NCAA Football

Ohio State's Noah Spence Declared Permanently Ineligible by Big Ten

The No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes are in the thick of the College Football Playoff race even without the services of star defensive lineman Noah Spence.

The Big Ten officially ruled Spence ineligible for the remainder of 2014, so he won't be able to help Ohio State out down the stretch. Bryan Fischer of NFL.com reported the news after Spence's unsuccessful appeal hearing concluded Tuesday:

Eleven Warriors tweeted a statement from Buckeyes athletic director Gene Smith:

Spence was suspended for the second time in nine months in September after testing positive for the drug ecstasy twice. The Columbus Dispatch's Tim May, Bill Rabinowitz and Mark Znidar outlined the conference rules that are keeping Spence off of the gridiron when initially reporting on the suspension:

The Big Ten classifies ecstasy as a performance-enhancing drug, even though it is better known as a party drug. The conference policy for performance enhancers upon a second offense is that the player "shall be declared permanently ineligible for all further intercollegiate competition in all sports."

Rabinowitz provided a bit more background ahead of Tuesday's hearing, noting Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer didn't play a role in the saga:

The news involving Spence hardly comes as a surprise in light of Big Ten rules. Spence had 50 total tackles (14.0 TFL) with 7.5 sacks and a forced fumble in 2013, per CFBStats.com. Now that the junior is banished for good from the Big Ten, it is likely Spence will take his talents to the NFL draft.

He suggested as much on his Twitter account after today's news:

In a 2015 class that figures to be loaded with pass-rushers, Spence may have a hard time sticking out from the talented crowd given his past. However, if he gets a chance in the NFL and can develop at a gradual rate in a stable organization, he has the makings of rewarding a team's faith despite his off-field mishaps.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5 Things We Learned from College Football Playoff Committee's Week 14 Rankings

So preseason rankings do matter after all?

While the selection committee's top seven teams stayed exactly the same Tuesday, chairman Jeff Long's explanations for the latest College Football Playoff rankings are beginning to defy both logic and the committee's own procedural guidelines.

Last week he introduced the concept of "game control" to justify Alabama's No. 1 ranking, and this week he came up with "quality loss" and one other whopper during the ESPN broadcast: It matters if a team is ranked when it is beaten.

Therefore, Alabama still gets credit for wins over LSU and Texas A&M though neither is now ranked, as does Mississippi State. This goes directly against the committee's mission to look at the entire body of work and not relying on preseason perception.

Long later scrambled on a conference call with reporters to say that only the committee's own rankings matter, not the preseason and early-season variety as produced by the AP or coaches polls. The problem is, that doesn't wash, either.

By this criteria Mississippi State has beaten exactly zero teams as ranked by the committee at the time of the game, yet it's still at No. 4, ahead of other one-loss teams—TCU, Baylor and Ohio State—that have beaten committee-ranked opponents.

Maybe the problem is having these weekly announcements and the need to come up with tortured logic to explain rankings that are by no means a consensus. But since we're here to pick them apart, let's look at five more issues:

 

1. Is SEC bias creeping in?

Long's most controversial moves so far have been made to favor SEC teams—placing Alabama No. 1 ahead of Oregon and putting Mississippi State in the playoff field (as of now). The fact that he's the Arkansas athletic director does not help.

ESPN, the network that will televise all playoff games (not to mention all but one of the 39 bowl games), co-owns and operates the SEC Network. A conflict of interest will be suspected by all outside parties.

 

2. Winning is not enough, just ask Florida State

The scoreboard is taking a back seat to Game Control Theory™ and Quality Loss, two elements that the defending national champions have not been able to master. Because of their propensity to pull out last-minute wins (without a loss), the Seminoles continue to be banished to No. 3.

And while they've beaten three teams that were ranked at the time of the game (and two still currently ranked), that doesn't seem to matter, either.

 

3. The committee loves Minnesota, and so does TCU

The Golden Gophers are certainly one of the feel-good stories of the season, and they're one win away from claiming the Big Ten West title. But the committee has taken that admiration to another level, putting Minnesota four spots higher than it is in the polls and about 12 higher than its average computer ranking.

This is all very lovely for TCU, however, as its 30-7 win over the Gophers early in the season is what prevents its head-to-head loss to Baylor from mattering, at least for now.

 

4. Who's afraid of Virginia Tech?

Ohio State's home loss to Virginia Tech looks worse every week, especially after the Hokies were shut out in regulation by 3-8 Wake Forest in last Saturday's desultory 6-3 two-overtime loss. But was it really that bad? Long said the committee doesn't view that 35-21 defeat against the-now 5-6 Hokies as a terrible loss.

Virginia Tech was not ranked then (and of course it isn't now), but Long's response seems to suggest that the Buckeyes will be able to overcome that by winning the Big Ten championship.

 

5. Marshall is unbeaten and looks doomed

The committee finally put a group-of-five (actually two) team back in the rankings after snubbing them the past three weeks. But 11-0 Marshall is one spot behind 9-2 Boise State, and the remaining schedule certainly favors the Broncos to stay ahead.

The committee has made a big deal out of nonconference schedules, and Marshall's is admittedly weak (though that apparently doesn't apply to Mississippi State), but is Boise's strong enough to trump two losses?

 

Follow Samuel on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bowl Projections 2014: Updated Playoff Outlook Heading into Rivalry Week

We're less than a month away from the first bowl game, yet there is still so much uncertainty across the country.

In the ACC, Florida State and Georgia Tech will meet in the championship next week. Among the major conferences, that's all we know for sure.

