NCAA Football

Clemson and Miami Players Nearly Get into Fight Before Game

Tensions were running high before the No. 6 Clemson Tigers and Miami Hurricanes even kicked off Saturday.

Two players from the opposing teams appeared to be engaging in some sort of argument about an hour before the game when teammates joined the fray.

It's unclear what sparked the altercation, but it could make for a chippy game when the teams kick off at noon from Sun Life Stadium.

[Twitter, h/t College Spun]

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Auburn vs. Arkansas: Live Score and Highlights

Arkansas 21, Auburn 14 - Late Third Quarter

Stay tuned for breaking news, commentary and analysis throughout the matchup as the Tigers visit the Razorbacks on the SEC Network. For more details, check out the NCAA box score HERE

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Clemson vs. Miami: Live Score and Highlights

The sixth-ranked Clemson Tigers look to continue their undefeated season Saturday, taking on a Miami Hurricanes team that is desperate for a marquee win.

Clemson (6-0) has only played one game on the road this season and needed a last-minute collapse from Louisville to avoid overtime in September. Nevertheless, Deshaun Watson leads a team favored by eight points, per Odds Shark.

Miami (4-2) is looking to build off a 10-point victory over rival Virginia Tech, and a win over Clemson would certainly help beleaguered coach Al Golden have an argument for saving his job. The program hasn't beaten a Top 10 team since 2009.

ABC will broadcast the ACC clash at noon ET. Bleacher Report will provide scoring updates, highlights and analysis. Feel free to join the conversation in the comments.

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Daily Fantasy College Football Week 8: DraftKings Last-Minute Picks, Best Values

It's finally time for the weekend, which means daily fantasy college football is firing up a full slate again. Yeah, Thursday and Friday games are enticing, but there's nothing like staying in your sweatpants on a Saturday to watch seemingly endless amounts of college football action.

Why not make some money while partaking in that ritual? That's why DraftKings provides daily fantasy for the entire season. In anticipation of Saturday's action, here's a look at the best last-minute picks and a few value options peppered in.

 

Quarterback: J.T. Barrett, Ohio State ($8,300)

He's not exactly a great value, but for a No. 1 quarterback, J.T. Barrett is well worth the salary hit. After earning the starting role earlier this week for the Buckeyes, the training wheels are coming off for the 2014 Heisman hopeful.

Head coach Urban Meyer explained the reasoning behind his decision, per Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:

Even with limited playing time against Penn State and Maryland, Barrett averaged nearly 30 points per game. That's thanks to his mobility, amassing 164 yards and five touchdowns in the rushing game. At $1,100 less than the top option at QB, Barrett is an obvious choice on Saturday against Rutgers.

 

Running Back: Shock Linwood, Baylor ($6,800)

Being the running back for one of the most prolific offenses in the entire country has its perks. While Shock Linwood might not be considered the top running back in the nation, he's getting opportunities to shred defenses thanks to Baylor's passing game.

Linwood has cashed in on his touches, averaging 8.5 yards per carry. That's led to 803 rushing yards and eight touchdowns through just eight games. Playing at home against an Iowa State defense that has allowed 55.5 points per game over the last two weeks, expect a huge game from Linwood.

 

Running Back: Elijah Hood, North Carolina ($5,900)

Looking for a middle-tier running back who has a great matchup? Elijah Hood is your man.

UNC's lead running back isn't putting up the same eye-popping numbers as Linwood, but he has shredded ACC defenses this season. Coming off three touchdowns in the last two games against Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, Hood is set to torch Virginia.

His 18.6 average points per game is hurt slightly by games against Delaware and South Carolina, where his legs were saved. Once because of a huge lead, the other because the game was out of hand. On a winning team that should throttle Virginia, look for Hood to run wild for fantasy owners.

 

Wide Receiver: Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss ($6,100)

Laquon Treadwell got off to a good start to the season but has been sensational lately. While Ole Miss left Memphis with a disappointing loss, Treadwell did all he could to pull out a win. His 14 receptions for 144 yards were both career highs to go along with his receiving touchdown.

It isn't fair for owners to expect another 44-point outburst, but quarterback Chad Kelly clearly has confidence in Treadwell. In a huge matchup against No. 15 Texas A&M, Treadwell will be the workhorse in the passing game and a dependable start for DFS owners.

 

Wide Receiver: Kermit Whitfield, Florida State ($4,600)

Why exactly is Kermit Whitfield priced at $4,600 this week? Well, I can't answer that. Why should you leave him off your roster? I can't give a reasonable answer to that question either.

How about we stop with the questions and look at the facts. Whitfield has exploded onto the scene over the last two weeks, per Ryan S. Clark of Rivals.com:

A healthy Kermit is simply not fair against a Georgia Tech team that has lost its last five games. Florida State will roll on Saturday night, and Whitfield will serve as a perfect compliment to any wide receiver corps on DraftKings. Pick him up as a WR3 or flex and expect WR1 production.

 

Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter for more DraftKings advice:

DraftKings owners can win $300K in the "Dive for the Pylon" tournament to start off the college football season! Use Promo Code BLEACHER REPORT when you sign up.

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Bowl Predictions 2015: Latest Projections for College Football Playoff

The first 2015 College Football Playoff rankings will be released in less than two weeks, so the postseason picture is becoming easier to project.

One team has reigned supreme all season in both the Associated Press and Amway polls—the last season's national champion Ohio State Buckeyes. But is OSU a lock to be in the top four? It hardly seems so despite the immense amount of NFL-caliber talent on the roster.

Below is a breakdown of the projected CFP games, based mainly on current rankings but also with some conjecture as to how the rest of the season will play out.

 

Orange Bowl: No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Clemson

Yes, the Buckeyes still stay atop the NCAA football hierarchy in the end with a Big Ten title and an undefeated record still in tow. One big reason for that is coach Urban Meyer's decision to go with J.T. Barrett over Cardale Jones as the starting quarterback.

Despite superior arm talent, upside and a brief track record from last year that could have landed him in the NFL, Jones has lost the job. It might be because Barrett, a team captain, has outworked Jones in an effort to regain a job he lost to injury in the 2014 regular-season finale.

Barrett is a better fit for what Meyer is trying to do. He's a superior ball-carrier in the open field in terms of quickness and acceleration. He can process and read a defense faster and thus get the ball to the Bucks' myriad of playmakers in a more proficient way.

NFL Network's Albert Breer has heard of a comparison for Barrett that bodes well for the Buckeyes:

The OSU defense has been fine and will continue to be with the likes of Joey Bosa and Darron Lee headlining the front seven.

As for Clemson, its path to the playoffs goes through the ACC—an easier gauntlet to run through than the SEC, Pac-12 or even the Big Ten. The ACC Coastal division isn't exactly loaded with world beaters, and the Tigers' hardest remaining game is against Florida State at Death Valley.

ESPN's David Hale references how strong Clemson's playoff resume would be if it maintains a perfect record:

Despite losing first-round NFL draft picks in Vic Beasley and Stephone Anthony on defense, Clemson is allowing less than three yards per carry and ranks 10th in total yards allowed per game.

Sophomore signal-caller Deshaun Watson is undeniably gifted. He lit up Boston College's vaunted D for 420 yards passing in a recent 34-17 victory. The only concern is the two picks he threw, bringing his total to seven on the year.

Watson has thrown at least one interception in all but one game thus far. In what would be a tight game against Ohio State in a prospective Orange Bowl showdown, it'd be hard to pick against the Buckeyes due to Watson's tendency to give the ball away.

Turnovers would do Clemson in, as its stellar front wouldn't be able to contain OSU running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Prediction: Ohio State 27, Clemson 20

 

Sugar Bowl: No. 2 LSU vs. No. 3 TCU

The Big 12 representative figures to be TCU. Despite a struggling defense, the Horned Frogs have stayed undefeated and are better suited to face adversity than rival Baylor. TCU also gets the Bears at home in the regular-season finale.

With the privilege of playing in the Sugar Bowl may come an encounter with an SEC powerhouse program. LSU figures to be the team the Horned Frogs face, thanks primarily to Heisman Trophy front-runner Leonard Fournette.

Horned Frogs QB Trevone Boykin has carried TCU when it has failed at keeping opponents off the scoreboard. The contrast of styles between LSU's gritty rushing attack and the Horned Frogs' pass-heavy spread is a dynamic a juxtaposition as a fan could ask for in a playoff matchup.

Road trips to Alabama and Ole Miss still loom for the Tigers, but Fournette gives them a chance to set the tone in both those contests by controlling possession and demoralizing the opposition with big runs.

What shouldn't be lost amid LSU's landmark win over Florida last week is how well Brandon Harris played under center. Harris was 13-of-19 passing for 202 yards and two scores. He just turned 20 this month, is evolving in a big way as a sophomore and has yet to throw an INT in 2015.

ESPN analyst Damien Woody was most impressed by Harris' performance and made a bold proclamation touting LSU as a legitimate challenger for the No. 1 ranking:

Tigers coach Les Miles emphasized how important it is for Harris to keep playing within himself and not be bothered by those who see him as the weak link for a playoff contender, per the Times' Glen Guilbeau:

The opinions that matter will all come from that room — that big building that we practice in. And he'll need not to worry about what others say. Others don't know. And all they have to do is watch the film. All they have to do is see him spin a couple of passes for them to realize that, no, this guy can throw it. So he needs to just do the things that he’s been doing and not try to exceed the play call.

About any QB would look to be leading an inferior element of an offense with Fournette running the ball. Miles is correct in stating all outsiders need to do is watch Harris throw some downfield passes to realize the high ceiling he has—one Harris hasn't come close to reaching yet.

As Harris continues to improve and gets more comfortable in the system, even when opponents key in on Fournette, it won't be hard for his quarterback to capitalize on favorable matchups.

Boykin would keep TCU close in a hypothetical College Football Playoff clash. He's a senior playing with a chip on his shoulder as well after not making the CFP in its inaugural edition.

The Tigers would ultimately prevail thanks to Fournette's ability to chew up yardage, clock and morale. It would put Boykin in a near-impossible situation to rally from—even with such a lethal weapon in wideout Josh Doctson on his side.

Prediction: LSU 34, TCU 24

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College Football Rankings 2015: Updated NCAA Week 8 Standings, Final Poll Review

The 2015 college football season has reached its midway point with no fewer than 15 teams still in the playoff mix. 

Week 8 is a transition time for many of the top-ranked teams, as they are coming off critical matchups last week and/or looking ahead to bigger things still to come. Yet that's also dangerous because upsets happen when teams let their guard down. 

Going over the Top 25 before the meat of this week's schedule happens on Saturday, there are many teams that need to make a statement 10 days before the College Football Playoff committee releases its initial standings. 

 

Week 8 Top 25 Rankings

 

Team on Upset Alert: Utah (at USC)

Things are not good at USC right now. Steve Sarkisian was fired as head coach less than two weeks ago, with Nathan Fenno and Lindsey Thiry of the Los Angeles Times reporting Sarkisian allegedly had problems with alcohol as a coach dating back to his time at Washington. 

On the field, the Trojans are just 3-3 with two losses in Pac-12 play against Stanford and Washington. Taking on an undefeated Utah team ranked third in the Associated Press Top 25 poll would seem to be a bad omen for USC. 

Yet it's not unfair to ask if the Utes are overrated. Their win over Michigan in the season opener looks better now than it did at the time, but they were pumped up thanks in large part to a 62-20 victory over Oregon. 

In most seasons, that kind of win against the Ducks would be impressive, but this is a 4-3 team right now. 

ESPN's Football Power Index is giving USC a 72 percent chance to beat Utah on Saturday, with Sharon Katz of ESPN.com explaining the rationale behind that number:

USC has a number of close losses, and Utah has a few close wins. Scoring margin is generally a better predictor of future performance than a team's win-loss record itself, and USC and Utah have the exact same scoring margin (plus-17 points per game) through six games. The Trojans may be playing with an interim head coach, but they have arguably more talent, particularly on offense, than any team in the Pac-12.

Talent doesn't always win out, but there are going to be games when it all clicks to remind the world why it was so highly regarded. USC started the season as a Top 10 team before losing two of its last three games by a combined 25 points. 

Utah is playing better football right now, but USC has faced a schedule that already includes Notre Dame and Stanford. Those two teams are better than anyone the Utes have defeated, preparing the Trojans for this kind of spotlight at home in a game that could salvage their season. 

 

Playoff Hopes Crushed: Texas A&M (at Ole Miss)

Texas A&M has a knack for teasing everyone. The Aggies start strong, climb up high in the polls and start generating national title buzz. Remember last year's season-opening 52-28 win over South Carolina?

That pattern continued in 2015, as head coach Kevin Sumlin got his team off to a 5-0 start. The Aggies looked like they found a defense that could play during that stretch, allowing 21 points per game. 

Last week, hosting Alabama at Kyle Field, Texas A&M proceeded to give up a season-high 41 points as Derrick Henry ran over the Aggies to the tune of 236 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Kyle Allen had three interceptions, and the midseason swoons continued. 

Mississippi isn't exactly coming into this game on a high note after getting dominated in a 37-24 defeat at Memphis. That makes both teams desperate to right the ship, though the Aggies have more at stake with an outside shot at still climbing back into the playoff mix. 

According to Odds Shark, Texas A&M is a six-point favorite on the road. Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports did note the Aggies have been successful against the spread this season.

"Why am I taking Texas A&M?" Fornelli wrote. "Well, the Aggies have been 6-2 against the spread on the road since last season, while Ole Miss is currently 1-3 ATS against SEC teams this season, and has failed to cover the spread in three of four games since the Alabama win."

There's also the question about how effective Ole Miss star defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche will be after suffering a concussion last week, if he's even able to play. 

Yet even with that potentially huge hole on defense, as noted by Daniel Paulling of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly has been terrific so far this season:

The junior has completed 154 of 235 passes (65.5 percent) for 2,234 yards and 16 touchdowns against seven interceptions. Kelly leads the SEC in passing yards per game (319.1), pass efficiency (161.9) and yards per completion (14.5) and is no worse than 12th in the country in seven categories.

Paulling did note that Texas A&M's pass defense ranks 25th in yards allowed per game (183.2), but it's also played games against teams like Ball State and Nevada. Even Alabama ran the ball so effectively that it only asked Jake Coker to throw 25 times. 

Putting the Aggies secondary against Kelly and big-play receivers like Laquon Treadwell, Cody Core and Quincy Adeboyejo will be its biggest test of the season. 

 

Most Necessary Change: J.T. Barrett Starting for Ohio State

After weeks of it seeming obvious, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer finally made the choice to bench quarterback Cardale Jones in favor of J.T. Barrett to start this week against Rutgers. 

Barrett is being given a fairly soft game for his return, which is likely by design. Rutgers has three wins this season, two of which have come against Norfolk State and Kansas. 

One reason Ohio State hasn't been as dominant this season as everyone expected is because Jones struggled in key spots, with Austin Ward of ESPN.com noting the red zone was a particularly problematic area:

Barrett was remarkably efficient inside the 20-yard line during the last two weeks, leading Ohio State to points on all 11 attempts with touchdowns on 10 of them. The move almost instantly solved a problem that had been clearly bothering Meyer. During first five games with Jones as the primary option, the Buckeyes were generating points, but they settled for field goals six times, missed one kick, twice had a half come to an end without getting points and Jones threw one interception.

One can understand why Meyer wanted to go with Jones before the season started. The strong-armed quarterback provided a downfield element with big-play threats like Devin Smith, preventing defenses from loading the box to stop Ezekiel Elliott as the Buckeyes won a national title. 

However, as Jones got more exposure, his lack of overall experience began to show, and he didn't make adjustments. Barrett isn't the same kind of quarterback, as he lacks the arm strength, but his ability to create in and out of the pocket is perfect for Meyer's offense. 

The change at quarterback was a long time coming. Meyer finally made it, and now Barrett will have a chance to lead the Buckeyes into the playoff like he was supposed to last season. 

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Kansas State vs. Texas: Live Score and Highlights

The Kansas State Wildcats and the Texas Longhorns are getting ready to do battle at Royal Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas. The game will kickoff at noon EDT and it will be televised on Fox Sports 1.

The Wildcats are looking to bounce back after an embarrassing 55-0 loss to Oklahoma. In order for that to happen, quarterback Joe Hubener will have to play lights out, which has been an issue for him as he has only completed 45 percent of his passes and has thrown only four touchdowns.

Last week the Longhorns were off, but they do have momentum as they are coming off a big win against Oklahoma two weeks ago. The player to watch is freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard who rushed for 115 yards and threw one touchdown in the 24-17 win over their rivals.

Be sure to come back to this live blog when the game kicks off for the latest scoring updates and highlights.

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College Football Week 8: Get Hyped for Saturday

College Football Saturday Week 8 is about to kick off, and there are tons of intense matchups and storylines to follow and get excited for. Continuing to watch the greatness of Heisman front-runner Leonard Fournette is just one of the many things to get hyped about for Week 8.

Will the Michigan State Spartans stay perfect after their miracle win last week? Will Utah survive a trip to Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to face USC?

Watch the video above as we preview all the action for this week of college football. 

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Khalid Kareem Commits to Notre Dame: Irish Get Another Reliable DE Pledge

Pieces of the puzzle seemed to fit more and more with Notre Dame and Farmington, Michigan, 4-star defensive end Khalid Kareem with every passing second.

When Kareem decommitted from Alabama on Oct. 14, he opened the door for other schools to recruit him. When his father, Ken, announced that he set his official visit to Notre Dame shortly after the decommitment, it made some scratch their heads. After all, Notre Dame was one of the finalists when he originally chose Alabama, the others being in-state schools Michigan and Michigan State.

When Kareem and his family made it to Notre Dame and took in the game atmosphere against USC, as well as the academic environment and overall student atmosphere, the mood was set for the Irish to close. Everything was in the Irish's favor—good football, good academics, steady tradition.

Consider it done Friday afternoon. Kareem announced via Twitter that he verbally committed to Notre Dame, becoming the Irish's 17th overall pledge and the top-ranked defensive pledge.

Kareem's verbal is a huge win for Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame staff. Recruited by Kelly, defensive line coach Keith Gilmore and defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, Kareem chose Notre Dame over 36 other reported offers coast to coast.

At 6'4" and 260 pounds, Kareem is the nation's No. 9 strong-side defensive end and a catalyst for Harrison High School. He is looking to either duplicate or trump a junior season that included 85 tackles and 18 sacks last year. He has good size and speed off the snap. Physically, he looks the part, and he will be called upon to be a defensive leader early in his career.

Ken Kareem told 247Sports' Tom Loy that a positive visit to Notre Dame included getting a chance to know VanGorder. Notre Dame showed that Kareem was a primary target by showing up to Harrison four days after the USC game.

"He seems really straightforward," Ken Kareem told Loy about VanGorder. "He's going to push his guys and get them to the right place and get the most out of his players.

"Oddly enough, he's from our area. VanGorder went to West Bloomfield. He knows the area and knows where we are from and relates well with us."

Kareem originally committed to Alabama in June, but his pledge to Notre Dame means the Irish have reliable bookends on both sides of the defensive line. Charlotte 4-star weak-side defensive end Julian Okwara committed to Notre Dame in April. The Irish also have a defensive end pledge in Walled Lake, Michigan, 3-star Adetokunbo Ogundeji.

The good news for Notre Dame is that Kareem may be finished with official visits. Ken Kareem told Loy that the family after last week's trip had been discussing whether or not to take additional visits.

"There are a couple of schools we wanted to go to before, but we are starting to lean toward Notre Dame," Ken Kareem said on Thursday. "We didn't want to rush anything, and that's why there was no commitment or anything this weekend.

"We just want to properly evaluate everything and not rush it at all. At the same time, though, he's going to enroll early, so regarding a timetable, that would be by the end of the month."

That recruiting timetable came Friday, and Notre Dame scored another big-time defensive get. Look for Kareem to be an immediate impact player and a menace for offensive units in both rushing and passing situations.

 

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

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Khalid Kareem to Notre Dame: Fighting Irish Land 4-Star DE Prospect

Notre Dame has scored a big-time recruit for 2016, as defensive end Khalid Kareem will be the newest member of the Fighting Irish next season. 

Irish Sports Daily reported Kareem's commitment to Notre Dame. Kareem then followed that up with a tweet explaining his decision:

He has had a whirlwind recruiting road.

The Michigan native announced in June that he was going to the University of Alabama. But less than two weeks ago, per Perry A. Farrell and James Jahnke of the Detroit Free Press, he decommitted from Alabama to stay closer to home:

After careful consideration and a lot of heart felt talks with my mother. In my families best interest we've informed the Coaches that I am decommitted from the University of Alabama at this time. Thank you to Coach Saban and Coach Williams and Coach Tosh for everything you've taught me a long the way. Thank you to the entire Crimson Tide family and community.

Now, the Fighting Irish get to reap the rewards. Kareem is rated as a 4-star prospect and No. 9 strong-side defensive end by 247Sports after racking up 85 tackles and 18 sacks in 2014.

Per 247Sports' team recruiting rankings, his commitment gives Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly 17 total commitments for 2016 and the 13th-ranked class. 

Kareem is built like a college football defensive lineman already at 6'4" and 260 pounds, so that pass-rushing prowess should have no problem carrying over.

The Fighting Irish have recruited and developed strong defenders recently, notably Jaylon Smith this year. Kareem is the latest addition to the deep Kelly recruiting pool and will be a staple of the defense very soon. 

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Cold Hard Fact for Friday, October 23, 2015

Fact: Temple football is 7-0 for the first time in school history. 

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Fact of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: ESPN Stats & Info

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Can a Wide Receiver Realistically Win the Heisman Trophy This Year?

West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen knows wide receivers. Among the wideouts he's connected to are Wes Welker, Michael Crabtree, Justin Blackmon and Kevin White. 

So when Holgorsen said Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman was "the best player in college football" last Saturday, well, maybe we all need to listen.

But could Coleman actually be named college football's best player by winning the Heisman Trophy? For that matter, why not include TCU's Josh Doctson, who leads college football with 152.4 receiving yards per game, in the Heisman loop? 

For as impressive as those two have been, it's an uphill battle. Some wideouts have gotten close in recent years. For instance, Alabama's Amari Cooper finished third in the voting last year, but the last wide receiver to win the Heisman was Michigan's Desmond Howard in 1991.  

But it's important to first know why Holgorsen said what he said. In other words, why is Coleman, who had 10 catches for 199 yards and three touchdowns in a 62-38 win over the Mountaineers, being mentioned in the Heisman race?

The numbers say it all. Coleman is third nationally in receiving yards (877), but he leads the country with 16 touchdowns, a Baylor single-season record, through six games. He's on pace to shatter the NCAA FBS record of 27 single-season touchdown grabs previously held by Louisiana Tech's Troy Edwards in 1998. 

Coleman scores a touchdown at an astounding rate of once every 2.6 catches. He's been rarely utilized in the second half of games this year, with just seven receptions, presumably because Baylor has had things under control by halftime. However, he has four touchdowns on those seven catches, and all four are of at least 25 yards. 

We could dissect the numbers further, but you get the point. Coleman is a touchdown machine, and he does it all without contributing much on special teams.

It's a similar story for Doctson, who averages 8.6 catches per game and a more "modest" 5-to-1 touchdown-to-catch ratio. Their styles are different, however. Whereas Coleman is best in the open field—Holgorsen compared Coleman's skill set to Tavon Austin's, per ESPN.com's Jake Trotter—Doctson shines when he's making a play on a jump ball and being physical. 

Differences aside, Coleman and Doctson are two of the most outstanding wideouts in college football and likely the 1A and 1B selections, in either order, for the Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the top receiver.

The Heisman consideration both players are receiving starts there, but does it also end there? 

Versatility is virtually a necessity for non-quarterbacks and some running backs in the Heisman race because it boosts value. Since they don't touch the ball on every play, or even most plays, skill players have to show dominance elsewhere. LSU running back Leonard Fournette, the current odds-on favorite to win the Heisman, per OddsShark.com, is the exception. 

But so, too, are Coleman and Doctson. It's for that reason they're in the immediate Heisman conversation at all. 

However, therein lies the pertinent issue: Pointing solely to a wide receiver's stats becomes tricky relative to the quarterback. A running back, like Fournette, may put up big numbers in part because he's given running lanes by his offensive line—the other part is Fournette is as physical a runner as you'll find in college football—but the two don't share stats in the same way a quarterback and receiver do.

Is a wideout putting up big numbers because he's that good, or does he have a great quarterback getting him the ball? After all, a quarterback's numbers will inherently be better than his wide receiver's. In the cases of Coleman and Doctson, it's somewhere right in the middle. 

Splitting credit is no way to win the Heisman, though. How, then, do players like Coleman and Doctson prove they're more valuable than their quarterbacks, Seth Russell and Trevone Boykin, respectively? Russell and Boykin are legitimate Heisman contenders, too. 

There's no easy answer, but the simplest way is to look at how much a quarterback shares the wealth among his receivers. Plenty of quarterbacks put up video game-type numbers, but not every wide receiver does, both nationally and relative to the rest of the team.

For instance, Coleman is responsible for one out of every three receptions Baylor has made this season and has twice as many catches as the next-leading receiver, Jay Lee. Similarly, Doctson also is responsible for one out of every three catches for TCU. However, the numbers thin dramatically beyond him. The Frogs' next-leading receiver, KaVontae Turpin, has 18 catches, meaning Doctson has more than three times the number of grabs. 

While wideouts like Texas A&M's Christian Kirk, USC's JuJu Smith-Schuster, Bowling Green's Roger Lewis and Notre Dame's Will Fuller have been outstanding this year, none boast the same level of percentages or overall numbers as Coleman and Doctson. Furthermore, Coleman and Doctson are on playoff-caliber teams. That matters, like it or not. Only Kirk and Fuller can say the same.  

But the best news for Coleman and Doctson as it pertains to the Heisman conversation going forward is that neither has played against his best competition. The Big 12 in the month of November is an absolute cage fight for supremacy. Below is the schedule in which the top four teams in the Big 12—Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU—all play one another:

For Coleman and Doctson, that means they'll have opportunities to either keep pace with their numbers or have their best games against the best teams. 

Stewart Mandel accurately called the Heisman race a "a horse race," in which timing is a key component. For every Geno Smith, the former West Virginia quarterback who "won" the Heisman in September of 2012, there's a Johnny Manziel who cements himself as the real Heisman winner later in the year. 

Along those lines, for Coleman or Doctson to have a real shot, Fournette needs to fall back a bit, if not entirely off the face of the earth. Good luck there. 

Still, Coleman and Doctson are more than just dark horses now. When Baylor and TCU face off in Fort Worth on Nov. 27, the main storyline could involve playoff implications. But there could also be Heisman votes on the line, and not necessarily for the players you'd think. 

 

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

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Teams to Watch After 5-Star DE Oluwole Betiku Decommits from UCLA

Less than 12 hours after picking up a pivotal Pac-12 victory over the California Golden Bears, the UCLA Bruins suffered a substantial in-state recruiting loss. 

Oluwole Betiku, a 5-star Los Angeles County defensive end rated No. 1 overall among California high school seniors in composite rankings, announced his decommitment Friday morning. 

"I have decided to open up my recruiting," he tweeted. "It is in my best interest to take my time with the recruiting process and weigh my options carefully, it's a lifetime decision and I pray God guides me to make the best decision."

The 6'3 ½", 240-pound Junipero Serra High School standout initially pledged to UCLA in August. Despite immigrating to America just two years ago, Betiku quickly rose to prominence as a premier playmaker with the Southern California powerhouse. 

He's secured 103 tackles—42 for loss—and 21 sacks through 19 career varsity games since arriving from Nigeria in 2013, per MaxPreps. Those totals include 18 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks through eight contests this season.

“I feel like nothing is stopping me from being the No. 1 player,” Betiku told Bleacher Report's Sanjay Kirpalani earlier this year. “I’m strong, I’m fast. I’m just not versatile. Even though last year was my first year playing, I’m still hard on myself. Those guys shouldn’t be better than me out there.”

He may not sit atop national rankings just yet—though he's within striking distance at 11th overall—but Betiku is considered the top weak-side defensive end prospect in the 2016 cycle. His decision deals the Bruins' latest recruiting efforts quite a blow.

Head coach Jim Mora must move forward without a prospect who presents immediate-impact promise at a key position. Betiku, still very much in the early stages of his physical and fundamental development as a pass rusher, leaves UCLA with 18 commitments in a 2016 recruiting class that dropped from 12th to 16th in national composite rankings following his departure.

Several alternative suitors already emerged during the first half of this season, presenting an array of possible landing spots. The coveted defender visited a pair of programs earlier this month and plans to explore more campuses in coming weeks. 

The Florida State Seminoles and Texas A&M Aggies welcomed him to town for recent matchups, providing impressive sales pitches. 

Betiku watched the Seminoles remain unbeaten Oct. 10 against the Miami Hurricanes and left Tallahassee feeling charged up about the experience.

"I had a great trip, it was even better than I expected," he told Greg Biggins of Scout.com. "The highlight of the visit for me had to be the game day atmosphere. The fan support is incredible and I loved all the chants and watching them do the tomahawk chop."

Betiku plans to watch Florida State again in November when the team travels to Gainesville for its annual matchup with the Florida Gators. Florida is set to host Betiku for an official visit that weekend, creating the possibility for two legitimate long-distance contenders in the Sunshine State.

SEC quarterbacks should hope he doesn't ultimately sign with Texas A&M, where superstar sophomore defensive end Myles Garrett already wreaks havoc. The top-ranked defensive end recruit in 2014 has totaled 19.5 sacks in his young career and projects as a potential top-tier NFL draft pick two years from now, though he would share the line with Betiku in College Station for at least one season.

Aggies defensive assistant Terry Price has played a important role in this recruitment process.

"He's a great DL coach but more than that, he's a great guy," Betiku told Biggins. "Everyone I talked with said Coach Price is the man there and he'll take care of you and I definitely feel like he could get the most out of me and help get me to the NFL."

LSU defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, who previously scouted the Los Angeles area for the USC Trojans, is another recruiter who could make inroads. LSU is lining up quite a 2016 defensive haul and may emerge as a dark-horse contender for Betiku's signature.

Notre Dame is another program to monitor as things progress. The Fighting Irish expect to host him Nov. 14 when the Wake Forest Demon Deacons visit, per Biggins, putting head coach Brian Kelly's squad in the mix for yet another elite defensive prospect. 

