NCAA Football News

N'keal Harry Commits to Arizona State: What 4-Star WR Brings to Sun Devils

According to AZCentral.com's Richard Obert, wide receiver N'keal Harry revealed his college plans on Monday afternoon during a commitment ceremony held at Chandler High School in Arizona.

The 4-star prospect pledged to Arizona State over fellow finalists Texas A&M, Oregon, Washington and USC:

His decision provides the Sun Devils with a pivotal recruiting victory over three Pac-12 rivals and an Aggies squad that's pried elite talent away from Arizona during recent cycles.

Harry, a 6'4", 210-pound playmaker, is rated 16th nationally among 2016 receivers. He's considered a top-100 overall recruit and the No. 1 senior player in his home state.

A lengthy list of scholarship offers also features Nebraska, Wisconsin, Oregon State and Arizona. He's one of the most heavily targeted offensive prospects in the Southwest in this cycle.

Harry is currently enjoying a career-best campaign at Chandler, a perennial powerhouse in the suburban Phoenix area. Though he missed the team's most recent game with an ankle injury, Harry has 44 receptions for 784 yards and seven touchdowns through nine contests, per MaxPreps.

He hauled in 30 passes for 657 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior last season, according to Obert.

Harry is a long-limbed athlete who excels in traffic and makes life easier for quarterbacks with an expansive catch radius. He's not a burner but manages to burst through cuts and exhibits above-average agility for a player of his physical stature.

It's also impressive to see an athlete with such length sustain enough coordination to be labeled a quality route-runner at this age.

There's plenty of room for growth in his downfield approach, but there are a lot of things to like about how he handles different roles in the offensive attack.

His physicality sets the stage for sizable gains after the catch and allows him to power through arm tackles. Harry needs to work on extending for the football, but it's a nuance that he's worked on as an upperclassman, and that technique should come more naturally through collegiate repetitions.

Arizona State has added another dynamic playmaker to a passing game that presently features five players with at least 20 receptions through eight games.

Expect Harry to quickly build a rapport with freshman quarterback Brady White, a 2015 Elite 11 finalist who could become the face of this Sun Devils attack if he beats out Manny Wilkins and Bryce Perkins next year.

Head coach Todd Graham targeted Harry as a coveted in-state commodity and actually traveled to his high school last Friday via helicopter, according to Blair Angulo of Rivals.com.

Arizona State has landed a potential immediate-impact wide receiver with elite size and, perhaps most importantly, sent a message to programs attempting to raid its home recruiting turf.

 

Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Tyler via Twitter @TDsTake.

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The Evolution of Alabama QB Jake Coker

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — His name is Nick Harvey. He’s considered a rising talent with a lot of potential for Texas A&M, but Alabama fans know him for something much different.

He’s the guy Jake Coker dropped his shoulder on and ran over while running along the Kyle Field sideline on Oct. 17.

It turned out to be an important moment for both him and the team, as it was when the Crimson Tide really started to rally around the quarterback.

“We love it,” Crimson Tide senior linebacker Reggie Ragland said. “Anytime he takes off like that and takes the hits and gets back up, we call him Baby Roethlisberger. Anytime he does that, that gets guys on the team hyped up. We’ll be backed up 3rd-and-10 and he gets the first down, the guys on the sideline see that and get hyped up more and more. The guys in the locker room love it.”

In terms of Coker’s progress, the evolution of a quarterback has played out over the course of the season as he essentially took baby steps against Wisconsin and started to do the equivalent of walking against Ole Miss. He’s since started taking strides, and Alabama needs him to run in November when the division title will be determined.

That’s an oversimplification, of course, but the steps in his development are obvious.

 

Step 1, Ole Miss

Coker didn’t start and wasn’t inserted until the Rebels had scored with six minutes, 43 seconds remaining in the first half to take a 17-3 lead. It ended up being a five-turnover day for the Crimson Tide, including two interceptions by the senior quarterback, but Nick Saban finally saw what he had been looking for.

The coach had said all along that he wanted one of the five quarterbacks to essentially win over the team, just like Blake Sims did last year and the others before him. There was finally no doubt that Coker was in command of the offense.

“I guess it started against Ole Miss,” Coker said. “We started getting better and better. But we’ve been getting better and better the whole time.

“We still have a long way to go.”

 

Step 2, Texas A&M

The dropping of the shoulder meant more than most fans realize.

“I love that about him,” SEC Network analyst Tim Tebow said. “He’s been trying to win [his teammates] over, to get them to believe in him, and I think that’s really important.

“Although you’re supposed to respect the quarterback position as a leader, guys don’t. They respect heart and they respect passion, they respect determination way more than they’ll respect a position. I think when he shows plays like that he wins over guys on his team and that makes Alabama a way-better football team.”

Tebow’s point—and he obviously experienced it at Florida—was that there has to be a moment in which the players sort of collectively think, “OK, we’re going to rally around this guy.” It changes the makeup of a football team.

Granted, Harvey wasn’t the only defender on whom Coker has dropped his shoulder, and he’s taken on some linebackers as well, but it came at a point when the Crimson Tide needed something to rally around.

“Now I wouldn’t advise leading with your throwing shoulder against 250-pound guys, it’s a little scary to me, makes me a little hesitant,” former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy said. “But I did see the response on the sideline by his teammates, and that can’t go unnoticed.

“I think he’s done a really nice job the past few weeks. He’s really comfortable and he’s gained a lot of confidence, which is imperative at his position. His talent is starting to come to the forefront a little bit more because he’s not thinking so much. He’s only going to continue to get better.”

Even Saban likes it when Coker takes on a defender despite the obvious injury risk. Besides, the quarterback doesn’t like sliding.

“It's the personality of the player,” Saban said. “Jake's a tough, competitive guy. He's a big, physical guy. He's getting better and better every week. I don't want to take his aggressiveness away because we're fearful something bad is going to happen. I just don't coach that way.”

 

Step 3, Tennessee

When a tired Crimson Tide struggled offensively, the game came down to one possession. 

Especially when Tennessee took a 14-13 lead, Alabama’s chance to answer began at its own 29 with 5:49 remaining. He completed big passes to wide receivers ArDarius Stewart and Calvin Ridley as it went eight plays, 71 yards to win the game.

“I felt real good going into that drive, I felt that everyone was real focused on what we needed to do,” Coker said. “Everyone around me made plays and made it really easy on me.”

It hasn’t been without problems, and the offense has gone through some major growing pains in addition to injuries. The eight tackles for a loss allowed per game ranks 120th in the nation out of 127 teams. The 33.6 third-down percentage is 111th, while the 14 turnovers lost are 81st.

But Coker’s play has been improving even though Alabama’s schedule has been nothing short of brutal. 

“We're not totally satisfied with the consistency in the passing game in terms of the whole ball of wax, in terms of protection; too much pressure on the quarterback, too many sacks, timing in the passing game,” Saban said, “We were better on third down in this last game but that's been a bone of contention for us.

“More consistency in the red zone, scoring touchdowns, all those things …”

One of the things Alabama does during a bye week is what it calls quality control, during which it doesn’t necessarily study an opponent—although it was obviously putting in a lot of work on the next opponent as well—but focuses primarily on itself. It goes back to fundamentals for the workouts and concentrates on areas it wants to improve.

Coker said on Monday that the team was coming off a good week of practice, but having No. 4 LSU next up on the schedule made it really easy to focus.

“Just real excited about it,” Coker said. “Real big game, just trying to get prepared and go have some fun.”

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bowl Projections 2015: Predicting Playoff Standings and Bowl Games Post-Week 9

It's here. It's finally here. 

There are no more predictions or pontificating; we're actually going to get a glimpse at the College Football Playoff selection committee's thinking and see their top 25.

