NCAA Football News

Bowl Projections 2014: Predicting Biggest Postseason Matchups

Week 13 in college football looks tame, as there are no major matchups between top bowl contenders.

That said, this is the type of week that could still wreak havoc in the rankings. The defending champion and No. 1-ranked (No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings) Florida State Seminoles have the toughest test of the top four teams.

The Noles will host the 6-4 Boston College Eagles. If Jameis Winston and Co. can survive that game, it should be smooth sailing for the rest of the nation's elite on Saturday.

The No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (No. 1 in CFP) will likely lay waste to the Western Carolina Catamounts. The No. 3 Oregon Ducks host the woeful Colorado Buffaloes, and the No. 4 Mississippi State Bulldogs host the Vanderbilt Commodores.

If each team wins, there won't be any shift in the College Football Playoff standings. That should change after rivalry week. I'm not expecting the teams in the Top Four will change, but there will likely be some shifting.

Here's the way I see the New Year's bowl game matchups shaking out.

  • Sugar Bowl (January 1 in New Orleans, Louisiana) [Semifinal]:  No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Florida State
  • Rose Bowl (January 1 in Pasadena, California) [Semifinal]: No. 2 Mississippi State vs. No. 3 Oregon
  • Cotton Bowl (January 1 in Arlington, Texas): Ohio State vs. Baylor
  • Fiesta Bowl (December 31 in Glendale, Arizona): UCLA vs. TCU
  • Orange (December 31 in Miami, Florida): Georgia Tech (ACC fill-in for FSU) vs. Ole Miss
  • Peach (December 31 in Atlanta, Georgia): Marshall (best non-power five champ) vs. Georgia

 

Why the Top Four Will Shuffle, but Remain the Same

Alabama is the Best Team in the Country

Yes, Alabama has a repeatedly tough matchup on hand against the rival Auburn Tigers in the Iron Bowl in Week 14. And yes, it will have to beat the top team from the SEC East in the conference championship game. However, over the last five weeks, no team has been as good as Bama.

It has knocked off three ranked teams since falling to the Ole Miss Rebels on October 4.

If Bama runs the table, it will own five wins over ranked opponents. There's no way it relinquishes the top spot in the CFP rankings in this scenario.

 

Mississippi State Will Be Back

Dak Prescott couldn't lead the Bulldogs past Alabama in Week 12, but the Bulldogs still have a great chance to rise as high as No. 2 in the CFP rankings. Assuming they beat the Commodores as expected on Saturday, the Bulldogs will only have to defeat Ole Miss to complete a one-loss regular season.

Because of the strength of Mississippi State's defense that is ranked 16th in the nation in points allowed, the Bulldogs deserve the edge over the Rebels in this hugely important in-state battle.

Can anyone really trust Bo Wallace to lead the Rebels to victory in this game? His decision-making in the 10-7 loss to LSU was troubling—not to mention the 42.4 percent completion rate.

The atmosphere for the season finale will be even more intense, and that gives Mississippi State's defense, and a gamer like Prescott, an edge over Wallace and the Rebels.

If the Bulldogs defeat their in-state rivals, their resume will be second only to Alabama's. Mississippi State would deserve the second spot in the CFP rankings.

 

Kings of the Pac-12, but Still 3rd

The Oregon Ducks should have little issue with the Colorado Buffaloes and the Oregon State Beavers. The latter two teams have a combined record of 7-13, and the Ducks are on a mission to finally play for another national championship.

With a battle looming against any one of four teams from the Pac-12 South, the Ducks still look like the cream of the West Coast crop. That's why it would be a shock to see the Ducks fall in any of their three remaining games before presumably taking their spot in the College Football Playoff.

The program will have a beef with the committee for selecting Mississippi State for the No. 2 spot, but a loss to unranked Arizona—even if it is avenged in the Pac-12 Championship—is still worse than a defeat at the hands of the No. 1 team in the land.

 

Reigning, Undefeated and Disrespected

An undefeated national champion may never be as disrespected as much as this year's Florida State Seminoles squad. The disrespect is likely to continue when the final rankings are announced. 

The Noles are 10-0, and they don't have another ranked opponent on their schedule. Even when they clash with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the ACC title game, it won't generate a ton of respect because Georgia Tech isn't even ranked.

Because of this and the Noles' weekly flirtation with a disastrous loss, they will find themselves barely holding off the likes of the Baylor Bears, TCU Horned Frogs and the Ohio State Buckeyes. Less than impressive wins and a weak schedule will make running the table just enough for the Noles to secure a spot in the playoff.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oklahoma Football: 2015 Recruits Sooners Must Land

As we move closer and closer to national signing day, the Oklahoma Sooners must begin to lock down their targeted recruits.

With much of the 2014 season already in the books, the Sooners have gotten a good opportunity to evaluate their team. More specifically, the coaching staff should now have a good grasp of the areas that could use some help.

With that in mind, here are some 2015 recruits Oklahoma must land.

Begin Slideshow

Mike Golic of ESPN's 'Mike & Mike' Radio Show Recreates Kim Kardashian Photo

Kim Kardashian looked to "break the Internet" with her recent nude photos published in Paper magazine, and while the Internet appears to still be working, the influence of her famous rear end has stretched far and wide.

How far and wide, you ask?

Last week Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic of ESPN radio show Mike & Mike made a little bet on their college football teams.

With Notre Dame (Golic's alma mater) heavily favored to beat Northwestern (Greenberg's alma mater), Golic agreed to recreate the most iconic photo from Kardashian's recent spread if the Wildcats won.

Northwestern pulled off the upset Saturday, Nov. 15, beating Notre Dame 43-40 in overtime. Here is the result:

A bet is a bet, paying off my wager to @Espngreeny#GolicButtPhotopic.twitter.com/cY8UUndVlf

— Mike & Mike (@MikeAndMike) November 21, 2014

As you can see, Golic's interpretation is strikingly close to the original:

Northwestern took its share of the blame for the revealing of Golic's form to the world:

We are so, so sorry. RT @MikeAndMike: A bet is a bet, paying off my wager to @Espngreeny#GolicButtPhotopic.twitter.com/PpoPTupj6I

— Northwestern Sports (@NU_Sports) November 21, 2014

[Twitter, h/t 247Sports]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Football: 5 Ways Butch Jones' 2nd Season Was a Success

While the Tennessee Volunteers aren't yet bowl eligible and are sitting on what appears to be a mediocre 5-5 record, what second-year head coach Butch Jones has accomplished this season will pay dividends in the future for his football program.

When Jones took over as head coach of the Vols on Dec. 7, 2012, the program was in disarray. The team was coming off a disappointing season, going just 5-7 despite fielding one of the most prolific offenses ever assembled in Tennessee history.

Jones immediately started changing the culture at Tennessee, which culminated in a huge win over the eventual No. 4 South Carolina Gamecocks on Oct. 19, 2013. The Vols couldn't carry the momentum from that win the rest of the way, however, as they dropped games to Alabama, Missouri, Auburn and Vanderbilt to miss yet another bowl game.

In his second season, Jones is proving that his entire philosophy of building a football program works, and some analysts are even pointing to Tennessee as the favorite to win the SEC East in 2015. 

Although the 2014 Vols haven't exactly set the SEC on fire, it's obvious the team is vastly improved, and that's almost exclusively due to Jones and his staff's relentless work ethic both on and off the field.

Here are five ways Jones has changed the culture at Tennessee and made his second season a success. 

Begin Slideshow

Jameis Winston Must Mature on and off the Field If Florida State Is to Repeat

The saga surrounding Jameis Winston and Florida State football has been well documented.

From shoplifting crab legs and crawfish and yelling obscenities in the school's student union—a stunt that earned him a one-game suspension, to questions regarding his ethics after point-shaving allegations and suggestions that he may have taken money to sign autographs—an act strictly forbidden by the NCAA.

Then there's the most severe accusation of all. That Winston allegedly sexual assaulted a woman in 2012—for which there will be a hearing on December 2.

His off-field antics nearly cost the team its undefeated season and, in all likelihood, its chance at taking part in the inaugural college football playoff when he was serving his aforementioned suspension against Clemson in the Seminoles' ACC opener.

Winston may be fortunate that the results of his sexual assault hearing may not have an effect on his ability to play the rest of the season—the college football season concludes on January 12 and the results of the hearing aren't due until January 13, per Rachel Axon of USA Today:

Yet suffice it to say, any more misdeeds off the field are sure to be met with more severe consequences.

For FSU to continue its push for a second consecutive national championship, the sophomore quarterback from Alabama will have to mature and show more restraint off the gridiron.

But just as much as he has to be more disciplined off the field, his play whilst on the field must also improve in a hurry.

His play in the first halves of games this year has been extremely disappointing.

His decision-making has been off and his numbers reflect his poor play in the opening frames—he's already surpassed his interception total from a year ago in just nine games—per Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel:

The fact that his second-half numbers look so much better and the Seminoles have used the final two quarters to stage five incredible comebacks in just 10 games is no coincidence either.

Without Winston playing well the team struggles to maintain possession or establish the run.

Without moving the ball, the defense is forced to stay on the field longer, tiring them out and making it less difficult for the opposition to score.

As instrumental as someone like freshman running back Dalvin Cook has been at times in the last few games, this club's national title hopes begin and end with Winston.

For Florida State to qualify for the new postseason and make some noise once it gets there, Winston must regain his Heisman Trophy form from a year ago.

That requires him to focus on playing four consistent quarters of football every Saturday.

Enough with the off-field antics, or postgame jabs at opposing fans:

It's time for Jameis Winston to grow up and lead his team like he did in 2013.

 

Jon Reid is a correspondent for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @JonReidCSM.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Football: 5 Longhorns Poised for a Breakout 2015

"Our record of going out and getting five losses, we're not comfortable with that at all," Charlie Strong told reporters during his Monday media session. "That will never happen within this program again."

For Strong to make good on that promise, he needs some breakout years from some current role players to replace the talent he's losing this offseason.

The Longhorns are stuck playing the waiting game for Quandre Diggs and Jordan Hicks replacements Kris Boyd, Holton Hill and Malik Jefferson but have talent ready to step in almost everywhere else.

Rising sophomore Poona Ford will step in at defensive tackle in place of expected early-entrant Malcom Brown, as classmate Edwin Freeman takes over a linebacker spot. Filling out the defense, Naashon Hughes will become a regular starter at defensive end.

As for the offense, which loses both its leading receivers, the Longhorns have a bona fide star ready to assume every-down duties along with another rising sophomore. 

Until we get some clarity on the quarterback battle and see where the remaining top recruits end up, these five guys are safe bets for big season in 2015.

Begin Slideshow

Notre Dame Football: Reviewing the Recruiting Class of 2011 on Senior Day

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — With senior day around the corner for a young Notre Dame football team, it’s an appropriate time to look back at the recruiting class of 2011 for the Irish and see how things have panned out.

According to 247Sports’ team rankings, Irish head coach Brian Kelly hauled in the No. 9 recruiting class in the country in 2011. Defensive end Aaron Lynch (No. 9 overall in the country, per 247Sports’ Composite Rankings), defensive end/outside linebacker Ishaq Williams (No. 26) and defensive end Stephon Tuitt (No. 32) headlined the class, which had a heavy emphasis on the front seven.

Tight end Ben Koyack (No. 43), offensive lineman Matt Hegarty (No. 56) and wide receiver DaVaris Daniels (No. 93) rounded out the upper echelon of Notre Dame’s class.

Let’s take a look back at select members of the class.

 

Aaron Lynch

After starting six games as a true freshman and tallying 5.5 sacks, Lynch announced his intention to transfer to South Florida in the spring. Naturally, his departure was a big loss for Notre Dame.

Kelly had expressed his high hopes for Lynch during national signing day in 2011.

“There will be a lot of things that we'll be able to develop,” Kelly said at the time. “He's not even hit where he can be as a defensive lineman. He's just playing with raw athletic ability, being tenacious all the time. And he's always getting after it. And we'll be able to develop him in his skill at that position as well.”

Lynch had to sit out the 2012 season at South Florida due to transfer rules. As a junior, he earned first-team all-conference honors in the AAC after notching six sacks. Lynch declared for the NFL draft and was selected in the fifth round by the San Francisco 49ers. He has recorded three sacks in 10 games in his rookie season.

 

Front Seven

In addition to Lynch, Williams and Tuitt, Notre Dame added defensive end Anthony Rabasa, outside linebacker Ben Councell, outside linebacker Troy Niklas, inside linebacker Jarrett Grace and defensive linemen Tony Springmann and Chase Hounshell.

Injuries have broken up the careers of Councell, Grace, Springmann and Hounshell, in particular, and Niklas (now a tight end, of course) and Tuitt are in the NFL.

#NotreDame’s front-7 2011 scholarship recruits have more NFL catches this year (3) than tackles for ND (1) this year. pic.twitter.com/B8QnbOivV9

— Mike Monaco (@MikeMonaco_) November 18, 2014

“You never count on one particular class to be the backbone as much as you count on them to be leaders,” Kelly said Tuesday about the defensive side of that recruiting class. “You count on them to help. But I don't think it's ever one class. I think classes kind of can kind of set the tone for success by one player being a playmaker or two players, but I don't know that it ever stretches across the entire class. I think each one of them has individual qualities.”

That being said, Notre Dame hit the jackpot with middle linebacker Joe Schmidt, a preferred walk-on who eventually earned a scholarship and developed into a crucial cog in the Irish defense.

 

Offensive Skill

The Irish landed Daniels, Koyack, quarterback Everett Golson and running backs George Atkinson III and Cam McDaniel.

Koyack has climbed into the starting role this season after Niklas’ departure, and McDaniel has been the only other mainstay for all four seasons in South Bend.

Golson and Daniels have both missed semesters at the university, and Daniels has also not played this season following the investigation into “suspected academic dishonesty.”

Atkinson declared for the NFL draft following the 2013 season, but he went undrafted and signed with the Oakland Raiders. He is currently on Oakland’s practice squad.

Recruiting is hardly ever a straightforward process. Neither is player development. A former walk-on ended up being Notre Dame’s most productive senior in the front seven. An outside linebacker commitment turned into a second-round pick as a tight end. A wide receiver, Matthias Farley, switched to safety before turning into a steady nickelback for the Irish in 2014.

Four years later, senior day arrives for many of the members of that class of 2011 when the Irish host Louisville on Saturday.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Lack of National Heisman Buzz Is a Good Thing for Oregon QB Marcus Mariota

Where has the Heisman race been this season?

The answer is easy: firmly behind the playoff discussion, along with pretty much everything else related to the sport. It's basically on the event horizon of college football's black hole. 

From conversing about which team will get the fourth and final spot to figuring out what "game control" means, just about every talking point on every outlet is related to the playoff. That's actually impressive in a 24/7/365 news cycle.

Maybe in time that mellows out. The new format is still a novelty, after all. For now, though, the Heisman is something that has been lumped like an afterthought into the dead period between the end of the regular season and bowl season.  

The less that the Heisman race is dissected, the better chance Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has to win the award.

How is that the case?

Consider the following: Last Saturday, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon had, quite literally, the greatest rushing performance by an FBS player in history. His 408 yards against Nebraska in three quarters broke LaDainian Tomlinson's single-game rushing record (406 yards). Gordon's performance was so meaningful, in fact, that Nebraska's rush defense fell 57 spots in yards per game allowed in one day. 

Meanwhile, Mariota and Oregon had the weekend off. 

Yet ESPN's latest Heisman watch still has Mariota first and Gordon second, though the gap is small. According to recent odds via CBS Sports, Mariota is a 1-3 favorite to win the Heisman, with Gordon at 5-2. If Gordon's career day can't propel him past Mariota on a bye week, what will? 

One game does not a season make, but those are the types of performances that fall under the "Heisman moment" umbrella. Gordon has been excellent all year, and Heisman voters are connoisseurs of stats, especially easy-to-digest offensive stats. 

For all anyone knows, Florida State offensive guard Tre' Jackson, an Outland Trophy semifinalist, may be the most outstanding player in college football. There's no way to explore that, because few people actually pay close attention to linemen, and he doesn't throw for 4,000 yards. 

(The concept of a large man throwing a touchdown pass is beautiful, however. Arkansas understands that.) 

That raises the question: Have voters already made up their minds? Ballots can be thoughtless, and if there's no open discussion about the Heisman race, voters could go with the formula. 

What, you might ask, is the formula? B/R's Ray Glier explained it this week in a must-read post about the Heisman:

Here is the winning formula (don't tell anybody):

A quarterback or running back on a top-five team with a bundle of yards.

Here is the backup formula:

A quarterback or running back on a team that has two or three losses, and that quarterback or running back has just too many yards to ignore.

He's in too.

Mariota fits the formula, as did 12 of the last 13 winners who were quarterbacks. There was a time last year when Mariota was considered the front-runner for the Heisman before he got hurt late in the season. It was a foregone conclusion that he would be a Heisman candidate this year.  

That's not an indictment on Mariota, and to be fair, there could be many voters who genuinely believe he is the most outstanding player in the country. He's been excellent and is on pace to surpass his numbers from a year ago (3,665 passing yards, 715 rushing yards, 40 total touchdowns). 

He's gone out each week and played his tail off. 

But there's also no doubt that the Heisman has become a glorified Davey O'Brien Award, given annually to the best quarterback. Sure enough, five of the players on ESPN's eight-man Heisman watch are quarterbacks. 

The Heisman race has little imagination to begin with. It does not dare to be different. Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper will get some votes. Maybe Washington linebacker/running back Shaq Thompson will too. But they probably won't have a chance to win. 

Of course, breaking the habit is hard to do. Whether a voter is a national columnist or beat reporter, following 128 FBS teams and their players is impossible. 

Here's what we know: Mariota is a household name, puts up gaudy stats, plays on a good team and passes the eye test if/when people watch him. He also says the right things that make him impossible to dislike.  

"For myself, I just try to represent where I come from, my family, this university in the right light. There is no extra responsibility with being a Heisman Trophy candidate," Mariota told B/R's Greg Couch last month.

That's not to say Mariota doesn't mean what he says, but what he says checks out all the same. It all checks out.

With so much time and energy devoted to other interests, like the playoff, there isn't time to dive deeper than that on a large scale. Yes, there's still football to be played. As Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill showed, the Heisman isn't won in September. 

It is, however, won in November and December. So long as Mariota finishes strong—he plays Colorado, Oregon State and a Pac-12 South opponent in a conference championship game—he'll check off one more box on his way to New York. 

Barring an injury or late-season collapse, this feels like Mariota's year. It's felt that way for a while. The assumption that Mariota is the front-runner has paved the way, at least in part, to him being the front-runner. 

And that's the thing. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. Stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Mississippi State Pulls QB Chason Virgil's Scholarship 16 Days Before Graduation

The dream season for Mississippi State has reached a rocky stretch in recent days—on and off the field. Less than a week after losing to Alabama, the Bulldogs' recruiting tactics are under scrutiny in the wake of news that longtime quarterback commit Chason Virgil no longer holds a standard scholarship offer.

Jeff Neill, his head coach at West Mesquite High School in Texas, didn't hold back while acknowledging the development on Twitter on Thursday night:

According to Neill, the team reached out to let Virgil know he didn't fit in their immediate plans anymore. To make matters worse, the 3-star passer expected to enroll early at Mississippi State by graduating from high school next month.

"Mississippi State called to let me know that they no longer had a scholarship available," Neill told Devin Hasson of Star Local Media. "They pushed him to graduate early...because they wanted him to go through the spring, and then at the last minute, Mississippi State decided to change their offer."

Rather than arriving on campus as a fully covered student-athlete as planned, Virgil was asked to accept grayshirt status. This would have left him off scholarship until at least January 2016, an alteration that led Virgil and the Bulldogs to part ways.

"Just knowing that I am graduating early in a month, it is hard to just sit out a whole year without playing and being in a program," Virgil told Paul Jones of 247Sports. "So I have to start over now. I haven't talked to any other schools in a while so I just have to see what happens."

Virgil, rated 19th nationally among pro-style quarterbacks in 247Sports' composite rankings, committed to Mississippi State in May. His frustration is understandable given an extremely late change of heart from head coach Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs staff.

"(They said) they had four quarterbacks there already and they felt it was not a position of need at this time," Neill said. "He doesn't want to play for a coach that is going to make these kinds of decisions. Going to any college, you want to have a coach you can trust and believe in."

Those comments are certainly a shot across the bow for Mullen, who has seen his stock rise nationally during a historically successful tenure in Starkville. He is the first Mississippi State coach to qualify for five straight bowl appearances and currently has his program in position to compete in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Victories have translated into improved recruiting efforts. The Bulldogs' 2015 class currently rates 13th nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings. For the first time in six months, it no longer features the Texas quarterback.

Virgil, who has 2,361 passing yards and 35 touchdowns this season, previously considered offers from the likes of Florida, Nebraska, Clemson and Missouri. It remains to be seen which teams will still express interest as most have filled quarterback slots in this recruiting class.

He maintained popularity among fellow Mississippi State commits throughout his recruitment and undoubtedly formed relationships with players across the country who he considered future collegiate teammates.

"He's definitely a playmaker," Mississippi State wide receiver pledge Justin Johnson told me this summer. "We've got a lot of guys coming in that will help the offense continue to grow and he's a big part of that."

It should be interesting to see how Bulldogs recruits react to this news and how members of the Mississippi State staff handle questions related to the issue. So far, we only understand the story from one point of view and it doesn't paint a very flattering picture of America's surprise title contender.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big Ten Football: Bold Predictions for Rest of 2014 Season

With only a couple of weeks left in the college football season, a lot is still up for grabs in the Big Ten conference.

Who will play Ohio State in the conference title game? Can Melvin Gordon actually win the Heisman Trophy? Is Brady Hoke’s job beyond saving?

These are just a couple of questions on the minds of Big Ten fans across the country.

But why wait for it all to play out? Join B/R as we make some bold predictions on how the B1G season will shape up.

Begin Slideshow

Trent Irwin Reveals Decision Plans: Which Pac-12 Team Is Best Fit for 4-Star WR?

The race to land 2015 4-star wide receiver Trent Irwin is nearing its conclusion, as the standout pass-catcher revealed plans to make his commitment early next month, according to JC Shurburtt of 247Sports.

