Dallas Colleges: Pac-12

At Big 12 media days on Monday, Baylor Bears coach Art Briles discussed the popularity of Baylor QB Bryce Petty, going so far as to say that even someone who works at a Dairy Queen in Salem, Oregon, would know who Petty was.

 
It was a nice line. Too bad it wasn’t true.

A Portland radio station checked with the six Dairy Queen locations in the Salem area. No one knew who Petty was.

So the Pac-12 blog was wondering whether the reverse would be true. Petty might not be known in Oregon, but would Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota be known in Briles’ area? Would Mariota’s notoriety stretch to the deep ends of this great country? Would even people in Waco, Texas, know Mariota?

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsBaylor QB Bryce Petty may be popular among the Big 12 media, but his popularity at Dairy Queens could use some work.
Long story short: No. Of the three Dairy Queens in Waco (pulled up on a Google search), two lucky workers -- including one who works at a Dairy Queen near campus -- picked up the phone today and were asked a very simple question: Do you know who Marcus Mariota is?

No and no.

But here’s the kicker. The followup was: Do you know who Bryce Petty is?

Same answer. No and no.

The good part for Briles is that this probably means his star quarterback isn’t frequenting the ice cream shops around town. And, depending on your own personal feelings on dairy desserts and their effects on one’s on-field play, this will either make you like Petty slightly more or slightly less.

The bad part for Briles is that he was wrong. Very wrong. Not only does someone who works at a Dairy Queen a couple thousand miles from Baylor not know who Petty is, neither do people who work within a couple miles.
In the world of college football, staying stagnant puts you behind. If you aren't trying to get bigger, strong and faster on the field, you're lost.

But you're also going to suffer if the environment surrounding your program isn't sparkling and dazzling to look at.

That's why stadium expansion is running rampant and why video scoreboards are getting bigger, brighter and bolder. High-definition screens have grown and more entertaining videos and graphics have made it into college football stadiums.

Fans love what's happening on the field, but looking up and seeing all those detailed pixels rounds out the game-day experience.

But does size really matter? Do we really care how large JumboTrons are? Do fancy graphics bring you to more games?

For athletic departments, the answer is a resounding yes, or they wouldn't bother. A massive big screen also looks pretty nice on all those recruiting visits.

They might be obnoxiously big and a little unnecessary, but we love them all the same. Here are the 10 biggest and most entertaining scoreboards in college football:

Texas Memorial Stadium scoreboard 140701Karl Wright/USA TODAY SportsThe video board at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium is 55 feet tall and 134 feet long.

1. Texas: Well, there's one thing that Longhorns fans can cheer about: That enormous video board that basically takes up one side of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. The board stands 55 feet tall and is 134 feet long, measuring around 7,370 square feet. Texas' board has been the largest in college football since 2006 (see Texas A&M below) and has a beautiful pixel pitch (the distance between pixel clusters, is a measure of high definition) of 20mm and native resolution of 2064-by-848. Texas' gigantic LED board provides fans with a bodaciously big Bevo. That screen should also really make Charlie Strong's muscles pop!

Kyle Field videoboardsCourtesy of Texas A&M AthleticsTexas A&M's new scoreboard will be the biggest in college football.

2. Texas A&M: They say that everything is bigger in Texas, and that's exactly what the Aggies are getting with their new video board at Kyle Field. Rival Texas had the country's largest video board. But with Texas A&M throwing $450 million into stadium renovations, it only made sense that the Aggies' brain trust best the Longhorns. This board could be No. 1, but since we haven't seen it live, second place is where it goes. The Daktronics 13HD LED video board will be the first in college football to have 1080 resolution (that's 1,080 lines that create the image). It will sit in the south end zone, measure 47-by-163 and have nearly 300 more square feet (7,661) than Texas' big board.

3. Arkansas: It might not have the largest square feet (6,286), but it's actually the longest video board in the country at 166.3 feet. And it stands 37.8 feet tall. With strong player introductions and graphics, there has been plenty to take Razorbacks fans' minds off of the subpar play exhibited by their team over the last two seasons. The massive SMARTVISION video display creates a dazzling backdrop behind the north end zone while standing atop Arkansas' indoor practice facility.

Coliseum video boardCal Sports Media via AP ImagesThe scoreboard at the L.A. Coliseum is 150 feet by 40 feet (6,000 square feet).

4. USC: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is iconic in its own right, but the construction of its video board in 2011 gave the stadium a high-tech reboot. With a native resolution of 3,000-by-792, the Coliseum's board brings the Troy faithful one of the nation's best pictures at the size of 150 feet by 40 feet (6,000 square feet). It's currently the fifth largest video board in the country. What really gives it life is the raucous and impressively entertaining pregame player entrance that fills the board just before each home game.

Sun Life Stadium scoreboardAP Photo/Paul SpinelliThe scoreboard at Sun Life Stadium is the third largest in college football.

5. Miami: The Hurricanes and their fellow students might have to travel some 20 miles from their Coral Gables campus to Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, but it's well worth it when they see what the stadium's big screen is packing. Before Texas came along, Sun Life owned the nation's biggest board. Now Miami sits in third place on the list, with a screen that measures 6,717 square feet (138.5-by-48.5). That's a very big Al Golden.

Arizona Stadium scoreboardChris Morrison/USA TODAY SportsThe scoreboard at Arizona is also Xbox compatible, making for an impressive game of Madden.

6. Arizona: The video board inside Arizona Stadium is 5,264 square feet (112-by-47), but there's more to it than just the size. When it was constructed 2011, Arizona's administration decided to make it more than just a fan experience; they created a player and recruit experience. This bad boy not only introduces players and coaches in high quality, it also is Xbox compatible. Is it necessary to play video games on a screen with 1,728-by-720 resolution? Absolutely not, but it's awesome just the same.

Mississippi State scoreboardCourtesy of Mississippi StateAs if one giant video screen wasn't enough, Mississippi State is building another across the stadium.
7. Mississippi State: Back in 2008, the school used $6.1 million to construct a true HD board that spans the roof of the Leo Seal M-Club Center in the south end zone of Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. This behemoth stands 152 feet wide by 135.6 feet tall, with a main HD screen stretching 111 feet by 47 feet. When that thing lights up at night and the cowbells are clanking, you feel like some mythical creature is going to slither out of that pigskin sanctuary.

