NCAA Football News

How Nick Saban Will Get Even with Auburn, College Football Gods in 2014

The loss was nothing short of stunning, especially considering the opponent. 

The University of Alabama defense had limited Auburn to season lows in total offense and rushing yards, only to be left watching as the Tigers celebrated the remarkable comeback win.

"We didn't finish the game," Alabama coach Nick Saban said during his postgame press conference. "When you play good teams you've got to play for 60 minutes. Those kinds of teams don't go away. There's a lot of lessons to be learned out there about finishing games and continuing to do things correctly.”

Yet this wasn’t last year’s epic finish at Jordan-Hare Stadium, where Chris Davis’ 100-plus yard touchdown return off a missed field goal as time expired resulted in an epic 34-28 finish.

This was the 2010 game. Due to a torn pectoral muscle, safety Mark Barron couldn’t lift his arm to intercept or deflect a pass that resulted in a 70-yard touchdown, running back Mark Ingram had just his second lost fumble in 613 touches and Alabama blew a 24-0 lead.

The Crimson Tide subsequently responded by winning the rematch 42-14 and the next two national championships only to learn the same tough lesson all over again.

The question now is can Alabama bounce back in similar fashion?

There’s no way of knowing until the season plays out and the rivals meet again Nov. 29 at Bryant-Denny Stadium, but history tells us that the Crimson Tide should be more than ready.

Since 2008 only eight opposing coaches have managed to pull out a victory against Saban, while just one, Les Miles, has defeated him twice in a row. Previously the last coach to defeat him in consecutive games was Steve Spurrier when Florida was flying high under his direction. It pounded LSU 41-9 in 2000, and 44-15 in 2001.

Before losing to LSU during the 2011 season Saban had won 12 straight rematches.

In those 14 initial defeats Saban’s team lost by an average of 14.4 points. In the rematches he won by an average of 14.7 points.

Of course, no rematch was bigger than LSU in 2011, when the Crimson Tide lost the regular-season meeting in overtime, 9-6, only to play again for the national title. Despite LSU being in its back yard of New Orleans, Alabama recorded the only shutout in Bowl Championship Series history, 21-0.

It’s part of a familiar pattern.

After losing to Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer in the 2008 SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, Alabama spent a lot of the following offseason working on the Gators. It returned to the Georgia Dome and won.

Last year it did the same to Johnny Manziel and Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M. After the Aggies pulled off a 29-24 win in 2012, when Alabama was facing its third ranked team in as many weeks, the Crimson Tide went to Kyle Field and notched a 49-42 victory.

Consequently, there’s a reason why no SEC opponent has a winning record against the Crimson Tide under Saban.

Overall, there are just nine programs that have an edge on Saban over his 18 years as a collegiate head coach. Florida State, Navy, Stanford, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Utah and Washington are all 1-0, while Nebraska is 2-0. From his Big Ten days at Michigan State (1995-99), Wisconsin is 2-1 while Purdue is 3-1-1 thanks largely to quarterback Drew Brees.

Michigan was one of the few opposing programs with an overall winning record against Saban before he arrived at Alabama. The Crimson Tide opened the 2012 season with an impressive 41-14 neutral-site win in Dallas. 

That’s the same venue where it will open the 2015 season against Wisconsin, where Saban will once again try to show that he doesn’t just get mad about losing, he gets even.

 

Christopher Walsh is the lead Alabama football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

Follow @CrimsonWalsh

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Biggest Remaining Challenge Each Big Ten Coach Faces This Offseason

The dog days of summer are upon us. That means summer workouts and filling out rosters with incoming freshmen. 

It also means it's time to assess the biggest question marks facing teams before the start of preseason camp. 

Everyone in the Big Ten has questions—from Ohio State to Purdue. Some teams just have more pressing ones. 

What is the biggest remaining challenge for each Big Ten head coach? The answers are in the following slides. 

Begin Slideshow

B/R Exclusive: Watch Blake Barnett, Hottest QB in 2015 Class, Commit

This B/R exclusive with Blake Barnett, one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the 2015 class, offers an inside look as he decides where he will play his collegiate ball. Rated the No. 3 dual-threat QB and a 4-star prospect by 247Sports' composite rankings, he recently decommitted from the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

With the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Oregon Ducks still fighting for his talents, his choice will create ripples through the recruiting world.

