NCAA Football News

Why Auburn-Kansas State Could Be College Football's Game of 2014

The potency of a regular-season college football game still months away is beginning to take shape, and yet, buzz for this contest will likely be marginal as we slowly churn toward the start of the season.

No, it’s not the Iron Bowl. The buzz for this particular game will be just fine. It’s not the Red River [Insert Whatever They’re Calling it This Year Here] or any other staple rivalry game for that matter. And no, it’s not Oregon-Michigan State, although you’re getting warmer (and that one will do just fine, thank you).

If you’re looking for an early "Game of the Year" candidate, take a gander at Auburn-Kansas State on Thursday, September 18.

It’s not circled four times with oversized exclamation points on your schedule—at least not yet—although it should be. And on that note, clear your calendar accordingly. Avoid all obligations and make it to Manhattan, Kansas, on this date if you can. This has a chance to be spectacular for a handful of reasons, and it begins with two very different wizards wielding different wands.

 

The Coaches

One coached a team in 1962 and concocts success with a solid serving of brilliance, an aggressive pour of experience and an infusion of JUCO ingredients. The other has run three plays in the time it has taken you to read this sentence and has quickly become the most feared offensive engineer in the country. He doesn’t mind starting the occasional JUCO at quarterback every now and then, either.

They are separated by 26 years in age, and yet, each has settled in far different environments. While Gus Malzahn’s coaching stock is almost unparalleled nationally at this very moment at Auburn, Bill Snyder is a strange but somehow fitting adversary on the other sideline.

Snyder isn’t the perfect man to slow Malzahn’s offense—quite frankly, no such human elixir may exist at this point—but he is more than capable to stand in blow-for-blow. He will provide the more deliberate attack, but that doesn’t mean it can’t (or won’t) be successful.

They are different, and that’s what makes this contest special. The matchup between these two schools begins here, at the headsets, and age isn’t the only thing separating them. Expectations for each heading into the season are on opposite ends of the world, although the gap in talent feels slightly smaller.

 

The Stakes

Here's where things kick up a notch; where the uncertainty of a new playoff format casts an unfamiliar shadow over an early out-of-conference matchup with meaning.

This could serve as an elimination game for the sparkly debut of CFB’s postseason. Or, perhaps it will be a resume-boosting win for one and a good loss—which still be more important than ever—for the other.

Either way, losing early—even when it’s outside the conference against real competition—isn’t favorable. And because this game serves as a kickoff for Week 3, it will carry a little more weight. Win this, and the momentum will be bubbling over into conference play.

The expectation early on—at least according to Las Vegas—is that the team with the momentum will be the larger cat of the two. That cat being the tiger.

Auburn has been tabbed a robust 13-point road favorite at the Golden Nugget, a line that seems extreme even by Auburn standards. It’s worth pointing out that the Tigers haven’t lost against the spread since September 14, which plays a role in crafting this one.

But for both teams poised for a conference title—Auburn being the more obvious selection of the two—this marks a substantial early measuring stick. If the Tigers win and do so by a spread-like margin, the buzz will continue to build. If K-State pulls what would be considered an enormous upset, the expectations of this team will undergo a seismic shift.

 

The Offenses

Some people appreciate defense and refuse to sway from their particular brand of hitting, punting and scoreboard silence. It’s a fine choice, and we’re not here to knock football taste buds.

For the rest of us who enjoy being smothered in points, however—the kind of ridiculous matchup that lasts well into the next day and brings about a stream of touchdowns—pull up a comfy chair.

This game could take on that persona, and it’s not simply because of one offense. It begins with that offense, though, and Auburn could be much different (and better) in this department than it was a year ago. And that’s saying quite a bit.

The losses of running back Tre Mason and left tackle/human forklift Greg Robinson cannot be glazed over. These were integral pieces to Malzahn’s attack last year, and they will be missed. But the 2014 team returns, well, pretty much everyone else, including quarterback Nick Marshall, the catalyst for it all.

If Marshall can improve as a passer—and there’s no reason to believe he shouldn’t—good luck. Sprinkle in a talented group of wideouts led by Sammie Coates along with the fascinating arrival of D’haquille Williams, and defensive coordinators can start to twitch.

