NCAA Football

Oregon's Defense Is the Key to Victory vs. UCLA and Brett Hundley

The Oregon Ducks and the UCLA Bruins both suffered major upset losses in Week 6. They are looking for redemption as they square off against each other this Saturday.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discusses the keys to victory for both team in this huge Pac-12 matchup.

Will Oregon make the College Football Playoff with one loss?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Auburn vs. Mississippi State: Bone-Chilling Hype Tape for the Ultimate Showdown

The Auburn Tigers and the Mississippi State Bulldogs square off in a battle of unbeaten SEC powers in Week 7. Both teams feature electrifying quarterbacks who are in the middle of the Heisman Trophy race.

Auburn QB Nick Marshall is coming off arguably his best performance of the season in a game against LSU where he accounted for four touchdowns. Bulldogs signal-caller Dak Prescott has emerged onto the national scene with wins over Texas A&M and LSU. This game will be entertaining.

Who will win: Auburn or Mississippi State?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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Rich Rodriguez Is Vindicated, but Will He Be Lured to a Big Program Again?

We like our happily-ever-afters in sports. The final gun and the final score. Rich Rodriguez has won the vindication war with Michigan. The end. You know the story: He was never accepted and then was thrown out for not being a true Michigan Man. And while Michigan now collapses with its once-beloved Michigan Man in place, Rodriguez is on top of the college coaching world again out in the desert.   

Arizona is undefeated, and ranked No. 10 with a signature win over then-No. 2 Oregon. Going into Saturday's big game against USC, it is in strong position to make the first College Football Playoff under RichRod. Is this the big I-told-you-so moment for him?

"Well, I don't know," Rodriguez told Bleacher Report. "I think that's left up for everybody else. Everybody said the experience was so bad (at Michigan) and 'You didn't fit up there.' I always said there was a lot of BS. It's been talked about, and there's some that hasn't even been out there (written about).

"We thought we'd fought through it all. And had we had a chance to see it through the fourth or fifth year, we thought we'd have a chance to compete for championships. But that didn't happen. We didn't get to year four, and that was unfortunate. But we're going to get to year four at Arizona."

That was a pretty good I-told-you-so, but was it the end of the story? Arizona surely hopes so, but it was only six or seven years ago that Rodriguez was one of the hottest college coaches in the country. And now that he's back, that only means that other schools are going to come calling again, going to consider his problems at Michigan to be the fault of Michigan's dysfunction.

Enjoy the moment, Arizona fans. Because these things turn fast in college football. Rodriguez will be courted by the end of the year. Count on it.

Big schools will call with big budgets, big recruiting bases and big histories. Those aren't things that Arizona has. And the question for Rodriguez is going to be whether he wants to jump back in again to the traditional big-time football powerhouse schools with all the same pressures and politics, resources and responsibilities. Or can he reach his goals at Arizona?

"Two things: I'd much rather have a coach in demand than a coach you're indifferent about or wanting to make a change," Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne, who hired Rodriguez, told Bleacher Report when asked what he'd do when schools come calling. "And we've invested in our football program heavily, as much as ever has been here. Do we have the same revenue streams as all the big programs out there? No we don't."

Let's be honest: Florida is most likely going to have an opening. If they were to come for Rodriguez, should he really ignore that for Arizona?

Yes, he should. Rodriguez has already gone that route, and it was the one failure in his career. He can turn Arizona into his own personal football palace. At Michigan, he had to try to wipe away generations of football, Michigan style, to put in his modern, no-huddle, spread offense. At Arizona, the canvas was blank, the fans were looking for his signature. And it fits in well in the Pac-12.

But that's far too simplistic. Rodriguez told me last year that the reason he left West Virginia for Michigan in the first place was that he didn't believe the school's new president was willing to make the financial commitment to make it a national championship contender. That's what he wanted. And remember, he left shortly after signing a contract with West Virginia, where fans thought they had their man for the long term.

Byrne points out that Arizona has spent heavily to improve its stadium and football facilities in the past few years. It's new and it's nice. But it isn't a palace like University of Nike, er, Oregon has.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez, according to Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples, makes $2.2 million and has, basically, an annuity—in the form of equity in a donor's company—currently worth about $6 million waiting for him if he stays at Arizona five more years.

But while Arizona is a basketball power, is it really able to be one in football? USA Today recently reported on the 2013 revenues of the nation's athletic departments. Texas was No. 1 at $165.6 million. Florida was No. 6 at $130 million. Arizona? No. 42 at $68.5 million.

ESPN recruiting expert Jeremy Crabtree told Bleacher Report that Arizona does have a solid recruiting base. He said that high school football has improved dramatically the past 10 years in the state and that the university is well regarded in Southern California. But still, he said, Arizona comes in behind USC and UCLA in the pecking order for recruits there. He said that Arizona can beat out the likes of Oregon State and Arizona State for California kids, and that might be surviving on, say, the 10th best players at certain position instead of top two or three.

So that might make it hard to compete for national championships regularly. At Florida, he said, Rodriguez would have a shot at landing any recruit.

Yes, but couldn't Arizona and RichRod lure kids from the Midwest, who are all ignoring the Big Ten and heading South or West to play in the warm?

And an even bigger issue is fit. It's something you're starting to see college basketball coaches pay attention to, as coaches from mid-majors don't just automatically jump for the next biggest job. You can accomplish plenty from the mid-majors; even the Boston Celtics hired their coach from Butler.

At Florida, fans would immediately be wondering why Rodriguez isn't winning national championships the way Urban Meyer did. At Arizona he was welcomed immediately and given the chance to do his thing.

"Well, I've heard a lot of talk about fit and who's the right fit and all that kind of stuff," Rodriguez said. "And I think sometimes that's just talk. If you've got a plan and a program you want to put in place and you're allowed the time to install that and see it through, then you'll be the right fit.

"People say, `Well you weren't the right fit at Michigan.' I'm the same guy I was at Michigan, (and) I was at West Virginia, and the same before that. Sometimes people see what they want to see as far as are you the right fit or not. That to me is kind of silly."

I could not disagree more. Everyone knows what it's like to take a job working for the wrong boss with the wrong co-workers in the wrong environment. It is miserable. And it just about ruined Rodriguez' career.

Rodriguez told me last year that he was undermined at Michigan, and theoretically he was talking about his predecessor, Lloyd Carr. For most of his career, Rodriguez had been the folksy guy telling folksy stories, such as how he invented parts of his offense. He was known as one of the game's true offensive innovators. But he'd say that the only reason he started having his offense hurry up without huddles was because he thought it was strange how two-minute offenses always seemed to move downfield so easily, but his regular offense didn't. He makes jokes about how his band didn't know the victory song.

Anyway, he'd say he installed the shotgun only because his quarterback way back when was too short to see over the line from up close. And all that stuff just stuck.

By the time he left Michigan, perception was that he was just the failure who violated NCAA practice rules and used language that was too harsh.

Byrne said that when he hired Rodriguez, he decided that the West Virginia RichRod was the real one, not the Michigan RichRod. He said he thought Tucson would be the right environment for Rodriguez, his family and even his staff.

He was right.

Rodriguez, who's 50, doesn't have to go anywhere else to reach the top. It took him until this past week's win over Oregon, nearly four years, to fully live down his last attempt at the top. The lure will be strong again, but if anybody should know by now, he should know that this is the place for his happily ever after.

 

Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report. He also writes for The New York Times and was formerly a scribe for FoxSports.com and the Chicago Sun-Times. Follow him on Twitter @gregcouch.

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NFL Draft: Biggest Risers & Fallers Featuring the Next Adrian Peterson

With another college football week in the books, it's time to evaluate some of the top talent in the country. Which college star is NFL-ready?

Bleacher Report NFL draft lead writer Matt Miller joins Bleacher Report college football analyst Michael Felder to discuss who is rising and who is falling on Miller's NFL draft board.

Will Todd Gurley be selected in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft?

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football: Inside Urban Meyer's State of the Union Address to Team

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Every year, somewhere between the end the nonconference slate and the start of the league schedule, Urban Meyer delivers a state of the union address to his team. And more times than not, it includes discussion of the national title hunt.

This year was no exception, with the Ohio State head coach opting for the Buckeyes' second bye week in the past month to deviate from his typical opponent-at-hand approach. And while Meyer insists that this year's talk was a short one, his message was unmistakable.

