NCAA Football

Star Brothers Daniel and Josh Imatorbhebhe's Quest to Play Together in College

When it comes to the recruiting trail, Josh Imatorbhebhe secured a slight head start over older brother Daniel. Despite an early disparity in interest, their respective paths could eventually lead to the same college campus.

But if that isn't the case, an eight-win 2014 campaign at North Gwinnett High School in Georgia could be the final time this talented duo lines up together on the gridiron.

"It's something I try not to think about," Daniel said. "That possibility definitely stirs some emotions because we've done some great things alongside each other."

The Imatorbhebhes are among the most highly recruited pass-catchers in the Southeast, with 2015 prospect Daniel drawing more than a dozen offers at tight end and Josh commanding widespread interest as a coveted 2016 wide receiver.

The duo combined for 91 receptions, 1,559 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2014, per MaxPreps. A state title chase ended surprisingly early on Nov. 14 when the team was upset by Central Gwinnett High School in first-round playoff action.

Daniel is months away from finalizing collegiate plans, while Josh will enter the 2015 season viewed as one of the Peach State's premier returning seniors. Just a few years ago, the football field didn't appear to be the gateway toward a bright future that it's become for both brothers.

"I thought I was going to the NBA," Josh said. "I was one foot in and one foot out in football. I thought basketball was my ticket to success. We both grew up thinking that."

That changed after his freshman season. Josh, once viewed as a potential pillar for the North Gwinnett basketball program, elected to follow Daniel's lead and focus solely on football.

"I knew it was a risk, and I was at an early crossroads in my life," Josh said. "I had to make an adult choice about which direction would be better for me in the long run and really just went on blind faith. It turned out to be a blessing."

He spent his sophomore campaign sharing snaps behind 4-star senior receiver Nate Brown, who now plays at Missouri. Despite limited touches, his 6'2", 202-pound frame and elite athleticism drew attention from several college coaching staffs.

Josh landed his first scholarship offer last January from Boston College, weeks before Florida presented Daniel with his initial offer. Even though he posted production that rivaled any 2015 Georgia tight end as a junior, the elder Imatorbhebhe watched as his brother beat him to a scholarship.

“It was a confusing time," Daniel said. "Josh was supportive. He just kept saying ‘yours is coming, yours is coming.' He’s a freak athlete, while I’m more someone who has to work hard to be above average. Things seem to come more naturally to him."

Still, there were moments of doubt for Josh, who found his full-time conversion to the football field more difficult than he expected at the onset.

"I thought football would be mostly about athletic ability but it’s so much more than that," he said. "I struggled trying to figure out lot of stuff and thought about quitting, but my brother was always motivating me. Now I’ve matured to understand how to handle situations. I'm more meticulous in my craft and trying to actualize my potential."

By the start of the 2014 season, both Imatorbhebhes held offers from across the country.

Daniel committed to Missouri in April. However, he began to question that decision and eventually backed off the verbal pledge in September.

Naturally, his loyalty to Josh was a motivating factor.

"That commitment was the first time in this process I really felt like I made a decision without fully considering my brother," Daniel said. "There were a lot of factors involved, and the Missouri coaching staff was great to me, but I didn't necessarily feel like Josh and I were on the same page there."

Since reopening his recruitment, Daniel has spent official visits at Florida and Ohio State. Josh, who also holds offers from each program, accompanied him on those trips.

“It was huge having him there with me," Daniel said. "If Josh couldn’t come on an official, I didn’t want to go. We talked about everything from the experience and how we felt about things. It’s great having him in the equation every step of the way.”

Meanwhile, Josh received a sneak peek of what lies ahead for him next season, when teams will be lining up to welcome the younger brother.

"What I took away from joining him for the process is that it’s a big deal," he said. "You can’t take it lightly. People roll out the red carpet and overextend themselves to get you on their campus. It shows just how huge of a decision this is."

That decision ultimately lies ahead for both players, but Daniel is up first. Along with Ohio State and Georgia, he's keeping a close eye on Vanderbilt and Cal.

As word spreads about Josh's junior season—a campaign that included four games with 100-plus receiving yards and 15 touchdown receptions—programs continue to join the pursuit. As his list of options grows, it creates more opportunities for him that don't involve Daniel.

"I understand why they would offer Josh and not me, especially if they already have the tight end position filled for 2015," Daniel said. "It's just something we'll have to deal with moving forward."

Clemson and Georgia—a pair of programs Josh mentions as attractive destinations—are unlikely to offer Daniel at this stage. But don't think for a moment that closes the door on a possibility of this brotherly duo joining forces at the next level.

“My mom was praying for twins, and we were the closest thing she got. I love my brother," Josh said. "It would be great to play and live together in college. I don’t feel like that’s the main thing either of us need to worry about, though. We have different needs and different wants, so if that means we end up taking different paths, than so be it."

It's a realistic outlook, and one that causes emotions to surface for Daniel, who plans to enroll early.

"The clock is ticking for me," Daniel said. "It's my last season at home, my last Christmas at home. It all makes me want to sit back and enjoy these moments. Things are going to change in my life very soon, and even though I know my brother will always be a big part of it, I hope we still have a lot of snaps to take together on the field. It's been amazing to share this experience with him, and I'm not sure if I'm ready to let that go."

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report recruiting analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Most Important Notre Dame Players for the Rest of the Year

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — In a short span of 96 seconds and a brief overtime period, Notre Dame lost to Northwestern, fell to 7-3 and raised a slew of questions heading into its final two games of the regular season.

With 1:36 remaining in regulation, Irish senior running back Cam McDaniel ran to the right side and fumbled. Northwestern drove down the field, tied the game and won it in overtime.

Almost exactly one month ago, the Irish were undefeated and ranked fifth in the country heading into a prime-time showdown with Florida State. Even after the last-minute loss to the Seminoles, Notre Dame looked like a surefire top-10 or top-15 team at the worst. Now, the Irish are out of the Top 25.

So with two games remaining in the regular season—a home meeting with Louisville on Saturday and the rivalry matchup with USC the following weekend—who are the most important Irish players? These aren’t necessarily the best or most-used players on the team, but they’ll all need to be at the top of their game for the Irish to make strides.

 

Everett Golson

Naturally, Notre Dame goes as Everett Golson goes. His mixed performance against the Wildcats on Saturday—21-of-40 for 287 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and 78 rushing yards, a score and a fumble—aptly sums up his season. There’s been plenty of good; there’s no debating that. But costly mistakes seem inevitable at this point for the second-year starter.

On Saturday, Golson’s biggest blunder was a third-quarter fumble. Notre Dame had 1st-and-goal from the Northwestern 5-yard line, and Golson was charged with a fumble on a read-option. As Irish head coach Brian Kelly said afterward, many of the recent mistakes have been “critical errors”—turnovers inside the red zone, for instance.

The turnovers have often been grave in nature, and they’ve been plentiful. In his last seven games, Golson has committed 19 turnovers—more than 84 FBS teams have coughed up the entire season.

For Notre Dame to right the ship in its final two regular-season games and manufacture some momentum heading into its bowl game, Golson must be sharper. It’s pretty simple.

 

Kyle Brindza

All of a sudden, Notre Dame’s kicking game is a question mark. Irish senior Kyle Brindza entered the season as a Lou Groza Award candidate. The burly Brindza missed eight field goals as a sophomore and six last season; he was trending in the right direction.

Earlier in the year, Brindza’s stat line could be mostly explained by the struggles in the holding game. While new holder Malik Zaire didn’t inspire loads of confidence early on with his miscue on an extra-point attempt, it’s still fair to look further for explanations of Brindza’s kicking problems. He’s now 11-of-19 on field-goal attempts this season after hooking two tries against Northwestern.

“He’s got a new battery in there,” Kelly said after the game. “Probably thinking a little too much. Trying to get him not to think about the hold and he starts thinking about the hold and then you get into rushing your mechanics and, unfortunately, it hurt us today.”

Based on Brindza’s track record, it’s reasonable to assume he’ll turn things around in the final three games of the season. Notre Dame needs him and his points, as the defensive struggles have continued in recent weeks.

 

Jaylon Smith

Notre Dame’s defense has been continually gashed in recent weeks, and someone—anyone—needs to step up and start to stop the bleeding.

Irish sophomore linebacker Jaylon Smith has been solid all season, and his role has become even more crucial after senior “Mike” linebacker Joe Schmidt suffered a season-ending ankle injury. Irish junior defensive end Sheldon Day has been terrific too, but Day’s status is up in the air following a knee injury suffered Saturday. We should learn more about Day’s outlook Tuesday when Kelly addresses the media in his weekly press conference.

So Smith will be one of the key cogs counted on to correct things defensively, as the Irish continue to trot out young and inexperienced teammates.

“We’re obviously playing a lot of young guys that are struggling and they’re doing their best, but too many young guys on the field,” Kelly said Saturday. “That’s probably the biggest issue right now that we’re just trying to fight through.”

There’s only so much more Smith can do as just one of 11 players on the defense. He tallied 10 tackles and forced a fumble against the Wildcats, and he leads the squad with 77 tackles. If he can somehow find another gear down the stretch, Smith could lift up the Irish defense.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Louisville Cardinals Complete Game Preview

While Notre Dame fans are still reeling from an overtime defeat at the hands of woeful Northwestern, the coaches and players have no choice but to turn their attention to Louisville. And fresh off a bye week, the Cardinals come to South Bend looking to deliver a knockout punch to a team that's clearly wobbling against the ropes. 

In the final home game of the season, the Irish have another opportunity to get their eighth victory, a win that would make head coach Brian Kelly the first Notre Dame coach ever to win eight or more games in his first five seasons on the job. 

But getting there looks much harder than it did a month ago. The Irish have gone from College Football Playoff contenders to a group that's in danger of free fall, courtesy of a defense that's fallen apart and an offense that continues to turn the football over in critical situations. 

After finding a way to get outscored by one of the least-explosive offenses in all of college football, the Irish now take on one of the best defenses in the nation. It's a matchup that has many people doubting Kelly's young team, with the point spread moving drastically in Louisville's favor after opening up with Notre Dame favored by 9.5 points. 

Let's get you ready for the very first meeting between Louisville and Notre Dame, with Bobby Petrino set to bring the Cardinals to South Bend. 

 

Date: Saturday, November 22

Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

Place: Notre Dame Stadium in Notre Dame, Indiana

TV: NBC

Radio: IMG College Sports, SiriusXM Channel 129

Spread: Notre Dame by 3.5, according to Odds Shark.

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BYU vs. Savannah State Complete Game Preview

BYU will welcome FCS foe Savannah State to Provo this weekend for senior night. The Cougars and Tigers have never met before, so the game will be a first for both teams.

With a win over UNLV last week, BYU became bowl eligible and gained its second straight victory. Savannah State, on the other hand, has not won a game all season, and it doesn't look like that will change this Saturday.

So, what should we expect out of BYU's final home game? Read on to find out.

Date: Saturday, November 22

Time: 1 p.m. MST (3 p.m. EST)

Place: LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, UT

TV: BYUtv

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM)

Spread:Not Available

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Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Indiana Hoosiers Complete Game Preview

One week after walking away from the winter wonderland that was Minnesota with a 31-24 victory, the Ohio State football team will head home to Columbus to host its final two games of the regular season. The first test left on the Buckeyes' schedule will be a date with Indiana, which currently finds itself on a five-game losing streak.

