NCAA Football

USC Football: Rivalry Showdown vs. Notre Dame Is Must-Win Game for Sark

First-year USC head coach Steve Sarkisian said he does not believe in weighing certain games more heavily than others and would thus certainly shy away from calling Saturday's rivalry tilt with Notre Dame a must-win.

"I feel the same pressure every week," Sarkisian said on his conference call Sunday. "So whether it's Notre Dame or UCLA, they all mean the same. I know not everyone wants to hear that, but if you're truly and innately a competitor, I don't pick and choose which games I'm going to get up for."

But on the heels of a 38-20 loss to UCLA during which the crosstown rival Bruins scored 24 unanswered points to take command, Sarkisian's first foray in the Notre Dame series as the Trojans' head coach takes on paramount importance.

USC sits at 7-4 on the season with only Saturday's affair and a bowl game remaining.

Seven is a not-so-magic number if you're Sarkisian. In his tenure at Washington, he finished 7-6 on three consecutive occasions from 2010 through 2012, earning the derisive nickname "Seven-Win Sark" in some circles.

Seven has its own dubious symbolism at USC.

The beginning of the end of the Lane Kiffin era started when the Trojans finished a 7-6 campaign with a sluggish, 21-7 loss to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl. That set in the motion the events which eventually led Sarkisian back to USC, a program he helped guide as an assistant to an unprecedented seven consecutive conference championships between 2002 and 2008.

And Sarkisian returned with an unambiguous goal of recapturing the success of that era under Pete Carroll.

However, the USC to which Sarkisian returned was not the program he left for the Washington job in 2009. The Trojans saw programs bypass them as a result of NCAA sanctions and Kiffin's disappointing run as head coach.

Among those making strides while USC stagnated were UCLA and Notre Dame.

Last week's loss at the Rose Bowl was the third straight decision USC dropped to UCLA. Similarly, Notre Dame rolls into the Coliseum with wins in each of the last two against the Trojans.

The last time USC had concurrent, three-game losing streaks in both of its rivalry series was 1991-1993, as the late Larry Smith's abortive tenure as head coach transitioned into the second John Robinson era.

USC matches up well with this Notre Dame team, an opponent in its own dire straits. The Fighting Irish are losers of four of their last five and have been manhandled throughout the last month-and-a-half.

Notre Dame has given up over 200 rushing yards in its last three contests and, according to Max Meyer of Neon Tommy, will be without two starting linemen on Saturday:

For a USC offense that failed to reach the 100-yard mark on the ground in the last two weeks, this rivalry game could be the cure to what ails the Trojans.

A win may also give Sarkisian the positive energy his program needs to build up in his second year.

He called a strong finish "a piece of the puzzle to have a really successful next 12 months."

And, really, that's what this next month is about for USC: putting together the pieces for a more successful 2015.

Sarkisian talked previously about the importance of a strong showing in November, alluding to Carroll's success. While Sarkisian's former colleague endured a trying first season, Carroll parlayed a torrid run in the 2001 campaign's last month into the first of those seven conference titles the next year.

Something else Carroll did: He never went 0-2 against rivals UCLA and Notre Dame in the same season.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Football: Rivalry Showdown vs. Notre Dame Is Must-Win Game for Sark

First-year USC head coach Steve Sarkisian said he does not believe in weighing certain games more heavily than others and would thus certainly shy away from calling Saturday's rivalry tilt with Notre Dame a must-win...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Mike London Retained by Virginia: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Despite five mostly unsatisfactory seasons, Mike London is returning to Virginia in 2015.

Craig Littlepage, the school's athletic director, announced the news Wednesday, via VirginiaSports.com:

It was important to see improvement in our football program this season. I've seen signs of progress in many areas. Through the staff changes made over the last two years, we are better at teaching the game and in the overall development of the student-athletes. We also continue to notice the commitment by this group of coaches and student-athletes to their academic and community responsibilities.

During his time at Virginia, London has compiled an overall record of 23-37, per Sports-Reference.com. He has put together just one winning season, and he took the Wahoos to one bowl game, a 43-24 loss in the 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl to Auburn.      

London, who worked his way up the coaching ladder with stints as Virginia's defensive line coach and defensive coordinator, created a lot of room for optimism during his first couple of years in Charlottesville. 

Following a 4-8 inaugural season after taking over for Al Groh, London brought in one of the finer recruiting classes the Cavaliers had seen in quite some time. According to 247Sports' composite system, the 2011 class featured five 4-stars and ranked 23rd nationally.

The success spilled onto the field, as Virginia went 8-5 and London won the 2011 ACC Coach of the Year award.

And really, he has continued to show prowess in recruiting circles, bringing in solid classes filled with talent:

But his on-field success hasn't quite matched. Limited by London's questionable play-calling, the Cavaliers won four games in 2012, two in 2013 and now sit at 5-6 in 2014. As such, despite the 54-year-old having an extensive history at Virginia and seeming to be well-liked, many assumed he was on the chopping block.

Alas, the Wahoos recently put a 30-13 smashing on Miami and are still bowl eligible. The school clearly likes the direction London is moving.

"I trust the plan Mike has in place and believe his leadership provides the best opportunity for Virginia football to be successful in the future," Littlepage said.

The Cavaliers, who have one bowl appearance in the last seven years, are desperate to find some program stability.

London has achieved consistency in the recruiting circles. Now it's time for him to do the same on the field.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU Tigers vs. Texas A&M Aggies: Betting Odds, Analysis, College Football Pick

Two SEC teams wrapping up disappointing regular seasons will square off Thursday when the LSU Tigers visit the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field.

The Tigers have lost their last two games but have won the last three meetings with the Aggies both straight up and against the spread since they joined the conference, including a 24-19 road win two years ago as 3.5-point favorites.

 

Point Spread: The Tigers opened as two-point favorites. As of Wednesday afternoon, they're favored by three points.

Odds Shark Computer Pick: Tigers 32.3, Aggies 25.2

 

Why the LSU Tigers Can Cover the Spread

LSU is coming off a bye week after losing two in a row as an underdog, so technically the team was not supposed to beat the Arkansas Razorbacks on the road or the Alabama Crimson Tide at home.

Before that two-game skid, the Tigers won three in a row SU and ATS, and the loss to Alabama was in overtime. Plus, if you look at how the Razorbacks beat Ole Miss last week 30-0, the Tigers' 17-0 loss does not look as bad.

While LSU head coach Les Miles probably would not want to hear any excuses, his Tigers are young and still learning how to play in big games.

Against another young team with similar flaws, bettors should like LSU’s chances.

 

Why the Texas A&M Aggies Can Cover the Spread

Texas A&M is a difficult team to figure out this season. The last two games for the Aggies pretty much sum up the up-and-down roller coaster their backers have experienced in 2014, winning straight up as 23.5-point underdogs at Auburn and then losing at home as 3.5-point favorites against Missouri.

While it is hard to make an argument for a team that is 1-6 ATS in its last seven games, do not forget the 5-0 start, including a 3-1 mark vs. the line in the first four.

Texas A&M is also off a bye and had some extra time to think about the loss to Mizzou.

The Aggies know they are already building up the program for next year and would love to get another home win here. They are 4-1 ATS as home dogs since 2009.

 

Smart Pick

Selecting a side in this game is almost like picking the lesser of two evils considering how they have both played this season.

At its best, Texas A&M is a scoring machine that can beat just about any team in the country—at home or on the road. At their worst, the Aggies are undisciplined and can get blown out no matter where they play.

Meanwhile, the Tigers have had trouble scoring lately, totaling just 23 points in their past three games combined.

LSU is also just 1-4 SU and ATS in its last five road games against SEC opponents, which is the key trend in this conference matchup. Texas A&M will give thanks for its home field here on Thanksgiving and pull off the win.

 

Betting Trends

  • LSU is 10-4 SU in its last 14 games.
  • Texas A&M is 4-1 ATS as a home underdog since 2009.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Virginia Tech's HokieBird Promotes 'Save the Turkeys' in Thanksgiving PSA

Thanksgiving is one of the toughest times of the year for HokieBird, Virginia Tech's mascot.

While everyone is enjoying their turkey dinners, HokieBird feels a little left out. Watching people devour turkey at their feasts has to be traumatizing for the bird mascot.

Virginia Tech has created a public service announcement to try to make this year's Thanksgiving a little easier on its mascot. If everyone helps out, HokieBird will be able to get through the holiday without getting too depressed.

[Virginia Tech Athletics, h/t USA Today's FTW]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Miami Football: Why Duke Johnson Should Declare for the 2015 NFL Draft

Duke Johnson is one of the premier running backs in college football, competing with the likes of Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon and Tevin Coleman as the top prospect for the 2015 NFL draft.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller recently ranked Duke the No. 40 overall prospect and No. 3 at his position, both of which have risen substantially during the 2014 season.

Soon, the Miami Hurricanes' best player will be faced with the decision of returning for his senior campaign or declaring for the draft.

But purely from a football perspective, Johnson should make the latter his next move.

Dane Brugler of CBS Sports told B/R that though he never says underclassmen should forgo their senior campaign due to personal circumstances of which we are unaware, "it wouldn't be surprising to see [Duke] declare, and I'm not sure anyone could blame him.

"The biggest strength for Duke is his dynamic athleticism as a ball-carrier. He has tremendous balance, explosive feet and impressive acceleration. He's tough and controlled with his movements and has been a reliable receiving option."

According to Matt Porter of The Palm Beach Post, Duke's mother, Cassandra Mitchell, noted a couple of factors that will affect the decision.

Johnson is loyal to UM's recruiting class of 2012 that includes Herb Waters, Tracy Howard, Malcolm Lewis and his Norland High teammate Ereck Flowers. 'They came together, and they said they were going to leave together. I know he looks at that too,' Mitchell said. Johnson said Monday he's also considering UM's potential with rising star quarterback Brad Kaaya running the offense.

While Brad Kaaya's ceiling is remarkably high, Johnson clearly has a close relationship with the others mentioned. Last weekend when Herb Waters sustained a scary neck injury, the camera showed Duke shedding a tear for his teammate.

Johnson exemplified what Ray Lewis and Lamar Miller both said within the past three years, that playing football at Miami is like a brotherhood.

Additionally, Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald wrote Johnson said he and his mother will discuss whether leaving school without a degree is an acceptable decision.

Attaining his college degree is something Johnson has repeatedly stressed as an important priority. However, Johnson has nothing more to prove between the white lines. And per Porter, the talented runner knows it.

"I don't think there's much more I need to prove on the field, if anything. Not saying that there's no room to get better—there's always room to get better in aspects of the game—but as far as stats and things of that sort, there's not much more to prove."

Ultimately, Duke's list of collegiate accomplishments is nothing short of astonishing.

The local product is a mere 34 yards away from setting the career rushing record at Miami, which would pass future Super Bowl MVP Ottis Anderson.

He has an outside shot at setting the single-season mark, trailing Willis McGahee's 2002 campaign by 322 yards with two games remaining. Regardless, Duke has already compiled the second-most prolific season in program history.

A pair of 100-plus yard outputs against Pitt and in a bowl would give Johnson the most such games, passing Clinton Portis' 14. Duke also tied McGahee and Edgerrin James with six straight 100-plus yard performances earlier this year.

For good measure, the 90-yard scamper against North Carolina tied Jack Losch (1955) for the longest run.

But Duke's consistency is incredible, too, considering he's tallied at least 83 yards in 16 straight appearances and scored 12 touchdowns—just on the ground—during that span.

His current pace of 7.2 yards per attempt would be the best season average for any Hurricanes running back who carried the ball more than 100 times. Though the 16.2-yard average he compiled opposite Cincinnati tied Eddie Dunn (1937) for seventh best, it was the best clip for a player who logged at least 10 attempts.

Before Virginia kept him out of the end zone last weekend, Duke had scored a rushing touchdown in nine consecutive contests—the second-longest streak by a Miami back.

One more touchdown will move into sole possession of fifth place with 27 career scores, while two more would be the third-most career points by a non-kicker in school history.

Duke has shattered the record for career all-purpose yards, rocketing past Santana Moss and eclipsing the 5,000-yard barrier—something never before accomplished by a Hurricane. Johnson is 323 yards away from setting the single-season all-purpose clip, though he already holds the second- and third-best years.

With just two more receiving yards this year, Duke would have the best receiving season by a Miami back since Cleveland Gary in 1988.

