NCAA Football

College Football Teams on High Upset Alert in Month of October

The calendar has shifted to October, which in the college football world means we're getting into the meat of the schedule. The first month had plenty of great matchups but also a lot of dogs, but in October the presence of conference play raises the overall level of each week's schedule.

It also means there are far more occasions when the best teams in the FBS will be on upset alert.

It could be the opponent, the venue or when the game sits on the slate, or some combination of these factors that makes certain games more dangerous than they might appear on paper. It was this weekend last October when it seemed like no ranked team was safe, with Oklahoma, Oregon, UCLA, USC and Wisconsin all losing to unranked or lower-ranked opponents.

Which teams have the most to worry about in this department this October? Take a look at which teams we think should be looking over their shoulders.

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Don't Lose Sight of What Leonard Fournette Is Doing Now Amid NFL Debate

As the calendar turns from September to October and the college football season really kicks into high gear with conference play beginning in earnest, it’s time for two of everybody’s favorite things to happen: the early-season Heisman Trophy being handed out and a pointless debate that riles up fans from Sunday to Friday.

This year, the two are related because they converge on one player: LSU running back Leonard Fournette.

Following another nearly flawless performance against Syracuse in Week 4 in which Fournette rushed for 244 yards and two scores, the big sophomore is up to eight scores already this season—all against Power Five competition—and is averaging a ridiculous 8.6 yards per carry.

Naturally, these types of numbers have led to the Tigers star taking the early lead in the Heisman race.

Based on his hot start, there's good reason for that, and even those already holding the prestigious trophy have started to label Fournette as the front-runner for the Heisman.

"He's better than I was," former Georgia star and 1982 Heisman winner Herschel Walker told TMZ earlier this week.

That’s high and deserving praise based on what Fournette has accomplished so far this season. The fact that he’s being labeled the guy in college football at this point has, however, spawned a pointless debate that has filled up sports talk radio and set social media on fire with hot takes galore.

As noted by's Chase Goodbread, there's a notion going around that Fournette, a sophomore, should sit out his junior season in 2016 in order to save himself for the 2017 NFL draft. Even his head coach is not buying the talk.

"To me, there's a lot of people out there stirring the pot," LSU’s Les Miles said during his weekly radio show on Wednesday night, according to "Just, let's make controversy. Why not? OK? I can't imagine that Leonard would be sitting anywhere inactive for a fall. I just can't possibly imagine it."

My first reaction to this topic was similar to Miles’ opinion: This is simply debate for debate’s sake after a somewhat slow week. My second thought was along the lines of "not again."

We went through the positives and negatives of this a few years ago when South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney was coming off a phenomenal sophomore season and being dragged into the same debate over sitting out in order to save himself for the NFL.

The debate is foolish for a number of factors and, quite simply, it’s pointless.

Until a young player actually decides to sit out for a year, we’re all just talking about hypotheticals. Secondly, until the NFL actually changes its rules to allow players less than three years out of high school to enter the draft, we’re all just rambling on about something that can’t and won’t happen.

It was the case with Clowney and it is the same case with Fournette. It was the case before those two, too.

Now would also be a good time to remind those who have forgotten that we’ve had experience with terrific college players sitting out a season before (including a running back), and things simply haven’t worked out for them. We shouldn’t expect anything different if Fournette were to do the same.

Remember, back in 2003 after he was suspended by Ohio State, Maurice Clarett took to the courts in order to get himself to be declared eligible for the NFL draft after just two seasons.

After the initial ruling came down in his favor, Clarett was later stuck in no-man’s land when an appeals court overturned the decision and left the running back unable to play in college (he hired an agent) or the NFL.

It was one of the greater what-ifs in college football. What would have happened had Clarett kept his head on straight and returned to Columbus after a sensational freshman year that was capped off with a surprise national title over one of the best teams ever assembled?

Heck, what would have happened if the diminutive back would have been eligible for the draft and made his way through the NFL despite being years younger than his fellow wide-eyed rookies?

We’ll never know, of course. Clarett was surprisingly drafted in the third round in 2005 but never played a down in the league. USC wide receiver Mike Williams, who followed a similar path in declaring himself eligible for the draft after his sophomore season, was taken in the top 10 in 2005 but failed to amount to much at the next level.

Each may have had the opportunity to trade in their skills for a paycheck, but it didn’t seem to work out long-term for either.

Those were two fantastic college football players who had a season taken away from them in the sport where everybody enjoyed watching them play at the highest level.

Fournette can do whatever he pleases after this year—and it’s crazy we’re talking about this subject only four games into 2015—and it can be his decision.

We adults, fans, pundits and coaches shouldn’t lecture him on what to do and what not to do, but for completely selfish reasons, it sure would be a shame to not be able to see Fournette play next year.

We simply get too little time with star players as the college game stands. Whether it be injuries, early draft entries or the simple fact that waves of replacements land at colleges across the country each February, one’s shelf life in college football is simply not all that long.

"It's a bad idea to talk about leaving early, just wait and your time will come,” Walker added in his interview with TMZ. Amen.

Stop the silly debate about sitting out for the NFL and take a moment to enjoy generational talents like Fournette, Georgia’s Nick Chubb, Cal’s Jared Goff, USC’s Adoree’ Jackson and others. Before you know it, we’ll only be able to see them in a different jersey on Sundays—and in a far different version of the sport of football to boot.

More to the point, even with somebody who looks 35 years old like Fournette, there’s a reasoning behind that three-year rule the NFL has to prevent early entries into the draft: Players simply aren’t ready physically and mentally.

Rookies in the NFL struggle for many reasons, and part of it is because they have to adjust to a much more complex job. The other part is the physical pounding they are taking from older players over a much longer season. At a position like running back, that is magnified even more than at another spot like quarterback.

So I’ll say it again: Stop the silly debate over Fournette sitting out in 2016. In fact, forget all about it because it is such a moot point.

Soak in those runs where he punishes teams between the tackles and finds the end zone from over 50 yards away. Enjoy the tailback who is deservedly in the running for the award handed out to the most outstanding player in college football.

More than anything, keep an eye out to see if he can single-handedly will a one-dimensional offense to a division and possibly an SEC Championship.

College football should be glad to have the opportunity to see Fournette in an LSU jersey this season and next, even if that might not be the case for opponents on the Tigers' schedule.


You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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Garrett Rand to Wisconsin: Badgers Land 4-Star DT Prospect

No matter the result of Saturday's game against the Iowa Hawkeyes, this week is already a win for head coach Paul Chryst and the Wisconsin Badgers. According to Badger247's Evan Flood, Wisconsin secured the commitment of 4-star defensive tackle Garrett Rand on Thursday.

"He loved the coaches and the fans. Just a good positive environment all around," Rand's father said to Flood of the Badgers' program.

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Rand is the No. 15 defensive tackle and No. 131 player overall in the 2016 recruiting class. With his addition, Wisconsin climbed seventh spots to 24th in 247Sports' composite team rankings.

One of the things that immediately stands out about Rand is his strength. 247Sports' Steve Wiltfong highlighted just how much power he'll bring to the defensive line in Madison, Wisconsin:

That level of strength is all the more impressive since Rand is listed at 6'3" and 275 pounds.

Because Rand's a bit smaller for a defensive tackle, Chryst could use him as a defensive end in certain situations. The Chandler, Arizona, native is tough to block when he gets a full head of steam.

While his technique still needs refinement, Rand could have an immediate impact on the Wisconsin defense if the staff wants to use him right away.    

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Why the Alabama Special Teams Could Be Its Achilles' Heel vs. Georgia

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — More than anything, there was a sense of relief last week that perhaps the University of Alabama football team had finally turned a corner in one important area.

It wasn’t the passing game, which still has question marks, or the defense that pulled off a shutout, but rather the Crimson Tide's special teams.

Adam Griffith made two solid field goals during the 34-0 victory against Louisiana-Monroe at Bryant-Denny Stadium, drilling attempts from 40 and 35 yards. Even with them, the struggling kicker was just 3-for-7 on the disappointing season.