Watch Barnett as he announces his decision and discusses his future program with Bleacher Report's Adam Lefkoe.

 

All recruit rankings from the 247Sports composite.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bitcoin to Sponsor New St. Petersburg Bowl Game

Welcome to 2014, people.

The St. Petersburg Bowl, which was sponsored by Beef O'Brady's from 2009-13, will officially be sponsored by Bitcoin, the new-age purveyor of cryptocurrency, starting next season.

The domain beefobradysbowl.com was changed to feature the new logo Wednesday afternoon, at which point the bowl's official Twitter account confirmed the news with this tweet:

According to Biz Carson of Gigaom, the sponsorship came from payment services provider BitPay, and the deal will run through 2016.

This year's St. Petersburg Bowl will be played on Friday, Dec. 26, at 8 p.m. ET, per FBSchedules.com. It is slated to pit a team from the AAC against a team from the ACC, unless either conference does not have enough bowl eligible teams to participate.

Those conference affiliations are new, however: Last year's game featured East Carolina (C-USA), who beat Ohio (MAC), 37-20.

This is positive news for the smaller bowl games, which have collectively had their future cast into doubt with the beginning of the College Football Playoff. Chase Goodbread of NFL.com explains why that doubt is probably overblown, and how this contract helps:

The birth of the College Football Playoff brought about some concern for the future viability of smaller bowls such as this one. Bitcoin's step-in is an example of why there probably isn't too much cause for alarm. As long as there is always a new sponsor ready to step in and put its logo on a bowl, that bowl won't be going away. There might be some changes to the landscape in terms of which bowls can get which teams, but sponsorship always has been and will continue to be the bottom line.

That Bitcoin can afford to sponsor a bowl game is a definite sign of the new world order. That it replaced something as conventional and homey as a sports bar seems fitting for the times in which we live.

The thought of older college football announcers trying to wrap their heads around—and, more so, to explain—what Bitcoin is and how it works during the broadcast is just funny to think about.

In the mind of SI.com writer Martin Rickman, those thoughts might even be enough to get through the rest of the summer:

Amen to that, Martin.

There's a light at the end of the tunnel.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Predicting Where Notre Dame Will Finish in 2015 Recruiting Ranks

Since Brian Kelly was hired in December 2009, Notre Dame football has finished with a top-10 recruiting class three times. The Irish currently sit at No. 10 in the national team rankings for the class of 2015, per 247Sports.

After its recent run of six commitments in 17 days, Notre Dame’s class has swelled to 13 members. The question, however, is where the Fighting Irish class will finish in the rankings. We’re still roughly eight months away from national signing day, but we’ll look toward the future and consider the possibilities.

Given Kelly’s track record since arriving at Notre Dame, a top-20 finish seems like a lock. But the current class has only four 4-star commitments—center Tristen Hoge, cornerback Shaun Crawford, offensive tackle Jerry Tillery and linebacker Josh Barajas.

The Irish will need to continue adding high-end talent to maintain a spot in the top 10, and they’ll most likely need to land a few of their top targets to surge even higher up the rankings.

Some of the top names on Notre Dame’s board figure to include cornerback Iman Marshall, outside linebacker Justin Hilliard, defensive end Jashon Cornell, and running backs Jacques Patrick and Soso Jamabo, all of whom rank in the top 60 overall.

Last year, the Irish earned a late commitment from inside linebacker Nyles Morgan, who finished the recruiting cycle as the No. 53 player in the country. Morgan was Notre Dame’s highest-ranked commitment in that 10th-ranked class.

In 2013, however, Notre Dame added outside linebacker Jaylon Smith (No. 2 nationally), safety Max Redfield (No. 30) and running back Greg Bryant (No. 45), and the Irish finished fifth.

While rounding out the rest of the class with top players is still important, Notre Dame’s final class ranking will likely come down to how it fares with elite prospects.

For some of those top targets, such as Hilliard, the Irish will soon know where they stand. 

Making my decision this month at St. X. I'll know the exact date as early as tomorrow.

— Justin Hilliard (@JHilliard47) June 18, 2014

But for others, the decision might not come until the back end of the upcoming season or even January or February.

With that time frame in mind, it’s worth remembering Notre Dame’s 2012 season and its class of 2013.

Following the undefeated regular season and the trip to the national championship game, the Irish closed their class with a bang. Redfield pledged to Notre Dame in January, three days before the title game. Bryant committed in early December, roughly two weeks after the Irish capped their 12-0 regular season with a 22-13 win over their rival USC.

Notre Dame seems set to finish comfortably in the top 20 of the team recruiting rankings, barring a woefully disappointing season. Another outstanding season, meanwhile, could bring a late boost to the class of 2015 and vault the Irish well into the top 10.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting stats and information courtesy of 247Sports. Star ratings reflect 247Sports' composite rankings.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Power Ranking Auburn's 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

Much has been made of Auburn's 2014 schedule, since it was officially confirmed—the two Mississippi road trips, the visit to Kansas State for a nationally televised Thursday night clash and the pickup of South Carolina in the rotating cross-divisional schedule.

And who could forget the history-making pair of road games at bitter rivals Georgia and Alabama?

The defending SEC champions have plenty of talent returning from last season and will most likely be a top-five team heading into the 2014 schedule. With starting quarterback Nick Marshall returning to lead Gus Malzahn's high-octane offense and a reloaded defense eager to push itself to new heights, Auburn is projected to be in the battle for the four spots in the first College Football Playoff. 

But, like most schedules in the nation's toughest conference, Auburn's 2014 schedule will be a grind through some of the top teams in college football. If the Tigers are going to get back to the sport's biggest stage, they will have to run the gauntlet once again.

Here is a look at the 12 regular-season opponents Auburn has in its crosshairs for 2014, ranked from easiest to toughest.

 

Returning starter numbers are taken from Phil Steele, unless otherwise noted, and opening lines are taken from the Golden Nugget.

Begin Slideshow

Michigan Football: Jabrill Peppers Tempering the Hype, Showing Maturity

The hype surrounding 5-star recruit Jabrill Peppers began building the moment he announced his Michigan commitment. Interest fueled by a steady stream of YouTube video highlights, his Twitter presence and personal blog Breezy’s World, via USA Today, has reached a fever pitch just as he prepares to join his new teammates in Ann Arbor.

But in his final blog entry, Peppers dialed down the fiery rhetoric and acknowledged the competitive gap he needs to cross while remaining undaunted by the work ahead:

I just want to be as prepared as possible going into my freshman year because I know a lot will be expected from me. I've always had that, but I always say, 'To whom much is given much is required.'

I'm not going into Michigan thinking about expectations or worrying about doing certain things to live up to expectations. I know there's a huge transition from high school to college and I'm just going in focusing on learning the defensive schemes.

Many great high school players don’t appreciate the challenge of football at the collegiate level—Peppers isn't making that mistake.

He has embraced the work of cultivating his talent, and that should send a chill through Michigan’s opponents and bring a smile to the face of Michigan fans.

He also addressed the comparisons between him and Michigan Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson:

I'm not trying to go in there to be the next Charles Woodson. It's a nice comparison, but, at the end of the day, that's Charles. That's one of the best college football players ever. I haven't done anything yet.

I just want to be the best Jabrill I can be.

Hoke perhaps helped delay some of the inevitable comparisons last week, saying that Peppers might begin his college career wearing No. 5 instead of the No. 2 jersey made famous by Woodson.

No matter what jersey number he wears, the comparison to Woodson isn't going away. While Woodson made 55 tackles and five interceptions during his freshman year, he didn't appear on offense or start returning kicks until his sophomore season—even he needed time to acclimate to the collegiate game.

Earlier this year, Hoke tried to slow down the speculation that Peppers would be used to return kicks this season, while acknowledging his potential.

“Let him get in here and be a corner for a while before returning kicks,” said Hoke. “And possibly there might be a plan for him to play on offense.”

Peppers has masterfully cultivated his image—many professional players could learn from his example. But image is one thing, and now it’s time for him to back up his bravado with performance on the field.

Peppers may have dialed down the attitude in his blog posting, but he couldn’t resist setting bold expectations for his freshman season.

Swagger is great, but Michigan needs him to compete and earn a position on the depth chart as soon as possible. He’ll need to prove himself to teammates and foes alike—that’s the pressure that comes with being one of the top recruits in the nation.

All statistics from mgoblue.com, the official University of Michigan athletic department website.

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via press conferences or in person.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Rushing Attack: Monster Year for Longhorn Duo

The Texas Longhorns are looking to rely heavily on their rushing attack in the upcoming season. The two men to lead this charge are Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray.

Both running backs have huge potential, with an opportunity to become an insane duo during the 2014 season. How well do you think these two workhorses will fare next year?

Watch Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss the Longhorns' running backs.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOs Digital

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

What 4-Star LB Nick Conner's Commitment Means for Ohio State

Ohio State endured a slow start to the 2015 recruiting cycle but momentum continues to mount during the early stages of summer. In-state linebacker Nick Conner elevated the class Tuesday evening when he shared his commitment on Instagram.

"I just want to say that I have officially committed to play football at The Ohio State University," he wrote in a statement that accompanied a photo montage.

Connor, a 4-star prospect from Dublin, Ohio, pledged to Ohio State shortly after receiving his offer at a Buckeyes camp. The 6'3", 225-pound playmaker became the newest member of Urban Meyer's class before leaving campus:

Ohio State suddenly has seven commits after failing to pick up a pledge for more than three months. Florida safety Ben Edwards, who joined the class in February, flipped to Auburn in April and left the class with just two prospects for a five-week span.

Quarterback Joe Burrow ended the drought on May 27, and Meyer has since steadily assembled a quality group of talent. Conner is the most crucial pickup this year.

He holds a score of 0.917 in 247Sports' composite ratings, which is good enough for second in the class. Only cornerback Eric Glover-Williams, who committed last summer, is more highly rated.  

Conner, who rated fifth nationally among inside linebackers in 247Sports' composite rankings, is an extremely productive player at Dublin Scioto High School. He tallied 129 tackles in 2013, including 19 for loss.

He exhibited well-rounded effectiveness, collecting 5.5 sacks and three interceptions. Connor chose Ohio State from an expansive offer list that includes Oregon, West Virginia, Kentucky and Michigan State.

His decision to jump at the freshly extended Buckeyes offer could further motivate other Ohio State targets to commit. The Buckeyes are heavily invested in the pursuit of a pair of in-state outside linebackers who could complement Conner at the next level. 

Justin Hilliard (Cincinnati) and Jerome Baker (Cleveland) are coveted athletes who Meyer aims to keep on their home turf. A lengthy recruiting lull may have perplexed both players, but the team's recent success—five commits in three weeks—may be enough to turn the tide and create an impression that now is the time to hop on the Buckeyes bandwagon.

Ohio State's class currently rates 37th nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings. Given Meyer's impressive track record on the recruiting trail, it's safe to say the team's trajectory is pointed upward.

 

Recruit information and ratings provided by 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

RB Ameer Abdullah Will Be Nebraska's Most Dangerous Weapon

Ameer Abdullah has proved to be a staple for the Nebraska Cornhuskers offensive attack. Entering Abdullah's senior year, expectations are through the roof.

His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield provides even more opportunities for him to succeed. How important do you think Abdullah is for the Cornhuskers?

Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer discuss how impactful the player can be during his final year.

Highlights courtesy of XOs Digital

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Where Will 5-Star Versatile WR George Campbell Take His Talents?

Wide receiver George Campbell has everything you want in a recruit. This 5-star standout is a versatile threat against any defender.

Campbell has yet to make a decision but has shown heavy interest in top SEC and ACC programs. Where do you think this stud will end up?

Check out College Football Analyst Michael Felder make his prediction.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

Rankings by 247Sports Composite Rankings.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Will Michigan State QB Connor Cook Dominate the Big Ten?

The Michigan State Spartans are ecstatic about returning junior QB Connor Cook. With a handful of weapons at his disposal, Cook will have the opportunity to put up monster numbers this year.

Coming off a 13-1 season, fans are expecting huge things from Michigan State in 2014-15. Will Connor Cook live up to the hype?

Adam Kramer and Michael Felder break down this Spartan's bright future.

Highlights courtesy of XOs Digital

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Power Ranking Virginia Tech's 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

Much like last season, the Virginia Tech Hokies have been graced with a relatively easy ACC schedule with one absurdly tough nonconference opponent, but there are plenty of ways the landscape has changed since 2013.

Unlike last year, the Hokies will get one game to warm up before traveling to face a college football powerhouse when they head to Columbus to battle Ohio State this time around.

However, what has stayed the same is the Hokies' good fortune to duck major ACC Atlantic foes like Florida State and Clemson, instead drawing Wake Forest and Boston College from the other division.

But Tech couldn't do a whole lot with an easy schedule last season, dropping a series of winnable games.

To make matters worse, some teams in the Coastal division have made significant improvements since 2013, meaning that the race for a spot in the ACC title game should be even tighter than it was last year.

Read on to find out which games should be a cakewalk for the Hokies next season and which ones could really challenge them, rated from easiest to toughest.

Begin Slideshow

Power Ranking Tennessee's 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones' "brick-by-brick" rebuilding project will hit a brick wall in 2014 in the form of one of the most difficult schedules in college football.

Whether the Volunteers can power through it and secure a bowl berth will go a long way in determining just how much momentum Jones has a year from now, when his regime will truly begin to be judged.

This season is about growing up, getting better and making the postseason for the first time in four years.

From the regular slate of rigorous SEC opponents to an out-of-conference schedule that features Utah State, Arkansas State and Sugar Bowl champion Oklahoma, there are few freebies on this year's docket.

Here's a breakdown of the minefield that UT must navigate through to make a bowl game, from the easiest game to the hardest.

The ranking criteria includes where the game is played, how far along a UT team that could play as many as 25 newcomers from a class ranked seventh by 247Sports is in the maturation process as well as how the Vols match up personnel-wise.

Begin Slideshow

LSU Football: Power Ranking Tigers' 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

Breaking News: LSU has a tough 2014 schedule. 

Much like the rest of the teams in the SEC, the Tigers have a rough road ahead of them. Les Miles lost numerous players with eligibility remaining this offseason, which means he must replenish his depth. 

LSU's 2014 opponents had a combined record of 82-71 last season, according to Kevin Kelley of FBSchedules.com. Expect the Tigers' foes to finish with more than 90 wins this year. 

Here is a quick look at the 2014 schedule from the easiest game to the hardest. 

 

*Rankings, stats, returning starters and additional information provided by 247Sports, Phil SteeleCFBStats.com and ESPN.com.

Begin Slideshow

Why Auburn-Kansas State Could Be College Football's Game of 2014

The potency of a regular-season college football game still months away is beginning to take shape, and yet, buzz for this contest will likely be marginal as we slowly churn toward the start of the season.

No, it’s not the Iron Bowl. The buzz for this particular game will be just fine. It’s not the Red River [Insert Whatever They’re Calling it This Year Here] or any other staple rivalry game for that matter. And no, it’s not Oregon-Michigan State, although you’re getting warmer (and that one will do just fine, thank you).

If you’re looking for an early "Game of the Year" candidate, take a gander at Auburn-Kansas State on Thursday, September 18.

It’s not circled four times with oversized exclamation points on your schedule—at least not yet—although it should be. And on that note, clear your calendar accordingly. Avoid all obligations and make it to Manhattan, Kansas, on this date if you can. This has a chance to be spectacular for a handful of reasons, and it begins with two very different wizards wielding different wands.

 

The Coaches

One coached a team in 1962 and concocts success with a solid serving of brilliance, an aggressive pour of experience and an infusion of JUCO ingredients. The other has run three plays in the time it has taken you to read this sentence and has quickly become the most feared offensive engineer in the country. He doesn’t mind starting the occasional JUCO at quarterback every now and then, either.

They are separated by 26 years in age, and yet, each has settled in far different environments. While Gus Malzahn’s coaching stock is almost unparalleled nationally at this very moment at Auburn, Bill Snyder is a strange but somehow fitting adversary on the other sideline.

Snyder isn’t the perfect man to slow Malzahn’s offense—quite frankly, no such human elixir may exist at this point—but he is more than capable to stand in blow-for-blow. He will provide the more deliberate attack, but that doesn’t mean it can’t (or won’t) be successful.

They are different, and that’s what makes this contest special. The matchup between these two schools begins here, at the headsets, and age isn’t the only thing separating them. Expectations for each heading into the season are on opposite ends of the world, although the gap in talent feels slightly smaller.

 

The Stakes

Here's where things kick up a notch; where the uncertainty of a new playoff format casts an unfamiliar shadow over an early out-of-conference matchup with meaning.

This could serve as an elimination game for the sparkly debut of CFB’s postseason. Or, perhaps it will be a resume-boosting win for one and a good loss—which still be more important than ever—for the other.

Either way, losing early—even when it’s outside the conference against real competition—isn’t favorable. And because this game serves as a kickoff for Week 3, it will carry a little more weight. Win this, and the momentum will be bubbling over into conference play.

The expectation early on—at least according to Las Vegas—is that the team with the momentum will be the larger cat of the two. That cat being the tiger.

Auburn has been tabbed a robust 13-point road favorite at the Golden Nugget, a line that seems extreme even by Auburn standards. It’s worth pointing out that the Tigers haven’t lost against the spread since September 14, which plays a role in crafting this one.

But for both teams poised for a conference title—Auburn being the more obvious selection of the two—this marks a substantial early measuring stick. If the Tigers win and do so by a spread-like margin, the buzz will continue to build. If K-State pulls what would be considered an enormous upset, the expectations of this team will undergo a seismic shift.

 

The Offenses

Some people appreciate defense and refuse to sway from their particular brand of hitting, punting and scoreboard silence. It’s a fine choice, and we’re not here to knock football taste buds.

For the rest of us who enjoy being smothered in points, however—the kind of ridiculous matchup that lasts well into the next day and brings about a stream of touchdowns—pull up a comfy chair.

This game could take on that persona, and it’s not simply because of one offense. It begins with that offense, though, and Auburn could be much different (and better) in this department than it was a year ago. And that’s saying quite a bit.

The losses of running back Tre Mason and left tackle/human forklift Greg Robinson cannot be glazed over. These were integral pieces to Malzahn’s attack last year, and they will be missed. But the 2014 team returns, well, pretty much everyone else, including quarterback Nick Marshall, the catalyst for it all.

If Marshall can improve as a passer—and there’s no reason to believe he shouldn’t—good luck. Sprinkle in a talented group of wideouts led by Sammie Coates along with the fascinating arrival of D’haquille Williams, and defensive coordinators can start to twitch.

Auburn is not alone with its potential, though. Kansas State returns a unit rich with talent, including perhaps the best wideout in the country.

Tyler Lockett went over 1,200 yards receiving last season despite missing two games. He will be catching passes from Jake Waters, who—despite splitting reps—scored 18 touchdowns in his final seven games. Senior wide receiver Corey Sexton will take on a more prominent role in his offense, and he should excel as well.

There are questions for K-State, more so than on Auburn’s side. The offensive line, for starters, needs work, and running back is a work in progress. Even with concerns, excitement should be welcomed and points should come in bunches. If Waters trends up like many believe he will, there’s no reason to think this group won’t blow by the 33.2 points per game it put up last year.

 

And Finally, Unfamiliarity

Tradition is worth appreciating. In fact, tradition is what elevates this sport above all others (in this completely unbiased opinion). But tradition can also become familiar—not boring, but regular—and it feels good to abandon it from time to time.

Now, two teams from major conferences playing one another in a home environment shouldn’t be something radical. The reality of the sport in its current form, however, is there simply aren’t enough of these games. They are unique, and when we do finally get one, rarely are both teams peaking at the same time to create a true appreciation of what’s ahead.

There are no guarantees that the final product will be as captivating as the ingredients, that both teams will peak. But the ingredients are there.

At the very least, this has the makings of a game that will make your Friday morning miserable. And those are the best kind.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Power Ranking Florida Gators 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

If the college football schedule was based on last year’s performance, Florida would have a much easier ride in 2014. Instead, the Gators were given no favors and will have to overcome a tough schedule against many of the better teams in the land.

Florida’s slate includes road games against the last two national champions, as well as five other SEC teams that finished last season with a winning record. Welcome to life in the toughest conference in college football.  

While many games aren’t going to be easy, it’s time to rank them in order of their difficulty.

The hardest matchup shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Begin Slideshow

What USC Can Do to Beat Out UCLA for 4-Star S DeChaun Holiday

A recruiting showdown is set between rivals USC and UCLA for the commitment of 4-star safety DeChaun Holiday, and it will be a very important one for both schools. 

Earlier this month, Holiday told Rivals.com's Chris Swanson that he is down to two schools, and those two happen to be the Trojans and the Bruins:

The Mission Hills (San Marcos, California) safety has prototypical defensive back height and length, with a blend of size and athleticism out on the perimeter. He runs well and shows good functional strength working positioning and retaining leverage.

Beyond his physicality, Holiday is adept at anticipating the pass. He shows great instincts and spatial awareness on the field. He reads quarterbacks very well and is quick to jump and undercut routes.

He knows how to use his skills and his size, which is what makes him such a highly touted prospect. 

While some schools have been recruiting him at cornerback, USC and UCLA are both targeting him as a safety. 

So, which school has the edge in what will surely be a tightly contested duel for his commitment?

At UCLA, defensive backs Randall Goforth and Anthony Jefferson rule the roost this upcoming season. Between the two, Goforth and Jefferson have accumulated 211 tackles, five interceptions and five tackles for loss. Jefferson is a redshirt senior, while Goforth is a junior, but a strong season from him could ensure that both are gone for the 2015 season.

UCLA has been toying with Priest Willis at safety, and the rising sophomore is just getting his feet wet in the Bruins defense. Then there's Tahaan Goodman, the former 4-star safety (class of 2013) who is still waiting in the wings. He's unproven, but he was heavily recruited, and there's no reason to believe he won't live up to the hype just yet.

Lastly there's Tyler Foreman, also a former 4-star talent who signed in 2013, who will be jockeying to get in the rotation.

Barring injury to these guys, UCLA's secondary appears to be pretty full of up-and-coming talent at safety, which could be a deterrent for Holiday if he is seeking early playing time.

But USC doesn't have that problem, thanks to the scholarship limitations, and the annoying depth issues the Trojans are dealing with could help them land Holiday's commitment. 

The Trojans feature a pair of outstanding safeties in Su'a Cravens and Leon McQuay III, but it's slim pickings for reliable talent behind them. Gerald Bowman is really the only option, provided Josh Shaw stays at cornerback.

It's possible that some of the defensive backs USC signed in 2014 could slide over to safety. Until that happens, however, the Trojans are dangerously thin at the position.

That could work in USC's favor while courting Holiday this summer.

If early playing time is what he's after, USC is the school for Holiday. He will have to wait his turn at UCLA, but if he were to commit to Troy, it would be realistic for him to see the field during his very first season.

Should Cravens perform in 2014 under new defensive backs coach Keith Heyward's tutelage the way he did last season under Clancy Pendergast's, that could also be an indication to Holiday of what kind of growth he could expect at USC. 

Beyond that, the Trojans are rebuilding under head coach Steve Sarkisian, and the possibility of being a part of a new era of USC football could endear USC to Holiday. 

It's true that UCLA has a slight competitive edge in Los Angeles at the moment, as the Bruins have bested the Trojans for the past two seasons in a row. But USC has the roster space that could tilt the scales in the Trojans' favor.

Last recruiting cycle, we saw tight end Bryce Dixon choose USC over UCLA, and, among other reasons, a shallow tight ends corps helped the Trojans earn his signature. 

While depth continues to be an issue for the Trojans, they have a unique ability to sell recruits on early playing time, an increasingly important aspect of the college experience for incoming freshmen. 

Holiday hasn't made it clear when he plans to announce his commitment, so we can expect that USC and UCLA will throw everything at him while he mulls over his options. In head-to-head battles for top Southern California talent, the Trojans have maintained an advantage over the past decade, and a commitment from Holiday would help USC maintain its well-established foothold in the area. 

 

All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Best Recruiting Class in Every Power 5 Football Conference's History

This month, a number of top recruits from the Class of 2014 arrived on college campuses across America, ready to get a head start on their college football careers. They joined the talented early enrollees who already went through spring practice, and in August, the remainder of the class will join their new brethren to pursue gridiron glory.

When 2014’s recruits signed in February, they were met with significant hype and adulation, as most talented signees are. They were immediately judged, as is the way of our microwave, gotta-have-it-now society.

The truth is, we won’t know these recruits’ true value until three, four and perhaps even five years down the road. Then we’ll have a better idea of which players emerged from obscurity, which guys lived up to their hype and which players crashed and burned despite their lofty reputations.

Today, we’ll take a look at which classes met expectations (and then some) among the nation’s top historic groups. Here is a look at the top recruiting classes in each of the Power 5 conferences’ histories.

Begin Slideshow

Ranking Clemson's 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

As anticipation grows for the upcoming college football season, fans all over the country will break down the potential outcomes of their team’s schedule. While there’s no way of knowing how each game will play out, there’s no harm in getting a feel for the strength of the schedule.

Clemson’s 2014 schedule features some challenging games, but also a few games that fans won’t have to stress over as much.

Begin Slideshow

Pages