NCAA Football News

College Football: Was 2013 Florida State the Most Dominant Team of the BCS Era?

Florida State placed itself in the pantheon of dominant BCS-era champions, ironically, with its narrowest win of the season.

Little came easy for the Seminoles in winning the BCS Championship Game over Auburn on Monday night at the Rose Bowl.

It marked the first time all season FSU didn’t steamroll the competition.

The dominance Florida State displayed over the course of the regular season speaks for itself. Its closest regular-season game came in a 14-point victory at Boston College, and regular-season opponents never held FSU to fewer than 37 points.

As B/R's Kyle Kensing pointed out during the immediate aftermath of the national championship, Florida State dominated in a way rarely seen during the BCS era.

Will history remember the 2013 Florida State team as the most dominant, though?

Statistically speaking, an argument can be made for the Seminoles even against great teams of the era such as 2001 Miami, 2004 USC and 2005 Texas.

(To be considered for “most dominant,” teams should be required to go undefeated. That rules out 2008 Florida. As dominating as that team was, the home loss to Ole Miss—which, incidentally, prompted the famous Tim Tebow speech—leaves the Gators out of the conversation.)

Of those three elite teams, none averaged a greater margin of victory than Florida State’s 39.5.

The 2005 Texas team had two one-possession wins and the 2004 USC team escaped with four one-possession victories. Miami and 2013 Florida State, meanwhile, only had one such close call.

For all the criticism of Florida State’s schedule, the Seminoles finished the season having beaten five teams in the Top 25 when they played. Those five wins also include three victories over teams ranked in the Top 10.

The 2001 Miami team also played five teams in the Top 25, but only one of those—Nebraska in the Rose Bowl (that year’s BCS National Championship Game)—ranked in the Top 10 at kickoff time.

Even the Nebraska win comes with some tarnish. The Cornhuskers were ranked No. 4 by the Associated Press, were coming off a 62-36 loss to Colorado and failed to win their division.

Few would argue that the 2013 Miami team, which was No. 7 before Florida State pummeled the Hurricanes 41-14, belonged in the Top 10.

However, the Seminoles also went on the road to dismantle Clemson, which finished the season ranked eighth in the AP Top 25 and seventh in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

That Florida State concluded its perfect campaign with a win over SEC champion Auburn only further solidifies the schedule advantage over 2001 Miami.

Just about any argument levied against the 2013 Florida State team falls short.

 

2001 Miami

2004 USC

2005 Texas

2013 Florida State

Wins by 1-8 points

1

4

2

1

Wins by 9-16 points

1

1

1

1

Wins by 17-plus points

10

8

10

12

Wins vs. Top 10

1

2

3

3

Wins vs. Top 25

5

3

4

5

Average Margin of Victory

32.9

25.2

33.8

39.5

 

Throughout the regular season, Florida State never allowed an opponent to pull to within one score. Only Boston College played in the fourth quarter within two scores of FSU.

The Seminoles trailed in the fourth quarter in only one game—to Auburn during the BCS National Championship Game.

All that deficit did was set the backdrop for Florida State to stage what might be the most dramatic comeback win for the national title in the BCS era.

In securing the victory—even a narrow one—Florida State gave itself a perfectly valid statistical claim as the most dominant team of the BCS era.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pac-12 Football Early Enrollees You Need to Know More About

National Signing Day marks an important milestone in the college football season, but some recruits choose not to wait until then to get started.

Early enrollment is an opportunity for collegiate newcomers to acclimate to campus and integrate into the lineup during spring practices.

A few potential instant-impact recruits are enrolling at their chosen Pac-12 universities in the coming weeks. Look for them to make a splash in the offseason.  

 

Star ratings are via 247Sports.com composite rankings. 

Begin Slideshow

Alabama's Doug Nussmeier Reportedly to Become New Michigan Offensive Coordinator

Just hours after the University of Michigan announced the dismissal of Al Borges, it is reportedly on the precipice of snagging Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier for the same position.

CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman first reported the move, which is seen as nothing short of a surprise. Wolverines coach Brady Hoke and athletics director Dave Brandon spearheaded the move with a robust contract offer that will make Nussmeier one of the five highest-paid assistant coaches in college football.

Although Alabama has typically been known as a grind-it-out offense carried by an elite defense, Nussmeier has quietly built one of the most efficient attacks in the nation. Alabama finished in the top 10 in Football Outsiders' S&P offensive metric in each of Nussmeier's two seasons under Nick Saban and was in the top five in 2012. 

Nussmeier was integral in the development of AJ McCarron, with the Tide quarterback openly rooting for his coordinator to land the University of Washington head coaching job.

"I'm excited for him," McCarron said, per Michael Casagrande of AL.com. "I can't wait for him to have his option. I was rooting for him with the Washington job, but he didn't get it. But I think he'll be an unbelievable head coach."

That job eventually went to Chris Petersen, but it seems the promise of a huge pay raise and the task of rejuvenating the Michigan offensive attack was enough for Nussmeier to leave Tuscaloosa anyway.

The Wolverines were a nightmare offensively this past season, finishing 87th in average yards per game. Although Football Outsiders ranked Michigan a more favorable 44th, Borges' unit floundered down the stretch. Michigan lost five of its last six games, scoring 21 points or fewer in four of those contests. 

The 58-year-old Borges was let go earlier Wednesday after a three-year run at Ann Arbor. He had been on Hoke's staff since 2009, dating back to their days at San Diego State. 

As for Alabama, speculation has already run rampant about a high-profile name that could land in Tuscaloosa. Feldman notes that former USC head coach Lane Kiffin could be an early favorite considering his close relationship with Saban:

Kiffin already has some familiarity with how things were working under Nussmeier. The 38-year-old coach visited Tuscaloosa to "evaluate" the Crimson Tide's attack last month. USC fired Kiffin following in September after a disappointing 3-2 start, ending a three-plus-year reign in Los Angeles that saw him become one of the most embattled coaches in the nation.

Kiffin previously served one season as the head coach at Tennessee and parts of two with the NFL's Oakland Raiders. He holds a 40-36 record as a head coach across all levels, but Kiffin arguably found his most success as an offensive assistant with the Trojans in the early 2000s. 

Whether Kiffin's future involvement with Alabama is mere speculation or an impending hire, Saban now has a gaping hole on his staff. After winning three national championships in four seasons, Alabama lost just its second bowl game under Saban when Oklahoma pulled off a 45-31 upset at the Sugar Bowl. With high-octane offenses running rampant across the SEC, perhaps it is time for a revamping of the Tide blueprint.

ESPN's Joe Schad noted that Saban is "intrigued" by uptempo offenses. Losing Nussmeier may hurt, but his departure may wind up helping both Michigan and Alabama rejuvenate their offenses. 

 

Follow Tyler Conway on Twitter:

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Breaking Down 5-Star WR Malachi Dupre's Highlight Tape

Malachi Dupre, a 5-star receiver from New Orleans, is among the nation's top recruits. At 6'2.5" and 187-pounds, Dupre is a smooth athlete with great length and ball skills.

He displays solid explosiveness off the line, as well as impressive build-up speed when running routes. Dupre has the ability to detach himself from defenders at junctions with subtle quickness before plucking the ball with his mitts.

His highlight tape warrants a more in-depth look. 

Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports.

Begin Slideshow

Virginia Tech Football: 4 Players Who Will Help the Hokies Offense in 2014

For the last few seasons, there is no question that the Virginia Tech football team has been carried by its defense, but that could change in 2014.

There’s reason to be concerned about the offense, given some of the players who are leaving. After all, for all his flaws, quarterback Logan Thomas accounted for an absurd percentage of the total offense these past two seasons.

Bud Foster should ensure that the defense will still be talented, but for once, the offense might be able to pick up some of the slack. 

The team will experience some growing pains as it breaks in a new quarterback, whether that ends up being veteran Mark Leal or a promising freshman like Andrew Ford or Chris Durkin. Nevertheless, a lot of talent will surround whoever ends up taking snaps under center for the Hokies.

When Thomas first started for the team, he was unproven, as he had spent most of the preseason at tight end. But the combination of a veteran offensive line, star running back David Wilson and a pair of fantastic receivers in Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale helped the young signal-caller thrive. This year’s group of offensive talent can help Tech’s new quarterback do the same in 2014. 

After spending another year in offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler’s system, these four players can help take Tech’s offense to the next level in 2014.

Begin Slideshow

USC Football: Justin Wilcox's Defense Will Bend but Not Break

It's been over a month since head coach Steve Sarkisian has moved back into USC housing, and he's finally finished assembling his roommates. While notably retaining offensive play-caller Clay Helton and wide receivers coach Tee Martin from the incumbent staff, Sark's most significant hire is fellow Washington departure and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox.

In this case, stability better serves the camaraderie between Sarkisian and his predominantly piggybacked coaching staff, rather than the players on the roster. At least within the confines of Clancy Pendergast's established standards during his brief tenure, the defense under Wilcox's management should suffer a temporary backslide.

In the long run, though, change doesn't guarantee neither positive nor negative, but simply differentiation. For USC's sake, hopefully change yields similarly prosperous results, and preferably fast.

If anything, look no further back than this past Fight Hunger Bowl to witness the potential of Wilcox's 3-4 in action.

The Huskies enforced the classic bend-but-not-break approach against dual-threat quarterback Taysom Hill and BYU. Hill alone accumulated 426 yards of total offense (293 passing, 133 rushing), a figure that suggests Washington was caught guessing throughout the game and walloped on the scoreboard.

Nonetheless, the defense asserted itself when it needed to most, applying costly pressure (led by end rusher Hau'oli Kikaha's three sacks) and holding the Cougars offense to merely one touchdown and three field goals (and one miss) inside their own 30.

With interim Marques Tuiasosopo (now USC's tight ends coach) leading his first charge, the pressure and spotlight were on Wilcox as he strived to preserve the team's invariability on the defensive side of the football, and he impressively delivered. Despite the allotted yardage, Washington never gave up the detrimental big play, as BYU's longest was only 23 yards, and the Huskies cracked down with everything in front of them in the red zone.

Still, it remains a tall task to assume Southern California duties and the nation's No. 1 red-zone defense (62.8 percent compared to Washington's 56th-best 82.6 percent, per NCAA.com).

Though a short-lived era, Wilcox will be hard-pressed to replace Pendergast, whose shapeshifting 5-2 pass rush was revolutionary for the revitalization of USC's defense on the national spectrum. The Trojans' miraculous 2013 campaign was punctuated in the Las Vegas Bowl, where their healthiest rotation thus far utterly disrupted the rhythm of the country's top passer Derek Carr, limiting him to 216 yards and 2-of-14 on third down.

USC's finale garnered attention over that of Washington, since formerly ranked Fresno State is a more highly touted opponent than BYU, and Hollywood prowess and scandal usually take precedent over cloudy Seattle.

Statistics insinuate the warranted press is justified for the most part, but Wilcox and the Huskies ultimately weren't too far off.

Based on NCAA.com statistics, Pendergast's unit ranked inside the top 20 in rushing defense (15th), total defense (13th), third-down defense (12th) and scoring defense (16th). With the amount of yards Washington conceded (388.5 YPG—good for No. 55 in the nation), one could imagine that its defense would be considerably inferior en route to a 6-6 record or worse.

On the contrary, by embodying that bend-but-not-break mentality as opposed to USC's high-risk, high-reward attack, the two schemes proved to be equally accomplished with nearly identical scoring defenses (USC's 21.2 points per game allowed compared to Washington's 22.8), interception totals (17 to 16) and turnover margin (plus-seven to plus-five).

Two key categories Washington actually exceeded USC in are team passing efficiency defense (107.42 to 11.89, respectively)—which intrinsically factors opposing completion percentage, interception ratios and passing yardage allowed—and sacks.

Led by departing senior linebacker Devon Kennard with nine quarterback takedowns, Pendergast's ability to create havoc in the pocket was the most renowned component of this Trojans defense. Thanks in part to Kikaha's 13 sacks, though, Wilcox's squad was fourth-best in that department, outnumbering USC by a count of 41 to 35.

Again, credit the Hollywood spotlight.

All in all, both Pac-12 schools concluded 2013 with only four losses (and for Washington, that is its best mark since the 2001 Rose Bowl season), similar records against bowl-bound teams (USC: 5-4Washington: 4-4) and sightings in the final AP poll.

While USC's shocker over Stanford is regarded by many as one of the most emotional triumphs of the year, the Huskies were able to thwart Washington State...a seemingly simple feat for a superior defense and competent offense. They also upended once-No. 19 Boise State in a 38-6 blowout back in Week 1, winning the third-down battle (11-of-15 for Washington; 8-of-19 for Boise State) in arguably their stoutest showing.

It's truly a testament to how two dissimilar paths can direct themselves toward the same destination of success. Sarkisian accepts the responsibility as head coach, but the offensive guru felt substantially at ease focusing primarily on offense with Wilcox at the defensive helm and clearly enough to rope him along to Southern California.

Of course, with brand-new surrounding circumstances for Wilcox, there will be a definite learning curve. How well equipped is the program and its defensive coordinator in rapidly overcoming it?

First and foremost, Wilcox is accompanied by Washington assistants Keith Heyward (secondary) and Peter Sirmon (linebackers). The transition should be smoother thanks to the cemented cohesion amid the staff in a familiar conference, as all the new coaches—including recently hired defensive line coach Bo Davis as reported by Los Angeles Times' Gary Klein—are introduced to the players and the Trojan way.

As for those players, along with senior casualties Kennard and Morgan Breslin are now eligible juniors Dion Bailey and George Uko as they enter the NFL draft. As alluded to by B/R's Alex Sims, however, with the amount of injuries endured and the finite rotation Pendergast utilized throughout 2013, the losses are nothing USC itself cannot handle.

Jonathan Lockett headlines the incoming recruiting class for Wilcox's benefit, joining a suddenly deep secondary with improved upperclassman Josh Shaw and emergent freshman Su'a Cravens.

In the 5-2, the front seven both illuminates and masks the strengths and weaknesses (respectively) of its secondary, so in USC's return to the 3-4, a back end that can now start holding its own in a base pass rush alleviates pressure on Wilcox.

Plus, there's still the residual services of ESPN All-American Leonard Williams and captain Hayes Pullard. The team is stacked.

Wilcox has never been granted such illustrious talent in his young career, although the limitations in depth due to ongoing sanctions (albeit fading, according to B/R's Kyle Kensing) are a foreign obstacle as well. Pendergast's mastery of the situation superseded the feel-good story of Washington's success to match USC's preexisting draw of the media.

Luckily, Wilcox is another esteemed recruiter in Sark's army, something Pendergast hardly cared for. As two divergent strategies try to yield identical results as done in 2013, that's one crucial difference you can rely on long term.

As impatient as Trojan Nation is in its quest for vengeful relevance, a little bit of time can be spared for this up-tempo renovation to settle in. According to CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman, it did only take Wilcox two years to elevate the Huskies scoring defense from No. 104 to No. 34 in the country.

LA Times' Klein's reports indicate Pendergast gained brilliant likability during his short stint at USC, both for his result on the gridiron and his "feisty" demeanor off the field. If Wilcox and his defense minimize time spent treading water or holding their breath underneath it, then he'll follow suit just nicely.

A word of advice: I hear these players like cookies.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Arizona State Football: 5 Recruits Sun Devils Must Land on NSD 2014

The Arizona State football team, led by head coach Todd Graham, already has an impressive recruiting class lined up for next year.

But Graham's work isn't done just yet.

The Sun Devils are losing a bunch of defensive starters and playmakers and will also lose two key offensive linemen this offseason.

ASU's biggest area of concern will be in replacing leading tackler Chris Young and two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton. While Graham has already received verbal commitments from players such as linebacker Derik Calhoun, defensive tackle Tashon Smallwood and defensive end Connor Humphreys, there are still many positions that need to be filled.

If ASU's current commit list holds true on national signing day, and the Sun Devils can add a few more playmakers, fans in Tempe will have plenty to cheer about next year.

With that being said, let's take a look at five players ASU needs to land on national signing day.

Begin Slideshow

2014 College Football Recruits Sure to Redshirt Right Away

Almost all of today's recruits do not want to hear the word "redshirt" when a school is recruiting them. Today's prospects are competitive, plus they have egos. 

So playing right away is a goal many of them have, but most of them need a year of development before getting on the field in college. Others enter situations where the incumbent depth chart is simply too great to overcome. No matter the reason, many recruits in the 2014 class will redshirt this fall.

A trio of quarterbacks will be holding clipboards during the 2014 season, while a running back will not be immediately needed. Also, an offensive tackle just isn't ready to play right now.

 

Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports. Star ratings taken from 247Sports.

Begin Slideshow

College Football's Top 10 Assistants and What They Should Be Paid

With the top head coaches in college football earning a cool $5 million a year, what do the top assistant coaches make?

And given that compensation doesn’t always reflect results, which guys should make more?

In other words, does the salary scheme for assistants reflect that of head coaches, where—according to USA Today—Michigan’s Brady Hoke (7-6) made $4.1 million in 2013, while Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio (13-1) made $1.9 million?

To answer this, we’ve taken 10 of the top assistants in college football and compared their total pay—according to USA Today’s salary database—to that of guys who do the same job at the same level.

Taking things one step further, we’ve used the comparative data to recommend raises and pay cuts for each.

 

Statistics courtesy of College Football Statistics, unless otherwise noted biographical information courtesy of each coach’s school bio.

 

Begin Slideshow

Jameis Winston's Accuser Plans to File Civil Suit

The woman who accused Florida State's Jameis Winston of sexual assault plans to file a civil lawsuit against the Heisman-winning quarterback and the Tallahassee Police Department in the near future, according to her attorney.

Pat Carroll, the attorney for the unidentified woman, spoke with ABC News in an exclusive interview, accusing the police department of negligence and continuing to assert Winston raped her client.   

"I want heads to roll," Carroll said, per ABC News' Matt Gutman and Alyssa Newcomb.

No suit has been filed in federal court as of Jan. 8. Carroll did not indicate when the accuser and her family would file paperwork, as it seems the parties are still deciding whether to include Florida State University as a defendant.

“The family is proceeding, with civil action against the TPD and Jameis Winston. And possibly the university," said Carroll.

The public comments come on the heels of Winston leading the Seminoles to a 34-31 victory over the Auburn Tigers in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 6. Winston led the game-winning drive, capping off a season in which he became the second freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy. Carroll alleges that authorities have warned her client not to return to school or risk bodily harm. 

"I inquired if…if she could return to FSU and they told me absolutely not," Carroll said. "They too had the impression she would be in physical danger."

The alleged incident, which took place in December 2012, cast a shadow over Winston's season and arguably cost him votes in the Heisman race. Although he was cleared of any wrongdoing by the state attorney Willie Meggs early last month, Winston has only indirectly alluded to the sexual assault investigation in public comments.

In the ABC segment, Carroll paints the clearest picture from the accuser's eyes yet. The woman, a Florida State student, alleges that Winston forced her to have sex at an off-campus apartment complex despite her pleas to stop. A friend of the accuser claims to have witnessed what happened, and said Winston ignored both his roommate's and the woman's requests.

Winston's representation has maintained that the two engaged in consensual intercourse. In a December press conference explaining his department's decision to not prosecute Winston, Meggs claimed there was not enough evidence to support the claims.

"We have a duty as prosecutors to determine if each case has a reasonable likelihood of conviction," Meggs said, per Mark Schlabach of ESPN. "After reviewing the facts in this case, we do not feel that we can reach those burdens."

Meggs has come under fire for his actions at the press conference, which at times felt far too jovial for such a serious matter. Meggs at different points laughed and told jokes to media, causing many to criticize the department as being tone deaf. ESPN's Sam Ponder was one of many who felt uncomfortable watching the presser:

Carroll claims the police department's handling of the case led to criminal charges not being filed. Despite the fact that the accuser initially reported the incident on Dec. 7, 2012, an investigation was not formally launched until this past November. A DNA sample taken from Winston matched the one found on the accuser's person, but the quarterback and his attorney have maintained innocence.

Neither Winston nor the Tallahassee Police Department have commented at this time.  

 

Follow Tyler Conway on Twitter:

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big 12 Football Early Enrollees You Need to Know More About

The 2013 college football season is over, but it's never too early to start looking at spring practices. 

Each team gets a first start, and many of them will be adding some new faces to their rosters. 

Early enrollees, whether from junior college or high school, will make their way onto campus and try to get a head start on learning playbooks. Here is a list of names that fans should keep their eyes on as football starts up again this spring. 

 

Note: All star ratings reflect 247Sports Composite Rankings.

Begin Slideshow

USC Football: Early Departures Will Test Steve Sarkisian in Year 1

Steve Sarkisian inherited a tenuous situation when he accepted the head coaching vacancy at USC. The upcoming signing period is the program's last under heavy NCAA-mandated scholarship reductions, and the brunt of three years with limited roster space is compounded by a number of early departures for the NFL. 

Tight end Xavier Grimble became the fifth USC underclassmen since the Trojans' Las Vegas Bowl rout of Fresno State to declare for the 2014 NFL draft. The Los Angeles Times first reported Grimble's change of heart on Tuesday, almost a month after hinting he would return

Grimble joins safety Dion Bailey, defensive lineman George Uko, offensive lineman Marcus Martin and wide receiver Marqise Lee on a journey to the NFL that leaves a sizable dent in USC's outlook for next season.

Grimble's departure complicates one of Sarkisian's stated plans for the Trojans offense in 2014. At his introductory after being named the new head coach in December, Sarkisian touted his use of the tight end, namely All-American Austin Seferian-Jenkins, while at Washington. 

Five is not an insignificant number; that's 10 percent of the entire corps that made the trek to Las Vegas last month. 

With everyone returning who had the opportunity to do so, the Trojans looked like a Pac-12 championship contender coming off of their 10-win campaign and a No. 19 ranking in the final Associated Press Top 25.

As it stands, USC is still a possible preseason Top 25 selection, based on very early projections—San Jose Mercury News columnist Jon Wilner has the Trojans all the way up at No. 8 in his initial projection. But Sarkisian’s job in year one is considerably more challenging when left to not only address the depth issues but also replace Bailey, Martin, Uko, Grimble and Lee. 

Sarkisian reminded the nation that NCAA sanctions are lasting on an interview with The Herd on ESPN Radio Tuesday, per CoachingSearch.com

When we get to training camp, we’ll have between 65-70 scholarship players that are healthy and ready to go. When you think about that, compare it to everybody else in the country that have 85. We’re 20 players less, essentially, at practice. Practice is when most people work with the [first string] and [second string] and sometimes [third string]. We’re going [first] and maybe [second string].

The lack of depth is a greater concern with fewer seasoned veterans accustomed to it, particularly given the style Sarkisian had success using while at Washington. 

He installed a hurry-up, no-huddle scheme there last season that reinvigorated the Huskies offense after a tumultuous 2012. Washington averaged 37.9 points per game and scored at least 38 points five times.

An uptempo system only works with enough to cycle players in and out, or if the few playing are particularly well conditioned. Given the Trojans played just 13 defensive players in the win over Stanford, and early departing Uko and Bailey were two of the them, the pace of an uptempo may prove too rigorous for Sarksian to implement immediately. 

That is unless, of course, Sarkisian is able to get incoming recruits and the few reserves USC did have last season prepared in very short order.  

Reinforcements are on the way on the defensive side. End Claudeson Pelon and safety/linebacker Uchenna Nwosu are intriguing additions. Pelon will practice in the spring, and Nwosu, a recruit of retained wide receivers coach Tee Martin, could settle into a hybrid role similar to Bailey's.

National Signing Day will be paramount for filling USC's ranks, and Sarkisian made an addition this week that sent tremors through the recruiting world with the defensive line coach Bo Davis from Texas. 

Two Longhorns verbal commits—defensive linemen Courtney Garnett and Trey Lealaimatafao as reported by The Dallas Morning News—rescinded their pledges following the news of Davis leaving Texas to join Sarkisian's staff. 

USC was not in the mix for Garnett or Lealaimatafao prior to their decommitting, but Davis' presence adds an intriguing element to their recruitment for the next four weeks. 

The new USC staff has worked some recruiting trail magic, landing U.S. Army All-American tight end Bryce Dixon, a prospect heavily projected to go to UCLA. Dixon could prove to be a key addition, as he or sparingly used sophomore Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick may help offset Grimble's departure. 

Sarkisian is obviously severely hamstrung because of the scholarship limitations, which makes every decision of paramount importance.  

That said, he is hardly working from scratch. Sarkisian may have the best returning wide receiver in the Pac-12 in Nelson Agholor, running backs Tre Madden and Buck Allen were both stellar when given the reins as the primary ball-carrier, and quarterback Cody Kessler grew into a capable leader of the offense by season's end. USC also returns Leonard Williams, one of the nation's best defensive linemen.

The departures leave Sarkisian more filling holes than building from the ground, but how those holes get filled is the difference between a trying season and a thriving one. 

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Which Recruit Makes Biggest Impact on Defense in 2014?

The 2014 class is stacked with impact players on the defensive side of the ball, but a few have set themselves apart.

Ohio State commit Marshon Lattimore is one of the top defensive backs in the country and has the potential to contribute immediately for the Buckeyes next season.

Who else made Bleacher Report's list of the top impact defenders in the 2014 class?

Watch B/R experts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer break down who should be on your radar as freshmen next year.

Highlights courtesy of xosdigital.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big Ten Football Early Enrollees You Need to Know More About

Early enrollees are becoming a greater trend in college football, and the Big Ten is perhaps one of the leading conferences in this practice. 

For those that enroll early, the chances of playing as a freshman increase dramatically. 

Just look at Sojourn Shelton at Wisconsin and Joey Bosa at Ohio State just this past year as examples of what can happen by enrolling early. 

Bosa and Shelton were easily the two best freshmen playing defense in the Big Ten this past year and a lot of it had to do with the extra time, not just with the football program, but also in school period. 

Of course, this practice isn't ending with the 2014 class, so as we begin to look forward instead of behind, here are a few of the early enrollees you should get to know and keep an eye on throughout the Big Ten. 

Begin Slideshow

Predicting Every 2014 College Football Conference Champion

The 2013 college football season, which seemed to spiral further into chaos every week, has set the bar high for 2014.

The sport will be going through some major changes, as conference realignment will continue and the College Football Playoff will be replacing the BCS.

Meanwhile, conference title races will rage on like always, leaving plenty of questions looming for the ensuing season.

Can Oregon finally break through and win an elusive national title? Will Alabama climb back to the top of the SEC? How will traditional powers Texas, Florida and Michigan fare after underwhelming 2013 seasons?

We'll take an early look at those questions and predict the outcome of every conference race up next.

 

H/t to Trey Iles of The Times-Picayune for breaking down the conference realignment for the 2014-15 season.

Begin Slideshow

Brady Hoke, Michigan Announce Al Borges Will Not Return in 2014

After fielding one of the worst offenses in the Big Ten Conference, Brady Hoke and the Michigan Wolverines have signaled for a major coaching change.

Hoke announced Wednesday evening that offensive coordinator Al Borges will not return for the 2014 season, according to the official website of Michigan athletics.

"Decisions like these are never easy," Hoke said. "I have a great amount of respect for Al as a football coach and, more importantly, as a person. I appreciate everything he has done for Michigan Football for the past three seasons."

Borges has been with the Wolverines for all three of Hoke's seasons in Ann Arbor. The two-time Broyles Award nominee joined Hoke in 2009 while he was at San Diego State.

According to USA Today, Borges was among the top 10 highest-paid assistant coaches in college football.

His long career has included offensive coordinator stops at Auburn, Indiana, Cal, UCLA, Oregon and Boise State.

The Wolverines finished 10th in the Big Ten in total offense, tallying just 373.5 yards per game. UM closed out the season with a poor offensive performance (261 total yards) in a Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl blowout loss to Kansas State.

In that contest, the Wolverines totaled just 65 rushing yards—40 of which came on one run by quarterback Shane Morris in the fourth quarter when the game was well in hand.

UM's offensive struggles started long before that, including historically bad performances against rivals Michigan State and Nebraska.

In consecutive games, the Wolverines netted negative rushing yards. The two-game disaster yielded minus-21 rushing yards against the Cornhuskers and minus-48 (worst output in school history) against the Spartans.

Those embarrassing outcomes likely sealed Borges' fate. Two customary questions now arise: How will this impact recruiting and who will UM bring in to replace Borges?

The first question will be answered in time, but ESPN's Tom VanHaaren has already begun reaching out to several recruits with mixed results. He retweeted 2015 5-star running-back commit Damien Harris expressing surprise over Borges' departure, but also reported that 3-star wide receiver Maurice Ways won't let the news impact his recruitment.

Task No. 1 might be keeping 2014 crown jewel Jabrill Peppers in the fold, while task No. 2 will be replacing Borges.

Bleacher Report's Adam Biggers has already taken the time to suggest a potential replacement: recently fired Miami (Ohio) head coach Don Treadwell.

The high-profile position could attract a number of viable candidates. 

The hire will also be a crucial decision for Hoke, who is on the hot seat after regressing in each of his last two seasons.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

10 College Football Coaches Who Will Begin 2014 Season on the Hot Seat

Nobody feels the pressure in college football more than head coaches.

If a team wins, the players will usually get the majority of the credit. But if the team loses, the blame typically falls squarely on the head coach.

Then again, that tends to come with the territory.

However, sometimes the head coach truly is to blame. Sometimes, the coach is the only thing holding a team back from reaching its true potential—see Gene Chizik.

When this happens, these head coaches usually find themselves on the hot seat.

Here’s a list of 10 head coaches who will find their seat a lot warmer entering 2014.

Begin Slideshow

Biggest Takeaways from Pac 12's 2014 College Football Schedule

Set those reminders, make those reservations and let the countdown to the 2014 college football season begin, because the Pac-12 released its slate for the next year Wednesday. 

The 2014 schedule mirrors the 2013 version in a few key ways, thus the divisional races could again be decided before the regular season's final week. Several marquee matchups with possible conference championship implications occur between the first week of September and mid-October: 

 

USC at Stanford, Sept. 6: Pac-12 play begins in especially combustible fashion. Not only has USC-Stanford grown to be one of the conference's more competitive rivalries, but new Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian and Stanford's David Shaw had a heated dispute that played out in the media last October, following the Cardinal's narrow defeat of the Sarkisian-led Washington Huskies. 

Each side will also have its own brand of payback in mind for the other. The Trojans effectively ended Stanford's BCS Championship hopes in Los Angeles last November, but haven't won on The Farm since 2008.  

As Lindsey Thiry of Fox Sports notes, this is likely the most significant cross-divisional test USC faces. 

 

UCLA at Arizona State, Sept. 25 (Thurs.): The Pac-12 South's last three title game participants meet in Tempe, Ariz. Their last two meetings were decided by two and five points. UCLA won its last time at Sun Devil Stadium with a field goal in the waning seconds. 

 

Stanford at Washington, Sept. 27: This is the first in a series of brutal road games for Stanford, which lost its last time in Seattle. Washington played the Cardinal within a field goal last season. This game should provide some insight into the Huskies' conference championship credentials.

 

Oregon at UCLA: Oct. 11: Each is a very early favorite in its division, thanks in no small part to the decisions of quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley to return for their redshirt junior seasons. The inside track for hosting the 2014 Pac-12 Championship and the Heisman Trophy race will be at stake. 

 

Stanford at Arizona State, Oct. 18: A rematch at the site of the 2013 Pac-12 Championship game, the Sun Devils are seeking their first victory over Stanford since 2008.  

 

Washington at Oregon, Oct. 18: Chris Petersen, winner of his last two games as a head coach against Oregon, takes a crack at ending Washington's decade-long losing streak in the border rivalry. 

Two-time defending conference champion Stanford will obviously have its mettle tested almost immediately. In addition to its three big Pac-12 games in the season's first eight weeks, the Cardinal travel to Notre Dame in Week 6 for their annual regional rivalry tilt. 

Stanford-Notre Dame is one of the top non-conference dates on the schedule, but fans will have to wait through Week 1 before getting to the good stuff.  

Opening week is rather pedestrian compared to this season, which featured Washington State's trip to Auburn and the Washington-Boise State bowl rematch. USC hosts Fresno State in another bowl redux, but the Bulldogs visit the Coliseum in Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian's debut, but do so without Derek Carr.

Nevertheless, that may be the most intriguing pairing of the first week. Week 2 rewards fans' patience with perhaps the best non-conference game of the season. 

Michigan State visits Oregon in a clash worthy of the Granddaddy of 'Em All. The programs won two of the last three Rose Bowls, and a number of Spartans from this year's Michigan State team return to test Oregon's high-tempo offense with precisely the same kind of physical defense and smash-mouth offensive style that denied the Ducks the Pac-12 title the last two seasons. 

Between the Michigan State showdown and visit to UCLA, Oregon's College Football Playoff resume will either be rock-solid or scrapped by the time Stanford visits Autzen Stadium on Nov. 1.  

Of course, the Ducks will need to avoid a November letdown, something that has plagued their championship aspirations throughout the last three seasons. The 2013 campaign brought losses at Stanford and Arizona. A Nov. 8 trip to the elevation and cold of Salt Lake City to face Utah looms as a potential upset date. Just ask Stanford. 

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida Gators: Why They Will Compete for an SEC Championship in 2014

Something happened to the Florida Gators in 2013 that Gator Nation was not used to.

They were the laughing stock of college football and sports fans everywhere.

In just five seasons, the Gators went from winning their second national championship in three years to being SportsCenter's No.1 "Not Top Play" for having two players on the offense block each other during a game.

That game happened to be when the Gators hit rock bottom. It was against Georgia Southern, an FCS school, and the Gators lost 26-20 in The Swamp.

Now, as of January 8, the Gators have lost their No. 1 recruit—247Sports.com 5-star running back Dalvin Cook—to bitter rival Florida State.

Oh, and those Seminoles have just won the national championship.

Fans who sat in misery on their hard bleacher seats and watched Steve Addazio conduct an offense that didn't look like it could ever get any worse were devastatingly shown just how much worse an offense can look in 2013—even without Addazio.

Florida ranked 113th out of 123 Division I FBS teams in total offense in 2013, ranking behind teams like Idaho and Eastern Michigan—both of which are on the schedule for next season.

The Gators had the worst season in the school's history since 1979 and lost for the first time to Vanderbilt in Gainesville since 1945.

And yet, there is reason to be optimistic heading into 2014.

If nothing else, fans can look at the miraculous turnaround of Auburn from 2012 to 2013. Auburn was historically bad in 2012, losing every one of its eight conference games on the way to a 3-9 overall record before eventually firing Gene Chizik.

Everyone knows what happened this season, and while the Tigers came up just short of a national title, the 2013 Auburn Tigers will stand as one of the greatest turnaround stories in the history of college football.

Sure, they needed some miracles at the end of games to make it where they ended up.

No, they were probably not the second-best team in the country as far as talent goes, but that is my whole point! The beauty of college football is that it may not always be pretty and teams need a bit of luck to make it to the top.

The 2012 Gators ended up being one game short of playing for a national championship and needed a miraculous blocked punt touchdown against the lowly Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns on homecoming at the end of the game to keep that season alive.

College football is sometimes about the ball just bouncing your way—as it literally did for Auburn on the game-winning touchdown catch against Georgia this season.

The 2013 Gators had serious talent issues at some key places, but the team also had some of the worst luck imaginable—especially when it came to injuries.

For the entire 2013 season, 29 scholarship players missed snaps due to injury, 23 scholarship players missed entire games and 17 scholarship players suffered season-ending injuries during some point before or during the season.

Only five players made all 12 starts for the Gators.

No matter what kind of talent pool you have, it is impossible to replace that many men and expect to be competitive.

Furthermore, despite the disaster that was 2013, the Gators still currently sit at 10th in ESPN's recruiting class rankings. Of the Gators' top six recruits for 2014, three are offensive players and two are considered "athletes" who can play on both sides of the ball.

One of those recruits is quarterback Will Grier from North Carolina, who comes in ranked as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the class.

Grier set a national record with 837 yards passing in a playoff game last season and broke his own state record in the game with 10 passing touchdowns.

As Gator fans know, though, Jeff Driskel came in as a highly touted playmaker as well and has yet to live up to his perceived potential.

With former offensive coordinator Brent Pease now gone from Florida, the Gators brought in Kurt Roper from Duke in an attempt to revive the offense.

The Gators plan to run a more uptempo and spread offense under Roper, as Will Muschamp knows he is on thin ice.

Roper had been the offensive coordinator, assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach of the Blue Devils and was named as a finalist for the 2013 Broyles Award, which recognizes the nation's top assistant coach. Duke ranked 43rd in total offense in Division I under Roper in 2013.

While the Gators still need more talent on the offensive side of the ball, they still return a talented stable of running backs that includes Mack Brown, Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor, who had a very impressive freshman season.

The Gators also currently hold a commitment from ESPN's No. 2 wide receiver, Ermon Lane, whose 6'2" and 196-pound frame could give the Gators more size and big-play ability from the wide receiver position.

Defensively, the Gators will certainly lose a lot of talent to the NFL draft in April, as three starters—Dominique Easley, Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson—are projected to be selected in the first three rounds by WalterFootball.com.

Despite the injuries, the Gators still managed to deliver the nation's eighth-best total defense and seventh-best passing defense in 2013.

Florida will return in 2014 with an ultra-talented but young secondary anchored by Vernon Hargreaves III, who was named as a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award recognizing the nation's top defensive back last season. Hargreaves was the only freshman named as a finalist for the list.

On top of everything else, the going should be at least a little easier for the Gators in the SEC East next season, as Georgia, South Carolina and Missouri will all be replacing senior quarterbacks.

All things considered, 2014 is an opportunity for a fresh start for the Florida Gators.

The 2013 season was disastrous, but the foundation is in place for a great team. After all, this team is just one season removed from an 11-2 record with not much of a difference in talent.

Will Muschamp knows the time is now, but he has the support of athletic director Jeremy Foley and, most importantly, his players.

The Gators can and will compete for an SEC Championship in 2014.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Dear Mr. NFL GM, Here's Why You Should Draft Johnny Manziel

The door has closed on Johnny Manziel's college football career as he announced on Wednesday that he is "ready to make [his] dream a reality" and declared for the NFL draft. Life is about to get even more complicated for the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner as he will be one of the most discussed players over the next few months leading up to the 2014 NFL draft.

If you are a general manager of an NFL team that is looking for a quarterback, look no further than the former Texas A&M passer. Teddy Bridgewater, of Louisville, will likely be the first off the board, but after Bridgewater, Manziel should be the guy GMs are clamoring to add to the roster. The kid is a great leader who loves football, wants nothing more than to win and he's a mighty fine quarterback prospect as well.

The anti-Manziel crowd will be out in full force in the months leading up to the combine and will get even louder when draft day comes. They will scream about his off-the-field antics. They will tell tales of his immaturity and mention how he is a jerk. They will talk about the autograph scandal and subsequent NCAA investigation that ultimately amounted to nothing.

These folks have been around since he was popping bottles after the Cotton Bowl win. They showed up, as expected, after the Johnny Football they thought they knew at the Heisman ceremony turned out to be a fun-loving college guy with enough family money to enjoy some of the finer things in life. They are the folks who got real loud after the Manning Passing Academy incident, and chirped hard when Manziel got the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for jawing with a Rice player.

It is a group littered with 'moralists' who want Johnny Football to fit into their box.

Simple advice on dealing with these folks? Ignore them.

The fact is, Manziel is a winner who is loved by his teammates and is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. The selfishness folks mention? The quarterback cost his team once this year, against Rice, in a spot when the Aggies had a hefty lead and it ultimately amounted to nothing.

From that point on, he was the picture of poise. In Oxford, the quarterback's knee buckled in what looked to be an ugly injury. It was merely a scare as Manziel got back out on the field and showed he was still capable of making defenders miss. His final drive against the Rebels, in a winning effort, was a testament to his teammates believing he could get it done, and the quarterback delivered.

Against Auburn, Manziel suffered a shoulder injury, but he made sure he was out on the field to keep the Aggies in the game. The defense couldn't get a stop, but Manziel fought through the pain to put up the 41 points that would fall just short of the victory. It was a winning effort with no W to show for it.

After Texas A&M struggled on the road against No. 14 LSU and No. 5 Missouri, Manziel returned to form, rested and healthy in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. After trailing Duke 38-17 at the half, Johnny Football came alive under the bright lights, leading the offense into the end zone for four offensive touchdowns in the second half to play catch-up to the Blue Devils in order to get the New Year's Eve victory.

More important than the win?

How Manziel handled the game itself. The redshirt sophomore got his classmate, Mike Evans, under control following the big receiver's early angry outburst. Even when the game looked like it was slipping away, the 2012 Heisman winner kept himself and his offense focused.   

Most importantly, the quarterback got the defense fired up. He let them know that he believed in them, that the game belonged to A&M and it was up to the defense to go out and snatch the victory for the Aggies. It was the defense understanding that its leader needed it to bow its neck and get a win that made the difference as the much-maligned unit iced the game in its final minutes. 

There is, of course, more to Manziel than the simple buzzwords. After all, GMs don't just want a winner or a leader, it is understood that they'd also like to get a real, actual, high quality quarterback.

Make no mistake, Johnny Football has them covered there.

A season ago, the quarterback was a runner who could throw the ball down the field when he had to. He had Heisman moments that were rooted in hoping no one hit him and trying to keep the ball moving toward the end zone. He was a phenomenal player, but not a very good quarterback.

That changed in 2013, when Manziel answered the bell at the quarterback spot. Texas A&M asked him to work through his reads, and he did it. Texas A&M asked him to get through a progression, and he did it. Texas A&M asked him to be patient in the pocket, and he did it. Everything that Johnny Football needed to work on to become Johnny Quarterback, he did, and that work showed up in his play on Saturdays.

In 2013, he proved the doubters wrong as he showed he could make effective adjustments and had not yet reached his ceiling. He made himself into a quarterback by growing up with the offense and expanding his play at the position. He displayed the arm to make the long throws and the touch to make the short throws. 

Against Duke, standing on the NFL right hash, the quarterback pushed the ball to the left sideline on a rope. That throw displayed not just the distance, but the velocity that is a must to stop cornerbacks from breaking up the long pass.

Oh, and he still has that knack for getting out of trouble and doing something special when he has to.

GMs in the NFL, pull the trigger on Manziel, he's a guy that a team on the quarterback hunt cannot afford to pass up.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages