NCAA Football

Alabama Football: 2015 Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

For the first time in several years, Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide will enter the upcoming football season looking up at a program that has taken their spot as the national title favorite.

But Alabama still is as strong a contender as any for a second-straight SEC championship and berth in the College Football Playoff thanks to the long run of excellence the program has enjoyed under Saban.

The Crimson Tide's offense must replace a number of key starters—including the bulk of the passing attack—but offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is back for what could be a huge second year in Tuscaloosa.

Strong defense should be a theme again under Saban and coordinator Kirby Smart as the Tide return several stars in their front seven. Rebuilding a shaky secondary is key this fall, but the staff can rely on some experience and new blue-chip talent in 2015.

Alabama's schedule should be one of the toughest its had under Saban, starting with a neutral-site opener against a consistent Power 5 program and continuing with road challenges against its two biggest competitors for the SEC crown.

Let's take a game-by-game look at the tough 2015 slate for the Crimson Tide and post some predictions for what should be another exciting season of football at Alabama.

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How Long Will It Take Jim Harbaugh to Bring Michigan Back to Prominence?

When Michigan hired Jim Harbaugh as its new head coach, the question became a matter of "when" the Wolverines would re-enter the national power conversation again, not "if." At best, it was a nod to Harbaugh's track record with Stanford and the San Francisco 49ers. At worst, it was a safe assumption. 

But with Harbaugh's first season as a coach in Ann Arbor on the horizon, the question remains valid: When will Harbaugh bring Michigan back to prominence?

Here's the context: Speaking on SiriusXM's "College Sports Today," Harbaugh's predecessor, Brady Hoke, offered his thoughts on the amount of time it takes to re-build a major program. Specifically, the question related to second-year Texas head coach Charlie Strong. Before going any further, here's the quote as transcribed by Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press

Five-to-six years. That's what everyone wants, two or three, especially if you're a fan of the school. I know you may have to change an offensive system as far as going from a pro style to spread or a spread to a pro style. Defensively, are you going to be a 3-4 team or a 4-3 team? All those things are part (of it) as you go out and start to recruit.

Whenever you get one of those jobs, that first recruiting class is going to be about a 50/50 class. Especially when you're hired as the coach.

Briefly: As it relates to Texas—which, again, was the subject of the question—Hoke isn't wrong. The program Strong inherited from Mack Brown two years ago was in bad shape. The 2012 class, ranked second nationally by 247Sports at the time, fizzled out, according to Burnt Orange Nation's Wescott Eberts.

The Longhorns now regularly lose out on top in-state recruits to programs like Baylor and Texas A&M. In 2014, Texas was shut out of the NFL draft. For as rough as things have been at Michigan, it can at least say it's had players drafted consistently. 

So, sure, it might take Strong five or six years to get things turned around. 

But let's take Hoke's answer and apply it to his former school. After all, Michigan falls into the same blue-blood category as Texas, so some of the same logic applies. Will it take Harbaugh five or six years to get Michigan back to where it wants to be?

If history is any indication, no. It'll be sooner. 

Dan Wolken of USA Today tweeted some interesting nuggets in response to Hoke's comments and the amount of time it takes to win and build a program. In short, new coaches that go on to win national championships do so fairly quickly: 

Among the coaches to win national championships recently are Urban Meyer, Jimbo Fisher and Nick Saban. Should Harbaugh be placed within that echelon of the coaching fraternity, despite the fact that he hasn't won a national championship? Here's betting many people would put Harbaugh at least in the same conversation as the aforementioned coaches. 

Sure, each situation is different when a new coach takes over. There are nuances that need to be considered, like culture, schematic and recruiting changes. Wolken's data, however, shows there's at least a reason fanbases expect quicker turnarounds.

Those results don't always have to end in national championships, either—at least right away. Coaches like Tom Osborne, Bobby Bowden and even Mack Brown brought their programs to national prominence for years before winning it all. But those programs were relevant all the same: 

The problem with Hoke's time in Michigan is that he did things in reverse. Instead of building, the Wolverines crumbled. In Hoke's first season, 2011, Michigan went 11-2 and won the Sugar Bowl. However, the win totals declined each year afterward, eventually resulting in a five-win season in 2014. 

With all due respect to Hoke, that's not a sign of needing five or six years to turn things around. That's a sign of needing an additional five or six years on top of the four he received.

Harbaugh's track record would lead you to believe he's capable of doing the opposite. In his fourth year with Stanford, Harbaugh had the Cardinal playing for (and winning) the Orange Bowl. In his second year with San Francisco, Harbaugh had the 49ers playing for a Super Bowl. 

Things might be rough in year one at Michigan; a non-conference schedule of Utah, Oregon State and BYU is no picnic, and the Wolverines play in the tougher Big Ten East division. The best player Michigan has right now is likely Jabrill Peppers, a player forced to redshirt a season ago due to injury. 

However, Harbaugh and his staff are already assembling a top-10 recruiting class for 2016, per 247Sports. Four of the top-seven prospects verbally committed in that class are offensive linemen, a desperate area of need for Michigan over the past few years. Another is 4-star quarterback Brandon Peters

If that's any indication of the kind of recruiting power Harbaugh will have in Ann Arbor, by year four, the Wolverines should be cooking. Will Michigan win a Big Ten or national championship by year four? Getting through Ohio State at the rate the Buckeyes are winning is going to be tough. But as Brett Forrest of ESPN the Magazine wrote earlier this month, the Harbaugh-Urban Meyer rivalry is shaping up to be one for the ages. 

Bold predictions are fun, but the reality is we don't know if Harbaugh will bring home a national championship in four years. His history and recruiting acumen indicate he'll at least put Michigan in a position to win, though. 

In that sense, Harbaugh is on his way to proving his predecessor wrong.  

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

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Best QB-WR Duos in College Football for 2015

The relationship between a quarterback and his top wide receiver is a mutually beneficial one but also one that includes a healthy dose of reliance. Each is very dependent on the other to perform at a high level, so much so that if one fails, the other tends not to succeed.

While a passing attack ideally should have as many viable targets as possible, most tend to have that one receiver whom the quarterback considers the top choice. This pairing ends up producing the most for a team, and when it's not clicking, it is usually noticeable in the overall results.

There are a number of great quarterback/wide receiver pairings in college football who return from last season—duos who were in sync in 2014 and figure to team up for big numbers this fall. We've ranked them based on past results and expected performance in 2015.

To be considered for ranking, the tandem had to have connected for at least five touchdown passes a year ago and be in line to start this season.

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Dear Football: The 2015 Elite 11 Story | Ep. 3

Uninterrupted is a platform that allows personalities to connect with fans on a much deeper level, with insight and content not fit for other platforms, media outlets or channels.

Interested fans get a unique perspective that brings them closer than ever to the personalities they care about.

The Elite 11 Camp brings together the top high school senior quarterbacks in the country in search of the best 11.

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Notre Dame Football: Biggest Takeaways from Media Day

SOUTH BEND, Ind.—A throng of reporters—both local and national—descended on South Bend on Tuesday for Notre Dame football’s media day, which began with an open practice and continued with interviews into the early evening.

The Irish are within three weeks of the season opener against Texas. Let’s analyze some key takeaways from Tuesday.

 

Leadership

Now entering his sixth season as the head coach of the Irish, Brian Kelly said this squad’s leadership is the best he’s had during his tenure—reiterating a common point he’s made throughout the fall.

Kelly said Tuesday that 10 players worthy of the captaincy were recently cleared by Notre Dame’s faculty athletic board. Those names will likely be presented to the entire team Monday, and Notre Dame will be prepared to name its captains soon thereafter.

Over the past few weeks, Kelly has highlighted the likes of center Nick Martin, left tackle Ronnie Stanley, defensive tackle Sheldon Day, linebackers Jaylon Smith, Joe Schmidt and Jarrett Grace, cornerback KeiVarae Russell and defensive back Matthias Farley, among others, as strong leaders.

In particular, Kelly pointed to the growth in leadership from Day and Stanley, who both eschewed the NFL draft for their senior seasons.

“I love where he is from that end,” Kelly said of Stanley’s leadership. “I think he's grown so much maturity‑wise. I think the players have a great amount of respect for him and when he talks, people listen.”

Asked about Day’s ability to help guide freshman defensive tackle Jerry Tillery, Kelly praised Day, who did serve as a junior captain in 2014.

“There is no mistake about it. That's Sheldon's room, and [I’m] really proud of Sheldon,” Kelly said. “He's come a long way in his leadership. Last year at times he was a hesitant leader in a sense that he knew he had a captain role that he wasn't sure how to fill it at times. This year there is no mistake about how he's leading.”

 

KeiVarae Russellis Fully Back

The news was expected, but Kelly officially said Tuesday that Russell has been fully cleared and reinstated by the NCAA.

After missing the 2014 season as part of Notre Dame’s investigation into suspected academic dishonesty, Russell returns to lock down one of the cornerback spots he held during his first two seasons with the Irish.

Russell admitted at the start of camp he felt hesitant, and Kelly agreed.

“KeiVarae was rusty coming in,” Kelly said. “He really needed to be here, and it's great that he's gotten to work. [Defensive backs coach] Todd Lyght's done a terrific job with all of those guys.”

Russell repeatedly chronicled his training while away from the team.

There’s a difference in returning to the field, though, Kelly said.

“When you're out of pads for a year, you can't duplicate by jumping on boxes,” Kelly said. “It looks good on video, but you've got to play the game. You've got to put pads on, and you've got to get out there.”

 

Jaylon Smith is Primed for a Monster Season

While it’s nothing groundbreaking, the quality and quantity of praise thrown at Smith is noteworthy. Seemingly at each opportunity, Kelly gushes over his junior linebacker for his “remarkable” play.

“Jaylon Smith is the mainstay of our defense,” Kelly said. “He is an essential figure in what we do. He's all over the field for us defensively, and we'll make sure that we move him around to put him in a position for him to impact what we do defensively.

“He's no longer somebody that just ties down one position. He can play multiple positions on our defense, and we think he's one of the best football players in the country.”

Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has been particularly struck by Smith’s vision from the second level of the defense.

“He sees so much now that’s really impressive to me,” VanGorder said Wednesday.

VanGorder also marveled at Smith’s work ethic—“he’s a real pro at the game"—and Grace recently discussed Smith’s constant study habits.

 

Depth in the Slot

The Irish have loaded up on wide receivers in recent recruiting cycles, and Kelly has been impressed with the receiving corps throughout the fall.

Narrowing in on the slot position, Notre Dame returns fifth-year senior Amir Carlisle, who hauled in 23 grabs for 309 yards and three touchdowns in 2014.

Beyond Carlisle, junior Torii Hunter Jr. has flashed in practices open to the media this fall, gliding around the field and, now fully healthy, showcasing his athleticism.

“You’re going to see a lot of him this year,” Kelly said. “He'll play a lot. He's very versatile. He could play, if he had to, he could play all the [receiver] positions. ... He's probably our most versatile receiver in that he has the size and the speed and the ability to work inside out at the slot position because of his elusiveness.”

Kelly added that Hunter has had a very good camp and has been as consistent as anyone the past few weeks.

True freshman C.J. Sanders brings an elusiveness and ability to cut at full speed that, Kelly said, the Irish haven’t had during his time in South Bend.

In the slot—and at all receiver spots, in general—Notre Dame has plenty of depth. Irish associate head coach and receivers coach Mike Denbrock spoke Tuesday about interchanging the wideouts without much of a drop-off, a testament to a freshman class that has come “as advertised, if not better,” according to Denbrock.

 

Reading the Depth Chart Tea Leaves

With multiple recent practices open to the media, we can take an early look at some ordering at various positions while understanding it’s still early, and depth charts will change.

Graduate student safety Avery Sebastian, a fifth-year transfer from Cal, continues to receive the majority of the first-team reps next to junior safety Max Redfield, while senior Elijah Shumate has worked mostly with the second unit.

True freshman running back Josh Adams has consistently received reps ahead of fellow freshman Dexter Williams and sophomore Justin Brent.

In Notre Dame’s dime package, freshman Shaun Crawford and sophomore Drue Tranquill have stepped into the rotation, with defensive tackle Isaac Rochell bumping into the middle of the three-man defensive line.

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is the lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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LSU Football: Jalen Mills' Injury Hurts, but Tigers Have Talent to Recover

It's the time of year where no news is good news, and unfortunately for LSU head coach Les Miles, he got some bad injury news on Wednesday.

According to Ross Dellenger of the Advocatestarting free safety Jalen Mills suffered a broken fibula that won't require surgery during Wednesday morning's practice. The injury could keep the Texas native out of action for a month-and-a-half.

LSU wouldn't confirm the specifics, but spokesman Michael Bonnette confirmed that the star safety did suffer an injury.

It's a huge blow to LSU's defense. Mills has started each of the last 39 games for the Tigers, first at corner and then at his new home at safety. He passed up a chance to jump to the NFL to return to Baton Rouge for his senior season.

To make matters worse, as Chase Goodbread of NFL.com noted, LSU visits Mississippi State on Week 2:

It would have been nice to have Mills around to help out in coverage against star Bulldog wide receiver De'Runnya Wilson and drop down into the box to slow star quarterback Dak Prescott on the ground. 

What's more, the Tigers host Auburn—which was picked to win the SEC at media days in July—the following week. Even if Mills is back at that point, it's unlikely that he will be 100 percent against two offenses that can move the football up and down the field on anybody.

There are plenty of talented options for LSU, most of whom are rather unproven. 

Junior Rickey Jefferson—the brother of former Tiger signal-caller Jordan Jefferson—has two picks and 29 total tackles over the last two seasons, serving mostly as a backup and on special teams. The 6'0", 209-pounder did see the field in dime packages at times last year and should be comfortable with the speed of the game and what's expected of him.

The Tigers could also slide corner Dwayne Thomas over to safety if needed. The 6'0", 186-pound junior was likely bound to start at nickel for the Tigers but has played all over the secondary during his career.

Freshman corner Kevin Toliver, a 6'2", 196-pound former 5-star prospect, enrolled early this spring and is battling 6'1", 210-pound Ed Paris for the No. 2 cornerback spot. Either has the size to move over to safety and the talent to play nickel, which could allow Thomas to move to safety. 

The bottom line is, while there isn't a ton of proven depth at LSU to withstand Mills' injury, there's a boatload of talent for Miles and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele to work with.

If you watched the spring game, you saw the first-team LSU secondary play lights-out, while the "twos" struggled with communication and execution. Most of those players are incredibly young and will have to grow up in a hurry thanks to the tough September schedule and the news that Mills—one of their leaders—might be out for a few games.

It's "DBU," though, and if LSU knows how to do anything, it's how to replace star defensive backs with youngsters who are up to the challenge. After all, it was Mills who filled in for former Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu when Mathieu was dismissed in August of 2012.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics courtesy of CFBStats.comBarrett 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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Nebraska Football: Who Steps Up for Huskers with De'Mornay Pierson-El Injured?

The Mike Riley era at Nebraska will officially begin without one of the Huskers' biggest reasons for optimism this season—sophomore wide receiver and return man De'Mornay Pierson-El.

Nebraska announced Wednesday afternoon that Pierson-El will miss six to eight weeks after suffering a foot injury Tuesday. In addition, freshman receiver Lavan Alston is out for the season as well:

Pierson-El's injury is a critical blow for Nebraska's offense and special teams, as he had already emerged as a leader for both units in his freshman campaign. 

The speedy sophomore made the most of his 23 receptions last season for the Huskers and had the nation's second-best average on punt returns. He joined Utah's Kaelin Clay as the only players in the country to record three punt-return touchdowns.

While his role as a receiver grew throughout 2014—his season-high eight catches against USC in the Holiday Bowl were a Nebraska postseason record—Riley planned to use him in the ground game on jet sweeps, a staple of his play-calling at Oregon State.

"The majority of times when I first met him, that’s when he would talk about the sweep left, sweep right," Pierson-El told Brian Rosenthal of the Lincoln Journal Star in March. "I can be pretty sure we’re going to see a heavy dose of that. I’m ready for it. I can get it. To get it going one way, full of momentum and just make somebody miss and go up the sideline, that’s what I want."

Now Riley has to look elsewhere for that type of playmaker out wide, at least for the first few weeks of Nebraska's tough 2015 schedule.

The receiver unit is thin right now because of injuries that go beyond the ones Pierson-El and Alston suffered. According to Steven M. Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star, Brandon Reilly, Taariq Allen, Lane Hovey and Sam Burtch have been limited in practice.

With those veterans down, Riley and his staff will have to turn to a true freshman earlier than expected.

"The receiving deal, it's been very disruptive," Riley said, per Sipple. "I suppose the silver lining is people like Stanley Morgan have gotten a lot of turns and made the most of it."

