NCAA Football

Former Notre Dame RB Greg Bryant Commits to UAB

UAB football won't return until the 2017 FBS season, but the Blazers will now have a high-quality running back ready to roll whenever they hit the field again.

Former Notre Dame running back Greg Bryant announced on Wednesday on his Instagram account that he has committed to continue his football career at UAB.

"Never in my life would I be thinking I would go here," Bryant posted. "But the next move has to be the best move. I'm officially committed to the University of Alabama Birmingham! Strictly a business decision. ‪Minor setback for a major comeback."

Bryant, who was Notre Dame's second-leading rusher as a sophomore in 2014 with 289 yards and three touchdowns, was ruled academically ineligible for the 2015 season back in August.

Before the announcement, Bryant was already facing a four-game suspension due to a violation of team rules.

According to Matt Fortuna of ESPN.com, Notre Dame planned on keeping Bryant on scholarship as he sat out the 2015 season, but he transferred to ASA College in Miami.

Bryant is a former 4-star recruit out of Delray Beach, Florida. He was rated as the No. 46 overall player and No. 7 running back in the entire country for the Class of 2013.

The former Irish back's return to college football will come a year later than expected, though.

UAB made the controversial decision to cut its football program last December—citing financial reasons—only to announce it was "taking steps" to reinstate it six months later.

As Drew Champlin of AL.com notes, Bryant isn't the only former blue-chip recruit to pledge to the resurrected Blazers in recent weeks.

Head coach Bill Clark and his staff picked up commitments late last month from former LSU players Clifton Garrett and Maquedius Bain.

Garrett was a 5-star linebacker out of high school, while Bain was a 4-star defensive lineman. Both are transferring from junior colleges—just like Bryant—n time for spring practice in 2016.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. 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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Why Oklahoma Can Be the Ohio State of the 2015 College Football Playoff

Oklahoma is forgotten in—but not entirely out of—the College Football Playoff race.

It's easy to understand why no one's talking about the Sooners. They're the lowest-ranked Big 12 team in the initial CFP rankings (No. 15) with a bad loss to Texas.

When the Big 12's November slate is mentioned—no other Power Five conference has a more brutal, backloaded schedule—the discussion usually revolves around Baylor and TCU, and whether they can remain undefeated heading into their Nov. 27 game.

Oklahoma State, the third undefeated Big 12 team, is filling the role of the dark horse, as noted by Max Olson of ESPN.com. The Cowboys get all their toughest remaining games at home, including TCU this Saturday.

So where does that leave Oklahoma? It's odd to think of head coach Bob Stoops' team as the outcast, but that's essentially how it's labeled.

But there's another way to look at the Sooners as they enter the critical stretch of the season: They can be the Ohio State of the 2015 College Football Playoff.

Like the Buckeyes last year, the Sooners have an almost inexplicable loss. How Stoops has prepared for Texas over the last three years is a legitimate question that has already been asked.

“I think maybe we jumped a little ahead of ourselves Texas week,” wide receiver Sterling Shepard said, per Jason Kersey of the Oklahoman. “The most important game is the next game.”

Otherwise, the Sooners are still a top-tier team in their conference. And like with the Buckeyes in 2014, the opportunity to get better at the right time is there for the taking.

The gap between Oklahoma and the Big 12's three undefeated teams isn't that large. On paper, seven points are what separate the top four teams in the Big 12 from being 31-0 instead of 30-1. 

And Oklahoma has dominated outside of its loss to the Longhorns. The Sooners' average point differential when winning is plus-32.1 points per game. Only Baylor has a larger margin of victory at 36 points per game in the Big 12.

The Sooners win in advanced stats, too.

Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer told Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports that points per possession is one of the most important metrics for a team's success. Sure enough, BCF Toys indicates that Oklahoma ranks eighth nationally in points scored per offensive drive.

An expanded table of Oklahoma's advanced stats compared to those of the Big 12's "Big Three" shows the Sooners are actually the best overall defense in terms of preventing points per drive. Oklahoma's offense, while lagging behind the likes of Baylor and TCU in similar offensive categories, is more than serviceable.

BCF Toys explains its categories as follows:

Teams are ranked by net points scored per drive (NPD), the difference between points scored per offensive drive (OPD) and points allowed per opponent offensive drive (DPD). Points per value drive for the offense (OVD) opponent offenses (DVD) are calculated on possessions that begin on the offense's own side of midfield and reach at least the opponent's 30-yard line. Points per long drive for the offense (OLD) and opponent offenses (DLD) are calculated on possessions that begin inside the offense's own 20-yard line.

Oklahoma's success on defense is important because Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State rank first, second and fifth in the Big 12 in points per game, respectively. All average at least 44 points per game.

So now that we know where Oklahoma stacks up in the Big 12 on the stat sheet, how can this team make an Ohio State-type run to the playoff?

It starts with taking care of your own business, which for the Sooners means better blocking up front. A largely new-look offensive line proved to be the glaring weakness in the loss to Texas. Oklahoma was terrible in pass protection when the Longhorns defense rushed extra men. The Sooners also couldn't run the ball, averaging a season-low 1.81 yards per carry (including sacks).

If all of that sounds like Ohio State's problem last year against Virginia Tech, you're not mistaken.

Moving forward, Oklahoma has to do a better job of creating lanes for Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon to run over and around people.

This is where O-line coach Bill Bedenbaugh will earn his paycheck. Like with Ohio State in 2014, the question is, can this O-line come together as the season progresses? If it does, there's more than enough talent to propel the offense into a different gear.

Secondly, Oklahoma's remaining schedule, while daunting, does present some breaks.

The Sooners will get Baylor's new quarterback, true freshman Jarrett Stidham, in just his second start. They also get TCU at home, and the Horned Frogs have been a vastly different team on the road—and not for the better.

The season-ending game at Oklahoma State will be a challenge, but Stoops has a 12-4 record against the Cowboys and is 6-2 in Stillwater. If nothing else, Stoops has history on his side.

There are drawbacks, of course, for looping Oklahoma into the playoff conversation. While there is precedent of a one-loss team getting into the playoff, there isn't one for when that loss comes to a sub-.500 team. Unless Texas head coach Charlie Strong can work miracles, it's possible the Longhorns miss a bowl game.

No. 16 Florida State, another playoff long shot, is in a similar boat due to its loss to Georgia Tech two weeks ago.

However, the Seminoles would have an ACC Championship Game to play if they beat Clemson and win out. That's something Oklahoma and the Big 12 do not have—not yet, anyway. That 13th game could be a great equalizer against a bad loss.

There's no doubt that the Sooners have a lot of ground to cover. Brandon Chatmon of ESPN.com wrote, "No matter how good the Sooners look and how many quality wins they secure, Oklahoma’s loss to Texas is like a cinder block preventing its rise into playoff contention. Style points will matter for the Sooners, and Bob Stoops' team has minimal room for error."

But given how Oklahoma has played post-Texas, and with advanced stats speaking for themselves, the notion of the Sooners winning the Big 12 isn't that far-fetched. Plus, there are five weeks for all hell to break loose.

For a sport that enjoys dabbling in the strange, Oklahoma making a late-season push to the playoff wouldn't be the strangest development.

 

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

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Did Notre Dame Receive the Blue Blood Bump in First Playoff Rankings?

Notre Dame and its massive fanbase had to be pleasantly surprised Tuesday night when the Fighting Irish came in at No. 5 in the first College Football Playoff rankings of 2015—three spots ahead of where they currently sit in the AP poll and four spots better than the coaches poll.

The playoff committee put head coach Brian Kelly and his team in a perfect position heading into the first weekend of November.

With No. 2 LSU and No. 4 Alabama set to square off Saturday night in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a win at Pittsburgh would put the Irish in one of the coveted playoff spots. Win out, and Notre Dame would seemingly be a lock for the final four, even with its one loss from earlier in the season.

According to Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports, only a couple of teams would have a realistic shot at jumping the Irish in the playoff rankings.

"The one obvious concern is that an undefeated Big 12 champ (TCU, Baylor or Oklahoma State) would eventually pass the Irish, as could No. 12 Utah if it runs the table and wins the Pac-12," Mandel wrote. "I would not be as worried, though, about a one-loss TCU, Baylor or Oklahoma State because the Irish should still finish with a stronger schedule."

Notre Dame's enviable position in the initial playoff rankings, however, came with its fair share of critics.

Matt Hayes of Sporting News suggested Notre Dame—and No. 4 Alabama—was ranked above the likes of undefeated Baylor, Michigan State, TCU and Iowa because of its name recognition.

"If you're seeing a trend (college football heavyweights) and embracing a conspiracy theory (the selection committee went big to draw interest), you're not alone," Hayes wrote. "The Irish lost at Clemson on the last play of the game, a two-point conversion try that could have tied the game. Other than that, there’s what on the ND resume?"

But while some are claiming a "blue blood bump" for Notre Dame in the playoff rankings, the numbers support a great ranking for the Fighting Irish at this point in the season.

Notre Dame has a loss, yes, but it's the best conceivable loss in college football. That holds a lot of weight, especially when compared to teams that have zipped through easy schedules.

The Fighting Irish played Clemson, the committee's No. 1 team, on the road and in torrential rains from the Hurricane Joaquin storm system. While Notre Dame didn't impress for the majority of the game, it rallied in a huge way late.

Since that game, Clemson has put up more than 530 yards in four straight victories by double digits. The Irish held Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson and company to 296 yards of offense in the rain-soaked contest.

As Bill Connelly of SB Nation noted on Twitter, the close loss at Clemson makes Notre Dame look a lot better in hindsight.

But while that loss undoubtedly looks better compared to the ones from teams such as Florida, Stanford and Utah, it doesn't quite explain Notre Dame's position above that quartet of undefeated teams from No. 6 through No. 9.

(Side note: Florida has a legitimate gripe to be just No. 10 if Notre Dame is No. 5, as the Gators lost by a touchdown at the committee's No. 2 team.)

For the answer to that puzzle, look at the Irish's complete body of work.

While Texas fell flat at the beginning of the season and Georgia Tech went through a rough losing streak to plummet out of the Top 25, Notre Dame's recent schedule has consisted of some legitimate tests compared to those of, say, Baylor and TCU.

In fact, Notre Dame's last three wins have all come against "teams with better-than-.500 records," which Mandel pointed out was committee chairman Jeff Long's favorite buzzword of Tuesday evening.

Notre Dame has two more wins against such teams than both Baylor and TCU, who have only beaten 5-4 Texas Tech. Iowa has the same amount, and Michigan State's count is boosted by wins over 5-3 Western Michigan and 5-3 Air Force.

None of those teams come close to Notre Dame's total strength of schedule through the first nine weeks of the college football season, per Jeff Sagarin's ratings at USA Today.

Ignore the notion of a "blue blood bump." The committee appeared to favor Notre Dame because of its strength of schedule, especially its most recent games. 

"I think our last four games have been as good as anybody that’s played in the country," Kelly said before the rankings came out Tuesday, per Keith Arnold of NBC Sports. "I don’t know where it stands up exactly. I just know we played a very good schedule in the month of October. We have to win more games, but I’ll stand up our schedule to anybody else right now."

Baylor, TCU and lower-ranked Oklahoma State each have the reasonable opportunity to vault into the thick of the playoff picture if they run through a tough, back-loaded Big 12 schedule without a loss. 

Iowa and Michigan State, too, will get their chances in November. Both teams would have to beat No. 3 Ohio State in order to make an undefeated run of their own to the postseason.

Notre Dame can still improve its resume, too, in the final month of the regular season. Pittsburgh is another above-.500 team, and the Irish end their schedule with a trip to Pac-12 front-runner Stanford.

While the early playoff rankings are mostly for entertainment value at this point—there's a lot of potential chaos still left on the board—they give a glimpse as to what the committee values in a playoff team.

There's no doubt a Notre Dame playoff game would be tremendous for television ratings and ticket sales, but those are far from the only reasons why the Fighting Irish are sitting in the Top Five.

Right now, even with one loss, Notre Dame is highly regarded as a top playoff contender because of its full body of work—not its name brand.

 

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

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4-Star WR Tre Nixon Breaks Down 6 Favorites, Aims to Commit 'Soon'

College football coaching staffs invest significant hours analyzing game film of prospective student-athletes. Florida wide receiver Tre Nixon is reversing these roles.

The 4-star recruit spends Saturdays studying schemes of programs under his consideration. It's part of a detailed evaluation process he hopes ends with an ideal fit.

"I try to completely dissect the offenses," Nixon told Bleacher Report.

He and his mother set up two televisions in the living room, watching multiple games at one time when necessary. Other matchups are recorded and saved for viewing later in the day.

"Each game I watch brings me another step closer to a decision," Nixon said.

There are six teams under the microscope these days. The Viera High School senior, rated 42nd nationally among receivers in 2016 composite rankings, is focused on a group of favorites featuring Auburn, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Penn State, Florida and Georgia.

Nixon, a 6'1", 170-pound playmaker, views each school as a possible landing spot. Strong relationships with coaches and consistent communication are a commonality among them.

Bucking the national trend, Nixon doesn't have intentions of using all five official visits. In fact, he's not sure if one is even necessary. 

"I've traveled to each of these schools at least once over the past year, so I have a good idea of what the coaching staffs and campuses are like," Nixon said. "If I take official visits, I'm just going to fall in love with every school I visit. That's going to hurt me more than it's going to help me."

His lone campus trip this season occurred in an unofficial capacity Oct. 23, when he attended Florida's game against Ole Miss. The Gators' 38-10 victory commanded attention from across the country and served notice to Nixon that a new era in Gainesville has arrived.

"There were so many questions about how [head coach Jim] McElwain was going to do and what the offense would look like. They've definitely silenced all the doubters so far by getting the ball rolling this season," he said. 

Nixon admits he's impressed by how the Gators have implemented wide receiver Antonio Callaway. The true freshman leads Florida with 418 receiving yards and three touchdown catches.

"They're doing a great job putting receivers in spots where they can make plays," he said. "Even with the transition to another quarterback, Florida has a system that's still successful. They're spreading the ball around."

Nixon, who hears from Florida commits Chauncey Gardner and Jake Allen, is also excited about what he's seen from Texas A&M newcomer Christian Kirk. He occasionally speaks with the Aggies freshman, who has 47 receptions for 662 yards and four touchdowns in his first collegiate campaign.

"When you're a senior in high school, it's always good to see a team that's not afraid to put a young player in position to step up," Nixon said while discussing the successes of Kirk and Callaway.

Texas A&M, averaging 263 passing yards per contest, already has a pair of underclassman quarterbacks who were 5-starrecruitsTate Martell, another blue-chip passer, is pledged to join the program in 2017.

"Their offense speaks for itself. It's basically a pass-happy system, and they love dishing the ball to receivers in open areas," Nixon said.

Though Georgia is currently dealing with substantial struggles in its passing game, Nixon appreciates his relationship with Mark Richt's staff and believes improvements are on the way.

"I like the coaches a lot at Georgia. They have [5-star quarterback] Jacob Eason coming in next year too. Eason said he'd love to have a receiver like me to throw to throughout his career," he said.

The Bulldogs should boast a bevy of backfield talent next season, which catches his eye from a scouting standpoint.

"Just being able to see how effective their run game can be, and how it creates a lot of one-on-one coverage outside for receivers, gets me excited," Nixon said.

Ole Miss is another SEC squad expected to welcome in a top-tier quarterback who has reached out to him during recent months.

"That's a spread team that loves to throw the ball a lot. Like Georgia, Ole Miss is bringing in an outstanding quarterback with Shea Patterson. There's a lot to like at Ole Miss," he said.

Auburn rounds out Nixon's list of preferred SEC options. He likened the Tigers' attack to what he's grown familiar with at Viera.

"Auburn's offense is similar to what we run in high school. Playmakers get the ball in space with all those screens and stuff. They give guys a chance to create in the open field," Nixon said.

That's a key factor for the speedy receiver, who is clocked at 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash, according to 247Sports. He's looking for a role that allows him to capitalize.

"I definitely use God-given speed to my advantage. I can get on top of defensive backs really quick. I get in and out of my breaks in a hurry. Teams want that vertical threat downfield to take the top off a defense," Nixon said.

He provides elite quickness that coaches covet and believes it may be needed most in Happy Valley.

"I could come in and bring another dimension to Penn State's offense," Nixon said. "A big part of the reason I like Penn State is the opportunity to become a downfield threat that they don't really have right now. I can provide something new there."

While he certainly is a burner, Nixon is far from one-dimensional. 

"I really pride myself on being able to run all the routes, and that's something I spent a lot of time working on during the offseason. I don't want to just be considered a guy who can only go deep. I want to be able to do everything," he said.

The Nittany Lions are an outlier among his favorites, considering the school's distance from Southeast alternatives that are closer to home.

"It is far away, but there's such a family atmosphere at Penn State," Nixon said. "Those coaches are probably the ones I've been closest with throughout this entire process. I see no reason why I wouldn't succeed around those kind of people."

Though he initially planned to announce his collegiate intentions in October, those plans were postponed. For Nixon, it's a choice important enough to get right the first time.

"As it came closer and closer, I just wasn't ready for a decision. The most important thing for me is to not rush anything. I would say a commitment is definitely coming soon, but there's no set date right now," he said.

Nixon, who secured his first scholarship offer from South Florida as a sophomore, now has 51 universities to consider.

Just one week shy of the playoffs in a senior season that's featured 55 receptions for 943 yards and 15 scores through nine games, per MaxPreps, he may be just a few more Saturday film study sessions away from finding his next home.

"I ask myself every day what the deciding factor is going to be. Each school has its pros and cons. They run different offenses, have their own atmospheres and coaches with totally different personalities," Nixon said. "I'll continue watching these teams every Saturday until I wake up one day and know where I want to go. It will be an easy decision when that happens." 