“We have a lot of confidence in Griff, I’ve always said that,” head coach Nick Saban said. “I think that getting his plant foot right is something that he’s now doing and has confidence in. Hopefully he’ll be able to build on the success that he had today and continue to do a nice job for us in the future.

“I think he just has to think the right things and focus on the technique that he needs for us to have success, and when he does that, he’s a very good kicker.”

Still, the biggest surprise with the Crimson Tide in 2015 has been the porous special teams play, which may have cost Alabama one game and can easily make the difference in a showdown like it has Saturday at No. 8 Georgia (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, CBS).

So far the highlights have been a perfect 18-for-18 on extra-point attempts, a blocked punt against Middle Tennessee resulting in a safety, and the only successfully executed onside kick in the Southeastern Conference—although Ole Miss might argue it was due to illegally batting the ball forward.

Don’t expect the Rebels to do any complaining, though, because for the second straight year Alabama’s fumble issues on kick returns played a huge part in Ole Miss pulling out a win.

Moreover, none of Alabama’s three scholarship players on special teams are having a good season, including punter JK Scott, who appears to be having a sophomore slump after earning All-American status in 2014. Long-snapper Cole Mazza has also missed the last two games for what has only been called “medical reasons.”

"Great long snapper,” Scott said about Mazza during training camp. “He's the best in the country, hands down.”

Statistically, Alabama’s special teams have been a huge disappointment. 

  • Kickoff coverage: This is arguably where Alabama’s been its best on special teams. The net average, which means the kickoff yards minus the return, is 41.6 yards. That’s sixth in the 14-team SEC. 
  • Kickoff returns: Alabama’s averaging 18.6 yards per return, roughly half of league-leader Tennessee’s 35.2. It ranks 11th in the conference.
  • Punting: Scott’s average is a shocking 38.8 yards, and the Crimson Tide’s net yards per punt is just 36.3.
  • Punt-return average: Alabama’s 7.1-yard average is last in the league. Cyrus Jones finally broke a big return against ULM, only to see it officially listed as 22 yards due to a block-to-the-back penalty.
  • Field goals: Griffith’s 42.9 completion percentage is last in the league.

Last year Alabama was 14-of-22 on field goals, which tanked to 13th in the conference. It was eighth in kickoff coverage and kickoff returns and ninth in punt returns. But it was first in punting, as Scott regularly gave his team a huge advantage in field position.

As a freshman, his yards per punt (48.0), net yards per punt (44.67) and percentage of punts downed inside the 20-yard line (56.4) weren’t just the best in the nation on the collegiate level, but statistically better than any punter in the National Football League.

He hasn’t been anywhere near as steady in 2015, although Scott’s had six punts inside the 20 and the average return has been just 1.3 yards.

“I think that there’s been a little inconsistency sometime in his drop, which was the problem with the poor kick (against Wisconsin), in that he dropped the ball on the outside,” Saban said in early September. “So when he drops it correctly and hits it with a nice, smooth pace, he’s pretty consistent and kicks it really, really well. We have a lot of confidence in him. He just has to get confidence back in his drop, and he’ll be fine.”

Nevertheless, with Alabama’s high level of overall talent, it should be absolutely dominant on special teams. Among those who have stood out include former walk-on Michael Nysewander and reserve cornerback Tony Brown.

"I think he's a guy that takes great pride in the way he plays on special teams,” Saban said about Brown last week. “It's his role on the team right now, and he has done probably the best job through three games of anybody in terms of his production, his performance, the effort. He's been very disruptive.”

It’ll be an area to watch at Georgia, and not just because the Bulldogs have posted comparable numbers (11th in the SEC in punting and kickoff coverage, 12th in field goals and last in kickoff returns). Alabama has 14 players on the roster who hail from the state, many of whom are special teams staples, including Griffith, running back/kick returner Kenyan Drake and senior linebacker Dillon Lee.

“All the guys from Georgia, everyone—whether it’d be LSU or wherever you have a pretty good bit of guys from that state on your team—always, going home is exciting. Everyone wants to win. No one wants to lose to their hometown school.”


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

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In Toughest Test of Season, Notre Dame Can Pave Path Toward Playoff

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Three hundred and forty-eight days ago, true freshman third-string quarterback DeShone Kizer stood on the sideline in Tallahassee, Florida, as Notre Dame Fighting Irish football nearly toppled the then-No. 2 Florida State Seminoles inside a Doak Campbell Stadium crammed with more than 82,000 rabid fans.

A season later, Kizer is reflecting on that experience as he prepares to lead No. 6 Notre Dame into Memorial Stadium on Saturday night for a clash with the No. 12 Clemson Tigers.

“I’ve never heard anything so loud in my life,” Kizer said of the environment at the Florida State game. “It feels like your insides are shaking on third down.”

The decibel levels will likely be similar, if not higher, Saturday, and the stakes have the chance to provide a similarly robust reverberation for Notre Dame.

So far, Notre Dame has sidestepped the seemingly unending nightmare of season-ending injuries to start 4-0 and climb to No. 6 in the country.

“There were some tears shed because of it,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said of the six significant injuries. “They want to accomplish the mission. That has been a focus of the group was that they really want this mission to be accomplished.”

The Irish overcame defensive ineptitude and quarterback Malik Zaire’s fractured ankle to best the Virginia Cavaliers in the waning moments on the road in Charlottesville. A week later, they swarmed the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and slowed their prolific offense.

Now, a prime-time matchup with Clemson looms. The Tigers present Notre Dame’s toughest test of the season, certainly thus far and quite possibly within the entire scope of the regular season. Couple Clemson’s talented roster with the environment in Death Valley, and Notre Dame faces an assuredly difficult challenge.

This game and its buildup feel familiar. It was around this time last October when the Irish, ranked fifth at the time, were heading south to battle the Seminoles, the No. 2 team in the nation. Kelly said Tuesday that his team was well prepared for the environment in Tallahassee last season. The Irish were.

“Just didn’t make a play or two maybe at the end that we needed to,” Kelly said, of course stirring up furor around Notre Dame nation at the thought of offensive pass interference.

But even a swallowed whistle and a win against Florida State might not have drastically changed the outlook of Notre Dame’s season. Injuries ravaged the defense, which, in turn, helped allow Navy, Arizona State, Northwestern and USC shred the unit.

This year, a win against Clemson could pave Notre Dame’s path toward the playoffs. A home game against the USC Trojans in two weeks still awaits, and the Irish conclude the regular season at the Stanford Cardinal.

But first, the Irish must solve Clemson and provide answers to the questions about this year’s group. Can they?

After all, Kizer is making his first road start. Notre Dame is still searching for defensive consistency. Kelly is still learning about his team in some areas.

“I know this. It’s a close team,” Kelly said. “They’ll play hard for each other. There’s no quit in them. They’ll overcome adversity. I think they’ll go on the road, and they’ll battle for four quarters.”

Will that be enough?

Kizer, though he felt the tremors in Tallahassee last season, was far from the field.

“He knows it’s going to be loud, and the environment is going to be electric,” Kelly said. “But he can settle that environment down by playing really well.”

As small as his sample size is, Kizer has been tested. He found Will Fuller with 12 seconds remaining to beat Virginia on the road. He helped down Georgia Tech.

“There’s always some sort of a hype. We’re Notre Dame,” Kizer pointed out this week.

True, but the bulk of the 80,000-plus fans will be wearing orange, not blue, green and gold. Notre Dame has pumped in noise and practiced its nonverbal cadence throughout the week as if Memorial Stadium will be “the loudest environment that we’ve ever played in,” Kelly said, with little to no hyperbole.

“The best way of quieting a crowd down is making big plays,” Kizer said.

If the Irish make enough, they overcome arguably their biggest hurdle and move to 5-0 for just the sixth time since 1988.

“Everybody wants to get that opportunity to compete at the highest level,” Kelly said, “and this will be one of those opportunities.”


All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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Power Ranking College Football's Top 15 QBs Heading into Week 5

Now more than ever, college football is a quarterback's game. Don't have a good one and a team's chances for success are drastically lowered, since monster running backs who can carry an offense like LSU's Leonard Fournette are the exception rather than the rule.

Take a glance at the latest Associated Press Top 25 and you'll find that most of the highest-ranked teams are led by a top-notch quarterback. It's not the only reason they're succeeding, but it certainly helps. It's also a contributing factor for most of the teams that are off to better-than-expected starts, as strong quarterback play has paced the early achievements. 

A number of factors go into determining how good a college football quarterback is, however. With so many different systems in use, not every one has the same kind of numbers that would allow for a strict numerical comparison, so in power ranking the best in FBS we've put together a formula that takes into account total offense (and the percent of a team's output they're responsible for), completion percentage, yards per pass attempt, touchdown and interception rate and quarterback rating as well as how well their team is performing in 2015.

Check out our ranking of the top 15 quarterbacks in college football heading into Week 5, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

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Bleacher Report's Week 5 College Football Playoff Predicitons

Will your team make the College Football Playoff in 2015?

While the committee won't release its first rankings until November 3, we can use the AP poll with my algorithm to make a prediction. Let me explain the key take-home points in these results.


Is it too early to make a prediction?

Week 4 might seem too early to assign a probability for making the playoff. However, the performance of college football teams tends to persist from season to season.

The Michigan Wolverines have a century of tradition and the financial resources from packing over 100,000 fans into the Big House for every game. The Louisiana Monroe Warhawks, on the other hand, have the smallest athletic department budget of any FBS school. All this to say, it's unlikely these two schools trade places. 

At The Power Rank, I also rank teams by taking margin of victory and adjusting for strength of schedule.  Each teams gets a rating, which gives a predicted margin of victory against an average team. The visual below shows how these ratings tend to persist from year to year.

This persistence allows me to calculate preseason ratings that predict more than 70 percent of game-winners since the 2005 season. With the addition of data from four weeks of games, there can be an even better estimate of each team. So in reality, it's not too early to assign a meaningful probability to each team.


Parity rules the top 10

No team has better than even odds to make the playoffs; the Baylor Bears have the highest playoff probability at 48.6 percent. Seven teams have a greater than 25 percent chance to get selected as one of the final four teams.

With so many games left to play, no team has emerged as a clear favorite to make the final four. However, the numbers do identify seven teams with the best chance. The playoff probabilities of the top teams will also increase as more games get played, as there is less opportunity for a slipup. For example, the Oregon Ducks had a greater than 70 percent chance after week 11 last season.


Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Georgia Bulldogs will impact these numbers

The top 10 in playoff probability currently features four SEC teams. Georgia and Ole Miss have the third and fourth highest playoff probability, while Alabama and LSU just make the top 10. The Crimson Tide travel to Georgia this weekend in a game that will add clarity to the top of the conference. Just like the markets, my numbers consider Georgia the favorite with a 61.9 percent win probability.

If Georgia wins, it will confirm its spot among the top teams in the country. If Alabama wins, it most likely jumps into the top five for playoff probability.


What is wrong with the Pac-12?

The Pac-12 has zero teams in the top 10 for playoff probability. The UCLA Bruins are 11th with a 14.3 percent chance. How did this happen?

Oregon has been near the top of the conference for the last five years. However, the Ducks looked awful on defense as the Utah Utes beat them 62-20 on their home turf in Eugene on Saturday. The Stanford Cardinal similarly looked terrible in a opening-week loss at the Northwestern Wildcats. However, a win at USC has vaulted them back to 21st in the AP poll and dropped the Trojans to 19th.

Utah is doing better in the AP poll, at 10th following its stunning win over Oregon.  However, it doesn't fare as well in my numbers, which limits its playoff probability to 5.5 percent, only 17th best in the nation.


Notre Dame Fighting Irish's injuries

The 4-0 Notre Dame Fighting Irish have an 18.3 percent chance to make the playoff, eighth best in the nation.

However, they have suffered major injuries on offense as quarterback Malik Zaire, tight end Durham Smythe and running back Tarean Folston are done for the season. My numbers do not account for these injuries, and it's tempting to think that the team's playoff probability drops due to these losses. However, Notre Dame's offense has played admirably the last three games in spite of the injuries.

They face a stiff test, traveling to the Clemson Tigers on Saturday. By according to my yards per play adjusted for strength of schedule, Clemson has the best defense in the nation.


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Michigan vs. Maryland Rescheduled Due to Hurricane Joaquin

In the first of what will likely be a number of scheduling changes due to Hurricane Joaquin, Saturday's matchup between Michigan and Maryland will begin at noon ET rather than its scheduled 8 p.m. ET kickoff.

"The weather experts are still dealing with uncertain probabilities for the course of Hurricane Joaquin," Jim Hackett, interim director of athletics, said in a statement. "Thus we remain vigilant on developments and will err on the side of safety for all participants and fans."

Hurricane Joaquin is considered a Category 3—the middle of a five-category scale—and is gaining strength as it prepares to reach the Eastern United States this weekend. Chris Dolce of reported that flooding is expected in the East Coast regardless of the track Joaquin takes, with some areas already beginning to see the effects before the storm even hits.

The storm is expected to bring downpours and high winds that would make travel associated with sporting events unsafe. Moving Saturday's kickoff to noon will theoretically allow the players and fans to make their way to the stadium and travel before the worst of the storm hits Maryland.

“Our foremost priority is the safety and well-being of both teams, fans attending the game and staff,” Maryland Director of Athletics Kevin Anderson said in a statement. “Our collective decision in working with the University of Michigan and the Big Ten Conference was to kick off as early as possible because of the unpredictable nature of Hurricane Joaquin. In addition, those participating, working and attending the game would not have to travel in the evening in potentially dangerous conditions.”

Maryland-Michigan is the first major event in the area to announce a rescheduling, though more may be coming as the weekend approaches. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported that Sunday's matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington may be pushed back to Week 8 if Joaquin touches down in the area.

Expected weather patterns in Dolce's report show some areas of Maryland could see upward of five inches of rain over the next week. 


Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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Where Have All the Quarterbacks Gone?

Everything is an evolution. People get bigger and stronger. But unused muscles wither, shrivel and fade. And I think I just described the decaying state of Modern Quarterback Man.      

Their brains are going unused and losing their ability to function at a high level. So the NFL has had a shortage of top QBs for a few years, and now college football does, too.

Where did all the good quarterbacks go? It's simple: The old-time quarterback got a feel for the game and led the team from that knowledge. The modern-time quarterback is a Neanderthal in that regard.

The great modern offense at Oregon had no one in the pipeline when Marcus Mariota left, and it had to rely on a college graduate to transfer in for one year. He hasn't been any good. Same thing happened at Michigan, where Jim Harbaugh has so simplified the position for his QB that it's as if he is talking…real…slow to him so he can understand.

Auburn doesn't have a quarterback. Alabama doesn't seem to, either. South Carolina, where quarterbacks could go learn from Steve Spurrier, doesn't. There's a shortage of QBs in the SEC overall. These are spots where you'd expect two or three quarterbacks waiting their chance.

But no. How can that be? We know college coaches' dumbed-down spread offenses aren't preparing quarterbacks for the pros, but why are we now seeing fewer and fewer prepared to handle even the simplified college level?

There are a lot of reasons and theories as to what's happening, really. Coaches are taking too much of the game out of the QBs' hands, leaving many of them unable and unprepared to adapt when it actually is necessary. Meanwhile, college defensive coaches have had a few years to work on stopping the spread. They're starting to figure it out.

And it's all happening at the same point in the quarterback-evolution timeline as the emergence of the QB coaching guru, private coaches who are supposed to be fine-tuning and perfecting players.

"There are so many people out there who are tutoring quarterbacks and having private lessons and having this and that," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, a former star QB himself, said. "But ultimately, you've got to have a young man that has some skill, he's willing to become a student of the game and he's got to be tough.

"Playing quarterback at this level is difficult. You take a lot of hits. I just don't know if there's that many tough kids out there willing to take the hits to play the game."

I think the problem has to do with the way the game has evolved, mixed with the way youth sports is now coached. Kids are being over-coached and overspecialized to death.

In fact, DeShone Kizer, the quarterback who has stepped in at Notre Dame slightly short on fundamentals but strong on poise and leadership, never went to a quarterback camp. He didn't play football in the offseason, but instead played baseball and basketball. He never went to a guru.

"And therein lies another reason I liked him," said Chuck Martin, Miami (Ohio) head coach and former offensive coordinator at Notre Dame. Martin worked Kizer out twice during recruiting. "These quarterback gurus out there do way more harm than good, I would say.”

Martin also coached Everett Golson, who went to quarterback guru George Whitfield when he had been kicked out of school over an academic cheating scandal. Golson came back and played his best ever, becoming an immediate Heisman Trophy candidate.

For half a season. Then he fell apart.

"It's not because they don't know what they're doing," Martin said, talking about QB gurus in general. He did not name Whitfield specifically. "It's not because they don't know things we know.

"It's because quarterbacks are getting mixed messages. I'm coaching you, but you have your own quarterback coach—and he's telling you to do one thing and I'm telling you to do something else? You think that's helpful? That's crazy."

Let's start with the hurry-up spread offense. It spread across college football the past few years, took control out of the hands of the quarterback and moved it to the coach. Someone holds up a card calling the play on the sideline, and the quarterback takes the snap from a shotgun, takes a step or two back and fires to the sideline.

What's wrong with that? Nothing, if you don't mind your quarterback not learning how to lead a huddle, change cadence, take a snap from center, learn a five- or seven-step drop and read a defense over the entire field.

The brainwork is being done for them. And in the NFL, where most coaches know that you win from the pocket, there are just so few quarterbacks arriving out of college ready to do it. High school kids are moving on to college unprepared to lead, too. But the coaches have had success getting freshmen, such as Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel, to do it.

Now, even some of the great spread offenses in college—Oregon and Auburn—are finding out their quarterbacks aren't ready for that level.

Slow down. That's roughly what Steve Clarkson—maybe the top, best-respected QB guru—told me. He said quarterback play runs in cycles and college football is, at worst, in a down cycle. Several top quarterbacks have graduated, and their replacements just aren't quite ready yet, he said. Besides, he added, the SEC has always been based more on linemen than quarterbacks anyway, and the traditional quarterback conference, the Pac-12, is doing just fine.

"I wouldn't push the panic button," he said. "College football is going to have turnover, and you're going to have ebbs and flows. I think the quarterback position is in great hands."

Oregon is doing fine after losing Heisman winner Marcus Mariota and having no one it could trust in the pipeline? It went to transfer Vernon Adams, and the Ducks are now unranked.

"I think they just made a mistake when they couldn't bring him in for spring football [while he graduated from Eastern Washington]. He basically got the job within five days or so. That's tough from a chemistry standpoint.

"That might have been a calculated situation that might have backfired. But they have kids on the roster who are capable of being the next Mariota."

That said, Clarkson agreed with Martin that many of these private QB coaches are leading to confusion, sending mixed messages. Without naming anyone, he said that plenty of people in his field are taking on players who were already making it, claiming credit for them and trying to put their stamp on them.

Clarkson said he typically works with quarterbacks from the time they're "teenie boppers" and won't work with a college quarterback unless he already has a strong relationship with the player's coach.

At the same time, he said, college football created the QB guru business by limiting the number of hours players can work with their school coaches. He asked: If players want more coaching the rest of the year, then how else are they supposed to get it?

Akron coach Terry Bowden, the former coach at Auburn, said the over-specialization of coaching is a trend, but that it isn't helping. Kids play one sport now instead of multiple sports, and get 12-month training, "and I don't know if it makes a big difference. But I don't really like anybody fooling with my guy except my quarterback coach."

This isn't to say there aren't any top-flight college quarterbacks. UCLA has Josh Rosen, Cal has Jared Goff, TCU has Trevone Boykin and USC has Cody Kessler.

Part of it is just circumstance, and how good the team is around a quarterback. Last year, Ohio State had three QBs who seemed Heisman quality. Now, Braxton Miller moved to receiver, Cardale Jones hasn't been as effective as he was last year and J.T. Barrett isn't making a mark.

So even Ohio State, the defending national champs, is fighting off a quarterback issue.

"Quarterback's a unique position," Bowden said. "You have to have a special guy at that position. Everybody's searching for that guy."

Keep searching. But the way things are going, it's only going to keep getting harder to find the Neanderthal everyone wants.


Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report.

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Pretender or Contender: Which SEC Teams Have a Real Shot at the Title?

Teams have garnered certain reputations through the first four weeks of the college football season, and it's time to analyze who has earned them.

Which undefeated SEC team is fooling everybody? Which SEC team that just entered the Top 25 has a real shot of winning the SEC title?

Watch as Stephen Nelson and Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee discuss which teams are for real and which ones fall short in the video above.

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Chris Seisay Injury: Updates on Oregon CB's Status and Return

Oregon's defense was torched last week with cornerback Chris Seisay out of the lineup, and it looks as though the Ducks will have to continue on without him for the foreseeable future due to injury.

Continue for updates.

Report: Seisay 'Out Indefinitely' After Undergoing SurgeryThursday, Oct. 1

The sophomore defensive back has missed each of Oregon's past two games, and according to Matt Prehm of 247Sports, his absence will be extended for an indefinite amount of time after he underwent an undisclosed surgery.

Although the Ducks have yet to disclose the exact nature of Seisay's injury, he was seen with a walking boot on his left foot during Oregon's 62-20 loss to Utah, per Kenny Jacoby of the Daily Emerald.

Seisay ascended to a starting role in 2015 after filling in for the injured Ifo Ekpre-Olomu late last season, and he was thriving through the first two games.

The Vallejo, California, native totaled 12 tackles, one interception and one pass defended against Eastern Washington and Michigan State, and the coaching staff seemed to have supreme confidence in him.

According to Andrew Greif of the Oregonian, Ducks secondary coach John Neal felt very comfortable using Seisay in an expanded role:

You know what happens sometimes is you're with guys for long periods of times and they get to play and you know in the back of your mind, "If I put that guy in ..." I had (safety) John Boyett a long time ago and when TJ (Ward) got hurt, I put John Boyett in and I didn't blink an eye. I knew he'd do well and I feel the same way about Chris. He'll play more and more, he's a good player.

Unfortunately for Neal and the Ducks, Seisay is no longer an option for the time being, and it is unclear when or if he might ultimately return.

Freshman Ugo Amadi stepped in to play for him against Utah, and it didn't go well, as the Utes put up 62 points.

Amadi will have to sink or swim moving forward while sophomore Arrion Springs and freshmen Khalil Oliver and Glen Ihenacho take on greater roles as well.

If they don't step up with Seisay out of the lineup, then the 2-2 Ducks could be in grave danger of becoming irrelevant in 2015.


Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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5-Star Mack Wilson Tweets Top 8, Wants to Play 'Money' Linebacker at Next Level

As the nation's top-ranked outside linebacker in the 2016 class, Lyndell "Mack" Wilson is a wanted individual. The Montgomery, Alabama, standout nearly has 20 reported offers, and while some see him as a future all-conference outside linebacker, others would like to see him on the field early—which could mean playing time as a freshman as an inside linebacker in the right system.

Ask Wilson about it, and he'll make it plain and simple. 

"Position-wise, it doesn't matter," he said. "I want to play 'Money' linebacker."

For those unfamiliar with the term, "Money" linebacker, as Wilson described, is a do-it-all athlete at the position, someone who never comes off the field. In short, it's a place where you want your best athletes.

And Wilson, the nation's No. 13 overall player, can be someone's best athlete wherever he ends up.

The Carver High School senior narrowed his list Wednesday evening and posted a top eight on Twitter, the list featuring four SEC schools, two Pac-12 destinations and individual representatives from the Big Ten and ACC. The list, additionally, was ranked from No. 1 to No. 8:

Wilson shocked some by confirming that Florida is the current leader. He was believed to be a favorable target for one of the two in-state schools, Alabama and Auburn. While nothing is set in stone for when he announces on national signing day, the Gators have to feel good about the position they're in.

"He likes Florida," Todd Dowell, Wilson's mentor, told Drew Champlin of "He likes the scheme and he kind of likes [head] coach [Jim] McElwain."

Alabama ranks No. 4 on Wilson's list, but Auburn didn't make the cut. Wilson said the decision to trim the schools was tough, but all eight programs had a common denominator.

"All of those teams have a great defensive program," Wilson said. "It's all going to come down to what I want to do and what best fits me academically."

Wilson said he's built solid relationships with coaches at all eight schools, and he's got a good shot at seeing starter's minutes as a freshman. Wilson is ranked as the nation's top outside linebacker, but he's been shining at Carver this year at middle linebacker.

This is where playing "Money" linebacker comes into play. Wilson, who now is 6'2" and 240 pounds, is strong, quick and explosive off the ball. At The Opening over the summer—then weighing in at 236 pounds—he threw the power ball 42.5 feet and had a vertical jump of 31.5 inches.

When Wilson puts pads on, he's even more dangerous. He had 11 tackles and a sack in his role as middle linebacker in last week's game against Prattville, a team that features a couple of Michigan 3-star commits in running back Kingston Davis and linebacker Dytarious Johnson, as well as 2-star Duke kicker pledge A.J. Reed.

Wilson said he's factoring in player-coach relationship, game atmosphere, academic growth and overall campus environment in his ultimate decision. And while Florida continues to do its part in staying atop Wilson's personal ranking, the other seven schools still have four months to make a run at the top spot.


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

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College Football Week 5: Top 25 Upset Alert

Week 5 of the College Football season is here, and Bleacher Report is covering Top 25 ranked teams that are on upset alert this weekend.

Which Big 12 team should be weary of their unranked opponents? Which team may play shocker in their first time as an underdog since 2009?

Watch as Bleacher Report college football analyst Adam Kramer discusses potential upsets this weekend in the video above.

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Georgia Is Sticking with Mark Richt, Still Waiting for the Breakthrough

ATHENS, Ga. — Mark Richt, the football coach at Georgia, has not won an SEC championship since 2005, but he never seems to be under serious siege. There is no conflagration of angry boosters and no mob at his doorstep. There are the usual rants on radio when the Bulldogs follow a significant win with a loss, but Richt has not completely polarized the Georgia fans. There are still many more with him than against him.

How can that be?

The state of Georgia is one of the most fertile recruiting bases in the nation, yet the Bulldogs have not won a national title since 1980, when freshman Herschel Walker led a perfect season. UGA has a throng of support (92,000-plus for home games) and plays in one of the best stadiums in the country. It has resources to pay assistant coaches, and it has boosters with deep pockets. If Alabama, LSU, Florida and Auburn can win national championships in the time Richt has been a head coach, why can't Georgia?

Since the start of the 2011 season, Georgia is 10-11 against ranked teams. Some would view that as underachieving relative to assets available.

But to think in terms of what Richt hasn't done is to glide right past some obvious reasons he remains the kingpin in Athens. As you watch the eighth-ranked Bulldogs line up against No. 13 Alabama on Saturday, think about it in a less antagonistic way, said Greg McGarity, Georgia's athletic director.

For starters, there are those 140 wins in 14-plus seasons and a winning percentage that is seventh-best (.745) among active coaches with at least 100 wins while playing in the best conference in the country. Richt's teams average almost 10 wins a season and have won five East Division championships.

"Think about all the coaches that have gone through the 12 SEC schools, excluding Missouri and Texas A&M, in the time Mark has been at Georgia," McGarity said.

Indeed, there has been abject failure at some notable schools in the last 14 years, and there has been coaching change after coaching change. The Bulldogs have avoided being Alabama, circa 1997-2007, an unholy stretch of four coaches. They have avoided being 2010-14 Florida or 2009-15 Tennessee. They are better off than South Carolina and Missouri, not to mention Kentucky, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt.

Nationally, Richt's program has avoided being Nebraska, Penn State or Miami, proud programs that have descended on the field or have been caught up in scandal. Have you checked out the plague with the Texas Longhorns or the disarray at USC since Pete Carroll left for the NFL?

Look at all the resources at Michigan and the craters left behind by failed coaches in Ann Arbor. Has Virginia Tech been relevant lately?

Measuring yourself against the failure of others smells like an alibi. College football, after all, is all about bottom-line existence, win or else, no excuses, but Georgia has been pretty good at the bottom line under Richt (140-48, .745). Nick Saban is at .750. Richt doesn't have to make excuses.

"Mark has been relevant over a period of years, Georgia has been relevant, and we have not experienced that real low," McGarity said. "He's had the one losing season [2010, 6-7]. We haven't reached the mountaintop, but we have been right there a number of years."

Georgia is one ill-advised firing away from the downward spiral that has gripped many of the best, most-moneyed college football programs in the country. See the list above. Do you really want to make that call and start over with recruits when you have a .745 winning percentage? Do you want to take three steps back to take two steps forward when you are already on the doorstep with no guarantees the next guy is going to do better?

Yet it is tough to ask for patience when there has not been an SEC championship in 10 years and the state is teeming with high school talent.

There is one more statistic to consider.

Bobby Bowden, the Hall of Fame coach, was head coach at West Virginia and Florida State 23 years before he won a national championship. UCLA's John Wooden went 17 years before he won a national championship, then he won 10. Vince Dooley, coach of Georgia's 1980 national champion, took 16 seasons to win a national championship.

Make no mistake. McGarity has a trigger finger. He has fired head coaches in other sports since he's been at Georgia. He will fire Richt when tickets go unsold because fans no longer trust the coach. The institution comes first, McGarity said. Always.

What McGarity covets about Richt is consistency, a lurking in the rankings, and being a player or two, or a play, away from a breakthrough. Georgia came up five yards short in when it lost to Alabama in the 2012 SEC Championship Game (32-28), and it's a good bet the Bulldogs would have beaten Notre Dame in the national championship game.

"There is an ability to have this team in the conversation year after year," said McGarity, who graduated from Georgia in 1976. "If you knock on the door enough, those doors are going to open.

"I know this. If you're not relevant, those doors are never going to open."

McGarity is so steadfast behind Richt, he envisions a breakthrough that will erase what talk there is of replacing his 55-year-old coach.

"I believe his best days are ahead of him," McGarity said.

McGarity reads those letters from boosters and fans pleading with him to make a change. Of the top 100 money-givers to the program, McGarity said there is only one significant donor who wants Richt out immediately. If that number were to suddenly swell, you can bet the athletic director would take heed.

Here is what would get Richt fired in a hurry: If he allowed a player back on the team after being arrested as part of the robbery of a student (Alabama), or had players who required security at their off-campus apartments (Auburn), or had a player who robbed a gas station (Tennessee), or welcomed a player accused of assaulting a woman (Alabama, Baylor), or had players who damaged private property (Florida State). Georgia is always faster at dealing with those issues than other schools.

There is impatience; it has reached into the Georgia roster. Richt's players are as anxious as fans to win a big game and win a title.

Four days before Georgia played Southern University and a week before this week's Armageddon with Alabama, Malcolm Mitchell, a Bulldogs senior wide receiver, took a deep breath because of a question he was asked and afraid to answer. When he finally answered, it was slowly and deliberately as if hoping the right word would come to him by the time he spoke.

Have Georgia fans simply gone long enough without glory, Malcolm? Has it just been too long between national championships (35 years)?

"I would say..." and he paused and exhaled and said, "Yes."

Mitchell is a Georgia native (Valdosta). He was recruited by Alabama, which wins national championships and SEC championships, but he chose Georgia because of state pride and the culture of the program.

"I'm upset if we don't win," Mitchell said. "For me, not thinking a fan, or alumni, is not upset [after a loss] would be me being oblivious to how things operate. Any UGA fan should be upset."

But when they get upset, and frustrated, Georgia fans should roll the names of the vanquished off their tongues: Will Muschamp, Mike Shula, Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley or any number of coaches at programs with resources, like Georgia. A trapdoor opened under those programs and it didn't close right away, or still hasn't closed.

Ten wins doesn't seem so destitute after all.


Ray Glier covers college football for Bleacher Report.

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10 Biggest Questions Facing Top 25 Teams Heading into Week 5

If you enjoy the finer things in life, we suggest you tune into Week 5 of the college football season.

To get you ready for "the weeknd," be sure to first check out Adam Kramer's primer (you won't be able to feel your face, but you'll love it). 

Secondly, peruse the top 10 storylines for this week's slate in the following slides. From Alabama and Georgia squaring off in a good ol' fashioned ground-and-pound game to Notre Dame and Clemson battling it out in Death Valley, there's a lot to cover.

For instance, perhaps the Big 12 game of the year is not Nov. 27 between Baylor and TCU but on Oct. 3 between West Virginia and Oklahoma. 

What are the top 10 questions facing Associated Press Top 25 teams heading into Week 4? Here we provide the answers based on last week's results, upcoming matchups and more. 

Begin Slideshow

Week 5 College Football Picks: Ohio State, Michigan State Set to Cover Odds

The two top teams in the country both reside in the Big Ten Conference, which was viewed as overrated by many betting experts before the Ohio State Buckeyes sneaked into the College Football Playoff field at the end of last season and ended up winning the national championship.

The top-ranked Buckeyes (4-0) and second-ranked Michigan State Spartans (4-0) have been underwhelming this year despite remaining undefeated through the first month, but both of them have great opportunities to prove themselves as dominant teams in Week 5.

Ohio State plays its first road game since rallying back for a 42-24 victory against the Virginia Tech Hokies in the season opener on September 7, visiting the Indiana Hoosiers (4-0) as a 21-point betting favorite, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark.

The Hoosiers are also undefeated and have covered the spread in the past four meetings with the Buckeyes, who have failed to beat the number in three straight following that win at Virginia Tech.

But Ohio State will get a chance to let its offense roll again, because Indiana will try to turn this game into a shootout. That will be a bad idea for the home team and lead to the biggest win of the season for the defending champs.

Like the Buckeyes, the Spartans have struggled to cover this year. In fact, Michigan State is 0-4 against the spread, with its largest margin of victory coming last Saturday in a 30-10 win over the Central Michigan Chippewas as 26-point home favorites.

The Spartans could not have an easier conference opponent this week, though, as the Purdue Boilermakers (1-3) are 0-3 ATS in their losses, and they are coming off a 35-28 home loss to the Bowling Green Falcons as five-point home underdogs.

Michigan State is a nearly identical favorite as Ohio State, favored by 22 points at home, and will cover for the first time this year in a rout.

One more big favorite that will have an easy time covering is the fifth-ranked Baylor Bears (3-0) against the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Baylor blew away the Rice Owls 70-17 last Saturday, while Texas Tech lost 55-52 to the TCU Horned Frogs.

The Bears are 17-point betting favorites for their Big 12 matchup at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium and nearly lost to the Red Raiders last year before pulling out a 48-46 victory. You can bet that scare got Baylor’s attention, and Texas Tech will suffer a bit of a letdown here and have a tough time trying to duplicate last week’s performance.

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The Game That Changed Urban Meyer's Ohio State Forever

COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Ohio State arrives in Bloomington for its matchup with Indiana this weekend, it will do so as college football's defending national champion, the nation's top-ranked team and the winner of its past 17 games—the country's longest active winning streak.

But when the Buckeyes take the field at Memorial Stadium for Saturday's showdown with the Hoosiers, the players who were still a part of the team three years ago will be reminded not of their successes, but rather a program-defining day that helped put Urban Meyer's program on the path to where it currently stands at the top of the college football nation.

Ranking sixth in the nation in yards allowed per game with projected first-round picks at every level of the unit, Ohio State's defense has been its strength through the first month of the 2015 season. The "Silver Bullets" also shined throughout the Buckeyes' run to the national title a season ago, shutting down all three Heisman Trophy finalists—Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon, Alabama's Amari Cooper and Oregon's Marcus Mariota—in three consecutive postseason games.

"The way our defense played at the end of last year was as good as I've ever seen," Meyer said in August.

Three years ago, however, such compliments from Ohio State's head coach when it came to his defense were more difficult to come across. In 2012—Meyer's first in Columbus—the Buckeyes defense simply didn't deserve the accolades it receives today, with Meyer reaching his breaking point during a 52-49 road win over Indiana that pushed Ohio State to 7-0 on the season.

And while he may not have realized it at the time, that breaking point would ultimately prove to be a turning point in his tenure as the Buckeyes head coach.

"I remember it very well," Meyer said of Ohio State's last trip to Bloomington. "That was a program-changer." 

It wasn't the closer-than-expected outcome that concerned Meyer, so much as it was the way it was arrived at. Favored by 19.5 points entering the contest, the Buckeyes jumped out to a 24-14 halftime lead behind big rushing days from then-quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde.

After trading scores throughout the third quarter, OSU pushed its lead to 45-27 at the start of the final period on a Hyde one-yard touchdown, as all signs seemed to point to the Buckeyes cruising through the fourth quarter.

But due to the shortcomings of the Ohio State defense—which included fullback Zach Boren playing linebacker for the first time all season—that proved to be easier said than done.

It started with a 12-play, 76-yard Hoosiers drive that resulted in a D'Angelo Roberts one-yard touchdown run but was answered promptly by a 46-yard strike from Miller to deep threat Devin Smith to give the Buckeyes a 52-34 advantage with 6:47 left in the game. Despite the deficit, Indiana wouldn't concede just yet, with quarterback Nate Sudfeld finding Duwyce Wilson for a 12-yard touchdown to cut Ohio State's lead to two scores with just under two minutes remaining on the clock.

"It was a shootout," recalled Buckeyes defensive lineman Joel Hale, who was a sophomore at the time. "I remember at halftime, we were up by a good amount and just kind of let it go."

What happened next, however, may have been the most troubling part of his team's last trip to Bloomington for Meyer. The Hoosiers recovered an onside kick before driving 48 yards in 35 seconds, with Sudfeld's 25-yard touchdown pass to Stephen Houston setting up a successful two-point conversion rush from Cody Latimer to put Indiana within three points of pulling off the upset with 1:05 left in the game.

Fortunately for the Buckeyes, the bleeding would stop when wide receiver Corey "Philly" Brown recovered Indiana's ensuing onside kick, giving Ohio State possession and the ability to run out what was left on the clock.

Despite pulling off the narrow escape, the Buckeyes defensive effort in Bloomington that night stuck with their head coach, who could be seen sitting glumly outside the visitors locker room as his team boarded the bus.

"That was one of the few times I've ever seen a defense quit playing hard, and that was a problem," Meyer said Monday. "Mistakes are one thing, but when I saw what I saw—that was not a good moment."

Meyer's words at the time—"I'm not happy at all with what's going on defense. That includes players, coaches," he said—were harsh, but his actions also spoke volumes. When the Buckeyes reconvened in Columbus on Sunday, their head coach opted to hold a "team meeting" with only the defensive side of the ball, a gathering that included an unfamiliar guest for such get together.

It was Meyer himself, who typically oversees the OSU offense.

"He had the whole defense in the team room, and he was going over the film with us, telling us things we needed to improve on," defensive lineman Adolphus Washington recalled. "That was the only time—and still the only time—that we did that."

