NCAA Football News

Kaden Smith to Stanford: Cardinal Land 4-Star TE Prospect

Elite pass-catchers with tight end size and wide receiver skills are hard to find, which is why Stanford received such a critical boost Saturday when tight end Kaden Smith committed as part of its 2016 recruiting class.

Smith announced the decision on Twitter:

The 6’5 ½” and 235-pound Smith checks in as a 4-star prospect, per 247Sports’ composite ranking.

A number of other national schools were in on Smith’s recruitment throughout the process, including Texas, Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, LSU, Michigan and Oklahoma. 

Ultimately, Smith chose to head to Stanford, where tight ends such as Coby Fleener and Zach Ertz have thrived in recent years. 

Scout Recruiting pointed out that Smith’s versatility was key to landing so many offers, while Andy Drukarev of Rivals.com noted that teams may not be able to do any better on the recruiting trail for the 2016 class at the tight end spot:

Smith has the skill set necessary to contribute right away at the college level as a walking mismatch. He has the speed to get past most linebackers and contend with corners and safeties and the size and the physicality to simply overwhelm most collegiate defenders in the secondary.

Teams will have to pick their poison when it comes to covering Smith, which is a scary proposition for defensive coordinators in his new conference.

Look for Smith to go up and get jump balls in the red zone, pick up critical third-down conversions over the middle and provide critical blocking in the running attack. His coaching staff couldn’t ask for much more in his freshman season.

Recruit star ratings and information via 247Sports, unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida Football: Winners and Losers from Gators' 2015 Spring

Everyone can rejoice—football is here. Well, sort of. The Florida Gators wrapped up the 2015 portion of spring practice with a Orange versus Blue game on Saturday.

New head coach Jim McElwain originally wasn't going to have the traditional spring game due to injuries and depth concerns—particularly along the offensive line. However, McElwain changed course this week and decided to put together a spring game, per Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel

"We're still kind of piece-mealing those groups together right now," McElwain said. "Yet I think we'll be able to go, we'll have a good competitive game as much as we can."

After Saturday's scrimmage, McElwain, an offensive guru, probably realizes he still has some work to do on that side of the ball. The aforementioned offensive line lost five former starters who combined for 99 career starts for UF.

The Orange won Saturday's scrimmage by score of 31-6 (if you're keeping score), and here are the winners and losers from Florida's 2015 spring practice sessions.

Begin Slideshow

Arizona Wildcats Head Coach Rich Rodriguez Let Fans Call Plays at Spring Game

During the Arizona Wildcats' annual spring football game on Friday night, head coach Rich Rodriguez went into the stands and let fans call some goal-line plays, to mixed success.

Suffice it to say, co-offensive coordinators Calvin McGee and Rod Smith likely aren't sweating their job security after the fans' performance as play-callers.

The Wildcats are coming off their best season in 16 years and open their schedule against the University of Texas at San Antonio on September 3. 

[YouTube]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

FSU Spring Game 2015: Live Score, Top Performers for Garnet & Gold Game

Gold 17, Garnet 10—Mid 2nd Quarter

The Florida State Seminoles wrap up spring practice Saturday afternoon with the 2015 Garnet & Gold Game at Doak Campbell Stadium.

ESPN3 is streaming the scrimmage. Bleacher Report is providing scoring updates and reaction throughout the spring game. Please add your thoughts in the comments section.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Spring Game 2015: G-Day Live Score and Top Performers

Black 14, Red 7 - 2nd Quarter

It's that time of year again. The Georgia Bulldogs have taken the field for the annual G-Day game. It is currently being televised on the SEC-Plus Network.

This game give fans a chance to get a glimpse of what the Bulldogs will look like this fall.  Some players to watch will be Jacob Park, Jake Ganus and Jonathan Ledbetter. 

Be sure to keep this blog open when the game begins for scoring updates and analysis. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ole Miss Spring Game 2015: Date, Start Time, TV Schedule, Live Stream and More

Coach Hugh Freeze and the Ole Miss Rebels face quite the challenge Saturday at the program's spring game, otherwise known as the Regions Bank Grove Bowl.

There, Freeze will search for at least continuity after a 9-4 campaign last season while hosting a quarterback competition, replacing critical starters on both sides of the football and going toe-to-toe with the injury bug.

After fading down the stretch last season, losing four of its last six games—including the Peach Bowl in 42-3 fashion—this weekend marks the beginning of an attempted return to SEC prominence for Ole Miss.

 

2015 Ole Miss Spring Game 

When: Saturday, April 11 at 12 p.m. ET

Where: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium

TV: SEC Network

Live Stream: WatchESPN

 

Preview

As it should, the quarterback battle takes center stage Saturday in Oxford.

Gone is leader Bo Wallace, who completed better than 60 percent of his passes last season and led the major upset of then-No. 3 Alabama in October. His backups, DeVante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan, attempted a combined 42 passes last year.

Conventional wisdom suggests former Clemson quarterback Chad Kelly, who arrived in January, is the favorite for the starting gig. Kelly's mobile in the pocket and can get up the field, which seems to make him a strong fit:

It helps last year he won a title at East Mississippi Community College, throwing for 3,906 yards, 47 touchdowns, eight interceptions and rushing for another 446 yards and four scores on the ground.

Recent reviews from the staff have been nothing short of glowing, as Riley Blevins of The Clarion-Ledger illustrates:

As the above video notes, running back will also come into serious focus Saturday.

The running game figures to take a bigger seat at the table than it has in recent years with inexperience leading the passing game. Jaylen Walton is back in the fold after flashing as an outside runner last year, averaging 5.5 yards per carry with 586 yards and five scores.

While those numbers are solid, Jordan Wilkins carried 52 times for 361 yards and a score, suggesting he can be the between-the-tackles bruiser Freeze wants, making the competition even more interesting.

Of course, neither back will look great if the team doesn't have enough linemen to suit up. Blevins notes the conundrum Freeze faces thanks to injuries across his offensive line:

The Rebels were down to just eight able-bodied blockers at a point this spring, but Freeze said he now has 10 healthy offensive linemen at his disposal – just enough to divide up into two teams.

If any lineman goes down with an injury before Saturday, however, Freeze said the Rebels will scrimmage offense vs. defense instead of splitting into teams.

On the opposite side of the ball, the secondary by far steals the spotlight. 

Freeze's defense ranked No. 1 last year with an average of just 16.0 points allowed per game, but losing corner Senquez Golson and safety Cody Prewitt to the NFL means Freeze's unit has a lot of work to do over the weekend.

In fact, the departure of top talent has created a few shifts to compensate. Trae Elston will move to safety, prompting sophomore C.J. Hampton to man his old spot. A hodgepodge of names such as Tee Shepard, Tony Bridges and sophomore Kendarius Webster will duke it out for playing time lower on the corner depth chart.

No matter which format Saturday's event takes, the key areas of observation are obvious. Freeze wants another elite defense and will get it if his new-look secondary can mesh well.

His offense must run to set up the pass, so the wealth of backs need to also put on a strong showing.

The search for a new identity in Oxford begins Saturday, and rest assured the rest of the SEC will be watching.

 

Info courtesy of OleMissSports.com unless otherwise specified.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Football: Freshmen Making Their Presence Known This Spring

Several freshmen are using spring practice as a springboard to show they've got the goods to be the SEC football stars of the future.

Midterm enrollees across the league are using their first trip to a college football practice forum to prove they belong. Other athletes who weren't quite ready in 2014 are making their marks during redshirt freshman campaigns.

Everywhere, coaches are giving extended looks to players who'll carry their programs into the next four-year cycle. 

As injured or established upperclassmen recover everywhere in the SEC, it's the young guys' turn in the spotlight, and spring is a perfect stage to see who can handle the pressure and who is a year (or more) away.

From offensive skill position players into the trenches and across the line of scrimmage to the defensive backfield, the stars of tomorrow are emerging today.

Let's take a look at some freshmen around the league who are proving they belong in one of the nation's toughest conferences.

Begin Slideshow

USC Spring Game 2015: Date, Start Time, TV Schedule, Live Stream and More

USC's march to a potential College Football Playoff bid begins Saturday at the Trojans' spring game.

After a 9-4 campaign and a triumph in the Holiday Bowl, coach Steve Sarkisian's Trojans are sanction free and welcome in a recruiting class deep in talent just in time for a serious run.

The 2015 Trojans return 16 starters, chief among them quarterback Cody Kessler. Saturday will prove to be a feeling-out period for key spots, the most important of them being the void left by Leonard Williams' departure to the NFL.

 

2015 USC Spring Game 

When: Saturday, April 11 at 12 p.m. ET

Where: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

TV: Pac-12 Network

Live Stream:  Pac-12.com

 

Preview 

Sarkisian understands his sophomore campaign as Trojans head coach needs to start off on the right foot. Expectations are rampant thanks to the wealth of returning starters and the lack of sanctions holding the team's scholarships back.

"We realize what people's expectations are for the program and we're not going to shy away from them, we're going to embrace them," said Sarkisian, per USCTrojans.com. "That's the reason all of us came to USC, to be the best and to uphold the standards that have been set here."

It starts with Kessler under center. He completed a whopping 69.7 percent of his passes last season for 3,826 yards and 39 touchdowns to five interceptions.

Kessler will hit Saturday's game in search of a new No. 1 wideout with Nelson Agholor (104 catches, 1,313 yards and 12 touchdowns) on his way to the NFL. Sophomore JuJu Smith is the name to watch, as he came second behind Agholor last year at 54 grabs for 724 yards and five scores.

As CBS Sports' Aaron Taylor notes, though, drops have peppered Smith's preseason thus far:

It's early, of course, and Saturday is a chance for Smith to round into form—and others behind him such as Darreus Rogers to step up and seize the No. 2 slot.

Of course, Adoree' Jackson, USC's first three-way player since 1997, is also in on the action as a receiver. He's had a nice transition to the defense too, as his main job remains cornerback as of now.

As Michael Lev of the Orange County Register notes, though, how Jackson's time is divvied up Saturday remains anyone's guess:

Cornerback is perhaps the most interesting position of all this weekend not just because of Jackson, but because of new names in the fold. Keep an eye on how the coaching staff decides to use freshman Iman Marshall, among others.

Injury makes linebacker and the defensive trenches an important focal point too.

With senior Anthony Sarao sidelined with a foot injury, inside linebacker Olajuwon Tucker has played with the first team this spring and will get the nod this weekend. He told WeAreSC.com's Greg Katz he appreciates the chance to prove himself (via ESPN.com):

“I feel very blessed and appreciated with the opportunity the coaches have given to me, and me just stepping up and really taking advantage of the opportunity given to me.”

At the least, Tucker's ability to rise to the occasion will give the Trojans more reliable depth and one of its younger linebackers live-game experience should injuries continue to plague the spot.

The problems are even worse in the trenches, as ESPN.com's Johnny Curren documents:

This is probably the hardest unit to get a read on right now. Pelon suffered a shoulder injury late in practice on Saturday, and if it winds up being serious, it will certainly shake things up here. When Pelon went to the sideline, Dorton took his place with the No. 1 group, while also taking reps with the No. 2 unit at nose tackle. Hill, normally a rush end, lined up on the interior at defensive end. Temple has spent the entire spring going with the No. 1 group at nose tackle in place of the injured Antwaun Woods (pectoral muscle).

Replacing the aforementioned Williams and others is no easy task in the first place, let alone when injuries add to the mix. If the Trojans are to improve or remain level there, a hodgepodge of names need to step up in the spring game.

As a whole, Saturday is the first step toward a new beginning for a program with its eyes set on the loftiest of goals. Expect plenty of competition and big plays as two units test one another in preparation for the season.

 

Info courtesy of USCTrojans.com unless otherwise specified.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Arizona Football: Biggest Takeaways from Wildcats' 2015 Spring Game

Fresh off its best season in 16 years, Arizona continues to keep its foot on the gas in the quest to become a regular member of college football's elite. Friday night's spring game was just one step in that direction.

The Wildcats ran 100 plays in a glorified scrimmage, with the offensive squad earning a 96-68 win using a modified scoring system that gave points for scores, big plays and defensive stops.

"I saw some good, I saw some ugly, I saw some bad," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said afterward. "We know what we have, and we also know what we don't have."

Last year produced the program's first Pac-12 title of any sort, winning the South Division, then making its first major bowl appearance since 1994. One year does not make for prolonged success, as Arizona has never had back-to-back seasons with 10 or more victories, but the 26 wins the past three years is the most since 1973-75.

"This was definitely a smooth spring for us," senior safety Will Parks said.

Here's a look at what stood out most during Friday's outing, as well as the spring in general:

 

Solomon's improved decision-making

One of the biggest knocks against quarterback Anu Solomon during his freshman year was in the decision-making department, as he'd often hold the ball too long and take a sack—such as on Arizona's final play in the Fiesta Bowl loss to Boise State—or try to force in a throw instead of throwing it away. Other times, Solomon would get too excited and overthrow an open receiver, resulting in a 58 percent completion rate.

The redshirt sophomore looked far more confident on Friday, getting rid of the ball quickly and showing little hesitation when deciding to run or throw. He finished with 175 yards and two touchdowns on 19-of-25 passing, adding 20 yards on three carries including a 16-yard run on the scrimmage's first snap.

"He was pretty sharp," Rodriguez said of Solomon, who last season tied the school record with 28 TD passes and had the second-most yards (3,793). "There were a couple of times he probably could've been a little more decisive in his throws, but Anu is a smart guy. He's gotten better and, with a great summer, I think he will be even better this fall."

Solomon admits he still has to work on game management and making correct choices—"it's something that I'm struggling with," he said—but through film study and repetition he expects to continue making progress.

"I think it's been night and day for him," senior receiver David Richards said of Solomon. "He's become a leader out there. He's still learning, but I think he knows it really well."

 

Offensive wrinkles

Arizona ranked 26th in total offense last season, averaging 463.6 yards per game, but it was 85th in red-zone efficiency and only scored touchdowns on 33-of-60 possessions. A lack of diversity in the play-calling near the goal line contributed to this, as the Wildcats' short-yardage offense frequently fell short.

There are no shortage of skill-position players at Arizona's disposal this season, and in the spring game it broke out some looks that hadn't been seen in Arizona Stadium in quite some time. Namely, the use of tight ends.

"We had more catches by a tight end than in the history of Arizona football," Rodriguez joked. "More than even when Gronk (former Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski) was here."

Junior Josh Kern was the main recipient of this emphasis on tight end passing, with five receptions for 31 yards, while sophomore Trevor Wood had a touchdown catch.

Arizona also used receivers Samajie Grant and Tyrell Johnson in the backfield on sweeps and pitches, partly because the Wildcats held top running back Nick Wilson from competition after an injury-plagued freshman year.

"We'll use them a both positions," Rodriguez said.

 

Defense will continue to bend, but break less

Arizona's defense didn't get much praise last year, despite having a player (linebacker Scooby Wright) who won the Bednarik, Lombardi and Nagurski awards last year, because it was 105th in yards allowed and gave up more than 28 points per game. The Wildcats aren't trying to develop a top-10 defense, just one that can make a few plays here and there.

That was the case on Friday, as a rotation made mostly of reserves spent most of its time trying to prevent big gains rather than reverse the field. The lone exception was when redshirt freshman defensive tackle stripped quarterback Brandon Dawkins near midfield, nearly scoring a big-guy touchdown before Dawkins chased him down and popped the ball loose near the 10-yard-line.

The Wildcats return most of its front seven, but a newcomer who figures to have an instant impact is junior college transfer Paul Magloire. Magloire had a game-high nine tackles and should contend for a starting stop on the defensive line.

"I think overall we found some guys that we need to get in the rotation," Rodriguez said. "Hopefully they will work hard this summer and be ready in August."

 

Turn off the play clock

Rodriguez had hoped to run 90 to 100 plays Friday, and they hit the century mark in just over 70 minutes of real time before heading into the stands and turning the play-calling over to the fans. It was about the only time Arizona took its time on offense, averaging between 10 and 12 seconds between snaps.

Last season Arizona ran an FBS-best 1,139 plays, averaging 81.3 per game despite being 119th in time of possession.

"I think we can play faster than we have before," Rodriguez said.

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nike Unveils New Mach Speed Uniforms for TCU Horned Frogs for 2015

Thanks to Nike, the TCU football team is going to look like a bunch of Horned Frogs in 2015.

Nike's lastest technology has allowed it to incorporate TCU's Horned Frog pattern into its uniforms. Via Nike, TCU's new Mach Speed uniforms are a "digital evolution of the program's existing lizard skin pattern."

[Nike]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Football: Predicting the Biggest Upsets in the Conference in 2015

We lovers of sports spend copious amounts of time predicting what will happen in any given game. We look at every possible statistic that could sway the game in favor of one team. So many times, the team predicted to win does just that, and our efforts later seem wasted. Why, then, do we do it?

We know that sometimes, the favorite on paper loses.

In the SEC, there's a gap between the best and the rest, but it's not as wide as in most other conferences. Just last season, nine of 14 SEC schools were ranked in the AP poll at some point. But there's still a gap.

Since the season isn't yet upon us, we don't know how the conference will play out, but we can use the past to predict the future. We can look at trends, and we can look at what's already been predicted for the upcoming season. That's what I've done today to determine which SEC games are the most likely to be won by the underdog.

I've ordered the slides chronologically, beginning with the earliest game. I've also taken this composite preseason poll into account when determining what would qualify as an upset.

The beauty of a deep league is that there will be so many more upsets than these. Have I missed any? Please share your own views in the comments section below.

 

Begin Slideshow

USC's Expectations Are High for 2-Way Star Adoree' Jackson

Adoree' Jackson, a two-way player at USC, can do it all for Steve Sarkisian and the Trojans. The talented wide receiver/defensive back put up some respectable numbers in 2014. But what can we expect from him in 2015? 

Los Angeles Times USC reporter Lindsey Thiry joined Adam Lefkoe as they discussed Jackson and what he brings to the table for the Trojans. 

What are Adoree' Jackson's expectations in 2015? Check out the video and let us know!  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Under-the-Radar Players Who Will Have Breakout Seasons for the Florida Gators

The Florida Gators are undergoing a rebuilding effort for the first time in a long time. Jim McElwain has taken over at head coach, and he is looking to return the Gators to a top-tier team. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee joins Stephen Nelson to discuss some under-the-radar guys who could have an impact on Florida next season. 

What kind of team do you think the Gators can have? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

What Michigan State Must Improve to Beat Ohio State, Seize Big Ten in 2015

Bodog (h/t Odds Shark) lists Ohio State as a 4-1 favorite to win the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship, in part because the Big Ten—unlike the SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12—sports no other team among the top seven favorites.

The Big Ten team with the best chance of beating OSU, Michigan State, lost by 12 points at home to the Buckeyes last season and must travel to Columbus next year.

Sparty handed Ohio State its first loss of the Urban Meyer era in the 2013 Big Ten Championship Game. After three years, it is still the only Big Ten team that knows the taste of Meyer's blood.

But as last year's meeting made painfully clear, it has a long way to go before it can reassume the Big Ten throne.

Here's where it most desperately needs improvements.

 

Pass Defense

It's alarming how fast this secondary went from strength to weakness.

One year after fielding the "No Fly Zone," a secondary replete with NFL talent, the Spartans allowed a staggering number of big plays:

Next year, the Spartans lose All-Big Ten defensive back Kurtis Drummond and projected first-round NFL draft pick Trae Waynes. In other words, a secondary that already struggled to contain big plays loses by far its two best weapons for containing big plays.

Who will step up to replace them?

At safety, Montae Nicholson and RJ Williamson seem locked into starting roles. The much bigger questions lie at cornerback.

Former starter Darian Hicks, whom Big Ten Wide Receiver of the Year Tony Lippett replaced in the starting lineup, must put last year behind him and regain the form he showed last offseason. Sean Merriman of BTN.com named Hicks the star of last year's spring game, and Hicks flashed potential at the start of the season too.

His struggles seemed to be the result of a mental block more than anything else.

Elsewhere, Sparty could use a smooth transition to cornerback from Demetrious Cox, who converted after spending his first two seasons at safety.

Fortunately, Cox found the perfect mentor in former teammate Darqueze Dennard, the 2013 Jim Thorpe Award recipient as the best defensive back in college football.

"I've already hit up Darqueze," Cox said in November, when he first learned of his position change, according to Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press. "Like, 'Look, if you've got time, we're working out this summer.' And he's all for it, he's excited."

Last year, in the 49-37 home loss to the Buckeyes, Michigan State allowed six consecutive touchdown drives.

Not all included big plays—in fact, many were methodical—but the prospect of the big play, which MSU knew it struggled to defend, loosened the defense so much that Ohio State looked like the Green Bay Packers.

Next year, it has to get better.

 

Connor Cook's Consistency

Connor Cook played an average game against Ohio State last season. He played a spectacular game in the 2013 Big Ten Championship Game.

Guess which game the Spartans won?

Cook is one of the best quarterbacks in college football, but he's not one of the most reliable. His accuracy, footwork and throwing motion vary from one snap to the next, which leads to inconsistent results.

He stands out most with his intangibles: his will to win and leadership qualities. It's not every quarterback who plows through a safety to set the tone against his school's biggest rival:

But it's also not every quarterback—or at least not every quarterback with first-round NFL potential—who infuriates evaluators with bad decisions, poor mechanics and occasional ugly plays:

There is no way—no way—Michigan State will beat Ohio State unless Cook plays like an NFL quarterback. The Spartans lose their top two running backs (Jeremy Langford, Nick Hill) and receivers (Lippett, Keith Mumphrey) from 2014, so Cook must bear an even bigger load.

Ohio State's defense made Marcus Mariota look average in the CFP National Championship. All Cook has to do is outperform the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner—and in The Horseshoe, no less.

Will it be easy? No. Is it likely? Not really.

But is it possible?

Cook is one of the only players for whom the answer is "Yes."

 

Defensive Identity

The 2014 Spartans weren't soft. That word has never been used and never will be used in reference to a Mark Dantonio-coached team.

But the 2014 Spartans were comparatively soft, albeit against the impossible standard of 2013. They didn't protect the middle of the defensive line and tackled inconsistently at every level.

The loss of Pat Narduzzi, one of the best defensive coordinators in college football, hurts. Narduzzi spent 11 seasons under Dantonio and won the 2013 Broyles Award, but he left this winter to become the head coach at Pittsburgh.

How will his co-replacements, former linebackers coach Mike Tressel and former defensive backs coach Harlan Barnett, restore the Spartans' defensive identity? It sort of got away from them last season—and that was with Narduzzi storming the sideline.

A defensive line led by Shilique Calhoun, Lawrence Thomas, Malik McDowell and Demetrius Cooper is big, strong and nasty enough to combat Ohio State's offensive line. That group can hang with anyone.

The real questions lie at linebacker, a historically strong position for the Spartans that last year suffered a drop-off.

Who will replace Taiwan Jones up the middle? How is tackling? Can he set the defensive temperature at 100 degrees Fahrenheit the same way Max Bullough, Greg Jones and company have in the past?

This defense wasn't mean enough to beat Ohio State last season. No defense was mean enough to beat Ohio State last season, unless you want to count Virginia Tech's.

To stop running back Ezekiel Elliott in Columbus, the Spartans must play like bullies and be the hammers instead of the nails.

Otherwise, that game could get ugly.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Which College Football Teams Will Take Steps Back in 2015?

The 2014 college football season was full of surprises, from the emergence of Mississippi State and Ole Miss to the disappointing USC season. Teams rise and fall each and every season. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee predict the teams that will fall off record-wise in 2015. 

Which teams will not enjoy the same success? Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Will 2014's Ultimate Dark Horse Be a College Football Playoff Contender in 2015?

Last year, on the heels of a 4-8 finish, TCU turned small preseason expectations into a 12-1 record, a co-Big 12 title and a thorough run at making the College Football Playoff.

Next year, it won't sneak up on anybody. 

Despite that, the Horned Frogs are expected to repeat last year's success and make a run at the national title. They lose some important defensive pieces, chief among them coordinator Dick Bumpas, but return nine starters from the No. 2 scoring offense in America.

On paper, TCU deserves the praise and expectations it's received since hammering Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl—praise like that from Bleacher Report's Ben Kercheval, who ranked it No. 2 on his most recent Top 25.

History, however, suggests we might want to rein that back.

From 2003 to 2013, only 12 teams improved by seven or more wins in a season. Only four of those 12 improved by eight or more wins, most recently Auburn (2013), which rebounded from a 3-9 season to finish 12-2 and fell 13 seconds short of a national title.

Naturally, each of these teams entered the following season with higher expectations than the previous season. That's what winning does. But how did each team fare after its turnaround?

None of TCU's forerunners came even close to sustaining success. On average, they won 5.5 fewer games the year after their turnaround, with no team regressing by fewer than four wins.

By that metric, TCU should expect six or seven wins in 2015. As a ceiling, it would finish 8-5. Auburn's 2014 season, which ended with a loss in the Outback Bowl, is by precedent the best-case scenario.

How much should we read into that? Not too much and not too little.

The Horned Frogs have the benefit of a relatively weak Big 12, which should help with exceeding those projections. If they play as well as 2014 Auburn, which finished No. 7 on the F/+ ratings at Football Outsiders, they will win double-digit games and contend for a conference title. The only reason Auburn lost five games was a brutal strength of schedule.

At the same time, TCU must cope with the loss of its defensive coordinator, which is something (major coaching turnover) Auburn avoided. It promoted from within for continuity, elevating safeties coach Chad Glasgow and linebackers coach Demontie Cross to co-defensive coordinators, but the loss of Bumpas looms large.

Five TCU defenders made an All-Big-12 team last season: linebacker Paul Dawson (first team), safety Chris Hackett (first team), defensive tackle Chucky Hunter (second team), safety Sam Carter (second team) and cornerback Kevin White (second team).

Guess how many return in 2015…

TCU might still field a solid defense. It might still contend for a playoff spot. The talent is there, quarterback Trevone Boykin is there, head coach Gary Patterson is there, et al.

I just wonder if we've ordained them too quickly. And I use "we" because I'm as guilty as anyone. I saw how TCU destroyed Ole Miss, computed how many offensive players might return and decided, without one look at precedent, that it would contend for another national title.

But there's another, more skeptical way to look at.

Teams that improve by eight wins one season regress the following season. This is shown in the numbers above.

Teams that lose five all-conference defenders, along with a three-time Broyles Award finalist on the sideline, regress the following season. This is inferred by logic.

Teams that lead the nation in turnover luck, as computed by Bill Connelly of Football Study Hall, regress the following season. This is outlined by the laws of statistics.

"Heading into 2015, [turnover luck] might provide us with a pretty tenuous glimpse of TCU's potential national title hopes," Connelly wrote in January.

And that was before Bumpas retired.

Patterson has vented publicly about TCU's omission from the playoff, which should help the Horned Frogs' case in 2015.

"[The selection committee's] job was to watch all this film and pick the four best teams no matter who you played, what you did," he said in April, according to Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com. "All the sudden it came down to, ‘Well, they played a championship game but they didn't.' That's not what we were told."

Such criticism might nudge the committee toward including a Big 12 team in the upcoming playoff. It certainly won't nudge it the other way. If they repeat last year's 11-1 regular season, the Horned Frogs stand a better chance than last year of making it.

The problem concerns not interconference politics but intraconference performance. In order to repeat that 11-1 regular season, the Horned Frogs would have to buck mathematical trends.

The real Big 12 favorite should be Baylor, a team which:

  1. Has posted consecutive 11-win seasons.
  2. Beat TCU in 2014.
  3. Returns all four members of the All-Big 12 first team: running back Shock Linwood, offensive tackle Spencer Drango, defensive tackle Andrew Billings and defensive end Shawn Oakman.

TCU should not be discounted. It's playoff chances are real. But it should enter next year a contender instead of a favorite.

Obviously, that's a matter of semantics, but it's important because it aligns TCU's projections and expectations. If you think this team should win nine or 10 games on average, and with luck can win 11 or 12, you are bound to enjoy next season.

If you think it's the No. 2 team in the country, and would only accept making the playoff as an outcome, you might be in store for a letdown.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

B/R 5th Down: Charlie Strong Forgets His Quarterback's Name

Editor's Note: The Fifth Down captures the top social college football stories of the week. Because the long, grueling offseason is underway, we'll focus on things that make us laugh, think or maybe cry, but mostly laugh. 

 

1. Texas Coach Charlie Strong Has a Brain Fart But Rallies 

First, some background information.

There's an ongoing lawsuit between Oklahoma State and Texas Longhorns offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Joe Wickline, who previously held the O-line coach title with the Cowboys. The issue at hand is whether Wickline actually calls the plays for Texas. If he doesn't, he would owe Oklahoma State $600,000 in a buyout for taking a lateral position with another job. 

Anyway, Strong was deposed about this last month—a copy of the deposition can be read here, courtesy of the Austin American-Statesman (h/t Good Bull Hunting)and some of his answers are miraculous. 

Namely, Strong had a brain fart and forgot the name of his starting quarterback, Tyrone Swoopes. 

You know...that guy. What's his face.  

We'll chalk it up to an honest mistake and not a hint that Jerrod Heard will be the Longhorns' starting quarterback in 2015.

Maybe.

OK, we'll see. 

Strong rallied, though. Asked later about the play-calling duties in the Oklahoma State game last season, a game the Horns won 28-7, Strong delivered a gorgeous troll that would make even South Carolina Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier blush: 

Way to rebound, Strong.  

 

2. This Week in College Football Body Art

Want to show just how committed you are to school? Don't sign a national letter of intent.

Ink it on your body, bro. 

2015 Florida signee Jordan Scarlett hasn't played a down for the Gators, yet, but he's showing how much he loves his new school with a pretty rad tattoo on his leg. 

Getting a tattoo is a big commitment, and you don't want to paint yourself into a corner with it. So, you know, be careful and whatnot. 

Of course, it's one thing to get a tattoo of something about which you're passionate. It's another to get a tattoo of, well, basically yourself. 

But that's what BYU long snapper commit Matt Foley did, inking up his arm with a picture of what can only be assumed as him snapping a ball (via Reddit user deen5526): 

And here's the finished product: 

Of course, Foley doesn't care what you think about it, which is pretty much the only attitude you can have with something like this. So, do you, Foley. 

 

3. Ohio State is Concentrating Too Much on Baseball, Paawwwwlllllll 

Unless you're trying to tackle him, it's tough not to like Ohio State Buckeyes running back Ezekiel Elliott. He emerged from behind names like Melvin Gordon at Wisconsin and Ameer Abdullah at Nebraska to help the Buckeyes win a national championship last season. 

However, some things in this world are unforgivable. 

Elliott was about commit a Cardinal sin, so to speak, by attending a Cincinnati Reds game in a St. Louis Cardinals hat. The only thing that saved him from being "that guy" was an "academic obligation"—otherwise known as stats class

Which, if you've ever taken statistics in college, you'll know that calling it an obligation is being kind. 

In the end, Elliott "played school." It's probably best for everyone, anyway. Nothing good ever comes from wearing a Cardinals hat in public. 

Meanwhile, Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer, linebacker Joe Burger and defensive lineman Adolphus Washington—the latter two of whom are Cincinnati natives—threw out the first pitches in Cincinnati's series against the Pittsburgh Pirates this week. It's a nice honor, but apparently, Burger's teammates were split over whether he would actually throw a strike. 

Clearly, this proves team chemistry is at an all-time low, and Ohio State has zero chance of repeating as national champs. 

(You can watch a video of the first pitches via Land Grant Holy Land.)  

 

 

 

4. Boston College Quotes Drake in Recruiting Letter and Nothing Was the Same

Boston College Eagles head coach Steve Addazio is a national treasure—if said treasure was the phrase "buncha dudes" instead of gold, valuable antiques and the like. 

Anyway, Addazio and his staff have come up with some solid recruiting tactics, the latest of which was a letter to 3-star wide receiver Seth Dawkins referencing Drake's new album, "If You're Reading This It's Too Late." 

Whether Dawkins will commit to Boston College remains to be seen. But suffice to say, he started from the bottom, now he's here. 

 

5. Stephen Garcia is Back for All Your Quarterback Needs

Honest confession: I miss former South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia. He played fearlessly on the field, lived fearlessly off of it and got into a lot of trouble with Spurrier because of it. 

He was the ultimate football bro, but was he ever fun to watch. 

According to Chris Dearing of GoGamecocks.com: "Garcia was invited to the University of Florida for the Gators' Pro Day in front of NFL scouts on Tuesday. He threw passes to the Florida receivers, tight ends and running backs, and had a great time doing it." 

Of course, Garcia's trip to The Swamp wouldn't be complete without a picture next to Spurrier's statue.  

All I'm saying is, if anyone needs a quarterback who will make you hold your breath on each play until you pass out, Garcia is available. 

 

6. An Update on Alabama Crimson Tide Running Back Bo Scarbrough

If you hadn't heard, Bo Scarbrough suffered a torn ACL in his knee during a scrimmage and is out indefinitely while he recovers from surgery. 

Scarbrough has a long way to go but is already able to do a straight leg lift.  

Why is this important? Imagine shredding the inside of your knee, a crucial joint for everyday use that is made that much more important when you're an athlete. Now, imagine being able to apply physics and pressure to said joint two days after the ligaments in it were repaired. 

Some folks might say Scarbrough is a physical freak like that. However you want to put it, here's to hoping his recovery is as speedy and successful as possible. 

 

7. Finally, Here's Iowa State Cyclones Coach Paul Rhoads Covered in Mud

You may not know it just by looking at him, but Paul Rhoads used to be a fine young football player at Missouri Western. Here's an awesome photo of Rhoads from his playing days, courtesy of Iowa State athletics communications director Mike Green: 

Level of proudness displayed by Rhoads: So Proud. It would have been better if he were completely covered from head to toe but good effort. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

10 College Football QBs with Most to Prove in 2015 Season

College football is a team game, but the quarterback position holds more importance than any other on the field. Because of this, the pressure on these players is often far greater than on any of their teammates, and this usually includes the expectation that they'll be able to do what it takes to lead their teams to success.

That's one of the many things that college quarterbacks have to prove each year, though the individual expectations differ for each player. They all have something to prove, some more than others.

Here's a look at the 10 quarterbacks who head into the 2015 season with the most to prove, detailing what they need to be able to show they can do and why this matters to them and their teams this fall.

Begin Slideshow

Jim Harbaugh Lands the Next Andrew Luck, Sets Sights on Top Player in 2016 Class

The University of Michigan has had a great week when it comes to football recruits.

How big of a week did Michigan have? What impact will these recruits have on the program?

Watch as Stephen Nelson and Steve Lorenz of Wolverine247 discuss Michigan's big recruiting week in the video above.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

B/R Exclusive: California 4-Star LB Bryce Youngquist Announces Current Top 10

California 4-star outside linebacker Bryce Youngquist has a current top 10, and if there's one thing that can be said, it's that he isn't afraid to play college football far away from home.

The Rancho Cucamonga, California, linebacker announced to Bleacher Report a top 10 consisting of Tennessee, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Utah, Washington State, Oregon, Oklahoma, Arizona State, Illinois and Oregon State.

Of the 10, none are in-state schools. At least, not for now.

"These [10] schools have been showing a lot of interest, and I found that I have a lot of interest in those schools, too," Youngquist said. "My thing is, whatever college is the best fit for me, that's where I'm going to go.

"I'm willing to play in California, Florida, Maine...it doesn't matter. I don't care if I play in the snow. I just want to find the best fit for me."

Now standing 6'1" and weighing 215 pounds, Youngquist has 15 offers. Of the 15, San Diego State and Fresno State are the only California schools to offer. Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico are the three other schools to extend an offer. USC and UCLA are two schools that are showing interest, as well.

Ranked the nation's No. 12 outside linebacker, Youngquist is an athlete with high 4.4-second speed in the 40-yard dash and a high motor on the field. Per Rivals.com, he had 43 tackles and two sacks as a junior.

Youngquist said having a top 10 is the first step in keeping his recruiting process as simple as possible. He began trimming his list after receiving his latest offer from Tennessee last week.

"To be honest, it's now time to get serious," Youngquist said. "I know the recruiting process is supposed to be fun, but at the same time, it can be stressful. I just want to make it easier on myself."

Youngquist said of the schools that made the cut, Arizona State is the only one he visited. He was in Tempe in November when the Sun Devils beat Notre Dame, 55-31. He called the environment "unbelievable."

"It was a great unofficial [visit], almost as good as an official," he said. "The atmosphere was great; I hadn't been in an atmosphere like that. There were so many people, and it was so loud. You could really feel it."

Youngquist said he is planning on taking several visits to the schools on his list between now and the end of the summer. A commitment, he said, most likely will come at the end of his senior season, as he wants to take all five official visits before making a decision.

The winning school, he said, will have a good balance of athletic and academic advantages. He is looking to play in a great football atmosphere and be on a campus that will provide a quality education.

"After my [official] visits, I'll basically decide what's best for me," Youngquist said. "I want to visit all the schools, no doubt about it. They've all shown so much interest, and I feel those are the best schools with the best interest."

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages