NCAA Football News

Pac-12 Releases Statement Regarding ASU Sign-Stealing Allegations

The Arizona State Sun Devils football team has agitated its opponents over the past couple of weeks by allegedly stealing play-calling signals, but the Pac-12 does not seem to be particularly concerned about any illegal actions.

Doug Haller of AZCentral Sports passed along the conference’s comments regarding the Arizona State controversy:

While many frown upon stealing signals and consider it to be cheating, the statement highlights the fact that it is not technically against any NCAA rules. That is the most important thing, although it is fair to question the sportsmanship involved.

Arizona State head coach Todd Graham pointed to the legality of it in recent comments, per Haller: "Do we steal signals? Yeah, we do. Do people steal our signals? Yeah, (they) do. ... We are definitely going by the rules. There’s not anything illegal about looking at somebody’s signals or...somebody’s groupings."

According to Graham Watson of Yahoo Sports, Utah was concerned that Arizona State stole its signals when a Sun Devils coach made a passing motion right before the Utes attempted a pass. Oregon used sheets to cover its assistant coaches who were sending in signals out of fear that the Arizona State sideline would attempt to steal their signals.

Next up for the Sun Devils is a game against Washington State, and Cougars head coach Mike Leach thinks the league should investigate his next opponent, per Watson. “I mean, you've got two straight schools with concerns over it, back to back, and they have a reputation for it that extends beyond that," Leach said. "The conference probably ought to investigate them and see what they’re doing, make sure nothing is illegal.”

Arizona State may be stealing signals, but it’s not doing a good job of converting that to effective play on the field. It gave up 61 points to Oregon in a triple-overtime loss and dropped the Utah game, 34-18.

The Sun Devils had conference title aspirations heading into the season, and some even saw them as darkhorse contenders for the College Football Playoff. They now sit at 4-4 with work to do just to be bowl-eligible, and this serves as something of a distraction in a disappointing season.

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Leonard Fournette's Family Reportedly May Have Violated NCAA Rules

LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette is the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, and frankly, bigger and better things are on the horizon for the transcendent future NFL prospect. Unfortunately, potential NCAA violations may mar Fournette's tremendous sophomore season.

Josh Peter of USA Today reported Thursday that a family associate named Paul Price and Fournette's parents had set up a website to sell merchandise and build the prodigy's brand before he even set foot on the college gridiron.

The website shut down approximately 24 hours after it launched ahead of LSU's 2014 season opener once the NCAA learned of its existence. As Fournette's mother, Lory, explained, "There's certain rules that just can't be broken."

But the damage may have already been done, since the website was selling T-shirts and hats that stood to capitalize on Fournette's name, image or likeness—which is a direct NCAA violation.

Lory Fournette described Price as a family manager who reportedly paid $10,000 for the website to be built. Three companies that were supplying the Fournette team with merchandise offered a total discount of $20,000 in anticipation of a huge profit that never materialized.

Furthermore, IWD Agency owner Joe McFerrin indicated Price never paid back an owed amount of $14,682. McFerrin developed the website, and both he and merchandise creator Chris Hanley stated Price had cleared the project with the NCAA.

The merchandise featured the text "BUGA Nation," with the acronym standing for "Being United Generates Attitude."

Unfortunately, the actions of those close to Fournette may have him in hot water with the NCAA.

Whether LSU faces sanctions from major college sports' governing body or only Fournette does as an individual, it is a scary situation for the Tigers. They are currently 7-0 and have ridden Fournette to immense success, as the 20-year-old wunderkind has amassed 1,352 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns.

The timing of Thursday's report is especially difficult, with LSU traveling to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama on Saturday in its biggest challenge of the season to date.

To have any hope of preserving their undefeated record, the Tigers must have Fournette fully focused on the task at hand. The reported website incident threatens to loom as a distraction as Fournette prepares to face a Crimson Tide defense that is yielding only 2.6 yards per carry this year.

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Mississippi State vs. Missouri: Live Score and Highlights

The No. 20 Mississippi State Bulldogs travel to Columbia, Missouri, Thursday night to play the struggling Missouri Tigers.

The Bulldogs (6-2, 2-2) enter Thursday right in the thick of things in the competitive SEC West. The Tigers (4-4, 1-4), meanwhile, are on a three-game losing streak and have scored just 12 points total in their last three games. 

Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott is enjoying another successful season. He is completing 67 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and only one interception. He's also run for 371 yards and seven more scores. 

Both teams play terrific defense, specifically the Tigers. MSU ranks No. 18 in scoring defense, while Missouri is No. 6 in total defense. 

This is only the third meeting between the two schools, with the last meeting coming in 1984. The Tigers won both previous meetings. Obviously, this is the first meeting since Missouri entered the SEC in 2012. 

You can watch live on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET, but make sure to stay right here for the latest news, notes, analysis and the best postgame coverage around.

The official box score is available at NCAA.com

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Matthew Dayes Injury: Updates on NC State Star's Recovery from Foot Surgery

North Carolina State Wolfpack running back Matthew Dayes suffered a foot injury during Week 9 against Clemson.

Continue for updates.

Dayes Out for Season Thursday, Nov. 5

Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren announced Dayes will undergo surgery Friday and miss the final four games of the season.

"I'm disappointed for Matt because he was having a really good year," Doeren said. "But in football you've got to have a 'next man up' mentality, and I'm confident that his teammates will be ready to take on bigger roles and be successful."

Dayes trails only FSU’s Dalvin Cook and Clemson’s Wayne Gallman among ACC running backs with 865 yards, and leads the conference with 12 rushing scores. The junior’s 108.1 rush yards per game this year are the most in school history since Joe McIntosh's 119 average in 1981, according to NC State.

The Wolfpack will lean on sophomore Dakwa Nichols and freshman Reggie Gallaspy, who’ve combined for a respectable 411 yards and nine touchdowns on 59 carries. But Dayes’ absence will assuredly handcuff a team already low in the ACC Atlantic totem pole.    

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Baylor vs. Kansas State: Live Score and Highlights

Baylor - 7

K-State - 0 

TV: FS1

12:00 1st Quarter

The Baylor Bears, who recently were pegged as one of the first two teams out of the playoffs in the inaugural 2015 College Football Playoff poll, look to continue their undefeated season on the road against Bill Snyder and the Kansas State Wildcats, a team they secured a share of the Big 12 title against last season. 

The Bears will be led by new starter Jarrett Stidham, who is replacing Seth Russell after Russell was lost for the year with a neck injury. He'll look to keep the momentum going in The Little Apple, a place notorious for giving visitors a tour of Hell. 

Stay plugged in below for continued updates of this Thursday night Big 12 showdown. 

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Most Important College Football Recruiting Visits of Week 10

The 2015 college football season rolls into November with building excitement after an initial release of playoff rankings. This month's first slate of games provides plenty of compelling storylines, complete with crucial recruiting visits across America.

The colossal SEC clash between Alabama and LSU in Tuscaloosa will draw enough high school talent to build a title-contending roster at any university. Meanwhile, matchups at Clemson and Ohio State are among other contests that carry potential recruiting implications.

Here's our weekly look at pivotal player visits to keep tabs on during days to come.

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How CFB's Most Unlikely Undefeated Team Became a Playoff Contender

We're past the halfway point of the college football season, and against all odds, Oklahoma State remains undefeated and in the thick of the playoff race.

What have been the keys to the Cowboys' success so far?

Watch Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder drop some knowledge in the video above.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida Continues Pursuit of Playmakers as 4-Star Eli Stove Visits This Weekend

Despite having four receivers already committed, one of the biggest areas of focus down the stretch for the Florida Gators' 2016 recruiting class is at the wide receiver position.

While head coach Jim McElwain is hot on the trail of stud pass-catchers such as 4-stars Nate Craig-MyersBinjimen Victor and Tre Nixon, another prospect committed to an SEC power has emerged on the Gators' radar.  

According to ESPN’s Derek Tyson, Auburn Tigers pledge and 4-star wideout Eli Stove will take a visit to Gainesville this weekend:

What does this development mean for the Gators and for Stove’s recruitment?

For Florida, it signifies that McElwain and his staff are leaving no stone unturned in their quest to add more talent and depth to a receiver unit that has five upperclassmen among its top eight players on the current depth chart, as noted by Ourlads.

In Stove’s case, the fact that he’s bringing his parents along for the trip means that his plan to check out the Gators is more than simply a courtesy visit. According to GatorBait’s Luke Stampini, the Gators will have to work on his parents—who seem to be in favor of their son sticking with his original commitment.

It will be tough to flip Stove—who was on Auburn’s campus last weekend and left the Plains stating that he was firm in his pledge, according to Keith Niebuhr of AuburnUndercover.

However, McElwain and his staff have consistently been recruiting Stove, and the visit is a payoff for their continued efforts.

Niebuhr also notes that in addition to his unofficial visit this weekend, Stove plans to take an official visit to Gainesville later in the process.

Given the momentum of the Gators program, especially when compared side-by-side to what’s going on with the Tigers, Stove’s recruitment has the potential to get interesting in the coming weeks and months.

The Gators' success this season has given receivers, even those who weren’t high on the program coming into the season, reason to start believing in McElwain and his offense.

"They're doing a great job putting receivers in spots where they can make plays," Nixon told Bleacher Report’s Tyler Donohue. "Even with the transition to another quarterback, Florida has a system that's still successful. They're spreading the ball around." 

With the Gators involved with so many receivers, it gives their chances of adding to a receiver haul that already includes 4-stars Freddie Swain and Joshua Hammond and 3-stars Rick Wells and Isaiah Johnson a boost.

 

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

 

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Alabama Stopping Leonard Fournette More Crucial Than LSU Stopping Derrick Henry

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Derrick Henry doesn’t smile very often in front of reporters, but the University of Alabama running back couldn’t help himself when asked about his opposing counterpart this week.

Specifically, he was told that LSU’s Leonard Fournette admitted that he wouldn’t want to try to tackle him. Needless to say, the feeling’s petty much mutual.

“That’s a big boy to bring down,” Henry said about the possibility—and he does play on some special teams units. “I probably wouldn’t, but he runs the ball the right way.”

Whenever No. 4 Alabama hosts No. 2 LSU, it’s seemingly always the most physical game in college football, but this year’s matchup might be as tough as any due to the running backs who will be featured.

They don’t just run, but often try to turn defenders into football roadkill.

Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen calls Fournette an “angry running back” because he’s “aggressive, engages in contact instead of shying away from it.”

“It makes me angry. So we love that. Especially with the D-line and the front seven of the defense we play for; we love this. We love physical backs.”

They’ll need to be fired up for the challenge, because based on how the teams use their “angry” running backs, it’s a lot more important for Alabama to stop Fournette if it wants to win this game.

For the season, LSU’s offense had executed 454 plays for 3,262 yards. Between carries and receptions Fourtnette has 183 offensive touches and 1,410 yards. That works out to 40.3 percent of LSU’s plays and 43 percent of its yards.

Having played an extra game, Alabama has executed 597 plays for 3,375 yards. Henry has 188 touches for 1,113 total yards. That’s just 31.5 percent of the plays and 33 percent of the yards—approaching the statistics posted when Mark Ingram carried the Crimson Tide offense in 2009 and Trent Richardson did so in 2011. 

That’s a big difference.

Fournette’s also been able to post big numbers despite the way defenses have keyed in on him, and LSU has used that to make plays in the passing game. It’s been so effective that quarterback Brandon Harris hasn’t thrown an interception this season.

"They've made a lot of explosive plays in the passing game, and I think they've taken advantage of what people are trying to do to stop the run, whether it's eight-man fronts and middle-of-the-field throws in coverage, when you have single coverage outside,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “I think the key to the drill is, you have to be able to stop the run, but you can't give them big plays.”

More than that, it needs to try to contain Fournette without having to take away from its passing defense, which is even harder to do than it sounds, but Alabama was able to do so earlier this season at Georgia. Nick Chubb was finally able to break a big gain off a missed assignment and post his usual impressive numbers, but not until after the game’s outcome had already been decided.

Similar to that game a month ago on Oct. 3, rain is in the forecast for Saturday.

“I think that you have to mix it up a little bit, because if you always put extra guys in the box, they’re probably going to hurt you with the pass, and obviously the more guys you put into the box if he breaks the line of scrimmage, you’re going to have fewer guys to squeeze him, be able to tackle him,” Saban said.

Statistically Alabama is third in the nation against the run at 78.5 yards allowed per game, while LSU is sixth (93.7), which means that these are the best defenses the running backs have faced this season.

But Fournette has seen only one defense ranked in the top 50, Florida, and its average opponent is ranked 77.8, which actually matches its last opponent, Western Kentucky. The seven teams it’s faced on average give up 192.4 rushing yards, which would rank 98th (Auburn’s ranking).

Henry has played against five defenses ranked in the top 50, with the average ranking 51.5. Ranked Nos. 51-53 are Ohio State, Army and Southern California, respectively.

During last year’s showdown, Fournette had 21 carries for 79 rushing yards against the Crimson Tide, the longest gain being 13 yards. He also returned kicks, with Reuben Foster trying to knock him into another time zone just before the end of regulation with the score tied.

“It gave us momentum going into overtime,” senior linebacker Reggie Ragland said. “It was big. Everybody got hyped up and was ready to go.”

Obviously Fournette has upped his game since then and is the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, but going back to something Ragland said before the season started provides a better understanding of what this game means to the Crimson Tide.

"Guys aren't scared to play us anymore—it’s as simple as that," Ragland said. “We've got to get that back."

For Alabama’s defense to be considered one of the best ever, it has to keep Fournette from beating it—pure and simple.

So that’s the key matchup, with Fournette aided by an impressive offensive line and Alabama’s deep front seven now backed by a ball-hawking secondary. Ether Fournette will essentially lock up the Heisman, or Alabama’s defense will be feared again.

Actually, both could happen.

 

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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The 10 Most Terrifying Players in College Football Today

It's OK to be afraid. It's natural, and when it comes to dealing with some of the most terrifying players in college football, it makes complete sense.

We get to watch from a distance as these guys run around, over, past and through other players. Those on the field who are tasked with defending, stopping or at least slowing down the game's scariest don't have that luxury, and we feel their pain. We're also glad we don't have to experience it firsthand.

Being a terrifying college football player isn't just a matter of physical appearance, though in some cases that adds to the fear. It's more a matter of how much that player's skills and abilities strike fear in the hearts of his opponents, knowing they're very likely to end up on a highlight reel as the players getting steamrolled or juked out of their cleats.

Taking into account how they've performed this season and how much they've terrorized their foes in 2015, here's our look at the 10 scariest college football players. They're listed alphabetically rather than as a ranking, since everyone's fears are different.

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Ranking the Best ACC Matchups of Week 10

Week 10 of ACC action is arguably the best we've had to date in 2015. 

It's chock-full of intriguing matchups, including one between the two prohibitive favorites in the conference. A very significant rivalry game between two upstart programs will take place, as well as another top-ranked squad going on the road in what should be a hostile environment. 

While it's not a heavy schedule from an actual games standpoint, the six contests all should provide terrific entertainment. 

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Previewing the Upcoming Crazy College Football Coaching Carousel

There were 15 head coaching changes among FBS schools last offseason, and it’s entirely possible we blow by that number before Thanksgiving this season. There are already 10 openings across college football right now, a number that nearly matches the amount of openings from a decade ago.

While there’s little doubt that the win-now mentality and increase in money in college athletics has contributed to a more unstable job market, this season could bring an unprecedented level of turnover to the coaching carousel.

As one administrator pointed out to Bleacher Report recently, it doesn’t help things when you normally have, at most, one head coach retirement during the offseason and we’re already up to four before the calendar had turned to November. Throw in two midseason firings a level above in the NFL and the number of open jobs is anybody’s guess at this point, but it continues to move higher and higher with each passing week.

Agents, athletic directors, search firms and even head coaches are already bracing for a wild and crazy 10-plus weeks of rumors, contract discussions and even more openings. Here’s a bit of a look ahead at what could happen in college football.

 

ACC

Open: Virginia Tech, Miami

South Carolina will provide plenty of competition for a number of the ACC openings and will likely be able to pay as much as a million dollars more than others. That said, the two current openings in Miami and Blacksburg are very attractive to coaches and will draw plenty of interest.

Alabama assistant Mario Cristobal is the odds-on favorite to land in South Florida and may be an option at UCF if the Hurricanes pass on him. Virginia Tech is cited by many industry sources as the top non-USC job right now due to a combination of salary, facilities, fanbase, recruiting and the fact that athletic director Whit Babcock is well respected.

 

Likely open: Syracuse, Virginia

The Orange are very likely to finish 3-9 for the second straight season, and that doesn’t bode well for Scott Shafer with a new athletic director taking over earlier this year. The best case for keeping him might be the number of openings in the same part of the country, but it might not matter. As for the Cavaliers, the only question is when, not if, Mike London is let go.

 

Dominoes that could fall: North Carolina

Larry Fedora took over in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with the program under NCAA probation and faces the prospect of more uncertainty when it comes to the NCAA investigation into the school’s academic scandal going forward. He’s on the lower end of the pay scale in the ACC and could be a prime candidate to leverage a division title this season into a better job with more stability. Defensive coordinator Gene Chizik will be mentioned a lot as well.

 

Big 12

Potentially open: Iowa State, West Virginia, Kansas State

Beating Texas just might have saved Paul Rhoads' job. Iowa State’s early schedule was brutal (teams it lost to have a combined 35-5 record) and getting to a surprising five wins isn’t completely out of the question. A change still could be made at Iowa State but that’s less certain than before.

West Virginia could also make a move (it has a new athletic director) if Dana Holgorsen doesn’t get out of town for another job first. The Mountaineers are 3-4 right now, but finishing 8-4 is very possible. If that doesn’t happen, then things could get interesting.

Bill Snyder retirement watch will continue until he gives an answer as to what he wants to do. Former assistant Brent Venables (Clemson’s defensive coordinator) will get mentioned a lot if there’s an opening in Manhattan, Kansas.

 

Dominoes: Texas

After another humiliating loss, it almost makes too much sense for the Longhorns and Charlie Strong to part ways at this point and have him head to a job that fits much better (Miami). The Dallas Morning News reported there is no buyout if Strong wanted to leave (as opposed to getting fired), but it will be tough for him to leave a $5 million a year position unless he gets something similar from another place. Miami won’t be able to pay that but South Carolina possibly could.

 

Big Ten

Open: Maryland, Minnesota, Illinois

Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman reports that Gophers interim head coach Tracy Claeys has a lot of support to get the job full time and that makes a lot of sense, especially because the school is in the middle of a search for an athletic director. Bill Cubit has done a solid job leading the Illini through adversity, and reaching a bowl game could keep him in the mix even as the school likely looks to tap another up-and-coming MAC head coach.

It remains to be seen what Maryland will do (no, not Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly nor Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien) but somebody like Bowling Green’s Dino Babers makes a lot of sense. The Terps also could do a lot worse than hiring Greg Schiano.

 

Potentially open: Rutgers, Indiana

The level of dysfunction at Rutgers means it’s unlikely Kyle Flood gets another season in charge, but where the school goes from there is anybody’s guess. As for Indiana, it could follow Purdue’s lead in avoiding an active market and keep Kevin Wilson.

 

Pac-12

Open: USC

The Cadillac of openings right now, USC is one of the top jobs in the country for a reason, and the recent success of the team’s young stars will only enhance that. Chip Kelly is a pipe dream, and other NFL head coaches are unlikely to actually be in the mix either. Interim coach Clay Helton has a very, very slim shot at the full-time gig and would need a win over UCLA if he wants any chance of keeping the big office at the McKay Center. There are a lot of talkative boosters in Los Angeles, but it’s still a bit murky who athletic director Pat Haden is really targeting.

 

Dominoes: Cal, Utah, UCLA, Arizona

Outside of the Trojans, the Pac-12 should be relatively stable. But there’s also lots of potential turnover that has nothing to do with firing coaches. Cal’s Sonny Dykes has a contract situation worth watching, and his success this season could make him a candidate elsewhere. Utah’s Kyle Whittingham won’t leave Salt Lake City, but he’ll be mentioned quite a bit for the USC opening. Jim Mora is very comfortable at UCLA but an NFL franchise could always make him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

As for Arizona, it’s an open secret in the industry that Rich Rodriguez has had an eye on going back East, and he’ll be a name that fits with what Virginia Tech and South Carolina are looking for. If he does leave, look for Wildcats AD Greg Byrne to quickly snap up Utah State’s Matt Wells.

 

SEC

Open: South Carolina

The Gamecocks are the second-best program in their own small state and the fourth- or fifth-best job in their division, but they still can offer a lot as an SEC program flush with cash, fans and facilities. AD Ray Tanner is a former coach himself so he knows what to look for, but this is his biggest move yet since being elevated to the top of the department. If they can’t lure an already-established head coach, don’t be surprised if some hot-name coordinator (such as Alabama’s Kirby Smart) winds up taking over for Steve Spurrier.

 

Potentially open: Georgia

It’s no secret that Georgia is dysfunctional right now, and that shows no signs of slowing down. Atlanta-based USA Today reporter Dan Wolken wrote that athletic director Greg McGarity wanted to fire Mark Richt last year but was overruled. That doesn’t bode well for the staff’s job security going forward.

A loss in any of the remaining regular-season games would probably be the final nail in the coffin for Richt, but the flip side for Bulldogs fans is Georgia would be the best job in the country to come open this year (yes, even over USC). There would be immense interest in such an opening, and that in turn could create a dozen other moves around the country.

 

Dominoes: Kentucky, Mississippi State

The early-season shine has come off Mark Stoops a bit but his name will still get tossed around for a few openings, and it’s always possible he leaves for a more football-centric school. Dan Mullen’s name comes up every offseason and while he could stay put once again, he does make a lot of sense at USC, Virginia Tech and Georgia if it came open.

 

Group of Five

Open: UCF, North Texas, Hawaii

Central Florida does not have an athletic director yet so that complicates the search a bit, but it remains the most attractive "Group of Five" opening in the country thanks to the level of support the program gets and its location. There may be more coaches interested in the Knights job than some Power Five programs according to one industry source. Hawaii sounds like a nice job in theory, but former coach June Jones is probably the odds-on favorite because the school won’t be able to afford any kind of top-level hire.

 

Potentially open: Idaho, Georgia State, New Mexico State

The bottom of the Sun Belt could see a lot of turnover for performance-based reasons.

 

Dominoes: Temple, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, Marshall, Western Kentucky, Bowling Green, Western Michigan, Toledo, Northern Illinois, Utah State, Air Force, Georgia Southern

The up-and-coming coaches in the Group of Five like Memphis’ Justin Fuente and Houston’s Tom Herman will get mentioned for nearly every opening this year for good reason. Both would succeed just about anywhere they go, but Fuente will likely be looking for the right fit and can afford to be choosy. That means Virginia Tech is more likely than, say, a Miami.

As for Herman, he can be patient in pursuit of a bigger job, but a one-and-done season for the right opportunity shouldn’t be ruled out. If USC comes calling or Texas surprisingly opens up, then he could be firmly in the mix.

Outside of those two names, any number of successful Group of Five coaches are primed to move up to a bigger program, hence the long list of dominoes that could fall this year. That's also not even counting some coaches sitting out (Brady Hoke, Butch Davis and even CBS commentators Rick Neuheisel and Houston Nutt), who could get in the mix somewhere too.

It’s going to be a crazy final few months on the field, and that’s not even getting to what can happen off it. Buckle up, folks, we’re in for one wild ride.

Bryan Fischer is a national college football columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Mark Richt: Latest News, Rumors, Speculation on Coach's Future With Georgia

Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt is reportedly on the hot seat, as the team is off to an underwhelming 5-3 start in 2015.

Continue for updates.

Report: Internal Turmoil Could Lead to Richt's DepartureThursday, Nov. 5

Dan Wolken of USA Today reported Richt has clashed with defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, and if the head coach stays, he will essentially be pressured by the administration in Athens to overhaul his staff.

Richt did his best to dismiss the rift between himself and Pruitt on Twitter, which Wolken's sources described as a "toxic" relationship:

The report stated Pruitt has been given the right to hire several members of the coaching staff on his own and has been more integral to recruiting.

David Hale of ESPN implied how such a dynamic may only be exacerbating Georgia's issues:

Further complicating the situation is Georgia may well bring in a strong freshman class next year and reportedly isn't viewed as "cutthroat" enough compared to other SEC teams to fire Richt. That means the long-time overseer of the Bulldogs program would have to walk away on his own accord rather than receive the pink slip

But Wolken also indicated Georgia president Jere Morehead rejected athletics director Greg McGarity's motion to make a coaching change. In other words, Richt was reportedly close to being fired at the end of last year as it was—even though the Bulldogs went 10-3 and lost running back Todd Gurley to a torn ACL.

McGarity reportedly thinks highly of Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, and numerous other big-name candidates are mentioned as prospective options for Georgia should it part ways with Richt after this year.

Richt has been at the helm in Athens since 2001 and led the Bulldogs to a No. 3 ranking in the Associated Press poll in his second season. Georgia has finished inside the Top 10 in the AP poll in seven of Richt's 14 prior seasons.

The track record of success is stellar, but the SEC is arguably the most competitive, difficult conference in college football. Absent a national championship to truly cement his job security and Richt's inability to quite reach that level, it's no surprise he's been on the hot seat of late amid a dysfunctional Bulldogs culture.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M QB Kyler Murray Key to Aggie Offensive Turnaround

The future became the present for the Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday afternoon in College Station.

Kyler Murray—he of three straight Texas high school state titles and an unblemished record as a starter at Allen High School—kept his winning streak intact in a 35-28 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks. 

In that game, Murray threw for 223 yards and a touchdown, rushed for 156 yards and a score, and joined some rather prestigious SEC company.

While the yards and touchdowns are what will dominate headlines, there are much bigger stats that tell the real story on just how important Murray is to the Texas A&M offense.

First, the completion percentage.

Murray connected on 20 of his 28 passes against the Gamecocks, which is partly due to the inconsistency South Carolina has shown over the last two seasons, but it's still impressive considering how Murray has looked through the air.

Used primarily as a changeup to former starter Kyle Allen prior to Saturday, Murray looked apprehensive and not up to speed on the speed of the game during the passing situations he had previously found himself in, but this time he looked poised, in control and ready to lead the passing attack.

"I don't know if it had anything to do with being a more confident passer," head coach Kevin Sumlin said. "It had to do with a complete game plan for him. He had been used in situations throughout the year, and I think when you're the starter and have access to the complete game plan, that gave him more tools in his tool box to utilize on Saturday."

It's not that Murray is able to simply kick-start the offense, but he allows Sumlin to run the full offense.

Former quarterback Johnny Manziel opened everything up for Sumlin at Texas A&M due to his ability to make plays on the ground. That benefited everybody, including the running backs.

You saw Murray have a similar impact. While his 156 rushing yards were great, the numbers "122" and "5.81" were far more important to Texas A&M on Saturday and in the future. Those were the total rushing yards and yards per carry, respectively, for running back Tra Carson. The threat of Murray opened things up for Carson, which finally brought balance to the struggling Aggies ground game.

"Kyler's ability to put pressure on the perimeter had to help," Sumlin said. "It loosens things up and creates profile-type tackling situations at the line of scrimmage for Tra rather than head-on tackling situations. Those things work hand-in-hand. Schematically we changed some things up front and picked up the tempo more so than we had done."

Murray is going to make "freshman mistakes."

He's one year removed from high school, played a weak South Carolina secondary last week and simply hasn't seen all that the SEC has to offer through his limited playing time this year. 

But that inexperience, and the lumps that will inevitably come with it, will be mitigated by Murray's ability to fun the full Sumlin offense, make his running game better and provide much-needed balance to the once pass-happy Aggies.

Be excited, Texas A&M.

The future is now the present. 

If Murray can build on his first performance as a starter, it's a huge sign for Texas A&M's SEC title hopes in 2016.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

2016 Recruits Who Could Change the Fortunes for Struggling 2015 Teams

Hope springs eternal each national signing day, when college football programs officially welcome committed recruits into the fold as future contributors. For some squads struggling to gain consistency this season, February can't come soon enough.

Regardless of how a team is performing on the field, coaches must always keep an eye toward the future. Those efforts take even greater precedence when a staff is consistently picking up losses with its present roster. 

It hasn't been an ideal fall for many marquee universities, but the possibility of immediate-impact prospects could shift momentum next year. Here's a peek at several players capable of becoming key components of 2016 program turnarounds.

Begin Slideshow

Ex-LSU Players Reveal the Origins of Les Miles' 'Lesticles' Nickname

I jumped into this piece expecting to craft a story about a madman with a magic football formula. I expected to pass along stories of improvisation, outlandish sideline charades, peculiar play-calling vernacular and moments of accidental genius. That was the genesis of the idea.

However, after speaking to those who executed Les Miles’ wizardry over the years, it became increasingly apparent that these preconceived notions were certifiably false.

Still, along the way, I unearthed the Mad Hatter’s top-secret formula for executing the unthinkable calls—the fake field goals, the fake punts, the fourth downs. All of them.

It’s all so clear now. This reveal will change everything.

Miles’ Mad Hatter recipe calls for the following mystery ingredients: endless repetitions, meticulous planning, incredible patience and just the right players to execute just the right plays against just the right opponents in just the right moments.

There is no magic here. Well, perhaps there is still a bit of sorcery.

“You still got to have the kahunas to call it,” former LSU running back Jacob Hester told Bleacher Report. “But when he calls it, he has faith in it.”

 One more time, because this part is important…

“It’s Les. They call him Lesticles,” former LSU kicker Colt David said. “Just to have the balls to call some of those plays, it keeps teams on their toes.”

It happened again, just a few short weeks ago.

All squared up at 28-28 with undefeated Florida in the fourth quarter, Miles dug into his bag of goodies.

Instead of settling for a three-point lead, Miles and his staff decided on something different. They decided that, in this particular moment, 170-pound kicker Trent Domingue was a threat to score.

So they made the call. And it worked.

From a distance, the play calls—the elaborate moments of deception, even the ones that fall fantastically flat—appear as though they were drawn up on a cocktail napkin late night at a back roads Louisiana bar. Oh, what a glorious midnight concoction.

That’s a fun working theory. It’ll push that Mad Hatter nickname and narrative forward. Stick with it if you’d like.

The reality, however, is that it’s far more science than it is magic. There’s a fair amount of instinct involved to make it function—trust, too—but this is much more calculated than he gets credit for. There is a method behind the madness.

 

The Art of the Perfect Flip

It was September 22, 2007.

Up a touchdown over Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks approaching halftime, LSU lined up to kick a 32-yard field goal.

Push the lead to 10, head into the halftime up two scores—it seemed like a forgone conclusion. Plus, in the midst of one of the most successful kicking seasons in SEC history, Colt David was close to a guarantee from this distance.

Then the call came in from the sideline just before the ball was snapped: Roxie.

“To be honest, I was over in kicking net,” David said. “I had no idea we were running a fake until seconds before. Matt Flynn made the call, and I had about one second to realize that, holy ****, we’re not kicking it. I didn’t have time to get nervous. It’s second nature, because we practiced it so many times.”

This, according to David, was one of the fakes the team had planned. They typically had three to five special teams calls for each team, depending on the film.

It wasn’t drawn up in a week, practiced over the course of a few days and then put into action. It was carefully manicured, perfected and then, when the coaches felt like they had an opening, executed.

“I can’t tell you the amount of times we worked on that,” Hester said on the fake. “Not only that year, but the year before. Matt had never messed up the flip in practice, but Les still wanted to make sure it was the right play and right call. He kept it in his back pocket.”

Miles loved David’s speed. Rolling back the footage, it’s easy to see why.

Identifying the players with the appropriate attributes necessary to carry out these plays is a significant part of the process. By the time the play is called, the details have been worked out.

Then it’s simply a matter of piecing it together with all of the knowledge acquired.

“You’re running to make it, because you know that if you don’t make it you’re probably going off in a stretcher,” David said, breaking into laughter. “Being a kicker, you dream of kicking a game winner. Miles gives you an opportunity to kick that winner or score a touchdown and then go in and kick the extra point.”

 

The Bounce Pass

The entire sequence smelled of failure. On the verge of a delay of game penalty, LSU called a timeout with 35 second remaining as the field goal team lined up for a 52-yard attempt. It was October 9, 2010, and the Tigers trailed Urban Meyer’s Florida Gators 29-26.

During the timeout, however, Miles had a change of heart. As kicker Josh Jasper loosened up in the kicking net, weighing the significance of the kick to come, his head coach approached him before he jogged out to the field.

“He told me we were running a fake right before,” Jasper said. “That’s how quick it happened. When you get the call, it’s such an adrenaline rush. Everyone on the team loved him for this. It was one of the best memories I had as a Tiger.”

Instead of kicking the field as goal, holder Derek Helton tossed the ball over his head—a familiar motion—in Jasper’s direction. Only the kicker did not catch the wayward toss on the fly.

Jasper, having to improvise, gathered the favorable bounce quickly off the turf and somehow rumbled for the first down.

Not only did the pitch hit the ground, but it was almost a forward pass. Almost didn’t matter. The play was upheld, which gave LSU a few more plays to do more than ties. After a long completion, quarterback Jarrett Lee hit Terrence Toliver on the game-winning touchdown.

It was all set up by the fake. No, it wasn’t perfect. But it did work.

“A lot of coaches don’t have the nerve or want to do anything like that,” Jasper said. “But I don’t think he thinks twice about it to pull those plays off because he has such confidence in us. We put a lot of work into it. The time put into it makes us so much more confident.”

Over the course of his kicking career, Jasper recalled at least three separate occasions where the fake was called and they had to opt out of it at the last second. The opposition might have lined up differently.

The situation they studied and planned for just wasn’t right. They didn't push for it. Timing was key.

“People think we just draw this stuff up on the sidelines,” Jasper said. “It doesn’t happen like that. Everybody thinks he’s crazy for all the trick plays and the fourth downs, but to me it comes down to trust. Les has more trust in his players than any coach I’ve been around.”

 

The Aussie Runs Wild

Having made the journey from Melbourne, Australia to Baton Rouge, Louisiana seemingly overnight, Brad Wing, LSU’s former rock star punter, exchanged numbers with his new head coach.

“I told him [Miles] that I would give him a bell,” Wing said, laughing over Miles' confusion with the statement at the time. “I had to then tell him that this meant I would give a call.”

Miles gave his young punter an in-game bell on October 8, 2011. With his team up 14-0 against Florida—a permanent fixture of the fake-ology—LSU sent out the punt team on fourth down at the end of the first quarter. The Tigers were then flagged for illegal formation, which pushed them back five yards.

On the next play, an assumed punt, Wing pulled off one of the most memorable plays of the 2011 season—a moment in time that will live on for an assortment of reasons.

“I caught the ball looked up, and we just started running down the sideline,” Wing said. “Les, unlike many other coaches, always gave me the option to fake it. We didn’t have the fake punt called on that play. It was more of him having the trust in me to take an opening if it was there.”

Yes, a taunting penalty—remember that ridiculous rule?—nullified Wing’s score. As a result, LSU ultimately had to settle for a field goal. But the play, a brilliant bit of calculated improv, was yet another bit of Miles magic.

The penalty prior to Wing’s long scamper was a freebee of sorts—like a kicker getting off a practice field goal attempt before being iced in a key moment. It was an unexpected glimpse into the future. When Wing saw that one side of the field would be open, he altered the script.

“It might not be valuable for every week, but we still practiced it so when the moment came we could execute,” Wing said. “The guys knew what to do and they felt comfortable doing it. He was never afraid to take some risks, which the players really liked.”

 

So is He Truly Mad?

Miles’ cartoonish reputation, headlined by his affinity for meaty sound bites and his propensity to eat morsels grass on live television, have painted him as something he is not.

Oh, he’s unconventional and wildly entertaining. He’s the perfect combination of odd and original. But he’s also brilliant and industrious. The robust salary and job title is not the product of his eccentricities; it's all out of repeat success.

And yes, his ability to push his opponent in unassuming situations has shaped his legacy. More importantly, it was won his program more than just a handful of games.

The next time Miles successfully executes a fake—perhaps as soon as Saturday against Alabama, or perhaps not until next fall—keep in mind how it came together.

This isn’t your crazy uncle drawing up some sort of grand master plan at Thanksgiving dinner; this is a professional and his team of professionals, after countless hours of gathering intel, executing a well-designed plan based on meticulous timing and alignment. There’s nothing mad about it.

Sure, there’s a great deal of risk. That’s something that should be celebrated. It’s also the part that’s most difficult to duplicate. But it’s calculated risk.

The whole thing is thought out weeks, months and sometimes years in advance. That’s what makes him mad. It’s finding an edge in arena that others have not mastered and showing a willingness to pull the trigger—if that moment calls for it.

“The stage is never too big. There’s no nervousness,” Hester said. “That’s what makes him the Mad Hatter. He’s willing to do anything at any time.”

 

Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Which Current College Football Coach Is Most Likely to Jump to NFL Next Year?

With the money that college football coaches are getting paid, it's hard to believe that reaching the pinnacle of the sport and its pay scale wouldn't be enough. More than 25 percent of the 128 FBS head coaches are paid at least $3 million per season, according to USA Today, with 16 sitting at or above the $4 million threshold.

Yet every year we hear several of the top college names bandied about for jobs at the next level, often before the positions have even opened. It's been a longstanding trend for standout college coaches to move up to the NFL, with this past offseason marking the first time in a while that no such jump occurred.

If it's going to happen this year, there's a short list of prime candidates who appear to be most likely to take that step. Notre Dame's Brian Kelly, UCLA's Jim Mora and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin have had their names linked to the NFL before and are likely to again this offseason, but will one of them actually move?

Before we answer that question, let's look at why these three coaches—whose teams this season are a combined 20-4 and are all in contention for either a division or conference title or a playoff bid—would be coveted by owners looking to jump-start their pro franchises.

 

Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

Now in his sixth year running the most famous college program in the country, Kelly has won 223 games in his college career, including 52 with the Fighting Irish. He's reached a national title game and has his team in position to compete for another this year, and unlike many of his recent predecessors in South Bend, he hasn't suffered a notable backslide in performance at any point.

In other words, he's not looking like a Charlie Weis or Tyrone Willingham, who were hot early then cold as ice not long after, resulting in quick terminations.

As a result, the 54-year-old's name has been linked to NFL openings for the past few years. This started after the 2012 season, when he led Notre Dame to a perfect regular season and to the BCS title game, losing to Alabama. He reportedly interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles (for the job that eventually went to another college coach, Oregon's Chip Kelly), according to ESPN, and since then his name has been among those tossed out for various pro gigs.

Based on Kelly's career arc, this isn't surprising. Since leaving Division II Grand Valley State in 2004, he's jumped up in competition each chance he's received. He's spent three years at Central Michigan, then four at Cincinnati and reached the big time at Notre Dame, but there's still one more step to take for a coach whom Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel called a "climber."

 

Jim Mora, UCLA

Los Angeles still doesn't have an NFL team, but if that ends up happening in the near future, a strong option to coach one of the potential franchises interested in relocating there is already firmly entrenched in the region. And he's shown he can handle the competition, having lifted UCLA out from the shadow of its rival in little time.

Mora, 53, has won at least nine games in each of his first three seasons with the Bruins, doing so with a program that averaged 5.7 wins over the previous six years. His fourth team is 6-2, and despite some early hiccups that have knocked it out of playoff contention, another push for a Pac-12 title is still alive.

The quick success that Mora has had in Westwood has come at the same time that crosstown rival USC has been on a downslide, the product of uneven play on the field and near-constant off-field turmoil, including numerous coaching changes.

All the while, Mora has been methodically producing, and now that he's also made inroads on the recruiting trail—all four of his recruiting classes have been ranked in the top 20 by 247Sports—he appears capable of not just competing with USC but winning that battle by more than just three straight wins against the Trojans.

Yet Mora still seems like a pro guy, and not just because he was an NFL head coach at two different stops before coming to UCLA. It's in the way he answers questions, particularly how he tends to gripe about certain issues with the college game as if he'd rather not have to deal with them.

He referred to his team's playing consecutive Thursday night games "a complete injustice," via Chris Vannini of CoachingSearch.com, and though he cited how it might impact his players' academics, it sounded more like a complaint about the logistical changes that weeknight games bring about.

In the NFL, there might be only one Thursday night game, if that.

 

Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Sumlin is an offensive genius, an innovator whose college teams at Houston and now A&M have always been among the tops nationally in most statistical categories. He turned Johnny Manziel into a superstar and is one of the first choices for top-tier quarterback and receiver recruits to play for on an annual basis.

In a lot of ways, Sumlin is similar to Kelly in the way he's operated at the collegiate level, though his success hasn't been the same Kelly's with the Ducks. A&M's record has dipped each year under Sumlin, from 11-2 in 2012 to 8-5 last season; the Aggies are 6-2 this year, starting 5-0 before dropping two straight and then squeaking by a bad South Carolina team last week.

Kelly won at least 10 games in all four of his seasons at Oregon, including 12 in each of the last three years, and throughout you could sense he was just waiting for the right opportunity to move to the NFL, where he could focus on X's and O's and not worry about banquets and boosters. Sumlin might be in that same boat, especially with a second straight year of seeing his team get off to a hot start and then hit a wall.

"Though the Aggies have cooled off somewhat the past two years, Kevin Sumlin is a rising star in the coaching industry, and there are only so many places that count as more attractive jobs than Texas A&M," Connor Tapp of 247Sports wrote.

 

Who will go?

From this list of three, the best bet is Mora. Though he has a losing record as an NFL coach, with his best season coming in his first (going 11-5 and reaching the NFC Championship Game with the Atlanta Falcons in 2004) that still trumps Kelly and Sumlin in terms of pro experience. It doesn't matter that he was fired twice, including after just one season with the Seattle Seahawks.

If there's one thing that rings true in pretty much every pro sport, it's that failure makes a coach even more attractive to other owners. Why else would three of the NFL vacancies from this past offseason have been filled by coaches who were either fired or pushed out by other teams in the previous year or two?

"Mora has previous NFL experience, which is commonly seen as a benefit for any coaching candidate in the NFL," Kevin McGuire of NBC Sports wrote.

Brian Kelly and Sumlin would be first-time NFL head coaches, and though that's by no means unheard of, there's more risk involved. Sumlin might be too similar to Chip Kelly, who in his third year with the Eagles has been figured out by the rest of the league; that's why his name is getting tossed out for several of the college openings that have already popped up, according to the NFL Network (h/t SB Nation).

Kelly would be a safer gamble that Sumlin, and his track record has shown his ability to rise up the ranks and succeed everywhere. But the jump from college to the pros is much different than the one from the Mid-American to the Big East, so anything he's done in the past would be wiped out. Notre Dame might be as close to an NFL job as there is in college, but there's still a major difference.

Mora makes the most sense when you compare his career to that of Pete Carroll, who was a two-time failure in the NFL before going to USC and turning the Trojans into a powerhouse. He stuck around a decade before going back to the pros in 2010 with the Seahawks, but if the opportunity had presented itself earlier, he might have left at the high point of his college tenure.

That's what Mora would have the opportunity to do if he were to explore a return to the NFL ranks. His time in college could be looked at as a reset on his career, thus wiping out his previous pro results and focusing more on recent success. He'd be giving up a good thing at UCLA, but that hasn't stopped many other big-time college coaches before him. 

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Thrust into the Spotlight: Baylor's True Freshman QB Is Ready for Greatness

With Baylor starting quarterback Seth Russell out for the season after a neck injury in Week 8, true freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham is set to take over the offense.

There are very few players who are ready for greatness, ready to be put in the spotlight and showcase just what they can do in front of hundreds of thousands of people. 

Stidham is one of those people.

Watch the above video as we show just how talented this young player is, and tune in to Fox Sports 1 at 7:30 p.m. ET to see how he fares on the road against Kansas State on Thursday night.


This video originally appeared in Meet Jarrett Stidham: The King of Friday Night Lights and Texas Football.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Dancing to His Own Beat: How Dabo Swinney Made Clemson a Contender

No one knew for sure what that "dance" really was. The only thing anyone in the room knew for certain was that it was the definition of Dabo Swinney. This was a locker room full of young men—the Clemson football team—celebrating, and then their coach, Swinney, joined in, and, well…    

"When he first did it, it was absolutely terrible," said Eric Mac Lain, starting offensive tackle and leader of the team who had to witness it. "We were embarrassed that he would do it on national TV.

"But he's gotten better at it each week. That's all we can ask of him, I guess. We have high expectations here at Clemson."

Some coaches have Gatorade dumped on them. Dabo Swinney does the Whip and the Nae Nae. Sort of. He is willing to make a fool of himself in front of his players, and they are willing to take the opportunity to make fun of him publicly for it.

It is not exactly the relationship Alabama players have with Nick Saban or Ohio State players with Urban Meyer, where business is business. But it's leadership, Swinney-style. He dances, makes goofy speeches, invents acronyms, defends his team to the death. It's a weirdness, and blended with the fact that he has rebuilt Clemson and his Tigers are now ranked No. 1 in the nation going into Saturday's game against Florida State, it just leads you to ask:

Who on earth is Dabo Swinney, anyway?

"He loves us being able to pick on him," Mac Lain said. "It just shows him how comfortable we are with him as our coach and how much of a family this is.

"He's just a charismatic, enthusiasm-filled, loving guy. He's very strong on trying to implement being good people. People fall in love with him right away. I just feel like Dabo is Dabo."

The thumbnail of Swinney's background is this: He was a walk-on wide receiver at Alabama in 1989 and had earned a scholarship and played for the 1992 national championship team. His mother fought off serious health issues through most of her early childhood, and his father had issues with alcohol. Swinney grew up without money.

And all of that is part of Dabo being Dabo, but it does nothing to explain where his eternal optimism came from.

"The one thing I observed about him right away was that even though he was a walk-on, when he was in the room with all those scholarship players, they all liked him," said Woody McCorvey, an associate athletic director at Clemson. McCorvey was Swinney's position coach all those years ago at Alabama, and then was the offensive coordinator when Swinney got his coaching career started there.

"He was a leader from day one," McCorvey said. "He was focused and prepared, and he was one of those guys who was always an avid note-taker. This guy's always been upbeat. The vision he has is incredible. He repeats it all the time that he wants this to be the best era of Clemson football. He's the perfect fit for Clemson."

You might note a hint of loyalty in that McCorvey is working with Swinney now. And McCorvey says that during summer camps, you'll find two dozen of Swinney's former teammates showing up, hanging around Clemson rather than at their own alma mater.

But what about Swinney's personality?

"He's very transparent," McCorvey said. "Always has been."

Transparent. Yes, that's a good word. Better than goofy. Also better than a bit awkward. Emotional. Open. And willing to be vulnerable.

All of those things together are not typically the way to get college men on your side, following you, rather than ridiculing you. (Though fierce loyalty helps.) They all made Swinney easy fodder for Steve Spurrier's professional-level jabs from South Carolina.

But Spurrier is retired now, and Swinney, two weeks from his 46th birthday, is No. 1 in the state while his team is No. 1 nationally in the College Football Playoff rankings.

And all those little goofy things he does are actually part of his management style, sort of a blend of the free-flowing and the obsessive note-taking. That, and the fact that whatever it means to be Dabo, he's not going to hold it in.

You stand up for who you are.

"It's very strategic the way he does this," Mac Lain said. "It's prepared with great purpose."

It didn't seem that way after the Notre Dame game, when Swinney was a little excitable on the postgame interview on TV:

"What I told them tonight was, 'Listen, we give you scholarships. We give you stipends and meals and a place to live. We give you nice uniforms. I can't give you guts. And I can't give you heart. And tonight, it was BYOG, bring your own guts..."

It went on and on. And on.

And that was a combination of two of Swinney's staples: speeches and acronyms.

"He's the king of acronyms," Mac Lain said. "Like 'PAW: Passionate About Winning.' I'm just overwhelmed trying to think of all of them."

And speeches?

"When we came back this Monday, he had two more of them for us. One had something to do with BEST."

Mac Lain also pointed to when Swinney "lost his mind" when a reporter recently asked him about the term "Clemsoning":

The term refers to Clemson's habit over the past 20 years to get to the big game, then lose it inexplicably. Just two years ago, Clemson was undefeated going into the Florida State game, then lost by 37 points.

Swinney went on a rant that included the word "bullcrap" at least three times.

"If you haven't seen it, you have to look it up," Mac Lain said. "But that showed to us that he truly cared about us. He wants people to respect the things we've done, not what past teams have done.

"He has so much appreciation for the team that it just makes us want to play that much harder for the man. You just want to go that much harder in a game for him. It's something that's truly special."

Mac Lain said his favorite Dabo story was when Mac Lain was a high school kid. He showed up at Clemson's football offices to surprise Swinney by telling him he was coming to play for him.

"He gets back on the elevator," Mac Lain said, "and we could still hear him and he screams out 'Yes! We got him!' "

All part of the cool, calculated plan. Every last detail.

Just like those moves in the Nae Nae.

 

Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Extra Points with Barrett Sallee: Alabama, the Playoff and SEC Bias Hysteria

The first edition of the College Football Playoff rankings were released on Tuesday night, and if you detected a distinct SEC influence, you're not alone.

Six SEC teams donned the top 20, including No. 2 LSU, No. 4 Alabama and No. 10 Florida. Not only is Alabama's presence in the top four surprising, but all six of those teams are ranked higher in the CFP rankings than they are in both the Associated Press and USA Today coaches top 25 polls.

Everybody panic!

Now after the panic has subsided, everybody calm down. As my colleague Adam Kramer insisted, "relax.

While SEC bias might be present in the first poll just as it was in the first poll last year when Mississippi State, Auburn and Ole Miss were all in the top four, it won't be in the final poll.

Conference championships are listed as one of the primary factors in the criteria the committee uses to determine who gets into the four-team playoff, and the committee simply can't project which teams will win conference championships in early November.

As Ralph Russo of the Associated Press noted on Twitter during the playoff outrage on Tuesday night, if your team wins its conference, it will be immune to the committee's "SEC bias."

Don't worry about one-loss Alabama peeking its head into the top four in the first rankings. The primary purpose of the committee, even though the committee will never admit it, is to script the sport for the final month of the season. 

It will all work itself out, I promise.

 

X-Factor in the Biggest Game of the Year

Just like old times, the SEC's biggest game of the year will take place in early November when No. 2 LSU visits No. 4 Alabama this Saturday night in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

When the Tigers take the field, the most important player won't be Heisman Trophy front-runner Leonard Fournette; it'll be the man handing him the ball—quarterback Brandon Harris.

Harris has been solid this season—his first full season as the starting quarterback in Baton Rouge—tossing nine touchdowns, no picks and passing for more than 200 yards in three straight games. That stability and reliability has resonated in the Alabama film room this week.

"He's really shown a lot of maturity as a player and really done a great job with their offense," Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban said. "He's very athletic, extended plays and made big plays off scrambles. He's been able to run when he's needed to in order to get first downs. He has been very accurate as a thrower. He's been very impressive to me and the way he has performed all year long."

The game will be Harris' to win or lose.

Alabama's front seven is one of the best in the country, and we already saw the Tide slow down several great running backs this year, including Wisconsin's Corey Clement, Georgia's Nick Chubb and Arkansas' Alex Collins. While Fournette has been awesome this year, Harris will have to make some throws against a Tide secondary that's become more of a strength than a liability under first-year defensive backs coach Mel Tucker.

"We've made some improvement in our secondary," Saban said. "We have a little better cover guys who are a little more athletic. We've given up fewer big plays, and when we have given up big plays, and that's something that's going to be important not only in this game, but every game."

Harris is going to have to be big-time on Saturday night in Tuscaloosa if LSU is going to keep its hopes of an undefeated season intact.

 

Quarterback Conundrum

The Georgia quarterback situation has been a mystery all year, and head coach Mark Richt is keeping it that way this week prior to his team's matchup with Kentucky. 

Third-stringer Faton Bauta started the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party against Florida last week and promptly threw four picks, lost 27-3 and evidently was relegated back to third string behind Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey quicker than Georgia fans drowned their cocktail party sorrows.

"We're repping mostly Greyson and Brice with the 'one' unit," Richt said. "Faton has got some work as well, and we aren't counting that out as well. But those are the two who have received the most work up to this point."

Or have they?

News leaked out a couple of days prior to the Cocktail Party that Bauta would get the nod, which came as a surprise to Richt even in this day and age of easily-accessed information.

"I was just curious if there are any secrets anymore," Richt said. "Somehow, things always slip out through social media or whatever it is. I was just curious if everybody could keep it under their hat."

Are Ramsey and Lambert really fighting for the top spot on the depth chart, or did Richt learn his lesson and is playing games in the media in order to keep Kentucky guessing?

If it's the latter, Wildcat head coach Mark Stoops isn't buying it.

"I'm not sure what they're going to do this week, but I would expect them to go back with Lambert," he said.

 

The Key to Florida's Title Run

Don't look now, but Florida is sitting pretty in the CFP rankings.

At No. 10, the Gators essentially control their own playoff destiny. Win out—which would include a win over Florida State at the end of the regular season and a win over the SEC West champion in the SEC Championship Game—and it's impossible to imagine a scenario that keeps one-loss Florida out of the meaningful postseason.

If that happens, it'll be because of quarterback Treon Harris.

The true sophomore quarterback was thrust into action two games ago following the suspension to starter Will Grier and is now in a perfect spot—with games versus Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Florida Atlantic—to fine-tune his game before the heat gets cranked up.

"The more he plays, the more he gets to evaluate and see on film and make some tweaks here and there," head coach Jim McElwain said. "You know, moving in the pocket and that kind of thing. One thing he has done an outstanding job of is understanding the importance of taking care of the football. You may have seen us in the past work some checkdown stuff when the defense is deep, and in our case, he has been using his feet as his checkdown."

Add in the threat Harris presents with his legs to a suddenly stout running game thanks to the emergence of Kelvin Taylor, and the "Florida 2.0" offense has the chance to peak at the right time.

"As time goes on and people get more film, applying an extra spy to [Harris] will help us on the outside and create some throwing lanes," McElwain said. "We're kind of developing as we go with him behind center. But I'll say this, he's been playing really good, he's confident in what he's doing and done a really good job of learning the plans."

If you're sleeping on Florida because of Harris, wake up. The Gators are just getting started.

 

A Major Impact

How much of an impact did Auburn "Buck" Carl Lawson make in his return to action last week against Ole Miss? More than anybody imagined.

"I really thought their front was the second-best front we have played all year," Rebel head coach Hugh Freeze said. "After they got Lawson back and were able to move No. 8 (linebacker Cassanova McKinzy) back, I thought their front was very talented."

Keep in mind, Freeze is the same guy who has squared off against ultra-talented fronts like Alabama, Texas A&M and Florida already this year.

That performance got the attention of Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin, who will have to deal with Lawson this weekend in College Station.

"The addition of Lawson is a big deal, because he's one of the elite players in this league," he said. "He's a difference-maker for them just as Myles Garrett is for us. When you bring an elite player, particularly a pass-rusher of his caliber, to a game, to say that's the same defense would be a mistake."

Could Auburn's defense transform from punchline to power in November? If Lawson stays healthy, don't discount the possibility.

 

Getting Hot

Remember when Tennessee head coach Butch Jones was fearful of the passing game, quarterback Joshua Dobbs was a liability and the Vols wide receivers were more sizzle than steak?

My, how things have changed.

Dobbs has thrown six touchdown passes over the last three games, thrown for 716 yards over that same time frame and the one-dimensional Vols have become a threat in the passing game.

"The team just feeds off of him," South Carolina interim head coach Shawn Elliott said of the man he'll be facing this weekend. "Whether it's throwing or running, the leadership skills—ever since he was inserted as the starter a year ago against us—you've seen a Tennessee team that looks like it's capable of winning every time they go out."

The stretch run is going to be huge for Dobbs and Tennessee.

With virtually everybody coming back off of an offense that's gaining confidence, and a weak November schedule, this team has a chance to enter the offseason with even more hype than it garnered last offseason.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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