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake. 

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CFB Playoff Venues for 2018-20 Announced: Details, Comments and Reaction

The administrative arm of the College Football Playoff announced Wednesday the three host cities for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 national championships. In order, they are Atlanta, Santa Clara, California, and New Orleans.

New Orleans has played host for the national title game before, with four champions crowed in the Big Easy during the Bowl Championship Series era. It's also the site of the Sugar Bowl, which has long been one of the most prestigious bowl games. 

Atlanta is another obvious choice given the city's history of hosting the Peach Bowl. In addition, Mercedes-Benz Stadium should be completed by the time the 2018 national championship rolls around.

"This is a very exciting day for everyone involved and a huge win for the Atlanta community," said Dan Corso, executive director of the Atlanta Sports Council, per AtlantaFalcons.com. "Together, we look forward to working with the College Football Playoff to host an unforgettable event and showcasing all that Atlanta has to offer as a host city."

Some college football fans might be a bit skeptical about the decision to award Santa Clara a title game, however. Levi's Stadium has already hosted a WrestleMania event and is the venue for Super Bowl 50, but USA Today's Dan Wolken highlighted one of the biggest problems with the venue since its opening:

Those in charge of Levi's Stadium will have a little more than three years to sort out the turf issue.

The CFP committee will just hope the 2019 national championship brings a bigger crowd to Santa Clara than last year's Pac-12 title game did.

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Alabama Assistant Coaches' Future on the Line Against LSU

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Even before the College Football Playoff committee placed both in the Top Four of this year’s initial rankings, there was already a lot on the line when the University of Alabama football team hosts LSU on Saturday.

It’s especially true of the coaching staffs and those who hope to someday become head coaches (or become head coaches again). Alabama has them in abundance, as Nick Saban’s coaching tree continues to grow.  

Four years ago, Jim McElwain was the offensive coordinator for Saban, and he's still riding the success of topping Florida in 2009. With Alabama on the rise again, he was lured away by Colorado State.

According to the USA Today database, McElwain’s initial contract at Florida is paying him a base salary of $3,983,359 this season. Meanwhile, Alabama’s current offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin, is under contract for $680,000 this year and is due to make $714,000 in 2016.

There’s a growing feeling in Tuscaloosa that he may not be around to collect, just like this could be the final go-around for defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. 

It took only about a minute after Steve Spurrier stepped down at South Carolina for Smart’s name to be mentioned as a possible successor. After Frank Beamer announced his retirement from Virginia Tech last week, USA Today’s Dan Wolken reported that Smart was "very interested" in the opening.

Both jobs make sense for Smart, who for years as one of the highest-paid assistant coaches in college football—topped only by former Saban assistant Will Muschamp at Auburn this season—has been pulling recruits out of Georgia for the Crimson Tide.

Smart interviewed for the head coaching job at Auburn in 2012. His name was previously strongly connected to the searches at Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Southern Miss, but with the defense not matching its 2011-12 numbers the past couple of years, the prospective inquiries stopped.

Smart’s dream jobs are still Alabama and Georgia, but it’s believed that he’s now more open to other head-coaching openings in the region.

Meanwhile, offensive line coach Mario Cristobal’s name is obviously being mentioned in Miami. He played for the Hurricanes (1989-92), has served as an assistant for his alma mater and recruited the talent-rich area well when he was the head coach at Florida International.

One also has to wonder how long it is before Kiffin gets another head-coaching chance, either at another big-time program and maybe even with an NFL team. The former head coach for the Tennessee Volunteers and the Oakland Raiders had a 28-15 record at Southern California during the fallout from the Pete Carroll years that included NCAA penalties.

“Yeah, it’s very humbling,” Kiffin said last December prior to the Sugar Bowl. “In this profession it happens all the time. You can be really hot one minute and the next minute be unemployed. It’s just a reminder that you always got to keep trying to improve yourself, you always gotta keep growing and never be satisfied where you are.”

Rumors seem to always surround Kiffin even when there aren’t any coaching openings, and sure enough when the Tennessee Titans fired head coach Ken Whisenhunt on Tuesday, his name was one of those being talking about on social media as a potential replacement.

What those people may have forgotten was that in 2010, Tennessee Football Inc., the company that owns the Titans, sued Kiffin and Southern California for "maliciously" luring away assistant running backs coach Kennedy Pola a week before training camp opened.

It’s going to take a while for things to play out, but no one would be surprised if Saban’s staff was essentially raided, especially if Alabama makes a run at another national title.

The key, of course, is to keep it all from becoming a distraction, which is why in part that Saban only gives reporters access to his coordinators twice a year and the other assistants just once. He wants there to be a clear message and focus during the season. 

When McElwain left, he was hired on Dec. 13, 2011, when Alabama was in the midst of a title run. He essentially did both jobs until the Crimson Tide played LSU in the BCS Championship Game on Jan. 9, but he flew back to Tuscaloosa on Dec. 23 for the start of the Crimson Tide’s practices.

“I never questioned his focus or loyalty in terms of what his job was and what he was doing,” Saban said. “I'm happy for our coaches to be recognized and have opportunities. When the time comes, I'll do everything I can to help them, and I think they all know that. But at the same time, their job and their responsibility right now is to stay focused on our team and what we're doing. I think they all understand that.

“How we finish will probably affect their opportunities a little bit.”

Saban’s been there himself, like when he went from being the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns to taking over the head-coaching job at Michigan State. The Browns were in the midst of a playoff push, and he helped Bill Belichick notch his first postseason win as a head coach, ironically against the New England Patriots.

“I took the job, but I totally focused on what we had to do,” Saban said. “We had the best defense in the NFL. We won a playoff game and lost in the second round.”

But what makes this upcoming offseason different is that the coaching carousel may spin more intently than we’ve ever seen before. There are already 10 jobs that are open, and a lot more coaches may soon be on the move. 

Maybe it’ll work out that none of Saban’s assistants will be hired away this time, but the more the Crimson Tide wins and the more jobs that open up, the less likely that’ll happen.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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College Football Picks for Week 10: B/R Experts' Predictions for the Top 5 Games

Now is the time. 

Now is when it matters. After two months, the college football season has seen its fair share of upsets and "are you kidding me?" moments—which seem to come pretty much weekly at this point—but November is when the contenders separate themselves from the pretenders and championship aspirations start to crystalize from hopeful reverie to actual reality. 

Now is the time. And it starts this week. Here are the top five games of the week and our B/R Experts' picks for each. 

We start in the ACC with a battle of traditional basketball rivals, as Duke travels eight miles down the road to North Carolina. The Blue Devils fell victim to Miami's miracle eight-lateral touchdown (that shouldn't have counted) and will come in with a giant chip on their shoulder.

Meanwhile, since an opening-week loss to South Carolina, all North Carolina has done is rattle off seven straight wins. The Tar Heels are sitting in prime position to win the Coastal Division of the ACC, but a Duke win could put them squarely back in the driver's seat. Who needs hoops, anyway?

Sticking in the ACC, Florida State travels to Clemson in what was seen just three weeks ago as probably the de facto ACC title game. But with FSU's shocking loss to Georgia Tech two weeks ago on the Jackets' own miracle play, this game has lost a little luster. This is the last real test for the unbeaten Tigers. If they can get past the Seminoles, a spot in the College Football Playoff is not only possible, it's very likely. 

Notre Dame, which kept its playoff hopes alive last week with a comeback win at Temple, faces another stiff opponent, as it travels to Pitt. The Panthers had only one loss before falling to North Carolina last week, so they will be eager to get back on the win train. If Notre Dame wins, it will continue to slowly build its playoff resume, as a late-season showdown with Stanford looms large. 

The Big 12 gives us a dynamite matchup of unbeaten teams, as TCU travels to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State. There is a lot at stake in this game, as the loser will be more or less eliminated as a playoff contender. TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin could also either boost his Heisman candidacy or see it take a massive hit. And as TCU and Baylor get all of the headlines, the Cowboys just keep winning. A victory over the highly ranked Horned Frogs will go a long way toward changing the national narrative of this team. 

Finally, it's the one we've all been waiting for as the undefeated LSU Tigers travel to Tuscaloosa to face rival Alabama. This game is always circled on the calendar for both teams each year, and this year is no different, as the winner will still be in great shape for an SEC West title and possible playoff birth.

The defenses always take center stage in this game, and they will this year. But the biggest story is which running back will be able to carry his team to victory. Will Leonard Fournette continue his Heisman march during his unreal season? Or will Bama's Derrick Henry steal the spotlight and stamp his own name into the race for college football's best player?

After going 5-0 in Week 9, both Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder closed the gap on Adam Kramer. Do you agree with their picks this week? Hit us up in the comment section below. 

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Will Grier Files Appeal to NCAA for 1-Year Suspension: Latest Details, Reaction

Florida Gators quarterback Will Grier reportedly filed an appeal for his yearlong suspension Wednesday.

