NCAA Football News

Georgia Football: What Bulldogs Fans Need to Know About Dominick Sanders

The 2014 recruiting class for Georgia is currently on campus working out with veteran members of the team so they can be prepared for preseason practice, which will start at the beginning of August.

And with the veterans working with the rookies, there’s going to be that one player that stands out above the rest. Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph got a chance to speak to Todd Gurley and Ramik Wilson, and they both agreed that Dominick Sanders is the player that fans need to keep their eye on during the season.

Freshman safety Dominick Sanders' name mentioned by players here. "He's going to push for somebody's spot," Ramik Wilson said.

— Marc Weiszer (@marcweiszer) July 17, 2014

But who is Sanders? Where did he come from and why is he making an impact already?

Sanders was not really on the Bulldogs radar at the start of the recruiting season last year. In fact, Sanders committed to UCF in mid-January and did not have UGA anywhere on his final list of schools. But when Sanders de-committed from UCF, the Bulldogs, along with Auburn and Missouri, made a last-minute offer. And, at the end of the day, Sanders decided to play in his home state.

247 Sports has Sanders listed as a three-star prospect from Tucker, Georgia. He has good ball skills and pretty good speed. But what makes him stand out, and the reason he’s getting praise from his Bulldog teammates, is that he has the ability to make plays.

Sanders will play the safety position in Athens, but, when he was at Tucker High School, he played running back, quarterback, receiver, kick return and cornerback to go along with safety. As a running back, Sanders rushed for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns. As a receiver, he led the team with 273 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw for 126 yards and three touchdowns, but defense was his strong point, as he led the team and DeKalb County with eight interceptions.

This isn’t the first time a Sanders has impressed the UGA masses. Dominick is the younger brother of Chris Sanders, who drew similar praise as a freshman three years ago. The elder Sanders got hampered by injuries his freshman year and was dismissed from the team the following February for a theft incident that involved Sanford Seay and current Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall.

But if Dominick Sanders is able to stay healthy and keep his nose clean, he will have a great chance to see some playing time this season. The only two safeties on the roster that have significant experience are Corey Moore and Quincy Mauger. And new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has made it clear that true and redshirt freshmen will be thrown into the fire if they do well in practice.

The question is will Sanders push for a starting spot? Odds are that he will not be part of the starting lineup when the Bulldogs take the field against Clemson. But, if he keeps working, learning and growing, there is no reason he won’t be part of the safety rotation, and that will lead to a chance for him to be a starter in 2015.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M Football Recruiting: 10 Best Aggie Recruits from BCS Era

The BCS era started in 1999, and Texas A&M has signed its fair share of top recruits. The Aggies haven't always been the dominant recruiting power they are now, but they've done well for themselves in the past.

College Station and Kyle Field are great places to be, which is part of the reason why Texas A&M signed a great dual-threat quarterback in 2002. A pair of franchise offensive tackles came in 2010, while a running back in the 1999 class was a good one coming out of high school.

Also, keep in mind this list focuses on recruiting. That means studs like quarterback Johnny Manziel and defensive end Von Miller were left off due to not being top-rated recruits in high school.

All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' Composite Rankings.Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports.All stats are from Sports-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted. 

Begin Slideshow

10 Craziest College Football Recruiting Rules

Recruiting is a crazy experience, and college coaches have to abide by a lot of different rules.

There are various restrictions regarding dead periods, quiet periods, evaluation periods, visits, contacts, calls, emails, camps and many other different things that involve college football recruiting.

While many rules in place make sense, several of them can make you scratch your head. It's time to look at some odd recruiting rules that either don't make much sense or are outdated. 

Begin Slideshow

Alabama Insider Buzz: Ignore Saban, One Bama QB Looks Poised to Lead in 2014

Alabama finally got their chance to take the podium on Day 4 of SEC Media Days. Head coach Nick Saban and his players discussed a variety of topics for the media, including the new look at quarterback for the Crimson Tide this upcoming season.

How does Saban think the QB situation will pan out in 2014? What do the Alabama players think of FSU transfer QB Jacob Coker?

Watch the video to find out.

Highlights courtesy of XOSDigital

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Media Days Buzz: Biggest Stories of Day 4

The final day of 2014 SEC media days is in the books. Georgia, Alabama, Ole Miss and Kentucky took center stage on Thursday, as players and coaches fielded questions from the media.

Watch Bleacher Report SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee break down the biggest stories coming out of Day 4 from Hoover, Alabama, including the two-quarterback situation at Alabama and the maturation of Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

What You Need to Know About Florida State's New 2017 WR Commit D.J. Matthews

Florida State has frequently recruited athletes after strong freshman seasons during recent years. Jacksonville wide receiver D.J. Matthews is the latest youngster to determine he wants to be a Seminole down the road.

Though the rising sophomore can't formally sign with Florida State until February 2017, he gave his verbal commitment to head coach Jimbo Fisher during a campus visit Thursday. Matthews shared the decision on Twitter:

His recruitment became a nationwide pursuit this spring. Despite a rapidly expanding collection of scholarship offers, Florida State rose to the forefront after offering in early May.

"I committed because I love FSU and how [wide receivers] coach [Lawrence] Dawsey and Jimbo Fisher showed me love," Matthews told Josh Newberg of 247Sports.

The 6'0", 160-pound prospect emerged as a top target at First Coast High School last fall during a journey to the Class 8A state quarterfinals. He finished third on the team with 47 receptions for 624 yards and seven touchdowns, per MaxPreps.

First Coast quarterback De'Andre Johnson committed to Florida State at a similar point in his career. The 2015 prospect pledged to the Seminoles in July 2012, prior to his sophomore season.

"I actually told De'Andre Johnson first," Matthews told 247Sports. "He was happy and said he was proud of me."

Johnson is one of two players in the team's 2015 recruiting class who committed after just one high school campaign. Top-ranked safety Dewin James joined the class in February 2012.

"It was definitely a crazy feeling to commit so early," James told Bleacher Report earlier this month. "Then you see everyone else start to get in the class later. It made me want to recruit other players and make it better."

Matthews is undoubtedly the catalyst of a 2017 class that isn't likely to reach double-digit commitments for perhaps another two years. It's an excellent start for Florida State, which also holds one commitment in its 2016 class (4-star defensive tackle Cedric Wood).

The pass-catcher displayed sensational ball skills as a freshman. Despite a slender frame, Matthews managed to come down with difficult catches in traffic and showed he isn't afraid to fully extend for the football.

He already high-points passes, providing a strong indication that his approach is incredibly advanced for a young receiver. Matthews impressed with smooth route running as a freshman, gaining separation off the line thanks to quality footwork and fluid hips.

His consistency in 2013 was rather staggering for a newcomer on a title-contending team. He caught at least four passes in eight contests, including three straight in the playoffs.

Matthews finished his first postseason with 18 receptions for 217 yards and two touchdowns. That's an outstanding output for a player who still has significant physical maturation ahead of him.

Florida State beat out several early contenders for his commitment, including LSU, Clemson, South Carolina, Tennessee and Miami. Despite his decision, expect teams to keep coming after Matthews with a long stretch separating the talented receiver from signing with the Seminoles.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Clemson Football: Areas in Which Tigers Must Improve from 2013

It's a little tougher to find areas that need improvement from a team that won 11 games, but there are certainly areas that Clemson must improve to take its program to the next level. These areas were apparent in certain games such as Florida State and South Carolina, in which the Tigers' weaknesses were exposed to a certain extent.

 

Turnovers in Big Games

This is the most glaring issue for the Tigers as they head into 2014. How well can they control the ball in contests against teams like Florida State and South Carolina?

In the 2013 season-opener versus Georgia, the Tigers only turned the ball over one time, which was on a fumble. The offense played lights out, scoring 38 points, and Tajh Boyd solidified his Heisman candidacy at the time.

However, against Florida State in October, the Tigers turned it over four times thanks to two fumbles and two interceptions. Florida State's defense constantly had pressure on Boyd, who was a measly 17-of-37 passing.

The South Carolina game was even worse, as the Tigers committed six turnovers in a game they could have won. The turnovers were the biggest reason for the loss in that one, something you couldn't necessarily say about the Florida State loss.

With turnovers being such a disappointment in the South Carolina game, the Tigers realize what they have to do in order to win that game.

Does Cole Stoudt offer more optimism in this category than Boyd did a year ago? In 119 career pass attempts, Stoudt has thrown just one interception. Boyd threw 11 last season in 413 pass attempts. These are merely just numbers to guide your thinking, because I realize they don't mean much.

Boyd played some good defenses, and most of Stoudt's attempts have come in garbage time thus far.

This category could be broken down into various sub-categories, or reasons for the turnovers, such as recognizing blitz packages better, etc. We will stick to the basics for now, though, in today's article.

 

Getting the Defense Off the Field

The defense took strides in 2013, continuing to improve under the watch of defensive coordinator Brent Venables. The Tigers had the most tackles for loss in the entire country, but consistency is as important as big plays.

Against Florida State, the Seminoles went 8-of-12 on third downs. South Carolina was 10-of-19 on third downs. These two losses were partly contributed to by not being able to keep their offenses off the field.

In an uptempo offense such as Chad Morris', time of possession is an overrated stat, but Florida State and South Carolina were able to sustain drives against the Tigers defense. A notable drive from the Florida State game saw the Seminoles go 77 yards on 16 plays and eat up almost eight minutes off the clock.

One that stuck out to me from the South Carolina game saw the Gamecocks eat up a little over eight minutes of clock time, going 80 yards on 17 plays.

My point is that the Tigers will need to find better ways to get off the field in these big games. Against Georgia and Ohio State, they were excellent in this category. Now on to the stats that bring optimism for the 2014 season, because that's why you're really reading, right?

The Bulldogs were only 4-of-14 on third downs and Ohio State was 2-of-13. Through blitz packages and key turnovers, the Tigers were able to get the ball back to Boyd and the offense in both of these games.

Both Georgia and Ohio State were able to put up a high amount of total yards, but stops on third down were huge.

 

Predictions for These Areas in 2014

The Tigers should be improved in both of these categories this season. While Stoudt doesn't figure to be as explosive as Boyd was with the big plays, I feel comfortable that he will throw less than 11 interceptions this year.

As for getting off the field, the Tigers front seven played lights-out against Ohio State. Heck, they played lights-out against South Carolina as well, when they shut down Mike Davis, but they weren't able to contain Connor Shaw. I expect this front seven to control the line of scrimmage. Teams will have to go to the air more on third-down situations, and this Clemson secondary is very underrated.

With an improving secondary, and a defensive line that is getting scarier for opposing offenses by the minute, getting off the field and not allowing teams to sustain drives will get better this year.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Best and Worst Dressed from 2014 SEC Media Days

Now that SEC media days are over and the college football season has unofficially "begun," we can all take a step back and acknowledge the event for what it is: a more macho, sport-themed version of Comic Con.

And as is the case at Comic Con—another event where famous people hold panels, and thousands of fans and media types listen—the outfits are a unique part of the spectacle and end up being just as fun to talk about as any sort of news that might get broken.

So embracing that tradition (while also bearing in mind that I am a sports blogger—i.e., I do not know the first thing about fashion), let's take a look at some of the best- and worst-dressed parties from the week spent in Hoover, Alabama.

Fortunately, there were more of the former than the latter.

Begin Slideshow

Nebraska Football: Huskers' Biggest Trap Games in 2014

Head coach Bo Pelini and Nebraska football are familiar with trap games. The Cornhuskers have fallen victim to them before and the 2014 season presents new opportunities for the team to fall victim to them once again.

But what exactly is a trap game?

It's a difficult concept to define, according to Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders. Kevin Meers of The Harvard Sports Analysis Collective summed it up best as "the mushy understanding that sometimes good teams lose to bad teams when they have a 'bigger' game against a better opponent the following week."

When it comes to the 2014 season, Nebraska does have trap games that could derail an otherwise successful season quickly.

 

Fresno State (Sept. 13)

At first glance, it wouldn't seem like Fresno State would be a trap game for Nebraska. Following a strong 2013 season, the Bulldogs made it clear the Huskers couldn't rest easy for this game.

After all, Fresno State spent many weeks in the Top 25, while also becoming a BCS threat for a period of time.

However, the big Miami game follows Fresno State. Fans are already talking about the possibility that ESPN's College GameDay will roll into town for the matchup.

The Omaha World-Herald's Tom Shatel was even writing about the possibility last February.

Needless to say, people are excited for Nebraska and Miami to face off once again. That's what makes Fresno State even more dangerous.

Being on the road for a game that will kick off at 10:30 p.m. ET already presents challenges for the Huskers.

The fact that the Hurricanes will be right on the heels of Fresno State makes this the trap game of the season for Nebraska.

 

Northwestern (Oct. 18)

This likely doesn't feel like a trap game for most 'Husker fans.

After securing a victory against Northwestern at home with a last-minute Hail Mary touchdown pass in 2013, it seems like Nebraska should have the confidence to lock up this win.

However, that Hail Mary is almost the main reason this could be a trap game. Northwestern will be fired up. Plus, the Wildcats will get to host the Huskers on their turf.

The last time Nebraska was in Evanston, Illinois, it barely squeaked out a 29-28 victory.

Moreover, in all honesty, the Huskers haven't had the most impressive showings against Northwestern over the last three years. For whatever reason, the Wildcats seem to get the best of Nebraska.

Nebraska may stack up better against Northwestern in 2014, but the fact that it's a road game following a bye week does the Huskers no favors. This matchup could absolutely fall into the category of a trap game.

 

Rutgers (Oct. 25)

The last time Nebraska played Rutgers, it was 1920 and the Huskers won 28-0. Almost a century later, the two will finally meet again.

Rutgers may not seem like a tough opponent at first glance. In fact, one of the two newest additions to the Big Ten could be an easy victory for the Huskers. It could also quickly turn into a mess if Pelini isn't careful.

Rutgers follows Northwestern, which could test Nebraska. Depending on how that game goes, the Huskers may not be fully focused for the Scarlet Knights.

The good news? Purdue follows Rutgers, so the Huskers shouldn't be too worried about looking forward at that point. However, Wisconsin (at Camp Randall) is two weeks after the Rutgers matchup, so there's a chance Nebraska might start preparing for that well in advance.

If so, Rutgers (and Purdue) could easily be overlooked on the schedule.

There's also the simple fact that this is a new opponent. That would present a challenge to any team.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Watch Alabama WR Christion Jones Dance in the Middle of SEC Media Days

Alabama senior WR Christion Jones attended SEC Media Days and brought more to the table than just answering a few questions.

After being probed by a reporter to show off his dance moves, Jones proceeded to the center of the room to bust a move.

Watch the video and see the star WR break it down and have some fun at SEC Media Days.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Winners and Losers from 2014 SEC Media Days

HOOVER, Ala. — The circus has packed up and left town, but the four-day extravaganza known as SEC media days was a fun ride along the way.

With an absence of star power on the player side, it was up to the coaches to entertain the nearly 1,300 credentialed members of the media on hand at the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel in suburban Birmingham.

Who were some of the winners and losers of this year's SEC media days? Our picks are in this slideshow.

Begin Slideshow

Georgia WR Chris Conley Proclaims Pro Bowl & Oscars in 10 Years

Georgia senior wide receiver Chris Conley is one of the most interesting players in college football. The 6'3", 206-pound Georgia native not only is a star on the gridiron but also has a serious talent for film making and acting as well.

Conley spoke about his talents both on and off the field at SEC media days and made a prediction for what his football and production careers might look like in 10 years.

Watch the video to see some of Conley's fantastic film and listen to others chime in on this talented young man.

Highlights courtesy of XOSDigital.

Film footage courtesy of Chris Conley. You can watch the full film here.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Biggest Takeaways from Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban's SEC Media Days Presser

Nick Saban took the podium at SEC media days Thursday afternoon, and, as usual, he spoke about a mix of Alabama-specific and comprehensive college football topics.

After a news-filled offseason that included rumors of leaving for Texas, landing another No. 1 recruiting class, lobbying for a rule that would slow down uptempo offenses and fielding questions about the Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma, Saban finally got to speak again on a national platform, and his appearance did not disappoint.

When he wasn't being drowned out by a mic-adjacent mouth breather, Saban provided a number of useful sound bites.

Here is what we learned from the press conference.

 

Kenyan Drake and Jarran Reed Will Stay on the Team

At first, Saban tried to speak in broad, theoretical terms with regard to player discipline. But it was hard not to think of running back Kenyan Drake and defensive lineman Jarran Reed—both of whom are dealing with legal issues—when he said things like this:

Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News agreed:

You could argue whether Saban was taking a shot at Georgia head coach Mark Richt and Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel—both of whom made some high-profile dismissals (such as Josh Harvey-Clemons and Dorial Green-Beckham) this offseason—but for now, let's focus on what his statements mean for Alabama.

More likely than not, Drake and Reed will have to miss some time but won't see serious recourse (unless things change in their respective legal cases). In fact, Saban went so far as to confirm this once he was done musing about player discipline in general:

This is big for the Tide.

Drake is projected as the third running back behind T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry, but he proved he could contribute with 694 rushing yards on 92 carries last season. If Yeldon or Henry goes down with an injury, he will become a big part of the offense. Even if they both stay healthy, he should have a role to play.

Reed, meanwhile, saw time running with the first-team defense during spring practice. Alabama has loads of talent and depth along the defensive line, so it would have been able to stomach his loss. But that Reed was playing over so much talent and depth in the first place speaks to how good he can be.

With West Virginia, Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss scheduled to start the season, Alabama could (hopefully) afford as long as a three-game suspension to either of those players. With Florida looming in the fourth game, anything longer would be flirting with trouble.

Saban didn't get specific, but he did make it sound like these would be short instead of long-term disciplinary issues.

And that is a good thing.

 

The Postseason Needs to Change, but Not by Expanding the Playoff

Almost every coach at every power-conference media days will be asked about the College Football Playoff in the next few weeks, and their opinions—like our own—are sure to vary.

But, like it or not, Saban's opinion matters more than most. It's sensational to say Saban "has the ear" of the NCAA higher-ups—that he's some sort of puppet-master who gets through the legislation he wants—but he has proven to have a lucid mind on bigger issues and is someone the movers and shakers respect enough to listen to.

On the topic of CFP expansion—the notion of adding four, 12 or even more teams to the current four-team format—Saban did not sound keen, saying it would push players at certain schools past the "saturation point" whereby they can focus on academics:

Fifteen games is a lot. That is almost a professional schedule (sans playoffs). But even as the college game inches closer and closer to NFL resemblance, these kids cannot shoulder the same workload as those who play football full time. They have other obligations to attend to.

However, that doesn't mean Saban does not want to tweak the postseason. Looping bowl selection into the SEC scheduling debate—refresher course: The league decided to stay with an eight-game conference schedule, much to Saban's dismay—he said the NCAA should look into changing the six-win rule for bowl eligibility:

Specifically, he suggested having the CFP selection committee choose all of the bowls (instead of just the six CFP bowls), much like the selection committee for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament:

Ostensibly, choosing who makes the postseason on overall merit instead of a context-lacking baseline would encourage teams to schedule harder games.

Playing FCS cupcakes is sensible so long as getting to six wins is mandatory, but it would shine a negative light without many positives if five (or even four) wins would work just as well.

The logistics would need some tweaking, but, on principle, this is not the worst idea in the world. Is it likely to happen, though?

That's a different question.

 

Jacob Coker Still Needs to Win the Quarterback Job

You can file this one under "coach speak." Or at least I think you can. Still, it would be remiss not to touch on Jacob Coker, the Florida State transfer whom many think will win the starting quarterback position.

Despite the prevailing opinion that Coker will beat out Blake Sims for the job, Saban reiterated that the team feels differently:

When asked by Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee to talk about Coker as a player, he even changed the topic to Sims:

All of this makes sense. I'm not even sure it constitutes a "takeaway," since the answers were so predictable. Coker still hasn't practiced with the team, so it would be heresy for a coach to say he's the favorite (or worse, that he's already earned the job). It would not be fair to the players who have poured their sweat onto the field.

Still, no matter what Saban says, people are going to peg this as Coker's job until seeing otherwise. Actions speak louder than words, and Sims' last action was an ugly performance in the A-Day game.

We will see in a month or so whether this means anything.

 

Saban Never Discussed the Texas Job

Saban was asked directly about the head coaching vacancy at Texas this offseason, and he confirmed that he never had any contact with the university and that he plans on finishing his career in Tuscaloosa:

Take this with a grain of salt if you must.

Saban said the same kind of things to the Miami media before leaving the Dolphins to join Alabama in the first place. Like a mistress who eventually becomes a wife, Alabama fans can never entirely trust what comes out of Saban's mouth regarding other coaching positions. Given how they got their own start together, doing so would be myopic.

Still, Saban sounded forthright—or at least as forthright as he possibly can—in dismissing the Texas claims. Given the rumors that the Longhorns were willing to pay him a $100 million salary, as Paul Finebaum claims in his upcoming book (h/t Bob Carlton of AL.com), it feels safe to say that Saban is committed to the program.

And, really, why wouldn't he be?

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M Football: Best Quotes and Key Takeaways from SEC Media Days

SEC media days are now completed. The annual event did offer some interesting insight into some of the developments around the Texas A&M football program and how the program is perceived.

Typically head coaches attend media day without having seen their team since spring practice. This is the first year that coaches can participate in the summer workouts, so they have a better grasp of where their team stands.

It also allows them to get an early look at the incoming freshman class and how ready they are to contribute in the upcoming season. This means that the coaches have more to share than simply a rehashing of what happened during spring practice.

This is a look at some interesting quotes and takeaways from the 2014 SEC media days.  

Begin Slideshow

Five Unheralded Players That Will Be Crucial to the Blue Devils' Success

The Duke Blue Devils return many players from last season’s spectacular run. Quarterback Anthony Boone, running back Josh Snead and wide receiver Jamison Crowder are all back as seniors to try and make a third straight bowl appearance.

While those three players in particular are familiar names, some less obvious players will need to step up if the Blue Devils are going to repeat the success of the previous two seasons.

The five players that follow, though lesser known to football fans, will all be integral to Duke’s fortunes this season. They’ll be responsible for doing the unheralded dirty work, expanding Duke’s offensive threat or mitigating the problems facing a potentially weak defensive.

Begin Slideshow

Ohio State Football: Why 2014 Is a Make-or-Break Season for Urban Meyer

In college football, momentum is everything. Urban Meyer has admitted as much. And after back-to-back losses in the Big Ten Championship Game and Orange Bowl to end the 2013 season, the Ohio State coach no longer knows whether or not he has it on his side.

"That's a great question. I don't know," Meyer answered when asked if his program has maintained its momentum through its skid. "Obviously we hit a speed bump. A real big speed bump."

Whether the Buckeyes have or don't have momentum is a story for another day and a different column. But in the event that Ohio State has indeed lost its mojo, it better find it soon. Because 2014 is shaping up to be a make-or-break year for the Buckeyes, in more ways than one.

That may seem like hyperbole, given that Meyer has accumulated a 24-2 record in his first two seasons in Columbus. Any program, regardless of its size and stature, should be thrilled with those results, regardless of when and where the two losses came.

No, this isn't about a lack of success for the Buckeyes, because under Meyer they've enjoyed plenty. But for a coach and program who are both ultimately judged by championships, 2014 presents each with their best chances of ending their respective droughts as a series of factors have made the present brighter than the immediate future in Columbus.

 

Braxton's Senior Send-Off

If you believe in the importance of the quarterback position—and Meyer does—then it's tough to undersell the value in the Buckeyes making the most of Braxton Miller's senior season. Already a two-time Big Ten MVP, Miller has been the one constant in the OSU offense under Meyer and has carried the Buckeyes on his back at times.

Miller's mere presence is enough to make a team a title contender as most times they take the field, the Buckeyes will have the best player on it. Add in Miller's abilities in Meyer's spread offense and you have the makings of something special, with both a national championship and Heisman Trophy becoming obtainable goals in Columbus.

Behind Miller, however, Ohio State isn't quite as fortunate at the quarterback position. At least not yet.

Redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones is unproven, and neither redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett nor true freshman Stephen Collier have taken a snap at the college level. Barring the arrival of a JUCO transfer or immediate-impact freshman, one of those three will be the Buckeyes' starting quarterback in 2015, and each would present a significant drop-off from his predecessor.

Sure, a first-year starting quarterback has won each of the past two Heisman Trophies as well as last year's national championship. But behind Miller, nobody on the OSU roster possesses the talent of a Johnny Manziel or Jameis Winston, which only increases the importance for the Buckeyes to make a run in 2014.

 

Strengthening the Schedule

The good news for Ohio State is that its 2014 schedule is much more impressive than its much-maligned 2013 slate. The bad news? After that, it's only getting stronger.

This season, Ohio State's three most marquee games include an out-of-conference matchup with Virginia Tech, a Big Ten Championship Game rematch with Michigan State and the annual Michigan rivalry game. Of those three contests, only the Buckeyes' showdown with the Spartans will be played on the road.

In 2015, Ohio State will move to a less home-friendly schedule as the Buckeyes will repay the Hokies and Wolverines with trips to Blacksburg and Ann Arbor, respectively.

Remember how OSU will be breaking in a new starting quarterback that season? His first start could very well come during the Buckeyes' Monday night prime-time 2015 opener against Virginia Tech in hostile Lane Stadium. That's not ideal.

As for 2014, early betting lines have Ohio State favored in every one of its game, except for its Nov. 8 trip to East Lansing, Michigan, according to the Golden Nugget's sportsbook (via SB Nation). Las Vegas currently pegs Michigan State as just a one-point favorite over the Buckeyes, and a lot can obviously change between now and November.

It'd be in the best interest of the Buckeyes to take advantage of this year's schedule before 2015 presents a rockier road.

 

Big Ten Betterment

Of all of the factors that have worked in Meyer's favor since he arrived in Columbus, perhaps the most important has been the unimpressive nature of the Big Ten. Michigan's been down, Penn State's struggled with sanctions, Wisconsin went through a coaching change and Nebraska had to adjust to the league as a whole.

Altogether, it's actually been relatively easy for the Buckeyes to remain one of the league's elite.

But if Meyer's theory on momentum is correct, that won't be the case for long. Because the Big Ten certainly has it on its side.

Michigan State certainly does as it sits atop the Big Ten mountain as the league's reigning champion. It doesn't appear to be heading anywhere anytime soon, either, as Rose Bowl MVP quarterback Connor Cook is only a junior and the Spartans have made their mark on the recruiting trail.

As has Penn State, which, according to 247Sports.com, boasts the nation's fifth-ranked 2015 recruiting class. And whether he's coaching them a year from now or not, Brady Hoke continues to add loads of talent to a Michigan roster that was depleted of such when he arrived in 2011.

2014 may be a bit early to start writing the Return of the Big Ten narrative, but come 2015 it could very well be in full effect. And with a new quarterback and unfavorable schedule already in the fold for the Buckeyes that season, year three is shaping up to be the most pivotal of the Meyer era in Columbus.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M Purchases Insurance Policy for OL Cedric Ogbuehi

Texas A&M has broken new ground in the NCAA by purchasing a loss-of-value insurance policy of more than $50,000 for offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi so that he could return to school for his senior season. 

According to Bruce Feldman of FoxSports.com, Ogbuehi was deciding between a return to school or entering the 2014 NFL draft, in which he says teams put a first-round grade on him.    

Ogbuehi had to think of the "financial implications for his family," including the possibility of taking out an insurance policy, which a lot of high-profile potential draftees take out, but his family couldn't afford the massive premiums. 

The report notes that there was a new NCAA rule that allowed schools to help students out through a Student Assistance Fund that covers "things such as the cost of post-eligibility financial aid, or if a student-athlete can't afford to travel home in cases of emergency, or if they need a suit to wear to university functions or events like SEC Media Days."

Feldman wrote that there's a limit to the amount each school can spend, with the SEC office telling him that last year "each of its members allotted $350,000 for the fund" and "the tab for Ogbuehi could reach $60,000 for Texas A&M."

You think about that dollar amount as substantial for a school to pay—it covers nearly four years of tuition at Penn State, according to CBSNews.com—but the value Ogbuehi provides Texas A&M is also significant. 

The senior offensive tackle was named to the preseason All-America team, according to Phil Steele's College Football Preview Magazine, via 12thMan.com. NFL draft analyst Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com listed Ogbuehi as the top senior tackle in the country:

As Feldman noted, Ogbuehi is so important to the Aggies program that head coach Kevin Sumlin, offensive line coach B.J. Anderson, associate athletic director for football Justin Moore and veteran director of football operations Gary Reynolds all visited his home to convince him to return to school. 

Ogbuehi said in the article that without this insurance policy he probably wouldn't have returned for the 2014 season, so Texas A&M was able to provide the player some reassurance. 

That's a micro view of this scenario, though. The big-picture perspective involves the windows this opens for every school across the country. Texas A&M's assistant director of compliance told Feldman that this could "hypothetically" become part of a team's recruiting pitch.

The top-tier players aren't likely to change their minds about going to the NFL, nor are the guys who feel they are ready and want to help out their families. But players whose skills need more refinement, or even running backs who feel the need to declare early because of how devalued the position has become in the NFL, could decide to return to school knowing that there is less risk involved in the event of injury if a school is able to help with an insurance policy. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why RB Ezekiel Elliott & Safety Vonn Bell Are Key to a OSU National Championship

The Ohio State Buckeyes are expecting to do big things during the 2014 season. With key players heading to the NFL, the Buckeyes will need a few players to step up and become huge components on both sides of the ball. Who do you think will break out in Columbus?

Watch Bleacher Report's Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee break down exactly who will become breakout stars for the Buckeyes in 2014.

 

Rankings from 247Sports Composite.

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia QB Hutson Mason Lauded at SEC Media Days, but Will He Deliver on Hype?

The Georgia Bulldogs enter the 2014 season without the Southeastern Conference’s most prolific passer, Aaron Murray. If the mood at SEC Media Days was any indication, that doesn’t seem to matter to the Dawgs.

“The blessing for us is Hutson Mason being in the program going into his fifth season,” head coach Mark Richt told the media contingent in Hoover, Alabama, on Thursday (according to the press conference transcript furnished by ASAP Sports).

But it’s evident that the Dawgs’ confidence in Mason isn’t merely lip service or a byproduct of the senior’s playbook knowledge. Mason is not a placeholder; he’s a leader capable of guiding the team to great ascents.

But can the new man under center deliver on the hype?  If surrounding talent and Bulldog history are factors, then he's certainly poised to do so.

Richt expects the offense’s plethora of weapons to pay dividends for Mason, who has been a pinnacle of patience over the past four seasons:

He's really sacrificed a lot for this team.  He's staying because he loves Georgia and he especially loves his teammates.  But he also knew that this season was going to come and he was going to be surrounded by a lot of skill guys, a lot of great backs, receivers, some veteran linemen, a defense that should be matured from a year ago.

Despite the return of Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall and a host of talented receivers, it may be Mason who adds the most value to this team. Throughout the day, Richt and others were quick to laud Mason’s ability as a passer, his intricate knowledge of the playbook and his leadership.

 

Additionally, history is on Mason's side.  In 2005, D.J. Shockley took over for David Greene, a four-year starter in Athens. Fans had seen glimpses of Shockley and knew what he was capable of, but expectations heading into the season were tempered by the quarterback transition. Shockley responded by leading the Dawgs to a conference title.

Now, lofty expectations are being placed on Mason. “When D.J. came in, he played great. Our quarterback situation was SEC-championship caliber,” Richt offered at media days. “I’m hoping the same with Hutson.”

Mason, who played well in two games as a starter last season and in backup duty over the preceding years, favors Shockley’s story. Truth be told, Mason could have transferred multiple times during his waiting game behind Murray. He would have been a welcomed addition to many programs.

Alas, Mason's commitment to Georgia remained strong (as did Shockley’s), and he’s now poised to pursue the highest of callings: an SEC championship. Winning the conference would give him an opportunity to achieve something in one season that Murray failed to do in four.

But talk alone is cheap at this point in the year.

For Mason, more of the same won’t be enough in 2014. In his two starts last season, he started slow and at times struggled to find chemistry with his receivers. This year, a still-developing Georgia defense will need to be countered by maximum production from Mason and his unit—particularly early in the season.

With the Bulldogs opening the season against Clemson and South Carolina (two teams with capable but very different offenses), Mason needs to be ready to play from the very first snap. The margin for error will be practically nonexistent.

Fortunately, he’s been preparing for this season for years—literally. In June, the senior signal-caller told Seth Emerson of Macon’s Telegraph he was preparing to go out with a bang. “Hopefully I can make an impression that can last,” he said.

Based on what was said Thursday at media days, it sounds like Georgia is expecting that type of special season.  The fifth-year senior is ready for an SEC championship season, which would be quite a finish for a player who threw a touchdown on his very first collegiate pass attempt back in 2010.

 

 

Unless otherwise noted: All quotes from Mark Richt's press conference at SEC Media Days courtesy of ASAP Sports. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Media Days 2014: Hits and Misses from Media's 2014 Preseason Predictions

The All-SEC first, second and third teams, as voted by those who cover the conference, were released on the final morning of SEC Media Days. Also released was the projected order of finish for each of the divisions and the league as a whole.

Alabama was voted the preseason favorite to win the conference, although that title has been a bit inauspicious. Per Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com, the media is 4-of-22 trying to pick the correct champion and 0-of-5 picking Alabama as said champion.

The Tide also led with eight players elected to one of the all-conference teams, including seven who appeared on the first team. Even after losing so much talent, this team knows how to reload.

But what else did the record 293 voters decide on? Where did they err, and where did they hit the nail right on the head?

Here is a quick recap.

 

Note: All recruiting info refers to the 247Sports Composite Rankings.

Begin Slideshow

Pages