NCAA Football

Khalid Kareem to Notre Dame: Fighting Irish Land 4-Star DE Prospect

Notre Dame has scored a big-time recruit for 2016, as defensive end Khalid Kareem will be the newest member of the Fighting Irish next season. 

Irish Sports Daily reported Kareem's commitment to Notre Dame. Kareem then followed that up with a tweet explaining his decision:

He has had a whirlwind recruiting road.

The Michigan native announced in June that he was going to the University of Alabama. But less than two weeks ago, per Perry A. Farrell and James Jahnke of the Detroit Free Press, he decommitted from Alabama to stay closer to home:

After careful consideration and a lot of heart felt talks with my mother. In my families best interest we've informed the Coaches that I am decommitted from the University of Alabama at this time. Thank you to Coach Saban and Coach Williams and Coach Tosh for everything you've taught me a long the way. Thank you to the entire Crimson Tide family and community.

Now, the Fighting Irish get to reap the rewards. Kareem is rated as a 4-star prospect and No. 9 strong-side defensive end by 247Sports after racking up 85 tackles and 18 sacks in 2014.

Per 247Sports' team recruiting rankings, his commitment gives Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly 17 total commitments for 2016 and the 13th-ranked class. 

Kareem is built like a college football defensive lineman already at 6'4" and 260 pounds, so that pass-rushing prowess should have no problem carrying over.

The Fighting Irish have recruited and developed strong defenders recently, notably Jaylon Smith this year. Kareem is the latest addition to the deep Kelly recruiting pool and will be a staple of the defense very soon. 

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Cold Hard Fact for Friday, October 23, 2015

Fact: Temple football is 7-0 for the first time in school history. 

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Fact of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: ESPN Stats & Info

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Can a Wide Receiver Realistically Win the Heisman Trophy This Year?

West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen knows wide receivers. Among the wideouts he's connected to are Wes Welker, Michael Crabtree, Justin Blackmon and Kevin White. 

So when Holgorsen said Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman was "the best player in college football" last Saturday, well, maybe we all need to listen.

But could Coleman actually be named college football's best player by winning the Heisman Trophy? For that matter, why not include TCU's Josh Doctson, who leads college football with 152.4 receiving yards per game, in the Heisman loop? 

For as impressive as those two have been, it's an uphill battle. Some wideouts have gotten close in recent years. For instance, Alabama's Amari Cooper finished third in the voting last year, but the last wide receiver to win the Heisman was Michigan's Desmond Howard in 1991.  

But it's important to first know why Holgorsen said what he said. In other words, why is Coleman, who had 10 catches for 199 yards and three touchdowns in a 62-38 win over the Mountaineers, being mentioned in the Heisman race?

The numbers say it all. Coleman is third nationally in receiving yards (877), but he leads the country with 16 touchdowns, a Baylor single-season record, through six games. He's on pace to shatter the NCAA FBS record of 27 single-season touchdown grabs previously held by Louisiana Tech's Troy Edwards in 1998. 

Coleman scores a touchdown at an astounding rate of once every 2.6 catches. He's been rarely utilized in the second half of games this year, with just seven receptions, presumably because Baylor has had things under control by halftime. However, he has four touchdowns on those seven catches, and all four are of at least 25 yards. 

We could dissect the numbers further, but you get the point. Coleman is a touchdown machine, and he does it all without contributing much on special teams.

It's a similar story for Doctson, who averages 8.6 catches per game and a more "modest" 5-to-1 touchdown-to-catch ratio. Their styles are different, however. Whereas Coleman is best in the open field—Holgorsen compared Coleman's skill set to Tavon Austin's, per ESPN.com's Jake Trotter—Doctson shines when he's making a play on a jump ball and being physical. 

Differences aside, Coleman and Doctson are two of the most outstanding wideouts in college football and likely the 1A and 1B selections, in either order, for the Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the top receiver.

The Heisman consideration both players are receiving starts there, but does it also end there? 

Versatility is virtually a necessity for non-quarterbacks and some running backs in the Heisman race because it boosts value. Since they don't touch the ball on every play, or even most plays, skill players have to show dominance elsewhere. LSU running back Leonard Fournette, the current odds-on favorite to win the Heisman, per OddsShark.com, is the exception. 

But so, too, are Coleman and Doctson. It's for that reason they're in the immediate Heisman conversation at all. 

However, therein lies the pertinent issue: Pointing solely to a wide receiver's stats becomes tricky relative to the quarterback. A running back, like Fournette, may put up big numbers in part because he's given running lanes by his offensive line—the other part is Fournette is as physical a runner as you'll find in college football—but the two don't share stats in the same way a quarterback and receiver do.

Is a wideout putting up big numbers because he's that good, or does he have a great quarterback getting him the ball? After all, a quarterback's numbers will inherently be better than his wide receiver's. In the cases of Coleman and Doctson, it's somewhere right in the middle. 

Splitting credit is no way to win the Heisman, though. How, then, do players like Coleman and Doctson prove they're more valuable than their quarterbacks, Seth Russell and Trevone Boykin, respectively? Russell and Boykin are legitimate Heisman contenders, too. 

There's no easy answer, but the simplest way is to look at how much a quarterback shares the wealth among his receivers. Plenty of quarterbacks put up video game-type numbers, but not every wide receiver does, both nationally and relative to the rest of the team.

For instance, Coleman is responsible for one out of every three receptions Baylor has made this season and has twice as many catches as the next-leading receiver, Jay Lee. Similarly, Doctson also is responsible for one out of every three catches for TCU. However, the numbers thin dramatically beyond him. The Frogs' next-leading receiver, KaVontae Turpin, has 18 catches, meaning Doctson has more than three times the number of grabs. 

While wideouts like Texas A&M's Christian Kirk, USC's JuJu Smith-Schuster, Bowling Green's Roger Lewis and Notre Dame's Will Fuller have been outstanding this year, none boast the same level of percentages or overall numbers as Coleman and Doctson. Furthermore, Coleman and Doctson are on playoff-caliber teams. That matters, like it or not. Only Kirk and Fuller can say the same.  

But the best news for Coleman and Doctson as it pertains to the Heisman conversation going forward is that neither has played against his best competition. The Big 12 in the month of November is an absolute cage fight for supremacy. Below is the schedule in which the top four teams in the Big 12—Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU—all play one another:

For Coleman and Doctson, that means they'll have opportunities to either keep pace with their numbers or have their best games against the best teams. 

Stewart Mandel accurately called the Heisman race a "a horse race," in which timing is a key component. For every Geno Smith, the former West Virginia quarterback who "won" the Heisman in September of 2012, there's a Johnny Manziel who cements himself as the real Heisman winner later in the year. 

Along those lines, for Coleman or Doctson to have a real shot, Fournette needs to fall back a bit, if not entirely off the face of the earth. Good luck there. 

Still, Coleman and Doctson are more than just dark horses now. When Baylor and TCU face off in Fort Worth on Nov. 27, the main storyline could involve playoff implications. But there could also be Heisman votes on the line, and not necessarily for the players you'd think. 

 

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

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Teams to Watch After 5-Star DE Oluwole Betiku Decommits from UCLA

Less than 12 hours after picking up a pivotal Pac-12 victory over the California Golden Bears, the UCLA Bruins suffered a substantial in-state recruiting loss. 

Oluwole Betiku, a 5-star Los Angeles County defensive end rated No. 1 overall among California high school seniors in composite rankings, announced his decommitment Friday morning. 

"I have decided to open up my recruiting," he tweeted. "It is in my best interest to take my time with the recruiting process and weigh my options carefully, it's a lifetime decision and I pray God guides me to make the best decision."

The 6'3 ½", 240-pound Junipero Serra High School standout initially pledged to UCLA in August. Despite immigrating to America just two years ago, Betiku quickly rose to prominence as a premier playmaker with the Southern California powerhouse. 

He's secured 103 tackles—42 for loss—and 21 sacks through 19 career varsity games since arriving from Nigeria in 2013, per MaxPreps. Those totals include 18 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks through eight contests this season.

“I feel like nothing is stopping me from being the No. 1 player,” Betiku told Bleacher Report's Sanjay Kirpalani earlier this year. “I’m strong, I’m fast. I’m just not versatile. Even though last year was my first year playing, I’m still hard on myself. Those guys shouldn’t be better than me out there.”

He may not sit atop national rankings just yet—though he's within striking distance at 11th overall—but Betiku is considered the top weak-side defensive end prospect in the 2016 cycle. His decision deals the Bruins' latest recruiting efforts quite a blow.

Head coach Jim Mora must move forward without a prospect who presents immediate-impact promise at a key position. Betiku, still very much in the early stages of his physical and fundamental development as a pass rusher, leaves UCLA with 18 commitments in a 2016 recruiting class that dropped from 12th to 16th in national composite rankings following his departure.

Several alternative suitors already emerged during the first half of this season, presenting an array of possible landing spots. The coveted defender visited a pair of programs earlier this month and plans to explore more campuses in coming weeks. 

The Florida State Seminoles and Texas A&M Aggies welcomed him to town for recent matchups, providing impressive sales pitches. 

Betiku watched the Seminoles remain unbeaten Oct. 10 against the Miami Hurricanes and left Tallahassee feeling charged up about the experience.

"I had a great trip, it was even better than I expected," he told Greg Biggins of Scout.com. "The highlight of the visit for me had to be the game day atmosphere. The fan support is incredible and I loved all the chants and watching them do the tomahawk chop."

Betiku plans to watch Florida State again in November when the team travels to Gainesville for its annual matchup with the Florida Gators. Florida is set to host Betiku for an official visit that weekend, creating the possibility for two legitimate long-distance contenders in the Sunshine State.

SEC quarterbacks should hope he doesn't ultimately sign with Texas A&M, where superstar sophomore defensive end Myles Garrett already wreaks havoc. The top-ranked defensive end recruit in 2014 has totaled 19.5 sacks in his young career and projects as a potential top-tier NFL draft pick two years from now, though he would share the line with Betiku in College Station for at least one season.

Aggies defensive assistant Terry Price has played a important role in this recruitment process.

"He's a great DL coach but more than that, he's a great guy," Betiku told Biggins. "Everyone I talked with said Coach Price is the man there and he'll take care of you and I definitely feel like he could get the most out of me and help get me to the NFL."

LSU defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, who previously scouted the Los Angeles area for the USC Trojans, is another recruiter who could make inroads. LSU is lining up quite a 2016 defensive haul and may emerge as a dark-horse contender for Betiku's signature.

Notre Dame is another program to monitor as things progress. The Fighting Irish expect to host him Nov. 14 when the Wake Forest Demon Deacons visit, per Biggins, putting head coach Brian Kelly's squad in the mix for yet another elite defensive prospect. 

Expect Betiku to finalize his remaining travel schedule in the near future, though UCLA isn't likely to walk away from the situation without a fight.

There's also the possibility of nearby USC making a late push, depending on how things shake out with the Trojans' coaching situation. It's important to note Junipero Serra has been an extremely beneficial recruiting pipeline for the program in past cycles.

With one of the nation's most compelling prospects back on the open market, anticipate plenty of intrigue en route to signing day.

 

Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.

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5 in 24 Hours: 2017 WR Mannie Netherly Picks Up SEC, Pac-12, B1G Offers

Having double-digit offers isn't something every college football recruit gets to experience. 2017 wide receiver Mannie Netherly is one of those fortunate athletes.

Netherly also is an athlete who can say a third of his offers came in less than a 24-hour span.

The Crosby, Texas, wide receiver watched his offer list jump from 10 to 15 from Wednesday evening to late Thursday afternoon—the five new offers came from the SEC, Pac-12 and Big Ten. He earned an Arizona State offer early Wednesday evening, then landed a Texas A&M offer shortly afterward.

Thursday morning, Michigan State offered Netherly. He finished Thursday with afternoon offers from Missouri and Colorado.

Just like that, the 6'2", 180-pound prospect was an athlete preparing to knock on the door of 20 offers.

"It's a blessing," Netherly said. "As a kid, I only dreamed of having all these offers. Now that's finally happened, I can say all my hard work is paying off. I'm just staying humble, and I'm going to keep working hard."

Crosby is becoming more of a recruiting hotbed in Texas. Wide receiver Raelon Singleton is a redshirt freshman for a Utah team fighting for a College Football Playoff spot, and twins Aston and Austin Walter are redshirt freshmen at Rice. Keenan Murphy, a 3-star offensive guard and teammate of Netherly, committed to Houston in July.

Netherly thinks of Singleton as a big brother and has been watching him perform for quite some time. In fact, Netherly considers him a role model and wants to have a similar process.

If it means anything, Netherly already has caught Singleton in offers. Singleton had 13 reported offers before heading to Utah.

"Raelon and I grew up together. We've been cool for forever," Netherly said. "When I see a close friend like that make it, it really motivates you to do the same."

Netherly has been impressive on the football field this season. After recording 16 receptions for 228 yards and three touchdowns as a sophomore, Netherly is putting up huge numbers as a junior. Per the Houston Chronicle, Netherly has 29 catches for 603 yards and 13 touchdowns. He's almost averaging a touchdown every two catches and is averaging roughly 21 yards per reception.

Netherly said he's far from making any decisions regarding his recruitment, but he did admit to one offer in particular catching his attention.

"That Texas A&M offer surprised me," said Netherly, who has made a couple of unofficial visits to College Station this year. "When they called and offered, I got to speak to [head] Coach [Kevin] Sumlin. That was electric. I didn't get to sleep until about 1 in the morning."

Netherly added that he's a fan of all of his offers—and he's hoping to receive a few more in the upcoming weeks. Along with the quintet of offers Wednesday and Thursday, Netherly has offers from Texas Tech, Nebraska, BYU, SMU and others.

 

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

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Michigan Football: Response to MSU Loss Will Show Extent of Harbaugh Effect

The Michigan football team endured a crushing last-second loss to their rival last week, but how the Wolverines bounce back will provide more insight into the extent of the Jim Harbaugh Effect.

Falling to Michigan State after never trailing until the clock read triple zeros must have been gut-wrenching. If there's any particular type of loss that would be easy to let linger, that's the one.

"It just sucks, there's no other way to phrase it, no better way to put it," quarterback Jake Rudock said, per Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press.

Nevertheless, like every coach would, Harbaugh already has his players saying the right things and appearing determined to move on from the unfortunate finish.

"I'm still not over it, it's still in my mind that we lost," cornerback Jourdan Lewis said, per Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com. "But we've got to move on. We have to take that loss as a lesson."

Baumgardner notes running back De'Veon Smith said, "Anything can happen. (Anything can happen) to any team we play. Our dreams are still alive. Winning the Big Ten championship (is still possible). That's our main focus."

But dreams are just that when not followed up with actions.

Michigan was an absolute force heading into the matchup against Michigan State, limiting opponents to 14 points over a five-game stretch. The offense racked up 1,988 yards and surrendered just 751.

Although the hope to continue exerting that level of dominance over the Spartans was unrealistic, Harbaugh's team put itself in position to beat a College Football Playoff contender. That's not helping the Wolverines sleep at night, but it's still the truth.

The next few opponents on the schedule, however, are not championship contenders.

Minnesota lost 27-0 to Northwestern, which fell to Michigan by 38 points. Putting stake in the transitive property can be dangerous, but it's not a useless comparison because the Golden Gophers offense is one of the Football Bowl Subdivision's least threatening units.

Rutgers wideout Leonte Carroo, who has a trio of three-touchdown outings in 2015, will challenge Lewis and the Wolverines secondary. The defense, though? It's ranked 106th in the nation.

While Indiana played Ohio State tightly, if it wasn't for Zander Diamont's 79-yard touchdown run on a defensive breakdown, the Hoosiers would have managed just 97 yards on 54 carries. Making Indiana one-dimensional shouldn't be a problem for Michigan.

Penn State has a strong defense, but consistently poor offensive line play combined with a lack of pass-catching options has flat-out broken Christian Hackenberg, who is more inaccurate than ever. Though the Nittany Lions have a budding star in freshman running back Saquon Barkley, Michigan's strength is stopping the run.

"They're so fundamentally sound and they run like crazy to the ball," Big Ten Network analyst Gerry DiNardo told Snyder about the Wolverines. "Not markedly different, but in places there's probably better players—and they're older."

Now, this isn't to say the Wolverines should be expected to rip off a four-game stretch that concludes with three more shutouts and twice as much yardage.

Going back to the overlying focus of the season, these are the games the Michigan program is supposed to win every season. Considering the Wolverines' performances so far, however, these are the matchups they are capable of dominating.

It only took two months for Harbaugh to change the mentality of the team. The Harbaugh Effect is real, and it will only become more evident in future seasons.

But avoiding a setback—or multiple setbacks—after a crushing loss is the next step to the Wolverines continuing their ascent toward perennial relevance once again.

 

All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from cfbstats.com. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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Georgia Football: Midseason Grades for Each Bulldogs Positional Unit

We have hit the midseason mark for the college football season, and the Georgia Bulldogs are currently unranked and with a 5-2 record.

It’s clear they wanted to be in a better spot at this point of the season, but they have to continue to fight because if they win out, they have a chance to play for the SEC championship in December.

There have been some good moments for the Bulldogs, such as the running game and the emergence of Jake Ganus. There have been some bad moments for the Bulldogs as well, such as the Alabama and the Tennessee game. And if there was one thing that had to be ugly, it literally and figuratively has to be the Nick Chubb injury.

So with this being the halfway point of the season, it only makes sense to give out grades for each position.

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More Impressive First-Year Coaching Job: Jim Harbaugh or Jim McElwain?

Last winter, two of college football’s best programs went through a tough process at the same time. Florida and Michigan both found themselves badly needing change. Will Muschamp’s leadership had left the Gators stagnant, while the Wolverines had regressed under Brady Hoke’s watch.

It was time to make a change, and both programs did that, firing their head coaches. The programs took different routes with their hires, with Florida plucking Jim McElwain from Colorado State and Michigan waiting until the NFL regular season wrapped to lure prodigal son Jim Harbaugh back to Ann Arbor.

As we hit midseason, it’s clear, at least initially, that both hires were a success. Florida is 5-1 and ranked No. 13 in the latest Associated Press Top 25, and Michigan is just behind at No. 15 with a 5-2 mark.

In fact, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit told Justin Dacey of MLive.com recently that Harbaugh has righted a "lost" program.

"When he came back and decided to say, 'As a Michigan man, I'm going to bring Michigan back to being who they are—elite and special,'" Herbstreit said." 

Which raises the question: Who’s doing a better coaching job? Let’s take a look. This is an examination of what Harbaugh and McElwain have done, not what’s ahead, given that McElwain’s job could get a lot tougher without starting quarterback Will Grier, who’s serving a one-year NCAA suspension for a positive performance-enhancing drug test.

Both programs have been extremely competitive, and neither has a “bad” loss. Combined, their three losses came to No. 3 Utah, No. 5 LSU and No. 7 Michigan State, and none by more than seven points. Michigan lost Harbaugh’s debut at Utah, 24-17 and was on the verge of beating the Spartans before a bizarre mishandled punt led to a final-play touchdown and a 27-23 defeat. Florida played LSU off its heels in Baton Rouge before falling 35-28.

While the Utah loss looked poor at the time, it has gained value by the week as the Utes have emerged as a Pac-12 powerhouse. The Michigan State and LSU losses should have similar staying power.

What are these coaches working with? They didn’t exactly inherit empty cupboards. While neither Harbaugh nor McElwain had a top-20 2015 recruiting class, per 247Sports (Florida was No. 21, Michigan No. 37), the classes’ lower rankings can be explained by the turmoil that inevitably surrounds a coaching change.
Let’s look at the previous three classes, as rated by 247Sports. In 2012, Florida had the nation’s No. 3 class, and Michigan was No. 6. A year later, Florida had the nation’s No. 3 class again, with the Wolverines right behind at No. 4. In 2014, both teams slipped a bit: Florida was No. 9 and Michigan was No. 20.

Averaged out over three years, Florida’s classes were No. 5.3 nationally. Michigan’s were No. 10. Again, that’s not too shabby, but McElwain had slightly better talent to work with.

Both programs entered with quarterback questions. Florida returned sophomore Treon Harris, who started the final seven games last season, but Grier was the more polished pocket passer. Michigan returned one-time starter Shane Morris, but Iowa graduate transfer Jake Rudock proved himself a better game manager.

Senior Trip Thurman was the only returning starter on the Gators’ offensive line, and Florida starts a graduate transfer from FCS program Fordham, senior Mason Halter, at right tackle.

Despite those issues, the Gators offense has improved from a year ago. Last fall, the Gators were No. 93 nationally in total offense and No. 104 nationally in pass offense. Now, they’re No. 86 nationally in total offense with a significant improvement in pass offense, ranking No. 49 nationally.

Michigan returned five players with starting experience on the offensive line (which struggled a year ago) but had little experience in the receiving corps, returning just five touchdown catches from 2014. And that offense finished No. 112 nationally, and No. 110 in passing offense.

This fall, the Wolverines have shown some improvement, but not as much as the Gators. With Rudock running the show they are No. 90 nationally in total offense and No. 98 in passing offense, barely in the top 100 nationally.

However, Harbaugh did inherit a strong defense that ranked No. 7 nationally in 2014, and it has been strong again this fall, ranking No. 7 nationally through seven weeks. Muschamp left McElwain a strong defense, and he has largely maintained it. A year ago, the Gators ranked No. 15 nationally in total defense, and they’re No. 22 this season.

Look at all the numbers, and it’s close. Very close. Both programs began the season outside the Top 25, and both are solidly in it now, with an opportunity to win their respective divisions (Florida is in the SEC East driver’s seat, while Michigan remains in contention for the Big Ten East).

Which coach is doing the better job? Florida’s offensive improvement, given the lack of experience on the offensive line, gives McElwain the slightest of edges, at least for now.

Both programs, however, are clearly on the road back to national prominence. Ultimately, the story is far from over.

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Oluwole Betiku Decommits from UCLA: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

A huge class of 2016 recruit put himself back in play Friday as defensive end Oluwole Betiku decommitted from UCLA.  

The Nigeria-born prospect made an official announcement via Twitter, citing a desire to take a deliberate, calculated approach to choosing his school:

According to 247Sports, Betiku is a 5-star prospect who ranks as the No. 11 overall recruit in his class and the top weak-side defensive end.

With a nearly 6'4", 240-pound frame to go along with speed, quickness and power to boot, the Junipero Serra High School (Gardena, California) standout has all of the makings of a future collegiate superstar.

Per Bleacher Report's Sanjay Kirpalani, Betiku has big-time aspirations moving forward as he hopes to provide for his family by making it to the NFL: "I came into the game of football just to make a way for my family. Make a way in my life and just to find a good situation. My mom and dad are still in Nigeria. My sister is over there and my brother. I want to be the breadwinner of the family one day. I feel like sports was going to be the way."

With Betiku's recruitment now wide open once again, Tom Loy of 247Sports tabbed Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, Penn State and Texas A&M as potential landing spots.

UCLA and head coach Jim Mora may not be out of the running despite the decommitment, but the Bruins will have no shortage of competition in their efforts to bring Betiku back into the fold.

Mora has done a great job on the recruiting trail of late as UCLA's Class of 2015 ranks 12th in the nation, according to 247Sports, but Betiku may ultimately be viewed by Bruins fans as the one who got away for many years to come.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Daily Fantasy College Football Week 8: Top Sleepers and DraftKings Projections

Saturday is almost here, which means you don't have much longer to set DraftKings lineups for Week 8 of daily fantasy college football.

But don't worry. We've done a little research, too.

Everybody wants to find a couple of sleepers, and the following five players are priced at $5,000 or less. Plugging them into a lineup provides a high-upside, cost-efficient option that allows flexibility.

 

Eric Dungey, QB, Syracuse ($5,000)

Baylor's Seth Russell will be an immensely popular play, but his $9,400 price tag likely makes the second quarterback a low-salary guy.

Perhaps the most reliable option will be Eric Dungey, who has scored at least 18.7 DFS points as the Syracuse starter. Last week, he tallied a season-high 26.5 points despite losing two fumbles.

Syracuse hosts Pittsburgh on Saturday, and it's not an outstanding matchup overall. But the two dual-threat quarterbacks the Panthers have played—Iowa's C.J. Beathard and Georgia Tech's Justin Thomas—combined for a total of 498 yards and two touchdowns.

Dungey's ceiling isn't tremendously high, but his floor is appealing.

Projection: 172 pass YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT; 68 rush YDS, 1 TD

 

Raekwon James, RB, Kent State ($4,300)

While Trayion Durham received the first shot at the starting job when Nick Holley went down, a sub-3.0-yard average gave Raekwon James a chance in Week 7—and he didn't waste it.

The freshman running back logged 20 carries for 85 yards, adding eight receptions for 56 yards during a five-point victory over Massachusetts.

Kent State probably can't keep up with Bowling Green's high-powered offense, but that doesn't spell disaster in the slightest. James has proved he's a pass-catching threat, and that'll come in handy when his team is inevitably trailing Bowling Green.

Although he's averaged 12.9 DFS points over the last four weeks, James has yet to score a touchdown. But this week, James will finally reach paydirt.

Projection: 71 rush YDS, 1 TD; 5 REC, 42 YDS

 

Keith Harrington, RB, Washington State ($3,700)

Be careful not to get overly infatuated with Keith Harrington, but he's a weekly double-digit player who can provide salary relief—and he's entertaining, too:

Just once in six games has the running back tallied fewer than 10.5 points. That's mostly because Harrington regularly contributes as a receiver, considering he has 23 catches this season.

What's most intriguing, though, is Washington State will face an Arizona defense that has surrendered 177.4 rushing yards per game and allowed a total of 15 rushing touchdowns.

Harrington should break off a couple of big runs, snag a few passes and find his way into the end zone once during a high-scoring contest.

Projection: 43 rush YDS, 1 TD; 4 REC, 37 YDS

 

Quenton Bundrage, WR, Iowa State ($4,300)

When Baylor steps onto the field, everyone knows what's coming: points, points and more points. But the Bears offense executes so quickly that opponents will have plenty of snaps.

And, more importantly, a team like Iowa State will be forced to throw, throw and throw some more, because Baylor will almost certainly build an early lead.

Allen Lazard is the Cyclones' No. 1 receiver, but Quenton Bundrage can rack up targets. The senior wideout has steadily improved throughout the season, which was an expected development after Bundrage missed all of 2014 due to injury.

Over the last two weeks, he's snagged 10 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. Expect Bundrage to continue his trend on Saturday.

Projection: 7 REC, 91 YDS, 1 TD

 

Canaan Severin, WR, Virginia ($4,100)

Similar to Bundrage and Iowa State, Canaan Severin and Virginia are bound to be trailing—probably right away, too.

The biggest difference, though, is Severin has established himself as the top receiver. Plus, North Carolina's secondary hasn't faced a player of the senior's caliber. Severin has scored a touchdown in three of his last four games.

Additionally, UNC is listed as 17.5-point favorites, according to Odds Shark. So, the Cavaliers are expected to be playing catch-up for most of the matchup, and Matt Johns really doesn't have options besides Severin and Taquan Mizzell.

Virginia won't win, but Severin will put up solid numbers.

Projection: 6 REC, 102 YDS, 1 TD

Head over to DraftKings and sign up for daily fantasy college football today. Assemble your lineup to participate in contests with big cash prizes.

Follow Bleacher Report CFB and DFS writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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Tennessee Football: 5 Players Volunteers Will Rely on Most vs. Alabama

In order for the Tennessee football team to finally force the big crimson elephant in the room into the loser's column, the Volunteers are going to have to get some monumental individual efforts.

You can't just beat Bama with a pedestrian performance, and after eight consecutive losses to the rival, it's going to take some playmakers emerging with games that will be remembered in the UT record books. That's just the way it goes when you've got a program as sturdy as coach Nick Saban's.

Even so, there doesn't seem to be any fear on Tennessee's sideline.

"Is it going to be a great challenge?” Tennessee coach Butch Jones told ESPN.com's Alex Scarborough. "Yes, but it's all about being elite. We are working to be an elite football program. … Everything goes into that term 'elite.' Obviously, Alabama is elite, but I know our players are excited and looking forward to a great challenge and opportunity."

The Vols need to take advantage of the decisive edge they have on special teams, meaning Evan Berry, Cameron Sutton or Alvin Kamara needs a huge return (or more) to steal points. 

UT needs to be efficient on offense, keep the ball away from Alabama and sustain drives. Tennessee also has to be opportunistic on defense and force the Crimson Tide into mistakes the way Ole Miss did.

But several players need all-world efforts, too. Let's take a look at who must emerge with some of the biggest games of their lives in order for Tennessee to beat Alabama for the first time since 2006.

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College Football Picks Week 8: Latest Top 25 Odds and Final-Score Predictions

The changes keep sweeping through college football's top-25 rankings as a fresh crop of teams get ready to continue their rise toward the top of the polls. 

Of the seven teams ranked last week that lost, only three of them fell out of the rankings as we take a look at the updated polls headed into Week 8.

I'm not sure how many of you had the likes of Temple, Toledo and Memphis in the top-25 entering Week 8, but sure enough, a trio of less prestigious football schools are making their way up the ranks of college football. 

They look to be in pretty good shape this week, too, as they take on teams with a combined 8-11 record. 

Among the top of the rankings, a pair of top-5 teams went down despite winning. TCU went from No. 3 to No. 4 after defeating Iowa State by 24, and Clemson dropped from No. 5 to No. 6 after beating Boston College by 17. 

They have a chance to regain those lost spots this week, as you can see below the upcoming schedule, latest odds and my predictions for the upcoming games. All odds are courtesy of OddsShark.com

Game of the Week No. 9 Florida State at Georgia Tech

I know what you're thinking. It doesn't look like an attractive matchup on paper. An undefeated Florida State, ranked ninth in the nation, is meeting a Georgia Tech team that has struggled mightily to a 2-5 record. 

After winning their first two games against Alcorn State and Tulane, Georgia Tech has lost five-straight games, four of them to teams currently ranked in the top-25. 

They are reliant on their rushing attack, which averages a little over 285 yards per game. They have three rushers that have over 300 yards on the ground, led by Marcus Marshall, who is averaging over 10 yards per carry this season. 

His presence in the backfield is a welcome sight for Yellow Jackets quarterback Justin Thomas, as he spoke with Ken Sugiura of AJC.com.

"It’s fun," said Thomas. "Just a guy who you can hand the ball off to and he can break (big plays). It makes your job easier."

Their flexbone offense features three running backs on the field at the same time, and Georgia Tech runs the ball over 50 times per game. 

Florida State's run defense, which gives up around 110 yards per game, needs to hold Georgia Tech's rushing attack to around that mark if it wants to win comfortably. 

They know they'll be busy, too, as Seminoles cornerback Marquez White told Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel:

They’re really good at what they do. [They've] got really elusive players. They do a lot of things that you’re not normally used to seeing, but it’s football. [You’ve] gotta be able to adapt and like I said, I’m looking forward to the challenge. Just coming up, just playing physical.

Florida State is going to want to avoid a shootout here. Georgia Tech hasn't scored under 30 points all season, including two games over 60. The Seminoles, on the other hand, have been held under 30 in three of the past four weeks.

If they let Georgia Tech run rampant on Saturday, this is going to be a very close game. It could even be the biggest upset of the week. 

Stats courtesy of ESPN.com

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ESPN College GameDay 2015: Week 8 Location Hosts, TV Schedule and Predictions

The SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12 can wait—the marquee game on Week 8 of the college football slate takes place in the Colonial Athletic Association in the Football Championship Subdivision.

The Richmond Spiders take their 5-1 overall record and perfect 3-0 mark in the conference on the road to battle the 7-0 James Madison Dukes for conference supremacy. The winner will be in complete control of the CAA standings and have the inside track for a postseason spot. 

As if there wasn’t already enough at stake, ESPN’s traveling pregame show, College GameDay, decided to set the stage in person. The show shared its decision to head to Harrisonburg:

College GameDay typically hits the road for power conference clashes that directly impact the College Football Playoff race, so this is a deviation from the norm. ESPN’s Sam Ponder, who is part of the show, shared her excitement for the switch:

Here is everything you need to know for the Week 8 version of College GameDay, as well as a prediction for the showdown on the field.

 

ESPN College GameDay: Week 8 Info

Date: Saturday, Oct. 24

Time (ET): 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Location: Harrisonburg, Virginia

Watch: ESPN  

Live Stream: WatchESPN

 

Preview and Prediction

The presence of College GameDay isn’t the only reason this is such an important battle. The Spiders and Dukes sit atop the CAA standings with undefeated conference records. The last time either program won the outright conference title in the regular season was in 2008, when James Madison took it, and Saturday’s winner will be in firm control of this year’s race.

Richmond holds the 17-15 historical advantage, but the Dukes won the past two meetings, including last year’s 55-20 blowout at Richmond. The battle shifts to James Madison for homecoming this year, and the crowd is planning a “purple out.”

The Spiders may be on the road, but they have plenty of momentum on their side.

They lost at Maryland to start the season but are undefeated since, with the last four wins coming by a combined 101 points. Quarterback Kyle Lauletta threw for a career-high 312 yards in Richmond’s 37-12 victory over Rhode Island in his last game, and wide receiver Reggie Diggs tallied 142 receiving yards.

Lauletta is the leader of the offense with 1,510 passing yards and 10 touchdowns, but the rushing combination of Seth Fisher and Jacobi Green is also dangerous. The two runners combined for 720 rushing yards and 10 scores this season and will test James Madison’s defense Saturday.

Richmond’s offense has been impressive, but it doesn’t hold up against James Madison’s. The Dukes are 7-0 for the first time ever and boast a 48-45 win at SMU on their resume. The other six wins came by a combined 191 points (an average winning margin of 31.83 points a game).

The Dukes don’t just win, they win big. They scored more than 50 points four times already, and their lowest point total was 38 against the Stony Brook Seawolves. They also topped 600 yards of total offense five different times, thanks largely to the presence of quarterback Vad Lee.

Lee was a highly regarded recruit who initially attended Georgia Tech, but he is now the favorite to win the Walter Payton Trophy as the best player in the FCS. Against SMU, he threw for 289 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 276 more yards and two additional scores.

Matt Walks of ESPN.com described the superstar:

Through seven games this year, they have one of the best and most efficient offenses in college football, regardless of division, and Lee keeps pillaging the record books. In JMU's 48-45 upset win over SMU, he set single-game marks for total offense (565) and rushing yards (276, to which he added 275 passing yards). Against Towson, he went 24-for-32 with five passing touchdowns. Last week, JMU blew out Elon 51-0, the biggest margin of victory in program history. At the midseason mark, he looks like a lock for the STATS National Player of the Year, essentially the MVP of the FCS.

Even if Richmond somehow finds a way to stop Lee, James Madison has three of the top four rushers in the CAA. Lee is one, but tailbacks Khalid Abdullah and Cardon Johnson are dominant forces as well. The Dukes ran for 440 yards against SMU behind an uptempo offense that has an FCS-high 220 first downs.

Richmond cornerback Jarriel Jordan discussed facing the potent James Madison offense, per John O’Connor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch: “Wrap up. That’s the big thing. We need to tackle and get them down. Watching film, they break a lot of tackles. They keep their feet moving. They’re determined to get to the end zone every time they get the ball.”

