Preseason predictions and betting guide

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
5:59
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ESPN's college football experts offer their predictions for the 2014 conference winners, which four teams will make the final four and which team will win the first College Football Playoff.

Alabama is the most popular pick to win the SEC crown, with Georgia, South Carolina and Auburn also receiving support. The Crimson Tide are the only conference team picked to win it all, although only two of the panel's 23 experts picked Nick Saban's crew to win it all.

Click here for the full list of predictions.

And make sure to check out our comprehensive betting guide Insider from Phil Steele and Will Harris.

Watch: Wait is over for UGA QB Mason

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
1:31
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Chris Conley has a problem today. Actually, Conley has a problem with today. It lasts only 24 hours. There is so much to do.

When you're a starting senior flanker on a top-10 team and a college senior, a film director and a screenwriter, a budding athletic administrator and a coffeehouse musician, a Bible-quoting honor student and a superhero-loving, "Star Wars" geek, time is not something you waste. "Madden" can wait.

Take July 17, when Conley boarded a plane in Athens at 7:30 a.m., flew to Birmingham for SEC media days, spent several hours bouncing from one interview room to the next, flew back to Athens, went through a seven-on-seven session with his teammates, showered and ate dinner.

And then worked on his next film into the wee hours.

"I'll sleep when I'm dead," Conley said that day in Birmingham.

Click here to read more from Ivan Maisel on Conley balances football, filmmaking and more.

SEC fearless predictions

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
10:00
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Believe it or not, we are two days away from SEC football officially kicking off the 2014 season. And you thought we'd never get here!

Each season we make perfect prediction after perfect prediction. From weekly game picks to preseason teams, we think we've got this whole prognostication thing down to a science!

It's become a tradition here on the SEC blog to release our fearless predictions for the season ahead. I'm riding solo on them this year, but they shouldn't be any less correct this time around.

Here are my 10 fearless predictions for the SEC in 2014:

1. The SEC champion will have two losses ... but still make the playoff: With the talent gap between the teams at the top and the middle of the pack growing tighter, the SEC might be in store for the most exciting divisional races we've seen in a long time. No team is perfect. I've said this since the end of last season: No team will go undefeated in the SEC and no team will leave Atlanta with fewer than two losses. But with how strong the conference is this year, there's no way the SEC champ will be left out of the inaugural College Football Playoff.

[+] EnlargeMike Davis
Scott Clarke/ESPN ImagesMike Davis rushed for 1,183 yards on 203 carries and 11 scores in 2013.
2. Mike Davis will lead the conference in rushing: He can steamroll over you or just run by you. Davis has everything you'd want in a back and even though he's dealing with a rib injury, he'll lead the SEC in rushing yards this season. It won't hurt that he has arguably the nation's best offensive line in front of him. Georgia's Todd Gurley has yet to make it through an entire season healthy, while T.J. Yeldon will undoubtedly have his carries eaten into by Derrick Henry. With what should be a solid passing game taking some pressure off him, Davis will blow by the 1,183 yards he had last year.

3. The SEC will have 12 bowl-eligible teams: Last year, the SEC saw 10 teams go bowling. This year, Florida and Tennessee will reach at least six wins this fall and join the teams that made bowl games last year. Yes, a Tennessee team with brand-new offensive and defensive lines will go bowling, and yes, Florida's offense will be much better.

4. Will Muschamp will finally beat Georgia: After going 0-3 against his alma mater, Muschamp will finally get a win at the World's Largest Outdoor, eh, Party. It's a rebound year in Gainesville with a better offense. Of course, the game will be close, but quarterback Jeff Driskel will engineer a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter to end the bleeding the Bulldogs have caused the Gators the past three years. That means the SEC East title will come down to the Gators' home game with South Carolina on Nov. 15.

5. Arkansas will have two 1,000-yard rushers: The Razorbacks came close last year after Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams combined to rush for 1,926 yards. With so many unknowns still lurking in the passing game, coach Bret Bielema will have no problem handing the ball off to his duo as much as possible. Williams might even lead the Hogs in rushing this year after an impressive offseason. Stacking the box won't stop this duo.

6. The Mississippi schools will reach nine wins: It seems like whenever Mississippi State and Ole Miss have higher expectations, they fail to live up to the hype. Well, that ain't happening this season. With two very manageable seasons, and a host of talent returning, both of these schools will reach at least nine wins this season. Ole Miss gets Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State at home and should sweep nonconference play. Mississippi State has an extremely soft nonconference slate and gets Auburn and Texas A&M at home. Both Mississippi teams will pull a big upset on their way to nine wins.

7. Leonard Floyd will lead the SEC in sacks: Last year, Floyd led the Bulldogs with 6.5 sacks. This year, Georgia's best pass-rusher will push for All-American status by reaching double-digit sacks and leading the league. He's fast, strong and terrifying off the edge. Floyd had a great offseason and will be a nightmare for quarterbacks.

8. Vanderbilt will make it four bowl trips in a row: No James Franklin? No problem. What Franklin didn't take was the talented core of players the Commodores have. The Commodores return a strong offensive line and a deep, talented group of running backs. New coach Derek Mason also likes what he has defensively. The new 3-4 scheme will make the Dores faster off the edge with Kyle Woestmann and Caleb Azubike moving to outside linebacker. Vandy should win its four nonconference games and will find two more wins to make it back to the postseason.

9. The SEC won't win the national championship: Look at prediction No. 1. While I think the SEC is stronger than ever as a whole, the winner of this league (I'm predicting Alabama) will be pretty beat-up come playoff time -- monthlong break and all. But it isn't just that. I think the country has a great set of teams at the top this year, and I don't see one SEC team really sticking out like seasons past. The seven straight titles were good for the league, but the conference will hit a two-year snag.

10. Ohio State will lose to another SEC team: The loss of quarterback Braxton Miller might have spoiled the Buckeyes' playoff hopes, but they'll find a way to meet an SEC team during the postseason and continue their time-honored tradition of losing to the SEC. Come January, the Buckeyes will be 0-11 against the SEC in bowl games.

Scout's Take: Van Jefferson to UGA 

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
5:40
PM ET
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The Georgia Bulldogs ' latest addition, ESPN 300 wide receiver Van Jefferson, is a deceptively fast player with terrific fundamentals.

Chris Conley's direction in life

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
5:23
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Editor's note: We're counting down the days until the start of college football by taking a look at 25 of the most interesting people in the game. Click here to find the rest of the series.

ATHENS, Ga. -- Chris Conley has a problem today. Actually, Conley has a problem with today. It lasts only 24 hours. There is so much to do.

When you're a starting senior flanker on a top-10 team and a college senior, a film director and a screenwriter, a budding athletic administrator and a coffeehouse musician, a Bible-quoting honor student and a superhero-loving, "Star Wars" geek, time is not something you waste. "Madden" can wait.

Take July 17, when Conley boarded a plane in Athens at 7:30 a.m., flew to Birmingham for SEC media days, spent several hours bouncing from one interview room to the next, flew back to Athens, went through a seven-on-seven session with his teammates, showered and ate dinner.

And then worked on his next film into the wee hours.

"I'll sleep when I'm dead," Conley said that day in Birmingham.

If you have any question about the talent and dedication of the college generation, spend a day with Conley. He will leave you shaking your head, just as he does the men and women who spend every day with him.

"I think everybody who's ever met him wants to hire him," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "Whoever coaches him is going to fall in love with this guy, because of his ability, because of his coachability, because of his leadership, how he'll affect the locker room."


(Read full post)


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Danny Kanell and Joey Galloway make their picks for which teams will make the inaugural four-team College Football Playoff.
No. 12 Georgia is favored to beat No. 16 Clemson by more than a touchdown. Tigers fans have got to be thinking:

When did the Bulldogs become such an automatic to win?

Clemson has its own spot in Urban Dictionary for its varied "failures," but Georgia has had its own stumbles over the last six years.

The Bulldogs have almost become synonymous with unmet expectations. Since 2008, they have started every season ranked in the preseason AP Top 25. Three times, they ended the season unranked. Only once did they finish the season ranked higher than where they started. They have lost three or more games five times over that six-year span.

Clemson has its own issues to get past (cough ,cough Florida State and South Carolina). But high preseason expectations have only come into play over the last few years. This is only the third time since 2008 that Clemson will start the season ranked in the preseason Top 25. In the previous two seasons, their only losses came to the aforementioned Seminoles and Gamecocks.

So maybe Clemson deserves some serious consideration heading into this game. The Tigers did beat Georgia last year -- a game in which the Bulldogs were road favorites and at full strength. They did beat Ohio State in the Discover Orange Bowl as an underdog.

Clemson has won its last four games against SEC teams NOT named South Carolina. Three times, the Tigers were the underdog.

“I haven’t paid any attention, but I’m pretty sure nobody has given us a chance to win the game,” Clemson linebacker Stephone Anthony said. “That’s fine. Nothing wrong with being the underdog. We don’t feel like we’re the underdog. We’re going to come in ready to go.”

There are obvious reasons why Georgia is favored. The Bulldogs have a preseason Heisman candidate in running back Todd Gurley, terrific receivers and a talented quarterback in Hutson Mason. Home-field advantage is obviously big.

On the other side, we all know that Clemson lost its offensive superstars Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins, so there are significant question marks there. But it is impossible to overlook this defense, which should be the strength of this team going into the season.

That means advantage Clemson. Think about it. If you had to open the season on the road against a Top 25 team, would you want a stronger offense or stronger defense?

I would want a stronger defense. You know all the old adages. Yes, Clemson gave up 545 yards to Georgia a year ago, but the Tigers will be better up front and in the back end. If Clemson can hold Gurley and Mason in check, then its offense will not have to get into a shootout the way it did a year ago. This offense cannot afford that, not with all the new starters.

Georgia, meanwhile, has questions of its own. Top receiver Malcolm Mitchell’s status is up in the air. And last week, the Bulldogs had two first-year players and a walk-on running with the first team in the secondary.

Clemson might not have veteran starters on offense, but it has veterans. Senior Cole Stoudt will be given an opportunity to take advantage of some of these mismatches on the outside to help get the offense going. Watkins is gone, but the Tigers have some fast, athletic receivers who will have an opportunity to make some big plays in this Chad Morris offense.

So the Clemson game plan is laid out pretty plainly. If the Tigers can exploit these matchups to their advantage, keep the turnovers to zero, and rely on what should be a solid defense, they will have every opportunity to win.

"We have a chance to start our season strong and just prove a lot of doubters wrong from the beginning," Clemson linebacker Tony Steward said. "Just having that opportunity is awesome."

It is an opportunity Clemson has for the third straight season, after opening with wins against Auburn and Georgia in the last two. Maybe the opener this year will follow the same winning script.
video

In preseason balloting, the reigning Heisman winner is second to Oregon's Marcus Mariota. Heather Dinich wonders why Jameis Winston isn't getting more respect.
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Cary Chow and Heather Dinich preview the ACC conference, break down the Heisman field, look at Chuckie Keeton's return to college football, and the latest with USC athletic director Pat Haden.

And the winner is ...

August, 24, 2014
Aug 24
12:50
PM ET


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ESPN's college football experts offer their predictions for the 2014 conference winners, which four teams will make the final four, and which team will win the first College Football Playoff.

More picks: College Football Playoff semifinalists, finalists and champion



(Read full post)


CeCe Jefferson set to visit Georgia 

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
11:25
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville area has been very kind to the Georgia Bulldogs in recruiting over the past several years. Players such as offensive lineman Brent Benedict, cornerback Bryan Evans and current offensive tackle John Theus have all come from the First Coast area. The Bulldogs are now hoping to reach into Northeast Florida this year and grab one of the top defenders in the nation.

Five-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson still has yet to list his favorite schools but will take an unofficial visit to Athens to watch Georgia take on Clemson next Saturday.

“I’m going to Georgia-Clemson next weekend,” Jefferson said. “That will actually be my first game at Georgia. I heard between the hedges is pretty wild, so I’m just looking to go get a good experience -- have a good time, see some good football.”

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Grading each SEC QB situation

August, 22, 2014
Aug 22
6:00
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Last year was possibly the best in recent memory for SEC quarterbacks. From Johnny Manziel and A.J. McCarron to Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger, the conference was loaded with a Heisman Trophy winner, a two-time national champ, school record-holders and NFL draft picks. Things are a little different this year. Outside of Auburn, most schools are dealing with major questions under center. Where do things stand as the season gets ready to kick off? Here's a look at how things went last year, what to watch for this year and a projected grade for how each team's quarterbacks will do in 2014.

The Established Star
Nick Marshall, Auburn Tigers
2013 in review: Marshall made a huge splash in his first season as the Tigers' starter, rushing for 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns and passing for another 1,976 yards and 14 scores as Auburn stunned the college football world by reaching the BCS championship game. He also completed one of the most memorable plays in Auburn football history when his tipped pass to Ricardo Louis went for the game-winning, 73-yard touchdown to beat Georgia.
What to watch: One of the Tigers' big points of emphasis since the end of last season has been improving the passing game. Marshall and the rushing attack are lethal, but there were times Marshall was simply not accurate enough when the Tigers desperately needed a completion. If he shows in the opener against Arkansas that he's more than just a runner who can occasionally pull a rabbit out of his hat with one of his highlight-reel completions, Marshall might actually contend for the Heisman.
Projected 2014 grade: A

Click here for 13 more SEC QB breakdowns from David Ching.

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