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Texas not at Clippers' level, but most valuable college program

Eric Gay/Associated Press
Texas coach Charlie Strong is in his first year leading college football's most valuable program.

So, the Los Angeles Clippers are reportedly going to sell for $2 billion (man, what would an NFL team in L.A. be worth?), and that bit of knowledge led us to revisit the Wall Street Journal's annual "ranking" of college football's most valuable programs.

Texas again was the top dog in the latest rankings, which came out in January.

We look at the top 10 schools, with an extra thrown in: We look at the most "valuable" draft-eligible player (i.e., the guy who seems likely to be the earliest draft pick on the team, whenever he decides to turn pro).

Here are college football's top 20 most valuable programs, according to Forbes.

1. Texas

Projected worth: $875 million
Buzz: The Longhorns have struggled on the field since playing for the national title after the 2009 season, and that is why Charlie Strong is the new coach. But Bevo U. prints money when it comes to athletics, thanks in part to the Longhorn Network.
Most "valuable" player: Senior DE Cedric Reed (6-foot-6, 258 pounds) was one of just two players nationally in 2013 with at least five sacks, four pass breakups and five forced fumbles. The other was first-round pick Khalil Mack of Buffalo. Reed finished with 10 sacks, four breakups, five forced fumbles, 12 quarterback hurries and 16.5 tackles for loss. Reed could stand to add some bulk and strength. The flipside: He has a quick first step, but if he adds weight, will it slow him down? He should flourish under new coach Charlie Strong, who is known for his aggressive defenses.

2. Notre Dame

Projected worth: $811.5 million
Buzz: The Irish never will rule the college football world as they did in the 1930s and '40s, but this remains a true national program and a household brand. It's the only school that has all of its home games televised by one national network. And with Brian Kelly at the helm, the program appears to be in truly good shape on the field for the first time in almost 20 years.
Most "valuable" player: Irish TE Troy Niklas turned pro a year early, which means senior TE Ben Koyack will get more playing time this fall. Irish coach Brian Kelly likes to use his tight ends, and though Koyack has just 14 receptions in his career, he will play a huge role in the Irish passing attack this season. Irish coaches think Koyack (6-5, 261) is athletic enough to be split wide. Look for him to be one of the first three or four tight ends drafted in 2015.

14 for '14 series:
CFB 24/7 counts down the 14 college football players or coaches to watch in varying categories in 2014.

» Top small-school prospects
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» Best stadiums in college football
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» Best coaches in college football
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» College football players with best intangibles

3. Michigan

Projected worth: $685.5 million
Buzz: "The Big House" is one of most iconic venues in college athletics, and while the Wolverines have been uneven on the field for the past decade, Michigan remains one of the few schools that can legitimately recruit nationally every year. Still, sustained success on the field -- we're talking a run of at least nine- and 10-win seasons -- should be expected from this program.
Most "valuable" player: Despite his off-field issues, senior DE Frank Clark is an intriguing prospect because of his athleticism. He played numerous positions in high school and was recruited by most schools at either wide receiver or linebacker. Michigan signed him in 2011 to play linebacker -- he was 6-2 and 210 pounds at the time and has added 65 pounds without losing much quickness. He has some issues with his technique and consistency, but he had five sacks last season and has the potential to hit double digits in that category this season.

4. Ohio State

Projected worth: $674.8 million
Buzz: It has to irk Buckeyes that they are one spot behind their archrivals on this list. There's no question that on the field, though, the Buckeyes are way ahead. Ohio State football became a true national brand under Woody Hayes, and barring a historically bad coaching hire, that's never going to change.
Most "valuable" player: Senior Michael Bennett should be one of the top three defensive tackles nationally and the leader of what easily should be one of the nation's top three defensive lines. He was a reserve in each of his first two seasons, playing end and tackle. He became a starter in 2013 and emerged as one of the best interior linemen in the Big Ten. Bennett is aggressive and physical. He moves well laterally, too. And there aren't many tackles nationally with his type of pass-rush skills. He had 38 tackles, seven sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles in 2013.

5. Florida

Projected worth: $660.8 million
Buzz: The Gators are coming off their worst season since 1979, but remain a financial powerhouse. In addition, Florida is one of the top three or four athletic programs nationally, top to bottom. The advent of the SEC Network (that sound you hear is the cash register ringing) this fall should mean Florida and all its SEC brethren should move up on these kinds of lists in the coming years.
Most "valuable" player: Junior DE Dante Fowler Jr. is a good athlete who possesses big-time pass-rush skills. Once DT Dominique Easley was lost for the season with a knee injury last fall, opposing teams focused most of their attention on Fowler, but he still managed 10.5 tackles for loss. Look for him to flirt with a double-digit sack total this fall, and also look for Gators coaches to move him around to get him a lot of one-on-one matchups. Fowler can be used as a pass-rushing outside linebacker, which increases his value.

6. Oklahoma

Projected worth: $655.2 million
Buzz: While OU pales in comparison to rival Texas in this exercise, the Sooners are a national powerhouse in their own right. While Oklahoma State has gained in stature in the past decade, OU remains way ahead of its "little brother." OU became a national brand under Bud Wilkinson in the 1950s, and even though there have been some lean times, it should remain one for the foreseeable future.
Most "valuable" player: Daryl Williams is one of two senior starting offensive tackles returning for the Sooners, and though he plays on the right side, he is a better pro prospect than LT Tyrus Thompson. Williams suffered a knee injury late in the 2012 season but wasn't bothered by it in 2013. He has excellent size (6-6, 321) and is an above-average athlete for his size (he runs sub-5.0s in the 40). Consistency is an issue, but his athleticism means he has a big upside. Williams will be a three-year starter for the Sooners and has All-American potential. He should be the best lineman in the Big 12.

7. Alabama

Projected worth: $640.1 million
Buzz: It didn't seem possible that a coach could trump Bear Bryant, but Nick Saban might have done so. College football is vastly different than when The Bear prowled the sidelines with so much success, but Saban arguably has had even more success, which has increased Alabama's "value." College football is a 24/7/365 proposition in the state of Alabama, and the advent of the SEC Network is just going to increase the intensity.
Most "valuable" player: Junior WR Amari Cooper is a Miami native who bypassed the state's "Big Three" schools to play for Saban. Though his production (just 103 catches through two seasons) has been dwarfed by numerous receivers nationally, he is both physical and athletic -- and explosive -- at 6-1 and 202 pounds. He owns a career per-catch average of 16.8 yards and has scored 15 TDs.

8. Georgia

Projected worth: $581.8 million
Buzz: Georgia is way behind the No. 7 school on this list, but Georgia still is awash in athletics money. And, again, the money that will pour into its coffers from the SEC Network should help it move up this list. On the field, Mark Richt has had an excellent run as coach, even if he never has won the national title.
Most "valuable" player: Junior RB Todd Gurley battled injuries last season, but still managed to rush for 989 yards and 10 TDs, giving him 2,374 yards and 27 rushing TDs in two seasons. He is a 232-pounder who has been clocked as fast as 4.43 seconds in the 40 and was one of the best high school hurdlers in the nation. He also is an accomplished receiver, which just adds to his value.

Take a look at Nike's latest updates to college football uniforms for the 2014 season.

9. Auburn

Projected worth: $537.6 million
Buzz: Auburn is the "other" program in the state of Alabama (though don't try to tell that to the school's fans). The Tigers have played for the national title twice in the past four seasons, and a lot of "other" programs sure wouldn't mind having that kind of success.
Most "valuable" player: Senior C Reese Dismukes might be the best player in the nation at his position -- at the least, he's in the top three. Dismukes (6-3, 298) will be a four-year starter who handles the shotgun snaps in Auburn's fast-paced attack with aplomb. He is a good run blocker who does a nice job in space. Centers aren't necessarily valued that highly in the draft, but Dismukes still should hear his name called relatively early in 2015.

10. LSU

Projected worth: $529.8 million
Buzz: LSU is the fifth SEC school in the top 10, but its fans take a back seat to no one. LSU owns Louisiana like few schools own their state (Nebraska and Ohio State are the only real contenders), both in fan loyalty and on the recruiting trail. A Saturday night in Tiger Stadium, aka "Death Valley," truly is an experience, and this is another school whose wallet is going to grow even wider because of the SEC Network.
Most "valuable" player: Senior OT La'el Collins was a top national recruit out of high school and has lived up to the hype -- he heads into the fall as one of the top four senior offensive tackles nationally. He started at guard in 2012 before moving to his more natural tackle position, and has retained the physical nature and aggressiveness that is needed in the interior. He is a big-time run blocker who can blow people up on the second level. He has the athleticism to become a top-flight pass protector, too. LSU hasn't had an offensive lineman go in the first round since guard Alan Faneca in 1998; Collins should end that streak.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.



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