For all those people fretting that a playoff in college football would somehow water down the regular season, I offer up the blockbuster weekend of Sept. 3. 2016.

Yes, it’s still a couple of years away and we’re supposed to be focusing on what’s right in front of us. But, geez, that Saturday to open the 2016 season could very well provide the most attractive lineup of nonconference games on one day that we’ve ever seen.

For that, at least in large part, we all have the College Football Playoff to thank.

Some of the matchups were already set or in the process of being set. But the real impetus in beefing up all these nonconference schedules was that a playoff was coming.

And, now, with a selection committee holding the keys to those coveted four playoff spots, we’re going to be in store for some terrific nonconference showdowns in the regular season for years to come. Simply, teams that don’t play and win those types of games are going to be on the outside looking in, which makes the regular season as important as ever.

My only knock on that weekend to kick off the 2016 season is that there are too many good games. I want to watch them all.

We’ve all been clamoring for an Alabama-USCmatchup. Well, we’re finally going to get it in Arlington, Texas to open that season.

And if you like your football Southern style, Clemson at Auburn has a nice ring to it. Lewis Grizzard, the late Southern humorist, once said that Clemson was Auburn with a lake. In a lot of ways, they’re virtual clones of each other right down to their break-neck style of offense. Even more enticing, this is a home-and-home series with Auburn traveling to Clemson the next year.

There won’t be a more unique game that weekend than LSU facing Wisconsin in historic Lambeau Field. Perhaps we’ll get to see Les Miles perform the “Lambeau Leap” if the Tigers win.

Have the remote control ready because we also get UCLA at Texas A&M, Notre Dame at Texas and BYU Cougars at Arizona (in Glendale, Ariz.).

That’s just the first weekend, too.

A week later, Tennessee and Virginia Tech will “trade paint” at Bristol Motor Speedway. And two weeks later, Ohio State travels to Oklahoma and Oregon visits Nebraska.

So much for opening the college football season with a tune-up … or two.
Who believed Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston would win the Heisman Trophy before the start of the 2013 season?

Who had former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam as an All-American?

ESPN.com is counting down the top 100 players in college football this week, but there are plenty of other players who might be poised for breakthrough seasons in 2014. Click here for 10 players who might become household names before season's end.
video Josh Sweat, the nation’s No. 1 prospect, has lined up all five of his official visits. Sweat said he turned down more than 50 scholarship offers to focus on Florida State, Georgia, Ohio State, Oregon and Virginia Tech. He also said Texas A&M and Auburn are also still under consideration.

SEC lunchtime links

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
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With preseason camps set to start across the SEC, catch up on some of the names to know within the conference (and the nation) with our #CFBRank series. Today covers players 60-51 and 50-41.

Once you finish with that, check out today's links:

Tennessee coach Butch Jones said Tuesday that he is trying to do a better job of maintaining relationships with ex-Volunteers who have not been around the program much in recent years.

The NCAA suspended Missouri receiver Levi Copelin for the season after he tested positive for a banned substance at an NCAA drug screening. That places an even greater burden on a Tigers receiving corps that already needed to replace a great deal of firepower.

Fletcher Page from the Athens Banner-Herald caught up with former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray for a Q&A that covers, among other topics, his brother Josh's newfound fame after becoming the winning contestant on “The Bachelorette.”

The Tennessean takes a look at five questions facing Vanderbilt as it prepares to hold its first preseason practice on Thursday.

After backing up Connor Shaw in recent seasons, it's finally Dylan Thompson's time to start at quarterback for South Carolina.

After reviewing the film, Saturday Down South's Murf Baldwin thinks Florida's Vernon Hargreaves might be the most polished cornerback in the SEC.

While serving ice cream at a charity event on Tuesday, Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said that he didn't know whether defensive back Jonathon Mincy would face any reduction in playing time following his offseason arrest.

Georgia's secondary is among the SEC position groups that face the most pressure in 2014 according to Athlon.

Nick Saban obviously has a big decision on his hands in choosing between quarterbacks Jake Coker and Blake Sims.

The Lexington Herald-Leader's Jen Smith came up with a bunch of interesting tidbits on Kentucky's roster after scouring through the Wildcats' new media guide.

Arkansas columnist Harry King attempts to identify the must-watch SEC games for each week of the upcoming season.

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini is apparently still unhappy about receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow's flip from the Cornhuskers to Ole Miss in June.

Dan Mullen and his coaching staff delivered a clear message to their committed in-state players on the Jackson Clarion-Ledger's Dandy Dozen prior to the group photo shoot: stay on the uncommitted prospects on the list and convince them to join Mississippi State's recruiting class, too.

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said future opponents LSU and Alabama showed no interest in home-and-home series with the Badgers.
video
The SEC already has commitments from 77 prospects in the ESPN 300, but there are still several key targets available. Whether it's a current commit, a position of need or just the best available player, here is a look at the top must-get recruits for each SEC team.


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National recruiting reporter Jeremy Crabtree breaks down the top three recruiting tugs-of-war for uncommitted four- and five-star recruits.
video
The SEC has 77 committed prospects in the updated ESPN 300 rankings. The league continues to dominate on the recruiting front and there are no signs of the momentum slowing down. Here’s a closer look at five things to know in the SEC from the new recruiting rankings.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

video

An auction house believes an autographed, game-used Johnny Manziel jersey it is selling will set the record for the highest price ever paid for a college football jersey.

SCP Auctions announced on Monday that it has obtained the Texas A&M jersey that Johnny Manziel wore for all six of his home games at Kyle Field during his 2012 Heisman season.

"This is his only game-used jersey from his college career that has come to market," said Dan Imler, vice president of the company. Imler said that given the interest around Manziel, the auction house estimates a winning bid of about $100,000.

"It has been a long time since we've seen a player as polarizing as Johnny Football," Imler said. "He has got an electrifying personality and everyone is either rooting for or against him."

Imler said not only does he expect well-heeled Aggies fans to bid, but also collectors who want to buy the best and the most interesting items that make it into the hands of the public.

Imler would not say who consigned the item, but said that the auction house has fully vetted the uniform's source and his ownership of the jersey. SCP Auctions also says it has photomatched the jersey with very specific tailoring repairs and wear that can be seen on both photos and on the jersey itself.

Manziel autographed the back of the jersey in metallic silver pen with his stats from his Heisman-winning season.

The auction will take place online from Aug. 6 through Aug. 23, but the jersey will be on display at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland this week.

This jersey was originally posted on eBay in May with the seller hoping to get $300,000. Last year, a lot that included a pair of cleats that Manziel wore for his iconic win over Alabama during his Heisman season and a jersey he wore on the sidelines for the 2011 season sold at auction for $7,760.


(Read full post)


video

Who believed Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston would win the Heisman Trophy before the start of the 2013 season?

Who had former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam as an All-American?

ESPN.com is counting down the top 100 players in college football this week, but there are plenty of other players who might be poised for breakthrough seasons in 2014. Here are 10 players who might become household names before season's end:

Trenton Brown, OL, Florida

Florida's myriad injuries on the offensive line were a big reason it finished last season with a 4-8 record, its worst finish since a winless campaign in 1979. Among the 15 players who suffered season-ending injuries were offensive tackles D.J. Humphries and Chaz Green and guard/tackle Tyler Moore.

If not for the injuries up front, Brown, a transfer from Georgia Military Academy, might have redshirted in his first season at UF. But he was forced to start at right tackle in the final five games after Moore was hurt in a scooter accident. If Brown plays up to his potential this coming season, the 6-foot-8, 350-pound senior might become one of the SEC's best offensive linemen. He's slated to start at right guard and will be a load for interior defensive linemen to try to move.

Greg Bryant, RB, Notre Dame


(Read full post)


SEC lunchtime links

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
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Here we go. Football practices are about to start at campuses across the SEC, meaning we'll have actual football stuff to discuss for the next several months. Let's take a quick spin around what's happening in the SEC as camp approaches.

• AL.com gives us five storylines to know heading into preseason camp at both Auburn and Alabama.

• Benardrick McKinney was hardly a major prospect, but he's making the most of his opportunity at Mississippi State.

• USA Today's Dan Wolken explores how private gurus such as Ken Mastrole and George Whitfield seem to be growing their influence among college quarterbacks.

• In a weekend speech before the Houston A&M Club, Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin addressed some of the team's offseason disciplinary issues -- as well as the scheduling criticisms lobbed by Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.

• LSU's quarterback competition between Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris should be a hot topic once the Tigers open camp in a week.

• Tennessee coach Butch Jones is fine with the prospect of fielding a team of unknowns.

• South Carolina offensive line coach Shawn Elliott knows his group has the experience and skill to rank among the SEC's top lines, but he's taking a wait-and-see approach.

• Former Mississippi State quarterback Dylan Favre is aiming to have a big season at Tennessee-Martin this fall.

• Darrion Landry hopes to become the next Kentucky receiver to experience success immediately after joining the Wildcats as a junior college transfer.

• Adding Korliss Marshall to last season's highly productive tandem of Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, Arkansas has three strong options at running back.

• Florida players like Jeff Driskel, Clay Burton, Latroy Pittman and Demarcus Robinson shared their knowledge with campers at the Brantley Quarterback Camp over the weekend.

• Davin Bellamy's weekend arrest will shuffle the deck for Georgia's outside linebackers early in the season.
Friday, Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin fired back at Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, who mocked the Aggies’ nonconference schedule while at the ESPN car wash this past week.

"They have Lamar, Rice, SMU and Louisiana-Monroe," Stoops said. "Boy, those are all a bunch of toughies, right?”

According to AggieSports.com, Sumlin was asked about Stoops’ comments at a fan event in Houston:

Behind Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, the Aggies hammered the Sooners in the 2012 Cotton Bowl 41-13. Sumlin actually coached under Stoops at Oklahoma until 2008.

During his Houston appearance, Sumlin also had this to say:

It’s unclear if that was a veiled jab at the Longhorns. But this week, Texas coach Charlie Strong did dismiss six players from his team. Of course, Sumlin could have been exclusively referencing his own program. Seven Aggies players have been arrested since December.
ENNIS, Texas -- Texas A&M's red-hot recruiting streak continued Friday with the addition of an ESPN 300 player at an always-needed position.

James Lockhart IV announced in front of family, classmates and educators at Ennis High School that he was going to College Station and joining Kevin Sumlin's growing 2015 class. Lockhart, the top-ranked defensive end in Texas, chose the Texas A&M Aggies over the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Another week, another off-field incident. That is the way it has been this offseason in the SEC, and this past week was no different.

Texas A&M suspended cornerback Victor Davis after he was arrested and charged with shoplifting, and defensive end Gavin Stansbury, who was arrested in April, left the team for personal reasons.

At Georgia, Mark Richt dismissed yet another player a day after defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor was arrested for aggravated assault.

These incidents are just the latest in what has been a troubling offseason for the SEC. With media days behind us and fall camps about to begin, we want to know which team's offseason issues will present the greatest on-field questions for this season.

SportsNation

Which SEC team's offseason issues will present the greatest on-field questions this coming season?

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    12%
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    13%
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    43%
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    8%
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    24%

Discuss (Total votes: 13,838)

In Tuscaloosa, the media's pick to win the SEC has had its fair share of off-field incidents. Dillon Lee and Jarran Reed were both arrested for driving under the influence, Altee Tenpenny was caught with marijuana, and Kenyan Drake was arrested for disobeying a police officer. None of the players involved has been dismissed, but this is becoming both a problem and a distraction for Alabama.

Across the state, Auburn is still trying to figure out what to do with quarterback Nick Marshall. The potential Heisman Trophy contender was given a citation for possession of marijuana this month, but will he miss any time as punishment? To make matters worse, teammate Jonathon Mincy was arrested for the same thing, possession of marijuana, just two weeks prior.

The school that has been in the news the most this offseason is Georgia. Four players were arrested in March for theft by deception. Two of those four, Taylor and Tray Matthews, were later dismissed for separate incidents. A third, Uriah LeMay, opted to transfer. Back in February, safety Josh Harvey-Clemons also was dismissed from the program following multiple violations of team rules.

At Missouri, it was three strikes and you're out for star wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. The sophomore was arrested for the second time on drug-related charges in January, and after being involved in an altercation with his girlfriend in April, he was dismissed from the team. Green-Beckham has since joined Oklahoma.

Lastly, there is Texas A&M, which has not seen any decline in off-field distractions since quarterback Johnny Manziel left. Quarterback Kenny Hill was arrested in March for public intoxication. Two months later, head coach Kevin Sumlin dismissed a pair of key defenders -- Darian Claiborne and Isaiah Golden -- after they were arrested and charged with aggravated robbery. Then the news broke this week with Stansbury’s departure and the suspension of Davis.

SEC lunchtime links

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
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So a man by the name of Richard Malzahn was one of the visual effects supervisor for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III. Please, please, please tell me there's some relation to Gus Malzahn!
HOOVER, Ala. -- In 2012, Kevin Sumlin was dealing with being the new guy on the block at SEC media days. Last year, the Texas A&M Aggies head coach arrived in Hoover with a circus surrounding his starting quarterback.

Last week, Sumlin showed up without much of a media tail or the world's most popular college football player. He was just a successful SEC coach in a well-tailored suit.

But while the bright lights seemed a little dimmer and the attention wasn't as smothering inside the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel, Sumlin and his players did carry a little non-football-related baggage.

This time it dealt with arrests and dismissals for a team looking to build on its early momentum from its two years it's been in the SEC.

Just when Johnny Manziel was out the door and headed to Cleveland, Texas A&M had to deal with sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill getting arrested on a public intoxication charge back in March and being indefinitely suspended.

Then in early June, Sumlin dismissed two key defenders -- linebacker Darian Claiborne and defensive tackle Isaiah Golden -- after being arrested and charged with aggravated robbery. That leaves more holes for a defense that needs all the help it can get after finishing 12th or worse in the four major defensive categories in the SEC last year.

In another offseason involving more distractions, the Aggies held their heads high in Hoover. They smiled, laughed and scoffed at the distractions that could have an impact on their season. Instead of stressing about the past and who won't be on the team in August, the Aggies and their coach strutted through media days.

"I don't really believe in distractions," senior left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi said. "If you're a football player, every football team has issues. You're a man. Be a man and just move on and do what you have to do to be a great player. That's all you can control."

Contrary to Ogbuehi's beliefs, distractions are real. But to his credit, he has the right idea. It probably comes from the years of training he has had since he's been in College Station.

"When you're on the field, you're in the zone and you block out everything -- you block out the fans, you block out the noise. That kind of contributes to the off-field [incidents] as well," punter Drew Kaser said.

You'd think a team just getting over the distraction of distractions in Johnny Football would be a little frustrated by the thought of having another non-football-related subject to discuss before actually getting to business. But this group just wades through the mess and focuses on the pigskin.

To Sumlin, this team has gotten through the offseason without the arrests and dismissals having much of an effect at all. For players like cornerback Deshazor Everett they haven't been distractions because the Aggies have enough bodies to fill those voids so why dwell on the people missing?

"The next step is for the guys that are behind them to step up and play,"Everett said. "It's the SEC. We recruit great players. I believe that they can step in and have as big of an impact as those players who got dismissed did. I have full confidence in our defense this coming season."

Moving ahead hasn't been a problem or the Aggies in the past. They did it two years ago when Manziel went from arrested to Heisman winner, and they did it again last year after Manziel's off-field life overshadowed A&M's actual football team.

Manziel is gone, and while more distractions have sprouted, this team isn't worried. As Ogbuehi puts it, the Aggies already have the pieces they need for 2014.

"We have guys who are stepping up as leaders and [the team knows] that guys who wanna be here are gonna play the first game of the year," he said.

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