NCAA Football News

Michigan Football: Best Quotes and Key Takeaways from Big Ten Media Days

Brady Hoke is quite familiar with the song and dance of Big Ten media days. 

During the conference's big day on stage in Chicago, the Wolverines' fourth-year coach answered questions about rebounding from a 7-6 season, facing off against rivals Ohio State and Michigan State, the quarterback situation and Jabrill Peppers, Team 135's incoming super frosh. 

This slideshow will cover all things Michigan-related that came out of the Windy City. And to get your motor revving, here's Hoke on Shane Morris, a sophomore, versus Devin Gardner, the senior incumbent, via MLive.com's Nick Baumgardner

I think (Morris) has a legitimate chance (to win the job), but I would also say that Devin's done a nice job of working every day to try and solidify that. To some degree, we all need motivation.

But Devin did a nice job, in my opinion, of processing his performance from a year ago (from both a positive and negative standpoint).

Hoke touched on the subject but didn't say anything that would indicate that the job is anyone but Gardner's. Now in his second year, Morris should be competing for top reps. After all, he was one of the best quarterbacks of the 2013 class, not to mention one of Hoke's highest-rated signees.

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Winners and Losers from 2014 Big Ten Media Days

CHICAGO — “Talking season,” as Steve Spurrier likes to call it, is over. It’s time for football.

The best and brightest of the Big Ten flocked to the Chicago Hilton for Big Ten Media Days, one of the final stops before fall camp.

Day 1 consisted of a more formal podium session, giving each coach in the conference 15 minutes to address the media and answer questions. Day 2 wasn’t nearly as structured. All players and coaches in attendance sat at roundtables, answering questions for roughly two hours as media members pinballed around the room.

As for the winners and losers of the weekend—including a cameo from Kenny Bell and his fabulous media-day attire—here are some takeaways.

 

Adam Kramer is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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20 College Football QBs Who Have a New No. 1 WR Target in 2014

Of the 12 players who had more than 1,340 receiving yards last season, only one, Duke wide receiver Jamison Crowder (1,360), is returning to college football in 2014.

Which is crazy because only three of those players—Jordan Matthews, Jeremy Gallon and Chandler Jones—were seniors in 2013. Seven of them were juniors, and two of them, Mike Evans and Davante Adams, were only redshirt sophomores.

But you can't really blame them for leaving, can you?

Other than Willie Snead of Ball State (who went undrafted), every underclassman from that group who declared early was taken in the first or second round of the 2014 NFL draft. This is just the world that we live in, a climate where players have every reason to leave after posting a 1,340-yard season, to strike while the iron is hot.

College football will go on without them, just as it will without the players who departed via graduation. And for 20 FBS quarterbacks who are returning to starting jobs this season—here defining that as "players who threw at least 200 passes in 2013"—it means they will have to break in a new No. 1 target in the passing game.

Chime in below and let me know which QB you think will fare the best.

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4 Florida State Football Players Star in Terrible Rap Video

Florida State's football team may have been the best in the nation last season, but this year's recruiting class doesn't look like it will be winning a Grammy anytime soon.

Four Seminoles defensive players—Demarcus Christmas, Derrick Nnadi, Lorenzo Featherston and Jacob Pugh—just released a music video for their single, "Gotta Make It to the Top."

The Florida State freshmen (otherwise known as New Seminoles) gave rapping a shot, but it's probably best if they just stick to playing football.

[YouTube, h/t Lost Lettermen]

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How Charlie Strong Is Slowly Building His Brand in Texas

Warren McCarty didn't mince words: "It's a cliquish and secretive brotherhood." 

That's how McCarty, a former high school football player from Amarillo, Texas, described the fraternity of the state's high school football coaches. "It's an old-school mentality," says McCarty, who now runs a recruiting service in Colorado called "My Passion is Football"."Everyone knows someone who knows someone."  

And that is what first-year Texas coach Charlie Strong is trying to break through. Get to the coaches. Get to the recruits. 

 

The Network

At more than 20,000 members, the Texas High School Coaches Association's connections within it run deep. Many coaches move from one job to another within the state. Some get promoted to the college level.

Baylor coach Art Briles famously got his start in the Texas high school ranks, as did Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris. Both served terms at Stephenville High School among other places.  

Many of Texas' high school coaches stay in contact with one another or check in with scores from around the state after the Friday night lights have been turned off. 

