Monthly Archives: July 2016
Tried to go against the grain, shot my credibility in the process. Never trust a Todd Graham.
Last year was supposed to be the year of the South. UCLA had returning talent everywhere but QB, where Josh Rosen came in and played pretty damn well. Injuries to Eddie Vanderdoes, Myles Jack, and many others sank the Bruins. USC had talent, but Steve Sarkisian had a drinking problem. The aforementioned failed pick of mine completely fell apart. Defending champ Arizona came back down to Earth. Though USC ended up winning despite failed expectations, it was Utah who stole the show for much of the season with an opening win over Michigan and a 42-point win in Eugene.
It was a weird year for this division, and it will be weird again. Because its the Pac-12.
6) Colorado. They’ve won 14 games in the past 5 years, and inexplicably have Michigan on their schedule this year. But the Buffs are slowly improving, and will eventually beat someone of note.
More importantly, Boulder is AWESOME. Its literally in the shadow of the Rockies, has a HUGE brewery and bar scene, and is worth a visit if you’ve run out of ideas for college football trips.
5) Utah. Losing all of their offensive production, 4 of their top 5 tacklers, and waste their Pac-12 home games on some of the best teams in the league (USC, Washington, Oregon). I could make an argument for either of the Arizonas, but I like them to trend back upwards.
4) Arizona State. See? Salamo Fiso and Kareem Orr are defensive players I can name, and Demario Richard is a beast at RB. Buuutttttt….they failed me last year, are looking to a redshirt freshman QB, and lose a whole O-line that wasn’t that great anyway.
3) Arizona. Anu Solomon and Nick Wilson are a fun read-option combo for the third year running, they return 8 starters from a D that was…not great, but EXPERIENCE! Call it the “5 conference home games and one of the road ones is Oregon State” phenomenon, as well.
2) USC. That schedule, woof. Alabama and Notre Dame out of conference. Visits to Stanford, Utah (the Pac-12’s ‘where dreams go to die’ location), Washington, and UCLA. Oregon coming to Los Angeles. Oh, and they’re running out a THIRD Pete Carroll tree retread. Clay Helton is a little less flashy than Carroll/Kiffin/Sark, but they could’ve hired literally anyone else on the market.
What USC lacks in management and scheduling, they make up for in talent. The starters as listed by Phil Steele had 16 guys ranked 16th or better at their position for their classes. You’ll see a lot of names below.
1)UCLA. The only team in the division I could justify picking with a combination of talent, schedule, and experience befitting a division champ. They avoid Washington and Oregon, Josh Rosen is the truth, and they don’t have exoduses from any position groups.
Basically, I’m going to be wrong. I know that. That makes the Pac-12 fun. Due to time zones, we don’t get them in the noon timeslot and thus miss out in favor of B1G/ACC C-listers.
Five Games Worth Watchin’
- USC at Stanford, Sept. 17: USC isn’t going to beat Alabama, and two September losses would be a rough start for Clay Helton. The underdog has won the last four games, and USC should be the underdog.
- USC at UCLA, Nov. 19: I mean, it should decide the division. And both teams wear their home jerseys, which is always neat.
- UCLA at Texas A&M, Sept. 3: The rare opening-weekend marquee matchup PLAYED ON CAMPUS. Given the chaos of the North (trust me, it’ll be wild and will post Monday), UCLA may represent the league’s best shot at a playoff bid. Not if they can’t beat a middling SEC team on national TV.
- Utah at Arizona St., Nov. 10: Considering the volatility of this division, this Thursday night matchup will probably feature at least one top-1o team controlling its destiny in the division. I just set my calendar to remind myself I said this so I can mock myself.
- Stanford at UCLA, Sept. 24: Catching a trend about Stanford’s September? UCLA’s Pac-12 opener could set the tone, as they have a real shot at going 8-1 at worst if they beat the Cardinal. I should probably flip this one with #1.
So, like I said– USC opens with Alabama and closes with Notre Dame. Utah and Arizona both draw BYU. Arizona State/Texas Tech may well feature 1500 yards of offense. Colorado…uhh…goes to the Big House. Given the 9-game conference schedule, the Pac-12 schedules are no joke.