Auburn is not alone with its potential, though. Kansas State returns a unit rich with talent, including perhaps the best wideout in the country.

Tyler Lockett went over 1,200 yards receiving last season despite missing two games. He will be catching passes from Jake Waters, who—despite splitting reps—scored 18 touchdowns in his final seven games. Senior wide receiver Corey Sexton will take on a more prominent role in his offense, and he should excel as well.

There are questions for K-State, more so than on Auburn’s side. The offensive line, for starters, needs work, and running back is a work in progress. Even with concerns, excitement should be welcomed and points should come in bunches. If Waters trends up like many believe he will, there’s no reason to think this group won’t blow by the 33.2 points per game it put up last year.

 

And Finally, Unfamiliarity

Tradition is worth appreciating. In fact, tradition is what elevates this sport above all others (in this completely unbiased opinion). But tradition can also become familiar—not boring, but regular—and it feels good to abandon it from time to time.

Now, two teams from major conferences playing one another in a home environment shouldn’t be something radical. The reality of the sport in its current form, however, is there simply aren’t enough of these games. They are unique, and when we do finally get one, rarely are both teams peaking at the same time to create a true appreciation of what’s ahead.

There are no guarantees that the final product will be as captivating as the ingredients, that both teams will peak. But the ingredients are there.

At the very least, this has the makings of a game that will make your Friday morning miserable. And those are the best kind.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Power Ranking Florida Gators 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

If the college football schedule was based on last year’s performance, Florida would have a much easier ride in 2014. Instead, the Gators were given no favors and will have to overcome a tough schedule against many of the better teams in the land.

Florida’s slate includes road games against the last two national champions, as well as five other SEC teams that finished last season with a winning record. Welcome to life in the toughest conference in college football.  

While many games aren’t going to be easy, it’s time to rank them in order of their difficulty.

The hardest matchup shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Begin Slideshow

What USC Can Do to Beat Out UCLA for 4-Star S DeChaun Holiday

A recruiting showdown is set between rivals USC and UCLA for the commitment of 4-star safety DeChaun Holiday, and it will be a very important one for both schools. 

Earlier this month, Holiday told Rivals.com's Chris Swanson that he is down to two schools, and those two happen to be the Trojans and the Bruins:

The Mission Hills (San Marcos, California) safety has prototypical defensive back height and length, with a blend of size and athleticism out on the perimeter. He runs well and shows good functional strength working positioning and retaining leverage.

Beyond his physicality, Holiday is adept at anticipating the pass. He shows great instincts and spatial awareness on the field. He reads quarterbacks very well and is quick to jump and undercut routes.

He knows how to use his skills and his size, which is what makes him such a highly touted prospect. 

While some schools have been recruiting him at cornerback, USC and UCLA are both targeting him as a safety. 

So, which school has the edge in what will surely be a tightly contested duel for his commitment?

At UCLA, defensive backs Randall Goforth and Anthony Jefferson rule the roost this upcoming season. Between the two, Goforth and Jefferson have accumulated 211 tackles, five interceptions and five tackles for loss. Jefferson is a redshirt senior, while Goforth is a junior, but a strong season from him could ensure that both are gone for the 2015 season.

UCLA has been toying with Priest Willis at safety, and the rising sophomore is just getting his feet wet in the Bruins defense. Then there's Tahaan Goodman, the former 4-star safety (class of 2013) who is still waiting in the wings. He's unproven, but he was heavily recruited, and there's no reason to believe he won't live up to the hype just yet.

Lastly there's Tyler Foreman, also a former 4-star talent who signed in 2013, who will be jockeying to get in the rotation.

Barring injury to these guys, UCLA's secondary appears to be pretty full of up-and-coming talent at safety, which could be a deterrent for Holiday if he is seeking early playing time.

But USC doesn't have that problem, thanks to the scholarship limitations, and the annoying depth issues the Trojans are dealing with could help them land Holiday's commitment. 

The Trojans feature a pair of outstanding safeties in Su'a Cravens and Leon McQuay III, but it's slim pickings for reliable talent behind them. Gerald Bowman is really the only option, provided Josh Shaw stays at cornerback.

It's possible that some of the defensive backs USC signed in 2014 could slide over to safety. Until that happens, however, the Trojans are dangerously thin at the position.