Nick De La Torre of Gator Country reported the news as the redshirt freshman signal-caller tries to get his NCAA football career back on track. Grier received the lengthy ban due to a positive test for a performance-enhancing drug.

His suspension began October 12, and according to Wednesday's report, his legal team will argue he had no knowledge the supplement that triggered the positive test contained a substance banned by the NCAA. His lawyers will also reportedly argue that the supplement itself was NCAA approved.

Prior to his tenure under center in Gainesville coming to an abrupt halt, Grier beat out talented sophomore Treon Harris for the starting job and guided the Gators to six straight wins to start the 2015 campaign, thriving under new head coach Jim McElwain.

The suspension couldn't have come at a worse time, because Florida had to thrust Harris into duty and wound up losing to LSU, 35-28, in Grier's first game out of the lineup.

In an article for Sporting News, the quarterback's father, Chad, spoke about his son's plight and expressed his support:

His story is not mine to tell. But I do know the facts. I do know that his mistake was one of naivete, not of malice. I do know that he had no idea that he had done anything he thought was wrong, let alone the NCAA. If and when he's ready, he'll fill in the blanks. ...

... Will loves his teammates and the University of Florida the way the most loyal SEC fans feel about their school. This crisis in Will's life has brought out the best in him as he has asked me to help him find opportunities to serve others while he waits on adults who don't even know him to decide his immediate future.

De La Torre's sources say McElwain and the university have been supportive of Grier and will continue to be as the appeals process plays out. That McElwain and others are in the young man's corner despite the negative consequences his suspension has had on the team suggests he still has a future to look forward to on the gridiron despite his current circumstances.

Instead of running from the issue, to Grier's credit, he was candid about his mistake and didn't completely deny the situation, addressing the media in an emotional press conference upon his initial suspension.

As it stands right now, the 12-month suspension will not only cause Grier to miss the rest of this year, but also the first six games of the 2016 season.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football 2015 Week 10: Locks of the Week

With Week 10 of the college football season slated to have some truly awesome matchups, it's time to break down the top 10 locks. We're going to give our predictions for some of the games and single out the players who will make a difference. 

Will Derrick Henry make a difference in Alabama's next game? Is Florida State destined to lose against Clemson in Week 10?

Find out in the video above as Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer goes in depth on his locks for Week 10. 


Odds from Vegas Insider and accurate as of November  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Nightmare Scenario for College Football Playoff Selection Committee

Relax. It'll all work itself out. 

That was the message relayed by Bleacher Report colleague Adam Kramer Tuesday night following the unveiling of the first College Football Playoff Top 25. Kramer's not wrong, nor is he alone. While ESPN's rankings show can easily spark heated feelings and a sense of controversy—that is, of course, ultimately the point of the show—the general chorus of reaction was levelheaded.

It's Nov. 3

Ohio State was ranked 16th in last year's initial poll. 

This is supposed to be fun

All of these things are true in and of themselves. However, they all operate under the assumption things will, in fact, work out naturally. 

But what if they don't? After all, there have been few truly dominant teams. What if, instead of things getting clearer, they get more convoluted? As Chris Vannini of CoachingSearch.com tweeted, so many schedules across college football are both incomplete and back-loaded. Paul Myerberg of USA Today noted the sheer number of ranked teams that still have to play one another in a finite time span. 

For every optimist, there is a pessimist. Here's assuming nothing in college football "works itself out." Here's betting every team loses at least once—shoot, maybe twice. Here's thinking of a world of conference tie-breakers and Group of 5 playoff crashers. 

Here's college football's nightmare scenario. (For visual representation, allow us to direct you to the late, great Chris Farley attempting to sell brake pads.)

 

The SEC's Postseason Streak is Jeopardized

Since the SEC is almost always at the center of the discussion, it's as good a place to start as any. 

Jon Solomon of CBS Sports called the first playoff standings an "SEC love affair," and it's hard to say that's not the case. "The committee ranked LSU, Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Mississippi State all higher than those teams are slotted in both the Associated Press and USA Today coaches polls," Solomon wrote. 

Specifically, the Alabama Crimson Tide coming in at No. 4 struck a particular nerve. 

 “How [Alabama] won those games that they won against quality opponents, I think that sends a strong message of why we ranked Alabama higher than Florida,” committee chair Jeff Long said. 

The noteworthy detail about Alabama, however, is it does not control its SEC West destiny. Even if the Tide beat LSU on Saturday, they sit behind Ole Miss in the West standings because of a head-to-head loss. If the Rebels win out, they go to Atlanta for the SEC title game, not Alabama (or LSU). 

Ole Miss, though, has two losses (to Florida and Memphis). If Ole Miss wins the SEC as a two-loss team, it potentially puts the SEC's postseason appearance in jeopardy by allowing an undefeated Memphis to vault into the top four. Whether the Rebels are capable of that is another story. 

Yet a two-loss Ole Miss still might not be the worst thing that could happen to the SEC. Let's say Florida wraps up the SEC East on Saturday against Vanderbilt. Since the Commodores have all of three wins, and the Gators facing them at home, it's no surprise OddsShark.com lists Florida as a three-touchdown favorite. 

But then, Florida then loses a stunner at South Carolina and drops its rivalry game against Florida State. The Gators would still be Atlanta-bound, but as a three-loss team. What if Florida then beats Ole Miss for the second time this year to become SEC champs?

Does the selection committee do the expected thing and leave the SEC out of the playoff field? Or, does it dare insert a one-loss, non-divisional winner like Alabama or LSU into the field? It could be 2011 all over again. 

 

On That Note: Let's Talk About Memphis

College football's postseason format was not expanded to allow greater access for Group of 5 teams. Ironically, though, the field could feature a Group of 5 team sooner rather than later if college football decides to get especially weird. 

Memphis has officially arrived as the playoff Cinderella, coming in at No. 13 in the rankings. The Tigers look the part of a contender and could be the best team outside the power conferences since the days of the Boise State Broncos under head coach Chris Petersen and TCU when the Horned Frogs were in the Mountain West. 

The most intriguing part about Memphis is, aside from its win over Ole Miss, this team hasn't faced its toughest stretch yet. Beginning Saturday, the Tigers embark on a three-game stretch—vs. Navy, at No. 25 Houston and at No. 22 Temple—in which its opponents are a combined 21-2. Both losses (by Navy and Temple) came at the hands of Notre Dame.

If the Tigers go unbeaten, they will legitimately be in the playoff conversation. It would be a long shot, as Ralph Russo of the Associated Press and Matt Hinton, formerly of Grantland, opined, but it would be a shot nonetheless. 

Perhaps no team in college football would benefit from a cannibalized SEC like Memphis. If nothing else, an undefeated Memphis versus two-loss SEC champion Ole Miss versus one-loss Alabama or LSU would make for a fascinating, and possibly difficult, decision for the committee. 

 

The ACC Screws Itself

Clemson is the ACC's best hope for playoff inclusion, and it's not all that close. The Tigers are the No. 1 team according to the selection committee, and there's no way they drop four spots if they win out. 

The Florida State Seminoles are another story. Though FSU has only one loss, it's to a Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets team that might not make a bowl game. Regardless of how that game ended, it's a bad loss. Starting the playoff rankings at No. 16 isn't insurmountable by itself for the Seminoles—eventual national champs Ohio State started there last year—but the loss to the Yellow Jackets might be. 

Florida State's ACC title hopes aren't dead, though. In fact, they're alive and well if the Seminoles beat Clemson on Saturday. Such a scenario would be a massive blow to the ACC's playoff hopes. As Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports tweets, the deciding blow would be if the Seminoles win the ACC but lose to Florida in nonconference play. 

The other situation in which the ACC could screw itself out of a playoff spot is if Clemson runs the table in the regular season but somehow drops the conference championship game. Similar to the SEC, the committee would have to decide if a nonconference champion Clemson is still one of the four best teams in college football. 

Can anyone say 2003 Oklahoma?

 

Tiebreakers, Part I: The Big Ten

The playoff path for Ohio State, and even Michigan State, is clear if they keep on winning. The Buckeyes rank third in the standings with the Spartans coming in at No. 7. The Nov. 21 game between these two is still weighted with significance. 

However, Ohio State also still has to play Michigan on Nov. 28. That's a far bigger challenge than initially thought since Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh has turned things around quicker than anticipated. The possibility exists of a three-way tie atop the Big Ten East standings with Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State finishing 7-1 in conference play. (Michigan State has already beat Michigan.) 

For things to get truly wonky, Ohio State would have to beat Michigan State and then lose to Michigan the following week. Tom Dienhart of the Big Ten Network explains what would happen in such a scenario. 

The long story short? The playoff committee would play a deciding role in who wins the East division: 

The highest ranked team in the first College Football Playoff poll following the completion of Big Ten regular season conference play shall be the representative in the Big Ten Championship Game, unless the two highest ranked tied teams are ranked within one spot of each other in the College Football Playoff poll. In this case, the head-to-head results of the top two ranked tied teams shall determine the representative in the Big Ten Championship Game.

