The College Football Experience: Ep. 4 – Week 1 Preview

The season is finally here and @kentbrown34 & @HeismanPunditJr are breaking it all down with previews for all of the biggest matchups in week one. Plus, they give you week one locks & upset specials. Tune in and share!

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Weekly picks

I was pretty solid picking games against the spread last year. Time to get started for week one of the 2014 season. All lines courtesy of Docsports. These are the 10 games I think are the best plays of the week:

Texas A&M +10.5 at South Carolina — This should be a shootout and I think the total of 61 will be surpassed. A&M freshman Speedy Noil should have a fine debut as the Aggies upset the Gamecocks in a close one.

Texas A&M 38, South Carolina 34

Arkansas at Auburn (57.5 total) — I like the OVER on this game as we should see a lot of points, with Auburn scoring the vast majority of them.

Auburn 45, Arkansas 24

Fresno State +22 at USC — The Trojans are installing a new scheme and have been hit by some key injuries on defense. I think Bulldogs quarterback Brandon Connette, the Duke transfer, will give USC enough trouble to keep this one from getting out of hand. Look for a big game from Buck Allen.

USC 35, Fresno State 17

Colorado (-3) vs. Colorado State — The Buffaloes will be much improved in Year 2 under Mike MacIntyre and we’ll see the first signs of that against their in-state rival.

Colorado 28, Colorado State 21

Nebraska (-21.5) vs. Florida Atlantic — Big Red should be improved this year behind Ameer Abdullah. I like Tommy Armstrong’s potential.

Nebraska 45, FAU 17

Washington (-17) at Hawaii — The Huskies are as talented as they’ve been in 15 years and should roll in this one despite starting a young quarterback.

Washington 41, Hawaii 17

LSU (-5) vs. Wisconsin – Too much athleticism and talent for Wisconsin to handle in this one.  The Badgers will keep Leonard Fournette in check, but that will open things up for quarterbacks Jennings and Harris.

LSU 24, Wisconsin 17

California at Northwestern (60 points) — I like the OVER on this. The combination of Cal’s offense and its (lack of) defense should ensure a lot of points being scored.

Northwestern 45, California 41

Arizona (-23.5) vs. UNLV — New quarterback Anu Solomon will have a big game throwing to his stellar receiving corps and the Running Rebels will have a tough time against the Wildcats defense.

Arizona 55, UNLV 21

Penn State (+2) at UCF — Christian Hackenberg picks up where he left off last year and James Franklin wins his debut as Nittany Lions head coach.

Penn State 27, UCF 17

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Marcus Mariota tops HeismanPundit’s preseason Heisman Straw Poll


Oregon junior quarterback Marcus Mariota leads the 2014 preseason Heisman Straw Poll, released on Wednesday (Aug. 27).

This year’s early survey saw the Ducks quarterback collect six first-place votes from the 10-person panel of Heisman voters from around the country. Mariota totaled 24 points to finish five points in front of last season’s trophy winner, Jameis Winston of Florida State, who had three first-place votes and 19 total points.

“It’s Mariota’s turn,” said one voter. “He’s a really talented player who should have a great season for a Ducks team that should challenge for a national title. If he stays healthy, he’ll win.”

Thought Mariota is the front runner, Winston’s strength in the survey shows that, just like Billy Sims, Ty Detmer, Jason White, Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel before him, he’s not going to go down quietly in his quest for that elusive second Heisman.

UCLA junior quarterback Brett Hundley was third in the balloting with six points, while Baylor senior quarterback Bryce Petty was fourth with five points. Hundley’s teammate, linebacker/running back Myles Jack, picked up the panel’s other first-place vote to place fifth.

Running back Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin, defensive tackle Leonard Williams of USC and wide receiver Ty Montgomery of Stanford also appeared on ballots.

It’s important to keep in mind that the HeismanPundit Heisman Straw Poll is merely a snapshot of what voters are thinking at the moment. No preseason top selection in the poll’s history has ever gone on to actually win the Heisman.

“It provides a starting point for the race and shows us what voters are thinking heading into the season,” said Chris Huston, who runs “But historically it hasn’t been a prediction of where the race will end up.”

Now in its ninth season, the Heisman Straw Poll is the college football world’s most trusted gauge of Heisman voter sentiment. It has been the most accurate Heisman poll in the country during the past eight seasons, with the final 2012 edition correctly picking the top five finishers while the final 2011 survey nailed the top seven. This year’s poll is made up of 10 anonymous Heisman voters from across the country selecting three players each. Tabulations for the preseason poll are tabulated like a real Heisman ballot, with three points awarded for a first-place vote, two points for a second-place vote and one point for a third-place vote.

Each week’s poll is released on Tuesdays throughout the season at

The 2014 preseason Heisman Straw Poll

Total Points (with first place votes in parentheses)

1. Marcus Mariota, Jr., QB, Oregon — 24 (6)

2. Jameis Winston, So., QB, Florida State — 19 (3)

3. Brett Hundley, Jr., QB, UCLA — 6

4. Bryce Petty, Sr., QB, Baylor — 5

5. Myles Jack, So., LB/RB, UCLA — 3 (1)

6. (tie) Leonard Williams, Jr., DT, USC — 1

Melvin Gordon, Jr., RB, Wisconsin — 1

Ty Montgomery, Sr., WR, Stanford — 1

Previous preseason straw poll selections (with eventual finish in parentheses)

2013 — Johnny Manziel (5th)

2012 — Matt Barkley (n/a)

2011 — Andrew Luck (2nd)

2010 — Mark Ingram (n/a)

2009 — Tim Tebow (5th)

2008 — Tim Tebow (3rd)

2007 — Darren McFadden (2nd)

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Predicting the four-team playoff


This is the first year of the four-team playoff format, so it’s time to make my fearless preseason prediction on which teams will make it in. Here goes:

Auburn – Gus Malzahn is the best football coach in America. Who else could’ve taken over a team that was 3-9 the previous season and guided it to within one minute of a national title?  And all with a first-year starting quarterback and a defense that couldn’t really stop anybody. Sure, Nick Saban is great. But he even he needed a throwaway season before getting Alabama back into the sport’s upper crust. Malzahn didn’t have time for that nonsense. This year, Auburn’s offense will be the SEC’s best and one of the top two or three in the country. That’s what Malzahn does, you know. He’s done it practically every year he’s been a coach. The defense will be better than last year, too. So…better offense and better defense plus very good recruiting class means a better team, in my book. Book their place in the playoff as the SEC champ.

Oklahoma – I was very high on Trevor Knight coming out of high school, so I was surprised by his early struggles as the OU starter last season. But his brilliant performance against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl made it clear to me that he’s ready to play at a high level as a sophomore. The Sooners have very good talent all around, especially on the defensive front, and a schedule that is favorable. Bob Stoops made it to the BCS title game four times with three different style quarterbacks. The dual-threat Knight will lead him to his first playoff appearance.

Florida State – All it took was one great season for the benefit of the doubt to be returned to Florida State. In seasons past, the mantra by pundits was that the Seminoles would always find some way to screw things up against at least one lesser opponent. Now that FSU finally made it through its slate unscathed, that assumption has been turned on its head and nothing less than dominance is expected in every outing. Based on talent and the ease of the schedule, that should indeed be the case in 2014. FSU returns too many key components on offense and defense for a letdown to have a deleterious effect. I don’t think the ride will be as smooth as it was last season, but the soft ACC should once again put up little fight against the ‘Noles.

Oregon – This is the Ducks’ year, at least on paper. They have the Heisman front runner in Marcus Mariota. They have a stable of talented running backs. They have most of their offensive line back. They’ve got a premier deep threat at wide receiver and some good athletes at tight end. The defense is Oregon’s most talented in the modern era. The offensive system is formidable. The only question is whether Mark Helfrich has what it takes to lead the Ducks to a Pac-12 title. Oregon is almost unstoppable when the sun is shining, but it tends to struggle when the sky gets dark and cloudy (I’m talking metaphorically here). Helfrich needs to teach this team how to overcome adversity, which is tough to do when things go your way so easily most of the time. If he figures out how to do it, the Ducks could win them all.

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HP’s Top 10 Teams

Here are my preseason top 10 teams:

1. Auburn

2. Oklahoma

3. Florida State

4. Oregon

5. Ohio State

6. Baylor

7. Alabama

8. LSU


10. Michigan State

On the cusp: South Carolina, Stanford, Clemson, Kansas State, Washington.

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Your guide to 2014’s big Heisman games

Melvin Gordan

The season is almost upon us. If you enjoy following the Heisman race, or if you are a Heisman voter, here are the games you must watch:

Week 1

UCLA at Virginia – Brett Hundley showcases his talents to the East Coast.

West Virginia vs. Alabama – We get our first peek at the new Bama offense under Lane Kiffin. Will either Derrick Henry or TJ Yeldon emerge?

Wisconsin vs. LSU – Melvin Gordon gets a chance to show his stuff vs. an SEC defense. Is this when Leonard Fournette breaks out, too?

Clemson at Georgia – Todd Gurley has a chance to get off to a great start in a high-profile matchup against the Tigers.

Florida State vs. Oklahoma State – Will defending Heisman winner Jameis Winston challenge for that second Heisman? This game could help reveal how close he’ll come.

Week 2

USC at Stanford – If either USC or Stanford is to have a Heisman contender emerge, it will likely come out of this game.

Michigan State at Oregon – Marcus Mariota and the explosive Oregon offense vs. the stingy Spartans defense. What more can you ask for?

Week 3

Georgia at South Carolina – If Gurley can put up back-to-back 100-yard efforts in wins versus Clemson and South Carolina, he’ll vault into the upper echelon of Heisman candidates.

Tennessee at Oklahoma – This is a curious matchup that will give us a good look at how much Trevor Knight has progressed since last season.

UCLA vs. Texas – Hundley needs a big game against Texas to stay in the middle of the early Heisman conversation.

Week 4

Auburn at Kansas State – Nick Marshall and the Tigers get a tough opponent on a Thursday night in Manhattan.

Clemson at Florida State – If any team in the ACC is going to stop FSU, it might be the Tigers.

Florida at Alabama – By this point, we should know which Bama running back is taking charge. And maybe Jeff Driskel shows signs of life.

Week 5

UCLA at Arizona State – It doesn’t get any easier for Hundley and UCLA. This is a tough Thursday night matchup.

Week 6

LSU at Auburn – Marshall will try to exact revenge for last year’s loss. Meanwhile, Fournette’s candidacy has a chance to take off.

Baylor at Texas – Bryce Petty should have outstanding statistics at this point. Beating Texas will help to validate them.

Marshall at Old Dominion – A great chance to see Heisman candidates Rakeem Cato and Taylor Heinicke in the same game.

Stanford at Notre Dame – Could this be where Everett Golson’s Heisman hopes blossom?

Nebraska at Michigan State – If Ameer Abdullah is going to challenge for the Heisman, he’ll have to prove himself here.

Week 7

Oregon at UCLA – Mariota and Hundley square off. The winner should emerge as the Pac-12’s leading Heisman candidate.

Texas vs. Oklahoma – This traditional rivalry showdown could be where Knight’s campaign gains traction.

Auburn at Mississippi State – Marshall takes it on the road against what should be a quality opponent. Does Dak Prescott make a little noise here?

Week 8

Notre Dame at Florida State – A classic matchup like this should do a lot to help or hinder Winston’s repeat chances.

Washington at Oregon – The Ducks host the dangerous Huskies a week after playing the Bruins.

Kansas State at Oklahoma – This will be a tough test for Knight.

Week 9

South Carolina at Auburn – Could Gamecocks running back Mike Davis emerge and make a late run at the trophy?

Ole Miss at LSU – By this time, we should know whether Fournette really is that rare true freshman who can compete for the Heisman.

Ohio State at Penn State – If Christian Hackenberg has a breakout season, this could be where he makes the most noise.

Week 10

Stanford at Oregon – Can Mariota finally beat his nemesis?

Auburn at Ole Miss – Marshall will need to avoid a letdown against the Rebels to have a shot.

Florida vs. Georgia – A traditional matchup for Gurley to impress voters. Would help more if the Gators were any good.

Week 11

Alabama at LSU – This could be a battle young superstar running backs named Henry and Fournette.

Baylor at Oklahoma – Petty can’t win the Heisman without beating OU.

Texas A&M at Auburn – We should see lots of scoring in this one. Marshall has a chance to have a huge game.

UCLA at Washington – Hundley in a tough environment in early November. Look out for rain.

Week 12

Auburn at Georgia – Marshall vs. Gurley. Can the Dawgs bounce back from last year’s heartbreaker?

Nebraska at Wisconsin – Abdullah vs. Gordon. Winner carries Big Ten’s Heisman mantle going forward.

Week 13

USC at UCLA – Hundley with yet another high-stakes matchup. Perhaps Javorious Allen has emerged by this point, too.

Week 14

Stanford at UCLA – Hundley nears the end of his season-long gauntlet by playing against the Pac-12’s most physical team.

Auburn at Alabama – If Marshall caps his season with another win over the Tide, he could be on his way to NYC.

Oregon at Oregon State – Rivalry games are tricky. Mariota needs to be at the top of his game if he wants to stay in contention.

Notre Dame at USC – College football’s greatest intersectional rivalry could feature a couple Heisman dark horses.

Week 15

Oklahoma State at Oklahoma – Bedlam has played an important role in the Heisman race over the last decade or so.

Kansas State at Baylor – With no Big 12 title game in place, this is Petty’s last chance to impress voters.

Pac-12 title game

ACC title game

Big Ten title game

SEC title game 

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The College Football Experience Podcast

Here’s the last couple podcasts (episodes 2 and 3) from the College Football Experience crew. HP is featured on episode 3.

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