Morgan, a 3-star receiver from New Orleans, has wasted no time in making an impression on his new teammates and coaches.

The true freshman brings a physical nature to the wide receiver position in Lincoln with a pair of solid hands. Michael Bruntz of 247Sports reported that Morgan caught three touchdown passes in last Saturday's scrimmage.

"Stanley is a mature, strong, and kind of an unfazed guy about where he is right now," Riley said, per Bruntz. "For a young guy, he’s also fit in learning-wise, which is what usually hampers most of them—they get the patterns all jumbled up. He appears beyond his years and he is a physical guy and a playmaker."

If Morgan can continue to show a good handle of Riley's offensive playbook, he looks like the ideal candidate to slide into Pierson-El's starting job at wide receiver.

Return specialist, however, is a different story. 

The race for playing time in special teams seems to be wide-open now, as Pierson-El was the top returning player on both kickoffs and punts heading into this season. Defensive back Kieron Williams is the only other player on the roster who recorded a punt return in 2014.

SB Nation's Nebraska blog Corn Nation named Terrell Newby, Jordan Westerkamp, Stanley Morgan and Jamal Turner as possible candidates to replace Pierson-El's punt-return duties.

But as Jon Nyatawa of the Omaha World-Herald wrote Wednesday, Nebraska didn't have a reliable backup plan for Pierson-El's absence.

"Westerkamp and Turner, two of the guys who never seemed to look all that comfortable catching punts in 2013, were the ones backing up Pierson-El at the spot so far in camp," Nyatawa wrote. "One would presume that other players will get a look there, as well. Nebraska averaged 3.04 yards per punt return [before Pierson-El's arrival] in 2013."

While the Huskers seem to have another dynamic young receiver ready to step in for Pierson-El, they will go back to square one in the return game.

And with less than three weeks left before the season opener against BYU, Nebraska needs to see something new from its special teams almost immediately.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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

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J.T. Barrett vs. Cardale Jones: Updates on Ohio State's QB Battle

J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones continue to battle for one of the most coveted positions in college football: starting quarterback for the reigning champion Ohio State Buckeyes. No clear leader has emerged with just a few weeks until the Sept. 7 opener against Virginia Tech.

Continue for updates.

Neither QB Wants to Split Time in Regular SeasonWednesday, Aug. 19

Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch reports the coaching staff isn't providing any hints about who will be under center for the first snap against the Hokies. Both of the quarterbacks involved in the race do agree on one thing, though: They aren't enthralled with the idea of sharing snaps.

Barrett said he went through a similar situation in high school and often struggled to find any type of rhythm when it was his turn to play. Jones felt the same way, citing the problems he's had when splitting snaps with the first-team offense during camp practices, according to the report.

"I don't think it'd be best for the quarterback position because we wouldn't have the same rhythm or efficiency," Barrett said.

The situation could have been even more complicated if Braxton Miller didn't opt for a position change to wide receiver. It's still a difficult decision to make, though.

Here's how the remaining options performed during the title-winning 2014 campaign:

Quarterbacks coach Tim Beck stated that neither one has pulled away from the other quite yet, per Nicole Auerbach of USA Today.

"It's just two heavyweights going at it right now," Beck said. "Just when you think one guy is going to make a move, the other guy comes back."

The thing that's impressed head coach Urban Meyer most is how the quarterbacks, who are locked in such an intense, important battle, continue to treat each other, per Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports.

"People say those things and sometimes it's not genuine," Meyer said. "This one is very genuine. … They encourage each other, they push each other. It's unique. … It's one of the most refreshing competitions I've ever witnessed."

Having two reliable quarterbacks is obviously a much better situation than being caught without anybody you can count on. That said, it does have the potential to create headaches because the urge to make a quick hook if one is struggling is always there.

Barrett seems like the better option because he brings more of the dual-threat element to the equation and finished with a slightly higher passer rating last season. But you can't overlook the fact that Jones completed the championship journey with two strong playoff performances.

Regardless of who wins the job, he better be ready to hit the ground running, as the Buckeyes certainly don't open with a cupcake opponent. Facing Virginia Tech on the road is one of the team's toughest contests of the season. 

 

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Jalen Mills Injury: Updates on LSU Star's Fibula and Return

LSU star safety Jalen Mills reportedly suffered a broken fibula during practice Wednesday, according to Jim Kleinpeter and James Smith of the Times-Picayune.  

Continue for updates.

Mills Expected to Be Out 4-6 Weeks Wednesday, August 19

While LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette would only confirm that Mills suffered an injury, a source told the Times-Picayune that Mills indeed broke his fibula and could be facing a six-week recovery. 

Mills is one of LSU's top defensive players and one of the better safeties in the country, so this is a big loss for the Tigers. The senior started 39 games for the program as both a corner and a safety, and he finished last season with 62 tackles and an interception. 

The one plus for LSU is that the team is deep in the secondary, and junior Rickey Jefferson has experience at safety and will step in for the injured Mills. Losing an experienced, talented player like Mills is always difficult to overcome, but LSU has the depth in the secondary to survive.

 

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Would a 24-Hour Marathon Work for College Football?

Twenty-four straight hours of college football you say? Where do we sign?

Nothing like this is in the works yet, but with the 2015 season so close to arriving, we here at Bleacher Report are always thinking of new ways to maximize the college football experience. And nothing would maximize it like a full day of college football from beginning to end. 

As it does every year, ESPN announced the upcoming schedule for its College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon, a full day of non-stop coverage for men's and women's college hoops games. For college basketball die-hards, this is the next-best thing to the first two days of the NCAA tournament. After roughly eight months of waiting, it's all college basketball, all the time. 

College football fans go through a similar offseason, wandering aimlessly through a desert of predictions, hot takes, preseason polls and the like. It's entertaining enough for the most part to bide time, but it's all pretty meaningless until the first kickoff. 

The first major game to kickoff the 2015 season will be North Carolina and South Carolina on Sept. 3 in Charlotte, North Carolina. If you're really desperate, North Dakota State and Montana will play on Aug. 29.

But what if college football decided to go the way of its basketball counterpart and provide viewers with 24 hours of non-stop action to open the season? Think of it like bowl season—except condensed into 24 hours. 

It could work. Here's how: 

First, you would only need 11, maybe 12 games at most, to broadcast. The College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon features 16 games, with only a handful of games overlapping one other. Otherwise, the schedule is straightforward. When one game ends, another one begins. On and on it goes in a line. Since college basketball games last about two hours, ESPN needs more inventory to fill its 24-hour block.

According to NCAA data obtained by Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com, the average college football game length in 2014 was three hours and 23 minutes. It's not uncommon to see a four-hour game, either, though. Lining college football games up one after the other, ESPN, the primary rights holder in college football, could get away with broadcasting about seven games from start to finish. Add in another four or five overlapping games on ESPN2, ESPNU and perhaps even ABC, and that's a full slate. 

Keep in mind, too, that Fox, CBS and conference-affiliated networks will be broadcasting their own games. Michigan at Utah on Thursday, Sept. 3, for example, will be played on Fox Sports 1. So don't worry: There will be plenty of games to follow.

Next, start it on the first Thursday night of the season and carry it over into Friday. These two nights are already loaded with games as it is, so finding teams to play wouldn't be a problem. This way, the first college football Saturday of the season and its major games are preserved. Louisville and Auburn in Atlanta? Wisconsin and Alabama in Arlington, Texas? They'd still be there. 

Here comes the tricky part, though: overnight scheduling. It's easy enough to find two teams to play at 8 p.m. ET. Even Pac-12 games kicking off at 10 p.m. ET are commonplace. As someone who regularly stays up past 1 a.m. CT on a college football Saturday, rest assured that going past midnight is no big deal. 

It's the 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. ET slot that poses problems. 

This is when television and conferences execs would have to get creative. You know those late-night games in Hawaii that regularly kick off at midnight? ESPN would need a home opener to be played in Honolulu, six hours behind ET, to fill the early morning hours. 

Overseas games would take some of the pressure off, as well. In 2014, Penn State and Central Florida played in Dublin, Ireland at 8:30 a.m. ET (Dublin is five hours ahead of ET). A game in Ireland at a similar time would take the marathon right up to a more normal noon slot on Friday (For the record, the first game on Friday, Sept. 4 between UNC-Charlotte and Georgia State is at 3:30 p.m. ET). 

That leaves a slot from around 4 a.m. to 8 a.m.

There's always the possibility of a college football game in London, something the NFL has experimented with. Additionally, the Pac-12 and Mountain West have flirted with the idea of playing a bowl game in Melbourne, Australia, which is 14 hours ahead of ET. But what about a regular-season game down under? A 6 p.m. game on Friday in Melbourne would be broadcasted at 4 a.m. ET in Bristol, Connecticut. 

“We’re selling the concept and the game. It’s competitive and it’s authentic,” Paul Sergeant, CEO of Melbourne Stadiums Ltd., told Ed Wyatt of SportsPressNW.com in June. If Melbourne is willing to host a college football bowl game, it would likely be willing to host a regular-season game as well. 

Is it ideal for coaches and players? Not at all, but when has that ever stopped college football from taking its product overseas for a game? And it would be just that: a single game. The overnight and early morning slots would be three games back-to-back-to-back to minimize the amount of hoop-jumping.  

Hypothetically, here's what a college football kickoff marathon could look like using games from the 2015 season-opening weekend (note that some games/times have been adjusted to make the schedule fit): 

Of course, with scheduling being the way that it is, a kickoff marathon for 2016, '17 or '18 would be far more appealing. There'd be more Washington vs. Boise State and less Charlotte vs. Georgia State.

Logistically, there are few hurdles to get through—though, the hurdles are admittedly big. If ESPN could (and would be willing to) get through the overnight and early morning slates, it would have quite a marathon of games to broadcast. 

And college football fans everywhere would rejoice. Or fall asleep at work. Either one. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand.  

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Is It Time for Florida State Fans to Worry About 2016 Recruiting Class?

Considering that Florida State currently holds the nation’s No. 3 class, Seminoles fans would be unwise in worrying about the state of head coach Jimbo Fisher’s recruiting efforts.

However, over the last month, a handful of events have caused the optimism surrounding the 2016 ‘Noles class to dissipate. 

For starters, the ‘Noles unexpectedly lost a commitment from 5-star tight end Isaac Nauta in late July. 

Then, a pair of 5-star in-state prospects in defensive end Shavar Manuel and receiver Nate Craig-Myers—both of whom were believed to be leaning heavily toward Florida State—each stated that the ‘Noles were slipping in their respective recruitments.

Additionally, FSU has landed only one commitment—from 4-star running back Amir Rasul—in the last two months. 

What is the cause for these latest developments, and should fans be concerned about FSU fading down the stretch toward signing day? 

In the cases of Nauta, Manuel and Craig-Myers, each stud prospect had a different reason for their shifts regarding FSU.

Nauta told Josh Newberg of 247Sports that his desire to be closer to his hometown of Buford, Georgia, or to be in a town in which he has members of his family close by, was one of the reasons he decided to decommit.

Manuel referred to a “mess” at FSU, likely in reference to the off-field issues involving dismissed quarterback DeAndre Johnson and star running back Dalvin Cook, as to part of the reason FSU finds themselves outside of his top three.

Craig-Myers mentioned a lack of communication between he and the ‘Noles staff, which has helped rival Florida make a move on the nation’s top receiver.

