NCAA Football

5 Bold College Football Predictions for Rivalry Weekend

Things have a tendency to get weird on rivalry weekends, and why would we expect anything different from a season that has already had plenty of unpredictability?

This is the time of the season for something—or somethings—out of the ordinary. Championship contenders could watch their dreams go down the drain thanks to their most hated of rivals. Playoff pictures can get turned upside down.

It's prime time for chaos. 

I've already made my against-the-spread picks this week for each of the Top 25 games, and the flavor of my predictions was quite vanilla. But, faced with the task of marking out some bold predictions for rivalry week, I decided to walk more on the wild side.

Have any bold predictions for rivalry weekend that you could see coming to fruition? Shout them out in the comments below.

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Why Raleigh Texada, Younger Brother of TCU CB, Committed to Baylor

When Frisco, Texas, cornerback Raleigh Texada saw his older brother, TCU cornerback Ranthony Texada II , commit on July 16, 2012, he knew that experience was something he wanted for himself when the time was right.

March 5 was Raleigh's big day, and when the announcement officially dropped, it did two things.

It made Baylor fans extremely happy, and it made fans of college football rivalries scratch their heads.

Raleigh Texada, the athlete with the big brother making his name for himself as a shutdown corner for TCU, committed to the Horned Frogs' biggest budding rival, Baylor.

Wait, what? Why? How?


"I get that a lot," Raleigh said. "but it's probably more from the fans of the schools than anything. It's not from my brother. He was the first one happy for me."

While the TCU-Baylor rivalry is a big deal to fans of the Horned Frogs and Bears (it'll be relived on Friday in Fort Worth, Texas), the Texada brothers see things differently in their household. Both schools were big in recruiting Ranthony, and TCU ultimately won the recruiting efforts. Raleigh was recruited by TCU but was never offered.

Baylor, on the other hand, put an offer on the table. Consider Raleigh's commitment an opportunity to show what he's made of at the next level.

And consider everybody in the family happy for Raleigh. Even those who have become TCU fans because of his older brother.

"The thing about Raleigh is, he was a kid who was always compared to his big brother," said Ranthony Texada I, the father of the brothers. "A lot of people said he was just trying to follow in his big brother's path, but he had big shoes to fill with his brother being [high school] all-state and [a second-team freshman] All-American.

"I told Raleigh to just be who you are to where you can achieve some of the same goals, but not come across it the same way. He went out and put in the work. He got his speed up, lived in the weight room and became something no one thought he could be."

The younger Texada shined as a defensive back and special teams returner and made it routine to play on an island for Centennial High School. He finished the season with 40 tackles, two interceptions and six pass deflections, according to He also scored five touchdowns during the season—three as a punt returner, one off an interception and one on offense as a rusher.

"I'm a playmaker," Raleigh said. "I go out and take care of my assignment. All year, I've locked down my side of the field [at cornerback] and played special teams as a punt returner. On kick returns, nobody kicked to me. On the field, I feel like I can make big-time plays at the next level."

His ability to be an electric athlete reminds a lot of people of Ranthony II, who had nearly 20 offers out of high school. Ranthony II currently is recovering from a season-ending knee injury in September against SMU. Before that, he was a reliable member of the secondary who started all 13 games as a redshirt freshman for the Horned Frogs' Peach Bowl-winning squad last season.

Raleigh played well enough in high school to earn offers from Baylor, Washington, Purdue, Duke and Cal. TCU liked Raleigh but not enough to offer him. He never took it personally; if anything, he used it as motivation.

"I went to a camp there going into my junior year," Raleigh said of TCU. "They really never showed any interest. They never really recruited me, but Baylor did. My brother likes Baylor for how they recruited me."

Ranthony I added: "Baylor jumped on Raleigh early. TCU saw Ranthony at a camp and spent a lot of time on him. I told Baylor if they really like Raleigh, spend a lot of time with him. They didn't leave any stones unturned. Now, Raleigh's grown into someone they're very excited about."

Recruited by both linebackers coach Jim Gush and cornerbacks coach Carlton Buckels, Raleigh finished his high school as a three-year varsity football player. The 5'11", 165-pound athlete also is a standout sprinter for the Centennial track and field team. He's advanced to regional competition as a sprinter and has a personal-best time in the 100-meter dash of 10.54 seconds.

Raleigh said having the opportunity to run track also played in his decision to choose. But when asked about the primary reason for his choice, he pointed to the coaching staff, led by head coach Art Briles.

"I feel like he's a real player's coach," he said. "He's really cool; I like him a lot. My family loves him and the whole coaching staff. I've built good relationships with all the coaches."

Raleigh is excited about the future and putting on a Baylor uniform. But just because he looks up to his big brother doesn't mean he's ready to give the rival team as many losses as possible.

"It is a rivalry, and they do take shots at each other," Ranthony I said. "They love each other, but they've criticized each other based on the Baylor-TCU thing. I hate it as a dad, but it's in their blood. Plus, with a lot of my family, TCU is their first love because of Ranthony. They're slowly transitioning into liking Baylor, too, because of Raleigh."

As the Horned Frogs prepare to host the Bears on Friday, expect the brothers to root for their respective teams. But for 364 out of 365 days a year, look for them to be each other's biggest fans.

Look, also, for Raleigh to become the best he can be. To him, it's all about making a name for himself, rather than being known as the little brother of the TCU standout.

"I'll be rooting for Baylor, and he'll be rooting for TCU," Raleigh said of his brother. "I know he wants TCU to win bad, too. But at the end of the day, I know that he's excited for me and has nothing but love for me."

Ranthony I added: "The love they've shown for each other, I can't ask for anything more. My dream as their father is to have TCU and Baylor line up with both of my boys on the field at the same time."


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

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5-Star Oluwole Betiku Talks Recruiting, Deciding Factors

A handful of schools are battling it out for the right to land 5-star defensive end Oluwole Betiku.

Among the schools that Betiku has visited recently include Florida State, Notre Dame, Texas A&M and USC.

With the 6’3.5”, 240-pounder—who is rated as the nation’s top weak-side defensive end and the No. 10 prospect overall in the 2016 class—scheduled to enroll at the school of his choice in January, he knows that a decision will have to be made soon on where he continues his career.

For Betiku—who is originally from Lagos, Nigeria, and is only in his second full season playing the sport of football—it’s a big step in a journey that has taken him from being a newcomer to one of the nation’s most coveted recruits in a short period of time.

He admits that his decision will be tough to make.

“Feelings change every day. Sometimes, you wake up one morning and you feel a certain way about a school,” Betiku said. “That’s why I’m so careful about committing to a school.”

One thing that has been paramount in his mind has been the type of scheme he wants to play in at the college level. However, that’s something he’s changed his stance on recently, instead preferring to keep an open mind on potentially playing an outside linebacker position in a 3-4 defense.

“For a player like me who just began playing the game, I was so focused on playing and how I fit in a scheme and being a 4-3 defensive end and things like that,” Betiku explained. “But after this year and developing as a player and understanding the game more, I feel like I’m athletic enough to play outside linebacker or change positions in college.”

His last visit came on Nov. 14 when he made his way to check out the Fighting Irish program.

“What’s cool about Notre Dame to me is the tradition and the education,” he said. “I’ve known about Notre Dame since I was in Nigeria. Just getting a chance to see what the college and the program and game situation and talking with the coaches and the academic staff.”

One factor he paid close attention to on his recent visits was the campus setting at each school.

“You go to some schools on a visit, and you walk around the school and no one wants to talk to you or relate with you,” Betiku said. "If you are a people person, you can’t fit in a program like that. I want to enjoy my college stay and college career.”

Given that his journey has taken him from his home country to Maryland and to his current home of Los Angeles, distance will not play a factor in his decision. Instead, Betiku wants to find the best fit for his talents on the field and a place where he can also get it done in the classroom. 

“It’s going to come down to where I feel most comfortable and where I feel like I will have the best opportunities whether I play football or I don’t play football,” Betiku said. “I know I will play because I’m a hard worker. But I want to put myself in position to be the best person I can be and get the best degree. That’s what it comes down to.”


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

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Corey Clement Cited for Disorderly Conduct: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

Wisconsin Badgers running back Corey Clement has received a citation for two counts of disorderly conduct stemming from an incident earlier this month. 

According to WKOW 27 in Madison, Wisconsin, Clement was cited as a result of a fight that took place at the HUB student apartments on Nov. 8.

Wisconsin released a statement on Clement, per Adam Rittenberg of ESPN:

On Nov. 12, per USA Today, the University of Wisconsin issued a statement saying the junior running back suffered a cut on his hand "after he witnessed a verbal altercation between a security guard and a group of people at his apartment building" and he later became involved when he was "assaulted by the individuals in the dispute."

However, per the WKOW 27 report, Madison Police said the university’s story about Clement "defending himself was not reflected in the video footage they obtained in the investigation."

Clement has played sparingly in 2015, appearing in three games after undergoing sports hernia surgery at the end of September. He was slated to play an integral role in the Badgers' offense, taking over for Melvin Gordon as the No. 1 running back. 

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How Auburn Can Shock the World, Upset Alabama in 2015 Iron Bowl

In the last several years, the action at the Iron Bowl has either been unrelenting or unexpected.

The former has taken place a few times in the Nick Saban era for Alabama. The Crimson Tide won the 2008, 2011 and 2012 matchups by a combined score of 127-14. Alabama was one of the top two teams in the country on all three occasions—just like it is this weekend.

The latter, however, has taken place four times since the 2008 drubbing that ended Auburn's long winning streak in the series under Tommy Tuberville.

Two of those games, the 2010 and 2013 matchups, ended with two of the most iconic wins in Auburn history—Cam Newton's 24-point comeback and Chris Davis' 100-plus-yard field-goal return.

The 2009 and 2014 Iron Bowls featured a narrow loss for a seven-win Auburn team and a surprising 55-44 shootout defeat for an eight-win one.

On Saturday, a 6-5 Auburn team will look for another unexpected result against another Alabama team that seems destined to play in the national championship game. And it's safe to say the majority of analysts expect another unrelenting win this weekend for the dominant Crimson Tide.

As Kevin Scarbinsky of noted this week, an upset for Auburn would be the biggest one in school history. A ranked Alabama team is 23-1 all-time against an unranked Auburn team, with the 2002 Tigers knocking off the No. 9 Tide by a score of 17-7 coming as the lone loss.

What will it take for Auburn to make that record 23-2? Here are three keys to success, with some lessons from the Tigers' most recent Iron Bowl victories and near-misses.


Contain Alabama's Rushing Attack

Alabama will bring its Heisman Trophy-contending running back, Derrick Henry, into Jordan-Hare Stadium this weekend. The junior leads the nation in rushing touchdowns and has recorded at least 100 yards on the ground against all but one SEC opponent this season.

Six years ago, the Tide brought a running back with a similar resume to the Plains in Mark Ingram. The eventual Heisman winner didn't have as many touchdowns that season, but he was consistently great in conference games and averaged 6.49 yards per carry heading into the Iron Bowl.

But Auburn's much-maligned 2009 defense didn't let Ingram run all over the field in that Iron Bowl matchup. He finished the game with 30 yards on 16 carries, and teammate Trent Richardson only put up 51 of his own.

The next season, when Auburn defeated Alabama in comeback fashion, Ingram only had 36 yards on 10 carries, and Richardson chipped in 24.

Priority No. 1 this year for Auburn is preventing Henry from rampaging through the heart of its defense like the Alabama back has done to plenty of teams—similarly to what LSU's Leonard Fournette did to the Tigers earlier this season.

"You look on film and it’s hard for one guy to tackle him," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said in quotes emailed by the school. "He’s a big, strong guy and fast. He doesn’t need too much of an opening. He has a lot of explosive plays. He can finish... He’s not going down real easy when he gets to the second level."

Auburn's run defense has had much more success against the run since the ill-fated trip to Baton Rouge—thanks in part to the return of top defender Carl Lawson—but it hasn't faced a test quite like Henry since meeting Fournette.

"We're definitely a better defense now than we were at the beginning of the season," Auburn linebacker Kris Frost said, per Duane Rankin of the Montgomery Advertiser. "That doesn't take anything away from the fact that this is going to be a big challenge for us. We're going to have to throw a lot of things at (Henry)."

Auburn must prevent Henry from doing too much damage in the second level and force tougher third-down situations for the Alabama offense.

In 2013, the Tigers stopped Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon on several short-yardage plays that led to missed field goals and a crucial turnover on downs.

Stopping Henry will be a nearly impossible task, but slowing him down from his incredible pace will give Auburn a lot more chances to succeed on both sides of the ball.


Force Mistakes and Take Full Advantage of Them

A fumble forced from behind sparked the 2010 comeback. Those missed field goals and the turnover on downs gave Auburn a chance to pull off a legendary finish in 2013.

Last season, Auburn had several opportunities to put more points on the board against an Alabama team that threw three interceptions, gave away a couple of costly penalties and blew several coverages. But the Tigers settled for field goals too often, including a 20-yarder at the end of the first half.

As Bleacher Report's Christopher Walsh noted in his preview of the Iron Bowl, mistakes hurt Alabama in its loss to Ole Miss, and Auburn has to capitalize on any of those on Saturday:

Everyone knows that Alabama’s only loss this season came in a game it had five turnovers, but it’s had no more than two in any game since then, and just one opponent had an edge in turnover ratio, Arkansas (two to one).

Two years ago, the Tigers got the Kick-Six to win, 34-28. Four years ago, it got a fumble recovery in the end zone and Onterio McCalebb’s 83-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, but it still lost, 42-14.

Alabama has scored eight non-offensive touchdowns this season. Auburn has scored two but has a history of getting them in this game.

If Auburn's defense can get Alabama into those tougher situations on offense, the Tigers may have some shots at momentum-changing interceptions.

Alabama quarterback Jake Coker has thrown a pick in six of 11 games this season, and Auburn's shaky secondary has had 11 interceptions in the past seven games—including seven in the last four.

And when Auburn gets those opportunities, it must turn them into touchdowns on the other end of the field.

Let's just ask Twitter if kicking a lot of field goals will beat Alabama:

Auburn has a newly announced Lou Groza finalist in Daniel Carlson at kicker, but the Tigers need to use him more on extra points than field goals if they want to beat the Tide this season.


Throw Them Everything You've Got on Offense

His strategy and play-calling have received their fair share of criticism this season, but one can't argue that Malzahn doesn't know how to dial up a few big plays against a team like Alabama.

In 2009, his first year as an Auburn coordinator, he got a 67-yard touchdown off a reverse to receiver Terrell Zachary. The 2010 showdown featured a perfectly designed rollout toss to the late Phillip Lutzenkirchen that served as the game-winning touchdown. Nick Marshall's pop pass to Sammie Coates tied the game in 2013.

So does Malzahn have any more surprise plays up his sleeve for the Tide this season? A reporter asked him that at his weekly press conference, and he went on a surprising little rant.

"You guys are trying to give all my secrets away, you know?" Malzahn said. "What else we want to tell them? Reverses? Any reverses? Y’all want some reverses? OK, we’ll run some reverses, all right. You want some trick plays? We’ll run some trick plays. Want to know what they’re called? Just ask me."

Malzahn, who also said, "I'm not telling you" when asked if Auburn's game plan included long passes, is being extra-guarded this week as his inconsistent offense faces one of the nation's toughest defenses.

It's going to take some surprises and a total team effort to succeed. Alabama's defensive front is one of the best college football has seen in quite some time, and it shut down Fournette earlier this month.

But the run game still needs to be a key of Auburn's offense. The Tigers are run-first at their core, even when Malzahn tries to force the issue too much through the air with quarterbacks Jeremy Johnson and Sean White.

Auburn will look to spring big plays on the ground through its counters and misdirection, trying to get those tough Tide defenders out of position.

It can attack the defense in a variety of ways, from the hard running of Peyton Barber to the all-around playmaking of Jovon Robinson to the speed on the edges from Roc Thomas, Kerryon Johnson and Ricardo Louis. If Johnson gets the nod as starting quarterback, he might be used to hit Alabama on read-options.

"We're going to need them all," Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said, per Ryan Black of Auburn Undercover.

That will open things up for Auburn to hit an Alabama secondary that, while vastly improved in coverage from last season, has allowed some big yardage numbers in 2015.

Sustained success against this Alabama defense for one of Malzahn's least efficient offenses is far from expected, but this is the Iron Bowl—a legendary rivalry that doesn't always stick to the script.


Unless otherwise noted, statistics courtesy of

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

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Alabama's Extra Motivation to Beat Auburn in 2015 Iron Bowl

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It was a play that no one watching will ever forget, now simply known as the “Kick Six.”

After a replay review of Alabama’s final offensive play determined that there was still one second remaining on the clock when running back T.J. Yeldon stepped out of bounds, head coach Nick Saban decided to go for a potential game-winning 57-yard field-goal attempt.

All eyes were on the ball as it came off Adam Griffith’s foot and sailed into the night air, but that was the problem for the Crimson Tide—hardly anyone on the field was thinking about what could come next.

At the last moment, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn inserted Chris Davis in the end zone in case the kick landed short, and that’s what happened. He caught it and returned it 100-plus yards to score the most unbelievable, if not improbable, touchdown in college football history.

“I just kind of walked off the field,” Alabama senior center Ryan Kelly recalled this week. “That’s all I want to talk about it. It wasn’t a great feeling. A lot of guys on this team were there then. You definitely don’t forget something like that.”

Saturday, Alabama returns to the scene of the crime, if you will, Jordan-Hare Stadium, where the 2013 game between the No. 1 and No. 4 teams determined which between them would have a chance to win the Southeastern Conference and national championships.

Although Auburn didn’t draw chalk outlines of the Crimson Tide afterward, it did retrace Davis’ steps along the home team’s sideline and into the end zone, and fans stormed the field and did the equivalent of dancing on Alabama’s grave long into the night.

Meanwhile, below the stands, the visiting team was in shock.

“I just can’t believe it happened,” linebacker C.J. Mosley said while echoing what everyone in the locker room felt after the stunning 34-28 loss. “Nobody ever expected that.”

That went double for Mosley, who had come back for his senior year to try and lead Alabama to a possible three-peat after capturing the 2011 and 2012 national titles.

Now imagine what it was like for the guy sitting in the adjoining locker.

“Any chance you get a chance to finish them, finish them off,” said linebacker Reggie Ragland, now a senior. “It's in the back of my mind. I know I remember being on the sideline, me and Landon [Collins] beside each other, and just watching the guy run down the field. You just drop your helmet and just walk off the field in disbelief and you're sad.

“You look in the eyes of some of the seniors and you see them crying in the locker room and stuff like that. That hurts your feelings, knowing that you didn't do your job enough to get the win for them. So we gotta come out, and we gotta do our job and gotta try to get this win."

Similar to 2013, and nearly every other year since Saban arrived in 2007, a lot’s at stake for No. 2 Alabama: another division title, another trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game and potentially more.

It’s also Auburn, and while the Tigers would like nothing more than to derail another Crimson Tide season and hurt running back Derrick Henry’s chances of winning the Heisman Trophy, the rivalry alone makes this a different game.

Unlike a lot of other high-profile games this weekend, like Michigan-Ohio State, there’s no state border involved. This divides communities, neighbors and families in the state that cares about nothing more than college football.

“My cousin, Wallace [Gilberry], played at Bama, so I was always a Bama fan,” junior linebacker Ryan Anderson said. “When I was younger, going to school, kids were holding up their thumb. What was it, six in a row, seven in a row [that Auburn won]? I really hated that. I hated it more than anything. So it means a lot to me.

“I don’t talk to my family that are Auburn fans.”

Saban was correct when he said, “I don't think what happened two years ago there has any impact on what's going to happen in this game,” but at some point, every Alabama player who was there in 2013 will remember what that day was like.

He’ll think of the play and the fans rushing the field, and he'll remember what the subsequent months were like.

And then the Alabama players will buckle down their chin straps and try to ignore that, the crowd and every single pain-in-the-rear thing Malzahn’s coaching staff dreamed up for them.

“I think that’s the biggest part of it—just playing your responsibilities,” senor cornerback Cyrus Jones said. “Nobody trying to do nothing spectacular or out of character or trying to make a big play—just doing your job, being in the right spot at the right time and being where you’re supposed to be. That’s what it’s going to come down to—just fundamental football.” 


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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Previewing College Football's Biggest Rivalry Week Recruiting Battles

Rivalry week and Thanksgiving weekend: Never a bad combination.

For college football fans, the opportunity to eat and watch a lot of football literally is days away. And with the schedule on deck, fans can't go wrong with their options.

Stanford will host Notre Dame for the Legends Trophy, and in-state rivals Ole Miss and Mississippi State will play the Egg Bowl in Starkville. The Los Angeles crowd will have the classic UCLA-USC affair at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The state of South Carolina will be divided, as the South Carolina Gamecocks host Clemson. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will battle in Stillwater for the annual Bedlam series. And then there's college football's budding rivalry of TCU and Baylor, which will take place Friday in Fort Worth.

All of the rivalry games will be entertaining, but there are select programs hoping to also impress key recruits who plan on being in attendance for the games. Here are three rivalry games to keep an eye on that will host some of the nation's best athletes in the 2016 class.


Ohio State at Michigan

Never a dull moment, this game will be one that Michigan fans hope will turn things around in a series Ohio State has dominated since the start of the 21st century. Since 2001, Michigan is 2-11 in the matchup.

A big win over the reigning national champions could parlay into a nice recruiting haul regarding the uncommitted athletes expected to be in attendance. And Michigan has a shot to handle business in front of an esteemed group of athletes.

The nation's top-ranked athlete, 5-star Mecole Hardman Jr., headlines the list of athletes who will be on an official visit. The nation's top-ranked guard, 4-star Terrance Davis, also will take an official visit.

Michigan also is expected to host a group of 4-star Texas linebackers in Dontavious Jackson and Jeffrey McCulloch. Consider the weekend a chance for the Wolverines to potentially flip a few players, as well. USC receiver pledge Velus Jones Jr. is expected to be in attendance.


Alabama at Auburn

The Iron Bowl never disappoints, and recruits know this. A big list of players is expected to be at Auburn this weekend on an official visit—including the nation's top-ranked overall player, Rashan Gary.

The 5-star defensive tackle headlines a list of potential Auburn commits that also features the nation's top-ranked running back in Kareem Walker as well as 4-star offensive tackle Landon Dickerson. With Kyle Davis, the nation's top-ranked receiver, committing Wednesday morning, the Tigers are hoping the weekend will be one for the books, recruiting wise.

Alabama, of course, has plans of its own. Many athletes considering playing for Gus Malzahn also are considering playing for Nick Saban. A solid performance by the Crimson Tide could be just enough to sway athletes toward them. Even worse, a bad performance by Auburn could take the Tigers out of the mix for good.

You can bet that the Auburn commits expected to be in attendance, such as 4-star receiver Eli Stove and 4-star cornerback John Broussard, will be around hyping up their future homes to the uncommitted, win or lose.


Florida State at Florida

The battle of the state of Florida's two oldest public universities will be a much-anticipated one. The teams don't like each other, and the atmosphere at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium will be electric.

The official visitors list isn't long, but it does include Michigan linebacker commit David Reese. An atmosphere like the one in Gainesville could be enough to flip Reese, who reportedly has been wavering from his commitment to the Wolverines, per InsideTheVille.

The list of unofficial visitors is the list to keep an eye on this weekend, particularly with 4-star quarterback Feleipe Franks expected to be in attendance. Franks decommitted from LSU on Monday, and per Bleacher Report's Tyler Donohue, there's a good chance he signs with Florida.

A few 4-star athletes who could make the trip to Gainesville include Miami receiver commit Sam Bruce, uncommitted receiver Nate Craig-Myers, Florida State defensive end commit Janarius Robinson and the committed 4-star Gators duo of cornerback Chauncey Gardner and receiver Freddie Swain, who recently signed written offers of admissions.


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

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College Football 'Frenemies': The Side of Rivalries You Never Hear About

Every year, often the week of the national title game, the American Football Coaches Association hosts its annual convention at a major city around the country. 

It’s an opportunity to hear coaches from all levels detail their philosophies, discuss organizational details, diagram plays and break down film. Mostly, though, it’s a chance to network their way into jobs or catch up at the bar with an old friend. 

Although he is by no means a regular at the convention nowadays, two years ago Nick Saban was a featured speaker and regaled an overflow crowd with tales of his past. This came a week after one of his own proteges, Jimbo Fisher, had won the national title at Florida State. A day after Saban took the stage in Indianapolis back in 2014, another former assistant did the same in Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio.

While he can at times appear gruff, the 64-year-old soon-to-be dean of FBS coaching still maintains plenty of friendly relationships with his peers in both college and the NFL. That’s especially true for many who once worked for him over the years and occupy a branch on Saban’s sometimes complicated coaching tree.

As he aims to bring yet another national title to Tuscaloosa this season, Saban may have to take a unique path to hoisting another trophy by handing losses to coaches he once called colleagues. In fact, the Crimson Tide’s path to Glendale is littered with people who could best be termed "frenemies" of the team’s head coach. 

Starting this Saturday against Alabama’s bitter rival Auburn, Saban will face off against three coaches who were once on his staff in some capacity in defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, linebackers coach Lance Thompson and co-offensive coordinator Dameyune Craig.

Few give the Tigers much of a chance to pull off an upset for the ages, but coaches’ intimate knowledge of Saban’s much-discussed “process” that he uses to run his program will surely pay some dividends on the field even if it does not ultimately change the result on the scoreboard at Jordan-Hare Stadium this week.

“Any time you play against somebody you worked with, it gives you an idea of what they like to do and what their thoughts are on how they like to play,” Saban said. “Obviously them being with you, they know some of the things that you like to do. I think you do take that into consideration but I’m not sure you can change what you do that dramatically.”

The following Saturday in the SEC title game, Alabama could face a Florida team with plenty of connections to Saban. Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier each helped win a national title for the Tide as offensive coordinators. Gators defensive coordinator Geoff Collins was the Director of Player Personnel in Saban’s first season in Tuscaloosa. Defensive line coach Chris Rumph has two rings thanks to his tenure at Alabama.

Speaking of McElwain, his rivalry-week game will pit him against another former Saban offensive coordinator in Gainesville on Saturday. That’s nothing new for many Gators fans and Seminoles lovers given how they are already familiar with Fisher’s relation to the previous Florida coach (if you haven’t heard, he shares a beach house with Muschamp).

“I have a lot of respect for Jim McElwain. We're not personal close friends, but I know him, and I think he's an outstanding guy. I've communicated with him in the past, and we have a lot of common friends and everything,” said Fisher. “I hate to say it, I know you've got friends on the other side, but if I was playing my brother, I would still compete. I still have a lot of respect for him, but it's a rivalry game. It's important.”

Perhaps even stranger than those two meeting this week may be the path that lies ahead for their former boss if Alabama advances from Atlanta: a date with Dantonio and Michigan State in a potential College Football Playoff semifinal pairing. While Dantonio also has connections to Earle Bruce and Jim Tressel among others, it was Saban who first brought him on board in East Lansing in the mid-1990s.

While not every coach, including several of the ones listed above, would get much more than a handshake on game day from Saban or a quick exchange of pleasantries outside of football, the sometimes incestuous nature of coaching relationships means one doesn’t have to travel far to bump into somebody you either worked with or worked for. That’s especially true for somebody who has been in the game as long as Saban.

Fellow West Virginia native Rich Rodriguez knows all too well what it’s like to know his counterpart on the other sideline. He first came across Todd Graham when each reached the 1993 NAIA championship (Graham won and is 3-1 against Rodriguez in his current role) and then later hired him at West Virginia. Now the two are among the highest paid public employees in the state of Arizona and go head-to-head each season.

“We’ve known each other for a long, long time but when you’re coaching in a rivalry, you don’t communicate as much as you normally would. We’ll see each other at Pac-12 meetings or a couple of other functions but, because he’s a rival, you just don’t converse,” Rodriguez remarked. “Todd’s done a great job wherever he’s been but we don’t root for him because he’s our rival.”

While both would rather talk out of range of microphones and far from a camera, after last Saturday’s 52-37 victory in favor of the Sun Devils, both head coaches shared a warm embrace that went well beyond the usual postgame pleasantries. Many of the two teams’ staff members did the same seeing as most worked for one or the other head coach during stops at West Virginia, Pitt, Michigan, Tulsa or another place on the college football map.

The Territorial Cup rivalry is just as fierce on the field as other more famous college football games, and the bitterness between fan bases is right there among the nastiest in the country. Such intertwining relationships between Sun Devils coaches and their peers in Wildcats gear may be hard for some fans to fathom, even if they are held at arm's length most of the time, but it’s simply the reality in both Tucson and Tempe at the moment.

Neither Rodriguez nor Graham would openly root for the other, but beneath the surface, there’s respect for the other side. Add in the interesting dynamic of Rodriguez’s offensive pedigree against Graham’s penchant for aggressive defense, and you have one of the more polar-opposite pairs of coaching frenemies in the country.

The Grand Canyon State is not the only section of the Pac-12 to feature friendly head coaches despite being at two schools that are bitter rivals on the field.

Salt Lake City native Gary Andersen has been tasked with rebuilding Oregon State but talks or texts often with close friend and former boss Kyle Whittingham, Utah’s head coach. The two coached together for a number of years and then later faced off against each other when Andersen was at Utah State earlier in his career. They met again on Halloween this year in a 27-12 victory for the Utes.

Andersen was no doubt back to being friendly this week as his Beavers prepare to face Oregon in the annual Civil War game. The Utes throttled the Ducks earlier this season 62-20 in Eugene, and while a similar result may be unfathomable for 2-9 OSU to replicate, every little bit helps for a frenemy in need.

“Kyle and I haven’t really discussed that yet but we did watch that game as a staff,” Andersen said Tuesday, before noting he faces a much tougher task than Whittingham with a healthy Vernon Adams in the lineup for Oregon. “There were a lot of things that went the way of the Utes that day.”

Speaking of the Ducks, fans probably conveniently forget that one of head coach Mark Helfrich’s best friends is none other than the head coach at bitter rival Washington, Chris Petersen. The pair first met when both were on Mike Bellotti’s staff in Eugene and also overlapped for a season at Boise State.

Now they’re on opposite sides of one of the Pacific Northwest’s most hostile rivalries.

“I have not talked to Pete this week. It just varies. Some guys you’ll talk to once or twice and rarely is it schematically related,” Helfrich said. “Sometimes it’s a global football issue or other times it’s just checking in on them, whether it’s a tough time or an injury situation. Not too often during the season do we get a chance to do more than that.”

Farther south, there will be no warm pregame embrace for Jim Mora, but for very different reasons. As his UCLA team battles crosstown rival USC with a trip to the Pac-12 title game on the line, missing from the opposite sideline will be Steve Sarkisian after he was dismissed earlier this season

Mora grew close to Sarkisian when the latter was coaching at Washington. An NFL lifer and son of a longtime NFL head coach, Mora was a welcome visitor around the Huskies facilities and credits Sarkisian immensely in getting him interested in the college game. The Bruins head man will take to the field at the Coliseum on Saturday thinking about the former coach at his crosstown rival as he sorts out his personal issues.

“I have not spoken with him but we have exchanged some text messages,” Mora confirmed this week. “It’s really hard, he’s a friend. I think he’s a good man. You just don’t like to see people struggle. He’s in my thoughts a lot and I just hope for the best for him as he moves forward in life.”

With rivalry week in full effect for most of the country and bowl berths, conference titles and College Football Playoff spots all on the line, it’s easy to look at the upcoming slate of games as simply School A against School B.

It’s not quite that simple when looking under the surface, however. For many who will don a headset on Friday or Saturday and spend countless hours throughout the week dissecting game film, the opponent on the other sideline is only a true enemy for 60 minutes.

Bryan Fischer is a national football columnist at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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SEC Extra Points with Barrett Sallee: How Real Are Jimbo Fisher to LSU Rumors?

The coaching silly season has cranked up to high gear over the last few weeks, despite the fact that there's still a rather important rivalry weekend looming in college football.

The most surprising development of the coaching carousel so far has been the news, according to Scott Rabalais of the Advocate, that LSU appears to be on the verge of letting go of head coach Les Miles—who's about to wrap up his 11th season in Baton Rouge.

Who's going to replace him?

Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher has been a hot name around the water cooler. Scott Roussel of joined me and Brad Hopkins on the B/R Afternoon Drive on SiriusXM Bleacher Report Radio channel 83 on Tuesday, and he commented on the validity of those rumors.

"I think 100 percent, " said Roussel. "There's no way that LSU would be moving forward with this discussion unless they were exceptionally confident that they had their next guy. There's been no discussion of anybody other than Jimbo Fisher as I understand it. It's my full belief, if they pull the trigger and move Les out, that Jimbo will be the next coach at LSU."

Color me shocked. 

Jimbo has an easier path to the College Football Playoff at Florida State, is in a better recruiting state than LSU (although Louisiana is still loaded with talent) and has an incredibly young team that's still likely to hit double-digit wins in what's clearly a "rebuilding year."

Why go to LSU, where he would be charged with a similar rebuilding effort in a tougher neighborhood?

Apparently it's in the works or, at the very least, being discussed.

Fisher at LSU would be a home run hire as a replacement for the "Mad Hatter."


A Balancing Act

Alabama is looking to polish off the SEC West this Saturday against Auburn, keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive and claim its first national title since the 2012 season.

At the same time, several assistants could be looking elsewhere for future employment.

Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has emerged as a front-runner for the South Carolina job, according to Bruce Feldman of, offensive line coach Mario Cristobal has been linked to Miami and Roussel told B/R Radio that offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has been getting some buzz at Maryland.

That creates a delicate balancing act for Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban.

"One of the reasons [Kiffin and Smart] are being considered is because they do a job where they are right now," he said. "They're bright enough to certainly realize that, and they want to focus on where they are right now because that's a reflection on what they do, and that's why people would be interested in them."

It's not unusual for Saban to deal with assistants moving on. He will likely go up against two former assistants—Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and Florida head coach Jim McElwain—over the next two weeks. 

"I'm always trying to help guys if they are looking for a better opportunity, but I also certainly appreciate the fact that they stay very focused on what we're trying to do because they certainly care about our team, and both put that first," Saban said.


Temporary Solution to a Permanent Problem

The Texas A&M quarterback position has been a permanent problem ever since Johnny Manziel moved on to the NFL, and head coach Kevin Sumlin was charged with finding a guy to live up to the hype.

Kenny Hill couldn't do it. Neither could Kyle Allen nor Kyler Murray. Now, it's Allen's turn again to try to lock the door that's been revolving for going on two seasons.

The sophomore from Scottsdale is healthy again after suffering a midseason shoulder injury. He threw for 336 yards and a touchdown in last week's 25-0 shutout at Vanderbilt, and he certainly appears to be in line to start for the Aggies in the regular-season finale at LSU this weekend.

It's a critical game for Allen.

For two teams that are out of contention for the SEC West, this is about as big of a spot as you can create for an opposing quarterback—on the road, in a hostile environment against a team that's gone through a lot over the last month in what might be head coach Les Miles' last game in Baton Rouge.

A big performance from Allen will go a long way toward defining the identity of the 2016 Texas A&M offense, give him an advantage over Murray heading into bowl practices and finally bring a semblance of stability to the consistently unstable quarterback position in College Station.


Lost in the Noise

Remember when the game between Texas A&M and LSU was supposed to be the "Chavis Bowl," rather than "Les Miles' Swansong"?

You know, when a wholesome issue like the lawsuits that have tied up the two schools and Chavis surrounding his exit from Baton Rouge to College Station last offseason dominated headlines?

Ah, the good ol' days.

While the Miles saga has dominated headlines over the last few weeks, LSU's players are excited to see Chavis, who bailed on the Tigers shortly after the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.

"It's going to be exciting to get to see my boy Chief again," LSU senior linebacker Deion Jones said, according to Jim Kleinpeter of "I'll see him before and after the game most likely. It's going to be fun."

While LSU's players are excited to see their former coach, the way things ended will certainly provide extra motivation, as linebacker Kendell Beckwith noted (via: Ross Dellenger of the Advocate):

While it's not the primary storyline leading into the LSU-Texas A&M game, it's an interesting subplot to keep an eye on when the Tigers host the Aggies on Saturday night.

"We're going to look forward to this competition," Miles said on the SEC teleconference of his team's mindset going up against Chavis. "I promise you."


A Little Trash Talk?

The Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama doesn't have the same buzz at it has over the last couple of seasons—at least on the national level.

So how do we fix that? With a little trash talk, of course.

Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones did his best to create some buzz with this nugget, courtesy of Ben Jones of

Not exactly the highest compliment in the world, but not exactly a shot, either. 

Auburn wide receiver Ricardo Louis, however, clearly took it as the latter.

Not to be outdone, Alabama center Ryan Kelly isn't very familiar with Tiger "Buck" Carl Lawson, who has helped Auburn's defense become a force over the last month since returning from a hip injury.

Naturally, Auburn's official account took the chance to capitalize on some lukewarm, albeit accurate trash talk.

Fun in the media aside, Lawson is the key to Auburn keeping the Iron Bowl interesting. 

He returned against Ole Miss on Halloween, and Auburn's defense has given up just 395.75 yards per game over that time. He had success against Rebels offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, and if he can replicate that against Alabama's Cam Robinson, help the Tigers force turnovers and help Auburn's offense go 40 yards for touchdowns instead of 80 against Alabama's defense, the Tigers should be able to make it interesting.


Stick to the Basics

Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate between Georgia and Georgia Tech carries revenge for the boys in Athens, after the Yellow Jackets stunned the Bulldogs between the hedges after racking up 399 rushing yards in the process.

Georgia's defense has been pretty solid this year, giving up just 3.9 yards per carry. 

Stopping the Jacket triple-option, even in a down year, is going to be a challenge for the Bulldogs.

Georgia Southern, which took Georgia to overtime, has a history of running the same triple-option scheme run by former Eagle and current Yellow Jacket head coach Paul Johnson. Now that it's in FBS, Georgia Southern has evolved more into more of a spread-option team which will help Georgia against Tech, but not as much as in years past.

"They both run option, but they are very different in how they go about it," Richt said, according to the school's official site. "But again, like I've said, the fundamentals of defeat blocks the fundamentals of being responsible for gaps, the fundamentals of assignment football when it comes to option, those things do carry over. But they do it just different enough where it's not like, let's do it exactly like we did last week. It's not like that."

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt had better be on his game, because while Georgia Tech has sputtered to a 3-8 record and is a far cry from the dark-horse contender for the ACC title that many suspected in August, it's still a tricky offense that, if not handled properly, can put Georgia into a pretty big hole.

If Georgia's triple-option struggles continue, it's going to be a lot to ask for this Bulldogs offense to dig out of a hole.

No pressure, coach Pruitt.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of

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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Notre Dame vs. Stanford Complete Game Preview

Since its two-point road loss to Clemson, Notre Dame football’s season has been a week-to-week journey with a marquee matchup waiting Thanksgiving weekend.

Well, with six wins in six tries since the loss in Death Valley, the Irish do have their pivotal opportunity Saturday against Stanford, as College Football Playoff possibilities hang in the balance.

“They’re in a position to accomplish the mission that they went on and that was to have an opportunity to be part of one of the four teams selected for the playoffs,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly told reporters Tuesday. “They know they don’t control that. But they know that they control the way they prepare and the way they play on Saturday.”

The No. 6 Irish face the No. 9 Cardinal, an imposing foe despite the two-point home loss to Oregon two weeks ago. After a season-opening road loss to No. 20 Northwestern, the Cardinal rattled off eight consecutive victories, including wins over USC and UCLA.

“I know our players are excited about the challenge of playing Stanford on the road and a very good football team,” Kelly said.

Date: Saturday, November 28

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Place: Stanford Stadium in Stanford, California

TV: Fox

Radio: IMG College Sports, SiriusXM Channel 129

Spread: Stanford by 4, according to Odds Shark

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Most Important College Football Recruiting Visits of Rivalry Week

College football's rivalry week arrives Thanksgiving weekend, as longstanding foes face off yet again with major postseason implications involved. Attention shifts to showdowns at Auburn, Florida, Michigan, USC and campuses across America, providing plenty of action to enjoy as folks emerge from holiday feasts. 

Several recruits will gather at games, considering the possibility of someday becoming a competitor in these rivalries. Prospects expected to attend matchups include top-ranked talent Rashan Gary, lauded Alabama linebacker legacy Ben Davis and Elite 11 quarterback finalist Feleipe Franks.

Here's a rundown of recruits on the move this weekend, as we reach the 10-week mark until national signing day.

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7 College Football Things We're Thankful for in 2015

The biggest college football weekend of the season coincides with one of our biggest holidays, and fans and followers of this sport definitely have a lot to be thankful for this time of year.

Sure, college football is far from perfect and can sometimes get quite ugly, but there are plenty of great things that we love and that keep us coming back every single season. It's what brings our families—our real ones and our football ones—together.

And this 2015 season, one filled with chaos, contenders and Cinderella stories, has given us much to be thankful for as fans.

It doesn't matter if your team is competing for a championship, looking to lock down a big-time bowl game or is already out of contention this season. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, these following slides contain seven things about college football that most fans should appreciate, regardless of school affiliations.

Of course, we all have our own specific reasons for thankfulness that go beyond the general ones I've listed here. Tell us what you're thankful for this college football season in the comments below, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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College Football Picks for Week 13: B/R Experts' Predictions for Top 5 Games

Twelve weeks. Hundreds of games. They've all led up to this week: Rivalry Week in college football. It's cliche to say you can throw the records out the window this week, but in some cases, it's definitely true. While it's the biggest week of the year because of the longstanding hatred between many of these teams and their fanbases, it's also the biggest week of the year because each one of these games will have an eventual impact on the college football playoff in some way. 

It's go time, kids. Buckle up. Here's a little insight into the top five games of Rivalry Week:

The first game on the slate will be on Friday, as Baylor travels to TCU to take on the Horned Frogs in Fort Worth. This was the game that everyone had circled on their calendars before the season began, thinking it would feature two unbeaten teams playing the de facto Big 12 title game.

Things haven't played out that way, as TCU has been ravaged by injuries, and Baylor has lost not one, but two quarterbacks for the year. While the Bears still have an outside shot at a playoff berth, it'll be a tall task for third-stringer Chris Johnson to go into hostile territory and take down a still-very-talented TCU team led by Trevone Boykin. Instead of going shopping on Friday, watch this game.

The Florida-Florida State rivalry is one of the most bitter in college football. Traditionally, both teams are vying for a national championship. That might not be the case this season, as the 'Noles have two losses, and one-loss Florida has been the epitome of winning ugly lately. Still, this should be a competitive game. And while remote, the Gators can stake claim to a playoff spot by beating FSU and pulling an upset over Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Stopping Dalvin Cook has been a chore for everyone this season, but facing a pumped-up Florida side in The Swamp is a tall task for anyone. 

Notre Dame and Stanford are not rivals in the traditional sense as some of the other matchups here. But it's one that's featured some great games in the last decade. This year's edition should not disappoint, either.

Irish QB DeShone Kizer leads a team that survived an upset bid from Boston College last week, and he must do a much better job of taking care of the ball. The Cardinal are sill in pursuit for a Pac-12 championship and have remote playoff aspirations, but it's safe to say that whichever team loses this battle is effectively out of contention. That should make for a bunch of fired-up kids, desperate to make a play in what should be a high-scoring affair. 

Bedlam is always a fun game, as bitter rivals Oklahoma and Oklahoma State square off. But this year, the rivalry game carries even more importance, as Oklahoma now sits at No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings. If it wins this game, many believe the Sooners will have a spot in the championship tourney.

But don't forget about the Cowboys! They have the same record as their in-state rivals and could claim the Big 12 title for themselves if they beat Oklahoma and TCU knocks off Baylor. Would that be enough to boost them into the Top Four? We'll have to wait and see. With Sooners QB Baker Mayfield expected to be cleared after getting a concussion last week, OU's offense should be full-go. There should be fireworks in Stillwater on Saturday night.

Finally, we come to The Game, the best rivalry in college football. Ohio State, a team that seems on the verge of imploding, travels to The Big House to face Michigan. Had the Buckeyes not laid an egg last week against Michigan State, this game would be even more significant. Now, it's the Spartans that hold their fate in their hands for a Big Ten title.

But that doesn't mean this game means nothing. Far from it. Should MSU lose to Penn State, the winner of this game will earn a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game to meet Iowa. But beyond all that, each team will want to win because of what it means for each program.

Urban Meyer's Buckeyes want to try to keep control of the conference its owned since his arrival. And Jim Harbaugh's young, hungry Wolverines want to rip the torch out of their opponents hands as they head toward their own reign of dominance. No matter the records, no matter the odds, no matter the storylines. This. Is. Ohio State. Michigan. Get your popcorn, ready!

With two weeks left of expert picks, Adam Kramer holds a very small lead over Barrett Sallee and the rest of the experts. Who can come out on top? Sound off in the comments section and tell us who you think will win this week.

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College Football's Greatest Forgotten Rivalry

Johnny Rodgers has probably rehashed stories of the 1971 game against Oklahoma, known universally as the "Game of the Century," hundreds of times. But how he described his feelings toward the Sooners was a first-timer. It had to have been. 

"I’m an Oklahoma fan," Rodgers said. "When I’m not rooting for Nebraska, I’m rooting for Oklahoma." 

Johnny "The Jet" Rodgers: "Game of the Century" hero, 1972 Heisman Trophy Winner and Oklahoma Sooners fan. Go figure.  

The Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry was different like that, however. Some rivalries are born out of seething, blinding hatred. For instance: The now-defunct Border War between Kansas and Missouri, which geographically intersected Nebraska and Oklahoma, has more than a century's worth of historical significance molded by pivotal points in this country's history. 

Clemson and South Carolina hate each other. Michigan and Ohio State hate each other. Oklahoma has hate in its heart, but it's largely reserved for Texas. 

Nebraska and Oklahoma—from the players to the coaches and the fanbases—respected the hell out of each other. But why?

"Because they forced us to be good," Rodgers said. 

The two proud programs met every year from 1928 through 1997, mostly in what was known as the Big Eight Conference. Through the years, conference titles ran through Lincoln, Nebraska, and Norman, Oklahoma, far more often than they didn't.

With the exception of four years, either Nebraska or Oklahoma won at least a share of its conference from 1946 through its final year in 1995 (via Sports-Reference). In that span, the programs also claimed a combined 10 national championships. 

"It was always a healthy competition in that I don’t think there were any ugly incidents," former Nebraska coach and athletic director Tom Osborne said. "We had a great deal of respect for each other. It was always a high-level play; very intense games."

It's interesting to hear former players and coaches speak of the rivalry with such reverence. Nebraska-Oklahoma was ignited by the "Game of the Century" in which two top-tier teams played up their abilities. But Nebraska-Oklahoma wasn't always a gentleman's game, either, even though it's viewed as such. 

Mike Babcock of Hail Varsity magazine, a walking, talking encyclopedia of all things Nebraska (and really, Midwestern) football, noted small incidents of pettiness in the rivalry's early years. In the 1910s, Nebraska was a member of the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Per Babcock, a conference rule was that all home games had to be played "in the community." In other words, Nebraska home games needed to be in Lincoln, even if they weren't on campus. 

In 1919, however, Nebraska and Oklahoma played to a 7-7 tie in Omaha, breaking the MVIAA rules. Whether Nebraska was kicked out of the conference or left voluntarily is a subject of debate. But by 1920, Oklahoma had left the Southwest Conference and essentially taken Nebraska's place in the MVIAA. In 1921, the two sides met again—a 44-0 win for the Cornhuskers. 

In 1959, Bill Jennings' Cornhuskers broke a 16-game losing streak at the hands of the Sooners—the rivalry was often streaky in that sense—by beating Oklahoma 25-21. The victory also ended 74 straight conference victories for Bud Wilkinson's Sooners. Of all the great eras in Oklahoma football, the way Wilkinson dominated the 1950s is arguably the most impressive. 

It was Jennings' moment of karma. Jennings never had a winning season as the head coach of the Cornhuskers. But he was an Oklahoma grad and a former assistant under Wilkinson. According to Babcock, Jennings was a fall guy in the 1950s when Oklahoma ran afoul with the NCAA under Wilkinson regarding a supposed "slush fund" for recruits

But the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry didn't take its most notable form until 1971's "Game of the Century." 

The Cornhuskers actually won their first recognized national title the year before under head coach Bob Devaney by going 11-0-1. The lone tie was against USC, 21-21. Rodgers describes the national championship as a matter of "being in the right place at the right time." Notre Dame lost its season-ending game against USC, of all teams, and beat Texas in the Cotton Bowl that January. 

"Coming into the next year," Rodgers said, "we were out to prove just how good we were." 

And Nebraska was good. The Huskers had the combination of one of the top offenses (third nationally with 39.0 points per game) and defenses (second nationally with 8.0 points per game allowed). The most points Nebraska had given up heading into its clash with Oklahoma was 17 against Kansas State the week prior. Three times, Nebraska had shut out its opponents. 

But Oklahoma had college football's top offense at 44.5 points per game. Barry Switzer, then an offensive coordinator for the Sooners, had perfected the wishbone offense and Oklahoma was, as Rodgers put it, "running up the score on everybody." Running back Greg Pruitt gained 9.0 yards per carry that season. 

The "Game of the Century" was a battle of who had the ball last. The most recognizable play was Rodgers' punt return. But the former Heisman winner insists his fourth-quarter reception from quarterback Jerry Tagge to keep the Huskers' drive alive for the go-ahead score was the real difference. 

"By the time Oklahoma got the ball back, they didn't have enough time," he said.

The "Game of the Century" would be Nebraska's last win over Oklahoma for six years. Switzer was promoted to head coach of the Sooners two years later—the same year Osborne was promoted to head coach of the Huskers—and began another reign of dominance not just in the Big Eight, but in college football. 

As such, it was 1978, a 17-14 win for Nebraska, that stood out most to Osborne. Switzer had such a vice grip on the game for years that it became a burden for Osborne and the Huskers. 

"The game that meant the most to me personally was when we finally beat ‘em in '78," Osborne said. "They had a great team that year."

Though winning streaks were common, the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry was never "one-sided," traditionally speaking. This was a marquee game on both schedules for decades on end. Still, Nebraska viewed the Sooners as the opponent to beat every year. Oklahoma, meanwhile, divided its attention among Nebraska, Texas and Oklahoma State.

In that way, though, Nebraska always seemed like it was more focused on Oklahoma than vice versa. 

Even practices were somewhat uneven. Switzer's wishbone offense was so potent and difficult to prepare for that Nebraska would allocate a session of practice every week to defending it. 

"The rule is you don’t look past one to get to one," Rodgers said. "But they were so darn good, we had to practice a little bit because we were not familiar with the wishbone."

The wishbone has come and gone, though. So too, has Nebraska-Oklahoma. There's a certain sadness that accompanies referring to the rivalry in the past tense. Of the long-standing games demolished by the greed and egos of conference realignment, this one is the most significant. The two sides won't meet up again until 2021 and '22 in a future nonconference home-and-home series. 

But the intensity of the rivalry really diminished with the formation of the Big 12 in 1996, when the Sooners landed in the conference's South division and the Cornhuskers resided in the North. "It took away from the rivalry," Osborne said. "In a rivalry, you play every year."

No team could replace Oklahoma, and Nebraska wasn't interested in forming a new rivalry out of necessity. The game was lost without a replacement being found. The Sooners, however, had a different view. 

"We'll always have Texas," Switzer said in 2010. "Texas is part of our fabric. That's part of our tradition, and it'll always be." 

In 2011, Nebraska's move to the Big Ten officially flatlined a tradition-rich game already on life support. And therein lies the ultimate difference: Nebraska and Oklahoma respected each other, but they had different priorities that led to their separation. 

Ironically, the last Big 12 Championship Game in 2010 was played between the Huskers and Sooners in Dallas, a 23-20 win for the Sooners, before the rivalry was killed for good. 

"It was fitting the last Big 12 championship was between Oklahoma and Nebraska," Sooners head coach Bob Stoops said. 

Regarding whether Nebraska and Oklahoma should play every year as a nonconference game, those asked deflected. "We’re having a hard enough time getting through the Big Ten," Rodgers said.

Still, the memory of Nebraska-Oklahoma is as vivid as it's ever been. No one actively talks about the game as a future nonconference staple. The Big Ten will move to a nine-game conference schedule in 2016, and the Big 12 has one in place, limiting the desire for an additional key game. But ask anyone involved in the game about its illustrious past, and you'll get admiration for days. 

"It was a great rivalry, even though it was only every couple years," Stoops said. "I always respected the program; it was a special game." 

So when you turn on the TV to watch some of the great college football rivalries this weekend, take a moment, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, be thankful for them. If the ever-changing college football landscape has taught us anything, it's that some of these games might not be around forever. 

Take that moment and remember Nebraska-Oklahoma, college football's greatest forgotten rivalry. 


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted/linked otherwise. All stats courtesy of

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College Football Playoff 2015: Updated Week 13 Rankings, Teams with Most to Gain

With just a few more weeks remaining in the 2015 regular season, Saturday is many teams' last chance to build a case for making the College Football Playoff. For others a little lower in the standings, a place in one of the New Year's Six bowls may be on the line.

The CFP committee released its most recent rankings Tuesday night:

For the four teams below, Week 13 carries particular significance since they can either climb significantly in the polls or pass their biggest remaining hurdles on the schedule.


Michigan Wolverines

Michigan's playoff chances died with Blake O'Neill mishandled a punt and allowed Michigan State to win in the most improbable fashion imaginable. There are too many one-loss teams across the country to allow the Wolverines to crack the top four.

Jim Harbaugh's team does, however, have a chance to qualify for one of the New Year's Six bowls. In order to do so, it will need to beat the reigning national champion Ohio State Buckeyes.

Given his upbringing, this rivalry is particularly special for Harbaugh, as he told Nick Baumgardner of MLive Media Group:

Losing to Ohio State would obviously be painful for Michigan fans, but they could take many positives from a 9-3 record heading into bowl season. But 10 wins and a major bowl game would be a tremendous step forward after the ignominious end to Brady Hoke's tenure.


Florida Gators

The 2006 Rose Bowl is the last time the BCS National Championship didn't include the SEC champion, and the trend continued through the first year of the playoff.

If the Alabama Crimson Tide don't win the SEC title game, there's a good chance the selection committee leaves the conference out this year. Ole Miss won't crack the top four, while even a one-loss Florida may not have done enough to warrant inclusion.

The Gators may have that road win over the Rebels in their back pocket, but they have been a different team since Will Grier's suspension. They only beat Vanderbilt by two points at home and nearly fell to Florida Atlantic.

Saturday's game against Florida State is an opportunity for the Gators to make a statement to the selection committee. Beating the Seminoles in convincing fashion wouldn't automatically get Florida into the playoff, but it would serve as a great prelude to the SEC Championship Game, where Florida could cement its playoff candidacy.


Navy Midshipmen

Neither Houston nor Navy is going to make the playoff, but one of the Cougars or Midshipmen will almost certainly be the representative from the Group of Five in one of the New Year's Six bowl games as selected by the playoff committee.

If Houston wins, then it would still have the AAC Championship Game against Temple or South Florida to worry about. Should Navy prevail, it would still need to get past Army in addition to its conference title game. Still, as's Travis Haney noted, Navy is in the driver's seat:

Reaching a New Year's Six bowl would be the biggest accomplishment for the Midshipmen since they lost to top-ranked Texas in the 1964 Cotton Bowl.

Former head coach Paul Johnson made Navy more relevant on a national scale, and Ken Niumatalolo has taken that progress one step further. The Midshipmen need to make the most of this season since Niumatalolo may not hang around Annapolis, Maryland, much longer. Sports Illustrated's Thayer Evans mentioned him as one of many possible candidates for Iowa State's vacancy.

Who knows when Navy will be in this situation again, so beating Houston would be a massive victory for the school.


Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Notre Dame fans will also be watching the Navy-Houston game with added interest. A win for the Midshipmen would bolster the Fighting Irish's strength of schedule, and the Irish need all the help they can get in order to impress the selection committee.

ESPN's Joe Schad highlighted how Notre Dame's opponents have done them no favors this year:

Playoff chairman Jeff Long provided the reasoning behind Notre Dame's fall from fourth to sixth in the playoff rankings, per Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel:

One of Iowa or Michigan State is bound to fall out of the top four following the Big Ten Championship Game. The Fighting Irish may have fallen out of a playoff spot for now, but they still have a chance of getting back in the equation.

Notre Dame's problem is the fact Oklahoma plays Oklahoma State this week. Recency bias is a real thing, and beating Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State in successive weeks at the end of the regular season would almost lock the Sooners into the playoff.

The only chance for the Fighting Irish is by virtue of a definitive win over Stanford and a Navy victory. Beating the Cardinal by 20-plus points might turn the committee around on Notre Dame.

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Best College Football Player in Every State

One of the great things about college football in America is its near-universal appeal. From Seattle to Miami, Phoenix to New York City, Americans are invested in college football, whether they’re watching it in a raucous SEC stadium, a scenic Pac-12 venue or a bucolic Ivy League campus.

Forty-eight states boast FBS and/or FCS football teams, with Alaska and Vermont the only exceptions. We took a look at the college football landscape and made an attempt to pick the best college football player from each state. Players were chosen for their statistical and real-life impact on their programs, and stats were taken from and schools’ official sites (for defensive stats). Players were picked according to their college, not their hometown. 

We’re sure you’ll have disagreements, but there’s no doubt that college football is a truly American game.

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Nebraska Football Players Will Not Face Charges from Reported Sexual Assault

No charges will be filed in an investigation into an alleged sexual assault that took place at the home of Nebraska football players, Lancaster County Attorney Joe Kelly announced Wednesday.

According to Nichole Manna of the Lincoln Star Journal, police concluded their investigation Tuesday after more than a week of interviews with witnesses. An unnamed 20-year-old woman claims to have been assaulted at the home of Nebraska players Tommy Armstrong Jr., Jordan Westerkamp and Trey Foster during a party.

The person who allegedly committed the assault has also not been identified. It is unclear whether he was related to the football team in any way.

"I believe the victim," Police Chief Jim Peschong said, but “we do not believe we have the elements of a crime.”

Armstrong, Westerkamp and Foster have continued to play and practice during the investigation. A university statement released Wednesday indicated the student-athletes would not be punished. 

“We are aware of this morning’s announcement by the Lincoln Police Department and the Lancaster County Attorney," the statement read. "There is no change in the status of any student-athletes. We will continue to follow university policies.”

Armstrong, the Huskers' starting quarterback, has publicly claimed the encounter was consensual. 

"I don't know why that person said that," Armstrong said of the accuser, per the Omaha World-Herald (h/t "We're confused about the whole situation. From what we're hearing, everything was consensual."

It is possible Nebraska's compliance office looks into the situation and opens a Title IX case. However, from a legal perspective, it appears the Huskers players are in the clear.


Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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10 CFB Players Giving It Their All to Raise Their Draft Stock

Although it's Thanksgiving season, there's apparently a few college football players that aren't thankful enough for their NFL draft stock. 

So much so that they've spent the entire season trying to improve it with their efforts on the field. 

There's guys like Texas Tech running back DeAndre Washington, who is among the nation's leaders in rushing yards per carry and is doing his best to buck the trend that tailbacks in air raid offenses can't run. 

There's Zack Sanchez, who's battled through a leg injury to be perhaps the biggest defensive playmaker in the Big 12. 

There's also guys like Tajae Sharpe, a former unheralded recruit out of high school who now plays for UMass but is proving that he has the skills package for Sundays. 

With that, let's check out 10 guys who have done their best to raise their 2016 draft stock during the 2015 campaign. 

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10 College Football Players Who Are All Heart

A person's sheer will—or heart—can't be determined by a stopwatch, pedigree or box score. Some of college football's best players overcame obstacles to attain a high level of success. 

Bleacher Report's All-Heart team won't consist of just All-Americans or quarterbacks.

The 2015 All-Heart team is comprised of superb leaders, players battling back from devastating injuries or a lack of scholarship offers out of high school, players who battled through adversity and succeeded or a combination of each. Some members of this 10-man squad aren't even on a winning team. 

Is someone from your favorite team on this list? 

Here is our list of 10 college football players who are all heart.

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Ohio State Must Beware Changing of the Guard in Rivalry Showdown vs. Michigan

COLUMBUS, Ohio — If there's one "what if?" moment that's stood out in the recent history of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, it came in 2011.

With the Buckeyes having won their previous seven meetings with the Wolverines, they headed to Ann Arbor as an underdog and with no shortage of baggage still stemming from the "Tat-gate" scandal that resulted in the departures of head coach Jim Tressel and star quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Michigan would take advantage of the opportunity, beating Ohio State by a score of 40-34, sealing a trip to the Sugar Bowl in the process.

The victory over the Buckeyes was Brady Hoke's first in college football's most storied rivalry.

It would also prove to be his last.

Two days later, Ohio State hired Urban Meyer, and the Buckeyes proceeded to reel off a 48-4 record—including three wins over the Wolverines—in the next three-plus seasons.

Four years after Michigan's short-lived changing of the guard in its rivalry with Ohio State, the Wolverines have their chance at a do-over. And with Jim Harbaugh prepared to coach in his edition of The Game at Michigan Stadium and the Buckeyes coming off their first loss in a 24-game span, it may not have come at a better time for the Wolverines.

Because while Hoke's 11-2 start to his tenure in Ann Arbor proved to be fool's gold, Harbaugh's history would indicate that there's nothing phony about the 9-2 start he's gotten off to while coaching his alma mater this season. After completing turnaround jobs in previous stops at San Diego, Stanford and the NFL's San Francisco 49ers, Harbaugh has Michigan sitting at 10th in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings, with the Wolverines' Big Ten title hopes still alive, albeit, out of their control.

Having witnessed Meyer's transformation of what was a 6-7 football team four years ago into what is now the defending national champion, Ohio State star defensive end Joey Bosa said he sees plenty of similarities between the Buckeyes' and Michigan's respective head coaches.

"It’s like bringing in someone like coach Meyer to a program," Bosa said of Harbaugh earlier this week. "Someone who knows how to win and knows how to play tough."

That could pose a problem to Ohio State, which just found itself outplayed on both sides of the line in last weekend's 17-14 loss to Michigan State—the Buckeyes' first defeat of the 2015 season. Ohio State's meeting with Michigan this weekend will determine which team's Big Ten East title hopes will remain alive, with the Spartans controlling their own destiny in the division, needing a win over Penn State later in the afternoon to clinch a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game.

If the Buckeyes beat the Wolverines and the Nittany Lions somehow pull off an upset, Ohio State's chances of defending its national title will be very much alive.

But with the opponent the Buckeyes have in front of them this weekend, completing the first part of that equation will be easier said than done.

Because despite the recent one-sidedness of the rivalry, The Game always has a way of making the outcomes interesting. In its last three victories over Michigan, Ohio State has won by margins of 14, one and five points in the past three years, the 2013 edition coming down to a failed two-point conversion that would have won the game for the Wolverines.

What's more is that of all the Michigan teams that have kept games close with the Buckeyes in recent years, this year's Wolverines team will be the most formidable.

"We are well-aware that this is definitely the best [Michigan team] we have played in the last three years," Bosa said, carefully omitting the actual word "Michigan" from his answer, per Ohio State unwritten policy. "This rivalry is so huge, and it’s been huge the last two years, but to know we are playing such a good team and it’s back to how it used to be—two of the top teams in college football going at it—it makes it more exciting."

For the Buckeyes, it could also make it scary.

Because beyond just this weekend or this season, it's hard not to notice that the Wolverines are trending upward.

In addition to currently being slated to return six starters on each side of the ball—including star cornerback Jourdan Lewis and jack of all trades Jabrill Peppers—Michigan currently lays claim to the ninth-ranked class in the 2016 recruiting cycle. Even with emerging quarterback Jake Rudock being a senior, the Wolverines only figure to get better under Harbaugh, who has a history of getting the most out of his rosters.

Ohio State's future, on the other hand, remains up in the air, after the Buckeyes loss to Michigan State was followed by an outburst from star running back Ezekiel Elliott, who questioned his coaching staff's play-calling before revealing he'll be declaring for the 2016 NFL draft at the end of the season. Elliott isn't expected to be alone in that regard, with Bosa and backup Cardale Jones already hinting at this season being their last in Columbus, with an exodus of talent likely to follow.

It was just one loss, and Ohio State does lay claim to the top-ranked recruiting class in 2016, but a follow-up defeat to its on-the-rise rival could prove to be devastating for the Buckeyes. That hasn't been lost on the OSU players either, who are well-aware of what's on the line not just for them, but their opponent on Saturday.

"Coach Harbaugh has come in and done an incredible job of turning it around and having a great season so far," Bosa said.

A win over Ohio State would only just continue that.

And as for the Buckeyes themselves?

"If we lose our last two games," Bosa said, "of course that would be a failure."


Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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