NCAA Football News

Trent Irwin Reveals Decision Plans: Which Pac-12 Team Is Best Fit for 4-Star WR?

The race to land 2015 4-star wide receiver Trent Irwin is nearing its conclusion, as the standout pass-catcher revealed plans to make his commitment early next month, according to JC Shurburtt of 247Sports.

Shurburtt notes that his primary group of suitors includes Pac-12 members Arizona State, Oregon State, Stanford and UCLA.

The 6’2”, 190-pounder visited the Cardinal last month and also went to Tempe for the Sun Devils' big win over Notre Dame earlier this month.

But which Pac-12 program is the best fit for the No. 9 receiver in the 2015 class?

 

Arizona State

If Irwin’s Crystal Ball page is any indicator, Todd Graham’s club is the prohibitive favorite for the speedy receiver. 

There are numerous positives for Irwin should he choose the Sun Devils.

For starters, his prep teammate and 4-star quarterback, Brady White, is also committed to Arizona State.

According to MaxPreps, Irwin has hauled in 91 passes for 1,813 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Potentially teaming up with his buddy on the next level has to be appealing for Irwin.

Additionally, per Ourlads, four of ASU’s top seven receivers on the depth chart will be upperclassmen next year. Included in that group is Jaelen Strong, who is a candidate to leave early for the NFL draft.

An appealing depth chart and the chance to play with White for a program on the rise gives the Sun Devils a strong case to sell to Irwin.

 

Oregon State

Oregon State is another Pac-12 program among Irwin’s favorites, and Mike Riley is among the brightest offensive minds in all of college football.

The success of receivers such as Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton in recent years proves that the Beavers attack is friendly for playmakers such as Irwin.

However, among Irwin’s group of finalists, the Beavers seem to have the least amount of traction in his recruitment.

Per Ryan Bartow of 247Sports, Irwin stated plans to visit Corvallis last month. However, that trip has failed to materialize, and it’s unlikely to take place before he makes his decision.

Unless he has a change of heart in the next few weeks, it looks like the Beavers will be on the outside looking in for the dynamic pass-catcher.

 

Stanford

The team that Irwin mentioned to Bartow (per Shurburtt) is tied for the lead in his recruitment is Stanford.

Aside from the chance to stay in his home state and the noted academic prowess that comes with a degree from Stanford, choosing the Cardinal would have its benefits on the field as well.

Per Ourlads, four of the Cardinal’s top five receivers are upperclassmen—which would give Irwin a great shot to see the field early.

Additionally, Stanford has a pro-style offense with a promising young quarterback prospect in redshirt freshman passer Keller Chryst. 

While the Cardinal’s offense isn’t as prone to air it out when compared to Irwin's other finalists, it has sent receivers such as Doug Baldwin and Griff Whalen to the NFL in recent years.

However, given that Stanford is ranked 85th nationally in total offense this season, per CFBStats.com, its struggles on that side of the ball this season may give Irwin some cause for concern.

 

UCLA

Of Irwin’s four finalists, UCLA has produced the most potent attack this season, as the Bruins rank 16th nationally in total offense, according to CFBStats.com.

Jim Mora’s club is also putting themselves in position to be a prominent power in the Pac-12 by faring well on the recruiting trail. The Bruins currently have the No. 18 class nationally and the third-best group among Pac-12 schools.

While the chance to play with White at Arizona State is attractive, the Bruins have the nation’s top-ranked quarterback prospect—fellow California native and 5-star passer Josh Rosen—heading to Westwood.

The UCLA campus is also a short drive away from his hometown in Newhall, California. 

However, as illustrated by Ourlads, the depth chart isn’t nearly as favorable as it is with his other finalists.

Also, despite the close proximity to UCLA’s campus, Irwin has yet to take in a Bruins game this season—which hurts their chances of making an impression on him before his decision.

There are a number of positives with Irwin’s four finalists, as they all present their own unique opportunities for him to find success on the college level.

However, the combination of having a chance continue his connection with White, the pass-friendly system run by Graham plus the opportunity to contribute early is what makes Arizona State his best fit.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jim Mora Says UCLA Fans Don't Need a Bonfire to Get 'F-----g' Turned Up

After a week of preemptive vandalism measures and trash-talking, the UCLA and USC football programs will meet Saturday for their annual grudge match.

No one is more hyped than Bruins coach Jim Mora, who opened the bomb bay doors Thursday night and dropped a four-letter explosive at a UCLA pep rally.

UCLA sports beat writer Edward Lewis posted a Vine of the speech. Mora's team lost their gourds when coach offered up some adult language.

Warning: Video contains naughty, NSFW language.

"It doesn't matter," Mora said. "Because if there's one thing I know about UCLA, it's that we don't need a friggin' fire to get it f-----g turned up!"

It's a rare sight to hear Mora swear in public. It's even rarer to hear an F-bomb immediately after the word "friggin'."

As for the festivities, the team was unable to light the "Beat 'SC" bonfire due to a small protest against potential price hikes in tuition at the school. Ryan Leou and Edward Pedroza of the Daily Bruin report that the school cancelled the lighting after 50 or so students positioned themselves around the ceremonial pyre.

You can stop the fire, but you can't stop the turn-up.

 

Follow Dan on Twitter for more sports and pop culture filigree.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

How Tony Bridges' Flip from Auburn to Ole Miss Impacts Tigers and Rebels

Ole Miss delivered a strong message to SEC recruiting rivals for the second time in 24 hours Friday morning, flipping 247Sports' Composite's top-rated junior college cornerback Tony Bridges from Auburn, according to Ben Garrett of Scout.com:

The Rebels are officially on a roll when it comes to the 2015 class, and that momentum has come at the expense of Auburn. Ole Miss edged out the Tigers on Thursday for 4-star offensive lineman Javon Patterson.

The Petal High School prospect, rated No. 1 overall in Mississippi, per 247Sports, and No. 2 nationally among guards, per 247Sports' Composite, left an Auburn hat on the table at his announcement ceremony. Now, Bridges has decided to trade his in for one with an Ole Miss logo.

The 6'2", 185-pound playmaker initially committed to the Tigers in February and seemed steadfast in his decision during recent months. He spent an official visit at Auburn last month and watched the team defeat LSU.

That trip appeared to solidify Bridges' pact with the program just six weeks ago.

"I loved it, man. I loved it. It's a great place," he told Justin Hokanson of 247Sports (subscription required)."They're ready for me to come. They're anxious, they want me on campus."

Instead, it appears any future trips to Auburn will take place on the visitor's sidelines. Bridges, a 2013 graduate from Hattiesburg High School in Mississippi, found his preferred fit in Oxford:

Rated sixth overall among JUCO recruits in 247Sports' Composite rankings, Bridges stars at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. He is considered the premier cornerback prospect in this JUCO class.

The loss leaves Auburn looking for an adequate replacement at the position. The Tigers' current class is rather scant on defensive backfield additions, so pressure is on Gus Malzahn and company to search elsewhere less than three months shy of national signing day.

The cornerback market is quickly drying up in SEC territory, so the best route for Auburn could be to seek out a flip of its own. The presence of Bridges—viewed as a plug-and-play talent—may have deterred high school seniors from fully considering the Tigers, so relationship dynamics with certain recruits could change moving ahead.

Auburn now holds 19 commitments in a class that's dropped to 10th in 247Sports' Composite rankings.

Meanwhile, Ole Miss has soared up six spots since Thursday morning. The additions of Bridges and Patterson have pushed the Rebels to 18th nationally among 2015 classes.

Head coach Hugh Freeze has managed to stockpile considerable secondary talent during this cycle, including Tennessee cornerbacks Cameron Ordway and Ugo Amadi.

As Ole Miss recruiting coordinator Branden Wenzel notes, it's always nice to bring in one of your own:

The Rebels have now netted 15 pledges and will continue to seek out talent as signing day approaches. Several big fish remain out there for the taking, including Florida defensive end CeCe Jefferson and Texas wide receiver Damarkus Lodge.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Mississippi State DB Justin Cox Suspended: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Mississippi State safety Justin Cox has reportedly been suspended indefinitely after being involved in an off-campus incident early Friday morning.

Mississippi State Assistant Athletic Director/Media Relations Bill Martin provided an official statement:

Senior defensive back Justin Cox has been suspended indefinitely from the Mississippi State football team for his involvement in an off-campus incident that occurred Thursday night, head coach Dan Mullen announced Friday. 

The Starkville Daily News provided further information about the incident:

Oktibbeha County Sheriff's Department Lt. Brett Watson said deputies responded to a burglary call on Rocky Road in the Aspen Heights apartment complex at about 3 a.m. Friday. He said upon arrival, deputies found a female victim with an injury to her head. Watson would not identify the victim.

Watson said deputies arrested Cox, a 21-year-old West Point native, at the scene on suspicion of burglary of a dwelling and aggravated domestic assault and booked him into Oktibbeha County Jail.

According to Watson, Cox has been arraigned and bail is set at $20,000.

No other details about the situation or the Mississippi State player's connection to the alleged victim were made immediately available.

Cox has played nine games for the nation's fourth-ranked team this season. The senior has racked up 21 tackles, defended five passes and intercepted one pass. It's his second season with the team after spending two years at East Mississippi Community College.

He played in last week's game against Alabama and registered two tackles in the contest. The Bulldogs have two games left in the regular season. They play Vanderbilt this week before a clash with rival Ole Miss next weekend.

At this time, it's unclear when Cox will return to the field this season, if at all.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why a Texas vs. Texas A&M Bowl Game Should Be Allowed

The energy it's taking Texas and Texas A&M to actively avoid one another is no longer worth it. The latest reports of finger pointing are tiresome.

The fact remains, however: There's only one way that the Longhorns and Aggies will play in football, either in the next month or in the foreseeable future, and that's in a bowl game. However, there's allegedly at least one person—but perhaps several people—pulling ropes behind the scenes to make sure even that doesn't happen.

Chip Brown of HornsDigest.com reported this week that the SEC is working to eliminate the possibility of A&M meeting Texas in the postseason:

Two sources close to the situation told HornsDigest.com SEC officials have indicated to bowls with SEC and Big 12 tie-ins that the SEC won’t support a Texas vs Texas A&M postseason matchup. In short, A&M has too much to lose from a potential loss.

Whether you believe a report coming out of Austin about the mindset in Birmingham, Ala., where the SEC is headquartered, is up to you. For what it's worth, A&M athletic director Eric Hyman has washed his hands of the notion.

"Quite frankly, that’s a decision made by the conference," Hyman told Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express-News. "It doesn’t matter if I speculate about playing this team or that team in a bowl. It’s out of our control. Wherever they tee us up, we’ll play."

There's a solution to all of this, of course. It's the solution the masses want but won't get: for Texas and Texas A&M to play every year.

There's no risk of uncertainty. Lose to your rival? Play it again next year and take back bragging rights. As ludicrous as it is, it's at least understandable that no one wants to be the team that loses last if the series has a cloudy future.

With that said, ego aside, there's one thing standing in the way of making Texas-Texas A&M a reality again: the fear of scheduling yourself out of a playoff appearance.

Take a gander at the Longhorns' upcoming nonconference schedules. Predicting future records is impossible, but games against LSU, USC and Ohio State are as close to sure things as you'll find.

Coupled with a nine-game, round-robin Big 12 schedule, where does A&M fit? For that matter, the Aggies have upcoming nonconference games scheduled against Clemson and UCLA.

In essence, both sides now have an excuse. It's not a good excuse, but it at least gives the appearance of one.

On the contrary, there's no excuse for Texas, A&M, the Big 12 or the SEC to try to work around a bowl-game matchup. Texas athletic director Steve Patterson has made it clear that scheduling A&M is not high on his to-do list and the Aggies have backed off of the "anytime, anywhere" stance.

This isn't the regular season, though. The Big 12 and SEC have already agreed to send teams to the Sugar Bowl in years when it does not act as a College Football Playoff semifinal. Both sides have worked together before.

In fact, the SEC and Big 12 should want a Texas-Texas A&M bowl to happen. Brown's report about A&M having too much to lose may be true, but it's not necessarily right. Texas isn't going to suddenly steal back the state if it beats A&M, just as A&M's move to the SEC isn't going to validated if it wins.

What happens in the postseason is one of the single most overrated things from which to draw conclusions.

Furthermore, bowl execs would love a Texas-Texas A&M game. It's good business.

There are essentially two games in which the pair could meet: the Liberty Bowl and the Texas Bowl. To take it a step further, it makes the most sense for two Texas schools to, well, play in Texas.

Nothing against those games—the Liberty Bowl has a rich history dating back to 1959—but they're in the middle of the holiday season on an especially jam-packed day of bowls. Any advantage a bowl can get in terms of a matchup or juicy storyline is important.

That means more coverage, more butts in the seats and more viewers taking in ads from title sponsors.

There's a lot to gain, but it also goes beyond dollars and cents. There's history at play.

"It’d be nice to play Texas, I think it’d be great just for the state," Aggies receiver Malcome Kennedy told Kate Hairopoulos of The Dallas Morning News. "Everybody wants to see that game. Nobody can deny they want to see that game, I promise you."

There may be fans on either side who pull the "I don't care" card, but there are thousands more who would travel to a nearby bowl game against a team they'd love nothing more than to beat.

Play the game. It'll make money and be fun for fans. In that order, that's what a bowl game aims to accomplish.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Watch High School QB Do Complete Front-Flip over Defender for TD

When the end zone is near, a player will do just about anything to get those six points. That was the case for Hamilton Heights High School (Arcadia, Ind.) quarterback Ethan Jones, as he did a full front-flip on his way to a touchdown.

Was it one of the best scoring plays you've seen this season?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott Belongs Among Big Ten's Best

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In the moments following Ohio State's Oct. 18 win over Rutgers, Ezekiel Elliott stood at the podium inside Ohio Stadium's media center, answering questions about the Buckeyes' 56-17 victory. But as reporters scattered to various players, questions became sparse, so I decided to take a stab at at an offhand topic.

"Zeke, I've gotta ask you about something on social media," I prefaced, as the Ohio State running back's eyes got big.

"Fans seem to love that you wear the half-shirt, the Eddie George-like shirt. Can you explain why you choose to go with that type of jersey?"

"I just like my jersey tucked up because I don't like how long the jerseys are," said a relieved Elliott, now wearing a smile. "I like a little midriff showing. A lot of great players have worn it before me like Eddie George, so I'm going to keep wearing it that way."

The "crop top," as fans call it, may not be the key to Elliott's success in his sophomore season, but it certainly hasn't hurt, as the St. Louis, Missouri, native finds himself on the verge of becoming Urban Meyer's second consecutive 1,000-yard running back. Through 10 games, Elliott has tallied 954 rushing yards on 167 carries, an astounding 5.7 yards per carry, good for fifth in the Big Ten for players who have totaled 100 or more carries.

But Elliott's sophomore surge seems to have been somewhat lost in the shuffle in Columbus during a 2014 campaign that has the sixth-ranked Buckeyes currently fighting for a playoff spot. The Heisman campaign of quarterback J.T. Barrett has something to do with that, but Elliott's status as Ohio State's best kept secret has more to do with the conference he plays in and the running backs who dominate it.

Take for example Indiana's Tevin Coleman, who rushed for 307 yards in the Hoosiers' defeat at the hands of Rutgers last Saturday. Despite coming in a loss, that effort would typically be a shoo-in to earn any player a Big Ten Player of the Week honor, only that wasn't the case, as Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon eclipsed Coleman with a record-setting 408-yard, four-touchdown performance.

Week in and week out, Meyer has seen just how talented this year's crop of Big Ten running backs is. Whether it's Michigan State's Jeremy Langford, Minnesota's David Cobb or this weekend's upcoming matchup with Coleman, Ohio State has faced no shortage of impressive backs on its schedule in a league that prides itself on its ground-and-pound mentality.

"There's some NFL players in this league carrying the ball," Meyer said. "And then you see that they're doing it against some of the top rush defenses in the country. That's one thing I noticed about it.

"And I think Zeke—I've got to throw my guy in there now. For whatever reason, he's not having the same touches, but I like our back."

Meyer's right: As Ohio State has opted to use Barrett's ability as a distributor to spread the ball around, Elliott's touches have become a bystander. The Show-Me State native's 167 carries are at least 36 fewer than any of the five Big Ten backs ranked ahead of him in rushing, as Elliott has received single-digit carries in three separate games this season.

Nevertheless, the 6'0", 225-pound Elliott has managed to make the most of his touches, and more importantly, he's shown up when it's mattered most. In the Buckeyes' monumental win over Michigan State on Nov. 8, Elliott totaled 154 yards and two touchdowns, a week before tallying 110 total yards in Ohio State's grind-it-out victory at Minnesota.

Those are the types of numbers Elliott envisioned when he committed to the Buckeyes, choosing Ohio State over the home team, Missouri. Meyer may have never had a 1,000-yard running back when Elliott opted to bring his talents to Columbus, but he's now on the verge of his second straight after Carlos Hyde became his first a season ago.

"I'm just a versatile back who can do a lot of things," Elliott said. "I take a lot of pride in my blocking. I can catch the ball out of the backfield. I can run it inside and outside."

And while he may not get the same national credit as Barrett, Elliott has played a key role in diversifying the Buckeyes offense this season, adding 18 receptions for 162 yards to his stat line. As teams early in the season tested Barrett's arm with bear defense, cover-zero schemes, it was Elliott who played the role of "bear beater," using swing passes to take opponents out of their original looks.

More years than not, Elliott's ability would garner him more attention, perhaps putting him up for a few awards of his own. But as Coleman learned this past week, this year's stable of Big Ten running backs is something special, something which Elliott has already taken note of.

"We definitely have the best crop of running backs in the Big Ten," he said. "You've just got to be thankful to God for the opportunities and just go out there and keep grinding."

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Football: Backups Who Could Start in Another Conference

There arguably isn’t a deeper conference in college football than the SEC in terms of talent.

From the starters, right down to some of the third-string players, the conference is loaded with talent. Already, several backups—running back Nick Chubb, quarterbacks Treon Harris and Kyle Allen—have stepped in and brought success to their program.

It just makes one wonder how many potential stars are currently buried on the depth chart in the SEC?

Join B/R as we dig to find some names who would more than likely start on teams outside of the SEC.

Begin Slideshow

Nebraska Football: Changes Nebraska and Bo Pelini Can Make Before Next Season

Can you fire a coach who wins nine or 10 games a season? The answer is simple: No.

That doesn't mean the idea isn't on some Nebraska fans' minds. After the Cornhuskers' 59-24 loss to Wisconsin, the fanbase has found itself split once again.

Some want head coach Bo Pelini gone regardless of season win-loss totals, while others do not. It's made for interesting conversations, but none are truly focusing on what really needs to happen.

And, no, firing Pelini isn't the solution.

Instead, Pelini and the Huskers need to be ready and willing to make a change. What exactly does that change look like? First and foremost, it starts at the defensive coordinator position.

John Papuchis has been with Nebraska and Pelini for seven seasons, and he's been at the helm of the Blackshirts for three years. In that time, Papuchis has made small progress with the defense. However, it's often undermined by major losses like the most recent one against Wisconsin.

Nebraska simply cannot afford to lose like that anymore. If the old "defense wins championships" cliche is true, then change to correct that problem needs to begin.

Pelini has made a name for himself as someone who stays loyal to his staff. If the head coach can prevent it, he'd prefer to not have to make any staff changes. However, fans have been wanting something to happen for a couple of years now, as the Lincoln Journal Star's Steven M. Sipple's looked at in 2012.

At the time, Sipple felt it was too premature for Pelini to make any changes. Two years later, things have changed and Pelini is now standing dangerously on the edge of no longer being able to control the situation.

He wants to win. During his monthly radio call-in show, Sports Nightly, Pelini made that clear.

“I’m going to do everything I possibly can for these kids and try to give it my best every day," he said (h/t Rich Kaipust of the Omaha World-Herald).

Pelini went on to say he won't be happy "until we win 'em all." If that's really what Pelini thinks and wants, change is now necessary.

Firing Papuchis might not be ideal for Pelini. However, being willing to make a change—especially on the defensive side of the ball—would likely save his own job. That's the key.

And there really is no time like the present.

With Will Muschamp now available, he may be the right fit for the Nebraska defense. "[Muschamp] may have proven that he’s a career coordinator at this point, but in this context that’s perfectly fine," Hail Varsity's Brandon Vogel noted. "It’s not like Florida’s defense was the reason he was fired."

With a coach like Muschamp available, delaying the inevitable may be the worst thing Pelini can do.

That's not to say firing Papuchis would guarantee Pelini's job for years to come—as staff changes didn't save Frank Solich—but the willingness to make a change could rebuild some trust with the fans who want Pelini gone.

That's another change that needs to happen at Nebraska. The trust needs to be rebuilt.

That's obviously easier said than done, but Pelini can start now. Defeating both Minnesota and Iowa would be a good start. Winning whatever bowl game the Huskers are sent to would also help.

If Pelini can end this season 11-2, make a couple of staff changes and secure a strong recruiting class, trust will come with it. Pelini may never earn back the faith of the entire Nebraska fanbase, but there are plenty of Husker supporters who would be willing to back the coach if he showed a willingness to change.

That's what remains unknown, though. Is Pelini willing to make a change? If he truly cares about doing everything for his players, how far is he willing to go for them?

Pelini is loyal to those around him. It shows in how his players speak of him. Wide receiver Kenny Bell, for instance, called fans who want the head coach gone "crazy," per Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star. Bell even said he'd play "against Satan himself and a team of demons at the gates of the underworld" for Pelini last year, as ESPN.com's Mitch Sherman reported.

The ball is now in Pelini's court. There are changes Nebraska can make, but it all starts with the head coach. Will he be willing to do what's needed to win and rebuild trust with fans?

Only time, and the outcome of upcoming games, will tell.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Predicting the Winner of Every College Football Conference

It’s crunch time now.  We’ve reached the final stretch of the 2014 college football season, with a little over two weeks to go until the inaugural College Football Playoff is set and bowl matchups are decided.

To get there, though, we need to determine champions in every FBS league. With 12 weeks of play in the books, every league title picture has crystallized (well, mostly). We know which teams are in contention, which teams are playing out the string and which teams have a real chance of hoisting hardware in the first full weekend of December.

That’s what this feature is all about. We’re predicting every league champion when the dust settles on the 2014 regular season. We’re looking at the current standings, teams’ remaining schedules and current momentum in making these selections. And, of course, these are hardly set in stone. That’s why they play the games.

Begin Slideshow

Florida State Football: Seniors Brought Back Prosperity to Program

Florida State's class of 2010 and '11 signed with coach Jimbo Fisher with the hope that together they would turn things around and bring prosperity back to the program. After a national championship and two ACC titles, FSU's program is again one of the best in the nation.

FSU is riding a 26-game winning streak, and members of the class of 2011 have won 45 games (the redshirt seniors can claim 10 more wins from 2010).

Fisher and the Seminoles will honor the seniors on Saturday before the game against Boston College. Among the seniors is Cameron Erving, who began his FSU career at defensive tackle before moving to left tackle in 2012 and then switching to center on Saturday. The move by Erving has solidified the offensive line.

"It is selflessness, but also those guys know that it adds value to them, too," Fisher said. "When you are a multiple guy up front and can play two or three positions, your value to the league (NFL) becomes so much greater."

Erving's contributions at multiple positions shows the players' willingness to do whatever they can for the team and help the Seminoles win. Here's a look at FSU's seniors and their contributions to the program:

OL Austin Barron: A second-team offensive lineman most of his career, Barron had five starts in his first three seasons and then started five games in 2014 before suffering a fracture to his right arm.

OL Cameron Erving: Recruited as a defensive tackle in 2010, Erving moved to left tackle in the spring of 2012. He immediately won the starting job, protecting the blind side for quarterbacks EJ Manuel and Jameis Winston. Erving won the ACC's Jacobs Blocking Trophy (top offensive lineman) in 2013 and started nine games at left tackle this season before moving to center on Saturday against Miami.

WR Christian Green: A Scout.com 5-star quarterback, Green converted to receiver at FSU and had a promising redshirt freshman season in 2011 (26 receptions, 450 yards). But Green could never recapture that success and he has just six catches for 120 yards and a touchdown in 2014.

WR Rashad Greene: FSU's all-time receptions leader (246), Greene has 3,507 yards and 27 touchdowns. He is closing in on the school record for receiving yards (Ron Sellers had 3,598) and receiving touchdowns (Peter Warrick had 31). Greene has back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons—the first time an FSU receiver has done that since Sellers in 1967-68.

WR Jarred "Scooter" Haggins: Another former high school quarterback, Haggins also made the move to receiver but has battled injuries to his shoulder, wrist and knee. He has just 21 career catches.

TE Kevin Haplea: A transfer from Penn State before the 2012 season, Haplea had three catches in his first year in Tallahassee but missed 2013 with a knee injury. He has two catches for 19 yards this season but has made a big impact off the field by leading fundraisers for the Fisher family's Kidz1stFund.

OL Bobby Hart: He first started as a 17-year-old in 2011 at right tackle and has 33 games under his belt. Hart has been durable but hasn't been as consistent as the other senior linemen.

DE Desmond Hollin: A junior college transfer, the defensive end has 37 career tackles and has provided needed depth on the line. He also started two games in 2014.

OL Tre' Jackson: The All-ACC right guard has started 38 career games and has been a consistent blocker for the Seminoles. He has been named a semifinalist for the Outland Trophy and was named ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week three times in 2014.

OL Josue Matias: An All-ACC left guard, Matias has started 39 career games. He has been a steady, durable force on the line.

TE Nick O'Leary: A John Mackey Award finalist in 2013, O'Leary is FSU's career leader among tight ends for catches (103), yards (1,379) and touchdowns (13). He has caught a career-high 37 passes in 2014 and is one of eight semifinalists for the Mackey Award.

CB Nick Waisome: The corner has played in 48 career games and has started 15 games. He has 34 career tackles.

RB Karlos Williams: A Scout.com 5-star safety prospect, Williams was a special-teams star and reserve defensive back his first two years. He filled in at linebacker in the 2012 ACC Championship Game and had a game-clinching interception of Georgia Tech's Tevin Washington in the final minute to seal up a win over the Yellow Jackets.

 

Bob Ferrante is the lead Florida State writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Bob on Twitter. Stats are courtesy of seminoles.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: 5 Underclassmen to Watch for in Final Weeks

To put it kindly, the last few weeks haven't gone well for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Brian Kelly's team has lost three of four, throwing into chaos postseason plans that had Notre Dame fans hoping to be a part of the College Football Playoff, but now could have them finishing the season in the Belk Bowl. 

But that's what critical turnovers and a rash of injuries will do to a young football team. So now it's Brian Kelly's job to see just what the youth on this roster can do, with an eye toward next year's football team now playing a key role in the development of his roster.

While the loss to Northwestern still stings, the future is bright in South Bend. With rumors once again beginning to swirl, Kelly said the only interest in Florida he has is a trip to warm up in a few weeks—not any head-coaching vacancy—likely ending the silly season early.

That's likely easier as he'll look to a team that'll return 19 starters, with cornerback KeiVarae Russell and defensive end Ishaq Williams adding a few more experienced bodies. 

But with a bowl game and battles with Louisville and USC still ahead, it's time to see what the kids can do. Especially as they'll be counted on to play key roles on a team that'll have a playoff-or-bust attitude. 

Here are five underclassmen worth watching. 

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. 

Begin Slideshow

The Most Important College Football Games Left on the Recruiting Calendar

With less than a month remaining in college football’s regular season, there are precious few opportunities for recruits to visit some of their favorite schools while witnessing a festive atmosphere.

The calendar still has a handful of games that should have plenty of top recruits filling up the stands down the stretch. 

For example, a number of top rivalries headline the nation’s most anticipated upcoming showdowns.

Which games left on the recruiting calendar are the most important contests left in the regular season?

Begin Slideshow

How Ohio State Turned Season Around & Became Nation's 'Most Dangerous' Offense

The Ohio State Buckeyes were left for dead when star QB Braxton Miller was declared out for the season with a preseason shoulder injury.

However, with J.T. Barrett under center and the offensive line bolstered, the Buckeyes have skyrocketed to No. 6 in the most recent rankings with national championship dreams in sight. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder illustrates how the Buckeyes have salvaged their season. 

Who should be credited for OSU's resurgence?

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Which Nebraska Cornhusker Commits Are Vital for Bo Pelini's Defense in 2015?

Bo Pelini and the Nebraska Cornhuskers are bringing in some much-needed top talent on the defensive side of the ball. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down the incoming Nebraska recruiting class and how they can impact the 2015 season.

Which recruit will make the most noise for the Cornhuskers next season?

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Stay or Go: Should Nation's Top Underclassmen QBs Make Jump to NFL?

The NFL is always calling for the top QBs in college football. It is a tough decision for these young student-athletes. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder and Bleacher Report Lead NFL Draft Writer Matt Miller joined Stephen Nelson to give their answers on which underclassmen QBs should enter the draft.

Which underclassmen QB should enter the NFL draft?

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Which 2015 Commits Will Step into Immediate Impact Roles for Auburn Offense?

The Auburn Tigers are losing a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball. However, in true Gus Malzahn fashion, he's recruited some of the most explosive talent in the land.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down the key recruits on the offensive side of the ball who will be suiting up for the Tigers next fall.

Which newcomer will make the biggest impact for Auburn?

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC's Cody Kessler Emerging as One of 2015 NFL Draft's Top Quarterback Prospects

The consensus among media draft analysts, from ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay (both subscription required) to CBS Sports’ Rob Rang and Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, is that Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston are not only the top two quarterbacks eligible for the 2015 NFL draft, but two of the best overall prospects.

After Mariota and Winston, the door is wide open for another quarterback prospect to emerge as the 2015 draft’s No. 3 signal-caller. No one has yet, but USC’s Cody Kessler is one overlooked passer who is quietly making a case for himself.

UCLA’s Brett Hundley, Michigan State’s Connor Cook, Notre Dame’s Everett Golson and Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott are the quarterback prospects most frequently labeled as being in the next tier. They are all quarterbacks with intriguing physical tools and who have been very impressive in their best games this year, but they have been beset overall by inconsistency and turnovers.

Kessler does not have the physical upside of those more often-discussed prospects, but he has had a fantastic junior season thus far in which he displayed significant improvement and polish. For a team looking for a potential quick fix at the quarterback position but not in position to draft Mariota or Winston, Kessler just might be the right fit as a Day 2 pick, should he declare for the 2015 draft.

 

Why Is Kessler Being Overlooked?

It’s unusual for a quarterback at Southern California, one of the most well-known programs in college football, to be putting up some of the best statistics in college football yet still be flying under the radar.

Kessler currently ranks fourth in the Football Bowl Subdivision in quarterback rating (169.0) and completion percentage (70.2), according to CFBStats.com. Only Mariota, with 29 touchdown passes and two interceptions, has a better touchdown-to-interception ratio—among quarterbacks who have thrown at least 15 touchdowns this year—than Kessler (29 touchdowns, three interceptions).

Despite breaking a school record with seven touchdown passes in a game this year against Colorado, at a university that has had six quarterbacks drafted—including three top-10 overall picks—since 2003, Kessler has not generated the buzz of many of the other top senior and junior passers in college football.

It’s seemingly as though “no one expects the junior to leave school early,” as Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times suggested this week after talking to NFL scouts.

It might very well be in Kessler’s best interest to return to USC for his senior season—outside of Mariota and Winston, there are no quarterbacks with remaining collegiate eligibility who should jump to the NFL without seriously considering the pros and cons of declaring for the draft after this season.

Even so, “scouts are beginning to evaluate [Kessler],” according to Farmer.

The senior class of collegiate quarterbacks appears to offer no early-round picks, and the junior class is full of players like Cook, who has a high ceiling but said on The Dan Patrick Show (h/t Detroit Free Press) he intends to return to school, and would be smart to do so.

Considering that, a player who has improved significantly like Kessler has this year should not have his pro potential ignored.

 

Why It’s Time to Pay Attention to Kessler

When Kessler is auditioning for NFL teams, whether that be in the 2015 draft or in 2016, he will have to fight the stigma of the “game manager” label he seems destined to have stuck to him.

A 6’1”, 210-pound player with limited athleticism, Kessler lacks outstanding physical traits and is not going to be a dual-threat NFL quarterback.

That said, Kessler has a stronger arm than people might think. He has efficient throwing mechanics and regularly generates significant velocity on his downfield passes.

In Kessler’s most recent game, a 38-30 win for USC over California, the following 32-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver George Farmer—which traveled nearly 50 yards through the air—was a prime example of the quarterback’s ability to sling the ball deep with zip.

More important than Kessler’s deep ball, which is not awe-striking but still effective, is his ability to fit intermediate throws with precise timing in between tight windows.

Also from USC’s most recent game against California, the following 10-yard touchdown pass on a diamond-angle route by junior wide receiver and potential early-round draft pick Nelson Agholor, was an evident display of skill in that area.

Skeptics might note that those two examples of throws came against a Golden Bears passing defense that has literally allowed 68 more passing yards per game than any other defense in the FBS. As impressive as Kessler was in his 371-yard, four-touchdown performance last Thursday night, he was expected to be given his opponent.

With multiple games coming up against tougher opponents, including UCLA on Saturday and Notre Dame next week, Kessler will have to show that he can continue to make plays of that degree as the competition rises.

Nonetheless, the throws above would be impressive against any opponent, and seem to be signs of continued improvement from a player who threw for 344 yards and four touchdowns in the Las Vegas Bowl against Fresno State at the end of his sophomore season and has continued to play very good football ever since.

One of the most important aspects of evaluating a prospect at any position is assessing how well that player has improved. Since no drafted player is viewed as a finished product, scouts want to see that a player continuously gets better as his collegiate years progress.

That has happened with Kessler, whose play in 2013 prior to the Las Vegas Bowl was average enough that he had to compete with redshirt freshman Max Browne during spring practice in order to retain the starting quarterback job. His improvement over the past year did not only make him USC’s clear-cut starter, but also a player who is no longer (or at least should no longer) be an NFL afterthought.

As an unnamed NFL scout noted in the aforementioned article by Farmer, one of the biggest areas in which Kessler has advanced is in his ability to read defenses and find open targets: "[Coach Steve Sarkisian] has done a nice job developing him. He shows good ability to go through his progressions in the pocket. He's not a big kid, but he seems to see the field pretty well, from first to second and even to the third receiver at times."

Kessler still stares down some of his throws, but with noticeably less frequency than he did in previous years.

The quarterback also does a nice job of consistently keeping his eyes downfield, looking for targets, even when he is pressured and/or on the run.

Although it’s a safe bet Kessler won’t wow anyone with his speed running a 40-yard dash, he shows good ability to extend plays outside the pocket and make downfield throws on the move.

Kessler’s biggest selling point might be his lack of mistakes, as evidenced by his having thrown only three interceptions in 339 passing attempts this season.

While Kessler’s ball placement is not always perfect, it’s rare to see him make a throw to any level that is badly off the mark. He has a clear understanding of how to throw the ball with anticipation, while his velocity enables him to drive the ball to his target.

 

If Kessler Declares, Where Will He End Up in the Draft?

As noted before, Kessler’s draft stock will be at least in part determined by how strongly he finishes the season.

With his next two games each being high-profile matchups, and against quarterbacks (Hundley and Golson) with whom he could be competing for draft position, Kessler has multiple opportunities in front of him to capture national attention if he can outduel signal-callers who have been hyped up more extensively to this point.

As much of Kessler’s statistical excellence has been accumulated on throws inside 15 yards, he must continue to showcase that he can connect on challenging downfield passes, without compromising the reliability that has become his resume this year.

There are still some noteworthy flaws in Kessler’s game.

While his consistency in keeping his eyes downfield is a positive trait, he needs to become better at sensing pressure coming toward him to avoid sacks. Additionally, he sometimes tries too hard to keep plays alive, despite being a limited athlete, which also results in getting taken down when he should have just thrown the ball away.

There are some impressive examples in Kessler’s tape of completing passes downfield under pressure and/or using his feet to navigate the pocket to step into throws. Overall, however, his footwork is an area in which he needs further improvement.

Kessler’s not likely to suddenly grow three inches or procure sprinter speed, but he’s been able to improve his game significantly, nonetheless. Given his improvement to date, there’s reason to believe that with continued development, Kessler can work his way through the fixable issues that remain in his game.

From a long-term standpoint, it would likely be best for Kessler if he holds off going pro until 2016 and instead continues his development as a third-year starter for USC in his senior year.

“I think he's a prospect down the road, but I would never encourage a junior, especially a quarterback, to come out,” said the NFL scout quoted by Farmer.

On the other hand, it shouldn’t simply be assumed that Kessler will remain at USC past this year—especially if he finishes the season on a high note.

Kessler will have to overcome the “game manager” stigma, along with the dissent some might have from drafting USC quarterbacks, as recent examples like 2009 first-round pick Mark Sanchez and 2006 first-round pick Matt Leinart failed to meet expectations for the teams that invested in them.

However, every prospect is different. A player shouldn’t simply be judged by those who played his position at a school before him—especially considering that Kessler’s current offensive line at USC is not nearly as effective as the blocking units that Sanchez and Leinart had in front of them during their collegiate years.

Kessler's not a franchise-quarterback prospect in whom a team should be investing a first-round draft pick. His limitations might not keep him from becoming a quality starter, but they do make it less likely that he will emerge as a superstar.

As it currently stands, Kessler should project as a selection between the second and fourth rounds. He might never emerge as a team's long-term starter, but he has enough skill to quite possibly be a pleasant surprise if and when he gets the chance to lead an NFL offense, and his development makes it promising that he could play as a rookie if needed.

All GIFs were made at gfycat.com using videos from YouTube.

Dan Hope is an NFL/NFL Draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Picks Week 13: Odds and Spread Predictions for Top 25 Teams

The College Football Playoff selection committee shocked the nation with its Week 13 rankings, as 9-1 Alabama catapulted to the top, 9-1 Oregon remained in second following its bye week and undefeated Florida State dropped to third. Mississippi State rounded out the Top Four.

Of course, fans of the Seminoles were outraged by the preposterous act of ranking one-loss teams ahead of an undefeated squad; however, a strong argument can be made against Florida State, as it hasn't produced many convincing wins despite a weak schedule.

Regardless of which side you are on, one thing is certain: No team is a lock to make the inaugural College Football Playoff just yet. We've seen plenty of unexpected finishes throughout the season, and Week 13 should be no different.

Before the action on college's gridiron returns, let's take a look at which teams and odds the nation's top contenders must deal with Saturday.

All game odds courtesy of Odds Shark and current as of November 20.

Note: No. 12 Kansas State played Thursday, and No. 5 TCU and No. 18 Georgia Tech are on bye.

 

Upset Pick of the Week: No. 24 Louisville over Notre Dame

Before we delve into the analysis here, let's get one thing straight: Even though Notre Dame isn't ranked, the Fighting Irish are home favorites over the Cardinals. That makes this an upset pick in the eyes of Vegas oddsmakers.

At the beginning of the season, this game line and corresponding prediction would have been completely different. After all, for the first half of 2014, Notre Dame looked to have one of the nation's best defenses and Louisville was trying to figure out how to recover from losing Teddy Bridgewater to the draft and DeVante Parker to injury.

Oh, how things have changed.

Let's use one word to describe Notre Dame's defense right now: pathetic. Sure, that seems harsh, but take a look at the team's three most recent performances. The Irish defense allowed 39 points to Navy, 55 to Arizona State and 43 to Northwestern. For those of you counting at home, that's a total of 137 points given up during that span.

This tweet from Chicago Tribune Sports sums it up for the Irish:

Making matters worse for the Irish are quarterback Everett Golson's ball-security issues. He's prone to fumbling whenever he's pressured, and he has thrown at least one interception in each of his last seven games. That's not a winning recipe.

Now, Notre Dame has Louisville coming to town. The Cardinals have been a completely different team since the return of Parker. In Week 12, he torched the Boston College secondary for 144 yards and a score on eight receptions. He brings a great balance to the Cardinals offensive attack.

The NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah is already considering Parker a first-round selection:

Judging by Notre Dame's recent performances, don't expect the Irish secondary to contain Parker. Expect a huge day for the NFL-bound wideout as Louisville narrowly escapes South Bend with a victory.

Prediction: Louisville 38, Notre Dame 34

 

Lock of the Week: No. 7 Baylor over Oklahoma State

Get ready to see the nation's most high-flying offense pull off an enormous win at McLane Stadium on Saturday. The stars have aligned for the Bears to absolutely decimate Oklahoma State due to a late-season matchup.

The Cowboys looked like they could be one of the nation's top teams early in the season when they were playing nobodies. After a close loss to Florida State in Week 1, Oklahoma State went on a five-game winning streak against unranked opponents. Then, it ran into the meat of its schedule.

What ensued were four consecutive losses—three to ranked opponents and one to Texas. During those four contests, the Cowboys offense failed to score more than 14 points in any game. The team suffered its worst defeat of the season in Week 12, scoring just seven points against the Longhorns.

Here's a telling tweet regarding Oklahoma State's offense from Longhorn Network at halftime of that game:

On the flip side, we have a Baylor team that continues to light up scoreboards each and every week. Of the team's nine contests this season, it has scored at least 45 points in seven of them. Quarterback Bryce Petty also just broke a school passing record, according to ESPN Stats & Info:

Needless to say, facing off against Oklahoma State's 91st-ranked defense in Week 13 is a pretty favorable matchup.

Even more impressive has been the Bears defense. After giving up a good chunk of points to both TCU and West Virginia, Baylor responded by holding both Kansas and Oklahoma to just 14 points. Again, that's a good omen considering Oklahoma State's recent offensive struggles.

The fact that Baylor is playing at home is just the icing on the cake here. Expect the Bears to tear it up early and often in Week 13 against the Cowboys, putting up some gaudy numbers while their defense plays well enough to keep Oklahoma State well away from covering the spread.

Prediction: Baylor 56, Oklahoma State 14

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bowl Predictions 2014: Updated Playoff Projections and Odds on Brink of Week 13

If the rivalry games in Week 14 and the conference championships in Week 15 are the main courses on the way to the College Football Playoff, Week 13 is the appetizer that will feature tons of style points.

Fans may be subjected to too many style points considering every one of the undefeated or one-loss playoff contenders are at home against unranked and overmatched foes. 

With that in mind, here is a look at the latest playoff projections and odds from StatMilk, as well as my own playoff projections. While I believe Florida State, Oregon and Alabama will all win out and clinch a spot, Baylor’s head-to-head victory over TCU will eventually come into play in the final College Football Playoff poll.

 

StatMilk Playoff Projections

 

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)

 

Week 13 Playoff X-Factors

Every one of the playoff contenders should win easily in Week 13, but there are still some X-factors that are worth watching for college football fans.

The first one at noon ET will be Indiana running back Tevin Coleman’s opportunity to make a statement on the national stage against Ohio State’s defense. Coleman is second in the nation behind the football-playing robot that is Melvin Gordon with 1,678 rushing yards on the season. He also has 12 touchdowns and is the main reason why Indiana is 11th in the country in rushing yards per game.

One person who certainly knows about Coleman now after preparing for the game is Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, via Bill Landis of Cleveland.com: “The tailback is ridiculous. I didn't know that until I went and watched the tape with the defense. He's unbelievable."

The Buckeyes defense just allowed 145 rushing yards and three touchdowns to Minnesota’s David Cobb, so the precedent is there for elite Big Ten running backs to exploit Ohio State.

Even if Coleman goes off, it may not be enough to beat Ohio State. After all, the Buckeyes should have a talent advantage nearly everywhere else, although Coleman and his team did upset Missouri earlier in the year.

Superstar players should never be taken lightly, regardless of what team they are on.

Elsewhere, Florida State would be advised to not start so slowly against Boston College because the Eagles are built to bleed the clock with a strong running game. Florida State has trailed at the half in six of its last 11 games and had to come back from deficits of 15 points or more three times this year. But, Boston College is 12th in the nation in rushing yards per game.

Quarterback Tyler Murphy has 1,006 rushing yards, and running back Jon Hilliman has 620 and 11 touchdowns. Boston College beat USC with a head-turning 452 rushing yards and will try to pound the clock early and often against the Seminoles.

That strategy would work better if the Eagles had the lead.

In the evening, fans will be subjected to a revenge game for Baylor against Oklahoma State.

The Bears were in the stretch run of a magical 2013 season, which included a blowout win over Oklahoma, and were in the national title picture until they completely derailed at Oklahoma State. Baylor lost 49-17, which is sure to be a motivating factor on Saturday. 

The Bears now have the nation’s No. 1 scoring offense, will be playing at home and understand that style points matter for playoff purposes. Baylor could roll the Cowboys, especially given this update from Kyle Fredrickson of The Oklahoman regarding Oklahoma State’s quarterback:

As long as the Bears don’t get too caught up in seeking revenge and end up pressing, this one should be over by halftime against an Oklahoma State squad that has lost four consecutive games.

 

Follow me on Twitter:

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages