NCAA Football News

Power Ranking Notre Dame's 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

Don’t look now, but we’re only two-and-a-half months out from the return of Notre Dame football.

The Irish commence their 2014 campaign Aug. 30 against Rice at Notre Dame Stadium and wrap up the regular season Nov. 29 against USC in the L.A. Coliseum.

Notre Dame’s slate of games features six tilts at home, three on the road and three at a neutral site—the Shamrock Series game against Purdue at Lucas Oil Stadium, and two away games, against Navy and Syracuse, at FedEx Field and MetLife Stadium respectively. 

In ranking those 12 matchups from easiest to toughest, we’ll consider the projected quality of the opponent, the venue and the time of the season.

Let’s see how the schedule is shaping up.

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Insider Buzz: The 5 Players Atop Texas A&M's 2015 Recruiting Big Board

The Texas A&M Aggies are trying to build on their recruiting success by landing a monster 2015 class, and five names are currently at the top of their list.

Bleacher Report's Adam Lefkoe checked in with Billy Liucci of TexAgs.com to discuss the names atop the Aggies big board and which recruits will most likely end up in College Station.

Watch the video, and learn the latest on Texas A&M recruiting.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

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Bleacher Report's College Football Locks of the Year for 2014

More then 200 college football games now have point spreads, a luxury made possible by the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas.

For the eighth consecutive year, the Nugget released its CFB "Games of the Year" lines (h/t SB Nation), an exercise that has soared in popularity, especially in recent years. It began as a small 25-game release for the true degenerates. Now, it features point spreads from every week of the college football season, all laid out and available for your enjoyment.

Of course, much can change between now and August 30. Even more can (and will) change between now and late November.

But because we have betting options, it’s almost an obligation to handicap some of our favorite early picks. And to showcase the broad buffet of selections, each week of the college football season has been handed one “lock” along with a list of the notable opening numbers.

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Re-Evaluating Michigan's 2011 Recruiting Class

When Brady Hoke was hired in January 2011 to replace Rich Rodriguez after a disappointing 7-6 third season, he quickly had to assemble his staff and build a recruiting class.

Under Rodriguez, Michigan was capable of offensive fireworks but never found consistency on defense. Three seasons of defensive meltdowns were enough for athletic director David Brandon to send Rodriguez packing.

Now, Hoke finds himself at a crossroads, trying to rally the Wolverines after his own 7-6 third season and retooling his offense to better compete in the Big Ten.

He struck some gold in his first recruiting class but also missed—nine of the 20 commitments are no longer with the program.

This is a look back at Michigan's 2011 recruiting class, which was ranked No. 26 overall by 247Sports.

Position grades are determined by impact and whether the player is still with the program.

 

All season 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.

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Why Monster ND Signee Quenton Nelson Is Hardest-Working Recruit in the Country

2014 Notre Dame signee Quenton Nelson is one of the top-rated offensive tackles in the country, according to 247Sports, and he has the potential to contribute for the Irish right away.

The 6'5", 295-pound athlete has a work ethic that can't be matched, and Bleacher Report went behind the scenes with Nelson to capture his routine as he prepares for Notre Dame.

From the weight room to taekwondo, watch the video and see why this massive athlete will be so successful at the next level.

Special Thanks to Nelson's taekwondo coach Grand Master Kyong Hoon Kim, speed and agility coach Bobby Smith (RYPT), and weight strength coach Joe Mcauliffe

 

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Can Jake Heaps Make Miami an ACC Contender in 2014?

The old college try is now the old graduate student try. That's how you can sum up Jake Heaps' college career to date.

Heaps left high school in 2010 as a touted 4-star recruit on 247Sports.com. Other sites like Rivals.com had Heaps listed as the No. 1 quarterback prospect that year.

Despite the hype, it's been a tough go for Heaps. Things didn't work out for him at BYU after two years, so he transferred to Kansas in time to compete for the 2013 season. That lasted one year, with Heaps completing a mere 49 percent of his passes for eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Entering his final year of eligibility, the Miami Hurricanes' official website reports that Heaps has been added to the team's roster to essentially help bridge the gap for life after Stephen Morris.

Ryan Williams, a Memphis transfer, appeared to be the heir apparent to Morris, but sustained a torn ACL in the spring.

His status for the 2014 season is questionable, though his mother previously told the Miami Herald's Susan Miller Degnan that her son plans to return in time for the Sept. 20 game against Nebraska.

