NCAA Football

4-Star QB Deondre Francois Trims List to 3 Finalists

The recruiting journey of Deondre Francois has featured dramatic developments during the past few days, setting the stage for a climactic final stretch. The 4-star quarterback recently unveiled a top six, per Jason Dill of the Bradenton Herald, but it didn't take long for him to trim his choices down even further.

The coveted Florida playmaker has eliminated Ohio State, Tennessee and Notre Dame from contention, per his conversation with Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports (subscription required). Francois effectively cut his options in half, leaving Oregon, Auburn and Florida State in the mix.

He spent time at Auburn this week and was slated to follow up with visits to Tennessee and Ohio State in coming days. Those plans changed after his stay with the Tigers:

 Or not:

Francois was frank when describing his reasoning for the cancellations.

"I felt like there was no need for me to go to Tennessee or Ohio State," Francois told Niebuhr. "I've narrowed my schools down to Oregon, Auburn and Florida State. So I don't want to go to Ohio State and Tennessee and waste gas."

It may sound blunt for fans of the Buckeyes and Volunteers, but at least he isn't stringing both squads along while other quarterback options remain available.

Notre Dame has turned its attention to Southern California playmaker Travis Waller and Texas Tech pledge Jarrett Stidham since losing a commitment from 4-star passer Blake Barnett earlier this month.

Francois, rated No. 6 nationally among dual-threat quarterbacks in 247Sports' composite rankings, is a swiftly rising member of the 2015 class. Mississippi, LSU and Michigan are among his recent offers, though they failed to make the cut.

He transferred to IMG Academy (Bradenton, Florida) from Orlando's Olympia High School this year. Francois replaces 2014 Penn State signee Michael O'Connor as the team's starting quarterback.

His two seasons as starter at Olympia featured 3,162 passing yards and 28 touchdowns, according to Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel. Francois will play with a more talented supporting cast at IMG Academy, a program that perennially produces collegiate talent.

Francois is recognized as one of the hardest-throwing quarterbacks in the 2015 class. His accuracy remains questionable but the raw talent is clearly in place, along with an ability to create opportunities as a runner.

Florida State is viewed as a prohibitive favorite for Francois, who expects to announce his decision by the end of July. The Seminoles are projected to sign him in 95 percent of expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball.

Auburn is a formidable contender after his successful two-day stay on campus. The Tigers already hold a commitment from Georgia quarterback Tyler Queen but continue to explore other options, including Francois and fellow Florida talent Torrance Gibson.

Oregon extended an offer in April. Expect the Ducks, who recently missed on Barnett (Alabama) and Kyler Murray (Texas A&M), to key in on Francois as a pivotal target. 

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Re-Evaluating Wisconsin Football's 2011 Recruiting Class

When your recruiting class features twice as many 2-star recruits as 4-star players, your team will either sink or improve.  Thankfully for the Wisconsin football team, they've improved as former coach Bret Bielema found a number of 2- and 3-star rated players who have been valuable contributors to the team.

One extra piece of the Badgers recruiting class that has helped them immeasurably was the transfer of Russell Wilson, who is included in this class as he certainly was a part of the 2011 recruiting class—only that he came in with three years of experience under his belt.

The stars of this class come at running back and in the secondary, where Heisman Trophy candidate Melvin Gordon was recruited alongside Michael Caputo, who despite carrying only three stars, was excellent in 2013 for the Badgers.

Overall, the class features three 4-star players, 11 3-star players and six 2-star players.  The class was ranked No. 39 by 247 Sports and 9th in the Big Ten.  Despite this, the Badgers made two Rose Bowls since these recruits have come on campus.

Let's take a look back at Wisconsin's 2011 class and how those players performed in Madison.

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Notre Dame Football: Constructing the Perfect Close to the 2015 Recruiting Class

Notre Dame's recruiting efforts have heated up lately, with Brian Kelly and his staff getting on a roll since Memorial Day weekend. A half-dozen recruits have joined the 2015 recruiting class since the last day of May, with Josh Barajas, Brandon Tiassum, Micah Dew-Treadway, Nick Coleman, Elijah Taylor and Shaun Crawford all joining Brian VanGorder's defense. 

Even with the defection of Blake Barnett, a recruiting class that many expected to stay relatively small has swelled to 13 commitments—starting the inevitable exercise of figuring out just how many seats are left on the bus.

With an 85-man scholarship limit, Brian Kelly will have to make some tough decisions on fifth-year players after the season. But before that, he'll need to continue recruiting a talented class where the Irish coaching staff are in hot pursuit of a few dozen prospects with only a fraction of those scholarships still available.

The groundwork has been laid for a tremendous recruiting class.

Right now, 247Sports.com has the Irish haul ranked 10th in the country.

And things should only get more interesting with the biggest on-campus weekend of the summer about to start on June 20—the Irish Invasion camp.

But there is still work to be done. With a few critical holes in the current class, here's the perfect close to Brian Kelly's 2015 recruiting cycle. 

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Texas Football: Re-Evaluating the Longhorns 2011 Recruiting Class

The Texas Longhorns 2011 recruiting class was ranked No. 3 nationally by Rivals.com. The fact that the 22 signees stuck with their commitment was a bit of a shocker, considering the Longhorns' 5-7 record in 2010. But the signees kept their word following the losing season and six coaching changes.

The No. 3 ranking appeared to be positive momentum for the Longhorns' future, but how some of the players have panned out since has not led to Texas earning a top ranking in college football. 

Here's a re-evaluation of the 2011 signing class, as well as the grades the athletes have received during their three seasons at Texas.

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5 Nonconference Games That Will Make or Break College Football Playoff Chances

Hopefully, strength of schedule will be a heavily weighted factor in determining which four teams are selected to the first College Football Playoff. 

But, as with most things involving the selection committee, no one really knows for sure if that's going to be the case. For that matter, does the committee know what its selection requirements will be?

Anyway, we'll find out how important scheduling is and whether losing to quality nonconference opponents is weighted differently. In other words, is it a make-or-break game?

The criteria for a make-or-break game is relatively simple. It has to either significantly boost a team's resume with a win, or breaks a team's playoff chances if it loses—likely as a result of a difficult schedule elsewhere. 

Which nonconference games could make or break a team's playoff hopes? The answers are in the following slides. 

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The 15 Best Offensive Coordinators in College Football

The coaching carousel was a little bit different in 2013-14. All of the biggest-name hires seemed to be former head coaches bouncing around from one school to another, as opposed to big-name coordinators getting a promotion.

The two best offensive coordinators who became head coaches this offseason—Blake Anderson (North Carolina to Arkansas State) and Chuck Martin (Notre Dame to Miami-Ohio)—were considered among the best in their profession, but neither was considered at the top.

Without a Kliff Kingsbury to Texas Tech-type move this winter, the names on this list are stacked. Almost all of the hottest offensive coordinators in the country will remain offensive coordinators for at least another season, which means it was hard to crack the top 15.

But based on their resume, their recent success and whom they have learned from by coaching under, a group of offensive coordinators did stand out as the most adept in the country for next season.

Sound off below and let me know who I overlooked.

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Oregon Football: Power Ranking Ducks' 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

Oregon's road to a College Football Playoff berth is paved with several noteworthy stops along the way. The program faces one of the toughest nonconference games of any team in college football, a daunting cross-divisional road trip and a chance at two years' worth of revenge. 

The Ducks' 2014 season starts with a tune-up, but the action revs up to the red line by Week 2 when reigning Rose Bowl champion Michigan State comes to Eugene. 

Pac-12 competition presents several intriguing matchups, not the least of which is the return engagement with Stanford. The winner in this burgeoning rivalry has claimed the conference championship every season since 2010. The 2014 campaign could bring more of the same—unless up-and-coming Pac-12 South power UCLA has anything to say about it. 

The Bruins get a crack at the Ducks early in the season in a marquee showdown. 

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Oregon Football: Power Ranking Ducks' 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

Oregon's road to a College Football Playoff berth is paved with several noteworthy stops along the way. The program faces one of the toughest nonconference games of any team in ...

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Biggest Remaining Challenge Each SEC Coach Faces This Offseason

Amazingly, SEC Media Days are less than a month away, meaning this is a great time to examine each program’s biggest question marks headed into summer camp.

Coaches around the league are trying to size up their teams at this stage, probing for weaknesses and desperately searching for ways to strengthen or hide them to win as many games as possible.

This year will feature a number of new starting quarterbacks. At least eight programs will turn to new primary signal-callers, yet the sport’s most important position only surfaces as the primary concern for a few programs.

A season of change awaits the SEC.

How well heavily compensated coaches adjust to their new personnel and circumstances will go a long way toward determining which two teams face off in early December for the conference crown.

Here are each coaches’ biggest remaining challenges as the countdown toward college football’s 2014 debut takes center stage.

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How 4-Star Blake Barnett's Commitment Impacts Top Uncommitted QBs of 2015 Class

When Blake Barnett walked away from his Notre Dame commitment earlier this month, it appeared all roads led to Oregon. Instead, the 4-star California prospect will spend his collegiate career at Alabama.

Barnett committed to the Crimson Tide on Wednesday morning, announcing his decision with Bleacher Report:

The 6'3.5", 195-pound passer picked Alabama one week after visiting Tuscaloosa, capping off a lengthy search for head coach Nick Saban. The Tide have been hunting for an elite prospect at the position since losing 5-star pledge Ricky Town to USC in late January.

Barnett, a strong-armed, fleet-footed athlete, fits the bill.

Rated third nationally among dual-threat passers, he enjoyed a dominant junior campaign at Santiago High School in Corona, California. Barnett passed for 2,322 yards and 22 touchdowns, adding 695 yards and 13 scores as a rusher.

He provides Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin with a rare talent who could help usher in a new offensive approach at Alabama. His mobility certainly contrasts recent Tide quarterbacks AJ McCarron and Greg McElroy, who combined for three national titles despite scoring just five total rushing touchdowns in five seasons.

Since seeing Town flip to USC, the Tide have whiffed on a number of targets, most notably New Jersey's Brandon Wimbush (Penn State) and New Mexico's Zach Gentry (Texas). The recruiting cycle, a perennially long and winding road, eventually led Alabama to Barnett, who spent seven months committed to Notre Dame.

Although Saban extended an offer in February, it appeared the Southern California talent was destined to head north to Eugene after decommiting from the Fighting Irish. After all, he was on campus with the Ducks during the days prior to his departure from Notre Dame's class.

Barnett's decision to turn his back on Oregon and join an SEC powerhouse provides a further reminder of the fluidity of this 2015 quarterback class. The crop of passers is special, but so many unknowns remain in play less than eight months shy of national signing day.

Here's a peek at how Wednesday's events reshape the landscape for three coveted uncommitted quarterbacks.

 

Travis Waller

Yet another Southern California prospect, Waller is one of the hottest members of this recruiting class. The 4-star Anaheim product has seen a steady rise in interest during recent months, including offers from Ole Miss, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Cal and Maryland.

Alabama extended a scholarship in mid-May, and he visited Tuscaloosa earlier this month. Waller, rated No. 4 nationally among dual-threat quarterbacks, appeared to be a strong option for the Tide and included the team in his top four:

With Alabama apparently out of the picture, it would appear Notre Dame is now the front-runner. Equanimeous St. Brown, his top wide receiver at Servite High School, is also a top target for the Fighting Irish, and a package deal seems to be a realistic goal for head coach Brian Kelly.

Waller, who tallied 2,900 yards and 25 touchdowns as a senior, is projected to sign with Notre Dame by 92 percent of expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball.

Kelly may find his 2015 quarterback in California after all. However, Oregon could be encouraged to make a late push for Waller after missing out on Barnett.

Waller plans to announce his decision on July 1.

 

Deondre Francois

The Florida star is arguably rising just as fast as Waller. Francois has received offers from Oregon, LSU and Mississippi State since April.

He possesses one of the nation's most impressive throwing arms, though he is still learning how to harness his power and develop improved accuracy.

The 6'1", 195-pound IMG Academy (Bradenton, Florida) standout revealed six finalists Saturday morning but trimmed that list in half Wednesday after his visit to Auburn, per Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports.

Francois, rated No. 6 nationally among dual-threat quarterbacks in 247Sports' composite rankings, eliminated Tennessee, Ohio State and Notre Dame from contention. He is focused on three finalists: Florida State, Auburn and Oregon.

The Ducks could rise to the forefront after missing out on Barnett. Oregon flourishes in the kind of uptempo, quick-hit attack that suits Francois well at the next level.

He plans to share his decision late next month.

 

Torrance Gibson

The scintillating talent led American Heritage High School to a Florida state title in 2013, finishing his junior season with 2,900 total yards and 29 scores. Rated No. 1 nationally among athletes, the jury is still out on whether Gibson is capable of orchestrating a collegiate offensive attack or if he's better suited for a future at receiver.

Regardless, it appears he'll start college with an opportunity to compete as a quarterback. He recently released a revised top seven to Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com.

Gibson's finalists, in order, are Tennessee, Auburn, LSU, Oklahoma, Central Florida, Miami and Ohio State.

So how does Barnett's decision impact his outlook?

The quarterback vacancy at Oregon could tempt Francois to take a closer look at the Ducks. If he's drawn to Eugene, that would leave the door open for an intense SEC recruiting battle between Tennessee and Alabama.

On the flip side, if Francois elects to commit to Auburn, that would make Tennessee an even stronger favorite to land the Fort Lauderdale phenom.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

How Nick Saban Will Get Even with Auburn, College Football Gods in 2014

The loss was nothing short of stunning, especially considering the opponent. 

The University of Alabama defense had limited Auburn to season lows in total offense and rushing yards, only to be left watching as the Tigers celebrated the remarkable comeback win.

"We didn't finish the game," Alabama coach Nick Saban said during his postgame press conference. "When you play good teams you've got to play for 60 minutes. Those kinds of teams don't go away. There's a lot of lessons to be learned out there about finishing games and continuing to do things correctly.”

Yet this wasn’t last year’s epic finish at Jordan-Hare Stadium, where Chris Davis’ 100-plus yard touchdown return off a missed field goal as time expired resulted in an epic 34-28 finish.

This was the 2010 game. Due to a torn pectoral muscle, safety Mark Barron couldn’t lift his arm to intercept or deflect a pass that resulted in a 70-yard touchdown, running back Mark Ingram had just his second lost fumble in 613 touches and Alabama blew a 24-0 lead.

The Crimson Tide subsequently responded by winning the rematch 42-14 and the next two national championships only to learn the same tough lesson all over again.

The question now is can Alabama bounce back in similar fashion?

There’s no way of knowing until the season plays out and the rivals meet again Nov. 29 at Bryant-Denny Stadium, but history tells us that the Crimson Tide should be more than ready.

Since 2008 only eight opposing coaches have managed to pull out a victory against Saban, while just one, Les Miles, has defeated him twice in a row. Previously the last coach to defeat him in consecutive games was Steve Spurrier when Florida was flying high under his direction. It pounded LSU 41-9 in 2000, and 44-15 in 2001.

Before losing to LSU during the 2011 season Saban had won 12 straight rematches.

In those 14 initial defeats Saban’s team lost by an average of 14.4 points. In the rematches he won by an average of 14.7 points.

Of course, no rematch was bigger than LSU in 2011, when the Crimson Tide lost the regular-season meeting in overtime, 9-6, only to play again for the national title. Despite LSU being in its back yard of New Orleans, Alabama recorded the only shutout in Bowl Championship Series history, 21-0.

It’s part of a familiar pattern.

After losing to Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer in the 2008 SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, Alabama spent a lot of the following offseason working on the Gators. It returned to the Georgia Dome and won.

Last year it did the same to Johnny Manziel and Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M. After the Aggies pulled off a 29-24 win in 2012, when Alabama was facing its third ranked team in as many weeks, the Crimson Tide went to Kyle Field and notched a 49-42 victory.

Consequently, there’s a reason why no SEC opponent has a winning record against the Crimson Tide under Saban.

Overall, there are just nine programs that have an edge on Saban over his 18 years as a collegiate head coach. Florida State, Navy, Stanford, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Utah and Washington are all 1-0, while Nebraska is 2-0. From his Big Ten days at Michigan State (1995-99), Wisconsin is 2-1 while Purdue is 3-1-1 thanks largely to quarterback Drew Brees.

Michigan was one of the few opposing programs with an overall winning record against Saban before he arrived at Alabama. The Crimson Tide opened the 2012 season with an impressive 41-14 neutral-site win in Dallas. 