"Everything is cliquish," said Todd Moebes, the head coach at Abilene Cooper High School. "You have your loyalties, the people you trust." But he also defended the fraternity. "That's not any different than coaching anywhere else," he added.

The network is a close circle where word travels fast, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on the impression a college coach makes.

In March, William Wilkerson of HornsDigest.com published the opinions of four "prestigious"—albeit anonymous—high school coaches and their take on the direction of the program. The results were understandably mixed, but this response from "Coach D" about relationships with high school coaches stood out:

It's going to be the key. Mack was the best I'd ever seen. Mack welcomed them with open arms. And he remembered names. You don't think Mack knows your name? He'd walk up to you and have a conversation with you like there was no tomorrow. He's very friendly. It was unbelievable. I'll give Charlie the benefit of the doubt because I want those guys to be successful. I have kids down there. But if you don't get the relationship with the high school coaches, especially the right ones, recruiting is going to be hard at UT. A&M and Baylor are killing the state.

Suffice to say, relationship-building is paramount, a point Strong has driven home from his first press conference. 

"You can be at the world's greatest school," said Tom Nolen, the head coach at Lamar High School in Houston, "but you have to have good relationships with high school coaches." 

For Strong, that began with proving he was a man of action. 

 

The Strong Impression

On Thursday, July 24, the clock hit zero. 

In the span of two days, Strong suspended or dismissed six players. Wide receivers Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander were arrested in connection to a sexual-assault allegation, but four other players—defensive backs Chevoski Collins and Josh Turner and running backs Jalen Overstreet and Joe Bergeron—were reportedly released for various undisclosed reasons. 

According to ESPN.com's Max Olson, "as many as five more Texas players could be facing dismissals due to violations of team rules." Chip Brown of HornsDigest.com advanced the story Monday, reporting that three more players—receiver Daje Johnson, senior offensive tackle Desmond Harrison and junior offensive tackle Kennedy Estelle—were risking suspension. 

It had been roughly six months since Strong took over the program. That was more than enough time for the Texas roster to adjust to Strong's core values—honesty, treating women with respect, no drugs, no stealing and no weapons—and expectations. Anyone who still wasn't on board was shown the door

Strong was blunt at Big 12's media days. "Do what I ask," he said. "It's not hard." 

The cuts resonated not only with the media and fans but with those who know the Texas high school system. "The high school coaches I've spoken with say they want to send players to a place where there is sound discipline," said Daron Roberts, a former West Virginia assistant and Texas graduate who is preparing to teach at his alma mater. "Everyone knows that Strong means what he says." 

Moebes agreed. "We're in the development business," he said. "We want to make our players better citizens in society, but you also have to look at how that affects the program. I admire him." 

The results show. Instead of scaring away prospects, Strong received two verbal commitments in 48 hours: 4-star wide receiver John Burt, who has family ties to Austin, and 3-star defensive tackle Du'Vonta Lampkin

The moves even registered in California with La Mirada coach Mike Moschetti. 

"He'll ease off in a few years," Moschetti said," but right now, he has to change the culture." 

 

The Recruiting Question  

The dismissals sent a message. Will the players and coaches in Texas' high schools get it? That's what Strong is banking on. 

Over the past two recruiting cycles (2013'14), the Longhorns have been losing to Texas A&M, and Baylor has been gaining ground. The 2015 classes are shaping up similarly. And while there's still talent on Texas' roster, the previous staff did a poor job in their final years of developing it. Nothing proved that as much as the Horns being shut out of the 2014 NFL draft. 

Beyond any skepticism over how Strong would handle the politics of Texas, both internally and with the media, was the recruiting question. Strong has longstanding ties to the state of Florida dating back to 1983, when he began his career as a graduate assistant with the Gators. He would coach three more stretches as an assistant in Gainesville over the next 27 years. 

Those connections helped Texas when Strong was desperately trying to keep the Horns' 2014 class together. In February, Strong signed two last-minute defensive-tackle prospects—Poona Ford from South Carolina and Chris Nelson from Florida—after a string of decommitments. 

Strong's connections to Florida are a great supplement and could be viewed as an advantage. As Gerry Hamilton of ESPN tweets, former Texas coach Mack Brown never recruited a kid out of Florida during his 16 years in Austin. 

There's no need to abandon those recruiting lifelines altogether—Moschetti believes there's no reason Texas can't recruit nationally—but in-state recruiting is a battle Strong and his staff have to win. 

"Our coaches have broken down, and each one of them have a part of this state," Strong said during media days. "They know just how critical it is, how critical it is to go recruit the top players and get them into our program."

 

The Pitch

The recruiting plan started once the wheels were down in Austin. 

"As soon as the new coaching staff landed in Texas, they reached out and made the high school coaches aware that they wanted to bring the top in-state talent to Austin," Roberts said. 

That could take time—it's no secret Strong and his staff haven't started hot on the recruiting trail—which goes against a culture bred on instant gratification. Texas' 2015 class is first in the Big 12 and 16th nationally, but it's difficult to asses the overall success or failure of a class in July when it's nowhere near complete. 

It's an interesting challenge for Strong. At Louisville, Strong molded mostly 3-star recruits with chips on their shoulders into a hardened football team that took Florida and Miami behind the woodshed in the Sugar Bowl (33-23) and Russell Athletic Bowl (36-9), respectively.

It's a different story at Texas, which got its pick of the top in-state talent for years. As recently as 2012, the Horns had the No. 2 recruiting class in the country. 

"A fascination with the star ratings can get you in trouble," Roberts said. "Strong evaluates players and projects how they'll develop as football players." 

The other facet is the culture change. Strong was able to implement his brand of toughness at Florida as a defensive coordinator from 2003-09. Can he do it at Texas? 

"It's a different sales pitch for Strong," said McCarty. "Football is all about being fundamentally sound, not making mistakes and playing with fire.

"Do those three things and you're going to have a lot of success." 

Strong may not win a conference title right away, but the general consensus among the coaches interviewed was that Strong is the right man for the job long-term. 

"I think he's going to do fine," Nolen said. "Anyone who has that job has the respect of the coaches in this state." 

Debating which part of recruiting is more important—relationship-building or having a pre-existing level of respect—will find no clear-cut answer. However, it would appear Strong is using the latter to develop the former. It's unconventional, so only time will tell if it works.  

 

The Product

The 2014 football season is officially less than a month away. Strong knows he has to impress with "the product"—how Texas looks as a football team on Saturdays. That, according to Strong, is his best recruiting pitch. 

It's not a wins-and-losses pitch, however. At least not entirely. According to Jerry Palm of CBS Sports, the Horns have the 15th-toughest schedule in the country. Early non-conference games against BYU and UCLA act as appetizers for back-to-back games against Baylor and Oklahoma in early October. Road games against Kansas State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State on the back end of the season are rarely easy. 

It's not far-fetched to think Texas could go 8-4, the exact same record that resulted in Mack Brown's "resignation" last December. Or it could be better if Strong is as good a coach as his high school counterparts say he is. It could also be worse—much worse—if players don't buy in. Truth is, it's hard to get a gauge on the Longhorns, who have a new coach but also a talented roster that has underachieved. 

Whatever the win total, there are a few questions that need to be answered: Will quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson finally get the most out of starter David Ash? Can the offensive line come together and provide a solid foundation for the offense? Can the defense live up to its potential?

Improvements on those fronts may lessen the sting of another so-so regular-season record and provide hope for the future. 

It could also show recruits that Texas is finally back on the upswing. Despite underwhelming results, players still know Texas is, well, Texas. 

"Texas is never a team to take lightly," Iowa State senior defensive end Cory Morrissey told David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest. "It's like waiting for the dragon to wake up and come out of its lair."

There's no doubt Strong has the fire to succeed. It's starting to show with Texas' high school coaches. In time, that may rub off on the state's top recruits. Perhaps, then, the Longhorns could be considered "back." 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.com

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Q&A: 3-Star OL Tyree St. Louis Commits to Miami

The Miami Hurricanes added a huge piece to their 2015 recruiting class when Bradenton, Florida, (IMG Academy) 3-star offensive tackle Tyree St. Louis committed to the Hurricanes Tuesday afternoon.

St. Louis selected Miami over offers from Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Ole Miss among others. 

The 6'6", 300-pounder is one of the nation's fastest-rising recruits, and he becomes the 21st pledge for head coach Al Golden's club.

In this exclusive Q&A with Bleacher Report, find out why the talented lineman is headed to Coral Gables.

 

B/R: Discuss your recruiting process up to this point and what made you decide to pull the trigger now?

Tyree St. Louis: Well, I had an amazing recruiting process. I know now because I've taken all my visits and looked at all of my options. I've sat down and discussed it with my family, and I know now that this is the final decision. This is where I want to go. There's no more questions that need to be asked.

B/R: What set the Hurricanes apart? Who recruited you from Miami, and what did you like about their approach?

St. Louis: It was mainly [offensive line] Coach [Art] Kehoe. He's the best in the business. I know I can learn a lot from him. He's sent a ton of guys to the NFL. He's the best coach doing this right now, and I think that's why it's the best choice for me. He's been doing this for over 30 years, and most of those are at Miami as the offensive line coach. Miami is an up-and-coming program. They put more players in the league than any school, other than probably USC. They have amazing fans and family tradition. Great facilities. Great coaches. It seems like the perfect place for me.

Coach Kehoe and Coach [Larry] Scott approached me by laying everything out for me. They basically told me that if I chose Miami, I would be playing for the best OL coach in the business, have a chance at playing early, and I'd also be playing against some of the best players in the country. I'd also be close to home, and it would be easy for my family to come and see me. It won't be a tough place to go transportation-wise.

B/R: Miami is building a strong class. Have you reached out to any of Miami's commits? Who are you most excited to play with?

St. Louis: A few guys from IMG Academy are committed to the University of Miami. One guy, Ryan Fines, he's committed to Miami, and we might get a few more guys down there, too. One player I'm excited to play with is Tyriq McCord. He played at Jefferson High School here in Tampa, and I went up against him a few years ago when I was a freshman. He's a great player.

B/R: Who is your all-time favorite Hurricane?

St. Louis: It wasn't just one guy. It was all of the great players. The guys like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Dwayne Johnson, Bryant McKinnie and so on. Just a lot of legendary guys.

B/R: Miami is a school famous for playing with swagger. What do you feel needs to happen for "The U" to rise to prominence once again?

St. Louis: We just need guys who want to go to work. I'm a player who is a hard worker. I just try to play with great technique. I'm always ready to work.

B/R: Any final message for Hurricane fans?

St. Louis: I'll see you soon. It's an amazing place, and I can't wait to get down there!

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand. 

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Texas A&M Football: 4 Aggies Primed for Breakout Seasons

The Texas A&M football team enters the 2014 seasons as an afterthought in the SEC West race. If the Aggies want to compete for the SEC title in 2014, then they are going to need a number of players to have stellar seasons. 

Fortunately for Texas A&M fans, they have a number of players who are poised to do just that. The 2013 season was a disappointment, as injuries and inexperience caused the Aggies to finish with a 9-4 record. The team will benefit from going through those youthful growing pains in 2014 as they return a more experienced team. 

Some of the freshmen who were thrown into the fire in 2013 will make an impact on the 2014 squad. There are a couple members of the 2014 recruiting class who will play large roles on this team. 

This is a look at some of the players who are going to have breakout seasons for Texas A&M in 2014. 

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SEC Coaches Have No Business Complaining About James Franklin's Satellite Camps

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

For SEC coaches to curb what they perceive as an unfair recruiting practice, that's the attitude the league office should take. 

A hot-button issue this offseason has been the rise of satellite camps. NCAA rules prohibit schools from holding out-of-state camps outside of a 50-mile radius from campus, but only the SEC prohibits "guest coaching" on other campuses.

The result has been the creation of "satellite camps," where coaches from schools "guest coach" at the camps of other schools, hoping in part to create some recruiting momentum in other parts of the world.

Current Penn State and former Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin and members of his staff worked at camps at Georgia State and Stetson this summer, hoping to capitalize on the fertile recruiting grounds of metro Atlanta and central Florida, respectively. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly intends to set up a camp in the near future at Georgia State, Oregon and Oregon State coaches routinely visit camps in California, and Oklahoma State has its fingerprints all over the state of Texas.

There's a good reason coaches are interested in satellite camps. A total of 156 of the 316 4-star players in 247Sports' class of 2015 rankings hail from Georgia, Florida, Texas and California. As the old saying goes, "It's not the X's and O's, it's the Jimmys and the Joes."

"It's our job to do everything in our power within the rules to give Penn State a competitive advantage," Franklin said at Big Ten media days this week, according to ASAPSports.com. "And whatever that may be, whether it's recruiting certain parts of the country, whatever it may be, whether it's the satellite camps, we're going to look into all those things."

Franklin told Matt Hayes of SportingNews.com in June that it isn't about quantity.

“If we get one player from this camp,” says new Penn State coach James Franklin, “it’s worth it.”

Outrage in the SEC? It exists, but Franklin doesn't understand why.