Players to Watch
Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado: Okay, bear with me here. The Buffs’ secondary intrigues me. They only gave up 229 passing yards a game in-conference– and the whole secondary returns. Awuzie stands out because I’ve never seen a corner lead a team in tackles (he did, 84) tackles for loss (8), pass breakups (7), and QB hurries (4). I kinda want to watch Colorado’s defense now, sounds like some fun.
Nick Wilson, RB, Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona: Wilson was a stud as a freshman and hobbled last year, Solomon was a stud as a freshman and a scapegoat for the defense’s struggles last year. They’re not quite Steve Slaton and Pat White, but they will make some noise.
Lowell Lotulelei, DT, Utah: Yeah, he’s related to the Panthers guy. Yeah, his numbers weren’t amazing last year, but he anchored a stout run D on Utah’s magic first two months. He’s a true two-gap tackle, and two-gap tackles get PAID.
All of these guys at USC: Buried the lede a little bit, but told you I’d circle back. CBs Adoree’ Jackson and Iman Marshall combined for 17 pass breakups, Marshall had 3 picks as a true freshman, and Jackson returned two punts for touchdowns and had 414 receiving yards. Read that Jackson line again. LB Cameron Smith was the league’s Freshman of the Year. QB Max Browne was the top recruit in his class, and he gets to throw to Juju Smith-Schuster of 1454 yards and 10 TD’s a year ago, and T’s Zach Banner and Chad Wheeler were both All Pac-12 last year. And they’re the only seniors I just listed.
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: The whole “#1 pick of NFL Draft a few years out” hype train currently has the loose dirt of Christian Hackenberg’s grave on it, but Rosen is awesome. He put a hot tub in his dorm room and wore a hat with a message towards Donald Trump while playing golf this summer. Even if he flops, he’ll do so in Manziel fashion.
And the fun begins.
— FrogDog (@bloneyhuh) July 25, 2016
Conference realignment is the holy grail of offseason college football absurdity. Since about 2011, the Big XII has been the center of that conversation– from Chip Brown reporting the Pac-16 master plan, to Chip Brown reporting FSU and Clemson to the XII, to the formulation of the Longhorn Network. The handwringing is excellent and makes the summer months bearable. After six months of back-and-forth, Bob Bowlsby FINALLY announced that they would expand, depriving us of a summer of speculation.
After the “One True Champion” debacle kept them out of the playoff in 2014, unrest among the natives not named Texas, unrest AT Texas, and
the whole Baylor thing that we’re not discussing in this preview, the Big XII is a beautiful dumpster fire.
There are clear tiers here, which is nice.
10) Kansas. They’re going 1-11, an improvement over 2015. This isn’t football.
9) Iowa State. I think Matt Campbell was a sneaky-good hire. I thought about going all HOT TAKE-y and putting them above the rest of the bottom tier on the strength of home games against the next three teams, but man, its still Iowa State. Back to expansion, I bet they’d love to exile KU and ISU and pick up the four teams in the tweet above for a nice, even…well, 12.
The second tier is a group that could have one team emerge and replace Oklahoma State, Baylor, TCU, or Oklahoma in the top tier with a breakout year. There’s precedent for all four.
8) Kansas State. They return only 12 starters from a 6-7 team and add a road game at Stanford in week 1. Unfortunately, I think this is the end of the road for BillSnyderDaGawd.
7) Texas Tech. Average score last year: 45.1-43.6. Average yardage: 579-548. That’s…amazing. Patrick Mahomes returns, so those numbers should hold. Given the leaguewide reputation of chuck and duck, there are a lot of surprisingly coherent running games that should be able to keep the offense off the field. Opponents AVERAGED 280 on the ground last year, with the Red Raiders only holding three teams under 227. Yikes.
6) West Virginia. The ultimate win the games you should, lose the ones you should team in the XII (other conference comps: N.C. State, Tennessee, like 8 B1G teams, Arizona).
5) Texas. So, they’re going spread after fielding a sad offense this whole decade. True freshman Shane Buechele won the job outright in the spring. I like Texas, I LOVE Charlie Strong (like if Texas fired him and hired Larry Fedora, I’d take a straight up trade love), and will cheer for them to turn the corner. The defense returns four true sophomores who were starters last year. They could make the leap…or fall flat and back up a Brinks truck to Nick Saban.
4) TCU. I still can’t buy TCU as a big winner, and I know that’s ridiculous. They just lose too much on offense for me to be a believer. IDK. I don’t have anything else to warrant this low pick. I’m just ready to watch Gary Patterson sweat again.*
*- You may recall their 31-point comeback win in the Alamo Bowl against Oregon, where Gary sweated through his purple shirt, changed into the black one you see above, and sweated right through it too. Indoors.
3) Baylor. Seth Russell returns, and the offense stays the same (read: awesome) with Kendall Briles still in the fold. Problem is, they lose basically their whole line on both sides of the ball. They’ll be 6-0 heading into a Halloween weekend showdown at Texas, and the nation is going to lose its collective shit trying to figure out how to develop a narrative around them.
2) Oklahoma State. In an ode to one of my favorite comedies, “17 starters returning, 42 lettermen. Lookin’ tough.” Mike Gundy and his mullet should be improved over last year’s 10-3 team, but the record may not indicate it. Or, ya know, they could win the league. They won’t because they play at all three of Baylor, TCU, and Oklahoma.
1) Oklahoma. I’m so nervous about this pick, because of the Oklahoma corollary: low expectations, high ceiling, high expectations, disappointment. They’ll probably finish 7-5. On the other hand, this is a team that ran for at least 232 yards in every game after the Texas debacle (until Clemson), made Baker Mayfield a legit Heisman candidate, outscored conference opponents 425-184 (27 point margin per game– making them the only team over 400 scored and the only one under 250 allowed), and did not lose Lincoln Riley to a random head coaching job.
Five Games Worth Watchin’
- TCU at Baylor, Nov. 5: The “we’re not rivals” rivalry, there’s really only one likely combined loss between these two teams if they hold to the form of the past two years. That’s what we call fun.
- Oklahoma vs. Texas, Oct. 8: In the hypothetical where Texas loses to Notre Dame and at either Cal or Ok. State, this is a must-win for Charlie Strong. They won the weirdest game ever last year, and have actually won 2 of 3 vs. OU despite, you know, sucking. Weird dynamic for our generation, who watched Bob Stoops skulldrag Mack Brown for the better part of the 2000’s.
- Oklahoma State at Baylor, Sept. 24: We learn so much about both of these teams early, after we learn nothing about them for three weeks (OSU/Pitt the week before notwithstanding).
- Houston vs. Oklahoma, Sept. 3: Future XII rivalry? I’m sneaky excited about this game, because Houston has everything lined up for a test case (or class action lawsuit) for a G5 team making the playoff. Beat Oklahoma, beat Louisville late, run the table…how do you leave them out?
- Oklahoma at TCU, Oct. 1: This is sandwiched between Ohio State and Texas for the Sooners. Between SMU and Kansas for TCU. One of those things is bad, the other seems manageable.
There are more awesome non-con games to watch: Notre Dame at Texas the Sunday of opening weekend, Ohio St. at Oklahoma and Pitt at Okie State on Sept 17, Arkansas at TCU week 2. El Assico, the annual Iowa/Iowa St. debacle takes place on Sept. 10, Kansas hosts Rhode Island and Ohio the first two weeks in genuinely winnable games, and…okay, I’m done.
Players to See
QB’s on random teams: Mason Rudolph, OSU, Patrick Mahomes, TT, Skylar Howard, WVU: I hate the term ‘video game numbers’, so let’s say these three will put up ‘numbers the average XII quarterback puts up against XII defenses.
Jordan Sterns, S, Oklahoma St: If you follow these previews closely, you know I’m a sucker for an in-the-box safety with some semblance of coverage skills. Sterns fits the bill– 108 tackles and 2 picks last year.
Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas: He was tasked with quarterbacking the defense from game 1, snap 1 last year. While he was a little inconsistent, he was the most electrifying freshman defender (non Derwin James edition) in football last year.
Seth Russell, QB, and K.D. Cannon, WR, Baylor: Cannon is better than Corey Coleman. Russell was en route to a 12-0 season and an easy Heisman** before last year’s neck injury. They’re going to be fun.
James McFarland, DE, TCU: Missed all of last season, but had 7 sacks as a reserve in 2014. If he is back at full speed, the TCU defense will be a problem and I’ll be wrong about picking them fourth.
Baker Mayfield and Samaje Perine, Oklahoma: Either could win the Heisman** and would not shock me.
**- Listen, I think the Heisman is a stupid award. Its a popularity contest of who has the best stats on the best team. I pay a lot more attention to the individual position awards, but hey. It’s the Heisman, and I’m generating web content. Its not hyperbole to mention the three players above in the early conversation. Especially when you consider the “great story” that Russell (recovery from injury,
overcoming program turmoil) or Mayfield (former walk-on) would be. Ugh.
Man, look. The B1G West took it out of me, just like I said it would.
I abhor Big Ten football. I liked Michigan fine in the Charles Woodson era, and now I want them to go 3-9 due to Jim Harbaugh’s obnoxiousness at a name program and not a novelty. I liked Michigan State last year because they beat Ohio State, but they’re just a B1G team better than the mediocrity spread throughout the B1G. I’ve always hated Ohio State. And Penn State covered up the rape of children for the better part of 30 years.
I mean, good God, y’all. Every national publication insists this is the second best conference in the nation. Truth is, I am watching Sun Belt on the CW before another Minnesota/Rutgers slog. If its not lightning-storm-in-a-desert Indiana, its not entertaining football. Ohio State plays an aesthetically-pleasing style, but they kill everyone. And, you know, Urban Meyer. This year’s iterations of Michigan and Michigan State will be fine football teams, but they’ll play the sit-on-you-at-arms-length style that the B1G’s middle class plays to 16-13 thrillers.
Maryland may actually be the most entertaining team in this conference this year. Maryland. (Based on potential hilarity/young, untested coaching staff/Under Armour’s experimental plaything.)
I suddenly only have five weekends to tell you what’s going to be fun in college football this year, so let’s get this over with so I can talk about the immensely entertaining Pac-12, the absurd Big 12, our regional friend the ACC, and the all-important SEC.
7) Rutgers. Look, I don’t know. They return a strong defensive line, but that’s by Rutgers Standards. They’ll probably beat Illinois at home, but their home/road splits make it hard to see another win.
6) Maryland. Randy Edsall went 6-18 as a coach in the ACC, and was quoted saying the following:
I’m glad to be moving to a conference that values football. It should be more fun to compete with more like-minded programs.
A few problems here. 1) The only reason Maryland left the ACC was because Kay Yow bankrupted their athletic department (and they just cut the ACC a $31 million check for the privilege of moving). 2) Edsall actually went 4-4 in his first year in a ‘football’ conference. 3) Edsall got canned last year, and the Terps went 3-9 (1-8).
Enter D.J. Durkin. He’s probably a year or two too green for a head coaching position, but I love the hire. He’s consistently put together OUTSTANDING defenses (Florida under Muschamp, Michigan under Harbaugh) but…he was coaching insane talent. He put together a GREAT coaching staff (Young OC Walt Bell was a recruiting stud at UNC before running the offense at Arkansas State) and former head coaches Mike London and whomever left doing a decent job at Ball State to be a position coach at Maryland.
Its the Justin Fuente approach of delegating his weaknesses out and bringing on guys with HC experience. That’s a good start. They’ll be intriguing at best, entertaining at worst.
5) Penn State. I wanted to drop them further, but James Franklin won 18 games over two years at Vanderbilt. The bowl game vs. Georgia makes me think they can’t not be awful, but…whatever. Their offensive line can’t be worse, or will at least put not Christian Hackenberg’s statue behind it, and I assume they have talent? They draw Minnesota/at Purdue/Iowa from the West, and those are three winnable games.
4) Indiana. They should’ve been 10-3 last year with wins over Ohio State and Michigan. In a middle tier full of the ‘three yards and a cloud of dust’ of yesteryear, Indiana is the meth addict with a heart of gold who comes to the strip mall with an AR-15. In other words, they may appear docile, but you’re not coming within a quarter mile of them. You don’t know what you’ll get from Indiana, and that makes them dangerous.
3) Michigan. Their schedule sets up for the easiest 10 wins in the history of football. They play 8 home games against Hawaii, UCF, Colorado, Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Maryland, and Indiana. They return their whole offensive line, and get a lot of injured D-lineman back. They have a DE named Taco. Jim Harbaugh made a Jake Rudock passing game top-10 in the nation in efficiency.
I just think the hype is a year premature. They blew out Florida in the Citrus Bowl, and Jim Harbaugh was THE ENTIRE NEWS CYCLE for the offseason. Of course people are picking them for the playoff. They pay visits to the other two competent B1G teams, and that’s enough for me to NOT pick them.
Never ceases to make me happy.
2) Michigan State. Look, Connor Cook wasn’t great last year. Hell, new QB Tyler O’Connor was awful and still won at Ohio State. The pass D took a major step back due to attrition and the loss of Pat Narduzzi, and they still won the league.
In Malik McDowell and Riley Bullough, they bring back a STOUT middle. I just don’t bet against Sparty any more.
one) Ohio State. They may get slapped around at Oklahoma on Sept. 17. They just had the best NFL Draft since 2001-2003 Miami, so they’ll be inexperienced. But…they still have a freaking stable of talent back. J.T. Barrett, former Heisman finalist? Back. Too many skill guys to name? Back. Top recruits at every single position who will be experienced by their Nov 19 & 26 matchups against the Michigans? Present.
Ohio State is gonna win this division again.
Five Games Worth Watchin’
GUESS WHAT? They all involve the big three. I tried hard to avoid them when writing about the West.
- Michigan at Michigan St., Oct. 29. Its number 1 because its the first shakedown game. None of these teams should lose to anyone else in the conference. Also, see above GIF.
- Ohio State at Michigan State, Nov. 19. Second shakedown game.
- Michigan at Ohio State, Nov. 26. Let’s be honest, Ohio State’s gonna steamroll them again, and it’ll be funny.
- Ohio State at Oklahoma, Sept. 17. Hate to say it, but an Ohio State upset means we’re back to cheering for everyone to beat them.
- Indiana at Michigan, Nov. 19. While Michigan is scoreboard watching the OSU/MSU game, Indiana is planting kilos of cocaine in the Michigan locker room. My dream scenario is that a 10-0 Michigan team goes up in flames to a tempo team and eliminates the B1G from the playoff.
Players Worth Knowing
THERE ARE PLENTY!
Jabrill Peppers, LB/S Michigan: He could play corner more than competently, but he’s playing Will behind a stout D-line. Imagine a smaller Kam Chancellor with more speed and better instincts.
Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State: He was a key piece to the 2014 championship team as a true freshman. Georgia let him out of its backyard. He had 119 tackles last year. Ugh.
J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State: Simply has the weapons and the system to be a backdoor Heisman like another Ohio State quarterback.
Demetrious Cox, S, Michigan State: Dude makes plays and rocks headshots.
SaQuon Barkley, RB, Penn State: The junior class of RBs is insane. Fournette, Cook, Chubb, McAffrey, Perine, Hood, whomever Alabama chooses, Michel…its amazing. Barkley is a sophomore, and hit 5.9 yards per carry as a true freshman. He’ll get ridiculous Doak/Heisman hype next year based on his exploits this year.
Divine Redding, RB, Indiana: Our local Falcons fans know Tevin Coleman (over 2000 yards in 2014). Jordan Howard missed four games last year and still put up 1200. Redding ran for 1000 yards as a backup last year, and threw up a casual 227 in the bowl loss to Duke. Guarantee you he’ll run for 1800+ if he stays healthy.
Will Likely, CB/PR, Maryland: Crap, this dude’s a senior already? He’s the dude that you straight up don’t punt to. I have NO idea how you average 17 yards per punt return on more than like, 3 attempts, but Likely did it over 23 and is a two-time first team B1Ger.
There’s actually fun, dominant, watchable talent across this division. I came up with two such players in the B1G West.
B1G EAST FOOTBALL, Y’ALL! Only three teams can actually win it, but there are at least two heterogeneous teams (Indiana and Maryland) making the noon ESPN2’s palatable.
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I just read a season preview about Northwestern.
Did you know they won 10 games last year?
I’ve been avoiding starting conference previews because I don’t want to write about the B1G West. I’d rather get a haircut from a boat rudder than watch a single possession of that division, the Beth Mowins noon ESPN2 special, but I’m here to serve.
Last year, my respective division winners were: Florida State/any of six teams (technically UNC) for the ACC, Arizona State (lol) and Stanford (HEY!) in the Pac-12, Ohio State and Nebraska in the B1G, Baylor in the XII, and Georgia/Bama in the SEC. Nothing egregious
besides Arizona State and only Stanford in the ‘sage call’ category.
Ok, f*** it, let’s get this over with.
Big Ten West
7) Purdue. In the Wake Forest/Kansas/Colorado category of “holy hell we need relegation systems in college football”. The only thing Georgia fans need to know about Purdue: OC Jim Chaney was Drew Brees’ OC at Purdue. THERE’S YOUR HOOK.
6) Minnesota. Man, they were close to being decent under Jerry Kill. Then Jerry Kill retired, and instead of playing the coaching carousel, they named interim Tracy Claeys the successor for no reason. Claeys went 1-4 down the stretch, including the most epic clock management failure in football history. Three shifts with the clock running on 1st and goal from the 1, down 3. Go Gophers!
5) Illinois. I got to the end of this and realized I was a team short. Oops. I feel like karma is now going to bite my Tar Heels…beat Georgia, lose to Illinois. Damnit. (they get both Michigans from the East, FYI.)
4) Northwestern. Wanted to pick them as my darkhorse disclaimer: the whole B1G West is a darkhorse but I can’t do it because they draw road games with Michigan St. and Ohio St. on the other (read: decent) side.
3) Iowa. They outperformed every single metric in the established college football universe en route to the 12-2 season last year. I grew to loathe them, because their most impressive win was a 10-6 shootout over Wisconsin. Stanford styled on them, and all was right in the universe. When I say styled, Iowa fans COMPLAINED TO THE FCC because the Stanford band incorporated cows into their halftime show.
F*** Iowa. I wanted to pick them last.
2) Wisconsin. Victims of the schedule, plain and simple. They get all three contenders from the East, LSU, and the mighty Georgia State Panthers.
- Nebraska. I have no idea why the formatting changed. I can’t fix it. Help. Nebraska was my pick last year, they were one of three 5-7 teams to win a bowl game, and…Christ were they the inverse Iowa. They opened with a Hail Mary loss to BYU. Then an OT loss to Miami. One-point loss to Illinois, then by two to Wisconsin. Then two to Northwestern.
Then holy shit they lost to Purdue.After reversing karma against Michigan St., they lost to Iowa by 8. Five Big Ten losses by 23 combined points. Tommy Armstrong, Neil Armstrong’s brother, is still there. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. YAY CORN!
Five Games Worth Watchin’
Still having formatting issues. I think we’re going indented from here on out.
- Nebraska at Iowa, Nov. 25: Its a tryptophan (spellcheck doesn’t have the turkey ingredient handy) hangover game, so this is fine to watch.
- Wisconsin at Michigan State, Sept. 24: One logically assumes Wisconsin is the most talented team in this division, and they’re going to get POUNDED by LSU in Week 1. But if they show a pulse in East Lansing, maybe they can get back to their rightful place atop the West.
- Purdue at Indiana, Nov. 26: Look, this won’t be on TV. But three of the last five matchups have featured AT LEAST 90 combined points.
- Nebraska at Wisconsin, Oct. 29: IDK. The only two name programs in this shitshow of a division.
- Iowa St. at Iowa, Sept. 10: EL ASSICO!!!! Early enough in the season that it’ll probably be a 3:30 ABC game.
Players worth knowing
Jesus, you’re going to make me do this.
Desmond King, Iowa: Should’ve gone pro. 13 passes broken up, 8 picks, and now gonna get his colleague on the other side of the field exposed.
Corey Clement, Wisky: Remember him? He’s averaging 7 yards per carry for his career, but 2015 was a lost season as he got hurt in a Week 1 loss against Alabama.
Other names I recognize: C.J. Beathard, QB, Iowa; Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern. I’m sure there are other dudes that play there.