Baylor and TCU are still duking it out for the Big 12, while Kansas State has an outside shot at crashing the party. Oregon and Ohio State have booked spots in the Pac-12 and Big 10 championships, but UCLA and Wisconsin still have significant hurdles before meeting them there. Finally, Alabama, Mississippi State, Missouri and Georgia all have an opportunity to claim the SEC.

With so much unknown, there is still likely to be plenty of movement in the top four. But let's take a gander at the current outlook of the college playoff.

 

Week 14 College Football Playoff Rankings

 

2014 College Football Playoff Predictions

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State

 

Team in Danger: Florida State

The Seminoles are undefeated and assuredly control their own fate in getting to the playoff, but they better be careful.

While you can't fault them for continuing to put notches in the "W" column, their last five victories have been by an average of 7.2 points. Three of those required a fourth-quarter comeback.

As Jeff Long explained, via Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel, the selection committee hasn't exactly been impressed with the FSU Goonies (you know, because they never say die):

In other words, as NFL.com's Chase Goodbread suggested, there's no breathing room:

That means the Seminoles likely need to win their final two games.

First up is Florida. The Gators have endured a tumultuous season but have won three of four, including an impressive 18-point victory over No. 9 Georgia.

Second is Georgia Tech, which has won four straight and boasts one of the country's most feared rushing attacks.

The Seminoles should win both of those, but a rivalry game and conference championship both set the stage for a lot of unpredictability. I have the defending national champions making it to the playoff, but it won't be simple in the least.

 

Team on the Rise: Ohio State

The selection committee is headed for a potentially massive headache of a situation. Imagine Ohio State, Baylor, TCU and UCLA all win out.

That would mean that not only does it have to find a way to distinguish among the one-loss Buckeyes, Bears and Horned Frogs, but also in the mix will be two-loss Oregon and UCLA, with the latter sitting as the Pac-12 champs.

Of course, as ESPN's Travis Haney pointed out, that's not quite a realistic situation:

The Bruins have been far better down the stretch, but red-hot Oregon will still have the advantage should they meet in the Pac-12 'ship.

In our same hypothetical situation but with a UCLA loss to Oregon, that leaves the committee to pick among OSU, Baylor and TCU. And as many have argued, the Buckeyes are a good bet to jump to No. 4 in that situation:

According to Mandel, the committee supposedly doesn't view Ohio State's loss to Virginia Tech as "bad," and the Buckeyes can still add a win against what would be a 10-2 Wisconsin squad. That will be just enough to sneak them into the top four.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The College Football Playoff Committee Is a Joke; FSU Deserves to Be No. 1

Despite finding themselves in a string of close, nail-biting games, the Florida State Seminoles have yet to lose this season. But in the eyes of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee, that is not enough to earn Florida State the top spot in the Week 14 rankings.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee explains why he thinks Florida State should be the nation's top-ranked team, ahead of both Alabama and Oregon. 

Do you think the Seminoles should be No. 1 instead of No. 3? Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Hits and Misses of the CFP Committee's Top 25 Poll After Week 13

The College Football Playoff selection committee came out with its Top 25 Tuesday, and much like in previous weeks, there's bound to be debate as we head toward the final ranking Dec. 7.

Bleacher Report college football analysts Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee break down the hits and misses from the committee poll.

Which schools do you think deserve to be in the CFP?

Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff Rankings 2014: Twitter Reacts to Week 14 Top 25 Reveal

Since many of the best teams took care of business and won last week, the Week 14 release of the College Football Playoff rankings experienced no change toward the top.    

The Alabama Crimson Tide are in the top spot for the second week in a row, riding the strength of their triumph over Mississippi State to another home triumph over Western Carolina on Saturday.

Here is a look at the complete, up-to-date standings as of Tuesday evening's reveal, which showed the same top seven order as the prior edition:

ESPN Stats & Info observes how Alabama has stepped up to the challenge against its best competition:

The selection committee still seems to be docking Florida State for its lack of style points, even though the Seminoles continue to win while getting every opponent's best shot. That happened again this past weekend when FSU ground out a 20-17 victory over Boston College at home.

Florida State ranks first in The Associated Press' poll, but it could stand to notch convincing wins over Florida and Georgia Tech in its next two games. Just one blemish on their record may put the Seminoles behind a two-loss team if they find themselves on the postseason bubble.

ESPN's Mike Greenberg was hoping FSU would be at No. 1 prior to Tuesday's rankings release:

However, it's hard to argue with how well Oregon has played. Quarterback Marcus Mariota has to be the Heisman Trophy favorite after another brilliant effort in the Ducks' win over Colorado, where he accounted for four total touchdowns.

TCU and Baylor are both capable of representing the Big 12 in the Top Four thanks to explosive offenses. A weak non-conference schedule is hurting the Bears, though, and the Horned Frogs still lurk just behind Mississippi State.

ESPN's Jake Trotter came to TCU's defense, and Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman was rather shocked the Bulldogs maintained their spot at No. 4:

Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News feels both Big 12 contenders could be on the outside looking in when all is said and done:

Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel weighed in on Baylor's predicament:

As good of shape as Ohio State appears to be in, the Buckeyes need to manhandle archrival Michigan. OSU head coach Urban Meyer recognizes the importance of dominating:

Colin Cowherd of ESPN feels the Buckeyes will eventually squeeze their way into the Top Four:

The Big Ten championship presents a chance for Ohio State to get the bump in the rankings it needs, according to the opinion of ESPN analyst Danny Kanell:

As for the two-loss teams, headlining that lot is UCLA, thanks largely to the play of star quarterback Brett Hundley, who threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-20 win over USC in his last outing.

ESPN's Chris Fallica pointed out how UCLA could make a big, late-season move if any of the teams ahead of the Bruins stumble:

UCLA must beat Stanford in Week 14 to set up a conference title clash with Oregon, where it could add yet another quality win and figure even more into the playoffs.

CBSSports.com's Sam Vecenie posed an interesting question in that vein:

With rivalry games looming in the regular-season finales and conference championship showdowns still to be played, anything can happen in the next couple of weeks. So while the playoff picture remains rather stable for the time being, it's feasible that a two-loss team could even sneak into the Top Four.

Among the teams at the top, Florida State has looked the most vulnerable, yet the Seminoles are the only ones not to have caved to defeat yet. Oregon could well wind up facing UCLA in the Pac-12 title game, which would have huge playoff implications to say the least.

Not playing in the SEC Championship Game may wind up benefiting Mississippi State, should the committee continue to favor the SEC and keep the Bulldogs ahead of TCU, Baylor and Ohio State.

Presuming they knock off Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl in Oxford, the Bulldogs can even climb the rankings. Meanwhile, Alabama, should it defeat Auburn, will have to play an additional contest and could face a rematch with a more beat-up team in the College Football Playoff.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff 2014: Final Four Predictions After 5th Top 25 Rankings

Many of the best college football teams took a trip to cupcake city in Week 13 of the season, with three of the previous Top Four teams earning comfortable wins. The outsider, of course, was Florida State, who narrowly pulled out a win over Boston College.   

As a result, there wasn't a huge amount of change at the top of the rankings. Alabama remained at the top with Oregon, Florida State and Mississippi State still rounding out the Top Four.

Those programs might see a shakeup this weekend with the intriguing slate on Saturday. Each team will face a rival, with the Iron Bowl and Egg Bowl offering the biggest opportunities for upsets. Meanwhile, TCU faces Texas with hopes that it can climb up the poll with a victory.

Ahead of the critical weekend, here is a look at the latest College Football Playoff committee rankings and predictions for the playoff bracket.

 

Analysis

Few would have predicted any of the previous Top Four teams would have fallen and many weren't even close. However, Florida State certainly didn't do itself any favors with a close contest at home against Boston College.

The Seminoles have reached the 11-win mark for the third straight season but have been questioned every game along the way. Much of those queries stem from come-from-behind wins against lesser opponents such as Oklahoma State and N.C. State.

ESPN Stats & Info points out a staggering statistic about the Noles' victories:

Jameis Winston will look to change that pattern against a Florida team that comes into Tallahassee at 6-4 on the season. The Gators are looking for a signature win in the midst of an otherwise horrid season. Upending the rival Noles would be a great way to lift the spirits in Gainesville.

Meanwhile in Eugene, Oregon and Oregon State will battle in another rivalry game that appears to be one-sided. The Ducks are currently flying high while the Beavers have lost six of their last eight. Let's just say Oregon seems like the most likely program to remain in the Top Four with a decisive win.

Back on the East Coast, two of the biggest rivalry games are set to take place. Between the Egg Bowl and the Iron Bowl, two National Championship contenders will be competing for their chance at the playoff.

In recent years, the Iron Bowl has been one of the most intense in college football. Not only is a lot on the line for both teams in the SEC West, but College GameDay also notes why it has typically had implications for the Championship Game:

The Crimson Tide come in as the higher-ranked program after the Tigers experienced a few hiccups recently against Texas A&M and Georgia. Then again, anything is possible when these two rivals meet.

Outside of the Iron Bowl, Mississippi State will be looking to do everything it can to clinch a berth with a win over Ole Miss. Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen spoke about the heated rivalry, via Michael Bonner of The Clarion-Ledger:

Every one of these (Egg Bowl games) are important. This is my sixth time playing in this game, I view the other five as equally as important. ...

You work year round for this type of game. It'll be fun. I know we'll be going into a hostile environment. Tough place to go play. I don't think they are big fans of mine up in that part of the state.

If both Alabama and Ole Miss win, only the Tide would roll into the SEC Championship Game. That puts even more pressure on the Bulldogs to win decisively to convince voters they deserve a spot over programs playing for a conference title.

I have both the Bulldogs and Tide playing in the semifinals. After the blowout loss to Arkansas for Ole Miss, expect a lopsided win for Dak Prescott and Mississippi State.

Though the regular season is winding down, there is still a lot left to unfold before the final bracket is set. Given the tremendous amount of change already over the first five polls, there is bound to be even more developments down the stretch.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff Rankings 2014: Selection Committee Top 25 for Week 14

After weeks of strife and hand-wringing about the direction of the College Football Playoff poll, Week 14 entered as one of expected inertia. With three of the nation's four top-ranked teams thumping cupcakes in expert fashion and Florida State unveiling its latest Houdini act—thus changing nothing about the preceding Saturdays—we for once felt as if we had a grip on the outlook.

The only remaining questions were the teams after the Top Four. TCU's absence from the slate was rendered moot by two less-than-impressive performances from Ohio State and Baylor, leaving the Horned Frogs looking stronger than ever in their next-man-up standing.

As for the Buckeyes and Bears, here is how theirs and the rest of the country's outlook turned out following Tuesday's announcement show:

That the playoff teams remain in place should come as a surprise to exactly no one. Alabama, Oregon and Mississippi State defeated Western Carolina, Colorado and Vanderbilt, respectively, by a combined average of 39.7 points.

The Crimson Tide survived a shaky first 20 minutes to score the game's final 31 points against FCS outfit Western Carolina. Most of Alabama's starters sat a majority of the second half to stay fresh for Saturday's Iron Bowl matchup with Auburn.

While the Tigers' three losses keep them well outside the playoff picture, Alabama enters in an eerily similar situation to the one it inhabited a year ago: sitting at the top of the rankings with only its bitter rival and a potential SEC Championship Game clash holding it back for playing for a national title. Head coach Nick Saban, usually the first to downplay everything, said the Tide's heartbreaking loss in last year's Iron Bowl still weighs on his mind. 

“We all kinda remember what happened,” Saban told reporters Monday. “I think that it was very, very disappointing to all of us here. Not just the last play, but the last five minutes of the game that we never really ever finished the game like we needed to. It was a tough way to lose a game and I’m sure that everybody sort of has that in mind.”

Also headed toward a rivalry game but in much less control of its destiny is Mississippi State. The Bulldogs, who still have a chance of winning the SEC West if Alabama goes down, travel to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday for a game against 18th-ranked Ole Miss.

"You work year round for this type of game. It'll be fun," Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen told reporters Monday. "I know we'll be going into a hostile environment. Tough place to go play. I don't think they are big fans of mine up in that part of the state."

Of course, the trip looked a whole lot more daunting a week ago. The Rebels' 30-0 loss to unranked Arkansas gave them three defeats in their last four games. In the event Mississippi State defeats Ole Miss and Alabama takes down Auburn, the Bulldogs' best victories will be against teams with four losses.

That could be a big deal when the committee sits down for its final deliberations. Conference championships are one of the four major pillars the committee touted when the playoff was announced, which puts TCU and Mississippi State in precarious positions.

Despite their up-and-down play in Week 13, Baylor and Ohio State control their own destinies in their respective conferences. The Bears defeated TCU in a head-to-head thriller and have a resume-solidifying game against Kansas State to close their season in two weeks.

The Buckeyes should thrash depleted rival Michigan on Saturday, but their likely Big Ten Championship Game matchup with Wisconsin looks better by the week. Melvin Gordon has rushed his way toward the top of the Heisman race, and the Badgers have reeled off six straight wins since their shaky start.

Add a schedule-strengthening statement win over a ranked opponent and a conference championship to the mix, and suddenly Baylor and Ohio State look a lot stronger in the playoff race.

All of this speculation has led some to wonder whether we're barreling straight ahead toward a late-season controversy—the type of thing this playoff was explicitly created to eliminate. ACC Commissioner John Swofford has already been on record suggesting the NCAA should expand the four-team playoff to eight. 

“I don’t think all the controversy’s going to go away,” Swofford said last Wednesday, per Shawn Krest of The Herald-Sun. “You have four teams that get a chance to play for the national championship, which is twice as many as before, but whoever’s fifth or sixth is not going to be happy. There will be some conferences that won’t have a team in the playoff.”

You can see Swofford's point of view. It seems feasible that a one-loss SEC team—an SEC West team, no less—could be on the outside looking in. But it's also patently unfair to hold out conference champions who did everything they possibly could. It's easy to forget now that Ohio State's lone loss came nearly three months ago in J.T. Barrett's second career start.

Might an eight-team playoff, where the champions of the five power conferences get an automatic berth and there are three wild cards, create less controversy? Perhaps. 

But for now, barring a barrage of upsets, it's looking like the College Football Playoff Selection Committee has its work cut out paring this seven-team jumble to four in the next few weeks.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why 5-Star 2015 Recruit Trent Thompson Will Make Biggest Impact as a Freshman

The high school football fields of South Georgia are where Trent Thompson crafted a resume that vaulted him into being rated as the nation's top defensive tackle in the 2015 class.

The 5-star phenom, who committed to Georgia in August, is now primed to wreak havoc as a freshman in the SEC next fall. 

According to MaxPreps, Thompson racked up 88 tackles for loss and recorded 21 sacks during his prep career at Westover High School in Albany, Georgia.

But what makes him a candidate to become a household name as an impact freshman next fall?

For starters, he's the nation's best talent at his position who steps into a situation of need in Athens.

Per Ourlads, the Bulldogs' top two defensive tackles, Mike Thornton and Toby Johnson, are seniors and will leave a void in the middle of the defensive line. 

He was simply a man among boys at the high school level—a point that was illustrated by Cairo (Georgia) High School head coach Tom Fallaw, who faced Thompson the last four seasons. 

"He's a kid that who is big, athletic and uses his size well," Fallaw told Bleacher Report before the season. "He can move. He's just one of those kids where after you look at him, it's a no-brainer that he can play at the next level."

Additionally, he could prove to be the missing link in defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt's defense in Athens.

The Bulldogs are ranked No. 54 nationally against the run this year, per CFBstats.com. That number is far below the units Pruitt coached at Florida State last season and as an assistant at Alabama in the previous two seasons.

Those units had dominant defensive tackles plugging the middle such as Timmy Jernigan at FSU and Josh Chapman and Jesse Williams at Alabama.

Considering that Thompson recorded 74 tackles for loss over the last two seasons, he's displayed a tendency to get penetration and control the point of attack despite constant double teams.

His prep sack total also displays his versatility, which suggests that he can prove to be an effective pass-rusher in obvious passing downs on the next level.

After a year of ups and downs, Pruitt's defense figures to improve vastly in his second season. The 'Dawgs are scheduled to return six starters on defense, including young emerging players such as linebacker Lorenzo Carter and safety Dominick Sanders.

Their main priority over the offseason will be retooling the defensive line, and that's where Thompson—who is one of seven defensive linemen committed in the 2015 class—will be counted on.

Competing as a true freshman in the trenches of the SEC may seem like a daunting task.

However, in class loaded with a number of top defensive tackle prospects, expect Thompson to be one of the rare specimens capable of meeting that challenge.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Case for Brian Kelly to Leave Notre Dame

It is time for Brian Kelly to take a long, hard look at Notre Dame, at where it is and where it will be next year. He needs to take a look at himself, too. And then, he should do one thing:    

Run. Now. Claim victory, then RUUUUUNNNN to the NFL.

To this point, even while Notre Dame's season falls off a cliff, Kelly has kept his reputation as the guy who stabilized the Irish after the Charlie Weis disaster, and the guy who took them to the national championship game.

That makes him a viable NFL coaching candidate, and at the end of the year, the there will be a number of those jobs available, potentially Atlanta, Chicago, New York Jets, Oakland and San Francisco. Maybe Miami, too.

Kelly interviewed at Philadelphia in January of 2013, a few days after Notre Dame lost to Alabama in the BCS title game. Later, he told WNDU TV in South Bend, Ind. that he wasn't destined for the NFL:

"We're going to continue to win and I'm going to continue to get inquiries from the NFL. … Going through this process really helped clear my eyes why I'm here and why I want to be at Notre Dame.''

That's easy to say coming off a run to the championship game. But the winning isn't continuing and Kelly should jump while the inquiries still are. Those things run hand-in-hand. The Teflon on him is amazing, but it won't last forever.

The first half of Notre Dame's season was defined by another academic cheating scandal and a prolonged investigation into five players. A fast start wiped away the image of the cheating scandal somehow, but the second half has been defined by an on-field collapse. Notre Dame has lost four of its past five games, and going into the rivalry game at USC this weekend, Irish fans are in too much shock to process what's happening.

Soon—and this is just a gut feeling—they're going to start pointing fingers at Kelly.

Just run.

Honestly, Kelly should be an NFL coach anyway, where he can worry about football, focus on strategy and game film and let someone else deal with the other stuff, like developing young men. That probably sounds like an insult, but it isn't meant to be one.

Kelly is an excellent college coach. But college football is a different animal than the NFL. College coaches have way too many things to do, all while keeping the pretense that football isn't the most important thing in the world.

But Kelly has a bigger problem: Everett Golson.

A coach's reputation is tied to his quarterback. In college, it's about how much that QB has developed. At Notre Dame, it's also about how many championships they won together.

Golson isn't getting any better. He's getting worse. He has committed 21 turnovers in the past eight games. That included six in the loss at Arizona State.

A reporter asked Kelly in his postgame press conference about Golson, suggesting that he wasn't responsible for all of the turnovers.

"Why aren't they all on Golson?" Kelly asked. "We've been working with him. … Sooner or later he's got to take it on himself to take care of the football. I don't know what else to do."

Well, one thing he could do, but never considers, is benching Golson. But no, Kelly is too wrapped up in Golson to do anything about it now.

Golson started the year as a feel-good story, a Heisman candidate. But he has fallen apart, lost his confidence. He fumbled Saturday and then moped on the field while his teammates tried to get the ball back.

On Sunday, in Kelly's weekly press conference, he talked about Golson's development and potential. Someone asked Kelly if he thought Golson could be one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the country

"I think there's got to be more growth there, absolutely," Kelly said. "There is a higher ceiling for him. He's not been tapped out in the sense that it's as good as he can play.

"I think there's a lot of room for development. … So in answering your question, yeah I believe that he could be one of the top quarterbacks in the country, no question."

Kelly came to Notre Dame known for developing players, particularly quarterbacks. It just isn't working out with Golson. That's a continuing hit to Kelly's reputation, if he stays.

When you're coaching in the NFL, you don't have to worry about whether your quarterback is developing, or your players are breaking laws or rules. That stuff is on the general manager.

I said this in 2012, but Kelly should be the coach of the Chicago Bears. Instead, the Bears hired Marc Trestman for his offensive genius. It hasn't worked out, and the Bears are likely to have another coaching opening at the end of the season. Kelly is fiery and has had tough defenses at Notre Dame. It's a fit.

But he would be fine with most NFL teams.

Kelly brought back Notre Dame's aura, and while Irish fans might not realize it yet, that's about gone again. The lawyers and power boys that serve as Notre Dame's power aren't going to put up with this for long.

Kelly can make a run now to protect his own legacy.

 

Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report. He also writes for The New York Times and was formerly a scribe for FoxSports.com and the Chicago Sun-Times. Follow him on Twitter @gregcouch.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bold Predictions for Top College Football Rivalry Games in Week 14

From the Territorial Cup to the Egg Bowl to the Iron Bowl, Week 14 of the 2014 college football season is filled with rivalry games.

Each program will unleash gadget plays, new blitzes or unknown weapons, searching for both bragging rights and a victory over its most hated school.

While the teams prepare their audacious moves, these equally bold predictions will maintain a realistic nature. However, some may appear outlandish, because safe isn't fun—nor is it bold.

The predictions are organized by kickoff time, not necessarily the confidence level or adventurousness of the prophecy.

Begin Slideshow

Top Recruits Who Will Be Impacted by Result of the Ohio State-Michigan Game

It may lack much of the luster that defined rivalry matchups of the past, but when Michigan and Ohio State battle, there are always plenty of storylines to monitor. Most of the attention Saturday will center on the Buckeyes' playoff chances and Brady Hoke's job security.

However, there's always another element worth monitoring when these teams meet. The storied programs routinely clash on the recruiting trail while chasing common prospects, and those skirmishes become more noteworthy as national signing day nears. 

This 2015 cycle is no different, as several top-tier talents will be watching closely to see how the Buckeyes and Wolverines fare when action kicks off in Columbus. Here's a look at recruits who could ultimately be influenced by the outcome.

Begin Slideshow

Alabama out for Ultimate Revenge vs. Auburn in Iron Bowl

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It wasn’t supposed to happen that way.