It would come down to this because the tie wouldn’t be broken by the conference’s first four tiebreakers.

Those are right here:

The records of the three tied teams will be compared against each other. (They all would be 1-1 vs. each other)

The records of the three tied teams will be compared within their division. (They all would be 4-1)

The records of the three teams will be compared against the next highest placed teams in their division in order of finish (4, 5, 6, and 7). (They all would be 4-0)

The records of the three teams will be compared against all common conference opponents. (They all would be 4-0)

Oh yeah, that will be fun and not at all entrenched in controversy. Nope, not one bit. 

 

Tiebreakers, Part II: The Big 12

You mean the top of the Big 12 could have a tie? Where have we seen this before?

Last spring, the Big 12 adjusted its tiebreaker procedures to give clarity to what was an unnecessarily confusing title race. In short, if two teams are tied, the head-to-head winner will be named the champion. If this had been in place last year, Baylor would have, officially speaking, been the Big 12's top team. 

But it's really the three-team tiebreaker where things get interesting: 

If three or more teams are tied, steps 1 through 4 will be followed until a determination is made. Once a team has been eliminated from a multi-team comparison, it is dropped from further comparisons. If only two teams remain tied after any step, the winner of the game between the two tied teams shall be the Champion.

The conference records of the three or more teams will be compared against each other.

The conference records of the three or more teams will be compared against the next highest placed team(s) in the conference (4, 5 and 6….).

When comparing against the next highest placed teams, a two-way tie among the next highest placed teams will be broken by head-to-head before the comparison begins.

If more than a two-way tie exists among the next highest placed teams, record against the collective tied teams as a group will be used.

Scoring differential among the tied teams. The team with the lowest difference between points scored and points allowed in games vs. the tied teams are eliminated from consideration.

Draw (In the event steps 1-3 cannot break a multi-team tie the champion will be determined by draw at the Conference office.

It's good to know the Big 12's protocol on tiebreakers, but the reality is if three teams finish with a loss—say, Baylor, Oklahoma State and TCU—the conference is likely being shut out of the playoff for the second year in a row. That would propel the Big 12 to install a deregulated conference championship, which would give its eventual champion one more critical game against a quality opponent. 

The only way a one-loss Big 12 team gets into the playoff is if there are several two-loss conference champions among the Power 5 leagues. 

 

The Pac-12's Uphill Climb

One of the many takeaways from Tuesdays rankings is the Pac-12 is in the worst position of any Power 5 conference. Stanford is the Pac-12's highest-ranked team at No. 11 with Utah one spot behind at No. 12. Only one other Pac-12 team is ranked: No. 23 UCLA. 

The playoff hopes for the Cardinal and Utes are still alive, but there's obviously no precedent set for a team coming from as far back in the rankings as UCLA. 

"Basically, the league has no margin for error," Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports wrote. "Either Stanford or Utah needs to run the table and finish as a 12-1 champion and hope both TCU and Baylor stumble."

Interestingly, the Pac-12's biggest game might not even be played between two conference opponents. The Nov. 28 game between Notre Dame and Stanford has major playoff implications for both teams. As Mandel notes, if the Irish win out and beat the Cardinal, it may not matter if Stanford wins the Pac-12. 

If Notre Dame beats Stanford, the Pac-12 might collectively (and secretly) pull for Utah to win out, provided the Utes still only have one loss. 

 

What Does it Mean?

Here's what the playoff committee could be dealing with if the worst of worst-case scenarios comes to fruition: 

Good luck with that. 

The last time college football's postseason was truly in a state of upheaval was 2007. While 2015 hasn't quite reached those levels of tomfoolery, the potential is there. 

So brace yourselves, playoff committee. The job isn't an easy one, and it's not without criticism, but Year 1 proved to be relatively straightforward. It also helped that No. 4 Ohio State won the whole thing, making that selection look glorious. 

The point being, the committee hasn't faced a situation—or number of simultaneous, non-mutually exclusive situations—in which it was truly tested. Just as many of college football's top teams will be put through the grinder in November, so too could the committee's thought process and decision-making. 

To paraphrase a popular college football saying: The selection committee ain't played nobody yet. 

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Power Ranking Big Ten QBs Heading into Week 10

With the final stretch of the regular season approaching, several Big Ten teams have no shortage of question marks—both positive and negative.

And whether a team has aspirations of making the College Football Playoff or creating momentum at the end of an otherwise disappointing campaign, its hopes are undoubtedly tied to the play of its quarterbacks in what's been a banner year for the position in the conference.

From an unprecedented quarterback battle at Ohio State to potential first-round picks playing at Penn State and Michigan State to surprise performances at Iowa and Northwestern, never has the league seen this much talent playing behind center at the same time in a single season. Even in the bottom half of the league, some teams have found reason for optimism moving forward, thanks in large part to the play of their signal-callers through the first two months of the regular season.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the current power rankings of Big Ten quarterbacks in 2015, based on their performances to this point in the year.

Begin Slideshow

Biggest Surprises from College Football Playoff Committee's Rankings

Although the rankings that matter don't come out for several more weeks, that didn't stop the college football world from devouring the first College Football Playoff Top 25 for the 2015 season, which was released Tuesday night.

The committee wasted no time in causing a firestorm with its initial rankings, prompting shouts of #SECbias and all-around disrespect from several fanbases across the country. 

These rankings had several notable surprises, especially in the coveted top six—the teams that get the special spots on the mock bracket during the ESPN broadcast. While most of these early disputes will work themselves out in the all-important month of November, the Top 25 gave everyone a glimpse at what the committee values most when determining who's in and who's out.

Here are five of the biggest surprises from the initial Top 25, which include a couple of higher-ranking household names and a soaring team that isn't a member of a traditional power conference.

If these surprising Top 25 rankings were just devices to generate more interest in upcoming games and spark heated arguments, consider that mission fully accomplished. Continue the debate over the most surprising calls in the comments below.

Begin Slideshow

Michigan Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of November

November builds up to the finish for the Michigan football program, which starts the month against a favorable opponent but ends against one of the nation's best teams.

Although the schedule sets up nicely for at least three wins, the Wolverines must tally four straight victories to stay in the Big Ten East Division hunt. Rutgers, Indiana, Penn State and Ohio State remain on the docket.

These predictions are based on the current health status and recent trends of each team. Things change, so the projected final scores may change as the games approach. The wins and losses are what matter the most.

 

Rutgers (Nov. 7, 3:30 p.m. ET)

In mid-October, the Scarlet Knights took Michigan State down to the wire. They had a chance to launch a last-second prayer to tie the game but instead spiked the ball.

However, Rutgers' key player in that matchup might not be available against Michigan. Wide receiver Leonte Carroo, who caught three touchdowns vs. MSU, is battling an ankle injury that has sidelined him partially (Ohio State) and completely (Wisconsin).

Those two outings showed how lost the Scarlet Knights offense is without Carroo, since the unit managed just 17 points, while the defense surrendered 97.

According to Matt Sugam of the Associated Press, Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said Carroo will play if he's medically cleared. That sounds vague—and probably is—but it's now up to the receiver and his pain threshold.

With or without Carroo, Michigan is the clear favorite. But even if he's available, Carroo will be limited and going up against Jourdan Lewis, one of the country's best cornerbacks.

Prediction: Michigan 27, Rutgers 6

 

Indiana (Nov. 14, TBD)

The Hoosiers opened the season with four straight wins, but then conference play began. Indiana stuck around with Ohio State, pushing the Buckeyes to a last-second effort inside the 10-yard line before ultimately falling short.

Since that strong effort, though, Penn State dismantled the Hoosiers, who allowed three touchdowns to Carroo. Indiana then lost to Rutgers and collapsed late against Michigan State.

While Indiana should be able to stick around with Michigan, Kevin Wilson's team has a significant problem: finishing in the fourth quarter. During Big Ten action, opponents have outscored the Hoosiers 70-10 over the final 15 minutes of contests.

The Wolverines had an issue against rival Michigan State, but that final-play collapse was a fluke of epic fluky proportions. Michigan will stave off Indiana and earn a relatively comfortable victory.

Prediction: Michigan 31, Indiana 13

 

Penn State (Nov. 21, TBD)

Penn State is a prime example of where box-score scouting and the eye test constantly clash.

Christian Hackenberg, who is projected as a first-round-caliber quarterback in the NFL, has thrown for 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions, leading the Nittany Lions to a 6-2 record. He's even avoided a pick during each of the last six games.

When the junior misses throws, they can be ugly. Really ugly. When Hack is on target, the pass is often an absolute dime.

Which version of Hackenberg shows up against the Wolverines will be the biggest factor in the outcome.

Michigan should have few issues overpowering Penn State's mediocre offensive line and subsequently neutralizing running back Saquon Barkley. It'll be up to Hackenberg to guide an offense devoid of standout receivers against the No. 9 pass defense in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Now, the Wolverines will encounter a run defense that could pose a tough test. Michigan likely won't run away with a victory, but it'll contain Hackenberg enough to win on the road.

Prediction: Michigan 24, Penn State 14

 

Ohio State (Nov. 28, noon ET)

Assuming the season continues as expected, Ohio State will travel to Michigan Stadium boasting an 11-0 record, while the Wolverines will be 9-2.

The biggest question, though, is which quarterback they'll face. J.T. Barrett earned the starting role but might've given it up following an arrest for operating a motor vehicle while impaired. He'll serve a one-game-suspension, so Cardale Jones will be back under center.

If Jones tears apart the Minnesota defense, will Urban Meyer stick with "12 Gauge" and send Barrett to the bench?

At this moment, it seems unlikely Barrett will demand the starting position back. He simply wasn't consistent enough during his stint, though Michigan would have a decent chance to beat Jones because he's limited as a runner.

Should Barrett remain at quarterback after the suspension, though—and Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer hasn't said Barrett has lost the job—his dual-threat ability will push Ohio State past a Wolverines defense that had some problems stopping Utah's and Minnesota's running quarterbacks.

Prediction: Ohio State 30, Michigan 24

 

All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from CFBStats.com. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Natrez Patrick, Chauncey Rivers Arrested: Latest Details, Mugshots and Reaction

Georgia freshmen defenders Natrez Patrick and Chauncey Rivers were arrested Wednesday on charges of misdemeanor possession of marijuana. Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt announced they would each be suspended one game as a result of the incident.  

Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com reported Patrick and Rivers were arrested by University of Georgia police early Wednesday morning and booked after 2 a.m. ET. He also provided a statement from Richt about the situation: "They made a very poor decision and I'm extremely disappointed. They will be disciplined in an appropriate manner and hopefully have learned a valuable life lesson that will benefit them moving forward."

Fox 5 Atlanta provided the players' mugshots:

Patrick had been seeing time as part of the team's linebacker rotation with 13 total tackles in seven games. He has an intriguing skill set that could allow him to eventually develop into a key pass-rushing asset for the Bulldogs, barring further off-field issues.

Rivers has been limited to more sporadic special teams duties in his first season. He's registered a single tackle in two appearances.

Both players will now miss the team's SEC clash with Kentucky on Saturday. Given their already limited playing time, they could struggle to get back on the field once their suspensions end, too.

Patrick and Rivers will be eligible to return when Georgia faces off with Auburn on Nov. 14.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Schools to Watch After 4-Star RB Kareem Walker Decommitted from Ohio State

A murky recruiting situation at Ohio State became clear-cut Tuesday night when coveted New Jersey running back Kareem Walker decommitted from the Buckeyes via Twitter.

"It is after much consideration, thought and meeting multiple times with my family and coaches that I'm rescinding my verbal commitment to Ohio State," Walker wrote. "At this point the relationship has changed. I've wrestled with this for a few months and truly wanted it to work out."

His internal struggle with the decision hasn't exactly been a secret during recent weeks, as Walker used an official visit at Michigan in October and later announced plans to spend time at Alabama, Arizona State and Ole Miss.

Those trips were intended to serve as a barometer for his feelings toward the Buckeyes.

"I'm committed to Ohio State. ... These visits are to confirm I'm making the right choice for my future," Walker explained last month, via Tom VanHaaren of ESPN. 

His travels were supposed to conclude with a fifth and final official visit to Columbus. The situation seemed to point toward him remaining a member of the Buckeyes class last week when he affirmed his initial choice during a CBS Sports broadcast with recruiting analyst Tom Lemming:

Instead, a lengthy verbal pledge is history. Walker, who committed to Ohio State at halftime of its national championship victory over Oregon, is officially back on the open market three months shy of national signing day.

The 6'1", 210-pound prospect is considered the No. 1 overall running back in composite rankings, setting the stage for a frenzied final stretch as he searches for an alternative landing spot. Walker, a 4-star recruit, is best suited for a one-cut rushing scheme in which backs quickly burst upfield rather than extending plays along the perimeter.

The DePaul Catholic High School senior has rushed for 3,551 yards and 45 touchdowns since 2013, according to MaxPreps.

Ohio State moves ahead in the 2016 cycle with former Wisconsin commit Antonio Williams and scintillating in-state H-back Demario McCall as candidates to earn early carries next season. The Buckeyes may still welcome Walker to Columbus during his college career, though odds are in favor of him returning in a maize-and-blue uniform.

Michigan is indeed the prohibitive favorite entering a new chapter in this recruitment process. The Wolverines carry commitments from three fellow New Jersey 4-star prospects—Ron JohnsonBrad Hawkins and Ahmir Mitchell—who each joined him during his visit to Ann Arbor.

"I think Kareem really liked the entire day. The fans knew who he was. The players knew who he was. Everyone was showing him love," Johnson told Bleacher Report. "He's a rare player. I need him with us at Michigan."

Wolverines recruiting coordinator Chris Partridge previously served as head coach at Paramus Catholic High School in the Garden State, where he led his team against Walker and DePaul Catholic last fall. Partridge has helped spearhead the program's push in New Jersey and also has Michigan in prime position to pluck Paramus Catholic defensive lineman Rashan Gary, the top-ranked overall recruit in America.

Like the Buckeyes, Michigan has managed to assemble impressive backfield depth in its 2016 class. The Wolverines carry commitments from Chris EvansKiante Enis and Kingston Davis, but it's clear there remains room for Walker. 

"I had a good trip to Michigan. It's the second time I've been there, but the first time with this staff," he said in a statement afterward, via VanHaaren. "The game atmosphere was tremendous; fans really love the team. I enjoyed speaking with the coaches and meeting everyone."

We must wait to learn if trips to Alabama, Arizona State and Ole Miss remain on Walker's radar in the wake of his decommitment. Those travel dates haven't been publicly confirmed to this point, and this development may ultimately alter previous plans. 

According to a late October report from Josh Newberg of 247Sports, Walker has also communicated with Florida State "peridocally" this season. He hasn't been to Tallahassee since June 2014, so the Seminoles likely still have strides to make in order to become a serious contender.

Following his journey to Ann Arbor, Walker still has four official visits at his disposal. It isn't clear whether he will still consider utilizing one at Ohio State or if his relationship with the Buckeyes is essentially severed.

Michigan now commands 73 percent of experts' predictions in his 247Sports Crystal Ball, including the past 16 projections. 

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.

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Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney Promises Pizza Party If Tigers Make 2015-16 Playoffs

The Clemson Tigers may be No. 1 in the current College Football Playoff rankings, but Clemson coach Dabo Swinney isn't celebrating yet.

However, if the Tigers are in the top four when the final ranking of the season comes out (before the playoffs), the coach will throw a party—and he will make sure everyone has a good time.

How? Free pizza.

Swinney downplayed the importance of earning the top spot in the first College Football Playoff poll of the season, noting that there's still a month to go. That being said, he did promise to throw a giant pizza party for Death Valley should his Tigers be selected for the 2015-16 College Football Playoff.

"The only poll that we’re excited about is Dec. 6, and I promise you we’ll have the biggest poll party you’ve seen," Swinney said, per Ed McGranahan of the State. "We’ll open up Death Valley and serve pizza to everybody. That’ll be a time to celebrate a poll. Until then it doesn’t matter.”

Even if you don't like football but you live near Clemson University, you now have a vested interest. There aren't many things in life better than pizza, let alone free pizza.

Swinney knows that his team can't afford to get caught up in the rankings. Clemson hosts No. 17 Florida State this weekend in a showdown that could decide the ACC Atlantic Division and will certainly have playoff implications.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

High School Safety Blasts Wide Receiver to Free Ball Up for Interception

Watch Dawson Siemonsma out of Plattsmouth High School perfectly time his hit on the opposing wide receiver to jar the ball loose for an interception in the clip above.

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Bowl Predictions 2015: CFP Projections Following Initial Poll Release

Commence the outrage.

The selection committee released the initial College Football Playoff poll Tuesday, and there were a number of surprises. The undefeated, defending national champion Ohio State Buckeyes found themselves at No. 3. Alabama is No. 4 despite a loss and zero wins over a Top 15 team, while undefeated Michigan State, Baylor and TCU are all on the outside looking in if the playoffs started today.

Here is a look at the complete rankings:

Remember, this is just the first poll, and the rankings are incredibly fluid, as the committee proved last year when the Buckeyes worked their way up to the title after starting No. 16 in the first College Football Playoff poll.

There are a number of marquee games that will impact the playoff picture far more than this first batch of rankings.

Ohio State and Michigan State still play each other, and the winner will likely play Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game. The SEC still features a number of marquee showdowns, including Saturday’s clash between LSU and Alabama and the conference title game between Florida and the eventual West champion. Plus, the Big 12 let everyone know how back-loaded its schedule is this year:

With so much still to be decided, here is a look at an early playoff prediction following this first poll.

 

No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State boasts arguably more talent than anyone else in the nation. In fact, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller had five Buckeyes in the first round of his mock draft, and the argument can be made for as many as seven or eight in those initial 32 picks.

That talent will shine through as the season progresses.

Some would argue the defending national champions should be No. 1 until another team knocks them off, but Ohio State is No. 3 in the initial rankings. That is largely a product of the schedule, but it will have opportunities against Michigan State and Michigan late in the season and then Iowa in the conference title game if it takes care of business. 

The Buckeyes will win those marquee games in the final three weeks and make a profound late statement to the committee. Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch declared the defending champions have nothing to worry about if they keep winning:

The title will once again run through the Scarlet and Gray.

 

No. 2 Clemson Tigers

If Clemson knocks off Florida State Saturday, Tigers fans should book their tickets to the College Football Playoff.

Dabo Swinney’s team already beat Notre Dame and a talented Appalachian State squad and survived tricky contests at North Carolina State and at Louisville. The heavy lifting is mostly done if the Tigers get by Florida State, and that game is at home. What’s more, Dalvin Cook and Everett Golson did not play in the Seminoles’ last game with injury concerns and could be limited in Saturday’s contest. 

The Tigers will watch Ohio State leapfrog them because of the late quality wins on the Buckeyes’ schedule, but they are still safely in the playoffs.

 

No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide

Let this sink in, everyone—the SEC champion is getting into the playoffs. Just accept it and enjoy the football. The selection committee made it clear it views the league as the best conference in the country with two teams in the Top Four and six in the Top 25 of Tuesday’s poll.

Just like last year, that champion will be the Crimson Tide. They already have a solid nonconference win over Wisconsin and victories at Georgia and at Texas A&M on the resume. In terms of what’s ahead, the LSU clash is at home Saturday, and Auburn looks nowhere near the top-notch team many expected before the season started.

The Crimson Tide will win out behind the powerful running of Derrick Henry and a stingy defense and represent the SEC in the College Football Playoff once again.

 

No. 4 Baylor Bears

Baylor was left on the outside looking in last season, but that won’t be the case in 2015. The Bears don’t have any quality wins of note yet, but they still have showdowns with Oklahoma, undefeated Oklahoma State and undefeated TCU on the remaining schedule.

Don’t mistake the lack of quality wins for the lack of talent when it comes to Baylor. The Bears are averaging a ridiculous 61.1 points per game this season, which is 12.2 points more than the next-closest team.

Even though quarterback Seth Russell is injured, wide receiver Corey Coleman and running back Shock Linwood are among the best players in the nation and will keep the offense rolling in the signal-caller’s absence.

Coach Art Briles was not afraid to discuss the overflowing amount of talent on the roster, per Chris Low of ESPN.com:

I've told the players that my only anxiousness comes from making sure we fulfill what we're capable of. You don't get many chances to bowl a 300 game. I don't want to bowl a 294 and almost be there. I want to be there. That's my anxiety because we're good.

It's the best team we've had in my eight years here, and I don't think it's even close.

This is the best team in the Big 12, and it will roll through the back-loaded schedule. That’s enough for a playoff berth this season.

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Why Alabama Shouldn't Be Ranked No. 4 in the College Football Playoff

Prior to the season, I picked Alabama to win the College Football Playoff Championship Game.

I still think Alabama will win the College Football Playoff Championship Game.

I think Alabama will run the table, get help with a loss by Ole Miss and win the SEC Championship Game.

Despite all of that, there's no reason why the Crimson Tide should be ranked fourth in the first edition of the 2015 College Football Playoff rankings.

Head coach Nick Saban's crew chimed in at the No. 4 spot on Tuesday night, behind only No. 1 Clemson, No. 2 LSU and No. 3 Ohio State, to the surprise of many.

Are you kidding me?

There's no reason for Alabama to be ranked higher than undefeated "Power Five" teams like Baylor, TCU or Michigan State.

Losses matter, especially home losses. Whether Alabama passes the eye test or not, it still lost at home to Ole Miss—a team that is ranked 18th in the CFP rankings.

In fact, it's a wonder how Florida is ranked six spots behind Alabama, based on a comparison of the resumes of the two SEC powers.

Florida's only loss came on the road to No. 2 LSU by seven points in a game in which Florida fought tooth and nail with backup quarterback Treon Harris, who was thrust into action the week of the game due to the suspension of starter Will Grier. Its loss was at night, at home, to those Rebels—a team that Florida beat at night, at home, 38-10, in a game that really wasn't as close as the score indicated.

Alabama's best win? Spare me the talk of "top-10 Georgia and Texas A&M on the road." 

Yes, those teams were ranked in the top 10 of other polls at the time they played, but the Aggies are 19th in the first edition of the CFP poll, and Georgia is an abject disaster.

"If you go look at Alabama and how they won those games that they've won against quality opponents, and I think that sends a strong message of why we ranked Alabama higher than Florida," CFP selection committee chairman Jeff Long said in his teleconference Tuesday night.

Give me a break.

Should LSU get credit for beating a "top-25 Auburn team" when it throttled the Tigers—who sit at 4-4 right now—during Week 3? 

Of course not.

Let's talk about what's really at play here: The CFP selection committee releases rankings in the middle of the season to program the sport for entertainment purposes.

It'll never outright admit that, but the human element is alive and well in that board room in Grapevine, Texas, and the members know that No. 2 LSU visits No. 4 Alabama this weekend, and one will fall out next week. Just as they knew No. 3 Auburn and No. 4 Ole Miss played the week after the first rankings last year. 

They know that the Big 12—which has Baylor at No. 6, TCU at No. 8, Oklahoma State at No. 14 and Oklahoma No. 15—essentially has a round-robin tournament among top contenders in the month of November.

"[Oklahoma State] still needs to play some stronger teams at the end of their schedule, and that's coming up for them, as well, so they'll get a chance," Long said. "Their overall strength of schedule thus far is not very high, so I think that's resulted in Oklahoma State being ranked behind Baylor and TCU."

Panic set in when Alabama was listed in the No. 4 slot, and even more when you looked one spot below to find fellow one-loss traditional power Notre Dame.

If the selection committee wants people to take it seriously, it has to place important things—you know, like wins and losses—ahead of the eye test and subjective metrics like "talent" and "eye test."

Alabama's presence in the top four indicates that it doesn't, which means that these weekly rankings should be taken with a grain of salt.

Or for what they really are: a programming device.

 

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

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

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Bleacher Report's College Football Ultimate Guide to Week 10

Congratulations! You have officially made it to the most exciting, intense and unpredictable month of the college football season. Take a bow. You did it.

Now, say farewell to your social life. Say goodbye to productivity. Don’t quit your job just yet, but at least build a confined sleep fort under your desk for naps. Naps are going to be important these next four weeks.

The month of November is where an already spectacular college football season reaches its apex. A combination of splendid scheduling along with a solid plateful of high-stakes intensity, each and every Saturday from this point on is destined to take a bat to your mailbox and continue driving. That’s a good thing; you need a new mailbox anyway.

The Big 12’s lineup of undefeated teams will all clash, starting this Saturday. Ohio State and Michigan State are still to meet. Yes, the Harbaugh-infused Wolverines will also get a crack at the Buckeyes. And the SEC and Pac-12 will do their darnedest to keep playoff resumes intact.

As for those energy-infused Group of Five headliners? Well, Memphis and Houston are less than two weeks away from touching gloves. But they have to get by this week first.

By the time December hits, few will be left standing. Chaos is imminent. Nap now so you can consume it all later.

And it all starts in Week 10, where we are guaranteed to see an undefeated team fall. Oh, and Alabama-LSU returns with purpose.

 

The Buffet: Previewing the Top 5 Games of Week 10

5. Notre Dame at Pittsburgh (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, ABC)

It won’t gobble up headlines like some of the other games on the Week 10 docket, but Notre Dame-Pittsburgh is deeply important. Sure, it might not be Big 12-ian in nature in terms of points scored, but entertainment value could be high.

The Irish seem to operate with suspense. It’s who they are, at least at this point in the season. And thus far, this mantra has worked out well.

Temple gave Notre Dame its best shot, although there are some zombie tendencies about Brian Kelly’s team that are admirable. Even though quarterback DeShone Kizer had his forgettable throws, he also seems to have it. Given the situation he's been thrown into, he’s been exceptional.

Pittsburgh saw its four-game winning streak snapped against North Carolina in Week 9. The Panthers fell 26-19 despite having ample opportunities to change the outcome. Quarterback Nathan Peterman played decent in the loss, although the offense simply could not generate enough big plays.

This will have to change against Notre Dame. While the Pittsburgh defense is capable of slowing down a potent offense for the second consecutive week, the offense will have to do its part.

It won’t be a masterpiece, but it will be fun. (Probably.)

 

4. Duke at North Carolina (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Let’s address the elephant in the room out of the gate. Duke lost a game last week on a play that wouldn’t pass at lunch recess. They lost on a play that ultimately got the ACC officials suspended less than 24 hours later.

They lost on, well, this:

“The decision that was made in replay was made after all the play was done on the field,” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said, speaking about this situation far more professionally than I would have. “So we’re still in the same mode. Nothing has changed other than they realized they got the replay wrong.”