The most impressive part of this, though, is how Johnson collected these feats while constantly battling through injuries. Exiting the game early hasn't been a rare occurrence during his college career.

The injury history can mostly be attributed to his stature, since Duke only stands 5'9" yet runs with an aggressive nature.

"His top weaknesses relate mostly to his size," Brugler said. "He'll likely weigh in at the Combine around 205 pounds and has a very lean build. Duke isn't the type of back who will pick up consistent yards in the NFL after initial contact and his vision can run hot/cold at times.

"He has the athletic traits that compensate for most of his shortcomings. Although they have different run styles, he and LeSean McCoy have similar size and durability questions, but like McCoy, Duke has special athleticism that should allow him to be productive."

One skill that will help him with yards after contact is his stiff arm, however. Duke's ability to flatten college defenders is absolutely fantastic, though that prowess must translate to overpowering bigger and stronger opponents.

While Miami fans cannot thank the running back enough, there's nothing left for him to realistically accomplish. Sure, officially bringing a Coastal Division championship to South Florida would be great, but the Hurricanes won't be contending for a national title.

Johnson's loyalty to classmates may keep him at Miami. The desire to win at his hometown school might lure Duke to stay at "The U." Finishing his degree could delay the runner's move toward the pros.

But he should declare for the 2015 NFL draft, because a potential injury simply isn't worth the risk.

"I feel I want him to stay another year," Mitchell told Porter. "But you know what? To be honest, it's hard watching him play football right now. I'm nervous. I'm scared. I'm excited. I have so many emotions."

The potential All-American never knows what might happen on the next outside zone. Johnson may as well be getting paid for the beating he takes and extraordinary effort he gives.

He carried the burden of a school fighting through an NCAA investigation. He shattered school records despite missing a handful of games due to injury.

Selfishly, college football wants Johnson back. But it's time for the Duke of Miami to be monetarily rewarded for his contributions.

 

Stats courtesy of CFBStats.com, hurricanesports.com and B/R research. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Anu Solomon Injury: Updates on Arizona Star's Ankle and Return

Arizona Wildcats freshman quarterback Anu Solomon suffered an ankle injury in the team's win over Utah last week and is now listed as questionable for a clash with rival Arizona State on Friday.

Brett McMurphy of ESPN passed along the updated word on his status:

Solomon has provided some stability at a position that was a question mark before the campaign. He's tossed 25 touchdowns and just seven interceptions while helping lead Arizona to a 9-2 record and the No. 11 ranking in the latest College Football Playoff poll.    

If he can't go, Jesse Scroggins will likely step into the lineup again as he did last week. His limited experience would be a major cause for concern for the Wildcats. He has just seven career pass attempts under his belt at the college level.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Anu Solomon Injury: Updates on Arizona Star's Ankle and Return

Arizona Wildcats freshman quarterback Anu Solomon suffered an ankle injury in the team's win over Utah last week and is now listed as questionable for a clash with rival Arizona State on Friday...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Alabama Football: Tide's 3 Key Matchups to Watch for in 2014 Iron Bowl

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama looks to have a lot going in its favor in the 2014 Iron Bowl.

It’s the No. 1 team in the country, heading toward another SEC Championship Game appearance and a berth in the College Football Playoff. Auburn has lost three games and is on a tailspin to end what was once a promising 2014 campaign.

Still, the Crimson Tide and Tigers’ annual rivalry game this year will be a chess match between two of the best offensive and defensive minds in the country. The two teams’ seasons have been defined by a handful of plays that could have swung games in the other direction.

It’s closer than you’d initially imagine. There are a couple matchups that should decide the outcome of the game.

Let’s take a closer look.

 

Cyrus Jones vs. Sammie Coates and Duke Williams

Alabama’s starter at cornerback from day one won’t be covering two receivers at once. But there’s a pretty good chance that the 5’10” Jones will be on one of Auburn’s Sammie Coates or Duke Williams during the entire game.

Both Coates and Williams stand at 6’2” and have been matchup problems through the air for opposing defenses. That would seem to be a problem going up against the smaller Jones.

That hasn’t stopped him this season, though.

Jones has gone toe-to-toe with some of the SEC’s biggest and most physical receivers—including Mississippi State's De’Runnya Wilson, Florida’s Demarcus Robinson and Texas A&M’s Ricky Seals-Jones—and has largely gotten the better of those receivers.

The key, he says? Being a little extra physical. That won’t change this week.

“You just can't let them manhandle you,” he said. “You've got to be physical right back with them, especially if you're a smaller guy such as myself. It's just important just to be in position at all times to kind of be ready to make a play when the ball's in the air and not letting them get on top of you down the field. It's going to be a good challenge, but I'm excited about it.”

 

Alabama front seven vs. Auburn run game

Alabama has shut down some fearsome rushing attacks this year, like Arkansas' and LSU’s. But no one is doing it better statistically in the SEC this year than Auburn.

And the Tigers do it differently than Alabama’s seen this season.

Arkansas and LSU don’t exactly hide what they’re trying to do, lining up in an I formation, with a tight end coming right at you. It’s simply power vs. power.

Auburn, though, shows a lot of misdirection pre-snap to throw the defense off. Then it uses a variety in formation to run outside, between the tackles, reverses or anything else you can think of.

“The camouflage that (Malzahn) uses with the motions and all that is something that defensive players have to adjust to, but it also doesn't allow you to get set like you'd like to get set,” Nick Saban said. “It takes more adjusting on the defensive players' part. But you have to defend all those things too, because they don't just do it, they have something that they can do with it that you have to defend.”

That means discipline and eye control will be critical for Alabama’s defense.

“They really read the defense a lot, so it’s really important for the defense to be disciplined and be smart and keep contained,” Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen said. “It’s going to be a good challenge for not just the D-ends but the D-line in general and the whole defense. I feel like with a good week of preparation we’ll be prepared Saturday.”

 

Amari Cooper vs. Auburn secondary

The Tigers currently sit at No. 12 in the SEC in pass defense. Auburn is giving up 232.5 yards per game through the air, a major reason for its recent slide.

Alabama has one of the best wide receivers in the country in Amari Cooper, a Biletnikoff finalist who is averaging 122.6 yards per game so far this season, third in the country.

If that doesn’t scream “mismatch,” nothing does.

Cooper has been terrorizing defenses all year. He had big games against Florida and Tennessee and made critical catches in big games late this season. Quarterback Blake Sims, though, hasn’t really been surprised by his year, save for one catch.

“I think the game against Mississippi State when he made that catch, man that was a great catch,” Sims said. “(The) things he’s been doing, I’ve seen a million times and I’m just happy for the success he had this year.”

Cooper had a huge game last season against the Tigers, too, as he got healthy toward the end of the season. He caught six passes for 178 yards, including a 99-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that could have been the game-winner.

He could be in for another massive performance this week.

 

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

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA Football: Inside the Bruins' Second-Half Resurgence

A win over Stanford for No. 8-ranked UCLA Friday is one big step toward the Bruins completing a remarkable resurgence...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

What Has Caused the Downfall of College Football's Blue Bloods?

Teenage me didn’t understand this past Saturday. He watched as giants from another era fell in spectacular fashion. One after the next, they all came tumbling down.

The football gods he grew up marveling—the ones that drew him to the sport in the first place—were left in shambles by challengers who had no business causing such wreckage, at least not in his former life. All he could do is sit there, dumbfounded, wondering just how exactly we reached this point.

The vulnerability of college football’s former powers—the teams that ran this sport for ages—became increasingly apparent in one 15-hour stretch. And perhaps the most shocking part of this collaborated failure was the harsh reality that it really wasn’t all that shocking at all. This particular piece of coordinated carnage had been a long time in the making.

USC, Miami, Michigan, Tennessee, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Nebraska and Penn State all looked mortal. All eight teams lost last Saturday, and only one loss came at the hands of a Top 10 team. The rest came courtesy of teams such as Illinois, Virginia, Maryland and Wake Forest.

Losses such as these were unthinkable not long ago, although this wasn’t some sort of one-week anomaly. Let’s examine how each program reached this point and more importantly, where they are on the road to recovery.

 

USC

From 2002 to 2008, USC went 72-9. The record, of course, may look different depending on how strictly you tally wins—with sanctions washing some of those victories off the books. But we saw them. We know these games took place.

This was one of the most dominant stretches in the history of the sport.

Since Pete Carroll departed off to the NFL, however, the Trojans are just 51-25. The sanctions have unquestionably played a role in USC’s demise, and the injuries of the Kiffin era cannot be ignored.

The scholarship limitations resulting from the NCAA’s destructive hammer have hindered the program’s ability to blossom. This is more than simply an excuse; it's a necessary part of the picture and a way of understanding how we arrived at this point. 

And yet, given some of the remarkable talent that has passed through the program—and the deep crop of starters they have right now—it feels as though there should be more positive outcomes. NFL players have cycled through, even as the program has searched for Carroll’s successor.

With the Pac-12 poised for a talent exodus—especially with quarterbacks—the Trojans will enter 2015 with expectations to meet. It feels as though they are capable, even if the loss to UCLA this past Saturday told us otherwise.

 

Miami

Like USC, Miami has felt the wrath of the NCAA’s influence. Although the sanctions handed down for various Nevin Shapiro-related incidents paled in comparison to those handed out elsewhere, the black cloud of the lengthy investigation—along with the investigation of the investigation—certainly hindered the Hurricanes’ efforts to rebound.

All things considered, this fall has perhaps been the most perplexing and dramatic. That was evident as Miami lost in lifeless fashion to Virginia last weekend, which was the fourth time in five years the Cavaliers came away victorious in this particular matchup. The other harsh reality for Miami is that it hasn’t won 10 games since 2003.

For a program with a plethora of football resources and a seemingly endless stream of local talent, this seems difficult to fathom. The reality, however, is that the talent hasn’t flocked to Miami like it once did. The programs in the state of Florida—along with surrounding SEC schools—have created a much more competitive recruiting landscape.

The good news for Al Golden is that he appears to have found his quarterback in Brad Kaaya. There are also moments—like we saw against Florida State—when we see signs of a possible return. It will never be like it once was in the early 2000s, though. Unfortunately, we may never see anything like that ever again.

 

Michigan

One week from now, Michigan’s hopeful rebirth will likely begin once more. The Wolverines will almost certainly be seeking out a new head coach, hoping that their next hire will provide the spark Brady Hoke and Rich Rodriguez simply could not.

Since 2008, Michigan has won more than eight games in a season just once. That season came in 2011, Hoke’s first year on the sideline. It feels like a different era now.

Of all the major programs to struggle in recent years, the Wolverines’ issues might be the most difficult to process. They have met many of the necessary criteria for success.

Operating in a manageable conference with little top-end opponents—and doing so with a solid flood of recruiting, something that Hoke and his staff have excelled at—Michigan simply has not been able to win consistently enough.

It’s been the quarterback play, the offensive line, the defense, and yes, injuries have played a role. As Michigan State has enjoyed a meteoric rise, its rival has simply been unable to develop talent at its former rate.

And yet, it’s more than that. Although Michigan outgained Maryland in total yardage and first downs this past Saturday—averaging more than six-and-a-half carries on the ground—it was still unable to offer up anything more than a 23-16 defeat.

This result does more than simply summarize one season; it encompasses an era.

 

Tennessee

Under Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee was a well-oiled machine. Not the 2008 or 2005 versions—let’s leave those out of this—but Fulmer’s average year is something that would now be embraced with open arms.

Since 2007, the Vols have reached the seven-win threshold only once.  The rise of other programs in the SEC has certainly hindered their rebuilding efforts along with the overall results, although instability in the coaching staff has aided this seesaw movement.

After Lane Kiffin stopped by for a cup of coffee, Derek Dooley followed with an emphatic thud. Butch Jones’ arrival has shifted the perception of the program, even if the long-term results are still a tremendous work in progress.

Although the 29-21 loss to Missouri at home on Saturday could be viewed as an opportunity lost—and it was—the long-term outlook with Tennessee is oozing with optimism.

Even after losing talent across both lines, the Vols look more competent and competitive than they have in quite some time. And with the No. 5-ranked recruiting class, according to 247 Sports, set to join a roster that has been infused with young talent, there are reasons to believe this is starting to turn.

Whether it will be enough for Tennessee to break through amidst the madness of the SEC is another conversation entirely. This is one to keep an eye on moving forward, assuming Jones stays in Knoxville to see his master plan through.

 

Notre Dame

Perhaps my childhood memories were exaggerated some.

Since 1993, Notre Dame has won double-digit games only three times. It seems like it has to be more than that given the perception—especially with some glimpses of greatness over the past few years—although the overall results haven’t budged much.

Our expectation clocks were turned sideways when Notre Dame tiptoed its way past minefield after minefield and into the national championship only a few short seasons ago. The explosion came shortly after thanks to Alabama. This was then followed by a slew of Brian-Kelly-to-the-NFL roars.

Since then, the Irish have been unable to duplicate this success.

It looked as though that was changing in 2014, and then Florida State happened. Since losing to the Seminoles in controversial fashion late, the Irish are 1-4. The lone victory came against Navy, although even this wasn’t easy. It’s the losses at home to Northwestern and then Louisville that have us wondering whether this team is starting to regress.

Injuries and youth have played a role in Notre Dame’s late-season demise, although nothing has been more performance-draining than the turnovers.

In the grand scheme, the Irish have been unable to cope with a schedule that is year in, year out one of the most difficult in the country. But with years of successful recruiting and more help on the horizon, Notre Dame has a chance to capture lightning in a bottle once more.

There is so much talented youth on this current team; its development will be a story to watch moving forward.

 

Virginia Tech

No fall from grace has been less publicized and more pronounced than Virginia Tech, which just lost a game against a team that has run the ball 359 times for 415 yards this season.

The Hokies’ 6-3 defeat to Wake Forest on Saturday was the culmination of its 2014 offensive woes. What’s most concerning about Virginia Tech, however, is that this offensive outage has been in the works for quite some time.

VT #Hokies points per game: 2010 33.9 2011 27.9 2012 25.1 2013 22.5 2014 23.3 (cc: @BillisKing)

— Ben (@GodsSport) November 25, 2014

It was not long ago that Virginia Tech was competing for conference championships and regularly appearing in BCS bowls. After winning 10 games or more for eight consecutive seasons—a remarkable run, one that probably wasn’t given the appropriate appreciation—the Hokies have lost at least five games each of the past three seasons.

A flurry of quality in-state talent has flocked elsewhere. And although the defense has consistently delivered, Virginia Tech has been unable to recruit and develop offensive talent.

As a result, it's currently last place in the Coastal Division. Bigger for the long term, it's still hoping to compete for the top-flight in-state talent that is now heading elsewhere.

Still, a turnaround of some sort seems feasible. The defense will stay dominant under Bud Foster, and this part of the formula doesn’t require tinkering. In terms of the overall product, however, one can’t help but wonder what the future holds if changes aren't made.

 

Nebraska

The climate has shifted. The players who once flocked to Lincoln, Nebraska, are no longer traveling there in bulk. That’s not to say the Cornhuskers are absent of football talent, but times have certainly changed since the days of Tommie Frazier and Eric Crouch.

Things could be better, although they could also be much worse. Nebraska’s slide back toward the middle of the pack—a Top 25 team and rarely anything more—is a position some former powers would envy.

As was evident in the team’s 28-24 home loss to Minnesota in Week 13, however, it’s been a string of close calls blended with a handful of truly horrifying, stat-shattering losses that have limited this team’s growth. The defense, in particular, is a product light-years from its former identity.

It’s unreasonable to expect Nebraska to return to its 1993-2001 form. But it’s not unreasonable to demand that the current head coach deliver more competitive performances when playing Top 25 opponents. There’s a balance to be had. In recent years, it’s been hard to find.

Bo Pelini’s future at the program will ultimately shape its tenure. It will never be in bad hands under his guidance, but you can’t help but wonder just how high the ceiling is set.

 

Penn State

Any reasonable human being with reasonable expectations didn’t expect James Franklin to set the football world on fire in his first year in the Big Ten. With that out in the open—and the uniqueness of the situation taken into account—losing to Illinois, as it did last Saturday, was never in the plans.

That performance served as a notice of sorts.

The scandal and sanctions that rocked Penn State put this program on a different path than any other program in the history of the sport. The roster attrition parlayed with various coaching changes and lingering bowl ban made life incredibly challenging.

With the bowl ban complete and scholarships restored, however, Franklin now has the task of adding depth and top-end talent to the roster. Penn State is currently ranked No. 14, according to 247Sports’ team rankings, which is a sign that help is coming.

There is room to grow in the Big Ten, especially given the way Michigan is fighting a similar—but also drastically different—uphill battle. The switch won’t suddenly be flipped overnight, although Franklin’s track record at Vanderbilt brings hope that the upward climb is inevitable.

 

Let Rebuilding Begin (or Continue)

The answer to all rebuilding problems is to hire Nick Saban. Given recent history, Jimbo Fisher wouldn’t be a bad option either.

When these scenarios aren’t feasible, other avenues must be explored.

In the end, it boils down to finding a coach capable of leading a program, providing this coach with the necessary financial means to assemble a strong staff (while also ensuring that he can keep this staff together) and, of course, recruiting. These checklist items are in many ways intertwined, although recruiting might as well be written in bold, size-128 font.

The premise is simple, although the execution is anything but. It’s why some of the greatest college football powers of our lifetimes have been unable to find their previous, dominant selves. 

There are reasons to believe that this will change, at least with some of the proper pieces in place for some of the programs mentioned above. Turning these pieces into sustainable success is where the blueprint gets complicated.

At one point in time, this part was a given for these powers from a different life. Now, given the weekend that was and everything that came before it, nothing should be assumed. There is still so much work to be done.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State RB's '#WomanCrushWednesday' Is Michigan Player's Girlfriend

Anything is fair game during the week of "The Game."

Ohio State and Michigan will square off at the Horseshoe on Saturday, so fans from each school are having some fun with their rival.

As it turns out, the players are also enjoying rivalry week. Buckeyes running back Bri'onte Dunn came up with an interesting "#WomanCrushWednesday."

Who is it? It appears to be Wolverines safety Jarrod Wilson's girlfriend.

If the two get on the field at the same time this weekend, Dunn might want to watch out.

Of course, this could just be a joke. Dunn went to high school in Canton, Ohio, and Wilson is from nearby Akron. Dunn did tag Wilson in the caption, so it's likely that the two are buddies.

