NCAA Football

Ohio State Football: Analyzing Buckeyes' Top 5 2015 Recruiting Targets

Urban Meyer is widely considered one of college football's best recruiters, but what sets him apart isn't his ability to sign blue-chip prospects—it's that he finds the ones who perfectly fit his system.

Meyer wants tough, smart and angry football players. He wants his team to play with an edge, and building that starts on the recruiting trail by identifying the right players.

Ohio State is recruiting some of the country's top talent for its 2015 recruiting class, and although just three players have committed so far, Meyer has the Buckeyes primed for a strong finish.

Here's a quick look at some of Ohio State's top targets. 

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Why Notre Dame's QB Competition Won't End When the 2014 Season Starts

Brian Kelly finds himself in an attractive predicament, one that will stretch well past the summer heat and into the brisk South Bend fall.

He has two quarterbacks—each vastly different in terms of style, skill and makeup—and one vacancy to fill. It is an enviable position, although that is typically not the case in the sport he coaches. As the tried and true saying has taught us—the one hanging on the basement wall of every coach’s getaway lake home—two quarterbacks typically equate to no quarterbacks.

Not here, though.

This is the exception to the rule, a luxury at a position that rarely produces luxuries in bulk. With this rarity comes depth, but with such depth there also comes fine print. The Notre Dame quarterback competition won’t just be decided at some point this fall; it will likely be game to game, series to series and throw to throw. And for that reason, there’s a distinct possibility this attractive predicament could turn at some point.

More so than the candidates—which will be addressed momentarily—is the master puppeteer. Brian Kelly has already shown the propensity to go to his bullpen at any point, regardless of record, score or situation.

He couldn’t dip into his reserves last season because (a) the depth behind Tommy Rees was nonexistent and (b) outside of a handful of glaring, Tommy Rees-esque mistakes, the senior played quite well given the circumstances. But that’s not the case in 2014. Kelly’s itchy trigger finger could find life, and no one would be surprised given the arsenal he has to work with.

Following Notre Dame’s spring game, Kelly addressed the quarterback competition while speaking to the Chicago Sun-Times:

I would like to have one quarterback because they both can run the offense. This is not about having one offense for one quarterback and another offense for the other…I should be able to figure this thing out.

We should be able to get our players in a position where we can have a starting quarterback. I’ve been doing it long enough that I would hope I could figure it out come time to play Rice.

The two likeliest candidates are well established. In this corner we have Everett Golson, a year and a half removed from his trip to the national championship game and a year removed from his departure from Notre Dame after an academic mishap. He returned to Notre Dame before spring, meaning he was able to soak up valuable spring repetitions.

It was almost assumed—despite Brian Kelly’s magnificent extinguisher work to say otherwise—that Golson would immediately jump back into his role as starter. That still might be the case, although the term "assumption" no longer applies.

In terms of tools, no quarterback on the Notre Dame roster can match what Golson provides. In fact, in terms of overall arm strength, you’d be hard-pressed to find many quarterbacks nationally—excluding a handful of superhumans, starting with Penn State's Christian Hackenberg—that throw the football with the pace and distance that he delivers. His connection with Chris Brown in Notre Dame's 2012 victory against Oklahoma comes to mind.

He does this despite checking in right around 6’0” and 200 pounds, although his physical gifts are undeniable.

The other contender in this conversation is no longer simply a cult favorite in Notre Dame circles. Malik Zaire, fresh off his 292-yard, two-touchdown spring game, has seemingly obliterated the once-assumed canyon-sized gap between the two players.

Like Golson, Zaire does not come from the create-a-player QB mold. He’s listed at 6'0" and 208 pounds on his Notre Dame bio, similar in stature to his competition. Despite his lack of height, Zaire was still the No. 5 ranked dual-threat quarterback according to 247Sports’ composite rankings in the 2013 class, and he likely would have ranked much higher if he were a few inches taller.

Zaire, a lefty, runs exceptionally well. He’s not necessarily as explosive as Golson, however, and his game is built more on accuracy and control. That’s not to say he doesn’t have the physical gifts to excel at this level, but it’s simply acknowledging the obvious: He’s a different player than Golson. Each comes equipped with strengths and weaknesses.

Following a strong spring—highlighted by his electric performance in the spring game—Zaire added a bit more intrigue to the competition. Don't mistake this as one great performance in front of fans, either. He has been superb, and he also didn’t lack confidence when asked about his prospects of starting.

"Without a doubt. There will only be one guy starting on Aug. 30th against Rice at Notre Dame Stadium, there will only be one guy out on the field, and I believe that will be me," he said, courtesy of ESPN.com.

Kelly has yet to announce when he will decide on a starter, although he’ll likely use the early reps in fall camp and name a starter shortly after that. Given Golson’s experience, there’s still a hovering notion that he will be the starter for Week 1. If you had to guess who the starter would be at this moment, he'd probably be the name you lean toward.

That might be the case, although it’s anything but concrete. And even if Golson’s remarkable skill set and experience prevail, there’s no guarantee that will be the case come Week 4. Heck, there's no guarantee it will be the case for Week 2 when Michigan comes to town.

Kelly has already proven that he’s not afraid to make a switch without much warning. Golson knows this firsthand having been pulled for Tommy Rees a handful of times in the midst of Notre Dame's undefeated regular season.

Perhaps Kelly will have to make that call again. Or perhaps the quarterback chosen will take full advantage of the opportunity and never look back.

For now, Kelly can rest easy knowing he has the most impressive depth at the most important position in the country. It really is a wonderful luxury to have, one coaches likely marvel at from a distance. And then that first (or second) interception comes once the curtain goes up and a familiar cycle begins to churn.

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Optimistic, Pessimistic and Realistic Predictions for Every SEC East Team

Yesterday, we hit on the SEC West's optimistic, pessimistic and realistic 2014 predictions. Now, it's time to head to the wide-open SEC East.

Defending SEC East champ Missouri surprised the world last year but now has to deal with the target on its back and some major holes on both sides of the ball. 

Can Georgia, Florida, South Carolina or Tennessee get back to Atlanta, or will this be another year of surprises and upsets in the East?

Optimistic, pessimistic and realistic picks are in this slideshow.

 

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Georgia Football: Recruiting Director's Departure Won't Hurt Dawgs' 2015 Class

On Wednesday afternoon, Gentry Estes of 247Sports (and others) reported that Daryl Jones had vacated his position as director of on-campus recruiting at the University of Georgia.  Shortly after these initial reports, Jones issues a statement, per 247Sports confirming his departure:

After serving the past two years as Director of On-Campus Recruiting for the Georgia football program, I will be pursuing other opportunities going forward. I would like to thank Coach Richt for the opportunity of representing the Bulldawg Nation in that capacity. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Richt and all he stands for as a head coach, man, and leader of the football program. I enjoyed my role in the two top 10 recruiting classes we signed and want to wish everyone involved with the team nothing but success in the years to come.

While Jones’ leaving the program may have been somewhat surprising and his statement did little to clarify the reasoning for the change, one thing is certain: Jones’ resignation will not adversely affect Georgia’s 2015 recruiting class.

 

Jones’ Role

While it would be ignorant to discount the role of on-campus recruiting directors, it is important to understand the scope of their influence over blue chip recruits. 

A few months ago, Bleacher Report’s own Barrett Sallee took a behind-the-scenes look at an official recruiting visit in Athens.  Anyone reading that article would be hard-pressed not to find Jones’ fingerprints throughout.  As director of on-campus recruiting, official visits were Jones’ wheelhouse. And he took the job seriously.  According to Sallee, Jones viewed hosting official visits as a commitment of resources and a dedication of time.

We don't visit guys just for the sake of visiting.  If they visit here, there's a sincere interest because we're pouring resources into them with manpower and hours being poured into getting guys here on campus. From that point on, we've done the background work, we know what they like, we know what their needs are and we know what they're interested in.

And to be sure, Jones had his hand in all of those actionable steps.  Undoubtedly he was instrumental in conducting background work, managing schedules, crafting activities and making the trip run smooth.

Jones—or any on-campus recruiting director for that matter—can add value to the recruiting process by laying the ground work and executing logistics to perfection.  And the importance of those functions should not be underestimated.  But Jones was not the relational draw responsible for defining a recruit’s view of the program. 

That responsibility—or perhaps more aptly, that opportunity—still belongs to the coaching staff.

 

2015 Relationships

As it stands, Mark Richt’s coaching staff continues to press forward in recruiting, and some of the nation’s best recruiters (Mike Bobo, Bryan McClendon, John Lilly, Jeremy Pruitt) will be the men responsible for earning the trust and confidence of recruits and their families.

So in that regard, Georgia’s recruiting objectives for 2015 have been minimally changed following Jones’ departure. 

By most accounts, Jones performed well in his duties as director of on-campus recruiting, but his job (by its very nature) did not necessitate deep personal connections with Georgia’s top targets.  Accordingly, fans can expect Georgia to fill the staff vacancy and press on.

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Florida Football: What Will Muschamp Must Accomplish to Save His Job in 2014

Everybody deals with pressure differently. Some take deep breaths, pick up a few yoga lessons or go for a late night stroll along the beach to help calm those nerves. Others are able to go on vacation for a week or so, completely removing themselves from the stressful situation.

Unfortunately, there are no days off and there is no offseason in college football, which has forced Florida head coach Will Muschamp to handle his stressful situation by pretending it doesn’t even exist. In an SEC spring meeting earlier this week, Muschamp said he’s not feeling any pressure heading into his fourth season as Florida’s coach, according to David Jones of Florida Today.

I don't feel any different pressure at all. We didn't have a good year and it was very unfortunate in what happened but I have complete confidence in where we are heading. No. 1, we are as deep and talented at running back and receiver as we've been. Jeff Driskel is going to have an outstanding year. I feel very comfortable in the first five to seven offensive linemen and I think we have the ingredients on defense to be really good. Our kick game, I think we have two punters that have NFL legs. … So I feel real good about our football team heading into the fall. 

Confident? Every coach has to be in order to be successful. Expecting a better season than last year? Well, there’s only one way to go after last year’s four-win season. Pretending you can’t feel the steam seeping through your khakis from sitting on a hot seat? If you believe that, I have an igloo in sunny Miami to sell you.

Florida hasn’t had to do much firing over the last few decades, but like any prestigious program, it won’t hesitate to show you the door once enough becomes enough. Just ask Ron Zook, the only Florida head coach who was fired since Galen Hall in the late 1980s. Zook was fired with a 23-14 record in three seasons. Muschamp is 22-16 in three seasons.

If that wasn’t enough to raise some eyebrows, 12 of Zook’s 14 losses came against ranked teams. Muschamp lost eight games last season, and one of them came against an FCS team. There’s an eerie pattern going on here that doesn’t exactly favor the current Florida head coach.

So, what has to be done to save Muschamp's job?

In the words of the late, great Al Davis: Just win, baby.

Since Muschamp admitted he’s comfortable with pretty much his entire roster, that shouldn’t be difficult. Problem is, the schedule is no cakewalk. I have the Gators winning nine games this season if everything goes well. In other words, assuming the offense is able to move the ball further than the length of a loveseat. Certainly that would be good enough to keep Muschamp around for another year.

But some may say that’s a stretch given the way the Gators performed last season and the difficulty of the schedule. After all, not every team can make an Auburn-like run from worst to one of the better teams in the conference in one short season.

If that’s the case and Florida can’t make the big boy jump, Muschamp must satisfy Gator fans with a bowl win and at least one victory over a rival. If there’s anything less attractive than his overall record, it’s his 1-5 record against Georgia and Florida State. Some things make mediocre seasons easier to swallow, and bragging rights over teams the fanbase can’t stand is one of those few things.

Muschamp must deliver some key victories this season or he'll have plenty of free time for walks on the beach and yoga lessons. 

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Notre Dame Football: Dissecting Brian Kelly's QB Strategy

At the end of January, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly declared he will be calling the offensive plays in 2014.

Kelly described the look he wants the offense to have as the Irish prepare to transition back to a style that “is best suited for the personnel that we have,” the head coach explained.

What exactly is that look?

“It starts with the quarterback and his ability to be a playmaker within the offense,” Kelly said at the time. “[We’ve had] an offense that, certainly at times, we really haven't been able to craft it to fit a player behind the center.”

In four seasons at Notre Dame, Kelly has played five different quarterbacks: Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix, Everett Golson, Dayne Crist and Nate Montana. Only Golson was part of a recruiting class essentially completely handled by Kelly’s regime (Rees and Hendrix were part of the class of 2010, which signed two months after Kelly was named head coach). And only Golson has rushed for more than 200 yards in a single season.

The Irish, Kelly said in January, are looking to tweak the style of quarterback play within the offense.

“What I'm looking for in particular is somebody that can make some things happen outside the pocket,” Kelly said. “We have been driven behind the tackles for the last couple of years. We would like to be a little bit more dynamic outside the pocket.”

Now entering his fifth season in South Bend, Indiana, Kelly has stocked the roster with his players. And, with both the current signal-callers on the roster as well as the commitments and signees on the way, Kelly’s preferred style of quarterback play is apparent.

Notre Dame has targeted the quarterbacks it wants and—by and large—has reeled them in, situating the position nicely for the coming years.

In some order, Golson and Malik Zaire will be the top two quarterbacks on the depth chart in the fall. Incoming freshman DeShone Kizer is set to enroll at Notre Dame this summer. Between those three, the Irish boast a talented trio of dual-threat quarterbacks.

But the wheels have already been set in motion on the next wave of Irish quarterbacks. Four-star prospect Blake Barnett is the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2015 and the 65th-best player in the nation overall.

“Notre Dame is signing a guy that you don’t hear too often as the top quarterback in the country, but he’s in the discussion,” said Steve Wiltfong, 247Sports’ director of recruiting.

Maybe more importantly than national rankings, Notre Dame clearly identified Barnett early in the process, and the Corona, California, native gave his verbal commitment in late November.

“For what they do on offense, they couldn’t get a better player,” Wiltfong said of Barnett.

Kelly and the Irish continue to load up on quarterbacks. All five current and future Irish quarterbacks have garnered 4-star status and ranked in the top 300 overall recruits in the country.

The process has already begun to find a quarterback in the class of 2016. Notre Dame has sent out five scholarship offers, the second-most of any position. Four of those offers have gone to quarterbacks ranked among the top 100 players in the class of 2016: Malik Henry, Jawon Pass, Shea Patterson and Xavier Gaines.

“Now that they have Barnett in the boat, they can get in early with some of the top 2016 quarterbacks in the country,” Wiltfong said. “They’ve already offered a few. So they’ve established who they’d like and now they can start building a relationship early in the process.”

The future is undoubtedly bright for Notre Dame at the quarterback position. Golson has two years of eligibility remaining, while Zaire holds four.

Sure, there’s still a starter to be named for 2014. But, big picture, Kelly has the groundwork laid for his quarterbacks to be the dynamic playmakers he wants.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting stats and information courtesy of 247Sports.com and all quotes obtained firsthand. Star ratings reflect 247Sports Composite Rankings.

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

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Nebraska Football: Power Ranking the Road Trips for Cornhusker Fans in 2014

With the Memorial Day weekend just behind us, Nebraska football fans may very well have travel on their minds and be looking to plan their road trips to follow the Cornhuskers next season. Nebraska hits the road for five contests in 2014.

So let’s take a look at those five road trips, not in terms of how the game will be, but in terms of how the travel experience will be for the Nebraska faithful following the Scarlet and Cream.

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Pros and Cons to 5-Star LB Justin Hilliard's Top Schools

Justin Hilliard is a 5-star linebacker from Cincinnati who is among the nation's top defensive recruits. At 6'2" and 230 pounds, Hilliard combines solid strength with athleticism, awareness and quickness.

He does a good job of quickly reading his keys before attacking the line of scrimmage to fill alleys. The Ohio native's skill set has caught the attention of many of the nation's top programs.

However, he is down to five final schools, according to Josh Helmholdt of Rivals.com (subscription required). Hilliard will have to weigh the pros and cons of each of his finalists before settling on one.

 

All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' Composite Rankings.Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports.

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Georgia Football: What Bulldogs Fans Need to Know About Aaron Davis

Georgia Bulldogs defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt wanted to put his stamp on the defense during the spring. And the way he did it was by giving new players a chance to make an impact. If there is one player who did that during spring practice, then-cornerback Aaron Davis is the winner.

Technically, Aaron Davis is not a newcomer. He was on the team last season but did not play in a single game. He dressed in two home games and made the trip with the team to the Gator Bowl last year.

So how did Davis become a guy who was barely on the team to a leading candidate to win a starting cornerback position in less than a year?

Most fans know that Davis is a walk-on, and he was able to do some big things in the spring game. But what fans may not realize is that he is playing cornerback for the first time in his career.

Davis was a standout receiver at Luella High School in Locust Grove, Georgia. In 2010, he was named to the All-Region 2-AAAAA team and was being scouted by major Division I programs. But things would take a turn for the worst the following season, as he tore his ACL in the spring game. He missed his entire junior season and would re-injure the same knee his senior year, which led to him missing all but one game.

But in that one game he played his senior year, he caught 11 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns. However, colleges stopped calling him, and Davis did not want to play at the Division II or Division III level, which were the only schools interested in him.

So Davis called Georgia, and it let him on the team as a preferred walk-on. And despite not having a football scholarship, he was able to get an academic scholarship because he had a 4.5 GPA. He worked with the team all last season but never got the see any playing time.

Now with Pruitt at the helm, Davis was able to impress the coaches during spring practices and do the same thing at the spring game, as he tallied three tackles, one interception, one forced fumble and one pass breakup.

Kenneth Towns and Aaron Davis named as UGA's Outstanding Walk-ons for the Spring

— UGA Football News (@UGAfootballLive) April 15, 2014

That is impressive for a walk-on, but then again, Davis is not an average walk-on. Injuries have made his path a little more challenging, but based on the way he’s looked last month in the spring practices, the talent was always there.

During the final days of spring practice, linebacker Jordan Jenkins told Tim Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Davis worked his tail off and doesn’t make mental mistakes. Davis added that he was just doing what he was told and he always tires to do the right thing even when fatigue is kicking in.

There is no telling if Davis will still be No.1 on the depth chart when preseason practice begins because of the incoming freshmen who are looking for some playing time. Not to mention, the reserves, such as Devin Bowman and Sheldon Dawson, will look to prove they are worthy of starting. But Davis has a chip on his shoulder, and if he continues to work hard and absorb everything the coaches tell him to do, he will see a lot of action when the Bulldogs kickoff the season against Clemson at the end of August.

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Winners and Losers of May on the 2015 College Football Recruiting Trail

The weather is getting hotter this spring, which means June is right around the corner. However, it wouldn't be smart to look ahead to next month without reflecting on what happened on the college football recruiting trail in May.

The SEC had another eventful month, as a Big Ten coach found a way to get under the conference's skin. However, several other SEC programs scored huge commitments in May as well.

A Big 12 school was left out of the final group for a 5-star linebacker, while a Pac-12 school lost out on two prospects.

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OSU Finally Lands QB in 2015 Class, Still Pursuing 5-Star ATH Torrance Gibson?

Joe Burrow, a 3-star dual-threat quarterback by 247 Sports Composite, has committed to Ohio State. This is just the third commit for the Buckeyes in the 2015 class and first on offense. 

Prior to the Burrow commitment, Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes' top target was 5-star ATH/dual-threat QB Torrance Gibson. How does OSU's newest commitment affect Gibson's recruitment? Is Ohio State still pursuing Gibson?

Check out Ben Axelrod break down Ohio State's top QB targets and the latest on Torrance Gibson. 

 

Highlights courtesy XOS Digital. Recruit rankings from 247 Sports Composite

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5-Star QB Torrance Gibson Ranks Top 7 Schools

Coveted recruit Torrance Gibson is down to seven contenders.

The 5-star quarterback from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, revealed his finalists Thursday evening, trimming the list down from the top 15 he shared earlier this month:

The most notable development among this collection is Auburn's ascension. The Tigers, previously listed as Gibson's No. 2 option, have pulled into a tie with Tennessee atop the hierarchy.

The 6'4", 200-pound playmaker is slated to visit Auburn this weekend with a group of American Heritage High School teammates, presenting head coach Gus Malzahn with an opportunity to make continued strides toward a commitment.

Gibson, rated No. 1 nationally among athletes in 247Sports' composite rankings, is being largely recruited as a dual-threat quarterback. He accounted for nearly 3,000 total yards and 29 touchdowns in 2013, as he led American Heritage to a state title.

He finished the journey with a 316-yard, three-touchdown performance in the state championship victory, according to MaxPreps (subscription required).

Gibson eliminated eight teams from contention Thursday. Clemson, Florida, North Carolina State, Oregon, Alabama, Virginia Tech, Michigan and Nebraska are no longer in the picture.

LSU remains at No. 3 among Gibson's favorites, while Oklahoma jumps from No. 6 to No. 4. Ohio State drops to No. 5 days after landing a commitment from in-state quarterback recruit Joe Burrow.

UCF is certainly a dark horse in this final bunch. The Knights managed to make his top seven despite landing at No. 11 on his initial list.

Miami, ranked No. 6, is set to welcome Gibson to campus Thursday night, according to 247Sports reporter Ryan Bartow.

A nationwide recruitment that once included more than 30 teams has entered its final stretch. Campus visits and countless coaching sales pitches lie ahead for Gibson, who's suddenly closer to a commitment than ever before.

 

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

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Kliff Kingsbury Discusses UH Practices Involving Ice Cream, Bottle Service Girls

Games are won on the practice field, and Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury will do whatever it takes to make sure that his players are focused during practices.

The Red Raiders coach made an appearance on The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz (audio starts around 10:40) on Wednesday. As Kingsbury is known to do, he made some interesting comments.

"I'll pretty much sell my soul to have a good practice," Kingsbury said. "I'm not above anything."

That may sound like a coach exaggerating, but as it turns out, he will literally do just about anything. Under Kevin Sumlin at the University of Houston, where Kingsbury was an assistant coach from 2008 to 2011, the Cougars were rewarded for good practices. 

Here's what Kingsbury had to say about how Houston used to motivate players at practice:

When we were at the University of Houston, we brought an ice cream truck and filled it with some girls from, like, one of the clubs, like the bottle girls. And that was impressive. That was a good practice.

Like the bottle service. The cute bottle service girls. In Houston, you can do that. You can't do that in Lubbock, there's no bottle service in Lubbock.

Thanks for sharing, coach.

[h/t Dr. Saturday]

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Nebraska Football: Wisconsin Game Will Be True Test of Bo Pelini's Progress

If there is one game in 2014 that will be a true test of Bo Pelini's progress as Nebraska's head coach, it's the game against Wisconsin.

It's been a little while since the two met. In fact, the last time the two faced off was December 1, 2012 at the Big Ten Championship Game. The Huskers lost 70-31.

After a season apart, the two finally meet again on November 15.

So what exactly does this game mean for Nebraska? Quite honestly, it means a lot. That's not really news to anyone, though.

The winner of this matchup could possibly head to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game. While it's not impossible for the loser to still make the trip, a lot does ride on this game. That's the nerve-racking part.

As Nebraska heads into its fourth season in the Big Ten, Wisconsin has become a sort of kryptonite for the Huskers. It's almost reminiscent of a situation with a past Big 12 foe.

In the Huskers' first season in the Big Ten, ESPN's College GameDay made the trek to Madison to witness the big first contest in almost 40 years. Unfortunately, Nebraska lost 48-17 in prime time.

One year later, the Huskers were able to redeem the loss in a close victory at home. On homecoming night, Pelini and his team secured a 30-27 win. But then the Big Ten Championship Game came along and ruined all the feel-good vibes.

When Nebraska and Wisconsin finally meet again, it will have been almost two years since that meeting.

Unfortunately, the game is at Camp Randall, which does the Huskers no favors. The upside is that it likely will not be in prime time—thanks to it being in November—which is something that does actually benefit Nebraska.

Whatever the reason, prime time has not been kind to the Huskers since the team joined the Big Ten.

In the seven prime-time games played in the new conference, Nebraska has only won three. That's not exactly flattering.

Fans have pointed to several reasons for why this is. A popular one is that Pelini and his team are too emotional in the spotlight. If that's the case, the Huskers better buckle up. The matchup with Wisconsin will be a wild ride—and prime-time-like—regardless of when it's played.

For Pelini, how his team reacts to the pressure will be telling. Nebraska doesn't want to fall victim to Wisconsin once again.

If it does, the picture circles back to that Big 12 foe that was previously mentioned. Most likely know what team that is, but if not, it starts to feel oddly similar to the Nebraska-Texas rivalry.

In the final meeting between the two before Nebraska left for the Big Ten, the Huskers lost 20-13. From 1996 on, Nebraska only defeated the Longhorns once. That doesn't exactly make a series fun.

Pelini was obviously not in charge of Nebraska through all of those losses. He took over in 2008 and fell to the Longhorns only twice. Those were a 13-12 loss in a controversial Big 12 Championship Game and a 20-13 loss at home the next year.

For whatever reason, Texas became that team the Huskers just couldn't beat.

Wisconsin can't become that team for Nebraska in the Big Ten. When the Huskers and Badgers last met, things were different. The rosters were different, the conference divisions were different and Wisconsin even had a different head coach. That makes things a little harder to predict for 2014.

At the end of the day, though, Wisconsin will still be that team to beat. While there are plenty of other games worth paying attention to, November 15 will likely be in the minds of many as it draws closer.

How will the Huskers fare? It all depends on Pelini and the progress he's made as a head coach.

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Kemah Siverand to Texas A&M: Aggies Land 4-Star WR Prospect

Texas A&M continues to stockpile talent for its future offensive attack. One day after receiving a commitment from 5-star quarterback Kyler Murray, the Aggies have added Houston wide receiver Kemah Siverand.

The 4-star prospect confirmed his commitment Thursday afternoon:

Siverand, a 6'0", 183-pound Cypress Ridge High School standout joins fellow Houston product Jordan Davis, a 4-star tight end, as premier pass targets in Texas A&M's 2015 class. He is the 12th pledge in a group that currently rates fourth nationally in 247Sports' composite team rankings.

The dynamic downfield threat averaged 24 yards per catch as a junior. He finished the 2013 season with 611 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. 

Siverand selected the Aggies from an formidable group of collegiate options. He revealed an expansive collection of favorites on Twitter less than 48 hours prior to his commitment:

Ohio State, Texas Tech, Texas, LSU and Oklahoma State are among the programs who fell short in their pursuit of the coveted playmaker.

Texas A&M also landed a 4-star Houston receiver during the 2014 recruiting cycle. Head coach Kevin Sumlin signed Frank Iheanacho, a raw but rare talent who gives the Aggies a 6'6" weapon.

The team also landed 5-star New Orleans receiver Speedy Noil, who enrolled early for the 2014 spring semester.

Siverand adds to a growing mix of marquee talents that should provide serious support for whichever young quarterback seizes the starting job. He appears to be an ideal complement for Iheanacho and Noil, continuing a tremendous week for Aggies recruiting.

 

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

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Ohio State Football: Joey Bosa, Buckeyes D-Line in for Big 2014 Season

Ohio State's defense was a tremendous disappointment last season—especially in the final three games, when Michigan, Michigan State and Clemson combined for 1,617 yards and 115 points, and the Buckeyes stumbled to a 1-2 record and needed to pull their sole victory out of a hat.

Even during that collapse, though, the one thing Luke Fickell's unit did well was get to the passer and force negative plays. It had eight tackles for loss against Michigan State, part of a season when it had 91 total tackles for loss—the 19th-best total in the country.

Ryan Shazier is gone from the outside linebacker position, but in defensive ends Noah Spence and Joey Bosa, Ohio State returns two players who had 13.5 tackles for loss last season. The only other team in the country that can make that claim is Clemson—and as one of those players, Stephone Alexander, is a linebacker, the Buckeyes are the only team that can make that claim about pure defensive lineman.

Which raises an obvious question: Will Ohio State have the best defensive line in college football next season?

And an even more obvious answer...probably.

Spence missed the Orange Bowl and is suspended for the first two games of the season after testing positive for ecstasy, per Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com. That will hurt in Week 2 against Virginia Tech and (especially) the previous week against Navy, but form-wise he should be a full-go when Ohio State's schedule matters most.

Even after the reported transfer of Jamal Marcus, per The Columbus Dispatch's Bill Rabinowitz, who replaced Spence valiantly in the Orange Bowl, that will leave the Buckeyes with a dominant top-two and OK depth at the end position:

Spence put up better stats, technically, than Bosa did last season, but anyone who watched the games knows that Bosa is the best defensive lineman on the team—and arguably in the conference. He bullied his way into the starting lineup as a true freshman and logged all but four of his 13.5 tackles for loss in the final six games of the season.

Bleacher Report's Michael Felder—the college football department's resident film guru—said he was doing things as a true freshman that it usually takes college players two years to master:

Despite this, there have been questions about the Buckeyes' depth now that Marcus has left the program. Especially in the first two weeks, when Spence will be out of commission, those like Brian Bennett of ESPN.com have voiced concern about the edge:

Senior Steve Miller and redshirt freshman Tyquan Lewis are the likely top candidates to start at defensive end, along with Joey Bosa. Ohio State will be thin at the position against Navy and Virginia Tech. Incoming recruits Jalyn Holmes, Darius Slade and Dylan Thompson might have to get ready early 

If the Buckeyes can weather the storm -- especially against Navy's cut blocks -- then they should be fine when Spence returns. But figuring out the defensive end rotation now becomes a major priority this summer.

While fair—in theory—Bennett's questions fail to mention Purdue transfer Rashad Frazier, who was one of the highlights of spring camp and (especially) the spring game. He had two sacks in the first nine minutes of that scrimmage, forcing a punt with the second and falling on a fumble he forced for a touchdown on the first.

According to Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors, that performance was no true surprise. Frazier had been talked up all spring by defensive line coach Larry Johnson and teammate Michael Bennett:

And speaking of Bennett, we haven't even touched upon the Buckeyes' defensive tackles. Bennett was an All-Big Ten performer up the middle last year, and Adolphus Washington, a former end who looked good alongside Noah Spence in 2012, is transitioning to the inside—where he has the size (6'4", 288 lbs) to be a dominant force.

And therein lies the essence of OSU's line.

Bennett is an Aaron Donald-type: undersized but impressive shooting the gap and getting in the backfield. Washington is a converted end and a former blue-chip recruit. Spence and Bosa are both candidates for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

And all four of these guys could share the field…together!

On a 3rd-and-7 with the season on the line and the offense needing the ball back, the Buckeyes—a team with well-noted secondary issues—could drop seven players into coverage and send four great pass-rushers at the quarterback. No gimmick, no disguise, no outside blitzer necessary. Just let them pin their ears back and go.

There are questions about depth, and those questions are fair. But between Frazier, Steve Miller, Chris Carter, Tyquan Lewis, Tommy Schutt, Tracy Sprinkle, Michael Hill and blue-chip incoming freshman Jalyn Holmes, it should not be an issue that lingers.

There will still be a deep rotation.

"I felt we were very, very good last year and now you've got every single person coming back," said Bennett (before Marcus' transfer decision), according to Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. "We could have nine or 10 guys who aren't just substitutes but could start anywhere in the country."

They might also have five future pros.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Can Gus Malzahn, Auburn Sway Superstar American Heritage HS Trio During Visit?

Auburn has an excellent opportunity this weekend to make strides with three top playmakers from one of Florida's reigning state champions. The Tigers are set to host American Heritage High School standouts Torrance Gibson, Tarvarus McFadden and Dredrick Snelson, who shared the upcoming visit on Twitter:

All three recruits played pivotal roles during a journey to the state title last fall and remain uncommitted. Auburn currently holds 14 pledges in a 2015 class that rates third nationally in 247Sports' composite team rankings.

Snelson, a 4-star prospect, is a member of the 2016 class. He emerged as a quality member of the receiving rotation as a sophomore and should step into a much larger role following the departure of Georgia signee Isaiah McKenzie, who led the team in receptions as a senior.

The 6'1", 190-pound pass-catcher attended Auburn's spring game but remains in search of an offer from head coach Gus Malzahn. Snelson's list of collegiate options already includes USC, Miami, Wisconsin and Clemson.

McFadden and Gibson are both rising seniors who have the Tigers on their list of favorites. This latest campus visit could leave a lasting impression on the decision-making process as national signing day approaches.

Gibson, rated No. 1 nationally among athletes in 247Sports' composite rankings, is widely viewed as a dual-threat quarterback. His high-profile recruitment reached another level earlier this month when he released an ordered collection of 15 top teams.

Auburn landed at No. 2 on the list, sandwiched between SEC rivals Tennessee (No. 1) and LSU (No. 3). The 5-star playmaker is expected to narrow his recruitment down to seven schools at some point Thursday.

With a visit on the horizon, it would seem safe to assume the 6'4", 200-pound prospect plans to keep Auburn in the picture. Gibson gained more than 2,800 total yards in 2013, accounting for 29 offensive touchdowns along the way.

McFadden, a 5-star cornerback, is also apparently joining the party at Auburn this weekend. Rated No. 5 nationally among players at the position in 247Sports' composite rankings, he remains one of the most coveted 2015 defenders on the market.

The 6'3", 198-pound speedster recorded 31 tackles and disrupted 10 passes despite seeing limited targets throughout his junior season, per MaxPreps. McFadden listed Auburn at No. 6 among his top nine programs last weekend.

Florida State currently leads the race for his services, with LSU and Georgia right behind, respectively.

Auburn isn't necessarily a front-runner to land any of these American Heritage stars, but their interest is apparent. The Tigers have a chance to build on that foundation this weekend, while attempting to address to recruiting classes.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big 12 Football: Every Team's Toughest Road Game in 2014

Fans in the Midwest love their football, making the Big 12 home to some of the best and loudest stadiums in college football. 

Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and K-State have some of the most raucous crowds in the nation. 

A road game in league play last year cost Baylor—which went on to win the Big 12—a shot at the national championship. In 2012, a trip to Waco, Texas, cost K-State the same shot. 

Life on the road in the Big 12 isn't easy, and that's sure to hold true in 2014. Let's check out each team's toughest road game in the upcoming season. 

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