NCAA Football

SMU Is the Worst Team in College Football, but Has Seen Tougher Days

These days, Southern Methodist might as well designate the “U” in SMU to stand for underdogs. No matter what college football team the Mustangs played right now, that would be their status.

SMU hardly is the first college team to start a season 0-6, but the scores have been so brutally bad this season they’ve created the illusion that football could disappear from the Dallas campus.

That happened there once before, in 1987-88, when repeated NCAA violations made SMU the only football team ever hit with the so-called “death penalty.”

But the reality is that it’s not going to happen again, even though SMU is world-class awful.

How bad are the Mustangs?

In six games they have scored only four touchdowns. The dreadful tally for total points is 39 for and 288 against. That ranks them dead last among FBS schools for points scored and also for points given up, and it pretty much defines Southern Methodist as the worst team in the nation.

Speculation about giving up on this disastrous team spiraled when the greatest running back in SMU history popped off and said maybe it would be the best thing to do.

That theory came from Eric Dickerson, the NFL Hall of Famer, who along with Craig James formed the “Pony Express” backfield that made SMU famous and feared before the NCAA hammer fell.

Reacting to the September resignation of coach June Jones—who quit after losing the opening two games by a combined score of 88-6—Dickerson told KRLD-FM in Dallas (via E.J. Holland of TheDallas Morning News) that:

I talked to four former players yesterday, and we all said if they don’t want to do anything, just kill the program. Just stick to academics and basketball and kill that program. It’s so frustrating for us to watch SMU become nothing but a laughing stock or almost non-existent. It’s almost like it doesn’t exist.

Why Jones walked away still hasn’t been explained. He invoked the ever convenient “personal reasons,” leaving some to wonder whether he had problems with the administration. Or whether, at the age of 61, Texas recruiting wars had taken a toll.

But it really doesn’t really matter what made the last coach of the run-and-shoot offense pack it in. What’s much more relevant is that SMU, despite its checkered history, did get back on its feet under Jones.

He took the Mustangs to four consecutive bowl games from 2009-2012, winning three, before dipping to 5-7 during the 2013 season. That ended a bowl drought that had stretched more than two decades for the most heavily penalized football team in NCAA history.

 

So SMU can field a winner, even if at the moment the only thing notable about the Mustang roster is that it includes wide receiver Deion Sanders Jr., son of "Prime Time."

One reason to believe that SMU can turn around the football program is what happened over at Moody Coliseum with the basketball team. Larry Brown was given a top-notch contract in 2012 and rewarded SMU’s generosity with a rapid turnaround.

The Mustangs might have been the best team left out of last year’s NCAA tournament and are projected as a top-10 team this season by CollegeFootballTalk.com. The irony is that Jones played a key role in getting Brown hired, even though he was 71 at the time.

Why would a coach want to take over SMU now? Lots of reasons. For one, the only direction it can go is up. Another is that the money probably will be excellent. Also, rapid success seems possible in the American Athletic Conference, where good-but-not-great East Carolina and Central Florida sit atop the standings.

And don’t underestimate the big-city recruiting allure of being in Dallas, as opposed to some of the Texas colleges that are out on the prairie.

SMU athletic director Rick Hart certainly doesn’t sound like he’s throwing in the towel.

After Jones’ resignation Hart told Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News that: “We won’t have a shortage of individuals from whom to select. This is a terrific job and the types of coaches we consider are going to know that. I’ll know when I sit down with people whether or not they’re the right fit. I’m not going to have to talk anybody into this.”

Given the pass-happy ways of college football in Texas, speculation about SMU’s next coach has focused on offensive coordinators who have roots or experience in the Lone Star State. They include Clemson’s Chad Morris, Texas A&M’s Jake Spavital, Baylor’s Philip Montgomery and Ohio State’s Tom Herman.

I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that whoever that new coach is, he won’t take over a team that goes winless in 2014. SMU still has a Nov. 8 date with 1-6 Tulsa and a Dec. 6 confrontation with 1-5 UConn. So there's hope for the underdogs.

And if any school has a history of digging its way out of the doghouse, it’s SMU.