That could work in USC's favor while courting Holiday this summer.

If early playing time is what he's after, USC is the school for Holiday. He will have to wait his turn at UCLA, but if he were to commit to Troy, it would be realistic for him to see the field during his very first season.

Should Cravens perform in 2014 under new defensive backs coach Keith Heyward's tutelage the way he did last season under Clancy Pendergast's, that could also be an indication to Holiday of what kind of growth he could expect at USC. 

Beyond that, the Trojans are rebuilding under head coach Steve Sarkisian, and the possibility of being a part of a new era of USC football could endear USC to Holiday. 

It's true that UCLA has a slight competitive edge in Los Angeles at the moment, as the Bruins have bested the Trojans for the past two seasons in a row. But USC has the roster space that could tilt the scales in the Trojans' favor.

Last recruiting cycle, we saw tight end Bryce Dixon choose USC over UCLA, and, among other reasons, a shallow tight ends corps helped the Trojans earn his signature. 

While depth continues to be an issue for the Trojans, they have a unique ability to sell recruits on early playing time, an increasingly important aspect of the college experience for incoming freshmen. 

Holiday hasn't made it clear when he plans to announce his commitment, so we can expect that USC and UCLA will throw everything at him while he mulls over his options. In head-to-head battles for top Southern California talent, the Trojans have maintained an advantage over the past decade, and a commitment from Holiday would help USC maintain its well-established foothold in the area. 

 

All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Best Recruiting Class in Every Power 5 Football Conference's History

This month, a number of top recruits from the Class of 2014 arrived on college campuses across America, ready to get a head start on their college football careers. They joined the talented early enrollees who already went through spring practice, and in August, the remainder of the class will join their new brethren to pursue gridiron glory.

When 2014’s recruits signed in February, they were met with significant hype and adulation, as most talented signees are. They were immediately judged, as is the way of our microwave, gotta-have-it-now society.

The truth is, we won’t know these recruits’ true value until three, four and perhaps even five years down the road. Then we’ll have a better idea of which players emerged from obscurity, which guys lived up to their hype and which players crashed and burned despite their lofty reputations.

Today, we’ll take a look at which classes met expectations (and then some) among the nation’s top historic groups. Here is a look at the top recruiting classes in each of the Power 5 conferences’ histories.

Begin Slideshow

Ranking Clemson's 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

As anticipation grows for the upcoming college football season, fans all over the country will break down the potential outcomes of their team’s schedule. While there’s no way of knowing how each game will play out, there’s no harm in getting a feel for the strength of the schedule.

Clemson’s 2014 schedule features some challenging games, but also a few games that fans won’t have to stress over as much.

Begin Slideshow

Power Ranking Miami's 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

Attempting to overcome a 10-year drought in the ACC's Coastal Division, the Miami Hurricanes will be tested nearly every weekend throughout the 2014 season.

The ACC improved with the addition of Louisville, and the 'Canes will travel to the Cardinals during their inaugural season in the league.

What's more, Miami faces one of the nation's toughest nonconference schedules, heading to Nebraska and hosting Cincinnati and Arkansas State.

Each game poses new challenges, but some opponents are more difficult than the others, and Bleacher Report is here to organize the chaos.

Begin Slideshow

Greg Mattison's 2014 Defense Will Remind Fans of 'Old Michigan' Teams

Prior to Greg Mattison’s arrival in 2011, Michigan’s defense had been giving up small fortunes each Saturday. However, these days, the coordinator’s men run a more efficient budget (they’re stingy).

Despite allowing 40 or better thrice in 2013, Team 134 actually held tight for a good portion of the season, ranking No. 13 nationally in terms of total defense, per NCAA.com. If not for a woeful offense, the Wolverines would have won at least nine games. That’s a guarantee.

Improvement under Mattison has been steady; in 2013, the secondary shifted into another gear and helped corral 17 interceptions, the second most in the Big Ten. The front four and linebackers contributed to an average of 4.93 yards surrendered per play, just about a half-yard more than the mark of Michigan State, which had arguably the best D in the land.

There are more than a few favorable stats and “good” reasons to believe that 2014’s defense has throwback qualities and far more than loose speculation surrounding the idea that Mattison’s guys have the potential to be one of his better collections this fall.

Why put stock into that? Because Mattison knows what he’s seeing at practice—and he loves what’s on the horizon.

“The thing that I’m excited about is watching our kids work out this summer—they remind me of the ‘old Michigan’ groups that we had,” said Mattison, who served as line coach and coordinator from 1992-1996.

“The thing that’s exciting is that there’s competition at every position—I mean, there’s guys on our team who have been starters for two and three years that are competing for starting positions. It’s very healthy. They all respect each other because they’re all working very, very hard together. I’m excited about the defense.”

 

D-Line Is Gearing Up

Mattison doesn’t have Buster Stanley or Will Carr this time around, but he does have a promising trio of redshirt sophomores to piece together up front: Willie Henry (6’2,” 297 lbs), Matt Godin (6’6,” 285 lbs) and Chris Wormley (6’4,” 292 lbs).

“The thing that people don’t realize is that so many of our kids played at a young age and with that is why you lose [four] games [in 2013] by a separation of 11 points—but now these are kids who are veterans, and they’ve had a lot of experience,” Mattison said. “That’s going to be a positive thing for us.”

A year ago, Henry appeared in 12 games. Godin played in six and filled in on special teams. Wormley got into 13. Granted, those aren’t career-starter numbers such as the ones put forth by Stanley and Carr, but they’re something to work with.

And then, take this into consideration: Mattison praised Godin’s dedication and said that “he wants it” as much as anyone. The former Detroit Catholic Central star is coming into his own and could be a major contributor to Team 135.

“He’s working extremely hard in the weight room,” Mattison said. “He’s becoming very, very strong, and he has great pride. He wants to be ‘that’ guy.”

So, who where the other players who were “that” guy?

Stanley was one of them. He was team MVP and co-captain in 1993. Of course, Godin is quite a ways from reaching that level. But the bottom line is this: He’s a hard-nosed, dedicated, team-oriented guy who competes. And along with ends Brennen Beyer, Taco Charlton and Henry Poggi, he’s giving Mattison a familiar, early-to-mid-1990s feeling.

 

Love for LBs

Although he’s not technically their “coach,” Mattison was quick to point out the advancements of the linebackers, saying that Joe Bolden “had the best spring practice of anybody” and continues to progress. He also said that he’s anticipating a strong return from Jake Ryan in addition to increased efforts from Ben Gedeon, Royce Jenkins-Stone and James Ross, who is excelling as a “Sam” linebacker.

At this rate, the middle of the field could soon be stacked with traditional, punishing Michigan linebackers. Jarrett Irons? Anyone? Even something close would suffice.

If Mattison isn’t the reason for the massive turnaround, then he’s 1B. And with his plan in motion, nearly anything seems possible for the Wolverines defense.

 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

Quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bleacher Report's Summer Predictions for Every Major College Football Award

There are still more than two months before the 2014 college football season finally welcomes us back with open arms, and we're doing our best to pass the time until those first kickoffs.

A lot of focus has been put on team expectations for this fall, with programs evaluated based on their chances of making the first-ever College Football Playoff. The quality of their rosters and coaching staffs factors into this process, but comparing individuals doesn't.

That's what the many awards given out are for.

Watch lists have already started popping up for the bevy of postseason college football awards given to the nation's best quarterbacks, linebackers, linemen and even kickers, not to mention for the best coach and several that honor the top overall player. The Heisman Trophy gets the most attention, but there are many more that are just as distinctive.

These awards will be based on the body of work put forth throughout the 2014 season, but it's never too early to start thinking who's going to take home some hardware in December.

Check out Bleacher Report's summer predictions for every major award, then give us your thoughts on who's worthy (or not so much) in the comments section.

Begin Slideshow

Predicting Where the Georgia Bulldogs Will Finish in the 2015 Recruiting Ranks

The Georgia Bulldogs are always going to be in the hunt for the SEC title as long as Mark Richt is the head coach. And the main reason for that is he has done a solid job recruiting the top players in Georgia and some of the top players in the Southeast.

It’s no different this year, as he signed a top-10 class, according to 247Sports, that is led by Lorenzo Carter and Nick Chubb. These two players, along with the rest of the 2014 signing class, are expected to be major players by 2015.

And speaking of the class of 2015, the Bulldogs are looking to have another great class in order with 12 players already committed. So the question is: Where will the Bulldogs rank in 2015 when it comes to recruiting?

It’s really going to come down to what happens with a couple of players the Bulldogs are targeting. One of the Bulldogs' top targets is defensive tackle Trent Thompson from Albany, Georgia. Thompson is considered the best overall prospect in the country, according to 247Sports, and he is really considering the Bulldogs as his college of choice.

Photo by @Mansell247: #UGA's Jeremy Pruitt with nation's No. 1 prospect Trent Thompson ... http://t.co/XRS8a5lChvpic.twitter.com/ewXNL8HhJZ

— Gentry Estes (@GentryEstes247) June 13, 2014

Another top target is Rashad Roundtree from Evans, Georgia. Roundtree is considered one of the five-best safeties in the country, according to 247Sports, and adding him would address a huge need for the Bulldogs next season.

On offense, the Bulldogs need some help on the offensive line, and the one player they would love to have is Chuma Edoga from Powder Springs, Georgia. He’s a USC commit, but Dawgs247 has reported (subscription needed) that he was in Athens last week, and he could make a return visit in the near future. Edoga is listed as the third-best offensive tackle in the country.

Last week was a vital one for the Bulldogs because they were able to get three players to commit. The first was Gary McCrae, who is an outside linebacker from Coolidge, Georgia. The next day, the Bulldogs got a verbal commit from tight end Jackson Harris from Columbia, Tennessee, and Deandre Baker from Miami, Florida. The Harris commit was big for Georgia because he is one of the 10 best tight ends in the nation, per 247Sports.

One of the reasons the Bulldogs have the eighth-best class is they have been able to get elite players like Terry Godwin, and Rico McGraw to commit. Godwin is a 5-star prospect, per 247 Sports, who can play a number of positions, and McGraw is a 4-star cornerback, per 247 Sports, who is one of the three best players in Tennessee.

So where will the Bulldogs recruiting class rank by February 2015? There is a lot that will happen from now to national signing day, but they have a very good chance of reaching the top five when it’s all said and done. If Thompson commits to the Bulldogs it will make the class an elite one, and the Bulldogs will be in the mix for the SEC title.

But we have seen some crazy things during signing day, so while the Bulldogs may be on their way to a top-five class, they have to make sure they keep the momentum, especially during the regular season.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Scouting Report, Highlights and Predictions for 5-Star DL Rasheem Green

Rasheem Green is among the best players in the 2015 class. He is an athletic defensive lineman who can play both end and tackle.

Many schools from all over the country covet Green, but the California native doesn't seem likely to venture too far from the Golden State. Green has a bright future ahead of him, as he could be dominant in college.

He warrants a closer look.

Begin Slideshow

The Opening 2014: Breaking Down Each Top-25 Team's Commits, Targets in Beaverton

Perhaps the biggest event of the offseason for a recruit is The Opening. Set to take place July 7-10 in Oregon, 162 of the nation's top prospects will compete for several days in Beaverton.

Some recruits will come into the event already committed, while others will be top targets for programs. Looking at the final Top 25 AP Poll from last season, many schools have either a commitment or target who will be at The Opening.

Alabama has several future players scheduled to attend the event, while USC will likely be interested in hearing how a few of its targets fared. Plus, Michigan State has a quarterback commitment participating in the Elite 11 Finals.

Begin Slideshow

Big 12 Football: 10 Best Players from BCS Era

We are—thankfully—at the end of the BCS era and entering the dawn of the College Football Playoff. 

So as we do when any era draws its curtains, it's time to reflect on what the Big 12 produced during the time of the BCS. 

Some of the Big 12's best players ever made their mark during the era. There was of course Vince Young, who capped off his great career in Austin with a thrilling win over USC in the national championship. 

There was Adrian Peterson, who is almost undoubtedly the best running back to ever play at Oklahoma. 

The list goes on, and it's almost a shame that some guys are left off. But for now, let's take a look at the top 10 players of the BCS era from the Big 12. 

Begin Slideshow

Re-Evaluating Oklahoma's 2012 Recruiting Class

They say hindsight is 20/20, and that’s no truer than with college football recruiting classes.

Back in 2012, coaches of the Oklahoma Sooners scoured the country for the best and brightest talent around. These players would be handpicked and chosen with the expectation that they could help continue the tradition of one of the nation’s winningest programs.

According to 247Sports’ football recruiting team rankings, Oklahoma’s 2012 class ranked No. 12 and included 23 commitments—10 of which were 4-star prospects.

Join us as we take a look back and re-evaluate the class.

 

Note: There is no slide for linebackers or special teams because there were no recruits from the class at that position.

Begin Slideshow

College Football Teams with Most Upside on Their Roster

We have already heard—and will continue to hear—more than we can reasonably process about the eight or 10 favorites to win the College Football Playoff. They are the strongest, most complete teams in America, so their rosters deserve to be discussed and dissected more than other teams' do.

But the national title, as you've no doubt heard, is not crowned during the middle of the summer or the beginning of the fall. It is crowned at the end of the winter, after high-upside teams such as Auburn, Baylor, Michigan State and Missouri—to cite 2013 as one of many examples—have had a chance to realize their considerable potential.

There are teams off the current national title radar that will prove, in time, to have a realistic chance of winning it all. It happens every year. The difficult part is guessing who of the many candidates will actually put everything together and contend into late December.

For the purposes of this list, we have excluded any team with 25-to-1 odds or better to win the national title, per Vegas Insider. That means that the "top" 10 contenders in the country—Florida State, Oregon, Alabama, Ohio State, Auburn, Oklahoma, UCLA, LSU, Georgia and Michigan State—were all not deemed eligible for inclusion.

It did not feel right calling them "high-upside" teams when their potential has so nearly already been realized. Instead, the list focused on teams outside of that 10 that have recruited well the past few seasons but maybe not been able to put all their talent together.

That is, after all, what high-upside means—is it not?

Sound off below, and let me know where you disagree.

 

Note: Unless otherwise cited, all recruiting information courtesy of the 247Sports Composite.

Begin Slideshow

Where Monster WR Damarkus Lodge Will Play His College Football

Damarkus Lodge, a 5-star wide receiver, is one of the top receivers in the class of 2015 and has yet to decide which college he'll attend.

The 6'3", 190-pound athlete has a unique combination of great size and athleticism, making him an immediate threat at the next level.

Where will Lodge end up playing his college football?

Watch as Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down how the star wide receiver would fit with Texas A&M, LSU, Baylor or Ole Miss and where he will most likely end up.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

Rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Power Ranking Nebraska's 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

Nebraska football fans have already spent months digesting and analyzing the 2014 schedule. Which games will be the toughest? Which will be the most exciting? Which can I plan to have the in-laws over because the game won’t be close?

Well, never let it be said we don’t provide a public service. Here, ranked from easiest to most difficult, is a power ranking of Nebraska’s 2014 schedule.

Begin Slideshow

Power Ranking Texas A&M's 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

The Texas A&M football team will play one of the toughest schedules in the nation in 2014. The Aggies will play two bowl teams in non-conference play in addition to the gauntlet that makes up the typical SEC schedule. 

The Aggies return six starters on offense and eight starters on defense. They will be a young team in 2014, but they will have more game-tested depth than they did in 2013. 

Head coach Kevin Sumlin and his coaches have done a good job of turning the Aggies roster over with young talent that is physically more prepared to compete in the SEC. This should be the first year when Sumlin's recruits make a major impact on the field. 

The Aggies will match up well with some of their opponents, but they will still find themselves lacking in personnel when it comes to facing off against the elite teams. This is a look at how the Aggies' 2014 schedule ranks from the easiest games to the toughest. 

When looking at how tough an opponents is, the location of the game, the time of the season, the system the team runs and the returning starters the team has will be taken into account. 

Begin Slideshow

USC Football: Power Ranking Trojans' 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

USC's 2014 schedule and first campaign under new head coach Steve Sarkisian is an interesting mix of challenging—with nine teams that played in bowl games last season—but also manageable.

The Trojans miss Oregon and Washington out of the Pac-12 North, the division's second- and third-place teams in 2013, instead drawing fifth- and sixth-place finishers Washington State and Cal. 

In the nonconference, USC faces its customary demanding slate with the annual Notre Dame tilt, a road trip to Boston College and a return engagement of last December's Las Vegas Bowl with Fresno State visiting the Coliseum.

Begin Slideshow

Could Joker Phillips' Departure Mean Suspension for Will Muschamp?

Whenever there's a coaching change during the summer, it will certainly raise eyebrows. Former Florida wide receivers coach Joker Phillips' departure from Florida late last week was no exception.

Phillips, who was entering his second season with the Gators after previously serving as the head coach of Kentucky, resigned his post in Gainesville for personal reasons according to a release from the University of Florida.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity that the University of Florida and Will Muschamp provided to me and my family, but at this time I have decided to step down from my position on the UF coaching staff for personal reasons," Phillips said.

After Phillips made the announcement, Charles Robinson and Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports reported that his resignation was related to a photo that surfaced of the coach meeting with a high school prospect in a restaurant during a recruiting dead period.

The abrupt resignation by Phillips speaks to the serious nature of the infraction, but just how serious could it be?

According to John Infante, author of The Bylaw Blog on AthleticScholarships.net, it could cause head coach Will Muschamp to be suspended even if it's considered a Level III violation rather than a Level II, thanks to the head coach responsibility bylaw.

Harsh? Yes.

Appropriate? Maybe not, considering Phillips' abrupt resignation. But suspension being on the table certainly is appropriate.

This is part of the new enforcement structure of the NCAA which was announced in October 2012. That structure, according to ESPN.com, diminishes a coach's plausible deniability and forces the head coach to prove that he didn't know of the transgression in order to avoid a suspension ranging from 10 percent of the season to a full season.

That's a good thing.

Coaches should be responsible for their assistants, and if they're breaking major recruiting rules, that's a program problem as it's an individual problem. The responsibility for maintaining an atmosphere of compliance does and should fall on the head coach.

Now it's almost impossible for Muschamp to prove he didn't know something happened, but Phillips' abrupt resignation will certainly signal that the head coach of the Gators isn't taking this lightly, and recognizes that something needs to be done.

Isn't that the goal of the new legislation?

Muschamp likely won't be suspended for the alleged incident unless more evidence comes to light, nor should he be.

But suspension being on the table at all is a sign that, despite a laundry list of missteps that has the NCAA in the crosshairs of lawyers around the country, at least one aspect of the new enforcement structure got something right.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report.


Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

2014 BCS Football Champions Florida State Unlikely to Visit White House

The Florida State football team earned the right to visit the White House and meet President Barack Obama by virtue of their national championship win over Auburn, but the Seminoles may not be able to accept the honor.  

According to Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel, Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher revealed that his team is unlikely to make the trip due to scheduling conflicts.

"We're trying. It looks like it's going to be hard because all the pro players are going, coaches are going on vacation," Fisher told Sonnone. "We've tried to give them a thousand dates, but we couldn't get it worked out."

According to Sonnone's article, nine of the last 10 BCS football champs have visited the White House by March and all 10 have visited at some point in the year that followed their triumph. It's already been five months since FSU beat Auburn at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. 

A collegiate championship team tends to face more hurdles than professional teams in this regard since several of the Seminoles' key players from last season are now in the NFL, including wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan.

With so many important figures from the championship team spread across the country, getting everyone together has to be a massive undertaking. 

This wouldn't be the first instance of major sports champions passing on a White House visit, but most past examples have been far more controversial. Chief among them was goaltender Tim Thomas' refusal to visit in 2012 after he led the Boston Bruins to the 2011 Stanley Cup.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison similarly snubbed the White House in 2009 after passing on the opportunity in 2006 as well.

There hasn't been any indication that Fisher and the rest of the Florida State football program have no desire to go to the White House; rather, they are simply struggling to coordinate everything.

If the Seminoles do officially turn down the chance to go to the White House, then there will inevitably be some who view it as a matter of disrespect. However, until they issue an official statement, all that is clear is that scheduling conflicts have prevented them from making the trip.

The fact of the matter is that Fisher would have to wrangle up more than 100 players and personnel members to ensure that everyone who had a hand in the title is present at the White House, and it just may not be in the cards. 

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages