NCAA Football News

Recruits Who Exploded on Day 2 of The Opening

The top high school football athletes in the nation are out in Oregon at The Opening to prove that they are the best of the best. These studs are putting it all on the line to show the world that they will be dominant forces at the next level. A few big-time recruits have stood out amongst the rest on Day 2 of The Opening.

How well do you think these monsters will do at the next level?

Watch Bleacher Report’s College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the latest on these top athletes who were the most impressive at The Opening.

 

Rankings from 247Sports Composite

 

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2014 Stat Predictions for Every Pac-12 Football Starting QB

With 10 starting quarterbacks returning to the Pac-12 in 2014, you can expect another season filled with explosive offenses and gaudy statistics.

Only Arizona—who has yet to name a starter—and Washington—who will likely fill the void left by Keith Price with Cyler Miles—don't have players with significant experience returning to the position.

After that, it's a who's who of the nation's best signal-callers, from 2013 Heisman candidates Marcus Mariota of Oregon and UCLA's Brett Hundley to big-armed stats guys like Oregon State's Sean Mannion and Connor Halliday out of Washington State.

There's even a special group of promising young guns led by Cal's Jared Goff and Colorado's Sefo Liufau.

How will these playmakers fare in 2014, and what kind of numbers will they put up?

Given the wild stats we saw in 2013, and assuming that no one will experience a major regression, things could get crazy on offense in the Pac-12.

We're taking a stab at their end-of-season stat lines—partly so you'll have an idea about what to expect in the fall, but mostly so we can all look back at this and laugh come December.

Predictions are based on the assumption each QB will start all of his team's games. While that's not likely for all 12 teams, there's no way to predict injuries—nor would we want to.

 

All stats via cfbstats.com.

 

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Clemson Football: 4 Freshmen Who Must Shine in Fall Practices

Every year across college football, new stars are born. When upperclassmen bolt to the NFL, youngsters are ready to step in and make an impact. For the Clemson Tigers, who lost several talented players in the 2014 NFL draft, the time is now for a group of talented freshmen.

While the Tigers were able to replace Tajh Boyd at quarterback with senior Cole Stoudt, other positions will experience an infusion of youth.

Fall camp is just weeks away for Clemson. The season opener at Georgia is approximately seven weeks away. Which freshman is ready to impress coaches and push his way into the starting lineup?

Here's a look at four freshmen who need a strong fall practice before the Tigers head to Athens on August 30.

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The Beasts Who Blew Up the Opening Lineman Challenge

The top athletes are out in Oregon at The Opening to prove they are the best recruits in the nation. The lineman challenge has some of the biggest monsters grinding to show they can be a huge asset at the next level. Which of these studs do you think will become the most successful?

Watch Bleacher Report’s College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the top linemen out in Beaverton competing in the lineman challenge.

 

Rankings from 247Sports Composite

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Michigan Football: 5 2016 RB Recruits Who Could Be Game-Changers

If a team's winning in the Big Ten, it's winning on the ground; and in order for Michigan to regain its hold of the conference, it must restore its once-powerful rushing attack. 

In the not-so-distant past, the Wolverines gashed opponents with their running backs. However, that hasn't been the case as of late. But coach Brady Hoke has done a job second to none when it's come to recruiting, so the emergence of a dynamic power back should be right around the corner. 

As usual, Michigan has its eyes set on the country's elite. This slideshow will take a look at the best running backs of 2016 while breaking down their games and analyzing their interest in the Wolverines.

 

Note: 247Sports will serve as the guide for information such as ranking, height, weight, school and visits/offers.

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Every Top 25 College Football Team's Most Under-the-Radar Player

The 25 teams projected to appear in the preseason polls this summer are expected to do so, more than any other reason, because they have superstars and established players and big-name recruits all over their depth charts.

But even—nay, especially—the best teams must get contributions from their lesser-known players each season. If the supposedly weaker parts of the roster are rescued by a dark-horse contributor or two, the bigger-name players should look all the better because of it.

The whole team should look better because of it!

In reading this list, it's important to remember that "under the radar" is relative. A well-known player to you and the fans of your team might be anonymous to everyone else. Each player included on this list is expected to contribute next season, so obviously the local media are talking about them. The national media, however, might not be.

The basis for the rankings on this list was the projected Associated Press preseason top 25 that Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee put together in April. Obviously, everyone has a different opinion on which teams will be ranked—and that opinion, in most cases, dogmatically includes their own school—but this seemed like the fairest template.

Kindly direct all complaints to @NobodyCares, or, if you prefer, sound off in the comments for some reasonable discourse. Enjoy!

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2014 SEC Football Media Days Attendees Announced

The SEC released the full list of attendees for its 2014 Football Media Days Wednesday afternoon, which can only mean one thing: It's officially almost almost-football season!

The four-day spectacle, which will take place this year from July 14-17 in its usual location, the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama, features press conferences from league commissioner Mike Slive, all 14 SEC head coaches and three players from each team.

Here is whom each program is bringing along:

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee hit on some of the notable player absences earlier in the day, listing the following as his top five:

  • QB Jacob Coker, Alabama
  • RB Mike Davis, South Carolina
  • QB Hutson Mason, Georgia
  • QB Brandon Harris, LSU
  • RB Kelvin Taylor, Florida

The quarterback omissions are disappointing but understandable. Coker, Mason and Harris are charged with replacing AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger, respectively, and no matter how prepared they are to face an SEC pass-rush, none of them is ready for the tsunami of reporters that waits in Hoover.

Seriously. Go ask Johnny Manziel.

Of the six quarterbacks who will not avoid the limelight of Media Days—Nick Marshall (Auburn), Jeff Driskel (Florida), Bo Wallace (Ole Miss), Dak Prescott (Mississippi State), Maty Mauk (Missouri) and Dylan Thompson (South Carolina)—only Mauk and Thompson have never been full-time starters. But they have started a few games apiece, including one against each other last season.

Also worth mentioning: Texas A&M has decided to bring its punter, Drew Kaser. I guess that's a fair reward after using him so infrequently last season, when the Aggies punted just 45 times.

Whose inclusion at Media Days are you guys most excited about? And which exclusion bums you out the most?

Sound off in the comments below.

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Why NCAA Powers Won't Actually Need to Change Scheduling Strategy in Playoff Era

Perception is reality in college football.

While it may seem like perception will become less important in the age of the College Football Playoff, where the title will be "settled on the field" (even though it was during the BCS era, too), it actually will become more important thanks to the selection committee.

Stewart Mandel of FoxSports.com detailed four critical questions that will determine the playoff participants: the eye test, strength of schedule, importance of conference championships and the specific analytics that will be made available to the 13-member committee.

That speaks to the overall subjectivity involved with this entire thing. Every member will have their own preferences on what matters and what doesn't.

As a result, schools are left guessing this offseason when it comes to how they want to approach future scheduling. We've seen Georgia and Notre Dame ink a home-and-home series, LSU announce home-and-home series with UCLA and Arizona State in March and Florida and Michigan agree to play in the 2017 Cowboys Classic.

Of course, part of the reason we've had a wave of out-of-conference matchups announced is because two conferences—the SEC and ACC—announced they'd stay at eight conference games but also require at least one out-of-conference power-five matchup per year.

But there are other schools that have gone the other way. 

Baylor scheduled "football power" Incarnate Word in 2019. As Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer pointed out, athletics director Ian McCaw doesn't really care if you care.

Schools don't have to change their scheduling plans to appease the College Football Playoff just yet.

Sure, some might. 

After all, one of the most important items in Mandel's piece is Wisconsin athletics director and selection committee member Barry Alvarez discussing "intent of the schedule."

When Alabama agreed to play West Virginia in one of two 2014 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games, it thought it would get something close to the team that just hung 70 on Clemson in the Orange Bowl—not a 4-8 mess that lost back-to-back games to Kansas and Iowa State to close the year.

Until we see the playoff committee in action, though, it'd be nothing more than an educated guess to schedule out-of-conference games with the selection committee in mind.

If it turns out that the selection committee puts a disproportionate amount of emphasis on conference titles—which sometimes, but not always, are an indicator of championship-worthy teams—then beefing up a schedule isn't going to help all that much. Sure, there could be a few instances where it comes into play, but those would be the exceptions, not the rule.

Besides, for most schools, strategies have remained the same regardless of postseason format. 

Alabama has played games against Penn State, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Michigan under current head coach Nick Saban. Oregon has gone to Boise State and played Tennessee and LSU in recent years and will host Michigan State in 2014. LSU has played the likes of Oregon, North Carolina, West Virginia and Washington since 2008.

The most important goal for any team is to win its games, no matter who they're against. 

Beefing up strength of schedule now, with no real working knowledge of how much the committee will weight it, is just an insurance policy.

Teams don't need to change their policies, they need to adapt with the times. If a conference's prestige seems like it's taking a hit, maybe that's the right time to make a major point to schedule big. If a conference is down in the dumps, you go big because you have to.

That's not something that changes because of the playoff, it's something that changes with the playoff.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

 


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5 Players We Wish Were Coming to SEC Media Days

After a long wait, the list has finally arrived.

The SEC announced the players who will be attending next week's circus known as SEC Media Days at the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel, and the headliners shouldn't surprise.

Alabama safety Landon Collins, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall and Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel will all be there representing their schools. But there will be some players sitting at home who we wish were making the rounds at the Wynfrey.

Our top five players we wish were coming to Media Days are in this slideshow.

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The Opening Providing Proof Texas and Oklahoma Are in a Recruiting Slump

The traditional top teams of the Big 12 should be worried. Recruiting may still be won and lost on national signing day, but it's a 24/7/365 event. 

Right now, Oklahoma and Texas are falling behind. 

The Opening, Nike's annual showcase of the nation's top high school talent in Beaverton, Oregon, is in full swing this week. Some of the most ridiculous athletes anywhere are on display. For example: Virginia defensive end Josh Sweat, he of the 6'5", 240-pound body, ran a 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds, per B/R's Tyler Donahue

That kind of athleticism is simply unfair.

"Josh is just a freak athlete," fellow Opening participant Kirk Merritt told Donohue, who was on location. "I knew I would be tough to beat him. He's the kind of athlete you never really see and I thought he was pretty amazing."

Of course, a blazing 40 time doesn't mean a prospect is going to flourish at the college level. For that matter, the recruiting star system is an inexact science, as explained by B/R's Kynon Codrington

For one, size isn't everything in July. It's more about quality over quantity. The 2015 classes for the Longhorns and Sooners are small but solid. 

Perusing the top 25 players at this year's Opening (via Donohue), the words "Texas" and "Oklahoma" appear infrequently, however. As Paul Myerberg of USA Today tweets, a sizable chunk of the prospects at The Opening are going to one of three schools:

That's a bit worrisome if you're a fan of Oklahoma or Texas.

Kendall Sheffield, a 5-star corner and the No. 1 player in the state of Texas, has the Longhorns as one of his two favorites. Suffice to say, he'd be a major addition for first-year coach Charlie Strong. Malik Jefferson, another one of the Lone Star state's top recruits, is considering Oklahoma. 

But by and large, that's it for the Big 12's perennial programs.

It's worth pointing out that verbal commitments mean nothing until signing day and that The Opening roster is well over 150 players strong, some of whom are seriously considering Texas and/or Oklahoma. There's still plenty of time between now and signing day 2015.

What's bothersome for Texas and Oklahoma is not consistently being in the conversation for the nation's top recruits. 

There is a correlation between recruiting and competing at a championship level. Looking at the past few national champs—Florida State, Alabama and Auburn—it's no surprise to see that their recruiting classes finished in or around the national top 10 or 15. 

Texas and Oklahoma finished just outside the top 15 in 247Sports' composite rankings in 2013. In February, the Sooners closed as well as anyone to land the No. 14 class nationally. Texas, transitioning to new coach Strong, did its best to hold its class together (finishing 17th). 

The surprising part was seeing Texas, and Oklahoma to a much greater extent, be beaten out in the state of Texas. The Longhorns signed eight of the top 50 in-state players this past signing class, but the Sooners had just one. 

Compare that to 10 who committed to Texas A&M and even six who committed to surging Baylor. 

2015 classes are obviously incomplete, but there's no doubt the Aggies are off to another blistering hot start in-state. Texas, with four commits, and Oklahoma, which has three, have work to do. 

This is an anxious time for two programs with championship aspirations. What neither program wants is for Texas to become SEC territory. It's more than possible that the Horns and Sooners close well and reclaim their spot back among college football's best destinations. 

For now, both programs are recruiting at a good but not great level. 

Sometimes, that's not good enough.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports 

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Florida State Football: Constructing the Seminoles' All-BCS Era Team

The Bowl Championship Series is gone, but not forgotten. For the Florida State football team, it was a system that worked well as far as putting the Seminoles in position to win a national title.

FSU played in the first three designated BCS title games, falling to Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl in January 1999 before defeating Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl in January 2000 and then losing to Oklahoma in January 2001 in the Orange Bowl.

FSU capped the BCS era with a 34-31 win over Auburn in January 2014 in the BCS title game. 

Those FSU teams were loaded with talented players. So we decided to construct FSU's All-BCS Era team, a collection of players from 1998-2013 that includes a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and a large group of All-Americans.

 

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report, all quotes obtained first-hand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of FSU media guides, seminoles.com and profootball-reference.com. Follow Bob on Twitter.

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Notre Dame Football: Stud WR Recruit C.J. Sanders Looks Like Answer in the Slot

Notre Dame fans got a sneak peek at future wide receiver C.J. Sanders on Tuesday, and the diminutive speedster might finally be the answer at slot receiver that Brian Kelly has been looking for since arriving in South Bend. 

Sanders, who committed to Notre Dame in early May, was one of the top performers at The Opening, Nike's elite summer football camp, where the SPARQ National Championships took place. Running a blazing 4.32 on the 40-yard dash and a ridiculous 3.80 on the 20-yard shuttle, Sanders made the event's finals and cemented his place among the most electric athletes in the country.

At 5'8.5" and 175 pounds, Sanders looks like a prototype slot receiver. And he could quickly find his way onto the field for the Irish, playing a position where the Irish have struggled to find a natural fit. 

After getting great success from the position at Cincinnati, Kelly has mixed and matched as he's searched his roster high and low for a good fit. In 2010, the Irish moved Theo Riddick from running back to the slot, with Kelly predicting dynamic results that never came. Riddick put up just 414 receiving yards, modest production considering Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph were also on the field. Riddick's numbers flatlined in 2011, managing a meager 436 yards before finishing the year in the backfield as a running back. 

In 2012, the Irish essentially gave up on a traditional slot receiver. They platooned journeyman Robby Toma with Daniel Smith, pairing the miniature Toma with the jumbo-sized Smith, who served primarily as a blocker while only chipping in seven catches in 13 games. 

The Irish have had bad luck at the position as well. Top recruit Davonte Neal, who looked like the future of the position, transferred after one season. Smith's season-ending injury early last year turned the spot into a revolving door, with Kelly and then-offensive coordinator Chuck Martin putting tight ends Troy Niklas and Ben Koyack on the edge, mostly to block. 

Heading into 2014, Notre Dame has converted running back Amir Carlisle platooning with converted safety C.J. Prosise in the slot. They're hardly traditional choices. And while many expected incoming freshman Justin Brent or sophomore Torii Hunter Jr. to get a shot at the inside receiver, neither spent any time there in the spring and both will currently provide depth from the outside. 

Getting back to Sanders, his performance in Oregon will likely see the undervalued receiver's stock jump exponentially. A ratings boost is almost assured, with 247's Composite rankings viewing Sanders as just the 364th best player and 47th best receiver in the country. And with Michigan and Ohio State both kicking the tires on Sanders but not offering him, the blazing speed he showed—combined with a pretty impressive highlight reel—should translate to a few more offers coming his way. 

But if Sanders' performance in testing tells us anything, it's that Kelly and the Irish coaching staff do a very good job identifying receivers early in the recruiting cycle. While skeptics point to Kelly's struggles landing top blue-chip prospects at receiver, Kelly has done just fine with below-the-radar recruits. 

While DaVaris Daniels profiles as the closest thing to an elite receiver that Kelly has signed, the Irish look to be in great shape with Chris Brown, Corey Robinson and Will Fuller. That trio will likely play a very large role for the Irish in 2014, and at the time of their commitments, you'd have thought the Notre Dame staff was reaching for all three players. 

Sanders will play his final year of high school football in California, transferring to Notre Dame in Sherman Oaks after playing previously in the Nashville area at Brentwood Academy. The step-up in competition (not to mention the matching school name and uniforms) should better prepare him to walk onto campus and compete immediately. 

Entering his fifth season, Kelly has recommitted to the spread attack he ran at Cincinnati. While there's still another season to go before Sanders takes the field for the Irish, he looks like he could play an integral part in the high-powered passing offense. 

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Florida State Coach Jimbo Fisher Catches Shark During Offseason Fishing Trip

Jimbo Fisher is having a pretty good year, in case you couldn't tell.

Not only did he lead the Florida State Seminoles to the 2014 BCS National Championship, but he's also had some success off the field.

Fisher recently went fishing with his wife, Candi, and two sons. At some point during the trip, the Fishers were able to haul in a shark. Given that the shark appears to be longer than Fisher, that's a pretty good catch.

It even looks like one of the boys was dressed for the occasion. 

[Candi Fisher, h/t Dr. Saturday]

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Oregon Football: 4 Freshmen Who Must Shine in Fall Practices

Oregon's No. 21-ranked 2014 recruiting class is rife with talent. In the coming weeks when 2014 practices open, the Ducks' new additions dive in with an opportunity to make a meaningful first impression. 

From former head coach Chip Kelly to successor Mark Helfrich, premier freshmen have made immediate impacts at Oregon in recent years. Some of the cream of this year's recruiting crop will do so once more in 2014.

But even for those freshmen who won't crack the rotation in the coming season, this first season of practices will set the foundation for the Ducks' future.  

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USC Football: Isaiah Langley's Versatility Fits Trojan Trend in Recruiting

When Steve Sarkisian accepted the Trojans head coaching job after the 2013 season, he did so knowing that USC would be facing tremendous depth issues after suffering from three years of NCAA-imposed sanctions.

Those sanctions included the loss of 30 scholarships over that period, thus creating a roster that was only two-deep in quality players at some critical units.

Given those circumstances, "Sark" knew he would have to be creative with recruiting so that his limited scholarship players would deliver the most bang for those precious scholarship bucks.

So began a recruiting plan that would focus whenever possible on player versatility.

In the 2014 recruiting class, Sark signed Adoree' Jackson, a 247Sports 5-star cornerback who will undoubtedly play that position at USC, but who will also be seen catching passes on offense as well as returning kicks on special teams.

Also recruited in that class was John "JuJu" Smith, another 5-star player listed as an "athlete," but who actually made his hay as a safety in high school.

Smith will be catching passes for the Trojans in 2014.

Hell, even Jonathan Lockett, a 4-star cornerback who will stay at that position for the Trojans, will be given a long look as a kick returner on special teams.

The point is that in a pinch, these guys can be effective in other areas if the Trojans' depleted roster demands their attention.

It's a smart strategy and one that Sark and his Trojan recruiting brain trust has continued with the recruiting class of 2015.

For example, Taeon Masonone of USC's first pledges in this classis listed as a cornerback by 247sports.

Mason is being recruited as a receiver by the Trojans.

Another player whose versatility may result in him being looked at in different position is Noah Jeffersona defensive end who tore it up as a tight end in seven-on-seven camps this summer.

Now USC welcomes 4-star prospect Isaiah Langley, a player who is being recruited as a cornerback but whose recruiting video (posted by ESPN on April 6 of this year) features him as a wide receiver.

Langley's future both at USC and beyond is likely in the defensive backfield as tall, quick and athletic corners are always in demand. But that is not the point of this article.

The point is that Sark and his coaching crew are making the best of the short deck they were handed when it comes to replenishing a roster ravaged by the powers that be at the NCAA.

Although USC will have its full complement of scholarships in 2015, it will still take a couple of years to get its roster on par with all of the other programs who have not had to deal with the hurdles that the Trojans have in the last three years.

In the meantime, Sark will rely on recruiting as many players as possible who can step into another position if needed.

It's not the greatest situation to be in, but one that will have to be addressed if necessary.

For Sark and the legions of fans who follow the men of Troy, hopefully that won't be the case in 2014.

 

Follow me on Twitter: @RickMcMahan

 

 

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College Football Week 1 Picks: Clemson Tigers vs. Georgia Bulldogs

The Clemson Tigers led the nation with 122 tackles for loss last season, which is important to consider when making your Week 1 college football picks, as they prepare to take on the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium.

Sports bettors will find that the Tigers are 9.5-point road underdogs in the NCAA football odds, with no betting total available in the marketplace.

Let's take a closer look at this nonconference matchup from a betting perspective while offering up a prediction along the way.

 

Gambling statistics via SBR Forum

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How Germany 7, Brazil 1 Compares to Alabama 42, Notre Dame 14

The first five goals in Germany's 7-1 slaughter of Brazil in Tuesday's World Cup semifinal came in a span of less than 20 minutes. Each one represented a stage of grief experienced (a la the Kubler-Ross model) by the host country: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. 

It's easy to be hyperbolic since people are creatures of the moment, but what happened to Brazil has the makings of the worst sports meltdown that anyone can seem to remember. Brazil, the five-time FIFA World Cup champion, was humiliated on its home turf for the whole world to see. 

According to Twitter Data, it was the single-most discussed sports event on its platform. Ever. 

It also produced perhaps the best series of fan-grieving photos in years. 

B/R's Dan Levy wrote that the blowout will never be matched. Andy Glockner, formerly of ESPN and Sports Illustrated, tried to make sense of what those mortifying 90 minutes meant to a country where football means everything. 

And when the college football world tried to make sense of what it was seeing, the comparisons started rolling in. Among them was Alabama 42, Notre Dame 14 in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game. 

Understand that there is no perfect comparison to what happened between Germany and Brazil because there has never been anything quite like it.

When comparing Brazil-Germany to Alabama-Notre Dame, there's a distinct difference that needs to be addressed: It would have been more accurate if Alabama delivered its beating in South Bend, not in Miami. Furthermore, 7-1 feels closer to something resembling 100-7 in American football. 

Other college football comparisons would have worked, too. UCLA 66, Texas 3 in 1997—later known as "Rout 66"—is one example (h/t Adam Jacobi). USC 55, Oklahoma 19 in the 2005 Orange Bowl is another. The examples go on and on.

But Alabama-Notre Dame is still fresh in collective minds. The way the Tide won has a striking resemblance to the semifinal. Like Germany, the Tide got off to an incredible start, racking up 21 points on its first three drives in the first 15:04. Alabama would score touchdowns on six of its 10 possessions.  

"Domination is not a word I want to use," Irish defensive tackle Louis Nix III said afterward (via ESPN's Brett McMurphy). "We missed a lot of tackles."

It certainly appeared Notre Dame got dominated, though. A few goals into Tuesday's massacre, it was clear Brazil was being dominated, too. It was a surreal turn of events given the history of the Brazilian national team and the talent on the field. 

Like Thomas Mueller of Germany and Brazil's Neymar, the Tide and Irish had star power on the field too, with Nix being one of them.

Among the players drafted from that game were Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, cornerback Dee Milliner and running back Eddie Lacy. Nix, tackle Zach Martin, tight end Tyler Eifert and linebacker Manti Te'o were among those drafted later from Notre Dame. In all, 31 players have been drafted over the past two years between the two schools. 

On the sidelines, Alabama's Nick Saban has four national championships while Notre Dame's Brian Kelly has obviously come close (though he has won national championships at the Division II level with Grand Valley State). Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari won the World Cup in 2002. Germany's Joachim Low has two third-place finishes: one as an assistant in 2006 and one as a manager in 2010. 

Given who was on the field, the history of the two sides and the way things played out, there are plenty of similarities between Tuesday's semifinal and the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.

Some may disagree, but both events are ones fans on both sides won't soon forget—even if some would like nothing more than to do just that. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand.  

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SEC Schools Will Regret Letting SPARQ Finalist Taj Griffin Head West to Oregon

The first night of television coverage of Nike's The Opening turned into the Kirk Merritt Show, as the 5'11", 206-pound running back/wide receiver/athlete won the SPARQ national championship. B/R's Tyler Donohue published a feature on Merritt shortly after winning the event on Tuesday night.

But another finalist turned heads in Beaverton, Oregon, and it's one who will be playing his college football in that state.

Oregon running back commit Taj Griffin.

The 5'10", 175-pound, Powder Springs, Georgia, native jumped 45.8" on Tuesday morning in the SPARQ preliminaries, 43.8" in the final, posted a 4.31 40-yard dash according to 247Sports.com's Steve Wiltfong and a 4.34 in the final.

That sound you hear is Oregon coaches cheering and SEC coaches cringing.

Taj Griffin raises the bar with a VJ of 43.4" pic.twitter.com/SJRD34UhAi

— The Opening (@TheOpening2014) July 9, 2014

Taj Griffin and Jordan Scarlett ran faster 40 times today at The Opening than all but 1 RB from 2014 #NFL Combine

— Michael Carvell (@Carvell_AJC) July 9, 2014

Yeah, he's a freak.

Griffin committed to the Ducks in April over several schools, including the in-state Georgia Bulldogs, USC and Clemson. After his performance at The Opening, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Auburn and the rest of the nine SEC schools who offered Griffin will regret letting him head west.

He isn't just a speedster or a system back who will thrive in Oregon, he's the top all-purpose back in the country for a reason. He's not the biggest player in the world, but he packs a mean punch, hits the hole hard and when he gets out in space, he's capable of hitting the home run.

B/R's Tyler Donohue got video of Griffin's kneeling power ball toss, which shows off his strength.

Oregon RB commit Taj Griffin flashed his speed this morning with 4.31 40, now testing strength with toss. https://t.co/alrzsmBY0h

— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) July 9, 2014

Instead of staying home and in the region, he's committed to playing for a team that the SEC blue bloods may potentially face in the College Football Playoff semifinals or title game. 

No defense wants to see that kind of home run hitter lining up at running back with college football's biggest prize on the line.

Of course, Griffin's recruitment is far from over.

"Any time there's a talented player like Griffin committed to a school that far from home, the programs in closer proximity likely aren't going to give up and go away," said JC Shurburtt, national recruiting analyst for 247Sports.com. "As the time to put pen to paper draws near, I've seen distance become more of an issue. So I suspect other suitors, in the southeast particularly, will continue to recruit him."

He didn't win the SPARQ national title on Tuesday, but Griffin proved by making the finals with a 136.56 score that he's not a system back, he's a future superstar.

One that SEC schools will regret letting get away.

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted, all stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com.

 


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Auburn Football: 5 Stats Tigers Must Improve in 2014

Although Auburn is returning most of its starters from a team that was seconds away from a national championship, widespread progress must be made over the long offseason.

The Tigers took the college football world by storm in 2013 with their run to an SEC title after one of the worst seasons in program history and a complete coaching overhaul. 

Just like their run to Pasadena, they were also a surprise in the numbers of the sport—compared to other elite teams in recent seasons. Auburn's unorthodox style of a devastating run-heavy offense with an up-and-down defense made the team a statistical anomaly.

Here is a look at five statistics where the Tigers were lacking compared to several of the last national championship squads, including an Auburn team with a defense that was below average in several traditional stats but raised some eyebrows in other areas.

While the 2013 Tigers proved that a team does not need to be excellent in these areas in order to be in the mix for the title, improvement could make them even more dangerous, well-rounded opponents as they push for a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

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LSU Football: 4 Freshmen Who Must Shine in Fall Practices

LSU head coach Les Miles will rely on freshmen in 2014 now more than ever. Luckily enough for Miles, his incoming class of newcomers is his best ever. 

Fall practice will be a vital period for the incoming freshmen, as they will have their first chance to prove their worth in pads. The pressure for them to perform in their first year is unlike any other crop of players Miles has ever coached.   

The 2014 class is headlined by 5-star running back Leonard Fournette and wide receiver Malachi Dupre. No matter what happens in fall practice, odds are in Fournette and Dupre's favor to play in the season opener against Wisconsin. The same cannot be said for the rest of the players. 

Here are four freshmen to keep an eye on for the rest of the offseason. 

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