 

Tom Weir covered college football as a columnist for USA Today.

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Urban Meyer's Tough Love Pushing Ohio State to Be Great

Since stumbling in an upset loss to Virginia Tech in Week 2, Ohio State has looked unstoppable in routs over Kent State, Cincinnati, Maryland and Rutgers.

But according to Urban Meyer, his team isn't playing at the level he expects it to, and he hasn't been shy about voicing that opinion. 

On the heels of a 39-point beatdown of the Scarlet Knights last Saturday, a game in which the Buckeyes out-gained their opponent by 240 total yards, Meyer talked as if the performance was a letdown. 

So what would Meyer consider great? That bar hasn't been reached despite Ohio State piling up more than 500 total yards and at least 50 points in four consecutive games, which set and tied school records, according to Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com.

It's clear that Meyer has high expectations for his team, but that also extends to individual players. 

Quarterback J.T. Barrett has been sensational during Ohio State's dominant four-game stretch, completing 71.7 percent of his passes while throwing for 17 touchdowns against one interception. A brilliant performance against Rutgers earned him Big Ten Player of the Week honors. 

What did Meyer think of the showing from his rising signal-caller, who currently ranks third nationally in passer efficiency? 

"He could have played a lot better," Meyer said, according to Ari Wasserman of The Plain Dealer.

But those comments aren't made to put his Buckeyes down. Meyer is looking to motivate and—to his credit—it's having a positive effect that's permeating through the team. 

Linebacker Joshua Perry knows why Meyer is pushing so hard, according to Bill Rabinowitz of The Columbus Dispatch.

We all know we’re not as good as we could be right now. That’s kind of the interesting thing. We’ve been playing really well and beating teams by a lot, but we still have got a way to go on offense, defense and in the kicking game. 

I think that’s what [Meyer is] excited about, and that’s why he’s grinding us so hard. That’s what our leaders recognize, and that’s why we’re grinding so hard.

Fellow linebacker Darron Lee echoed that sentiment after Ohio State's thrashing of Rutgers.

The Buckeyes will need that hunger on the road this week when they travel to Happy Valley for a matchup against Penn State. One of the nation's most hostile environments will challenge a team stocked with first- and second-year players. 

But Meyer has made sure his players will go into Beaver Stadium with the right attitude.

“I love coaching this team,” Meyer said, according to Eric Seger of The Ozone.  "If our expectations are higher than the player’s themselves, that’s a problem.”

 

All stats via NCAA.com.  

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Arkansas State RB Tackled on Defender, Gets Up to Score 70-Yard TD

Arkansas State faced Louisiana-Lafayette on Tuesday night, and Red Wolves running back Michael Gordon took a handoff and was seemingly tackled on what should have been a decent gain. 

But Gordon was on top of a defender and, therefore, was never ruled down. So he got up and took off for the 70-yard touchdown while the Ragin' Cajuns stood around and watched. 

Always play till the whistle, kids. 

[Reddit CFB, h/t College Spun]

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UCLA Football: Position-by-Position Midseason Grades for the Bruins

The No. 25 UCLA football team hasn't quite lived up to the expectations placed upon the Bruins before the 2014 season began. 

At 5-2, Jim Mora's team is likely out of the mix for a potential berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff. Injuries and poor play at certain positions have contributed to the current state of the squad. 

This piece will give a letter grade for every position unit on the team. The marks will be based both upon the statistical output in 2014 and the perception of the unit heading into the year. 

Here's a look at the position-by-position midseason grades for the UCLA Bruins. 

Begin Slideshow

UCLA Football: Position-by-Position Midseason Grades for the Bruins

The No. 25 UCLA football team hasn't quite lived up to the expectations placed upon the Bruins before the 2014 season began. At 5-2, Jim Mora's team is likely out of the mix for a potential berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff...

Begin Slideshow

Jerome Baker Flips to Ohio State: Buckeyes Land Former 4-Star Florida Commit

The Florida Gators' 2014 season has been an embarrassment for many fans, but now it may be adversely affecting them on the recruiting trail.

Four-star athlete Jerome Baker, who had earlier committed to the Gators, announced on Twitter Tuesday night that he would instead be heading to Columbus to play for Urban Meyer's Ohio State Buckeyes:

In July, Baker announced on Bleacher Report that he was joining up with the Gators.

However, with Florida struggling mightily in the hyper-competitive SEC, and major questions as to head coach Will Muschamp's future, it's a tumultuous time in Gainesville at the moment.

Bucknuts' Bill Kurelic, however, believed that Baker's future wasn't tied directly with Muschamp (via Mark Neal of ESPN Radio in Dayton, Ohio):

With Baker's defection, Florida now has 10 players signed to its 2015 recruiting class, per Derek Tyson of ESPN.com:

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Baker, listed as an athlete/outside linebacker/running back, is the 46th-ranked recruit in the country and fourth-best athlete. He's also ranked No. 2 in the state of Ohio.

Baker's expected to play linebacker, of which Ohio State has gathered an impressive amount over the last two years, per Tom VanHaaren of 247Sports:

USA Today's Dan Wolken thought it was another twist of the knife from Meyer, who won two national titles at Florida before leaving abruptly after the 2010 season:

The Gators' loss is the Buckeyes' gain. Florida dropped 15 spots to 47th in 247Sports' team rankings for 2015 as a result of the flip, while OSU rose three places to 11th.

As Ohio State continues to close the gap on the elite of the SEC, it will need players like Baker to bridge the gap. He's a freakish athlete who could wreak havoc on opposing offenses if he fulfills his potential.

Meanwhile, a bad season for the Gators just got a little bit worse.

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Top Florida Recruits Lobbying for Will Muschamp's Job on Twitter

Things haven't gone according to plan in Gainesville for Florida head coach Will Muschamp lately, leading to expansive speculation about his job stability. The Gators are 4-10 since October 2013 and just suffered an embarrassing 29-point home loss to Missouri.

Muschamp capped off the 2012 campaign with a trip to the Sugar Bowl, but that season appears to be an outlier at this point. His other three years have resulted in an 8-13 record against SEC opponents, and the team fell short of postseason qualification last fall. 

University athletic director Jeremy Foley released a statement Monday, saying school administration will "evaluate the season as it plays out," per Chris Low of ESPN.com. Despite vast assumptions that Muschamp's days as a Gator are numbered, two of America's top prospects came to his defense Tuesday on Twitter:

Top-ranked 2015 running back Damien Harris, who lists Florida among five finalists, voiced his opinion first. The 5-star Kentucky standout believes it wouldn't be a wise decision to fire Muschamp.

"He's such a good coach and great to his players," Harris tweeted. "Can't replace that."

Jacques Patrick responded just two minutes later. The coveted Orlando playmaker, scheduled to announce his collegiate commitment Oct. 27, was succinct.

"I agree with this 100 percent," he replied. 

Neither player is expected to become a Gator, but both have established relationships with Florida coaches and players during their respective recruiting processes.

Florida State is the strong consensus pick for Patrick's destination, while Harris is still considering Alabama, Kentucky, Texas A&M and Ohio State. The duo has combined to rush for more than 12,000 total yards and 200 touchdowns during illustrious high school careers.

Their statements aren't likely to sway Florida administration one way or the other when the time comes to make a decision, but they provide a reminder of how perception translates on the recruiting trail. Coaching staff bonds forged along the way to national signing day sometimes trump a team's win-loss record.

Florida currently holds 10 commitments in a 2015 class rated 47th nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings. Linebacker Jerome Baker, a 4-star recruit, flipped from the Gators to Ohio State on Tuesday night, according to Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports.

It's been a rough week for Muschamp, but at least he knows two of the nation's best players have his back. 

 

Recruit ratings and information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Lane Kiffin's Impact on the Alabama vs. Tennessee Rivalry

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — University of Tennessee chancellor Jimmy Cheek sent an email to students following a 10-9 loss to Florida on Oct. 4.

The UT student section had been caught on TV chanting, “F--k you, Florida.” Cheek obviously did not approve of the cheer coming through loud and clear on a national broadcast, so he sent the email admonishing the “totally unacceptable” chant.

His email, though, will probably largely be ignored this week, as Tennessee will host a homecoming as unwelcoming as any in recent memory.

Lane Kiffin, who was Tennessee’s head coach all of 14 months before bolting in the dead of night for his dream job at USC, will come back to Knoxville as offensive coordinator of No. 4 Alabama.

Kiffin, whose departure incited riots in the streets of Knoxville that included a burning mattress, has joined forces with Tennessee’s most hated rival and the fanbase's other most hated personality in college football: Nick Saban.

And in turn, it has cranked up the intensity on a rivalry that has fallen flat over a seven- (likely soon to be eight-) game winning streak by Alabama.

“That email and that request will probably fall on deaf ears by the time (the game) comes around,” said Zac Ellis, a Sports Illustrated college football writer and former editor of The Daily Beacon, Tennessee’s student paper, who grew up in Knoxville.

If you are a Tennessee fan or lived in Knoxville at the time, you knew where you were the night of Kiffin’s departure.

It came suddenly, around 9 p.m. local time. It didn’t take long for word to spread, and suddenly, Knoxville looked more like a war zone than a college town.

Among the memorable scenes from the night was Kiffin holding a press conference in Knoxville—almost unheard of for a departing coach.

“Students were out there burning mattresses and burning Tennessee T-shirts with Kiffin’s face on them,” Ellis said. “People were trying to get into the actual building where the press conference was taking place. It was a bunch of nonsense. Didn’t make the fanbase look very good, in my opinion, on a national level. But it was a pretty crazy night.”

The hatred toward Kiffin in that moment was twofold. The first part, Ellis said, is the way it cast Tennessee on a national level.

“Tennessee fans really have a tough time accepting that anybody would look at Tennessee as a stepping stone,” he said. “In fans’ minds, that’s what they think Kiffin did.”

The second is the fact that Kiffin was doing some good things in Knoxville. He was 7-6 in his lone season and recruiting at a high level. Seven wins don’t seem like a lot for a program like Tennessee, but the Volunteers haven’t hit that win total since.

“Most places that don't like him is because he left and they were mad because he left,” Saban reminded people after Kiffin’s Alabama debut. “They weren't mad about anything he did while he was there.”

The hatred toward Kiffin quieted down some, though, in the ensuing years. Derek Dooley took over, and as Kiffin had his ups and downs at USC, the vitriol subsided somewhat.

Then Saban came calling.

“Despite everything that’s happened in between, the hatred for Lane Kiffin with Tennessee fans is about as strong as it’s been,” said Josh Ward, host of Sports 180 on The Sports Animal WNML in Knoxville. “Not as much as the night he left, but since then, they’ve held that hatred at a really high level.

“It probably helped remind Tennessee fans that they hate Lane Kiffin and that they really want to see bad things happen to him. And they would love to be responsible for it with Tennessee taking on Alabama as a rival. Maybe for a short period of time they didn’t spend as much energy hating Lane.”

It’s hard to see Tennessee fans getting their wish for revenge this weekend.

The Crimson Tide looked like the best team in the country last weekend in a 59-0 dismantling of Texas A&M. Tennessee has yet to notch an SEC win, losing even to hapless Florida.

That doesn’t mean that fans will hold back their feelings, especially early on.

“There will be a chorus of boos,” Ward said. “It will be very loud, and it will be very obvious who they are pointing that anger towards. Alabama is going to be booed no matter what, so I don’t know what the difference will be. It’s fascinating to see that he’s on the sideline.”

Kiffin’s presence on the sideline—where he’s been all year, instead of the press box like previous offensive coordinators under Saban have been—will only ramp up the tension. The Tennessee student section sits right behind the visiting sideline, so it will be very easy for students to make their voices heard.

“You have to wonder if there will be a specific chant,” Ward said. “I wouldn’t be surprised—as much as Butch Jones and Jimmy Cheek, the chancellor, have said, ‘Hey we don’t want that at Tennessee’—I wouldn’t be surprised to see that at Tennessee this week.”

Saban, of course, is downplaying the Kiffin homecoming from his side of things.

“I think it's only a distraction if you allow it to be a distraction,” he said Monday.

But whether the team lets it be a distraction, whether players hear it or not, it will be there. And it will be a welcome injection of life into an otherwise stale rivalry.

 

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

Follow on Twitter: @marctorrence.

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Florida Fan Posts Craigslist Ad in Hopes of Finding Next Gators Coach

The University of Florida football program has gone downhill since Urban Meyer left, and Will Muschamp's days as Gators coach may be limited. The losing has at least one fan looking to speed up the search process for the next head coach.

Last year, Florida went 4-8 under Muschamp. Things aren't looking much better this year, as the Gators are off to a 3-3 start. Florida needed three overtimes to beat Kentucky at home and defeated Tennessee by a single point. Despite winning its first two games of the season, the team has lost three of its past four.

Florida's 42-13 loss to Missouri on Saturday was certainly a low point. When the score reached 41-0, a "Fire Muschamp" chant broke out at the Swamp.

Now, a Craigslist ad has been made by a fan who wants to see Muschamp replaced.

Here are some of the highlights:

Composure includes but is not limited to 1) not screaming at players and referees regularly, 2) resisting facial expressions suggesting you are ready to commit violent acts on the sideline, 3) taking personal shots at other fan bases on live tv after barely winning a game you should have lost, and 4) not looking like a deer in the headlights when things go wrong.

Must not have the last name of Zook. We tried you out once. Didn't work out. Sorry.

If you happen to have the last name of Spurrier, you can skip the interview process this time. Seriously. We're sorry. The job is yours. Please come back.

If you meet the criteria, feel free to apply for the job. However, if Steve Spurrier decides to leave South Carolina for Gainesville, your chances will take a huge hit.

[Craigslist]

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10 Quarterback Recruits Who Will Put Up Big Numbers in the Pac-12

The Pac-12 is widely viewed as a college football conference on the rise. Sustained institutional success, strong recruiting efforts and high-profile coaches have helped elevate the status of a 12-team group that currently includes just two sub-.500 teams. 

An incoming wave of top-tier quarterback talent should further enhance the Pac-12's national clout, as several West Coast standouts have opted to remain in the region.

California is home to eight of the country's top 15 passers in 247Sports' 2015 composite rankings, and six of them are committed to schools within the conference. 

Impressive prospects in earlier stages of their recruitment also warrant serious consideration. We review the promise of those youngsters and potential instant-impact abilities of a stacked 2015 quarterback class to project players primed to enjoy success as Pac-12 stars.

Begin Slideshow

10 Quarterback Recruits Who Will Put Up Big Numbers in the Pac-12

The Pac-12 is widely viewed as a college football conference on the rise. Sustained institutional success, strong recruiting efforts and high-profile coaches have helped elevate the status of a 12-team group that currently includes just two sub-...

Begin Slideshow

Texas A&M Football: Position-by-Position Midseason Grades for the Aggies

The Texas A&M football team is 5-3 overall and 2-3 in the SEC as it enters its bye week. The Aggies have some major deficiencies at certain positions, which has inhibited them from playing at an elite level. 

With three conference losses, the Aggies are out of the running for the SEC title. They need to try to get better in every phase of the game in order to finish the season off right and create momentum for 2015. 

In order to win at a high level in the SEC, you need to have an elite defense. The Aggies do not have an elite defense because of their poor play at the linebacker position.

This is a look at how all the individual positions have performed during the first half of the season.  

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Current Stars with Best Shot to Be in College Football Hall of Fame Someday

It is difficult trying to put history into context as it happens. What separates a current college football star from a college football legend? Which household names will endure?

Predicting which current stars will make the College Football Hall of Fame gets even harder when you factor in the importance of tangible accomplishment. Predicting Hall of Famers is predicting future Heisman winners, conference champions, etc.

If I had all of those answers, I'd live in Vegas. 

Nevertheless, here is a list of eight current players who have put themselves in a position to make a run. Most of them are veterans—players who have already achieved some milestones—but I've also included some underclassmen who are off to fast starts.

Sophomores such as Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa and Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche were tempting to include because I think they have a shot to make the All-America team this season, and if they returned next year looking for their second All-America season, they would have a great case to make the Hall of Fame.

However, neither of those players would have a great case if they don't make the All-America team this season, especially since they both look good enough to declare early for the 2016 NFL draft.

Cases such as that were omitted, but perhaps I'll make an updated projection after the season, when we have more information.

For now, chime in below and tell me whom else you'd add.

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Texas vs. Kansas State Complete Game Preview

The Texas Longhorns will hit the road to face No. 11 Kansas State in a stadium that has not been good to the Longhorns in recent history.

Manhattan, Kansas, is Kryptonite to Texas football. The Longhorns have not won a game in Manhattan since 2002. Kansas State is the only Big 12 team to hold a winning series record over Texas, and the Longhorns have only won one game in Manhattan in program history.

Can Texas end its losing streak in Manhattan? Let's take a look.

When: Saturday, Oct. 25, 12 p.m. ET

Where: Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kansas

TV: ESPN

Austin radio: KVET 98.1/1300

SiriusXM satellite radio: XM 202; Sirius 117; Internet 969; Spanish 550

Last meeting: Sept. 21, 2013, Austin, Texas

Last meeting outcome: Texas 31, Kansas State 21

Opening spread: Kansas State (-13), via OddsShark.com

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USC Football: John 'JuJu' Smith Primed to Be Trojans' Next Star Receiver

Many star receivers have called USC home over the years, and after his breakthrough performance in the Trojans’ 56-28 romp over Colorado last Saturday, freshman John “JuJu” Smith looks ready to become the next.

Smith caught four passes for 104 yards, made a highlight-reel play in the first quarter and scored his first career touchdown on a seven-yard strike from quarterback Cody Kessler.

That first touchdown marked a significant milestone for the former 5-star recruit.

“I was hoping to score this week,” a smiling Smith said as he made his way up the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum tunnel.

There's nothing quite like the first time, and for Smith's veteran teammates like running back Javorius "Buck" Allen, seeing the freshman register his first touchdown was great.

"I love that JuJu got his touchdown," Allen said.

Smith has a high standard to meet to write his name alongside the many great wide receivers who wore cardinal and gold before him. It's a list that includes names like Keyshawn Johnson, Mike Williams, Dwayne Jarrett, Marqise Lee and Smith's teammate, Nelson Agholor.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that Smith has a high ceiling and plenty of time to reach it.

He certainly took one big step to that end Saturday, in the process setting a standard by which head coach Steve Sarkisian can measure current Trojans.

"How he played Saturday, I would love our entire team to play every time they take the field," Sarkisian said of Smith during a conference call on Sunday.

Neither the 104 yards nor the touchdown reception Smith had tell the full story of how significant his performance was. After all, he tallied 123 receiving yards in his USC debut against Fresno State, immediately validating the hype he had coming out of Southern California prep powerhouse Long Beach Poly.

Rather, Smith's effort against Colorado was the freshman answering the challenge Sarkisian set for his team during the preceding week.

"Coach told me we need to make explosive plays, and when the ball was thrown to me, I took advantage," Smith said.

Smith took advantage to the tune of 26 yards per reception, and even that element of Smith's play misses a critical part of why he stands out to Sarkisian.

"It's easy to look at four catches for over 100 yards and a touchdown," Sarkisian said. "But what he did blocking perimeter, what he did [on] special teams—I think [linebacker] Quinton [Powell] had one more rep than him on special teams, but playing second-most reps on special teams—it was awesome to see coming from a true freshman."

That Smith is standing out isn't necessarily a surprise. He was one of the most highly sought-after prospects of the 2014 recruiting class, with suitors around the nation.

One was Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham, whose No. 19-ranked Utes face Smith and the Trojans Saturday in a marquee Pac-12 showdown.

"Very good athlete. We recruited him back in high school," Whittingham said on Tuesday's Pac-12 coaches conference call. "We knew back then he was a heck of a defensive player."

Smith starred at safety as well as wide receiver in his time at Long Beach Poly. Had Sarkisian and his staff opted to play the freshman in the secondary, he could very well be starring there instead.

Smith's mindset, as Sarkisian described, certainly suggests the youngster would acclimate well no matter where the Trojans used him.