That’s the same venue where it will open the 2015 season against Wisconsin, where Saban will once again try to show that he doesn’t just get mad about losing, he gets even.

 

Christopher Walsh is the lead Alabama football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

Follow @CrimsonWalsh

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Biggest Remaining Challenge Each Big Ten Coach Faces This Offseason

The dog days of summer are upon us. That means summer workouts and filling out rosters with incoming freshmen. 

It also means it's time to assess the biggest question marks facing teams before the start of preseason camp. 

Everyone in the Big Ten has questions—from Ohio State to Purdue. Some teams just have more pressing ones. 

What is the biggest remaining challenge for each Big Ten head coach? The answers are in the following slides. 

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B/R Exclusive: Watch Blake Barnett, Hottest QB in 2015 Class, Commit

This B/R exclusive with Blake Barnett, one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the 2015 class, offers an inside look as he decides where he will play his collegiate ball. Rated the No. 3 dual-threat QB and a 4-star prospect by 247Sports' composite rankings, he recently decommitted from the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

With the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Oregon Ducks still fighting for his talents, his choice will create ripples through the recruiting world.

Watch Barnett as he announces his decision and discusses his future program with Bleacher Report's Adam Lefkoe.

 

All recruit rankings from the 247Sports composite.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bitcoin to Sponsor New St. Petersburg Bowl Game

Welcome to 2014, people.

The St. Petersburg Bowl, which was sponsored by Beef O'Brady's from 2009-13, will officially be sponsored by Bitcoin, the new-age purveyor of cryptocurrency, starting next season.

The domain beefobradysbowl.com was changed to feature the new logo Wednesday afternoon, at which point the bowl's official Twitter account confirmed the news with this tweet:

According to Biz Carson of Gigaom, the sponsorship came from payment services provider BitPay, and the deal will run through 2016.

This year's St. Petersburg Bowl will be played on Friday, Dec. 26, at 8 p.m. ET, per FBSchedules.com. It is slated to pit a team from the AAC against a team from the ACC, unless either conference does not have enough bowl eligible teams to participate.

Those conference affiliations are new, however: Last year's game featured East Carolina (C-USA), who beat Ohio (MAC), 37-20.

This is positive news for the smaller bowl games, which have collectively had their future cast into doubt with the beginning of the College Football Playoff. Chase Goodbread of NFL.com explains why that doubt is probably overblown, and how this contract helps:

The birth of the College Football Playoff brought about some concern for the future viability of smaller bowls such as this one. Bitcoin's step-in is an example of why there probably isn't too much cause for alarm. As long as there is always a new sponsor ready to step in and put its logo on a bowl, that bowl won't be going away. There might be some changes to the landscape in terms of which bowls can get which teams, but sponsorship always has been and will continue to be the bottom line.

That Bitcoin can afford to sponsor a bowl game is a definite sign of the new world order. That it replaced something as conventional and homey as a sports bar seems fitting for the times in which we live.

The thought of older college football announcers trying to wrap their heads around—and, more so, to explain—what Bitcoin is and how it works during the broadcast is just funny to think about.

In the mind of SI.com writer Martin Rickman, those thoughts might even be enough to get through the rest of the summer:

Amen to that, Martin.

There's a light at the end of the tunnel.

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Predicting Where Notre Dame Will Finish in 2015 Recruiting Ranks

Since Brian Kelly was hired in December 2009, Notre Dame football has finished with a top-10 recruiting class three times. The Irish currently sit at No. 10 in the national team rankings for the class of 2015, per 247Sports.

After its recent run of six commitments in 17 days, Notre Dame’s class has swelled to 13 members. The question, however, is where the Fighting Irish class will finish in the rankings. We’re still roughly eight months away from national signing day, but we’ll look toward the future and consider the possibilities.

Given Kelly’s track record since arriving at Notre Dame, a top-20 finish seems like a lock. But the current class has only four 4-star commitments—center Tristen Hoge, cornerback Shaun Crawford, offensive tackle Jerry Tillery and linebacker Josh Barajas.

The Irish will need to continue adding high-end talent to maintain a spot in the top 10, and they’ll most likely need to land a few of their top targets to surge even higher up the rankings.

Some of the top names on Notre Dame’s board figure to include cornerback Iman Marshall, outside linebacker Justin Hilliard, defensive end Jashon Cornell, and running backs Jacques Patrick and Soso Jamabo, all of whom rank in the top 60 overall.

Last year, the Irish earned a late commitment from inside linebacker Nyles Morgan, who finished the recruiting cycle as the No. 53 player in the country. Morgan was Notre Dame’s highest-ranked commitment in that 10th-ranked class.

In 2013, however, Notre Dame added outside linebacker Jaylon Smith (No. 2 nationally), safety Max Redfield (No. 30) and running back Greg Bryant (No. 45), and the Irish finished fifth.

While rounding out the rest of the class with top players is still important, Notre Dame’s final class ranking will likely come down to how it fares with elite prospects.

For some of those top targets, such as Hilliard, the Irish will soon know where they stand. 

Making my decision this month at St. X. I'll know the exact date as early as tomorrow.

— Justin Hilliard (@JHilliard47) June 18, 2014

But for others, the decision might not come until the back end of the upcoming season or even January or February.

With that time frame in mind, it’s worth remembering Notre Dame’s 2012 season and its class of 2013.

Following the undefeated regular season and the trip to the national championship game, the Irish closed their class with a bang. Redfield pledged to Notre Dame in January, three days before the title game. Bryant committed in early December, roughly two weeks after the Irish capped their 12-0 regular season with a 22-13 win over their rival USC.

Notre Dame seems set to finish comfortably in the top 20 of the team recruiting rankings, barring a woefully disappointing season. Another outstanding season, meanwhile, could bring a late boost to the class of 2015 and vault the Irish well into the top 10.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting stats and information courtesy of 247Sports. Star ratings reflect 247Sports' composite rankings.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco on Twitter.

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Power Ranking Auburn's 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

Much has been made of Auburn's 2014 schedule, since it was officially confirmed—the two Mississippi road trips, the visit to Kansas State for a nationally televised Thursday night clash and the pickup of South Carolina in the rotating cross-divisional schedule.

And who could forget the history-making pair of road games at bitter rivals Georgia and Alabama?

The defending SEC champions have plenty of talent returning from last season and will most likely be a top-five team heading into the 2014 schedule. With starting quarterback Nick Marshall returning to lead Gus Malzahn's high-octane offense and a reloaded defense eager to push itself to new heights, Auburn is projected to be in the battle for the four spots in the first College Football Playoff. 

But, like most schedules in the nation's toughest conference, Auburn's 2014 schedule will be a grind through some of the top teams in college football. If the Tigers are going to get back to the sport's biggest stage, they will have to run the gauntlet once again.

Here is a look at the 12 regular-season opponents Auburn has in its crosshairs for 2014, ranked from easiest to toughest.

 

Returning starter numbers are taken from Phil Steele, unless otherwise noted, and opening lines are taken from the Golden Nugget.

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Michigan Football: Jabrill Peppers Tempering the Hype, Showing Maturity

The hype surrounding 5-star recruit Jabrill Peppers began building the moment he announced his Michigan commitment. Interest fueled by a steady stream of YouTube video highlights, his Twitter presence and personal blog Breezy’s World, via USA Today, has reached a fever pitch just as he prepares to join his new teammates in Ann Arbor.

But in his final blog entry, Peppers dialed down the fiery rhetoric and acknowledged the competitive gap he needs to cross while remaining undaunted by the work ahead:

I just want to be as prepared as possible going into my freshman year because I know a lot will be expected from me. I've always had that, but I always say, 'To whom much is given much is required.'

I'm not going into Michigan thinking about expectations or worrying about doing certain things to live up to expectations. I know there's a huge transition from high school to college and I'm just going in focusing on learning the defensive schemes.

Many great high school players don’t appreciate the challenge of football at the collegiate level—Peppers isn't making that mistake.

He has embraced the work of cultivating his talent, and that should send a chill through Michigan’s opponents and bring a smile to the face of Michigan fans.

He also addressed the comparisons between him and Michigan Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson:

I'm not trying to go in there to be the next Charles Woodson. It's a nice comparison, but, at the end of the day, that's Charles. That's one of the best college football players ever. I haven't done anything yet.

I just want to be the best Jabrill I can be.

Hoke perhaps helped delay some of the inevitable comparisons last week, saying that Peppers might begin his college career wearing No. 5 instead of the No. 2 jersey made famous by Woodson.

No matter what jersey number he wears, the comparison to Woodson isn't going away. While Woodson made 55 tackles and five interceptions during his freshman year, he didn't appear on offense or start returning kicks until his sophomore season—even he needed time to acclimate to the collegiate game.

Earlier this year, Hoke tried to slow down the speculation that Peppers would be used to return kicks this season, while acknowledging his potential.

“Let him get in here and be a corner for a while before returning kicks,” said Hoke. “And possibly there might be a plan for him to play on offense.”

Peppers has masterfully cultivated his image—many professional players could learn from his example. But image is one thing, and now it’s time for him to back up his bravado with performance on the field.

Peppers may have dialed down the attitude in his blog posting, but he couldn’t resist setting bold expectations for his freshman season.

Swagger is great, but Michigan needs him to compete and earn a position on the depth chart as soon as possible. He’ll need to prove himself to teammates and foes alike—that’s the pressure that comes with being one of the top recruits in the nation.

All statistics from mgoblue.com, the official University of Michigan athletic department website.

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via press conferences or in person.

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Texas Rushing Attack: Monster Year for Longhorn Duo

The Texas Longhorns are looking to rely heavily on their rushing attack in the upcoming season. The two men to lead this charge are Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray.

Both running backs have huge potential, with an opportunity to become an insane duo during the 2014 season. How well do you think these two workhorses will fare next year?

Watch Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss the Longhorns' running backs.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOs Digital

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What 4-Star LB Nick Conner's Commitment Means for Ohio State

Ohio State endured a slow start to the 2015 recruiting cycle but momentum continues to mount during the early stages of summer. In-state linebacker Nick Conner elevated the class Tuesday evening when he shared his commitment on Instagram.

"I just want to say that I have officially committed to play football at The Ohio State University," he wrote in a statement that accompanied a photo montage.

Connor, a 4-star prospect from Dublin, Ohio, pledged to Ohio State shortly after receiving his offer at a Buckeyes camp. The 6'3", 225-pound playmaker became the newest member of Urban Meyer's class before leaving campus:

Ohio State suddenly has seven commits after failing to pick up a pledge for more than three months. Florida safety Ben Edwards, who joined the class in February, flipped to Auburn in April and left the class with just two prospects for a five-week span.

Quarterback Joe Burrow ended the drought on May 27, and Meyer has since steadily assembled a quality group of talent. Conner is the most crucial pickup this year.

He holds a score of 0.917 in 247Sports' composite ratings, which is good enough for second in the class. Only cornerback Eric Glover-Williams, who committed last summer, is more highly rated.  

Conner, who rated fifth nationally among inside linebackers in 247Sports' composite rankings, is an extremely productive player at Dublin Scioto High School. He tallied 129 tackles in 2013, including 19 for loss.

He exhibited well-rounded effectiveness, collecting 5.5 sacks and three interceptions. Connor chose Ohio State from an expansive offer list that includes Oregon, West Virginia, Kentucky and Michigan State.

His decision to jump at the freshly extended Buckeyes offer could further motivate other Ohio State targets to commit. The Buckeyes are heavily invested in the pursuit of a pair of in-state outside linebackers who could complement Conner at the next level. 

Justin Hilliard (Cincinnati) and Jerome Baker (Cleveland) are coveted athletes who Meyer aims to keep on their home turf. A lengthy recruiting lull may have perplexed both players, but the team's recent success—five commits in three weeks—may be enough to turn the tide and create an impression that now is the time to hop on the Buckeyes bandwagon.

Ohio State's class currently rates 37th nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings. Given Meyer's impressive track record on the recruiting trail, it's safe to say the team's trajectory is pointed upward.

 

Recruit information and ratings provided by 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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RB Ameer Abdullah Will Be Nebraska's Most Dangerous Weapon

Ameer Abdullah has proved to be a staple for the Nebraska Cornhuskers offensive attack. Entering Abdullah's senior year, expectations are through the roof.

His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield provides even more opportunities for him to succeed. How important do you think Abdullah is for the Cornhuskers?

Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer discuss how impactful the player can be during his final year.

Highlights courtesy of XOs Digital

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