NCAA Football

Notre Dame Football: Predicting the Irish's 2015 Win-Loss Record

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The Notre Dame football season is fast approaching, and with summer OTAs around the corner, let’s take a glance at the 2015 schedule.

We’re still more than 100 days away from the start of the season, but an early look at the schedule and how Notre Dame stacks up against its opponents can be instructive.

In breaking down the Irish and their 2015 prospects, we’ll consider the regular-season matchups in different categories. The following aren’t equal tiers; rather, they’re ranges of confidence.

Let’s have a look.

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Every Power 5 College Football Team's Toughest Nonconference Game

In just 15 (!!!) short weeks, the 2015 college football season will be upon us, and it won't waste any time getting to the good stuff thanks to a whopper of an opening-week lineup.

Now that almost every power program has seemed to buy in to the importance of lining up quality out-of-league competition, the weeks before conference play gets into full swing are no longer reserved for just walkover games. Nearly every team from a power conference has at least one nonconference game that has some level of difficulty to it, and in many cases, these contests are toss-ups that could go either way.

Here's a look at the toughest nonconference game that every team from the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC (as well as Notre Dame) has on its 2015 schedule.

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Georgia Football: Early Grades for 2016 Recruiting Class

One of the best things Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt has done since 2001 is getting top recruits to come play in Athens. And it looks like it won’t be any different for 2016 as the class is ranked No. 4 in the country and No. 1 in the SEC, according to 247Sports.

Richt and his coaching staff never had an issue recruiting in Georgia. They may not always get the top player in the state, but they always get good players who have the ability to contribute right away.

But Richt also gets great players from the pipeline. A couple of good examples are Aaron Murray from Florida, and Todd Gurley from North Carolina. Richt has 12 players committed for the upcoming signing class, and he’s been able to keep the same formula that has helped him be a contender in the SEC consistently.

So here are some early grades for the 2016 recruiting class.

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Georgia Football: Mark Richt Is Under Immense Pressure to Deliver in 2015

Despite his 74 percent win percentage with the Georgia Bulldogs, Mark Richt will have to deliver more than just wins in 2015. In 14 seasons, Richt has won 132 games, a result that wouldn't have many coaches on any hot seat.

Most coaches would be safe averaging nearly 10 wins per year. However, at a powerful program like Georgia, nine- and 10-win seasons become irrelevant if there's nothing more than a Capital One Bowl trophy to show for them.

Even with success Richt has had, it's worth wondering if he's taken the Georgia program as far it will go under his watch.

This upcoming season, Richt will be under pressure to take Georgia's program to the next level and establish the Bulldogs as a legitimate contender in the SEC and on the national stage.

Since his last SEC Championship in 2005, the consistent knock on Richt has been his teams' untimely losses that have cost them spots in SEC and national championship games.

Georgia has often had above-average teams in SEC play but they've proven incapable of winning "the big one."

No matter how strong a Georgia team may look in certain parts of the season, slip-ups against an inferior opponent almost always seems to keep them out of Atlanta.

For example, last season Georgia should have almost been a lock to win the SEC East, but losses to mediocre teams like Florida and South Carolina paved the road to Atlanta for Missouri, a team Georgia pummeled, 34-0. 

Richt's most heartbreaking blown opportunity came in 2012, when Georgia blew a fourth-quarter lead to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.

Instead, of playing Notre Dame in the national championship game that season, the Bulldogs took a postseason trip to Orlando for the Capital One Bowl. 

With the 2015 season quickly approaching, Richt will once again be given a chance to prove to Georgia fans that he can lead the program to another SEC Championship and possibly the College Football Playoff.

Each season that ends in disappointment for Georgia causes the temperature of Richt's seat to rise. Another season eight- to 10-win season without a trip to Atlanta might finally cause the end of Richt's 14-year tenure in Athens.

Talent has never been an issue with any of Richt's teams, as Georgia has consistently brought it highly rated recruiting classes and put players in the NFL.

Even though he's come close, in the past decade, Richt hasn't been able to bring that talent together to win the SEC or compete for a national title. 

Obviously, it's no easy task to win a title in the SEC, but in recent years, Georgia has had the benefit of having as fortunate of an SEC schedule as a team could hope for.

The Bulldogs play in the weaker SEC East division. Also, they haven't played the SEC's most dominant team, Alabama, in the regular season since 2008 and have matched up against LSU just once in the regular season in the same time span. 

Richt's Bulldogs will once again have high expectations in the 2015 season. ESPN's Mark Schlabach put Georgia at No. 8 in his initial preseason top-25 list for 2015. Once again, the Bulldogs will be among the favorites to win the SEC East. 

This year's schedule will feature a few tougher tests than previous seasons. Georgia will square off against Alabama in Week 5 and will also travel to Knoxville to take on a Tennessee team that Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee has already predicted to win the SEC East.

2015 has to be the year that Richt is able to break through and silence his many critics. He's tested the patience of the Georgia fanbase long enough.

Unless, he can deliver an SEC title or a berth in the College Football Playoff, it may finally be time for Richt and Georgia to part ways. 

Sami Harb is a Bleacher Report Contributor. Follow him on twitter @SamiPHarb

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25 Greatest Games in History of College Football

Here's a reminder, as if you needed one: College football is unpredictable. That makes this sport, however bass-ackwards it may be at times with the way it's operated, so much fun. 

Right now, we're missing out on the fun. Week 1 of the 2015 season is still more than three full months away. It's times like these that we feed the itch by looking back at some of the best moments from the game. 

Or, in this case, the games themselves. That's how this topic was born. Ranking all-time games is always a challenge, but we feel we have a healthy mixture of older and newer games, shootouts and defensive struggles, nail-biters, comebacks and improbable finishes. From regular-season games to national championships, everything was under consideration. 

Here are, according to us, the best games in the history of college football—which will undoubtedly be universally agreed upon by everyone, right? Right. 

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Why Nick Chubb Is the Best Candidate for SEC Player of the Year in 2015

In 2014, Nick Chubb backed up his 5-star status and then some.

The Georgia star finished second, behind Auburn senior Cameron Artis-Payne, for the most rushing yards in the SEC.

He did that as a true freshman despite limited touches in almost half of Georgia's games, when he backed up the later-suspended and injured Todd Gurley.

When he got his opportunity to take over, Chubb showcased an all-around running game that was beyond his years. Speed and strength, agility and acceleration, tiptoeing and trucking—Chubb checked off all the boxes for an elite back.

This season, if Chubb avoids the off-field trouble and on-field injuries that hurt Gurley, he should run away with the title as the best player in the SEC.

Here's why.

 

Time to Improve on a Stunning Debut

Three other true freshman running backs in the SEC (LSU's Leonard Fournette, Georgia teammate Sony Michel and Auburn's Roc Thomas) were rated higher than Chubb coming out of high school.

Even with more carries than Fournette, Michel and Thomas, Chubb averaged more yards per touch than the trio ranked ahead of him—and everyone else in the SEC.

His mark of 7.06 yards per carry was the best for any SEC running back with at least 100 carries since Arkansas' Felix Jones ran for 1,162 yards on 133 carries in 2007.

In the seven games following Gurley's suspension, starting with Georgia's blowout victory over eventual SEC East champion Missouri, Chubb averaged 189 yards per contest. That is more than Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon averaged per game, and he led the nation in that category.

Now that he will be Georgia's No. 1 running back from the opening kickoff of the season, Chubb has the potential to put up more dizzying stats in his sophomore campaign.

And if his spring break workouts were any indication, per 247Sports' Rusty Mansell, he definitely did the work to accomplish just that this offseason:

 

Strength of Georgia's Front Five

With that said, even the most talented of running backs will struggle at the college level if he doesn't have adequate offensive line play in front of him.

Good news for Chubb and Georgia fans everywhere: The Bulldogs' offensive line is so much better than adequate.

Georgia is returning four of its five starters on the offensive line that paved the way for Chubb, Gurley and Michel to average an SEC-best 257.8 rushing yards per game.

Although the Bulldogs have to replace longtime center David Andrews, they have a great amount of experience and talent in their projected starting line:

Not only is Chubb going to get better after his first season at Georgia, his blockers up front are going to continue developing their skills and chemistry with one another.

That's how you improve on a top-15 rushing attack.

 

Focal Point of Georgia's Entire Offense

With the Bulldogs breaking in a new quarterback and replacing their top two receivers from the 2014 season, a lot of Georgia's offense is going to rely on the legs of Chubb.

Bleacher Report's Andrew Hall wrote in February that Chubb's workload in 2015 might be something Georgia fans haven't seen since Knowshon Moreno was between the hedges:

In 14 seasons under Richt, Georgia's offense has averaged just shy of 480 attempts per year. If Chubb matches Moreno's usage rate of more than 60 percent of all carries, he could register 290 carries. That's 30 more touches than any Georgia running back of the Richt Era.

Georgia still has talented depth at the running back position behind Chubb in Michel and Keith Marshall, who missed most of 2014 with an injury.

But with the success rate he enjoyed last season and the injury history for both Michel and Marshall, the Bulldogs will probably be in the position to use Chubb more than what they're used to in a normal running back rotation.

Part of that change might come from new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who was more of a run-first guy in the NFL.

Simply put, Georgia fans can expect the Bulldogs to "run the dang ball" in 2015.

And that ball will mostly be carried by Chubb, whom Hall says has the potential to produce the best season in Georgia history:

290 carries split over 12 regular-season contests and a bowl game yield a per-game average of just more than 22 rush attempts. Over the final eight games of the 2014 season, Chubb averaged more than 24 carries per game.

With that workload and seven yards per carry—slightly less than what Chubb posted last season—would make him the first single-season 2,000-yard rusher in Georgia history.

If Chubb even comes close to those numbers, he'll definitely be on the path to New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

Although recent history suggests that award will most likely be handed to another quarterback, that's never been a problem for the top-player award in the SEC.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is an on-call college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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FSU Insider Film Breakdown: Why Everett Golson Will Start for Seminoles in 2015

The Florida State Seminoles have a new quarterback to add to their depth chart now that Everett Golson has transferred from Notre Dame. The star QB enjoyed many fine moments for the Irish but also had his fair share of turnover-laden games.

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down the film to illustrate why some of those miscues shouldn't alter your perception of his game.

Will Golson be FSU's starter in 2015? Check out the video and let us know!

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Braxton Miller Is the Only One Who Can End Transfer Rumors

COLUMBUS, Ohio — As the college football offseason enters its dog days of summer, everybody seems to be voicing an opinion about Braxton Miller.

Everybody, that is, except for Miller himself.

Rumors of the Ohio State quarterback taking advantage of his ability as a graduate transfer have been attached to his name ever since last fall, when J.T. Barrett—and then Cardale Jones—stepped up in his injury-induced absence during the Buckeyes' run to the national title. The rumblings hit a peak during the postseason, with high-profile names like Oregon, Florida State, Alabama and LSU all being attached but never amounting to more than message-board fodder.

And now that spring football is over and fall camp sits nearly two months away, all indications appear to be that Miller will return to Ohio State for an unprecedented quarterback competition.

"I am pretty confident," Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said at the Big Ten meetings on Tuesday, via the Big Ten Network's Tom Dienhart. "Any kid could flip. In my conversation, which was well before spring ball started and he was rehabbing, he was committed to coming back. He was taking courses and coming back. I don’t have any reason to believe he won’t be back."

Smith's answer sounded a lot like Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer's response to a similar query during an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show in April.

Obviously, young people or anyone is allowed to change their mind. I have not heard [Miller is transferring]. I did not ask him, one of our strength coaches did, and he said, 'I don't know where that's coming from.' So I would say Braxton is staying, is all indications that I'm getting. I don't go by hearsay. I just talk to the people involved and he seems to be very happy and excited for 2015 as a Buckeye.

But while both Smith and Meyer's answers may be truthful—and there's no reason to believe they're not—each are couched with vague terms and leave room for Miller to change his mind. They're the politically correct answers to a delicate situation, one that appears to still possess at least some level of uncertainty.

And until Miller ultimately decides to speak—or the 2015 season arrives with the two-time Big Ten MVP on the Ohio State roster—that uncertainty will remain.

In the nine months that have followed his senior season ending before it even started with a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, Miller has declined to participate in media sessions at the Big Ten Championship Game, Sugar Bowl, College Football Playoff title game and Buckeyes spring practice. By contrast, Barrett has met with the media no fewer than four times since fracturing his ankle in November, including at a spring practice interview session Miller was originally schedule for but declined to attend.

There are a few ways to read into Miller's reluctance to talk to reporters—especially when you consider that he's an introvert by nature—but his ignorance to the transfer speculation is not one of them. Back when a new Miller-related rumor seemed to be making the rounds every day, the Huber Heights, Ohio, native caused a stir when he favorited a tweet indicating he was picking Oregon over Ohio State in the national title game, before taking to Twitter to call it an accident in a since-deleted tweet.

If Miller knew why he was temporarily facing backlash from Buckeye fans for appearing to favor the Ducks over his own team, then surely he's aware of of the transfer innuendo that's been attached to his name.

All it would take is one tweet from him to put an end to the rumors, or a meeting with the media to address all that's been speculated about for the past nine months. Instead, Meyer, Smith, his teammates and even his high school coach have been left to answer for him, with no one being able to say without absolute certainty that Miller will be in Columbus for the start of the 2015 season.

Miller's personal circle is small and has only shrunk since he left the starting lineup for the sideline last August. Those who do know Miller, however, have indicated that last season was a shock to his system, as he's never had to deal with a team not only succeeding, but excelling in his absence.

With that in mind, it'd be hard to blame Miller for keeping his options open, just as he appears to be doing. For everyone insisting if Miller were to transfer, he would have done so by now, it's worth noting that Russell Wilson didn't use his ability as a graduate transfer to move from North Carolina State to Wisconsin until just a month prior to the start of the Badgers' fall camp in 2011.

With so much still unknown, especially when it comes to the rehab of his injured shoulder which still isn't at full strength, Miller has the right to take as long as he'd like to before deciding where he'll be spending his final college season. At this point, it's more likely than not that place will be Ohio State, where the homebody Miller already possesses familiarity with his surroundings, a playbook and a coaching staff that feels indebted to the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.

But regardless of who says what, only Miller knows for sure what his future holds. And until he gives any definitive indication—whether it be with his actions or his words—questions will continue to persist.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Real Name, Real Game: 4-Star DT Boss Tagaloa Weighing Options in His Top 12

Few names fit a defensive lineman like the one of Concord (California) De La Salle's 4-star talent.

Boss Tagaloa.

And no, Boss is not a nickname.

"I get that all the time, but that is actually my birth name," Tagaloa said. "My dad came up with it. His dad used to call everyone 'boss' out of respect. That just kind of stuck with my dad, and he carried that with him and named his son.

"Every day. I get that every time I meet someone new. They'll ask what my name is, I'll tell them Boss and they'll say, 'What's your real name?' I'll have to explain it to them."

With the name comes responsibility, and Tagaloa fits the role. As the nation's No. 9 defensive tackle and a top-60 player overall, Tagaloa is balancing just south of 20 offers and has Pac-12 schools hoping he stays close to home.

Tagaloa, who measured at Nike's The Opening Oakland regional at 6'1" and 303 pounds, said he won't make a college decision until national signing day in February. Tagaloa trimmed his list to a top 12 last Friday, a list that includes seven schools from the Pac-12, four representing the SEC and one out of the Big Ten.

The 12 schools in alphabetical order: Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Michigan, Missouri, Ole Miss, Oregon State, Tennessee, UCLA, Utah and Washington.

"I'm looking at who can give me the best education after football," Tagaloa said. "It's all about life after football. I want to get a good education."

That, and be a boss—no pun intended—on the field. Per MaxPreps.com, Tagaloa finished his junior season with 31 tackles and 6.5 sacks. He had a breakout season his sophomore year, finishing with 57 tackles and 7.5 sacks.

Tagaloa is looking forward to a senior year he's considering as one to show his talents off to the schools that have been sleeping on him.

"I'm ready to show that I am better than the year before," he said. "I just want to prove it to myself and show these colleges that I am who they think I am."

For a 300-pounder, Tagaloa moves very well laterally and uses his leg and upper-body strength to frustrate offensive linemen. As good as he is on the defensive side of the ball, Tagaloa also is a solid interior lineman on offense.

The only knock on Tagaloa is his height. At 6'1", he doesn't have the prototypical size for a college defensive tackle.

But then again, height never stopped Tagaloa from being a dominant player on a team with a well-established reputation nationally.

"God blessed me with this height and to do something with it," Tagaloa said. "If it's not football, then I know he has something planned for me. I don't have to say anything to anyone. God doesn't put you in positions where you can't succeed in life. I feel like he blessed me with this height for a reason."

Tagaloa said UCLA, Utah, Washington, Alabama and Arizona are among the schools that could make the final cut before decision day, but there's still time for all 12 schools to make a major push. Until then, he said he is focusing on working hard and making sure he doesn't get complacent.

It's the right thing to do for an athlete with the fitting first name.

"Personally, I think it's the greatest name you can have," he said.

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles

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Contender or Pretender: Which SEC Teams Are for Real in 2015?

The SEC has long been considered college football's premier conference. From Alabama's recent dominance to all the consecutive national champions, the SEC has been at the forefront of the game for the past decade. 

Looking ahead to the 2015 season, which perennial powerhouses are contenders and which are pretenders? 

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee joined Adam Lefkoe to scour through the teams and determine which are for real and which are not. 

Who is the SEC favorite heading into 2015? Check out the video and let us know! 

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Nick Chubb's 9-Year Old Cousin Is Emulating the Georgia Star on the Field

Harlem Diamond, the nine-year-old running back and cousin of Georgia star Nick Chubb, is opening up eyes on the kiddie gridiron.

Check out this crazy highlight reel in which Diamond imposes his will on his opponents.


Highlights courtesy James Diamond

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Every Top 25 College Football Program's Dream 2016 Recruit

Recruiting never stops, and it definitely speeds up during the summer.

The next few months will be the perfect time for top college programs to make some serious progress in building their next recruiting classes. Between camps, visits and the blue-chip stars who want to make their commitments before their senior seasons start, recruiting junkies are about to enter a busy time of year.

Using Bleacher Report's Post-Spring Practice Top 25, here is a look at the one specific target each school would love to sign next February. 

Who's the one player who would make your fanbase go crazy? Take a look at our list and submit your own picks in the comments below.

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How Alabama QB Seth Franks Fought Bad Recruiting Luck to Walk on at Dream School

Alabama’s quarterback group is adding a new face this summer, but it’s not who you might think. It won’t be Everett Golson, Braxton Miller or any other big-name recruit.

Instead, it’s a 6’1” kid from just across the river in Northport, Alabama, who suffered some bad luck during his college recruitment but ended up at his dream school anyway.

Seth Franks, who grew up in Tuscaloosa county and played high school football just 10 miles from Bryant-Denny Stadium, will join the team as one of a small handful of preferred walk-ons—players who aren’t on scholarship but that the coaching staff still goes out of their way to put on the team.

For Franks, who was rated a 2-star prospect by 247Sports and Rivals, it’s an opportunity to continue playing football at the school he grew up a massive fan of, like anyone from Tuscaloosa, spending Saturday afternoons tailgating on the quad and cheering from the stands.

"He's just a really good player," Nick Saban said. "His size is probably a little bit of a factor that probably had something to do with how he got recruited. It's too bad that—I had the same issues when I was in high school—it's too bad that's the case. But some guys are really able to overcome that and do a great job anyway. So we just feel like he's a really good player and a fine young man and somebody that we're excited about having in the program."

Franks won’t have quite the same problems that Saban had as a 5’6” defensive back who wound up at Kent State. 6’1” isn’t an insurmountable disadvantage by any means.

But Franks’ size issues were only compounded just as his recruitment was ramping up.

The summer after his junior year, when he led Tuscaloosa County High School to a 7-3 record and a playoff berth, Franks had an allergic reaction and his throat swelled up. Doctors put him on a strict diet that made him shed almost 20 pounds.

He was down almost 20 pounds from 180 to about 162, he estimates, as he was taking visits to schools like Southern Miss and Louisville that summer.

The quarterback that schools saw carving up defenses on film was just another skinny kid once he got to their campus.

“That hurt me pretty bad, at least that’s what I think, as far as recruiting,” Franks said. “Only being 6’1” and then coming in at 160 pounds doesn’t look good, you know?”

His high school coach, Lee Gibson, was upset that schools wrote him off so quickly after seeing him in person.

“I just don’t think guys ever got past that,” Gibson said. “I don’t know what that says, I don’t know if they don’t trust their own training table or what, but I’ve had numerous guys say they thought he was too skinny. And my argument to that would be, that’s kind of your job to put back on him once you get him.”

In his senior year, Franks added that lost weight back, throwing for more than 2,000 yards, 20 touchdowns and four interceptions, Gibson said, taking the Wildcats to the second round of the playoffs. He was named to the Tuscaloosa all-region team by al.com.

At that point, though, he still only had offers from Jacksonville State and a handful of Division-III and NAIA schools.

So he had all but decided to quit football altogether to focus on academics when Alabama called.

Gibson is a longtime friend of Alabama’s new director of player personnel, Jody Wright, who had also recruited Franks at Jacksonville State. Wright called Gibson to ask if Franks had decided where he was going to play football. Gibson said he hadn’t.

So Wright called Franks, who wasn’t exactly a stranger to the program, going to camps and attending games as a fan and once as a recruit.

Franks visited an Alabama practice during the spring, sat in on a quarterback meeting and then got to talk to Saban as he came off the field from practice.

Wright told him they had a spot for a preferred walk-on. Franks took about a week-and-a-half to talk it over with his family to figure out how they were going to pay for school.

In the end, Franks ended up at his top school all along.

“Especially when I first started coming to high school, getting recruited by small schools, that was definitely the dream to play for (Alabama),” Franks said.

If recent history is an indication, Franks won’t be written off just because of his preferred walk-on status.

Luke Del Rio joined the team in the same capacity in 2013, turning down offers from Oregon State and Oklahoma State. After his first season on campus, he was going to be right in the mix to replace AJ McCarron before he transferred to Oregon State.

Franks should have that same chance, if not now then down the road, in a quarterback pool that doesn’t have a sure thing right now.

“It’s like anything, they’ll put me at the bottom of the depth chart,” he said. “You’ve got to start at the bottom and work your way up, they’re not just going to give it to you.”

For now, he’s just happy to be staying close to home, where an unfortunate turn on the recruiting trail still landed him where he wanted to be all along.

“It’s just great to see him get this opportunity because he’s one of the better players I’ve ever coached, and people passed up on for some reason,” Gibson said. “I’m looking forward to him to prove a lot of people wrong.”

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes and reporting were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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2018 CB Verone McKinley III 'In Awe' over 1st Offer from LSU Tigers

Ask anyone who knows 2018 cornerback Verone McKinley III, and you'll rarely find someone utter a negative word.

McKinley in a very short time has blossomed into, pound for pound, one of the best defensive backs in his class. As a freshman at Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas, McKinley—known around the area simply as "V3"—recorded 28 tackles, four interceptions and four pass deflections in only nine varsity games, according to MaxPreps.com.

LSU likes recruiting young talent. LSU also likes recruiting star-caliber defensive backs. For those who follow LSU and national recruiting, it made perfect sense for the Tigers to surprise McKinley on Tuesday evening with his first scholarship offer.

"I was a little shocked, just in awe," said McKinley, who was offered by LSU defensive backs coach Corey Raymond. "I'm honored to receive the offer, especially this early. It's a blessing.

"[Raymond] said I fit into what they were trying to do, and they're trying to get their 2018 class going. I liked how he was open with me."

At 5'9" and 165 pounds, McKinley still has some growing to do, but instinctively he has the mind of a veteran shutdown cornerback. Part of that comes from his father, Verone McKinley Jr., who played in the secondary at Texas Tech from 1992-95.

The elder McKinley is a defensive backs coach at Prestonwood and gets the chance to work with his son daily. He's watched his son grow into an athlete worthy of having one of the premier SEC programs be the first school to offer.

"I've always told him from an earlier age that you've got to have fundamentals and technique," McKinley said of his son. "What he's grasped is being a smart football player. With him only being a freshman, his football IQ is on the level of a high school senior. I've always been a stickler on technique and football IQ."

When the younger McKinley isn't working with his father, he's doing training sessions with either George Adams or Clay Mack, two athletes who have extensive football backgrounds. Adams, the father of LSU safety Jamal Adams, was a running back at Kentucky who went on to play for the New York Giants.

Mack, who played in the secondary at Mississippi State, is one of the co-founders of Quick Twitch Training, which specializes in improving overall technique, quickness, control and agility for skill-position players. In fact, minutes after McKinley received the LSU offer, he asked his father if he could attend a Quick Twitch session the same night.

"V3's skill set at cornerback rivals that of Jamal Adams' skill set at safety at that age," said Mack, who trained Jamal in high school. "Jamal was advanced as it related to the physical nature, instincts and paying attention to details, as his primary position was running back, which allowed him opportunities to think the play and the game through. My job was to structure what he and his father had instilled in him and add a true DB skill set.

"V3, on the other hand, has always had a craft element to his disposition. He's natural at adjusting to angles and reacting, and by V3 having a more slender build, he has had to learn how to adapt his game as he physically natured."

Perhaps, Mack said, this explains why McKinley's feet, hips and overall movement compare to so many defensive backs older than he. The offer is valued by McKinley, who not only respects the culture of the LSU secondary unit but also a player in Adams, someone he considers a big-brother figure.

"It's DBU," McKinley said. "I like what they do and how they put DBs in the league. Plus, I know I can drop some questions here and there to Jamal and know that he'll be there to help me perfect my craft. He's a very physical player, and he also covers well."

McKinley has had his share of accolades in his young career. In addition to being an Adidas Freshman All-American, he will also be one of only 44 athletes nationally to participate in the inaugural NFL Prep Academy, which will be held June 17-20 in Philadelphia. The program is a leadership development initiative recognizing some of the nation's top incoming sophomore athletes.

McKinley's father said his goal is "to be the No. 1 corner in the 2018 class" and that he has a blueprint for success. McKinley's hoping to receive several more offers in the near future. If he stays healthy, he's expected to be one of the most talked-about defensive prospects nationally in his class.

"He's phenomenal to train and [to] watch grow in his craft," Mack said. "He pushes the older guys to the max in our training sessions."

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles.

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Is Florida or LSU College Football's Real 'DBU'?

It's the offseason, and there needs to be something to talk about to cure the offseason doldrums.

With that in mind, it's only fitting that an argument has kicked up between two schools over a moniker.

LSU and Florida have both staked claims to "DBU"—the nation's top defensive back school—over last couple of weeks.

It started with this video that Florida released on May 11 calling itself "DBU."

That didn't sit well with LSU safety Jamal Adams, who voiced his displeasure on Twitter.

Star Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves then mixed it up with Adams on Twitter, before Adams ended the conversation with the date of this year's Florida/LSU game.

It didn't end there, though.

LSU's athletic department jumped into the mix with a "DBU" hype video of its own on Vimeo.

Which school is the real "DBU"?

Without question, it's LSU.

We're going to use the 2005 season as the starting point for a couple of reasons. It was the year that Les Miles arrived at LSU, and it was when Urban Meyer took the Florida job, which vaulted the Gators back into the national discussion.

Since that point, the two programs have combined for three national titles and won four SEC championships. On top of that, monikers like "DBU" are more "what have you done for me lately," and the identity of both programs lately has been the defense.

Since Miles arrived, LSU has sent a whopping 13 defensive backs to the NFL through the draft, produced six first-team AP All-Americans and even sent one defensive back—Tyrann Mathieu—to New York as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy finalist.

Those stars from Baton Rouge include first-round draft picks Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne and Eric Reid, among many others. LSU's ability to sign, develop and send defensive backs to the NFL is something that has been a mainstay of the program under Miles.

But it isn't just about the players and the draft, right?

Of course not. 

These players have to perform on Saturdays before playing on Sundays. On Saturdays, the two programs are close, with Florida holding a slight edge in one major category.

Florida has led LSU in overall pass defense five times over the last 10 seasons, and vice versa. But LSU has produced a top-10 pass defense five times over the last decade, with Florida boasting three. Simply put, LSU has consistently produced an elite pass defense every year except 2008.

Put another check mark in the Tigers' column.

While Florida has had plenty of success in the defensive back market over the last decade as well, LSU is the true "DBU." Its success on the field in college, its ability to send defensive backs to the next level as pros and the number of superstars who have passed through the program since Miles took over the program is far superior to that of Florida.

With players like Adams, Jalen Mills, Tre'Davious White and Kevin Toliver on the roster in 2015, it doesn't look like LSU is going to hand over that "DBU" championship belt anytime soon.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Miami Football: How Hot Is Al Golden's Seat for 2015 Season?

Al Golden is a coach who has come under fire. The Miami Hurricane fanbase is a passionate one that is used to winning at a high level. After a 6-7 campaign in 2014, how hot is his seat entering this season?

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Adam Kramer joined Stephen Nelson as they discussed Golden's fate and what he needs to do to stay off the hot seat. 

Will Golden survive another season in Coral Gables? Check out the video and let us know! 

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Tennessee Football: Early Grades for 2016 Recruiting Class

Stargazers may take one long look at this Tennessee football recruiting class and turn their noses up at a group of 10 players that is currently ranked 12th nationally and fifth in the SEC.

But the bottom line for the Volunteers' 2016 class is that it's not going to be very big and could wind up nowhere near as highly ranked as the previous two classes.

After coach Butch Jones brought in 32 signees in the 2014 cycle and 29 more last year, UT simply has a stacked roster full of underclassmen.

While those two classes—which wound up ranked seventh and fourth, respectively, by the 247Sports composite—will be tough acts to follow, there are several reasons Vols fans shouldn't be concerned about this year's ratings.

Gearing up for a 2017 class that could be big and loaded, the Vols appear poised to take a smaller group. There would simply have to be a lot of attrition from the current roster in order for them to reach the allotted 25 scholarships.

"With Tennessee having signed a couple of large classes over the past two years, I think the Vols definitely plan to have a smaller class in 2016," GoVols247's Ryan Callahan told Bleacher Report.

"Exactly where they will finish still is a bit of a moving target, but I think they would like to sign somewhere around 20, if possible," Callahan continued. "That always could change, though, depending on which players they might have a chance to sign."

Jones outfitted Tennessee with depth and talent at most every position. The only real areas where the Vols need more numbers are running back, receiver, offensive line and safety.

Those are the focal points of the small class.

Secondly, the way Jones had to construct the Vols, shedding some dead weight from the Derek Dooley era and loading up with two overfilled classes, there's a glut of freshman and sophomore players clustered together on the depth chart.

Taking some developmental prospects who have high ceilings but likely will need redshirt years, such as quarterback Jarrett Guarantano and defensive end Chidi Okonya, is a luxury UT can currently afford.

