NCAA Football News

Lee Corso Picks Yale to Beat Harvard, Handsome Dan Licks Kirk Herbstreit's Face

This week's headgear pick for College GameDay's Lee Corso was between the Harvard Crimson and Yale Bulldogs, and while he hasn't always had luck picking teams with dog mascots, he didn't shy away from his choice.

Corso picked Yale despite the Bulldogs playing at Harvard as underdogs. After making the pick, Corso brought Yale mascot Handsome Dan onto the set. While Corso put on the headgear, the real bulldog began to lick Kirk Herbstreit's face.

[YouTube, h/t College Spun]

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Charleston Southern vs. Georgia: Live Score and Highlights

Late Third Quarter

Georgia 48, Charleston Southern 3

Brice Ramsey is in at quarterback and Nick Chubb's day is over, but the Bulldog offense continues to roll and the defense remains stout.  Can Charleston Southern get some sparks in the second half?

Follow along here for live analysis.

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Indiana vs. Ohio State: Live Score and Highlights

Ohio State 21, Indiana 20 — Early 4th quarter

Game action is now underway between No. 6 Ohio State (9-1) and Indiana (3-7). The Big Ten Network is televising the matchup from Columbus .

We are watching the game, providing live analysis as the action unfolds:

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College Football: Top 5 Games to Watch in Week 13

The 2014 college football season is just a few weeks away from conference championship weekend, as well as finding out which teams will play in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

The wildest division race remaining is the Pac-12 South Division, where five of six teams in the division are still in contention to play in the Pac-12 title game in Santa Clara, California. The most hyped game of the day will be No. 19 USC traveling to the Rose Bowl to clash with rival No. 9 UCLA in what will be an intense contest with division title hopes at stake.

The other matchup taking place in the South Division will be No. 15 Arizona traveling north to Salt Lake City to face a dangerous No. 17 Utah team.

The Big Ten West Division race is still up for grabs, despite Wisconsin being the favorite at the moment to represent the division in the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis. The 16th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers will look to take down Iowa on the road with their lethal rushing attack led by Melvin Gordon, while No. 25 Minnesota hopes to upset No. 23 Nebraska on the road for the first time since 1960.

Depending on the outcomes on Saturday, Wisconsin and Minnesota could face off in a heated rivalry game for the West Division title next week.

No. 8 Ole Miss continues to stay up in the rankings and keep itself in position for the College Football Playoff, even though it lost two of its last three games. A road trip at Arkansas should present a challenge for the Rebels Saturday afternoon.

In what will be another critical week of division matchups, here are the top five games to watch.

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Minnesota vs. Nebraska: Live Score and Highlights

The Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Nebraska Cornhuskers are getting set to do battle at Memorial Stadium. The game will kick off at noon EST and will be televised on ESPN.

Both teams are coming off tough losses last week. Minnesota fell short of upsetting Ohio State 31-24, while Nebraska got run over by Wisconsin 59-24.

Both teams have the same record at 7-3 and like to play a similar style of football. Minnesota likes to establish the run with David Cobb. The senior running back has rushed for 1,350 yards (third in the Big Ten) and 11 touchdowns.

However, the Cornhuskers like to do the same thing, and their running back is no slouch either. Ameer Abdullah has rushed for 1,319 yards and 17 touchdowns in 10 games this year, which has led him to be a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award.

Be sure to come back to this blog as soon as the game kicks off for the latest scoring updates and highlights.

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College Football Rankings 2014: Final NCAA Overview of Week 13 Standings

We may not have another week featuring a clash between two Top Four teams, but the turmoil of the 2014 college football season will continue. Conference games run amok across the nation at this time of year, and those fierce rivalries always lead to some unexpected results.

While none of the Top Four in Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Mississippi State will be facing ranked opponents in Week 13, none are immune to defeat. Close calls won't be good enough, either. The Seminoles are undefeated but are ranked behind two one-loss teams, proving the College Football Playoff selection committee is taking strength of wins into heavy consideration.

Will we see the Top Four remain the same for another week, or will a surging team like Ohio State or Baylor find its way in? Before many more expected changes within the nation's Top 25 take place, here's one final look at the current standings heading into Week 13.

College Football Playoff committee rankings can be viewed at CollegeFootballPlayoff.com.

Complete CFB standings can be viewed at ESPN.com.

 

Top Week 13 Storylines

Top Four Watch

The Crimson Tide enter Week 13 as the new No. 1 team in the nation in the eyes of the College Football Playoff selection committee thanks to their decisive win over Mississippi State.

Don't expect Alabama to be moving from its top-ranked position any time soon, as a contest with the Western Carolina Catamounts is in store for Saturday. While Western Carolina does hold a 7-4 record, it hasn't exactly had a difficult schedule, and that was apparent when looking back at the team's 51-0 loss to Chattanooga on November 1.

The Oregon Ducks catapulted into the No. 2 position despite spending last week on a bye. The Ducks hammered a stout Utah defense for 51 points one week prior, firmly establishing their offensive dominance. Expect them to continue that trend this week against a Colorado team giving up an average of 38.6 points per game.

Can the Seminoles earn an impressive win? They haven't been able to pull away from opponents lately, and that resulted in a drop down the rankings despite an undefeated record. Here's a very telling statistic, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info:

This week, Florida State will try its hand against an unpredictable Boston College team.

The Eagles have had their fare share of good games this year. They defeated USC back in September while rushing for a total of 452 yards. However, they've also disappointed at other times and are coming off a bad loss to Louisville. We'll see which version of this team shows up against Florida State.

Mississippi State was handed its first loss of the season by Alabama in Week 12. This Saturday, the Bulldogs have a great chance for redemption against a Vanderbilt team ranked 119th in the nation in scoring offense and 102nd in scoring defense. Expect Dak Prescott and Co. to have a field day here. 

 

Battle of Fringe Teams

It's coming down to the wire for teams on the outside looking in. Several worthy squads are just beyond the periphery of College Football Playoff eligibility, and each will need a strong performance to warrant any kind of chance to break through that barrier.

With No. 5 TCU inactive this week, one of the trailing teams could potentially leapfrog into that position if it gives a strong enough performance.

No. 6 Ohio State is a very likely candidate. Freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett has been playing out of his mind lately, notching two consecutive wins against ranked opponents. His 189 rushing yards in Week 12 against Minnesota set a new school record for a quarterback. With 38 total touchdowns on the season, he set another, even more impressive, record, via ESPN College Football:

All of a sudden, Barrett is in contention for the Heisman, and the Buckeyes are in contention for a playoff berth. This week they face an Indiana team that is giving up a massive amount of points each week, allowing an average of 33.6 per game. Expect Ohio State to take advantage and impress the selection committee with some gaudy numbers.

Just behind the Buckeyes is Baylor. It would be a tragedy to count out the Bears' top-ranked scoring offense at this time of year. After all, quarterback Bryce Petty's offense is averaging a whopping 50.1 points per game. We could be in for a laughable number here, as the Bears take on an Oklahoma State defense ranked 91st in the nation, allowing 30.0 points per contest.

If the Buckeyes and the Bears can put up enormous offensive numbers, and win by large margins, the selection committee will be left with an interesting decision at the No. 5 spot for Week 14.

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Bowl Projections 2014: Playoff Predictions, Odds and More Before Week 13

Remember when there was some concern among college football commentators and fans that a playoff would take away the excitement of the regular season and devalue it to a degree? 

So much for that.

As the 2014 season heads into the final couple of weeks, seven teams have a realistic claim for the four College Football Playoff spots. Factors such as road victories, overall strength of schedule and even style points have come into play, and there are bound to be more surprises before the final rankings are released.

With that in mind, here is a look at some playoff projections and odds heading into a critical Week 13.

 

Statmilk and Odds Shark Playoff Odds

*Odds Shark national championship odds can be found here. Listed odds are as of Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. ET.

 

Scott Polacek Playoff Projections

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Baylor

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Oregon  

Championship Bowl (in Arlington, Texas): TBD (semifinal winners)

 

Style Points Week in Race for No. 4

Given Alabama’s status as the SEC favorite; Oregon’s No. 2 position and marquee wins over Michigan State, UCLA and Utah, among others; and Florida State’s undefeated record, it is a fairly safe assumption that the Crimson Tide, Ducks and Seminoles will occupy three of the four playoff spots if they win out.

That leaves Mississippi State, Ohio State, TCU and Baylor fighting for that final seed.

Week 13 does not exactly feature a banner slate of games for these playoff contenders, as the Bulldogs are home against Vanderbilt, the Buckeyes are home against Indiana, the Bears are home against Oklahoma State and the Horned Frogs have a bye.

That means everyone outside of TCU will be focusing on accumulating style points to go along with their likely win. The question is, which team will rack up the most?

Technically, beating Vanderbilt counts as an SEC victory, which means something in the eyes of SEC defenders, but nobody is going to mistake the Commodores for Alabama or Auburn. Mississippi State will likely run away with this contest in the early going, especially against a Vanderbilt defense that allows 32.4 points a game.

In fact, Vanderbilt is 119th in the nation in scoring offense and 102nd in scoring defense, so there really isn’t anything it does well. Bryan Fischer of NFL.com highlighted just how poor of a season it has been for the Commodores:

Anything short of a 40-point win probably won’t move the needle much for Mississippi State.

As for Ohio State, it is playing the one team in the Big Ten without a conference win in Indiana. Much like Mississippi State, Ohio State really doesn't have much of an opportunity to make a statement barring a complete blowout, although the Hoosiers do feature the nation’s second-leading rusher in Tevin Coleman.

If the Buckeyes manage to stop Coleman in his tracks and also pick up a dominating victory, it would at least say something about their defense.

In terms of name recognition, Baylor has the greatest opportunity to rack up some style points on Saturday in its contest with Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are struggling after four straight losses by 21 or more points, but some college football fans may remember the season opener when they almost knocked off Florida State.

Thanks to injuries and overall attrition, this is a different Oklahoma State team than the one that challenged the Seminoles, but, fair or not, its name and history at least inspire more confidence than an Indiana or Vanderbilt. Perception is everything in college football, and that will help Baylor.

The Bears are also looking for some revenge from last season since the Cowboys were the ones to knock Baylor out of the national championship race. Baylor will be motivated by the playoffs and revenge, which is a daunting proposition for Oklahoma State.

Head coach Mike Gundy seemed to see the writing on the wall in his pregame comments, according to The Associated Press, via ESPN.com:

You can come up on them and try to stop them in the flats, but then they'll throw it over your head. If you stay off of them, they'll throw it in the flat. If you throw too many people back in coverage, they'll try to run the ball on you.

When you play teams that are better, it's hard to have a lot of success, especially when you're struggling in certain areas. Baylor's defense is pretty good, too.

Baylor hopes the selection committee thinks it is as good as Gundy does after Saturday’s game.

 

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Mississippi State's Late Scholarship Pull Shows What's Wrong with Recruiting

This is not just a Mississippi State problem. Before you direct your outrage exclusively in the direction of a singular program or head coach, keep that in mind. That doesn’t excuse the Bulldogs for pulling the scholarship of a high schooler poised to graduate in just over two weeks—a decision based on the verbal agreement the two entities had in place—although the context is essential.

If you needed a reminder that recruiting in its present, booming form could use a crash course in common sense, common practice and common decency, you got one. Given the lawless, Wild Wild West-feel to this process as a whole, however, the latest unfortunate turn for one player should come as no surprise. Just toss it in the pile.

The most recent victim of this loophole-filled recruiting world is Chason Virgil, the No. 19-ranked pro-style quarterback, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings. The West Mesquite High School (Texas) product—a 3-star talent, according to the recruiting outlet—was a Mississippi State commit holding a scholarship offer from the program.

As part of this agreement, Virgil planned to graduate in December so he could enroll at Mississippi State in January.

That was until the Bulldogs, without warning, pulled their offer, putting Virgil in a difficult situation given the timing. Instead of allowing Virgil to join the team on scholarship—per the original “agreement”—Mississippi State asked if the quarterback would grayshirt this upcoming season instead.

A grayshirt is more or less a convenient way for a coach to manage his roster, putting the relationship between player and school in a holding pattern of sorts for the sake of regulating roster size. By accepting the grayshirt, Virgil wouldn’t have been allowed to be put on scholarship until the following January.

Instead of agreeing to these updated terms, Virgil decided to decommit from the program that he had been committed to for months, thus becoming a free agent. As a result, he’s been thrown into a unique predicament.

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

Jeff Neill, Virgil’s coach at West Mesquite High School, has since chimed in on the events through various outlets. As you might expect, he’s not happy. That’s putting it mildly. Neill told Devin Hasson of Star Local Media:

The first thing he said was he was glad that he found out now instead of signing and getting up there and then finding out.

Second, he doesn't want to play for a coach that is going to make these kinds of decisions ... he wants a coach that has his interests in mind and is going to be honest with him. Going to any college, you want to have a coach you can trust and believe in.

Neill followed up these thoughts on social media, providing further perspective on his outrage and directing it a little more clearly at one human being. This human being just so happens to be one of the nation’s hottest coaches:

Miss St. pulls scholarship from our QB Chason Virgil w/16 days til graduation. Classless move by "coach" Dan Mullen

— Jeff Neill (@neill_jeff) November 21, 2014

Chason Virgil -35 tds/6int passing -8td rushing. One of the best young people I've ever coached -only flaw was trusting "coach" Mullen.

— Jeff Neill (@neill_jeff) November 21, 2014

The danger in these situations—and Virgil is not alone when it comes to the ugly underbelly of the recruiting world—is that these players are numbers.

When the numbers don’t add up, adjustments are made. The grayshirt allows coaches a tool to manage these figures. It’s where the handshakes and living room visits suddenly become a name on a spreadsheet.

Had Virgil been the nation’s No. 3 pro-style quarterback rather than No. 19, this wouldn’t have been an issue—at least not for this particular player. Virgil would have graduated early, and Mississippi State would have welcomed this premier prospect to campus with open arms.

The Bulldogs would have never thought to ask a talent with that label to sit out a season, because that would not have been in the best interest of the business. And in the end, despite the emotional, relationship-driven nature of recruiting, business trumps all.

Such difficult decisions have been made in plenty of other places, and the merits of the grayshirt have been dissected from a variety of viewpoints. Regardless of its place in the recruiting world—or whether the practice of offering this option will continue—it’s abundantly clear that situations like these should never reach this point.

It’s not the end of the world. Virgil will undoubtedly latch onto another program, and perhaps in the long run, he will find the disappointment to be a blessing. But he should have never been in this quandary in the first place; no high schooler—regardless of the star next to his name—should be dealt such news.

Unless there is an underlying factor beyond meeting numbers that prompted the decision, the outrage is understandable. It’s warranted in this instance, especially given the way early enrollment was explored.

Although a player can commit and decommit as he pleases before signing a letter of intent, allowing the school the same freedom is dangerous given the one-sided nature of the contract. The schools accept the verbal agreement for exactly what it is: the word of a 17- to 18-year-old.

They know it can change at any moment before pen hits paper, and they accept that risk anyway. It’s the lone leverage the players have at any point in the process. Pulling a scholarship entirely without cause isn’t a product of indecision. It’s fine print being executed, and as a result, it should be viewed as a different act entirely.

Beyond any rule or guideline in an enormous, evolving book, it would behoove the NCAA to view situations such of these from our viewpoint. It really boils down to simple question.

Is this right?

The answer to this question is an overwhelming no, albeit a complicated no with various avenues to explore. The fact that Mississippi State was simply acting within the guidelines provided is the most concerning aspect of all. Other schools—plenty of others, in fact—exercise this same right because they can.

It’s why Virgil and others just like him can go from commit to collateral damage in an instance. Because in the end, Virgil is just a number, a tally on a spreadsheet and an expendable asset once he’s no longer of use.

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Tim Tebow Caught Wearing Volunteers Shorts While on Tennessee Campus

Florida Gators fans probably aren't going to like this.

While on Tennessee's campus for SEC Nation, former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow was spotted talking with players while wearing Volunteers shorts.

The Volunteers might have been one of Tebow's opponents in college, but now that he's an analyst, he's making sure to give all the teams in the conference some love.

[Twitter, h/t College Spun]



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The Most Important Oregon Players for the Rest of the Year

It’s late November, and the Oregon Ducks (9-1, 6-1) are once again in the hunt for a national title. With only two games remaining on the regular-season schedule, the second-ranked Ducks are well-positioned to earn a bid into the inaugural College Football Playoff.

If the Ducks are able to win their next three games, including the Pac-12 Championship Game on Dec. 5, they will be in the Playoff, and quarterback Marcus Mariota will likely be taking home the first Heisman Trophy in the history of the Oregon program.

According to Bleacher Report’s Ed Feng, the Ducks have a 72 percent chance of advancing to the College Football Playoff, and his algorithm currently projects that the Ducks will be the No. 2 seed.

Oregon is well on its way to an appearance in either in Rose Bowl or Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1. However, in order to get there, the Ducks are going to need outstanding performances from some of their top players and from some replacements who are taking over for well-established veterans.

Who are the Ducks counting on most the rest of the season? Let’s take a look.

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Bowl Projections 2014: Predicting Biggest Postseason Matchups

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Why the Top Four Will Shuffle, but Remain the Same

Alabama is the Best Team in the Country

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

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

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

 

Mississippi State Will Be Back

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

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

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

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

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

 

Kings of the Pac-12, but Still 3rd

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

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

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

 

Reigning, Undefeated and Disrespected

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

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oklahoma Football: 2015 Recruits Sooners Must Land

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

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

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

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

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

How far and wide, you ask?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Northwestern Sports (@NU_Sports) November 21, 2014

[Twitter, h/t 247Sports]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Texas Football: 5 Longhorns Poised for a Breakout 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Aaron Lynch

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

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

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

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

 

Front Seven

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

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

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

— Mike Monaco (@MikeMonaco_) November 18, 2014

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

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

 

Offensive Skill

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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

Where has the Heisman race been this season?

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

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

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

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

How is that the case?

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

Meanwhile, Mariota and Oregon had the weekend off. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the backup formula:

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

He's in too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that's the thing. 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Big Ten Football: Bold Predictions for Rest of 2014 Season

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

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

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

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

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