This is going to linger; there’s no question. And yet, Duke has a significant game to play in a few days. This can’t linger any longer.

Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk has been excellent. He leads the team in passing—well, yeah—and also rushing. It will be on him to test a North Carolina defense that is, dare we say...good?

Under new DC Gene Chizik, the Tar Heels are suddenly functional. Chizik is currently coaching the nation’s No. 17 scoring defense. For reference, North Carolina was No. 119 in this category last season. Offensively they might not be as supercharged as we've seen in recent years, but senior Marquise Williams can be electric.

UNC, without much fanfare, has morphed into a contender. Duke is in a position to rebound from devastation. This is an enormous one in the ACC Costal. All broken hearts must be repaired.

 

3. Florida State at Clemson (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

It’s the most important game the ACC will feature all year, which should sound somewhat familiar. While Clemson-Florida State might not have the same buzz as Alabama-LSU, it’s not far behind. When these two teams meet, you should watch.

Clemson’s magnificent rebuild on defense suddenly looks more vulnerable than it did a week ago. There’s no shame in beating NC State 56-41 on the road in a classic look-ahead matchup. But given the defensive dominance early on, all those points allowed were a bit of a surprise.

Still, the offense is deadly and much more than quarterback Deshaun Watson. Running back Wayne Gallman has become a star in the ACC. While other running backs may be mentioned more, such as the primary back on the other sideline in this game, Gallman’s presence his been critical.

On the topic of running backs, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook might be the most explosive player in the nation. The Seminoles cruised right past Syracuse last weekend, doing so without quarterback Everett Golson or Cook. Jimbo Fisher rested his two ailing players for this very game and this very moment.

Cook won’t be 100 percent for the rest of the season, but even 80 percent of his kind of talent can be diabolical. In seven games, he’s averaging more than eight yards per carry and 12 yards per reception.

The health of the Seminoles’ best players will be a storyline to follow before the game and certainly during it. FSU is also banged up in other areas, including the offensive line. That's not optimal.

Last year's contest turned out to be a good one. We'll see if this follows along.

 

2. TCU at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, Fox)

It’s no surprise that TCU is undefeated entering Week 10 despite the handful of close calls it has had to maneuver past. It’s mildly surprising that Oklahoma State is undefeated at this point of the season, although this is no fluke. This team can play. 

The Big 12’s November spectacular starts in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Although their game against Texas Tech did not go well early, the Pokes rallied in the second half and posted a 70-spot in the win. Not bad. (Well, it’s really bad if you’re Texas Tech.) 

Although the individual offensive performances for Oklahoma State don’t jump off the page the way they do with TCU, this is a deep group. And on the defensive side, Emmanuel Ogbah is an absolute monster. He jumps off every page. More people need to be talking about him.

That is not an issue with Trevone Boykin. We talk about him plenty, and for good reason. Last week, Boykin threw for 388 yards, ran for 84 yards and scored four touchdowns. He also made a move so filthy that he received a high five from West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen.

Sometimes the only thing you can do is offer a surrender high five:

Home field will be significant. The offense from both teams will likely be absurd. This game might take six hours, and I plan to consume every morsel. Stock up the fridge for occasions like these.

 

1. LSU at Alabama (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, CBS)

It has grown into one of sport’s greatest yearly fixtures—doing so not with geographical bragging rights or trophies, but through meaningful moments and hitting that makes your bones weep. That seems like a lovely table-setter for a game that means a great deal to both programs and will likely feature collisions that make your television sway. 

So here we are. Both Alabama and LSU are coming off byes. Both operate with a very familiar, predictable and still taxing identity: run the football down the opponent’s throat and squeeze the hope out of the other sideline.

LSU has been able to operate with this blueprint thanks in large part to running back Leonard Fournette. Just look at his season. Even the numbers don’t put the talent into context. He does not stop, although that will be tested in Week 10.

While Alabama may not have Fournette, it does have its own tap-out battering ram. Derrick Henry might not have the numbers of his counterpart, although he can be equally as impactful. He’s also run for 379 yards in the last two games.

This is the part of an Alabama-LSU preview where the author tells you that the quarterbacks will decide the outcome. And sure, maybe Jake Coker and Brandon Harris will ultimately dictate the results. Or maybe one (or both) of the running backs will just run wild on the opposing defense and win the good ol' fashion way—a method so predictable that no one saw it coming.

It's No. 2 in the current College Football Playoff standings versus No. 4. But it's much, much more than that.

 

The Game You Should Carve Out Time to Watch (Part One): Navy at Memphis (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

The depth of Week 10 exists in the undercard. That’s one to tell you—no, implore you—to watch Memphis play Navy. Sure, Alabama and LSU will be footballing at this time, but do carve out some time. Either that, or fire up the DVR. 

Memphis did not look like a Top 25 team early on against Tulane last week, although the Tigers got it together just fine. An early effort like that against Navy, however, will not fly. The Midshipmen are 6-1, and quarterback Keenan Reynolds just tied an NCAA mark when he rushed for touchdown No. 77 in his career. 

Navy can push Memphis’ Cinderella run to the brink or beyond. Memphis best be careful.

 

The Game You Should Carve Out Time to Watch (Part Two): Cincinnati at Houston (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Again, don’t just focus in on one or two games. Not with the things Tom Herman has brewing at Houston. 

After shutting out Vanderbilt 34-0, the Cougars enter a critical two-game stretch with loads of momentum. However, for those who weren’t watching Cincinnati take on UCF last weekend—and quite honestly, I can’t blame you for that—here’s what you missed from quarterback Gunner Kiel: 

Gunner Kiel is gonna spend his film session today catching up on Netflix shows. pic.twitter.com/4DBdRTocUs

— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) November 1, 2015

So, yeah. Watch this one. Oh, I should also point out that Houston and Memphis meet in Week 11. That could be enormous.

 

The Game That Could Break The Scoreboard: Texas Tech at West Virginia (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1)

There are a handful of games that could push upward of 100 points, although I’ll take the matchup featuring the defense that has given up 133 points in its past two games and another defense that allowed 100 points the last two weeks.

If defense is your cocktail of choice, don't bother with Texas Tech-West Virginia. It will haunt you.

Both offenses can score. Both defenses can, well, allow scoring. The scoreboard might light on fire before the couches do in Morgantown.

 

Power Ranking November’s Top 10 Games

We can’t talk about this amazing month of football without backing it up with cold, hard evidence. Week 10 is exceptional as is, although the next four weeks are a fine, deep catalog of guaranteed weirdness.

I’d like to apologize in advance for any omissions. I could have made this list a Top 25, Top 50 or Top 100. Blame the editors for these word counts.

10. Florida State at Clemson (Saturday)

9. TCU at Oklahoma (November 21) 

8. Memphis at Houston (November 14) 

7. LSU at Ole Miss (November 21)

6. Oklahoma at Baylor (November 14)

5. Ohio State at Michigan (November 28) 

4. Notre Dame at Stanford (November 28) 

3. LSU at Alabama (Saturday) 

2. Michigan State at Ohio State (November 21)

1. Baylor at TCU (November 27)

 

Parting Shot: The Silly Season Has Started Early, and the End Result Will be Madness

We are still three weeks away from Thanksgiving—the landmark on the calendar that typically serves as the spark plug for the hiring and firing season. But in 2015, we didn't have to wait to carve the turkey. There are already 10 FBS programs looking for new head coaches. 

The latest additions to this list are Virginia Tech and Hawaii. Frank Beamer, after a wonderful career, has decided to retire after this season. Norm Chow, who could never really kick into that next gear at Hawaii, was relieved of his duties. Of course, Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill resigned last week due to concerns over his health.

By itself, it would be substantial. I mean, 10 openings, even in this climate, is a ton. These jobs alone will create a ripple effect that will have an enormous national impact, especially with high-profile programs such as USC, Miami and Virginia Tech all looking for new guidance. 

But that’s not even the most staggering the part. The true lunacy is that we are nowhere close to being done. Firing season really hasn’t started, and the Silly Season has yet to truly open its doors for business.

It’s hard to handicap just what jobs will open, although this is not the end. Will Georgia make a change at the top with Mark Richt? Could West Virginia make a change with Dana Holgorsen? What about Kevin Wilson at Indiana and Darrell Hazell at Purdue? Or Paul Rhoads at Iowa State? Or Mike London at Virginia?

Will the NFL lure a college coach or two away? What surprises are in store?

There are no guarantees in this business. But I guarantee that there is much more to come. By December, there could be upward of 20 teams looking for a new leader.

The end result will be message-board madness. The servers will weep. Coaching rumors will consume the holiday season, and “sources” will be a fixture at the end of the year. And yes, agents and current head coaches searching for leverage are going to make an absolute fortune from all of this. It's inevitable.

It’s going to be wild, frustrating and, of course, entertaining. Don’t worry about it now. There is far too much quality football to focus on.

But don’t forget about it, either. It will be here soon.

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