In any case, Miami is working with Heaps and redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen for now. By bringing in Heaps, Miami is adding depth to the position and can be more patient with true freshmen Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier. 

It also shows that head coach Al Golden isn't sold on Olsen just yet.

"This time of year we always have our eyes open," Golden said during an ACC coaches conference in April about bringing in a transfer quarterback.

Olsen is the young talent, and Miller Degnan suggests he technically exited spring as the No. 1 guy but doesn't have any game experience. At least the same thing can't be said about Heaps—even if that experience is dicey.

Golden's choice boils down to which player gives the Hurricanes the best chance to win, but he's taking a risk either way.

If Golden goes with Heaps, it will demonstrate that the grad transfer was able to take command of the offense in a short period of time, developed good chemistry with the team's receivers and tight ends, and knows the playbook.

That, or Olsen really isn't ready to take the reins.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports opines that Heaps has a "good chance" of winning the starting job. He wouldn't have joined Miami if he didn't have a good chance. With programs looking for quick fixes at quarterback, grad transfers are en vogue.

The question is whether Heaps is the so-called "missing piece" for Miami. 

There's talent around the quarterback spot, for sure. The Hurricanes have playmakers on offense—namely running back Duke Johnson—and a good core of returning starters off last year's defense.

Still, that's a side of the ball that has to improve after finishing no higher than 10th in the conference in major categories.

The ACC's Coastal Division is wide-open this year. Miami has as good a shot as just about anyone to win it, even if the quarterback spot is a question mark.

That question mark may not be answered with Heaps, Olsen or anyone else.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com

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Re-Evaluating Auburn's 2011 Recruiting Class

After winning the BCS National Championship in 2010, the Auburn Tigers turned the momentum from a storybook season into one of the program's highest-ranked recruiting classes.

The nation's No. 5 class signed the second-most 4-star recruits in the country and finished second in the SEC behind in-state rival Alabama.

The members of Auburn's 2011 class had wild starts to their Auburn careers, as the Tigers followed up a national title with an 8-5 season in 2011 and a historically bad 3-9 campaign in 2012. Their head coach was fired and replaced with the offensive coordinator from their first season on campus.

Auburn was able to rebound under Gus Malzahn in 2013 with an unforeseen 12-2 run to a SEC title and the final BCS National Championship Game, but how many of the 2011 signees played a role in the reversal?

The Tigers' top four recruits from the class of 2011 did not pan out at Auburn, but several other 4-stars played major roles in resurrecting the program last season.

Two of them became two of the nation's best players in 2013. Several others are still on the Plains, ready to finish their Auburn careers as full-time starters or important contributors.

Here is a look back at the booms and busts of Auburn's highly touted 2011 recruiting class.

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Brett Hundley's Heisman Campaign: Expect UCLA QB to Have Monster Season

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley had a stellar 2013, throwing for 3,071 yards and 24 touchdowns. He also added 748 yards and 11 TDs on the ground, showing off his skills at extending plays. 

What does Hundley have in store for 2014? Does he have what it takes to be among the Heisman finalists in New York City?

Check out Adam Kramer and Michael Felder predict what to expect from Brett Hundley in 2014. 

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What Will Muschamp Really Needs to Do to Keep His Job

College football is a fickle business, and Florida head coach Will Muschamp has found that out the hard way.

Just one year ago, his Gators were coming off an 11-2 season, a berth in the Sugar Bowl and a season in which they danced on the periphery of the national title hunt all the way through rivalry weekend.

Fast forward 365 days, and he finds himself on the hottest seat in the SEC.

Of course, a 4-8 record, a loss at home to then-FCS Georgia Southern and a comedy of errors including the Gator-on-Gator blocking incident will do that to a coach.

Everybody will have a win total Muschamp has to hit to keep his job. That's a dangerous proposition for Muschamp, who, in addition to the tough intradivision schedule, permanent cross-division rivalry with LSU and intrastate rivalry with defending national champ Florida State, has to travel to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama in late September. The margin for error for Muschamp will be very thin, especially after a five-game stretch that features the Tide, Tennessee, LSU, Missouri and Georgia in the middle of the season. 

Even a good Florida team could have a less-than-stellar record, which is why the win total should be just part of the equation. What does Muschamp need to do to stay employed?

 

Eight Wins

This should be the bare minimum for this Florida team, and it doesn't necessarily ensure Muschamp's future employment depending on which eight games those wins are in and, perhaps more importantly, which four games are losses.

One bad loss for the Gators could send Muschamp packing in a hurry, and while the Gators won't be favored in eight games right out of the gate, that could change as the season progresses, especially if some of Muschamp's highly touted prospects live up to their potential.

Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports.com agrees that anything below eight wins sends Muschamp packing.

@TomahawkNation@BarrettSallee@ThomasNassiff - Toast with 7, to me. You start 3-0, 4-5 down stretch with no good wins won't cut it.

— Thomas Goldkamp (@Goldkamp247) June 13, 2014

To get to eight, Florida may have to upset a team along the way. But with the defense Florida boasts and the change to a more versatile offense that is predicated on athletes being athletes, that's not out of the question.

 

Progress on Offense

It wasn't just a big move for Muschamp to lure offensive coordinator Kurt Roper away from Duke, after he played a big part in what essentially was a football renaissance in Durham. It served notice that Muschamp swallowed his pride a bit, abandoning the pro-style offense he prefers in favor of the hurry-up, no-huddle offense that Roper boasts.

A major step forward for Muschamp, but the scheme change absolutely has to work—and work in a hurry.

The Gators get three tuneups before the brutal five-game, midseason stretch, and they cannot hold anything back against Idaho, Eastern Michigan and Kentucky. Florida needs to know right away not only what works on offense, but what doesn't, what's a work-in-progress and what needs to be ripped out of the playbook entirely.

Quarterback Jeff Driskel—formerly the No. 1 dual-threat prospect in the country in the class of 2011 ahead of Ohio State's Braxton Miller, UCLA's Brett Hundley and former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel—is a perfect fit for what Roper wants to do. He's accurate, can run and is comfortable with tempo.

"I really do like the tempo," Driskel told B/R in early June. "When you get in a tempo and don't huddle, you can really get into a groove as a quarterback. There were times in spring where I felt really comfortable and everything went smooth."

The one major issue is the downfield passing game, but Demarcus Robinson has the skills to be a weapon downfield, Quinton Dunbar has experience that can be valuable during the transition, and getting playmaker Andre Debose back healthy will work wonders for an offense that thrives when playmakers get the ball in space.

 

In The Discussion

Does Florida have to win the SEC East, even in what could be a "down year" by SEC standards? No. But they have to be in the discussion.

To be in the discussion, Florida needs to get take care of those critical midseason division games against Tennessee and Missouri and head into the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party against Georgia with a glimmer of hope of making it to the Georgia Dome Dec. 6.

If that happens, and the rivalry game with the Bulldogs Nov. 1 in Jacksonville means something within the division, it'll be a sign of progress. It would be incredibly beneficial for Muschamp if he beats his alma mater Georgia—a team he has failed to beat in his first three seasons in Gainesville.

Think about that for a second—Florida used to own Georgia to the tune of 18 of the previous 21 games.

But even if it's a loss, a Cocktail Party with real implications would serve as a sign of progress—especially after the Gators' brutal late-September and October schedule.

All is not lost in Gainesville. Muschamp recognized that he had to make a philosophical change on offense to stay employed, and it's one that could save his job.

But that margin for error is razor-thin, which will ratchet up the pressure in Gainesville from the moment toe meets leather in 2014.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted, all stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports

 


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Watch Hottest 2015 QB Blake Barnett Nail Target from 50 Yards

Highly sought-after 2015 quarterback Blake Barnett recently caught up with Bleacher Report NFL analyst Chris Simms about his decision to decommit from Notre Dame and open up his recruitment.  

Barnett also showed off his skills with some trick shots.

Check out the video and see Barnett easily nail a target from 50 yards. 

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The 10 Biggest off-the-Field Moments of the BCS Era

College football’s highly anticipated 2014 season is just over 10 weeks away from kicking off.

When toe meets leather for the important matchup between Texas A&M and South Carolina on Aug. 28, the long, dreaded offseason will finally be over.

On the field, college football thrills us with high-powered matchups, amazing athletes and the emergence of stars.

Off it, college football’s world can be consumed by scandals, controversy and minutiae that tend to grab the attention of fans, message boards and reporters alike.

College football’s Bowl Championship Series era had no shortage of controversy, and as the game transitions to the College Football Playoff, there is little doubt new controversies will arise to take their place.

Here’s a look at the 10 biggest off-field controversies of college football’s BCS era.

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Re-Evaluating Virginia Tech's 2011 Recruiting Class

The nature of analyzing recruiting in the college football world is that it demands the instant quantifying of winners and losers, but the best way to evaluate a recruiting class is to examine how it performs years down the line—the Virginia Tech Hokies’ 2011 class represents a perfect example of this.

At the time, people were starting to wonder if Frank Beamer and company had lost their touch.

After all, 247Sports ranked the Hokies 36th in the nation for the year, a whole 13 spots below the rival Virginia Cavaliers, and they rated just seventh in the ACC

Most merely considered the class a mediocre one, but others went so far as to even call the class the “worst recruiting class in modern history.”

Mike London had just taken over for the Cavs, and there were major concerns that the new coach would help UVa wrest control of the state away from the Hokies, no matter how ridiculous the notion seems in hindsight

Yet, given the narrow focus of recruiting analysis on the number of 5-stars and 4-stars each program signs, it’s understandable that fans were concerned when presented with the numbers. Tech only managed to sign three 4-star recruits and missed out on big in-state prospects like Richmond’s Curtis Grant.

However, three years later, it’s clear that the staff knew what they were doing when they brought this class in. The athletes they recruited might not have been the most prominent coming out of high school, but many have since turned into key contributors for the Hokies.

 

The Misses 

Even though Tech managed to land some future stars in this class, there’s no doubt that there were still some duds in this group.

For starters, the team’s highest-rated recruit, defensive tackle Kris Harley, isn’t with the team anymore after transferring. He never fit in at a crowded position group and just never harnessed the talent he displayed when he was rated the second-best player in the state.

Similarly, the team also never made it work with safety Boye Aromire, cornerback James Farrow or tight end Christian Reeves, all of whom transferred after barely playing for the Hokies.

Additionally, running back Michael Holmes initially got on the field early in his career, but off-the-field troubles led to him getting dismissed from the school in July 2013.

Despite some players who never found their place with the Hokies, there were plenty of others in 2011 who did.

 

The Hits

The name that truly pops off the list of Tech’s 2011 recruits is defensive tackle Luther Maddy.

Although he was just a lowly 3-star recruit back then, the coaching of Beamer, defensive coordinator Bud Foster and defensive line coach Charley Wiles has helped him transform into one of the premier defensive tackles in the country.

Maddy has already put together a fantastic career with the Hokies, and after briefly flirting with declaring for the NFL draft at the end of last season, he’s back to improve on his already impressive numbers. Both Athlon Sports and Phil Steele have named him to their preseason All-ACC first teams, and it’s no mistake why—Maddy is simply dominant on the field.

Safety Kyshoen Jarrett has similarly defied expectations. He was at least rated a 4-star recruit, but he’s become an outstanding safety since then.

He was third on the team in tackles last year and second the year before. Pittsburgh’s Devin Street is probably still smarting from this hit, and he too has NFL aspirations.

Phil Steele named him to his All-ACC second team heading into the year, while Athlon put him on its third team.

These two players alone have been so meaningful to the greatness of Tech’s defense these last two years, but there are other key contributors to the program in this group.

One pair likely hasn’t demonstrated their full value just yet.

Dadi Nicolas only really made his talent known last year, but the numbers he piled up in limited snaps last season have to make it clear that he’s ready to break out in 2014.

Meanwhile, Corey Marshall also looks like he’s ready to finally come into his own at defensive tackle. He made some contributions early in his career, but now that he’s moved past some off-the-field issues, coaches seem excited about what he can bring opposite Maddy at DT this year.

Linebacker Ronny Vandyke and tight end Ryan Malleck also seem to be poised to tap into their tremendous potential after fighting through injuries in 2013. 

Both of them suffered shoulder injuries that put them out last year, but each started a number of games for the team in 2012 and looked good doing it.

Vandyke started to get a handle on playing coverage in the latter half of the season, while Malleck started seven games at the position.

Now they can rejoin the lineup and offer more flexibility for the staff on both sides of the ball.

This class didn’t offer a lot in terms of offensive talent, but the coaches did manage to find one future starter in Demitri Knowles.