Would the Vols love to have a class of 17 4- and 5-star prospects again this year? Sure. Anybody would. But where and when would they all play?

"I don't think Tennessee intentionally will sign more developmental prospects in this class, but the Vols' current situation could give them the luxury of signing some players who aren't likely to make an immediate impact," Callahan said.

"In the past two classes, they needed players who were ready to play right away," Callahan added. "They couldn't afford to wait on a lot of guys to develop. Now, with Tennessee having some depth at several positions, they don't necessarily have to have a class full of guys who are ready to play on Day 1."

It was a matter of time before the huge classes caught up to Jones and the Vols, and this is the year. Still, UT should wind up with a top-15 class, even if it probably won't include much more than 20 players by the time national signing day arrives next year.

Let's take a look at some early recruiting grades for this year's haul.

 

Offense: B+

The prospects Tennessee have collected on the offensive side of the ball thus far are exceptional. The only reason why the Vols are docked is because of who they don't yet have.

Getting commitments from at least two running backs in this cycle is an absolute must.

Jones told GoVols247's Wes Rucker back in February that the position was the biggest need in the 2016 class, and so far, the Vols don't have one.

UT also needs to recruit some speedy, impact wide receivers. Though the Vols have a pledge from Louisiana prospect Corey Henderson, that's just a start. Huge irons remain in the fire, including Mecole Hardman, Diondre Overton, Kyle Davis and JUCO receiver Jeff George.

Getting a couple of those guys could really round out the offensive haul.

So, who do the Vols have on offense thus far besides Henderson? It all starts with the jewel of the class, Guarantano.

The nation's sixth-ranked pro-style quarterback is 6'4", 200 pounds and possesses a cannon for an arm and sub-4.6 speed. He's arguably the best fit for what UT does offensively in the entire recruiting class, and maybe in the past couple of classes.

It's going to be fun watching Guarantano battle current freshman Quinten Dormady in the future because of their elite talent and different skill sets. Jauan Jennings and Sheriron Jones will also be in the mix, so the Vols' quarterback recruiting is set for the foreseeable future.

Moving down to the line, the Vols didn't need many bodies after signing five in 2015, but they did want a couple of prospects who were big but athletic enough to excel in zone-blocking concepts.

Brentwood Academy product Ryan Johnson is exactly what UT needs on the exterior. The 6'6", 277-pound tackle decided to stay near his Brentwood, Tennessee, home to play his college football, and that's big news for the Vols.

Fellow 4-star lineman Brodarious Hamm pledged to UT at the Orange and White Game, and the Georgia product has a quality offer list and versatility to play either guard or tackle on the next level. With that duo, UT can be very selective in choosing another tackle if it so desires.

To go along with Henderson, Tennessee has a commitment from 4-star tight end Devante Brooks of Washington D.C. He is long, lean and athletic, and some schools were recruiting him to play on defense. UT loves his upside at tight end, and he looks like a nice prospect.

Athletes TaDarryl Marshall and Dorian Banks can play on either side of the ball, but both should get initial looks on offense.

Marshall is a dynamic athlete with the ball in his hands and dominated opponents as a dual-threat quarterback at Leeds High School in Alabama. He chose to leave the state despite having offers from Auburn as well as the Crimson Tide.

Banks is on the commitment list, though he's not discussed much. He has been committed to UT since February 2014, but after bouncing around from several high schools, it'll be interesting to see if he ever winds up in Knoxville.

So, the offensive players who Tennessee have lured to Rocky Top so far are stellar. There's just work left to be done on that side of the ball.

 

Defense: C+

The Vols' defensive haul perhaps best deserves an "incomplete" rather than the above grade. It's just so early, and they are going to be so selective on that side of the ball, there aren't many surefire defenders committed.

With last week's decision by Atlanta-area defensive end Chidi Okonya, the Vols now have three players in the 2016 class who project to play for coordinator John Jancek.

Though Okonya is a developmental prospect, some of the nation's top programs offered him based on his massive upside. He chose UT over Stanford, Ole Miss, Clemson and Duke, and his high school coach, Terry Herrod, told B/R he believes Okonya can be 260-270 pounds after a redshirt season.

The big defensive end likely won't be able to help right away, but there's no need for him to with all the depth at the position.

North Carolina cornerback Marquill Osborne has elite potential, evidenced by his offer sheet, which includes interest from LSU, Florida and others. If the Vols can hang on to him, he's exactly the kind of tall, athletic cornerback who has thrived in defensive backs coach Willie Martinez's system.

The only other defensive commitment thus far is Bailey Phillips, an undersized defensive back from Texas who is a relative of UT defensive lineman Dimarya Mixon. He committed at a camp last year, and it'll be interesting to see if he sticks with this class.

The 5'7" Phillips is a bit of an uncharacteristic "take" considering the Vols haven't gone after a lot of diminutive corners.

Much like the offensive side of the ball, this grade should change a lot if UT can close the deal with some of its top targets.

Linebacker Daniel Bituli is the state's top-ranked prospect, and he recently told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan the Vols lead for his services and that he's planning to make a decision this summer.

Perhaps the Vols' second-biggest need in this cycle is safety, even though the emergence of Evan Berry this spring to go along with Todd Kelly Jr. alleviates that somewhat.

Nigel Warrior and Joejuan Williams easily are the top two targets at that position, and Warrior is arguably the top target on UT's entire board.

If Tennessee can add those three prospects to its list, it'll be a nice haul on defense.

 

Quotes and observations obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information obtained from 247Sports.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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Inside Look at Towsley Family Museum, Home of Historic Michigan Memorabilia

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — New chapters of Michigan Wolverines football lore will be written this fall at the Big House with new coach Jim Harbaugh, but the storied past that built one of the NCAA's proudest programs resides in a 14,000 square-foot exhibit at the Towsley Family Museum in Bo Schembechler Hall.

It's a place where 134 years of maize and blue come alive at every turn.

The immediately noticeable displays draw attention with plaques, pennants, ribbons, buttons, trophies and jerseys, plus a lot more, from the personal archives of noted Michigan collector and historian Ken Magee, who has spent a lifetime acquiring the Wolverines' historical markers. 

With assistance from Bruce Madej, Michigan's longest-tenured PR director, Magee imagined ways to share his love of Michigan football with the public.

Also the owner of a memorabilia shop in Ann Arbor, Magee thought that his stockpiles of vintage items would greatly complement a $9 million renovation of the facility just north of Al Glick Field House. 

"If it wasn't for somebody like Ken Magee—in fact, if it wasn't for Ken Magee, we wouldn't have been able to do it," Madej said of the concept for the museum. "Knowing what Kenny had, I knew we could put together a good story." 

After lengthy conversations, they began to imagine a museum with glass-covered, wood-grain cases topped off by etched quotes and plaques. And to keep up with the times, they wanted to add plenty of screens, including an interactive menu so visitors could read more about the pieces.

Madej helped with the logistics, but Magee's imports completed the vision, seamlessly marrying technology and tradition. While some of the items come from families of past players, the majority of them, including the most valuable, belong to Magee. 

The timeline beneath the "This is Michigan" wall is Magee and Madej's favorite exhibit. It takes a jog through the decades with milestones punctuated by Rose Bowl mementos, such as rare hats, rings from players, pins, buttons and many other rare examples from the time. 

"My favorite items are probably the matchbox holder and the button from the 1902 Rose Bowl," Magee said. "I love the ribbons, as well. The ribbons are very cool. I loved the process that we went through to get these items—we took a lot of items from my personal collection and we sat down and kind of created a formula of what was coolest, what was most visually [appealing]..."

In terms of visuals, a hollowed, towering glass wall filled with commemorative footballs celebrating each one of Michigan's NCAA-leading 915 victories stands out in the middle of Towsley.

Secured by wire fixtures, each modern-day ball has the team emblems, score and date of the victory. 

Completed in April 2014, the Towsley museum also boasts rare artifacts dating back to the earliest of days of coach Gustave Ferbert, who went 10-0 in 1898, mementos from the era of Fielding Yost, who was the "first" coach, and it also provides a quick leap back in time with a corner dedicated to Bo Schembechler. 

Bo was, and remains so, more than a coach to Wolverines fans. He's a folk hero who helped guide Michigan to 13 Big Ten titles from 1969 to 1989. 

His share of real estate inside Towsley is hard to miss—it's near the entryway, and it's highlighted by a headset that has a blue piece of tape with the letters "BO" embossed in white. One can only imagine the words that have passed through those headphones.

However, Bo's presence is felt before then. Visitors will see him prior to setting foot inside the museum: A larger-than-life-sized bronze statue of the iconic coach perches on a circular-stepped cement podium in front of the doors. 

Having him guard the place is only right. 

"I was extremely ecstatic to be a part of creating a museum that was in a building named for one of my childhood heroes," said Magee, who's had close ties with the Schembechler family since his youth. "When I talk about Bo Schembechler, and when I talk to young people about things you can never have too much of in life, I talk about heroes, role models and mentors.

"And Bo Schembechler was that to so many people. And for me to be part of the process in creating the museum at Schembechler Hall was an honor. It was an outstanding honor."

Featuring others such as famed quarterback Tom Harmon is equally rewarding for Magee and Madej, who both feel Harmon is "in a league of his own" when compared to other figures in school history. 

"Harmon Corner" immediately jumps out with a vibrant movie poster depicting Harmon in a familiar role—that of a star football player. The colorful and artistic full-size sheet is "extremely rare" and one of four known to exist.

Magee owns two of them. 

The interest, though, lies more in the story of the film than the value of the art itself. Magee explained how the film, which was one in a series produced in Hollywood for Heisman winners in the 1940s, adds to Harmon's legend.

"It was what we'd refer to today as a 'B-movie,' and it also starred Tom Harmon's playing partner, Forest Evashevski. And interestingly enough, Forest Evashevski was in the movie with him as a Michigan football player. But the interesting thing about the movie, the plot was very, oh...interesting so to speak.

"Tom Harmon played the position of...technically, not a good person. He played the part of a very famous football player who went on to to be a coach who was obsessed with beating his former coach. He wanted to use a trick play that everybody warned him against using. 'Don't use that play, don't use that play! It's dangerous. The quarterback can get hurt!'

"He ended up using the play, and the quarterback got crippled—this is all near the end of the movie, too—the quarterback got crippled and Tom Harmon's wife left him, and he lost the game, too. That's pretty much how it ended. He was basically destroyed."

That character was the polar opposite of Harmon, a skilled, strategic and tactful fighter pilot who was awarded a Purple Heart and Silver Star during World War II. Before dying at age 70 in 1990, Harmon, a two-time All-American, also worked as a broadcaster, calling UCLA football games for ABC. His son, Mark Harmon, is a well-known actor and stars as "Agent Gibbs" in the popular crime drama NCIS. 

When it comes to "ideal" Wolverines, there aren't many who can top 1991 Heisman-winner Desmond Howard, who finished his three-year career with 32 touchdowns (No. 3 at UM) and 2,146 receiving yards (No. 12 at UM). He'll forever be remembered for striking a pose versus Ohio State in 1991 and helping to lead the Wolverines to title contention. 

His autographed, game-used Rose Bowl jersey serves as a reminder of the early '90s. Magee and Madej didn't place a monetary value on the garment, but a conservative estimate of a few thousand dollars wouldn't be out of line, because it belonged to Howard, it's signed and it's game-used.

The paint-like, screen-printed numerals and mesh body drastically differ from today's tech-fit, carbon-fibered spacesuits. It's truly a collector's "dream piece." 

As a whole, Michigan's jerseys are among the most collectible and recognizable in all of sports.

They've covered a handful of superbly talented athletes, such as Gerald R. Ford (No. 48 on the field, No. 38 in the Oval Office), Ron Kramer (No. 87), Bennie Oosterbaan (No. 47), Harmon (No. 98), Howard (No. 21) and the Wistert brothers (No. 11).

Those program legends have their own wall, which is fronted by square, glass helmet cases that seem to float in midair. 

Michigan's most recent Heisman winner (1997), Charles Woodson, also has a jersey showcase complete with photo montage—even the photo of him with a rose in his mouth. Woodson, who was one of the greatest all-around athletes in all of college football, finished his career with 18 interceptions (No. 2 at UM) and a Heisman moment versus Ohio State.

In addition to individual shrines, team photos from throughout the decades, including tributes to the 1997 national co-championship team, are strewn about the area. Magee and Madej wanted each era to be well represented with prolific collectibles.   

Other tokens from important moments in Michigan's illustrious history are arranged throughout the museum, as well, including a photo from the famous 28-7 "platoon" loss to Army in 1945, Anthony Carter's Rose Bowl ring and instruments from the heyday of the college marching band.

Magee's pride and joy, the 1902 Rose Bowl program, which he called "the Holy Grail" of Michigan collecting, rests well behind glass. 

However, it's only a replica. Due to insurance reasons, Michigan thought it'd be best for the authentic and nearly impossible to find program to stay with Magee, who estimates its value in the $40,000 range, if not more. 

"I cashed in part of my retirement to be able to buy that," laughed Magee, who has other copies, both authentic and reproduction, in his collection. As for the other bowl games, their programs were enlarged to fit on the Wolverines' colorful "bowl history" wall, which marks each of the Wolverines' postseason appearances. 

Due to design, Magee prefers the programs of the 1920s. However, and oddly enough, the Wolverines didn't play in a bowl during that decade. Other than his affection for the '20s-style programs, he's partial to Bo-era programs and those from his childhood. 

Like Magee's collection, the museum will continue to grow and evolve. It probably won't look the same for very long, as there are thousands upon thousands of Magee's items waiting to be displayed. He often joked about Towsley housing the "second-best" Michigan football collection. 

His home, particularly a completely finished and ornamented basement, is where the gold standard rests. His shop envelops the No. 3-ranked stock. 

With that being said, pieces in the collection will rotate at the discretion of Magee, Madej and the university. Perhaps they'll end up clearing a space for Harbaugh, who could one day land in Towsley—right next to the men who set the standard he's trying to equal. 

"That's what we're waiting to find out," said Magee, with a grin. 

 

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

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer via press conference, press release or other media availability.

Special thanks to Michigan collector/historian Ken Magee, Michigan athletic department member Bruce Madej and associate athletic director David Ablauf for assistance with this piece. 

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Who Will Be the Secret Weapon for the Florida Gators in 2015?

The Florida Gators enter the 2015 season with a new look. With head coach Jim McElwain in charge, they will try to re-establish their program as a national powerhouse. But who will be their secret weapon?

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee breaks down who will be the X-factor on offense for the Gators.

Who will break out on offense for Florida in 2015? Check out the video and let us know!

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Ohio State Football: Will Backloaded Schedule Spoil Buckeyes' 2015 Playoff Run?

If championships are truly won in November, Ohio State is in for a stiff challenge this fall. 

The Buckeyes, fresh off their improbable tear through the 2014 postseason, are gearing up for another championship run in 2015, but a treacherous November slate that features Minnesota, Michigan State and Michigan could prove to be a significant speed bump along the way.

And if Meyer wants to propel his team into the College Football Playoff for the second consecutive year, he'll likely have to navigate that November stretch unscathed.

Of course, three of the four teams that participated in the first playoff (Ohio State, Oregon and Alabama) brought a lone blemish into the postseason, but all of those defeats were suffered before the first week of October rolled around. 

Other contenders such as Mississippi State, Michigan State and even Ole Miss weren't as fortunate, losing pivotal November games that crushed their chances of making it into the coveted final four.

The Buckeyes are hoping to avoid a similar fate this year. The challenge will start on November 7 with Minnesota. 

These two met last October under frigid Minneapolis conditions, with the temperature dipping to a chilling 15 degrees at kickoff. The Buckeyes scored the first 14 points in each half, but the Gophers battled back before eventually falling 31-24.

"I challenge any team in the country that wants to go ahead and schedule this one in November," Meyer said, according to Dave Campbell of the Star Tribune.

"That was a really great team that we just played," receiver Evan Spencer added, via Campbell.

That really great team will be making the return trip to Columbus this fall, though, and the Buckeyes have more than just home-field advantage on their side. Meyer's squad will be well-rested for the matchup, coming off a nicely timed late-season bye week. The Buckeyes will also have some bulletin-board material to use as motivation.

If the Buckeyes handle Minnesota, they'll get a tuneup game on the road against Illinois—a team they have outscored by an average of 32 points with Meyer at the helm—before the most difficult stretch of the season.

Mark Dantonio and Michigan State have battled Urban Meyer's Buckeyes harder than any team since 2012. Their first matchup three years ago in East Lansing, Michigan, was a defensive slugfest that Ohio State won, 17-16. A year later in the conference title game, Michigan State halted the Buckeyes' 24-game win streak—and their chances of making the BCS title game—with a 34-24 upset.

Ohio State got revenge in Spartan Stadium last November when quarterback J.T. Barrett amassed 386 total yards and five touchdowns in a surprising 49-37 victory. It was a win that validated the Buckeyes as contenders and propelled them back into the playoff conversation.

This year, it will be the Spartans looking for revenge. They'll look to replace key contributors such as tailback Jeremy Langford, defensive end Marcus Rush, safety Kurtis Drummond and cornerback Trae Waynes this fall, but they'll return an excellent core of 14 starters highlighted by quarterback Connor Cook and defensive end Shilique Calhoun. 

The Spartans are so loaded, in fact, that they're projecting as the No. 8 team in the country, according to Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com. And if the Spartans can beat Oregon at home in Week 2, there's a great chance they could invade Columbus as a top-four, undefeated team on November 21.

And just seven days after Ohio State plays in what could be a top-five matchup, they'll have to hit the road to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to face a Michigan team that will be desperate to beat the Buckeyes. 

It will be the first Ohio State-Michigan game with the fiery Jim Harbaugh on the opposite sideline, and it's safe to assume he'll have his team ready to play. The Wolverines have risen to the occasion in each of their last three meetings against Ohio State despite the inferior coaching of Brady Hoke.

With Harbaugh in control and a crazed fanbase in the stands, this year's version of The Game won't be a breeze for Ohio State. 

Will the Buckeyes be up to the task this fall? Will they flex their muscles down the stretch of the season for another run at the playoff?

If the past is any indication, the answer is yes. Ohio State is a perfect 12-0 in November games under Meyer, winning by an average of 20 points per game. But only three of those games came against teams ranked in the top 25, and another three came against the walkover Illini team.

This fall, the Buckeyes could see a trio of top 25 teams in the final month alone. They'll need to be at their best to make it to December. 

 

David Regimbal is the Ohio State football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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