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Laremy Tunsil's Suspension, Return Date Announced by Ole Miss

Ole Miss is off to a 5-1 start, beat Alabama and is ranked No. 13 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, and it will be much more stout on the offensive line for the season's stretch run.

According to Ole Miss football's official website, the NCAA notified the school Monday that star left tackle Laremy Tunsil received a seven-game suspension and is eligible to return on Oct. 24 for the showdown against Texas A&M. The Rebels have already played six games, which means Tunsil will be back in his spot up front after Saturday’s contest against Memphis.    

Ole Miss withheld Tunsil for the first six games of the season during the NCAA’s investigation into improper benefits. The team’s website described why Tunsil was ultimately suspended:

It was determined by the NCAA that Tunsil received impermissible extra benefits that included the use of three separate loaner vehicles over a sixth-month period without payment, a four-month interest-free promissory note on a $3,000 down payment for purchasing a used vehicle, two nights of lodging at a local home, an airline ticket purchased by a friend of a teammate, and one day use of a rental vehicle.  In addition, it was determined that Tunsil was not completely forthcoming when initially questioned by NCAA investigators regarding the loaner vehicles.  He later corrected his account and since apologized. 

In addition to the suspension, Tunsil must pay back the value of the benefits to a charity, make the down payment on the vehicle and perform community service.

Tunsil released a statement, per the team’s website:

I take full responsibility for the mistakes I made and want to thank everyone for their continued support. I want to apologize to my teammates, coaches and the entire Ole Miss family for how my choices affected our program.  This was a learning experience, and I'm looking forward to being back on the field with my team and redeeming myself.  The last 10 months have been a physical and mental battle for me, but I love playing this game more than anything else.  I want to be here for my teammates who are depending on me to finish what we started together.

The impending return of the left tackle is a major boost for Ole Miss’ SEC championship aspirations.

Dane Brugler of CBS Sports projected Tunsil as the fourth pick in the upcoming draft, and the 6’5”, 305-pound tackle is a physical force as a run-blocker and clears lanes for the team’s playmakers. He is also fairly athletic for his size and able to move laterally as a pass protector.

The timing of Tunsil’s return is ideal for the Rebels as well. They will face Texas A&M, Auburn, Arkansas, LSU and their archrival, Mississippi State, with Tunsil back up front, which will help the offense survive the brutal physicality the SEC brings every week.

Ole Miss is already fifth in the nation with 46.8 points per game without Tunsil. Those numbers may get even better with the star tackle clearing the way up front.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Steve Spurrier to Retire: Twitter Reacts to Coach's Reported Decision

When one of the most legendary head coaches of his era chooses to step down, it's bound to create quite a buzz on social media. Sports Illustrated's Thayer Evans reported Monday night that South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier will retire, and he will do so with immediate effect, per the SEC Network.

Spurrier is 70 years old, and the Gamecocks are just 2-4 this season and unlikely to finish with a winning record. Still, his resignation comes as a bit of a surprise if only for the fact that he isn't waiting for the end of the year.

Gamecocks quarterback Connor Mitch appeared shocked by the abrupt nature of the news, tweeting, "Man it's been a crazy day."

Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel joked the "Ol' Ball Coach" likely already has plans for his first day of retirement:

Spurrier is unquestionably one of the greatest college coaches of the 1990s and 2000s. Should he truly be done, he'll walk away with a career record of 228-89-2 and one national championship to his name. ESPN Stats & Info put his incredible consistency into perspective:    

NFL Network's Albert Breer added this about Spurrier's overall legacy:

Smart Football's Chris B. Brown provided some highlights from Spurrier's glory days at Florida, which helped shape the future of college football:

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze was one of many impacted by those dominant Gators teams:

Of course, for as much as Spurrier did on the sidelines, his eccentric personality will be remembered just as fondly. He has always been one of the most entertaining characters in college football, and he knew exactly how to get under the skin of his fellow head coaches.

USA Today's Paul Myerberg and ESPN's Jorge Sedano shared two of Spurrier's more memorable barbs at his SEC foes:

Let this picture of Spurrier visiting an Arby's in 2013 be the lasting image you have of him—at least while he was still a head coach:

College football in general became a lesser spectacle following Spurrier's departure.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Virginia Tech vs. Miami: Complete Game Preview

The Virginia Tech Hokies (3-3, 1-1) snapped a two-game losing streak and picked up their first ACC win of the season with last week's 28-13 victory over N.C. State. 

Next up for the Hokies: longtime rival Miami (3-2, 0-1). 

The Hurricanes have their own two-game losing streak riding into this weekend's pivotal ACC Coastal Division contest. After beginning the 2015 season 3-0, the 'Canes have lost two in a row to Cincinnati and Florida State.

Miami and Virginia Tech were supposed to be battling it out for Coastal supremacy every season when the two schools joined the ACC back in 2004. However, much to the chagrin of league officials and observers, that hasn't been the case.

The Hokies have represented the division five times in the ACC title game and have won four league titles. Miami has yet to win the Coastal Division.

The Hurricanes lead the all-time series 19-13 and won last year's meeting decisively. The Hokies have won eight of the past 12 meetings between the fierce rivals.

  • When: Saturday, October 17, 2015
  • Where: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida
  • Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Radio: Virginia Tech IMG Sports Network. Here is a complete list of stations by area
  • Spread: The Hurricanes are presently six-point favorites, via Odds Shark

Begin Slideshow

Steve Spurrier Reportedly to Retire: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Steve Spurrier is a college football legend, but his days as a head coach are reportedly over.

Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated reported Monday that the South Carolina coach was planning on retiring, and Chris Clark of GamecockCentral of the Rivals.com network confirmed the retirement plans and noted Spurrier informed the team of his decision Monday.

Clark initially reported the timetable for the coach's retirement was unknown, though SportsCenter reported shortly afterward that "Steve Spurrier's retirement is immediate" and that the Gamecocks "will name an interim coach Wednesday morning."

South Carolina quarterback Connor Mitch took to Twitter and said, "Man it's been a crazy day."

Spurrier is 70 years old and his team has lost eight of its last nine SEC games, though he is also the school's all-time winningest coach. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com added more context to the story:

According to Sports-Reference.com, Spurrier boasts a 228-89-2 coaching record over 26 years and an 11-10 mark in 21 bowls.

He started his head coaching career with Duke in 1987, stayed there three seasons and led the team to No. 20 in the Associated Press poll in 1989. He also won the ACC Coach of the Year award in 1988 and 1989.    

After that, Spurrier coached at Florida from 1990-2001 and led the Gators to the 1996 Associated Press national championship with a 12-1 record and Sugar Bowl victory over archrival Florida State. Florida was ranked in the Associated Press poll in every season Spurrier was there, and he was the SEC Coach of the Year in 1990, 1995 and 1996.

Spurrier also played quarterback for the Gators from 1964-1966 and took home the 1966 Heisman Trophy and SEC Player of the Year award, per Sports-Reference.com.

Spurrier stayed in the conference when he took the South Carolina job in 2005. He also was the SEC Coach of Year as the leader of the Gamecocks in 2005 and 2010, and South Carolina has won a bowl game in each of the last four seasons under Spurrier.

However, college football writer Phil Steele pointed out the 2015 season is the first in Spurrier's 23 years in the SEC in which his team started 0-4 in conference play. 

Despite the disappointing start to this campaign, Zach Osterman of the Indianapolis Star recognized Spurrier's overall greatness:

His record as a coach certainly stands out, and Spurrier also consistently made headlines for his outspoken approach during press conferences and his willingness to take verbal jabs at opponents. Joe Schad of ESPN noted Spurrier's tendency to engage with the media, while Paul Myerberg of USA Today recalled one of the coach's famous jabs:

Spurrier developed into one of the defining characters in the college football world over the last three decades behind his personality and his teams' dominance on the field, and he will remain a legend in the SEC well after his retirement.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Thomas Johnson, Former Texas A&M WR, to Be Charged with Murder

Authorities in Dallas have arrested Thomas Linze Johnson, a former member of the Texas A&M football team, on suspicion of murder after he allegedly stabbed a jogger to death Monday morning, per Tristan Hallman of the Dallas Morning News.

Hallman posted a photo of the crime scene:     

"It appears that Mr. Johnson picked this victim at random. It's absolutely random," said Dallas police Deputy Chief Rob Sherwin in a press conference, per Jeff Smith and Frank Heinz of NBC 5 in Dallas-Fort Worth. "He just attacked him. He told our homicide detectives that he was angry about a situation and he just picked somebody to murder. I believe there's more to that story. It's just very unusual. It's quite shocking."

Johnson only played one season with the Aggies, leaving the school in December 2012. Roughly a month earlier, he had gone missing from the A&M campus in mysterious circumstances only to be found in Dallas three days after his disappearance.

In April 2014, his mother, Linda Hanks, told Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express-News that Johnson was working on a comeback to the football field.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

What Could Have Been If Ed Orgeron Was Named USC HC Instead of Steve Sarkisian

With all due respect for the demons Steve Sarkisian is about to battle and the human side story that pulls at strings reserved for things far more important than football, one can’t help but take a dive down the hypothetical rabbit hole.

What if Ed Orgeron had been named USC head coach back in December of 2013? 

What if, instead of “resigning,” Orgeron was given the keys to this glorious Ferrari no one ever thought he would drive? 

What if, after picking up the pieces left by Lane Kiffin—igniting a lifeless program to a charismatic and captivating 6-2 finish—USC athletic director Pat Haden ended a high-profile coaching search right then and there by removing the interim tag off the coach beloved by his players?

What if…

On Monday, the man who replaced Orgeron was fired—less than two years after he took over one of the nation’s great jobs.

After Sarkisian was placed on a leave of absence Sunday—the result of erratic behavior that is still unfolding out in the open, with ugly stones still likely to be discovered—Haden acted quickly on Monday.

In a release, Haden provided the following statement, confirming that Sarkisian had been relieved:

After careful consideration of what is in the best interest of the university and our student-athletes, I have made the decision to terminate Steve Sarkisian, effective immediately.

I want to thank Clay Helton for stepping into the interim head coach role, and I want to add how proud I am of our coaching staff and players and the way they are responding to this difficult situation.

Through all of this we remain concerned for Steve and hope that it will give him the opportunity to focus on his personal well being.

The last part of this statement is critical. While the sudden opening of one of college football’s most coveted jobs is newsworthy—with a roster seemingly equipped to win big right away—the well-being of the human is paramount. That cannot be stated enough before focusing on the football side of things.

And yet, with the benefit of hindsight suddenly at our disposal, it’s hard not to take a trip back in time—to the place where this all strangely came together. 

Back on November 20, 2013, months after Lane Kiffin was let go in the middle of the night, I wrote that Orgeron should be seriously considered for USC’s next coach. 

His influence went above and beyond the average program caregiver. Orgeron injected the program with life. The players responded by playing loose and well. The weight and pressure vanished overnight. Everything, somehow, matched up accordingly.

A players' coach in every sense, Orgeron backed up his reputation as one of the sport’s most likeable people with tangible results. It was evident in the way they played.

A mere day 10 days after I wrote that column, however, USC lost to UCLA in a game that changed the coaching search entirely. On an unbelievable run and the talk of Los Angeles, the momentum to keep Orgeron permanently might have been too impossible to ignore had the Trojans won that game.

When they lost, Orgeron’s fate was essentially determined.

It seemed unfair at the time, although Haden was determined. The plan in hiring Sarkisian was abundantly clear: Bring back someone familiar with the program and try to reignite the magical Pete Carroll era with one of the key members of his staff.

And yet, Orgeron seemed like a natural fit. His back-roads Louisiana personality somehow meshed brilliantly with the constant motion and spotlight of Los Angeles. His university ties existed only as an assistant, but goodness did it feel right.

While he struggled mightily as a head coach during his tenure at Ole Miss, the formula seemed to work in a new situation with perspective gained. But it was not to be.

When Orgeron found out he was not being considered, he resigned. Players, such as former USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams, did not shy away from voicing disappointment. There was plenty of devastation to go around.

Words can't explain how I'm feeling right now....just lost a father. Way more than a coach #coachO

— Leonard Williams (@leonardwilliams) December 2, 2013

I spoke with Orgeron the following October. Out of a job, he was completely at peace, spending the days working out, cooking and with his family. 

His case for keeping a job he desperately wanted was simple enough; his thanks offered after a messy breakup was genuine.

“You look at the overall body of work, and we had a lot of success there,” Orgeron told me. “We’re very appreciative of the time with the USC family, and they were very good to us.” 

Fast-forward to present day. Orgeron is now happily employed by LSU, where he is the program’s defensive line coach. It is a perfect position for a man whose home is Louisiana. It’s also an ideal position for one of the nation’s premier recruiters. This, in many ways, is a job he was destined for.

“It means a lot to represent the people of Louisiana,” Orgeron told me earlier this year. “I have close friends, family, ex-coaches all the way from North Louisiana to South Louisiana. I’ve been all around the country, but LSU is a place I’ve always respected. It’s just an honor to be coaching here. I understand the tradition.”