Alabama was either going to end the “Mother Of All Iron Bowls” with a field goal or test its luck in overtime. Black and white, one or the other. Right?

Auburn’s Chris Davis had other ideas. You know the rest of the story.

As the Crimson Tide get ready to step on the field with the Tigers again for the first time since that November night in Jordan-Hare Stadium, they will do so behind the backdrop of that play.

Alabama is the No. 1 team in the country and a 9.5-point favorite to topple the Tigers, yet it can’t seem to shake that feeling that hung around after last season’s stunning ending.

“We’re still reliving that moment,” Alabama safety Landon Collins told reporters after the Western Carolina game. “It shows up on the TV every now and again. It just breaks our heart every time. That one second took our whole chance away of winning anything.

“Definitely it rewinds in my head. It’s definitely going to be rewinding in our head constantly throughout this week when we prepare for them.”

If the team feels the same way as Collins, it’s doing a good job of hiding it.

“I could really care less about last year. That was a completely different team. It’s a new team," said right tackle Austin Shepherd. "We have a great opportunity. We’ve set ourselves up for success, so we’ve just got to go out there and finish the season off.”

“We haven’t really been thinking about last year. We’ve really just been focused on what we can handle this year—what we can be talking about for the next 365 days and going in and just handling what we can do and let the past be the past and let’s control the future,” said quarterback Blake Sims.

The team is more or less sticking to the party line during this week of practice.

Still, as anyone who has watched TV in the last year knows, it’s not like you can exactly ignore Davis’ 109-yard missed-field-goal return for a touchdown at the end of regulation.

It’s been played constantly on highlight shows. It won the 2013 ESPY for Play of the Year. ESPN is featuring it heavily in promotions for this year’s Iron Bowl.

“We all kind of remember what happened,” head coach Nick Saban said. “It was very, very disappointing to all of us here. Not just the last play but the last five minutes of the game that we never really ever finished the game like we needed to. It was a tough way to lose a game, and I'm sure everybody sort of has that in mind.”

Collins estimates that he’s seen the play “maybe over 200 times.”

“I get asked about it constantly,” he said. “Last year we saw it too many times. I mean it’s just a constant thing that goes around and we can’t think about it now. It’s never going to leave until we do something about it.”

That makes this year about revenge.

Only a handful of redshirt seniors on this year’s team were around for the 2010 comeback in Bryant-Denny Stadium. A lot more, though, were on the sidelines for the Kick Six.

So while Alabama has a lot to lose in this game—the SEC West, a shot at the league title and a berth in the playoff—it’s looking at revenge as a motivating factor.

“I mean, I wouldn’t try to avoid it, but I wouldn’t try to watch it as well,” defensive end Jonathan Allen said. “I just view it was more motivation for me throughout the whole offseason.”

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Betting information courtesy of Odds Shark.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

What to Make of No. 1 Recruit Josh Sweat Making Virginia Tech His Final Visit

An official visit to Virginia Tech this weekend is the last major landmark in the recruiting process of 5-star defensive end Josh Sweat—the nation’s top overall prospect in the 2015 class.

According to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports (subscription required), Sweat—who will enroll at his school of choice in January—will shut things down and then have a decision within a week or two following his trip to Blacksburg. 

The Hokies will get the last crack at Sweat, who took previous officials to schools among his final group including Ohio State, Georgia and Florida State. 

But does that mean they are the prohibitive favorite to land the impact pass-rusher?

Sweat has played his recruitment close to the vest, so it’s hard to tell if the Hokies are trending in their quest to keep the state’s top prospect close to home.

As Bartow notes, one interesting detail is that Sweat will have seven members of his family joining him for this weekend’s trip—which can’t hurt the Hokies' chances. 

By contrast, he was alone when he went to Tallahassee last weekend, and only his mother and sister joined him in Athens two weeks ago.

That could be significant, or it could be nothing.

“It’s not like I can bring all of them when I go to school,” Sweat told Bartow. “If it was up to me, I would go on all of the visits by myself.”

Regardless of whether or not family and location will play a role in his final choice, Virginia Tech will be tasked with showing Sweat that the future in Blacksburg is equally as bright as it is at Georgia, FSU and Ohio State.

All three of those programs occupy spots in the Top 10 of the rankings (via ESPN) and possess classes that rank among the top five in the country.

Meanwhile, Beamer’s Hokies limp into the finale against Virginia having lost six of their last nine games—including an ugly 6-3 loss in double overtime to hapless Wake Forest last weekend. Their recruiting efforts are also pedestrian in comparison to Sweat’s other finalists, as their class is rated fifth-best in the ACC and No. 28 nationally.

On the flip side, Sweat was in attendance at Ohio State when the Hokies defeated the Buckeyes in impressive fashion. However, the luster from that big win has worn off and given way to talk of Beamer being on the proverbial hot seat, as noted by Bill Bender of Sporting News.

Despite the issues surrounding the program, the 6’5”, 240-pound pass-rusher is giving the home state school every chance to convince him that it can provide the best opportunity for him to be successful in college.

It will be up to Beamer and his staff to convince Sweat that he isn’t going anywhere and, more importantly, that there is a viable plan in place to help get the Hokies back to the top of the ACC.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Buckeyes on Cusp of Special Season Entering Game Against Michigan

Michigan week has arrived, and it could not come at a better time for Ohio State.

Back-to-back closer-than-expected games against Indiana and Minnesota might have some wondering if the team is distracted by all the talk about playoffs, J.T. Barrett's Heisman chances and whether Braxton Miller will return next season. For one week at least, the sole focus is on beating the team up North.