"JuJu brings a great attitude and mentality every day to practice, every day to school, every day as a teammate," Sarkisian said. "He's just been a model person in our program."

But playing receiver seems to be suiting Smith just fine. Whittingham may have summed it up best.

"For a freshman, he's doing some really good things and he obviously has a bright future," he said.

Smith's future may be bright, but there's a glow building in his present as well, and the spotlight was on him Saturday as he exited the Coliseum field.

A smattering of Trojans fans greeted him on his way to the locker room with shouts of "JuJu!" in appreciation for his big day.

It won't be the last time the USC faithful sing Smith's praises, and it won't be the last time he leaves the field with a touchdown in tow either.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Football: John 'JuJu' Smith Primed to Be Trojans' Next Star Receiver

Many star receivers have called USC home over the years, and after his breakthrough performance in the Trojans’ 56-28 romp over Colorado last Saturday, freshman John “ JuJu ” Smith looks ready to become the next...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Insider's Look at LeBron James' Impact on Ohio State Football

COLUMBUS, Ohio — With about 30 minutes to go until Ohio State's Sept. 6 kickoff with Virginia Tech, Braxton Miller came strolling out of the newly renovated Ohio Stadium tunnel with a sharp navy suit taking the place of his customary Buckeyes uniform.

Three weeks removed from suffering a season-ending torn labrum, Miller was met with a hero's welcome from the Ohio State faithful, who chanted his name in his first public appearance since enduring the injury.

But as loud as the ovation for the reigning two-time Big Ten MVP was on that night, it paled in comparison to what took place mere moments later.

Dressed in a black and red Nike sweatsuit and black Tackma snapback hat, LeBron James came strolling out of the very same tunnel, whipping what would be a record crowd at Ohio Stadium into a frenzy.

"Hey LeBron, O-H!" the Buckeyes' student section shouted in unison as James walked up the field to observe warm-ups.

The Cleveland Cavaliers megastar turned around and acknowledged the crowd, gesturing with his arms.

"I-O!"

The scene played out exactly how Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer envisioned it would back in July, when he issued an open invitation to the four-time NBA MVP just weeks after James opted to re-sign with the home-state Cavs.

And while James' relationship with the Buckeyes actually dates back to his high school days at Akron's St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, it's been even more apparent since Meyer took over the Ohio State program in 2012.

That hasn't been by accident either, as the recruiting-minded Meyer obviously understands the value in having the world's most powerful athlete in his team's corner. Even back when the state of Ohio possessed mixed feelings about James following his decision to leave Cleveland for the Miami Heat in 2010, Meyer remained an avid supporter of the Rubber City native, defending him on numerous occasions.

"I hear people criticize him and I’m like, ‘Criticize LeBron James?,’" Meyer said during an appearance on ESPN's Mike & Mike. "And I get all the switching teams, but he lives life right and he’s a model citizen. I love LeBron James. I want my son to be around LeBron James.”

The same goes for Meyer's players—and recruiting targets—which is why the Woody Hayes Athletic Center isn't short on reminders of James' affiliation with the Buckeyes. Alongside pictures from wins over Michigan and mementos from national championship seasons is an image of James, addressing the crowd at a pregame pep rally in 2013.

James, who jumped straight to the NBA out of high school back in 2003, even has his own locker at Ohio State's Schottenstein Center, an obvious recruiting tactic by Buckeyes basketball head coach Thad Matta. Not that the 11-time All-Star minds being honored inside an arena that he's never won more than a high school state championship inside of.

"It's very humbling," James said on Monday before he and the Cavs took on the Chicago Bulls in a preseason game in Columbus. "For Coach Matta and the coaching staff, even the players and the whole campus, it's an unbelievable program here. This school, to give me a locker in their gym even though I never put on a Buckeye uniform, it's an honor."

And although the hardwood is where James makes his living, he's found himself associated with the Buckeyes football program dating back to his friendship with star running back Maurice Clarett during Ohio State's 2002 national championship season.

Six years later, the former All-State receiver appeared on ESPN's College GameDay in Columbus as a guest picker, revealing that had he played college football, it would have been as a Buckeye.

"Absolutely, I wouldn't have gone nowhere else," James said. "I would have been right here wearing this red and this gray, baby."

It was around this time that James befriended Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who like James had achieved plenty of fame at a relatively young age. Playing in a preseason game in Columbus just days after Pryor's Buckeyes were upset by lowly Purdue in 2009, James spoke of his relationship with the former 5-star signal-caller.

"[I'm] trying to mentor him and get him through life in the spotlight, which I've been through," James said. "I'm trying to be that guy who can really help him get through a lot of situations which he's never seen before but now he's seeing and understanding."

Although James' move to Miami complicated his relationship in Columbus—he was noticeably booed when he and Dwyane Wade attended an Ohio State-Duke basketball game in 2011—he managed to maintain a relationship with the Buckeyes from afar.

When Jim Tressel found himself amid controversy that ultimately led to his resignation, James was there to support both the former OSU head coach and the university. And like Pryor, he managed to mentor Miller as well.

By the time 2013 rolled around, all appeared to be forgiven, and James was received warmly when he stood on the sideline in a Buckeyes sweatshirt for Ohio State's prime-time showdown with Wisconsin. That was the same night that he addressed the jam-packed pregame Skull Session pep rally, reaffirming Ohio State as his faux alma mater. 

But while it was one thing to have James on the sideline for a single game, his decision to return to Cleveland this past July presented a whole new set of benefits for the Buckeyes. Now just two hours away from Ohio State's campus, James would be able to attend games with more regularity and take part in events like Monday night's preseason game in Columbus.

“It’s big. He means a lot in recruiting,” Meyer said. “You can’t measure the positive feeling of him standing on the sideline for an Ohio State game. He truly loves Ohio State.”

That may seem like a stretch—after all, James plays basketball, and Meyer coaches football—but the impact of James' return on recruiting has been evident on social media. It's not a coincidence that 5-starprospectsTorrance Gibson and Nick Bosa have each acknowledged James' connection to the Buckeyes, as there's no bigger brand in sports right now than LeBron James.

Which brings us back to that Sept. 6 night, where James and his buddies watched Ohio State fall to Hokies from the Buckeyes' sideline. James may have never enrolled in a class in Columbus or suited up for the Scarlet and Gray, but you wouldn't know it based on the buzz he brought with him, which is why Meyer takes no issue with classifying the global icon as an honorary alum.

"He is the classiest big-time athlete I’ve ever been around. He’s extremely articulate. He walks in the room and he’s a CEO. I know exactly where he’s from, I know the school he’s from and I just think he’s an incredible role model," Meyer said.  “He’s a Buckeye."

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Which USC Legend Does 4-Star QB Commit Ricky Town Compare To?

Ricky Town, a USC commit, is looking to make a big difference in Southern California. The 4-star quarterback has a skill set that can make an immediate impact on the Trojans.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder compares him to a former USC great.

How do you think Town will fit in at USC?

Watch the video and let us know! 


Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Which USC Legend Does 4-Star QB Commit Ricky Town Compare To?

Ricky Town, a USC commit, is looking to make a big difference in Southern California. The 4-star quarterback has a skill set that can make an immediate impact on the Trojans...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Ranking Best Tennessee vs. Alabama Rivalry Games

The Tennessee-Alabama rivalry is one of the most storied in all of college football.

Since the first contest between the two teams ended in a 6-6 tie in 1901, the Third Saturday in October has been one of the sport's most streak-prone rivalries, with both teams typically gaining control of the series for long stretches of time.

Alabama currently holds a seven-game winning streak dating back to the 2007 contest, but before that, the Volunteers won 10 of 12 matchups, including a seven-game winning streak from 1995 to 2001.

However, with the Crimson Tide's recent ascension to the top of the college football world and Tennessee's coaching turnover, Alabama has gained a 50-38 lead in the all-time series record. 

Historically, Tennessee is second only to Alabama in total wins in the SEC, and longtime college football fans in the South still recognize this game as one of the premier contests in the conference. 

Here are five of the best and most important games in this rivalry in the modern era of college football. 

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