Ohio State, meanwhile, has racked up eight straight victories and is right in the thick of the race to be a part of the first-ever College Football Playoff. A ninth consecutive win for the Buckeyes would clinch them the Big Ten East championship, securing a spot in Indianapolis for a second straight conference title game appearance.

And while Ohio State enters Saturday's contest a heavy favorite, having something on the line should go a long way toward capturing the Buckeyes' attention.

Are the Hoosiers capable of haunting Ohio State? We'll find out on Saturday. But until then, here's everything you need to know about the Buckeyes' showdown with Indiana:

Date: Saturday, Nov. 22

Time: 12 p.m. ET

Place: Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio:Ohio State Football Radio Network, IUHoosiers.com

Spread: Ohio State (-30), via Odds Shark

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Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Western Carolina Catamounts Complete Game Preview

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After two straight physical games against some of the SEC’s best, Alabama needs a little bit of a break. It will get that this week.

FCS Western Carolina will roll into Tuscaloosa for a glorified scrimmage on Saturday and give Alabama a tuneup before another high-stakes Iron Bowl.

The Crimson Tide are riding high after a 25-20 win against what was at the time the No. 1 team in the country. Western Carolina has won seven games this year after winning just four total in the last three seasons.

This week, Alabama coach Nick Saban is more worried about making sure his team continues to improve rather than just beating the Catamounts.

“So if I say what do we have to do to win this game, I might think, 'Well, I don't have to practice as hard this week. The guy's not quite as big as what I'm used to having to play against, or whatever,’” Saban said.

“Are you going to get better that way or not? Taking advantage of the opportunity that you have is much bigger than that. ‘I need to play better. I need to improve. I need to help my teammates play better. We didn't execute these plays properly. We need to start getting these plays right.  We've got to do a better job, whether it's covering, blocking, carrying out fakes, catching balls, whatever it is.’ The major thing for me is stay focused on what you need to do to improve, so you take advantage of the opportunity. And that's for every player.”

Here’s everything you need to know:

Date: Saturday, November 22

Time: 3 p.m. CT

Place: Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

TV: SEC Network

Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, Catamount Sports Network

Spread: None.

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Super 16 Poll Week 13: Complete Rankings Released for 2014 Season

In a 16-team playoff format, we wouldn't question Ohio State's resume, or if a one-loss SEC team that doesn't win the conference deserves to get into the playoff. We wouldn't worry about TCU being ranked ahead of the Baylor team that defeated it (OK, maybe we'd worry about it a little) or even lament Arizona State's loss this week that knocked it out of the postseason conversation.    

We don't have a 16-team playoff format, of course. But each week, the voters at the Super 16 Poll play that fun theoretical and decide on their best 16 teams in the nation. Below, you'll find their latest poll along with the Bleacher Report poll this week and analysis on the rankings.

 

Analysis

At this point, while the various polls don't necessarily agree on what order they should be placed in, they do agree that Alabama, Oregon and Florida State are the top three teams in the nation. Florida State still hasn't lost, Oregon has gotten better and better as the season has worn on (and has a great non-conference win over Michigan State) and Alabama has the best win of the bunch after it just knocked off Mississippi State.

While Florida State was dropped to No. 3 in the standings by the selection committee this week and has its share of detractors, it's hard to ignore that the Seminoles just keep on winning.

"Everybody talks about this team doesn't do this, doesn't do that," Jimbo Fisher told Dan Wolken of USA Todayafter Florida State survived Miami. "When you measure this team for 60 minutes, it measures up pretty dag-gone good to anybody, anywhere."

After those three teams, though, the No. 4 spot is seemingly up for grabs. While a four-team playoff isn't really taken into consideration by the Super 16 voters—since they are voting on a 16-team playoff pool—determining the No. 4 team in the country has become college football's most important debate.

A pair of Big 12 schools, Baylor and TCU, can each make a case. So too can Ohio State. But are we all leaving Mississippi State for dead too quickly?

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports isn't and still has the Bulldogs in his top four:

Mississippi State fell hard in Tuscaloosa, but doesn’t fall out of the Fab Four. The Bulldogs were on the verge of being run out of Bryant-Denny Stadium but regrouped and made a game of it, showing their mettle. Even though all three of their quality wins took a hit Saturday—Auburn lost to Georgia, LSU lost to Arkansas and Texas A&M lost to Missouri—they still have more on the resume than Baylor, TCU and Ohio State.  

Reaching the College Football Playoff without winning the SEC or even reaching the title game—Alabama will win the SEC West if it wins out—will be a blight on Mississippi State's resume, no question. But the fact that the Bulldogs' resume is already so strong and could get even stronger if they beat Ole Miss shouldn't be disregarded. 

In a 16-team playoff, teams like Ohio State, TCU and Baylor wouldn't be left out. And even in the four-team playoff system, TCU and Baylor may not be left out, depending on which team wins the Big 12. But Ohio State is probably in trouble. 

The team's best win is Michigan State on the road, a pretty good win. But the Big Ten is down this year, and the Buckeyes are likely either going to only be able to add a potential win over two-loss Nebraska or two-loss Wisconsin in the conference title game. Plus, the loss to Virginia Tech is easily the worst loss amongst the top contenders for the playoff. 

So yes, the Buckeyes would probably be all in favor of an expanded playoff system this year. They may still get in, but it's hard to imagine them getting in over a Mississippi State, Baylor or TCU.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Hugh Freeze Contract: Latest News and Rumors on Negotiations with Ole Miss

Ole Miss might be on the outside looking in at the first ever College Football Playoff, but head coach Hugh Freeze will reportedly earn a new contract for his efforts.   

No deal is in place yet but it appears likely one will be set in the near future. Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork discussed the latest on Freeze, per Ben Garrett of Ole Miss Spirit:

Bjork's comments were passed along in Garrett's report:

Obviously, we’ve redone his contract after the last two seasons. We’ve used the same approach. ... We’ve been proactive throughout the season. Coach knows how we feel about him. We love that he loves being here and his family’s comfortable. We’ll take the next couple of weeks to iron out the details and by all accounts, we’ll have a new deal in place for him when the season’s over.

The Rebels are 8-2 this season (4-2 SEC) behind Bo Wallace and the No. 1 scoring defense in the country, which allows just 11.9 points per game. Along with results, Freeze has also brought in great talent, including the No. 15 recruiting class in 2014, per 247Sports' composite system.

Alex Byington of the Opelika-Auburn News notes a recent contract for Gus Malzahn:

The extension talks also come just after rumors that Freeze might be taking over the Florida program in the future, per Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger. Freeze addressed those rumors, via Kellenberger:

Freeze took over a program that was 2-10 in 2011 and has completely turned it around in a short amount of time. With the current talent on the field, Freeze remaining at Ole Miss should strike fear in the rest of the SEC.

If Freeze does sign a new contract, it would be just the latest in a long line of lucrative deals for SEC coaches. After proving himself on the biggest stage, Freeze has a chance to come away with a huge contract.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff 2014: Top 25 Predictions After Week 13 AP Rankings

The Associated Press and College Football Playoff polls have been at odds since the latter's initial release. So it should be no surprise that it's expected the nation's top four teams are in a far different order when the committee releases its next Top 25 on Tuesday.

With Alabama finally earning the signature win needed to leap and Florida State again looking less than stellar in keeping its high-pressure, undefeated brand of football going, odds are the committee will see things far different from traditional logic. The Seminoles, who dropped to No. 3 despite being undefeated in the last release, are in danger of falling to that precarious fourth spot. Meanwhile, one-loss outfits like Oregon and Alabama are undoubtedly secure if they win out.

Based on a combination of the AP poll and the committee's previous outlook, here's a projection for how the Week 13 Top 25 will play out:

First, a disclaimer: These are predictions for how the committee will vote, not my personal rankings. Despite its weekly need to scare people half to death, Florida State would not be No. 4 on my list; it'd be No. 1. But based on how Saturday played out and the committee's increasing wariness of the Seminoles, it's hard to think it'll slot them above either SEC team or Oregon.

The Ducks, who were idle this week, ascended to the No. 2 ranking after their 51-27 win over Utah. They close the season with what should be two relative gimmes against Colorado and Oregon State, but Arizona State learned the hard way that it's never easy to take a trip to Corvallis. Plus, last season's trip to Arizona proved the Ducks aren't above semi-confounding losses.

Avoiding such frustrations has come to define Florida State's season because it's about the only thing these Seminoles do consistently well. Jameis Winston led his third comeback from 15-plus points down Saturday, as Dalvin Cook's 26-yard touchdown run gave Florida State a 30-26 win over Miami. Winston threw for 302 yards, and Cook made the most of his seven carries, gaining 92 yards and scoring twice.

Where Florida State's resume starts breaking down is strength of schedule. The Seminoles have defeated zero teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25. As noted by ESPN's Jake Trotter, that gives them exactly the same number of Top 25 wins as Marshall—a team the committee is yet to deem worthy of existence:

Of course, Mississippi State's resume isn't entirely perfect, either. The Bulldogs' wins over LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn look a whole lot less impressive now than they did a month ago. Only three-loss Auburn remains ranked after this week's loss to Georgia. 

Alabama's lone Top 25 win came this week against Mississippi State. Working from a purely logical perspective, it's easy to see how Oregon (three Top 25 wins) has emerged as the nation's best team. TCU's resume may also boast two top-tier wins if Oklahoma is back in the good graces of the Top 25 as expected.

The order of this week's Top 25 is of particular importance because it may structure the season-ending title picture. None of the seven remaining power-five conference teams with one or zero losses plays against its fellow elite teams the remainder of the season.

Florida State's best remaining game will come in the ACC Championship Game, very likely against Georgia Tech. Alabama is looking at two more tough SEC games before a potential playoff run though it may luck out and get Missouri instead of Georgia in a potential SEC Championship Game. Mississippi State's visit to rival Ole Miss sets up a potentially advantageous situation where it gets into the CFP despite failing to reach the conference championship game.

Ohio State, Baylor and TCU need help. The relative weaknesses of the Big Ten and Big 12 have haunted all three teams though the Horned Frogs were No. 4 last week and still have a chance at being a Top Four team this week.

"This was not going to get any style points," TCU coach Gary Patterson told Trotter after his team's 34-30 win over Kansas. "I know it'll probably hurt us. But the biggest thing is we got to 9-1. We found a way to win on the road, with some bounces that didn't go our way. A lot of teams would have lost this game." 

Eliminating any one-loss SEC team, especially from the SEC West, is ridiculous as a general rule. Alabama and Mississippi State still have games against ranked opponents remaining, and the separation between those two teams is minuscule. Without a few costly turnovers, it's possible the Bulldogs would have cemented their top-dog status with a triumph in Tuscaloosa.

Florida State is the top dog in the AP poll this week largely because there are few other options. Being undefeated in a power-five conference means something even if it's the weakest of the quintuple. It'd be nearly impossible for the committee to justify leaving the Seminoles out when they sit atop the two other major polls.

That leaves one remaining spot to split between the four others, which seems rather unfortunate for the aforementioned trio given the committee believes Oregon is the best one-loss team in the country. Conference championships are said to carry weight within the room, though, so that may be the best bet for unseating one of the SEC teams.

Either way, the College Football Playoff has turned into a battle of attrition. And it's one that will have an awful lot of unhappy parties if none of these elite one-loss teams fall by the wayside.

Oh, and then there's Marshall. [Shrugs]

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC vs. UCLA Complete Game Preview

WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 22; 8 p.m. ET 

WHERE: The Rose Bowl; Pasadena, California

TV: ABC 

The annual UCLA-USC—or USC-UCLA depending on your allegiance—rivalry tilt is among the most heated in the Pac-12 Conference. 

Add that it's one of the few rivalries played between teams in the same city and there's an added layer of intensity between the Trojans and Bruins that makes this one of the more contentious series in all of college football. 

"I've been part of this game so many times," USC head coach Steve Sarkisian said. Saturday's Crosstown Showdown will be Sarkisian's eighth on the Trojans' sideline and his first as the man in charge. 

"I love this rivalry. I think it's a uniquely special one," he said. "It divides households. I've got two older sisters who graduated from UCLA, so I've got to keep an eye on them all week."

UCLA linebacker Myles Jack was first introduced to the rivalry a season ago. He contributed to the Bruins' second consecutive win over the Trojans with a rushing touchdown in the 35-14 decision. 

Jack told me in April that the Bruins' recent success caused a shift in the local scene. 

"L.A. loves winners. As long as we keep winning, L.A. is going to hop on and give us full support," he said. "The sky's the limit and we can take over this city." 

Running Los Angeles has been a theme for this year's contest. USC fans painted a declaration on the UCLA Bruin Bear statue that, despite UCLA's consecutive victories, the city's football landscape belongs to the Trojans. 

Apparently USC already got to #UCLA's Bruin bear, a week and a half prior to the rivalry game: pic.twitter.com/lKlWGDO3NQ

— BruinSportsReport (@UCLARivals) November 13, 2014

More than just bragging rights, ownership of the Victory Bell and by virtue the city are at stake.

With Arizona State's loss at Oregon State on Saturday, UCLA needs only to win its final two to reach the Pac-12 championship game.

A USC win and one more Arizona State loss sends the Trojans to Levi's Stadium.   

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USC vs. UCLA Complete Game Preview

WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 22; 8 p.m. ET WHERE: The Rose Bowl; Pasadena, California TV: ABC The annual UCLA-USC—or USC-UCLA depending on your allegiance — rivalry tilt is among the most heated in the Pac-12 Conference...

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Which Recent Alabama Star Safety Does 4-Star Shawn Burgess-Becker Resemble?

Shawn Burgess-Becker is a 4-star athlete from Florida who is committed to the Alabama Crimson Tide. Burgess-Becker is a versatile athlete who can bring some depth to an already stellar Crimson Tide defense.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discusses the attributes that make Shawn Burgess-Becker such a good prospect.

What kind of impact do you think Burgess-Becker can have?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Virginia Tech vs. Wake Forest: Complete Game Preview

The Virginia Tech Hokies snapped a three-game losing streak last week with a win over then-No. 19 Duke. It wasn't the prettiest of performances for the Hokies, but it was a much-needed win for a team that is fighting to become bowl-eligible.

This Saturday, the Hokies head down the road to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to face a Wake Forest team that is 2-8 on the season, including an 0-6 mark in ACC play.

After last week's 42-13 loss at NC State, the Demon Deacons have now lost six in a row—all in conference play.

Tech leads the all-time series 24-11-1 and has won all four meetings since entering the ACC back in 2004. The teams last played in 2011, when the Hokies won 38-17.

  • When: November 22, 2014
  • Where: BB&T Field, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
  • Time: 12:30 p.m. ET
  • TV: ACC Network
  • Radio: Virginia Tech IMG Sports Network. Here is a complete list of stations by area.
  • Spread: The Hokies are currently 15-point favorites, via Odds Shark.

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Tennessee Is Quietly Laying the Groundwork for a 2015 SEC East Title Run

With two weeks left in the regular season, the outcome of the SEC East race is in Missouri's hands.

If the Tigers win out, they will represent the division in the SEC Championship Game for the second straight season. If they fall to either Tennessee or Arkansas, Georgia will travel down the road to the Georgia Dome to take on the SEC West champ.

But what about next season?

Missouri doesn't exactly look like world-beaters, Georgia will be replacing quarterback Hutson Mason and presumably draft-eligible junior running back Todd Gurley, Florida will be undergoing an offseason coaching change and South Carolina's defense looks more like a punchline than a power.

Who might step up and become a division-title contender? The Tennessee Volunteers are certainly laying the groundwork for a division championship run in 2015.

Here's why:

 

The QB of the Future Is Playing Now

When quarterback Justin Worley injured his shoulder during the Ole Miss game, head coach Butch Jones had a decision to make. Would he finish off the season with Nathan Peterman or burn the redshirt of sophomore Joshua Dobbs?

He chose wisely.

Dobbs came in for Peterman during the Alabama game and sparked the offense, and he has since led the Vols to back-to-back wins over South Carolina and Kentucky to bring them to 5-5 and on the brink of bowl eligibility for the first time since 2010.

The dual-threat star has totaled 1,079 yards of offense over the last three games, including 301 passing yards and 166 rushing yards in a 45-42 win over South Carolina on Nov. 1. 

As Bruce Feldman of FOXSports.com notes, it's a brand new offense with Dobbs at the helm.

The only two seniors on Tennessee's depth chart—starters or reserves—are offensive tackle Jacob Gilliam and running back Marlin Lane. Dobbs is getting to work with next year's cast right now as the Vols fight for a bowl game, and with another win, will get the luxury of 15 more bowl practices before that game to become even more familiar with the system and his surroundings.

Dobbs is a star now, and he's done it on the fly after Worley's unexpected injury. Imagine what a full offseason of work as the unquestioned starter will do for him.

 

Youth Movement

Of the 79 players who have played this year for Jones' squad, 38 (48 percent) made their Tennessee debuts in 2014, according to Tennessee's game notes. Twenty-three of those players (29 percent) were true freshman. 

That's remarkable youth for a team that took Georgia to the wire in Athens and came back from two touchdowns late to beat South Carolina in overtime. No, the Gamecocks aren't anything to write home about, but the late comeback on the road was very impressive, and the Vols can use that experience moving forward.

Talented freshmen like running back Jalen Hurd, safety Todd Kelly Jr. and wide receiver Josh Malone have already made their presence felt this year, and, like Dobbs, will benefit tremendously from a full offseason of work in the program.

"I think just the high level of consistency," Jones said of Kelly in quotes released by Tennessee. "What Brian [Randolph] and even LaDarrell [McNeil] bring to the table is a high level consistency. Those live game repetitions, those opportunities and it shows. [Todd Kelly] is an individual who takes great pride in his performance."

What's more, the youth movement will likely continue.

Tennessee currently has the fourth-best recruiting class in the nation committed in the class of 2015, according to 247Sports.com. That class includes 5-star defensive tackle Khalil McKenzie, 5-star wide receiver Preston Williams and seven 4-star players, according to the 247Sports.com composite index.

Will those players start? Maybe or maybe not, but they'll certainly provide depth and push the veterans to be better. That's a win-win for the Vols.

 

Schedule Is Tough but Manageable

With an out-of-conference matchup with Oklahoma and the annual cross-division rivalry with Alabama on the schedule, Tennessee's schedule is not easy. But next year, there are some breaks that could work in Tennessee's favor.

With the exception of the Florida, Arkansas, Georgia stretch in late September and early October, there's some room to breathe for Jones' crew. They've got Western Carolina before traveling to Florida, a bye week before traveling to Alabama, Kentucky before South Carolina and North Texas before playing at Missouri.

Those are four wildly important games for the Vols, and tuneups beforehand will be important.

Tennessee managed to run this season's gauntlet and could wind up 7-5, which is much better than a lot of people predicted, myself included (I had the Vols at 6-6). 

The SEC East isn't exactly loaded with tough teams and will be wide open again in 2015. The Vols have the roster, the staff and the ability to walk through if they catch the breaks.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Michigan Football: How Frank Clark's Dismissal Impacts Wolverines' Defense

When it came to getting “it” on the field, Frank Clark was perhaps at the head of his class. Four years ago, he came to Brady Hoke as a gangly 217-pound position-less prospect. His determination led him to finding a fit on the D-line. 

It ended up being a perfect match—so much that when asked about player athletic development, Hoke didn't hesitate to mention and praise Clark, one of the coach's best examples in that area. 

Today, the 6’2”, 277-pound senior has evolved into one of the Big Ten’s most-feared quarterback hunters and potential NFL draft pick. 

Well, “had evolved” is a more accurate term, as that progress on the field now means nothing. He threw it away. 

Hoke announced Monday that Clark is no longer a part of the program, ending the collegiate (and possible pro) career for a guy who never got “it” off the field.

“Frank Clark has been dismissed for violating team rules from the Michigan football program,” Hoke said in a statement issued via e-mail by sports information director Derek Satterfield. “This is a tragic situation. Our student-athletes will be held accountable when their actions fail to meet the standard we have at Michigan. There is a legal process that will occur and we respect that process.”

The “process” was in full gear Monday afternoon, as Clark faced an Erie County judge after spending time in jail. The "process" is just now beginning for the standout defender who allegedly beat his girlfriend this weekend while at the Maui Sands resort in Sandusky, Ohio. 

It's understood that the defense as a whole must tighten up during the remaining two games: This Saturday at home versus Maryland and on Nov. 29 at Columbus versus Ohio State.

With 13.5 tackles for loss, third in the Big Ten, and 42 stops in total, third on his team, Clark was the cornerstone of an MVP Wolverines D-line that anchors the nation's No. 7 rushing defense and No. 9 total D. 

So it goes without saying that Clark's absence could have a trickle-down effect. 

Here's how the Wolverines can avoid that. 

 

D-Line Must Galvanize 

Mario Ojemudia is now the guy to slide in for Clark. 

Well, it seems that way. He's next in line on the depth chart, so connect the dots. Plus he's been adequate, warranting more playing time. 

However, he's no Clark, standing 6'3" and weighing 251 pounds; but he can get at the quarterback in a somewhat similar manner. He had two sacks during Michigan's 10-9 win Nov. 8 at Northwestern, a career-high.

He's started once this year, but he has three seasons of experience and has appeared in 31 games. He's capable of getting the job done. Additionally, he's also among the team's leading tacklers, ninth overall with 24 stops. 

Brennen Beyer, a 6'4", 256-pound defensive end, will be the anchor, though. No question there. Next to Clark, he's the best up front. 

It's time for Greg Mattison's first line to take charge, starting with Ojemudia and Beyer, then on to Matt Godin, Chris Wormley and Willie Henry before ending with reserves. 

 

UM Needs a Hero

A senior middle linebacker can be the backbone of a defense—and Jake Ryan has the leadership qualities and athletic ability to be such a guide for Team 135, which now more than ever needs a boost from behind the D-line.

Ryan is the go-to guy, the catalyst. He's rangy and can assist on the weak side, the same side at which Clark had great success. 

But he'll need help. Luckily he has Joe Bolden (Jr.), Ben Gedeon (So.) and James Ross III (Jr.).

Bolden's had his ups and downs in regards to tackling, but he's wrapped opponents with more strength and authority since commenting about his missed opportunities following a 34-10 loss to Minnesota.

He's an emotional spark plug, who, when paired with Ryan, can help make up for Clark's departure. 

Ross III and Gedeon have also proven themselves. As a freshman in 2013, Gedeon earned his stripes on special teams. He's taken more reps at linebacker and is developing into a better pass-rusher and run-stopper.

 

Final Shot

As the last line of a defense that’s now missing a major component, Team 135’s defensive backs must elevate their level of performance during the final two games.

Throughout the 5-5 skid, the corners and safeties have been unreliable and inconsistent. In 2013, they raked in 17 interceptions, which certainly helps the turnover margin. This year, they have just five picks (No. 13 B1G) for a team that's dead-last in turnovers, giving away 1.30 each Saturday. 

