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Press Release

TICKETS FOR THE 2017 TEXAS BOWL GO ON SALE TODAY, WEDNESDAY, NOV. 1

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017

HOUSTON – Tickets for the 2017 Texas Bowl will go on sale to the general public today, Wednesday, Nov. 1 at 10 a.m. CT.

This year’s game showcasing teams from the Big 12 and SEC will be played on Wednesday, Dec. 27, at 8 p.m. CT at NRG Stadium in Houston and will be televised nationally on ESPN. The Texas Bowl is one of 14 bowl games owned and operated by ESPN Events, a division of ESPN.

Ticket prices range from $37-150 and may be purchased online at www.ticketmaster.com, on the phone at 832-667-2390 or in person at the NRG Stadium box office inside Bud Light Plaza. Special group packages are available by calling 832-667-2390. Fans can also call 832-667-2160 for more information on suites and premium hospitality.  To date, over 44,000 seats have already been sold for the 2017 game.

Last year’s Texas Bowl saw the Kansas State Wildcats defeat the Texas A&M Aggies 33-28. The 2016 game was among the top-five most-attended bowls in the country for the third consecutive year. The Texas Bowl has ranked fourth in attendance since 2014, trailing only the Rose, Cotton and Peach Bowls in that time.

For more information, visit www.thetexasbowl.com or follow on Twitter and Facebook.

Texas Bowl

The Texas Bowl is owned and operated by ESPN Events and managed locally by Lone Star Sports & Entertainment. The Bowl will showcase teams from the Big 12 and the SEC, two of the country’s premier conferences, for the next three years. The Texas Bowl has ranked fourth in attendance since 2014, averaging over 70,000 attendees and trailing only the Rose, Cotton and Peach Bowls in that time. The bowl generates nearly $50 million annually for the Houston economy and has donated over $1,200,000 in financial support and millions more in promotional support to DePelchin Children’s Center, the bowl’s official charitable beneficiary.

ESPN Events
ESPN Events, a division of ESPN, owns and operates a large portfolio of 31 collegiate sporting events worldwide. The roster includes three Labor Day weekend college football games; FCS opening-weekend game; 14 college bowl games, 11 college basketball events and two college award shows, which accounts for approximately 300-plus hours of programming, reaches almost 64 million viewers and attracts over 700,000 attendees each year. With satellite offices in Albuquerque, Birmingham, Boca Raton, Boise, Dallas-Fort Worth, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Montgomery and St. Petersburg, ESPN Events builds relationships with conferences, schools and local communities, as well as providing unique experiences for teams and fans.

ESPN Events also manages the Big 12 Corporate Partner Program.

Collegiate Football
AdvoCare Texas Kickoff (Houston); Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl (Florida); Bahamas Bowl (Nassau); Birmingham Bowl (Alabama); Boca Raton Bowl (Florida); Camping World Kickoff (Orlando, Fla.); Celebration Bowl (Atlanta); Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Boise); Frisco Bowl (Frisco, Texas); Gildan New Mexico Bowl (Albuquerque); Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff (Montgomery, Ala.); Hawai’i Bowl (Honolulu); Las Vegas Bowl (Nevada); Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl (Dallas-Fort Worth); MEAC/SWAC Challenge (Baton Rouge, La.); Raycom Media Camellia Bowl (Montgomery, Ala.); Texas Bowl (Houston); The Home Depot College Football Awards (Atlanta) and Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl (Dallas-Fort Worth)

Collegiate Basketball

AdvoCare Invitational (Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Fla.); Armed Forces Classic (Ramstein Air Base, Germany); College Basketball Awards Presented by Wendy’s (Los Angeles); Gildan Charleston Classic (South Carolina); Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic (Honolulu); Jimmy V Men’s  Classic presented by Corona (New York City); Jimmy V Women’s Classic presented by Corona (Hartford, Conn.); NIT Season Tip-Off (Brooklyn, N.Y.); PK80 presented by State Farm (Portland, Ore.); Puerto Rico Tip-Off (San Juan); State Farm Champions Classic (Chicago) and Wooden Legacy (Fullerton, Calif.)

Lone Star Sports & Entertainment

Lone Star Sports & Entertainment is an event management company founded in 2003 that is closely affiliated with the NFL’s Houston Texans. Since its founding, LSSE has established itself as the leading sports event promoter in Houston. In addition to the Texas Bowl and the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff, LSSE has emerged as a premier promoter for international soccer matches, including the 2017 Manchester Derby, Copa America Centenario, the 2010 MLS All-Star Game featuring Manchester United, the 2006 FC Barcelona U.S. tour, 2003 and 2008 matches between the United States and Mexico, and the 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cups. LSSE has also reinvigorated the Battle of the Piney Woods presented by H-E-B rivalry between Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston State and has promoted major concerts featuring country superstars including George Strait and Kenny Chesney.

CONTACT:

Texas Bowl Contact: Allie LeClair, (832) 667-2050 or allie.leclair@houstontexans.com
ESPN Media Contact: Anna Negron, (860) 766-2233 or anna.m.negron@espn.com; @Anna_ESPN

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Press Release

TEXAS BOWL GRIDIRON LEGENDS WEEKEND EVENTS

BENEFITTING THE HOUSTON TEXANS FOUNDATION AND DEPELCHIN CHILDREN’S CENTER STARTS WITH COMMUNITY TAILGATE IN ROCKPORT

FOR PLANNING PURPOSES
Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017

DATE TIME EVENT ATTENDEES LOCATION
Friday, Oct. 20 3:30 – 7:30 p.m. Texas Bowl Gridiron Legends Rockport Tailgate Texas Bowl Gridiron Legends Dat Nguyen, Curly Culp, Robert Brazile, Johnny Roland, Billy “White Shoes” Johnson and Bill Bradley Rockport Fulton High School
Saturday, Oct. 21 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. DePelchin Day of Caring Texas Bowl Gridiron Legends Billy Johnson, Robert Brazile, Curley Culp, Don Trull, Johnny Roland, Jerry Levias, Chase Clement, Kenny Houston, Charles Alexander, Gerald McNeil, Texas Bowl Board Members and Texas Bowl Committee Chairs Home of Christi Fisher
Sunday, Oct. 22 2 – 5 p.m. DePelchin Family Day presented by H-E-B Texas Bowl Gridiron Legends DePelchin Children’s Center Main Campus
Monday, Oct. 23 12:30 – 7 p.m. Gridiron Legends Golf Tournament presented by Lexus Texas Bowl Gridiron Legends John McClain, Andre Ware and other Texas Bowl Gridiron Legends Golf Club of Houston Tournament Course

 

TEXAS BOWL GRIDIRON LEGENDS ROCKPORT TAILGATE
WHO: Texas Bowl Gridiron Legends Dat Nguyen, Curly Culp, Robert Brazile, Johnny Roland, Billy “White Shoes” Johnson and Bill Bradley

WHERE: Rockport Fulton High School
1801 Omohundro Streett
Rockport, TX 78382

PARKING: Media should park in the school’s public parking lot.

WHEN: Friday, Oct. 20
3:20 – 7:30 p.m.

EVENT DESCRIPTION: Texas Bowl Gridiron Legends will join fellow Legend and Rockport native Dat Nguyen in hosting a community tailgate at Rockport Fulton High School ahead of the team taking on Somerset High School on Friday, Oct. 20. This game marks the return of Friday Night Lights for Rockport Fulton and is the first football game in Rockport for the school since the devastation the town faced from Hurricane Harvey. This event is free to the public and supported by the generosity of H-E-B, Earl Campbell’s Sausage, Aztec Tents & Events, Houston Airport Marriott and TexanLive.com.

The Gridiron Legends will kick off the event at 3:20 p.m. as they participate in the school pep rally with the Fulton HS football team and visit with the players in the locker room. The community tailgate will open at 4:45 p.m. and have giveaways and food including product from Pro Football and College Football Hall of Fame member, Heisman Trophy winner and Texas Bowl Gridiron Legend Earl Campbell. The Gridiron Legends in attendance will be recognized on-field before the game kicks off at 7:30 p.m.

DEPELCHIN DAY OF CARING
WHO: Texas Bowl Gridiron Legends Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, Robert Brazile, Curley Culp, Don Trull, Johnny Roland, Jerry Levias, Chase Clement, Kenny Houston, Charles Alexander, Gerald McNeil, Texas Bowl Board Members and Texas Bowl Committee Chairs

WHERE: Home of Christi Fisher
21539 Hughes Ct.
Porter, TX 77365

PARKING: Media should park in public parking.

WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 21, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

EVENT DESCRIPTION: Texas Bowl Gridiron Legends, Texas Bowl Board Members and Texas Bowl Committee Chairs will be present at a community project on Saturday, Oct. 21 at the home of single mother to five, Christi Fisher, from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Christi has one biological son along with three adopted children and one foster child soon to be adopted, all from DePelchin Children’s Center. These Texas Bowl representatives will help complete home renovations to improve the environment for Christi and her family.

DEPELCHIN FAMILY DAY PRESENTED BY H-E-B
WHO: Texas Bowl Gridiron Legends

WHERE: DePelchin Children’s Center Main Campus
4950 Memorial Drive
Houston, TX 77007

PARKING: Media should park in DePelchin’s public parking.

WHEN: Sunday, Oct. 22
2 – 5 p.m.

EVENT DESCRIPTION: Texas Bowl Gridiron Legends will join past and present DePelchin families, staff and community supporters in a celebration of 125 years of family roots on Sunday, Oct. 22 from 2 – 5 p.m. This event will feature live music, games and fall festival activities at DePelchin’s main campus in Houston.

GRIDIRON LEGENDS GOLF TOURNAMENT PRESENTED BY LEXUS
WHO: Texas Bowl Gridiron Legends John McClain, Andre Ware and other Texas Bowl Gridiron Legends

WHERE: Golf Club of Houston Tournament Course
5860 Wilson Rd.
Humble, TX 77396

PARKING: Media should park in the public parking offered by the club.

WHEN: Monday, Oct. 23, 12:30 – 7 p.m.

EVENT DESCRIPTION: Texas Bowl Gridiron Legends John McClain, Andre Ware and more will be in attendance at the Gridiron Legends Golf Tournament presented by Lexus on Monday, Oct. 23 to support DePelchin Children’s Center. For more information, visit http://www.thetexasbowl.com/golf/. This event will bring together golf and legendary sports figures as each team of four is paired with a Gridiron Legend. The sold-out tournament has raised a record amount this year in support of DePelchin Children’s Center.

Registration begins at 11:30 a.m., lunch will be served at 12:30 p.m., the shotgun start will occur at 1:30 p.m. and the tournament will close with the awards ceremony presented by TDECU during cocktails and dinner starting at 6:30 p.m.

– END –

Team Alert

How the Unranked Iowa State Cyclones Defeated No. 3 Oklahoma

Matt Campbell’s Iowa State squad was undeterred, undaunted and ready to knock off the undefeated, the home standing, third ranked Oklahoma Sooners in Norman, mind you. Unfortunately, they were 31 point underdogs and the quarterback situation was seemingly a mess. Yet, when the clock hit all zeroes last Saturday, the Cyclones had upset Oklahoma 38-31 on the backs of two of the most unlikely quarterbacks to take snaps in 2017: one that had never started an FBS game and a starting linebacker that was a starting quarterback in 2016. Huh? Well, let me explain.

When starting quarterback Jacob Park was ruled out for the matchup with the Sooners, the Cyclones were left with starting Kyle Kempt. After waiting four long years, with stops at one FBS school, one JUCO stint and a walk on situation at Iowa State, Kempt finally got his chance under center. All he did was throw for 343 yards and three touchdown passes, including the stunning game winner to All-Big 12 star receiver Allen Lazard. Kempt had thrown just two passes in his two years at Iowa State and none in 2017. Of course, that was until Saturday in Norman. He was a star out of high school at Massillon Washington High School in Ohio and originally signed with Oregon State. After two years in Corvallis not getting on the field, he transferred to Hutchinson Community College where he didn’t even play football. He then decided to walk on at Iowa State and made history on Saturday two years after he arrived on campus.

When the Cyclones needed to give a different look or Kempt needed a rest, Campbell turned to starting linebacker Joel Lanning…to play quarterback. The senior was asked in the off-season to move to linebacker and he accepted the job after spending all of 2016 under center at quarterback. Throughout the first four games, Lanning wasn’t used at quarterback with the emergence of Park as the starter, but with Park out, Campbell had no choice but to use Lanning on both offense and defense. All Lanning did was post eight tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery on defense and complete two of three passing for 23 yards and register 35 yards rushing on nine carries. The days of two way players died long ago, but Lanning brought them back for at least one day, anyway.

The Cyclones now have to deal with that success and prepare for Kansas. However, with these two leading the way, Iowa State is in good hands, unusual though the path was for them to get there.

By: John Harris

Team Alert

Is Saquon Barkley the Best Running Back Since Barry Sanders?

Earlier this week, I was a guest on the Triple Threat, the top ranked sports radio show in the city of Houston. Ted Johnson, a three time Super Bowl winner with the Patriots and an All-American linebacker with the Colorado Buffaloes, asked me a question that really stumped me.

“John, is Penn State’s Saquon Barkley the best running back since Barry Sanders?”

My mind started racing. Barry Sanders won the Heisman Trophy in 1988 after the greatest rushing season in college football history, but that was nearly 30 years ago. There have been some great college running backs in that time, but were any of them at the level of Sanders? More importantly, were any of them in the class of Barkley?

Barkley strung together one highlight reel play after another on Saturday night in Iowa City against the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Nittany Lions came from behind to win the game on the final play of the game, but they would’ve been upset had it not been for Barkley’s performance. He finished with 211 yards on 28 carries and a touchdown and recorded 12 receptions for 94 yards in addition. Tack on 53 yards on kick returns and he finished with a Sanders-like 358 all-purpose yards. On national television. On the road. In a must win conference game situation.

40 touches. FORTY is just phenomenal, but every single time he touched the rock, he produced a “did you see that kind of moment?”. Penn State blew out its first three opponents, so he had plenty of time to stock up for the matchup with Iowa.

He faces Indiana on Saturday in Happy Valley with another opportunity to show the nation that he’s not only the best back in the nation, but the best player in the nation. Perhaps the best since Barry Sanders too.

By: John Harris

Team Alert

67,000 Iowa Fans Start a New, Heartwarming Home Game Tradition

Back in the 1980s, fans around professional sports started a movement called the Wave. You’ve seen it. Fans standing intermittently throughout a Stadium; lo and behold, it looks like a wave of humans moving, hence the name.

Well, the good people of Iowa have started a new version of the wave and this one, oh, this one is special. It started on September 2 when the Hawkeyes took on the Wyoming Cowboys in the opening game of the season. During the first quarter, the Iowa fans, in unison turned their backs to the field and waved.

Just waved?

Yes, they turned and waved. Why? Kids.

Construction on the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital was completed in February 2017 and the upper floors overlook Kinnick Stadium. Kids of all ages, dealing with numerous complications and illnesses, occupy the rooms on the floors of the Children’s Hospital and the Hawkeye fans decided, all 67,000+ in unison, to pay their respects and wave hello to the kids watching from above in their rooms. Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has been one of the Hospital’s champions, donating over a $1M to the Hospital, so the tone from the top has consistently been one of generosity, support and, most importantly, love.

So, how did the Wave, Iowa style, come to be? Well, through social media, of course. Back in the spring, on the popular Facebook page Hawkeye Heaven, a follower named Krista Young suggested that that fans should wave to the kids in the hospital during a game at Kinnick Stadium. Levi Thompson, who runs Hawkeye Heaven, took the idea and ran with it and the smiles haven’t stopped coming from those kids at the hospital and the waves will never stop from the fans in black and gold…and the tears haven’t stopped coming from the parents sitting by the kid’s bed side.

The Hawkeyes are 3-0 and will face one of the best teams in the country, Penn State on Saturday night. They may take an L against a tough Nittany Lion team, but right now, the Hawkeyes are number one in a lot of kids’ minds and that’s all that really matters.

By: John Harris

Team Alert

Is Lamar Jackson a Potential Heisman Repeat Winner?

There hasn’t been a Heisman Trophy repeat winner since 1975. For you Millennials, that’s a long time ago, so long ago in fact, that it’s before cable TV was invented. You know, that cable TV that they’re seemingly cutting out of their lives going forward. But, I digress. The history of no repeat winner is so stark, and true, that heading into the 2017 season, no one gave Louisville mega-weapon quarterback Lamar Jackson a chance in Hades of winning this prestigious award again. Heck, analysts and national media didn’t even name him the 2016 Heisman winner a Preseason All-American at the position.

Yet after two weeks of the 2017 season, Jackson has everyone’s attention…again. He’s accounted for eight touchdowns and 1,010 yards of total offense. Oh, and he’s not thrown an interception, either. He led Louisville to wins over much improved Purdue and conference foe North Carolina in the process. Similar to the way that he started 2016, Jackson has strung together highlight reel plays and prodigious numbers as no other player has to start the 2017 season.

But, Clemson is up next. The defending champs just held Auburn to six points and sacked Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham ELEVEN times. That’s no misprint. ELEVEN. Last year in Death Valley, Jackson won the battle, but his Cardinals lost the war. He put up 295 yards through the air and 162 on the ground in one of the best games of the 2016 season, yet the Cardinals lost. This week, the Tigers come to Louisville and Jackson has a chance to ruin their visit and win over even more non-believers.

If he does, maybe the repeat Heisman bandwagon will start to fill up with converts.

By: John Harris

Team Alert

2017 NFL Draft Texas Bowl and Kickoff Alumni

The 2017 NFL Draft concluded Saturday after 253 picks, but it took just one pick for the Texas Bowl to be represented in Philadelphia. Texas A&M star Myles Garrett, who played in the 2015 AdvoCare Texas Kickoff and the 2016 Texas Bowl, got the first call of the draft from the Cleveland Browns. The 6-4, 272 lb. star was the consensus all the way throughout after playing his last game in Houston against the Kansas State Wildcats.

Along with Garrett, there were four other Aggies that played in both the 2015 Kickoff and 2016 Bowl game – wide receiver Josh Reynolds, guard Jermaine Eluemunor, safety Justin Evans and fellow defensive end Daeshon Hall, who opened the 2015 season in grand style with four sacks.

The four teams that played in the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff and the Texas Bowl in 2016 accounted for 14 draft selections.

Houston had outside linebacker Tyus Bowser, cornerbacks Howard Wilson and Brandon Wilson. Oklahoma saw RBs Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine, receiver DeDe Westbrook and linebacker. Kansas State had two players taken – Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jordan Willis and linebacker Elijah Lee. Texas A&M had five players selected, noted above. All in all, 14 future NFL draft picks came through NRG Stadium in the two bookend games in Houston in 2016.

Of those 14, three were taken in the first two rounds – Garrett, Evans and Mixon. All in all, six of the 14 were selected on the first two days, within the first three rounds.

That was just from the 2016 game. The Texas Bowl and/or the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff were represented by two of the top four picks (Garrett and Leonard Fournette, LSU – 2015 Texas Bowl) and three of the top ten (Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech – 2015 Texas Bowl). Tre’Davious White, LSU was the other Texas Bowl representative in the first round as Buffalo selected him at pick No. 27 after their trade with the Chiefs.

Who did the Chiefs trade up to get?

That’s right Mahomes. So, the Chiefs and Bills made that trade and the two players selected were Texas Bowl alums.

LSU led the way with former Texas Bowl teams with eight selections, led by Fournette at number four to Jacksonville, Jamal Adams number six to the Jets and White to the Bills at number 27.

It was a tremendous weekend for alums of one of the best bowl and kickoff games in the nation.

By: John Harris

Team Alert

John Harris on the LSU Spring Game: Canada’s Offense is No Joke

Mother nature might have played as big a role as any player or coach on Saturday in Baton Rouge for LSU’s annual spring game. Before the storm hit, though, the purple and gold assemblage got a chance to see what SEC defenses will learn in due time.

Matt Canada’s offense is no joke.

Shift, motions, tackle over, shovel pass RPOs, tackle eligible passes and numerous other wrinkles had some LSU fans wondering what, in fact, they were watching. And, as it’s only the spring game, LSU’s new energetic offensive coordinator has plenty in his back pocket for the regular season.

The days of true two back, 21 and 22, I-formation personnel are all but gone on the Bayou. The Tigers will throw a litany of formations and play schemes that SEC defenses have NEVER seen from LSU. There are split plays where one side of the formation runs one play and the other side runs another. Canada’s innovation will have heads spinning for a while and it may take a while for it to completely click.

When it does, though, whooo boy, look out.

Oh, did I mention that LSU has arguably the best running back in the nation? I didn’t? Where are my manners? When defenses focus completely on star back Derrius Guice, there will be lanes and openings for a myriad of other offensive stars, including receiver/slot/speed sweeper D.J. Chark, now donning Leonard Fournette’s number seven. Guice, though, stands to gain the most, in some sense, because he won’t spend his entire day ramming his 5-11, 212 lb. body into eight or nine man stacked boxes. He’s going to have as much space to exploit as any back in the country and that’s not a good thing for SEC foes. He’s also going to get more involved in the passing game as he did on the first drive of the game, catching a flat route well ahead of coverage, down to the half yard line. A false start penalty cost LSU’s gold team the touchdown, but it was a sign of things to come with Guice, like Pitt’s James Conner last year, as a key receiver in this scheme.

And, no, your TV wasn’t play fast forward either; the Tigers now play as fast as any team in the conference, sprinting up to the line of scrimmage after first downs and nearly every other play. Now, there’s a difference in playing fast and playing fast effectively. A team can’t just focus on the speed of play, but the efficiency and execution while playing fast. Canada learned that he can combine the innovation of his playbook with pace of play and make it dangerous combination for SEC defenses.

It’s going to be fun in Baton Rouge this season, that’s for sure, and it starts at NRG Stadium September 2nd, 2017.

By: John Harris

Team Alert

10 Players Set to Shock the College Football World in 2017

By: Greg WallaceFeatured Columnist, Bleacher Report (View Story)

One of the great parts about college football is its constant change. Players have to wait three years between graduating high school and declaring for the NFL draft, which creates enough time for stars to develop while also leaving a regular cycle of talent moving in and out of college lineups. Combined with graduation and transfers, college rosters have a significant level of turnover.

This can be good for fans, at least those who are open to new, exciting things. The movement gives new talent an opportunity to emerge on a yearly basis. Some might be expected, but some are more surprising. Here’s a list of 10 players who’ll emerge this fall and show significant improvement, shocking college football with their improved production.

Alabama LB Rashaan Evans

The toughest part of consistent success at Alabama? It might be cracking the starting lineup. Nick Saban and his staff regularly pull in ultra-stacked recruiting classes, which creates depth but can make it difficult for players who’d star elsewhere to make an impact.

Consider Rashaan Evans. The senior linebacker is athletic and a big hitter, but the presence of other stars like 2016 Butkus Award winner Reuben Foster has made it hard for him to shine regularly. He made his first career start in the 2016 Peach Bowl and stood out vs. Clemson in the national title game, making 11 tackles. He finished the season with 53 tackles, four sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss.

Evans is firmly in line for a full-time starting role in 2017, which means he could approach Foster’s numbers (115 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and five sacks) from last season. Better late than never, right?

Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham

Two years ago, Jarrett Stidham looked like one of college football’s up-and-coming quarterbacks. Following Seth Russell’s season-ending neck injury, Stidham stepped into Baylor’s starting lineup and excelled before suffering his own season-ending leg injury. He threw for 1,265 yards with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions. But after allegations of sexual assault rocked Baylor’s program, Stidham transferred and didn’t play football in 2016.

He found the perfect landing spot at Auburn, where coach Gus Malzahn needs a steady passer after watching Sean White, Jeremy Johnson and John Franklin III combine for 2,195 yards and 11 touchdowns against five interceptions last fall.

Stidham has a big arm and mobility, and while he’ll battle White for the job this spring, it’d be a big surprise if he didn’t win it and excel in Auburn’s fast-paced hurry-up, no-huddle offense.

Clemson WR Deon Cain

Clemson broke through to win its first national title in 35 years last fall, but repeating brings significant challenges. The Tigers lost do-everything quarterback and two-time Heisman finalist Deshaun Watson, leading rusher Wayne Gallman, top tight end Jordan Leggett and their top two receivers in Mike Williams, who caught 98 passes for 1,361 yards and 11 scores last season, and Artavis Scott (76 catches, 614 yards, five scores) to the NFL draft.

However, plenty of talent remains in Death Valley. Junior receiver Deon Cain will be relied on heavily; he has had moments of inconsistency and discipline issues in his first two seasons, but he still had 38 catches for 724 yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore.

He’ll be the clear No. 1 receiver as a junior, and with Williams and Scott gone, the door is open for him to pile up over 1,000 yards receiving and double-digit touchdowns, no matter who’s throwing him the ball.

Cain’s size, speed and deep-threat ability make him a strong candidate to emerge as one of the nation’s top wideouts and carry a big load for the Tigers offense.

Michigan DE Rashan Gary

When Rashan Gary arrived on Michigan’s campus last summer, significant hype followed him. Gary thrilled fans by signing with the Wolverines as the nation’s consensus top recruit in the class of 2016, but Michigan’s experienced defense allowed him to get his feet wet as a true freshman last fall.

He played in all 13 games but started none, making 24 tackles, five tackles for loss and a sack.

This next season will be different. Michigan returns only one defensive starter, and Gary is a lock to start at defensive end. He has a ready-made body at 6’5″, 287 pounds and can slide between end and defensive tackle. With full-time snaps and excellent athleticism, Gary’s numbers will take a big leap upward as a sophomore.

Louisville WR Jaylen Smith

2016 didn’t end the way Louisville or Lamar Jackson had hoped it would. The Cardinals finished the season on a three-game losing streak, going from College Football Playoff contention to a 9-4 final record. However, the dynamic Heisman Trophy winner returns for his junior season, and he’ll need to establish receiving targets following the graduation of James Quick and Jamari Staples.

The clear leading candidate? Junior Jaylen Smith. He had 27 catches for 599 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore and has game-breaking speed and ability. Now, he has playing time as Jackson’s expected No. 1 receiver and will see his numbers rise significantly as a result.

Nebraska QB Tanner Lee

Tanner Lee’s transfer from Tulane to Nebraska following the 2015 season flew a little under the radar, and that’s understandable. Lee had a very average sophomore season starting for the Green Wave, throwing for 1,639 yards with 11 touchdowns against seven interceptions and completing 51.8 percent of his passes.

But Tommy Armstrong Jr.’s graduation creates opportunity in Nebraska’s pro-style offense, and Lee is poised to take advantage of it. Lee stands 6’4″, 205 pounds and has a very capable arm.

Assuming he beats out Patrick O’Brien for the job, he’ll have several speedy, effective receivers such as Stanley Morgan and De’Mornay Pierson-El as targets and a much better offensive line to protect him.

Lee should have better numbers under center for Nebraska than he did with Tulane as a solid fit in Mike Riley’s system.

Ohio State WR Binjimen Victor

Ohio State had a productive 2016 season, although it certainly didn’t end the way the Buckeyes had hoped. Ohio State made the College Football Playoff despite losing to Penn State and missing the Big Ten title game, but it suffered the most humbling defeat of Urban Meyer‘s tenure in a 31-0 Fiesta Bowl blanking at Clemson’s hands.

The Buckeyes return senior quarterback J.T. Barrett but must replace plenty of wide receiver talent with Curtis Samuel, Noah Brown and Dontre Wilson (who combined for 133 catches, 1,619 yards and 19 touchdowns) all gone.

While backups K.J. Hill and Parris Campbell return, one of the most intriguing prospects is sophomore Binjimen Victor. Victor had just four catches for 64 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown, but he will have the opportunity to shine in his second season in Columbus. He stands 6’4″ and blends speed and an athletic frame, which will give Victor an excellent opportunity to break out as one of Barrett’s favorite targets.

Ole Miss QB Shea Patterson

Following Chad Kelly’s season-ending knee injury, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze made a surprising decision in mid-November 2016, pulling a redshirt off true freshman quarterback Shea Patterson with just three games left in the regular season.

Patterson was regarded as one of the top recruits in the class of 2016 but was being groomed to start following Kelly’s graduation. Instead, he went 1-2 as the Rebels starter, throwing for 880 yards with six touchdowns against three interceptions while completing 54.5 percent of his passes.

Ole Miss won’t go to a bowl game as part of its response to an ongoing NCAA investigation, but the Rebels will give SEC defenses trouble with a wide receiver corps that will include Van Jefferson, A.J. Brown and DaMarkus Lodge, all capable of making game-breaking plays. And Patterson should be more comfortable in the starting role and put up big passing numbers surrounded by that talent.

Stanford RB Bryce Love

Stanford has a major void in its offense this fall following the departure of Christian McCaffrey. The 2015 Heisman Trophy runner-up set the NCAA single-season all-purpose yardage mark as a sophomore, and even after battling through leg injuries and playing in 11 games, he still piled up 1,603 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior.

The Cardinal have a very capable replacement in junior Bryce Love, though. Love averaged 7.1 yards per carry and rushed for 783 yards and three scores in 2016, finishing the season with consecutive 100-yard rushing games. With consistent first-string carries, he has the potential to double his yardage and touchdown numbers and emerge as one of the Pac-12’s top backs this fall.

West Virginia QB Will Grier

It might be hard to believe, but Will Grier was once considered one of the top quarterbacks in the class of 2014. He has traveled a long road from that status to becoming West Virginia’s expected starter this fall. Grier redshirted at Florida in 2014 and emerged as the Gators starter the following fall.

He led Florida to a 6-0 start while throwing for 1,204 yards with 10 touchdowns. Then he was hit with a one-year NCAA suspension following a positive test for performance-enhancing substances and subsequently transferred to West Virginia.

Following a transfer season, he’s expected to be eligible to start in the fall, and he should be a perfect fit in Dana Holgorsen’s fast-paced offense. With a full season to show his skills, Grier will make a big impact in the Big 12 and show major improvement in 2017-18.

Team Alert

2017 Heisman Trophy Race: Odds for Top Heisman Candidates

By: Jim OxleyHERO Sports @jrox12 (View Article)

It’s the middle of NFL Combine and March Madness season right now, but before you know it, college football will be back. As the best former college players are showing off for NFL teams and the best basketball teams are preparing for post-season runs, lets take a look at who some of the best college football players could be next season.

William Hill US released a futures 2017 Heisman Trophy odds recently to give an idea of who are the leading candidates at this point. Here’s a look at the players with 100-1 odds or better:

NAME SCHOOL POSITION ODDS
Sam Darnold USC QB 7-1
Lamar Jackson Louisville QB 7-1
Baker Mayfield Oklahoma QB 7-1
J.T. Barrett Ohio State QB 10-1
Jake Browning Washington QB 12-1
Deondre Francois Florida State QB 12-1
Saquon Barkley Penn State RB 15-1
Jalen Hurts Alabama QB 15-1
Mason Rudolph Oklahoma State QB 15-1
Josh Rosen UCLA QB 20-1
Bo Scarbrough Alabama RB 20-1
Derrius Guice LSU RB 20-1
Trace McSorley Penn State QB 20-1
Kamryn Pettway Auburn RB 30-1
Nick Chubb Georgia RB 30-1
Luke Falk Washington State QB 30-1
Nick Fitzgerald Mississippi St. QB 40-1
Shane Buechele Texas QB 40-1
Quinton Flowers USF QB 40-1
Jarrett Stidham Auburn QB 40-1
Royce Freeman Oregon RB 50-1
Mike Weber Ohio State RB 50-1
Jacob Eason Georgia QB 60-1
James Washington Oklahoma State WR 60-1
Ed Oliver Houston DT 75-1
Derwin James Florida State S 75-1
Myles Gaskin Washington RB 75-1
Christian Kirk Texas A&M WR 75-1
Brandon Wimbush Notre Dame QB 75-1
Wilton Speight Michigan QB 75-1
Kyle Allen Houston QB 75-1
Calvin Ridley Alabama WR 75-1
Arden Key LSU DE 100-1
Justin Hebert Oregon QB 100-1
Shea Patterson Ole Miss QB 100-1
Kenny Hill TCU QB 100-1
Dexter Lawrence Clemson DT 100-1
Brett Rypien Boise State QB 100-1

 

It will come as no surprise to anyone to see quarterbacks dominate this list. The top six current favorites and 23 of the 38 players with 100-1 odds or better are QBs. The group is led by a few experienced returning quarterbacks, including 2016 Heisman Trophy-winner Lamar Jackson.

Second in terms of position rankings are eight running backs, led by Penn State’s Saquon Barkley. Rounding out the offensive players are a group of three wide receivers.

On defense, only four college football players are given 100-1 odds or better to win the 2017 Heisman Trophy, led by Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver and Florida State safety Derwin James (75-1 odds).

Another interesting angle of these odds are the number of players who are incoming freshmen or transfer players with little game experience. Many players later on in the odds have yet to take a college football field.

Heisman odds are constantly being updated, but it’s always fun to look back and see who was pegged a leader long before the season began.

By: Jim OxleyHERO Sports @jrox12 (View Article)