Oklahoma Memorial Stadium scoreboardJackson Laizure/Getty ImagesThe video board at Oklahoma will soon be expanding from its already-impressive size.

8. Oklahoma: It's only natural that “Big Game Bob” has a big-game board. It's barely shorter in length than Arkansas' monstrosity (166 feet) and is very aesthetically pleasing with its 3,168-by-600 resolution. And soon it will get bigger. A planned $370 million renovation of Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium will make the video board 8,750-square feet, up from 5,146-square feet.

Spartan Stadium scoreboardAP Photo/Al GoldisIn 2012, Michigan State increased the size of its scoreboard by nearly tenfold.

9. Michigan State: Talk about an upgrade. When the school decided it was time to expand its puny scoreboard in 2012, the size grew from 567 square feet to a massive 5,300 square feet. It was a part of a $10 million project to upgrade the entire stadium's viewing experience. This gives a whole new meaning to The Big Green

Ohio Stadium scoreboardJoe Robbins/Getty ImagesThe scoreboard at Ohio Stadium also features 25 speakers on each side.

10. Ohio State: The Buckeyes' high-def Panasonic scoreboard measures 42 feet by 124 feet and has an array of 25 speakers on each side. You get great picture quality along with fantastic sound. The fans also are offered some pretty neat extras, like videos of student-athletes and teams, interactive features with former Buckeyes and quality player introductions.

Honorable mentions

Baylor: McLane Stadium's seating capacity might be shrinking, but the JumboTron is growing. The board at the new stadium will measure 47 feet high by 107 feet wide and will feature a 15 HD pixel layout this fall.

Minnesota: It measures 48 feet tall by 108 feet long, but what really sets it apart is the fact that it displayed YouTube sensation “Dramatic Gopher” to distract Wisconsin kicker Jack Russell last fall. The gopher went 1-for-2 in distractions on the day.

South Carolina: The atmosphere already is electric enough before and during games, but add a 4,464-square-foot crowing rooster and it’s quite the image.

Pac-12 leads leagues in QB starts

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
7:00
PM CT
Keeping with our theme of Pac-12 quarterbacks -- and numbers donated to the Pac-12 blog by the Arizona State sports information department -- Jeremy Hawkes and Jordan Parry compiled a list of returning starts behind center by conference. Not surprisingly the Pac-12, with 10 returning starting QBs, is tied with the Big Ten for the most returning starters, and the Pac-12 leads the nation in total starts.

[+] EnlargeSean Mannion
Russ Isabella/USA TODAY SportsOregon State quarterback Sean Mannion is one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the country.
Hawkes wrote: "The logic we used was based around the quarterback who would be considered the 'primary' quarterback by season's end last season. Quarterbacks who were injured early in the season when they were considered the primary quarterback and return this year are also counted on the list (like David Ash at Texas)."

The Pac-12 not only welcomes back 10 starting QBs, it welcomes back 198 total starts, topped by 31 from Oregon State's Sean Mannion. Seven of the returning Pac-12 QBs have more than one season's worth of starting experience, too.

The Big Ten features 10 returning QBs and a cumulative 139 starts. The 14-team SEC only welcomes back five starting QBs with a combined 68 starts. Ohio State's Braxton Miller has the most career starts among returning quarterbacks with 32.

Further, notes Hawkes, "Also notable is that aside from Rutgers' Gary Nova (28 starts), Mannion (31), Taylor Kelly (27), Brett Hundley (27) and Marcus Mariota (26) are the four most seasoned QBs among all BCS teams (along with Bo Wallace at 26 starts at Ole Miss)."

Here's the list.

Pac-12 (10)
Sean Mannion, Oregon State: 31
Taylor Kelly, Arizona State: 27
Brett Hundley, UCLA: 27
Marcus Mariota, Oregon: 26
Kevin Hogan, Stanford: 19
Connor Halliday, Washington State: 19
Travis Wilson, Utah: 16
Cody Kessler, USC: 14
Jared Goff, Cal: 12
Sefo Liufau, Colorado: 7
Total: 198 starts

Big Ten (10)
Braxton Miller, Ohio State: 32
Gary Nova, Rutgers: 28
Devin Gardner, Michigan: 21
Joel Stave, Wisconsin: 19
Connor Cook, Michigan State: 13
Jake Rudock, Iowa: 13
Christian Hackenberg, Penn State: 12
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana: 8
Danny Etling, Purdue: 8
Mitch Leidner, Minnesota: 4
Total: 139 starts

Big 12 (8)
David Ash, Texas: 21
Bryce Petty, Baylor: 13
Jake Waters, Kansas State: 13
Jake Heaps, Kansas: 9
Sam Richardson, Iowa State: 8
Clint Trickett, West Virginia: 7
Davis Webb, Texas Tech: 6
Trevor Knight, Oklahoma: 5
Total: 82 starts

American Athletic (5)
Paxton Lynch, Memphis: 12
John O'Korn, Houston: 11
P.J. Walker, Temple: 7
Mike White, South Florida: 5
Casey Cochran, Connecticut: 4
Total: 39 starts

ACC (5)
Anthony Boone, Duke: 15
Jameis Winston, Florida State: 14
David Watford, Virginia: 12
Terrel Hunt, Syracuse: 10
Total: 54 starts

SEC (5)
Bo Wallace, Ole Miss: 26
Nick Marshall, Auburn: 14
Brandon Allen, Arkansas: 12
Justin Worley, Tennessee: 10
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State: 6
Total: 68 starts

Instant Analysis: Oregon 30, Texas 7

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
10:05
PM CT


SAN ANTONIO -- No. 10 Oregon beats Texas 30-7 in the Valero Alamo Bowl. A few thoughts on the game:

It was over when: Oregon safety Derrick Malone picked off a Case McCoy pass over the middle midway through the fourth quarter, then went 39 yards for the score. The Ducks went up 30-7 on McCoy’s second pick-six of the night.

Game ball goes to: Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who was masterful both on the ground and through the air, throwing for 253 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 133. A month off to heal a nagging knee injury did him plenty of good.

Stat of the game: McCoy finished with 48 passing yards and no touchdowns. The two passes he completed to Oregon defenders were returned for a total of 75 yards and two touchdowns.

Unsung hero: Oregon safety Avery Patterson, who gave the Ducks a 7-0 lead just 68 seconds into the game when he picked off a McCoy pass and scored on a 37-yard return. The senior added nine tackles in his final game.

