NCAA College Football Top 25: Week 1 picks and scores

(1) USC vs Hawaii

USC is my pick to win the national championship this year, and for good reason. They’re a complete football team. From quarterback, to running back, to the men outside catching the ball, the Trojans are loaded on offense. Matt Barkley is the orchestrator to the Trojans passing attack, and future first round picks Marqise Lee and Robert Woods are the main pass catchers. Penn State didn’t have many elite players to begin with, but once players found out that they could transfer without having to sit out a year, star running back Silas Redd decided to leave for USC. Redd will be the biggest key for USC’s success this season because everyone knows Matt Barkley and USC’s defense will be extremely strong, but can Redd’s running abilities be able to keep teams from rushing Barkley at absolute will? For this game, USC will have no problems, but I don’t expect them to completely unleash all of their talent for four quarters. USC wins 52-17.

(2) Alabama vs (8) Michigan

I won’t go into too much of a rant about how the top of the SEC is a tad overrated this year, but, well, they are. Alabama lost six defensive players to the NFL, along with the top running back prospect in Trent Richardson. Quarterback AJ McCarron did well in the BCS National Championship game against LSU, but is he really ready to play a quarterbacking role not mainstreamed around “don’t make a mistake”? Don’t get me wrong, Alabama’s rushing attack will still be very strong, and the offensive line will have no troubles creating gaps through any defense they face, but is Alabama as dominant as they were last year? Absolutely not. And remember, they still lost one game last season, despite winning the national title.

That being said, looking at the betting line, Alabama is favored by 14 points. This was complete ludacris to me, but of course the underdog had to shoot themselves in the foot. Michigan’s leading rusher from a year ago in Fitzgerald Toussaint has been suspended for this game due to off the field issues. This only puts more pressure on quarterback Denard Robinson, as if there wasn’t enough. Alabama’s young, yet talented defense can now focus on not allowing “shoelace” to escape the pocket and make plays. At the end of the day, with Toussaint being out, and Alabama being able to run the ball at will, I expect Vegas’ prediction to hold true.Alabama wins 27-13.

(3) LSU vs North Texas

As I said before, I won’t get much into how Alabama and LSU are much less dominant than they were a year ago. Even though I believe LSU won’t reach the national championship game this year, they’re still much more talented than the Mean Green. I will say one thing though, if you’re a betting man (or woman) bet North Texas. LSU is not going to win by 45 or more points. LSU wins 45-10.

(4) Oklahoma at UTEP

I will give Oklahoma some credit. They are opening up the season on the road. Most of these “top teams” can’t say that. But, they are playing UTEP. Not much to say about this one or many of the games this weekend, other than that one team is extremely more talented than the other. In this case, it’s the Sooners. Oklahoma wins 56-7.

(5) Oregon vs Arkansas State

The Ducks are my favorite NCAA Football 13 team to play with, not that that makes any difference whatsoever here. Part of that reason though, is their backfield. If one were to argue that Oregon has the top two backs in the country, I could disagree, but I wouldn’t be irate about it. Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas are the first Pac-12’s true thunder and lightning. (Sorry Lendale White and Reggie Bush, but you were in the Pac-10) Barner and “Dat” are what makes Chip Kelly’s team what it is. An up-tempo, 60 minutes of hell, (if you want to call it that) football team. In this game, we won’t see much of the two. At least if you watch the whole game. If you want to see the new thunder and lightning, stay tuned during the first half. Oregon wins 63-7.

(6) Georgia vs Buffalo

My anti-SEC bias ends here with Georgia this season. That only happens because I like the Razorbacks to win the conference this year, but nonetheless, I don’t think the Bulldogs are the sixth best team in the country either. Bias aside, Georgia is a very good football team. With quarterback Aaron Murray leading the way, the Bulldogs won’t have any problem starting off their 2012 campaign. Georgia wins 52-10. Read more…

Heisman Trophy watch: Early Heisman Trophy candidates

Heisman TrophyAs college football fans, what are we to do? The 2011-2012 season has been over for about a week and a half now and we won’t see any more games for almost seven and a half months. I say we take a look at the early candidates in the 2012 Heisman Trophy race. Next years race should be as exciting as any we have seen in the last 10 years. There are several big names coming back and there are several who “broke through” in 2012, and are at the cusp of stardom. The race should be skin tight right from the get go. It was tough to do, but I managed to scrap together a top ten list for next year. Lets take a look at the 2012 top ten shall we.

1. Matt Barkley-(QB/USC)- Matt Barkley was the hottest quarterback in the nation as we reached the end of the season and shocked a lot of people when he announced that he was returning for his senior season. In 2011, Barkley completed 69% of his passes and threw for 3,528 yards with 39 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. It doesn’t hurt that he will have the best receiving core in the nation led by the dynamic duo of Robert Woods and Marquise Lee. They also have a ton of starters returning on offense and will make a run at a national championship.

2. Montee Ball-(RB/Wisconsin)-Mr. Ball will also return for his senior year after tying Barry Sanders single season record of 39 touchdowns. Last year, Ball was fourth in the country averaging 135.3 rushing yards a game. Ball will lose a couple of starters on the offensive line, as well as as Russel Wilson. The Badgers still should have a pretty good team and Wisconsin’s system will allow Ball to have huge numbers again next year.

3.  Geno Smith-(QB/West Virginia)-Geno Smith put up some serious numbers last year and put an explanation point on the end of it with a 407 yard 6 touchdown performance against Clemson in the Orange Bowl. He threw for 4,385 yards with 31 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and a 65.6 completion percentage. Smith can make every throw on the field, can run the ball and has a plethora of receivers coming back. If West Virginia stays in title contention, look for Smith to have a good chance to take home the Heisman. Read more here…

Matt Barkley, USC prepare for championship run

Matt BarkleyDespite the two-year Bowl ban, the NCAA sanctions, and no reason to play for in 2011, Lane Kiffin and Matt Barkley guided the USC Trojans to a surprising 10-2 record with road wins over Notre Dame and a thrilling 38-35 victory over the Oregon Ducks with their only losses coming to Arizona State early in the season and a triple overtime loss to Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinal. Sophomore wide receiver Robert Woods led the PAC 12 in receptions and freshman wide out Marquise Lee emerged as a top flight No. 2 receiver opposite of Woods and led the PAC 12 in receiving yards.

The big reason for USC’s bounce back year was their much improved defense. Freshmen Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard led a lightning fast line backing corp that were quick to the ball, great tacklers and ball hawks that helped the defense to a No. 5 ranking in defensive scoring in the PAC 12. Defensive coordinator Monty Kiffin simplified his Tampa 2 scheme and the fact that practice included tackling this year contributed to a much improved defense that came on strong over the last five games of the season. USC is returning nearly everyone on defense and the strength again will be the linebackers and safety T.J. McDonald and corner Nickell Robey who will end up playing on Sundays in the next two years.

The bowl ban is over in 2012, but the loss of scholarships begins this year limiting the Trojans to only 15 scholarships each year over the next three seasons. This means Lane Kiffin and his staff must be very selective and have a small margin of error on the recruits they can make offers to. USC has commitments from four recruits ranked in the top 100 by which includes five-star offensive lineman Jordan Simmons and is still very much in the race for five-star offensive lineman Zach Banner. Of the twelve commitments USC has this class, nine are four star athletes. Cyler Miles, the No. 2 dual threat prospect who is also a four star recruit and a Washington commit, is considering changing to USC. National signing day is just a few days away and expect Lane Kiffin and the Trojans to finish with a strong recruiting class yet again. It is Kiffin’s calling card.

Matt Barkley passed up millions and the NFL to return to complete “unfinished business” he said in his press conference that he and the Trojans have. Barkley is the prototypical quarterback prospect that makes NFL scouts drool and he will most certainly be the top draft pick in 2013, but he has his sights squarely set on guiding this team to the PAC 12 championship and the BCS title. USC will certainly be a preseason top five with some publications picking them as the top team and favorites to end the SEC’s championship reign. The schedule is very favorable for the Trojans in 2012 with Notre Dame and Oregon traveling to the Coliseum. USC has the top receiving tandem in the country in Robert Woods and Marquise Lee and USC’s offense should pick up where they left off and the defense should be even better.

All the USC haters around the country better watch out! Barkley and the Trojans will be playing with a chip on their shoulders and something to prove. USC should play for the BCS title in Miami next year. The only question is who will be their opponent?

Mario Raez is a College Sports writer for The Sports Blitz

Did Reggie Bush cause Matt Barkley not to win the Heisman?

The University of Southern California was ineligible for postseason play during 2011 due to being on probation from the Reggie Bush fall-out.

USC would have met LaMichael James and the Oregon Ducks in the PAC-12 Championship game, but instead their season came to an abrupt end.

Barkley put an exclamation point on his Heisman trophy campaign by completing 35 of 42 passes for 423 yards and six touchdowns against crosstown rival UCLA in their last game of the season. It capped a season in which he passed for a school and conference record 39 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Barkley continued to impress but eventually the Heisman Trophy would go to Robert Griffin III of Baylor.

Imagine if Barkley had one or two more games to show off against a top-ten team.

Every memory of Reggie Bush and the NCAA infractions that occur have been removed from USC, including the replica of his 2005 Heisman Trophy.

Bush was the central figure in a four-year investigation by the NCAA Committee on Infractions, which determined both the star running back and his family had taken money and illegal gifts from two sports agents during his junior and senior seasons. The NCAA wound up putting USC on four years’ probation, banning the Trojans from bowl games the next two years, docking them 30 scholarships over the next three years and allowing current players and recruits to transfer without penalty.

Is Reggie Bush’s previous actions causing Matt Barkley not to win the Heisman trophy? It can be argued so.

With one more key game – if Barkley were to put up solid numbers and a win, he would be in a better position to bring home the Heisman. Instead his season came to an end.