Jordan has the right idea, but recognizing the need to wrap up and actually doing it against the three-headed attack of the Dukes are two separate things. Richmond’s offense will keep it within striking distance throughout the game, but the defense will not be able to slow down Lee and company for all four quarters on the road.

Look for James Madison to pull away at the end with another explosive offensive performance.

Prediction: James Madison 51, Richmond 34

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Alvin Kamara's Return to Alabama Promises to Be Emotional on Many Levels

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — This isn’t the way it was supposed to happen.

Sure, former University of Alabama running back Alvin Kamara was looking forward to finally playing a game in Bryant-Denny Stadium, but not like this. Not with his former teammates and himself mourning the loss of a friend.

Kamara has been trying to treat this week like it was any other, even though it clearly isn't, but that became impossible after the death of Altee Tenpenny, one the running backs he practiced alongside for a year.

When asked about his former Crimson Tide colleague who died in a car accident on Tuesday, Kamara teared up.

"What was so sad is I talked to him actually yesterday," Kamara told reporters in Knoxville on Wednesday. "Just to wake up and get that news was heartbreaking. I know those guys over there are hurting, but it hurts me a lot, but I know he's resting easy now."

Regardless of the outcome, Saturday’s game against Tennessee figures to be an emotional one on many levels. The Volunteers are desperate for a big win while the No. 8 Crimson Tide can’t afford another loss in their pursuit of both the Southeastern Conference and national titles, and now a lot of the key participants are also dealing with a tragedy.

That’s all on top of it being the “Third Saturday in October” rivalry. It’s a lot for anyone to take in.

"Guys have been asking me about the mood over there or, more specifically, about certain guys, matchup-wise, kind of the demeanor of those guys as far as playing," Kamara said. "So, I've been kind of an insider, being able to give [Tennessee] some information about them. It comes down to Saturday, we've got to keep having great practices and put it on the field on Saturday."

Alabama is all too familiar with facing former teammates, including former Auburn running back Corey Grant—who is now one of T.J. Yeldon’s backups and a kick returner with the Jacksonville Jaguars but was placed on injured reserve this week due to a hip flexor tear—and tight end Corey McCarron at Middle Tennessee earlier this season.

Kamara was part of Alabama's 2013 recruiting class that was hailed by many as the nation’s best. It was especially notable for its additions in the backfield. Due to depleted numbers at the position, the Crimson Tide added four top recruits: Derrick Henry, Kamara, Tenpenny and Tyren Jones.

“When he was here he was cool,” said junior defensive end Jonathan Allen, who was also in that class. “Great guy to be around, great team player. I love the guy.”

The idea was that they would push each other only it didn’t quite work out that way. While Kamara redshirted, the others all played as freshmen, and it was Henry who established himself behind Yeldon on the depth chart during bowl practices.

One of the bright spots in the Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma, Henry had 100 rushing yards on eight carries and took his first reception for a 61-yard touchdown. The others either had to be patient and wait their turns or look elsewhere.

Some off-the-field factors came into play as well. Tenpenny transferred (initially to UNLV then to Nicholls State this season), Jones was eventually dismissed from his scholarship and Kamara spent a season at the “Hutch”—Hutchinson Community College in Kansas—before making his SEC return with Tennessee.

“There was no question about the fact that he was an outstanding player,” Saban said. “What happened here was he was doing extremely well for us and was probably going to play as a freshman, and he got his knee scoped and missed three or four weeks and really couldn't catch up. He was really frustrated with the fact that he wasn't playing, and it was difficult for him at that time in his career. 

“I've seen him play this year, and he's done extremely well, and we're happy for him.”

Kamara wasted no time in establishing himself with the Volunteers. As part of a dangerous backfield combination with running back Jalen Hurd and quarterback Joshua Dobbs, he’s tallied 255 rushing yards (42.5 per game), 15 receptions for 108 yards, and five punt returns for 84 yards (16.8 average).

He’s seen the end zone six times already in the same number of games for Tennessee (3-3, 1-2 SEC), and he's even completed a pass.

"This is a tough league, and for anyone to take a pounding as a running back play after play—and I'm not just talking about running the ball, I'm talking about pass-protection and things like that—it's tough," Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said at a press conference on Tuesday. "Alvin has obviously come in and given us great depth at that position, great production."

Even though his future lay elsewhere, Kamara has kept in touch with a lot of his former teammates, and even more have continued to follow his career. Once the game starts he’ll just be No. 6, although senior linebacker Reggie Ragland has already said that he’ll make a point to say hello the first time they collide on the field.

“I ain’t talked to Alvin in a while,” Ragland said. “That’s my little brother. I can’t wait to see him.”

Henry said he’ll wait to “speak to him after the game.”

Regardless, Saturday will be an exercise in containing a wide range of emotions for both Alabama (6-1, 3-1 SEC) and Kamara. From the joy of reconnecting to the shared grief they’ll feel, there will be a lot more going on than a football game played roughly three hours after Tenpenny’s funeral in Arkansas. 

"When he was here, we played against him a lot on the scout team,” linebacker Denzel Devall said, “So it's gonna be interesting to be back out there with Alvin and competing against him.

“It's gonna be fun. I'm looking forward to it."

 

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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