NCAA Football

They May Be Coaching's Odd Couple, but Saban-Kiffin Duo Thrives at Alabama

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama—The head coach felt like he had to do something. After Alabama was stuffed on two fourth-and-short plays in the fourth quarter of last year's Iron Bowl against Auburn—a game that Alabama would lose 34-28—Nick Saban decided he needed to revamp his offense. Without telling his staff, Saban invited recently-fired Lane Kiffin to Tuscaloosa for eight days last December to "brainstorm" and analyze the Tide's offense, especially its weaknesses.

"It was my vacation," Kiffin joked.

Kiffin, who had been unceremoniously fired on a tarmac by USC a few months before, had a long history with Saban. He nearly left USC in 2007 to join Saban's staff shortly after Saban was hired in Tuscaloosa—agent Jimmy Sexton represents both coaches—but ultimately he decided to stay in Los Angeles before leaving for the NFL a few weeks later. Now Saban wanted his opinion on how he could revitalize his offense, which had been a ground-based, pro-style, conservative attack. It had brought three national titles to The Capstone, but it struggled down the stretch in 2013. The Tide had been the only team in the final month of the 2013 regular season that had failed to score 30 points against Auburn.  

Shortly after arriving in Alabama Kiffin had a long dinner at Saban's house on Lake Tuscaloosa; the two talked Xs and Os deep into the night. Saban and Kiffin may seem different—Saban is a taskmaster and, at age 63, still an obsessive perfectionist; Kiffin is an inveterate jokester and, at age 39, likes to have a good time and is considered a player's coach. Both, however, are coach's sons who relish the philosophical, chess-match aspects of the game. The quickest way to earn Saban's respect is to flash a high football IQ, and by all accounts, Kiffin has an understanding of the nuances of the sport that is blue moon rare.      

For eight days Kiffin carefully studied everything about the Alabama program. Every evening before he returned to his room at the Capstone Hotel, Kiffin would review his notes from the day with Saban for about 15 minutes. Saban liked what he heard. He never said he lost faith in offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, but an obvious message was conveyed. After Oklahoma beat Alabama 45-31 in last January's Sugar Bowl, Nussmeier left to become the offensive coordinator at Michigan. Kiffin, hoping to rehabilitate his image and rejuvenate his career, accepted the offer from Saban.

It was a gamble for Saban to bring him in—Saban was lampooned nationally for the hire—but it has paid off. Because love him or loathe him, Lane Kiffin is a huge reason why the Crimson Tide is now four wins away from winning its fourth national title in six years.  

 

The Master And The Student

There they were, college football's odd couple of 2014, walking side-by-side along the west sideline at Bryant-Denny Stadium. It was minutes before the kickoff between top-ranked Alabama and Western Carolina last Saturday, and the two coaches strolled in silence through the warm autumn afternoon, arms folded, heads down, looking like a pair of philosophers deep in thought.

The opening whistle blew, the crowd of over 100,000 sent a roar that rolled like thunder into the Southern sky, and the game was on.  The Crimson Tide offense jogged onto the field. The two coaches—Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin—stood a few feet from another.

Kiffin relayed the play calls to senior quarterback Blake Sims. Saban paced nearby, his blazing brown eyes constantly locking onto his first-year offensive coordinator, as if the head coach wanted to intervene. He finally did: When Kiffin called a pass late in the first quarter, Saban exploded, lighting into Kiffin, screaming he wanted to run the ball.

Message received: Alabama kept the ball on the ground on 10 of its next 11 offensive plays. Slowly the storm in Saban's eyes disappeared. The Tide won 48-14 as the offense piled up 612 total yards and the machine in Tuscaloosa continued to hum along, ruthless and relentless.

After the final whistle sounded, the Crimson Tide coaches walked into the north end zone portal that led to the locker room. Saban would emerge minutes later to talk to the microphones and cameras and tape recorders, but Kiffin—the mastermind behind the most prolific offense of the Saban era in Tuscaloosa—simply disappeared from view.

Saban doesn't allow his assistant coaches to speak to the media during the season, which has only deepened the intrigue—locally and nationally—surrounding this unlikely duo. How many seasons will Kiffin stay in Tuscaloosa? What has been the key to Kiffin's success in developing Blake Sims? What is this fast-paced offense?

"We're having more fun this year and coach Kiffin is a big reason why," said Brian Vogler, a senior tight end. "He's opened up the offense. He really understands what players do well and he puts them in positions to succeed. And having him on the field has been key because he listens to us during games and takes our suggestions. It makes all of us feel like we're really part of the offense and part of something special.   

"Coach Kiffin and coach Saban are really clicking. It's like they've discovered, as the season has gone on, how much they have in common," Vogler said. "They communicate and understand each other in a very deep way. They're having fun together. It's a great thing to see, especially with how things ended last year."   

 

Reconciling The Past

Bill Battle, Alabama's athletic director, cringed when he first heard the news. (Kiffin eventually won Battle over when they had their first lengthy conversation.) Kiffin's last foray into the SEC did not end well.

On the field at Tennessee in 2009 Kiffin had been a success. He assembled a top-five recruiting class even though he was on the job for only a few weeks before national signing day. The Vols' offense increased its scoring average by 12 points and the total offense swelled from 268.3 yards a game to 383.5. Perhaps most impressive: Kiffin and Tennessee were a last-second blocked field goal away from beating Alabama, the eventual national champion, in Tuscaloosa. The Vols outgained the Tide by nearly 100 yards.

But then in January 2010 Kiffin was offered his dream job at USC and left Knoxville. Tennessee administrators were furious—Kiffin had spent months talking about building something special, brick by brick, year by year, at UT—and the fan base felt betrayed. When word leaked that Kiffin was about to announce his resignation, an angry mob of students gathered outside the coaches' offices, vowing to block his exit. A mattress was set on fire. Kiffin eventually made it out, but the threat of violence underscored how irate the entire fan base was with Kiffin.

"As you make mistakes, the number one thing you've got to do is learn from them," Kiffin said this past August in his only meeting with reporters this season. "And not just make excuses for them. I've made more than anybody, probably. To go through what I've gone through and still be fortunate to be here, a coordinator with Saban at Alabama, you take some time to reflect on that." At the press conference on the second-floor of the Mal Moore Athletic Facility, Kiffin sounded like a contrite, team-first coach. This was the plan; Saban had met with him that morning to make sure his new coach didn't say anything "that would end up on the ticker."

The time out of the spotlight clearly has been good for Kiffin, because his loose lips have gotten him in plenty of trouble in the past. This is a coach who was once described as a "flat out liar" by former Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, who hired Kiffin in 2007 and fired him in midway through the '08 season. A year later at Tennessee, Kiffin called Urban Meyer, then the coach at Florida, a cheater and proclaimed that wide receiver Alshon Jeffery would end up pumping gas if he didn't come to Tennessee. (Jeffery, for the record, went to South Carolina and is currently a Chicago Bear.) For much of his head-coaching career, Kiffin has been a walking PR disaster, his own worst enemy, a coach who seemingly never really grew up.

In other words, he's been the exact opposite of Saban.

"Lane's done a really good job for us all year," Saban told reporters earlier this season. "The players like him, they respond really well to him. He's a really great coach. I think the reason why people in Tennessee are pissed off at him is because they know he's a good coach and they were upset when he left. I get that. I understand that.…I'm sure there are a lot of our fans, and Tennessee fans, that realize that Lane Kiffin is a very good coach."

 

Bringing The Fun To T-Town

On his first day on the job in Tuscaloosa, Kiffin began installing his version of the West Coast offense, which features elements of the hurry-up. He also began working with quarterback Blake Sims, who was recruited as a running back. Kiffin schooled Sims in all of his favorite routes: fades, short crosses and quick screens. He put quarterback rollouts into the offense repertoire. And he preached playing with tempo.

Kiffin has a well-earned reputation for developing quarterbacks. He helped USC's Matt Barkley set Pac-12 records for career passing yards and touchdowns. He helped the Trojans' Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez became first-round NFL draft picks. And at Tennessee he transformed Jonathon Crompton from a player who completed only 51.5 percent of this passes in 2008 into a quarterback who connected on 58.3 percent of his throws in '09 and tossed 27 touchdown passes and only 13 interceptions. His mission with Sims: Improve his throwing mechanics and help him grow comfortable in the West Coast offense.

It worked immediately. Alabama totaled 538 yards of offense in its season-opening 33-23 win over West Virginia. Afterward, Saban confessed that the Tide may have lost the game if Kiffin hadn't been on the sideline to guide and calm Sims, who set a school record for completions (24) and attempts (33) for a first-time starter.  

"Y'all need to fess up," Saban said after the game to reporters, his voice rising. "Most places that don't like [Lane], it's because he left and they were mad because of that. They weren't mad about anything he did while he was there. Just do a little research."

Three weeks later, on Sept. 20, the Alabama offense ran out onto the field for the first play of the Florida game. At the line of scrimmage Sims looked at Kiffin, who quickly assessed the Gators defensive alignment. As the play clock ticked down, Kiffin changed the play and called a slant-and-go route to running back Kenyan Drake. Lined up out wide right, Drake was covered by a linebacker. At the snap of the ball Drake easily blew past the linebacker and then caught a perfectly lobbed strike from Sims. As Drake sprinted into the end zone for an 87-yard touchdown, Kiffin pumped his fist in air and shouted in excitement. The happiness on his face could have lit up a dark film room.

Kiffin had another eruption of emotion on Oct. 25 at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. On Alabama's first offensive play of the game, he signaled for Sims to throw a quick pass to Amari Cooper. The play worked just like Kiffin had drawn it up on Dry Erase whiteboard, as Cooper juked a defender and sprinted 80 yards for a touchdown. The only person running as fast as Cooper in the stadium may have been Kiffin, who sprinted down the sideline like his shoelaces were on fire. This kind of spontaneous, child-like joy had been glaringly absent at Alabama last year—even when the team was ranked No. 1.

"That was a huge moment for coach Kiffin going back to Tennessee," Vogler said. "We feed off that energy when coach Kiffin gets pumped up. It gets all of us ready to go. It's so important. "

 

An Unlikely Reunion

When Kiffin was at Tennessee, he had recruited Blake Sims out of Gainesville (Georgia) High. If Kiffin had stayed in Knoxville, Sims would have ended up a Volunteer. "This is a crazy guy," Sims said of Kiffin. "He's funny and he was a good guy. The way his attitude was, you could tell he was a guy who wanted to win. That's why it doesn't surprise me that coach Saban went and got him for this program because he fits it all the way around." After 10 games, Sims has completed 187 of 301 passes (62.1 percent) and thrown 20 touchdowns and only four interceptions. His passer rating of 156.1 ranks 12th best in the nation.

 

The Nick Saban Internship

"I want to be learning and growing. Coach Saban teaches his coaches every day." 

— Lane Kiffin

So far, Alabama has been the perfect place for Kiffin to rebuild his career. No coach on the offensive staff spends more time at Saban's side than Kiffin.

At Alabama under Saban, virtually every minute of every day is scripted. The expectations for the assistants are robustly clear.  

"The thing about Nick is that he clearly spells out for you what he expects and what your duties are," said Jim McElwain, an offensive coordinator for Saban at Alabama from 2008 to '11 who is now the head coach at Colorado State. "He can be tough, but he's all about one thing: winning. That's it. He has a clear plan and a clear organizational calendar.  In all my time with Nick, I think we only had one conversation that wasn't about football. He's the most focused, driven person I've ever met."

Kiffin is constantly taking notes in this no-nonsense environment—from how Saban runs meetings to how he deals with various disciplinary issues to how he interacts with his players. For now Kiffin appears content to stay in Tuscaloosa for at least another season. And then he'll likely get one more shot at being a head coach.

There has never been a doubt in Kiffin's ability to call a hell of a game or develop a quarterback.  Most of his past failures can be traced to his inexperience; now he's earning the football equivalent of a post-doctorate degree in Tuscaloosa.

He's learning Saban's template for running a program and literally reading Saban's book on winning, a nearly 200-page, bound document in which Saban details every aspect of running a program, from proper sleeping habits for players to nutrition and motivation.  

When Kiffin gets his next shot as a head coach, he will have been Sabinized and he will be ready.

 

Lars Anderson is a 20-year veteran of Sports Illustrated and the author of six books, including The Storm and the Tide, which was published in August. He's currently an instructor of journalism at the University of Alabama. Follow him on Twitter @LarsAnderson71.

 

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TCU vs. Texas: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

The TCU Horned Frogs fell to No. 6 in the Associated Press Top 25 after they were given a scare by Kansas in Week 13. Things won't be getting any easier for this College Football Playoff contender, as a trip to Austin to take on the surging Texas Longhorns is next on the slate.

Earlier in the season, this contest had the makings of a lopsided affair. TCU's offense was demolishing every foe, and Texas couldn't seem to live up to expectations, dropping five of its first eight games. However, the Longhorns have recently hit their stride, winning their last three games, and they appear to be a formidable Week 14 opponent.

Can quarterback Trevone Boykin lead the Horned Frogs to a vastly important 10th win on the season, or will Texas play spoiler and finish the year strong with a fourth consecutive win? There's plenty at stake here, including Big 12 bragging rights within the state of Texas.

 

Aerial Prowess

While neither defense has been bad this season, we should expect a high-scoring affair at Royal Texas Memorial Stadium on Thursday. Both TCU and Texas have been lighting up scoreboards lately, and each team's quarterback is the primary reason.

We've seen TCU's Boykin go off this year. The junior signal-caller was involved in some early Heisman Trophy discussions, especially following his 433-yard, seven-touchdown performance against Texas Tech in the Horned Frogs' 82-27 victory.

Since that astounding performance, Boykin's production has dropped off, though. Over his last three games, he's notched three touchdowns and two interceptions, eclipsing the 300-yard mark just once. He did have a brilliant rushing performance against Kansas State, carrying 17 times for 123 yards and three touchdowns, but he'll need to do much more through the air against Texas.

Still, according to DFW Sports News, Boykin is extremely happy with the team's offense:

As for the Longhorns, quarterback Tyrone Swoopes has played very well lately. The sophomore signal-caller completed 24 of his 33 passing attempts for 305 yards and two touchdowns in Week 13 against Oklahoma State, giving him plenty of momentum heading into Thursday.

Swoopes commented on the importance of Thursday's game against TCU, via Jori Epstein of The Daily Texan:

If Boykin can regain his previous form, Swoopes may need the game of his brief career to keep the Longhorns in contention.

 

Finish Strong

While many points are expected to be posted by both of these teams, finishing strong on the defensive side of the ball will come into play. The inability to close out games has plagued both Texas and TCU this season, and this game could easily come down to one defensive stand.

The Horned Frogs suffered their only loss this year against Baylor in a high-scoring affair that saw the Bears win 61-58. With just over 10 minutes remaining in the game, TCU held a 58-37 lead. Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty led two quick touchdown drives, knotting up the game at 58, and a field goal as time expired won the game for the Bears in regulation due to 17 unanswered points.

Earlier this season, Texas faced a difficult opponent in UCLA. Quarterback Brett Hundley exited the game, forcing backup Jerry Neuheisel into action. He played well, and the game remained close throughout; however, a Swoopes touchdown pass put the Longhorns up 17-13 with just over five minutes remaining.

Soon after, Neuheisel completed a 30-yard pass to Paul Perkins inside the Longhorns' territory, but a Jordon James fumble was recovered by Texas, ending the threat. Swoopes and Co. were held to a 3-and-out, and following a good punt return, Neuheisel completed a 33-yard touchdown strike to Jordan Payton, winning the game for the Bruins.

Allowing big passing plays late in the game won't fly against Boykin and the Horned Frogs in Week 14.

 

When: Thursday, November 27

Where: Royal Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Channel: Fox Sports 1

Live Stream: Fox Sports Go

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 56.5
  • Spread: TCU -6.5

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

One thing that's kept TCU alive when Boykin has struggled is its running game. This team has a very talented running back in Aaron Green, and he's coming off a great showing against Kansas, ripping off 128 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. He's really come into his own of late, notching three 100-yard performances in his last three games, and he's always a threat to hit a home run.

Texas has a couple of talented backs in Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown, but they've been a little erratic lately. Brown managed only 31 yards on 15 carries against Oklahoma State, and he's averaged fewer than four yards per carry in three of his last five games. It's been a similar story for Gray, who had a great three-touchdown showing against West Virginia but also averaged four yards per carry or fewer in five games this season.

Keeping a balanced offense will be crucial for any kind of offensive success in this game, and entering Week 14, the Horned Frogs appear to be more capable of achieving just that.

Prediction: TCU 37, Texas 30

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Bowl Projections 2014: Playoff Predictions, Odds and More Before Rivalry Week

It may seem like nothing is more important in the world of college football than the race for the College Football Playoff, but good luck suggesting that to the various fanbases across the country before Week 14.

After all, it’s rivalry week, and the only thing on the minds of Ohio State, Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Mississippi State fans is beating Michigan, Auburn, Oregon State, Florida and Ole Miss, respectively. Bragging rights for the next 364 days are on the line, and college football legacies are defined by performances in these showdowns.

The larger picture will be waiting for the players and coaches in the aftermath, but let’s take a peek at it anyway. Here is a look at the latest playoff projections and odds from StatMilk and Odds Shark before mine. 

The national championship odds listed are courtesy of Odds Shark, as of Monday afternoon at 4 p.m. ET.

 

StatMilk and Odds Shark Playoff Projections and Odds

 

Scott Polacek Playoff Projections

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Baylor

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Oregon 

Championship Bowl (in Arlington, Texas): TBD (semifinal winners)

 

Rivalry Week

Playoff contenders Ohio State, Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Mississippi State are all favorites heading into their final regular-season games, but the cliche of “throw the records out” really does apply when a rivalry game is on tap.

After all, the heavily favored Buckeyes and Ducks beat overmatched Michigan and Oregon State squads by a combined two points last season. Motivations change and intensity increases in these annual showdowns, and the team with the better record or more talent doesn’t always have an easy go of things. 

What’s more, the pressure of the playoffs is a very real phenomenon, and the contenders will be the ones pressing in the fourth quarter if Saturday’s games come down to the final minutes. How they respond could be the difference between a playoff spot and just another bowl game.

From a historical standpoint, the rivalry between Ohio State and Michigan is typically included in the same category as showdowns between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox and the Duke and North Carolina basketball teams. That intensity will be there in the Horseshoe again Saturday.

Head coach Urban Meyer certainly seemed to understand that during his weekly press conference

"I want our players to take part ownership of the program. This is not another game. This is The Game," he said.

The clash between Alabama and Auburn will represent a chance for revenge for the Crimson Tide after a 110-yard return of a missed field goal on the final play of last year’s game ended Alabama’s national title hopes and propelled Auburn into the game against Florida State.

Those Seminoles will take on Florida on Saturday, and one X-factor to watch will be how the Gators respond for Will Muschamp. It is their coach’s final regular-season game at the helm, and there could be even more motivation to send him out a winner than there already would be in a contest with the hated Seminoles.

Oregon State may be 5-6, but it has Sean Mannion directing the charge on offense. He is the Pac-12’s all-time leader in career passing yards and has a chance to shock an Oregon defense that has appeared vulnerable at times this season. 

Gina Mizell of The Oregonian sang Mannion’s praises recently, and that talent could be an issue for the Ducks:

One game fans of Ohio State, Baylor and TCU will watch very closely is the contest between Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

A once-promising season is all but over for the Rebels after three straight SEC losses, and ruining the title hopes for the Bulldogs is all they have left. If that were to happen, the race for the No. 4 seed in the College Football Playoff would be wide open. 

Embrace the chaos.

 

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LSU vs. Texas A&M: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

Thursday marks the 53rd meeting in the LSU-Texas A&M rivalry. This historic series dates back to 1899 and is led 29-20-3 by LSU. This rivalry went on a hiatus following the 1995 season but was rekindled in 2011 when the Aggies were defeated by the Tigers in the Cotton Bowl. LSU has won the two meetings since.

This year, these teams may be the SEC's most enigmatic.

Texas A&M began the season with a 52-point scoring frenzy against South Carolina, but after dropping three straight to ranked conference opponents, the team fell out of the picture. However, a win against Auburn in early November finally earned the Aggies bowl eligibility. They enter Week 14 at 7-4.

LSU has much of the same story. The Tigers got off to a great start, defeating Wisconsin to begin their season. However, dropping games to Mississippi State and Auburn took the team out of College Football Playoff contention. LSU did take down Ole Miss in October but has since lost two consecutive contests to Alabama and Arkansas. The Tigers are 7-4 entering the final game of the regular season.

The history of this series says it all. These teams have been going at it for years, producing a bevy of memorable performances. We're poised to get another this time around.

 

Clash of Styles

There may not be two teams with greater differences in the entire SEC.

LSU is extremely defensive-minded and has been for quite some time. However, this year, the Tigers defense has been more crucial than ever due to the lack of the team's offensive efficiency.

Sophomore quarterback Anthony Jennings needs much more time to develop into a viable option under center. He hasn't thrown for more than 200 yards or more than one touchdown since LSU's first two games of the season.

The team has fared slightly better on the ground, as freshman running back Leonard Fournette leads the charge with 745 yards and seven touchdowns on the season, but he's only eclipsed the 100-yard mark three times this season. Luckily for the Tigers, Texas A&M doesn't feature too strong of a defense and is ranked 104th in the nation against the run.

This tweet from Glenn Guilbeau of USA Today sums up both teams' weaknesses:

On the flip side, the Aggies are all about offense. Although, they've had to put up points with two different quarterbacks at the helm this season. Kenny Hill began the season with a flourish, throwing for 511 yards and three touchdowns against South Carolina. However, he began to struggle later in the season and was benched in favor of Kyle Allen.

Allen's had his moments since he was named starter, the biggest of which came in a victory over Auburn. The quarterback threw for 277 yards, four touchdowns and one pick in that game, as the Aggies ran a very balanced attack.

Speaking of balanced attacks, that may be the only way around a superb LSU defense that's only allowing 16.4 points per game. A trio of ball-carriers featuring Tra Carson, Trey Williams and Brandon Williams will attempt to find a way to reach paydirt against a Tigers defense that's only allowed 12 rushing touchdowns this season.

 

Home Sweet Home

While these teams are very different, one factor could be even more prominent than their diverse styles of play. That would be home-field advantage.

The Aggies are 4-2 at Kyle Field after plenty of mixed results this season. They blew the doors off lesser opponents such as Lamar and Rice, were taken to overtime by Arkansas and were defeated by Ole Miss and Missouri. That last defeat was the most concerning.

Missouri came into College Station without an extremely potent rushing offense but still racked up a total of 335 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 6.8 yards per carry along the way. That's not good news for the Aggies, as the Tigers will be coming into town with a ground-and-pound mindset.

LSU is 1-2 on the road this season, and the results haven't been pretty. The Tigers just edged Florida by a three-point margin, notching their lone road win of the year; however, the other two featured bad losses at the hands of Auburn and Arkansas.

Much of this can be pegged on LSU's inability to establish its running game away from home. In Death Valley, the Tigers have been all over opposing defenses, averaging 235.1 rushing yards per game and scoring a total of 18 rushing touchdowns. It's been completely different on the road, as the team is only averaging 123 yards per game on the ground, scoring just four times.

Making matters worse, 14 of the team's 15 passing touchdowns this year came at home. Needless to say, an already sluggish Tigers offense is completely lethargic when out of its comfort zone.

 

When: Thursday, November 27

Where: Kyle Field in College Station, Texas

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Channel: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 49.5
  • Spread: LSU -2.5

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

Despite the massive amount of differences between these two teams, they actually match up quite well. We should absolutely expect a low-scoring game, as the Aggies will struggle moving the ball against LSU's defense and the Tigers' road struggles on the offensive side of the ball will continue.

In contests like this, the upper hand generally goes to the team with the better defense. In this case, that would be LSU. Expect the Tigers to cause plenty of issues for Allen and Co., creating turnovers, winning the battle for field position and giving their offense short fields to work with.

The Aggies have some playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, and creating a big play isn't out of the question here. Texas A&M may get on the scoreboard due to its ability to take the top off a defense, but it can't count on that to defeat the Tigers.

Prediction: LSU 23, Texas A&M 17

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Pac-12 Football: Predicting the All-Conference 1st Team

With just one week remaining in the Pac-12 regular season, the all-conference teams are not only taking shape, but the majority of the spots are set in stone.

Arguably the second-best conference in college football, the Pac-12 will not only boast one of the strongest all-league teams, but many of the players will be up for and likely win postseason awards.

One such player, whom you might be able to guess, has a decent chance to bring the Heisman Trophy back out to the West Coast.

The offensive stars in this conference have become household names, but several young players on defense will threaten to reshape the league's identity in the years to come. All will be featured in the following slides, which lay out our projections of the Pac-12 All-Conference First Team.

 

All stats via CFBStats.com. The Pac-12 puts out an all-conference team that features two RBs and two WRs on offense, so we'll do the same with the projections. As for the defense, while there are many deserving candidates in the front seven, we're sticking with three DL and four LBs.

Begin Slideshow

Pac-12 Football: Predicting the All-Conference 1st Team

With just one week remaining in the Pac -12 regular season, the all-conference teams are not only taking shape, but the majority of the spots are set in stone...

Begin Slideshow

UCLA Football: What the Bruins Should Be Thankful for in 2014

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, the prudent thing would be to speak about the things Jim Mora and the UCLA football team are thankful for. 

Sitting at 9-2, there's a real chance for the Bruins to potentially sneak into the final four of the inaugural College Football Playoff. 

There are multiple aspects that have helped get UCLA to this current spot. A gargantuan effort by a reserve quarterback was a potential turning point early in the season. Another big play by an embattled cornerback helped to seal a victory. 

Three players have immensely helped the Bruins in becoming a Top 10 team. Lastly, the head coach deserves a great deal of thanks. 

This piece will speak about what the UCLA Bruins should be thankful for in 2014.  

Begin Slideshow

UCLA Football: What the Bruins Should Be Thankful for in 2014

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, the prudent thing would be to speak about the things Jim Mora and the UCLA football team are thankful for...

Begin Slideshow

College Football: Week 13 Recap, Game Attended and Pick Results

The College Football Playoff rankings should look similar to last week's after the top four teams came away with wins. Teams were also eliminated from winning what has been wild races in the Big Ten West and Pac-12 South Divisions.

It doesn’t seem to be as surprising anymore, as No. 3 Florida State escaped yet again with a 26-yard game-winning field goal by placekicker Roberto Aguayo to give the Seminoles a 20-17 victory. It was their fifth game this season that was decided by six points or less.

While there was drama in Tallahassee, nothing was bigger than UCLA’s statement 38-20 win over crosstown rival USC to keep itself in contention for the division title. Quarterback Brett Hundley threw for 326 yards, three touchdowns and one interception to lead the Bruins to their third straight win over the Trojans.

No. 15 Arizona also kept itself in the Pac-12 South Division discussion with a convincing 42-10 win at No. 17 Utah. A win at home in one of the biggest Territorial Cup games ever in the in-state rivalry against Arizona State on Friday, along with a UCLA loss, would give the Wildcats a berth in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

The Big Ten West Division will now come down to the Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe on Saturday with No. 25 Minnesota upsetting No. 23 Nebraska on the road by scoring 14 unanswered points to win 28-24. No. 16  Wisconsin also edged out Iowa on the road, 26-24, with help from Melvin Gordon’s 200 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The winner will face Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Dec. 6.

Eighth-ranked Ole Miss became the second ranked team in a row to be shut out by now-bowl-eligible Arkansas 30-0 and was eliminated from winning the SEC West Division title.



Game Attended

Colorado 10 at No. 2 Oregon 44

The second-ranked Oregon Ducks continued their quest for the national championship on Saturday with a blowout 44-10 win at home against Colorado. Heisman front-runner quarterback Marcus Mariota had an impressive outing in what was likely his final game at Autzen Stadium.

Mariota was 24-of-32 for 323 yards and scored four total touchdowns, which gave him 42 total touchdowns on the year and helped break former USC quarterback Matt Barkley’s Pac-12 single-season record of 41 touchdowns. He also became the fifth quarterback in FBS history to throw for 9,000 yards and rush for 2,000 yards.

Another threat in the backfield against the Buffaloes was freshman running back Royce Freeman, who ran for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Freeman rushed for 20-yard and seven-yard touchdowns in the first half to help give the Ducks a convincing 20-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Freshman wide receiver Charles Nelson was a threat in the receiving corps as well, as he recorded three receptions for 62 yards and two touchdowns against a Colorado defense that heading into Saturday’s contest was surrendering an awful 38.6 points per game.

With a 34-point loss to Oregon, Colorado suffered its seventh straight loss of the season and fell to 0-8 in Pac-12 play. Running back Christian Powell led the offense with five carries for 51 yards against a Duck defense that held the Buffalo offense to only 226 total yards.

Oregon will face in-state rival Oregon State on the road in the Civil War on Saturday, prior to playing in the Pac-12 Championship Game on Dec. 5 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

Pick Results

Overall Record: 42-23

Week 13 Record: 3-2

Note: Team in bold indicates author’s pick



Prediction: Nebraska 35, Minnesota 24

Result: Minnesota 28, Nebraska 24


Prediction: Ole Miss 31, Arkansas 17

Result: Arkansas 30, Ole Miss 0


Prediction: Arizona 27, Utah 24

Result: Arizona 42, Utah 10


Prediction: Wisconsin 31, Iowa 13

Result: Wisconsin 26, Iowa 24


Prediction: UCLA 35, USC 31

Result: UCLA 38, USC 20

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Football: What the Bulldogs Should Be Thankful for in 2014

It’s Thanksgiving week, and it’s a time for families to get together and reflect on the things they are thankful for. It’s also a time where families can get together and watch college and professional football all day long.

The Georgia Bulldogs won’t be playing on Thanksgiving Day, but they will be preparing for a big Saturday game against in-state rival Georgia Tech. Both schools are 9-2, and there’s a chance both teams will be playing in their respective conference championships depending on the outcome of the Missouri-Arkansas game on Friday.

So the Bulldogs are fortunate to once again be in a position where they can win 10 games, beat Georgia Tech and go to the Georgia Dome next week.

But what are some of the other things the Bulldogs should be thankful for this season?

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South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Clemson Tigers Complete Game Preview

The Clemson Tigers and South Carolina Gamecocks will square off Saturday in another chapter of the storied rivalry. The Gamecocks—winners of five straight against Clemson—have been through a rough season, but a win Saturday would make the season a success.

The big question mark for Clemson will be whether quarterback Deshaun Watson will be able to play. He is still listed as day-to-day, and we probably won’t know much until late in the week.

This should be another great matchup, and I don’t see any scenario where this game doesn’t come down to a few plays in the fourth quarter.

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Virginia vs. Virginia Tech: Complete Game Preview

For the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Virginia Cavaliers, the 2014 college football season comes down to one game. The Hokies and Cavaliers have more on the line in this year's contest than they've had in years.

No, a spot in the ACC Championship Game is not up for grabs. Instead, both schools, currently at 5-6 on the season, need one more victory to become bowl-eligible. For embattled Virginia head coach Mike London, it could mean saving his job. 

The Hokies are looking to extend their bowl streak to 22 years with a win over the Hoos.

In past years, the winner of this game was almost a foregone conclusion, with Tech winning the past 10 meetings and 14 of the last 15 overall. However, Tech's punchless offense combined with UVA's strong defense make this year's meeting different.

The Cavaliers are coming off one of the most impressive wins of the London era with last week's dismantling of Miami in Charlottesville. Meanwhile, Tech will try to bounce back from one of the more embarrassing performances of Frank Beamer's 28 years in charge. The Hokies lost to Wake Forest in double overtime in a game that was scoreless at the end of regulation.

  • When: Friday, November 28, 2014
  • Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Virginia
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN
  • Radio: Virginia Tech IMG Sports Network. Here is a complete list of stations by area.
  • Spread: The Cavaliers are currently one-point favorites, via Odds Shark.

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Nebraska Football: Fans Should Be Thankful for Clarity from Minnesota Loss

With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, Nebraska fans will be looking hard for something about which to be thankful.

In the course of seven days, Nebraska fans saw their Cornhuskers go from an 8-1 team on the periphery of the College Football Playoff to (at best) the third-best team in the Big Ten West. In the process, they saw Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon set the FBS all-time record for rushing yards in one game—needing only three quarters to do so—and saw less-than-fleet Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner gash the Blackshirts for 133 yards on the ground.

So what can Nebraska fans be thankful for as they sit down to their turkey and trimmings?

Think about what would have happened if Jordan Westerkamp had hauled in Tommy Armstrong's across-the-field throw for a touchdown to salvage an ugly win against the Gophers. Nebraska would have gone to Iowa City at 9-2 with a chance to win the B1G West with help. The struggles of 2014 would have been seen as a blip rather than evidence of the program's level.

Yes, the struggles of 2014, not just the past week. Remember, this is the same Nebraska squad that needed a miracle play from Ameer Abdullah to avoid defeat at home against McNeese State of the FCS. It's the same Nebraska squad that was down 27-3 against Michigan State going into the fourth quarter before staging a furious comeback—fueled by a punt return and a short drive led by backup quarterback Ryker Fyfe.

A win over Minnesota on Saturday—driven by a broken play, a blocked field goal and a last-minute touchdown drive—would have allowed Nebraska to paper over the cracks for another year and allowed fans to tell themselves their team was something it was not: a contender.

In seven years, Bo Pelini's Nebraska teams have been to three conference title games. In 2009, a Ndamukong Suh-led Nebraska squad was one second away from beating Texas. In 2010, a freshman Taylor Martinez threw an interception that likely turned the tide in Oklahoma's 20-13 victory.

And in 2012—well, Nebraska fans all remember what a 7-5 Wisconsin squad that finished third in the Leaders Division and went to Indianapolis only due to sanctions levied against Ohio State and Penn State did to that crew of Cornhuskers.

Two years removed from that title game, and Nebraska is on track (if oddsmakers are to be believed) for Pelini's seventh four-loss campaign in seven seasons.

As a smart and particularly handsome analyst noted after Wisconsin's 59-24 mauling of Nebraska in Madison, a Nebraska program ending the season at 10-2 or 9-3 would be hard-pressed to dismiss Pelini even though that record really would not be indicative of whether Nebraska was a contender to win a division title. The record would mask the true state of the program under Pelini at the end of the 2014 season.

But with a loss to Minnesota, the second loss on the bounce against the Gophers? With the oddsmakers favoring Nebraska to drop a second straight to Iowa, producing this year's version of a four-loss season with a three-game losing streak?

Clarity. The loss to Minnesota provides clarity to anyone observing the Nebraska program as to what it is.

The question about what to do, of course, is open. Pelini thinks his program is on the right track and on the verge of a breakthrough season. Pelini takes care of his players, runs a clean program and gets his teams to bowl games each year. His quote after the Wisconsin game, via Mitch Sherman of ESPN.com, that "a lot of programs across the country would die to have won the amount of football games we've won" is accurate.

Of course, most programs around the country don't have the investment in football, the tradition, resources or fanbase support Nebraska provides, but that's another story.

The bottom line is that there are a lot of good reasons to retain Pelini's services as Nebraska's head coach, either positive (his winning record, his recruiting, the program he runs) or negative (the cost of a firing, the trauma to the fanbase and the fear of the unknown with a new coach).

But at least after the Minnesota loss, those pros and cons can be debated by the Nebraska fanbase—and ultimately by athletic director Shawn Eichorst—with a clear perspective as to where Nebraska's football program currently lies without a deceptive and unrepresentative win-loss record concealing the blemishes.

Clarity. If you're looking for something to be thankful for about Nebraska football this holiday season, be thankful for clarity.

For a different look at Nebraska football, check out The Double Extra Point.

Or you can use the Twitter machine to follow @DblExtraPoint.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2014: Power Ranking All 128 Teams for Week 14

This past weekend of college football won't go down as the greatest in the sport's history, but it was still one that gave us plenty of rankings-altering results. Wins, losses, good performances and bad led to shake-ups all over the Bleacher Report power rankings.

These rankings are comprised of an average of five ratings: The Associated Press media and Amway Coaches polls, Bleacher Report's Top 25, ratings guru Jeff Sagarin's computer ratings and my personal ranking.

Take a look at how the 128 FBS teams are ranked heading into Week 14 and then give us your take in the comments section.

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5-Star UCLA Commit Trying to Lure These Other Blue-Chip Recruits to Westwood

On Sunday, Keisean Lucier-South became the latest high-profile prospect to pledge to UCLA and believes there's plenty of opportunities for further Bruins success as national signing day nears.

The Southern California defensive end has a few particular targets in mind who could further elevate a group that already includes fellow 5-star Josh Rosen and top-ranked tight end Aliz'e Jones. Lucier-South, rated second nationally among weak-side defensive ends, mentioned several players he'd like to see land in Westwood with him during a post-commitment conversation.

"This UCLA class has a lot of really good players in it already, but there are some guys out there who make it even more special," Lucier-South told Bleacher Report.

The Bruins currently hold 16 commitments in a class that rates 13th nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings. Here's a look at undecided recruits who've caught the attention of Lucier-South.

 

Wide receivers Ryan Newsome and Christian Kirk

These Southwest standouts spent official visits at UCLA in October and present game-changing skill sets along the offensive perimeter. With a quarterback of Rosen's caliber already in place, expect the Bruins to land at least one more premier pass-catcher.

"Newsome and Kirk are playmakers who can challenge the defense." Lucier-South said. "They are both big-time receivers."

Kirk, a 5'10", 191-pound Arizona product, has eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards during each of the past three seasons. He's also over 1,000 rushing yards this year for the first time in his high school career and has 39 total offensive touchdowns, per MaxPreps.

Rosen lauded Kirk's abilities this summer at The Opening, an elite, invite-only showcase held at Nike's world headquarters.

"Christian has the ability to break any play at any time as long as the ball touches his hands," he said. "The idea behind the spread offense is to get athletes in space and create matchups that you like with one player against another. He is definitely a guy who can beat just about anyone. You like his chances in those situations."

Newsome, viewed among the nation's top weapons in the slot, is a serious threat on special teams. The Texas star set a national record with seven punt returns for touchdowns in 2013.

 

Defensive tackle Rasheem Green

Green, another Southern California defender, has a similar group of Pac-12 suitors to Lucier-South. Oregon, UCLA and USC are top options, and he also paid a visit to Miami earlier this month.

The 6'5", 275-pound player is incredibly explosive for an interior lineman. He recorded 23 tackles for loss through the first 10 games of his senior season and has 15.5 sacks since 2013, per MaxPreps.

"Green is a great talent who I think would fit in really well with UCLA's defensive line," Lucier-South said. "He's a big guy who can rush the passer from inside."

A tandem of Green and Lucier-South could give Pac-12 quarterbacks nightmares for years to come.

 

Linebacker Osa Masina

The 6'4", 230-pound hybrid defender is the top-rated prospect in Utah and could fill a variety of roles in college. Much like Lucier-South, he is capable of wreaking havoc as a pass-rusher with his hand in the dirt or from an upright position.

"He's just a really good all-around linebacker and a versatile player," Lucier-South said. "He can cover tight ends and receivers in the slot or rush the passer. Not many linebackers can do all those things so well."

Masina is a rare athlete who thrives on both sides of the ball for Brighton High School. Through 12 games as a senior, he has nearly 800 offensive yards, 10 touchdowns, 97 tackles and 10 sacks, per MaxPreps.

He visited UCLA in early October and watched the Bruins face Utah alongside Lucier-South, who detailed some aspects of their interaction.

“I spent a lot of time talking with Osa at the UCLA game," he said. "We have a lot in common because we can both play linebacker or defensive end. The two of us could do a lot of damage together if it works out that way.”

Aside from the Bruins, Masina is also considering Arizona State, Utah and USC.

 

Defensive back Iman Marshall

Marshall, rated the nation's top cornerback in 247Sports' composite rankings, could anchor the Bruins' defensive backfield while Lucier-Smith does damage up front. The 6'1", 190-pound playmaker is coveted by fellow California programs USC and Stanford, while LSU, Notre Dame, Michigan, Florida State and Oklahoma are expected to receive official visits.

"Biggie is a shutdown corner," Lucier-Smith said. "I have a lot of respect for the way he plays."

Rosen is another Bruins commit who identified Marshall as a must-have prospect at The Opening.

"He definitely challenges you," the heralded quarterback said. "It forces you to bring your best on each and every play. You can't afford to make a mistake."

Rosen and Lucier-Smith both hope he ends up causing trouble for Bruins opponents.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report national recruiting columnist Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5-Star UCLA Commit Trying to Lure These Other Blue-Chip Recruits to Westwood

On Sunday, Keisean Lucier-South became the latest high-profile prospect to pledge to UCLA and believes there's plenty of opportunities for further Bruins success as national signing day nears...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

UCLA Is Your New Playoff Dark Horse

UCLA football players are using eye black as war paint, coach Jim Mora is using language at pep rallies that has to be censored and the team just outmuscled its usual bully, USC...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

UCLA Is Your New Playoff Darkhorse

UCLA football players are using eye black as war paint, coach Jim Mora is using language at pep rallies that has to be censored and the team just outmuscled its usual bully, USC. What on earth is happening with laid-back, soft, second-fiddle-in-the-sun UCLA football?    

The Bruins are clearly one of the four best college football teams in the country right now. Better than Florida State. Better than Mississippi State. Maybe better than anyone. They're making a late run like we usually see and love with March Madness. When the College Football Playoff rankings come out Tuesday, UCLA figures to be ranked no higher than 7 or 8.

It might be the new darkhorse for getting one of the four spots in the playoff, but because it took a while for the team to develop this far, it is a darkhorse at best.

The question for the playoff selection committee is whether it's supposed to pick the four teams with best body of work for the whole season, or just the four best teams on Dec. 7, the day the regular season ends.

There is a difference.

For all the chatter this year about the playoff and who belongs, how have we gotten this far without anyone mentioning UCLA? Actually, there was a little talk earlier, until they lost to Utah and Oregon at home.

Now, Mora's team has rounded perfectly into his vision, but is there room for a team like that in the playoff? There should be. But there has always been the feeling that a deserving team or two is going to be left out of this playoff.

(That's why it should be an eight-team field, with the winners of the top five conferences guaranteed a spot. That way teams can get better as the year goes on and not be punished for finding their footing early on.)

Mora has gotten UCLA here by focusing on toughness, the opposite of UCLA's image. USC was always the one beating up on UCLA. Yes, this past week, we saw the war paint and the fired-up language from Mora.

But I got to see another toughness-building ritual first hand at a team practice in the summer of 2013. When practice ended, the players walked off, except for the kicking team, which lined up a 52-yard field goal attempt for kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn. It was a sunny day, but one of the assistant coaches stood near the line of scrimmage with two spray bottles, bobbing and weaving while squirting water in Fairbairn's face during the kick.

The kick was good, and Fairbairn explained a few minutes later that that's how practice ended every day, with him making a 52-yarder, the distance he had missed in the rain in the final minutes of the 2012 Pac-12 title game. Sometimes, people sprayed stuff at him, sometimes threw stuff at him, sometimes bumped him.

It was all part of Mora's toughening-up of soft UCLA. Even the kicker wasn't exempt.

"We're a physical football team," Mora said in his postgame press conference. "UCLA is a physical team. We take pride in the way we play."

It is trendy in L.A. to say that UCLA now owns the town. Mora said it last year. And after the game Saturday, quarterback Brett Hundley told reporters: 

The key word there was "stomp." I'm not sure UCLA really owns the town yet; it takes a long time to make a change that big stick. Kids grow up in L.A. wanting to play for USC. But Mora, in his third year at UCLA, has beaten USC three times in a row.

And this win over USC carried extra meaning for UCLA, not only because it showed that the offensive line has developed from early in the year, and Hundley has calmed down and the defensive front was finally all over a quarterback, sacking USC's Cody Kessler six times.

It was because UCLA was so physically dominating. And doing that to USC was the breakthrough UCLA needed nationally.

But is it too late to get into the playoff? We can't just forget two losses. None of the other contenders has more than one, unless you count Georgia as a contender.

The truth about this season, though, is that there is no dominant team. Some team was going to have to emerge and grow into a national champion. Maybe that's Alabama, but it doesn't seem right that it had to be someone who was already a top team in the first few weeks of the season.

UCLA has played the nation's ninth-toughest schedule, according to the Sagarin ratings. It has wins over Arizona, Arizona State, USC and Texas. If it beats Stanford on Friday and Oregon in the Pac-12 title game, then it will deserve a spot.

The committee has been ranking UCLA higher than most people would have. Give them credit: They have seen something others have missed. But the math is going to be hard for UCLA to get past. It might need Ohio State to lose the Big Ten title game, Florida State to lose to Florida, maybe even Baylor to lose to Kansas State.

Mora said the win over USC "sets us up to keep chasing our dreams."

He was talking about the Pac-12 title. But with a four-team playoff, one of the best teams in the nation shouldn't have to stop dreaming there.

 

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5-Star Keisean Lucier-South Reveals Why He Chose UCLA over USC, Michigan, Others

Keisean Lucier-South provided a pregame lift before one of the Bruins' biggest matchups of the year Saturday when he committed to UCLA. The 5-star Southern California defender decided to end a nationwide recruitment during his latest trip to campus:

The 6'5", 225-pound Orange Lutheran High School senior unveiled his intentions shortly before UCLA hosted USC. An impassioned pursuit finally paid off for the Bruins.

"I felt like the time was right to make a decision and commit to the program," Lucier-South told Bleacher Report. "They've been recruiting me for two years now, and we've built a relationship that I'm comfortable with. I'm excited to be a Bruin."

He revealed the decision privately Wednesday during a family gathering. UCLA and the media didn't find out until three days later.

However, Bruins coaches were still able to relive the excitement of his initial announcement.

"My stepmom actually filmed me explaining the decision to my family on Wednesday," Lucier-South said.

He first played the video for defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich. Head coach Jim Mora then got a peek and reacted accordingly.

"Coach Mora gave me a big hug right away and said he was really happy that I decided to join the team," Lucier-South said. "They were all pumped up about me becoming part of the family."

That close-knit relationship between him and the Bruins staff set the stage for his pledge. Lucier-South cited comfort and potential as motivating factors.

"Coach Ulbrich has been in communication with me constantly since I was a sophomore," he said. "It means a lot to have that trust and understanding when you're coming into a program for the next four years. I think this team is definitely moving in the right direction."

Lucier-South, rated second nationally among weak-side defensive ends and 23rd overall in 247Sports' composite rankings, enjoyed a productive career as an upperclassman. He tallied 85 tackles and 17 sacks during the past two seasons, per MaxPreps.

"I have a better understanding of the game and how to handle blocking schemes than ever before," Lucier-South said. "I was double-teamed and triple-teamed all season, which made me a better player. My pass-rushing moves are coming along, and there's a lot of things I'm working on to prepare for competition in college."

He adds to a class that's now listed 13th nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings and includes No. 1 quarterback prospect Josh Rosen, who Lucier-South competed against for three seasons in high school.

"I hated playing Josh these past few years," he said. "He's the best quarterback I've ever faced, and I've gone up against some good ones. I'm glad he's on my side now."

Lucier-South celebrated his decision by taking in a seat in the Rose Bowl for one of America's most storied college football rivalries. The Bruins defeated visiting USC for a third straight season.

"It was my first time attending a UCLA-USC game live, so that meant a lot," he said. "I felt so excited to be a Bruin that I just wanted to get on that field Saturday to help the team. Obviously I couldn't, but I'm ready to be a part of the rivalry starting next year."

USC made a late push for Lucier-South after not showing substantial interest during the majority of his recruitment. The Trojans' efforts elevated in recent months, including an in-person appearance from head coach Steve Sarkisian at one of his games.

“I thought USC wasn’t really interested in me because they just didn't recruit me much," Lucier-South said last month. "Honestly, that was pretty disappointing because I grew up watching the team and have a lot of good memories and respect for the program. It blew me away when Coach Sark showed up to my game, and it showed me how much they actually care about me."

Still, late momentum wasn't enough to carry USC past UCLA in this pursuit.

The coveted defender admits the toughest part was telling other programs he wasn't going to join them. His past official visits included Michigan, Oregon and Oklahoma.

"That definitely wasn't easy," Lucier-South said. "I've been able to become close with a lot of great coaches, and I understand how much they hoped I'd be a part of their teams in the future. At the end of the day, I had to do what felt right for me, and it was clear that was UCLA."

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report national recruiting columnist Tyler Donohue.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5-Star Keisean Lucier-South Reveals Why He Chose UCLA over USC, Michigan, Others

Keisean Lucier -South provided a pregame lift before one of the Bruins' biggest matchups of the year Saturday when he committed to UCLA...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

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