Best call: The Ducks’ first score on offense came when Mariota, with Jackson Jeffcoat fast approaching, flipped to Josh Huff on a shovel pass and he found the end zone from 16 yards out. Huff finished with 104 receiving yards and a school-record 1,140 in 2013.

What Oregon learned: If Mariota makes good on his promise to return in 2014, Oregon should once again have a preseason top-10 team and plenty of firepower to make a run at a college football playoff bid.

What Texas learned: Nothing it didn’t already know, really. Its Case McCoy-led offense can pound the rock but couldn’t keep up with elite teams and capitalize on opportunities. The Longhorns couldn’t give Mack Brown a satisfying sendoff. Now it’s time to find his successor.

To watch the trophy presentation of the Valero Alamo Bowl, click here.

Valero Alamo Bowl roundtable

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
1:30
PM CT
Pac-12 reporter Kevin Gemmell and Texas reporter Max Olson break down the biggest storylines in Monday’s Valero Alamo Bowl matchup featuring Texas and No. 10 Oregon:

How do you think Mack Brown's resignation affects this game?

Max Olson: Throughout the past few weeks, Brown has stuck to the same message publicly: Texas players should win this game for themselves, not for their coach. They’ve had a brutal season, overcome plenty and have a chance to cap it with a ninth win and a few good memories. Brown keeps saying he wants this to be about the kids, not him.

What we’ll get out of kids, though, I just don’t know. They’ve been big underdogs before. They came out firing against Oklahoma and built real momentum. They held Baylor to 3 points in the first half but ran out of gas. Which Texas team shows up Monday? They’ll need plenty of motivation and good fortune.

Kevin Gemmell: My first thought was that this was going to be a huge motivation advantage for Texas -- and I’m a big believer that the bowl season is all about which team is motivated to be there. But I think the recent news that Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti is also retiring balances things out in the Oregon locker room. While he’s not as big of a name nationally as Brown, he’s as much an Oregon institution as Brown is to Texas.

Both pregame speeches will be rousing. Heartstrings will be tugged. But ultimately it comes down to what happens on the field. If Oregon is able to set aside its disappointment of not being in a BCS game, then who is coaching on which sideline shouldn't matter because on paper Oregon is the stronger team.

What should be expected of a 100-percent healthy Marcus Mariota?

Gemmell: For starters, an extra element to the Oregon offense that makes them that much tougher to stop. Consider Mariota in the first seven games of the season before his knee injury. He averaged 70.4 rushing yards per game and scored nine touchdowns -- including at least one rushing touchdown in all seven games. Since hurting the knee against UCLA, he’s averaged just 17.8 rushing yards with zero rushing touchdowns.

He also threw four interceptions in the final two games after going pick-free for the first 10, so aside from his rushing abilities -- which are substantial -- his throwing mechanics should be much stronger. I’m of the belief that when he’s 100 percent healthy, Mariota is the best football player in the country. And if Texas gets a 100 percent Mariota, he’s going to be very, very difficult to stop.

Olson: Mariota is one of the many reasons why this is just not a good matchup for Texas, especially considering its defense has had legitimate issues defending the option against mobile quarterbacks. Of quarterbacks who started the last two seasons, nobody in the country has a better Total QBR than Mariota at 89.0. He’s the real deal. I fully expect him to put up big numbers in the Alamodome, and it’ll be interesting to see how Texas defends him, probably with Jackson Jeffcoat reprising his freestyle “spinner” role.

Who will be the key player in this game?

Olson: If you’ve been following this Texas team, you know the key isn’t getting a huge performance from Case McCoy. Yes, he needs to play relatively mistake-free and hit on the big passes when they’re there. But Texas doesn’t stand a chance in this one without a big night from Malcolm Brown.

The San Antonio native had rushed for 421 yards in the four games since Texas lost Johnathan Gray, including 118 in the first half against Baylor. He did a terrific job of hitting cutback lanes against the Bears, and run defense hasn’t been a strength for Oregon. Brown needs to get rolling or Texas could fall behind quickly.

Gemmell: Take your pick from any number of superstars on both sides of the ball for Oregon. Be it Mariota, Josh Huff or Byron Marshall. Defensively, cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is as lockdown as they come. But the guy who always seems to show up in the postseason is De’Anthony Thomas.

Last season against Kansas State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, he returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown, caught four balls for 60 yards and a score and rushed twice for 15 yards. In the 2011 Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio, he carried twice for 155 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Wisconsin. He also caught four balls for 34 yards and returned five kicks for 125 yards. Thomas is a big-game player with blazing speed and scary elusiveness. When he’s hitting on all cylinders, he’s a difference maker.

National University Holiday Bowl preview

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
12:00
PM CT
Arizona State (10-3) and Texas Tech (7-5) square off Monday night in San Diego in the National University Holiday Bowl at 10:15 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Here’s a quick preview:

What to watch: There is a good chance, a very good chance actually, that this game could turn into a track meet. The Sun Devils average 41 points per game -- 10th in the country -- and Texas Tech isn’t too shabby offensively either, averaging almost 36 points per game. Which defense is going to step up and make a play? Arizona State seems the more likely option of the two. Texas Tech gives up 31.2 points per game while the Sun Devils only give up 25.8. The Sun Devils also have a plus-14 turnover margin with 21 interceptions. Opposing quarterbacks are completing just 54.7 percent of their passes against ASU.

Who to watch: The big question is who will start at quarterback for Texas Tech -- Davis Webb or Michael Brewer. This all came about after Baker Mayfield, in a strange turn of events, announced after the season that he was transferring. There's also a chance we could see both QBs. For the Sun Devils, it looks doubtful that Marion Grice will play, meaning the bulk of the running work falls on D.J. Foster. Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton is an All-American and the Pac-12’s two-time defensive player of the year. Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro is also an All-American with more than 1,200 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.

Why to watch: The Holiday Bowl is traditionally one of the more exciting games of the postseason. Since its inception in 1978, 17 of the 35 games have been decided by a touchdown or less, and 20 of the games were decided in the final four minutes. This is also the last year that it will keep ties with the Big 12. Next year one of the top tier teams from the Big Ten will be paired against the Pac-12.

Prediction: Arizona State 42, Texas Tech 24.

Valero Alamo Bowl preview

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
11:00
AM CT
No. 10 Oregon and Texas face off Monday (6:45 p.m. ET, ESPN) in the Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. A few key players and matchups to watch:

Who to watch: Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota says he’s 100 percent healthy, and that’s very good news for the Ducks. A knee injury suffered against UCLA in October limited his ability to run in Oregon’s final five games, two of which were losses. Now that he has had time off to recover, expect the Ducks’ high-tempo option attack to be back to full speed. Mariota is coming back for 2014 and has a chance to end his sophomore campaign with a big game against a Texas defense that has proven vulnerable to running quarterbacks.

What to watch: What can Texas do up front to grab control of this game from the Ducks? These Longhorns are capable of big upsets when their offensive line owns the line of scrimmage, and they’re reshuffling to put All-Big 12 left guard Trey Hopkins at right tackle. On defense, defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed must be disruptive, and you could see Jeffcoat play all over the field in a hybrid role. Texas can’t win this game without being the more physical team.

Why to watch: Mack Brown’s last hurrah after 16 seasons as head coach of the Longhorns. Texas has won seven of its past eight bowl games dating back to 2004, and its players want to send Brown off with one final victory, the 245th of his career. When everybody counted them out, Brown’s players rallied and knocked off No. 12 Oklahoma 38-20 in the Red River Rivalry this season. Can the Longhorns pull off another stunner?

Prediction: Oregon 38, Texas 17. Oregon simply has too much firepower for Texas, whose four losses have come by an average margin of 21 points. Retiring Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti gets the celebratory final Gatorade bath.

Video: Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury

December, 23, 2013
12/23/13
2:00
PM CT

Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury talks about playing Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl, his quarterback situation and the up-and-down year.

National University Holiday Bowl

December, 9, 2013
12/09/13
5:05
PM CT

Arizona State Sun Devils (10-3) vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders (7-5)

Dec. 30, 10:15 p.m. ET, San Diego (ESPN)


ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS BREAKDOWN
Arizona State hit the 10-win mark in Todd Graham's second season as head coach and won the Pac-12's South Division. Despite a decisive loss in the conference title game to Stanford, the program appears to be on a decided uptick.

[+] EnlargeWill Sutton
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsDefensive tackle Will Sutton is a disruptive force for the Sun Devils.
The season did start with controversy. On Sept. 14 at Arizona State, Wisconsin appeared to have put itself in position to kick a winning field goal, but Badgers QB Joel Stave opted to unconventionally place the ball on the ground instead of just falling down himself, and the Pac-12 officiating crew melted down in a panic of indecision, allowing the clock to expire. It was embarrassing for the conference but nonetheless a win in the ledger for the Sun Devils.

After an impressive domination of USC, a 62-41 defeat that got Trojans coach Lane Kiffin fired, the Sun Devils played a flat game against Notre Dame in Cowboy Stadium. That, however, would be their last regular-season defeat. They rolled up seven impressive wins in a row and won the South and earned home-field advantage in the Pac-12 title game.

Most notable was a road victory at No. 14 UCLA -- the Sun Devils had been notoriously inconsistent on the road -- and a 58-21 beatdown of archival Arizona.

While Stanford pushed Arizona State around in both meetings this fall, knocking the Sun Devils out of the Rose Bowl, it clearly was a satisfying season in Tempe. The Sun Devils are led by DT Will Sutton, two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, and QB Taylor Kelly, who earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors. The only bad news over the final part of the season was an injury to RB Marion Grice, who missed the last two games and is questionable at best for the Holiday Bowl.
-- Ted Miller

vs.

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS BREAKDOWN
Momentum is a strange thing. Texas Tech had an awful lot of it to start 2013, winning seven in a row to kick off Kliff Kingsbury’s debut season. The team climbed as high as No. 10 in the polls.

[+] EnlargeBaker Mayfield
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsBaker Mayfield will hope to step forward in the Texas Tech QB derby during the postseason.
Then came five losses in a row, by an average margin of 20 points, to the Big 12’s five other bowl-eligible teams. They had the third-worst turnover margin in FBS and second-worst run defense in the Big 12. A promising season fell apart quickly.

This bowl game gives Kingsbury a chance to regain some of that momentum entering the offseason, both for next year’s team and the next few months of recruiting. A victory would be Texas Tech’s first since Oct. 19, a win at West Virginia.

It’s also more time to shore up the weaknesses that the Big 12’s best teams were able to expose. The Red Raiders’ run defense gave up 294 rushing yards per game in its losses and should be seriously tested again.

Perhaps the biggest questions the bowl can answer for Texas Tech is this: Who’s the quarterback? Baker Mayfield started seven games in 2013, Davis Webb started five and Michael Brewer could still be in the mix. Getting another game and 15 extra practices could help bring clarity. -- Max Olson

Valero Alamo Bowl

December, 8, 2013
12/08/13
10:00
PM CT

Oregon Ducks (10-2) vs. Texas Longhorns (8-4)

Dec. 30, 6:45 p.m. ET, San Antonio (ESPN)


OREGON DUCKS BREAKDOWN
During an 8-0 start, Oregon fans had only one thought in coach Mark Helfrich's first season: We want Bama. During a 2-2 finish, they started missing Chip Kelly.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesMarcus Mariota should be at full strength and ready to run in the postseason.
That 8-0 start was a thing of beauty, as the Ducks climbed to No. 2 in the nation, dominating on both sides of the ball. They hung 59 points on both Virginia and Tennessee. They turned a precarious seven-point fourth-quarter lead into a 45-24 stomping of hated rival Washington, a 10th consecutive victory in the series by at least 17 points. They showed some grit in the second half against UCLA, swamping the Bruins 42-14.

Not only were the Ducks again in the thick of the national title hunt, but QB Marcus Mariota was also the nation's leading Heisman Trophy candidate.

But in that win over the Bruins, Mariota sprained his knee. While the injury didn't force him to miss a game, it severely limited his ability to run either on designed plays or scrambles. That put a major part of the Ducks’ offense on ice.

Stanford dominated the Ducks on both sides of the ball in a 26-20 win on Nov. 7, the Pac-12's marquee date of the year. Mariota struggled mightily, but the real issue was the line of scrimmage. The Cardinal owned it.

The low point, however, was a 42-16 defeat at Arizona that proved the death knell of the Ducks' BCS bowl hopes. It was Oregon's first loss to an unranked team since 2009. The 26-point margin of defeat was their biggest since losing 44-10 to USC in 2008.

The Ducks bounced back with a victory in the Civil War, but that 36-35 nail-biter at home over a reeling Beavers team was hardly suggestive of the team that dominated foes through the first eight games. It will be interesting to see how the Ducks respond in the postseason. It should help that Mariota should be close to full health. -- Ted Miller

vs.

TEXAS LONGHORNS BREAKDOWN
The Longhorns had everything on the line against Baylor, including a Big 12 title and a trip to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. They couldn’t get the job done. The bowl matchup that the 30-10 loss leads to is immaterial to Texas fans now. All they want to know is whether the Mack Brown era is over.

[+] EnlargeCase McCoy
John Albright/Icon SMITexas will lean on its run game but will need Case McCoy to make a few plays to close out the season with a win.
If that ends up being the case, we’ll know before Texas takes the field for its bowl game later this month. These Longhorns could have plenty to play for in their finale, even if at 8-4 they’ve ended up in the same Valero Alamo Bowl they played in last year.

Despite losing five starters to season-ending injuries, the Longhorns turned around a rough start with a 7-2 record in Big 12 play. They made that run with a potent power run game, now led by Malcolm Brown (774 yards, nine touchdowns). Whether or not Mack Brown is done, this is the final game for nine senior starters and an opportunity for Case McCoy to end his up-and-down career on a high note.

Texas’ defense underwent a revival in 10 games under Greg Robinson and did hold Baylor’s top-ranked scoring offense to three points in the first half. Jackson Jeffcoat finished with a Big 12-leading 12 sacks in his senior season and anchors a unit that has plenty of experience defending high-tempo spread offenses. -- Max Olson

Pick your QB: Manziel or Mariota

October, 15, 2013
10/15/13
12:30
PM CT
Manziel/MariotaUS PresswireBoth Johnny Manziel and Marcus Mariota have made some electric plays this season.

We've hit the midway point of the 2013 college football season and we're looking at midseason All-Americans.

There are plenty of worthy options at QB, but we all know it comes down to two names: Johnny Manziel and Marcus Mariota.

They are the two most exciting players at their position, and both are on teams that could be playing in the BCS title game. But which one truly is No. 1? Well, Pac-12 reporter Ted Miller and SEC reporter Edward Aschoff decided to take this argument to the streets!

We made our cases for both, but you guys decide the winner:

Edward Aschoff: Well, this one really is an easy one for me.

Remember when we all buried Manziel for his off-field shenanigans? We wondered if he'd be focused enough to duplicate his record-setting, Heisman Trophy-winning first year. Well, through six games, Manziel has totaled 2,273 yards of offense and 19 touchdowns. He's averaging 378.8 yards and 3.2 touchdowns per game and has completed 73.2 percent of his passes. He's a little behind last year’s production, but he also has less receiving weapons this year and his line isn't as strong.

Watching Manziel is like watching poetry in motion. He's standing in the pocket longer, scanning the field, making reads and thinking about running second. And when he does run, watch out. He's easily the slipperiest player in the country. He jukes guys out of their shoes and can make NFL throws on the run or in the pocket. Nothing gets to this kid, and you'd be crazy not to have him No. 1 on any awards list.

Ted Miller: Over at the Pac-12, we respect good quarterback play, so we are excited the SEC is finally getting to see what good QB play can do. Further, we love watching that little spark plug Johnny Football play. He's a neat little guy. So please accept a pat on the head from us.

Why is Mariota the midseason first-team QB? It's because, well, he's so completely freaking better than anyone else.

We’ll start with QBR first.

Our boy Mariota is No. 1. Manziel is No. 6.

Mariota has 17 touchdown passes. Manziel has 14. Mariota has zero interceptions (no turnovers, in fact). Manziel has five.

Manziel is slippery. He slipped his way to 438 rushing yards, which beats Mariota by 12. Of course, Mariota averages 10.4 yards per carry compared to 6.5 for Manziel. And Mariota has eight touchdown runs compared to five for Manziel.

Heck, if we just went bottom line with points accounted for, Mariota has 150 compared to 114 for Manziel.

Oh, and Mariota is 6-foot-4 and a sure NFL first-round draft pick. Manziel is 6-1 if you measuring him while he stands on his tippy toes.

EA: What Mariota has done this year has been very impressive, but he's just not Manziel. He can't change games like Manziel does.

You never see Manziel hesitate in the pocket or on runs. He stands tall, even though he really does look like a kicker out there with his size, and isn't afraid to take a hit or two. Manziel just has a magical way of extending plays and turning trash into treasure. A switch goes on when he walks into a stadium and he immediately becomes the best athlete on the field.

Look at what he did against Alabama and Ole Miss. The Crimson Tide built a 35-14 lead early in the third quarter and Manziel did everything he could to break that lead down bit by bit. He threw for a school-record 464 yards and five TDs and ran for another 98 yards in the Aggies' 49-42 loss. What if Manziel got the ball back on that onside kick with 15 seconds remaining?

Remember his Eli Manning-David Tyree moment against Alabama? I mean, Manziel only slipped out of Jeoffrey Pagan's attempted wrap-up and heaved an errant pass off his back foot into traffic on third-and-8, only for it to fall right into the hands of wide receiver Edward Pope for a 12-yard gain.

By the way, that Alabama defense now ranks No. 8 nationally.

Against Ole Miss, Manziel had a scary left knee injury in the first quarter, missed a play and then proceeded to play better. He made PlayStation-like plays with his legs, delivered some beautiful throws and sliced his way through Ole Miss' defense to deliver a come-from-behind, game-winning drive. He accounted for 346 passing yards, 124 rushing yards and two touchdowns, with 177 of those yards and a score coming in the fourth quarter.

He's easily the most exciting player to watch and the toughest player to stop. He'll burn you with his feet and carve you up with his arm. There just isn't another gamer like Manziel.

TM: I do love watching Manziel play. There's not only something magical about his devil-may-care playmaking, it's also cool that he doesn't look like he was constructed in a lab.

Further, when taking a measure of both, it doesn't help that they haven't played through the meat of their schedules yet. The only good team Manziel has faced is Alabama. The only good team Mariota has faced is Washington. Heck, the big deal from the win over the Huskies was that Mariota threw his first pass of the year in the fourth quarter because it was the first time he was needed in the fourth. And, yes, No. 1 Alabama is a far greater test, even at home, than a visit to No. 20 Washington.

So what did Mariota do when the Ducks only led by seven entering their first meaningful fourth quarter? He was 5-of-6 for 75 yards with a 3-yard touchdown pass and a 5-yard touchdown run. Like Manziel, Mariota took over the game. He completed 24-of-31 passes for 366 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed 13 times for 88 yards and a score. Those numbers came against a defense that was playing at home and ranked 10th in the nation in total defense, 11th in scoring defense and third in pass efficiency defense.

It wasn't a Nick Saban defense. But if you ask around, a Justin Wilcox defense isn't too shabby either.

In the end, I see Mariota with significantly better numbers at midseason leading an undefeated, No. 2-ranked team.

Of course, we have two very good QBs who still have half a season to play. No one ever remembers the midseason MVP. It's all about where things stand in January.

Manziel jerseys hardly making A&M rich

August, 9, 2013
8/09/13
1:47
PM CT

One of the most popular proposals for paying college athletes involves giving players a share of the revenue from jersey sales. After all, the athletic department must be making millions off all those jerseys you see people wearing on game day, right? And the only explanation for a fan wearing a No. 2 Texas A&M jersey is because they want to wear Johnny Manziel's number, right?

What if I told you Texas A&M made just $59,690 on jersey sales for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013?

That's correct. The Texas A&M athletic department received just $59,690 for jersey sales last year, Heisman Trophy winner and all. That number isn't just football, either. It includes basketball, baseball, cycling and all other jersey sales. Collegiate Licensing Company handles the licensing for Texas A&M and does not break jersey revenue down by sport or by number in its schools reports. That means we don't know how much revenue was generated from football jerseys or the No. 2 worn by Heisman Trophy winner Manziel.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
AP Photo/Aaron M. SprecherDespite having a the Heisman Trophy award winner, Texas A&M saw only $59,690 in revenue from jersey sales last fiscal year.
The bottom line is that athletic departments aren't getting rich off jersey sales. Texas A&M receives just 10 percent of the wholesale price for jerseys under its contract with adidas. If the jersey is sold through the campus bookstore, they make about 15 percent, but 92 percent of all merchandise is sold somewhere other than the campus bookstore.

Jersey sales accounted for just 1.53 percent of Texas A&M's licensing revenue last fiscal year. Out of the total of $3.9 million, the largest source of revenue was $750,000 in men's T-shirt sales. SEC co-branded product was also popular, eclipsing jersey sales at $102,000.

The situation isn't unique to Texas A&M. Wisconsin, whose licensing revenues also totaled $3.9 million, says just 1.23 percent, or $47,437, of its licensing revenue last year was derived from jersey sales. Similarly, West Virginia says $56,728 of its licensing revenue last year came from jersey sales, 1.62 percent of its $3.3 million total licensing revenue.

In the ACC, Clemson saw less than one percent of its $1.75 million licensing revenue come in from jersey sales, a grand total of $12,375. Cal estimates its jersey sales account for 1.5 percent of total licensing revenue, but it's tough to give an exact figure because the report it receives from Nike includes jerseys in a category with helmets, swim caps and other team gear.

"Jerseys are not insignificant in years where a current player has Heisman potential or when an alumnus goes to the Super Bowl or NBA Finals. But in general, it's not a big item," Cal licensing director Dan Perkins said.

Collegiate Licensing Company, which handles licensing for 157 universities, says jersey sales account for an average of 1.1 percent of all licensing revenue for the schools it represents. The largest sources of licensing revenue for these schools are from T-shirts, women's apparel and fleece apparel.

Even if the NCAA allowed schools to share jersey revenue with student-athletes, we're not talking life-changing money. First, at many schools, licensing revenue is split between the athletic department and the university. For example, all of North Carolina's licensing money is collected by the university, not the athletic department. At Virginia Tech, 25 percent net of expenses is transferred to the athletic department from the university, which amounted to approximately $300,000 last year.

Since the university's brand is part of the jersey (and jerseys are often sold with inactive numbers, like Texas A&M's No. 12), student-athletes would surely have to split the money with some combination of the university and athletic department. Then there's the issue of whether jersey sales money would go directly to the student-athletes whose numbers are used on jerseys sold at retail or if those funds would be divided between all student-athletes.

For the ease of the math, let's say the split between the university and student-athletes was 50/50. Texas A&M's count of student-athletes last year was 674, according to data filed with the Department of Education.

Each student-athlete at Texas A&M last year would have received $44.28 if jersey sales were shared with all student-athletes. Wisconsin's 878 student-athletes would have each received $27.01. West Virginia's 533 student-athletes would have each received $53.22. Clemson's 472 would have come in at just $13.11 each.

Of course, revenue from jersey sales could go directly to the student-athlete whose number was associated. Universities only choose to produce jerseys with a few selected numbers each year, however. What if a student-athlete didn’t think he or she was getting the same opportunities as others? Would the potential for an issue be enough to keep universities from producing jerseys with the numbers of current players, effectively reducing their risk of a lawsuit? Perhaps.

Following revelations by ESPN's Jay Bilas earlier this week in which current student-athletes' names -- such as Manziel and Jadeveon Clowney -- were available in search results on the NCAA's online store, Mark Emmert announced Thursday the NCAA will no longer be in the business of selling jerseys. This doesn't impact the ability of schools to continue to sell jerseys, but it's foreseeable they might get out of the business of selling jerseys with numbers corresponding to current student-athletes if push came to shove.

Nancy Hogshead-Makar, the senior director of advocacy for the Women's Sports Foundation, says she thinks there's an issue bigger than simply how to divide the money.

"If the school says they want to give athletes extra money on top of any educational model -- on top of tuition, room and board and cost of attendance -- then they're employees. That's your biggest problem, not Title IX."

In addition to added costs, including payroll taxes, 401(k) plans and insurance, student-athletes becoming employees could put the athletic department's, and potentially even the university's, tax-exempt status at risk.

With a number of unresolved issues, and the relatively small amount of money at stake, it's tough to imagine student-athletes will be pocketing money from jersey sales anytime soon.

Video: Gary Patterson criticizes Miles, LSU

August, 8, 2013
8/08/13
1:30
PM CT

Big 12 blogger Jake Trotter reacts to TCU coach Gary Patterson's critical comments of LSU coach Les Miles for reinstating running back Jeremy Hill after his teammates voted to allow him to return to the team.

Bracket reveal: Maui Invitational

July, 17, 2013
7/17/13
10:30
AM CT
Editor's note: Over two days, we're releasing the brackets/matchups for 11 of the top early-season events. A thread of previews and info for all 11 tourneys can be found here.

Tournament bracket for the EA Sports Maui Invitational

When and where: Nov. 25-27 at the Lahaina Civic Center in Maui, Hawaii

Initial thoughts: The 2012 EA Sports Maui Invitational will be tough to top.

Chaminade’s stunning annihilation of Texas ... Rotnei Clarke’s buzzer-beater to lift Butler past Marquette ... North Carolina’s uncharacteristic display of mediocrity ... Illinois players hoisting the championship trophy after winning three games by an average of 23.3 points. Each game brought a new storyline.

This year’s event could provide similar drama. Although there is only one preseason top-10 team (Syracuse) in the bracket, the 2013 field is far from weak. Gonzaga spent time as the nation’s No. 1 team last season, Cal and Minnesota made the NCAA tournament, and Baylor won the NIT championship.

Each of those teams (with Baylor being the possible exception) should take a small step back this season, but all of them will still be solid and contend for NCAA tournament berths. In other words, there’s not a dud in this bunch, which leads me to believe that almost every game in this year’s event will be entertaining and competitive.

[+] EnlargeAndre Hollins
Kevin Jairaj/US PresswireMinnesota will be counting on Andre Hollins to provide a scoring punch again this season.
Matchup I can’t wait to see: Minnesota vs. Syracuse. Event organizers couldn’t ask for anything better than a first-round game pitting two of the biggest names in coaching: Pitino and Boeheim. Ha-ha. Gotcha. This isn’t Hall of Famer Rick Pitino we’re talking about. Instead it’ll be his son, Richard, coaching for Minnesota against Jim Boeheim’s Orange. Richard is in his first season with the Gophers after being plucked from Florida International to replace Tubby Smith. Minnesota lost two of its best players (forwards Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams) to graduation, but guards Austin Hollins and Andre Hollins return in the backcourt and may be able to make this game competitive, especially since Syracuse is replacing a few key parts as well.

Potential matchup I’d like to see: Baylor vs. Gonzaga. Baylor shouldn’t have any problems beating Chaminade in the opening round and advancing to the semifinals against either Gonzaga or Dayton. The Flyers are always pesky, but I still think Gonzaga wins that game. Baylor and Gonzaga have faced off in two of the past three seasons, with Gonzaga winning both times by single digits. But I’d pick the Bears in this one. The Zags lost their top two post players (Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris), and Baylor’s strength is in the paint with Cory Jefferson, Isaiah Austin, Ricardo Gathers, Taurean Prince and Royce O’Neale. Gonzaga boasts one of the country’s top point guards in Kevin Pangos while Baylor is searching for a replacement at that position following the graduation of Big 12 scoring leader Pierre Jackson. Still, Baylor’s overall depth in the backcourt is strong with experienced players such as Brady Heslip and Gary Franklin there to guide newcomers like Ishmail Wainright, Kenny Chery and Allerik Freeman.

Five players to watch

Justin Cobbs, Cal: Transfers are hit and miss, but things couldn’t have worked out any better when Cobbs left Minnesota for Cal a few years ago. The athletic guard averaged 15.1 points and 4.8 assists a game as a junior last season. He’ll be asked to do even more following the departure of leading scorer Allen Crabbe to the NBA.

Tyler Ennis, Syracuse: Returning standouts C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant are more recognizable names, but no player in the Maui Invitational will be under as much scrutiny as Ennis, the freshman point guard who has been tabbed to replace NBA lottery pick Michael Carter-Williams. How Syracuse fares in the ACC and, ultimately, the postseason will depend heavily on how Ennis performs in his first season of college basketball.

Andre Hollins, Minnesota: Hollins led the Gophers in scoring last season with 14.6 points per game. His 41-point effort in a victory over Memphis in the Battle 4 Atlantis was one of the top performances in college basketball all season. He should combine with Austin Hollins (no relation) to give Minnesota one of the more formidable backcourts in the Maui field. The biggest issue for the Gophers will be finding scoring down low.

Cory Jefferson, Baylor: The Bears power forward is fresh off a breakthrough season in which he averaged 13.3 points and eight rebounds a game. Jefferson was particularly effective in the postseason, when he averaged 21.2 points over a five-game stretch to lead Baylor to the NIT championship. The freakishly athletic Jefferson will combine with the 7-foot Austin and a bruiser in Gathers to give Baylor one of the nation’s top frontcourts.

Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga: A point guard, Pangos ranked third on the Zags in scoring last season with 11.9 points per game and averaged a team-high 3.3 assists. He shot just 42 percent from the field, a number that will need to increase this season. The loss of leading scorers Olynyk and Harris (who combined to average 32.4 PPG) means that Pangos will likely be asked to score at a higher rate.

Title game prediction: Syracuse over Baylor

Baylor has the size, depth, talent and experience to hang with Syracuse, and winning the championship of such an elite tournament would be a huge momentum boost for a squad loaded with potential. Syracuse, though, is an incredibly difficult team to prepare for on short notice because of its unorthodox style. Even though they lost Carter-Williams, James Southerland and Brandon Triche, the Orange aren’t short on experience, depth or talent either. Fair averaged a team-high 14.5 points and seven rebounds a game for a team that reached the Final Four last spring. Grant showed flashes of brilliance when his minutes increased during Southerland’s suspension, and DaJuan Coleman, Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita are poised for breakthrough seasons. They’ve proved they can excel at the highest level. Look for Syracuse to win an entertaining championship game.

Who others are picking:

Eamonn Brennan: Baylor over Syracuse
Jeff Goodman: Gonzaga over Syracuse
Andy Katz: Syracuse over Gonzaga
Myron Medcalf: Syracuse over Baylor
Dana O'Neil: Syracuse over Baylor

Bracket reveal: Old Spice Classic

July, 16, 2013
7/16/13
10:45
AM CT

Tournament bracket for the Old Spice Classic

When and where: Nov. 28-Dec. 1 at the HP Field House at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Orlando, Fla.

Initial thoughts: The Old Spice Classic field has rarely, if ever, approached the density or strength of the Maui Invitational (historically) or the Battle 4 Atlantis (more recently). It typically, though, has plenty by which to recommend it, and in 2013 more than most. Oklahoma State star Marcus Smart will lead a Cowboys team determined to unseat Kansas at the top of the Big 12 into the Wide World of Sports Complex as the undeniable favorite, but Memphis won't be that far away.

Meanwhile, we'll get a very early look at whether new Butler coach Brandon Miller will be able to field a tournament-ready team just a few months after Brad Stevens' departure to the NBA's Boston Celtics. We'll see if Purdue can bounce back from an ugly (but in many ways promising) 2012-13 season. Will Saint Joseph's' band of returning seniors be ready to make the leap everyone anticipated and gave up on a season ago? LSU has an intriguing rebuilding group that might push the top half of the SEC. We'll also see if Washington State, after losing seniors Brock Motum and Mike Ladd, is going to be so bad as to put coach Ken Bone on the proverbial hot seat. There are a variety of things worth watching in this bracket, and that includes the hoop.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Smart
AP Photo/Charlie RiedelMarcus Smart returns for his sophomore season after Oklahoma State made an early exit from the NCAA tournament last season.
Matchup I can’t wait to see: St. Joe's versus LSU. This isn't the best game of the first round. That honor goes to Oklahoma State-Purdue, and, really, it isn't close. But St. Joe's and LSU are intriguing for slightly similar reasons.

The Hawks were everyone's vogue pick to win the Atlantic 10 last season, based primarily on the assumption that 2011-12's cadre of sophomores -- the Hawks returned all five starters -- would improve and coalesce as juniors. Instead, the Hawks became merely the latest example of why the muddy mix of "returning players" and "experience" and "chemistry" doesn't always translate into improvement. But Phil Martelli still has a good chunk of those players back for another go at this, and if he can coax better defense from everyone, then Saint Joseph's might transform its narrative yet again.

Meanwhile, LSU probably wasn't as bad as you think in 2012-13. The Tigers weren't great, of course, but they finished in the top 100, and they bring in a surprisingly talented recruiting class. Johnny Jones got "yes" answers from three ESPN 100 players, including No. 3-ranked power forward Jarrell Martin -- the program's best recruit since Glen Davis.

Potential matchup I’d like to see: Oklahoma State versus Memphis. When it comes to early-season tournaments, there is very little reason to root for anything but the best basketball. Every now and then there's a backstory baked into the proceedings, like an old rivalry given a random renewal in November. But, for the most part, our desires can be expressed in the simplest of terms: good basketball. That's the case here. This early before the start of the season, Memphis appears to be the second-best team in this bracket, and its backcourt (Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford, both excellent offensive players) should be a fascinating matchup for Smart and running mate Markel Brown. Recently, Memphis has often stumbled out of the gate before otherwise-solid seasons, which has cost the Tigers valuable lines on their NCAA tournament seed in March. Reversing that trend isn't as important in their first season in the American Athletic Conference, but quality nonconference wins are still utterly crucial, and it's going to be hard to find better chances than this.

Five players to watch:

Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State: NBA scouts really like Smart's game, but they're in love with the intangibles -- his work ethic, his drive and his desire to succeed. Those qualities have earned raves from coaches as long as Smart has played basketball, and they helped transformed Oklahoma State from the defensively soft 2011-12 group into one of the nation's best defenses last season. Smart turned down a shot at being a top-five pick to return to Stillwater. If he has developed the skills to go from "really good" to "frighteningly dominant" -- slightly better ballhandling and much better shooting -- they'll be on display at the Old Spice Classic.

Shaq Goodwin, Memphis: Goodwin's freshman season wasn't quite as good as his recruiting hype foretold, but there were tantalizing bits littered throughout. Now with Memorial Never-Got-There Club member Tarik Black having transferred and Adonis Thomas having left for the NBA draft, the keys to the Memphis frontcourt are decidedly in Goodwin's hands.

A.J. Hammons, Purdue: The Boilermakers weren't the easiest team in the country to watch last season. When they were good, it was usually because they were guarding, not because they were setting the scoreboard alight. But Matt Painter has one thing most coaches don't: a legitimate 7-foot NBA prospect. Hammons is that guy, and it's not just because he's big. He's also athletic for his size, with good ball skills and footwork. If he returns from the summer with a bit less big-man baby fat and a bit more low-post polish, well, look out.

Jarrell Martin, LSU: As mentioned above, Martin is the No. 3-ranked power forward prospect in the class of 2013. What wasn't mentioned is he is also the No. 11 overall talent. In many incoming classes, this would be worth noting, but little more. With the 2013 class regarded as the deepest and most talented in a decade, if not longer, it is something more. In fact, Martin is the highest-ranked 2013 prospect to not choose Kentucky, Duke, Arizona or Kansas. His situation at LSU will be different and arguably more interesting for it. Can the long-dormant Tigers rise again?

Kellen Dunham, Butler: Former coach Brad Stevens earned the reputation for not needing talent -- that he almost had to find unsung players and mold them for his system to work. That's probably true in general, but there were already signs before his departure to the Celtics that Butler's recruiting had gone up a notch or two since the back-to-back title-game runs in 2010 and 2011. For one, Indiana forward Cody Zeller listed the Bulldogs as among his final three recruiting options (North Carolina being the third). For another, he landed Dunham. Sure, Dunham wasn't Zeller, but he was an ESPN Top 100 player, and he was solid and efficient in big minutes as a freshman. Dunham will have to be even more efficient in even bigger minutes as a sophomore, particularly from 3-point range from which he ended up shooting just 34.5 percent, but he's capable.

Title-game prediction: Oklahoma State over Memphis.

As I wrote above, you just root for good basketball in these things, and Memphis' backcourt (especially if Michael Dixon is able to play) by far looks like the most interesting challenge to Smart and Co. in the Old Spice. But I don't think it would be much of a challenge. Jackson can really put the ball on the floor, and Crawford is a lights-out shooter (even off the dribble), but Smart and Brown look like they're going to lock down pretty much everyone in the sport this season. The Tigers included. Cowboys win.

Who others are picking:

Andy Katz: Oklahoma State over Memphis
Jeff Goodman: Memphis over Purdue
Seth Greenberg: Oklahoma State over LSU
Jason King: Oklahoma State over Memphis
Myron Medcalf: Oklahoma State over Memphis
Dana O'Neil: Oklahoma State over Memphis

SPONSORED HEADLINES