[Instagram, h/t College Spun]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU Football: Les Miles Under Immense Pressure Against Texas A&M

LSU head coach Les Miles watched his team at its worst against Arkansas. 

The Tigers were defeated 17-0 by the Razorbacks. LSU was dominated in all three phases of the game and was never competitive during any point of the contest.

LSU was lucky to have last Saturday off to rest up for its Thanksgiving contest against Texas A&M. The Aggies will be an intriguing matchup for Miles. 

The Thanksgiving tradition means everything to Texas A&M fans. The Aggies will be fired up to protect their home turf on national television.  

LSU, on the other hand, has been known to pack it in on Thanksgiving week under Miles when out of national championship contention.

The Tigers have traditionally played Arkansas this week though normally on a Friday. Though LSU won both of its last two matchups after turkey day, the performances were less than stellar. Miles squeaked by below-average Arkansas teams in 2012 and 2013

Miles cannot watch his team play lethargically for the second game in a row. He has no excuses, either, as Texas A&M is a favorable matchup for LSU.

Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin is 0-2 against the Tigers, as his high-powered offense has struggled to crack defensive coordinator John Chavis' unpredictable schemes. LSU's defense is better than last year's group and should have similar success against true freshman quarterback Kyle Allen. 

LSU's offense has been pitiful in recent weeks. Miles relayed bleak news regarding his offensive line this week, per Tiger Rag's Robert Stewart: 

Les: Expect Vadal Alexander to play this weekend. Ethan Pocic will be at center (Elliott Porter will be out). Washington at RG.

— Robert Stewart (@TigerRagRobert) November 24, 2014

Fortunately for Miles, the Aggies have allowed over 200 rushing yards per game this season. LSU should be able to move the ball on the ground even if the passing attack continues to struggle. 

A loss for the Tigers would be understandable, though. LSU is only a slight favorite, per Odds Shark, and the Aggies are a talented group and hard to beat at home. 

What Miles cannot have happen, though, is his team lay an egg. A blowout loss would be a massive hit to his national perception.

Some already think Miles and the Tigers might be taking a step back. When the Tigers started the season 0-2 in conference, Braden Gall of Athlon Sports began to question LSU's positioning after the recent wave of new coaches in the SEC West: 

So LSU was No. 1 in the nation in 2011. Then Malzahn, Freeze, Sumlin, Bielema joined the party and now LSU could be 7th in West?

— Braden Gall (@BradenGall) October 5, 2014

A more recent example came from syndicated radio host Dan Patrick, who asked former LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson how the team ever lost a game. Patrick asked the same question aloud to Pro Football Talk:

As @dpshow just walked in and said, "How did LSU ever lose a football game?"

— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) November 24, 2014

Former All-SEC running back Jeremy Hill posed the exact same question about last year's team:

I'm still trying to figure out how we lost any games last year in college

— Jeremy Hill (@JeremyHill33) November 25, 2014

Though Miles was not directly mentioned by Patrick or Hill, how the team performs does fall on his shoulders. The immediate success of LSU rookies in the NFL this season such as Hill, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Alfred Blue and Zach Mettenberger has put the spotlight on Miles' leadership.

Thursday's matchup not only affects Miles' perception for the future, but recruiting as well. The Tigers and Texas A&M have developed a history over competing for the same prospects. 

Sumlin mentioned the importance of Saturday, via TexAgs.com: 

Sumlin: [LSU] is after a couple of our top [recruits] ... and [vice-versa]. One game matters to some. Atmosphere and [winning] is key.

— TexAgs (@TexAgs) November 20, 2014 

LSU lost out on 5-star receivers Ricky Seals-Jones (2013) and Speedy Noil (2014) to Texas A&M. The Tigers are hot after 2015 Aggies defensive tackle commit Daylon Mack, per Shea Dixon of Geaux247.com. A Miles victory would go a long way in getting Mack to Baton Rouge, which would fill a major position of need for the Tigers. 

There are so many layers to why this game is important for Miles. Though his seat is cooler than a polar bear's toenails right now, a second consecutive poor road performance to a team equal in talent would be a bad look.

An LSU loss could be devastating for Miles. If LSU falls short against the Aggies and Arkansas defeats Missouri on Friday, the Tigers would finish in an unfamiliar place in the SEC West.  

Last. 

 

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. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: A Closer Look at the Defense's Free Fall

Let's jump back to early October. In the afterglow of Ben Koyack's miraculous 4th-and-11 touchdown catch, the Irish won a 17-14 slugfest against Stanford in what felt like a freezing monsoon. 

While all Irish fans could talk about was Koyack's tightrope-walking along the chalk in the corner of the end zone, Brian VanGorder's defense was the real story. 

The Irish held Stanford to just 205 yards of total offense. The Cardinal ground game that had Irish fans so worried? It gained just 47 yards. It was the fifth straight game where Notre Dame held its opponents to 17 points or less. 

VanGorder, with his NFL schemes and overperforming personnel, received a tip of the cap from frustrated Stanford head coach David Shaw after the game. 

"I think they’ve got an outstanding defensive coordinator. He mixes it up,” Shaw said after the loss. "Our quarterback got hit a lot today. Give them a lot of credit for their scheme."

All of that seems so far away. 

***

From that point on, things have gone wrong. Very wrong. Notre Dame has only won two games since that victory over Stanford. And the defense has been a large part of the issue. 

In the Irish's two victories, they gave up 82 points. North Carolina scored 43 with its hyper-speed offense catching the Irish defense completely out of sorts. And Navy's triple-option attack forced VanGorder and head coach Brian Kelly to simply hold on for dear life, with the Irish scoring 21 fourth-quarter points to pull away from the Midshipmen. 

The easy thing to do is simply to blame VanGorder. After going viral for his fist-pumping exploits after shutting out Michigan for the first time in school history, the first-year coordinator now sits in quarantine—held to blame for the slide that's seen the Irish give up 30 or more points in six straight games. 

But it's not all on VanGorder. As we look at the free fall of the Irish defense as it prepares to face USC's star-studded offense, let's take a look at the key factors that have contributed to the collapse. 

 

Injuries

Any analysis that doesn't peg injuries as the primary cause of this free fall isn't being fair to the parties involved.

Notre Dame's defense has been decimated by injuries. They've hit both key personnel and the limited depth that was being counted on to play important reserve minutes. 

The first domino to fall was middle linebacker Joe Schmidt, who was injured against Navy. Schmidt's absence has been felt both on the field and off—both before the snap and during the action. 

Against the run, the Irish have struggled greatly without Schmidt in the middle of the defense. As freshman Nyles Morgan has learned on the fly, the defense has given up big-chunk runs at an alarming rate.

In the 13 quarters without Schmidt, the Irish have given up 31 runs of 10 yards or more. They allowed just 25 in the seven-plus games Schmidt played behind Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones. 

Speaking of Day and Jones? They've been lost for the rest of the season, with Kelly hoping that Day will return for the bowl game.

The coaches never had a true contingency plan for the defensive tackle position in absence of the duo, and it's forced Kelly and VanGorder to try and replace two players they knew going into the season really weren't replaceable.

Freshman Daniel Cage played well behind them but has missed time with his own knee injury. That's forced fifth-year afterthought Justin Utupo into the lineup and pulled the redshirt off of freshman Jay Hayes.

The rest of the injuries have chipped away at the foundation of the unit. Middle linebacker Jarrett Grace has been unable to play after last season's catastrophic leg injury that broke in four places. Tony Springmann retired before the season started after failing to get past a knee injury. 

Safety Drue Tranquill is the latest hard-luck injury at a position that's seen Austin Collinsworth missing for most of the year and Nicky Baratti go down with another season-ending shoulder injury. Throw in Cody Riggs, whose foot injury has robbed the Irish of their most versatile cornerback.

Simply put, every level of the defense has been crushed.

 

Suspensions

It's worth reminding people that the Irish defense was hit hard during fall camp when the suspensions of starters KeiVarae Russell and Ishaq Williams took two of the most experienced players off the field for the season. 

Throw in reserves Kendall Moore and Eilar Hardy (who is now back with the team), and that's four veterans who were likely to contribute in some form. 

Russell's loss was the most difficult to take. Expecting to perform at an All-American level this season, Russell was anticipating a hard decision at the end of the year: head to the NFL or return for his senior season and his degree.

All of that was derailed after an academic issue in summer school put Notre Dame's football program in the headlines for the second straight season for the wrong reasons. Russell will return for his senior season—after spending his two-semester suspension away from South Bend. 

The loss of Wiliams was also a huge blow. While sophomore Isaac Rochell and freshmen Andrew Trumbetti and Grant Blankenship have played well, having a physically mature senior like Williams to set the edge would've given the Irish someone with actual playing experience to line up alongside Day and Jones. 

The Irish made it through the first five weeks of the season looking like they had skated through the suspensions unscathed. But the depth issues that were just beneath the surface caught the Irish, especially once injuries began piling up. 

 

Schedule

Put simply, the offenses that Notre Dame started the season against just weren't very good. Only Rice has ended up as a top-75 offense. Stanford is 81st in total offense, Syracuse is 112th, Purdue is 113th and Michigan is 117th. 

Just as injuries and depth issues began piling up, so did the better offenses. Only Louisville and Northwestern rank outside the top 75 in total offense. They combined to score 74 points against the Irish. Arizona State, Navy, North Carolina, Florida State and USC all average between 452 and 441 yards per game—each in the top 40 of total offense. 

Entering Saturday's finale against USC, nine freshmen are on the final defensive depth chart of the regular season. Seven sophomores join them—a total of 16 out of 22 in a defensive two-deep in their first or second year of eligibility.

That's a lot of kids seeing their first chunk of significant playing time as the Irish desperately search for answers on defense and their long-awaited eighth win of the season. That experience will serve this team well in the future.

But with a rivalry game against USC set for Saturday, nobody is willing to look that far ahead.

So Kelly and VanGorder will be asked to find answers. Even if they're out of places to look. 

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Week 14: Top 25 Upset Alert

Heading into Week 14, rivalries are on most teams' schedules, and this week will surely be one of the most intense of the season.

Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer gives you the Top 25 teams he is putting on upset alert for Week 14.

Which Top 25 team will be upset this weekend?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Week 14: Picking the CFP Top 25 Games Against the Spread

As rivalry week approaches, the end of college football season beckons. This is the last full slate of games until September 2015. And we'd better find a way to make it count.

Fortunately, I am coming to you on a hot streak, having just gone 12-4 against the spread with my Week 13 picks. The professional thing to do would be to act like I have been here before. No biggie…I always cash at 80 percent. Just toss the ball back to the referee.

Whatever. Professionalism is overrated.

Seriously, though, I saw the board well last week and think I have a similar read on the rivalry games. Typically, that means it might be time to fade me. Statistically, that means it's definitely time to fade me. Heed this advice at your own, readily assumed risk.

But don't come crying to me if you fade these and end up 4-12.

 

All spreads courtesy of Odds Shark unless noted otherwise.

Begin Slideshow

Wisconsin and Minnesota Mascots Roast Each Other on Twitter During Rivalry Week

No. 18 Minnesota and No. 14 Wisconsin will battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday. With the rivalry game looming, Goldy Gopher and Bucky Badger have been exchanging jabs on Twitter.

Things started slowly on Monday.

However, both mascots—and the University of Wisconsin-Madison—have increased the heat in the days leading up to the matchup.

The Badgers appear to have won the battle.

Minnesota has lost 10 straight meetings, with its last win in the series back in 2003.

Rivalry week has always been great. Thanks to Twitter, it's even better these days.

[Twitter]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michal Menet Names Top 5: Which Program Is Best Fit for 2016 4-Star?

Prized Pennsylvania offensive lineman Michal Menet may still be more than a year away from signing with any college program, but he's already developed a list of top contenders. The 4-star recruit tweeted his top five Tuesday, pointed out by Greg Pickel of Scout.com:

Menet, a 6'5", 250-pound junior at Exeter Township High School in Reading, has a trio of Big Ten programs in the picture. Penn State, Michigan State and Ohio State are caught up in another conference power struggle, while Duke and Florida State offer ACC opportunities.

The athletic lineman is rated ninth among offensive tackles in 247Sports' composite rankings and possesses a physical frame equipped to pack on pounds as he matures. Menet holds the top overall ranking when it comes to 2016 prospects in Pennsylvania, a state that perennially produces elite difference-makers.

He already holds invitations to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and Under Armour All-America Game, both scheduled for January 2016.

Now that Menet has provided a glimpse into his thought process toward particular programs, let's break down each favorite in search of an ideal fit.

 

Duke

The Blue Devils have quietly emerged as an ACC contender in recent years, and on-field success has carried over into the recruiting spectrum. Head coach David Cutcliffe will lead the team into its third straight bowl game this winter and could enter unchartered territory with a top-30 recruiting class in February.

The university's reputation as a globally respected academic institution enhances the sales pitch and attracts players from across the country who've noted that football is on the rise in Durham. Duke's 2015 class features prospects from eight states, including a pair of California 4-stars.

The Blue Devils' 2016 class is on pace to be its best ever based on a strong start. It already features three 4-star recruits, and Menet would provide further clout.

Duke offers him an opportunity to become the team's most heralded incoming lineman in recent memory. He could quickly become an anchor up front for a program with 18 regular-season wins since 2013.

 

Florida State

The Seminoles are certainly far more established than conference counterpart Duke. Florida State is unbeaten during the past two seasons, and there's plenty of promise for further success in a post-Jameis Winston world.

Head coach Jimbo Fisher has compiled the makings of a formidable rushing attack that could shred defenses for years to come. Dalvin Cook, a 5-star 2014 signee, is gaining steam during the final stretch of his senior season, and more elite backfield help is on the way.

Jacques Patrick and Johnny Frasier—both rated among the top five running backs in 247Sports' composite rankings—are committed to the Seminoles. Even with three quarterback pledges in this class, the future of Florida State's offensive attack appears to be run-heavy.

Just about every elite offensive lineman will tell you he prefers to block downfield, and, judging by his game film, Menet is no exception. Fisher holds just three total offensive line commits in the 2015 and 2016 classes combined.

He'll look to load up on linemen before next signing day and waited only until April to extend an offer to Menet, who would be counted on to keep top-ranked junior quarterback Malik Henry upright for years to come in a talent-laden offense.

 

Michigan State

The Spartans were among the first teams to offer Menet, pulling the trigger on a scholarship last December. He visited the campus in April, developing a strong rapport with offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Mark Staten along the way.

Michigan State identified Menet as a key target early in the 2016 evaluation process. The team could use a "franchise" tackle who can dominate for multiple seasons and managed to secure just one 4-star recruit at the position during the past three cycles.

The Spartans signed 4-star Pennsylvania defensive back Montae Nicholson in February, and top-rated 2015 pledge Larry Scott is an Ohio product. In order to land Menet, Michigan State would again need to reach into a Big Ten foe's backyard.

 

Ohio State

Head coach Urban Meyer has made it clear he's capable of securing commitments from every corner of the country during tenures at Ohio State and Florida. Now he'll go toe-to-toe with Penn State coach James Franklin for homegrown Pennsylvania talent.

The Buckeyes beat out Penn State for common 4-star lineman targets Jashon Cornell and Matthew Burrell earlier in the 2015 recruiting cycle, and an ongoing battle carries into the next class. Ohio State has loaded up at offensive skill positions but could still use some more beef up front to protect a collection of quality quarterbacks.

Ohio State swung and missed on Tennessee offensive tackle Drew Richmond in September but made up for it by landing Burrell. The team also holds commitments from several 3-star offensive linemen in the 2015 class, including 6'9", 305-pound New Jersey mauler Kevin Feder.

Meyer's 2016 class features four players, each from Ohio. Buckeyes pledge Tyler Gerald may be the top guard prospect in the cycle and could ultimately line up at tackle.

Menet visited Columbus for a game in September. He landed his Ohio State offer during an April campus trip and will assuredly be on campus again before a decision is made.

 

Penn State

The prohibitive favorite in this race due to proximity and program familiarity, Penn State hopes to add to the stockpile of offensive linemen Franklin has acquired since taking the job. The offensive front is in good shape moving forward, which is key considering past scholarship sanctions at the school.

Unlike some teams in his top group, Penn State is preparing for an influx of impact offensive linemen next year. Sterling Jenkins, Steven Gonzalez and Ryan Bates are 4-star recruits capable of contributing early in Happy Valley.

Penn State extended a scholarship at the start of Menet's sophomore season, shortly after Rutgers and Temple became the first options on his list. The coaching regime has changed since, but you better believe he remains a centerpiece on the program's 2016 recruiting board.

The Nittany Lions hosted Menet on campus this summer for camp, and he returned for a game last month. Penn State is still looking for offensive line talent in the 2016 class, but an impressive 2015 haul could potentially create a logjam at tackle.

 

The Verdict

Expect Penn State to remain a mainstay on his list through the conclusion of this recruitment. However, when faced with finding the best fit, our gaze shifts away from Menet's home state.

The opportunity to fill an immediate need at offensive tackle in Tallahassee is tough to pass up. Florida State has as stable a coaching situation as any university in America and will continue to contend for titles with the recruiting classes Fisher has assembled.

Menet would lead the way for a trio of running backs that could become college football's best backfield. He would also serve as part of the foundation for a 2016 class that already includes a blue-chip quarterback commit who was coveted across the country.

As an offensive lineman, there's a lot to like about a potential role with the Seminoles. That allure leads Florida State to the top of this list.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

10 Biggest Questions Facing Top 25 Teams Heading into Week 14

Here we are. For many teams, Week 14 marks the end of the regular season. Next week, the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC will hold their conference championships. 

The latest College Football Playoff rankings showed no movement among the Top Seven spots. Those are considered to be the teams with the most realistic shot of getting in the playoff. But with rivalry week upon us, there are several opportunities for chaos to ensue. 

Which storylines are worth following this Thanksgiving weekend? The answers are in the following slides. 

The only criterion is that teams mentioned have to be in the latest CFP Top 25.

Begin Slideshow

Watch Crushing Blows and Diving TD Catch in Our Craziest Plays of the Week

Watch the craziest plays of the week in high school football.

The season is winding down, but it's not too late to create highlights and remember your big games. Log in to Hudl and highlight any plays from your past games that you want to appear on your athlete profile. Once they're saved, you can share them with family, friends and recruiters.

Which play did you think was the best?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages