NCAA Football

East-West Shrine Game 2015: Schedule and Players to Watch in All-Star Contest

The list of former players and coaches alone should be enough to entice you to watch the East-West Shrine Game this season. 

After all, names like Don Shula, Paul “Bear” Bryant, Tom Brady, Brett Favre, John Elway and Walter Payton are all part of this game’s storied history, and who could have guessed they would become some of the most legendary names in the sport at the time?

Perhaps some of the next greats are on the 2015 East-West Shrine Game rosters.

This is the longest running college all-star game in the nation (started in 1925) and is sure to feature some thrills along the way. Here is a look at the essential information for the contest, as well as some prospects the more than 300 NFL scouts will have their eyes on.

Full rosters can be found here, courtesy of NFL.com.

 

2015 East-West Shrine Game

Date: Saturday, Jan. 17

Time: 4 p.m. ET

Where: Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. 

TV: NFL Network

 

Prospects to Watch

WR Devin Gardner, Michigan

There aren’t many players at the Shrine Game transitioning from one position to another, but that is exactly what former Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner is trying in an effort to boost his draft stock.

These reps that Gardner is getting at wide receiver are monumentally important because he only has limited experience at the position (he played there some at Michigan when Denard Robinson was quarterback). If Gardner can make plays in traffic and prove to coaches that his route-running ability is solid and his hands are passable, he could hear his name called on draft day.

Plus, he has raw physical skills at 6’4” with speed that can make for difficult matchups downfield.

Gardner discussed the move, via Mike Huguenin of NFL.com: "This is fun for me. I'm excited to be able to compete."

That’s all anyone can ask for at this point.

 

WR Tre McBride, William & Mary

Tre McBride is one of the better prospects at the Shrine Game, but this entire process is more important for him than many Power Five conference players because he has not had the opportunities to play in front of a national audience at William & Mary.

If he can put up formidable numbers against quality competition at the game, it will validate what he did throughout his career at a smaller program. 

Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com had nothing but praise for McBride:

Entering the week, McBride was my highest-rated Shrine Game prospect and after a full week of practice, that hasn't changed. At 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds with 4.50 speed, he doesn't have imposing size or blazing speed, but he prides himself on the details, selling routes and using his foot quickness in his breaks to create just enough separation. McBride did an excellent job attacking the ball in the air with his quick eyes and hands, also taking reps as a punt returner. He is more smooth than explosive, reminding me a lot of Pierre Garcon when he entered the NFL out of Mount Union.

Blazing speed or not, McBride is a solid route-runner who has the versatility to be a returner as well. He finished his career with 196 catches for 2,753 yards and 19 touchdowns and will look to move that production to the next level with an impressive predraft performance that starts with this game and finishes at the NFL Scouting Combine.

 

RB Malcolm Brown, Texas

Malcolm Brown finished with 708 rushing yards and six touchdowns as a senior and 904 rushing yards and nine touchdowns as a junior at Texas, but even those numbers are a bit misleading.

The stats are more impressive when you consider the fact that the Longhorns offered virtually no threat of a downfield passing game in the latter stages of Brown’s career. It will be interesting to see how he performs when the defense isn’t necessarily keying in on stopping just him.

After all, Brown was one of the most highly touted running backs in the country as a recruit and hasn’t had a lot of opportunities to show what he can do outside of Texas’ lackluster offense. 

Saturday represents one of those chances.

 

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Projecting Every Big Ten Team's Quarterback for 2015 Season

Not many quarterbacks are leaving the Big Ten next season, thanks in large part to the decisions of Connor Cook and Cardale Jones to bypass the NFL draft.

Devin Gardner is gone from Michigan, Gary Nova is gone from Rutgers, C.J. Brown is gone from Maryland, and Trevor Siemien is gone from Northwestern, but other than that, every starting QB returns (not counting part-time starter Reilly O'Toole at Illinois). 

Despite that, the Big Ten still has plenty of quarterback battles to keep an eye on, most notably at Ohio State but also at Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin and more.

Here's a pre-spring practice guess at who wins each job.

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NFLPA Collegiate Bowl 2015: Schedule and Players to Watch in All-Star Contest

The national championship was won, the confetti fell, and the college football season came to an end.

However, the football is long from over for some of the nation's top NFL draft prospects, with a number of all-star contests on the immediate horizon. One of those games is the 2015 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, where invited players will have the chance to improve their draft stocks under the tutelage of experienced coaches.

Mike Holmgren and Mike Martz will be on opposite sidelines in Saturday's game and will attempt to pass along some of their knowledge to the prospects. 

Here is a look at the essential information for the contest before looking at a couple of the top players to watch.

 

2015 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl

When: Saturday, January 17, 2015

Where: StubHub Center, Carson, California

Start Time (ET): 4 p.m. 

TV: ESPN2

 

Team Rosters

Note: Game rosters are courtesy of the NFLPA official site.

 

Prospects to Watch

Cornerback Troy Hill, Oregon

Oregon's Troy Hill was thrown into the spotlight in the initial College Football Playoff this season when star cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu was lost for the season to a torn ACL before the semifinal against Florida State.

Hill helped keep the Seminoles' star wide receiver, Rashad Greene, in check with only 59 yards and zero touchdowns on six catches. What's more, Ohio State's top deep threat, Devin Smith, only caught one pass in the national championship game—although it went for 45 yards.

Hill's late-season production was partially a result of top-notch experience throughout the year, as Oregon defensive coordinator Don Pellum noted, via Tyson Alger of The Oregonian:

You have to have confidence in your ability and confidence in the system. He's been on the other side of Ifo. He got challenged early on. He got a lot of action. He didn't see it as, 'Uh oh, they're attacking.' He saw it as, 'This is an opportunity to prove what I can do.'

Now, Hill will have the opportunity to continue the individual momentum he has from his extended role late in the season in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. An impressive performance here will help solidify Hill as a serious draft candidate in the eyes of some coaches who may not have paid as much attention to him while scouting Ekpre-Olomu. 

No pressure or anything.

 

Quarterback Rakeem Cato, Marshall

The term "video-game numbers" was invented to describe the box score of Rakeem Cato's games this season. He threw for a ridiculous 3,903 yards and 40 touchdowns and added 482 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. Amazingly, Cato threw for more yards in his sophomore and junior seasons than he did in his senior campaign in 2014.

All-star games like this are more important for players like Cato who played at schools that are not in the Power Five conferences because they have to prove to doubters that the inflated numbers aren't simply the result of easy competition.

