NCAA Football

Preseason Top 25: College Football Playoff Predictions from Amway Coaches Poll

When the preseason top 25 Amway Coaches Poll was released Thursday afternoon, it generated significant conversation in the college football world, and with good reason: It signals the beginning of college football season and the march to the first College Football Playoff, which will pit the nation's top four teams against one another for the national title.

Multiple teams in the top 25 will begin preseason practice Friday, with scores more joining them by the day in preparation for the last weekend of August, when teams across the nation will take the gridiron for the first games of the season that truly matter.

If 2013 is any indication, we’re in for a wild ride. In January, Florida State and Auburn faced off in the final BCS National Championship Game, a classic decided in the final seconds with Jameis Winston’s touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin giving the Seminoles their first national title since 2000.

Where were the Seminoles and Tigers in August 2013? Barely on the national title radar.

Florida State was No. 11 in the coaches’ poll, and Auburn wasn’t ranked. Coming off a 3-9 season, Gus Malzahn’s bunch didn’t even receive a single vote.

Yet, there they were in Pasadena, slugging it out for the national championship.

We'll take a very early look at the teams which will compete for that championship in January, but first, here's the top 25 to begin the season:

1. Florida State

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma

4. Oregon

5. Auburn

6. Ohio State

7. UCLA

8. Michigan State

9. South Carolina

10. Baylor

11. Stanford

12. Georgia

13. LSU

14. Wisconsin

15. USC

16. Clemson

17. Notre Dame

18. Arizona State

19. Ole Miss

20. Texas A&M

21. Kansas State

22. Nebraska

23. North Carolina

24. Texas

25. Washington

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Michigan 5-Star Freshman Jabrill Peppers Raps for Instagram Followers

Michigan's highly touted freshman, Jabrill Peppers, made headlines recently after sharing a progression photo of his muscular gains over the course of four weeks.

Now he's taken to Instagram to show us his rap skills for #4BarFriday.

[Jabrill Peppers, h/t YouTube]

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Examining Direction of Michigan Football Tradition Under AD David Brandon

One hundred and thirty-five years of tradition speaks volumes, and to its followers, suggesting that Michigan football is anything short of a way of life—the way of life—is blasphemous.

However, recent seasons haven’t been so kind. The program hasn’t been truly relevant since 2006, the year it reached No. 2 in The Associated Press poll before suffering a season-ending, 42-39 loss to No. 1 Ohio State.

Compounding matters, Michigan hasn’t won or shared a league title since 2004, has lost five of its past six to Michigan State and has dropped who knows how many (all but three) of the past meetings with the Buckeyes since the turn of the century.

Along with fourth-year coach Brady Hoke, athletic director David Brandon faces the pressure of restoring the Wolverines to their former ways—the ones that led them to an NCAA-leading 910 victories. Since 2010, he's done well for sports at the university across the board, but he's been constantly criticized by fans and media for his perceived lack of comprehension in regards to the foundation of Michigan football.

Is the time-honored tradition in danger of slipping away? Is Brandon’s ideology wronging a team that’s shied away from bells and whistles since its inception more than a century ago?

For John U. Bacon, the answer is a firm "Yes." The recently proposed idea of fireworks—Brandon’s doing—didn’t sit well with the revered author, educator and historian. But the idea of fireworks wasn’t the main issue.

It just stoked the fire set by, among other things, hikes in ticket prices and changes in the seating policy. The embarrassing losses certainly don't help, either. 

“[It was] One more push into the direction of minor league baseball, basically,” Bacon said during an interview with the Sports in the Mitten podcast. He continued:

It was a new high-water, or low-water mark, depending on your view point. When I heard that they were going to do fireworks after touchdowns against Penn State [at home], that’s when I went "Holy smokes. That’s a different thing altogether." They’ve been singing "Hail to the Victors" after touchdowns since 1898—that’d be one heck of a tradition to put aside for cheap pyrotechnics, basically.

Ultimately shot down by Michigan’s board of regents just days after being suggested, the original idea was to have in-game fireworks versus Miami (Ohio) and Penn State. That didn’t fly, so Wolverines fans don’t have to worry about an already lukewarm home schedule being tainted by gimmicky explosives.

Bacon, a lifetime follower of Michigan football who also teaches at the university, doesn’t think that Brandon is the enemy. However, he’s been critical of his onetime friend, suggesting that Brandon is “disconnected” from those whom he’s supposed to represent.

Tickets can’t be given away, says Bacon, who spotted a table full of freebies at an art fair in Ann Arbor. Student interest is down as well. The decades-long streak of 100,000-plus at Michigan Stadium is in real danger of being broken, and that’s because many supporters feel as if their concerns have fallen on deaf ears.

"If you have alienated your fanbase and don’t understand that it’s not a business to them, that it’s a religion, then you have the biggest problem that any AD can have," said Bacon, a New York Times bestselling author and syndicated columnist. "All of your plans [for the program], all of your dreams depend on your fans beings happy, in the church, and in the temple.

"If you don’t have that, you’re in trouble. And that’s what I’m hearing now. … He sees his fans not as fans, but as customers. They’re not customers. They’re believers."

 

Brandon's Actions

The AD's every move is immediately put underneath the microscope, even if he wasn't the one who did it. This past offseason, there were several media members and Michigan followers who thought that Brandon overrode Hoke's authority by initiating the hiring of new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. 

That wasn't the case, as tweeted by TheWolverine.com's Michael Spath:

But Brandon still rubs some the wrong way, as indicated by 97.1 The Ticket's tweet: 

Also, when Hoke's job was in question during the offseason, Brandon went out of his way to express his support with a blog post. In hindsight, that attempt wasn't very Michigan-like. It came across as a last-ditch effort to help the perception of his struggling football coach. 

 

Loyalty Over All

Matt Craw is a believer and has been since he could walk. His father, Garvie Craw, jumped into the history books with a pair of touchdowns during Michigan’s 24-12 victory over the Buckeyes in 1969, a blow that started the often-romanced “10-Year War” between Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes. 

Craw, a United States Marine, grew up around or has met what essentially boils down to a who’s who of Wolverines football, even becoming quite close to Schembechler, who assisted Crawfather and son—in making important life decisions. He’s a part of the family and reports having multiple one-on-one conversations with Brandon.

Recognizing the Schembechler lineage, Craw is confident that Brandon has the program’s best interest in mind. Tradition is tradition, and he doesn’t want that to get lost, erode or decay. Brandon may employ a different approach, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to destroy all things sacred.

Progression is the goal, and Craw doesn’t have a reason not to have faith in the Wolverines AD.

“With Brandon ushering in a business-savvy approach and spreading the Michigan man mentality that only a player under Bo's guidance could, Michigan seems poised to succeed,” Craw said by phone from his home in New Jersey.

“My dad did the same thing in living with the lessons Bo taught him—as does Richard Caldarazzo [attorney] and Dan Dierdorf [broadcasters]; Bo's boys, still spreading knowledge and making the University of Michigan a maker of men, and a pretty damn good football team too.

"All of my friends and contacts that are Michigan fans love what Brandon is doing. By keeping Michigan [fifth-most valuable NCAA football program in 2013, per Forbes] at the forefrontin terms of financial success—of college football, he is moving forward in a highly competitive world, competing with the SEC and the rest of the Big Ten for recruits and fan support.”

 

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

All quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer unless otherwise noted.

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Former 5-Star Prospect Bo Scarbrough Won't Join Alabama in Fall

For most college teams, losing a 5-star prospect would be devastating. For Nick Saban and Alabama, it's a notable blow but not one that will cripple the program. 

That's good news, because Bo Scarbrough won't be on campus in Tuscaloosa until at least January, according to Saban in a news conference held Friday (h/t Charles Power of 247Sports.com).

"We have an appeal in place because is very close to qualifying," Saban said. "Our goal is to get him here in January."

Scarbrough's situation has been up in the air for a few months. Saban told Andrew Gribble of AL.com on July 17 that the status of Scarbrough and another recruit, Montel McBride, was "incomplete" due to academic situations. 

"They won't be completed until the end of summer school," Saban said. "I can't really make a prediction on what their status will be until their summer school is over."

Alabama, not so shockingly, had the top 2014 recruiting class, according to 247Sports.com, thanks to 26 players ranked 3-star or better and six 5-star talents, including Scarbrough. 

The Alabama native was the 16th-ranked prospect in this year's recruiting class and told Gribble in February that it doesn't matter where he plays on the field.

"I think I bring a lot to the table," Scarbrough said. "I can be a (feature) player for that offense. I can play wide receiver. I can play tight end. I can play running back. As long as it's on the offensive side, I can do it."

Unfortunately, fans of the Crimson Tide and college football will have to wait to get their eyes on Scarbrough. The good news is that he should be on track to play with Alabama in 2015, which essentially enhances Saban's recruiting class for next year. 

It's not going to happen exactly as he wanted, but by potentially getting to campus early in anticipation of next season, Scarbrough can have a leg up on incoming freshmen and adapt to Saban's scheme with the goal of playing in games right away next year. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Is Jimbo Fisher College Football's Real QB Guru?

It's not like Florida State, the defending national champs, needed more attention, but it got it on Thursday. In the span of minutes, the Seminoles received verbal commitments from two 4-star quarterbacks: Kai Locksley and Deondre Francois

Suffice to say, it was a good day to be Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher

Francois, the No. 5 pro-style quarterback according to 247Sports' composite rankings, had his announcement planned. The Locksley commitment? It came as more of a surprise, especially given the timing and the fact that his father, Mike Locksley, is the offensive coordinator at Maryland. 

Even Francois was surprised, as he told Josh Newberg of 247Sports.com

I didn’t know he was going to commit. I got a text message from someone like two minutes before I was going to walk in. I’m not sure who the number was, they told me (Kai) Locksley just committed. I thought maybe it was a joke to get me to commit to Auburn. Then I think I looked on twitter or something and saw it was real.

The pair gives Florida State three quarterback commits for the class of 2015, the other being 3-star De'Andre Johnson. That's a loaded class—assuming all three keep their pledges—considering the number and talent. The quarterback spot, after all, is traditionally a defined position with a starter and a backup. 

For what it's worth, Locksley is listed as an athlete by 247. Furthermore, B/R's Tyler Donohue believes Francois' ceiling as a college quarterback may be higher than Locksley's. How that affects commitments and potential position changes down the road remains to be seen. 

The early takeaway, though, is that Florida State could have options at quarterback. That's a good thing for Fisher, who is building the reputation as one of the premier quarterback developers in college football. 

"Quarterback gurus" have sometimes gone hand-in-hand with coaches who run some variation of a spread or pass-happy offense. Washington State's Mike Leach, SMU's June Jones, Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin, Baylor's Art Briles and Ohio State's Urban Meyer are just some of the active names that come to mind. 

But what about Fisher? As Bud Elliott of Tomahawk Nation tweets, Fisher's last three multiyear starting quarterbacks (EJ Manuel and Christian Ponder at Florida State, and JaMarcus Russell at LSU) were first-round draft selections.

It's impossible to ignore how some of those players fared in the NFL. Russell, selected first overall in 2007 by the Oakland Raiders, is widely considered one of the biggest draft busts in recent memory—if not the biggest. Ponder, selected No. 12 overall by the Minnesota Vikings in 2011, may very well be surpassed on the depth chart by rookie Teddy Bridgewater, another first-round selection for the Vikings. 

Manuel's career with the Buffalo Bills is still unfolding. 

Still, first-round selections mean first-round money. Manuel and Ponder signed four-year deals for nearly $20 million combined. Russell, of course, signed an enormous six-year $61 million contract in 2007 that would later be a driving force behind the rookie wage scale in the NFL.

One organization's financial carelessness is hardly Fisher's fault, however. For that matter, Fisher's job is pretty much done when a quarterback decides to go pro. When Fisher goes into a recruit's home, he can point to a pair of national championships, one at Florida State and one at LSU, and three first-round quarterbacks.

Fisher could have another first-rounder in Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston, should he leave after the 2014 season. Early mock drafts, like the one from Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com, have Winston as a top-10 selection next spring. 

Potentially, Fisher can lay claim to four first-round selections in a decade. Former Cal head coach Jeff Tedford can claim more, according to an ESPN.com article by Len Pasquarelli in 2005, though Tedford is no longer an active college coach. 

The point being, Fisher is in rare company. Not surprisingly, he's confident in his coach-up of his signal-callers. In a recent USA Today article by Dan Wolken, Fisher spoke out against the use of private quarterback coaches like George Whitfield: 

We've got good quarterback coaches. My guys aren't going out there. I'll coach them. When they go to pro ball, they can do whatever they want. We'll coach our guys. I don't think it benefits you. We know what we're doing, too.

Whitfield, who now has a regular analysis spot on ESPN, has gained a lot of attention in recent years for working with quarterbacks like Johnny Manziel. With the rise of quarterback camps like the Elite 11, quarterbacks are being taught by others not on their high school or college coaching staff. 

Fisher clearly prefers to keep that process in-house. Given his track record, it's easy to see why—and why there are quarterback recruits verbally committed to Florida State. 

It's also why Fisher deserves more credit as a quarterback developer. Looking at the number of players he's put in the NFL, one would be hard-pressed to find a coach who's done more in the past 10 years. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.com

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LSU Football: 4 Games That Could Ruin Tigers' 2014 Season

LSU head coach Les Miles will coach one of his youngest teams ever. Miles' Tigers will likely go through growing pains in the arduous SEC.  

But youth will certainly not lower the expectations in Baton Rouge. 

LSU fans want to win championships. Some have grown impatient as the Tigers have not reached the SEC Championship Game since 2011. 

The Tigers report to camp on Sunday and will hit the field Monday. The season opener against Wisconsin is at the end of the month, which does not give much time for the incoming freshmen to get acclimated to the team.

Fortunately for Miles, the Tigers could lose to the Badgers yet have their championship hopes still in tact. LSU could go unbeaten for the rest of the season and make the SEC Championship Game. 

SEC games hold more weight, particularly those in division. Here are four SEC West clashes that will determine if the season is successful for the Tigers.  

 

*Rankings and stats provided by 247Sports.com and LSU Sports Information. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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College Football Recruiting DT Rankings 2015: Top 10 After The Opening

When it's time to set the tone on defense, coaches must be able to rely on a strong and steady presence up front. Defensive tackles who win battles consistently command attention and create increased opportunities for their supporting cast.

The 2015 recruiting class includes several standout linemen who leave offensive coordinators searching for answers, wreaking havoc in the trenches at all times. It's rare to locate a young player who combines massive size, coordination and quickness, which is why the elite members of this group have warranted scholarship offers throughout their high school careers.

The future interior disrupters of college football have put their talents on display during high school competition and football showcases, including The Opening, an invite-only event held in July at Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.

After examining game tape and watching many of the top performers compete with their peers at The Opening, here's our assessment of America's 10 best defensive tackles.

 

This article is part of Bleacher Report's CFB 200 Recruiting Rankings Series. The overall rankings are based on the 247Sports composite system, which takes into account every recruiting service's rankings. The positional rankings also correspond with those composite scores. Stay tuned over the next two weeks as we take an in-depth look at college football's stars of tomorrow.

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Oregon Football: 4 Games That Could Ruin Ducks' 2014 Season

Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich talked at last week's Pac-12 media days about "the importance of preparing for everybody." 

As Oregon has encountered in each of the past three seasons, championship pursuits can hinge on a single outcome. 

While there's never an opportune time for a letdown, four matchups on the Ducks' Pac-12 slate are the most likely to present potential potholes on their road to Levi's Stadium and the conference championship game. 

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics compiled via CFBStats.com

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Oregon Football: 4 Games That Could Ruin Ducks' 2014 Season

Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich talked at last week's Pac-12 media days about "the importance of preparing for everybody." As Oregon has encountered in each of the past three seasons, championship pursuits can hinge on a single outcome...

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Auburn Football: True Strength of Gus Malzahn's Offense Is in the Trenches

They do not fill the stat sheets like Nick Marshall, Tre Mason or Sammie Coates.

They are not the faces of legendary plays like Ricardo Louis and Chris Davis.

They were not the biggest stars of head coach Gus Malzahn's patented hurry-up, no-huddle offense in the Tigers' SEC title run last season—and they will not be the biggest stars of this year's offense.

But Auburn's offensive linemen are the strength of one of the nation's most feared offenses.

After a 2012 season in which it was the weakest link for a toothless offense, Auburn's front five roared back to life in 2013 under Malzahn and his staff.

"Any time you get to [the national title game], you’re going to be pretty good up front with your offensive line,” Malzahn said last December. "In 2010, we had a veteran group, one of the strengths of our team."

Last year was no different as the line paved the way for a record-breaking rushing attack and bought valuable time for an inexperienced quarterback in Marshall to make the most of his occasional chances through the air.

And this year should be no different for Auburn, thanks to the unit's elite strength in three key areas of offensive line play.

 

Experience

Auburn may have lost its star offensive linemen early to the pros—an early announcement that paid off in a big way for former left tackle Greg Robinson—but the other four starters from 2013 are back on the Plains for another season.

According to AL.com's Joel Erickson, if the Tigers went with the most experienced combination of linemen for the upcoming season, one that included former starting right tackle Patrick Miller, then they would have 113 combined career starts to begin the campaign:

The last time Auburn had a starting lineup of offensive linemen with more than 100 career starts between them, it won the national championship.

Miller is projected to back up redshirt sophomore Shon Coleman at left tackle this season. While Coleman does not have a single career start, he brings a level of unique experience to the position. He has been on Auburn's campus since 2011 and at practice since 2012 after his comeback from battling cancer.

The amount of experience and potential coming back with those six players has created a problem for offensive line coach J.B. Grimes, but he told the Montgomery Advertiser's James Crepea in May that it was a "great situation" for the team:

The hardest thing is to figure out who the best five are. That's a very difficult thing because obviously we have four returning starters with a guy like Pat Miller who started multiple games, I think he started 14 ball games at Auburn. He has really good experience and is a quality player. Then you've got an exceptional athlete like Shon Coleman who I think has great potential. He hasn't done it yet, but he has great potential to be one of those guys.

Some shuffling across the offensive line this spring created additional depth for the experienced unit, which has a few players Grimes believes could play any position.

One position that will not change this fall, barring injury, is center, where team captain Reese Dismukes is heading into his fourth year as a starter.

One of the nation's top centers last season, Dismukes serves as a "second quarterback" for the offense. The senior must read and react quickly to defenses as an offensive leader, and Malzahn said he thinks of him as an overall team leader.

"He's a tough guy, comes to practice every day," Malzahn said at SEC media days. "He demands that his teammates practice at the level that the coaches expect. He's an extension of the coaches. We're very fortunate to have him. He had a lot to do with our success last year."

 

Power

Spread offenses are designed to stretch defenses horizontally and capitalize on the space it creates. Teams that use this style of attack often base their running games outside the tackles.

Between wide receiver reverses and speed sweeps to running back Corey Grant, who led the nation last year with 9.8 yards per carry, the Tigers were the nation's best at gaining huge yardage on outside runs, according to ESPN:

But, despite all that success on the outside, Auburn's offense is based on a style that is completely opposite to most spread attacks.

“There are so many different spreads, and [Malzahn] is not a horizontal throwing game, zone-read guy,” Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson told ESPN.com's Chris Low last year. “He runs the power and the counter power...you’ve got the option, the element of power, and then you’ve got the pace and the tempo. That’s what I think really makes it hard to get ready for in college football today.”

Malzahn's offense is about power running at its core, and, as Erickson notes, it all starts with the front five:

But the Tigers' offensive line is the real key, as Dismukes pointed out at SEC Media Days. Unlike true spread teams, which build their running games around draws and counters, Auburn's offensive line is taught to play power football at the line of scrimmage, and the Tigers dominated opponents at the point of attack last season. 

No matter how many options are built into each play or how the Tigers line up in their shotgun formation, Auburn's offense is a power attack at its core.

New Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason arrives in the SEC from his defensive coordinator post at Stanford, a power team known for slowing down some of the nation's most prolific spread offenses.

But when Mason studies new conference neighbor Auburn, he does not see a prototypical spread offense—he sees an offense similar to other SEC West contenders.

"I shouldn't say it's changed, the package has changed," Mason said at SEC media days. "When you look at a team like Auburn, how they run the football, it's no different than Alabama, they just do it a different way."

Behind the offensive line, Auburn was the nation's top power-rushing offense, especially in situations when the Tigers wanted a few yards on first down or needed them to get a first down. In those situations, the "spread" offense became a "smashmouth" offense:

This season, when Auburn elects to air it out more than it did in 2013, neutralizing some of the SEC's tough defensive fronts will be a greater responsibility for the offensive line in a system built on winning the war in the trenches.

By controlling the line of scrimmage against those top-notch defensive lines, the Auburn offensive line allows Malzahn's offense to simply do what it's designed to do.

 

Speed

As a pioneer of the hurry-up offense from his high school coaching days, Malzahn wants his team to be the fastest in college football.

There are several important benefits an offense can get by not huddling between plays, from scoring points as quickly as possible to stopping the opposing defense from regrouping after explosive plays.

But in order to take all the advantages the scheme has to offer by playing as fast as possible, your offensive players must be in peak physical shape—including your 300-pound offensive linemen. If the big guys do not get set quick enough, the more those advantages shrink.

Surprisingly enough, some of the Tigers' most vocal proponents of the fast-paced offense can be found on the offensive line. Here is what senior right guard Chad Slade had to say about Malzahn's system this spring, per the Opelika-Auburn News' Alex Byington:

We love the pace. Some people don’t get used to it, but we’re used to it by now. Everybody is back, and we have high expectations for everything—the pace going faster, we can go faster than we did last year. One of the goals is to be connected to each other, so we believe that is going good so far.

Auburn's coaches expect their offensive linemen to be quick in the system, but they do not want them to cut weight and risk losing the strength needed for the offense's power football philosophy.

"(Grimes) is not really looking for us to be lean,” Slade said. "He just wants us to move. When I played in this offense the first time, I was 305. Now I'm 310, 315. He just wants you to be able to move with your weight."

A prime example of staying big and getting quick is none other than Robinson. His draft stock rose rapidly during the Tigers' championship season, but it did not explode until the NFL combine, when the eventual No. 2 overall pick stunned scouts with this 40-yard dash:

While Robinson's dash took the pro football world by storm, it was not a shock to an Auburn coaching staff that preaches speed and power at every position, especially the offensive line.

And although Robinson is off to the NFL, that speed and power will be back this season in an experienced unit that keeps looking for ways to improve.

"We’ve got a killer offensive line and an awesome offense," Miller said this spring. "It’s very exciting. I feel good and feel like we’re going to be a force. But we've got to get a lot better—we always have to get better."

 

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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Preseason College Football Rankings 2014: Analyzing Teams Atop NCAA Hierarchy

The 2014 NCAA football preseason rankings have been released, with the reigning national champion Florida State Seminoles atop the Amway Coaches Poll as they seek to repeat.

This will be the first year for a new playoff system, though, so it will require the Seminoles to defeat multiple, high-quality opponents if they're meant to successfully defend their title. Standing in their way are a slew of quality teams, namely the No. 2-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, winners of three of the last five national championships.

Coming in at third are the Oklahoma Sooners, who defeated Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to get a big win for coach Bob Stoops after some recent difficulties in the postseason. That bodes well for the Sooners' chances to contend for college football's ultimate prize in 2014.

All of these teams are experiencing quite a bit of roster turnover, though, so let's take a closer look at the established top three atop the NCAA hierarchy.

 

 

No. 1 Florida State Seminoles

Jameis Winston returns to quarterback the team he led to the national title as a mere freshman, but a number of absences at the skill positions will demand more from the sophomore signal-caller.

Wide receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw are no longer around, while running backs Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. are also gone. That leaves Karlos Williams in the backfield, along with seasoned receiver Rashad Greene as Winston's likely No. 1 target.

Tight end Nick O'Leary will figure prominently in the passing game, too, and so as long as Winston continues to develop in coach Jimbo Fisher's complex offense, Florida State should be fine on that side of the ball.

As for defense, there is a plethora of talent gone from last year's starting 11 that the Seminoles need to account for, namely inside linebacker Telvin Smith. Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan is a big subtraction from the trenches, and the secondary also took hits in losing safeties Lamarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks.

Fisher is deploying a hard-line, intense approach in dictating to his players what it will take to repeat as champions, per ESPN.com's Jared Shanker:

We study guys who had attitudes of domination who won for long periods of time -- Joe Montana, John Elway repeated, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson. Those guys all had that killer instinct and were guys who wanted to be on top, stayed on top, and one championship wasn't enough.

[...] Michael Jordan, you never saw him not play to the max, and that, to me, to the players, sends a message. It’s a constant education to me, to these kids, to get them to think in that type of mold, because it’s human nature to win and relax.

There's the saying that it's better to aim high and fall short than to not shoot for the stars. It appears Fisher isn't afraid of challenging his players to succeed on an all-time great level. That's what it will take, especially with the playoffs and every opponent wanting to be the one that topples the mighty champions.

Winston's ability to carry the weight on offense will also depend on Williams settling into a feature back role. The defense also must reload and stop the run close to how it did in 2013 (via NCAA.com), where the Seminoles allowed a nation-low seven touchdowns on the ground.

 

No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide

Just as Florida State was last year with Freeman, Wiliams and Wilder, the Tide will go three deep in the backfield this year with T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake.

Yeldon already has 26 touchdowns on the ground in two years in Tuscaloosa, but Henry's emergence in the Sugar Bowl loss last year may lead to a more even split on carries. The big question for Alabama is: Who will be running the offense now that AJ McCarron is gone to the NFL?

The QB competition between fifth-year senior Blake Sims and Florida State transfer Jacob Coker is ongoing, but it appears Coker is the favorite to take the job. If these rankings hold up, it would be quite fascinating to see Coker battle the Seminoles for the national championship as a member of the Tide.

Here's what wide receiver Christion Jones had to say about Coker, per USA Today's Marq Burnett:

He definitely has sparks that he brings to the table that's shown that he can be one of the greatest quarterbacks to play here. But I can also say all our quarterbacks show those sparks at moments that they can be that quarterback. It's just going to be all about being consistent and coming out every day and competing and being consistent with your performance.

Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram responded to that in reporting that most expect Coker to get the nod over Sims:

Coker has the superior talent from the pocket, while Sims could still be deployed in a package thanks to his running ability. Either way, this figures to be a more dynamic offense under first-year coordinator Lane Kiffin than the Tide have had in the past.

The physical identity and ground-and-pound power playing will still be there, but with playmakers like Amari Cooper on the outside, this unit could be as special as it's been in years.

And coach Nick Saban always has an elite defense, though it will be interesting to see how he tweaks his schemes this year. After Texas A&M Heisman winner Johnny Manziel lit up the Tide two years in a row and dual-threat Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight put on a breakout show in the Sugar Bowl, Saban must find a way to neutralize more athletic quarterbacks.

That will ultimately determine how successful Alabama is. The Tide are bound to be among the best teams in the nation, but containing QBs in the open field and navigating a brutal SEC schedule are the chief concerns. A more explosive passing game and perpetually fresh legs at running back should help.

 

No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners

A lot of Oklahoma's high ranking seems to be predicated on the fact that Knight came to play against Alabama and Stoops won a big game. However, now the pressure is on in Norman for the Sooners to make the playoffs and become a true factor in the national championship picture.

Knight must play at the level he flashed against the Tide for Oklahoma to be a true contender. After all, quarterbacks often separate the good teams from the ones that are truly great at any level of football.

There's no question all the skills are there for Knight to be a threat with his arm and legs. What remains to be seen is whether he can sustain the brilliance he showed in dismantling Alabama.

"He can be the Sugar Bowl guy," said Sooners co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, per USA Today's George Schroeder. "Everybody in our program is really confident he's gonna be that. He's got a really high ceiling."

Lightning-quick pass-rusher Eric Striker will be screaming off the edge to give Big 12 QBs nightmares. Rising sophomore Dominique Alexander is bound to lead the Sooners in tackles with his nose for the ball, though, giving Oklahoma a formidable linebacker corps.

Former Sooners QB Blake Bell has transitioned over to tight end, so he could be an X-factor for the Oklahoma offense with his size and speed. As long as he can block and use his big frame to shield defenders, Knight could connect with him often in the red zone, giving the Sooners an added dimension.

All three of the top-ranked teams should be deep, but neither the Tide nor Oklahoma have a settled quarterback situation. That could wind up costing both a shot at the national championship, while Winston should prove to be an elite option for Florida State once again. The disparity will likely reveal itself if any combination of these teams meet in the new playoffs.

With the new postseason comes a chance for teams not as highly ranked at the moment to leapfrog the established powers with transcendent QB play. That's why the premier programs should be on the lookout for Marcus Mariota and the fourth-ranked Oregon Ducks, the Brett Hundley-led No. 7 UCLA Bruins and the No. 10 Baylor Bears, quarterbacked by Bryce Petty.

This college football season may not have quite the complications the BCS has tended to promote in the past. However, the playoff twist and talent depth at the all-important quarterback position should make it as compelling as ever.

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Florida State Football: Derrick Brooks' Florida Legacy Goes Way Beyond Football

Derrick Brooks was determined to be successful wherever he played football. From Pensacola to Tallahassee to Tampa, Brooks was not just an All-American or an All-Pro—he was a charismatic leader.

And on Saturday, Brooks will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after 11 Pro Bowl seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Brooks didn't have to leave the Sunshine State to find success.

He was USA Today's National Defensive player of the Year in 1990 at Pensacola's Washington High. Brooks then transitioned from a 205-pound safety into a 225-pound linebacker at Florida State, where he helped the Seminoles win a national title in 1993 and was a consensus All-American in '93 and '94.

"From the time he came in to Tallahassee until he left, he was your model student, athlete and person," said former Seminoles defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews, who recruited Brooks and coached him at FSU.

Brooks led by example and he set a high standard. He had 274 career tackles and five interceptions in his FSU career. But Andrews also remembers how Brooks prepared for games and cited the "depth of his knowledge" on the football field.

His leadership abilities were unquestioned.

"I guess you would say there's a place for privates, sergeants, colonels and generals," Andrews said. "The ones that get to be generals are the ones that lead by example but also vocally."

The lessons learned at FSU carried on to the NFL—even though he was drafted in the first round by the Buccaneers in 1995, one of the NFL's doormats for nearly two decades. In the 19 seasons since the expansion team began in 1976, the franchise had enjoyed just three winning seasons.

What Brooks brought to the Bucs was a dedication to football, to playing the sport at the highest level, preparing for each game and refusing to accept losing. It was something that began in Pensacola and continued in Tallahassee. Brooks knew how to not just win, but also win a championship. And he wanted to do the same thing in Tampa.

"He brought high character and he brought that desire to win," former Bucs coach Tony Dungy said. "That's what transformed the Bucs. They weren't used to losing (at FSU)."

The transformation took time. Brooks was drafted in 1995 and the Bucs went 7-9 in coach Sam Wyche's final season. But he played in 16 games, started 13, and had 78 tackles as a rookie. 

Dungy was hired before the 1996 season, and the Bucs went 6-10. But Tampa Bay then made the playoffs in five of the following six seasons. And Brooks was routinely anchoring the middle of the defense.

"He was just a perfect guy for us to play in that system," Dungy said. "The thing he brought was preparation. Not going to leave any stone unturned. He understood how offenses would attack us. He put us in position to make plays."

While Dungy was out as the Bucs coach after a Wild Card loss in 2001, the team enjoyed a special 2002 season. The Bucs capped a 12-4 year with playoff wins over the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles, and they won Super Bowl XXXVII in January 2013 by dominating the Oakland Raiders 48-21.

Brooks helped put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter when he intercepted a pass from Oakland's Rich Gannon and went 44 yards for a touchdown.

"The Super Bowl touchdown is special because, you know, very few people get that opportunity to play in the game alone and have a turnover that effects the game in the way that my interception did," Brooks said in a teleconference on July 22.

Brooks had quite an effect on the NFL. He was 6'0" and 235 pounds (adding 10 pounds from his FSU days) but he "transformed the position by developing into one of the best all-around linebackers in league history," writes Fred Goodall of The Associated Press.

While Brooks gives credit to the 4-3 defensive scheme that the Bucs utilized, he feels that he played his position so well that other teams tried to copy what Tampa Bay was doing.

"Players play the game, the system don't," Brooks said in the teleconference. "The system puts you in a position to play the game. So I like to think I set the standard when it got to the 4-3 defense for a bunch of years to the tune where a lot of teams tried to emulate what we did and how we played throughout my career."

Brooks played all 14 seasons in Tampa, collecting 1,698 tackles. He was an 11-time Pro Bowl selection.

"He's a great player," Dungy said. "He's going in the Hall of Fame. But he's a much better person than he is a player."

 

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report, all quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. All stats are courtesy of FSU media guides, Pro-Football-Reference.com and ESPN.com.

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Adidas Unveils New Red Rising TECHFIT Alternate Uniforms for Nebraska

Thanks to Adidas, the Nebraska Cornhuskers are celebrating their 125th year of football in style.

Nebraska will be wearing new Red Rising TECHFIT uniforms for its Sept. 27 game against Illinois. The jerseys include ultra-light black and silver numbers, and the jerseys and pants use black metallic stripes.

Adidas used TECHFIT Shockweb technology, which makes players tougher to tackle because it clings to the body, on the uniforms.

It's a pretty drastic new look for Nebraska.

Cornhuskers coach Bo Pelini got in on the fun of unveiling the uniforms:

The players had to be pretty pumped up to see their coach in the new gear.

[Huskers.com, Twitter]

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SEC Football Q&A: Alabama's DBs, LSU/Wisconsin and Dark-Horse Title Contenders

Do you hear that? Those are pads. Those pads? They're popping.

Ahh, football. 

Fall camp is here, and let's kick off the season in style with a Friday tradition—SEC football Q&A.

What will Alabama's secondary look like? Will LSU roll Wisconsin in Houston? Who's a dark horse to win the SEC Championship?

 

@BarrettSallee what your expectations of Alabama's DB'S

— Jeremy Gardner (@Jeremygardner4) July 25, 2014

I expect them to be much more consistent, because while Alabama did post the SEC's second-best pass defense (180.3 YPG) last year, it was more due to weak competition than it was its play.

There are options for head coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. Cyrus Jones and Bradley Sylve played quite a bit last year, Tony Brown (early enrollee) and Marlon Humphrey (summer enrollee) signed as part of the class of 2014, and Eddie Jackson still intends to come back this season from a torn ACL suffered in the spring.

The rotating door opposite recently departed corner Deion Belue prevented any of the corners from getting into a groove last year, and I expect—no matter who the two starting corners and starting nickel are—that Saban and Smart will be a little more hesitant to rotate them this year.

Who exactly will the starters be? As you see in the video below, I expect Brown and Humphrey to get the nod, while my B/R colleague Michael Felder veers toward Brown and Jones. Whoever it is, they'll be much better than they were last year due in large part to a filthy front seven and pressure from the newcomers.

 

@BarrettSallee W/Les being 35-0 v reg season noncons, is there a shot LSU rolls the Badgers & becomes the dark horse in the SEC?

— Dan Vasta (@CI_StatsGuru) July 31, 2014

There's a shot, sure. But it's a long shot.

Wisconsin is no slouch. It'll line up LSU and make defensive coordinator John Chavis' defense beat it. While tackles Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson were slight disappointments last year, their presence impacted the game in a variety of ways.

Whether it's Christian LaCouture, Quentin Thomas or others, they've got to focus on stopping Melvin Gordon—which is not an easy task.

The Badgers are breaking in a brand-new linebacking corps, so there's a spot where LSU's offense can make some waves. But will offensive coordinator Cam Cameron even open things up?

With a young quarterback and minimal experience at wide receiver, I don't know if LSU will put itself in position to roll the Badgers. That's what makes that five-point line that VegasInsider.com has posted seem so legit. It's going to be a low-scoring, ugly, slugfest.

As for LSU being a dark horse in the conference? LSU shouldn't ever be considered a dark horse. Am I sold on LSU this year? No. But its down years are still nine- or 10-win seasons, which should always get it in the conversation.

 

@BarrettSallee dark horse to win the SEC?

— (@bunjaminn) July 25, 2014

The popular answer will likely be one of the two Mississippi schools, Ole Miss or Mississippi State. Both will be competitive, and I like Ole Miss to make things very difficult with a few of the SEC West's big boys, but that division is the toughest neighborhood in college football.

It's more likely that a dark horse emerges from the SEC East, and I'll take Florida out of that division. No, I don't think the Gators will actually win it (I picked Georgia at media days), but it wouldn't surprise me in the least bit if the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (yes, we still use its proper name) decides the division title.

Florida's defense is loaded, which allows some wiggle room for the new offense led by coordinator Kurt Roper. The Gators don't have to be great, they just have to be good, and quarterback Jeff Driskel is certainly capable of that.

It seems like Florida has been gaining some momentum this offseason, but only two SEC East programs—South Carolina and Georgia—received votes to win the entire conference at media days. It wouldn't surprise me if Florida elbows its way into that discussion by midseason.

 

Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send it to SEC Lead Writer Barrett Sallee on Twitter at @BarrettSallee. If your question wasn't answered this week, it has been saved and could be used in the future.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings are courtesy of 247Sports, and all stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com.


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Should Texas Really Be Ranked in 2014 Preseason Top 25 Coaches Poll?

Considering all of the questions that surround Texas football under its new head coach Charlie Strong, the fact that the Longhorns are ranked at all is a surprise.

The 2014 preseason Amway Coaches Poll is out, and the Longhorns are ranked at No. 24.

It would be fair to say Texas has not proven anything to put them in the Top 25. Are the Longhorns at ground zero with no future ahead?

No.

But when one considers the significant amount of change that has occurred since January, it is safe to say the Texas football program is in a bit of a rebuilding period.

And that rebuilding period leaves a lot of question marks for the immediate future.

There is an entirely new staff in Austin, the offensive line lost all but one of its veteran linemen from 2013, the quarterback position is still a huge question mark and the list goes on.

Texas went 8-5 in 2013 and ended its season with a 30-7 defeat in the Alamo Bowl. Sure, there's new leadership at the top, but Strong inherited a team with a lot of holes on its depth chart.

And the recent dismissals of Joe Bergeron, Chevoski Collins and Jalen Overstreet, in addition to the indefinite suspensions of Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander, only add to the number of holes on the two-deep.

But the question marks truly begin with the leader of the offense.

 

Quarterback

Strong named David Ash the starting quarterback heading into fall camp, but Ash's injury-prone past is not something anyone can overlook.

After spending the majority of the 2013 season with recurring concussion symptoms, Ash appeared to be healthy in time for spring practice.

That health lasted roughly three weeks.

Ash suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot midway through the spring and was sidelined for the Longhorns spring game.

Although he appears to be healthy heading into fall camp, the question of how long his health will last will continue to follow him.

Next on the list of position question marks is the group of men who help protect the quarterback.

 

Offensive Line

If fans happened to watch the Texas spring game, they would know the offensive line allowed eight sacks and 13 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for a total loss of 68 yards.

Spring games do not always show the accurate picture of the team, but Strong did mention the offensive line as one of his biggest concerns for the season.

"The offensive line is a position you're concerned about," Strong said at Big 12 media days. "(Dominic) Espinosa is a returning starter and you have some guys who have played in games, but you want to make sure you're really good up front, and we haven't seen that yet."

Texas hired one of the best offensive line coaches in college football in Joe Wickline, and his talents will be put to the test during his first season coaching in Austin.

 

Scheme Changes

Aside from specific positions, one of the biggest remaining questions for the Longhorns is how well the team can learn the staff's new scheme.

When Strong and Co. took over for former head coach Mack Brown and his staff, the Longhorns had to not only get to know the new coaches, but also get to know an entirely new system.

And that task is not something that will be learned overnight.

When it's all said and done, the number of question marks surrounding the Texas Longhorns makes it nearly impossible to agree with the preseason No. 24 ranking.

Will the questions be answered once fall camp begins? Possibly, but until the Longhorns take the field against one of the most difficult opponents on the schedule, such as UCLA on Sept. 13, the questions will likely remain unanswered.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

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Michigan Is Ohio State's Only Rival, but Michigan State Can't Be Ignored

There's a big difference between the concept of a rivalry game and a rival. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer made that very clear while speaking at Big Ten media days in Chicago this week.

The Buckeyes play in a number of rivalry games. When Ohio State takes the field against Penn State or Illinois, they're engaging in a rivalry game.

But the Buckeyes only have one true rival—a distinction reserved for That Team Up North.

That Team Up North, of course, is Michigan. The Wolverines are so respected that they command Ohio State's singular attention, but they're so hated that those in the Buckeyes' camp refuse to utter the word "Michigan."

It's That Team Up North. In Ann Arbor, Ohio State is simply referred to as Ohio. 

That rivalry, rooted in a century's worth of animosity, makes it hard for anyone else to register on the Buckeyes' radar.

“You’ve got to be clear, though, there’s one rival and that will never change," Meyer said of Michigan, according to David Briggs of The Toledo Blade.

“It will always be The Team Up North," defensive tackle Michael Bennett added, via Briggs. "No matter what happens.”

That may be the case, but Michigan State is making a lot of noise.

That noise started last December in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Buckeyes were one win away from playing Florida State for the national title, but the Spartans dashed those hopes with a 34-24 upset.

That game set the stage for this year's matchup. The Big Ten's realignment put Ohio State and Michigan State in the same division, and they're set to face off in East Lansing this November—under the lights in prime time.

Ohio State's chance at revenge is the most anticipated Big Ten game of the season, according to Tom Dienhart of the Big Ten Network.

But it's not just about settling the score. 

Michigan State has earned the respect it's getting with a dominant 2013 campaign. The Spartans became the first team in conference history to beat each of their league opponents by double digits. They also gave the Big Ten its first Rose Bowl victory since Ohio State defeated Oregon at the end of the 2009 season.

At Big Ten media days, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller talked about how eager he is to take on the Spartans.

"This season is a night game, and night games are my deal. It’s going to be show time, go time,” Miller said, according to Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors

While Ohio State will be seeking redemption, Michigan State will be fighting for validation. Even after bulldozing their way through the Big Ten, beating Stanford in the Rose Bowl and finishing No. 3 in the final polls last season, Mark Dantonio's squad still feels disrespected and underappreciated. 

"We could win the Rose Bowl, the Big Ten championship and a national championship, and we still wouldn’t get the respect we deserve," Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook said, via Rowland.

Ohio State saw firsthand how good the Spartans were last December, so there's no lack of respect in Columbus. 

With Michigan State's ascent, should the Buckeyes start staying "Those Teams Up North" to properly address an "emerging" rivalry? According to Meyer, that will never happen, but the Spartans certainly have Ohio State's attention. 


David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. 

Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412

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Notre Dame Football: 4 Locks for the 2014 Season

At this time of year, so much of the discussion surrounding the upcoming football season involves uncertainty and projection. That’s even more so the case for the inexperienced and relatively unproven Notre Dame football team in 2014.

The quarterback—whoever it may be—will have not taken a game snap since the 2012 season. The defense must replace five starters from the front seven.

But with fall camp upon us, let’s discuss some of the locks for this Irish squad in 2014. Now, to be clear, these aren’t absolute certainties that the coaching staff has said to be true. Rather, these are our high-probability predictions for Notre Dame’s upcoming season.

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SEC Extra Points with Barrett Sallee: Leonard Fournette, Alabama's LBs and More

No Pressure, Kid

The hype machine around LSU true freshman running back Leonard Fournette just keeps spinning.

After being compared to NBA legend Michael Jordan by head coach Les Miles and referred to as potentially one of the "best ever" by fellow running back Terrence Magee at media days last month, Miles doubled down while speaking at the Baton Rouge Rotary Club this week.

"Leonard Fournette is either the fastest or the second fastest guy on our team at 6-foot-1, 230 pounds," Miles said, according to Trey Labat of Nola.com. "He's going to get two A's in his summer classes and he's proved to be a quality young man."

Before LSU takes the field against Wisconsin, Fournette better have already run for a mile and a half, otherwise he's going to be viewed as a bust.

Let's be real for a second—Fournette may be "the next Adrian Peterson," but he's not going to be the next AD right away. With Magee and senior Kenny Hilliard in the backfield, a new quarterback, new wide receivers and a veteran offensive line, LSU needs all of its running backs to hit the ground running—especially early in the season.

On top of that, the Tigers have to do all they can to make their quarterback comfortable, whether it's sophomore Anthony Jennings or true freshman Brandon Harris. Blitz pickups are often the last piece of the puzzle for young running backs, so expect Magee and Hilliard to be featured early as Fournette eases his way into superstardom.

 

Not Rebuilding, Reloading

It's not easy replacing a legend, but that's exactly what either Reggie Ragland or Reuben Foster will be doing at Alabama.

With C.J. Mosley gone, Alabama is left looking for a replacement at "Will" linebacker alongside Trey DePriest. Andrew Gribble of AL.com surmised that junior Reggie Ragland will get the nod, while his colleague Michael Casagrande backed sophomore (and former recruiting lightning rod) Reuben Foster as the long-term solution.

What does this mean for head coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart?

It means they have a "rich man's problem."

Choosing between Ragland and Foster is like choosing between a filet mignon and a bone-in ribeye at a fine steakhouse. You're not going to go wrong either way.

I'll throw my support toward the Ragland campaign. It's important for Alabama's middle linebackers to get the rest of the defense on the same page, so by coupling a senior DePriest with another veteran in Ragland, Alabama's defense will be in good hands.

 

Frustrating Injuries

Georgia wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell has all the potential in the world and is being counted on to be a major contributor to this year's Georgia Bulldogs.

He just has to find his way to the field.

The 2011 SEC All-Freshman Team member tore his ACL celebrating a touchdown in the season opener versus Clemson last year and then missed spring practice with another leg injury. As fall camp starts, Mitchell is looking at more missed time.

According to Seth Emerson of the Macon (Georgia) Telegraph, Mitchell will miss the start of fall camp in Athens due to another knee injury. The extent of that injury isn't known at this time, but the mounting injuries have to be getting frustrating for Mitchell, head coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.

Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald reported the specifics of the injury.

UGA: WR Malcolm Mitchell underwent an arthroscopic procedure to address cartilage injury on right knee this week. No timetable for return.

— Marc Weiszer (@marcweiszer) August 1, 2014

Georgia has weapons outside to compensate for Mitchell if he has to miss some time. Chris Conley is a bona fide star, Michael Bennett is a veteran who can be either a deep threat or a weapon over the middle and Justin Scott-Wesley—who also is coming back from an ACL injury—is a burner who can put pressure on the back end of a defense.

Add Mitchell and a punishing running game to that mix, and new starting quarterback Hutson Mason will be just fine.

 

Home Isn't Where The Heart Is

Mississippi State defensive tackle Chris Jones might be the most underrated player in the SEC. 

Note the position: Defensive tackle.

Only don't tell Jones that because he sees himself more as a defensive end. 

"I tell them all the time, I'm not a D-tackle. That's just the position I'm playing right now," Jones told Michael Bonner of the The Clarion-Ledger. "I'm a defensive end at heart."

He says it with a smile, which suggests that the 6'5", 308-pound sophomore knows he'll be inside more than outside. As Bob Carskadon of HailState.com notes, he will do both.

@BarrettSallee and no matter what he's listed as, he'll get plenty of snaps at both. (Though yes, much more at DT.)

— Bob Carskadon (@bobcarskadon) July 30, 2014

Jones' heart may be outside, but in a few years, he's going to be a highly paid NFL defensive tackle. In this case, he should follow his mind, not his heart.

 

Aggie Swag

Who could forget this gem from Texas A&M when it entered the SEC?

Texas A&M's new locker room has "Aggie Swag" by the truckloads.

Designated LED screens over every player's locker? Yep. Television screens located within the mirror in front of each sink? Check. In-house barber shop? It's got that too. 

Texas A&M's locker room looks more like a five-star, all-inclusive resort than it does a football locker room.

Well done, Aggies.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.


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Malcolm Mitchell Injury: Updates on Georgia WR's Knee and Return

Georgia wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell is dealing with another setback in his recovery from an ACL injury. No timetable for his return has been set following arthroscopic surgery.

Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Mitchell was running routes to get prepared for the Bulldogs' preseason camp when he suffered the latest injury. The school provided few details about his outlook after surgery:

UGA on Friday confirmed that Georgia's star wide receiver will miss at least "the first part" of Georgia's preseason practices after suffering the injury while running pass routes with teammates this week. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on Thursday to repair cartilage damage. A full recovery is anticipated, but his availability for the Bulldogs' season opener against Clemson will have to be determined later.

Mitchell was originally hurt in last season's opener against the same Tigers squad Georgia is slated to face to start this season. He missed the rest of the campaign, but was expected back at full strength in time for the Clemson rematch.

It hasn't been a smooth process, however.

In March, Jerry Hinnen of CBS Sports noted Mitchell was forced to miss the latter stages of spring practice after suffering an injury involving his left leg. The report stated he was expected to recover in time for fall practice.

Mitchell seemed on pace to reach that expectation and now he's forced to take another step back. It's an unfortunate string of issues for a wideout that showed so much potential over his first two seasons.

The junior caught 85 passes for over 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns over that span. He emerged as a key target on third down and in the red zone for the run-first offense.

Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph provided some insight on how long the injury may keep the talented target sidelined:

Michael Bennett and Chris Conley will once again be expected to step up in his absence. They were the team's two leading receivers last season, but it's hard to expect the offense to reach it's full potential if Mitchell isn't ready to go for the opener.

The Bulldogs will hope he's able to make a quick recovery from his latest surgery. The key will then be getting him through a couple practice sessions without any further setbacks. Based on the last 12 months, it's unfortunately far from a guarantee.

 

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Florida Football: 5 Games That Could Ruin Gators' 2014 Season

It only takes one or two losses for a team’s college football season to be completely destroyed. While the Florida Gators should have a little more leeway than that, they saw last year just how quickly things can spiral out of control.

Whether it’s a trap game or a meeting capable of getting absolutely ugly, there are plenty of matchups on Florida’s schedule that could be the deciding factor between success and failure. It’s a battle each week for every team in the SEC.

Here are some of the key games that could make or break Florida’s season. 

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