NCAA Football News

Cardale Jones Reportedly Rushed to Hospital with Migraine

Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones was reportedly rushed to a local hospital Wednesday with what is being described as "severe head pain."

Tony Zarrella of Cleveland 19 News spoke with one of Jones' family members, who indicated the junior signal-caller is still undergoing testing at this time. It is believed Jones is suffering from a migraine headache and "should be good," according to Eleven Warriors.

It's unclear what this means for Jones' status for Monday's season-opening matchup with Virginia Tech. He has been battling with J.T. Barrett throughout camp for the starting job. Head coach Urban Meyer has not announced whether he was planning to start Jones or Barrett, though he's indicated both will play.

“I made this comment—and I met with both quarterbacks—is when you have a good player, what do you do with them? You play ‘em,” Meyer told Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch on Wednesday. “So we’re going to play both quarterbacks at some point.”

Barrett started the first 12 games of the 2014 season, leading Ohio State to an 11-1 record while emerging as a Heisman Trophy candidate. Jones came in for the final three games of the Buckeyes' season, leading them to a Big Ten championship win over Wisconsin before taking down Alabama and Oregon en route to a national title.   

While choosing the starting quarterback for Ohio State has been categorized as perhaps the most difficult decision in college football, Jones' injury may wind up giving the job to Barrett—at least for Monday night.


Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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Final Preseason Win-Loss Projections for Every Power 5 College Football Team

It’s finally time. Finally time for college football teams to turn projections into production (or perhaps disappointment). When the 2015 college football season kicks off in earnest Thursday night, the nation will be focused on Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan debut at Utah, or perhaps TCU’s visit to Minnesota in a very underrated opening-night tilt.

But know this: All the games will matter. Week 1 is just the first piece in a season-long puzzle that, when put together, will reveal the College Football Playoff’s second four-team field.

Along the way, superstars will shine, key injuries will happen, hot new players and coaches will emerge, and other coaches will lose their jobs. Illinois beat everyone to the punch last week by firing embattled coach Tim Beckman, but he won’t be the last. The coaching carousel will spin again in December, and it’ll be propelled by 2015 records.

So let’s take a shot at projecting those records for every Power Five team. These are far from scientific projections, and sure to be a little inaccurate, but it’ll give you an idea about the expectations for your team going forward.

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Alabama vs. Wisconsin at AT&T Stadium Reportedly Struggling to Sell Tickets

Alabama and Wisconsin are slated to kick off the 2015 college football season in style with a prime-time showdown at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Saturday night, but the house may not be packed when the collegiate titans clash. 

According to's Gil Brandt, only 40,000 tickets have been sold thus far, with "very few bought" by Wisconsin fans. AT&T Stadium—the home of the Dallas Cowboys—seats 85,000 spectators.  

In addition to the anticipated absence of Badgers faithful, Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News added Alabama fans likely won't turn out in droves: 

With fans from both sides needing to invest serious time in order to travel to Arlington, the hesitancy to commit makes sense. 

But even if the stadium isn't filled to capacity come game time, the Badgers and Crimson Tide should provide great theater under the lights.

Alabama rolls into Saturday night's showdown ranked third in the season's first Associated Press Top 25, with Wisconsin slotting in 17 spots lower at No. 20. 

The meeting will be just the second all-time between Wisconsin and Alabama, with the former owning a 1-0 series edge after capturing a shutout victory back in 1928. However, coach Nick Saban's side appears primed to knot the series at one game apiece as it seeks to start the 2015 campaign on a high note following last year's disappointing College Football Playoff exit.   

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Oregon State, Former Football Coach Mike Riley Sued: Latest Details and Reaction

Oregon State University and former head football coach Mike Riley are facing a lawsuit from a woman alleging that she was raped while attending the school in 1999.

Bryan Denson of the Oregonian reported details of the lawsuit:

A former student at Oregon State University has filed a federal Title IX lawsuit that accuses the school's former head football coach Mike Riley of failing to correct a hostile and sexually violent culture among football players that contributed to her being raped.

The woman alleges that she was raped on Oct. 9, 1999, while a freshman at OSU. 

It also notes the alleged victim "attended a party at an off-campus apartment when a young man approached her with an open can of beer..."    

According to the alleged victim's complaint filed in Eugene's U.S. District Court, per Denson's report, "she took two drinks of the beer and then became woozy and fuzzy-headed" before being taken to a house where some Oregon State football players "allegedly lived."

After that, her lawsuit claims the man who offered her the beer sexually assaulted her. She also accused the university's sexual assault counselor of suggesting that she "perhaps said 'yes' to the man and that she shouldn't have been drinking."

Following that encounter, per Denson's report, the female student was deterred from seeking additional help from the school.

Oregon State vice president of university relations Steve Clark told Denson that the school was "not responsible for her very unfortunate sexual assault."

Riley, who is the head football coach at Nebraska, released a statement about the allegations against him and the Oregon State program, per David Ubben of

This is the second allegation of sexual assault against Oregon State from this time period, as Brenda Tracy came forward with her story to John Canzano of the Oregonian last November about an alleged incident from 1998. 

Riley had two different head coaching stints at Oregon State, from 1997-98 and 2003-14, before accepting the same position at Nebraska. He spent three seasons as a head coach in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers from 1999-2001. 

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Florida Names Treon Harris Starting QB, but Battle with Will Grier Will Continue

As we get closer to game time around the SEC, more quarterback decisions are being made and more clarity on previously out-of-focus battles is gained.

Next up on the schedule: Florida.

First-year head coach Jim McElwain announced Wednesday night that sophomore dual-threat Treon Harris will start the season opener versus New Mexico State on Saturday, according to Chris Harry of

Harris beat out redshirt freshman pro-style quarterback Will Grier for the role, but Grier will likely play as well, according to Nick de la Torre of

So, to put it simply, it's a "soft win" for Harris in what is a mild upset, considering Grier's pro-style attributes are a better fit for what McElwain and new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier typically run.

How long will Harris be the starter?

It's much more likely, at this point, that Florida plays a game of musical quarterbacks all year than it is that either of the contenders cements himself as the unquestioned No. 1.

Co-starters is much more likely and probably the best path at this point for the 2015 Gators.

Grier had the lead coming into fall camp and is the more natural fit for the staff but either got beaten by a more dynamic player or flat-out lost the job.

That's fine.

However the job was won or lost, McElwain's decision to name Harris the starter and send a moderate shock through the college football world allows the head coach much more wiggle room to mix and match quarterbacks based on the hot hand, matchups and team need than it would had he named Grier the starter. 

Instead of giving off the appearance that he's ripping off the Band-Aid of the old system under former coordinator Kurt Roper, he's slowly pulling it off, hedging his bets and going with experience for now. As Zach Abolverdi of the Gainesville Sun notes, McElwain is already going with the hot hand:

This isn't over. In fact, it's a long way from over.

The job will be likely be Grier's at some point, but with Florida's offensive line issues, having a mobile quarterback like Harris as a major part of the game plan might be a smart option if and when the protection does break down. 

The good news for either quarterback is that there should be more playmakers in the receiving corps to choose from this year to help fuel the offense.

Wide receiver Demarcus Robinson reintroduced himself to the world last year when he caught 53 passes for 810 yards and seven touchdowns for a painfully one-dimensional offense. Brandon Powell's move from running back to slot receiver will provide McElwain with a home run hitter who can be used in a variety of ways. Ahmad Fulwood is also a solid option outside who should benefit from McElwain's presence.

No matter who the quarterback is, the offense should be more effective than it has been in years past.

Harris will still be looking over his shoulder at Grier early in the season and probably for the entire regular season. If it's a mid-4.4 40-yard dash while running free down the sideline for the end zone, though, it doesn't matter what kind of quarterback is a more natural fit.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics are courtesy of

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

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Treon Harris Named Florida's Starting QB: Latest Details, Reaction

Sophomore Treon Harris will start Florida's Week 1 matchup against New Mexico State but will not receive all the snaps with the first-team offense, Gators head coach Jim McElwain announced Wednesday.

Harris beat out redshirt freshman Will Grier, who McElwain said will receive playing time.    

"Treon is going to start the football game and Will is going to play a lot too,'' McElwain said, per Scott Carter of GatorZone. "This is still a painting in progress. This is two guys pulling in the same direction to help this football team."

A 5'11" dual-threat option, Harris threw for 1,019 yards and nine touchdowns against four interceptions in 2014. He also added 332 yards and three scores on the ground.

Former Gators coach Will Muschamp extensively used a two-quarterback system with Harris and Jeff Driskel, who has since transferred to Louisiana Tech. McElwain did not say how much either of his quarterbacks would play but indicated the team has a plan drawn up.

"We'll have a prescribed set of where it's going to go,'' McElwain said, per Carter. "It's a long season. Somebody had to take the first snap, and Treon is taking the first snap."

Grier is a more traditional pro-style quarterback who was the No. 48-ranked player in the Class of 2014, per 247Sports' composite rankings. It's the second straight year Grier has been beaten out by Harris, the first being for the primary backup job a year ago. Harris' victory in that camp battle resulted in the Davidson Day product redshirting while Harris received game action.

Robbie Andreu of the Gainesville Sun noted how Harris won the job:

As with all two-quarterback systems, this situation remains fluid. Having both guys play is the perfect hedging of bets. McElwain will get a chance to see how both perform in game action and make a more permanent decision once Harris or Grier separates himself. The Gators aren't looking at an especially difficult first three games, with a road trip to Kentucky standing out as their biggest test.

Look for McElwain to use those games as a proving ground and make a firmer selection before Tennessee visits Sept. 26.


Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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Sam Bradford Gets Pranked by RGIII in New Heisman House Ad

When Sam Bradford was told a hurricane was bearing down on the Heisman House, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback did his due diligence by boarding up the windows in preparation.

But as it turns out, that Hurricane was actually Vinny Testaverde.

Get it?

It took Bradford a few moments, but he got there eventually.

The staged prank, played by Robert Griffin III and former South Carolina great George Rogers, is part of Nissan's latest series of Heisman House ads and is fittingly set to Scorpions' "Rock You Like a Hurricane."

Check out the others released on Tuesday:


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The 10 Best Ineligible College Football Players for 2015 Season

When college football returns this weekend, several top players from seasons past will be sitting on the sidelines or away from the stadiums altogether because of one thing—ineligibility.

The offseason between the 2014 and 2015 campaigns didn't feature nearly as many season-long suspensions or big-name, non-graduate transfers from last season. However, former blue-chip stars who had already made an impact at the collegiate level won't be able to suit up this fall.

For some, academics and other off-the-field troubles were the main issues. For others, a desire to switch schools will cause them to sit out the entire 2015 campaign.

The following countdown contains 10 highly touted players who have been ruled ineligible for 2015.

Notable names on this list include a pair of bright young quarterbacks who shined early in the Lone Star State, a couple of experienced defenders from two of college football's biggest names and a trio of transferring running backs.

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8 Freak of Nature Athletes in 2016 College Football Recruiting Class

It's incredibly challenging to stand out among a group of high school football stars, but that's what it takes to become an elite college recruit and, ultimately, an impact player at the next level.

A summer filled with competitive, talent-laden showcases has seeped into a fresh season, shining the spotlight on seniors who make up the 2016 class. We witnessed some incredible efforts from several of these prospects in past months, validating hype created by impressive junior campaigns.

The athleticism in some instances can appropriately be termed "freakish," resulting in highlights that turn heads across the field. Here's a peek at eight top performers who make the difficult plays look easy and wow onlookers with sheer athletic prowess.

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Notre Dame vs. Texas: Complete Game Preview

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame football dives into a season loaded with expectations with a prime-time matchup against Texas on Saturday.

The marquee meeting pits the Irish, the second-most successful FBS program with 882 wins, against the Longhorns, the No. 3 school with 881 wins, under the lights at Notre Dame Stadium. It’s such a high-profile clash that Texas head coach Charlie Strong has been showing his Longhorns video clips of both programs, not shying away from the game’s magnitude.

“I just wanted to take them back so they could go back and just realize what they're stepping into and just how big this game is,” Strong told reporters Monday.

For Notre Dame, Saturday marks the opening act in a season with high hopes. A veteran team with a slew of returning starters has its sights set on a run to the College Football Playoff.

Texas, meanwhile, is in the second year of Strong’s regime, as the former Louisville head coach and Notre Dame assistant aims to vault the Longhorns back among the nation’s elite. In his first season in Austin, Texas limped to a 6-7 campaign.

“A year ago, I was really just still trying to figure out my team and not knowing how we were going to take the field,” Strong said. “Now that you're a year into it, you feel like you have a better feel for it. Even just the whole preparation, how they come about it.”


Date: Saturday, September 5

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Place: Notre Dame Stadium in Notre Dame, Indiana


Radio: IMG College Sports, SiriusXM Channel 129

Spread: -9 Notre Dame, according to Odds Shark

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Where Will 4-Star RB Elijah Holyfield Commit on Friday?

Atlanta running back Elijah Holyfield has a decision to make.

Does he choose the school his older brother attended, or does he choose the school his father's always had an appreciation for?

Or—and this could happen—does the 4-star prospect write his own ticket and choose another school?

These are some of the questions that will be answered Friday at Woodward Academy when Holyfield, the nation's No. 5 running back, commits to the college of his choice. Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee are the schools in the race.

Georgia and Auburn are the two schools considered to be the front-runners, according to Holyfield's 247Sports Crystal Ball. Georgia holds the lead over Auburn, per the predictions. And with Georgia's reputation for its ground game and the backs who have come through the program, look for the Bulldogs to win this competitive recruiting battle.

Of the two schools, Georgia is considered a slight favorite, as Holyfield has built great relationships with head coach Mark Richt, running backs coach Thomas Brown and offensive coach Brian Schottenheimer. Holyfield told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution when he first received the offer last September that Georgia "has been my favorite team since I was young."

Holyfield watched Knowshon Moreno, Todd Gurley and other backs come through Georgia's system, and he's watching current backs Nick Chubb, Keith Marshall and Sony Michel put work in for Richt and the coaching staff. Georgia also happens to be the school that Holyfield's father, former world heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield, has followed for quite some time.

Dad's favorite player? Herschel Walker.

"I'm a Georgia Bulldogs fan," the elder Holyfield told 247Sports' Keith Neibuhr at The Opening in July in Oregon. "I've always been a Bulldog. I always cheered for the Bulldogs. There was just something about the Bulldogs."

There's Georgia, but the Holyfield house also knows Auburn quite well. Elijah's older brother, Evander Holyfield Jr., ran track and was a walk-on football player at Auburn a few years back.

Elijah Holyfield has been in contact with several members of the Auburn coaching staff since landing the offer in January. Holyfield has an established relationship with head coach Gus Malzahn, running backs coach Tim Horton and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee.

Holyfield has two solid SEC schools to choose from in Georgia and Auburn, but Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee could be schools that end the running back's recruiting process with a twist. Alabama offered in April, and he was at a camp in May.

South Carolina offered in January, and he's made a couple of unofficial visits. Tennessee offered him near the end of his sophomore year, and he's made several visits to the campus since.

Holyfield wants to attend a school where he can put up big numbers and help his team get victories. As a junior, he rushed for 1,735 yards and 25 touchdowns. He also showed his ability to be a pass-catching back, finishing the year with 27 catches for 289 yards and three touchdowns.

Friday will be the day one of the SEC schools gets a big recruiting win. Ask his father, and a decision—which is all in his son's court—is fairly simple.

"To me, it's about education and looking at his profile—what it’s going to take for him to be the very best and not make the mistakes that I made," Holyfield told Niebuhr. "He's proven that he can play ball. ... My thing is, because what I went through, I want to make sure he has a good education, because you can't play ball the rest of your life."


Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles

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College Football Picks Week 1: B/R's Expert Predictions for Top 5 Games

It has begun.

It's been eight long months since hardcore college football fans have been without that for which they live and breathe. Eight long months since they saw the Ohio State Buckeyes hoist the national championship trophy in the inaugural season of the College Football Playoff. 

But now, it's on—football is back! And Week 1 offers some intriguing matchups sure to whet the whistle of everyone who can't wait till Saturdays. 

With questions about their starting quarterback still lingering, Nick Saban's Alabama team kicks off the season with a tough game against the always-pesky Wisconsin Badgers in a neutral-site game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. 

Two traditional college football powerhouse programs face off as Notre Dame hosts Texas. The Longhorns are looking to put a disappointing 2014 season in the rearview as the Charlie Strong era begins to take shape. And Notre Dame is hoping new starting QB Malik Zaire can be the man to carry them to CFB's promised land. 

Will Auburn's new starting QB Jeremy Johnson live up to the hype already being thrown at him? The Tigers host Louisville in a nonconference throwdown. 

Out west, Arizona State hopes to improve on an impressive 2014 campaign but will face a tough test against the Texas A&M Aggies in a battle of two high-powered offenses. Don't blink in this one, or you might miss something great. 

Our fifth game this week sees the Nebraska Cornhuskers host BYU and features the return of the Cougars' do-everything quarterback Taysom Hill, who returns after fracturing his leg in a game against Utah State last season. 

Each week of the 2015 season, Bleacher Report’s college football experts Adam Kramer, Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee, Ben Kercheval and Greg Couch will be making their predictions on the top five games of the week. These five have a strong background in college football and bring great knowledge and insight to readers.

Whether you agree or disagree with our expert picks, be sure to sound off in the comments below!

*All picks made straight up. Spread is not a factor.

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Ranking Every College Football Conference Heading into 2015 Season

The start of a new college football season usually means nonconference play for most schools—a carryover from the league vs. league action that ended the previous campaign.

Some of the top teams in separate conferences will collide over the first few weeks of the season, paving the way for the all-important matchups at the end of the year. 

This season, the SEC is looking to end its short two-year drought of national championships, while the rest of the Power Five conferences hope to build on their recent successes.

On the eve of college football's long-awaited return, let's take stock of each conference in FBS football and power rank them. These rankings were based on how each league finished last season in the polls, how they are shaping up according to preseason polls and their top-to-bottom strength—how many bad programs weigh them down?

Let us know which conference you think is the best in college football and which ones should be ranked higher or lower in the comments below.

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Will Notre Dame Flip USC 4-Star Commit Daelin Hayes?

The rivalry between Notre Dame and USC often spills over to the recruiting trail, and this year figures to bring another heated tug of war between the two titans over 4-star linebacker Daelin Hayes.

The 6'4", 235-pound Michigan native has been committed to the Trojans for more than a year.

However, as Tom Loy of Irish247 noted, Hayes has locked in a visit to South Bend on Oct. 17, when the Irish will square off against the Trojans.

But is USC in danger of losing its most tenured pledge of the 2016 cycle?

Hayes is saying the right things about still being committed, but with this latest development, it certainly appears to leave the possibility open for a switch down the road.

"I'm committed to USC, but I look forward to getting down on my official visit to Notre Dame and seeing what the Irish have to offer," Hayes told Loy.

Loy also notes a trip to this weekend's season opener against Texas isn't out of the question for Hayes.

Hayes insists his flirtation with the Irish is simply a matter of covering his bases in case something happens with USC, according to Loy:

I spoke to head coach Brian Kelly and defensive line coach Keith Gilmore. With the recent events going on at USC, I've wanted to keep doors open. I talked to Coach Kelly and Coach Gilmore about setting up an official visit to Notre Dame. My official visit date will be predicated on when I'm free and when we don't have something going on with my team, because they're my first priority. I'm going to get down to South Bend and see what they're talking about and hopefully continue to build a relationship with Notre Dame.

Despite Hayes being a longtime verbal to the Trojans, Kelly and his staff have continued to push for him to consider the Irish.

As Loy detailed, Hayes actually grew up a fan of the Irish, which he admits has kept the program on his mind:

Notre Dame has always been there. Growing up, it was always the dream school. With USC, I had never seen California when I went out there. So, I went out there and fell in love with California, the school and the coaches, so I pulled the trigger on it. Notre Dame was always in the back of my mind though.

There are still a lot of positives for the Trojans in the quest to retain Hayes' commitment.

The fact he will get a glimpse of the Trojans squad on his official visit to Notre Dame can be viewed as a positive.

However, if Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff hope to hold onto Hayes, at the minimum, it appears there's work to be done in holding off the Irish.


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

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Cold Hard Fact for Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Fact: The last preseason college football No. 1 team to win the AP Nat'l Championship was USC in 2004

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Fact of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: ESPN Stats & Info

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Why Big Ten Shouldn't Sleep on Michigan Football in 2015

When Michigan kicks off its 2015 campaign against Utah on Thursday night, it will officially bring an end to an offseason unlike any other in school history.

From collecting the most Twitter followers of any head coach to being at the forefront of a summer-long debate over satellite camps to even assisting the victims of a car crash and every awkward radio interview in between, Jim Harbaugh has pushed the Wolverines to the forefront of the college football world before even coaching a game at his alma mater.

The reigning national champions may be Michigan's rival to the south, but the Wolverines have become college football's most talked-about team this offseason, as a palpable buzz has emanated from Ann Arbor throughout the spring and summer. The positive publicity for Michigan this offseason has been undeniable, as evidenced by the Wolverines laying claim to the nation's seventh-ranked recruiting class for 2016, despite coming off a losing season a year ago.

"It's been cool," Wolverines offensive guard Kyle Kalis told Bleacher Report. "It's been different with a guy like Coach Harbaugh at the reins. Everybody wants a piece, everybody wants to get in here and see what's going on."

But when ball finally meets foot inside of Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Thursday night, plenty expect that positive publicity to come to an end.

Twitter followers and blog-friendly headlines won't count for anything on the field when Michigan finds itself facing the Utes, who return 16 starters from a team that went 9-4 in 2014, including a 26-10 win over the Wolverines in Ann Arbor last September. There's a reason why Bovada (via lists Utah as a 4.5-point favorite in the game and why Michigan's over-under win total for the regular season sits at just 7.5 for 2015, per

"It's embarrassing," running back De'Veon Smith said of the Wolverines' 2014 campaign. "It's unacceptable. There's no excuse for us to have a season the way we did."

From their 5-7 record last season to a roster that doesn't currently possess a single player with All-Big Ten honors on his resume, there's a lot not to like about the Wolverines' chances of enjoying a successful season—however you may define one—in 2015.

But while Michigan certainly has its work cut out for itself in the coming season, the improvements it has made this offseason appear to be significant enough to potentially lead to results sooner rather than later.

After all, there's a reason the arrival of Harbaugh brought so much buzz to Ann Arbor.

With the resume he's cultivated at San Diego, Stanford and the San Francisco 49ers over the course of the past 11 years, the former Wolverines quarterback has established himself as one of the country's top turnaround artists.

In 2010, Harbaugh led Stanford to a 12-1 record including a win over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl just four years after the Cardinal endured a 1-11 campaign a year before his hiring. In San Francisco, Harbaugh took a 49ers franchise that hadn't made the postseason in eight consecutive years and led it to three straight conference title games, including a Super Bowl appearance at the end of the 2012 season.

Say what you will about Harbaugh's penchant for wearing out his welcome, but his track record on the sideline speaks for itself. That rings especially true in the college ranks, where all but one of his team's records has improved from the season before, the lone exception being his last two San Diego squads, which each went 11-1.

That would certainly be a welcome trend in Ann Arbor, where Harbaugh's predecessor, Brady Hoke, saw his four Michigan teams get worse with each year. The Wolverines' decline under Hoke came to a crescendo last season when the team appeared to be continually overmatched, as evidenced by its only convincing wins on the year coming against Appalachian State, Miami (OH) and Indiana.

But with a better coach pulling the strings, it's not a stretch to think that Michigan could instantly go from 5-7 to 7-5—and bowl eligible—especially considering that two of the Wolverines' losses last season came by two and seven points apiece.

That, and perhaps more wins, will also be easier to accomplish with dramatic improvement to the team's most important position. And with the arrival of Iowa graduate transfer Jake Rudock, Michigan could very well find itself with just that.

Rudock has yet to have officially been named the Wolverines' starter, but at this point, it would almost be a shock if Shane Morris took the field as Michigan's No. 1 signal-caller against the Utes on Thursday. In the only glimpse Harbaugh allowed into the Wolverines' fall practice, it was Rudock taking snaps with the first-team offense, according to the Michigan Daily's Kelly Hall.

If it is indeed Rudock who winds up being Harbaugh's first QB1 in Ann Arbor as expected, that should be an improvement for the Michigan offense coming off of three seasons under the direction of Devin Gardner. Like Hoke, Gardner's time with the Wolverines endured a steady decline, culminating in a 2014 season that saw him complete 61.5 percent of his passes for 1,896 yards, 10 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

Meanwhile, in Iowa City, Rudock was completing 61.7 percent of his passes for a much more impressive stat line consisting of 2,436 yards, 16 touchdowns and just five interceptions as a junior. He may not be an All-Big Ten-caliber quarterback—he left Iowa after head coach Kirk Ferentz named quarterback C.J. Beathard the Hawkeyes' QB of the future just days after Iowa's loss to Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl—but his safer style of play will be a welcome addition in Ann Arbor, where turnovers became way too commonplace in the last three years.

"He's got that natural leadership ability," Michigan tight end Jake Butt said of Rudock. "He's been there, he's started for Iowa and had success there, so he knows what it takes to win."

With seven starters returning to a defense that ranked seventh in the nation a year ago, merely limiting the turnovers created by the quarterback position—as Rudock has proved capable of doing—could have a dramatic effect when it comes to keeping Michigan in close games. And with a head coach as accomplished as Harbaugh standing on the sideline, the Wolverines just may find themselves with an edge in those games.

If that turns out to be the case, there's no reason for the hype in Ann Arbor to have to die down anytime soon.

"We just want to do something special, we're tired of losing," Butt said. "We just want to take it one game at a time, give Utah our best shot, get on a roll and get something rolling here. See if we can do something big."


Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Welcome to the First Real Year of Charlie Strong's Texas Football Program

For Texas head coach Charlie Strong, Year 2 is the new Year 1.

Starting over is good in its own way. Sometimes it's necessary. There were lessons to be learned from the Longhorns' 6-7 campaign in 2014, but largely, it was forgettable. Plagued by disciplinary issues, injuries, poor offensive play and blowout losses, Strong's first year in Austin was highlighted by plenty of negatives. In hindsight, things weren't as bad as they were made out to be; six wins and a bowl appearance isn't the same as going 1-11, but it certainly felt that way at times. 

If there's one big positive Texas can take from last season, it's that it's over and done with. What happened, happened, and it can't ever be changed. But 2015 isn't just a new year from a literal standpoint, it's also the year Strong can finally put his stamp on the program. 

Consider this first and foremost: What did you hear about Texas this summer? Probably a lot about the quarterback battle between Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard, right? Maybe some things about a few transfers or players not showing up to campus. The ongoing legal battle between Oklahoma State and offensive coordinator Joe Wickline over buyout money remains one of the most absurd—and completely avoidable, if we're being honest—stories in college football. 

Some of those things can be frustrating to a program, to be sure. Here's what we haven't heard about, though: dismissals and suspensions. What a stark contrast from a year ago. 

Strong, of course, dismissed nine players off of last year's team and suspended even more. As Strong explained at Big 12 media days, the decision to part ways with players was never his first choice. 

"So much was made last season about the suspensions. I want you to understand this. My goal is never, ever to kick a young man out of the program," Strong said. "I want them to have every opportunity to be successful, but decisions are made, and sometimes guys feel like they want to do things their way. When that happens, then we have to make a decision on our end." 

The series of dismissals and suspensions truly marked a change in regime in a way nothing else could. Whether Strong will thrive at Texas or not, he's going to do things his way. And players can either get on board or go somewhere else. 

To date, Texas hasn't had to dismiss players like it did in '14. If nothing else, that tells you the players on the roster—both new and left over from the Mack Brown era—have bought in to Strong's vision. It's no longer just former cornerback Quandre Diggs taking a stand. These players on the whole are a reflection of their coach. 

As is Texas' Week 1 depth chart heading into the opener against Notre Dame:  

In all, 15 freshmen and 11 sophomores are featured on the two-deep. Several freshmen—receiver John Burt, linemen Connor Williams and Patrick Vahe, linebackers Malik Jefferson and Edwin Freeman, and defensive back John Bonney—are listed as starters. 

These are Strong's recruits, and if all else is equal, the coaching staff is going to go with the young players to build the program back up. This has been Strong's philosophy dating back to his days at Louisville, as Chris Hummer of 247Sports notes:  

By the end of the 2011 season, the Cardinals had eight true or redshirt freshman listed as a starter on the depth chart. Including sophomores, there were 12 underclassmen listed as starters for the Cardinals in their final game of the season against South Florida. In addition, Louisville’s long snapper, punt returner and main kickoff returner were all underclassmen.

The team's final record that year did not improve – Louisville repeated its 7-6 performance from the year before. But the underclassmen the Cardinals played in 2011 helped lay the foundation for the future. It provided support, too. Over the next two seasons, the Cardinals went a combined 23-3 overall with two bowl wins, one of which included a upset victory over Florida in the 2012 Sugar Bowl.

But introducing so many freshmen also means changing the pace of preseason camp. 

“There’s so many first-time starters now, we’re slowing down the installation,” defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said this month (via Jimmy Burch, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). “We’re just trying to get the foundation in.”

There's a certain amount of hand-holding, but that's to be expected. The positive sign is that young players have been competing hard and pushing the more veteran players. That part can't go unnoticed, because it means no one is interested in waiting in the wings for their turn. That's the kind of mental approach that translates on the field. Whatever happens against the Irish on Saturday, Strong is confident the freshmen who do see playing time will do things at full speed. 

Make no mistake, there will be growing pains. Even Jefferson, for as heralded as he's been this offseason, will goof up. It happens, and it's going to keep happening for a while, as Strong told Max Olson of

You know how some guys put pressure on themselves. I don't want to see that happen to him [Jefferson]. He's going to put so much pressure on himself to always make sure he's always going to be right. No, you're not always going to be right. We do make mistakes. Just grow within the system and it will happen for you.

Inserting so many young players against an experienced and talented team like Notre Dame could easily result in a loss. The Irish, after all, have their sights on a College Football Playoff spot. Yes, it's Strong's job to win games (and to do so quickly), but that only happens when he puts what he thinks are the best players on the field. If those top players with the highest ceilings are freshmen and sophomores who lack experience, then there are going to be some bumps in the road along the way. 

Ultimately, Strong is willing to live with that if he knows they'll play hard for him. In time—maybe even this year—it'll pay off. Don't be surprised if the second half of the 2015 season feels far more optimistic than the second half of the '14 season. 

However Saturday's game in South Bend goes, Strong seems committed to giving his recruits a chance to thrive. This is his team now—the team for which he'll ultimately be judged. 


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. 

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Alabama Football: 2015 Quarterback Battle Update

It’s fitting that a lot of Alabama football fans compare big annual events to Christmas, especially when they’re anxious and not certain about what’s coming.

The first game of the season definitely qualifies as one of them, and when it comes to the ongoing quarterback competition we’ve reached the part of the week that invokes the beginning of the poem “The Night Before Christmas,” with no one stirring, not even a computer mouse.

That, of course, will soon change. Electronic alerts, messages and stories will be sent, posted and seen far and wide as soon as Nick Saban makes an announcement or there's a first confirmed sighting of a starting quarterback before No. 3 Alabama takes on No. 20 Wisconsin in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.

Will it be senior Jake Coker, sophomore Cooper Bateman or junior Alec Morris?

That’s how the three leading contenders were listed with the first unit on Alabama’s depth chart released Monday. It had a defined starter listed at nearly every other position—the exceptions being nose guard, right guard, tight end-H (the one who is also a receiver) and X wide receiver—but there were five names crammed into two spaces at quarterback.

The second team had true freshman Blake Barnett and redshirt freshman David Cornwell, so all five quarterbacks were listed. Who says Saban doesn’t have a sense of humor?

Although after eight months, including spring practices and training camp, the coach still wasn’t ready to say who will take the first snaps, no one would be surprised if that ends up being the order in which they play this season: Coker-Bateman-Morris.

Still, even though they’re sick of being asked about it, their teammates have been saying the right things this week.

“I don’t think it made a difference (during practice),” senior center Ryan Kelly said. “Whoever was in there, it was whatever. We were just going to roll with it. We weren’t going to change our pace or how we play. We were just going to keep on going.”

“You just go in and make sure you do exactly what you need to do,” senior running back Kenyan Drake added. “You can’t really worry about what somebody else does at the quarterback position. As long as I have everything I need to do and the quarterback has what he needs to do on cue, then it shouldn’t really matter.”

During the SEC coaches' teleconference on Wednesday morning, all Saban would offer was, "We're going to make the best decision for our team."

So when might he announce the starter? Just like with the quarterback question itself, there are still numerous possibilities, some looking better than others:

• Wednesday evening: Saban has a press conference after practice. The guess here is that he won’t announce anything because he’ll want to meet with coaches to go over the practice film and tell the players the decision before saying anything to the media.

• Thursday night: The Nick Saban Show will air for the first time during the 2015 season, and last year the coach revealed personnel decisions during radio broadcasts. If Odds Shark was taking bets this would bring the worst return, because at this point there's nothing left to be gained by continued silence. All of the practices have been held, and it’s really too late for Wisconsin to change much in its defensive game plan.

• Friday: Alabama has a final walkthough and flies to Dallas.

• Saturday morning: Saban will almost certainly be interviewed on ESPN’s College GameDay show in the morning. Regardless of what happens between now and then, the chances are pretty good the first question will be about the quarterback position.

• Saturday evening: Maybe Saban won’t say a thing and just let the starting quarterback run out onto the field for the first offensive play. However, the starter will have taken snaps with the first unit during warm-ups, one hour prior to kickoff.

Then comes the next question: Will Alabama play more than one quarterback? A lot will obviously depend on how the game develops, so Saban isn’t ruling it out.

“There's been a lot of people who have success playing two quarterbacks, especially if they have a different style, which a couple of our guys do have a different style,” he said.

Granted, every quarterback is different, but this isn’t like last year, when Blake Sims and Jake Coker had contrasting styles and Saban had offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin speed things up because Sims was more comfortable running a fast-pace offense.

This time, the differences are much more subtle.

“Coker has a great arm,” junior tight end O.J. Howard said. “Cooper Bateman throws the ball precise (sic). Alec has a great leadership (quality), and he also throws the ball precise. Each guy does different things, but they all do something really well.”

So fans are left wondering and wishing for their favorites, knowing that the answer is finally close at hand. It is a holiday weekend, after all.

“No matter which quarterback starts, I think the quarterback that starts will be the guy for us,” Howard said. “I have confidence in him that he’ll get the job done.”


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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Nick Saban Says He Should Have Won 8 National Titles, Discusses Retirement Plans

Nick Saban is one of the most successful head coaches in the history of major college football, but the Alabama Crimson Tide's lead man still doesn't believe his coaching career has lived up to its fullest potential.

According to Connor Smolensky of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Saban revealed Wednesday in an interview with ESPN's Paul Finebaum that he should have far more than four national championships to his credit.

"We haven't finished the season in the last two seasons like we'd like," Saban said. "People talk about you won four national championships. Well, I feel like we've had good enough teams to win eight. So I feel like we failed four times. I feel like I failed four times."

The 63-year-old native of Fairmont, West Virginia, won his first national title at LSU in 2003 before taking three more at Alabama in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

With the exception of his first season with the Tide in 2007, he has never lost more than three games in a single campaign during his time at Alabama.

In addition to the years in which he won national championships, Saban's teams have lost two games or less five times, including earlier stints at Toledo and Michigan State.

While most coaches at Saban's age with such a strong track record might consider retirement in the near future, Saban told Finebaum he has plenty of good years left at the helm, per Smolensky.

"You know my mother had a hole-in-one when she was 80," Saban said. "I never had one. So I'm thinking I have 16 more good years of golf, and if I can play golf I should be able to coach."

Some might question Saban's rationale, but it is music to the ears of Crimson Tide fans. At the same time, it is likely a scary thought for Alabama's rivals in the SEC and across the nation.

Saban currently has 177 career wins to his credit, so if he coaches for another 16 years and averages 10 wins per season, he will reach 337 career victories, which would put him ahead of Alabama legend Bear Bryant on the all-time FBS list and behind only Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden.

One can only assume such a run would bring many more national titles as well, so while Saban can never get back the four championships he believes he squandered, there is no reason why he can't push his total to eight or more at some point. 


Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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No. 1 Recruit Rashan Gary Will Take More Visits Before Narrowing Down to a Top 5

The frenzied recruitment of top-ranked 2016 prospect Rashan Gary isn't slowing down anytime soon.

The dominant New Jersey defensive lineman elected to postpone plans for a preseason list of favorites, according to Todderick Hunt of NJ Advance Media. Gary, a senior at Garden State powerhouse Paramus Catholic High School, previously expected to release a group of five college programs before his first game.

Instead, Gary is taking a step back and surveying various options. Notre Dame and USC will each receive a visit from the 6'4", 311-pound playmaker.

"Rashan wanted to have his top choices by now, however, he does not," Jennifer Coney, Gary's mother, told Hunt. "Before he decides anything, he wants to go to USC and Notre Dame. I know that he said before school (he'd cut down to a top five), but it doesn't even look like it's gonna be September or October."

This develop prolongs an already lengthy recruiting process. Gary has commanded considerable collegiate interest since the earliest stages of his high school career and actually received a verbal scholarship offer from Rutgers in eighth grade.

"It's been a journey since I got that first offer in eighth grade," he told Bleacher Report this spring. "I didn't think much of it until I got to high school and realized there were seniors who worked really hard and still didn't have any offers. Seeing players struggle to get colleges interested at camps kind of puts things in perspective and keeps me humble. A lot of people want to be in my shoes."

Despite expansive attention on his recruitment, Gary has managed to remain largely quiet when it comes to which teams he's leaning toward. Many of his peers named leaders or simply committed well before their senior seasons.

"My mom and I are taking this step by step," Gary told Bleacher Report in April. "I'm not feeling a lot of pressure, but I'm focused on finding the best place for me."

That sentiment still seems to hold true and now sets the stage for more campus visits. 

It shouldn't be surprising to see USC attract attention from another premier East Coast prospect. The Trojans routinely sign top-tier talent from far beyond Pac-12 territory, most recently luring 5-star offensive lineman Chuma Edoga away from Georgia.

Trent Thompson, the top-rated 2015 defensive tackle and fellow Peach State product, also reciprocated interest from USC last year. Gary could be inclined to widen a recruitment that previously didn't seem to have a contender west of Louisiana. 

Notre Dame didn't extend an offer until last December, which is relatively late in a process that started so early. However, the Fighting Irish carry clout as a national brand and feature fellow New Jersey native Brandon Wimbush.

If Gary does indeed journey to South Bend this season, expect the freshman quarterback to join his group of hosts. Those two faced off last fall in a state championship clash, with Wimbush and St. Peter's Prep claiming the title.

Still, much of the intrigue here lies in SEC country, where Auburn, Georgia, Ole Miss and LSU are legitimate landing spots for the 5-star defender. 

Gary, who carries more than 60 scholarship offers, believes he would fit in well as a conference competitor.

"It's grown-man football down there, and these teams have had a lot of defensive players reach the next level," Gary told Bleacher Report. "I've been interested in the SEC since those schools started offering me early."

Expect at least three SEC squads—namely LSU, Auburn and Georgia—to land on his eventual top-five list.

Auburn leads that group with 16 percent of experts' predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball, but you can't undervalue the impact of a proven recruiter like LSU defensive line coach Ed Orgeron. Georgia certainly gained ground with Gary during recent visits.

Although Notre Dame and USC are obviously in the mix for his favorites list, things still point toward a pair of Big Ten teams. Michigan and Ohio State are well-positioned to enter the winter among final options for Gary.

Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh have both treated him like a top priority, and that's exactly what he is for those staffs. Veteran Buckeyes defensive line coach Larry Johnson holds a strong rapport with Gary, while Michigan harbors his strongest connection to any team.

Wolverines assistant Chris Partridge served as head coach at Paramus Catholic last season, leading Gary's squad to the state title game. His presence is paramount in this process and could ultimately prove to be the difference on signing day.

“They treat us like family. Coach Partridge knows how my mom is and knows how I am, so our visit was smooth," Gary told Bleacher Report after an early summer visit to Ann Arbor. "He showed us everything we needed to see.”

Clemson and South Carolina are also programs who could become a factor moving forward following past on-campus experiences.

Gary projects as an immediate candidate to start in college, carrying immense potential at both defensive end and tackle. He collected 55 tackles—10 for loss—and 14 sacks last season.


Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake. 

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