Shurburtt notes that his primary group of suitors includes Pac-12 members Arizona State, Oregon State, Stanford and UCLA.

The 6’2”, 190-pounder visited the Cardinal last month and also went to Tempe for the Sun Devils' big win over Notre Dame earlier this month.

But which Pac-12 program is the best fit for the No. 9 receiver in the 2015 class?

 

Arizona State

If Irwin’s Crystal Ball page is any indicator, Todd Graham’s club is the prohibitive favorite for the speedy receiver. 

There are numerous positives for Irwin should he choose the Sun Devils.

For starters, his prep teammate and 4-star quarterback, Brady White, is also committed to Arizona State.

According to MaxPreps, Irwin has hauled in 91 passes for 1,813 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Potentially teaming up with his buddy on the next level has to be appealing for Irwin.

Additionally, per Ourlads, four of ASU’s top seven receivers on the depth chart will be upperclassmen next year. Included in that group is Jaelen Strong, who is a candidate to leave early for the NFL draft.

An appealing depth chart and the chance to play with White for a program on the rise gives the Sun Devils a strong case to sell to Irwin.

 

Oregon State

Oregon State is another Pac-12 program among Irwin’s favorites, and Mike Riley is among the brightest offensive minds in all of college football.

The success of receivers such as Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton in recent years proves that the Beavers attack is friendly for playmakers such as Irwin.

However, among Irwin’s group of finalists, the Beavers seem to have the least amount of traction in his recruitment.

Per Ryan Bartow of 247Sports, Irwin stated plans to visit Corvallis last month. However, that trip has failed to materialize, and it’s unlikely to take place before he makes his decision.

Unless he has a change of heart in the next few weeks, it looks like the Beavers will be on the outside looking in for the dynamic pass-catcher.

 

Stanford

The team that Irwin mentioned to Bartow (per Shurburtt) is tied for the lead in his recruitment is Stanford.

Aside from the chance to stay in his home state and the noted academic prowess that comes with a degree from Stanford, choosing the Cardinal would have its benefits on the field as well.

Per Ourlads, four of the Cardinal’s top five receivers are upperclassmen—which would give Irwin a great shot to see the field early.

Additionally, Stanford has a pro-style offense with a promising young quarterback prospect in redshirt freshman passer Keller Chryst. 

While the Cardinal’s offense isn’t as prone to air it out when compared to Irwin's other finalists, it has sent receivers such as Doug Baldwin and Griff Whalen to the NFL in recent years.

However, given that Stanford is ranked 85th nationally in total offense this season, per CFBStats.com, its struggles on that side of the ball this season may give Irwin some cause for concern.

 

UCLA

Of Irwin’s four finalists, UCLA has produced the most potent attack this season, as the Bruins rank 16th nationally in total offense, according to CFBStats.com.

Jim Mora’s club is also putting themselves in position to be a prominent power in the Pac-12 by faring well on the recruiting trail. The Bruins currently have the No. 18 class nationally and the third-best group among Pac-12 schools.

While the chance to play with White at Arizona State is attractive, the Bruins have the nation’s top-ranked quarterback prospect—fellow California native and 5-star passer Josh Rosen—heading to Westwood.

The UCLA campus is also a short drive away from his hometown in Newhall, California. 

However, as illustrated by Ourlads, the depth chart isn’t nearly as favorable as it is with his other finalists.

Also, despite the close proximity to UCLA’s campus, Irwin has yet to take in a Bruins game this season—which hurts their chances of making an impression on him before his decision.

There are a number of positives with Irwin’s four finalists, as they all present their own unique opportunities for him to find success on the college level.

However, the combination of having a chance continue his connection with White, the pass-friendly system run by Graham plus the opportunity to contribute early is what makes Arizona State his best fit.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jim Mora Says UCLA Fans Don't Need a Bonfire to Get 'F-----g' Turned Up

After a week of preemptive vandalism measures and trash-talking, the UCLA and USC football programs will meet Saturday for their annual grudge match.

No one is more hyped than Bruins coach Jim Mora, who opened the bomb bay doors Thursday night and dropped a four-letter explosive at a UCLA pep rally.

UCLA sports beat writer Edward Lewis posted a Vine of the speech. Mora's team lost their gourds when coach offered up some adult language.

Warning: Video contains naughty, NSFW language.

"It doesn't matter," Mora said. "Because if there's one thing I know about UCLA, it's that we don't need a friggin' fire to get it f-----g turned up!"

It's a rare sight to hear Mora swear in public. It's even rarer to hear an F-bomb immediately after the word "friggin'."

As for the festivities, the team was unable to light the "Beat 'SC" bonfire due to a small protest against potential price hikes in tuition at the school. Ryan Leou and Edward Pedroza of the Daily Bruin report that the school cancelled the lighting after 50 or so students positioned themselves around the ceremonial pyre.

You can stop the fire, but you can't stop the turn-up.

 

Follow Dan on Twitter for more sports and pop culture filigree.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

How Tony Bridges' Flip from Auburn to Ole Miss Impacts Tigers and Rebels

Ole Miss delivered a strong message to SEC recruiting rivals for the second time in 24 hours Friday morning, flipping 247Sports' Composite's top-rated junior college cornerback Tony Bridges from Auburn, according to Ben Garrett of Scout.com:

The Rebels are officially on a roll when it comes to the 2015 class, and that momentum has come at the expense of Auburn. Ole Miss edged out the Tigers on Thursday for 4-star offensive lineman Javon Patterson.

The Petal High School prospect, rated No. 1 overall in Mississippi, per 247Sports, and No. 2 nationally among guards, per 247Sports' Composite, left an Auburn hat on the table at his announcement ceremony. Now, Bridges has decided to trade his in for one with an Ole Miss logo.

The 6'2", 185-pound playmaker initially committed to the Tigers in February and seemed steadfast in his decision during recent months. He spent an official visit at Auburn last month and watched the team defeat LSU.

That trip appeared to solidify Bridges' pact with the program just six weeks ago.

"I loved it, man. I loved it. It's a great place," he told Justin Hokanson of 247Sports (subscription required)."They're ready for me to come. They're anxious, they want me on campus."

Instead, it appears any future trips to Auburn will take place on the visitor's sidelines. Bridges, a 2013 graduate from Hattiesburg High School in Mississippi, found his preferred fit in Oxford:

Rated sixth overall among JUCO recruits in 247Sports' Composite rankings, Bridges stars at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. He is considered the premier cornerback prospect in this JUCO class.

The loss leaves Auburn looking for an adequate replacement at the position. The Tigers' current class is rather scant on defensive backfield additions, so pressure is on Gus Malzahn and company to search elsewhere less than three months shy of national signing day.

The cornerback market is quickly drying up in SEC territory, so the best route for Auburn could be to seek out a flip of its own. The presence of Bridges—viewed as a plug-and-play talent—may have deterred high school seniors from fully considering the Tigers, so relationship dynamics with certain recruits could change moving ahead.

Auburn now holds 19 commitments in a class that's dropped to 10th in 247Sports' Composite rankings.

Meanwhile, Ole Miss has soared up six spots since Thursday morning. The additions of Bridges and Patterson have pushed the Rebels to 18th nationally among 2015 classes.

Head coach Hugh Freeze has managed to stockpile considerable secondary talent during this cycle, including Tennessee cornerbacks Cameron Ordway and Ugo Amadi.

As Ole Miss recruiting coordinator Branden Wenzel notes, it's always nice to bring in one of your own:

The Rebels have now netted 15 pledges and will continue to seek out talent as signing day approaches. Several big fish remain out there for the taking, including Florida defensive end CeCe Jefferson and Texas wide receiver Damarkus Lodge.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Mississippi State DB Justin Cox Suspended: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Mississippi State safety Justin Cox has reportedly been suspended indefinitely after being involved in an off-campus incident early Friday morning.

Mississippi State Assistant Athletic Director/Media Relations Bill Martin provided an official statement:

Senior defensive back Justin Cox has been suspended indefinitely from the Mississippi State football team for his involvement in an off-campus incident that occurred Thursday night, head coach Dan Mullen announced Friday. 

The Starkville Daily News provided further information about the incident:

Oktibbeha County Sheriff's Department Lt. Brett Watson said deputies responded to a burglary call on Rocky Road in the Aspen Heights apartment complex at about 3 a.m. Friday. He said upon arrival, deputies found a female victim with an injury to her head. Watson would not identify the victim.

Watson said deputies arrested Cox, a 21-year-old West Point native, at the scene on suspicion of burglary of a dwelling and aggravated domestic assault and booked him into Oktibbeha County Jail.

According to Watson, Cox has been arraigned and bail is set at $20,000.

No other details about the situation or the Mississippi State player's connection to the alleged victim were made immediately available.

Cox has played nine games for the nation's fourth-ranked team this season. The senior has racked up 21 tackles, defended five passes and intercepted one pass. It's his second season with the team after spending two years at East Mississippi Community College.

He played in last week's game against Alabama and registered two tackles in the contest. The Bulldogs have two games left in the regular season. They play Vanderbilt this week before a clash with rival Ole Miss next weekend.

At this time, it's unclear when Cox will return to the field this season, if at all.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why a Texas vs. Texas A&M Bowl Game Should Be Allowed

The energy it's taking Texas and Texas A&M to actively avoid one another is no longer worth it. The latest reports of finger pointing are tiresome.

The fact remains, however: There's only one way that the Longhorns and Aggies will play in football, either in the next month or in the foreseeable future, and that's in a bowl game. However, there's allegedly at least one person—but perhaps several people—pulling ropes behind the scenes to make sure even that doesn't happen.

Chip Brown of HornsDigest.com reported this week that the SEC is working to eliminate the possibility of A&M meeting Texas in the postseason:

Two sources close to the situation told HornsDigest.com SEC officials have indicated to bowls with SEC and Big 12 tie-ins that the SEC won’t support a Texas vs Texas A&M postseason matchup. In short, A&M has too much to lose from a potential loss.

Whether you believe a report coming out of Austin about the mindset in Birmingham, Ala., where the SEC is headquartered, is up to you. For what it's worth, A&M athletic director Eric Hyman has washed his hands of the notion.

"Quite frankly, that’s a decision made by the conference," Hyman told Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express-News. "It doesn’t matter if I speculate about playing this team or that team in a bowl. It’s out of our control. Wherever they tee us up, we’ll play."

There's a solution to all of this, of course. It's the solution the masses want but won't get: for Texas and Texas A&M to play every year.

There's no risk of uncertainty. Lose to your rival? Play it again next year and take back bragging rights. As ludicrous as it is, it's at least understandable that no one wants to be the team that loses last if the series has a cloudy future.

With that said, ego aside, there's one thing standing in the way of making Texas-Texas A&M a reality again: the fear of scheduling yourself out of a playoff appearance.

Take a gander at the Longhorns' upcoming nonconference schedules. Predicting future records is impossible, but games against LSU, USC and Ohio State are as close to sure things as you'll find.

Coupled with a nine-game, round-robin Big 12 schedule, where does A&M fit? For that matter, the Aggies have upcoming nonconference games scheduled against Clemson and UCLA.

In essence, both sides now have an excuse. It's not a good excuse, but it at least gives the appearance of one.

On the contrary, there's no excuse for Texas, A&M, the Big 12 or the SEC to try to work around a bowl-game matchup. Texas athletic director Steve Patterson has made it clear that scheduling A&M is not high on his to-do list and the Aggies have backed off of the "anytime, anywhere" stance.

This isn't the regular season, though. The Big 12 and SEC have already agreed to send teams to the Sugar Bowl in years when it does not act as a College Football Playoff semifinal. Both sides have worked together before.

In fact, the SEC and Big 12 should want a Texas-Texas A&M bowl to happen. Brown's report about A&M having too much to lose may be true, but it's not necessarily right. Texas isn't going to suddenly steal back the state if it beats A&M, just as A&M's move to the SEC isn't going to validated if it wins.

What happens in the postseason is one of the single most overrated things from which to draw conclusions.

Furthermore, bowl execs would love a Texas-Texas A&M game. It's good business.

There are essentially two games in which the pair could meet: the Liberty Bowl and the Texas Bowl. To take it a step further, it makes the most sense for two Texas schools to, well, play in Texas.

Nothing against those games—the Liberty Bowl has a rich history dating back to 1959—but they're in the middle of the holiday season on an especially jam-packed day of bowls. Any advantage a bowl can get in terms of a matchup or juicy storyline is important.

That means more coverage, more butts in the seats and more viewers taking in ads from title sponsors.

There's a lot to gain, but it also goes beyond dollars and cents. There's history at play.

"It’d be nice to play Texas, I think it’d be great just for the state," Aggies receiver Malcome Kennedy told Kate Hairopoulos of The Dallas Morning News. "Everybody wants to see that game. Nobody can deny they want to see that game, I promise you."

There may be fans on either side who pull the "I don't care" card, but there are thousands more who would travel to a nearby bowl game against a team they'd love nothing more than to beat.

Play the game. It'll make money and be fun for fans. In that order, that's what a bowl game aims to accomplish.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Watch High School QB Do Complete Front-Flip over Defender for TD

When the end zone is near, a player will do just about anything to get those six points. That was the case for Hamilton Heights High School (Arcadia, Ind.) quarterback Ethan Jones, as he did a full front-flip on his way to a touchdown.

Was it one of the best scoring plays you've seen this season?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott Belongs Among Big Ten's Best

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In the moments following Ohio State's Oct. 18 win over Rutgers, Ezekiel Elliott stood at the podium inside Ohio Stadium's media center, answering questions about the Buckeyes' 56-17 victory. But as reporters scattered to various players, questions became sparse, so I decided to take a stab at at an offhand topic.

"Zeke, I've gotta ask you about something on social media," I prefaced, as the Ohio State running back's eyes got big.

"Fans seem to love that you wear the half-shirt, the Eddie George-like shirt. Can you explain why you choose to go with that type of jersey?"

"I just like my jersey tucked up because I don't like how long the jerseys are," said a relieved Elliott, now wearing a smile. "I like a little midriff showing. A lot of great players have worn it before me like Eddie George, so I'm going to keep wearing it that way."

The "crop top," as fans call it, may not be the key to Elliott's success in his sophomore season, but it certainly hasn't hurt, as the St. Louis, Missouri, native finds himself on the verge of becoming Urban Meyer's second consecutive 1,000-yard running back. Through 10 games, Elliott has tallied 954 rushing yards on 167 carries, an astounding 5.7 yards per carry, good for fifth in the Big Ten for players who have totaled 100 or more carries.

But Elliott's sophomore surge seems to have been somewhat lost in the shuffle in Columbus during a 2014 campaign that has the sixth-ranked Buckeyes currently fighting for a playoff spot. The Heisman campaign of quarterback J.T. Barrett has something to do with that, but Elliott's status as Ohio State's best kept secret has more to do with the conference he plays in and the running backs who dominate it.

Take for example Indiana's Tevin Coleman, who rushed for 307 yards in the Hoosiers' defeat at the hands of Rutgers last Saturday. Despite coming in a loss, that effort would typically be a shoo-in to earn any player a Big Ten Player of the Week honor, only that wasn't the case, as Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon eclipsed Coleman with a record-setting 408-yard, four-touchdown performance.

Week in and week out, Meyer has seen just how talented this year's crop of Big Ten running backs is. Whether it's Michigan State's Jeremy Langford, Minnesota's David Cobb or this weekend's upcoming matchup with Coleman, Ohio State has faced no shortage of impressive backs on its schedule in a league that prides itself on its ground-and-pound mentality.

"There's some NFL players in this league carrying the ball," Meyer said. "And then you see that they're doing it against some of the top rush defenses in the country. That's one thing I noticed about it.

"And I think Zeke—I've got to throw my guy in there now. For whatever reason, he's not having the same touches, but I like our back."

Meyer's right: As Ohio State has opted to use Barrett's ability as a distributor to spread the ball around, Elliott's touches have become a bystander. The Show-Me State native's 167 carries are at least 36 fewer than any of the five Big Ten backs ranked ahead of him in rushing, as Elliott has received single-digit carries in three separate games this season.

Nevertheless, the 6'0", 225-pound Elliott has managed to make the most of his touches, and more importantly, he's shown up when it's mattered most. In the Buckeyes' monumental win over Michigan State on Nov. 8, Elliott totaled 154 yards and two touchdowns, a week before tallying 110 total yards in Ohio State's grind-it-out victory at Minnesota.

Those are the types of numbers Elliott envisioned when he committed to the Buckeyes, choosing Ohio State over the home team, Missouri. Meyer may have never had a 1,000-yard running back when Elliott opted to bring his talents to Columbus, but he's now on the verge of his second straight after Carlos Hyde became his first a season ago.

"I'm just a versatile back who can do a lot of things," Elliott said. "I take a lot of pride in my blocking. I can catch the ball out of the backfield. I can run it inside and outside."

And while he may not get the same national credit as Barrett, Elliott has played a key role in diversifying the Buckeyes offense this season, adding 18 receptions for 162 yards to his stat line. As teams early in the season tested Barrett's arm with bear defense, cover-zero schemes, it was Elliott who played the role of "bear beater," using swing passes to take opponents out of their original looks.

More years than not, Elliott's ability would garner him more attention, perhaps putting him up for a few awards of his own. But as Coleman learned this past week, this year's stable of Big Ten running backs is something special, something which Elliott has already taken note of.

"We definitely have the best crop of running backs in the Big Ten," he said. "You've just got to be thankful to God for the opportunities and just go out there and keep grinding."

 

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 statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Football: Backups Who Could Start in Another Conference

There arguably isn’t a deeper conference in college football than the SEC in terms of talent.

From the starters, right down to some of the third-string players, the conference is loaded with talent. Already, several backups—running back Nick Chubb, quarterbacks Treon Harris and Kyle Allen—have stepped in and brought success to their program.

It just makes one wonder how many potential stars are currently buried on the depth chart in the SEC?

Join B/R as we dig to find some names who would more than likely start on teams outside of the SEC.

Begin Slideshow

Nebraska Football: Changes Nebraska and Bo Pelini Can Make Before Next Season

Can you fire a coach who wins nine or 10 games a season? The answer is simple: No.

That doesn't mean the idea isn't on some Nebraska fans' minds. After the Cornhuskers' 59-24 loss to Wisconsin, the fanbase has found itself split once again.

Some want head coach Bo Pelini gone regardless of season win-loss totals, while others do not. It's made for interesting conversations, but none are truly focusing on what really needs to happen.

And, no, firing Pelini isn't the solution.

Instead, Pelini and the Huskers need to be ready and willing to make a change. What exactly does that change look like? First and foremost, it starts at the defensive coordinator position.

John Papuchis has been with Nebraska and Pelini for seven seasons, and he's been at the helm of the Blackshirts for three years. In that time, Papuchis has made small progress with the defense. However, it's often undermined by major losses like the most recent one against Wisconsin.

Nebraska simply cannot afford to lose like that anymore. If the old "defense wins championships" cliche is true, then change to correct that problem needs to begin.

Pelini has made a name for himself as someone who stays loyal to his staff. If the head coach can prevent it, he'd prefer to not have to make any staff changes. However, fans have been wanting something to happen for a couple of years now, as the Lincoln Journal Star's Steven M. Sipple's looked at in 2012.

At the time, Sipple felt it was too premature for Pelini to make any changes. Two years later, things have changed and Pelini is now standing dangerously on the edge of no longer being able to control the situation.

He wants to win. During his monthly radio call-in show, Sports Nightly, Pelini made that clear.

“I’m going to do everything I possibly can for these kids and try to give it my best every day," he said (h/t Rich Kaipust of the Omaha World-Herald).

Pelini went on to say he won't be happy "until we win 'em all." If that's really what Pelini thinks and wants, change is now necessary.

Firing Papuchis might not be ideal for Pelini. However, being willing to make a change—especially on the defensive side of the ball—would likely save his own job. That's the key.

And there really is no time like the present.

With Will Muschamp now available, he may be the right fit for the Nebraska defense. "[Muschamp] may have proven that he’s a career coordinator at this point, but in this context that’s perfectly fine," Hail Varsity's Brandon Vogel noted. "It’s not like Florida’s defense was the reason he was fired."

With a coach like Muschamp available, delaying the inevitable may be the worst thing Pelini can do.

That's not to say firing Papuchis would guarantee Pelini's job for years to come—as staff changes didn't save Frank Solich—but the willingness to make a change could rebuild some trust with the fans who want Pelini gone.

That's another change that needs to happen at Nebraska. The trust needs to be rebuilt.

That's obviously easier said than done, but Pelini can start now. Defeating both Minnesota and Iowa would be a good start. Winning whatever bowl game the Huskers are sent to would also help.

If Pelini can end this season 11-2, make a couple of staff changes and secure a strong recruiting class, trust will come with it. Pelini may never earn back the faith of the entire Nebraska fanbase, but there are plenty of Husker supporters who would be willing to back the coach if he showed a willingness to change.

That's what remains unknown, though. Is Pelini willing to make a change? If he truly cares about doing everything for his players, how far is he willing to go for them?

Pelini is loyal to those around him. It shows in how his players speak of him. Wide receiver Kenny Bell, for instance, called fans who want the head coach gone "crazy," per Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star. Bell even said he'd play "against Satan himself and a team of demons at the gates of the underworld" for Pelini last year, as ESPN.com's Mitch Sherman reported.

The ball is now in Pelini's court. There are changes Nebraska can make, but it all starts with the head coach. Will he be willing to do what's needed to win and rebuild trust with fans?

Only time, and the outcome of upcoming games, will tell.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Predicting the Winner of Every College Football Conference

It’s crunch time now.  We’ve reached the final stretch of the 2014 college football season, with a little over two weeks to go until the inaugural College Football Playoff is set and bowl matchups are decided.

To get there, though, we need to determine champions in every FBS league. With 12 weeks of play in the books, every league title picture has crystallized (well, mostly). We know which teams are in contention, which teams are playing out the string and which teams have a real chance of hoisting hardware in the first full weekend of December.

That’s what this feature is all about. We’re predicting every league champion when the dust settles on the 2014 regular season. We’re looking at the current standings, teams’ remaining schedules and current momentum in making these selections. And, of course, these are hardly set in stone. That’s why they play the games.

Begin Slideshow

Pages