A Birds-Eye View at the First 6 SEC Bowls

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Bowl season is officially underway, and the excitement of approaching games is growing by the day.  From the ultra-important CFB Playoff semi-final games, to rest of the New Year's Six bowls, and even to the lower-tier games, teams and players across the country will look to put an exclamation point on their seasons and finish their respective 2014-2015 campaigns on a high note.  This year's assortment of bowls featuring SEC teams is one of the most appetizing of postseason schedules that I can remember in years.  While you are waiting for these games and celebrating the holidays, join me in a birds-eye view of every SEC bowl game. 

Duck Commander Independence Bowl-Miami (6-6) vs. South Carolina (6-6)

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

When:

Saturday, Dec. 27 at 3:30 PM

Where:

Shreveport, LA

TV:

ABC

Preview: Spurrier & Gamecocks come off a disappointing regular season complete with 5 conference losses and a loss to in-state rival Clemson, 35-17. South Carolina would love to erase the bitter taste from their mouths with a win over a storied program in Miami. The Hurricanes have had a rough several years but have looked good at times this season. They almost upset the #3 FSU Seminoles.

SC Impact Players-RB Mike Davis, WR Pharoh Cooper

MIA Impact Players-QB Brad Kaaya, RB Duke Johnson

Prediction: HBC and South Carolina finish season on good note. Close game though. Watch out for SC's Pharoh Cooper; he'll have an outstanding day. SC 38-MIA 35


Autozone Liberty Bowl-Texas A&M (7-5) vs. West Virginia (7-5)

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

When:

Monday, Dec. 29 at 2 PM

Where:

Memphis, TN

TV:

ESPN

Preview: Texas A&M has had a 2014 full of highs and lows from pilling up losses, getting embarrassed by Alabama to upsetting then #3 Auburn. Defense for the Aggies has been sorely lacking and young QB Kyle Allen has been inconsistent. West Virginia is definitely a dangerous squad that upset Baylor earlier in the fall and nearly upset top conference teams TCU and Kansas State.  

TA&M Impact Players-WR Speedy Noil, DL Myles Garrett

WVU Impact Players-QB Clint Trickett, WR Kevin White

Prediction: Dana Holgerson has always had a good offense in Morgantown, and that certainly hasn't changed this year.  Trickett and White will pick apart the poor A&M secondary and prove to be too much for the Aggies. WVU 48-TA&M 35


Advocare V100 Texas Bowl-Arkansas (6-6) vs. Texas (6-6)

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

When:

Monday, Dec. 29 at 9 PM

Where:

Houston, TX

TV:

ESPN

Preview: Arkansas might be the best 6-6 team in the country.  Then again, being bowl eligible in the SEC West is quite an accomplishment in and of itself. In his second year, Head Coach Bret Bielema has transformed his Razorbacks into a physical and imposing squad with a strong running attack. Texas has struggled in Charlie Strong's first year in Austin.  It has been a tough year for a mediocre team. The defense is pretty good though. 

ARK-RB Jonathan Williams, LB Martrell Spaight

TX-RB Malcolm Brown, WR John Harris

Prediction: Texas can play defense, but so can Arkansas.  Look for this game to be a physical and rough-and-tumble matchup.  Razorback running game proves to be too much.  ARK 24-TX 13


Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl-Notre Dame (7-5) vs. #23 LSU (8-4)

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

When:

Tuesday, Dec. 30 at 3 PM

Where:

Nashville, TN

TV:

ESPN

Preview: Notre Dame started off 2014 with a fantastic 6-0 start until they lost in a close game to then #2 Florida State.  From there the season took a turn for the worst.  Notre Dame beat Navy the next week then lost four straight to close out the regular season.  LSU has been decimated by key graduations and NFL departures over the last several years.  The Tigers are young and have been inconsistent all year.  Still, the Tigers can be dangerous.  They have one of the top defenses in college football and an emerging star at running back in Leonard Fournette. 

ND Impact Players-QB Everett Golson, WR William Fuller

LSU Impact Players-RB Leonard Fournette, LB Kwon Alexander

Prediction: Notre Dame is one of the most storied programs in college football.  Their presence always makes a game more interesting and when you have a dual-threat weapon like QB Everett Golson, you always have a chance.  However, Les Miles and LSU will get the better of the Irish thanks to a stingy defense and the physical running abilities of Fournette. LSU 28-Notre Dame 14


Belk Bowl-#13 Georgia (9-3) vs. #21 Louisville (9-3)

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

When:

Tuesday, Dec. 30 at 6:30 PM

Where: 

Charlotte, NC

TV: 

ESPN

Preview: Georgia's 2014 season has been a tale of the good and the bad from a dominating 34-7 win over Auburn to two heartbreaking losses to South Carolina and GA Tech as well as an ugly and humiliating loss to Florida.  They have one of top offenses in the country and a defense that is very good at times.  The Bulldogs have tended to not really show up in the postseason in their last several appearances.  They have lost the 3 of their last 4 bowl games.  However, this game might be a different story.  One of the big storylines of this game will be Todd Grantham.  He's now the Louisville DC after leaving UGA in 2013.  Grudges are still alive and well.  Louisville has one of the best defensive units in the country, but they'll have a tough time stopping UGA RB Nick Chubb who is one of the leading rushers in the SEC despite starting only about half of the season.  

UGA Impact Players-RB Nick Chubb, QB Hutson Mason

LOU Impact Players-DE Lorenzo Mauldin, DB Gerod Holliman

Prediction: UGA is motivated.  The Louisville defense has been one of the best against the run, but they'll see Nick Chubb for the first time.  Both offenses will have a nice day given that the Georgia offense is so dangerous and that UGA will be without their leading pass-rusher in LB Leonard Floyd. This game will prove to be a nail-biter.  UGA 38-Louisville 35


Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl-#9 Ole Miss (9-3) vs. #6 TCU (11-1)

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

When:

Wednesday, Dec. 31 at 12:30 PM

Where:

Atlanta, GA

TV:

ESPN

Preview: Hugh Freeze and his Ole Miss squad have enjoyed a very successful 2014 campaign highlighted by wins over now #1 Alabama and then #3 Mississippi State.  The Rebels' offense has been pretty good this year but has been limited after the loss of leading receiver Laquon Treadwell.  The big story is the defense.  It not only has been one of top units in the country but also is 1st in points allowed only giving up an average of 13.8 points per game.  It also has arguably the best secondary in the country led by DB Cody Pruitt and the SEC's interception leader Senquez Golson.  This will make for a very exciting matchup with TCU as the Horned Frogs have one of the most lethal passing games in the country led by QB Trevone Boykin. TCU averages over 48 points which ranks 2nd in the country.  

UM Impact Players-QB Bo Wallace, DB Senquez Golson

TCU Impact Players-QB Trevone Boykin, WR Josh Doctson

Prediction: "Good Bo" shows up.  Game proves to be a shootout.  Jaylen Walton has a night to remember on the ground and on special teams.  The Ole Miss secondary forces a Trevone Boykin mistake to seal it.  Ole Miss 48-TCU 45.


Follow me on Twitter: @legitjaydawg




















Why I'd Take Mariota Over Winston Any Day

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Let's give a big congratulations to quarterback Marcus Mariota of Oregon for winning the prestigious Heisman Trophy about a week ago.  This man totally deserved it.  This huge achievement also made the upcoming CFB Playoff semi-final matchup in the Rose Bowl that much sweeter.  #2 Oregon, led by the aformentioned Heisman-winning Mariota, will take on the undefeated, #3 Florida State Seminoles led by last year's Heisman winner, QB Jameis Winston. While both of these players have proven over time to be elite talents, I'd take Mariota over Winston any day of the week.  Here's why.

First off, let's look at the stats. They are both two of the top quarterbacks in college football.  Last season, Winston was truly special.  Winston burst onto the scene in Tallahassee by throwing for over 4,000 yards with 40 touchdowns.  He also completed an impressive 66.9% of his passes.  He became one of the most recognized faces in all of college football due in part to his outgoing self and leading his Seminoles to a BCS Championship victory over Auburn.  

Unfortunately, this is not nearly all he is known for.  In fall of 2013, Winston was accused of raping a woman in the Tallahassee area.  While never proven true, this situation was sketchy at best as Winston's DNA was connected to the alleged victim, and there were rumors of a cover-up.  (The hearing for this has been further delayed.) Either way, Jameis certainly received some bad press during this process, but that's not all.  

In the offseason and going into the regular season, Winston was on the news more often than not for some things I'm sure Head Coach Jimbo Fisher regrets including stealing a soda from a fast-food restaurant, being among teammates when they shot out an apartment window with a BB gun, stealing crab legs from a Publix nearby, and standing on a table in the FSU Student Union shouting explicit vulgarities. The thing that is so sad about the ordeal is that Winston doesn't seem that remorseful. I guess it doesn't matter if you talk the talk but don't walk the walk.  

"Famous Jameis" Winston Has Had a Slew of Off-the-Field Troubles
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Anyway, Jameis has not had quite as good of a 2014 as he did last season.  He's thrown for 3,559 yards with 24 touchdowns but with a scary 17 interceptions.  You can definitely say that he has not been as accurate, but he still finds a way to lead FSU to wins (albeit in the ACC).  Winston is still one of the biggest offensive weapons in college football, and his record speaks for itself.  He has never lost a game at Florida State as a starter. 

The young man he will be facing in a week or so is Marcus Mariota.  Mariota has had a very impressive career during his time in Eugene, Oregon, breaking most of the passing records there.  The Hawaiian native is not only an extremely accurate passer and has a good arm, but he is also a very adept and swift runner.  He has thrived in Mark Helfrich's system and has thrown for 3,783 yards with 38 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. That is truly remarkable.  He's also added another 669 yards and 14 scores on the ground.  He is the best quarterback in all of college football and is arguably the most dynamic playmaker in the game.  

What's more important about Mariota is his conduct off the gridiron.  Known to be somewhat of a quiet guy, Mariota is shy at times and prefers to lead by example not just by words.  He has been known by teammates to pick up trash, hand out food to homeless people, and do other admirable things.  Mariota is also a very humble individual who is truly a prime example of what we love in a college football player.  This guy is an exemplarary figure on and off the field.  

Overall, Winston and Mariota are both two of the best quarterbacks in the nation, but let's face it, Mariota has been better.  He seems to be an even better person also.  I'm not trying to dog Jameis, but integrity appears to be something he doesn't have a lot of.  All the NFL scouts are drooling over Mariota and rightfully so.  It's not a coincidence that the Oregon Ducks are in the first ever CFB Playoff.  

More and more, college football has simply become about making money and finding the easiest path to the NFL and not caring how you get there.  Mariota is an exception.  He's the best quarterback in the land but also does things the right way.  That's why I'd take Mariota over Winston any day of the week.  

Follow me on twitter: @legitjaydawg











SEC Title Game Preview & Predictions

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

It's that time again. It's the week of the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. Alabama is back after a one year absence due to a heart-breaking loss in last year's Iron Bowl. Last Saturday, Auburn fought hard, but Alabama pulled away in dominant fashion after clinching the title of the best in the West. The upstart Missouri Tigers have had amazing success in the SEC and clinched their second straight appearance in Georgia's capital city with a, 21-14, win over Arkansas. This weekend's game will have significant implications on the College Football Playoff, the destiny of these two teams, and the destiny of this conference. Let's look at this game more in depth.

#1 Alabama (11-1) vs. #16 Missouri (10-2)

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Where

Atlanta, GA

When

Saturday, Dec. 6 at 4 PM ET

TV

CBS

Impact Players: 

Alabama-WR Amari Cooper, QB Blake Sims, RB T.J. Yeldon

Missouri-DE Shane Ray, WR Bud Sasser, DE Markus Golden

Preview: The Tide are rollin' again.  Alabama is coming off a, 55-44, win over Auburn in the Iron Bowl. The win showed resiliency as Bama QB Blake Sims overcame a start marred with 3 interceptions with a strong second half going 10-of-12 with 3 passing touchdowns while adding another on the ground. Alabama has finished the regular season with an 11-1 record and look to be one of the top teams in college football. 

The X-factor for Alabama this season and in this game in particular is wide receiver Amari Cooper. Cooper leads the SEC in receiving yards with 1,537 on 103 receptions with 14 touchdowns.  He is an absolute game-changer, bringing back memories of recent pass-catching greats like Julio Jones and A.J. Green. He is the total package as he is adept at route running, has very good speed, and is a very reliable target. He is a true deep threat that Lane Kiffin has utilized brilliantly to help his Tide win games.   

Heisman Contender Amari Cooper Has Had a Remarkable Junior Season
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The big question mark for Alabama in the offseason and for an earlier portion of the regular season was who would step up at the quarterback position to take over the reins from talented graduate AJ McCarron.  Blake Sims has certainly done that. The Senior from Gainesville, GA, has thrown for almost 3,000 yards (best in the SEC) and 24 touchdowns and has completed 63.1% of his passes. Veteran RB T.J. Yeldon leads the Tide rushing attack which has been very dominate over the years. He has carried the ball 170 times for 885 yards and 8 scores while sharing the backfield with the hard-nosed Derrick Henry, who has amassed another 754 yards and 8 touchdowns on the ground. The Tide offensive line is once more a strong unit anchored in the middle by center Ryan Kelly. 

On the other side of the ball, Alabama's defense is again one of the best in the country.  They boast the #2 rushing defense in the country led by a solid defensive line led inside by nose guards A'Shawn Robinson and Brandon Ivory as well as three stud linebackers in Reggie Ragland, Xzavier Dickson, and Trey DePriest. The Tide allow the 6th least points per game with a 16.9 average. 

The big story when it comes to Missouri is their defensive line.  The Tigers are led by one of the top defensive lines in the country bookended by two of the top defensive ends in the country in Shane Ray and Markus Golden. Both have NFL Draft 1st round potential and are physical specimens. Ray leads the SEC in QB sacks with 13.5 while Markus Golden has added 62 total tackles, 8.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. Linebacker Kentrell Brothers is the top tackler on the squad with 103.  Missouri boasts a top 25 defense in college football and ranks 16th in the nation in points allowed. 

 Mizzou's offense is led by QB Maty Mauk, who, although inconsistent, can be a very proficient passer at times as well as running back Russell Hansborough who has rushed for 949 yards and 9 touchdowns.  Bud Sasser leads the Tigers in receiving as he is 96 yards short from breaking 1,000 on the year. He also happens to be one of the best receivers in the SEC.  

Mizzou DE Shane Ray Leads the SEC in Sacks
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The guy that is one of the most notable players on the Missouri offense is Marcus Murphy. He is just a dynamic playmaker.  Murphy is not only the second leading rusher in Columbia, but also has proven to be a solid pass-catcher. What he's most known for though is his time on special teams. He's one of fastest and most electric kick returners in the country and is a threat to take it the distance each time he touches the ball. He has scored three times on special teams. 

Overall, this game looks to be strongly in Alabama's favor. Missouri has got to be the weaker team as they barely got out of a down SEC East this year. Alabama is pretty much the complete package. However, like many Alabama teams of late, the secondary has been vulnerable at times, and the kicking game has been an adventure to say the least. If Mizzou wants to upset the Tide and all but bash the hopes of an SEC team getting into the CFB Playoff, Maty Mauk and crew will have to spread them out and make plays in the passing game. However, they cannot be one-dimensional. That is where Hansborough and Murphy come in. 

Look for the Tigers to utilize their pass-rushing defensive ends and a solid defense to try and put a lot of pressure upon Blake Sims from the get-go, try to slow down Yeldon and Henry, and minimize the effectiveness of Amari Cooper (good luck).  For Alabama, look for the Tide to keep doing what they do. That is, establish the run game and put the ball in Cooper's hands. 

It would be extremely difficult for Missouri to pull the upset over the powerhouse Alabama squad. Still, Mizzou can be dangerous, and it is the SEC. I got a feeling this game might be closer than some people think.  Remember the often heard statement about this conference, anything can happen "on any given Saturday." 

Prediction: Alabama 38-Mizzou 28




My CFB Playoff Top 4

I'm back! After an unforeseen absence due to other writing responsibilities earlier this fall, I am finally able to get back to my blog. First off, what a college football season it has been!  The Week 13 CFB Playoff Top 25 was released Tuesday night, and as always, everyone was focused on who would be the top four teams in the country in the committee's eyes. Last Saturday, the national landscape was shaken dramatically as the #5 Alabama Crimson Tide upset the #1 Mississippi State Bulldogs in Tuscaloosa, AL. As Bama was sure to rise in the rankings, the big burning question was how far MSU would drop. You know the answers according to the committee, but here are my top four teams in college football. 

1. Alabama (9-1)

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Hell hath no fury like Nick Saban after disappointment. After losing 23-17 to Ole Miss in Oxford, MS, in early October, and getting a scare from Arkansas the next week, the Tide have been virtually flawless. The Tide's resume includes a 59-0 dominating performance against Texas A&M, an overtime win against LSU, and a defeat of top ranked Mississippi State at home last Saturday afternoon.

The Tide are loaded with talent. Nick Saban has done an outstanding job of recruiting in Tuscaloosa. The controversial hiring of Lane Kiffin has turned out to be a great decision. Kiffin has completely revitalized the Alabama offense. Many thought that the Tide might take a step back this year after losing talented signal-caller AJ McCarron to graduation. However, Blake Sims has stepped up to the plate and the quarterback position has not seen much drop-off. Sims has thrown for 2,454 yards with 18 touchdowns with only 3 interceptions. He has also used his athleticism to add 280 yards and 5 scores on the ground. Kiffin also has two solid running backs in T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry, and the best wide receiver in America in Heisman contender Amari Cooper who has over 1,300 receiving yards and 11 TDs. On the defensive side of the ball, Kirby Smart's unit is once again a top ten defense and is 2nd in the nation in points allowed with 14.5. The Tide hiccuped early, but Alabama continues to prove to the nation that they are truly special.

Best Wins: #4 Mississippi State, #8 Ole Miss, & LSU

2. Florida State (10-0)

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Controversy, scandals, and player issues have been the face of FSU this year.  The main person everyone is talking about is last season's Heisman winner Jameis Winston. The Noles star quarterback is immature to say the least and has done some really head-scratching and ill-advised things. Ok, he has done stupid and idiotic acts. Many in Tallahassee have turned a blind eye to what has gone on at FSU. Ultimately, everyone has to look at head coach Jimbo Fisher for answers. He obviously does not make integrity of the program a high priority. Win at all costs. Anyway, say what you will, but the Seminoles of Florida State are still the only Power 5 undefeated team in college football. 

On the offensive side of the ball, the Seminoles are led by several key players from last year's national championship squad including star quarterback Jameis Winston and leading receiver Rashad Greene (1,042 yards and 5 scores). FSU is led in the run game by the physical Karlos Williams and a homerun threat in freshman RB Dalvin Cook who have combined for over 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground. The defense has been suspect this year in some part due to the key departures of DB Lamarcus Joyner and DL Timmy Jernigan as well as defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

Regardless, FSU is still undefeated. They have looked vulnerable and on the brink of virtual playoff elimination all season. Still, Jameis Winston and crew have found a way to win and, barring a loss to either UF or GT in the ACC Championship Game, should make it into the first ever college football playoff come December. 

Best Wins: Louisville, Clemson, & Notre Dame

3. Oregon (9-1)

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Speed, up-tempo, athletic, dangerous offense. That's what the Oregon Ducks have come to be known for over recent years. Oregon has had a juggernaut offense, and that has not changed this year in the slightest. Even when the Ducks lose explosive players at the skill positions, they just seem to reload. It will be hard for the Ducks to not feel the effects of the departure of a certain native Hawaiian when he goes on to the greener pastures of the National Football League. I am talking about Marcus Mariota. You know, that dude that basically owns every passing record at Oregon including setting the record for the Ducks in career passing yards, passing TDs, and completions. The 6-4, 219 lbs. junior is the best quarterback in the country in my estimation. Not only has he thrown for 2,780 yards, 29 touchdowns, and remarkably only 2 interceptions. The dual-threat weapon has also added 524 yards on the ground and 8 touchdowns. The Oregon offense is complemented by RB Royce Freeman who has rushed for almost 1,000 yards and 14 scores, while Byron Marshall and Devon Allen lead the Ducks in receiving. 

Best Wins:  Michigan State, UCLA, & Utah

4. Mississippi State (9-1)

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Mullen and his Bulldogs have certainly had a special turn-around season in Starkville this fall.  After a 7-6 season in 2013 and less-than-stellar seasons previously, some fans were starting to grumble. That has changed in a dramatic way in 2014. Mississippi State has enjoyed one of their most successful seasons in school annals. One of the big reasons for this monumental rise has been the leadership of Heisman-hopeful QB Dak Prescott. Prescott is a dual-threat quarterback who is the focal point of the Bulldogs' offense and is very similar to Tim Tebow in his tough running style and being an air threat, although Prescott appears to be the better passer. 

Prescott has put up 2,521 yards through the air for 20 touchdowns. He has also added 861 yards and 11 scores on the ground as well. The stocky and physical Josh Robinson leads State in rushing as he has posted 1,021 yards and 11 touchdowns. De'Runnya Wilson is Prescott's top target through the air as he has hauled in 30 catches for almost 500 yards and 6 trips to the endzone. 

Mississippi State is a solid football team and has enjoyed incredible success that hasn't been seen that often in "The Magnolia State." The loss to Alabama was a "good" loss, and Miss State still may get in the playoff with only one loss and could make history this January. 

Best Wins: Auburn, LSU, & Texas A&M

Overall, the final playoff selection on December 7th will be very interesting. Will the SEC get two teams in the four? Will Baylor get the nod over TCU since they won head-to-head? These are all questions that Jeff Long and crew will have to answer as we get closer and closer to the postseason. 

















Gurley, Dawgs Head to Columbia to Face South Carolina

UGA's Todd Gurley Is a Heisman Frontrunner
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

What a start to the season for the Georgia Bulldogs! The then 12th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs hosted the #16 Clemson Tigers in Athens, GA. Many expected (including me) this would be a close game, but thanks to 298 all-purpose yards by Junior running back Todd Gurley, who showed that he is in serious contention to bring home the Heisman Trophy this year, the Bulldogs had their way with Clemson, 45-20.  Although UGA lost an all-time great quarterback in Aaron Murray, their offense didn't see very much drop-off in 2014 in part because of a strong offensive line and a tough running game.  The Bulldogs revamped defensive unit led by Jeremy Pruitt played extremely well and played hard and disciplined for most of the game.  After a bye week for the Dawgs, all eyes are focused on Georgia's first SEC game against South Carolina in Columbia. Let's take a look at the key players in this game.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia-RB Todd Gurley: Amassed almost 300 total yards in the opening game against Clemson including a 100 yard kickoff return.  He is the best running back in the nation and a threat to do something special every time he touches the ball. He has a great chance of being one of the Heisman finalists later this year.

Georgia-OLB Leonard Floyd: Had a breakout freshman season and coaches and teammates have been all over him this offseason. Floyd had 7 tackles and 2 sacks against Clemson two Saturdays ago. He's an All-American in the making and will be pivotal for Georgia to get Dylan Thompson's jersey dirty on Saturday afternoon.

Georgia-ILB Amarlo Herrera/Ramik Wilson: The two interior linebackers will be important in this game. They will not only pressure the quarterback but also will be called upon to stuff the South Carolina Gamecock's run game. Herrera led UGA in tackles against Clemson with 12 total and 2 sacks. Wilson played a nice role in the clash with the Tigers, but he was limited in his playing time. Wilson was the leading tackler in the SEC a year ago.

Getty Images

South Carolina-RB Mike Davis: Davis is the leader of Gamecock offense.  He is also one of the top backs in college football. He was limited by an injury in the Gamecock's first game, but looks to be back to normal.  The Atlanta, GA, native had over 1,100 yards on the ground in 2013 and saw some success against UGA last year. Look for Steve Spurrier to rely heavily on the feats of his premier tailback on Saturday. 

South Carolina-LB Skai Moore: Moore had a great season in 2013 in which he led his Gamecocks in tackles with 58 and also garnered Freshman All-SEC honors.  He should be relied on even more heavily by South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward to fill the large hole left by the NFL's #1 pick in DE Jadeveon Clowney. 

South Carolina-QB Dylan Thompson: Gone is Connor Shaw. Here comes veteran Dylan Thompson to the plate. He is a talented passer and showed that at times in back up roles over the past several seasons.  The one thing he has to work on is his consistency. Overall, he can be a weapon for the Gamecocks.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Game Preview: The #6 Bulldogs enter Columbia flying high after a statement win against Clemson and a nice bye to rest.  The #24 Gamecocks were completely embarrassed on their home turf in Week 1 when Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies dominated Carolina. Then in Week 2, South Carolina squeaked by the East Carolina Pirates thanks to several field goals from Elliot Fry. 

A lot of people have counted the Gamecocks out in the SEC East race and have looked on to others.  Spurrier and his Gamecocks will be fighting mad when Georgia comes calling and hope to see the same result as they did the last time the Dawgs came to Columbia. That was in 2012, and Georgia was shellacked by the Cocks by a score of 35-7. 

This game will be UGA's first SEC game of 2014 and should be a factor in the quest to reach Atlanta. This is a must-win for the Gamecocks, and the Bulldogs would love to be undefeated after two back-to-back tough matchups. For the Georgia offense, look for offensive coordinator Mike Bobo to try to establish the run early in the game behind the likes of Preseason All-American Todd Gurley, fellow junior Keith Marshall, and two impressive freshman backs in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. At the quarterback position is 5th-year senior Hutson Mason. Mason will look to feed off a strong running game to take the pressure off of him and light up the the less-than-stellar Gamecock secondary through the air.  Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt will look to build on a strong defensive start and attempt to limit Mike Davis and put pressure on Dylan Thompson. 

On the opposite sideline stands the Ol' Ball Coach Steve Spurrier. First of all, let's stop to praise Spurrier on his job at South Carolina. He has taken an a perennial cellar-dweller in the SEC and taken them to 3-straight double-digit win seasons for the first time in school history. The Cock's offense is lead by veteran QB Dylan Thompson, star RB Mike Davis, as well as a receiving corps led by Nick Jones, Damiere Byrd, Shaq Roland, and Pharoh Cooper.  South Carolina lost a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball in 2013 including All-American DE Jadeveon Clowney. The Cocks top returnees are LB Skai Moore, SPUR Sharrod Golightly, and DT J.T. Surratt.

Overall, look for Mike Davis to have a little success against the Bulldogs on the ground but for the Georgia defense to still be pretty solid. Georgia's running game led by Todd Gurley and the play-action passing of Hutson Mason will prove to be too much for a reeling Gamecocks team.  






CFB: Top 5 Heisman Candidates for 2014


Michael Nagle/Getty Images

The 2014 college football season is coming soon! A huge storyline every college season is who will be named the best player in the nation and lift the Heisman Trophy. Jameis Winston won the Heisman last year after an outstanding freshman season. This year as always, there are many talented playmakers across the nation who will compete for this year's edition of one of the most prized individual awards in American sports.  Here are my top five candidates coming into 2014.  

1. QB Jameis Winston, FSU


Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Yes, he won it last year, and yes, he is the favorite again this year. In his remarkable Heisman-winning season last year, Winston passed for 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns while winning multiple awards, going 14-0, and throwing the game-winning touchdown in the BCS Championship game.  Pretty good season, I would say.  Jameis will look to stash aside his bling this season and build on his accomplishments. He will be the focal point of the FSU offense in 2014 and should put up huge numbers again in Tallahassee. Winston has a great arm and can also tuck it and run it himself and pick up a few yards when called upon even though he is primarily known as a pocket-passer. He is a bonafide superstar, and his team should see a little success this year as well.  

2. QB Nick Marshall, Auburn


Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images
Auburn surely experienced their fair share of miraculous finishes and a little luck along the way to an SEC Championship-winning season and were thirteen seconds away from pulling an upset of the FSU Seminoles and winning it all.  Despite some magical finishes, make no mistake, Auburn was and is loaded with talent.  One huge reason for the Tiger's success in 2013 was the emergence of one of the top playmakers and best all-around athletes in college football.  That man is QB Nick Marshall.  

Marshall was a JUCO transfer that burst on to the scene, passing for almost 2,000 yards and rushing for another 1,068. This year Auburn will be without Heisman finalist RB Tre Mason who has gone on to the NFL. Marshall will now be the main vocal point of the offense for Gus Malzahn's Auburn squad. Marshall is an extremely talented playmaker who is extremely adept at not only tucking the ball and running himself but also is a very underrated passer.  Look for his passing stats to improve in 2014 and for Marshall again to put up huge numbers on the Plains.  

3. QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon


Getty Images
Mark Helfrich's has consistently one of the top offenses in college football.  Mariota is the perfect fit to run the up-tempo and high-powered Duck O in Eugene.  Mariota embodies the speed, athleticism, and dual-threat ability that Oregon desperately wants in a QB. In this offense, look for Mariota to put up huge numbers again this season.  In 2013, Mariota threw for 3,665 yards for 31 TDs and rushed for 715 yards and scored 9 times.  He is truly an offensive juggernaut at Oregon and with guys like WR Josh Huff and WR/RB De'Anthony Thomas gone to the greener pastures of the NFL, look for Mariota to be called upon even more to lead his team.  

4. QB Braxton Miller, Ohio State


Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
Urban Meyer has done a fantastic job in Colombus.  Then again, it helps having Braxton Miller as your QB.  This man can play.  In 2013, the now Senior QB from Huber Heights, Ohio, threw for 2,094 yards and 24 touchdowns.  He also rushed for a 1,068 more yards with 12 TDs on the ground.  He's one of the top dual-threat QBs in the nation.  He's fast, and he's got a great arm.  With the Big Ten grind (Ok, more like coast), Miller should again stuff the stat sheets and contend for a spot in the new CFB playoff.

5. RB Todd Gurley, Georgia


Getty Images
Yes, a RB actually breaks into my top five Heisman contenders' list.  Todd Gurley is a beast, plain and simple. He's got NFL scouts drooling over him and thinking he might slip up into the 1st round of the NFL draft which is rare for a running back in this day and age.  Gurley is the perfect blend of size, speed, agility, and power.  He is very hard to bring down and is known for his ability to break tackles. He is without a doubt the best running back in all of college football. Last season, Gurley battled injuries much of the year but still managed to rush for almost 1,000 yards and 10 scores.  He also showed his ability to catch passes out of the backfield by compiling 441 receiving yards and 6 TDs. He's a preseason 1st Team All-American for a reason.  With a QB like Aaron Murray departing, Gurley might be depended on more to lead this Georgia offense.  And yes, he'll definitely play on Sundays one of these days.  

Best of the Rest: QB Bryce Petty, Baylor; QB Brett Hundley, UCLA; RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin, RB Mike Davis, South Carolina

For more football news and news from the world of sports, follow me on Twitter: @legitjaydawg


What's Next for the USMNT?


TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Sad to say, the World Cup is officially over.  The USMNT had a good World Cup overall.  The US got out of the "Group of Death" despite the doubters and showed that they can compete with the best. Jurgen Klinsmann has been somewhat of a controversial manager at times, but his decision-making overall has been pretty good. This 2014 World Cup has been one to remember.  It has galvanised the US fans and seem to be another step in the US becoming a full-fledged soccer nation.  So what's next for the USMNT? Let's find out. 

Future Friendlies

Sept. 3: USMNT vs. Czech Republic

Nov. 18: USMNT vs. Republic of Ireland

The United States keeps looking forward as it schedules two international friendlies a few months after the World Cup. The first is against the Czech Republic in one of Europe's most beautiful cities in Prague on September 3.  Also according to Irish Media reports last week, the Republic of Ireland has agreed to host the US in an international friendly match in Dublin, Ireland.  The US will of course play other friendlies as well in the future.  


2015 Gold Cup

The CONCACAF confederation had a fine showing in the World Cup and earned a little more respect when it comes to the world stage.  The United States and Mexico both got out of their group and barely lost to two good teams in the Round of 16.  Costa Rica proved to be the cinderella team this summer in Brazil as Los Ticos bonded together and got all the way to the Quarter-finals where they lost to the Netherlands in penalties.  

The CONCACAF's success will make for an even more exciting Gold Cup next summer.  The Gold Cup, for any soccer novice, takes place every two years and is the championship of the CONCACAF confederation.  It pits twelve teams from CONCACAF in a tournament to decide this confederation's championship. The 2015 edition should feature teams like defending champ USA, the talented Mexicans, the dangerous Costa Ricans, 2013 runner-up Panama, among others.  There is a series of qualifications that takes place for every team except the US, Mexico, and Canada.

The winner of the 2015 Gold Cup will face the defending champ United States in a playoff to decide who gets the CONCACAF's bid to represent the region in the 2017 Confederations Cup (more on that later).  If the US wins the Gold Cup next year, it automatically is guaranteed a spot in the Confederations Cup.  The Gold Cup will also serve as qualification for our next event.  

2016 Copa America Centenario & the Summer Olympics

The Copa America, or the tournament to decide the South American or CONMEBOL champion, is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016.  For this special edition, the Cup will not only feature top teams of South America but also several top CONCACAF teams. The Copa America Centenario will be hosted in the United States.  Thus the home team US squad and Mexico will not have to qualify for this tournament.  This competition will most likely be another great step in growing soccer in the United States. Just think, Neymar and Brazil, Messi and Argentina, Suarez and Uruguay, James Rodriguez and Colombia possibly playing in your backyard.  

The scheduling and logistics of the Copa America Centenario will be quite complicated and crazy because there is another big event coming up that same summer. That event is in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which will host the Summer Olympics.  Yes, football, a.k.a soccer, is in the Olympics.  In the Olympics each country (that qualifies) has to field an U-23 squad, so we will not see the same talent that we see in other competitions. Mexico took the gold medals in the 2012 edition. Could hometown Brazil get revenge? 

2017 FIFA Confederations Cup & 2018 World Cup 

Granted the US either win the 2015 Gold Cup or beat the winner in a playoff, they will clinch a spot in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.  It's kind of like a warm-up for the World Cup.  It's obviously not as important, but it still gives teams another chance to showcase their talents and seize bragging rights.  Sorry, Brazil, that didn't last long.  

Then in 2018, we have another World Cup which will hopefully have as much drama as this year's edition.  Will Germany defend their title and could they be a dynasty? Will Brazil even qualify? There are many questions like these that will be answered in 4 years time.

Overall, I am sad that the World Cup is over, but there's still a lot going on with the USMNT. From friendlies, qualifiers, and big tournaments, we'll see the last of some beloved veterans and the emergence of new stars. Looking forward to the Gold Cup, until then time for the other football.

For more sports news, follow me on Twitter: @legitjaydawg

Looking back: The Controversial Suarez

When Uruguayan star striker Luis Suarez bit Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini in last Tuesday's game at the World Cup, shockwaves exploded across the internet and into houses across the globe.  Not only did it prove a hit to Suarez's career in the short term, it also hurt his team and lost the trust of many people.  This bite was bad enough, but it's not Suarez's only history of problems.

Yeah, he's done it before.  In 2010 when Suarez was at Ajax in the Dutch Eredivisie league, he served a seven game suspension after biting PSV Eindhoven MF Otman Bakkal. The same year he got in trouble for an intentional handball on a header bound toward the goal against Ghana. Fast-forward a year to Liverpool vs. Manchester United, Suarez received an eight game ban and was fined for racially abusing an opposing player.  

Then in 2013, Suarez bit Chelsea D Branislav Ivanovic and was suspended for 10 games.  What's worse after his most recent escapade is that Suarez denied biting Chiellini deliberately.  Suarez said, "I lost my balance, making my body unstable, and falling on top of my opponent." Well, we now know he's a liar too.  Watch the replay!  He clearly bit the Italian defender DELIBERATELY. 

The Infamous Teeth Marks Left by Suarez on Tuesday

The most glaring problem with Suarez is his biting scandals.  What could make a man bite another player out of anger? Apart from it being awful, biting is just strange and doesn't make sense for a grown man to do.  A normal soccer player's first reflex as a defense mechanism or act of aggression is to shove someone, or slide tackle them, or even elbow them.  But who bites? There is something clearly wrong with Suarez.  This guy has to have some type of mental problem and needs to see a psychologist. 

But of course this guy gets a pass because he is an athlete.  He's a good one as well.  He's considered by many as one of the superstars of soccer and was a major reason Liverpool experienced so much success in the EPL this season.  Suarez is a difference maker.  This is evidenced on the club level and at the international level as well.  

Luis Suarez Has Proven to Be One of the Stars in the Premier League 

After the public outrage of the Suarez bite last week, FIFA banned Suarez from nine international matches and a four month suspension from all football related activities.  He was also fined $112,000. This will not only hurt and has hurt the Uraguayan side, but it will also affect Liverpool FC as they will be missing Suarez for the early part of the EPL season.  Suarez will certainly regret his actions, but is the suspension enough? 

No, it's not.  It's his third biting offense as we have already mentioned.  The suspension levied by FIFA won't really affect Suarez's livelihood.  I mean; he has a net worth of 40 million dollars.  The fine is just a scratch on the surface of Suarez's wealth.  

What should happen is that he should be suspended from all football events for at least a year and have to pay more fines. That won't happen.  He's a great player which means more success and more money.  That's the bottom line. It's about money.  Funny how it blinds people, even when biting is involved.  

For more World Cup news and news throughout the sports world, follow me on Twitter: @legitjaydawg

A Nation's Hopes Live On

Pressure. That's what Brazil was facing.  Every member of the Brazilian squad was under enormous pressure from both their hometown fans and the world as a whole.  A country filled with unrest, rampant poverty, and numerous protests in the past few years, was looking to their beloved national team to take their minds away from the hardships at home and hopefully win a remarkable sixth World Cup.  

These hopes looked in the balance today in Brazil's 2nd round game against Chile.  Early on, the Brazilians looked in control of the game in the early-goings. In the 18th minute, Chile scored an own goal on a set piece, though the goal was credited to Brazil's David Luiz.  Chile then answered in the 32nd minute with a goal by F Alexis Sanchez who is teammates with Lionel Messi at Barcelona.

Alexis Sanchez Celebrates His Equalizer

Both teams were chippy throughout the game, as numerous fouls occurred and cards were given out. The game went back and forth the rest of the time with both teams taking multiple shots and maintaining possession almost equally.  

In the second half, Brazil's Hulk made a great run, received a pass from Marcelo, and put the ball in the back of the net.  However, the goal was disallowed on a controversial call of a handball by the official.  Nevertheless, the replay clearly showed that the ball glanced off Hulk's shoulder, and thus the referee made the right call.  Chile kept the momentum on their side, and the Brazilian squad was very tense to say the least.  

The rest of the match remained scoreless and was forced to go into extra time and then penalties. At the end of the 2nd extra time, Chilean F Mauricio Pinilla struck the ball off the crossbar, inches away from sending Brazil home.  GK Julio Cesar of Brazil made two terrific saves on the first two Chilean penalties while both David Luiz and Marcelo converted their penalties. 

Brazilian Keeper Julio Cesar Blocks the Penalty Kick of Chilean Star Alexis Sanchez. 

Down 2-0 in penalties, Chile answered with two scores by Charles Aranguiz and Marcelo Diaz. Then with the pressure of a country on his shoulders, the bright, young star Neymar stutter-stepped and put a ball promptly in the goal.  That proved to be the go-ahead score as Gonzalo Jara's shot glanced off the post thus shattering Chile's upset hopes as well.  

Neymar Celebrates

Brazil has shown what could be some fatal flaws and weaknesses in their latest game and throughout this World Cup.  Nonetheless, the millions of people throughout Brazil still have something to cling to - their beloved national team.  Success in the beautiful game is something the Brazilian people can take pride in.  In American terms, it's patriotism.  For Brazil, it's hope. It's a break from the struggles of normal life.  It's more than just a game.  

The pressure on each Brazilian player is hard to understand. For Julio Cesar, he dreams of redeeming himself from his disappointing performance in the last World Cup and doesn't want to be remembered like the infamous Barbosa.  For Neymar, it's the pressure of being expected to carry Brazil and beliefs that he could be the next Pele.  For Manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, he doesn't want to be remembered as the coach who oversaw Brazil's defeat on their own soil.  

The game wasn't pretty.  Questions still remain.  Brazil is expected, almost commanded to win this World Cup.  Many outsiders don't think they can now, but that doesn't matter to the Brazilian populace. As long as Neymar, Hulk, David Luiz and crew continue to don the old yellow and blue, there is still a chance.  There is still hope.  There is still the beautiful game.  

For more World Cup coverage and news throughout the world of sports, follow me on Twitter: @legitjaydawg