Clark wasn't roaming the backfield, but his pressure up front helped mask some mistakes in coverage. Every little bit helps, especially for Michigan, which needs just one victory to become bowl eligible. 

Now it's on Jourdan Lewis, a sophomore corner, and Blake Countess, a redshirt junior corner, to stitch together any loose ends before hosting the Terps and traveling to meet the Buckeyes. 

Missing one difference-making player on a difference-making defense certainly complicates matters for a team that longs for answers but is short on time. 

 

 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on  Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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LSU Football: Best Bowl Game Options for the Tigers

LSU head coach Les Miles will not win 10 games this season. 

Arkansas' 17-0 drubbing of the Tigers marked an end of unprecedented success for Miles, who has accumulated double-digit win totals every year since 2010. It will be only the third time in 10 seasons he will have fallen short of 10 victories. 

LSU was dismantled by the Razorbacks in every aspect of the game. The offense raked in a miserable 123 yards of total offense, and the defense could not get off the field on third down. Reliable kicker Colby Delahoussaye missed two makable kicks that cost the Tigers dearly.  

LSU will get a much-needed bye this week before heading to College Station to play Texas A&M on Thanksgiving. How the Tigers fare against the Aggies will determine which bowl they will attend. 

Bowl committees will judge LSU from many different angles. The Tigers are a household name that has a signature win in prime time over Ole Miss. Miles is one of the biggest coaching celebrities, and LSU fans travel well.

On the other hand, LSU's offense is unbearable to watch. Quarterback Anthony Jennings has thrown for fewer than 100 yards in each of the last two games. The Tigers' 23 points in the past three games is awful.

LSU will not make the College Football Playoff. The question now remains if it will make a New Year's Day bowl game. 

The Tampa Bay Times' Jim Tomlin believes LSU will play on New Year's Day. Tomlin sees the Tigers facing Nebraska in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. 

The Citrus Bowl seems optimistic, but it is possible. The key will be if two SEC teams make the College Football Playoff. Alabama and Mississippi State are the two most likely candidates to make it. 

Jason Kirk of SB Nation sees LSU playing their final game in 2014 against West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl. The Tigers played a home-and-home with the Mountaineers in 2010 and 2011, both of which resulted in victories for Miles.

The Liberty Bowl looks more likely to happen than the Citrus, especially if the Tigers drop their season finale against Texas A&M. 

A possible, high-profile matchup would be LSU facing Texas in the Texas Bowl on December 29. The Tigers have a major alumni base in Houston, and the drive from most South Louisiana cities is relatively easy. It would be the second time the Tigers would play in NRG Stadium in 2014 and the first time they would play a bowl game before December 30 under Miles. 

An even-higher-profile matchup though would be Texas A&M facing the Longhorns in the Texas Bowl. The in-state rivals used to play each other every season on Thanksgiving. Kirk projects these two will meet in this game. 

There is also the possibility of the Tigers traveling to Shreveport, Louisiana for The Independence Bowl. This game usually matches up an elite Conference USA team with a lower-level team from the SEC or ACC. Though the game takes place in the Pelican State, it would be a massive downgrade from what Bayou Bengal fans are accustomed to seeing.

Alabama, Mississippi State, Auburn and Georgia are locks in bowl pecking order ahead of the Tigers. Ole Miss and Missouri look as if they will finish with better records than the Tigers. How all of that will factor in bowl-committee evaluations is tough to predict. 

LSU's chances of reaching New Year's Day bowl game looks slim. The Tigers will likely be in the Liberty Bowl, Texas Bowl or Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tennessee. 

Bowl projections are an inexact science. There is no telling where the Tigers will go. The picture will certainly be cleared after LSU's turkey day matchup against Texas A&M.

 

Stats, rankings and additional information provided by cfbstats.comESPN.com and LSU Sports Information. Recruiting information provided by 247Sports.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower.

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Will Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon Be 1st Running Back Taken in 2015 NFL Draft?

Melvin Gordon is having an electric season in college football this year. He broke the FBS single-game rushing record, and he seems to be in prime position to win the Heisman Trophy. 

Stephen Nelson sits down with Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder and Bleacher Report NFL Draft Lead Analyst Matt Miller to discuss Melvin Gordon's NFL future. 

Would you want your NFL team to draft Melvin Gordon?

Watch the video and let us know!

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USC vs. UCLA: Which Team Has Best Shot to Knock Oregon out of Playoff Race?

The battle for Los Angeles takes place in Week 13 when USC squares off with UCLA, with the winner emerging as the clear-cut threat to the Oregon Ducks' playoff hopes. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee debate which L.A. team presents the best chance to knock off the Ducks.

Which Southern California team has the best shot to upstage Oregon?

Check out the video and let us know!  

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6 College Football Recruits Who Had an Explosive Week

The final stretch of a thrilling 2014 high school football campaign continues to provide a platform for top-tier college prospects to showcase their skills. Despite mounting pressure and postseason tests, the nation's premier recruits have shown the ability to rise and deliver crucial victories.

Here's our latest look at those who took over the action on fields across the country. Many of them will be counted on to make a collegiate impact as early as next fall.

 

5-star 2015 linebacker Malik Jefferson, Poteet High School (Mesquite, Texas)

The coveted defender celebrated his 18th birthday in style, wreaking havoc throughout a first-round playoff win over Woodrow Wilson High School. Jefferson scored twice, racked up five tackles and forced a safety in his team's 36-0 victory, per Megan Ryan of The Dallas Morning News.

He recovered a fumble and returned it 41 yards for a score. Jefferson also added a 15-yard touchdown return following a blocked punt. 

The 6'2.5", 215-pound prospect displayed the ball-hawk skills and elite quickness (clocked at 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash at The Opening, per Paul Myerberg of USA Today Sports) that make him special during the rout. He is rated No. 1 nationally among outside linebackers in 247Sports' composite rankings.

“He has always, constantly, pressure on him because he gets all this recognition," Poteet head coach Kody Groves told Ryan. "And it’s just so encouraging when he makes plays like that. The kid was all smiles.”

Jefferson has spent official visits at LSU and Texas A&M. He plans to line up trips to Texas and UCLA before his December decision date, per Jeff Howe of 247Sports.

 

4-star 2016 wide receiver Javon McKinley, Centennial High School (Corona, California)

Standout Southern California program Centennial seems to produce prolific offensive talents on an annual basis. It appears McKinley, a junior, is the next man up.

The 6'2", 185-pound recruit scored five touchdowns in a Pac-5 playoff opener against prospect-packed Junipero Serra High School, per Eric Sondheimer of the Los Angeles Times. His action-packed evening propelled the squad to a scintillating 68-64 win that featured 15 lead changes.

McKinley caught 13 passes for 213 yards and four touchdowns. He added an 84-yard kickoff return, proving he's among the most electric West Coast players to watch throughout the 2016 recruiting cycle. 

College programs have already taken notice of his skill set. McKinley holds scholarship offers from Arizona State, Northwestern, Washington, Cal and UCLA.

 

3-star 2015 linebacker Neal Nelson, Timber Creek High School (Erial, New Jersey)

The 6'2", 225-pound hybrid defender decimated Winslow Township's offensive scheme during first-round playoff action. Nelson led Timber Creek with 14 total tackles in a convincing 32-12 victory, per James Kratch of NJ.com.

He showed off exceptional pass-rushing skills in the process, compiling 3.5 sacks. Nelson is capable of contributing at defensive end or outside linebacker, best defined as an edge disruptor.

His effort helped Timber Creek remain unbeaten as it attempts to reach a fourth straight sectional state title game. He transferred into the program prior to his senior season after starring at Buena High School.

Nelson now has 52 tackles and 6.5 sacks this season, per MaxPreps. All of his sacks have occurred since the start of October, suggesting he's hit his stride at the perfect time.

UCF landed his commitment in June. Nelson chose the Knights over offers from Boston College, Louisville, Syracuse and Pitt.

 

5-star 2015 wide receiver Deon Cain, Tampa Bay Tech High School (Tampa, Florida)

The explosive Clemson commit is a jack-of-all trades at Tampa Bay Tech, carrying the offensive load in a variety of roles. Cain, who lines up at quarterback in high school, erupted for the most impressive performance of his career on Friday night.

He gained 352 rushing yards on 26 attempts, throttling the Durant High School defense throughout a 42-25 win. Cain scored five touchdowns as a runner and added 67 passing yards, per Scott Purks of The Tampa Tribune.

“I had a feeling he was going to have a big night,” Tech coach Jayson Roberts told Purks. “I didn’t think they were going to be prepared for what we were going to do with him.”

The 6'1", 190-pound playmaker projects as a receiver in college but has done most of his damage as a runner this season. He now has more than 1,500 rushing yards to go with nearly 900 passing yards, per MaxPreps.

Cain, who also considered LSU, Auburn and Miami, is rated third nationally among receivers in 247Sports' composite rankings. He pledged to the Tigers in May.

 

5-star 2015 quarterback Kyler Murray, Allen High School (Allen, Texas)

The 5'10", 180-pound passer has probably appeared on this list more than any player this season. Murray, a two-time defending state champion, continues to collect more achievements on a brilliant high school track record. 

He kicked off the Eagles' latest postseason journey with a another dominant effort. Murray connected on 16 of 25 attempts for 404 yards and six scores in a 59-21 win over Keller Central High School, per Michael Florek of The Dallas Morning News.

The Texas A&M pledge improved to 37-0 as a starting varsity quarterback, setting the stage for a showdown with fellow Lone Star State powerhouse DeSoto High School. Murray, a dual-threat talent who creates matchup nightmares with his rushing abilities, looks to leave behind a legacy that includes three consecutive unbeaten title runs.

He surpassed 100 career touchdown tosses in the playoff opener, per Matt Welch of the Allen American.

Murray committed to the Aggies this spring, following in the footsteps of his father, former star Texas A&M quarterback Kevin Murray. He spent an official visit at Oklahoma in October, leaving the door open for a possible change of heart.

 

4-star 2015 quarterback Jake Browning, Folsom High School (Folsom, California)

The Washington commit won't be easily erased from high school football record books for years to come. Browning, the all-time career passing leader in California, is now etching his name on national leaderboards.

He tied a record with eight touchdown passes in the first half of a 70-14 victory over Stagg High School, per Kevin Askeland of MaxPreps. The mark is held by three other athletes. It had previously belonged to Chris Redman (1994) and Thomas Thrash (2001), but Browning and Kaylor Sullivan joined them in the record books after each throwing eight scores in one half this season.

Browning's aerial assault sent Folsom into the second round of state playoff action and gave him 60 touchdowns passes for a third straight season (an all-time first). He sits just 17 touchdowns shy of the national career record held by current Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk (219).

Browning pledged to the Huskies in March, spurning offers from Cal, Utah and Oklahoma State, among others.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Miami vs. Virginia: Complete Game Preview

The Miami Hurricanes and Virginia Cavaliers will meet during an Atlantic Coast Conference tilt on Saturday, Nov. 22.

Both teams are coming off losses to Florida State, with Virginia (4-6, 2-4 ACC) losing 34-20 two weeks ago and the 'Canes falling 30-26 last weekend.

Miami toppled the Wahoos in 2013, though Mike London's squad took the previous three meetings, including the recent two in Charlottesville. While the Hurricanes lead the all-time series 6-5, Virginia needs a victory to remain in contention for bowl season.

As of this writing, per OddsShark, Miami is favored by six points. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET at Scott Stadium and will be televised on ESPN2.

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