Some will be upset, while others will be elated. That's how this works. Just keep in mind: There's still a lot of football left to be played in the month of November, especially in conferences like the extremely back-loaded Big 12 and, of course, the SEC.

But still, the postseason picture will become a lot clearer on Tuesday when the first set of rankings come out. A second separation Saturday, if you want to call it that, will sharpen things even more in Week 10. 

For now, though, this is how the bowl picture looks. A hearty disclaimer that these are projecting the rest of the season and, as such, are not completely reflective of the state of college football at the moment.

  • Here are the full Top 25 rankings. The College Football Playoff selection committee will release its first set of rankings this Tuesday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.
  • As explained last week, the Cotton Bowl is technically a few miles closer to Columbus than the Orange Bowl, but the committee will likely give top-seeded Ohio State its semifinal in South Florida as a way to give them an actual geographic advantage. It keeps the Buckeyes in the Eastern time zone and forces No. 4 seed Stanford to travel across the country at the same time. That gives the Buckeyes a slight nod over Clemson when it comes to the semifinal sites.
  • With Seth Russell's season-ending neck injury, we predict a wild month ahead for the Big 12, with both TCU and Baylor winding up with at least one loss. By virtue of the Horned Frogs getting their matchup with the Bears at home, they win the league and get the Sugar Bowl spot. Weak non-conference slates are what ultimately keep both Big 12 teams at home in lieu of a spot in the final four.
  • Florida has all but locked up the SEC East, and it's hard to see them missing out on a New Year's Six bowl game at this point in the year.
  • It's still strange to see an Iowa vs. Utah matchup in the Rose Bowl. Both can lose their respective conference title games in early December, but a trip to Pasadena is a pretty nice consolation prize.
  • The lower-tier bowl picture remains murky. There are good odds we don't wind up with enough eligible teams, and the lack of some conference tie-ins means that some teams could get shipped to some strange destinations.
  • The best non-NY6 game might just be the Russell Athletic Bowl, which could feature ACC Coastal winner North Carolina against a quality Oklahoma State team that will have only lost to top-15 teams by the time the postseason rolls around.
  • If you like offense, you'll love Cal-Indiana in the Foster Farms Bowl and Cincinnati-Kentucky in the Birmingham Bowl. 
  • How about a BCS title game rematch between Florida State and Auburn? That's one dream scenario for the Belk Bowl if Auburn can make it to 6-6. The Seminoles would be heavily favored in this one, though.
  • Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer's send-off game will be of much speculation, and it wouldn't be that surprising to see the Hokies get sent to New York City for the Pinstripe Bowl. That game is closer to Blacksburg than other options, and the top media market in the country will be a great place to say goodbye to one of the greats.
  • Shout-out to Southern Miss, which was one of the worst FBS teams in the country over the past few years but will wind up in the postseason this year.

 

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

One area that Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has sought to make an impact on in the recruiting trail is the state of Florida.

The Wolverines already have four commitments in the 2016 cycle who hail from the Sunshine State.

Last week, Harbaugh and his staff offered another Florida playmaker in 3-star wide receiver Eddie McDoom, according to Steve Lorenz of Wolverine247.

As Lorenz notes, the Wolverines only have one pure receiver committed, and the position is one that the coaching staff would like to add more talent to in the months leading up to signing day. 

The 5’11”, 170-pound McDoom has more than 20 offers to his credit, with schools such as Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Kentucky and Texas among the programs who have tendered him. 

McDoom, who hauled in 47 receptions for 854 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior, took an unofficial visit to Kentucky last month. Currently, the Wildcats are the perceived favorites in his recruitment.

However, it remains to be seen how hard the Wolverines plan to push for McDoom and whether or not the contact between the two parties will lead to a visit.

Given the Wolverines' mission of targeting the talent-rich Sunshine State, their offer to McDoom signals that they plan to make that territory a focal point under Harbaugh moving forward.

 

JUCO DE Nets Four Big Offers

With signing day a little more than three months away, teams across the country are beginning to scour the JUCO ranks in search of prospects who can come in and immediately fill holes next fall. 

One such prospect is defensive end Jonathan Kongbo, who saw his list expand with offers from four schools in various Power Five conferences last week.

Auburn, Louisville, Nebraska and Washington all tendered the 6’6”, 260-pounder, who currently attends Arizona Western College.

Alabama, Arizona, Ole Miss and Tennessee are among the other schools actively recruiting Kongbo. 

He visited Ole Miss on Oct. 24 and has plans to visit Auburn on Nov. 21. Given his raw ability as a pass-rusher, expect more schools to jump in the race for Kongbo in the coming weeks.

 

Notre Dame Offers 2017 5-Star DE

Notre Dame already landed a stud from IMG Academy in 2016 4-star running back Tony Jones Jr.

Irish head coach Brian Kelly has his sights set on another IMG star in rising 5-star junior defensive end Joshua Kaindoh, who received an offer from the Irish last week.

The 6’6”, 237-pounder is rated as the nation’s top weak-side defensive end prospect and the No. 15 recruit overall in the 2017 cycle.

Alabama, Maryland, Ohio State and Penn State are among the schools who are actively in the race with Kaindoh at this stage of his recruitment.

 

Georgia Offers 2017 Alabama Pledge

One area that Georgia head coach Mark Richt has sought to solidify in recruiting is keeping top in-state prospects from leaving the state and heading to rival schools. 

Two months ago, 4-star safety Xavier McKinney committed to fellow SEC power Alabama. However, the Bulldogs officially jumped into the race for McKinney after offering him last week.

The 6’1”, 170-pounder rates as the No. 13 safety and the No. 214 player overall in the 2017 class.

While McKinney hasn’t given any indication that he plans to back off his pledge to the Tide, his recruitment could get intriguing if Richt and his staff turn up the heat on him moving forward.

 

Best of the Rest 

2016

 

2017

 

2018

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Minnesota vs. Ohio State: Complete Game Preview

Ohio State had identified J.T. Barrett as its quarterback for the homestretch of the 2015 season, but the redshirt sophomore quarterback was arrested for operating a vehicle while impaired Saturday morning, which earned him a one-game suspension from head coach Urban Meyer.

That suspension has put Cardale Jones in the spotlight, and he'll get one more chance to impress as the top-ranked Buckeyes (8-0) host Minnesota (4-4) in a prime-time showdown this Saturday night, Nov. 7. 

The Gophers are coming off a tumultuous week, as former head coach Jerry Kill announced his retirement due to health concerns. Interim head coach Tracy Claeys took over and guided Minnesota to a near-upset of No. 15 Michigan, but quarterback Mitch Leidner was stuffed at the goal line as time expired, and the Wolverines hung on for a 29-26 victory.

Can Minnesota bounce back, or will Jones and the Buckeyes be too much to handle? 

 

Viewing Information

Date: Saturday, November 7

Time: 8 p.m. ET

Place: Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio

TV: ABC

Radio: Ohio State Football Radio Network, Golden Gopher Radio Network

Spread: Ohio State (-23), via Odds Shark 

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Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh Complete Game Preview

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame football began its late-season stretch of road games with a four-point win over previously unbeaten Temple on Saturday in Philadelphia, and the Irish head right back to Pennsylvania this week for a matchup with Pittsburgh.

The Panthers, who had climbed to No. 23 in last week’s AP poll, are again unranked after their 26-19 home loss to North Carolina on Thursday. Now at 6-2, Pitt welcomes 7-1 and eighth-ranked Notre Dame, which is still trying to avoid any potholes on its way toward the regular-season finale against No. 9 Stanford.

“October is for pretenders, and November will be for contenders,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said leading up to the Temple game.

Kelly uttered that familiar refrain two years ago, too, at the end of October, two weeks before Notre Dame’s clash with Pittsburgh at Heinz Field. The Irish, 7-2 at the time, still had a shot at a BCS bowl berth but fell to the Panthers, 28-21. Notre Dame had been 11-1 in November under Kelly before that setback.

Each of the last six matchups in the series has been decided by no more than seven points.

 

Date: Saturday, November 7

Time: Noon ET

Place: Heinz Field in Pittsburgh

TV: ABC

Radio: IMG College Sports, SiriusXM Channel 129

Spread: Notre Dame by 7.5, according to Odds Shark

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Should Georgia Worry 5-Star Derrick Brown Will Visit Auburn, Tennessee?

The recruitment of 5-star defensive tackle Derrick Brown is sure to have fans of a handful of SEC programs on edge until signing day. 

According to Kipp Adams of Dawgs247, the 6’4”, 318-pound Peach State product has announced his official visit plans.

Mississippi State and Alabama are scheduled to receive visits before the end of the year, while Georgia, Auburn and Tennessee will occupy his last three weekends before national signing day. 

As Rusty Mansell of Dawgs247 detailed in September, the trio of programs getting his final visits are the schools who are aggressively recruiting him the hardest.

The Bulldogs have been the overwhelming favorite to land the nation’s No. 3 defensive tackle and the No. 8 recruit overall in the 2016 class.

However, with both the Tigers and Volunteers getting the last cracks at Brown, should ‘Dawgs supporters start to get nervous? 

Despite the confidence that Brown ultimately lands in Athens, recruiting is a phenomenon in which nothing is certain until a player signs a letter of intent or enrolls at the school of his choice.

With that said, discounting Auburn and Tennessee’s chances at this stage would not be wise.

According to Keith Niebuhr of AuburnUndercover, Brown attended Auburn’s game against Ole Miss last weekend, and he enjoyed his latest trip to the Plains.

“Definitely getting a chance to talk to the coaches again and have a great time up here is big to me,” Brown told Niebuhr on the highlights of his visit. "We’re just talking and they’re getting to know my family more and more."

As Niebuhr notes, the Tigers have been pitching Brown on their need for impact players at the defensive tackle position. It’s something not lost on Brown and his decision-making process, and it’s a safe bet that that message will be hammered home again when he returns for his official visit on Jan. 22.

He also took a visit to Tennessee last month for the Vols' thrilling 38-31 win over Georgia.

The atmosphere inside Neyland Stadium and on campus left an impression on Brown, according to Ryan Callahan of GoVols247.

“[Tennessee is] definitely still one of my top teams,” Brown told Callahan. “I mean, (I like) just the atmosphere up there. It’s a family atmosphere, and that’s what I like most about it.”

The Vols will get his final visit before signing day on Jan. 29.

Still, if there’s one thing that is working in the Bulldogs' favor, it’s the fact that head coach Mark Richt and his staff have also done a great job in making Brown’s parents feel comfortable with the plan they would have for Brown on and off the field, as detailed by Adams.

"Every time we go to Georgia, it is always a great experience," Brown’s mother, Martha, told Adams. "I tell everybody that every time we sit in Coach Mark Richt's office, we always enjoy it immensely. He is just so calm and collected, on and off the field. I see that as being genuine, and I like that." 

While Brown seems to be keeping an open mind and letting the process play out, given the signs pointing in Georgia’s favor, it would still be a great shock if he landed anywhere other than Athens on signing day.

 

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

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

De'Mornay Pierson-El Injury: Updates on Nebraska WR's Knee and Recovery

Nebraska wide receiver De'Mornay Pierson-El will miss the remainder of the 2015 season after suffering a torn knee ligament and a fracture to his left leg in Saturday's 55-45 loss to Purdue, per Steven M. Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star.

Continue for updates.

Pierson-El Out for Season After Gruesome Injury Monday, Nov. 2

Pierson-El, a sophomore, was injured in the midst of celebrating with his teammates after a 20-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ryker Fyfe to receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. As he was jumping around, he landed awkwardly on his left leg, which buckled sideways. He could not leave the field under his own power and did not return to the game.

"With all the stuff he's been through this season, it was just heartbreaking to me," Morgan said, per Sipple. "He's been working so hard to get back and for something like that to happen, it can bring you down."

The Alexandria, Virginia, product finishes 2015 with 12 receptions for 111 yards and a touchdown. He missed the season's first three games with a foot injury and was only recently working his way back to 100 percent. The Cornhuskers, who are 3-6 following their fourth conference loss by 10 or fewer points, will have enough wide receiver depth to withstand Pierson-El's injury but will miss his underneath dynamism.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Baylor Bears vs. Kansas State Wildcats Betting Odds, College Football Pick

Baylor is 5-2 over the last seven meetings with Kansas State but only 3-4 against the spread, because the Wildcats have kept most of those meetings close. The Bears, without their starting quarterback, will go off as big road chalk for Thursday night's clash with the Wildcats in Manhattan.

Point spread: Bears opened as 18.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 49.8-15.8 Bears

 

Why the Baylor Bears can cover the spread

Baylor is 7-0 on the season, 4-1 ATS over its last five games, after downing Iowa State two weeks ago 45-27. The Bears then had last week off.

BU, as a 35-point favorite, led the Cyclones 35-0 midway through the second quarter, then it coasted from there, eschewing the cover. On the day, the Bears outgained Iowa State 485-388, and it probably would have been worse had they not taken their foot off the gas.

Baylor took a hit when quarterback Seth Russell suffered a season-ending neck injury, but backup Jarrett Stidham comes highly regarded. The Bears might have to rely a bit more on their running game and defense from here on out, but they're equipped for that.

 

Why the Kansas State Wildcats can cover the spread

K-State started 3-0 this season, averaging 34 points per game, then lost at Oklahoma State 36-34 on a field goal with 30 seconds left and followed that up with a 52-45 loss to TCU, allowing the winning score with one minute to go. But the Wildcats covered as seven-point dogs against the Cowboys and as eight-point dogs against the Frogs.

Kansas State has since lost two more games in a row (versus Oklahoma and at Texas), and it had last week off.

The Wildcats are 6-2 ATS in their last eight spots as home dogs, and they are 4-0 ATS their last four times out as double-digit dogs. If Kansas State can use its running game to move the chains, work some clock and make some stops on defense, it could keep this one close.

 

Smart pick

The loss of Russell will hurt, but the Bears are a complete outfit. They're averaging 338 yards per game on the ground, while the defense is allowing just 150, and Russell has nothing to do with that.

Meanwhile, Kansas State has been outgained each of its last five games by an average of almost 200 yards per outing. Even with the change at quarterback, the smart bet here is Baylor playing on the road, where the spread is a little more amenable.

 

Betting trends

Kansas State is 7-1 straight up and 6-2 ATS in its last eight games at home in November.

Kansas State is 0-4 SU in its last four games.

Baylor is 5-15 SU in its last 20 games on the road in November.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, and all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line-movement updates, and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Teams on Upset Alert in November

Welcome to November—the time of the college football calendar when championship dreams are either made or broken.

The final month of the regular season is always good for a few big-time upsets, ones that severely damage a contender or completely knock a high-rising team out of the title picture. Last season, Texas A&M upset then-No. 3 Auburn to give the Tigers a deflating second loss. Later in November, an Oregon State team that didn't even make a bowl game knocked off No. 7 Arizona State.

Here are several contenders that should be on upset alert this month in what has already been a crazy 2015 season. In order to make this list, the team on alert must be ranked—and the potential upsetter must be outside the Top 25. This takes away several games that may come to mind, such as Ohio State's road trip to Michigan or LSU's matchups against Alabama, Ole Miss and Texas A&M.

To be clear, I'm not necessarily picking any of these contenders to lose these games. I'm just pointing out the possibilities of a ranked team falling to someone outside the polls based on location, timing on the schedule, matchup problems and past results. Feel free to put some more ranked teams on upset alert in the comments below.

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Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Missouri Tigers Betting, College Football Pick

Missouri made some nice cash the last couple of seasons, going 20-8 against the spread, but betting trends are born to reverse themselves eventually, and the offensively challenged Tigers are just 2-6 ATS this season. Missouri also rides a dismal three-game losing streak into a home date with Mississippi State Thursday night in Columbia.

 

Point spread: Bulldogs opened as 7.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 35.0-23.8 Bulldogs

 

Why the Mississippi State Bulldogs can cover the spread

MSU won its third game in a row two weeks ago, beating Kentucky 42-16, covering as a two-touchdown home favorite. The Bulldogs then had last week off.

Mississippi State spotted the Wildcats an early 7-0 lead, but sometimes that's the best thing that can happen to a big home favorite; it's like a good slap in the face. The Bulldogs responded by outscoring Kentucky 35-6 over the last three quarters. On the night, MSU out-gained the Wildcats by 160 yards, ran the ball for 204 yards and won the turnover battle 3-1.

Just before that, the Bulldogs beat Louisiana Tech 45-20, and just before that, they beat Troy 45-17. So MSU is averaging 44 points over its last three games.

 

Why the Missouri Tigers can cover the spread

Mizzou started well enough this season, going 4-1, beating South Carolina to reach 1-1 in SEC play, but the Tigers have lost three games in a row, including a 10-3 decision at Vanderbilt two weeks ago. The Tigers then also had last week off.

Missouri again played without quarterback Maty Mauk (who's now been suspended for good) against Vandy, and did very little offensively. But the defense kept the Tigers in the game, allowing just 304 yards of Commodores offense. Mizzou had a chance to force overtime late, driving into the Vandy red zone, but ran out of downs.

Three weeks ago, the Tigers lost at Georgia 9-6, but they held UGA to 298 yards and covered as two-touchdown dogs. Just before that, they lost to Florida 21-3, allowing just 337 yards of Gators offense. If Missouri could just move the ball a little and put up 17-20 points, they could win this game outright.

 

Smart pick

The Tigers have scored a total of 12 points over their last three games. However, the Bulldogs, while putting up some good numbers against lesser foes recently, only scored 19, 17 and 17 points against LSU, Auburn and Texas A&M. It might be tough taking a team that hasn't scored a touchdown in a month, but the smart choice here is with the defensive-minded home dog.

 

Betting trends

The total has gone under in 10 of Missouri's last 11 games at home.

Missouri is 8-0 SU and ATS in its last eight games in November.

Mississippi State is 7-3 SU in its last 10 games on the road.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line-movement updates and get the free odds-tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

B/R Recruiting Notebook: 4-Star Plans Official Visits, Talks Decision Timeline

Still with expectations of a verbal commitment on national signing day in February, Manvel, Texas, 4-star defensive back Deontay Anderson has narrowed his choices to four schools.

And according to the nation's No. 3 safety in the 2016 class, all four schools will get official visits after his high school season concludes.

Anderson told Bleacher Report that Texas, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and LSU will get official visits. He added that Texas will get the first visit. Dates are still tentative for all four schools, but the Longhorns will get the opportunity to set the bar for the others. Anderson also said he's currently only planning to take four visits, even though he's allowed five.

"I talked with my mom about everything, and I was going to commit at the Under Armour [All-America] game," Anderson said, "but I want to take all of my visits and be sure that I'm actually making the right decision."

Anderson, who has more than 40 offers, said he likes the future of each program and feels he can be an immediate contributor at the next level. Choosing to wait to commit on signing day and not during the Under Armour All-America Game in January gives him an additional month to weigh his options in an effort to make the right choice.

He admitted the process has its moments of chaos, but overall, recruiting has been a good experience. As he continues to be patient, Anderson said he's making the next few weeks a priority to treat the process with the utmost care.

"It's very important. It's like a relationship," he said. "You don't want to visit a school if you've already found the right one. I don't want to be the guy who decommits 50 times."

 

Irish building for the future, land 2017 4-star DE

Notre Dame's 2016 class looks strong, and with Norcross, Georgia, defensive end Robert Beal ending his process with a commitment to the Irish Sunday evening, according to 247Sports' Tom Loy, the 2017 class is making waves as well.

Notre Dame has five pledges in the 2017 class. Four of the five are listed as 4-star athletes. For those keeping score, the Irish have 17 commits in the 2016 class. Seven of the 17 are 4-stars.

Beal, the nation's No. 3 weak-side defensive end, called Notre Dame a "dream offer" back in May and is expected to be a reliable member of the defensive line when his time comes.

"It's an amazing school," Beal told Loy. "From the academics to the football side, it has it all."

 

LSU DB pledge keeping an eye on 'the 318'

Monroe, Louisiana, 4-star defensive back Cameron Lewis has been committed to LSU since March. He's been pleased with the success of the program this year, and he's excited about the 2016 class.

In fact, this year has made selling the program to potential recruits fairly easy for him.

"They like the program. LSU has a great program, and they think it's going to continue to grow with the great young players and the ones coming in like myself," said Lewis, the nation's No. 14 safety.

Lewis chose LSU over offers from Michigan, Georgia, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, TCU, Texas A&M and a host of other programs. Now he's hoping that others will make a similar decision. The Tigers have a few big-name targets still uncommitted, and Lewis is hoping the program can be loaded with players from the Monroe area.

"I really don't pressure other recruits to commit. I feel everyone has a different feel for schools," he said. "But I have been on Devin White and Rashard Lawrence because we are all from the 318, the same area code. I think they'll make a huge impact on our class, and we can continue to keep the great tradition at LSU."

 

Top-ranked JUCO CB weighing options

There are several schools looking for immediate help in the secondary. Coffeyville (Kansas) Community College cornerback Jamarcus King could be the answer.

King is the top-ranked junior college cornerback in the 2016 class. A former Auburn commit, King decommitted from the Tigers in September after giving the program his pledge in June.

King's plans for the future, he said, are still up in the air.

"I really don't know right now, but I'm going to take a few visits and decide," King said. "I've got Baylor and Tennessee visits coming up."

King said he'll visit Baylor the weekend of Nov. 14. A Tennessee visit will follow shortly after, but he hasn't set an official date. King added that Auburn is still in the mix, as is Louisville.

King is ranked No. 12 overall among junior college prospects. According to the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference website, King has 33 tackles, a team-high nine pass breakups and three interceptions on the year for Coffeyville, a nationally ranked team.

 

Sleeper alert: St. John Bosco QB silencing after-Rosen questions

When Josh Rosen graduated from St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, California, the big question was "who's next?"

Quentin Davis has answered the challenge and, despite not being rated or having an FBS offer until the start of this month, is putting up solid numbers following Rosen's departure. Davis has thrown for 2,365 yards, 23 touchdowns and only one interception in 192 pass attempts this season, per MaxPreps.com. He's completing better than 70 percent of his passes and also has rushed for 285 yards and four touchdowns.

Davis led St. John Bosco to a 9-0 record with the help of a 31-12 win Thursday against Orange (California) Lutheran. He completed 15 of 19 passes for 219 yards.

"How St. John Bosco would replace Josh Rosen was really the lone question about this team entering the year," said Dallas Jackson of NationalHSFootball.com (via colleague Ryan Swartz). "Davis was quite impressive during the spring and summer sessions, and it gave us the confidence to place the team at No. 1 in the nation. He has done nothing to suggest that we made the wrong choice to date."

Davis is now looking for a couple of FBS offers to build around his success at St. John Bosco. At 6'1" and 205 pounds, he has a new offer from Fresno State and interest from schools such as Utah, SMU and Hawaii.

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles

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Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly's Emotions Crossed the Line Against Temple

Brian Kelly should send a gift basket, if it were within NCAA rules, to Miami defensive back Corn Elder. He should send another to Frank Beamer.

Because of those two, Kelly isn’t on the home page of many websites—and likely won’t pop up again until Tuesday, when we learn where Notre Dame stacks up in the College Football Playoff rankings. It’s a good thing too, because if you missed what he did on Saturday, you’d probably be a little surprised at what transpired.

For those who were watching something else, late in the middle of the Irish’s win over Temple Kelly rushed down the sideline and grabbed strength and conditioning coach David Grimes’ jacket, proceeded to push and yell at him and then had to be restrained before causing any further disruption on the sideline. Grimes was pulled away by other staffers as Kelly walked back down the sideline to fume elsewhere.

Notre Dame eventually won the game, and talk quickly turned to the team making the Playoff and other big-picture items about the Irish, but that incident with Kelly stuck with me.

"David was gonna get us a 15-yard penalty, and so I had to control the sideline," Kelly explained after the game, per Irish247. "I wasn't going to let that happen. He got a little too close and I backed him up out of the way to make sure we didn't get a 15-yard penalty."

Irish fans and Kelly defenders (sometimes that’s not a mutually exclusive group) will point out it wasn’t that big of a deal. It was an assistant, not an 18-year-old. It was in the middle of a game where emotions ran high and he possibly prevented a costly penalty against his team.

That’s all great.

But Kelly is also the head coach, and more importantly he’s the head coach at Notre Dame. The incident wasn’t at a Sun Belt game on ESPN3, it was on national television between two Top 25 teams. The heat of battle shouldn’t be an excuse; Kelly is held to a higher standard because of his position, and that applies here most of all.

What he did shouldn’t happen. Period. Not to a player, a coach or a staffer. No peer, subordinate or superior should be treated that way.

Having been around Kelly and talking with him enough at various points in his career, I’m confident in saying he knows all of that. He’s a sharp person and seems to have a better sense of the real world than a lot of his peers in the coaching profession.

That’s what rankled me on Saturday and ever since. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Kelly screaming and yelling and turning a shade of red close to a tomato. In fact, there’s been an incident similar to Saturday’s nearly every other year during Kelly’s tenure in South Bend and even the seasons before.

As my father reminded me all the time growing up, it’s not what you say to people, it’s how you say it. Kelly’s role as head coach of a program like Notre Dame means he knows exactly what to say nearly every time, but it’s pretty apparent that, at times, he gets a little heated and sometimes doesn’t say it in the right manner.

The concerning thing is, that’s always been the case and we’ve seen him lose his cool on the sidelines repeatedly. At some point, we need to realize these aren’t isolated incidents, but a trend.

Should Grimes have been speaking to the official? Absolutely not. Was Kelly right to tell him to stop and get back away from the sidelines? Definitely.

Should he have done it in that manner? Nope.

I like Brian Kelly and think he’s a terrific coach. He’s got a great staff and a good team this year.

But he crossed the line on Saturday. There won’t be any punishment for his actions or a call for his resignation but maybe, just maybe, Kelly can use the incident to help change his behavior so he can stop himself before the cameras catch him lashing out again.

Hopefully for everybody involved, there just isn’t a next time.

 

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

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7-Step Drop: It's Time to Nationalize College Football Officiating

As usual in college football, what looks like a light week on the docket typically has something wild or crazy happen. Week 9 was no exception.

As if on cue, after a rather lackluster middle-of-the-afternoon slate, the final minutes of the Miami-Duke contest managed to turn a surprising ACC Coastal upset into a wild finish that everybody is still talking about 48 hours later.

I'll admit to watching the game off and on for the first three quarters, tuning in to see just what interim coach Larry Scott was doing with the Hurricanes and if the Blue Devils could make next week's showdown with North Carolina really, truly mean something on the football field. Then the clock started to wind down and it looked like Miami was going to pull off the win when Michael Badgley drilled a 37-yard field goal with 5:54 remaining, giving the Hurricanes a 24-12 lead.

Duke wasn't done yet, of course. The Blue Devils marched 75 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 24-19 and then forced a three-and-out for the Hurricanes. They followed that up with an 80-yard drive that was aided by a few pass interference flags (two on eventual hero Corn Elder, no less) and a still-questionable Thomas Sirk touchdown run with just six seconds remaining. That all set the stage for the play that had the nation buzzing.

First off, Miami's zany return to help win the game was an all-timer that put the Music City Miracle to shame. It was wild, crazy, and unbelievable. It also never should have happened.

In a statement released Sunday, the ACC did not overturn the result of the game, but it did cite a number of errors officials made on the final play. The league promptly suspended the entire crew (including replay officials) for two games.

"The quality of our officiating program is of the highest importance to the league and its schools, and the last play of the game was not handled appropriately," ACC Commissioner John Swofford said in the release. "Officiating is an extraordinarily difficult job but our players, coaches, programs and fans deserve the best that can be offered. We will continue to strive to meet that standard."

The conference determined that a Miami player's knee was down prior to releasing a lateral and that officials should have called an illegal block in the back. Add in an uncalled player who left the bench early without his helmet and needless to say it was an unbelievable ending that the crew simply botched, even with the availability of instant replay to review nearly every aspect of the play.

"The NCAA should have a process to reverse the outcome of the game," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said in his Sunday news conference, according to Dan Wolken of USA Today. "Nothing has changed other than they realized they got the replay wrong."

Cutcliffe is onto something, and it's not just because he was on the losing end of an improbable conclusion that shouldn't have counted. While overturning results may be a Pandora's box, what the well-respected Cutcliffe is alluding to with the NCAA having a role in officiating is something worth exploring further.

In the wake of all that happened in Week 9, there have been a number of folks calling to nationalize the college football replay system in a manner similar to the NFL. Rogers Redding, the NCAA's national coordinator of officiating, told Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel that he and the various conference coordinators had already been discussing such a model.

"In the big picture, the replay process is in good shape," Redding told Mandel. "The conferences work to refine it, but then a high-profile situation like last night happens, and it looks like oh my gosh, this is all falling apart, and the reality is it's not."

Redding cited the logistics of a national replay center as one of the biggest obstacles, noting the sheer scale college football operates on compared to the relatively modest 32-team NFL. Such obstacles are notable and will take a significant investment to overcome, but it's nothing insurmountable. Heck, ESPN and Fox (among others) have a stake in moving games along and may even be able to contribute and provide meaningful input.

But if anything, the discussion about standardizing replay and making it a national endeavor is actually a little small-minded. As this weekend proved (again), more needs to be done in order to enhance college football officiating. The commissioners of the FBS conferences shouldn't start or stop at creating a national replay center; they need to actually hand over the reins fully to a national governing body and end league affiliations.

That could mean the NCAA itself—a smart public relations move by conferences if so, passing the blame to those in Indianapolis—or the College Football Officiating organization that is nominally in charge of national standards. Either way, it's time to end the Twitter hashtags of #SECrefs or continued jokes about Pac-12 officiating. It's time to put everybody under the same roof.

There have been baby steps on this front in recent years that could lay the groundwork for such a large-scale reorganization of football officiating. The Collegiate Officiating Consortium already oversees officiating for the Big Ten, MAC and Missouri Valley, in addition to a number of other smaller leagues in men's and women's basketball. Just this year, the Pac-12 and Mountain West added the Big West, WCC, and WAC to their men's basketball regional officiating alliance.

Such regional offices could be turned into the backbone of a reformed national organization. Instead of dealing with Walt Anderson after a disastrous Big 12 call or David Coleman on a Pac-12 screwup, the national office can discuss any mistakes and rectify them quickly while speaking as one voice. Even better, good officials can get promoted to bigger games more easily during the season than before, and others will be relegated more quickly.

After all, why shouldn't a star Sun Belt line judge be rewarded sooner rather than later for doing his job well during the season? At the same time, those on crews such as the one at Duke-Miami could find a long road back to an ACC-level matchup if they botch things like they did during the final few minutes in Durham.

Even better, a national organization could help officials (almost all part-timers) receive a much-needed pay raise. You'd be surprised at how much criticism some referees open themselves up to on national television given what their game check usually is.

It all makes too much sense, especially as television has made it easy to point out the flaws in every call so quickly. That's probably why it won't happen, but hopefully somebody with a stake in college football is smart enough to wise up and realize that our current trajectory isn't working.

Such moves might not mean much to the Blue Devils in 2015 if they miss out on a trip to the ACC title game but maybe, just maybe, the game's crazy ending will have a lasting legacy beyond lamenting bad calls.

 

Stats of the Week

—Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds tied Wisconsin running back Montee Ball's NCAA career record for rushing touchdowns against USF. Later this year in the same league, he'll have a chance to take on fellow quarterback Greg Ward Jr. at Houston, who leads all of FBS in rushing touchdowns this season.

—Per the AAC, Cincinnati's Gunner Kiel went 15-of-15 (for 319 yards and five touchdowns) against UCF, the most completions without an incomplete pass by any FBS player in the last 20 years.

—Since losing to Texas, Oklahoma has outscored its past three opponents 180-34 and has racked up 15 sacks over that span. Against Kansas, the Sooners went an entire game without punting for the first time ever under Bob Stoops, according to the school.

—TCU has a 22-game winning streak when ranked in the AP Top Five. Gary Patterson has lost just three times when ranked in the Top 10 during his head coaching career in Fort Worth.

—Nebraska notes the team has used 20 different starters on offense this season and 20 different starters on defense.

—With news that Frank Beamer is retiring, it's remarkable to see that he won his 277th game (most among active FBS head coaches) against Boston College. According to the game notes, Beamer also beat his 116th different opposing head coach while doing so.

—Wisconsin passes along a note that receiver/safety Tanner McEvoy is the first FBS player with at least one sack, two receptions, two carries and two interceptions in a season since Charles Gordon of Kansas accomplished it in 2005.

—It flew under the radar, but Colorado's Nelson Spruce became the Pac-12's all-time leading receiver.

—Hat tip to the Associated Press' Josh Dubow for pointing out that Cal led USC for the first time since 2007. The Bears eventually lost, but they at least got that stat out of the way.

— Teams with 700-plus yards and 55-plus points in the past 15 seasons were 95-4 before Arizona State lost to Oregon on Thursday.

 

Quote of the Week

"You'll win, you're a more complete team."

—West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen to TCU's Gary Patterson after the latter asked what the Horned Frogs' chances were against Baylor, in a video captured by Fox Sports. The video has since been deleted, but those words may prove to be true later this month.

 

Tweet of the Week

College Football Playoff Selection Committee chairman Jeff Long with a walk-off right here:

 

Play of the Week

 

Sound from Saturday

 

Pre-Snap Reads

Florida State at Clemson

Running back Dalvin Cook should be well-rested and quarterback Everett Golson should be back in action for the Seminoles. That their returns might not matter should tell you just how good Clemson is this season, and the fact that the Tigers have been battle-tested helps their cause, too. Don't expect a runaway for either side, but it's hard to go against Dabo Swinney's squad at home right now.

 

TCU at Oklahoma State

Both teams are undefeated, but it's the Cowboys who are easily the biggest surprise of the pair this season. Emmanuel Ogbah is well on his way to Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors, and fellow end Jimmy Bean is one of the better players nobody talks about. They'll need to have a big game in order to slow down Trevone Boykin and Co., though. TCU squeaks by in this one.

 

LSU at Alabama

It's hard to bet against Alabama at home, and it's accurate to say that the team is built to stop somebody like Leonard Fournette. That puts the pressure on Brandon Harris to make some things happen downfield, and there's still a little hesitation about him doing that in a tough road environment. Turnovers will help decide this one and it wouldn't be a game involving Les Miles without a special teams play impacting the contest, too. I'll lean the Tide, but not by much.

 

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

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Richard LeCounte III Tweets Top 7: Odds Where 4-Star ATH Lands in 2017

Georgia prospect Richard LeCounte III gained notoriety as one of the Southeast's premier playmakers as an underclassman. Now nearing the end of his junior season, the Liberty County High School standout is focused on finding an ideal collegiate fit.

LeCounte, a 5'11", 174-pound defensive back and wide receiver, revealed a list of favorite schools Sunday evening:

This collection is headlined by a trio of SEC universities and the past two national champions. Georgia Southern, a Sun Belt Conference contender just one year removed from its leap to FBS competition, also made the cut.

It's an eclectic mix of options for LeCounte to consider moving forward. Though he won't enroll on campus until 2017, the versatile recruit has already commanded significant investment from various coaching staffs.

Rated second nationally among "athletes" in 2017 composite rankings, LeCounte is largely projected to land at cornerback or safety. However, his attributes as a threat with the football also create some opportunity for a future on offense.

He's tallied 565 rushing yards, 494 receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns through nine games this season, according to MaxPreps. LeCounte has returned three kicks for scores since his sophomore campaign, indicating he could make a major special teams impact in college.

His status as a defensive ball hawk was earned early, when LeCounte recorded five interceptions as a freshman. He's added another two picks so far this fall, while tallying 78 tackles, 1.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. 

Currently on the cusp of 5-star territory in composite rankings, LeCounte is certainly someone who could earn that distinction after a dominant 2015 effort. 

There isn't an established date for his decision and, with talent of this level, a recruitment is rarely settled before the national letter of intent is signed. Based on his latest update and circumstances to this stage, we applied odds to programs that appear to be strongest in play for LeCounte. 

 

Ohio State: 2-to-1

Former 5-star prospect Raekwon McMillan made a name for himself at Liberty County before joining the Buckeyes in 2014. Now Ohio State seems to be in an enviable position for his former teammate. 

LeCounte, who's traveled to Columbus multiple times and attended Friday Night Lights camp this summer, recently returned to campus for a matchup against Penn State. He soaked in the setting as Ohio State cruised to a 38-10 victory in front of a "black out" crowd.

“It was great – a great experience,” LeCounte told Bill Kurelic of 247Sports. “It was an historic experience watching the black out. I loved the uniforms. It was a crazy environment.”

His tight bond with McMillan may not be the most important element in a widespread recruitment, but it's certainly worth noting. Ohio State's rising star linebacker might ultimately leave campus before LeCounte would arrive, but their open communication about life as a Buckeyes football player could prove pivotal.

LeCounte seriously considered committing to Ohio State in July while in town for Friday Night Lights, according to Jeremy Birmingham of ElevenWarriors.com. Though he didn't pull the trigger on a pledge then, Meyer and his staff continue to sustain momentum.

He is projected to sign with the Buckeyes by 58 percent of experts' predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball. Ohio State already holds a commitment from Georgia defensive back Isaiah Pryor, who is rated third overall among 2017 Peach State prospects in composite rankings.

 

Georgia: 3-to-1

With all due respect to Georgia Southern, the Bulldogs are in-state favorites to land LeCounte. Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and assistant Mike Ekeler have made a strong impression on the young recruit, developing greater rapport this fall.