The immediate results for the Buckeyes spoke for themselves, with Ohio State allowing an average of 303 yards and 20.4 points per game in its final five contests after surrendering an average of 400 yards and 24.5 points per game in its first seven. Ultimately, the Buckeyes would put together a 12-0 campaign in Meyer's debut season in Columbus but weren't eligible to play in the postseason due to NCAA violations committed by former head coach Jim Tressel and members of Ohio State's 2010 team.

The Buckeyes' defensive struggles would reappear a season later, crescendoing in back-to-back losses to Michigan State and Clemson in the Big Ten title game and Orange Bowl. But as opposed to 2012, it wasn't effort Meyer blamed for his 2013 team's shortcomings, rather a schematic issue, which led to the offseason hiring of defensive coordinator Chris Ash in 2014.

Of course, it also hasn't hurt that with three more recruiting classes, Meyer has been able to add more talent to his roster, as 4- and 5-star prospects now litter Ohio State's depth chart on both sides of the ball. Washington, defensive end Joey Bosa, linebacker Raekwon McMillan and safety Vonn Bell give the Buckeyes a blue-chip prospect at every level of their defensive unit.

"A lot more talent. A lot more discipline," Hale answered when asked the difference between the 2012 and 2015 Ohio State defenses. "Overall, I just think our team is a lot better."

But with the Buckeyes heading back to Bloomington this weekend to take on the 4-0 Hoosiers, Hale admitted the Ohio State staff has already replayed the now-three-year-old film from their last trip to serve as a reminder that talent isn't always enough.

"That was a game-changer as far as how we approach," Meyer said. "If you don't play hard, you're not going to play."

It's a message that helped morph the Buckeyes from a program facing uncertainty to the now-defending national champions.


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 Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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From Fast Food to Fast Track: Jaylon Smith's Rise to Superstardom

On his way home from practice one evening back in the fall of 2012, Kyle Lindsay had a taste for Burger King. He turned left out of the Bishop Luers High School parking lot in Fort Wayne, Indiana—the place where he had only recently taken over as head coach—and made the short trek to the fast-food chain around the corner.

When he arrived, he instantly recognized the presence behind the counter. He knew that smile. He recognized the chiseled 225-pound frame—a block of muscle and fast-twitch fibers—even without shoulder pads. An hour earlier, Lindsay was giving this young man guidance on the practice field.

Before Jaylon Smith became one of the best linebackers in the nation at Notre Dame, he worked a mean deep fryer. Not because he had to, but because he wanted to.

"It was so cool to see this big kid with this status—this monster recruit and Mr. Football candidate—serving burgers with that big smile on his face," Lindsay told Bleacher Report. "He didn't have to do that. I'm pretty sure he did that because he wanted to learn some responsibility."

Smith found comfort behind the counter for reasons that are only important to him. Perhaps he foresaw what was coming. Perhaps he realized normalcy would fade away for the bright lights of Notre Dame Stadium.

Life as he knew it has given way for college football superstardom. Normalcy, in that regard, is long gone.

The 225-pound part-time Burger King employee is now a 240-pound science experiment—a man with athletic gifts so unique, so spectacular, that he's seemingly capable of anything. He'll roll right through (or past) your 320-pound linemen one play, then cling to your team's best pass-catcher without a break.

On Saturday night, as the country settles in to watch Notre Dame play Clemson in one of the season's most anticipated games, Smith will dip even further away from normalcy in the brightest spotlight imaginable—a spotlight he was built for.

"He's one of the better players that we've played against since I have been at Georgia Tech," head coach Paul Johnson said prior to the team's Week 3 matchup against the Irish. "He's a definite first-round draft pick. I don't think there's any question about it."

Smith responded to Johnson's praise by somewhat seamlessly forcing and recovering a fumble almost simultaneously against the Yellow Jackets. It was one of those Jaylon Smith moments—a play had two distinct parts that somehow weaved together into one thanks to his athleticism.

Without its starting quarterback, starting running back, starting tight end and key defensive players, Notre Dame beat Georgia Tech 30-22 in its first true test of the season.

Prior to this win, it was Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly's turn to explain his star player's greatness. Not one to typically offer a deluge of individual praise, he didn't hold back when speaking about Smith.

"Short answer," Kelly said before Notre Dame's game at Virginia, "I haven't coached a player like him before. He can line up with his hand on the ground. He can cover the inside receiver. He can play in the box. He can tackle in open space. There's not much he can't do. He's a rare, rare defensive player. It's just fun watching him play."

The origins of this player go back—back to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where Smith took a backseat for some time.

His brother, Rod Smith, seemed destined to become the next great running back in college football. While Rod's skills never translated at Ohio State—thanks in large part to a slew of off-field incidents that ultimately got him dismissed last fall—he, not Jaylon, was the talk of the hometown.

"He [Jaylon] was known as the younger brother of the great Rod Smith when I first met him," Michael Ledo, president and CEO of AWP Sports Training, said earlier this week. "Jaylon was really in his shadow."

Using a combination of weight training, speed training, leadership development and even seven-on-seven teams, Ledo worked with Rod Smith before he went off to college. He has remained a mentor.

Jaylon eventually followed his brother's footsteps and joined the program, although he started by playing seven-on-seven. They traveled the country and participated in various tournaments. Slowly, Smith's profile started to grow. After one particular trip to Pittsburgh for a tournament, however, Smith returned home with a newfound desire to reach his untapped potential.

"He saw some real talent, and he told me after that trip that he wanted to be the best player in the country," Ledo said. "It took him outside his area of Fort Wayne, and he saw it. When we came back, he got engaged."

On Saturday nights, Ledo and AWP would host optional leadership classes for its kids. Most attendees weren't Division I prospects. In fact, many of the high school athletes who popped in did so because they wanted to reach that level of competition—as far-fetched as it might have been for some.

But Smith, choosing to forgo the allure of the weekend, became a regular. Now a celebrity, especially locally, his entrance always drew eyes.

"Here comes Jaylon Smith on a Saturday night walking through the doors," Ledo recalled. "The kids would just gaze at him and wonder what the hell he was doing there."

On the field, he continued to grow. Kyle Lindsay, formerly the offensive coordinator at Bishop Luers, took over as head coach shortly before Smith headed off to college during his senior year.

Instead of worrying about how to move the ball against this unique player in practice, Lindsay drew up ways to get Smith the ball during games. Before he became an elite NFL linebacker prospect, Smith was a running back Indiana high schools had to deal with.

"We used him all over the field. I got to coach him as a running back, and that was quite a bit of fun," Lindsay said. "It's a coach's dream to have someone who always finishes downhill. It's a scary thing to see when a kid like this is coming at you."

In his final two years at Bishop Luers, Smith ran for 2,584 yards and 43 touchdowns. Heck, he even caught six touchdowns.

"He hurdled people too," Lindsay added. "One-on-one, he wasn't going to be tackled by anybody. You drool when you coach a kid like that."

During his junior and senior years, Smith also excelled on the defensive side. He recorded 38 tackles for loss and 16 sacks. Quickly, at multiple positions, he developed into one of the most coveted players in the nation.

While he could have played running back at just about any school at the next level—and many programs offered him the opportunity to pick his position—he had his sights set on defense.

Rated the No. 1 outside linebacker recruit by 247Sports and the No. 5 player overall in the 2013 class, Smith decided on Notre Dame not only because it wasn't far from home, but in South Bend, he would be given an opportunity to shine at linebacker.

That's precisely what he has done over the last few years, although statistics fall short of highlighting the sheer range of greatness. The numbers are lovely as is: In 2014, he recorded 111 tackles, nine tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.

But dive into the individual moments—like when he spun out of a cut-block against Virginia earlier this year and still somehow managed to make the tackle—and the persona starts to grow larger.

Or the moments when Notre Dame lines Smith up on a team's wideout and he drops into coverage with the fluidity of an elite cornerback. Or how he is seemingly everywhere on the field at once.

"When I watch Jaylon tackle in open space and run people down like a gazelle, it's just normal to me. He does that," Ledo said. "He's probably the best open-field tackler in the country. What impresses me most is just how physical he has become, which people used to question in high school. There is an aggression about him now that has just blown me away."

And yet, as he has added weight and moves to his robust defensive repertoire since he took the short ride to his new home, Smith still embraces his roots.

A few weeks ago, his former high school coach made the trip up to South Bend to watch his former player against Georgia Tech. After a satisfying win many outside the state didn't think was possible, and long after he forced and recovered a fumble in the same movement, Smith hung around the stadium a while to sign autographs.

Lindsay watched as the greatest player he will ever coach interacted with the fans for a period of time he couldn't believe, doing it all with that familiar, trademark smile. As Lindsay watched Smith in his element, a security guard at the stadium told Lindsay that oftentimes they have to pull Smith away. He stays too long.

"Jaylon doesn't want to let anyone down," Lindsay said. "He's going to do everything he can to make their day. He warms up around people."

Perhaps the new normal exists here—in the hours after the spotlight has dimmed, when the stadium lights have finally been shut off and all plays are accounted for. It is here where Smith, regardless of what the future holds at Clemson and beyond, has grown cozy.

No longer a master of the deep fryer or in the shadows of his older brother, Smith has taken to the spotlight quite nicely. And the spotlight, knowing a good thing when it sees it, has embraced him right back.


Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. 

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What Were We Thinking? Redoing Our Worst College Football Preseason Predictions

This preseason, people across the country made predictions, some safe and some bold, about how the 2015 college football season was going to play out.

Which predictions did some people make that may have been poor decisions? Which would they change?

Watch as Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee, Adam Kramer and Michael Felder go back and redo some of their preseason predictions in the video above.

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SEC Extra Points with Barrett Sallee: Enough with Leonard Fournette NFL Talk

Enough Talk

Every few years, there's a sophomore or redshirt freshman who is so good in college that an inevitable—and largely hypothetical—debate pops up on whether or not that player should skip his third college season and prepare for the NFL draft.

LSU running back Leonard Fournette is "that guy" in 2015, just as former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was in 2012.

Mike Florio of, among others, wrote this week that the New Orleans native should save his body, sit in 2016 and prepare for the NFL draft.

Are you kidding me?

If Fournette publicly was challenging the NFL for early entry, sure, this could be a topic of discussion. He's not. In fact, as's Joe Schad noted on Twitter, Fournette is totally fine with the NFL's rule that mandates that players must be three years removed from high school to move on.

Fournette himself even chimed in on the matter.

Maybe, just maybe, Fournette takes just a little bit of pride in helping lead LSU—one of the SEC's behemoths that's just an hour from his home—back to college football glory. Maybe, just maybe, he recognizes that, while immensely talented, there are things that he has to work on in order to achieve long-term success at the next level.

Maybe, just maybe, we should let Fournette decide what's best for Fournette and then react accordingly.

The reaction to Fournette should be awe, joy and pleasure. 

Instead, a silly debate has surfaced that everybody not named "Leonard Fournette" seems to have a stance on, despite the fact that Fournette's stance is the only one that matters.

Give it a rest until January 2017—when he likely will begin the NFL draft process.



It wasn't supposed to be this way.

In August, when we looked at composite SEC schedules, the Arkansas vs. Tennessee game in Knoxville in Week 5 was supposed to be the battle of upstart programs that were both trending in the right direction.

Instead, it's a battle of two struggling programs just trying to tread water.

The Vols (2-2, 0-1 SEC) will host the Razorbacks (1-3 0-1 SEC) on Saturday night in Neyland Stadium in what has become a must-win game for both programs.

For Tennessee, a second SEC loss in as many weeks would eliminate any margin for error. With a head-to-head loss to Florida already on the books and games versus Georgia and at Alabama among the six remaining conference matchups, it'd be very difficult to create a scenario in which Tennessee makes the SEC Championship Game after suffering a loss to the Hogs.

But Butch, this one is really must-win. A loss here, and Tennessee won't be anywhere close to taking that gigantic leap forward like many predicted. At best, it'd inch forward slightly. 

For Arkansas, this game likely holds bowl hopes in the balance.

At 1-3, the only win you can write in ink on the remaining schedule is against UT-Martin. OK, that's two. Call Auburn and Missouri tossups at this point, and still a bowl game seems like something out of the fiction section. 

Head coach Bret Bielema needs upsets—plural—along the way simply to earn those ever-so-important bowl practices that coaches crave, and a reeling Vols team is one of its best shots.

"[Tennessee] coach Butch Jones and I entered the league at the same time, and you can see some of the things that he's trying to instill there," Bielema said. "Very impressed with their quarterback and running back. 

"A tremendous opportunity. It'll be a good environment for our guys to walk in and experience one of the best environments in college football."

This is a must-win for Arkansas for the sanity of the Razorback fanbase and future of the program.


Open Tryout?

Drew Lock, it's your time at Missouri.

The true freshman quarterback who has seen spot duty throughout the first month of the season will start in place of suspended junior Maty Mauk on Saturday in a big home game versus South Carolina. 

Essentially, it's a 60-minute open tryout to keep the job long term.

Mauk has been wildly inconsistent over the last year-plus. The dual-threat starter for the Tigers has tossed 17 picks since the start of the 2014 season and is a big reason why the offense hasn't been able to get on track this year.

"Anytime we have a suspension, we assess the position of the player coming back on the Sunday after," head coach Gary Pinkel said. "That has happened at any suspension I've ever had in 25 years as a head coach, and we'll do that the same in this way."

Translation: It's Lock's time to shine. 

The 6'4", 205-pounder from Lee's Summit, Missouri, is 15-for-25 on the year and was an Elite 11 finalist a year ago at Nike's World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. 

If he shines on Saturday, write him down in ink as Missouri's new starting quarterback.



It was clear during Mississippi State's 17-9 win at Auburn on Saturday that the Bulldogs passing attack was in its comfort zone. 

Quarterback Dak Prescott completed 29 of his 41 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns, operating primarily out of three-step drops and using quick passes to protect his offensive line and let his playmakers do work in space.

Not a bad game plan. After all, it's not like Auburn's offense—which featured new starter Sean White at quarterback—was much of a threat to turn the game into a shootout.

Texas A&M's, however, is a different story.

"A lot of the teams we've played so far this year have been very run-oriented, and this is really the first pass-oriented team we've played," head coach Dan Mullen said.

That was in a response to a question on how Mississippi State's defense will handle Texas A&M, but it's also very important for the Bulldog offense. 

There was a minimal risk of a shootout versus Auburn, but that increases against the Aggies. If that happens, it will play right into Texas A&M's hands. Mississippi State's weakness is its offensive line and A&M's strength is its pass rush, which Mullen knows is one of the best in the SEC thanks to Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall.

"With the ends that he has and the talent [defensive coordinator John Chavis] has, you can't let them pin their ears back and come after you," he said. "You have to be able to run the ball to force them to not be in pass-rush mode all the time, because they're both really, really athletic. We're going to have to mix it up, move the pocket and protect [Prescott] and keep more guys in."


High Praise

A lot of talk this week will center on Georgia running back Nick Chubb's quest to eclipse former Bulldog great Herschel Walker's streak of 12 consecutive 100-yard rushing games. Chubb matched the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner with his 131-yard performance versus Southern last week.

Things get a little bit more difficult this week, though, when Alabama and its vaunted rush defense that's giving up an SEC-best 56.75 yards per game rolls into Athens.

Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban isn't just concerned about Chubb, though. The entire group of Georgia running backs have his attention.

"They've got three backs. [Chubb and Sony Michel] have been the most productive and are as good as any duo [in] the country," he said. "They do a good job of executing what they do and their offensive line blocks well. Their backs do a great job of executing the way they're supposed to, and making yards after contact. The combination of those two things make them as good of a running team as we've played in a while."

If Georgia is going to topple the Tide, head coach Mark Richt is going to have to get big games from Chubb and Michel. While quarterback Greyson Lambert has been marvelously efficient over the last two games in which he's tossed just two incomplete passes, he needs to get help from his running game to create the passing lanes he needs to continue to move the chains.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.comBarrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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