Heisman Trophy: Betting Preview

Recent history suggests a quarterback will land college football’s most prestigious award, with the last five and eight of the last nine lining up under centre. However a couple of running backs for big schools could be set for huge years.

Nick Chubb @ 12/1 – Skybet & Bet365

A huge season for Chubb with the Georgia Bulldogs last season, despite having to play second fiddle to Todd Gurley early doors. Averaged a whopping 7.1 yards per carry and destroyed Louisville in the Belk Bowl going for 266 yards at 8.1 YPC. His offensive line features three returning starters including two seniors.

Leonard Fournette @ 12/1 – Paddy Power

Somewhat underwhelming season last year for the number 1 recruit. Made it hard work for himself after striking the Heismann pose in his second every game against lowly FCS school Sam Houston State. Integral part of LSU’s SEC wins over Florida, Ole Miss and Texas A&M and also shredded Notre Dame for 143 yards on only 11 carries in the bowl game. Hopefully he has matured since his Heismann pose and Les Miles really feeds the former number 1 recruit the ball this season.

Those bets may well be for nothing if favourite Trevone Boykin has a great year with TCU. He fits the mold of the recent Heismann winners i.e. dual-threat quarterback (Mariota, Manziel, Tebow). With that said we should add a signal caller to the mix for interest…

DeShaun Watson @ 28/1 – Coral

Extensive playing time as a true freshman last season at Clemson despite being severely hampered by injuries. Started the season as the #2 but was soon given the starters gig for game 4 vs UNC and proceeded to light it up, throwing six touchdowns and over 400 yards. A week 6 injury derailed what was turning into an impressive campaign for Watson. He would start only one further game late in the season against rivals South Carolina, playing with a torn ACL, Despite the injury he led Clemson to an impressive one, tallying four total touchdowns without turning the ball over. Off-season ACL surgery has gone smoothly and 28/1 looks too big for a player with a skillset similar to the market leaders at the position – Boykin and Prescott.

Arizona v USC Game Preview

USC (3-2) @ Arizona (5-0)

Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Arizona

3.30am Irish Time (Saturday night) October 12th (ESPN 2)

It took a great effort and some not so stellar play from Oregon in order for the Arizona Wildcats to topple the Ducks on the road in week six in one of the biggest upsets of the year. Following the game, voters took notice of the solid win and helped Arizona shoot all the way up to No. 10 from unranked in the most recent rankings. The USC Trojans had the exact opposite luck last week as they took a lead down to the final seconds of the game against Arizona State before losing on a fluke Hail Mary with time expiring. The Trojans were dropped from the rankings and have become one of the biggest disappointments in college football this season after a promising start.

Arizona has one of the best young quarterbacks in the nation in freshman Anu Solomon who has come out of nowhere to lead the seventh-best passing offense in the nation. Rich Rodriguez has placed his trust in the first-year collegiate quarterback and it has paid off with a 5-0 start and a No. 10 ranking nationally. Solomon has passed for an impressive 1,741 yards and 14 touchdowns to go along with four interceptions while completing 64 percent of his passes; he has added another 167 yards on the ground. Along with Solomon is another freshman in the backfield in running back Nick Wilson who leads the 28th-ranked run game with 574 yards and six touchdowns on 6.4 yards per touch while senior Terris Jones-Grigsby has been solid as well, rushing for 267 yards and three scores. Sophomore Cayleb Jones leads all receivers with 32 catches for 525 yards and six touchdowns; Austin Hill is the next closest receiver with 18 catches for 275 yards and three scores.

Arizona Wildcats RB Nick Wilson celebrates a TD v Nevada
Arizona Wildcats RB Nick Wilson celebrates a TD v Nevada

A big reason for USC’s loss against Arizona State was the failure by quarterback Cody Kessler to throw a touchdown pass — the second time this season he went without a touchdown throw. If USC wants to bounce back and remain a force in conference play, Kessler will need to throw a few touchdown passes and play like he has been playing all season long before last week. On the year, the junior quarterback has 1,380 yards and 10 touchdown passes with a nearly 70 percent completion rate and no interceptions. Nelson Agholor has lived up to the hype at the receiver position, catching 35 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns — all team-highs. Freshman wide out JuJu Smith has added 18 catches for 207 yards but has yet to reach the endzone in his young career. Running back Javorius Allen has been dynamite in the run and receiving game, rushing for a team-high 576 yards and four touchdowns while ranking second on the team in receiving, catching 19 passes for 250 yards and a touchdown.

USC QB Cody Kessler on the move v Fresno State
USC QB Cody Kessler on the move v Fresno State

Defensively, the Trojans have been relatively average this season. Ranking just 44th in points allowed and near the middle of the nation in terms of total yards allowed with about 391, the Trojans have a tough task ahead in trying to stop the 21st-best scoring offense in the country. Arizona has been much less successful on the defensive side of things, ranking 75th in points allowed per game and near the bottom of the nation in total yards allowed with 434 per outing.

PREDICTION: USC 28, Arizona 38

Ole Miss v Texas A&M Game Preview

Ole Miss (5-0) @ Texas A&M (5-1)

Kyle Field, College Station, Texas

2am Irish Time (Saturday night) Oct 12th (ESPN)

Cracking the top five in the ranking for the first time this season was a huge step for the #3 ranked Ole Miss Rebels in their quest for a national title — one that would be their first since 1962. It hasn’t been an easy road into the top five, however, as they had to defeat Alabama at home to get there. Being exposed in college football is one of the most devastating events to happen to a team in any given season — that’s exactly what happened to the Texas A&M Aggies against Mississippi State last week. However, the Aggies are still a dangerous team that is hoping to make the rest of the conference pay for what happened in week six.

Ole Miss is led by a veteran quarterback that goes by the name of Bo Wallace. The senior gunslinger has been reliable this season and has many top weapons to spread the ball around to, which never hurts. Wallace has passed for 1,522 yards and 14 touchdowns with six interceptions for the 22nd-ranked passing offense in the nation while completing nearly 69 percent of his passes. As expected, Laquon Treadwell has been his favorite receiver as the two have connected 25 times for 362 yards and four touchdowns. Both Cody Core and Vince Sanders have 20 catches this season for 315 yards with four touchdowns and 302 yards and three scores, respectively. Evan Engram has added 17 catches for 246 yards of his own — no receiving scores yet. The run offense ranks just 87th in the nation, however, behind Jaylen Walton‘s 238 yards and three touchdowns.

Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace
Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace

With one of the best young quarterbacks in the entire nation, Texas A&M ranks fifth in the country in passing yards per game and third in points per game. Sophomore Kenny Hill has been that quarterback for the Aggies just one season after Johnny Manziel went on to the next level. Hill has been great, passing for 2,110 yards and 21 touchdowns to go along with five interceptions with a completion rate of 64 percent; he has also rushed for 171 yards. Malcome Kennedy has been the top receiver in terms of receptions, 33, while racking up 378 yards and two scores. Josh Reynolds has been the top overall target with 4o2 yards and seven touchdowns on 23 catches this year. Edward Pope and Ricky Seals-Jones have also been solid, accounting for four touchdowns on 18 catches for 369 yards and three touchdowns on 30 catches for 293 yards, respectively. Trey Williams and Tra Carson lead the 47th-ranked run offense with 531 yards and eight touchdowns combined.

Token Johnny Football pic
Token Johnny Football pic

Defensively, the Aggies have been improved in a few major categories this season, including points allowed per game. Texas A&M ranks 29th in the country in points allowed, but ranks near the bottom on the nation still in yards allowed per game with 407 per contest — a pretty even allowance of rush and pass yards per game. On the other hand, Ole Miss has been much better on this side of the ball, ranking second in the nation in points allowed while also ranking sixth in total yards allowed with just about 278 per game. The crowd at Kyle Field will be rowdy for this Top 25 matchup.

PREDICTION: Ole Miss 27, Texas A&M 34

TCU v Baylor Game Preview

TCU (4-0) @ Baylor (5-0)

McLane Stadium, Waco, Texas

8:30pm Irish Time Saturday October 11th (ESPN)

Quickly becoming one of the nation’s top teams on an annual basis, the #5 ranked Baylor Bears have cracked the top five for the first time this season and will look to move up even more after a top-10 bout this week. The Bears haven’t won a game by less than 21 points this season, but they have yet to play a ranked team. That all changes this week. As one of the nation’s darkhorse threats to make it to the College Football Playoff in 2014, the TCU Horned Frogs have jumped from unranked to No. 9 in the country in two weeks time. The Horned Frogs took down No. 4 Oklahoma last week and will look to make it two straight top-five teams in two weeks — also, it’s the toughest game left on their schedule.

Baylor has one of the most potent offenses in the entire country this year, ranking eighth in passing yards per game, 18th in rushing yards per game and first in points per game, putting up 51 per contest. Having top quarterback Bryce Petty come back for his senior season has been huge for this team as he has been nothing short of great, passing for 1,024 yards and nine touchdowns with just one interception while playing limited time through the first few weeks because of a nagging injury. Not many people saw freshman wide out KD Cannon becoming his favorite target as he has caught 24 passes for 527 yards and five touchdowns this season. Jay Lee is the next closest receiver, racking up 19 catches for 294 yards and four scores. Watch out for senior Antwan Goodley to break out as he has played in just two games this year and has caught 10 passes for 183 yards and a score. Shock Linwood leads the run game with 449 yards and eight touchdowns while Johnny Jefferson has added 336 yards and three scores on 65 carries.

Baylor QB Bryce Petty
Baylor QB Bryce Petty

The Horned Frogs are blessed because they have an experienced quarterback behind center that stuck around even though he lost his starting job in 2013 to a returning senior in Casey Pachall. Gary Patterson is lucky Trevone Boykin stuck around because he is leading TCU to a dream season thus far with 1,176 yards and 10 touchdowns for the 19th-ranked passing offense in the nation. The junior quarterback has also led all rushers with 260 yards and three touchdowns on 51 carries. Josh Doctson has been Boykin’s favorite target, connecting with him 19 times for 212 yards and three touchdowns while Kolby Listenbee leads all wide outs with 272 yards to go along with two touchdowns on 14 catches. Deante’ Gray has been a legitimate No. 3 threat, catching 16 passes for 193 yards and three touchdowns of his own. While Boykin leads the run game, B.J. Catalon is close behind with 220 yards and four touchdowns on a solid 4.8 yards per touch this year.

The TCU  Horned Frogs
The TCU Horned Frogs

Defensively, the Horned Frogs have been pleasantly stingy this season, ranking seventh in points allowed per game as well as seventh in total yards allowed per game with just under 280 per contest, including seven interceptions through the first four games. Baylor has also been quite stingy, allowing the fifth-least amount of points per game in the country as well as ranking fourth in total yards allowed per game with 267 per contest. McLane Stadium will be rocking for this matchup of top 10 teams on Saturday evening.

PREDICTION: TCU 21 Baylor 34

Croke Park is ready for some football!

The final preparation are being made in Croke Park for this weekend’s season opener between Penn State and UCF in Dublin.

With both teams arriving in Dublin today, the stage is set for over 40,000 fans to enjoy the second NCAA Division 1 college football game in two years after Notre Dame took on Navy in the Aviva Stadium in 2012.

UCF are coming in to this game off the back of a 12-1 season, which included a 34-31 win at PSU where now Jacksonville Jaguars backup quarterback Blake Bortles went 20-for-27 with 288 yards and three touchdowns.

2013 season with a win at Wisconsin finishing 7-5 overall and 4-4 in the Big Ten.

PSU are currently serving a four year bowl ban, the penalty from their highly publicised child sex abuse scandal also included a $60 million fine and the NCAA vacated all of the program’s 112 wins from 1998 to 2011.

Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg is in his second season starting, last year he had a 58.9 completion percentage with 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Although his number one target Allen Robinson, who had 40 percent of the team’s receptions, has moved on to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In the preseason redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo was named the No. 1 quarterback. If he starts on Saturday, he would be the first UCF freshman quarterback to start since Jeff Godfrey in 2010, and the first to start a season-opener since Daunte Culpepper in 1995.

Look out for Cork native Sean Galvin, who is the kick off specialist for UCF. Sean moved to the States in 2004 and has hopes of being drafted to the NFL next season.

Tickets are on sale for the Croke Park Classic through ticketmaster.ie and tickets.ie. For further information visit www.crokeparkclassic.ie.

Alabama 42 Notre Dame 14

Alabama won their second consecutive national championship, and third in four years, after blowing out Notre Dame 42 – 14 in front of a record 80,120 crowd at Sun Life Stadium on Monday night.

While Alabama were the favourites going into the game, not many predicted how one sided the game was. With Notre Dame going into the second half 28-0 down, they looked lost for most of the night.

Alabama’s running back Eddie Lacy started strongly with an early touchdown. With running back T.J. Yeldon also having a very good game, Notre Dame just couldn’t stop the run. Lacy finished the game with 140 yards rushing and two touchdowns, while Yeldon had 108 yards and a touchdown.

Quarterback A.J. McCarron was excellent in the passing game, using the dominant rushing game to give him space in play action. McCarron went 20 for 28, with 264 yards and 4 TDs. His main target Armani Cooper had 105 yards and two touchdowns on 6 receptions for the night.

Notre Dame’s defense had by far their worst game of the season, missing tackles constantly and unable to stop the Alabama offense. Notre Dame talisman linebacker Te’o had more missed tackles in the first half against Alabama than he had all season.

The Irish didn’t click on offense for most of the game and quarterback Everett Golson struggled to get into a rhythm while being asked to pass a lot more than usual. Notre Dame showed glimpses of their potential, mainly in the second half, including an impressive drive in the third quarter which ended with Golson running in a a two yard touchdown. Golson ended up 21 for 36 with 270 yards, an interception, a passing tuchdown and a rushing touchdown.

Alabama’s supperiority had the game secured form the start, but Notre Dame didn’t help themselves with poor execution and decision making on both sides of the ball.

Notre Dame head into National Championship as underdogs

Football fans won’t expect much sleep this weekend, after two days of NFL playoffs, Tuesday morning at 01.30am will see Notre Dame playing for their first national championship since 1988 against reigning champions Alabama.

In a season that started with the Fighting Irish thumping Navy 50-10 in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Notre Dame finished the regular season undefeated and ranked first in the BCS.

With a schedule that was filled with potential banana skins, the Irish continued to surprise. Grinding out wins against rivals Michigan, Miami, and beating Southern California with the help of a superb last minute, goal line stand.

The hard hitting Notre Dame defense kept the Irish competitive as the offense stalled at times, scoring over 22 points only five times. The season will be remembered for the unforgettable performances by Heisman runner up Manti Te’o along with stand out seasons for defensive tackle Louis Nix III and defensive ends Stephen Tuitt and Kapron Lewis-Moore.

On the offense tight end Tyler Eifert was a constant threat while running backs Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick kept the Irish offense moving along the ground with some very effective rushing. While sophomore quarterback Everett Golson struggled in the passing game in some games, he was a marked improvement over last years starter Tommy Rees, especially with his ability to make plays with his feet.

Notre Dame will certainly have their work cut out for them next week against 12-1 Alabama in Miami. Head coach Nick Saban is in his sixth year with the Crimson Tide and has already won two of three appearances in the championship game.

The Irish haven’t faced Alabama in a bowl game since a 13-11 win in the 1973 Orange Bowl, and are 5-1 all time against the Tide.

The Alabama defense is just as highly rated as the Irish’s, posting four shutouts and conceding 10 or less points on another three occasions this season.

Their offense is a much more daunting prospect than Notre Dame’s for opposing defenses though. Running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon will be the main threats Te’o and co will have to watch out for but quarterback A.J. McCarron is the “Coach on the Field” according to Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco.

McCarron has a lot in common with Golson; both are juniors, both have an impressive running game they can rely on, and both have been labelled “game managers”. McCarron has the advantage of this being his second national championship game and has shown himself to be a better decision maker than Golson and that could be the difference between the two sides.

While Notre Dame has stepped up to every challenge they have faced so far this season, this one could be a step too far for the plucky Irish. Even being in contention for the national championship this year would have been been a hugely successful season for them on the back of the last few years.

But maybe there is one magical night left in the tank for Notre Dame. Manti Te’o, Tyler Eifert, Zack Martin, Cierre Wood, and Theo Riddick are amongst the seniors that will play their final game in the Fighting Irish colours on Tuesday morning and, no matter the outcome, should all be immensely proud after the season they have helped their team to so far.

Coverage begins at 01.30am on Tuesday the 8th on ESPN America.