At USC, the job Orgeron was told he could not have is now open once again. And just like the last time a change was made, former players are coming to bat for their old coach who didn’t get his shot. 

Former Trojans safety Dion Bailey, who skipped his senior season for the NFL, brought up Orgeron’s departure as one of the reasons he decided to leave. Five others decided to join him, too, doing so for reasons unknown.

If we make the right choice i would've had 1 more year.. We have to get it right this time!! Coach O or Helton, Help keep the Jr.'s around!!

— Dion Bailey (@dbailey_18) October 11, 2015

The likelihood of Orgeron being hired at USC now is remote, and remote might not be a strong enough word for it. ESPN.com’s Arash Markazi has already reported that Orgeron will not likely be on the list of coaches to speak with, which should come as no surprise.

After everything, it would be a strange marriage to spark back up. And if Haden is going to be the one to make this hire—which is a point still to be determined—I doubt he would feel any differently about Orgeron now, even with this failed attempt out in the open.

Had Orgeron somehow beaten UCLA back in 2013, this might not have been the case. The recruiting, which was excellent under Sarkisian, would have stayed dominant with Orgeron around. 

A program that has struggled to find an identity since Carroll left—with the exception of those two wild months in 2013—might have finally found it. It’s hard to pinpoint how this life is generated; it’s far easier to know when it’s absent. 

The results are where the great mystery exists, although things would have been different. It’s hard to envision how Orgeron would have handled the life as USC's head coach, but it’s not unreasonable to imagine much different success his second time around.

“When you have five years to think about what you would do as a head coach again, there are a lot of thoughts that you write down,” Orgeron said last season. “I told myself that when I got my chance again, these are the things I wanted to do. So I did them.”

Having failed at Ole Miss, many assumed he was not equipped to handle a job of this magnitude over the long haul. But everything aligned. He was different. The program was different. And, perhaps most of all, he had the unwavering support of players, many of whom he could have still been coaching. The true value of this could have snowballed into something grand.

How grand is a question that will never be answered. At the bare minimum, it would have been much, much different.

Picking a head coach is an inexact science, to say the least. It’s a process that fails far more than it succeeds. In many instances, athletic directors and administrations would much rather test drive a current regime and decide six months later whether it wanted to proceed without a financial penalty attached. 

This, however, is not the way this profession works. Well, in most cases. 

USC was given that rare opportunity. The Trojans saw a coach bring an emotionally drained program back from the dead. They saw life. They saw wins. They saw the players rally. But instead of backing the success they seemingly stumbled into with say a modest two-year extension—a further test drive, if you will—they decided to take a leap of faith.

And now, less than two years later, USC will do so again.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

What Could Have Been If Ed Orgeron Was Named USC HC Instead of Steve Sarkisian

With all due respect for the demons Steve Sarkisian is about to battle and the human side story that pulls at strings reserved for things far more important than ...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

College Football Playoff Standings 2015: Week 7 Rankings, Bowl Game Projections

The NFL may have had a stranglehold on crazy, unforeseen news in the offseason, but it may not hold a candle to college football during the season.

Up is down, and left is right. Crazy chaos may just be the theme of the 2015 season, and we’re just now entering the halfway point of Week 7. On and off the field, there is little substitute to this kind of drama, but it also makes things extremely difficult to project several weeks—or, heck, several days—out.

Case in point this week: Look at powerhouse programs USC and Florida. Each appeared to be going in opposite directions. The Trojans sank to 3-2 after a puzzling loss to Washington and then promptly fired their head coach nearly 72 hours later, the school announced. Yet as talented as the team is, would it surprise anybody if it inexplicably beat Notre Dame on Saturday and then somehow won the Pac-12 South?

Things are that crazy this year that such a thing can’t be completely ruled out.

And then there’s Florida. The Gators looked to be the prohibitive favorite in the SEC East, but it was announced on Monday that starting quarterback Will Grier would miss a full year after failing a drug test, as Mike Huguenin of GridironNow.com first reported. Even though the drop-off might not be gigantic to Treon Harris, it’s still a big blow to a squad just hitting its stride.

Now, a trip to Atlanta isn’t looking quite like the lock that it once was after beating Missouri on Saturday. That’s not to say it won’t happen, but anything is possible at this point.

And that’s the kind of thing that makes college football great and bowl projections so tough to do. Here they are anyway.

  • Here are the full Top 25 rankings. The College Football Playoff selection committee will release its first rankings Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
  • There are no changes to the top four in the College Football Playoff, but there is a slight tweak made in the Orange Bowl with Ohio State moving to the No. 2 seed and Clemson going to the No. 3 seed. Again, that's not much of a change, but it is based on some strong Buckeyes wins over Michigan State and Michigan at the end of the regular season boosting them ever so slightly over undefeated ACC champion Clemson.
  • It’s still going to be difficult to reach 80 teams hitting bowl eligibility, but we will certainly hover right around that mark. The number of SEC or Big Ten teams getting into the "New Year’s Six" bowl games will also have a big cascading affect on lower-tier bowl games trying to pick teams. The bottom line is we shouldn’t have any 6-6 Group of Five teams not finding a postseason home, but where it might be is anybody’s guess.
  • The real winners among bowl games might just be the Russell Athletic Bowl. If Notre Dame misses out on the New Year’s Six games, it's likely to find a home in Orlando, and it could be against a nine-win Oklahoma team to boot.
  • Likewise, the Sun Bowl could get a really good matchup with a 10-2/9-3-type Florida State squad taking on a back-sliding USC group. Sure the on-field product may not be as good as the name-brand matchup suggests, but it could bring a bit of fun to El Paso in the winter.
  • Late December is also when college hoops season starts to pick up some steam, so how about Kentucky playing North Carolina? In this case, that would be in the Music City Bowl, but don’t rule out the Wildcats playing Duke in the Belk Bowl either.
  • It will be hard to top the contrasting styles of offense in a potential bowl game of Air Force’s triple-option taking on Washington State’s Air Raid. It could also prevent it from becoming a four-hour game.
  • There are not typically a lot of rematches in bowl games, but one certainly would think the Rose Bowl is OK with giving Michigan a shot at Pasadena newcomer Utah.
  • The best bowl matchup among the smaller games might be in the GoDaddy Bowl, where a very good (and Top 25-ranked) Toledo squad could face off against a very good Georgia Southern team. It will still take a lot for either to be the top Group of Five team, but this could be a nice consolation game to see who is second- or third-best. 


You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Head Coach Search: Latest News, Rumors After Steve Sarkisian's Firing

The head coach of the USC Trojans is one of the most prestigious college football jobs in the country, and the position is now open after the school fired Steve Sarkisian on Monday, per ESPN.com. Sarkisian was originally asked to take an indefinite leave of absence as he dealt with health- and alcohol-related issues.

While offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Clay Helton will assume the interim responsibilities, there is already plenty of speculation about who will take over the position in a full-time role.

Continue for updates.

Ed Orgeron Reportedly Not in Consideration for USC Job Monday, Oct. 12

Ed Orgeron is the defensive line coach at LSU, but there is a natural connection between him and the USC program since he was a former assistant and served as the interim head coach after Lane Kiffin was fired.

Arash Markazi of ESPN put an end to any speculation Orgeron will return with a report stating: “I've been told USC is still in the early stages of compiling a list of coaches to go after. Ed Orgeron, I'm told, will not be on that list.”

Orgeron was an assistant coach for two different stints with the Trojans and finished 6-2 when he was the interim head coach for eight games in 2013. Orgeron injected life into the program after Kiffin went 3-2 to start the season (and finished 7-6 the year before), but USC did not bring him in as the full-time coach after the search process.

Ross Dellenger of the Advocate, citing an ESPN story, noted Orgeron was not pleased with athletic director Pat Haden’s decision to hire Sarkisian even though Orgeron was offered an assistant head coaching position.

In his current role, Orgeron has helped lead the Tigers to an undefeated start, and his defense has 12 sacks in five games.

While it apparently won’t be Orgeron, whoever eventually takes over the USC program will not be starting from scratch. The Trojans play in a recruiting hotbed and brought in the No. 2 class in the country in 2015 and currently have the No. 9 class in the country for 2016, per 247Sports’ composite rankings.

This season is trending downward after a 3-2 start with showdowns against Notre Dame, Utah and California looming, but there is a foundation in place for sustained success at USC. This is a program that is accustomed to competing for national titles, and the next coach will be tasked with getting the Trojans to that level on the field and keeping them there on the recruiting trail.    

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Head Coach Search: Latest News, Rumors After Steve Sarkisian's Firing

The head coach of the USC Trojans is one of the most prestigious college football jobs in the country, and the position is now open after the school fired Steve Sarkisian on Monday, per ESPN...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Steve Sarkisian Fired by USC: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

USC Trojans athletic director Pat Haden announced Monday that head football coach Steve Sarkisian has been fired.

Jordan Moore of the Trojans' website passed along Haden's official statement:

After careful consideration of what is in the best interest of the university and our student-athletes, I have made the decision to terminate Steve Sarkisian, effective immediately.

I want to thank Clay Helton for stepping into the interim head coach role, and I want to add how proud I am of our coaching staff and players and the way they are responding to this difficult situation.

Through all of this we remain concerned for Steve and hope that it will give him the opportunity to focus on his personal well-being.

"Steve Sarkisian is aware of the termination and is deeply disappointed," Cyd Zeigler of SB Nation relayed from "a source close to" Sarkisian. "But right now his No. 1 priority is getting himself well. To that end, he has checked himself into a residential treatment facility. He's grateful for all the support that will help him get through this difficult time."

Sarkisian, 41, led the Trojans to a victory in the Holiday Bowl last season, which capped a 9-4 season in his first year at the helm. This year the team was off to a 3-2 start, before Haden implored Sarkisian to take a leave of absence after he allegedly showed up to Sunday's team meetings appearing to be intoxicated, per ESPN.com.

Although the specific nature of Sarkisian's issues hasn't been officially revealed, the Los Angeles Times' Nathan Fenno and Lindsey Thiry compiled a report Monday that outlined his alleged use of alcohol during his previous head coaching stint at Washington.

Following the annual Salute to Troy event in August during which he slurred his words and used an expletive, Sarkisian said he'd taken medication and mixed it with alcohol. ESPN's Joe Schad hinted the termination of Sarkisian's contract may not mark the end of the saga:

The Trojans will carry on with Helton, who has been the offensive coordinator since 2013, as their interim head coach. Helton has also served as the quarterbacks coach, and the offense still has veteran signal-caller Cody Kessler under center.

Next up for USC on the schedule is Notre Dame on the road. The Trojans must regroup, rally around Helton and move forward to avoid slipping to 3-3 in South Bend on Saturday.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Steve Sarkisian Fired by USC: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

USC Trojans athletic director Pat Haden announced Monday that head football coach Steve Sarkisian has been fired...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Notre Dame Lands 4-Star Donte Vaughn, Could See More Commits Soon

Monday may be the start of something really good for Notre Dame's recruiting in the upcoming weeks.

The Irish recently landed its 16th commit of the 2016 class in 4-star cornerback Donte Vaughn out of Memphis, Tennessee. Vaughn chose Notre Dame over offers from Tennessee, Ole Miss, Auburn, LSU and a host of other programs.

"I picked Notre Dame because they provide the best of both worlds, big-time football and education," Vaughn told 247Sports' Tom Loy. "I liked everything up there. It was a family environment. That's what stood out."

For Notre Dame, Vaughn could just be the beginning.

The Irish are hoping to pick up a few commitments in a number of days. Vaughn kicked things off Monday. Tuesday could be another celebratory day as 3-star California safety Chacho Ulloa will announce his verbal commitment. Ulloa is expected to choose either Notre Dame, Stanford or Arizona State.

And then there's Saturday's showdown with USC. Notre Dame will host a big weekend loaded with official and unofficial visitors. Expected to make the trip are 5-star receiver Nate Craig-Myers and 4-star standouts such as linebacker Daelin Hayes, Brandon Burton, cornerback Damar Hamlin and receiver Javon McKinley, among others. Hayes is a player to watch, as he decommitted from USC on Sunday.

All of the aforementioned, along with several others making visits later in the year, have envisioned themselves wearing Notre Dame gold and blue. Head coach Brian Kelly and his staff have been working hard to add more playmakers to an already talented class, and the immediate future of the Irish could be bright.

The goal for an October surge started with Vaughn, as Notre Dame landed a top-30 cornerback who has excellent size at 6'3" and 192 pounds. His length, long stride and the way he uses his body in coverage poses a problem for wide receivers, particularly smaller receivers.

Because of Vaughn's size, and with Notre Dame's depth at the cornerback position, don't be surprised if the Irish try using him at either safety or the nickel position early in his career. Vaughn is a natural cornerback, but his versatility makes him a candidate to see time elsewhere if the coaches see fit.

Adding Vaughn to the class was a big win for the Irish. Now, the staff will focus on adding athletes like 4-star linebacker Aaron Hansford, 4-star all-purpose backs Damian Alloway and Melquise Stovall and the other athletes previously mentioned.

October could be one for the Irish. If so, credit Vaughn for the jump-start.


Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Is Ole Miss on Upset Alert vs. Undefeated Memphis?

It's safe to say this Saturday's matchup between Ole Miss and Memphis—two programs that are close in proximity but not perception—won't be quite like anything in the last 60 editions of the rivalry.

At 5-1 on the season, Ole Miss will be fighting for its College Football Playoff life in the Liberty Bowl. Undefeated Memphis will be amped up and ready to play the spoiler role in its hunt for a lucrative New Year's Six bowl bid.

The Rebels are currently No. 12 in the USA Today Amway Coaches Poll. That's just a mere 10 spots ahead of Memphis, which can say it's been ranked in back-to-back weeks for the first time in school history, per Bryan Moss of TigerSportsReport.com.

Ole Miss undoubtedly has a talent edge over its upcoming opponent from the American Athletic Conference, the early-season king of the "Group of Five" leagues. Odds Shark is listing the Rebels as 10.5-point road favorites for a reason.

But Memphis will have a clear advantage in momentum, as it has the Football Bowl Subdivision's third-longest active winning streak at 12 straight victories.

"I'm pretty sure we're going to get their best game. They're going to get our best game," Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell said, per Tom Schad of the Commercial Appeal. "They're undefeated, and that brings confidence. We know they'll give us their best shot, and they'll take our best shot, and we'll see who's standing at the end."

What the Tigers can throw at Ole Miss—a team it only trailed 7-3 heading into the fourth quarter of last season's matchup in Oxford—should put the Rebels on a reasonable level of upset alert.

Memphis' success so far this season starts with junior quarterback Paxton Lynch, a 6'7" signal-caller who is in the middle of a red-hot start to 2015.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze spoke about the matchup, per Phil Stukenborg of the Commercial Appeal:

[Memphis] is a quality, quality football team. They are playing with great confidence and have what a lot of us desire in a really sound, good quarterback. He's one of the better ones I've seen on film.

He takes care of the ball. He puts it where it needs to go. He can make all the throws. He's a very, very talented kid with good players around him.

Last season, Lynch struggled mightily against the Ole Miss defense, completing only 13 of his 31 pass attempts for 81 yards and an interception.

But since then, Lynch has been one of the most efficient passers in all of college football. He threw 17 touchdowns to just six interceptions—all of those picks coming in just two games—to lead the Tigers to a 10-3 finish in 2014.

This season, Lynch is ranked third nationally behind Baylor star Seth Russell and Western Kentucky veteran Brandon Doughty in passer rating. He also ranks second in yards per attempt and fifth in completion percentage for qualified passers.

Since his short day of work in an opening-day blowout over Southwest Missouri State, Lynch has thrown for at least two touchdowns and 300 yards in every single game.

His play has caught the attention of ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., who put him on his most recent NFL draft Big Board:

Lynch has good size with room to fill out, and not just a strong arm, but the ability to get the ball out quickly. He has the height to see the whole field quickly without creating space, and he throws well on the move when he does need that space.

It sounds trite, but the talent for the position is so clear, and the decision-making has been very good.

With Lynch's surge toward the top of the national leaderboards and seven returning starters around him, Memphis' passing attack is much improved compared to the one Ole Miss faced in Week 4 of 2014.

Lynch's efficiency in a more explosive offense looks like huge red flag for Ole Miss, which was carved up by excellent and now-suspended Florida quarterback Will Grier in a blowout loss in The Swamp.

The "Landsharks" aren't at full strength right now, and the secondary will have the special spotlight after allowing more than 270 passing yards in both of its road games this season.

Davis Potter of the Oxford Eagle wrote about Ole Miss' defensive issues:

Stopping teams through the air has been the Rebels’ problem on defense, and they’ll face Lynch and company with middle linebacker Terry Caldwell making just his second start and free safety C.J. Hampton making his second career start for a defense that’s had to reshuffle with C.J. Johnson and Tony Conner out.

On the other side of the matchup, the Ole Miss offense was able to get back on track last Saturday in a blowout win against New Mexico State.

While they boast an undefeated record, the Tigers are far from defensive stalwarts. They currently rank 122nd—that's seventh-worst—in the FBS in passing yards allowed per game.

The momentum Chad Kelly regained with the likes of Laquon Treadwell and the rest of the Rebels' dynamic playmakers should push this attack to a big day at the Liberty Bowl.

However, Ole Miss can't be careless through the air. Although it gave up a ton of passing yards to Cincinnati in a wild weeknight shootout, Memphis had three interceptions in that game and another one against USF two weeks ago.

Memphis has done a much better job of taking care of the ball since fumbling it three times in a rout of Kansas, and keep in mind that Lynch hasn't thrown a pick all season.

If the game becomes a shootout, Memphis already has experience in that area, although its back-to-back high-scoring wins earlier this season came against Group of Five powers Bowling Green and Cincinnati instead of an SEC-caliber program.

But more importantly, the Tigers are well-versed in having to come back from deficits, which will help them out tremendously against Ole Miss.

Memphis has trailed at halftime in each of its last three wins, and it's safe to say it hasn't played its best football yet this season—even with the undefeated record.

Tigers head coach Justin Fuente discussed his team with the Associated Press (h/t the Tennessean):

I do like the fact that our kids have not panicked when they’ve been behind. They haven’t hung their heads. They’ve just continued to play and find a way out of those holes. ... In the same respect, I don’t like the way we’ve played early. I feel like we’ve been a little bit out of our minds. We’ve made some uncharacteristic mistakes.

If the Tigers can play sharply after an important bye week, then Lynch and his offense should come out firing early behind a rowdy Memphis crowd.

If the Rebels pull ahead with their talent advantage, the Tigers won't be completely out of it because of their recent experience with comebacks.

Either way, the trip up the road to Memphis won't be an easy nonconference victory for the Rebels—and they sound well aware of the challenge ahead of them.

"We're ready to play," Ole Miss senior defensive back Mike Hilton said, per Schad. "They're an undefeated team, so they're trying to make a statement against us. And everybody knows how big the rivalry is between us. So it's going to be a fun one. We're ready for Saturday."


Unless otherwise noted, statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Florida QB Will Grier's Suspension Breaks SEC East Race Wide Open

The wild and unpredictable SEC East race took another turn Monday, and it impacted the division's front-runner.

Will Grier, the starting quarterback for the Florida Gators (6-0, 4-0 SEC) who has tossed 10 touchdowns and only three picks and stabilized the Florida offense, has been suspended indefinitely for taking an over-the-counter banned supplement according to Scott Carter of GatorZone.com, Florida's official athletics website. Ed Aschoff of ESPN notes that the suspension is for a full 365 days.

Grier spoke with the media Monday afternoon, according to Carter.

"I really hope people can learn from this and learn from my mistake," he said. "I'm really sorry to everyone. Really sorry."

Grier also mentioned in the press conference how he obtained the substance, according to Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated.

If Florida's appeal, which was announced during the press conference, isn't successful, it's a huge loss for the Gators.

Grier, a former 4-star prospect from Davidson, North Carolina, ascended to the starting job over the dual-threat Treon Harris in Game 2, and has held down the position essentially full-time since beating Kentucky on the road in Game 3. 

Now, the SEC East is wide open.

Sure, Florida still has an advantage. After all, a one-game lead and head-to-head tiebreaker over Kentucky and at least a two-game lead over every other team in the division with half of the conference season already played has created quite a cushion for Jim McElwain's crew.

But it does open the door for Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee to get back into it.

Harris is a solid dual-threat quarterback, but Florida's offense has turned into the exact offense McElwain was hired to bring to Gainesville from Colorado State. It's a standard, pro-style, play-action offense that takes shots deep downfield when safeties creep up to stop star running back Kelvin Taylor.

Are McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier capable of adjusting their style on the fly and still producing the same success the offense had under Grier? Maybe, but they still have to fit a square peg into a round hole, or, perhaps more accurately, make the round hole a square.

With Florida holding a head-to-head tiebreaker over Tennessee (3-3, 1-2 SEC), Georgia (4-2, 2-2 SEC) holding one over the Vols, Kentucky (4-1, 2-1 SEC) hanging around with one loss and Missouri (4-2, 1-2 SEC) still a threat, the division is wide open.

Despite Georgia's recent struggles, which include a blowout loss to Alabama two weeks ago and the loss of a 21-point lead on the road last week at Tennessee, the division, as FoxSports.com's Stewart Mandel noted on Twitter, could come down to the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.

What about Tennessee? 

The Vols finally won a big game and did so under some rather trying circumstances last week in that come-from-behind 38-31 win over Georgia. Could that spark a surge on Rocky Top? Maybe, but that loss to Florida could come back to haunt head coach Butch Jones' crew even if they beat Alabama in two weeks and run the table the rest of the way.

Bottom line, there are no stable teams in the SEC East anymore.

There are a bunch of teams—all of which have losses except for Florida—that are flawed, inconsistent and littered with questions.

Grier's suspension adds Florida to the list of SEC East misfits. Sure, it's at the top of that list, but Grier's absence makes the Gators as unpredictable as every other team.

Buckle up. The next month-and-a-half is going to be a wild ride.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Alabama Freshman WR Calvin Ridley a Star in the Making

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — First, the disclaimer: If you asked Nick Saban or anyone on the University of Alabama football team to compare Calvin Ridley to his high-profile predecessors, they would tell you that he’s not Amari Cooper or Julio Jones.

All three are physically different and have different styles of play, and nothing can replace the level of experience the former players had without suiting up for a couple of seasons (at least). Sure, they’re all wide receivers, but that’s about where the comparisons end, because each one is used differently.

Besides, Ridley is still considered a college football pup.

“It's just, 'Go out there and do your job,'” senior center Ryan Kelly said, describing  the approach of all the wide receivers. “They don't want to go out there and be Amari Cooper.”

However, if you want to say that Ridley is following in their footsteps, especially Cooper’s, that’s a different story, because he clearly is. They even hail from the same region, about 30 minutes apart in South Florida. 

"I've always thought he was really talented since the day he got here," senior quarterback Jake Coker said. "Now that he's getting more and more comfortable, it's getting exciting to see what he can do."

With No. 10 Alabama hitting the midway point of the season, Ridley has emerged to lead all wide receivers with 31 catches, 385 yards and three touchdowns. His back-to-back 100-yard performances didn’t just come against any teams but rather SEC opponents, and in both games he made plays that could be described as backbreaking.

It began at Georgia on Oct. 3, when his 50-yard reception off what looked like a fake screen was the first big offensive play of the game.

“It was kind of a busted play, and he got open,” Coker said. “It worked.”

So did the Cooper-like 45-yard touchdown strike that essentially put the game away in the second quarter. Ridley finished with five receptions for 120 yards in his breakout game and then topped that with nine catches for 140 yards against Arkansas last Saturday.

That time, his 81-yard touchdown broke the game open. The play was designed so that the other receiver acted as a decoy to draw the attention of the safety, to make sure that the defender on Ridley didn’t get any help.

“It was something we had been working on all week,” said Coker, while Saban called it a “big momentum-changer.”

It sparked a three-score run, as Alabama quickly went from being down 7-3 with one minute and 39 seconds to go in the third quarter to being ahead 20-7 with 10:07 remaining in the game.

"It was huge for us having Calvin just be the playmaker that he is,” said senior wide receiver Richard Mullaney—who had Alabama’s other touchdown reception and afterward said he was “wide-(expletive) open,” only to blush after realizing what he said.

With Alabama’s numbers down at the playmaker positions, Saban made it no secret that this could be an unusual season in terms of freshmen having the opportunity to make an immediate impact. Running back Damien Harris and tight end Hale Hentges have both played in five of the Crimson Tide’s first six games, but it’s been especially true at wide receiver.

Last year’s starters, Cooper, DeAndrew White and Christion Jones, were essentially the only established veterans, and all have moved on. Sophomore Cam Sims suffered a torn ACL in the spring and is back playing but has just three catches for 21 yards. Sophomore Robert Foster earned one of the open starting jobs, only to be sidelined by a shoulder injury.

Consequently, Alabama’s "X" position could be renamed the "F receiver position," because the three-deep is now all freshmen: Ridley, Daylon Charlot and Deionte Thompson. The other starters are sophomore ArDarius Stewart and fifth-year transfer Mullaney, who has become the Crimson Tide’s key possession receiver out of the slot.

Combine that with a new quarterback, and it’s pretty understandable why the offense has been such a work in progress, but at the same time, Ridley’s rise can’t be considered much of a surprise.

As a 5-star recruit, 247Sports rated him the 11th-best prospect in the nation and the top wide receiver in the Class of 2015. Cooper didn’t have that designation (45th and fifth, respectively) in 2012, but both were on the short list of top prospects out of the Sunshine State.

“Calvin has really kind of showed some elite talent of guys over the years we’ve been able to be around,” offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin said during training camp. “He’s shown that talent. Now, there’s a long way to go to get to that level, but his speed and the way that he catches the ball and his transition, if he does the other things all the way through, which is a lot, I think he can be really special.”

Kiffin also called Cooper one of the hardest-working players he’s ever seen, a designation of which you know Ridley’s been reminded on a regular basis, and Saban said something similar about Jones when he wore crimson and white (2009-11).

Statistically, Jones only had three 100-yard games his freshman season, the first being against the team he tortured the most over his illustrious career, Tennessee (six catches, 103 yards). The other two were at LSU and against Florida in the 2008 SEC Championship Game, as Jones quickly developed a reputation for being at his best during big games.

Cooper’s first 100-yard game was also against Tennessee (seven receptions, 162 yards and two touchdowns). He also didn’t make his first start until Alabama’s sixth game of the 2012 season at rain-soaked Missouri. Yet he finished his first collegiate campaign with five 100-yard performances in his last seven games.

Jones had 58 catches for 924 yards and four touchdowns, which at the time were all Crimson Tide records for a freshman—the previous holders were Ozzie Newsome for the receiving yards record (374) and A.C. Carter for receptions and touchdowns.

Cooper set the bar even higher, though, with 59 catches for 1,000 yards, and his 11 touchdowns broke the 62-year-old Crimson Tide record of Al Lary (10 in 1950). For his career, he made 228 receptions for 3,463 yards and 31 touchdowns, all UA records.

Alabama can only hope Ridley is able to approach those numbers. Cooper averaged 16.9 yards per reception (14.6 during his first six games), while Jones averaged 15.9 (12.76). Ridley is averaging 12.4 but looks like he’s just getting started.

"I feel like he's definitely grown since he's gotten here, definitely mature for his age," Mullaney said. “He's obviously really fast, makes plays for us, so I'm excited for him."


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

Since Jimbo Fisher took over as the head coach at Florida State, the Seminoles have been among the handful of schools who have effectively recruited the JUCO ranks. 

The ‘Noles may have found a diamond in the rough after offering 3-star JUCO defensive tackle Walvenski Aime, according to Noles247.

Aime wasted little time as he accepted the offer and became the 18th commitment in Florida State’s 2016 class.

According to Josh Newberg of Noles247, the Seminoles staff evaluated him for more than a year and re-emerged on the scene with him a few weeks ago.

Aime told Newberg:

They wanted to see how I played. I played last year but was injured, and I had to take some time off. I didn’t have much film, and I knew I had to prove myself to them. They liked my latest film and decided to offer last night. It’s more satisfying to get the offer after they saw my new film. I know they believe in me.

Auburn also offered Aime last week, per Josh Edwards of 247Sports.

The 6’5”, 295-pounder selected Florida State over offers from Kentucky, Louisville and Miami among others.

Considering defensive tackle was one of the top priorities for Fisher and his staff in the 2016 cycle, Aime fills a big need and gives the ‘Noles a quality prospect who could potentially contribute as soon as next season.


Big 12 Powers Offer JUCO OL

While the Seminoles found a player who could immediately help in the trenches, both Baylor and TCU were after a stud offensive lineman from the JUCO ranks.

First, the Bears offered Garett Bolles, according to Matt Clare of Rivals. The Horned Frogs followed one day later.

The 6’5”, 290-pounder rates as the No. 4 JUCO prospect available in the 2016 cycle.

Bolles currently holds more than 20 offers with programs such as Auburn, Arkansas and BYU among the programs in the running for his services.


Alabama After Stud 2017 ATH

Last week, 4-star athlete Bruce Judson began the week by backing off his pledge to Ohio State.

Shortly afterward, the Sunshine State product received an offer from Alabama.

Judson, the nation’s No. 16 athlete and the No. 153 player overall in the 2017 cycle, still claims that the Buckeyes are the No. 1 school on his list, as noted by Alex Gleitman of Bucknuts.

However, the Tide hope to battle fellow SEC powers Auburn and Florida in hopes of landing one of the nation’s top playmakers in the 2017 cycle.


Michigan Offers 2018 OL

One of the main areas that Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is hoping to address in transforming the Wolverines roster is upgrading the talent in the trenches.

Last week, the Wolverines offered rising sophomore offensive lineman Jackson Carman, according to Steve Lorenz of Wolverine247.

The 6’6”, 275-pounder already holds offers from Cincinnati, Iowa and Vanderbilt. 

Expect Carman to be a player whose offer list grows in the coming months.


Best of the Rest







Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. 


Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Will Grier, Florida QB, Suspended for Violation of NCAA Rules

Florida Gators quarterback Will Grier has been suspended for a violation of NCAA rules.

Mike Huguenin of GridironNow.com first reported the news Monday, while Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel reported the ban will last for one calendar year.

"I took an over-the-counter supplement that had something in it," Grier said, per Scott Carter of GatorZone.com. "I did not check with the medical staff before taking it."

Grier tested positive for Ligandrol, according to Jenna Laine of Sports Talk 1040.

The quarterback apologized, per Jon Solomon of CBS Sports, saying, "I really hope people can learn from my mistake. I'm really sorry to everyone."

Head coach Jim McElwain commented on the ban, saying, "We as a university will appeal this, and we support Will and his family," per OnlyGators.com.

"It was an honest mistake that can be prevented by talking to our medical staff," McElwain added, per OnlyGators.com. "This is a mistake we'll learn from."

Grier fought past Treon Harris on the depth chart and has helped guide Florida to a 6-0 start and a No. 8 ranking in the most recent Associated Press poll. The redshirt freshman has thrown for 1,204 yards and 10 touchdowns to just three interceptions.

ESPN CollegeFootball put into context how well he's been playing:

Not only does Grier's future in Gainesville come into question, but a magnificent turnaround by McElwain is now in jeopardy. This unfortunate development also comes ahead of Florida's toughest road game of the year, a showdown with SEC rival LSU this Saturday.

It's up to Harris to take the reins for Grier and run the offense efficiently. He has shown a knack for big plays more so than Grier, with a career average of 9.3 yards per pass attempt, but in his most extended action last season, he completed only 49.6 percent of his passes.

Although Harris has flashed improved accuracy this year (19-of-27 passing for 269 yards and two TDs), he was also suspended for the Tennessee game on September 26. That was the consequence of failing a drug test, according to ESPN's Brett McMurphy.

The hope is Harris can show marked improvement as a sophomore. Should anything happen to him, the Gators will be forced to turn to a completely unproven commodity at the game's most important position.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bowl Predictions 2015: Updated Projections Entering Week 7

Predicting bowl matchups has gotten a bit easier since the elimination of the oftentimes confusing BCS system, but the failure of teams to separate themselves from the pack thus far in 2015 has certainly complicated matters.

Twelve power-conference teams are still undefeated entering the seventh week of the season, and many of them have had some nervous moments. Simply put, there is no clear-cut top team in college football this year, which means the College Football Playoff selection committee could have its hands full when it comes to choosing four teams.

Those who have strong seasons and aren't selected for the CFP will almost certainly have a gripe, but playing in a major non-CFP bowl isn't a bad consolation.

Here is an early rundown of predictions for which teams will have a chance to play for the national title, and which will be forced to settle for a spot in one of the other "New Year's Six" bowls.


Major Bowl Predictions for 2015-16


Breaking Down Top Potential Matchups

Ohio State vs. Baylor

Ohio State is the reigning national champion, while Baylor barely missed out on last year's CFP. If they both continue their winning ways, then they may very well be on a collision course for the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

The Buckeyes' record is perfect, although the manner in which they have gone 6-0 is anything but. The Bears, on the other hand, have destroyed their first five opponents with the most explosive offense in college football, as evidenced by this tweet courtesy of ESPN Stats and Info:

Baylor has been so good, in fact, that ESPN.com's Tom Luginbill doesn't believe there is a better team in the nation right now:

The Bears offense has been nearly unstoppable behind the arm of junior quarterback Seth Russell and legs of junior running back Shock Linwood, but Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports 1 accurately points out that the level of competition has been unimpressive thus far:

OSU is likely the most talented team in the nation, yet it has trailed or been tied in the second half of four of its six games this season.

That is hard to believe for a team that boasts the likes of quarterbacks Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett, running back Ezekiel Elliott, quarterback-turned-wide receiver Braxton Miller and defensive end Joey Bosa to name a few.

Despite their struggles, the Buckeyes remain undefeated, which is really all that matters in the eyes of Dave Biddle of 247Sports:

The fact that Ohio State is winning despite playing average football may be a good sign for Buckeyes fans since their team is bound to hit its stride sooner rather than later.

The Buckeyes will have to figure it out in order to beat teams like Michigan and Michigan State moving forward, while Baylor's only big challenge on paper looks to be TCU.

Assuming both teams take care of business, they should secure the top two seeds in the CFP and ultimately play for all the marbles at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.


Michigan vs. Stanford

While it will technically be called the Rose Bowl, if Michigan and Stanford meet on New Year's Day, it will inevitably be rebranded as the Harbaugh Bowl by some.

Jim Harbaugh has orchestrated a remarkable turnaround at the University of Michigan in his first season as head coach, as the Wolverines are 5-1 with their only loss coming to an excellent Utah team. This isn't the first time Harbaugh has done something special at the collegiate level, though, as he previously helped make Stanford a viable program again.

The Cardinal are thriving in the unpredictable Pac-12 Conference, and they stand to benefit if Utah makes the CFP since Oregon and USC are unexpectedly struggling.

Michigan likely has a tougher road to the Rose Bowl with Michigan State and Ohio State still on its schedule, but it has arguably played better football than any team in the nation over the past five weeks.

The Wolverines have three consecutive shutouts to their credit, and as pointed out be ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit, Harbaugh has changed the culture in Ann Arbor:

ESPN's Mike Greenberg agreed with that assessment and paid Harbaugh the ultimate compliment for what he has accomplished at Michigan thus far:

Provided Ohio State goes to the CFP, Michigan will have to beat out Michigan State, Penn State and Iowa to play in the Rose Bowl, but the Wolverines undoubtedly look like the best of the bunch currently.

They aren't without some question marks as quarterback Jake Rudock has yet to be tested and forced to make plays aside from the season-opening game against Utah, but Harbaugh has his team playing hard and moving toward a big-time bowl game.



TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin and LSU running back Leonard Fournette are perhaps the two leading candidates for the Heisman Trophy, and it is entirely possible that they could clash in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day.

The Horned Frogs felt as though they were snubbed from the CFP last year, and while they have had some close calls against the likes of Minnesota, Texas Tech and Kansas State, they remain in position to be among the final four teams vying for a national title.

Saturday night's contest against the Wildcats was especially close as they trailed by 18 points in the second half, but Boykin made up for some miscues by leading his team to victory.

Some might be inclined to dock TCU points for playing close games, but as pointed out by the school's assistant athletic director for media relations, Mark Cohen, the Frogs have played in front of some huge and hostile crowds:

TCU certainly has a chance to play in the CFP, but it will likely have to beat Baylor in order to do so. If it isn't able to do that, then LSU looks like a potential opponent.

The Tigers are undefeated like the Horned Frogs, but they have gotten to this point in a much different manner, relying almost exclusively on the running game and defense.

Fournette was expected to be great when LSU brought him in, but the sensational sophomore has been even better than anyone could have possibly imagined.

According to ESPN Stats and Info, the New Orleans native is enjoying one of the greatest collegiate seasons a running back has ever had thus far:

Fournette has 1,063 total yards and 12 touchdowns to his credit through just five games after rushing for 1,034 yards and 10 scores in his entire freshman campaign.

LSU has an incredibly difficult SEC schedule coming up with games against Florida, Alabama, Ole Miss and Texas A&M. It will have a chance to win all of those games thanks to Fournette, but with quarterback Brandon Harris having thrown for just 610 yards, it is likely that a slip-up will occur somewhere along the way.

Both TCU and LSU have realistic CFP aspirations, but college football fans certainly won't mind seeing them clash in a lesser bowl since it could turn out to be one of the season's most entertaining games.


Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Notre Dame vs. USC Complete Game Preview

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame football’s rivalry game against USC on Saturday has taken a decidedly different turn in the last five days.

What looked like a prime-time matchup between a pair of one-loss teams now pits a tumultuous USC program against the No. 14 Irish.

On Thursday, the Trojans fell to Washington, 17-12, at home to drop to 3-2. Then on Sunday afternoon, USC athletic director Pat Haden announced head coach Steve Sarkisian will take an indefinite leave of absence, and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Clay Helton will serve as the interim head coach.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, I have been in this situation before and once again very fortunate to have a group of first-class kids that are extremely talented and want to do something special here,” Helton said to reporters. “They still have a lot of things out here that we can obtain. We have a big game versus Notre Dame this week.”

The Irish, meanwhile, handled the option again Saturday against Navy in a 41-24 win to improve to 5-1. And though the Trojans enter Notre Dame Stadium unranked, Irish head coach Brian Kelly, speaking before news of Sarkisian’s leave of absence broke, mentioned the strength of the rivalry and the opponent.

“I think everybody knows the kind of talent USC has, and regardless of what happened against Washington, we know in this rivalry game what kind of performance that they’re going to have against us,” Kelly said.


Date: Saturday, October 17

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Place: Notre Dame Stadium in Notre Dame, Indiana


Radio: IMG College Sports, SiriusXM Channel 129

Spread: Notre Dame by 3, according to Odds Shark

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