Expect Betiku to finalize his remaining travel schedule in the near future, though UCLA isn't likely to walk away from the situation without a fight.

There's also the possibility of nearby USC making a late push, depending on how things shake out with the Trojans' coaching situation. It's important to note Junipero Serra has been an extremely beneficial recruiting pipeline for the program in past cycles.

With one of the nation's most compelling prospects back on the open market, anticipate plenty of intrigue en route to signing day.

 

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

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5 in 24 Hours: 2017 WR Mannie Netherly Picks Up SEC, Pac-12, B1G Offers

Having double-digit offers isn't something every college football recruit gets to experience. 2017 wide receiver Mannie Netherly is one of those fortunate athletes.

Netherly also is an athlete who can say a third of his offers came in less than a 24-hour span.

The Crosby, Texas, wide receiver watched his offer list jump from 10 to 15 from Wednesday evening to late Thursday afternoon—the five new offers came from the SEC, Pac-12 and Big Ten. He earned an Arizona State offer early Wednesday evening, then landed a Texas A&M offer shortly afterward.

Thursday morning, Michigan State offered Netherly. He finished Thursday with afternoon offers from Missouri and Colorado.

Just like that, the 6'2", 180-pound prospect was an athlete preparing to knock on the door of 20 offers.

"It's a blessing," Netherly said. "As a kid, I only dreamed of having all these offers. Now that's finally happened, I can say all my hard work is paying off. I'm just staying humble, and I'm going to keep working hard."

Crosby is becoming more of a recruiting hotbed in Texas. Wide receiver Raelon Singleton is a redshirt freshman for a Utah team fighting for a College Football Playoff spot, and twins Aston and Austin Walter are redshirt freshmen at Rice. Keenan Murphy, a 3-star offensive guard and teammate of Netherly, committed to Houston in July.

Netherly thinks of Singleton as a big brother and has been watching him perform for quite some time. In fact, Netherly considers him a role model and wants to have a similar process.

If it means anything, Netherly already has caught Singleton in offers. Singleton had 13 reported offers before heading to Utah.

"Raelon and I grew up together. We've been cool for forever," Netherly said. "When I see a close friend like that make it, it really motivates you to do the same."

Netherly has been impressive on the football field this season. After recording 16 receptions for 228 yards and three touchdowns as a sophomore, Netherly is putting up huge numbers as a junior. Per the Houston Chronicle, Netherly has 29 catches for 603 yards and 13 touchdowns. He's almost averaging a touchdown every two catches and is averaging roughly 21 yards per reception.

Netherly said he's far from making any decisions regarding his recruitment, but he did admit to one offer in particular catching his attention.

"That Texas A&M offer surprised me," said Netherly, who has made a couple of unofficial visits to College Station this year. "When they called and offered, I got to speak to [head] Coach [Kevin] Sumlin. That was electric. I didn't get to sleep until about 1 in the morning."

Netherly added that he's a fan of all of his offers—and he's hoping to receive a few more in the upcoming weeks. Along with the quintet of offers Wednesday and Thursday, Netherly has offers from Texas Tech, Nebraska, BYU, SMU and others.

 

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

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Michigan Football: Response to MSU Loss Will Show Extent of Harbaugh Effect

The Michigan football team endured a crushing last-second loss to their rival last week, but how the Wolverines bounce back will provide more insight into the extent of the Jim Harbaugh Effect.

Falling to Michigan State after never trailing until the clock read triple zeros must have been gut-wrenching. If there's any particular type of loss that would be easy to let linger, that's the one.

"It just sucks, there's no other way to phrase it, no better way to put it," quarterback Jake Rudock said, per Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press.

Nevertheless, like every coach would, Harbaugh already has his players saying the right things and appearing determined to move on from the unfortunate finish.

"I'm still not over it, it's still in my mind that we lost," cornerback Jourdan Lewis said, per Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com. "But we've got to move on. We have to take that loss as a lesson."

Baumgardner notes running back De'Veon Smith said, "Anything can happen. (Anything can happen) to any team we play. Our dreams are still alive. Winning the Big Ten championship (is still possible). That's our main focus."

But dreams are just that when not followed up with actions.

Michigan was an absolute force heading into the matchup against Michigan State, limiting opponents to 14 points over a five-game stretch. The offense racked up 1,988 yards and surrendered just 751.

Although the hope to continue exerting that level of dominance over the Spartans was unrealistic, Harbaugh's team put itself in position to beat a College Football Playoff contender. That's not helping the Wolverines sleep at night, but it's still the truth.

The next few opponents on the schedule, however, are not championship contenders.

Minnesota lost 27-0 to Northwestern, which fell to Michigan by 38 points. Putting stake in the transitive property can be dangerous, but it's not a useless comparison because the Golden Gophers offense is one of the Football Bowl Subdivision's least threatening units.

Rutgers wideout Leonte Carroo, who has a trio of three-touchdown outings in 2015, will challenge Lewis and the Wolverines secondary. The defense, though? It's ranked 106th in the nation.

While Indiana played Ohio State tightly, if it wasn't for Zander Diamont's 79-yard touchdown run on a defensive breakdown, the Hoosiers would have managed just 97 yards on 54 carries. Making Indiana one-dimensional shouldn't be a problem for Michigan.

Penn State has a strong defense, but consistently poor offensive line play combined with a lack of pass-catching options has flat-out broken Christian Hackenberg, who is more inaccurate than ever. Though the Nittany Lions have a budding star in freshman running back Saquon Barkley, Michigan's strength is stopping the run.

"They're so fundamentally sound and they run like crazy to the ball," Big Ten Network analyst Gerry DiNardo told Snyder about the Wolverines. "Not markedly different, but in places there's probably better players—and they're older."

Now, this isn't to say the Wolverines should be expected to rip off a four-game stretch that concludes with three more shutouts and twice as much yardage.

Going back to the overlying focus of the season, these are the games the Michigan program is supposed to win every season. Considering the Wolverines' performances so far, however, these are the matchups they are capable of dominating.

It only took two months for Harbaugh to change the mentality of the team. The Harbaugh Effect is real, and it will only become more evident in future seasons.

But avoiding a setback—or multiple setbacks—after a crushing loss is the next step to the Wolverines continuing their ascent toward perennial relevance once again.

 

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.

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Georgia Football: Midseason Grades for Each Bulldogs Positional Unit

We have hit the midseason mark for the college football season, and the Georgia Bulldogs are currently unranked and with a 5-2 record.

It’s clear they wanted to be in a better spot at this point of the season, but they have to continue to fight because if they win out, they have a chance to play for the SEC championship in December.

There have been some good moments for the Bulldogs, such as the running game and the emergence of Jake Ganus. There have been some bad moments for the Bulldogs as well, such as the Alabama and the Tennessee game. And if there was one thing that had to be ugly, it literally and figuratively has to be the Nick Chubb injury.

So with this being the halfway point of the season, it only makes sense to give out grades for each position.

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More Impressive First-Year Coaching Job: Jim Harbaugh or Jim McElwain?

Last winter, two of college football’s best programs went through a tough process at the same time. Florida and Michigan both found themselves badly needing change. Will Muschamp’s leadership had left the Gators stagnant, while the Wolverines had regressed under Brady Hoke’s watch.

It was time to make a change, and both programs did that, firing their head coaches. The programs took different routes with their hires, with Florida plucking Jim McElwain from Colorado State and Michigan waiting until the NFL regular season wrapped to lure prodigal son Jim Harbaugh back to Ann Arbor.

As we hit midseason, it’s clear, at least initially, that both hires were a success. Florida is 5-1 and ranked No. 13 in the latest Associated Press Top 25, and Michigan is just behind at No. 15 with a 5-2 mark.

In fact, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit told Justin Dacey of MLive.com recently that Harbaugh has righted a "lost" program.

"When he came back and decided to say, 'As a Michigan man, I'm going to bring Michigan back to being who they are—elite and special,'" Herbstreit said." 

Which raises the question: Who’s doing a better coaching job? Let’s take a look. This is an examination of what Harbaugh and McElwain have done, not what’s ahead, given that McElwain’s job could get a lot tougher without starting quarterback Will Grier, who’s serving a one-year NCAA suspension for a positive performance-enhancing drug test.

Both programs have been extremely competitive, and neither has a “bad” loss. Combined, their three losses came to No. 3 Utah, No. 5 LSU and No. 7 Michigan State, and none by more than seven points. Michigan lost Harbaugh’s debut at Utah, 24-17 and was on the verge of beating the Spartans before a bizarre mishandled punt led to a final-play touchdown and a 27-23 defeat. Florida played LSU off its heels in Baton Rouge before falling 35-28.

While the Utah loss looked poor at the time, it has gained value by the week as the Utes have emerged as a Pac-12 powerhouse. The Michigan State and LSU losses should have similar staying power.

What are these coaches working with? They didn’t exactly inherit empty cupboards. While neither Harbaugh nor McElwain had a top-20 2015 recruiting class, per 247Sports (Florida was No. 21, Michigan No. 37), the classes’ lower rankings can be explained by the turmoil that inevitably surrounds a coaching change.
Let’s look at the previous three classes, as rated by 247Sports. In 2012, Florida had the nation’s No. 3 class, and Michigan was No. 6. A year later, Florida had the nation’s No. 3 class again, with the Wolverines right behind at No. 4. In 2014, both teams slipped a bit: Florida was No. 9 and Michigan was No. 20.

Averaged out over three years, Florida’s classes were No. 5.3 nationally. Michigan’s were No. 10. Again, that’s not too shabby, but McElwain had slightly better talent to work with.

Both programs entered with quarterback questions. Florida returned sophomore Treon Harris, who started the final seven games last season, but Grier was the more polished pocket passer. Michigan returned one-time starter Shane Morris, but Iowa graduate transfer Jake Rudock proved himself a better game manager.

Senior Trip Thurman was the only returning starter on the Gators’ offensive line, and Florida starts a graduate transfer from FCS program Fordham, senior Mason Halter, at right tackle.

Despite those issues, the Gators offense has improved from a year ago. Last fall, the Gators were No. 93 nationally in total offense and No. 104 nationally in pass offense. Now, they’re No. 86 nationally in total offense with a significant improvement in pass offense, ranking No. 49 nationally.

Michigan returned five players with starting experience on the offensive line (which struggled a year ago) but had little experience in the receiving corps, returning just five touchdown catches from 2014. And that offense finished No. 112 nationally, and No. 110 in passing offense.

This fall, the Wolverines have shown some improvement, but not as much as the Gators. With Rudock running the show they are No. 90 nationally in total offense and No. 98 in passing offense, barely in the top 100 nationally.

However, Harbaugh did inherit a strong defense that ranked No. 7 nationally in 2014, and it has been strong again this fall, ranking No. 7 nationally through seven weeks. Muschamp left McElwain a strong defense, and he has largely maintained it. A year ago, the Gators ranked No. 15 nationally in total defense, and they’re No. 22 this season.

Look at all the numbers, and it’s close. Very close. Both programs began the season outside the Top 25, and both are solidly in it now, with an opportunity to win their respective divisions (Florida is in the SEC East driver’s seat, while Michigan remains in contention for the Big Ten East).

Which coach is doing the better job? Florida’s offensive improvement, given the lack of experience on the offensive line, gives McElwain the slightest of edges, at least for now.

Both programs, however, are clearly on the road back to national prominence. Ultimately, the story is far from over.

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Oluwole Betiku Decommits from UCLA: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

A huge class of 2016 recruit put himself back in play Friday as defensive end Oluwole Betiku decommitted from UCLA.  

The Nigeria-born prospect made an official announcement via Twitter, citing a desire to take a deliberate, calculated approach to choosing his school:

According to 247Sports, Betiku is a 5-star prospect who ranks as the No. 11 overall recruit in his class and the top weak-side defensive end.

With a nearly 6'4", 240-pound frame to go along with speed, quickness and power to boot, the Junipero Serra High School (Gardena, California) standout has all of the makings of a future collegiate superstar.

Per Bleacher Report's Sanjay Kirpalani, Betiku has big-time aspirations moving forward as he hopes to provide for his family by making it to the NFL: "I came into the game of football just to make a way for my family. Make a way in my life and just to find a good situation. My mom and dad are still in Nigeria. My sister is over there and my brother. I want to be the breadwinner of the family one day. I feel like sports was going to be the way."

With Betiku's recruitment now wide open once again, Tom Loy of 247Sports tabbed Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, Penn State and Texas A&M as potential landing spots.

UCLA and head coach Jim Mora may not be out of the running despite the decommitment, but the Bruins will have no shortage of competition in their efforts to bring Betiku back into the fold.

Mora has done a great job on the recruiting trail of late as UCLA's Class of 2015 ranks 12th in the nation, according to 247Sports, but Betiku may ultimately be viewed by Bruins fans as the one who got away for many years to come.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Daily Fantasy College Football Week 8: Top Sleepers and DraftKings Projections

Saturday is almost here, which means you don't have much longer to set DraftKings lineups for Week 8 of daily fantasy college football.

But don't worry. We've done a little research, too.

Everybody wants to find a couple of sleepers, and the following five players are priced at $5,000 or less. Plugging them into a lineup provides a high-upside, cost-efficient option that allows flexibility.

 

Eric Dungey, QB, Syracuse ($5,000)

Baylor's Seth Russell will be an immensely popular play, but his $9,400 price tag likely makes the second quarterback a low-salary guy.

Perhaps the most reliable option will be Eric Dungey, who has scored at least 18.7 DFS points as the Syracuse starter. Last week, he tallied a season-high 26.5 points despite losing two fumbles.

Syracuse hosts Pittsburgh on Saturday, and it's not an outstanding matchup overall. But the two dual-threat quarterbacks the Panthers have played—Iowa's C.J. Beathard and Georgia Tech's Justin Thomas—combined for a total of 498 yards and two touchdowns.

Dungey's ceiling isn't tremendously high, but his floor is appealing.

Projection: 172 pass YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT; 68 rush YDS, 1 TD

 

Raekwon James, RB, Kent State ($4,300)

While Trayion Durham received the first shot at the starting job when Nick Holley went down, a sub-3.0-yard average gave Raekwon James a chance in Week 7—and he didn't waste it.

The freshman running back logged 20 carries for 85 yards, adding eight receptions for 56 yards during a five-point victory over Massachusetts.

Kent State probably can't keep up with Bowling Green's high-powered offense, but that doesn't spell disaster in the slightest. James has proved he's a pass-catching threat, and that'll come in handy when his team is inevitably trailing Bowling Green.

Although he's averaged 12.9 DFS points over the last four weeks, James has yet to score a touchdown. But this week, James will finally reach paydirt.

Projection: 71 rush YDS, 1 TD; 5 REC, 42 YDS

 

Keith Harrington, RB, Washington State ($3,700)

Be careful not to get overly infatuated with Keith Harrington, but he's a weekly double-digit player who can provide salary relief—and he's entertaining, too:

Just once in six games has the running back tallied fewer than 10.5 points. That's mostly because Harrington regularly contributes as a receiver, considering he has 23 catches this season.

What's most intriguing, though, is Washington State will face an Arizona defense that has surrendered 177.4 rushing yards per game and allowed a total of 15 rushing touchdowns.

Harrington should break off a couple of big runs, snag a few passes and find his way into the end zone once during a high-scoring contest.

Projection: 43 rush YDS, 1 TD; 4 REC, 37 YDS

 

Quenton Bundrage, WR, Iowa State ($4,300)

When Baylor steps onto the field, everyone knows what's coming: points, points and more points. But the Bears offense executes so quickly that opponents will have plenty of snaps.

And, more importantly, a team like Iowa State will be forced to throw, throw and throw some more, because Baylor will almost certainly build an early lead.

Allen Lazard is the Cyclones' No. 1 receiver, but Quenton Bundrage can rack up targets. The senior wideout has steadily improved throughout the season, which was an expected development after Bundrage missed all of 2014 due to injury.

Over the last two weeks, he's snagged 10 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. Expect Bundrage to continue his trend on Saturday.

Projection: 7 REC, 91 YDS, 1 TD

 

Canaan Severin, WR, Virginia ($4,100)

Similar to Bundrage and Iowa State, Canaan Severin and Virginia are bound to be trailing—probably right away, too.

The biggest difference, though, is Severin has established himself as the top receiver. Plus, North Carolina's secondary hasn't faced a player of the senior's caliber. Severin has scored a touchdown in three of his last four games.

Additionally, UNC is listed as 17.5-point favorites, according to Odds Shark. So, the Cavaliers are expected to be playing catch-up for most of the matchup, and Matt Johns really doesn't have options besides Severin and Taquan Mizzell.

Virginia won't win, but Severin will put up solid numbers.

Projection: 6 REC, 102 YDS, 1 TD

Head over to DraftKings and sign up for daily fantasy college football today. Assemble your lineup to participate in contests with big cash prizes.

Follow Bleacher Report CFB and DFS writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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Tennessee Football: 5 Players Volunteers Will Rely on Most vs. Alabama

In order for the Tennessee football team to finally force the big crimson elephant in the room into the loser's column, the Volunteers are going to have to get some monumental individual efforts.

You can't just beat Bama with a pedestrian performance, and after eight consecutive losses to the rival, it's going to take some playmakers emerging with games that will be remembered in the UT record books. That's just the way it goes when you've got a program as sturdy as coach Nick Saban's.

Even so, there doesn't seem to be any fear on Tennessee's sideline.

"Is it going to be a great challenge?” Tennessee coach Butch Jones told ESPN.com's Alex Scarborough. "Yes, but it's all about being elite. We are working to be an elite football program. … Everything goes into that term 'elite.' Obviously, Alabama is elite, but I know our players are excited and looking forward to a great challenge and opportunity."

The Vols need to take advantage of the decisive edge they have on special teams, meaning Evan Berry, Cameron Sutton or Alvin Kamara needs a huge return (or more) to steal points. 

UT needs to be efficient on offense, keep the ball away from Alabama and sustain drives. Tennessee also has to be opportunistic on defense and force the Crimson Tide into mistakes the way Ole Miss did.

But several players need all-world efforts, too. Let's take a look at who must emerge with some of the biggest games of their lives in order for Tennessee to beat Alabama for the first time since 2006.

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