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A Short, Short Story
Thursday, August 27
Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh were born in the same hospital in Akron OH six months apart. So they were destined to meet yearly in the biggest rivalry game in the Big Ten. Here's an excerpt from the ESPN The Magazine football preview issue.

Harbaugh and Meyer met for the first time at an annual Big Ten coaches meeting in February, and they're still learning to become rivals. But dig deeper into the record books and a shared history unfolds along the Ohio-Michigan border - a history that might indicate where this rivalry is headed.
November 1986, days before facing Ohio State, Michigan's senior QB Jim Har­baugh: "We're going to play in the Rose Bowl this year. I guarantee it. We'll beat Ohio State, and we'll be in Pasadena Jan. 1"
"I was sick as a dog," Harbaugh says, remembering that trip 200 miles south to Columbus. "Hundred-and-something
[fever]. Got food poisoning. Just all night throw­ing up. I think I slept an hour."
The next afternoon, ignorant of the opposing QB's sickly feeling, a graduate assistant for the Buckeyes was just happy to be part of the rivalry. It was the first year in col­lege coaching for Urban Meyer, a 22-year-old Ohio kid on the staff of Earle Bruce.
"I was a GA by pay but full-time by responsibility," Meyer recalls. "They were having a good year, but they lost to Minnesota. So all we had to do was win and we go to the Rose Bowl. ... I can't tell you my phone number or address, but I can tell you all the plays."
Especially the one that provided the margin. In the fourth quarter, Harbaugh handed the ball to seldom-used TB Thomas Wilcher. A Detroit product, Wilcher had found greater success in the high hurdles, winning an NCAA championship. But on this day, he didn't need to leap, simply plowing the ball seven yards over the goal line to put the Wolverines up 26-17. They would hold on for a 26-24 victory.

College Football Preview: Sporting News
Thursday, August 27
Another in a series of summaries of preseason college football magazine predic­tions.

The Final Four

  1. Ohio State
  2. TCU
  3. Auburn
  4. Oregon

Rest of Top Ten

  1. Alabama
  2. USC
  3. Baylor
  4. Michigan State
  5. Florida State
  6. Notre Dame

Rest of Top 25

  1. Clemson
  2. Georgia Tech
  3. UCLA
  4. LSU
  5. Arkansas
  6. Ole Miss
  7. Arizona
  8. Georgia
  9. Arizona State
  10. Oklahoma
  11. Boise State
  12. Tennessee
  13. Missouri
  14. Stanford
  15. Mississippi State

Writeup on #14 LSU
After all of those years with all of those teams that were oh so close to winning it all, early NFL defections and the loss of spectacularly underrated defensive coordi­nator John Chavis has LSU on its heels. Instability at QB makes it even tougher. But this team is so talented, it might just be able to find a way beyond all that should derail a season and be playing for an SEC West Division championship in late November.

Comments on Other SEC teams

  • Auburn
    Just how good is new QB Jeremy Johnson? Some on staff thought Johnson should have played more last season instead of Nick Marshall, even though Marshall led the Tigers to the 2013 BCS National Championship Game and his run threat was a better fit for coach Gus Malzahn's run game. The addition of Will Muschamp as D coordinator will pay off immedi­ately; the Tigers have talent on defense - it was poorly coached and mis­used in 2014.
  • Alabama
    Here comes Round Two for Jake Coker, the presumptive QB in 2014 who never saw significant minutes. He's not the clear leader again this fall, and the Tide (again) rolls into a season with uncertainty at the most important position on the field. This hasn't been the same team since the last-second loss to Auburn in the 2013 Iron Bowl. Confidence, swagger, karma; what­ever you want to call it, the Tide doesn't intimidate like they once did under Saban. Strength at QB (Coker, David Cornwell, Cooper Bateman or Blake Arnett) can change all of that.
  • Arkansas
    The Hogs are the X-factor in the SEC - not just the West Division, but the entire league. Somehow a team that won two SEC games was the one SEC team no one wanted any part of in November. With TBs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, just enough of underrated QB Brandon Allen and an emerging D that features a nasty front seven, Arkansas might just win the West Division.
  • Ole Miss
    Key players (Robert and Denzel Nkemdiche) from one of the nation's best defenses return, and if offensive stars Laremy Tunsil (T) and Laquon Treadwell (WR) return from injuries, the Rebels will be a QB away from playing for a championship. You know, exactly where they were last year when Bo Wallace did more bad than good in a highly anticipated senior season. Next up at QB: Chad Kelly, who was dismissed from Clemson, rebuilt himself at junior college and his reward is getting thrown into this moshpit of pressure.
  • Georgia
    It's too easy to say Georgia will do what it does best: run the ball and play defense. Because at some point - even with supremely talented TB Nick Chubb and backup Sony Michel - the Dawgs must get production from the passing game. The QB position hurt Georgia in big games last season, and it will again unless Brice Ramsey can be trusted to m ake more than just safe throws.
  • Tennessee
    There may not be more hype or more expectation for another team in the SEC. The Vols finished 2014 strong, found a dangerous QB in the final month of the season and roll into this fall with serious momentum (and back-to-back top-10 recruiting classes). The trio of QB Josh Dobbs, TB Jalen Hurd and WO Marquez North is as good as any in the SEC. More impres­sive (and way undervalued): An argument can easily be made that DE Derek Barnett and CB Cam Sutton are the two best players at their posi­tion in the SEC.
  • Mississippi State
    An important year for coach Dan Mullen and his program. He says Missis­sippi State can be a team that rebuilds in the SEC and withstand heavy losses to graduation and the NFL. At this point this fall, it's elite QB Dak Prescott and a whole lot of questions (see: new starters).

SEC Prediction

West

  1. Auburn
  2. Alabama
  3. LSU
  4. Arkansas
  5. Ole Miss
  6. Mississippi State
  7. Texas A&M

East

  1. Georgia
  2. Tennessee
  3. Missouri
  4. Florida
  5. South Carolina
  6. Kentucky
  7. Vanderbilt

LSU 2nd team All-Americans: RB Leonard Fournette, OL Vadal Alexander
LSU All-SEC: Fournette, Alexander, DB Jalen Mills
Bowl prediction for the Tigers: Outback Bowl vs Michigan

College Football Preview: ESPN the Magazine
Thursday, August 20
Another in a series of summaries of preseason college football magazine predic­tions.

The Final Four

  1. Ohio State
  2. TCU
  3. Auburn
  4. Baylor

Rest of Top Ten

  1. Alabama
  2. Oregon
  3. USC
  4. Michigan State
  5. Florida State
  6. Georgia

Rest of Top 25

  1. UCLA
  2. Notre Dame
  3. Clemson
  4. LSU
  5. Ole Miss
  6. Stanford
  7. Arizona State
  8. Arizona
  9. Wisconsin
  10. Georgia Tech
  11. Oklahoma
  12. Arkansas
  13. Boise State
  14. Tennessee
  15. Texas A&M

Writeup on #14 LSU
FPI (Football Power Index) Projected Wins: 9.1
FPI Projected Chance to Win Conference: 14.4%
Vegas Odds to Win National Championship: 30-1
PHIL STEELE'S SHARP EDGE
Though the Les Miles era has featured an annual exodus of underclassmen to the NFL, this year the Tigers lost just three players early to the draft. As a result, the 2015 Tigers come back loaded, and they should receive much-improved QB play from both Brandon Harris, now a sophomore with a year under his belt, and junior Anthony Jennings, who started 12 of 13 games last year. They'll get plenty of help from Heisman-contending RB Leonard Fournette (1,034 yards and 10 TDs) and WRs Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre. With another incredibly fast defense - my pick for third best in the country - LSU could very well find itself in the playoff this season.

Comments on Other SEC teams

  • Auburn
    PHIL STEELE'S SHARP EDGE
    Offensive guru Gus Malzahn's sophomore slump saw his squad drop four of its last five tilts, including a back-and-forth OT Outback Bowl against Wisconsin. And while Malzahn loses 33 lettermen in 2015 (No. 115 in my experience rankings), life should be just fine on the Plains. Despite [new QB Jeremy] Johnson's limited experience (78 career pass attempts), Auburn still benefits from my third-highest QB unit in the SEC - and No. 18 overall - and an O-line stocked with NFL prospects ... Even in the brutal SEC West, I peg the Tigers as underdogs in just three games: at LSU (+7), at Arkansas (+3) and at home to Alabama (+1 1/2).
    BRAD EDWARDS' PLAYOFF FORECAST
    IN IF ... new D-coordinator Will Muschamp tightens a unit that ranked in the SEC's bottom five in points and rush and pass yards allowed per game. Even Coach Boom can't create world-beaters overnight, so hopes hinge on Johnson's becoming the megawatt QB pundits expect. The Tigers take on LSU, FPI's No. 5 D, in Week 3. No training wheels here.
    OUT IF ... the offense's plethora of new faces don't learn to course-correct by pulling out the close games last year's group did not at the end of the season ... And with FPI's sixth-toughest schedule in '15, more close tilts are to be expected.
  • Alabama
    PHIL STEELE'S SHARP EDGE
    No returning starter at QB, no problem. Nick Saban can win, and win big, with a newbie under center (see: two national titles with first-year starters, No. 1 playoff seed with Blake Sims last year). Uncertainty at QB is no reason to count the current Tide out, especially with a Mack truck like RB Derrick Henry and a potentially dominant front seven (No. 1 DL and No. 3 LB units). ...
    BRAD EDWARDS' PLAYOFF FORECAST
    IN IF ... the Tide go at least 4-1 in games not in Tuscaloosa ... With the country's toughest schedule, according to FPI, Bama is one of just a handful of teams that could reach the playoff without a conference title.
    OUT IF ... the slew of new offensive faces can't find the EZ. Gone are the days of Saban defenses holding opponents to 10 points a game (especially with a troubled secondary: 43 pass plays of 20-plus yards allowed in 2014), No. 82 in the FBS), so Lane Kiffin's group must produce.
  • Georgia
    PHIL STEELE'S SHARP EDGE
    Coach Mark Richt, despite playing in a bowl in each of his 14 seasons in Athens, is often labeled an underachiever. That notion is hard to dispel considering that the Bulldogs have suffered seven upsets the past two seasons. In '15, UGa draws Alabama (a pick 'em) and Auburn (+3) from the West and faces an improved Tennessee team on the road (pick 'em). Still, even with inexperienced soph Brice Ramsey at QB, Richt has by far the most talent in the East, ith my No. 1 RBs, No. 3 O-line and No. 9 LBs in the country. Although the Dawgs will struggle to reach a plus-16 turnover margin again, their yards-per-game differential in SEC play (82.3) suggests they were much better than a three-loss team.
    BRAD EDWARDS' PLAYOFF FORECAST
    IN IF ... a dynamic QB emerges. Of course, with RB Nick Chubb back after rushing for 1,547y as a true frosh, Richt can call conservatively and still win the East - that just won't cut it vs. the West's best.
    OUT IF ... UGa doesn't beat Bama or Auburn - or loses a likely rematch against either in Atlanta. With the SEC's fifth-easiest slate, according to FPI, the Dawgs likely won't be forgiven for more than one loss.
  • Ole Miss
    PHIL STEELE'S SHARP EDGE
    Under Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss has upgraded its talent level significantly, and last year's impressive start was a testament to that. This year the Rebels return 16 starters on a team loaded with potential first-round NFL prospects, including star WR Laquon Treadwell (632y in 9 games before he broke his leg), LT Laremy Tunsil, DL Robert Nkemdiche and nickelback Tony Conner. They have three units that rank in my top 10 in the nation - receiver, defensive line and linebacker - and have the good fortune of avoiding the top three squads out of the East. Not only do the Rebels have a chance for their first double-digit win total in 12 years, they have a shot to make it to Atlanta.
  • Arkansas
    PHIL STEELE'S SHARP EDGE
    Arkansas appears well-positioned to build on last year's late-season success with a dominant offensive line that returns four starters along with two 1,100y rushers and veteran signal-caller Brandon Allen, who should be in for a fine senior season after throwing for 20 TDs last year. The Hogs face the gauntlet of the SEC West as well as Tennessee and Missouri out of the East, but this is clearly Bret Bielema's most talented team in Fayetteville.
  • Tennessee
    PHIL STEELE'S SHARP EDGE
    With an SEC-best 18 starters back and oodles - yes, oodles - of talent on both sides of the ball, Tennessee appears poised to reclaim its status as an SEC powerhouse. QB Joshua Dobbs (17 total TDs last year) will benefit from UT's top 10 receivers returning. But in this conference, nothing comes easy. The Vols play at Alabama, Florida (10 straight losses to the Gators) and Missouri, and they have tough home dates with Georgia and Oklahoma.
  • Texas A&M
    PHIL STEELE'S SHARP EDGE
    After the Aggies reached No. 6 in the nation at 5-0 last year, the wheels fell off their bandwagon. A&M finished 8-5 - no cause for shame but a disappointment after that start. This year A&M returns 16 starters, led by QB Kyle Allen (16 pass TDs last year) and perhaps the SEC's best WR group ... Decorated D-coordinator John Chavis comes aboard from LSU to lead a unit replete with raw talent; there is cause for optimism in College Station.

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About This Site
This site is devoted primarily but not exclusively to college and pro football. The unique feature of this site is the publication each fall of the author's rankings of all FBS college football teams and similar rankings for the NFL. I live in New Orleans and am a graduate of LSU and FSU. So I present a Southern and particularly an SEC point of view but one that is reasonably objective. I also publish a monthly Football Magazine with stories from the past and a monthly Baseball Magazine with a similar format. During the winter and spring, there's a monthly Basketball Magazine.

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