Marshall played in Conference USA this season and didn't exactly face an SEC, Big Ten or Pac-12 type of schedule. That's not even mentioning the fact that Marshall's offense is a wide-open spread attack that virtually begs the quarterback to put up big numbers. 

Perhaps the best thing about this entire process is the invaluable experience Cato is picking up, as Anish Shroff of ESPN pointed out:

These types of games are more like the cherry on top of the sundae that is the career body of work for these players. We have the tendency to overreact to them one way or the other, but Cato rarely got the chance to impress against elite competition during his career. 

Now, he has one before the draft.

 

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East-West Shrine Game 2015: Breaking Down Most Intriguing Prospects to Watch

There are several postseason All-Star games designed to help college football players boost their NFL draft stock, but few are as intriguing as the East-West Shrine Game.

Part of that game's charm is the fact that it usually doesn't involve top stars with first-round grades. Most of the players set to compete in Saturday's East-West Shrine Game are pretty unheralded, which means they view it as an opportunity to get noticed.

With practices having reached their conclusion and the game on the horizon, here is a breakdown of the top prospects worth keeping an eye on during the 2015 East-West Shrine Game.

*East roster and West roster courtesy of ShrineGame.com.

 

Taylor Kelly

Perhaps the biggest name playing in this game from a quarterback perspective is Arizona State's Taylor Kelly. He was a three-year starter with the Sun Devils, and although he had a great deal of success, observers are seemingly bearish on his NFL chances after a rough senior season.

After topping 3,000 passing yards in both 2012 and 2013, and throwing for a total of 57 touchdowns over that span, Kelly's production fell off in 2014. He barely topped 2,000 yards and completed a career-worst 59 percent of his passes. He did throw for 22 touchdowns, though, despite missing three games with a foot injury.

Kelly may not be highly touted in the 2015 draft class, but he could potentially change that in the East-West Shrine Game. According to NFL Draft Blitz, Kelly looked sharp during Monday's practice session:

Damond Talbot of NFLDraftDiamonds.com wasn't quite as blow away, although he went out of his way to compliment Kelly regardless:

Kelly stepped up at the end of the season as he turned in one of his best performances against Duke in the Sun Bowl. He threw for 240 yards and two touchdowns in the 36-31 victory, and head coach Todd Graham had nothing but good things to say about him after that, per Justin Janssen of The State Press.

"(After) the game I told Taylor Kelly (the) best decision I ever made obviously was making you the starting quarterback and believing in you and everybody in that room agreed," Graham said. "There's not a person on our team that has any regrets about Taylor Kelly playing any snaps this season."

Kelly is clearly respected by his coaches and teammates, but now he must prove that he has what it takes to be an NFL quarterback from a physical perspective. If he can put together a good showing for the West team, perhaps he will become a draft commodity.

 

Devin Gardner

Many prospects are willing to do almost anything to make it to the NFL, and Michigan's Devin Gardner is a perfect example of that. Although he mostly played quarterback for the Wolverines, he has moved back to wide receiver in hopes of getting drafted.

According to ESPN.com's Cecil Lammey, Gardner got off to a strong start in terms of his measurables:

Lammey also reports that scouts are impressed with the former signal-caller's willingness to become a wideout rather than stubbornly staying under center:

Playing wide receiver isn't exactly a foreign concept to Gardner as he spent much of the 2012 season at that spot. Gardner caught 16 passes for 266 yards and four touchdowns in that role, so the ability is definitely present.

With that said, it has been a while since Gardner has had to focus on being a pass-catcher. Because of that, he didn't get off to an ideal start in the East-West Shrine practices, per Dan Brugler of CBSSports.com:

That is to be expected, and it certainly doesn't mean that Gardner can't be a solid receiver at the next level. He has all the physical tools and athleticism needed to thrive in the NFL at a different position, just like another former Michigan quarterback in Jacksonville Jaguars running back Denard Robinson.

If Gardner is able to show some flashes and make some plays in the East-West Shrine Game, then he figures to draw the attention of some NFL talent evaluators.

 

Blake Bell

With no true studs available at the tight end position in the 2015 NFL draft, players like Oklahoma's Blake Bell have a great chance to improve their stock at the East-West Shrine Game.

Like Gardner, Bell is a former quarterback, but he enters the draft process with a bit more polish since he spent the entire 2014 season at tight end. Bell's numbers didn't jump off the page as he caught just 16 passes for 214 yards and four touchdowns; however, he is oozing with potential.

According to Lammey, the lack of quality tight ends in the 2015 draft has scouts extremely intrigued by Bell's NFL prospects:

As a quarterback, Bell rushed for a total of 24 touchdowns in his first two seasons with the Sooners. He is a true bruiser, and he has the athleticism to make big plays once he has the ball in his hands.

That was on full display Monday, when Bell dazzled scouts with his raw ability, per NFL.com's Gil Brandt:

Perhaps more so than any other player at the East-West Shrine Game, Bell could improve his draft stock significantly. The competition isn't overly fierce at his position, which should help him immensely.

His experience at tight end may be somewhat limited, but that hasn't stopped the likes of Antonio Gates and Julius Thomas from becoming NFL stars. While Bell may not be at that level, he definitely has a great deal of promise.

 

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What the Oregon Ducks Must Do to Get Back to Title Game in 2016

As disappointing as the result of Monday’s National Championship was for the Oregon Ducks, the program as a whole has never been in a better place.

For the Ducks to reach the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship in Glendale, Arizona, in 2016, they must continue to build on the foundation that has been set over the past 20 years.

While the Ducks will lose their best player, Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, they’ll be bringing back a large portion of a team that won the Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl in 2014. Moreover, Oregon may have the best group of playmakers in the entire country in 2015. 

Oregon’s running backs—Thomas Tyner, Royce Freeman—will both return and should be expected to each have 1,000-yard seasons.

At wide receiver, the Ducks will return Byron Marshall—Oregon’s best receiver in 2014—along with Darren Carrington, Charles Nelson, Dwayne Stanford and Bralon Addison—who was one of Oregon’s best weapons in 2013. They’ll also have the services of two solid tight ends in Evan Baylis and All-Pac-12 first-teamer Pharaoh Brown, assuming he’s healthy by September. 

Defensively, the Ducks will lose some major players such as Erick Dargan, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Arik Armstead, Troy Hill, Derrick Malone and Tony Washington. However, due to Oregon’s tempo on offense, the defense is forced to face more snaps, meaning the younger players have played more than they would at other schools. That will benefit the Ducks as they attempt to replace some of their best defensive players. 

The Ducks are well-positioned to make another run at the title; however, they must first find their quarterback for next season and get him ready to shoulder the burden of replacing an all-time great.

 

The Future Quarterback

As chronicled in Wednesday’s article, the Ducks have a history of being able to move on from quarterback to quarterback and still improve as a team. While filling Mariota’s shoes is an unenviable task that should come with tempered expectations, it is possible.

Oregon has seamlessly shifted from Dennis Dixon to Jeremiah Masoli to Darron Thomas to Marcus Mariota since 2007. The program as a whole is more prepared now than ever to move on from the best player in school history.

The Ducks aren’t short on options at QB next season. Within the program, the Ducks could turn to Jeff Lockie, Morgan Mahalak, Ty Griffin, Taylor Alie or incoming freshman Travis Waller. While Lockie, a redshirt sophomore, seems to be the prohibitive favorite, he’s not a sure thing. In fact, if we’re using past results to predict what will happen this time around, Lockie may actually be the underdog.

If the Ducks decide to go outside of the program, they could try to snag Braxton Miller from Ohio State. As Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee explained recently, Miller could be the perfect fit in Eugene. 

In three seasons for the Buckeyes, Miller has thrown for 52 touchdowns and has rushed for 32 more. In short, he’s one of the best QBs in the nation. While Miller is recovering from shoulder injury he suffered before the 2014 season, his presence in Eugene would vault the Ducks into national title contention.

Another name that may be in play is Eastern Washington’s Vernon Adams Jr. Adams, who graduates in the spring and has one more year of NCAA eligibility, threw for 35 touchdowns in 10 games this season after throwing 55 in 15 games in 2013. He’s also rushed for 10 touchdowns over the past two years and has completed 66 percent of his passes along the way.

Oregon will have options at QB and will hold an open competition to find the best man for the job. With the amount of weapons at Oregon’s disposal next season, it’s possible that the Ducks' QB job may be the best in the country.

Oregon’s next QB has to keep it simple. Get the ball in the hands of the playmakers and don’t turn the ball over. If he does that, the Ducks offense should continue to zip along swimmingly.

 

Win the Trenches

It was thought that the Ducks may have turned over a new leaf when they beat the likes of Michigan State and Stanford this season. Oregon went face-to-face with the nastiest defenses in college football and was more physical on both sides of the ball. The Ducks had finally shed the "soft" label

Well, they may have shed the soft label, but they haven’t earned the tough label quite yet. That was most evident against Ohio State, as the Buckeyes throttled Oregon in the trenches. It wasn’t just a decisive victory; it was a Mike Tyson-style knockout.

As Aaron Fentress of Comcast Sportsnet Northwest opined, the Ducks have the focus on recruiting the trenches in order to finally bring home a title to Eugene: 

If Oregon wants to improve its chances of winning a national title - especially in the post-Marcus Mariota era - it had better improve recruiting in three key areas: offensive line, defensive line and linebacker.

That's where the Buckeyes did a number on the Ducks. Ohio State rushed for 296 yards and five touchdowns while holding Oregon to 132 yards and zero touchdowns on the ground. 

People can talk all they'd like about dropped passes, missed tackles, injuries and suspensions. But the national title game at AT&T Stadium came down to simple rushing statistics.

OSU had them. Oregon did not.

The Ducks are going to have to find some replacements along both the offensive and defensive lines. On offense, Oregon will be without Hamani Stevens, three-time All-Pac-12 first-teamer Hroniss Grasu and Jake Fisher, who may have been Oregon’s most important player outside of Marcus Mariota this season.

Due to the amount of injuries Oregon suffered along the O-line this season, a lot of the Ducks backups saw significant playing time in 2014. Players like Cameron Hunt, Doug Brenner, Tyrell Crosby, Matt Pierson and Jake Pisarcik were thrust into action and should be ready to hit the ground running come spring ball.

On defense, Oregon will have to find a replacement for Armstead who declared early for the 2015 NFL draft. The Ducks will lean on multiple defensive linemen to make up for this loss, including 247Sports 5-star recruit Canton Kaumatule.

In order for the Ducks to finally get over the top and win a title in 2016, they’re going to need to win the trenches and become one of the most physical teams in the nation.

Oregon took a step forward in this department against teams like Michigan State, Stanford, Utah and Washington. However, as Ohio State proved, the Ducks can still be beaten with physicality. That can’t be the case going forward.

The Ducks are never going to be Alabama. They’re never going to run a ground-and-pound-type offense like Stanford. But in order to bring home a title, they’re going to have to be able to fend off more physical opponents and impose their own will.

 

Keep Swinging

Despite the fact that the Ducks are 0-2 in national title games, it’s still impressive that Oregon has been able to reach the national championship twice in five years. Only Alabama and Auburn have played in as many title games over that span.

The Ducks are clearly on the right path, and Oregon is one of the finest programs in the country. With the College Football Playoff in place, there will be more opportunities for the Ducks to play for a national title, especially if they continue to win Pac-12 titles.

What Oregon needs to focus on is continuing to build on their past success. That means recruiting the right players and putting those recruits in a position to succeed. The Ducks didn’t take a step back after the 2010 BCS Championship game. The program used it as a launching pad.

Now, after playing in two of the three most watched cable programs in history, the Ducks have a similar opportunity to capitalize on their success.

There’s no reason for the Ducks to change up their philosophy at this point. Clearly, it’s working. Yes, the Ducks have struggled at times against physically demanding opponents; however, the program is still in a better place than it’s ever been.

In order for the Ducks to reach the College Football Playoff next season, the Ducks must stick to their guns, develop the next “franchise” quarterback and get just a bit tougher.

In other words, Oregon needs to continue to live by the sword and die by the sword. Keep knocking at the door, it's bound to open at some point.

 

Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise stated. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise stated.

Jason Gold is Bleacher Report’s lead Oregon writer. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheSportsGuy33.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

What the Oregon Ducks Must Do to Get Back to Title Game in 2016

As disappointing as the result of Monday’s National Championship was for the Oregon Ducks, the program as a whole has never been in a better place...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Projecting Every SEC Team's Quarterback for 2015 Season

It wasn't a particularly landmark season for quarterback play in the SEC in 2014. It wasn't horrible, but it fell far short of what we saw from the league's passers in 2013.

What will come from the 2015 SEC quarterback club? It depends on who ends up winning the many open jobs across the conference.

Only half of the quarterbacks who started their teams' final games are back, but not all of those starters are guaranteed to be in the same spot on the depth chart when next season begins in September. We're expecting several wide-open competitions, a few including players who've yet to even practice with their new teams, and are projecting only five repeat starters.

Who will those be, and who will be starting elsewhere in the SEC? Check out our projections for every team's starter, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

Begin Slideshow

Senior Bowl Rosters 2015: Team Selections, Top NFL Prospects, Game Time and More

With the college football season officially over, NFL teams now shift their focus to the Senior Bowl as they scout the upcoming draft class. 

Although some of the top stars won't be heading to Mobile, Alabama, this year, plenty of big names will be present. In addition, the practices leading to the game itself are a great time for some of the more overlooked prospects to jump a couple of rounds.

The Senior Bowl is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET on Jan. 24, so fans still have a few more days to read up on some of the players involved.

Here's a look at the full rosters for the North and South teams.

 

Draft Prospects to Watch

Danny Shelton, DT, Washington

If you aren't familiar with Danny Shelton's game, then you will be over the coming weeks and months. The Washington defensive tackle is among the top players in the 2015 draft at any position.

NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah listed Shelton as the fifth-best prospect overall yesterday:

In his most recent mock draft, Bleacher Report's NFL draft expert Matt Miller had Shelton going fourth overall to the Oakland Raiders.

Miller also provided an in-depth scouting report of Shelton writing in part that Shelton "shows rare athleticism playing the nose and can move around the defensive line" and "can mix up speed and bull rushes without losing a step."

On the basis of his skill against the run, Shelton is a surefire first-rounder. Put that together with his potential to disrupt the passing game, and you've got an All-Pro defensive tackle in the making.

 

Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor

Beyond Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, the 2015 draft doesn't look to be flush with great quarterbacks. As arguably the best quarterback at the Senior Bowl, Bryce Petty has a chance to really shine.

Petty only started in his final two years at Baylor, but he still managed to rack up 8,195 and 62 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions.

In Mobile, Petty will have a chance—albeit a brief one—to show that he can work in a pro-style offense. Quarterbacks coming back from spread offenses always have a bit of a transition when they hit the NFL. Some eventually work it out, while others can never make the jump.

Derek Carr used last year's Senior Bowl to silence a few of his critics. Although he still went in the second round, he was arguably the most productive rookie quarterback in 2014.

Petty isn't on the same level that Carr was entering the draft, but the Bears star could see his stock rise at the event.

 

T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh

In 2013, Eric Fisher looked great at the Senior Bowl, not only bolstering his first-round status but also setting in motion a chain of events that saw him selected No. 1 overall by the Kansas City Chiefs.

T.J. Clemmings heads to the Senior Bowl as a perceived lock for the first round but still a little rough around the edges given his somewhat recent move to offensive tackle. Because of that conversion, Clemmings is still a work in progress with his technique.

Athletically, Clemmings is a freak for somebody of his size. Because of his combination of strength and agility, he has the most upside of any offensive tackle in this year's draft.

In an interview with the Senior Bowl's website, Clemmings said that he's looking to put some more substance behind all of his first-round hype:

How does it sound? It sounds pretty cool but like you said it’s just a little bit of buzz and I still have to prove myself. So that’s why I’m coming down to the Senior Bowl to play against the best seniors and that’s what I’m looking forward to—to show coaches why that buzz is out there.

CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler listed the Pittsburgh offensive tackle among those players he expects to look good in Mobile:

NBC Sports' Josh Norris added that Clemmings should thrive in strength drills:

Plenty of teams near the top 10 are looking for offensive tackles, and without a can't-miss prospect at the position, Clemmings could easily surge up draft boards as a result of his Senior Bowl performance.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Kyle Whittingham, Utah Agree to New Contract: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

Kyle Whittingham won't be leaving Salt Lake City anytime soon. Utah announced on Friday that it agreed to a new four-year contract with its head coach: NFL...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Kyle Whittingham, Utah Agree to New Contract: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

Kyle Whittingham won't be leaving Salt Lake City any time soon.

Utah announced on Friday that it agreed to a new four-year contract with its head coach:

NFL.com's Bryan Fischer had the financial breakdown, which involves a starting salary of $2.6 million in 2015 and then a $100,000 raise for each year remaining on the deal:

Fischer believes that the extension is a nice piece of business for both parties:

Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman added that securing Whittingham's future now will likely stabilize Utah's recruiting class for the upcoming season:

Whittingham just wrapped up his 10th year with the school. During that time, he's compiled an 84-43 record and taken the Utes to eight bowl games. Utah also finished unbeaten and ranked No. 2 in the country in 2008.

This news comes off the heels of a report by Matthew Piper of The Salt Lake Tribune that outlined a potential issue between Whittingham and Utah athletic director Chris Hill over the contracts for Whittingham's assistant coaches:

The hubbub started after defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake and defensive line coach Ilaisa Tuiaki left, when sources told The Tribune and others that Whittingham and Hill were on bad terms, in part due to Hill's decision to limit lower-level assistants to single-year deals going forward.

An email from Hill to Whittingham, received in response to a Tribune records request, indicates that in addition to offering Sitake a three-year, $750,000 per year deal to remain competitive for his services as a defensive coordinator, Hill was willing to give Tuiaki a multiyear deal if Whittingham wanted to instead limit offensive coordinator Dave Christensen to a single year.

That appears to have been a nonstarter. All three coaches left the program — Sitake and Tuiaki to Oregon State, and Christensen to Texas A&M.

Whatever the problem was, Hill and Whittingham appear to have worked out their differences, ensuring that one of the school's most successful coaches will be sticking around for the long term.

Since moving to the Pac-12 in 2011, Utah has failed to win more than nine games in a single season, but the Utes began making progress in 2014 (9-4). With the head coach secured, the school should continue morphing into a legitimate Pac-12 contender over the coming years.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Football Recruiting: Why Quarterback Position Is Longhorns' Biggest Need

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the Texas Longhorns have issues at the quarterback position. In fact, if you have working vision and just so happened to catch a Texas football game after the 2009 season, you would know the quarterback position has plagued the Longhorns.

It is somewhat alarming to recap all of the Longhorns quarterbacks who did not work out under center. 

The quarterback position is easily one of the most vital positions on any football team. If a team has an outstanding QB—for example, Vince Young and Colt McCoy—success will likely follow. But the teams with quarterback issues will likely see little success on the football field.

Let's take a look at Ohio State.

Some people may have thought the Buckeyes would be in trouble when Braxton Miller suffered a season-ending injury in fall camp. But little did we know Ohio State had not one, but two viable options behind Miller. The end result was a national championship thanks to the depth at quarterback.

Texas is light-years away from the Buckeyes' situation.

The Longhorns have not had a viable quarterback take the field since McCoy during the 2009 season. Texas has since seen four quarterbacks under center, all of whom did not live up to the Texas standard.

Head coach Charlie Strong inherited a team that was lacking a true starting quarterback in 2014, which ultimately resulted in the Longhorns' 6-7 season record.

Some will say it isn't fair to put all of the blame for the record on the quarterback, and that's probably an accurate assessment. But it's nearly impossible not to pin a lot of the blame on the quarterback when the position got progressively worse throughout the season.

Texas currently has two scholarship quarterbacks on campus: Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard. Swoopes' career record as a starter is 5-7, and Heard has yet to take any snaps for the Longhorns.

The position has less depth than most of the other positions on the field, and that is a major issue.

The Longhorns have one quarterback commit in Zach Gentry, who 247Sports rates as a 4-star prospect. But Gentry will not enroll until after the spring semester.

Texas could only have two quarterback options in 2015 if Gentry needs time to adjust to the college game, similar to the time Heard needed in 2014. Adding another option is almost vital to the Longhorns' success in 2015.

But who would be the addition? Texas fans would love to hear that a highly touted transfer quarterback would pick the Longhorns. But once again, who?

Some speculation has surfaced that Ohio State's Miller may transfer after JT Barrett and Cardale Jones' breakout seasons. But if Miller does choose to leave the Buckeyes, Texas may not be his landing spot, according to Orangebloods.com. (Subscription required.)

Strong and quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson may be in a bind if Gentry, Heard and Swoopes are the only options to start in 2015.

There's a possibility all of these questions about the future of the quarterback position could be answered by one of the options currently on campus or entering the program following the spring, particularly Heard.

The redshirt freshman has a lot of hype from his stellar play in high school, where he led Denton Guyer to back-to-back state championships his junior and senior year.

But it never hurts to have options, and Ohio State is the perfect example of that statement.

There may not be an exact answer at this current point but one thing is certain: Texas needs to add depth to its quarterback position sooner rather than later.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Top Rivalry Battles on 2015 College Football Recruiting Trail

College football rivalries contain so much more than what we see take place on the field for 60 minutes. They linger long after the final horn, ramping up on the recruiting trail as years progress.

Whether rivalries are forged through regional proximity or through conference competition, the battle to add more talent than your foe is ongoing. This final stretch of the 2015 recruiting cycle features several compelling program showdowns to monitor, pitting teams against each other for top prospects across the country.

Here's a look at player pursuits that have come down to the wire between rivals.

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Predicting Every 2015 College Football Conference Champion

The 2014 college football season just ended, but it's never too early to look ahead to—actually, you know what: It is too early to look ahead to 2015.

But it's so much fun to do it anyway.

These Way, Way, Way Too Early Conference Predictions will change roughly 1,000 times between today and next season. But now that the deadline to declare for the NFL draft has passed, and rosters across the country are beginning to take shape, we finally have enough information to make a semi-educated guess.

Which defending conference champs will keep the crown next season? Which teams will come from behind to usurp them?

Sound off below and let us know what you think.

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Restoration of Joe Paterno's Wins Sends the Wrong Message to Victims

If you were a victim of Jerry Sandusky, you are still a victim of Jerry Sandusky. His enabler, Joe Paterno, will get his 111 victories back and will now be the winningest coach in major college football. The victims are being victimized again…and again…and again.      

It's a disgrace.

Mike McQueary, the former Penn State assistant coach, said in court, under oath, that he told Paterno he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in a Penn State locker room. Paterno should have called the police. He didn't. It was 2002. Sandusky kept his place around the Penn State program for nearly 10 more years.

Paterno was so powerful on campus that he could have snapped his fingers and had Sandusky locked up within an hour. Joe Pa was Penn State. A man close to Paterno molested children, and the Coach as King did nothing. McQueary told Paterno what happened. There was no need for an inquest or due process or anything; he should have told Sandusky, "Get out."

He didn't.

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh, author of the Freeh Report on the Penn State saga, concluded that Paterno was "an integral part of an active decision to conceal." Paterno knew about Sandusky as early as 1998. He did nothing. He said little.

Paterno deserved to lose those 111 wins, which were taken away by the NCAA as part of Penn State's punishment for not ridding the campus of a predator. There are victims galore because Paterno refused to call the police. Paterno said he told athletic director Tim Curley. That's not good enough if you are the god on campus.

The NCAA punished Penn State for this. The school is a member of an association of its own free will, and it signed a consent decree with the NCAA, which called for a four-year bowl ban, a $60 million fine to fund anti-child abuse causes, stripping the 111 wins and a reduction of scholarships.

But the NCAA, once again, is caving. It is an organization more adept at the hospitality business and selling packages of hotel/airfare around the Final Four than it is policing its members. It should have stuck by its guns and told Penn State's trustees: "You are a member of this organization. Live by the decree."

The NCAA had every right to punish Penn State.

Instead, state officials went to work for Penn State's leadership. They challenged the consent decree, even after the NCAA said the state of Pennsylvania could control the $60 million. Not satisfied, the state of Pennsylvania officials and all their football constituents wanted Paterno's 111 wins restored. So not only was the bowl ban lifted early and the scholarships restored, but the state gets its money and Paterno gets his wins.

It's a disgrace to the victims.

What are the victims thinking today? They are thinking football makes the rules, as usual.

Every day, the lessons of Sandusky and Penn State are eased or brushed away. The bowl ban lifted, scholarships restored early, the wins restored. Soon, the Paterno statue will be rolled back out to its place at the football stadium. It won't be like nothing ever happened. Sandusky, after all, is in jail for a long time, and that won't change.

Still, Joe Pa catches a break. History books will have his name, for the time being, on the top line.

The big message is the victims are discounted. Here is the second message…wait long enough and a scandal's scorn will subside and all will be made well. If that's the case, then Bobby Bowden should get his wins back for the academic scandal at Florida State.

What happened at FSU was nothing compared to what happened with Paterno. What's more, all the college coaches under a show-cause order because of cheating should be cleared and free to get jobs.

The Penn State coach was not the only coward on the job. Administrators did not act. Paterno was never scapegoated; he was punished. The others face felony charges from perjury, to child endangerment, conspiracy and obstruction charges. Paterno is lucky in some ways. He died. These men are going to face trial and public scorn.

I can see, just a little bit, why the bowl ban was lifted on Penn State and the scholarships were restored early. A lot of high school kids who dream of playing for Penn State didn't have anything to do with this. I just wish their parents, or their older brothers and sisters, or aunts and uncles, had not added to the disgrace with their marches through campus supporting the coach after the scandal broke.

Paterno's record will be restored.

His legacy as a great coach, a great man, will not be restored. That's done with. The NCAA and state of Pennsylvania can't remove that stain.

 

Ray Glier covers college football for Bleacher Report.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football: 2014 Freshmen Set for Breakout 2015 Seasons

Each new year of recruiting brings new excitement for fans, especially for those following a team like Alabama, which consistently pulls in No. 1 classes featuring some of the top players in the country.

Very few of those players come in and light the world on fire right away, becoming instant stars in the process. Instead, most take a few years to, you know, develop into proper college football players.

The problem, though, is that by the time these players have developed into legitimate talent, fans have moved on to the next batch of superstar, hotshot recruits, who may or may not pan out. So these players can sometimes get lost in the shuffle and get underappreciated compared to a kid who’s never set foot on a college campus yet.

Alabama’s 2014 class produced some of that former group. Punter JK Scott and left tackle Cam Robinson stepped right in and were named to the Football Writers Association of America’s All-Freshman team.

Before Nick Saban and Alabama sign another No. 1 class for the 2015 cycle, let’s take a look at some members of that 2014 class, freshmen last year, who could have their breakout years this year, after a season of development.

 

Rashaan Evans

Alabama will need at least one more edge-rusher in 2015. Xzavier Dickson, who led Alabama with nine sacks, graduated, leaving Denzel Devall and Ryan Anderson as the outside linebackers with the most experience on the team.

But Saban and the Crimson Tide use a rotation at that position, and Evans could be the guy to fill a spot there.

A former 5-star from Auburn with one of the more highly publicized recruitments of 2014, Evans showed promise during the season, appearing in all but one game. He registered a sack and was a regular on kickoff coverage.

"I didn't really dream that I was going to even have a chance to get on the field at all,” Evans told AL.com’s Drew Champlin at Sugar Bowl media day. “I was thinking more realistically about kickoffs or stuff like that but as the season got on, I got a chance to get on the field and do a little bit. Ever since then I've been doing my best to try to get back on it."

Now with more opportunity in front of him, he should get some extended playing time, at least in passing situations, and be able to further show off that ability and be a productive member of Alabama’s pass rush.

 

Cam Sims

With all three starting wide receiver spots up for grabs, there will be ample opportunity for Alabama’s next group of young but talented wide receivers.

Sims seems like a good candidate to fill one of those roles.

As a true freshman, Sims appeared in all but two games and didn’t just get garbage-time snaps. Of Alabama’s returning wide receivers, he ranked third with 62 catches, including a touchdown, on the year.

His 6’4”, 208-pound frame makes him a physical presence in run blocking, a role in which he excelled this season. As D.C. Reeves of the Tuscaloosa News points out, Sims was frequently on the field, even if he wasn’t catching passes.

#Alabama's leading returning WR in snap count: Chris Black 255, Cam Sims 142, ArDarius Stewart 104. For comaprison, Amari had 816 by himself

— D.C. Reeves (@_DCReeves) January 15, 2015

His kind of attention to detail in run blocking can pay dividends in terms of playing time and should be a formula for Sims to get a much bigger role in 2015.

 

Shaun Dion Hamilton

There will be an open middle linebacker spot next to Reggie Ragland this season, and Hamilton has positioned himself well to take hold of it.

Hamilton impressed coaches and teammates enough after he enrolled in January to earn a role on the 2014 team, appearing in all 14 games this season. He mostly played on special teams but saw some defensive snaps in garbage time or filling in for injuries, notching three tackles in the process.

"I just wanted to be able to play on special teams and find me a role where I could help the team,” Hamilton told the Montgomery Advertiser’s Paul Payne at Sugar Bowl media days. “It's been everything that I hoped for. It's been a great experience. I just wanted to be able to come in here and contribute, to do my role to help us become a better team.”

He should see increased defensive snaps next season.

Hamilton and Reuben Foster will be the key candidates for the second middle linebacker position next year. Foster has proved to be a physical specimen, but his playing style lends itself to frequent injury, from which Foster has suffered during his career.

If Foster can’t stay healthy, or even if he can, the door will be open for Hamilton.

 

Dominick Jackson

Jackson was expected to play a big role on the offensive line in 2014. He was a 4-star prospect out of junior college and looked poised to fill Alabama’s need at right guard.

Instead, an injury in fall camp set him back, and he was relegated largely to backup duty, though he did play fullback in Alabama’s goal-line jumbo package a few times.

Now, with three starters to replace on the offensive line, Jackson’s window appears to have opened for his senior season.

He played right tackle at College of San Mateo in San Mateo, California. But his physicality and size could translate into a role at right guard, too. With returning tackle Grant Hill, who has backed up Austin Shepherd at right tackle in the past, guard could be a landing spot for Jackson, with both spots up for grabs.

It’s now or never for Alabama’s highly touted JUCO transfer.

 

Laurence “Hootie” Jones

Alabama’s secondary will see a lot of new faces this season. Hootie Jones should be one of them.

Jones enrolled in January and, like Hamilton and Evans, found a home playing special teams while chipping in occasionally. Jones appeared in seven games, making two tackles.

But with the departure of Alabama’s top three safeties, Jones should be a top candidate to play more defense in some capacity.

At 6’2” 221 pounds, he’s more geared to play strong safety, closer to the line of scrimmage. He has looked every bit the part in practice, showing why he was a 4-star prospect out of high school.

He also could be a candidate for “Star,” the fifth defensive back who typically plays closer to the line of scrimmage.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

If LSU Goes for Transfer QB, Would Braxton Miller or Everett Golson Be Best Bet?

LSU could use Braxton Miller, Everett Golson and/or somebody else to play quarterback.

The Tigers cannot win the SEC next season if Anthony Jennings returns as the starting quarterback. Jennings' limitations as a passer were evident, as he completed no more than 50 percent of his passes in nine of 13 games in 2014.

That will not cut it.

There is still hope for Brandon Harris, who at times looked like a true freshman sensation. Instead, Harris was just a true freshman.

Harris relieved Jennings against Mississippi State and New Mexico State and was dominant, but he flopped in his only game as a starter on the road against Auburn. Head coach Les Miles would only allow him to throw one pass for the rest of the season.

Despite their troubles, Miles is optimistic about his two gunslingers. He said to expect another close competition during the offseason.

“I think that Brandon Harris will absolutely compete for the job, and I’m not discounting Anthony Jennings, just not going to do it,” Miles said, per Ross Dellenger of The Advocate. “But Brandon Harris is faster, throws the ball harder and really runs hard. Some fundamental things that he will improve on, and he’s ready to do so.”

The bottom line is LSU's quarterback play was the worst in the SEC West. The Tigers could desperately use some fresh blood at the position.

 

The Contenders

Ohio State's Braxton Miller would immediately be the best quarterback on LSU's roster, and possibly the SEC, if he chose to transfer to Baton Rouge. Miller was the Big Ten Player of the Year in 2012 and 2013, but he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury before the 2014 campaign began.

Outside of an upset loss to Virginia Tech, the Buckeyes performed just fine without Miller.

Backups J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones were able to lead Ohio State to its first national championship under head coach Urban Meyer.

WAFB's Steve Schneider has been told by multiple sources there is a "likely scenario" in which Miller leaves for LSU. With ESPN's Adam Schefter reporting Jones will stay in Columbus for another season, this will increase Miller's chances of transferring somewhere.

Notre Dame's Everett Golson led the Fighting Irish to a BCS National Championship berth in 2012. After sitting out 2013 due to a violation of team rules, Golson came back strong to start 2014.

Unfortunately for the Irish, Golson began to fall apart after throwing four interceptions against Arizona State. Notre Dame would go on to lose its final three games of the regular season.

Head coach Brian Kelly decided to start Malik Zaire against the Tigers in the Music City Bowl. Though Golson contributed to the win, it was Zaire who did most of the damage.

The Times-Picayune's Jim Kleinpeter reports Golson contacted LSU about possibly transferring to Baton Rouge. If true, this shows the interest is there.

Miller and Golson could be looking for new jobs opportunities to be student-athletes at a different academic institution. The Tigers could use either of the two, but which one is likelier to come to Baton Rouge?

 

Miller Breakdown

Miller is a better player than Golson. With that said, there will be more competition for his services.

Miller has been linked with nearly every school that needs a quarterback, and rightfully so. His ability to throw and run should make every offensive coordinator in the country drool.

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee sees Miller as a perfect fit in Oregon to replace Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota. He could also take the reins from another Heisman winner, Florida State's Jameis Winston, in Tallahassee.

ESPN's Travis Haney wonders if Miller's best option is to stay at Ohio State. But beating out Barrett and Jones after a year of sitting out is a tall task.

Fox Sports' Todd Furhman told sports talk show host Bo Mattingly he sees Miller as the third-string quarterback if he stays with the Buckeyes:

Fuhrman: Cardale Jones is the favorite to start for OSU. JT Barrett is 2nd. Braxton Miller’s best chance to play might be a position change.

— Bo Mattingly (@SportsTalkwBo) January 14, 2015

Chances are Miller does not want to sit on the bench or change positions. This means he would have to transfer.

 

Golson Breakdown

It's hard to sugarcoat Golson's final four games. With that said, his entire season was far from a disaster.

Golson has some raw tools offensive coordinator Cam Cameron could tune into an effective starting quarterback yet again. It was clear his confidence faded as the pressure to insert Zaire grew.

Golson's struggles were not entirely his fault. His offensive line crumbled and the Irish defense became plagued with injuries. The pressure on him to make plays was immense.

Like Miller, Golson can make plays with his legs. His arm is above average and he has proved his ability to make plays in big moments in the past.

 

Why They Should Come to LSU

LSU does not have a passing attack to brag about, especially compared to schools like Florida State and Oregon. The Tigers finished an embarrassing 116th in passing yards per game in 2014.

But the main reason why the Tigers' passing attack struggled was because of the quarterback position.

The Tigers' pass protection was good, but not great in 2014. They allowed a rather disappointing 25 sacks, yet plenty of those were due to Jennings or Harris holding on to the football too long. Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes will have his talented group ready to go next season.

A case could be made for LSU having the most talented receivers in the SEC.

Travin Dural burst onto the scene as one of college football's best deep threats last season. Malachi Dupre, the No. 2-rated receiver in the 2014 recruiting class, showed flashes of excellence as a true freshman. John Diarse developed into a potential slot star with a strong close to the season.

Incoming 5-star 2015 commit Tyron Johnson will be an instant playmaker in his first season.

Those young pass-catchers should have quarterbacks across the country salivating at the thought of coming to Baton Rouge. Cameron has already proved he can produce points at a high level. He just needs a capable NFL quarterback to do it.

Above all else, quarterbacks should come to LSU for the treatment they will receive. Sure, signal-callers everywhere are treated like royalty, but Tiger fans are thirstier than ever for better quarterback play.

One good QB season since Matt Flynn. MT @DellengerAdv: AM RT: Miles expects #LSU QB 'misery' to be thing of past http://t.co/EqyZFYvXxA

— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) January 16, 2015

Zach Mettenberger has been LSU's only reasonably good quarterback since Miles had Matt Flynn in 2007. Mettenberger was often referred to as "The Mettsiah" in 2013, as he was the key cog in the most explosive offense Miles has ever had.

Miller and Golson could have the opportunity to play with elite receiving talent and a proven quarterback guru in Cameron for one of the college football's best programs.

All it would take is beating out two average signal-callers.

 

The Verdict

Miller is the likelier of the two to join LSU by a slight margin.

Bleacher Report's Keith Arnold states there are some "huge hurdles" Golson must climb in order to leave South Bend:

Golson doesn't graduate until May, making any decision to explore options now more than a little premature. That means Golson will be on campus—and on the roster—for spring football, 15 very important practices for a team with lofty aspirations in 2015. If Golson is already looking for a way out, that isn't likely to sit well with his head coach, let alone his teammates. 

Also clouding the situation is Golson's actual eligibility to play for LSU. According to The Times-Picayune report, while a ban on allowing graduate transfer players has been lifted, Golson's admission at any SEC school would need to go through a waiver process. 

Arnold is right on both accounts. Golson could easily prove himself in the spring and beat out Zaire for the starting job. Also, the SEC waiver process can truly be a mess. He does not want to miss any potential games, especially considering he had to sit out the entire 2013 season.

Though it is impossible to tell how many schools are asking about him, it is rational to think Golson is not being pursued as heavily as Miller. With that said, he is the less likely of the two to transfer.

Miller could find himself third on the depth chart at the end of Ohio State's spring practice. That alone will likely scare him into packing his bags and going elsewhere.

Miller would immediately make LSU a national championship contender. But the same can be said about Oregon, Florida State and other programs that are potentially pursuing him.

The difference, though, is Miller may not want to be in the shadow of Mariota or Winston. At LSU, he could make a deeper and more impactful legacy of his own.

Unfortunately for LSU fans, Miller or Golson coming to Baton Rouge is unlikely. If that is the case, the Tigers must have faith in Jennings or Harris leading them to the SEC Championship Game next season.

 

Stats, rankings and additional information provided by cfbstats.comESPN.com and LSUsports.net. Recruiting information provided by 247Sports.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter at @CarterthePower.

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Replacements for Top Players to Declare Early for NFL Draft

Both Ohio State and Oregon preached a "next man up" philosophy in their runs to the national title game, with backups stepping right in to replace injured or suspended players. It's a luxury that only a select few teams are able to afford in the middle of a season.

Regardless of the cost, though, it's something that nearly all of them have to splurge on during the offseason. And the price goes up when it's to replace an unexpected departure.

Now, the deadline has passed for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft, with many stars leaving behind a giant hole of production and dependability for their former teams to fill.

Every school figures to have had a contingency plan in place for such early exits, but now that it's become a reality, they'll have to see if the replacements can get the job done.

Here's a look at the most likely successor to some of the top college players who have declared for the NFL draft, along with other potential replacements if the first in line can't cut it.

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Big Ten Future Riding on Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer Rivalry

If you want to know why the Big Ten is really "back," don't look at January 12.

That, of course, is when Ohio State capped an unimaginable run to win the first College Football Playoff National Championship. Rather, look ahead to 10 months from now on November 28. That's when Michigan and Ohio State will meet for the 112th time. But it's when Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer will meet for the first time as head coaches on opposing sidelines. 

The future of the Big Ten doesn't ride on bowl results; those change every year and are hard to predict. Certainly, the Big Ten sought and ultimately received vindication. After being college football's favorite punchline, the conference went 3-1 on New Year's Day bowls and 2-1 against the SEC in the sport's best unofficial rivalry.

It was a great moment for a league previously pronounced dead and then revived in front of our very eyes. But far too much is made about the long-term ramifications of bowl season. You'd think we would have learned this by now, but alas, amnesia tends to run rampant in sports. 

Rather, the future of the Big Ten lies in its new coaching star power: Harbaugh, Meyer and even Mark Dantonio at Michigan State. They're all in the same division, too: the Big Ten East. 

Specifically, the rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State has been given new life. This has Bo Schembechler, Woody Hayes and the "10-Year War" Part II written all over it. On each sideline stands a coach with a track record of success. On each headset is someone who commands everyone's attention every time he walks into a room and speaks.  

These are coaches that the masses care about. They're praised, criticized, revered and hated. Most importantly, they're relevant—just like the programs they represent.  

As a side note, Big Ten Media Day should be fun. 

Michigan-Ohio State remains one of the best rivalries in any sport, but it has lacked real national significance lately. In the Big 12's best years, Texas-Oklahoma meant something. The Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn has had national championship implications a few times in the past several seasons. 

Even in an unofficial capacity, Harbaugh had meaningful rivalries with Chip Kelly (Oregon) and Pete Carroll (USC) when he was at Stanford. 

The Wolverines have defeated Ohio State just twice since 2001. The Buckeyes' dominance will probably continue for at least one more year. Even with a "throw out the record books" mentality, Michigan is rebuilding, and Ohio State is cruising along. 

Eventually, though, the belief is that Harbaugh can get Michigan turned around. He did it at the University of San Diego, Stanford and then with the San Francisco 49ers. 

"I hope that he can bring them back to (being) a really prominent program," Buckeyes lineman Taylor Decker told Nicole Auerbach of USA Today. "That's just good for our conference, and that's fun for our rivalry. I hope he does end up going there and making them a good team again because that's a fun finale to play in."

Another way to describe what Harbaugh means to the Big Ten came from Dan Wolken of USA Today when Michigan hired Harbaugh in December: 

But this stuff is pretty simple. Always has been and always will be.

For all the administrative failures, booster agendas, laments about how many players grow up in the Rust Belt these days as opposed to the Deep South, never, ever forget that college football is about one thing.

When you combine a great brand name with a great coach, everything else follows and nothing else matters. With one well-timed and perfectly orchestrated push for Jim Harbaugh, Michigan is back and so is the Big Ten.

The Big Ten is back because its two blue-blood programs having coaching firepower. Realistically, few will care if the rest of the Big Ten is average because few actually judge a conference by the fifth or the sixth-best teams. 

As long as Michigan and Ohio State are led by Harbaugh and Meyer, respectively, that's going to garner the most focus. That's a lot of stock to put on two individuals, but there's no doubt they're up to the challenge. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Which Incoming Freshman Quarterback Will Make the Biggest Impact in 2015?

Freshman quarterbacks are no longer just relegated to benchwarming for a couple of seasons; they're making immediate impacts for their respective teams.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer debate the incoming freshmen who will have the biggest impacts.

Who will have the biggest impact of the incoming freshman QBs?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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NCAA Restores Joe Paterno's Vacated Wins in Lawsuit Settlement

As part of a settlement between the NCAA and Penn State University, late head coach Joe Paterno will have his victories from 1998 through 2011 restored after they were vacated due to the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal.

According to NCAA.org, Penn State will commit $60 million to programs designed to prevent sexual abuse against children and treat victims. It will also enter into a new Athletics Integrity Agreement, among other things.

Penn State's board of trustees unanimously voted to ratify the settlement, according to Charles Thompson of The Patriot-News:

Relating to Paterno's record, he will now be credited with the 111 wins that the Nittany Lions earned while he was at the helm over a 14-year period, per ESPN.com's Don Van Natta Jr.:

With those wins, Paterno will once again be recognized as the all-time wins leader in major college football, surpassing Bobby Bowden, according to Kevin McGuire of College Football Talk:

Per NCAA.org, NCAA board of governors chair Kirk Schulz believes the settlement is fair for everyone involved:

Today's agreement with Penn State reaffirms our authority to act. The NCAA has a legitimate role when a member's actions threaten the integrity of college sports. We acted in good faith in addressing the failures and subsequent improvements on Penn State's campus. We must acknowledge the continued progress of the university while also maintaining our commitment to supporting the survivors of child sexual abuse.

CBS Sports provided the Paterno family's complete statement:

Ultimately, the NCAA has decided that Penn State has paid its dues over the past few years, and restoring Paterno's wins feels like a good-faith gesture.

Paterno's legacy is extremely important to Penn State football and its fans, and with his wins being vacated no longer, his legacy as a coach has been cemented.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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