All of Ohio State's goals—national championship included—remain on the table.

"I just show the rankings and show the teams, because they are going to hear it," Meyer told reporters on Wednesday. "When you look at it, everything is wide-open. In college football, this is a pretty open year.”

Meyer is not wrong, and a big part of that has to do with last weekend, which saw five of the top eight teams in the AP Top 25 and 11 ranked squads overall suffer losses. "They called it the strangest week ever—or whatever," Meyer said.

As a result, the Buckeyes jumped five spots in the AP Top 25, where they now sit at No. 15 after dropping to as low as 23rd following their Sept. 6 loss to Virginia Tech. Since its defeat at the hands of the Hokies, Ohio State has reeled off three consecutive wins and again appears to be on a collision course with 4-1 Michigan State for a de facto Big Ten East Division title game in East Lansing on Nov. 8.

And while there's no telling how the first-ever College Football Playoff committee would view a potential one-loss Big Ten champion, Meyer insists that's not the type of thing that the Buckeyes are focusing on anyways.

“We’re not really clinging to it," Meyer said. "But we’ve got a team that sees itself getting better. They’re much more confident in the way that they’re playing. They have a lot of confidence in our quarterback and skill players, and they’re seeing the defense be what it’s supposed to be right now."

Those ingredients have gone hand in hand with the winning recipe that has led to Ohio State's reinsertion into the playoff picture, which is already as messy as anyone could have imagined it would be at this point in the season.

But while the emergence of redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett and an apparently improving defense have put the Buckeyes in a more preferable position than they were in a month ago, Meyer admitted to being worried about OSU's second week off in the past four weeks. That, and not a potential playoff run, is the third-year Buckeyes head coach's top concern, as his team gears up for a crucial three-game stretch before its highly anticipated showdown with the Spartans.

"I don’t think these kids care," Meyer said of where Ohio State stands nationally. "I’m hoping they just want to get better. The thing we’re most concerned about is we had momentum and it’s been taken away, so we’ve got to keep that momentum somehow.”

In talking to the Buckeyes players, it became clear that Meyer's message to the media and his team were one and the same. In the span of two questions, center Jacoby Boren used the phrase "we can only control what we can control" three separate times, which is indicative of the mindset that Meyer has attempted to instill in his team.

"Stuff got pretty crazy last weekend," Boren said. "But I think our attitude is we just try to go out and get better every week. We can only control what we can control. We’re going to go out and try to win every game...win a Big Ten championship. After that we’ll see how things stack up, and hopefully they work out for us.

"But we can only control what we can control.”

That doesn't mean, however, that the Buckeyes haven't found themselves as bigger fans of certain teams in recent weeks. After all, Ohio State knows that it could still use some help in order to ultimately end up as one of the four teams chosen to participate in the first College Football Playoff.

“I would think we’d be kind of stupid not to," Boren said. "No doubt we want to have aspirations of doing big things. But if you see [a team] lose, you’re like, ‘OK, it’s good for us,’ but if we lose, it means nothing. So all we can do is keep winning every week and hopefully keep building on that, and we’ll go good places.”

Which gets to the core of why Meyer opted to acknowledge the Buckeyes' situation in the first place. And although the conversation may have been brief, it could ultimately be crucial when it comes to how Ohio State proceeds into the heart of its 2014 season.

“We had I’d say a five-minute discussion, because I know they’re going to hear about it probably walking around campus or watching TV, so why not address it?" Meyer said. "So, we address it and move on.

"I don’t want them to hear much about it at all after our conversation."

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Oklahoma vs. Texas Complete Game Preview

It’s always fireworks when the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns tangle in Dallas.

Last season, the Longhorns shocked their rivals, upsetting the then-unbeaten Sooners, 36-20. It only goes to show that records are nothing but numbers when it comes to heated rivalries.

Will Texas surprise Oklahoma again? Or will the Sooners get sweet revenge?

Here’s everything you need to know about Saturday’s matchup.

 

Where: Cotton Bowl

When: Saturday, October 11, noon ET

Watch: ABC

Live Stream: Sooner Sports

Listen: Sooner Sports Radio Network

Betting Line: Oklahoma (-14), per Odds Shark

Begin Slideshow

College Football Week 7 Predictions: Picking Top 25 Games Against the Spread

It’s not an act you want to follow, but Week 7 has no choice but to roll up its sleeves and dive right in.

Following an upset-driven, chaos-infused weekend of college football, we are back at it once again, still processing what we observed. While it would be unreasonable to demand an encore of Week 6 magnitude, this stacked slate of games seems more than capable of following accordingly.

The AP Poll has a much different look and feel this week, which is understandable after 11 of the top 19 teams added a tally in the loss column. With the rankings rebooted, we’re continuing our weekly tradition of picking all games featuring Top 25 teams against the spread.

Given the magnificent carnage, last weekend’s 10-6-1 pick performance will suffice. We can do better, however, and that’s the plan this week. Of course it is.

 

All spreads are courtesy of Odds Shark unless noted otherwise.

Begin Slideshow

Jon Gruden's College Profile Reveals He Wanted to Coach Michigan Wolverines

If the 2-4 Brady Hoke-led Michigan Wolverines are looking for a new leader, a Super Bowl-winning coach might be available. Well, that's if old media guides are to be believed.

While San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is a popular name who may be available after the 2014 season, Jon Gruden is another potential candidate to keep an eye on.

In Gruden's college profile at the University of Dayton, he revealed that he wanted to coach the Wolverines. Of course, he never did, instead starting out at the University of Tennessee in 1985 as a graduate assistant and finishing his career as a head coach with Oakland Raiders (1998–2001) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2002–2008).

He won Super Bowl XXXVII with the Bucs for the 2002 season and has a career head coaching record of 95-81.

Gruden, 51, hasn't coached since 2008 with the Buccaneers, and he currently works for ESPN as an NFL analyst.

[Twitter]

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Michigan Football: Signs That Brady Hoke Was Doomed from the Beginning

Brady Hoke needs a miracle to save his job.

As he prepares his team for a night home game vs. Penn State, Hoke stands inches from the point of no return, teetering between his passionate desire to lead the Wolverines to a new era of dominance and a dismal 4-10 record over the past 14 games that threatens to end his tenure.

But he was doomed the moment he arrived in Ann Arbor—done in by his new boss and the people he brought in to build his offense.


Bungled Coaching Search

When Rich Rodriguez was fired by athletic director David Brandon, there were two primary candidates that most fans expected to vie for the job—Les Miles and Jim Harbaugh.

Both had Michigan ties and had success as college coaches. But years of media leaks that Miles was the coach-in-waiting for Michigan had taken a toll on his credibility. The leaks were coming from somewhere and it certainly wasn’t Ann Arbor. An observer could easily conclude that the drip of rumors was a tactic to help Miles earn a steady stream of contract upgrades. Michigan was a bargaining chip that served Miles well.

Harbaugh was a different matter. He played quarterback for Bo Schembechler, had a successful career in the NFL and returned to the college game, eventually leading Stanford back to national prominence. He was slightly tarnished by a drunk driving incident (something that Michigan was sensitive to in the wake of Gary Moeller’s public meltdown), but the incident was well in the past.

Brandon’s slow-motion firing of Rodriguez resulted in a media blitz that had reporters tracking down every private plane leaving Michigan in an attempt to decipher where Brandon was conducting his coaching search. While only six days passed between Rodriguez’s firing and Hoke’s hire, the rumor mill had churned long enough to give the impression that he was anything but the first choice. He certainly wasn’t the first choice of most fans who craved a candidate with a higher national profile.

Hoke and Brandon embarked on a national tour to woo Michigan fans and alumni, and for the first year everything went better than could be expected. Michigan went 11-2 while Brandon basked in the renaissance of Michigan football.

But what Brandon intended as a systematic coaching search damaged Hoke's stature among many fans; something that would bubble to the surface as the team failed to repeat the success of his first season. And Brandon, who had taken a very public role during Hoke’s first successful season, now finds himself inextricably linked to Hoke as the program falters.


No Offensive Identity

One the main questions facing Hoke in his first season was how he would deal with star quarterback Denard Robinson. Robinson had decided not to transfer, giving Hoke something Rodriguez didn’t have during his first season—a quality experienced quarterback.

Robinson wasn’t a good fit to lead a power-football offensive attack which required a quarterback who could keep a defense honest by being able to throw downfield. Robinson’s stature made it hard for him see past his linemen when throwing long. He also didn’t have the best throwing mechanics. What he did have was incredible acceleration and cutting ability that made him a dangerous weapon running the ball. During Hoke’s first season (2011), offensive coordinator Al Borges installed an offense that made use of Robinson’s talents and Michigan went 11-2.

The problem was that Robinson was a unique talent whose skills were best utilized running behind a line anchored by center David Molk. Molk, who won the the Rimington Trophy as the best center in the country in 2011 and was also the Big Ten offensive lineman of the year that same season, would be sorely missed after his graduation.

The Michigan offense relied on Robinson, who was practically impossible to replace, and Molk, who was one of the best offensive linemen in the recent history of Michigan football.

The next season (2012), Borges tried and failed to mold Robinson into a more conventional quarterback by having him move under center. The offense stumbled as Robinson tried to run less and pass more. The offensive line struggled to replace Molk, and as the season progressed, Robinson’s legs once again became the focal point of the offense. The wear and tear took its toll and he was injured for much of the season, eventually being knocked out off the Nebraska game.

Backup Russell Bellomy was crushed in relief of Robinson and Devin Gardner, who had moved to wide receiver, was rushed back to start at quarterback the next game vs. Minnesota. He would split duties with Robinson for the rest of the season.

Michigan finished 8-5, losing three more game than in Hoke’s first season.

The 2013 season began with Devin Gardner at quarterback, and Michigan finally appeared ready to unleash the power running game that Hoke had been promising since his arrival. But problems on the offensive line caused Borges to scrap planned offensive changes to again rely on his quarterback as the primary running attack—this time Gardner instead of Robinson. And once again, the quarterback took a beating, leaving him on crutches after the Ohio State game. Unlike Robinson, Gardner had the stature and throwing arm to make plays downfield, but his Achilles' heel was bad decision-making which resulted in 11 interceptions. 

Hoke fired Borges and brought in Doug Nussmeier from Alabama as offensive coordinator for the 2014 season. So far the results have been disastrous. Nussmeier has tried to deploy a solid running game but has been hampered by a poor offensive line. The Michigan offense lives and dies by its quarterback—as Devin Gardner continues his frenetic turnover pace with no apparent backup quarterback in sight.


Questionable Talent Upfront

Michigan's problems stem from a lack of development on the offensive line, which is ironic since Hoke has preached from day one at Michigan that success starts upfront.

But Michigan’s best players on the offensive line under Hoke—center David Molk, tackle Taylor Lewan and tackle Michael Shofield—were already on the team when Hoke arrived. Hoke and his staff have not recruited and developed any elite offensive linemen during his tenure. The offensive line problems have hampered both Al Borges and now Doug Nussmeier in their attempts to install offensive schemes that weren’t so dependent on amazing quarterback play.

It’s a vicious cycle—the more pressure on Gardner, the more he tries for big plays, which leads to more turnovers. Once again, there is no backup ready to replace him if he gets injured or falters. The running attack stalls as different linemen miss assignments every game.

 

Persistent Offensive Problems Sink Hoke

Brady Hoke started in a hole thanks to Brandon’s drawn-out decision to fire Rodriguez. It made them both look bad. Hoke had the luxury of inheriting a roster with more talent than the one Rodriguez did, but was unable to develop quarterback talent or offensive linemen.

The lack of player development has hampered the installation of any offense based on running the ball from the backfield.

The problems are almost the inverse of those of Rodriguez, who could put together a strong offense but whose defense was a disaster.

Hoke squandered talented recruiting classes by not making enough changes on his coaching staff to generate better player development.

When Hoke is fired, people will blame whatever record Michigan ends up with this season. But the seeds of his demise were planted before he came to Ann Arbor by an athletic director who was more concerned about making himself the story during the coaching search. Hoke is front and center taking the blame after every loss, which is fitting since he is responsible for the failure of his staff. It’s an example that David Brandon could learn from.


Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand

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