Ohio State just wrapped up their spring practices a couple of weeks ago, leaving us with plenty to talk about when it comes to Buckeye football and making it the perfect time to chat with ESPN's Rece Davis about college football.
In addition to being heavily involved in the world of college football, Rece is a member of the Capital One Cup's advisory board.
Every year, Division I programs compete all year long to earn points in the race for the Capital One Cup. Based on their top-10 finishes in the fall, winter and spring sports, the winning men's and women's programs earn the Capital One Cup trophy and a combined $400,000 in student-athlete scholarships at the end of the season.
In addition to talking about the Capital One Cup, Rece gave his insight on the best teams in college football going into the 2014 season, the top contenders for the Heisman Trophy, and most importantly the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes.
Join us in welcoming Rece Davis to the Holy Land for the second time.
First tell us about your role with the Capital One Cup and why you like being a part of what they're doing.
The Capital One Cup is something I'm honored to be a part of. To me it represents the best in college sports. There's nothing better than being able to brag that "my program is better than yours." The Capital One Cup represents every sport and not just one.
People like Clark Kellogg, a great Buckeye, Doug Flutie, and even though he went to Michigan, Barry Larkin plays a big role, are all involved and do great work for the Cup. The winter standings are coming out soon and UConn will definitely make a big jump in the standings.
I'm most pleased that with all of the talk about sports proving good opportunities for the student-athletes that Capital One is helping in the classroom with the $400,000 in scholarship money that goes to the winning school.
It's not just for industry insiders, it's for everyone.
Going into the summer, who do you think are the two or three best teams in college football?
I think you have to start with Florida State. Despite the loss of the wide receivers and some leadership on defense, especially with Lamarcus Joyner, I still think they're the team to beat. Certainly playing in the ACC is helpful, at least right now, but we'll have to see about that.
I think Oregon will be very good as well. They have almost their entire offense coming back and with all due respect to Jameis Winston, they have the best dual-threat quarterback in the country with Marcus Mariota. He's not as crafty as Manziel, but he's bigger and faster. Even with the loss of (defensive coordinator) Nick Aliotti, they should still have a good defense.
Then you have the two teams in the SEC (Alabama and Auburn) and UCLA has everybody back — I really like them too.
The team that's a dark horse for me in the SEC and I reserve the right to change my prediction before the season ... I'm picking Georgia to win the SEC. I think Jeremy Pruitt will change things up on defense and I think Hutson Mason will be good at quarterback. Then they have the best running back in the country in Todd Gurley.
I don't know if they're the best team in the country, but I think Ohio State has a good chance to make the playoff with Braxton Miller coming back.
Who are a couple of teams that could surprise people in the 2014 season?
I don't know if Michigan State would be characterized as a surprise anymore, but I think they're going to be good. Two teams with quarterback questions are Alabama and South Carolina.
If (Jacob) Coker is everything people think he can be, then Alabama could be very good. Coker is a wildly talented guy who pushed Jameis Winston to the end for the starting quarterback spot at Florida State, but we still don't know if he's the guy who's going to get the job done.
I think a team like North Carolina could be good. I'm not saying they're at the point where they'll make the playoff, but they're headed in the right direction.
What are the biggest questions facing Ohio State's 2014 team going into the season?
First you're looking at the offensive line and running back play. You know you have one of the best and most dynamic quarterbacks in the country. The young, talented defensive players have had another year to grow and they added some speed in their recruiting class. It's a proven fact that Urban's teams are going to score points, so I think it comes down to if they're able to make the adjustments on defense.
Speaking of the offensive line needs Ohio State has, what could Chad Lindsay, who just announced he would be transferring from Alabama to Ohio State, bring to the team?
Stabilizing the offensive line. Chad did a good job stepping in and starting for Alabama on a couple of occasions. He'll bring stability, experience, and comes from another team with a winning culture. He's not your typical transfer as he'll be able to start right away. The culture, demand, expectation, and pressure won't be any different (at Ohio State than it was at Alabama).
As things currently stand, who is your preseason pick to win the Big Ten?
I'll probably say Ohio State. I know a lot of people are saying Michigan State, but they have to replace a lot of very good players on defense. On the flip side, they'll have more margin for error as Connor Cook has gotten a lot better over the last year, but I'll pick Ohio State, with Michigan State certainly being close.
Is Jameis Winston the favorite to repeat as winner of the Heisman heading into the season? What are Braxton Miller's chances at winning the award?
Jameis has to be the favorite going into the season, but like we saw with Manziel last year, when somebody sets the bar high, it's tough to top. Florida State has a boatload of weapons, even with the guys they lost, and I think Karlos Williams will be a star.
Miller has a chance because he'll be the focal point of Ohio State's offense. For the second straight year, my preseason pick for the Heisman will be Marcus Mariota. He was in the race last year, but was plagued by injuries towards the end of the season. I think those three, along with Brett Hundley and maybe Todd Gurley, are the ones that leap to mind.