Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

June 25, 2014

Trio of mags give view on grid season

BLUEFIELD — Preseason football magazines are starting to pile up at the Woodson household — which includes me and two cats — much like it does prior to the baseball and college basketball seasons.

They are like an addiction, a must-have, like LeBron James craving publicity or politicians yearning to spend your money.

It is never too early to read and learn, explore what various publications expect from the upcoming football season, including 128 FBS teams, and some even glance at all the other divisions that play college football.

My recommendation is to hustle out and find one of these magazines, which can be a challenge in itself, but here is how three of these preseason publications see things for college football this season, with a special focus on West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Marshall and Virginia.

The best—  and most pricey — is from Phil Steele, but it is also jammed packed with information. Steele uses abbreviations for certain words to give him enough room to fill 352 pages, and does it well.

I have also purchased Athlon, Lindy's, and still have to pick up Sporting News, but my budget and apartment can only hold so much.

Here is a look at three of these publications and some of their expectations for the upcoming season. After all, it's never too early to look ahead.

The common thread among all of them? Florida State is expected to survive the first-ever four-team College Football Playoff — at least among FBS clubs — and claim the national title, beating Alabama in the process.

Phil Steele

Top 4: Florida State, Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma (left out and mad, No. 5 UCLA, No. 6 Oregon).

Heisman: 1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon, 2. Jameis Winston, Florida State, 3. Braxton Miller, Ohio State. (4. Bryce Petty, Baylor).

Top units: QB: Florida State; RB: Alabama; WR: Baylor; OL: Oregon; DL: Ohio State; LB: Georgia; DB: Virginia Tech; Special teams: Florida State.

Surprise teams: 1. Georgia, 2. USC...9. Virginia Tech.

Top Non-Power 5 teams: 1. Marshall, 2. Central Florida, 3. Boise State.

Most Improved: 1. Texas Christian, 2. Florida...8. Tennessee.

Conference champs (Top 5 leagues and CUSA): SEC: Alabama over Georgia; Big 10: Ohio State over Wisconsin; ACC: Florida State over North Carolina; PAC 12: UCLA over Oregon; Big 12: Oklahoma (2nd, Baylor); C-USA: Marshall over Texas San Antonio.

Toughest conference: 1. SEC, 2. Pac 12, 3. Big 12, 4. ACC...9. CUSA

West Virginia: 8th in Big 12. Bowl, none. Power ranking: 60th. 2014 recruiting: 38th; Schedule strength: 4th (1. Notre Dame, 2. Tennessee, 3. Arkansas). Top players: OG Quinton Spain, P Nick O'Toole, LB Nick Kwiatkoski, S Karl Joseph.

Steele: “I like the fact they have just 13 letterman lost, but they also play the nation's 4th toughest schedule."

Virginia Tech: 2nd in ACC Coastal. Bowl, Music City. National rank: 29th. 2014 recruiting: 32nd, Schedule strength: 60th. Top players: CB Kendall Fuller, DL Luther Maddy, RB Trey Edmunds, S Brandon Facyson, S Kyshoen Jarrett.

Steele: "VT has underachieved the last two years, but takes on just my #60 rated schedule this year and I only have them an underdog in 2 games..."

Marshall: 1st in C-USA East. Bowl, Orange. National rank: 19th. 2014 recruiting: 68th. Schedule strength: 125th. Top players: QB Rakeem Cato, RB Steward Butler, WR Tommy Shuler, C Chris Jasperse, DT James Rouse, DE Ra'Shawde Myers, LB Jermaine Holmes, S AJ Leggett; DE Gary Thompson, LB Evan McKelvey, KR Deandre Reaves.

Steele: "While the Herd are #39 in my Power Poll, they play #125 schedule and will be favored in all 12 games. They rank #1 or #2 in CUSA in every position category..."

Virginia: t6th in ACC Coastal (w/Duke). Bowl, n/a. Power ranking: 59th. 2014 recruiting: 31st. Schedule strength: 7th. Top players: S Anthony Harris, RB Kevin Parks.

Steele: "UVA does play the 7th toughest schedule in the country...UVA figures to be one of the more improved teams in the country and can stand toe-to-toe with anyone in the Coastal."

Lindy's

Top 4: Florida State, Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon (No. 5 Ohio State, No. 6 Auburn).

Heisman: 1. Winston, 2. Mariota, 3. Miller (4. Petty).

Top units: Backfield: Oregon; WR: Baylor; OL: Florida State; DL: Ohio State; LB: Georgia; DB: Florida State

Coaches on Hot Seat: 1. Muschamp, Florida...3. Holgorsen, West Virginia, 4. London, Virginia.

Conference champs: SEC: Alabama over South Carolina; Big 10: Ohio State over Wisconsin; ACC: Florida State over Miami; Pac 12: Oregon over UCLA; Big 12: Oklahoma (2nd, Baylor); CUSA: Marshall over Texas-San Antonio.

West Virginia: 8th in Big 12. Bowl, N/A. National rank: 46th. Top players (not listed above): LB Isaiah Bruce.

Lindy’s: "After hot start to tenure, Dana Holgorsen needs some D for job security."

Virginia Tech: 5th in ACC Coastal, Bowl, yes. National rank: 39th. Top players (not listed above): P A.J. Hughes.

Lindy’s: "Secondary is special, but major storyline is all about finding a QB."

Marshall: 1st in C-USA East. Bowl, yes. National rank: 48th. Top players (not listed above): OL Clint Van Horn, DB Corey Tindal.

Lindy’s: "Rakeem Cato-Tommy Shuler pass-catch combo has Herd in vintage form."

Virginia: 7th in ACC Coastal. Bowl, no. National rank: 70th. Top players (not listed above): none.

Lindy’s: "Good recruiting results haven't yielded on-field success for Mike London."

Athlon

Top 4: Florida State, Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma (No. 5 Auburn, No. 6 Oregon).

Heisman: 1. Mariota, 2. Winston, 3. Miller (4. Todd Gurley, Georgia).

Top units: QB: Florida State; RB: Alabama; WR: Alabama; OL: Florida State; DL: Ohio State; LB: Georgia; DB: Florida State; Coaching staffs: Alabama, Ohio State.

Coaches on hot seat: 1. Muschamp, 2. London...6. Holgorsen.

Conference champs: SEC: Alabama over Georgia; Big 10: Ohio State over Wisconsin; ACC: Florida State over Virginia Tech; Pac 12: Oregon over UCLA; Big 12: Oklahoma (2nd-Baylor); CUSA: Marshall over North Texas.

West Virginia: 9th in Big 12. Bowl, no. National rank: 67th. 2014 recruiting: 37th. Top players (not already listed): none.

Athlon: "The problem for Holgorsen is that the Mountaineers might be better, but that might not translate into a sterling record."

Virginia Tech: 1st in ACC Coastal. Bowl, Gator Bowl. National rank: 27th. 2014 recruiting: 27th. Top players (not already listed): none.

Athlon: "The offense should be benefit from being in Year 2 in (Scott) Loeffler's system, but Year 1 didn't exactly set the bar high."

Marshall: 1st in C-USA East. Bowl, Peach Bowl. National rank: 40th. 2014 recruiting rank: not in top 50. Top players (not already listed): none.

Athlon: "Could Marshall go undefeated?... A highly productive offense led by an elite quarterback and solid, veteran defense could lift the Herd to a historic season."

Virginia: 7th in ACC Coastal. Bowl, no. National rank: 71st. 2014 recruiting: 32nd. Top players (not already listed): DE Eli Harold..

Athlon: “The Cavaliers were winless in the ACC for the first time since 1981. London won't survive another campaign like that. He might not even make it to midseason..."

Get your football mags. There’s a lot more info than this to be found in those pages. The first games kick off in just 63 days.

—Contact Brian Woodson at bwoodson @bdtonline.com / Twitter @bdtwoodson.

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