NCAA Football

Virginia Tech Gets Best of Both Worlds with Justin Fuente, Bud Foster

If there's one thing coaching searches prove, it's that a football program can't always get what it wants. After all, moving on from a coach, whether through a firing or resignation, is the easy part. The difficult part is finding the next guy who can either maintain a certain level of success or, more desirably, raise the bar.  

That shouldn't be the case at Virginia Tech, which has hired Memphis coach Justin Fuente while retaining long-time defensive coordinator Bud Foster. The news became official Sunday following reports linking the two sides from ESPN's Brett McMurphy and other outlets: 

Hiring Fuente while keeping Foster, who is almost as synonymous with Virginia Tech football as Frank Beamer, gives the Hokies the best of both worlds.

The program gets the young—Fuente is 39 years old—bright offensive mind to kick-start an offense that hasn't averaged more than 30 points a game since 2010 when it led the ACC in scoring. Under Fuente, Memphis has ranked in the top 25 nationally in scoring offense each of the last two years, including finishing No. 7 this year.

A release from Virginia Tech states "Memphis enjoyed a 15-game winning streak over a 12-month span starting in October 2014. That victory string included a 37-24 win over No. 13 Ole Miss on Oct. 17 of this year, marking the highest-ranked opponent that Memphis had ever defeated. Memphis outscored its opponents by an average margin of 20.7 points per game during that run of 15 consecutive wins, scoring 652 points (43.5 ppg), while allowing only 341 (22.7 ppg)."

In Fuente's final year as TCU's co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2011, the Frogs finished ninth in points per game. 

At the same time, Virginia Tech holds on to its identity as a blue-collar, defensive-minded program by retaining Foster. By doing so, the Hokies keep one of the best defensive minds in college football and maintain a sense of continuity with the program. Foster has been with the Hokies since Beamer's first year in Blacksburg in 1987. 

Keeping coaches from previous staffs can be a tricky situation, especially when someone has been so closely tied to one head coach like Foster has with Beamer. Oftentimes, a new head coach may keep an assistant or two around, but will clean house and bring in their own staff. 

Yet, the release from Tech says Fuente asked Foster to stay in the same capacity, to which Foster agreed, saying the following:  

I’ve been privileged to work for a legendary coach who always did it the right way. I enjoyed that chapter and the success we’ve had, however, I am equally excited for the next chapter and working for Justin. Justin and I share a vision for the future of our program. After spending time together, I’m convinced he’s the right person to continue building on the standard we’ve established at Virginia Tech. I’m truly looking forward to working with him and supporting him. 

Keep in mind, too, Foster openly admitted earlier this month to reporters that he wanted to be considered for the head coaching job at Virginia Tech. And with the coaching carousel being the busiest and most wide-open it's been in years, there are more than enough vacancies for which Foster could interview (and probably get) if he wanted. 

The marriage between Fuente and Foster sounds great because it can be one of the better head coach-coordinator combos in college football. It's the joining of two great minds on either side of the ball. But make no mistake: Getting this to work requires a tremendous amount of trust on both sides. It sounds, though, like Fuente and Foster are ready to make it happen. 

The next step is getting recruits to buy into the combo, which shouldn't be that difficult given the results both have yielded over the years. For what it's worth, the Hokies have the No. 9 class in the ACC for 2016, according to 247Sports. Tech regularly gets out-recruited by the likes of Clemson and Florida State, but as Foster noted to Norm Wood of the Daily Press, winning in state goes a long way toward the success of this program: 

We’ve got to get back to winning our state. When we did that, we were a top 10 football team. When we haven’t the last few years, [and] we’ve got the top kids have left the state, then all of a sudden we’ve become just a little bit above average. Where you get a couple guys that are difference-makers, then the next thing you know you’re winning nine, 10, 11 football games. That’s where we’ve got to get back to doing that.

Fuente hasn't been in a position where he's asked to recruit lights-out, but the recruitment and development of Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch is an indication he knows talent when he sees it. 

Get the right kids on campus—though there are enough players on Virginia Tech's roster right now to compete—and Fuente/Foster should be back in the ACC Championship Game regularly. 

From 2005-11, Virginia Tech dominated the ACC Coastal Division. That hasn't been the case as of late. However, it's a wide-open division and more than winnable. Getting Fuente went a long way to getting the Hokies back to those glory days under Beamer. Keeping Foster took it a step further. 


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

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Matt Campbell to Iowa State: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Iowa State officially named Matt Campbell as its head football coach Sunday, according to a program release. Per, Campbell signed a six-year deal and will make $2 million during his first season.

He will be introduced at Iowa State on Monday, according to Cyclone Fanatic's Chris Williams

The Cyclones have found their new coach a week after firing former coach Paul Rhoads, who posted six losing seasons in seven years with the team. Iowa State is coming off of a 3-9 season and has not played in a bowl game since 2012. 

Campbell, who is 36 years old, spent the last four seasons as the head coach of Toledo, posting a 35-15 career record. In 2015, he led the Rockets to a national ranking during parts of the regular season on his way to a 9-2 mark. 

On Saturday, Toledo offered Campbell a deal that would have made him the highest-paid coach in the Mid-American Conference before he accepted the position at Iowa State. 

For a team that has not been relevant often in the Big 12, Iowa State needed a change in direction after seven mediocre years with Rhoads at the helm. Bringing in a fresh, young coach like Campbell could revitalize the program moving forward. 


Stats courtesy of

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College Football Rankings 2015: Top Reaction to Week 14 AP Poll and Standings

The Associated Press Top 25 poll isn't a determinant in the weekly College Football Playoff rankings, but the rankings act as a nice road map for what to expect when the playoff committee announces its take on the 25 best teams in the country.

