Some "Good" and "Bad" College Football Projections

Contributing Editor
Courtesy of Bobby Smith
CEO, Sports Reporter



Bobby Smith
(Sportsnetwork.com) - The Sports Reporter Zone Blitz 2014 is a complimentary, 140-page book of projections and handicapping information for the upcoming NFL and College Football seasons, available to all Sports Reporter Online members who sign up at www.sportsreporter.com for the Sports Reporter Weekly, Midweek Update and other publications that Sports Reporter produces on a daily basis.

Content From Sports Reporter Zone Blitz 2014...

GOOD

Central Michigan


One of the biggest upsets of last season was that CMU head coach Dan Enos wasn't fired. Perhaps the administration evaluated how the talent was coming along and feels that things are headed back in the right direction. Ages-old offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Morris Watts certainly thinks so: "I'm not putting a banner up with 'MAC Championship' on it yet, but I think we've got a football team that has a chance to be really good. At our starting [offense] positions... we've got a lot of kids who know what's going on and we're moving fast. We've got a lot of stuff in."

His enthusiasm is pumped by many returning starters, which, of course, guarantees nothing, but many of them started playing early and have been gradually improving. The entire starting offensive line returns, usually a good thing. That line gave up too many sacks (31), but while then-senior RB Zurlon Tipton, a 5.0+ yards per carry runner, was out injured for seven games, the rushing attack didn't miss a beat. The top four receivers return, and last season's intended starting QB, Cody Kater, is back from an injury to challenge Cooper Rush (only 56.7% pass completions). The majority of the defensive two-deep returns.

9 WINS / GOOD ATS

Mississippi State

Quarterback Dak Prescott returns at the SEC's active leader in rushing touchdowns (17) and ranks second among conference QBs in rushing yardage (947). "It's good to see a guy who, even as we are keeping things simple, came out and executed really clean," said Mullen of Prescott's performance. "He was consistent and we scored touchdowns on most of the drives he was in there...we'll turn him loose a little bit more in the fall." The Bulldogs held up better than we thought they would through a difficult schedule gauntlet last season. This year's slate is less of a grind.

Even without the bye week they'll get, they have what it takes to top Texas A&M in Starkville in Week 6 - a ball-control offense and a defense capable of making some stops. They'll make a lot of stops against some of the weaker offenses they'll face, with 22 of 25 kids who saw action last season returning. Defensive depth is some of the nation's best. Head coach Dan Mullen likes his running back situation better this year than last, when he still had senior LaDarius Perkins. He has a few "Dexter McCluster" types in the mix, and the 6'2", 230 Prescott plays like a fullback inside the 5-yard-line.

7 WINS / GOOD ATS

Western Kentucky

For those who want to stay in the know, WKU is taking over Tulsa's spot in Conference USA. Head coach Jeff Brohm is a Year One fellow following in Bobby Petrino's one-season footsteps, but Brohm played quarterback at Louisville for Petrino so the pass-happier offensive system that began last season will continue to be installed and implemented. "I know the type of talent we're going to play," Brohm said about moving from the Sun Belt to C-USA. "It's a league where teams like to spread it out - go fast. They try to put a lot of points on the board." With four former Sun Belt programs already playing football in C-USA, the transition should go pretty smoothly.

Last year, force-feeding the passing system on what had previously been a run-oriented offense created way too many turnovers - 15 lost fumbles, 16 interceptions. But having a mess to clean can be a good thing for a first season head coach whose offense got important reps in the relatively new system last year, and whose defense had a big personnel transition season in 2013 yet held up fairly well. A schedule loaded with mediocre-to-weak passing opponents (until Marshall) will be an asset as their own passing game progresses.

9 WINS / GOOD ATS

BAD

Ball State


Program staffers - and the head coach Pete Lembo himself - went job shopping after the team's second straight 9-win season last year. Coordinators Jay Bateman and Rich Skrosky got new jobs, but Lembo was passed over by Wake Forest and Connecticut. He's back, but many key players are not. Lembo is hinting of more power-running, instead of some of the nation's best offensive balance that has highlighted Ball State's re-rise and ATS profitability. "The guys that we have right now could be a good fit for what our offense may become this year, which is lining up and handing off to those tailbacks."

That's all well and good, but few offenses can score 35 and 40 ppg - Ball State's output the last two seasons - by handing off to tailbacks, and few teams that hand off to tailbacks as a general rule can win or cover spreads playing behind a defense that has been a habitual member of the 400 Yards Per Game Club. Ball State was laying a TD + a field goal per game last season and would seem to be a shaky prop at that level heading into 2014. Army's new DC - their former DC - in Week 6 will know every vulnerable spot.

6 WINS / POOR ATS

Maryland

Moving into the Big Ten before they'd really re-established themselves in the ACC under Randy Edsall doesn't seem like a promising thing for Maryland in 2014. Plenty of previewers will envision them doing well because of returning players who were injured last season. But it doesn't necessarily work that way. And, given that they tended to have too many injuries the last two seasons in the ACC, they could very well get more injured in the Big Ten. Edsall has been a good underdog coach at UConn and now Maryland, but he has often done it with ball-control, turnovers and standout special teams.

This Maryland squad hasn't been designed that way, and as far as ball-control goes, most Big Ten foes can probably power their way through the Terps' defense so that the offense is usually on the wrong end of the Time of Possession clock. The trip to Indiana will probably be the shortest Big Ten point-spread until the season finale vs. Rutgers, and we'll have Indiana circled there. It's been a while since the Hoosiers lined up against a Big Ten team that wasn't bigger than them! After that game, check out the schedule. Let the physical grind begin!

3 WINS / POOR ATS

UNLV

"The football product is rolling!..."UNLV???has clearly turned the corner under coach Bobby Hauck." Blah, blah, blah. UNLV was hit with NCAA academic sanctions in April. This includes a bowl ban for this season, replacing four hours of weekly practice with four additional hours of academic activities, and cutting football-related activities to five days a week from six. Ha-ha.

The two best players in the offensive backfield - quarterback Caleb Herring and running back Tim Cornett, have moved on. They are talking about Nick Sherry possibly being the #1 QB again. Remember, the team improved a lot as soon as Sherry's butt started to collect splinters. Running back Adonis Smith, a Northwestern transfer, said, "see ya later" when the bowl ban was announced. The offensive line returns most of its starters, so that's a good thing, but the front seven on defense needs substantial personnel re-working. Because of last year's high pass defense ranking, there is a misconception that UNLV has a great secondary. Ha! They didn't play any good passing teams! Arizona, Northern Illinois, New Mexico and Air Force should run through that defense like Sherman through Atlanta.

3 WINS / POOR ATS

Bobby Smith is Editor of Sports Reporter and sportsreporter.com, and author of "How to Beat the Pro Football Pointspread," currently the nation's #1 best- selling sports betting book. Check that fact, and order it, at www.amazon.com.


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