However, it’s not exactly time to hit the panic button in Tallahassee.

That’s because Fisher has plenty of ammo to sell to recruits.

Over the last three years, Florida State has gone 39-3 and won the national title in 2013. In that same period, the Seminoles have set a record with 29 players being selected in the NFL draft, as noted by Scott Crumbly and Jake Hyman of Tomahawk Nation.

Also, Fisher’s average class rank since taking over in 2010 is No. 5 nationally—which suggests that FSU should be able to shake out of its funk in due time.

While Nauta appears to be headed elsewhere, the recruitments of Manuel and Craig-Myers are far from over—which means that FSU will have time to make up the ground they’ve lost.

Additionally, Florida State already has 18 commitments, which means spots in the 2016 class are extremely limited.

The ‘Noles are heavily involved with potential impact players such as 4-star corner Trayvon Mullen, 4-star tight end Naseir Upshur, 4-star offensive lineman Landon Dickerson and 4-star linebacker Devin Bush Jr.

If recent history is any indicator, the upcoming season could give the ‘Noles a shot in the arm if they continue to win big on the field.

 

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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Florida Football: It's Time to Name Will Grier the Gators Starting QB

All right—enough is enough.

The writing is on the wall.

Will Grier will be Florida's starting quarterback eventually, even if head coach Jim McElwain won't say it at the midway point in fall camp.

In fact, McElwain is sitting on the fence in the offseason battle between Grier—a redshirt freshman pro-style passer from Davidson, N.C.—and true sophomore dual-threat and part-time starter Treon Harris.

"I like where they’re at, both of them," McElwain said on Tuesday, according to Scott Carter of GatorZone.com. "I feel comfortable with both of them, and we’ll see after this. I haven’t put a deadline [on naming a starter]. I want to see them take ownership."

Is that pure, unadulterated coach speak?

Absolutely. It's also an indication—albeit unintentional—that Grier has a lead.

Let's go back to SEC media days in July, when McElwain talked about his relationship with offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and what philosophies the two share.

"I coached against him when he was a player at the University of Idaho and I was at Eastern Washington and watched him obviously shred a lot of defenses along the way by spreading it out and throwing it around the ballpark," McElwain said. "Both of us come from kind of that background."

That background is important, because if the battle is tight at this point, there's little doubt how the dominoes will fall. Grier's arm strength and ability to push it from sideline to sideline plays into the coaching staff's coaching strengths. 

For Grier's development, now's the time to name him the starter.

This isn't a seasoned backup who could ease into the season under an established system and gain chunks of the playbook game by game. This is Florida, a program in which an offensive identity has been more of a myth than reality for the last half-decade.

Florida needs an identity, and it needs to be developed during the latter portion of fall camp so that it can be tested and refined over the first two games of the season. The Gators open with New Mexico State and then a moderately tough East Carolina team that they played in last season's Birmingham Bowl before going on the road to Kentucky for the SEC opener.

Grier needs as much experience as he can get, and naming him the starter quickly will allow him unquestioned first-team snaps for the remainder of fall camp and a chance to get more of the playbook early in the season.

All quarterback battles aren't created equal.

Alabama and South Carolina have too many bodies competing for the top spot on the depth chart for the staff to make a proper decision midway through fall camp, and Georgia's most experienced contender in its three-man battle—Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert—just got to campus in late July.

Florida is in a different boat.

Grier came into fall camp with a slight edge on Harris anyway, and if he hasn't done anything to lose it through two-and-a-half weeks of fall camp, that should be enough to tell the staff that he's worthy of winning it.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.comBarrett 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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Top 2017 College Football Recruits at Every Position Heading into 2015 Season

A fresh football season presents heightened expectations for the next crop of coveted college prospects. High school juniors who comprise the 2017 recruiting class will be asked to carry larger loads for their respective programs while pressure mounts to find the right university.

This star-studded group remains relatively new on the national radar, so we're highlighting the top-rated player at every position in 247Sports' composite rankings. Some athletes already announced collegiate commitments, but many remain undecided and open to opportuities across the country.

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Predicting Winners for Top Remaining College Football QB Battles

It's hard to argue that the quarterback position isn't the most important in college football. A great quarterback can lift his program's fortunes, elevating the talents of the offensive players surrounding him and boosting his teammates to heights they'd never have experienced without him.

The exact converse is true for a below-average signal-caller. Even if you have talented receivers, tailbacks and offensive linemen, their value is minimized when they're paired with a quarterback who can't execute the offense efficiently. Finding the right guy is paramount.

This summer, a number of prominent programs across the nation face that quandary. Powerful programs like Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Ohio State and Oregon are all running quarterback competitions, and the face of the College Football Playoff could change depending on who emerges victorious.

Here's a look at the projected winners of each major quarterback battle. Coaches' desire to keep information close to the vest and performance fluctuations could change these calls by the time September rolls around, but these are the best guesses as to who'll lead these prominent teams onto the field as 2015 begins.

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Tennessee Run Game Shaping Up to Be Major Threat with Addition of Alvin Kamara

Alvin Kamara has taken a long road to get to Tennessee but is having an immediate impact with the Volunteers. Look for Kamara to form a three-headed rushing attack with quarterback Joshua Dobbs and running back Jalen Hurd.

Bleacher Report's Adam Lefkoe and College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee discuss Kamara's impact on this 2015 Volunteers squad.  

What are Tennessee's chances of being a top-tier rushing team in 2015? Let us know below.

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How Michigan Transfer Blake Countess Answered Auburn's Call for Help

Every morning since the start of fall camp, Justin Garrett has watched his new roommate down an interesting beverage.

"He wakes up every morning and drinks a glass of pickle juice," the Auburn linebacker said Tuesday, per Ryan Black of Auburn Undercover. "That's the first time I had ever seen that."

Much like the pickle juice routine, Garrett's roommate—cornerback Blake Countess—is a relatively new sight for the Tigers this fall.

And the briny, green liquid is a fitting choice for a player who was brought in to help Auburn get out of the pickle it was in at defensive back.

Countess arrived at Auburn this summer as a graduate transfer from Michigan, where he was a first-team All-Big Ten cornerback in 2013 after leading the conference with six interceptions.

After making 30 starts during his Wolverines career, Countess decided to head elsewhere for his final year of eligibility—just as the program was beginning its transition to new head coach Jim Harbaugh.

The former 4-star recruit from Maryland fielded interest from schools all over the country, including Arizona, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

But Countess says Auburn stuck out to him before he even arrived on the Plains for his visit thanks to a call from a player he now lines up with in the Tigers secondary.

"I pretty much told him he needs to come to Auburn," senior cornerback Josh Holsey said, per Tom Green of the Opelika-Auburn News. "I really just contacted him and was like, 'Where you trying to—where you thinking about going and what not?' He told me where he was going, and I was like, 'If you come down here, you’ll have a chance to come in and help us, and have an opportunity to win a national championship.'"

Holsey's simple recruiting pitch made more of an impact to Countess than any of the ones he heard from a coach.

"Hearing it from a player is much different than hearing it from a coach," Countess said, per Green. "[Defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson and defensive coordinator Will Muschamp] both explained it to me. It kinda puts it in perspective when you hear it from a player.

"He said: 'We have a chance to be really good in the secondary, but we have no depth right now. You coming in is going to allow us to do some different things on defense that we really can’t do right now.'"

After an offseason in which plenty of defensive backs had transferred away from Auburn, it was more than a recruiting effort.

It was a call for help.

Safety Mackenro Alexander and cornerback Kalvaraz Bessent left before spring camp even began at Auburn. A few days before Countess announced his decision to become a Tiger, the program announced the departures of cornerback Cameron Melton, safety Derrick Moncrief and cornerback Joe Turner.

Auburn had reinforcements arriving from its 2015 signing class, but replacing players who had multiple years of college experience with ones fresh out of high school spelled trouble for Muschamp and Robinson. The Tigers needed a veteran presence in the secondary.

"He’s a guy that’s going to come in, step right in and play, right away," safety Johnathan "Rudy" Ford said, per Evan McCullers of the Auburn Plainsman. "He’s got a great IQ of football. That adds to our unit. He’s another guy that can be one of the guys that we count on in the fourth quarter, because he’s been there before."

After settling in at Auburn and hitting the practice field for the first time, Countess showed his new coaches and teammates he could provide more than just experience in the secondary—he could give Auburn some much-needed versatility.

"He can play corner and nickel. He's smart enough to play safety," head coach Gus Malzahn told Chris Low of ESPN.com. "It was a huge need for us after T.J. Davis got hurt in the spring."

When Auburn picked up Countess earlier this year, the biggest need was at cornerback, a position where injuries and transfers forced walk-on cornerback "Dirty" Mike Sherwood—now armed with a scholarship after Tuesday's practice, according to the team's official website—to start the annual A-Day Game.

But former Georgia transfer Tray Matthews, now eligible to play at Auburn, is still hampered in fall camp with a nagging hamstring injury, according to Brandon Marcello of AL.com. If health continues to be a concern for Matthews, Auburn may need some extra help at safety through Countess.

It wouldn't be the first time the newcomer has helped Auburn in an unexpected way.

After watching Countess drink pickle juice several times, Garrett tried it out in order to avoid cramping at practice. The result was a satisfying, yet sour, success.

"It don't taste too good," Garrett said, per Black. "But I'd rather it taste bad and not cramp up rather than not [drinking] it all and experiencing the pain of cramping up."

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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

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Michigan Football: 2015 Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

The Michigan Wolverines are assuredly looking forward to moving past the 5-7 campaign that ended Brady Hoke's tenure with the program, and beginning the 2015 college football season under new head coach Jim Harbaugh.

But instant success is far from a guarantee. While the Wolverines boast a stout defense, they also have uncertainty at quarterback and unproven potential all over the field.

Fortunately for Michigan, the schedule is reasonably favorable. The slate includes seven home games—two of which are against bitter rivals Michigan State and Ohio State—and five contests on the road.

Injuries, breakout players and poorer-than-expected performances may affect the judgments of individual games at a later date, but the following projections are the best guesses based on how Michigan and its opponents stand as of today.

Note: For the first time in 14 seasons, Michigan does not play Notre Dame.

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Jaleel Laguins Commits to Georgia: In-State 4-Star LB Perfect Fit for Bulldogs

The Georgia Bulldogs claimed another crucial in-state defensive commitment early Wednesday morning, landing local linebacker Jaleel Laguins.

He decided between a pair of SEC programs after exploring other opportunities in the conference.

"I can say it was a tough decision," Laguins told Chad Simmons of Scout.com. "Auburn was right there, and it was Georgia over Auburn for me with Florida and Tennessee next. It was not easy."

The 6'2", 213-pound playmaker is a senior at Oconee County High School, located a short drive away from campus in Athens. He broke the news to Georgia head coach Mark Richt shortly before an announcement ceremony, per Fletcher Page of the Athens Banner-Herald.

Laguins, rated 15th nationally among outside linebackers in 2016 class composite rankings, is considered one of the Peach State's premier prospects. His list of scholarship offers features universities far beyond the region, with Notre Dame and Penn State in the mix.

Ultimately, he elected to remain close to home as a Bulldog.

Georgia was the favorite here throughout, evidenced by a 96 percent pledge prediction rate in 247Sports' Crystal Ball, but it was another strong recruiting effort by the Tigers' defensive staff. Don't expect Auburn to back off completely, even after this decision.

He is another ideal fit for Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who helped the Bulldogs sign nine 4-/5-star defenders last national signing day. Pruitt and company now claim four such commitments on the 2016 recruiting trail.

Laguins, who tallied 64 tackles and four sacks last season, is another perimeter force for Georgia to utilize. Richt is a man of riches right now when it comes to edge defenders, and his latest pickup further enhances the stockpile.

With an array of elite, young linemen up front and more potentially on the way (5-star tackles Derrick Brown and Rashan Gary remain possibilities), there should be plenty of room for the back seven to maneuver at Georgia. Laguins is exactly the kind of athlete who can exploit those opportunities.

His blitzing abilities are a highlight at this stage of his career, as he fires downfield with tenacity. Laguins likely needs to gain at least 20 pounds to withstand the pounding that comes along with duties as an every-down SEC linebacker, but there are glimpses of that potential two to three years down the road.

Georgia now holds 16 commitments in a class that rates seventh nationally in composite class rankings.

The Bulldogs' attention will continue to focus on homegrown talent. Brown, 5-star athlete Mecole Hardman Jr. and dynamic wide receiver Kyle Davis are a few of several 2016 in-state targets still undecided.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Fall Practice: Who Will Win Bulldogs' Starting QB Battle?

The Georgia Bulldogs have a big decision to make this upcoming season. Bleacher Report's Adam Lefkoe and college football analyst Barrett Sallee discuss the depth at the quarterback position and predict who will be the Bulldogs' leading man for 2015.

Who do you think should start for the Georgia Bulldogs? Hit the comment section below.

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More Likely to Be a Head Coach Next, Lane Kiffin or Will Muschamp?

The star power within the head coaching ranks has never been brighter in the SEC, and that has started to trickle down to assistants as well.

Most notably in the state of Alabama.

Lane Kiffin, former head man at Tennessee and USC, is entering his second season as Alabama's offensive coordinator. Fresh off a season in which he set the program record with 484.5 yards per game with a quarterback in Blake Sims who once was a running back for the Crimson Tide, Kiffin enters his second season looking to not only re-solidify himself as one of the nation's top offensive minds, but perhaps set himself up for a head coaching job in the near future.

According to TideSports.com, Kiffin commented on what he has learned as a member of head coach Nick Saban's staff that he didn't know when he was a head coach.

"I was so focused on the game, the players, especially the offensive players as a head coach, and the game plan all week and spring ball and recruiting," he said. "To delegate like coach [Saban] does, be in charge of everything like he is the CEO, but delegate enough so that he does everything else."

About 160 miles southeast in Auburn, new Tiger defensive coordinator and former hot-shot assistant Will Muschamp is looking to revitalize his career after a less-than-stellar four-year stint as the head coach of the Florida Gators.

According to Charles Goldberg of AuburnTigers.com, Muschamp made his long-term intentions known during his introductory press conference in December 2014.

"You'd always like to have that opportunity [to be a head coach] again," he said. "But you always want to be in a situation where they have the resources for you to be successful, they have the support like a place like Auburn for you to be successful and win championships."

Which high-profile assistant is more likely to be a head coach?

Without a doubt, it's Kiffin.

Nothing against Muschamp. He's a tremendous defensive mind, wonderful teacher and is the best in the business at his craft. His craft isn't as a head coach. At least, not for now.

The knock against Muschamp is the offensive ineptitude that Florida showed over all four of his years as head coach, including the 2012 season in which the Gators earned a Sugar Bowl berth and were in the national-title hunt deep into November. The stench of four years of offensive futility is going to be very hard for any future employer to get over next offseason, even if he turns around Auburn's defense and makes it more of a power than a punchline.

Kiffin doesn't have that kind of hurdle to clear.

His main issue is convincing athletics directors that he knows how to run a program, even though he wasn't exactly dealt a strong hand at USC thanks to the sanctions leftover from the Reggie Bush scandal.

As Rich Cirminiello of Campus Insiders and CollegeFootballNews.com noted earlier this summer, a strong offensive season for an Alabama team that lost nine starters would work wonders for Kiffin.

At least two years under Saban—with so many offensive question marks to answer—will go a long way toward calming the fears of future employers.

The question then becomes, where?

Kiffin—and most high-profile assistants at major programs—aren't as likely to jump to any old FBS head coaching job just to have it. As Michael Casagrande of AL.com noted this year when Kiffin didn't get a raise, USC is still paying his buyout, and his salary at Alabama is simply subtracted from that buyout. Since USC is a private school and doesn't have to release contracts, it's not clear whether that's also the case if he gets a head coaching job.

Regardless, it likely won't be about the money for Kiffin when the time comes to make a decision about his future; it will be about fit.

So let's look around at what fit could be out there. Miami head coach Al Golden is clearly on the hot seat, and the thought of Kiffin recruiting in the fertile recruiting ground of South Florida makes that a match made in Heaven.

Illinois? I can't see Kiffin following the Ron Zook path to anonymity despite the lure of the new and improved Big Ten.

He's not going to take a MAC or Sun Belt job just to take it, so if that means sticking around Tuscaloosa and fulfilling the third and final year of his deal in 2016, so be it.

Outside of Miami, there aren't many options that seem like good fits for Kiffin right now. After the season, though, that could change.

Even in that case, Kiffin is more likely to find a head coaching job prior to Muschamp.

He doesn't just have a head start on Muschamp, he's already lapped him in the race to fix his reputation. That will go a long way toward landing a head coaching job in the near future.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.comBarrett 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 Sirius 93 XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter: @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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