The top of the AP Week 14 poll largely remains unchanged after Alabama, Oklahoma, Michigan State, Iowa and Clemson all won.

Stanford and North Carolina were among those who climbed into the Top 10 after victories over the weekend. The Cardinal moved up six spots, while the Tar Heels rose three spots. Turner Walston noted how long it has been since the UNC football team could claim supremacy over the basketball program:

The Ohio State Buckeyes are one of the more interesting teams to forecast in terms of their place in this week's various polls. The reigning national champions had their best game of the season against Michigan, and they benefited from losses by Baylor, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State.

The Buckeyes' jump from eighth to sixth comes as little surprise.

The problem for Ohio State, though, is the fact that the team has little chance of going much higher in the polls. Oklahoma's regular season is over, while one of Iowa or Michigan State is bound to qualify for the playoff. At least two of the four CFP spots are spoken for.

That leaves two spots open between the SEC, Pac-12 and ACC champions, which could offer the Buckeyes a bit of a lifeline. This future posited by Fox Sports 1's Ryan Field must remind fans of the bad old days of the Bowl Championship Series:

Dan Wolken of USA Today believes the Cardinal and Tar Heels would be on the outside looking in should that doomsday scenario come to fruition:

ESPN's David Hale offered his two cents regarding a possible battle between North Carolina and Ohio State for a Top Four place:

Proponents of a six- or eight-team playoff are likely hoping for anarchy in Week 14.

Notre Dame was one of the biggest losers from this past weekend in terms of overall stakes. A 45-yard field goal by Conrad Ukropina gave Stanford a 38-36 victory over the Fighting Irish, thus ending their slim hopes of cracking the Top Four. Following the defeat, Notre Dame dropped from fourth to ninth.

Still, Slate's Josh Levin wonders if the Fighting Irish are getting the full respect they deserve:

The Baylor Bears and Oklahoma State Cowboys each fell five spots, but the Bears were still able to find a silver lining:

The Florida Gators and Michigan Wolverines might have played themselves out of a berth in one of the New Year's Six bowls, especially in the case of the Gators, per David Brandt of the Associated Press:

The AP poll will undergo a few more changes before bowl season kicks off. Depending on the results of the four Power Five conference championships, the Top Four could look a little different once Week 15 rolls around.

For now, the AP Top 25 gives fans an idea of what to expect with the next batch of CFP rankings.

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College Football Rankings 2015: Hits and Misses from the Week 14 Polls

The College Football Playoff picture is as clear as it's ever been. The only thing that can derail it now is if Alabama and Clemson lose in the SEC and ACC championship games, respectively.

If all things go chalk, it looks as though the Tide and Tigers, along with Oklahoma and the Big Ten champion, will make up the playoff field. Like it or not, that's how it's going to be barring a massive, unexpected change of heart from the selection committee. The latest top 25 ranks from the USA Today Amway Coaches Poll and the Associated Press Top 25 reflect as much. 

Still, there's some shuffling that could make things interesting if chaos breaks out. With Quarterfinal Saturday a week away, it's time to look at how the latest polls shook out. 

Where did pollsters get it right? Where did they swing and miss? We give our two cents in the following slides based not only on the past week's action, but also on what has transpired so far this season.

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Justin Fuente to Virginia Tech: Latest Contract Details, Comments and Reaction

As expected, Virginia Tech announced Sunday that Memphis head coach Justin Fuente will take over for Hokies legend Frank Beamer.

"We are thrilled to welcome Justin, Jenny and their three daughters into our Virginia Tech family," athletic director Whit Babcock said in a statement. "We identified Coach Fuente as a top candidate early in our process. As our conversations progressed, we then met in person and it became obvious he is the right person to lead our football program. He possesses wisdom beyond his years, as well as a refreshing sense of humility and a calm confidence."

Fuente, 39, spent the last four seasons at Memphis. He compiled a 26-23 record, including a 19-6 mark over the last two seasons. The Tigers concluded a 9-3 regular season with a 63-0 win over SMU on Saturday. They were No. 13 in the College Football Playoff rankings after an 8-0 start but then went on a three-game losing streak.

Nevertheless, Fuente's turnaround at Memphis made him one of the nation's hottest coaching candidates. The Tigers, who won the Miami Beach Bowl last year, had not made a bowl appearance since 2008 before Fuente's arrival, and his offensive innovation made him an attractive candidate for teams in need of an infusion on that side of the ball.

A former offensive coordinator at TCU, Fuente employs a wide-open spread system that put Memphis among the nation's most prolific offenses. The Tigers rank seventh nationally in points per game and 12th in yards per game this season. Quarterback Paxton Lynch has emerged as an unheralded star, throwing for 3,670 yards and 28 touchdowns against three interceptions.

"Justin is a very impressive individual who also happens to be one of the brightest offensive minds in college football," Babcock said. "He elevated Memphis to unprecedented heights. His recruiting philosophy is progressive and comprehensive. Coach Fuente has displayed tremendous talent in evaluating players and developing young men as they strive to reach their full potential."

Dan Wolken of USA Today is confident in Fuente:

Fuente will take over for Beamer, who announced his retirement in early November after 29 seasons with the Hokies year. Beamer in 1987 took over a program with only six bowl appearances to its name and built it into a respected national power. Virginia Tech became bowl eligible for the 23rd straight season with a 23-20 win over Virginia on Saturday and has been ranked in the final AP poll 16 times under Beamer.

Beamer led the Hokies to seven conference championships (four in the ACC and three in the Big East) and a national title game appearance in 1999. He also developed a reputation as one of the best people in college football and is a beloved figure in Blacksburg.

Suffice it to say Fuente has big shoes to fill. Virginia Tech has failed to win more than eight games in any of the last four seasons, so bringing the Hokies back to national prominence may be a difficult task early on. But Fuente proved at Memphis he can build a great team if given time.


Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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Georgia Head Coach Search: Latest News, Rumors After Mark Richt's Resignation

Georgia announced head coach Mark Richt resigned Sunday, and one hot up-and-coming coaching candidate is reportedly interested in being his successor in Athens.

Continue for updates.

Report: Tom Herman Prefers Georgia to South CarolinaSunday, Nov. 29

Josh Newberg of 247Sports reported Houston Cougars head coach Tom Herman withdrew his interest in the Gamecocks opening and would instead be keen to go to a more prestigious SEC job. Newberg also indicated he may wait to see if the head jobs at Texas or Texas A&M open up as well.

Herman was Ohio State's offensive coordinator for the Buckeyes' national championship team from last year. He's led Houston to an 11-1 record, with only a three-point loss to Connecticut thwarting an undefeated season.

As commendable of a job as Herman has done with the Cougars, it'd be fascinating to see what he could do with SEC talent in running a spread offense for the Bulldogs.

There are big shoes to fill if he does take over for Richt, though. The latter has had only one losing season in 15 years at Georgia, and high expectations in the SEC were what had Richt on the hot seat in the first place despite his sustained success for a decade and a half.

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AP College Football Poll 2015: Week 14 Top 25 Rankings Announced

The top two teams remain unchanged, but there was still major movement in the Top 10 of the latest Associated Press poll. 

Oklahoma leapfrogged its way to No. 3 after a 58-23 beatdown of Oklahoma State, Stanford moved to No. 7 after a thrilling win over Notre Dame and Baylor took a nosedive after losing in two overtimes to TCU. Here is a look at the entire Top 25:

Mainstays Clemson and Alabama kept the top two spots despite less-than-stellar outings against unranked opponents. The top-ranked Tigers narrowly avoided an upset in their rivalry game against South Carolina, escaping with a 37-32 triumph. Their defense looked shaky in allowing 402 yards to a Gamecocks team that finished the regular season 3-9.

The Crimson Tide came away with a 29-13 win over Auburn but needed a 10-0 fourth quarter to pull away. Heisman Trophy candidate Derrick Henry helped Alabama close the game, finishing with 271 yards on 46 carries. It was his third 200-plus-yard performance in his last four games and fourth in his last six.

"He was not asking to come out. He was asking to stay in," Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban said, per Ivan Maisel of "And I asked him every time he came to the sidelines, 'Are you OK? Because we'll put somebody else in there.' He says, 'Coach, I'm good. I'm gon' win this game.'"

Aaron Suttles of commented on Henry's Heisman candidacy: 

While the top two teams kept their spots, excitement abounded not far behind them. Oklahoma almost certainly clinched a spot in the College Football Playoff with a sterling showing against rival Oklahoma State. Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine combined for 267 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, while quarterback Baker Mayfield accounted for three scores.

"It's like a dream come true. I never would have thought it," Mayfield, another Heisman candidate, said, per Bleacher Report's Bryan Fischer. "My journey here has been a crazy ride, but to end up here in Stillwater and win a Big 12 championship, it's pretty crazy. But I couldn't have drawn it up any better."

Elsewhere, Stanford made things easier for the selection committee by taking down Notre Dame. Conrad Ukropina hit a 45-yard field goal as time expired for the two-loss Cardinal, who drove 45 yards in 30 seconds to score a 38-36 victory. That win knocked the Irish out of the title picture, though they would have had an uphill battle without a conference championship game.

Iowa and Michigan State stayed in contention for the final playoff spot with wins Saturday, albeit far different ones. The Hawkeyes continued their trend of doing just enough in a 28-20 win over Nebraska. They were outgained 433-250 but intercepted Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. four times.

The Spartans, who continue to look like a real title contender, throttled Penn State 55-16 in East Lansing. Michigan State's only loss of the regular season was by one point to the Cornhuskers, and they should be favored in their Big Ten Championship Game clash with Iowa.

That contest is essentially a play-in game as far as the committee is concerned; barring an upset in the ACC or SEC championship game, the playoff field is all but set. Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma and the Big Ten winner offer four Power Five conferences a chance to win the title and represent the best of 2015 in college football.

New entries in the AP poll were No. 21 Utah, No. 23 LSU, No. 24 USC and No. 25 Wisconsin. 


Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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Kyle Flood, Julie Hermann Fired by Rutgers: Latest Comments, Reaction

Rutgers fired head football coach Kyle Flood and athletic director Julie Hermann on Sunday. 

The school announced the decision on Sunday after ESPN's Brett McMurphy initially reported the news. Rutgers also announced Patrick Hobbs has been named the new athletic director.

Keith Sargeant of had reported Friday both Flood and Hermann were in jeopardy of losing their jobs. Sargeant indicated Hermann was to meet with Rutgers President Robert Barchi to discuss her future and that she'd been kept "in the dark" during an internal investigation into the football program conducted by Rutgers' compliance office.

Rutgers posted a meager 4-8 record in the 2015 season, which ended with a 46-41 loss to Maryland on Saturday.

In addition to the on-field woes, Rutgers' players have incurred multiple suspensions and arrests and been involved in overall misconduct that has reflected poorly on Flood as the leader of the program. He was also suspended three games for contacting a faculty member regarding a player's grade.

Before taking over the Scarlet Knights in 2012, Flood had been an assistant coach since 2005. He had an overall record of 27-24 and a 12-19 conference mark, including a 4-12 record in the Big Ten. His contract ran through the 2018 campaign.

The coaching market is rather expansive this offseason, but Flood may be hard-pressed to find another shot at a head coaching position. He may need to prove his merit as an assistant again, given his turbulent Rutgers tenure.

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John Donovan Fired by Penn State: Latest Comments and Reaction

The Penn State Nittany Lions fired offensive coordinator and tight ends coach John Donovan Sunday, per Brent Yarina of

"I have tremendous respect for John and the work he has put in over the last five years," said Penn State head coach James Franklin, according to the report. "I wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future."

The news comes as little surprise, given the issues that have plagued the Nittany Lions offense this year. According to, the team ranks 108th in yards per game (344.3) and 100th in points per game (23.7).

Penn State has completely wasted what is likely to be Christian Hackenberg's final college season. The offensive line has allowed the ninth-most sacks (39) in the country.

Matt Lombardo of NJ Advance Media was happy to see Franklin take decisive action after a generally disappointing season:

CBS Sports' Tom Fornelli isn't so sure Donovan's departure will spur an offensive improvement, however.

Donovan was Franklin's offensive coordinator at Vanderbilt, and Chris Dokish of Panther's Prey noted how the Commodores were far from an offensive juggernaut as well:

Whoever replaces Donovan will have a difficult job next year, especially if Hackenberg leaves for the NFL.

The cupboard isn't completely bare. Leading rusher Saquon Barkley is a freshman, while the team's top two wideouts, Chris Godwin and DaeSean Hamilton, are both sophomores.

Still, breaking in a new quarterback is rarely an easy process, and the absence of a consistent passer would put the new coordinator at a major disadvantage.

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Top Candidates to Replace Mark Richt at Georgia

"Black Sunday" is upon us, and it hit the red and black hard.

Georgia announced Sunday afternoon that Richt is out as Georgia's head coach following a 9-3 season and the absence of an SEC East title for the third straight season.

"Coach Richt and I met Sunday morning to discuss the status of our football program," athletic director Greg McGarity said in a statement, "and we mutually agreed that he would step down as head coach and would have the opportunity to accept other duties and responsibilities at UGA following the bowl game." 

Richt compiled a 145-51 record in 15 years in Athens, claimed two SEC titles and won the SEC East five times.

"I appreciate the opportunity of serving the University as well as considering any other options that may present themselves in the future," Richt said in the press release. 

Who will likely replace Richt in Athens? Our top candidates, based on fit, experience and style, are in this slideshow.


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Amway College Football Poll 2015: Week 14 Top 25 Rankings Announced

One team likely punched its ticket to the College Football Playoff this weekend, several teams assuredly saw their shot at the playoff go down the drain and four different teams control their own destiny with one game remaining for each. 

It's all happening.

But how do the coaches see the rankings heading into the conference title games? Below, we'll take a look at the coaches and Bleacher Report polls for Week 14, along with breaking down the week that was and taking a look ahead to the potential playoff participants.




On a day when college football could have been turned upside down with many of the top teams in the nation squaring off, something strange happened. The teams atop the rankings prevailed, and for once, there shouldn't be too much debate among the playoff committee this week. 

At the moment, the College Football Playoff picture looks pretty clear. Oklahoma, for starters, won the Big 12 crown and almost assuredly locked a place in the playoff with a convincing 58-23 win.

"You just figure if you're third and you go to a championship game away from home to the No. 9 team in the country and win by 30-some points, whatever it was, you would only move up, possibly, but you sure wouldn't move back," Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops said after the game, per ESPN.

It's hard to argue with him. Oklahoma finished its season with impressive wins over Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State and looks like the best team in the nation at the moment. Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports doesn't think anybody will be excited to face the Sooners:

Oklahoma's playoff chances were also bolstered when Notre Dame lost to Stanford on Saturday, ruining its playoff chances and taking away one of the biggest threats to Oklahoma's postseason berth. Florida's loss to Florida State eliminated another potential playoff participant, though the Gators would've only had a shot if they beat Alabama in the SEC championship.

The Big Ten is easy to figure out, as Michigan State and Iowa will face off in a conference title game that will assuredly see the winner reach the playoff. 

The fate of Clemson and Alabama is fairly straightforward as well. After both schools won this week, each simply needs to win its conference title game to reach the playoff. 

But if one or both of those teams lose, things could get interesting. Even with a loss, Clemson could still make a case that it belongs in the playoff. Impressive wins over Notre Dame and Florida State highlight a solid resume. But the committee would have to decide if that was enough to keep the Tigers ranked ahead of a one-loss Ohio State team that stomped Michigan this past week. 

If Alabama loses to Florida, on the other hand, Ohio State would almost assuredly reach the playoff. Yes, if Iowa loses the Big Ten title game and finishes the season with one loss, it will also deserve consideration. But Ohio State was consistently ranked ahead of the Hawkeyes when both teams were undefeated, and you'd be hard-pressed to find many folks outside of Iowa who wouldn't pick the Buckeyes to win a head-to-head matchup between the teams.

In other words, we may yet have chaos in college football, namely if Clemson loses to North Carolina. But it's looking increasingly likely in a season full of madness that the four playoff teams could be decided with little to no drama at all. 

That would be a bit of an anticlimactic end to a wild regular season. But the bowl games and the playoff matchups themselves are always good for a few zany results, so fans of chaos still have plenty to look forward to. 


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SEC Championship 2015: Florida vs. Alabama Preview, Score Prediction

The Alabama Crimson Tide appear to be rolling to a second consecutive berth in the College Football Playoff. All that can deny coach Nick Saban's powerhouse from securing a spot in the Top Four is a stumble in the SEC Championship Game against the Florida Gators.

Florida did lose 27-2 to archrival Florida State on Saturday at The Swamp, but the Gators had already locked up the SEC East title. It's a matter of the Gators bouncing back and embracing their spoiler role against Alabama, who defeated Auburn in the Iron Bowl 29-13 to close out the regular season.

Check out the basic game information below, followed by a preview and final-score prediction for next Saturday's contest.



Florida vs. Alabama Preview

Tide running back Derrick Henry may well have locked up the Heisman Trophy with a 46-carry, 271-yard rushing performance versus Auburn.

Saban's remark after the game, per Rick Karle of FOX6, showed how determined the bruising ball-carrier was to deliver the goods:

But the question will be whether Henry can turn around and put forth a similar extraordinary effort to boost Alabama into the College Football Playoff. That's a lot of wear and tear even for a massive player like Henry to absorb.

The Gators will do all they can to key in on Henry and force Jake Coker to beat a magnificent Florida secondary with his arm. Based on the personnel the underdogs have in the secondary, Alabama isn't the worst matchup for coach Jim McElwain's bunch on paper.

Entering Saturday's action, Alabama and Florida ranked third and sixth respectively in total defense (h/t Linebacker Reggie Ragland leads a stout Tide front seven the Gators may be hard-pressed to run on, while the Florida defensive backfield features a surefire first-round NFL draft pick in cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.

Michael DiRocco of ESPN alluded to Florida's ineptitude on offense in its loss to the Seminoles and how starting quarterback Will Grier's suspension ultimately doomed the team:

As was announced by the Gators' official team Twitter account, star receiver Demarcus Robinson was suspended for the Florida State game. That largely limited what Florida could do in the passing game. Having Robinson back against the Tide may be the spark they need to mount an upset bid.

Much of the Gators' hopes rest on signal-caller Treon Harris, who had an awful outing versus FSU and figures to have an even stiffer test against the Tide.

Although Alabama's defense has struggled with dual-threat QBs in the past, Harris doesn't have the type of consistent accuracy to keep the Tide honest as a passer.

Even if Henry is a bit gassed from his heavy workload in the Iron Bowl, the Tide can turn to Kenyan Drake or Damien Harris to give their Heisman hopeful a break. Coker has proven fully capable of running the show as he's settled in under center throughout the year.

Provided Alabama can limit Robinson's impact and force Harris into obvious passing situations, it should have little trouble disposing of the outmatched Gators at the Georgia Dome. Saturday figures to be yet another demonstration of the giant Saban has constructed in Tuscaloosa as the Tide ensures a spot in the CFP picture with a convincing win.

Prediction: Alabama 34, Florida 10

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Power Ranking Top Freshmen from November

Remember when all those little freshmen college football players were running around out on the field, not fully knowing what they were doing? They grow up so fast, y'all. 

With November nearly in the rearview mirror, the first-year players we saw in September have grown into some great college football players. It's been fun to watch these players develop, knowing their best days are still ahead of them. 

With that in mind, it's time to power rank the top freshmen in college football from the month of November. More weight was given to specific stats/performances over the last four weeks, but overall season numbers were considered as well.

Since the Football Bowl Subdivision is nearly 130 teams strong, we realize we've probably missed some under-the-radar guys. Feel free to share your standout frosh in the comments section below.

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Mark Richt Fired by Georgia: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

After 15 seasons, Mark Richt, who received a contract extension through 2019 in January, is out as Georgia's head football coach.

The program confirmed that Richt and the school "mutually agreed" to part ways, via Dan Wolken of USA Today.'s Mark Schlabach and Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman first reported the decision on Sunday.

He was let go following a 2015 campaign that saw the Bulldogs disappoint on both sides of the ball despite winning five of the final six games to finish with a 9-3 record.

They went through a midseason stretch during which they scored 10 or fewer points in three of four contests and saw near-constant rumors about the status of defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

“This staff that is over there today—and I am going to be very kind about it—it is not functioning properly,” former Georgia quarterback and NFL legend Fran Tarkenton said in November on WCNN 680 The Fan’s Chuck and Chernoff show (h/t Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald). “I think the culture there of the staff is not functioning properly. As we all know Mark Richt is a good, fine, wonderful person. I think there are things going on inside of his staff that are unsavory."

Richt's decision to hire Brian Schottenheimer as his offensive coordinator is what drew the most criticism. Schottenheimer had previously served as the offensive coordinator for the New York Jets and St. Louis Rams but had never produced an elite attack.

The Bulldogs under Schottenheimer saw their offense get off to a red-hot start before regressing once the SEC schedule began.

Richt, 55, took over at Georgia in 2001 after a decade as an offensive assistant at Florida State. The Bulldogs went 145-51 in his tenure, finishing inside the season-ending Top 10 on seven occasions, including just a year ago. They won two Sugar Bowls during his time as head coach and wound up second in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll in 2007.

Add in a pair of conference championships, and Richt has a claim as the best coach in program history.

However, in addition to the on-field struggles in 2015, there has also been an increase in off-field trouble. Richt's handle over his players has been a source of hand-wringing for years, perhaps cresting amid a sea of arrests before the 2014 season.

Few have ever questioned how Richt handled himself—he's been a model university representative since his arrival—but the combination of problems led to some wanting him nudged out the door.

It appears university officials agreed. Now it'll be up to the athletic department to find someone who can bring a national championship to Athens. Looking back on Richt's tenure, that's the only thing that would separate him from his replacement.

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CFP Bowl Projections: Predicting Playoff, New Year's Six Games

With just two more rankings to be released by the College Football Playoff committee, the sport is inching ever closer to finding out who will be playing in some of its biggest bowl games, including the national semifinals. 

Before the bowl games are set, there are still some conference championship games that need to play out, which include some teams slated in the Top Four. 

Here are my predictions as to who will be playing in the playoff as well as the New Year's Six bowl games. 

Oklahoma has all but clinched its spot in the Top Four, having won the Big 12 after defeating Oklahoma State. But they are the only ones who don't have a conference championship game that could derail their playoff hopes. 

No. 1 Clemson will face No. 14 North Carolina, who has won 11 straight games, in the ACC Championship Game, while No. 2 Alabama has No. 10 Florida. The Gators mustered only two points against Florida State and will have a difficult time against the Crimson Tide. 

Finally, the Big Ten Championship Game pits No. 4 Iowa against No. 5 Michigan State, and the winner of that game will round out the Top Four. Since Michigan State has played the tougher schedule and has more big-game experience, I'm taking the Spartans. 

In the other four bowl games, Iowa's loss to Michigan State should put them in the Rose Bowl. They would meet the winner of USC and Stanford. Somehow after a tumultuous season, the Trojans are on the cusp of winning the Pac-12, but Stanford is dynamic with Christian McCaffery. 

After Florida's loss to Florida State and a possible loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, the Gators might not be viewed as the SEC's second-best team for the Sugar Bowl. 

This would leave the door open for Ole Miss, who took down No. 21 Mississippi State in convincing fashion to slot in place to take on Oklahoma State. 

With the Fiesta and Peach Bowl for at-large teams, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Florida State and Houston seem like the top choices. 

The next few weeks will help paint a better picture of which school will be playing where, but one thing is for certain: College football is not done gripping and thrilling the nation. 

Stats courtesy of

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College Football Playoff 2015: Fresh Predictions Following Week 13 Results

College football's regular season is all but over after a gripping Week 13 that saw the College Football Playoff picture become a bit clearer. 

With two more rankings set to be released by the CFP committee, some teams have seen their playoff hopes go up in smoke while others are on a collision course with New Year's Eve games. 

Now with conference championship games left to play, here is a prediction of who the Top Four teams will be when the committee releases its final rankings. 


No. 1: Clemson

Clemson has been the No. 1 team since the first CFP rankings were released and have done little to deserve a drop from that status. 

As one of just two undefeated teams left in the nation (No. 4 Iowa is the other), Clemson has just one more hurdle before solidifying its spot in the playoff and that's the ACC championship game against North Carolina. 

The No. 14 Tar Heels have been one of the hottest teams in the nation, winning 11-straight games after losing their opener to South Carolina. 

A win against the Tar Heels should be all the committee needs to put the Tigers at No. 1. 


No. 2: Alabama

If Alabama had not lost to Ole Miss, it would be No. 1. But a one-loss team shouldn't be No. 1 if there's an undefeated team in the mix. 

However, ESPN's Paul Finebaum thinks otherwise:

The Crimson Tide have a stellar mixture of a top-five defense along with an offense spearheaded by one of the top running backs in the nation with Derrick Henry. 

With Alabama facing the Florida Gators, who have been struggling offensively as of late, it should have an easy go at the SEC championship game. 


No. 3: Oklahoma

A win over Oklahoma State won the Sooners the Big 12 Conference and all but punched their ticket into the playoff. 

With no conference championship game, they have a clear path. 

Three-straight wins over ranked opponents in TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma State is going to boost its resume enough in that it would be near impossible to keep the team out of the playoff. It's been quite a turnaround compared to 2014 as ESPN Stats & Info pointed out:

A top-10 offense and a top-25 defense will certainly make noise come January. 


No. 4: Michigan State

The fourth spot in the playoff is going to come down to whichever team wins the Big 10. A spot that was reserved for Ohio State for most of the season went to the Spartans after their win over the Buckeyes. 

Having already defeated one undefeated team, Michigan State has another in No. 4 Iowa in the Big 10 championship game. 

Head coach Mark Dantonio told USA Today Sports' Nicole Auerbach that he believes the team is getting hot at the right time:

We're playing our best football down the stretch, and if you look and compare us to last year's Big Ten champion, that's what they were able to do. Even though we lost to Nebraska, we knew we were still in control. We had to win it — if we were going to win it, it wasn't going to be given to us. We had to play this football game and take it as opposed to playing cautious and standing back and saying, 'I hope we don't lose.' We had to play this game to win. That's the mentality our guys went out with.

This will be Iowa's first true test of the season. After weeks of hearing it has had a cupcake schedule for most of the season, the pressure of playing for the conference against a team that has had big-game experience might prove too much. 


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Mike London Resigns as Virginia HC: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Mike London's disappointing six-year run at Virginia is over, as University of Virginia director of athletics Craig Littlepage announced London's resignation Sunday after the Cavaliers finished the 2015 campaign 4-8:

Mike London has been an outstanding representative of the University of Virginia. During his tenure, Mike created a positive culture for our student-athletes to develop as young men, who improved each year in the classroom and represented us very well in the community. Mike was a tremendous mentor for his players and many of our coaches. His ability to inspire others helped our program establish great relationships among the high school football coaches in the state and he has been a tremendous ambassador for the University. We are thankful for Mike’s numerous contributions representing the University and Virginia athletics.

London, 55, was 27-46 during his tenure. He was under contract through the 2016 season. Virginia will immediately begin a search for a new head coach who will be tasked with resuscitating a moribund program.

London released a statement following the decision:

I appreciate the opportunity to have been the head football coach at the University of Virginia and for the relationships that have been formed during my time in Charlottesville that will last for years to come. I took this job to make a profound difference in the lives of young men and to re-establish Virginia football as one of the best programs in the ACC. While we were successful in the development of our players in many areas, I would have liked to have won more games for the student-athletes, coaches, fans and everyone that’s a part of the University of Virginia.

Hired after winning one FCS championship and nearly another at Richmond, London failed to make the FBS transition. He improved the team each of his first two seasons, peaking with a surprise 8-5 campaign in 2011, but failed to develop his own talent. The Cavaliers regressed in his next two seasons, reaching a nadir during an ugly 2-10 campaign in 2013.

Despite near-constant calls from alumni and fans to make a change, London remained, with the program showing no real sign of life. The Cavaliers reached a bowl game only once in his tenure and closed out with a particularly ugly 2015. 

“The goal is to win football games. We all get it. I get it. That’s what it’s all about," London said in October, per Tim Pearrell of the Times-Dispatch. "But there’s no quit in this team. There’s a tremendous amount of fight. Again, I would ask you guys to ask (the players). Coaches can sit up here and talk about how things are going, and it’s important that you get the message from the players because the message is no one’s quit on them.”

Virginia will now open up a coaching search for a job without much appeal to big names. The team hasn't won a bowl game since the 2005 Music City Bowl and has appeared in only two bowls over the last decade. While the school's basketball program has become one of the pre-eminent programs in the nation, it's going to take one heck of a rebuilding job from London's replacement for the same to happen on the gridiron. 

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Big Ten Championship Game 2015: Preview, Prediction for Michigan State vs. Iowa

The Big Ten title is on the line when once-beaten Michigan State (11-1) faces undefeated Iowa (12-0) Saturday in the conference's championship game, but that's not the only prize that is up for grabs.

When the two teams meet at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, they will also be competing for a likely spot in the second edition of the College Football Playoff.


Date: Saturday, Dec. 5

Kickoff Time (ET):  8:17 p.m.

Location: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis

TV: Fox

Live Stream: Fox Sports Go


Nothing is guaranteed to the winner, but Iowa is the fourth-ranked team in the current rankings and Michigan State is fifth. Since Big Ten representative Ohio State won the first national championship during the playoff era, it seems almost certain that a qualified Big Ten representative will get a chance to enter the fray once again. 

Both Michigan State and Iowa are qualified.

The Spartans and head coach Mark Dantonio were highly thought of prior to the start of the season, and they validated the faith their supporters had in them when they defeated Oregon in September. They also had season-defining wins at Michigan and Ohio State before clinching the Big Ten East division with a 55-16 win against Penn State.

Their only loss was a head-slapping defeat at Nebraska.

Iowa was just another team at the start of the season, and few expected the Hawkeyes to win the Big Ten West, let alone do it in undefeated fashion. Iowa did not face the same kind of challenging schedule as the Spartans, but it did beat Pittsburgh, Wisconsin and Northwestern.

Iowa beats Nebraska 28-20, stands a win away from a playoff spot

— CBS Sports CFB (@CBSSportsCFB) November 28, 2015

Michigan State has an explosive offense led by senior quarterback Connor Cook, who injured his shoulder late in the season and could not play in the upset win at Ohio State. However, he returned to play against Penn State in the final regular-season game, and he was on target as he completed 19 of 26 passes for 248 yards with three TDs and no interceptions

Cook has completed 194 of 337 passes for 2,730 yards with 24 TD passes and just four interceptions for the season. Cook is one of the most highly ranked quarterbacks in college football and appears to have an excellent chance to be selected in one of the first two rounds of next year's draft.

Connor Cook is now MSU's all-time leader in total offense. Just passed Kirk Cousins.

— Joe Rexrode (@joerexrode) November 28, 2015

He has an excellent crew of receivers in Aaron Burbridge, Macgarrett Kings and R.J. Shelton. Burbridge is the home run hitter of the group after catching 75 passes for 1,158 yards and seven touchdowns. Burbridge's best characteristic is his ability to make the clutch catch in traffic. He also excels at picking up yards after the catch.

L.J. Scott and Gerald Holmes give the Spartans a competent ground game. The two have combined for 1,139 yards and 18 touchdowns.

The Hawkeyes don't have the big-name stars as some of the more highly ranked teams, but quarterback C.J. Beathard is an impressive leader who completed more than 60 percent of his passes this year.

Beathard has completed 184 of 303 passes for 2,354 yards with 14 TDs and three interceptions. He has shown excellent leadership ability and has remained focused for 12 games.

The Hawks feature a productive running game, featuring the explosive Jordan Canzeri. He has carried the ball 176 times for 964 yards and 12 touchdowns, and he has shown he can hit the home run on occasion. Fellow running backs LeShun Daniels Jr. and Akrum Wadley have also been productive.

Matt VandeBerg is Iowa's best receiver with 59 catches for 625 yards and three touchdowns.


Prediction: Michigan State 38, Iowa 27

The Spartans simply have too many offensive weapons and have been there before. Their signature wins over Oregon, Michigan and Ohio State should provide the confidence needed to win the Big Ten title game and earn a spot in the College Football Playoffs.



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NCAA Football Rankings 2015: Predicting Week 14 AP Poll Post-Week 13 Results

We're just one week away from college football's bowl selection weekend, and much has yet to be decided. 

Week 13 provided some dramatic shakeup, with four of the AP Top 10 teams suffering losses. 

While the top of the poll will remain relatively unchanged, positions five through 10 will look dramatically different in Week 14. 

The following is a prediction of what the AP poll will look like when released on Sunday afternoon. 


Notable Teams


The Hawkeyes wrapped up a perfect regular season with a 28-20 victory over Nebraska on Friday and are now one win away from their first outright Big Ten title since 1985

Despite ongoing criticism of Iowa's schedule, the Hawkeyes have steadily risen in the rankings and now appear to be in position to either advance to the playoffs or earn an invitation to one of the New Year's Six bowl games. 

While Iowa fans would undoubtedly be disappointed by a loss in the Big Ten title game against Michigan State, the possibility of a Rose Bowl berth would still be an exciting finish to one of the most memorable seasons in school history. 

Iowa hasn't represented the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl since 1990 and hasn't won the game since 1958. 

Assuming the Big Ten champion is selected to the playoffs, the committee will select the next-highest-ranked Big Ten team to replace them in the Rose Bowl. That team will either be Ohio State or the loser of the Big Ten title game.


Ohio State

Buckeyes fans hoped for more from this season, but another dominant victory over Michigan—their 13th in the last 15 seasons—eases their pain. 

While Ohio State is likely headed to one of the New Year's Six bowl games, it's worth noting that the final nail hasn't quite been hammered into the Buckeyes' playoff coffin just yet. 

There are multiple chaos scenarios, but the most simplistic would be for USC to upset Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game and Florida to knock off Alabama in the SEC title game. 

Those two upsets would likely eliminate the SEC and Pac-12 from playoff conversation, opening up a spot for another one-loss team from the Big Ten or Big 12. 

If the final weekend passes without any major upsets, Ohio State would likely represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl.


North Carolina

The Tar Heels have been the forgotten team in the playoff discussion this year, seemingly disrespected by the committee as the lowest-ranked one-loss team from a Power Five school. 

But Larry Fedora's squad finally has its chance to earn the respect it's been craving. 

With its first ACC Coastal Division championship in school history, the Tar Heels will face Clemson in the conference title game on Saturday. 

The Tar Heels will be seeking their first ACC title since 1980, when head coach Dick Crum led them to an 11-1 season. 

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ACC Championship Game 2015: Early Preview, Predictions for UNC vs. Clemson

For the Clemson Tigers, it's about a spot in the Final Four.

The North Carolina Tar Heels are trying to play spoiler.

The last hurdle standing in Clemson's way from a spot in the College Football Playoff and a chance to play for a national championship is a talented North Carolina squad that has ran the table since its opening week stumble against the South Carolina Gamecocks.

Clemson hasn't won an ACC Championship since 2011. It's been 35 years since the Tar Heels were crowned kings of the ACC. Let's preview the 2015 ACC Championship Game.


Clemson vs. North Carolina: How To Watch

Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina

When: Saturday, Dec. 5

Time: 7:45 p.m. ET or 8 p.m. ET



What's on the line for Clemson?

The obvious answer is the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff, but there's much more at stake for Clemson.

The Tigers are looking to continue their push to their first undefeated season since 1981, when they went 12-0 and won the national championship. Deshaun Watson could use one more stellar performance to sway Heisman voters his way, and a great game against a North Carolina defense that allows only 19.5 points per game would be a good start.

There's also a possible $500,000 bonus in Dabo Swinney's future if he gets the Tigers to the College Football Playoff. 


What's on the line for North Carolina?

The Tar Heels have not won an ACC Championship since Jimmy Carter was in office. A win would mean their first 11-win season since 1997 when Mack Brown was the head coach.

An upset win over the No. 1-ranked Tigers would also mean bowl season gets flipped upside down. Clemson more than likely gets knocked out of the Final Four, and quite possibly, out of a Selection Committee Bowl. That would be a long shot, but an even longer shot would be two ACC teams playing in a Committee game.

If North Carolina wins, the Peach Bowl may be the likeliest destination. However, thanks to Notre Dame losing to Stanford, a win for the Tar Heels could open the door for a huge jump in the CFP rankings, as Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports noted:

As for Clemson, who knows where they would end up?


Key Matchup

This game is going to come down to Deshaun Watson cracking the code that is North Carolina's defense. 

If Watson can have one more efficient, impressive match against a very game Tar Heels team, his Heisman consideration has to go up. But, by all accounts, Watson is already getting some Heisman love, like from NBC Sports' Ross Tucker, for example:

The one way that Watson can attack this North Carolina defense is with the big play. Pro Football Focus' Gordon McGuinness noted that Watson is 13-of-31 on passes further than 20 yards with seven touchdowns. He's completed 79.5 percent of his passes over the last month, in which he's continued to evolve into one of the best quarterbacks in the country, per McGuinness:

Now, with a bit more experience under his belt, we’ve seen Watson transform from a player who was a solid young quarterback with a lot of potential, into one of the best quarterbacks in the country. His big arm is powering the Clemson offense towards a potential national championship this season, and with the Heisman race still wide open there’s every chance that there’s an individual award in Watson’s future too.

Watson also showed that he's capable of making the big play when it counts, even though the South Carolina Gamecocks have been anything but great this season. A rivalry game needed someone to take over and make the game-deciding plays, and that's what Watson did, per freelance journalist David Ubben:

North Carolina's offense may be able to match Clemson point-for-point, but there's more pressure on Clemson to perform because of what's at stake.



This is going to be the most entertaining game on the conference championship schedule. It seems like this would be the time for a Top 4 upset, and North Carolina pulling out the win.

But Clemson is at this point for a reason. The Tigers are good. Watson should be the leader in the Heisman race, but that's not the case. One big performance against North Carolina would make that a reality.

Clemson wins, in a nail biter, and it will enter the playoffs with the No. 1 seed.

Score: Clemson 27, North Carolina 24

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