After 10 weeks of fan voting, NCAA Football 14 has narrowed its list of cover finalists to eight. The NCAA doesn't allow active players to endorse products, so the cover candidates are all either graduating seniors or underclassmen who have declared for April's NFL draft. Not surprisingly, the finalists hail from some of the nation's most popular programs. Since folks seem to be voting for their favorite teams, we've decided to help you all look beyond school ties in order to select the most deserving player. Read on for our pick, then vote the informed vote!
Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
Lacy is an amazing running back -- but he wasn't the best rusher on the 2012 Crimson Tide, let alone the best player. If you saw true freshman T.J. Yeldon play last season, you know what we’re talking about. He’s a beast. Trent Richardson was better than teammate and Heisman winner Mark Ingram, and Yeldon was better than Lacy.
Voting advice: Lacy is a championship-caliber back, but he’s not quite cover worthy.
E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State
Manuel had a decent season, passing for 3,392 yards, 23 touchdowns and 10 picks. But plenty of quarterbacks did the same or better. We’re not looking to assign blame for Florida State botching its national championship shot, but there’s got to be some accountability.
Voting advice: Manuel’s uninspiring performance (218 passing yards, TD, INT) in FSU’s season-defining loss to NC State says it all.
Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
Jones is a scary, scary man. He has the ability to take over a game and bend it to his will. And he’s not about the stats or the glory. Whether he's thrashing a quarterback like a rag doll or blowing up foolish lineman standing in his path of carnage, Jones doesn’t dance around after taking care of business.
Voting advice: Jones will be playing on Sundays very soon, and he has our official endorsement.
Denard Robinson, QB/RB, Michigan
Robinson's senior season was the worst of his Michigan tenure. He made some impact at running back, but nagging injuries limited his difference-making abilities at quarterback.
Voting advice: This isn't a lifetime achievement vote, and Robinson's 2012 campaign doesn't merit this honor.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Dude is a tight end. A tight end. Eifert is a great player, but let’s be honest: Manti Te’o should be representing the Irish here. In fact, Te’o probably should’ve been the cover athlete without much debate. But that was before the BCS championship game, in which Te’o was arguably exposed by real first-round talent, and before the infamous girlfriend hoax all but killed his endorsement value.
Voting advice: You don’t need a five-hour call with your sickly fake girlfriend to know this is where the luck of the Irish ends.
John Simon, DL, Ohio State
The Buckeyes pulled off an impressive 12-0 season, and Simon racked up 44 tackles and nine sacks en route to the undefeated regular season. He looks like a mid-round NFL draft pick.
Voting advice: Call it guilt by association, but because Ohio State’s sanctions included a bowl ban last season, an NCAA cover ban seems par for the course.
Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
Barner’s 2012 season was impressive: 1,767 rushing yards and 21 rushing scores, plus 256 receiving yards and two more touchdowns. Oregon’s fast-paced brand of football is fun to watch, and it’s a style that's lock-and-step with how a lot of gamers play NCAA Football.
Voting advice: Barner isn’t a bad choice, but we still like teammate and inevitable future cover contender De’Anthony Thomas a lot more.
Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M
Swope ended a strong season with 72 receptions for 913 yards and eight touchdowns. The 6-foot-1 Aggie was a college football standout, but he's only on the cover radar because Heisman winner Johnny Manziel isn't draft eligible. Voting advice: We’ll wait for Johnny Football’s cover after he scores another Heisman or two.