He is a pivotal part of the process for local Bulldogs recruiting efforts toward signing day 2017.

Head coach Mark Richt landed a pledge from premier in-state junior quarterback Bailey Hockman earlier this year. However, the 4-star passer is the only top-30 Georgia recruit in the cycle to join Georgia as a pledge.

LeCounte clearly still views the Bulldogs among his top choices, but Georgia no longer sits in the driver's seat as it did before.

"Only time will tell whether Georgia will re-take the lead," he told Kipp Adams of 247Sports in September. "They have not done anything bad to be No. 2. Ohio State just made a good pitch about me coming in and playing and with them coming off a national championship, it is tough to overlook something like that."

Richt and company haven't exactly helped their cause with three losses in the past four contests. Look for the Georgia staff to line up another campus visit soon following multiple game-day visits from LeCounte earlier this season. 

 

Clemson: 5-to-1

The Tigers identified LeCounte as a coveted athlete extremely early in the process, extending him a scholarship offer midway through his freshman season. Clemson signed six top-20 Peach State products in the past two cycles, so head coach Dabo Swinney and his staff have treated Georgia as fertile recruiting territory.

With wins in 17 of its past 18 matchups, Clemson is among the hottest college football programs in America. The team's success, combined with a long-standing pursuit of LeCounte, makes it a legitimate contender to lure him beyond state borders.

Florida State, Florida and Auburn are also intent on acquiring this out-of-state talent, but we like the Tigers' chances more at this stage. The next key step for Clemson is to coordinate an upcoming campus visit, preferably for game action.

The Tigers have just two home games remaining on the 2015 schedule—against Florida State and Wake Forest—so this may be a difficult task depending on LeCounte's personal obligations at Liberty County. 

Clemson, currently carrying just two pledges in its 2017 class, has already dedicated more than two years to this recruitment. Don't expect Swinney to take his foot off the gas pedal now that Clemson is officially one of LeCounte's favored landing spots.

 

Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.

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The Concerning Similarities Between Urban Meyer's 2009 UF and 2015 OSU Teams

COLUMBUS, Ohio — When J.T. Barrett was cited for operating a vehicle while impaired and subsequently suspended for Ohio State's Nov. 7 matchup with Minnesota, it left the future of the Buckeyes' quarterback position in question.

For Urban Meyer, Barrett's incident likely conjured up memories of the fourth-year Ohio State head coach's last national championship defense in 2009, which saw star defensive end Carlos Dunlap arrested for a similar offense just days before his Florida team was slated to play in the SEC Championship Game.

And unfortunately for Meyer, the similarities between his 2009 Gators and the 2015 Buckeyes haven't stopped there this season. Four weeks remain in the regular season, and the first College Football Playoff rankings of the year have yet to be revealed, but at this point, the parallel paths of Meyer's last two post-championship teams have been impossible to deny.

From a talent standpoint, that could be seen as a positive, as this Ohio State squad—much like the 2009 Florida team did—still finds itself in pole position for the postseason entering the final month of the regular season. But the issues the Buckeyes have already seen this season are also the same ones that ultimately cost those Gators, who saw their national championship dashed with a loss to Alabama in the SEC title game.

Whether or not Ohio State will suffer a similar fate this season remains to be seen. But at this point, the comparable red flags seen by both teams have been impossible to ignore.

 

Complacency Commonplace

Given his past experiences, it's possible that Meyer knew what was coming for his program in 2015. Perhaps that's why in the moments following the Buckeyes' win over Oregon in the College Football Playoff championship in January, Meyer was already guarding against the complacency that could accompany Ohio State's national title defense.

"We're going to watch that very closely," Meyer said. "This is a very complicated machine, college football, when you start thinking about all the different hurdles that are along the journey."

That would prove to be a theme that would follow the Buckeyes from spring practice, all the way through preseason camp and into the start of the season. But no matter how often Meyer preached to his team the importance of not resting on its past laurels, perhaps it was inevitable that Ohio State would get off to the sluggish start that it did this season.

Despite returning a combined 15 starters on both sides of the ball from last year's championship team, the Buckeyes eked through its first five games of the season, pulling off seven-point victories against Northern Illinois and Indiana, both of which possessed distinct talent disadvantages against Ohio State. Following the Buckeyes' closer-than-expected call against the Hoosiers, Meyer admitted that the preseason forecasts for his team may have been too optimistic.

"It's impossible to live up to expectations," Meyer said. "But that's not our job. Our job is to win."

That's a mindset that Meyer admittedly didn't possess six years ago, when Florida—like this year's Ohio State team—remained undefeated and ranked first overall for the better part of the season, but perhaps didn't arrive there as impressively as many prognosticators expected the Gators to.

On a recent appearance on The Dan Patrick Show, the three-time national champion head coach admitted that the 2009 season wasn't as enjoyable for him as it should have been, as he and star quarterback Tim Tebow obsessed over remaining unbeaten.

"Florida had never been undefeated. I remember Tebow and I—Tebow was our quarterback obviously—all we would talk about is, 'We have to be undefeated. We have to be undefeated,'" Meyer said. "We kind of drained the enjoyment out of it."

While this year's Buckeyes team may also have to go undefeated in order to have a shot at defending it's national title this winter, its head coach now understands that it's the substance of those wins that matter much more than their style. Nevertheless, it's hard not to look at the results of the 2009 Gators and see similarities to 2015 Ohio State, with neither team putting together the dominant performances that were expected of them on a consistent basis.

Just don't tell that to Meyer.

"We won 22 straight games, we went undefeated in the Southeastern Conference and it was a miserable year, according to people, including myself," Meyer said at Big Ten media days in July. "That’s my fault. If we win every game this year, I can assure you, it’s not going to be miserable."

 

Coaching Changes

While complacency may have been the first place Meyer turned his attention toward following Ohio State's national championship victory last January, the upcoming changes on his coaching staff were a close second. At that point, Meyer already knew he was losing offensive coordinator Tom Herman to be the new head coach at Houston, and would later lose running backs coach Stan Drayton to the NFL's Chicago Bears.

The departures resulted in a shift on the Buckeyes staff, with offensive line coach Ed Warinner assuming offensive coordinator duties, Tim Beck being brought on as quarterbacks coach and Tony Alford replacing Drayton's role with the running backs.

In September, Meyer admitted the changes were still taking time to adjust to.

"We're not quite there yet," Meyer said of the cohesiveness of his staff following Ohio State's 20-13 win over Northern Illinois in the third week of the season. "We're playing defense on offense right now."

Perhaps it's not a coincidence that in 2009, Meyer was dealing with a similar transition, as offensive coordinator Dan Mullen had just left Gainesville to take over as the head coach of Mississippi State. In his absence, Florida, despite possessing a plethora of NFL talent around Tebow in his senior season, scored fewer than 30 points in six of its first 10 games.

Upon arriving at Ohio State, Meyer admitted that he may have unsuccessfully tried to overcompensate for the continued losses of assistants—defensive coordinator Charlie Strong left the Gators for the Louisville head coaching job in 2009—while at Florida.

At this point in the Buckeyes' season, the offensive staff appears to have gelled, despite the loss of Herman, whose Houston team is currently 8-0 and ranked 18th in the most recent AP Top 25. Of course, a lot of the Ohio State's offense's recent success can be attributed to the play of Barrett, whose future for the remainder of the season remains in question following last weekend's citation.

 

Concerning Clouds

Although Barrett's bye-weekend blip is the most recent on the Buckeyes' radar, the disciplinary issues for Ohio State started in the preseason when four players were suspended for the season-opening trip to Virginia Tech. Star defensive end Joey Bosa and wide receivers Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson and Corey Smith each missed the Buckeyes' 42-24 win over the Hokies due to violations of the Ohio State athletic department policy.

"It's disappointing," Meyer said upon the announcement of the suspensions. "It's not the first time a program has dealt with stuff."

The same could have been said at Florida, where Meyer's history with player discipline has been well documented. In 2009, defensive back Janoris Jenkins and linebacker Dustin Doe each missed the Gators' season opener after offseason issues, and linebacker Brandon Spikes was suspended for the first half of a November game against Vanderbilt after attempting to gouge the eyes of a Georgia player the previous week.

But the biggest blow to Florida's championship hopes six years ago came when Dunlap was arrested, four days before the Crimson Tide beat the Gators 32-13 in the SEC Championship Game.

While Barrett's citation was similar to Dunlap's in its nature, its timing still leaves a month for the Ohio State quarterback to rectify the situation on the field. At the moment, all we know is that Barrett will sit for the Buckeyes' upcoming game with the Golden Gophers, as Cardale Jones reclaims his spot in the starting lineup after having started the first seven games of the season before being benched in favor of Barrett.

Unlike Florida in 2009, these Buckeyes could very well bounce back from their latest off-field issue and successfully defend their championship, especially with Barrett expected to be back for season-defining games against Michigan State and Michigan.

Only time will tell how this year's Ohio State team responds, but if its head coach's comments about complacency are any indication, at the very least, Meyer will have a different mindset when it comes to Barrett's situation than he would have six years ago.

"There's no perfect team. There's no perfect program. And everyone deals with 'stuff.' You know, when you're Ohio State or some of these other big-time programs, 'stuff' becomes a major deal," Meyer said in July. "Every team is different. And every day is different...tomorrow is another day. And so we just keep pushing forward."

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrodUnless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com. Odds provided by Odds Shark. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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College Football Playoff 2015: Date, Start Time, TV Schedule for Rankings Reveal

The first real, non-speculative rankings for this season's College Football Playoff (CFP) are on the way. On Tuesday, the only Top 25 that really matters will be revealed.

 

When: Tuesday, November 3 at 7 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

 

The committee that will decide which four teams play for this year's national championship has a big job on its hands—especially early in the process. There are currently 11 undefeated teams and 12 other squads with just one loss.

The Ohio State Buckeyes are No. 1 in all of the major polls (Coaches and Associated Press), but like last year, it'll take a few weeks before the CFP committee warms up to them. Don't be shocked if they don't occupy one of the top four slots.

Here are the four teams fans should expect to see occupying the top four spots in the first poll.

 

LSU Tigers

Having navigated through a fierce schedule that includes wins over three ranked opponents, the LSU Tigers have proved themselves to be among the nation's elite. Much of that could change on Saturday if Leonard Fournette and Co. are unable to beat the Alabama Crimson Tide on the road.

The battle with their SEC West rivals is likely to determine the champion of the division. If LSU wins on Saturday, they would likely have to fall apart down the stretch not to make the CFP.

 

Clemson Tigers

The most impressive win the Clemson Tigers have on their resume is a victory over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Tigers can all but wrap up a spot in the CFP with a victory over the Florida State Seminoles on Saturday. 

It would be the team's second victory over a ranked opponent, and the last such matchup on their schedule. Deshaun Watson should be considered a dark-horse Heisman candidate. The sophomore has been stellar most of the season, and that's especially been the case in the team's last two games.

Watson has tossed six touchdown passes. He's been picked off just twice, and he's run for two more scores. A big performance and a win against the Seminoles might garner him more attention.

 

Michigan State Spartans

The Michigan State Spartans' road win against the Michigan Wolverines is what makes them deserving of a top-four slot. Road wins over ranked opponents should be looked upon favorably by the committee, and that's something the Buckeyes haven't accomplished yet this season.

The Spartans will have to travel to Columbus to take on Ohio State on November 21. The winner of that game will likely be the one Big Ten team in the CFP. 

 

TCU Horned Frogs

The injury to the Baylor Bears' Seth Russell makes the TCU Horned Frogs the team to beat in the Big 12. The Bears have to knock off TCU, the Oklahoma Sooners and Oklahoma State Cowboys in consecutive weeks. It's almost impossible to imagine Baylor pulling that off without their starting quarterback.

The Horned Frogs and their Heisman candidate Trevone Boykin are far better equipped to navigate a four-game stretch where they will face the three most formidable opponents in the conference. What once seemed like an epic battle against Baylor in the regular-season finale could ultimately by the Horned Frogs' coronation and final statement en route to the CFP.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

4-Star Dontavious Jackson Names Top 7: Which School Is Best Fit?

Seven lucky schools have made the cut in the race to land 4-star linebacker Dontavious Jackson

Via his Twitter account, Jackson announced a final group that includes Alabama, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Texas and UCLA. 

The 6’2”, 239-pounder has already taken official visits to Florida State and UCLA, and he has another scheduled to see Michigan on Nov. 28. He also took an unofficial visit to LSU in September.

With his list narrowing and his timeline for making a decision rapidly approaching, which program out of his final group presents him with the best fit?

Given Jackson’s skill set as a prototypical inside linebacker and his ability to still be effective in pass coverage, the nation’s No. 5 inside linebacker and No. 119 player overall in the 2016 cycle has the chance to be a difference-maker at a number of programs. 

In looking at how he’s constructed his list, it’s clear that he’s identified a group of schools that have fared well in recent years in producing elite defensive players. 

Additionally, aside from UCLA, and to a lesser degree Alabama, the other programs on the list are desperately in need of quality linebackers in the 2016 class. 

In particular, all of Michigan’s top seven linebackers are upperclassmen, with five being seniors, according to Ourlads.

During the team’s bye week in late October, Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh made a stop to see Jackson in person, according to Steve Lorenz of Wolverine247. That factor alone signifies how he’s viewed in terms of being a priority for Michigan down the stretch. 

However, in terms of need and fit, Jackson’s best opportunity may lie in staying in-state and playing for Texas.

He’s taken a number of visits to Austin, and he is scheduled to be in town this weekend on an unofficial visit for the Longhorns game against Kansas.

As noted by Horns247, Jackson has developed a strong bond with Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong and his staff.

“It’s not that far from home,” Jackson said. “I have family there. The coaching staff makes me feel like they want the best interest for me. They make me feel at home.”

He can also take a look at the success that current Longhorns true freshman linebacker Malik Jefferson is having in his first season under Strong’s tutelage.

According to cfbstats.com, Jefferson already holds a starting position and is tied for second on the team with 45 tackles.

With playing time available and a head coach with a noted reputation for developing stud defensive prospects, Jackson has ample reason to shun his out-of-state suitors in favor of staying close to home for college.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Rutgers vs. Michigan: Complete Game Preview

The 16th-ranked Michigan Wolverines will host the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in a Big Ten battle on Saturday, Nov. 7, at the Big House.

Rutgers (3-5, 1-4 Big Ten) must try to recover from a pair of beatdowns, including a 48-10 thrashing at the hands of Wisconsin—which isn't exactly an offensive juggernaut.

Michigan (6-2, 3-1) needs a victory to keep its slim division title hopes alive, while there's a small revenge factor for the team. Last season, the Scarlet Knights managed a 26-24 win in the first-ever matchup between the programs.

According to Odds Shark, Michigan is a 22.5-point favorite. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. ET, and Big Ten Network will broadcast the matchup.

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B/R CFB Committee: Playoff Predictions Heading into Week 10

The first official playoff rankings of the 2015-16 college football season are set to be released Tuesday, and our experts are breaking down what you'll see.

How will Ohio State, Baylor, LSU, Clemson, Alabama and other contenders stack up in Tuesday's ranking?

Watch Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee, Michael Felder and Adam Kramer discuss in the video above.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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