Knowles looked tentative in his redshirt freshman year, catching just 19 passes for 240 yards. However, last year he turned into a major threat for the offense, notching 45 receptions for 641 yards and three scores. He’s never developed into the kind of downfield option the coaches were likely hoping for when they signed him, but he’s since managed to find ways to be effective all the same. 

On offense, Darius Redman has also offered some value as a blocking tight end, while wide receiver Kevin Asante started a game in 2012 before leaving the program in 2013. However, he recently rejoined the squad and has two remaining years of eligibility.

Looking forward, defensive end Dewayne Alford finally seems ready to enter the rotation this season after an uneven redshirt freshman year, and he too could end up demonstrating his value.

Safety Michael Cole also deserves a final mention. He started four games for the Hokies in 2012 and could’ve been a valuable reserve contributor in the defensive backfield had he not been forced to retire with a neck injury

All in all, this class wasn’t perfect—in fact, it probably was one of the more underwhelming ones Tech has brought in recently in terms of immediate impact. 

However, the staff and these players deserve tremendous credit for transcending what the recruiting services said about this class. Maddy and Jarrett are a pair of players Hokie fans will remember for a very long time, and several other athletes in this class could cement their legacy this fall.

It’s all proof that, while 2011 might’ve seemed gloomy for Tech at the time, it was actually a seminal year for the rebuilding of the defense.

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Re-Evaluating USC's 2011 Recruiting Class

USC's 2011 signing class was the last one before their scholarship ban went into effect. It was the last opportunity for the Trojans to bring in a fully loaded class with the hopes that those talented athletes would help carry USC through the years of reduced classes to come.

So how did they do?

On paper, the Trojans' 2011 signees were considered third-best in the nation and No. 1 in the Pac-12, according to 247Sports.

But for all the usual reasons that cause athletes to transferplaying time, academic eligibility, "family reasons"several of those 19 signees came and went from Troy without leaving a dent in the program. Of those that stayed, some shined brightly while others are still trying to find the limelight. Others were just flat-out busts.

This is a look back at USC's 2011 signing class. 

 

All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Georgia Football: Re-Evaluating the Bulldogs' 2011 Recruiting Class

In the midst of a disappointing 6-7 campaign in 2010, Georgia head coach Mark Richt saw recruiting as a reason for optimism even as the Bulldog football program floundered. On a weekly call-in radio show, he offered the following encouragement to fans (per Tim Tucker of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution):

When you talk about in-state kids, that’s why I’ve been talking about this Georgia ‘Dream Team,’ this team of guys that I think are the best players in the state of Georgia. And I believe if they will stay in the state and come together, we can prove to the United States of America that we have the best football in the country [in] the state of Georgia. We need those Georgia kids to stay at home and do that thing for the Bulldogs, and I think everybody is going to get excited about that.

When all was said and done a few months later, his goal was largely accomplished.  

According to 247Sports, Georgia signed the nation's sixth-best recruiting class in 2011 and in the process reeled in five of the state's seven best prospects.

Here's a position-by-position re-evaluating of that Dream Team recruiting class.

 

Unless other wise noted, all recruiting stats, rankings and ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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5-Star DT Recruit Rasheem Green Tweets Top 15 Schools

Rasheem Green remains uncommitted, and judging by his newly released list of favorites, he still has a long way to go toward making a decision.

The 5-star defensive tackle included 15 programs among his top options less than eight months away from national signing day.

He shared the list on Twitter:

It comes as no surprise that the Southern California standout is still considering several West Coast options. UCLA and USC are both contenders for the Los Angeles County prospect.

Green, who attends Junipero Serra High School, saw a pair of premier teammates pick USC during the 2014 recruiting cycle. Quarterback Jalen Greene and cornerback Adoree' Jackson signed as part of head coach Steve Sarkisian's first Trojans class.

Linebacker Dwight Williams, another senior member of the 2013 Junipero Serra squad, signed with UCLA.

Stanford and Cal also survived the cut, presenting additional in-state opportunities. His list is heavy with Pac-12 teams, as Oregon and Arizona State are also in the picture.

Green showed he's open to the idea of playing college football far beyond his hometown, with Miami, Boston College, Notre Dame and Oklahoma all landing on the list. He is also eyeing a collection of SEC squads.

Florida, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, LSU and Alabama are still in pursuit of the disruptive interior defender.

Green, who stands 6'5" and 275 pounds, is tremendously athletic for a player of his stature. He was clocked at 4.80 seconds in the 40-yard dash and utilizes an array of speed moves in the trenches to outmaneuver offensive linemen.

Rated No. 3 nationally among defensive tackles in 247Sports' composite rankings, Green was named Most Valuable Lineman in the star-studded Mission League last season.

He tallied 57 tackles, including a team-high 26 tackles for loss. Green led Junipero Serra with 14 sacks.

USC is viewed as a strong favorite for his commitment, and the Trojans are projected to sign him by every expert prediction in 247Sports' Crystal Ball.

 

Recruit information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Re-Evaluating LSU's 2011 Recruiting Class

LSU's 2011 recruiting class will go down as one of Les Miles' best. Of the 23 players that formed the group, four of them were selected in the 2014 NFL draft. And there could be more selected in next year's NFL draft.

La'el Collins, Jermauria Rasco and Ronald Martin are all members of the 2011 coup that will be asked to carry this year's youthful team. The trio of players are all slated to be starters. 

But, as there is in every recruiting class, there were some busts as well. Five players never played a snap for the Tigers. 

Here is a look back at how the 2011 class shaped up. 

 

*Stats and rankings via 247SportsCFBStats.com and LSU Sports Information

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Re-Evaluating Florida's 2012 Recruiting Class

While Florida fans wait for the 2015 recruiting class to improve, it’s time to hand out grades to a class that took place a couple of years ago. It’s always fun to see which players lived up to the hype, who proved the recruiting analysts wrong and who was just a downright bust.

After looking at the Gators’ 2012 recruiting class, it’s clear it didn’t fulfill expectations. The class was considered the fourth-best class by 247Sports and included 14 players rated as at least 4-stars. However, many of the players aren’t even on the roster anymore, and others are still trying to reach their full potential. There are a couple of guys who panned out, but they were few and far between.

Of course, these grades could change as early as this season.

Let’s recap Florida’s 2012 recruiting class knowing what we know now.

Note: All rankings are courtesy of 247Sports. 

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Ranking the Top 50 Must-Watch College Football Games of 2014

If the DVR could be programmed all the way out to mid-December, we'd be all set for the 2014 college football season. Instead, we have to settle for marking the calendar with when and where to watch the 50 must-see games of the 2014 season.

From the first pairing of FBS programs on Aug. 28 all the way to the storied tradition of Army-Navy, not a week goes by this season without at least one great game to take in. Some are early-season clashes between power conference foes, most are annual tussles that no doubt will add another chapter to their long series' histories.

All of them are great. But which ones are the greatest?

Since ranking is one of the things we do best, we've listed the top 50 games to look forward to this fall. Check them out, and make sure to have a pen handy to jot them down on the calendar.

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Power Ranking Georgia Bulldogs' 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

In order for the Georgia Bulldogs to have a successful 2014 season, a few things will have to go right for them.

The first is the players all have to come together and play as one. Guys like Todd Gurley and Ramik Wilson will have to be leaders and get everyone on the same page.

Another thing is health. Head coach Mark Richt is hoping his players can stay relatively healthy, unlike last season where he would lose starter after starter on a regular basis.

But the most important thing that has to go right for them is the play of the schedule. The Bulldogs need to start strong and finish stronger if they want to play in the SEC title game. And while the Bulldogs’ 2014 schedule is not the hardest in all of college football, it’s certainly not the easiest, especially when they start the season against two teams from South Carolina.

Here’s a power ranking of the Bulldogs’ 2014 schedule.

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Texas Football: Power Ranking Texas' 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

The Texas Longhorns return 13 starters to an 8-5 team that underachieved for the fourth-straight season. Improving on that mark against their 2014 schedule will require Charlie Strong to engineer a great turnaround.

Texas faces eight teams that return as many or more starters than it does this season. Of those eight, three finished with a better record in 2013. Those teams are Baylor, UCLA and Oklahoma, who happen to sport the three best quarterbacks the 'Horns face all season.

These teams are tops among Texas' 12-game slate, with quarterback play, experience and past success shaping where the other nine teams rank on the schedule from easiest to toughest.

Quarterback play is the theme, and how David Ash's health situation unfolds will determine how well Strong's team does in his first season at the helm. Without him, winning games in the top half of the spectrum will be a tall order.

Returning starter stats and information courtesy of PhilSteele.com.

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