NCAA Football News

Pac-12's Proposed Championship Move to Levi's Stadium Step in Right Direction

Larry Scott is mulling a move to put the Pac-12 football championship game at Levi's Stadium.

To borrow a phrase from the benefactor of one Pac-12 powerhouse: Just Do It.

The Pac-12 commissioner told Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated via a text message on Thursday that after three years of hosting on campus sites, the conference is considering a neutral site for its championship game. Levi's Stadium, the 49ers' new home in Santa Clara, California, could host the game as soon as the upcoming season on Dec. 5.

It just makes too much sense.

After expanding to 12 teams in 2011, the Pac-12 has been staging its title games on the campus stadium of the team with the best regular-season record. The results have been a haphazard mess, with swaths of empty seats and schools scrambling to get tickets sold on short notice. As a result, the game severely lacked the profile of the SEC title game, held annually in Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

The move to Levi's Stadium would remedy nearly all the problems that have plagued the game thus far, so let's count the ways:

—Once the site is chosen, the conference can sell tickets for the game year-round and gain additional revenue from Levi's Stadium's 165 suites and 9,000 club seats. Currently, the hosting institution has only a few days to distribute tickets, and most campus stadiums have only a small number of suites and boxes.

—Levi's Stadium is a state-of-the-art facility and the most wired one in the country, befitting its location in the heart of Silicon Valley. Hosting a game there will immediately give the Pac-12 a high profile for its championship game, especially in the stadium's inaugural season.

—The Bay Area is the geographic center of the Pac-12 conference. Two schools are located there, and it's a short, nonstop flight away from the rest of the campuses. And it's home to large alumni bases for nearly all conference schools.

—The conference, with its headquarters in Walnut Creek and San Francisco, will have the benefit of being able to easily manage the event from the build-up to the actual game. A Pac-12 game between Oregon and Cal will be played at Levi's Stadium on Oct. 24, allowing the conference to study the logistics in a live-game setting.

Scott already made a bold move by relocating the conference's basketball tournament to Las Vegas two years ago. It has been an unqualified success with huge fan support and sold-out championship games as opposed to the half-empty Staples Center, where the event was held for more than a decade.

With that in his back pocket, moving the football title game shouldn't be a tough sell to the conference's school presidents, who will ultimately vote on the decision at their annual meeting in June. As the Pac-12 tries to gain a foothold in the brave new world of the College Football Playoff, the relaunching of its title game would be a nice start.

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Penn State Recruiting: Sterling Jenkins Commitment Serves as Symbol of New Era

The Penn State football program received a big boost last night, both literally and figuratively.

Shortly before landing the seventh-best dual-threat quarterback prospect in Brandon Wimbush, 6'8", 305-pound offensive tackle Sterling Jenkins gave his verbal pledge to James Franklin and the Nittany Lions.

Just announced my commitment to THE Penn State University!!🎉🔥🐾

— Sterling Jenkins⚡™ (@S_Jenkins72) May 6, 2014

Jenkins' commitment is the epitome of what Franklin had in mind when he said he intends to "dominate the state."

The 247Sports composite rating lists the mountain that is Jenkins as the fifth-best tackle prospect in the country and the top overall player coming out of Pennsylvania in 2015.

According to those same rankings, Penn State hadn't landed the top player from Pennsylvania since Justin King signed in 2005, and in that class, the Nittany Lions didn't land another in-state player ranked higher than No. 20.

The 2015 class already includes six of the top 14 in-state prospects, and there's room for growth, as the Nittany Lions are in the mix for several others on that list.

While Franklin has exceeded expectations , pulling some of the top players from the Eastern Seaboard, locking down a commitment from Jenkins feels like a turning point.  

Hailing from Pitt's backyard and holding offers from from Ohio State, Alabama, Michigan and Georgia, Jenkins chose the road less traveled and will head to Happy Valley to continue his academic and football careers.

Franklin and Nittany Nation hope it will serve as a turning point in the history of the program.

Being able to lock down the top local talent has a ripple effect in recruiting. Generally, players from the same areas attend the same camps and off-field functions and become familiar on the field. It can work as a form of peer pressure.

If you have 15 players at a given camp or seven-on-seven tournament and seven of them are committed to one school, the influence can be a huge factor.

And the timing couldn't be better. 

The Keystone State boast seven 4-star recruits in the class of 2015, and next year's class is loaded with no fewer than eight prospects already rated as 4-star prospects. Penn State is in the mix for several of them already.

In an interview with KDKA, Pittsburgh's local CBS affiliate, Jenkins said the following about Coach Franklin: "I trust this guy. I believe in his vision and he's a guy I can work under."

Franklin's trustworthiness and confidence have become contagious on the recruiting trail. Seemingly every target Franklin sets his eyes on falls under his trance and truly buys into his pitch.

If this success continues, the new head coach will be able to deliver on his promises with a roster full of highly coveted recruits. 

In the recruiting world, success and momentum feed off each other with a snowball effect. Dominating the state in 2015 will breed more success and create more momentum for future recruiting endeavors, making the sky the limit.

Fans who weren't around to experience the 1980s are seeing the true potential of this football program for the first time. That includes the top high school prospects from in and around the Commonwealth.


All recruit ratings courtesy of the 247Sports composite rating.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

'Hearing Boos Again' One of Reasons QB Garrett Gilbert Transferred from Texas

In an interview with Judy Battista of NFL.com, SMU quarterback and former Texas Longhorn Garrett Gilbert spoke openly about his 2011 transfer decision, admitting that the boo birds he heard at home games played a part in his choice to leave.

In Gilbert's own words:

Hearing boos again, not really being able to shake that, at that point I kind of knew it might be time to start over and wipe the slate clean. It's tough to sum up quickly. For whatever reason, things didn't work out. I think that led to some forcing the ball, trying to force things to happen. Maybe I read the papers a little too much, as well.

Coming out of Lake Travis High School in 2009, Gilbert was a 5-star recruit and the No. 14 overall player on the 247Sports Composite. As a true freshman, he served as Colt McCoy's backup and played a few snaps of mop-up duty during the regular season.

The Longhorns made it to the BCS National Championship Game against Alabama that season, and when McCoy was forced to leave with an injury, Gilbert was thrown into the fire.

He completed 15 of 40 passes for 186 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions in the 37-21 loss.

Gilbert became the starter the following season and struggled. He threw 10 touchdowns to 17 interceptions, and the Longhorns finished 5-7. He began 2011 as the tentative starter as well, but after completing two of his first eight passes against BYU in Week 2, he was yanked from the lineup. He transferred in November of that year.

Gilbert revived his career in relative anonymity under June Jones at SMU the past couple seasons, most notably with 3,528 yards, 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 10 games this past year.

Jones said he could tell upon Gilbert's arrival that what happened at Texas had scarred him, telling Battista that "he had to get through some demons." 

After a strong pro day, however, the 6'4" passer is finally starting to put his poor experience in Austin behind him and might be a sleeper in this weekend's NFL draft.

In his final seven-round mock draft, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller had Gilbert going to the St. Louis Rams with the No. 214 overall pick.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Football: Why Arthur Lynch Is a Better NFL Prospect Than Aaron Murray

Aaron Murray left the University of Georgia as a four-year starter and the holder of practically every school passing record. He led the Bulldogs to two SEC East Championships, set several new highs in conference statistical categories and was the face of the Bulldog program from 2010-2013. 

But he isn't Georgia's best pro prospect in this year's draft.  

That distinction belongs to tight end Arthur Lynch.

 

Two Impressive Careers

One would be hard-pressed to nitpick the collegiate accomplishments of Murray or Lynch.  

Murray completed 62 percent of his career passes while throwing for 12,885 yards and 119 touchdowns.  From the tight end position, Lynch was—particularly over the past two seasons—one of the record-setting QB's favorite targets.

Sure, the Dawgs never claimed an SEC Championship during the duo's tenure in Athens, but even that relative shortcoming does not rest squarely on the shoulders of these offensive stars.  Over the course of their final three seasons in Athens, Murray, Lynch and the rest of the Dawgs lost a total of 11 games.  Opposing offenses scored 31 or more points in 10 of those outings.

Murray's statistics speak for themselves, and Lynch's role as a foundation for Georgia's passing game was unquestioned, but season-end accolades probably tell the best story of their individual careers.  At the end of the season, Georgia players selected four permanent captains from the 2013 team.  One was Murray; another was Lynch.

 

Mock Draft Projections

Despite recent success, Murray and Lynch may be the lone Bulldogs drafted this week.  And experts don't exactly agree on where either player could land.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has tabbed Murray as the Saints' third-round pick (No. 91 overall) in his latest mock draft.  Interestingly enough, he has Lynch joining him in New Orleans via a fifth-round pick (No. 169 overall).  

Meanwhile, CBS Sports project both players to go in the fourth round, with Lynch going 129th and Murray being selected 140th.

NFLDraftScout.com projects Lynch and Murray will be selected in the fourth round.

 

The "Fit"

With such unclear futures ahead, this week's draft can have a drastic impact on the careers of both players.  That wide array of possibilities is what makes Lynch a better NFL prospect.

For Murray, much of his success will depend on outside factors. He seems to be fully recovered from a late-season knee injury, but if that's not the case, his progress as a rookie will be hindered.  Similarly, if he's drafted by a team that resigns him to third-team duty, he may miss out on valuable reps early in his career, and as a result, he could be lost in the shuffle.

Murray possesses many of the skills necessary to succeed at the NFL level, but some of his best qualities are intangibles that won't necessarily be displayed if he's on the sideline holding a clipboard while the top two quarterbacks on the roster duke it out for playing time.

Lynch, on the other hand, can fit in just about anywhere.  Murray supporters are quick to point out his experience in Georgia's pro-style offense as a selling point for his NFL future, but Lynch thrived in the very same offensive system.  Accordingly, he's an NFL-ready football player in several regards.  

He's a capable run-blocker.  If he wasn't, he wouldn't have seen the field as a Bulldog.  In his two years as a full-time starter, he helped pave the way for Georgia runners to rack up over 4,700 yards on the ground.  That skill will translate to the NFL, where a big, sturdy, blocking tight end is still valued.

Additionally, he's capable of getting open downfield as a receiver.  He registered 13 games with three or more catches as a starter at tight end.  He averaged more than 16 yards per catch over the course of his career.

Lynch does not fit the hyperathletic mold of a Jimmy Graham or even a Rob Gronkowski, but he does have a diverse skill set that can help practically any team in the draft immediately—even if only on special teams.

Murray may also have a fantastic NFL career, and he's certainly hard to write off.  But in the simplest of terms, this may be a matter of supply and demand.

Most teams keep three tight ends and three quarterbacks, but the usage rate of a third tight end is much higher than that of a third passer.  Combine that notion with the fact that many major outlets have Lynch ranked higher than Murray in their respective position groups, and Lynch seems to have a more firm NFL future.

To be sure, neither player's work is done.  Murray must strive to take ownership of a new playbook and master control of an offense the same way he did at the University of Georgia.  Lynch must pick up the finer points of footwork and continue to add size and strength to be a formidable force within an offense.

If their time at Georgia is any indication, NFL fans can expect both players to handle their business in a professional and diligent manner. But for Lynch, there may be fewer obstacles beyond his control.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages