brazil 1. As our esteemed colleague Chris Low tweeted yesterday -- he just started his own Twitter account, so follow him here -- “And we thought the defenses were down in the SEC last season.”
Auburn is the favorite to win every game this season except the Iron Bowl, but the Tigers have only the fourth-best odds of winning the SEC title for a second straight season. This according to the preseason projections that ESPN’s Stats and Information team released on Tuesday.

Using its preseason Football Power Index as a guide, the Stats and Information group’s projections covered a wide range of categories including likelihood of going undefeated, odds of winning conference and division titles, likelihood of winning individual games and projected win totals.

The data showed Florida State as a heavy favorite to repeat as the national champion, with the Seminoles having a 40 percent chance of going undefeated and at least an 87 percent chance of winning each of its games. The next-closest team, Oregon, has a 13 percent chance of going undefeated.

At the other end of the spectrum, Kansas (projection of 3.3 wins), Purdue (3.6), Wake Forest (3.6) and California (3.8) are the teams from the Big Five conferences that are projected to win the fewest games.

The projections covered every FBS program, but we’re here to discuss the SEC, where -- surprise, surprise -- Alabama is the favorite to hoist the conference championship trophy in Atlanta. Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide has a 23 percent chance to win the conference title according to ESPN’s projections, leading South Carolina (17 percent), Georgia (17) and Auburn (16), which was certainly a much bigger underdog at this point a season ago.

Obviously Gus Malzahn's 2013 club proved that things can change a great deal between July and December -- and the Stats and Information group’s projections will be updated throughout the season -- but here’s where each SEC team sits for now, a little less than a month away from the start of preseason practice.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide is projected to win 9.9 games and has a 4 percent chance of going undefeated. In addition to its 22.6 percent chance of winning the SEC, Alabama has a 38 percent chance of winning the SEC West. Alabama is the favorite in every game and has at least a 64.5 percent chance of winning all but the LSU (57.5) and Auburn (57.8) games.

Arkansas: The Razorbacks play the SEC’s toughest schedule (No. 4 in the nation) and are projected to win 4.9 games. They have a 0 percent chance to win the conference title and a 0.01 percent chance of winning the West. In individual games, however, Arkansas is favored to win only against UAB (96.8 percent chance of a win), Nicholls State (96.7) and Northern Illinois (71.7).

Auburn: The only other team in the nation’s top 10 in strength of schedule (the Tigers are 10th), Auburn is projected to win 9.2 games. They have a 1 percent chance of going undefeated, a 16.3 percent chance of winning the SEC and a 26.7 percent chance of winning the West. The Tigers have at least a 60 percent chance to win every game except Alabama (42.2) and Georgia (54.4).

Florida: Projected to win 7.6 games, Florida has a 6.2 percent chance of winning the SEC and a 16.3 percent chance of winning the SEC East. The Gators are favored in seven games and underdogs against LSU (49.9), South Carolina (45.6), Georgia (35.7), Alabama (20.7) and Florida State (8.9).

Georgia: Oddly enough, while South Carolina has a slightly better chance of winning the SEC according to ESPN’s projections, Georgia has a small edge over the Gamecocks with a projection of 9.1 wins. The Bulldogs have a 17.1 percent chance of winning the conference and a 37.5 percent chance of winning the East. They have at least at 63.4 percent chance of beating every opponent except South Carolina (41.1) and Auburn (45.6).

Kentucky: ESPN’s projections have Kentucky making a step forward in Year 2 under Mark Stoops, winning 5.5 games this fall. The Wildcats have a 0.03 percent chance of winning the SEC and a 0.09 percent chance of winning the East. They are favored to beat Tennessee-Martin, Ohio, Vanderbilt and Louisiana-Monroe, but there next-best chance of winning is 37.9 percent against Tennessee.

LSU: Les Miles’ Tigers are projected to win 8.0 games, with a 4.6 percent chance of winning the SEC and a 9.5 percent chance of winning the West. However, the Tigers are favored in nine games -- all but Auburn (26.8), Texas A&M (38.0) and Alabama (42.5).

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs are projected to win 8.5 games, with a 4.7 percent chance of winning the conference and 9.7 percent chance of winning the West. Mississippi State is favored in eight games -- all but Ole Miss (47.0), Auburn (40.0), LSU (39.7) and Alabama (25.5).

Missouri: Projected to win 7.0 games, Missouri has a 2.3 percent chance of winning the SEC and a 7.1 percent chance of representing the East in Atlanta for a second straight season. The Tigers are favored in eight games and underdogs against Georgia (36.6), Florida (32.3), Texas A&M (22.2) and South Carolina (21.9).

Ole Miss: Hugh Freeze’s club is projected to win 7.7 games and has a 2.9 percent chance of winning the conference and a 6.5 percent chance of winning the West. The Rebels are favored in eight games and are underdogs against Alabama (35.5), Auburn (35.0), LSU (34.7) and Texas A&M (31.2).

South Carolina: The Gamecocks are projected to win 8.9 games, have a 17.9 percent chance of winning the SEC and a 37.2 percent chance of winning the East. South Carolina is favored in all games except Clemson (47.5) and Auburn (30.4).

Tennessee: Projected to win 5.4 games, Butch Jones’ Volunteers have a 0.02 percent chance of winning the SEC and a 0.1 percent chance of winning the East. The Vols are favored to win five games: Utah State, Arkansas State, Chattanooga, Kentucky and Vanderbilt.

Texas A&M: The Aggies are projected to win 8.3 games and have a 4.8 percent chance of winning the SEC and a 9.5 percent chance of winning the West. Texas A&M is favored in eight games and is an underdog against Mississippi State (47.6), South Carolina (41.4), Alabama (30.5) and Auburn (30.1).

Vanderbilt: The James Franklin-less Commodores are projected to drop to 4.9 wins under first-year coach Derek Mason. They have a 0 percent chance of winning the SEC and a 0.02 percent chance of winning the East. Vandy is favored against UMass, Charleston Southern, Temple and Old Dominion.

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BEAVERTON, Ore. -- The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: The word freak purposely doesn't get thrown around a lot in recruiting circles, because it can quickly become cliché. But after dominating during the SPARQ testing Tuesday, there should be no problem giving that label to five-star defensive end Josh Sweat. Plus, an Alabama commitment made the play of the day with a one-handed catch.


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Another day, another two college football award watch lists arrive.

Today we have the lists for the Mackey Award, which goes to the nation's top tight end, and the Rimington Trophy, which goes to the top center.

The SEC well represented on both lists, with seven players on the Mackey list and 11 on the Rimington. Here is a rundown:

Mackey
Rory Anderson, South Carolina
Evan Engram, Ole Miss
Hunter Henry, Arkansas
O.J. Howard, Alabama
Malcolm Johnson, Mississippi State
Jay Rome, Georgia
C.J. Uzomah, Auburn

Rimington
David Andrews, Georgia
Evan Boehm, Missouri
Dillon Day, Mississippi State
Reese Dismukes, Auburn
Max Garcia, Florida
Ryan Kelly, Alabama
Mike Matthews, Texas A&M
Elliott Porter, LSU
Jon Toth, Kentucky
Joe Townsend, Vanderbilt
Cody Waldrop, South Carolina

SEC lunchtime links

July, 8, 2014
Jul 8
12:00
PM ET
SEC media days will be in full swing by this time next week. But if baseball and the World Cup won't provide your sports fix until then, check out coverage of The Opening and Elite 11 on ESPNU and ESPN.com. (Like this story that features several future SEC quarterbacks.)

" Two more college football award watch lists will debut today: those for the Mackey Award (best tight end) and Rimington Trophy (best center). Check out the lists as they update on the National College Football Awards Association website.

" The NCAA on Monday suggested new safety guidelines that would limit teams to two full-contact practices per week during the season.

" Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason considered a transfer when he was stuck behind Aaron Murray on the depth chart. But that was nothing compared to what his coach, Mark Richt, faced as a player at Miami. Richt discussed that 1982 logjam at quarterback -- when he was a teammate of Jim Kelly, Vinny Testaverde and Bernie Kosar -- in a story for the Buffalo News.

" Mock-up magazine covers, cereal boxes, movie posters and more. All of those items are included in how college programs are getting creative with their recruiting pitches to high school prospects.

" Sean Lester of the Dallas Morning News examines Texas A&M's depth chart at receiver and tight end and projects the starters.

" Five more freshman signees started classes in South Carolina's second summer semester on Monday, bringing the total of 2014 Gamecock signees who have enrolled to 15.

" Ole Miss safety Anthony Alford is enjoying success in limited work as a minor league baseball player. In his five games with the Toronto Blue Jays' Class-A affiliate, the Lansing Lugnuts, he batted .320.

" Among those participating at The Opening in Oregon are arguably the top prospect in the state of Kentucky -- running back Damien Harris -- and many other players whom Kentucky's football program is recruiting.

" Athlon Sports polled 15 national college football media members on which programs have the best stadiums and game-day atmospheres. LSU's Tiger Stadium was the runaway winner, and five SEC programs ranked in the top 8.

" In its list of the 25 most important figures in Alabama's 2014 season, AL.com turns today to new Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.

" The Gainesville Sun's Pat Dooley lists his top 10 nonconference games of the upcoming season.

Alabama recruit's unique pitch

July, 7, 2014
Jul 7
6:32
PM ET
LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. -- Alabama quarterback commit Blake Barnett is doing his best to bring more blue-chip talent with him to Tuscaloosa. His methods are just a little different than Nick Saban's. (We think.)

 

CFB Future Power Rankings

July, 7, 2014
Jul 7
3:19
PM ET

CFB Future Power Ranks10 future stars | Chat wrap | 2013 FPR

It's Insider's second go-round projecting college football's next three years in our Future Power Rankings.

What did we learn from our first edition? For one, teams can make a substantive move in just a year's time. Just look at Auburn, which jumped from 23rd to fifth after a run to the championship game. USC, now with coaching stability, made the biggest leap (25th to sixth). Oklahoma, UCLA, FSU and Baylor were among other risers, and you'll soon read why.

On the other side, we were high a year ago on Florida and Michigan. Oops. The Gators' injury-plagued 4-8 season dropped them from No. 4 to No. 14, while the Wolverines, who lost five of their last six games, fell from fifth to 20th. We know Will Muschamp's job is in danger, but is that an omen for Brady Hoke's future in Ann Arbor?

Alabama is again our No. 1 team, but with two losses to end the season, its lead shrank. Is that a subtle signal that the Tide might have peaked under Nick Saban?

We'll examine those topics and more in the Future Power Rankings.

Here's how we compiled it: Our panel -- myself, Brad Edwards, Brock Huard, Tom Luginbill and Mark Schlabach -- provided 1-10 ratings in five different categories that we found to be comprehensive in determining current positioning, as well as a projection for the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

Here are the top 25 college football teams over the next three years:


  • 1
Alabama Crimson Tide
SEC FPR RANK: 1

The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category. Category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.

Coaching: Saban did not receive a perfect 10, as he did a year ago. Maybe the one panelist who gave him a nine dinged him for how he managed the final second of the Iron Bowl.

But seriously, Saban is still well ahead of No. 2 Urban Meyer (9.2) and No. 3 Bill Snyder (9.0). (Have to appreciate that Snyder gets that kind of love, even if K-State didn't break the Top 25.)

Edwards thinks 2014 is a big year for Saban because it will show whether he can adapt his defense to better handle tempo offenses. Look at how Saban's defenses mightily struggled last year against not only Texas A&M, but also Auburn and Oklahoma.

"You put them all together and you realize, 'You know what, Alabama might have an issue with this,'" Edwards said. "I happen to believe Saban and [defensive coordinator] Kirby Smart have done enough to deserve the benefit of the doubt. Let's see what they can come up with this year before I decide the dynasty is over. Saban is now recruiting to find those types of players [to defend tempo offenses]."

As for the best coach in the state?

"I want to see Gus Malzahn beat Nick Saban one more time before I say he's a better coach," Edwards said, "which is a conclusion a lot of people are already making."

Current talent: There are more positional questions than in the past few years, especially the offensive line and cornerback spots. Rival coaches are even rumbling about it. "I don't know about them," one SEC coordinator said. But do not be fooled for an instant into thinking the Tide have suddenly become as barren as a bachelor's refrigerator in terms of talent.

Bama still has the top running back group in the country with T.J. Yeldon, Kenyan Drake and Derrick Henry, who was a bright spot in the otherwise drab Sugar Bowl performance. The time could be now for LB Reuben Foster and FS Landon Collins to shine on defense. MLB Trey DePriest will be the defense's rock.

And what about QB Jake Coker? His old coach at FSU, Jimbo Fisher, believes Coker is capable, which is why Coker nearly beat out last year's Heisman Trophy winner to start at FSU.

Recruiting: This is why Alabama earned association with the word "dynasty" -- it started winning almost every major recruiting battle, and the program became the closest thing there is on the planet to the NFL's minor league system. It has not dipped, and there's no reason to believe it will as long as Saban is around; he will not let it slide.

Title path:  It's going to happen, and it could happen this year: The SEC is going to knock itself out of the playoff. The strength of the top half of the league could turn out to be a bad thing in some seasons.

The Tide are regularly part of a kickoff game of some kind, playing the likes of Clemson, Virginia Tech or West Virginia, but the nonconference slate is typically manageable. The conference schedule always works for and against the SEC. For the Tide, Auburn is the new-slash-old menace.

The rating suggests that it isn't the ideal road to the playoff, but it should not be preventive for a power program such as Alabama.

Program power: Like the coaching category, Bama still received four 10s and a nine. The takeaway: It's hard to remain perfect.

"We all know that every dynasty comes to an end, but when you look back on every dynasty, you know where the turning point was," Edwards said. Will we say it was the Iron Bowl and Sugar Bowl, perhaps? "I think what you have is a lot of people trying to be the first one to predict the end of the dynasty," Edwards said. "They want to be the ones to say they didn't miss it. I think they're jumping the gun a little bit."

Which is why Alabama is still No. 1. But one program is making up ground in a hurry ...


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It's that time of year when we start to see all those fun watch lists come out.

Sure, they might not mean much now, but it's another sign that we are getting closer and closer to the college football season. Today, the National College Football Awards Association released the 2014 watch lists for the Bednarik Award, which is given annually to the nation's best defensive player, and the Maxwell Award, which is presented each year to the college football player of the year.

The SEC is well represented, with 15 players from the league making the Bednarik watch list and 13 on the Maxwell watch list. There were 76 total players on each list.

Bednarik
Maxwell

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July, 7, 2014
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Did you know today is Satchel Paige's 108th birthday? (Or 107th. Or 109th. Nobody's exactly sure.) Not sure how much the native Alabamian knew about college football, but his most famous quote might be good advice for defending SEC champion Auburn once the season begins: “Don't look back; something might be gaining on you.”
When a football coaching staff signs one of the top few recruits at any position, it's cause for celebration. Therefore, grabbing two of the top three prospects at that position might warrant an Animal House-style party.

Between 2006, when ESPN began assembling recruit rankings, and 2013, individual programs managed to sign at least two of the top three players at a position 16 times. In many cases, one -- and sometimes both -- of those players became instant stars as true freshmen. Think Taylor Mays and Joe McKnight at USC, De'Anthony Thomas at Oregon, Laremy Tunsil at Ole Miss and Sean Spence at Miami.

This was a relatively unique occurrence up until 2014, when it happened five times -- with four of the five instances occurring in the SEC: twice at Alabama, which signed the top two players at both center (No. 1 Josh Casher and No. 2 J.C. Hassenauer) and outside linebacker (No. 1 Christian Miller and No. 2 Rashaan Evans), plus at LSU (with No. 1 and 3 wide receivers Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn) and Florida (with No. 2 and 3 defensive tackles Gerald Willis and Thomas Holley).

Clemson was the other school to accomplish the feat in 2014, signing No. 2 and 3 receiving tight ends Milan Richard and Cannon Smith.

In some of these cases -- particularly at LSU, which lost the vast majority of its receiving production from 2013 -- expectations are high that the star signees can immediately become valuable contributors as true freshmen. The Tigers have multiple alternatives at receiver, including Travin Dural and John Diarse, but Dupre and Quinn might rank among the leading contenders for playing time.

Judging by the long list of Freshman All-America and freshman all-conference honors won by those who previously signed as part of such a dynamic duo, perhaps it's not such a long shot that at least one of the newcomers will make a similar instant impact.

2006

Safety | USC
No. 2 Taylor Mays, No. 3 Antwine Perez

Mays appeared in all 13 games -- starting the last 12 at free safety after Josh Pinkard suffered a season-ending injury in the opener -- in 2006 and led the Trojans with three interceptions. Mays was fifth on the team with 62 tackles and tied for second with six passes defended, ending the season as Pac-10 Co-Freshman of the Year and as a member of multiple Freshman All-America teams. Perez played in seven games and recorded three tackles.

2007

Center | Auburn
No. 1 Ryan Pugh, No. 3 Chaz Ramsey

Pugh started six of Auburn's final nine games at left tackle and appeared in eight games overall. He also backed up Jason Bosley at center and earned Coaches' All-SEC Freshman team honors after the season. Like Pugh, Ramsey appeared for the first time in Week 4 and went on to start nine of the Tigers' last 10 games at right guard. He also made the Coaches' All-SEC Freshman team.

Running back | USC
No. 1 Joe McKnight, No. 2 Marc Tyler

McKnight played in all 13 games in 2007, ranked third on the team with 540 rushing yards and scored three touchdowns. He also caught 23 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown and served as the Trojans' primary punt returner, with his 8.4 yards per return helping him earn a All-Pac-10 honorable mention nod. Tyler redshirted in 2007 while recuperating from a high school leg injury.

2008

Inside linebacker | Ohio State
No. 1 Etienne Sabino, No. 2 Andrew Sweat

Sabino played in all 13 games and notched six tackles. He notched the only touchdown in the Buckeyes' 16-3 win against Purdue by returning a blocked punt 20 yards for a score. Sweat appeared in the last nine games and recorded five tackles, also contributing mostly on special teams.

Outside linebacker | Miami
No. 1 Arthur Brown, No. 2 Sean Spence, No. 3 Ramon Buchanan

Not only did Miami sign ESPN's top three outside linebacker prospects in 2008, it also signed No. 5 Jordan Futch. That's an outstanding haul for one year. At any rate, Spence emerged as the key member of this group from the get-go, ranking third on the team with 65 tackles and leading the Hurricanes with 9.5 tackles for a loss in 2008. He was ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year and made multiple Freshman All-America teams. Brown (who later transferred to Kansas State) played in 11 games as a freshman, notching four tackles and shifting from outside to inside linebacker. Buchanan had six tackles in nine games, playing mostly on special teams and also contributing at safety and linebacker.

Offensive tackle | Ohio State
No. 2 Michael Brewster, No. 3 J.B. Shugarts

Brewster played in 12 of the Buckeyes' 13 games in 2008 and started the last 10 at center, earning Freshman All-America honors in the process. Shugarts appeared in seven games at offensive tackle and missed six other games with a shoulder surgery that required offseason surgery.

Safety | Florida
No. 1 Will Hill, No. 2 Dee Finley

Hill played in 13 games and ranked sixth on the team with 48 tackles. He also picked off two passes and notched 1.5 sacks. He made the SEC All-Freshman team and led the Gators with 22 tackles on special teams. Finley did not qualify academically and spent the 2008 season at Milford Academy prep school. He eventually enrolled at Florida and shifted from safety to linebacker, but transferred away from Gainesville in 2011.

2009

Safety | South Carolina
No. 2 Stephon Gilmore, No. 3 DeVonte Holloman

Early enrollee Gilmore started all 13 games at cornerback, ranking fifth on the team with 56 tackles. He tied for the team lead with nine passes defended and ranked second with eight pass breakups, adding six tackles for a loss, three sacks, two fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and an interception. The Freshman All-SEC and Freshman All-America honoree also averaged 10.1 yards per return as a punt return man. Another early enrollee, Hollomon also played in every game, notching 30 tackles, an interception (which he returned 54 yards against rival Clemson) and a tackle for a loss.

2010

Athlete | Florida
No. 1 Ronald Powell, No. 2 Matt Elam

Powell played in 13 games at strongside linebacker and recorded 25 tackles, three tackles for a loss and a sack en route to winning Freshman All-SEC honors. Elam also played in all 13 games, mostly on special teams and at defensive back, and notched 22 tackles, two tackles for a loss and a sack.

Defensive tackle | Florida
No. 1 Dominique Easley, No. 3 Sharrif Floyd

Easley recorded four tackles in six games. Floyd played in all 13 games, earning Coaches' Freshman All-SEC honors by making 23 tackles and 6.5 tackles for a loss.

Wide receiver | Texas
No. 2 Mike Davis, No. 3 Darius White

Davis ranked second on the team with 478 receiving yards and 47 receptions (a record for a Texas freshman). He became one of only three receivers in Longhorns history to post multiple 100-yard games as a freshman. White appeared in 10 games in 2010, but caught just one pass for 5 yards and eventually transferred to Missouri after two seasons, citing a need for a fresh start.

2011

Athlete | Oregon
No. 1 De'Anthony Thomas, No. 2 Devon Blackmon

The speedy Thomas earned Pac-12 Co-Offensive Freshman of the Year honors and was named an All-Pac-12 kick returner and a Freshman All-American. He was the only player in the nation to post at least 400 yards rushing, receiving and kick returning in 2011, ranking as the Ducks' second-leading receiver (595 yards on 46 catches) and third-leading rusher (608 yards and seven touchdowns). His 983 kickoff return yards ranked second in school history. Blackmon redshirted in 2011 and appeared in two games in 2012 before announcing his plan to transfer. He played at Riverside City College before signing with BYU as a juco transfer in 2014.

2012

Defensive end | Florida State
No. 1 Mario Edwards, No. 3 Chris Casher

Edwards became the only freshman to start all season for a loaded FSU defense when he replaced the injured Tank Carradine in the ACC Championship Game. He also started in the Orange Bowl win over Northern Illinois. In all, Edwards finished the season with 17 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. Casher played in two early games before suffering a season-ending injury and taking a redshirt in 2012.

2013

Offensive guard | Michigan
No. 2 David Dawson, No. 3 Patrick Kugler

Dawson and Kugler both redshirted in 2013. Dawson practiced during the spring at left guard and left tackle, while Kugler is among the candidates to start at center this fall.

Offensive tackle | Ole Miss
No. 1 Laremy Tunsil, No. 3 Austin Golson

Tunsil immediately became one of the better offensive tackles in the SEC, earning second-team All-SEC and Freshman All-America honors in 2013. He played in 12 games and started nine at left tackle, making him one of only two true full-time freshman starters at the position in the FBS. Tunsil allowed just one sack all season. Golson played in 12 games, mostly at guard, before missing the Rebels' bowl game because of shoulder surgery. He transferred to Auburn this summer, citing a family illness as the reason he wanted to move closer to his Alabama home.

Safety | USC
No. 1 Su'a Cravens, No. 3 Leon McQuay III

A 2013 early enrollee, Cravens started 13 games at strong safety, ranked eighth on the team with 52 tackles and tied for second with four interceptions. He made multiple Freshman All-America teams and earned an All-Pac-12 honorable mention nod after the season. McQuay played in all 14 games, picked off one pass and recorded 19 tackles.

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