Despite some grumblings among fans about what is wrong, the problem is not a lack of talent or coaching. This team is littered with elite-level players. It also has some of the best coaches in the business.

I would argue that if the Buckeyes win the Big Ten, this will be considered Urban Meyer’s greatest coaching performance of his tremendous career. That is a testament to all of his assistant coaches, including public enemy No. 1, defensive co-coordinator Luke Fickell.

Regardless, there is no doubt that the defense has looked vulnerable, especially against the run. Turnovers and special teams miscues are also impacting momentum during key parts of the game.

All things considered, the issues are not huge problems. Every team has flaws this season, and since the meltdown against Virginia Tech, the Buckeyes have taken care of business. Expecting perfection is unrealistic, but who says anyone in Buckeye Nation is reasonable?

Most fans want championships, and Meyer is paid to win them.  Ohio State is on the brink of accomplishing something really special. Pressure is mounting to finish the job the team failed to do last year. It is time to earn the paycheck.

Here are three reasons why the Buckeyes will beat Michigan and win the Big Ten title next week.

 

Leadership

The reality is the recent breakdowns are a result of a lack of discipline, which is what you would expect from a young team. It plays well for a stretch of time and then falls apart for a few series.

Fortunately, discipline issues are solved by having great leaders. Every championship team has a band of players at its heart and soul. These players are the glue that binds the team in crunch time. They drive the team through adversity and will the team to victory.

This is the foundation of Meyer’s coaching philosophy which he described to reporters in his post-hiring press conference: "Talent will get you about seven or eight wins. Discipline will start pushing that to nine. Then when you get leadership that's when magic starts happening. It's when you start getting rings and some really cool things are happening to your team."

Every player must do his part over the next two games, but there will be moments when special plays are needed to seize control of the games. This is when the leaders will shine.

Which Buckeyes will step up when called? Odds are Vonn Bell, Michael Bennett, Jeff Heuerman, Devin Smith and Joshua Perry will. Whether it is an interception, a sack, a key reception, a touchdown or a combination, one or all of these players will rise to the occasion.

 

Avoiding Turnovers

On the season, Ohio State is plus-3 in turnover margin, which is abysmal. The Buckeyes’ turnovers have been daggers, killing momentum and putting unneeded pressure on the defense. The turnovers have also allowed inferior teams like Indiana and Penn State to compete with the Buckeyes when they should have had a minimal shot at winning.

Just as Jalin Marshall improved his performance last week, expect Barrett and the rest of the offensive weapons to do a much better job at protecting the ball over the next two games.

Helping their cause is that Michigan and Wisconsin are not very good at taking the ball away. The Wolverines are plus-14 in turnover margin, and the Badgers are minus-2. Minnesota is plus-11, so should it make the Big Ten Championship, Ohio State needs to hold on to the ball better than it did in Minneapolis on November 15.

 

Run Defense

The Buckeyes’ run defense was torched by Jeremy Langford, David Cobb and Tevin Coleman, who rushed for a combined 510 yards and nine touchdowns. All three of these backs are good, but giving up that kind of production is inexcusable.

Expect the coaches to have the defense playing at a much higher level against the run over the next two games.  At the very least, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota will make it easier on them since all three teams are taking passing to new lows this season. The chart below highlights how bad these teams are in the air:

Team Passing Yards Per Game FBS ranking Michigan 162.8 113 Wisconsin 141.7 119 Minnesota 134.2 121

The formula for success against the run is not overly complicated. Ohio State should just load up the box and sell out to stop the run. The defensive line needs to clog the line of scrimmage and keep the big offensive linemen off the linebackers so they can make plays.

There also needs to be containment on the edges to force the runners back into the middle of the field. When this happens, Perry, Curtis Grant, Darron Lee and Raekwon McMillan need to shed their blockers and tackle well. If the defense does this effectively, the Buckeyes will comfortably win both games.

 

Analysis

When the College Football Playoff committee releases its rankings later today, Ohio State should remain No. 6.

Not many expected the team to be in this position after the loss to Virginia Tech, but now it is easy to understand why Meyer told reporters in a press conference on August 11: "If you had to say what's the difference between this team and last year's team, we're faster. It does have the feel of a very good team."

The Buckeyes are good, and this is now a two-game season for them. They must beat Michigan on Saturday and win the Big Ten championship next week against Wisconsin or Minnesota.

Nothing else matters.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M Football: What the Aggies Should Be Thankful for in 2014

The Texas A&M football team is experiencing a season of transition as its young players gain experience. The Aggies still have a lot to be thankful for during the 2014 season. 

The Aggies are 7-4 during the regular season with a 3-4 record in the SEC. They have one game left in the regular season, which is against LSU on Thanksgiving Day. 

The game against LSU will help determine which bowl game the Aggies play in. With seven wins, they are bowl-eligible for the sixth season in a row. 

This is a look at a few things that the Aggies should be thankful for during this holiday season. 

Begin Slideshow

Jean Delance Commits to Oklahoma: What 4-Star 2016 Recruit Brings to Sooners

Just three days after receiving an offer from Oklahoma, rising Texas offensive lineman Jean Delance has committed to the Sooners. Head coach Bob Stoops secured a key commitment from the 2016 Lone Star State standout Tuesday, per Ryan Bartow of 247Sports.

The 6'5", 270-pound North Mesquite High School junior also holds offers from Baylor, Mississippi State, Ohio State, TCU, Texas Tech and others. He becomes the first member of Oklahoma's 2016 recruiting class, providing a blue-chip building block at its foundation.

Delance, a 4-star prospect rated 27th nationally among 2016 offensive tackles in 247Sports' composite rankings, picked up a Sooners scholarship offer Saturday while attending the team's 44-7 route of Kansas.

Oklahoma's rushing prowess was on full display throughout the matchup, as freshman running back Samaje Perine established a new NCAA all-time single-game rushing record with 427 yards on the ground.

The performance probably provided some extra incentive for Delance to pull the trigger on an early decision. The versatile lineman is an impressive athlete who clearly loves blocking downfield and should be able to comfortably approach 300 pounds by the time he hits the field in Norman.

Delance displays solid technique against pass-rushers but is largely more evolved as run-blocker. Elite reach and developing footwork offer evidence of top-level promise.

He spearheaded a North Mesquite offense that averaged nearly 240 rushing yards per game this fall, per Gabe Brooks of Scout.com.

In his own words, Delance brings plenty of potential to the table.

"A guy with good athleticism, upside, good attitude, good personality and all my best football is years down the road," he told Bartow.

His pledge provides a solid start for the Sooners' 2016 recruiting efforts. The team is set to welcome fellow Texas offensive tackle Bobby Evans to campus next year and appears to be piecing together the makings of a formidable offensive front for years to come.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Wolverines vs. Ohio State Buckeyes Complete Game Preview

Last week Michigan (5-6, 3-4 Big Ten) entered the fourth quarter leading 16-9 at home versus Maryland. It appeared that Brady Hoke had his team on track to win its third straight game and clinch a bowl berth. But Maryland (7-4, 4-3) rallied to score two touchdowns and prevailed 23-16.

The loss dropped Michigan below .500 with only one game left to play. Michigan heads to Columbus and needs to beat Ohio State (10-1, 7-0 Big Ten) to go bowling. Michigan’s season will end if Ohio State wins, and Hoke will most likely be fired shortly thereafter. A Michigan victory would extend its season and allow the team valuable practice time it desperately needs to prepare for next season—no matter who the coach is.

Michigan will face a motivated Ohio State team. Coach Urban Meyer needs a big victory to put the Buckeyes in position to make the inaugural College Football Playoff. Winning isn't enough; Ohio State needs to dominate with style and put lots of points on the scoreboard to impress the playoff committee.

A Michigan victory would reignite a rivalry that has grown dormant in recent years (since 2001, OSU is 10-2).

Brady Hoke will need the absolute best that his Michigan Men can muster to have any chance to prevail.

 

Date: Saturday, November 29, 2014

Time: Noon ET

Place: Ohio Stadium (104,944) Columbus, Ohio

Series vs. Ohio State: Michigan leads series 58-46-6

Television: ABC

Radio: Michigan Sports Network, Sirius (113), XM (195)

Spread: Ohio State by 20 via Odds Shark

Live Stats:Gametracker

 

Last Meeting vs. Ohio State

Last season, after three quarters Michigan trailed Ohio State 35-21 before quarterback Devin Gardner engineered an epic fourth-quarter comeback at Michigan Stadium. Michigan scored 20 fourth-quarter points before failing on a two-point conversion attempt that would have put the Wolverines ahead with 32 seconds to play.

Gardner played with a foot injury that would force him to miss the team's bowl game. The 42-41 loss capped a disappointing 1-4 month of November for Michigan and was the beginning of a collapse that has continued through this season.


*Information according to University of Michigan Wolverine Football game notes.

Begin Slideshow

Which 2015 Miami Commits Will Make Huge Impact in Backfield with Yearby?

The Miami Hurricanes have always been a powerhouse in college football, and they are looking to get back to their roots. With the emergence of stud freshman running back Joseph Yearby, the Canes are trying to add more weapons to help him next season.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder highlights the incoming class of running backs for the Hurricanes.

What kind of impact can these freshmen have next season?

Watch the video, and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. USC Trojans Complete Game Preview

The greatest intersectional rivalry in college football lost some luster last week, when both Notre Dame and USC dropped critical football games. For Brian Kelly's Irish, a third straight defeat came on senior day in Notre Dame Stadium. For Steve Sarkisian's Trojans, it came at the hands of their crosstown rivals, with UCLA trouncing USC, their third straight loss in the all-important matchup.

But there's no time for either team to dwell on a difficult defeat. Not when they're playing for the Jeweled Shillelagh. For the 86th time, Notre Dame and USC will battle, in a rivalry that's swung like a pendulum over the past 50 years. 

After two consecutive ties to close out the 1960s, the Trojans dominated the next decade and change, winning 11 of 13 games. But the Irish struck back, winning 11 straight between 1983 and 1993, before a 17-17 tie in 1994 rebooted the series. 

From there, the Trojans and Irish traded three-game winning streaks, before the Pete Carroll era took hold. USC won the next eight games, blowing out the Irish in 2002 in a battle of Top 10 teams. Outside of two one-score games (none more memorable than the Irish's 34-31 loss in 2005), this series served as a stark reminder that the Trojans were an elite program and Notre Dame was not. The Trojans blew out Notre Dame in six of eight games by 20 points or more, with five coming by 30 or more. 

But that all changed when Brian Kelly took over the Irish. With Pete Carroll in Seattle before the NCAA came down hard on the USC football program for improper benefits, Notre Dame did its best to flip the rivalry again, winning in the Coliseum for the first time in a decade on a rainy night in 2010. 

Kelly has now won three of his four meetings with USC. Saturday he'll meet Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian for the first time, in a game both teams need to help salvage a season. 

Let's get you ready for rivalry weekend. 

 

Date: Saturday, November 29

Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

Place: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

TV: FOX

Radio: IMG College Sports, SiriusXM Channel 129

Spread: USC by 7, according to Odds Shark.

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.  

Begin Slideshow

Pages