Franklin says he didn't understand why his satellite camps received as much attention as it did. #PSU

— ESPN Big Ten (@ESPN_BigTen) July 28, 2014

Good for Franklin for standing up for himself and his job, because leading up to Big Ten media days, SEC coaches were up in arms about the rise of satellite camps.

From Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze to Georgia's Mark Richt to Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin, the "loophole"—as SEC coaches refer to it—has irked them this spring.

"I wish it was a national rule," Freeze told ESPN.com during spring meetings in May. "I don't particularly want another school in a BCS conference coming into our state and running a camp. So we would like to see our rule be a national rule. I'd love to see it be the same."

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive intends to address the issue with the NCAA, but there's a more appropriate reaction for the SEC's coaches: Get over it.

If the rest of the NCAA comes back to the SEC's rule, it regionalizes what has increasingly become a national sport.

Yes, coaching in the SEC comes with the perk of being in the middle of one of the most fertile recruiting grounds in the country. But that doesn't mean there's a brick wall surrounding the territory. If programs want to recruit nationally and feel it's worth it, they should be allowed to do so with no restrictions.

Is it unfair to SEC schools? Sure.

The SEC, however, should lift its rule and let its coaches work "satellite camps," not have the rest of the country come back to it.

Besides, it's not like the SEC gets the short end of the stick from a recruiting standpoint. Why do you think Alabama routinely plays in high-profile kickoff games to open the season? Those programs want big-time programs to play in their games. Alabama knows that by going to places like Atlanta and suburban Dallas on opening weekend, it gains more of a foothold in the area.

Is that fair to the Texas schools and other schools that routinely depend on the Lone Star State? Of course not. Those are the breaks.

It's nothing new. Holding camps and making its presence felt in Florida was a big reason Rutgers made a splash on the national stage in the mid-1990s, according to The New York Times.

"Rutgers showcased the program as a unique alternative for recruits, especially from the Broward and Miami-Dade County areas, where they could receive a world-class education, grow up beyond their comfort zone, make an early impact and be of a foundation capable of taking the team to another level on the national radar," said Tyler Donohue, B/R's national recruiting writer and former recruiting assistant at Rutgers from 2006-2008.

For Rutgers back then, it was all about creating options.

"Many of them arrived at Rutgers feeling they had something to prove after being passed over by in-state powers Florida, Florida State and Miami," Donohue said. "They knew there would be an early opportunity to make an impact, something that might not have existed on those other rosters. It made for a great locker room. Friendly rivalry and competition between the Northeast natives and Florida transplants."

Other than the SEC's rule prohibiting its coaches from working at satellite camps, what's not to like about them?

As B/R national lead writer Ben Kercheval noted this spring, they're great for the prospects. After all, isn't that what it should be all about? They allow lesser-known prospects to display their talents in front of big-time coaches, give local prospects more options nationally to choose from and expand the reach of smaller schools that are looking to be more competitive.

What's not to like?

SEC coaches love the conference due in part to the accessibility it has to some of the country's top recruits, but they can't have their cake and eat it too. 

Satellite camps are great for the sport, and they should be here to stay. 

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. 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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Teammates React to Former Georgia Player Josh Murray's 'Bachelorette' Win

When you think of sports and reality television colliding, it's typically professional sports making the waves. 

Emmitt Smith, Jason Taylor and Hines Ward are just a few of the former NFL players who have competed on Dancing With The Stars, former pro baseball player Jose Canseco has appeared on The Apprentice and The Surreal Life, and former NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens once had his own show on VH1 called The T.O. Show.

College sports made its presence felt this year on The Bachelorette, as former Georgia Bulldog Josh Murray won the show, stealing the heart of former prosecutor Andi Dorfman in the process.

Murray, who is a former minor league baseball player and the brother of former Bulldogs quarterback (and current Kansas City Chief) Aaron Murray, proposed to Dorfman after winning the season finale on Monday night, much to the delight of his former coach, Mark Richt.

"I was actually at one of my friends, Chris Davis', wedding recently, and Coach Richt was there, and we talked about my journey thus far," Murray said. "I wasn't able to give out a lot of details, but he told me he was watching and praying for me. I know a lot of the Georgia guys were as well."

They were, in droves.

Murray hadn't had time to run through all of his messages as of Tuesday morning but expects there to be plenty of former and current Bulldogs analyzing his performance in the finale.

"There are so many 'congrats' and so many friends that have been congratulating me, and I really need to get back to them," Murray said. "I really don't know who's been texting me because my phone has been dead [since the finale aired]."

He may not have checked his messages from his former teammates, but there are plenty out there on social media.

Former teammate and linebacker, and current Georgia graduate assistant coach, Christian Robinson shared the big moment with the happy couple from what appears to be his office at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall.

So glad I got to share this moment with you guys 😂 pic.twitter.com/mEX4hOhJKx

— Christian Robinson (@crob45) July 29, 2014

He is making plans for the wedding, which Murray suggested on ABC's broadcast should be sometime next spring.

I'm going to dance my tail off at this wedding.

— Christian Robinson (@crob45) July 29, 2014

Will he bring a date? Josh's brother, Aaron, suggested that may not be the best idea in the world.

@crob45 I don't know if you want to haha

— Aaron Murray (@aaronmurray11) July 29, 2014

Former tight end Arthur Lynch was impressed with the intensity of Dorfman's pre-rose ceremony breakup with Nick, the other finalist from the finale.

I hope my first breakup is as intense as this. That would be so much fun. #TheBachelorette#HopelessRomantic

— Arthur Lynch (@alynch1788) July 29, 2014

Former cornerbacks Blake Sailors and Chad Gloer were pleased with Murray's win as well as Richt's reaction to it.

Tweet of the night has got to go to @chadgloer47pic.twitter.com/T3m2omiZLt

— Blake Sailors (@BlakeSailors07) July 29, 2014

Murray wasn't technically a teammate with current offensive lineman Watts Dantzler, but he is a Twitter superstar. The senior wondered how all of the contestants get from point A to point B and also makes a prediction on which former SEC player will be next in line to join the show.

The Bachelorette must have used a lot of Uber rides

— Watts Dantzler (@wattsdantzler) July 29, 2014

Hey @aaronmurray11 , you're next.

— Watts Dantzler (@wattsdantzler) July 29, 2014

As for what it means for Georgia, my B/R colleague Ben Kercheval has an opinion.

THIS TOTALLY MAKES UP FOR THE SEC TITLE AGAINST BAMA

— Ben Kercheval (@BenKercheval) July 29, 2014

It also means the Bulldogs win a national title, of sorts.

BREAKING: Georgia claims 2014 #TheBachelorette national title.

— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) July 29, 2014

USA Today's Nicole Auerbach wonders if other SEC institutions will claim it as their own.

I am surprised and also completely not surprised that the SEC has claimed the Bachelorette title.

— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) July 29, 2014

Even Georgia's rivals were happy, including Florida wide receiver Raphael Andrades.

Once again the SEC wins #TheBachelorette 🌹💍😍

— Raph Andrades™ (@poloRAPHlauren) July 29, 2014

The Bachelorette united Bulldog Nation and the SEC this summer, and it culminated with one of their own claiming one of reality television's biggest prizes. 

Nothing like a little "midsummer national title" to hold us over until football season.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. 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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Snoop Dogg's Son, 2015 WR Cordell Broadus, Opens Up on Living in Father's Shadow

Cordell Broadus is a 4-star 2015 wide receiver out of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Broadus has all the attributes to make an impact at any college program. Still uncommitted, he is leaning toward taking his talents to a few schools on the West Coast. Broadus took some time to talk with Bleacher Report about his recruitment and growing up with his well-known father, Snoop Dogg.

Where do you think this stud will end up?

Watch the video and let us know.

 

Rankings from 247Sports composite.

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Michigan Football: What Devin Gardner Learned from Tom Brady

The history and tradition that come with playing at Michigan can either motivate or stagger those who play in the shadow of past greats. Quarterbacks face a special burden—being to compared to arguably one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, three-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady.

Gardner has turned to Brady for inspiration as he works to overcome last season’s disappointment and do what many consider unlikely, if not impossible—beat all three of Michigan’s traditional rivals on the road. He also faces competition from a talented group of younger players who may be better suited for offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier’s new offense. 

At Big Ten media day in Chicago, Gardner shared the advice he received from Brady, who began his NFL career as a lowly sixth-round draft pick.

“Come every day,” said Gardner. “Prove to your teammates and coaches that you’re the best guy for the job.”

Brady, who rode the bench during Michigan’s undefeated 1997 season behind Brian Griese and dueled with phenom Drew Henson for the starting position later in his collegiate career, was no stranger to adversity and competition.

Gardner met Brady when he visited the team last August and stayed in touch throughout the season.

“It’s amazing to have such resource,” said Gardner. “A guy who has been through adversity and been successful at the next level who knows how to win.”

Gardner acknowledged that he faces competition for the starting role but is focused on improving his own game and becoming better leader for his teammates.

“If the coaches feel that Shane Morris is the best quarterback on the team then that is their decision,” said Gardner. “It’s my job is to make sure that I’m the best quarterback on the team.”

Nobody took last season’s 7-6 record harder than Gardner. Whether it was being sacked 34 times or playing with a turf toe injury versus Ohio State, Gardner took a physical and mental beating as Michigan tumbled from Big Ten title contention. As the losses mounted, Gardner was under constant attack from opposing defenses, behind an offensive line that struggled to protect him.

This year he faces the prospects of playing behind another inexperienced offensive line as Michigan rolls out a new offense that may finally bring the power running game back to Ann Arbor.

The odds are stacked against Michigan competing for the Big Ten title this season, but Gardner is defiant.

“I look forward to being the underdog.”

Michigan is unaccustomed to playing that role, but for the team to beat its rivals on the road this season, Gardner needs to do more than just listen to Brady—he’ll need to start playing like him.

 

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.

Follow @PSCallihan

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UCLA Football: Rough Fall Camp Setting Strengthens Bruins for Pac-12 Title Run

Quarterback Brett Hundley calls UCLA football's connection with San Bernardino, California, "a love-hate relationship." 

Since head coach Jim Mora arrived before the 2012 season, UCLA has held its preseason camp some 80 miles east of its Westwood campus at Cal State San Bernardino. In doing so, the Bruins trade the luxuries of home for the sweltering heat of the Inland Empire. 

"I hope it's hot," Mora said. "I would just like us to be in the triple digits. As long as we're in triple digits, I'll be happy."

Mora should get his wish. The average August temperature in San Bernardino is 96 degrees, but Weather.com predicts a string of 100-degree days, just in time for the opening of fall camp. It's easy to see from where the "hate" part of the relationship comes. 

San Bernardino camp is something of a modern-day twist on the fabled camp Paul "Bear" Bryant held in Junction while he was head coach at Texas A&M.

At UCLA, the arduous conditions are not about breaking down the Bruins. According to Mora, it's about building them up. 

"The reason we go there is not because of the heat," he explained. "It gives us the chance to get into an environment where there are fewer distractions, where we're isolated and we can focus on each other and get to know each other better." 

And that's from where the "love" side of the relationship Hundley described comes. The adversity UCLA faces on the field during preseason camp, as well as the bonds built off it, manifests on game days in the fall. 

"It's been important for this team to build a different mindset," Hundley said. "Our first time there, we were dreading it. But it's one [thing] that we needed because it's something you don't want to do, but have to." 

The camp has paid dividends via a 19-8 record through Mora's first two seasons as head coach, a Pac-12 South championship and very realistic aspirations for more in his third year. It's a much different role than two years ago, when Mora first took training east. 

UCLA was coming off a 6-8 finish in the 2011 campaign and had not been legitimate conference contenders since 2005. 

After finishing 2013 with back-to-back routs of USC and Virginia Tech, and returning the most veteran starting rotation in the conference, UCLA is a likely preseason Top 10 team. 

But Hundley said the goal in his third trek to the Inland Empire for camp is maintaining the drive that motivated the Bruins there two years ago. 

"We've done something at UCLA, but it will be nothing if we don't finish what we started," Hundley said. "This year, we have to bring the same mindset as we had when Coach Mora first came here." 

Maintaining the same desire to prove itself means the UCLA football team must block out months of outside praise. Since Hundley announced his decision to return for his redshirt junior season, the Bruins have garnered plenty of attention from the national media. 

Some, like Fox Sports' Tim Brando, have gone so far as to tab the Bruins College Football Playoff favorites. 

Whether it's the expectations of this season, or the criticism leveled against the program two years ago, Mora has a message for UCLA that is spelled out on a sign in the team's locker room: "Tune out the noise." 

Practicing in San Bernardino is an integral part of the Bruins setting a foundation free from distractions and other buzz out of the team's control.   

"For us, it's always about narrowing the focus down to what we can control," Mora said. 

Just like the offseason hype, the Bruins can't control San Bernardino's 100-degree temperatures. But they can control how they react, and facing that kind of adversity is just how Mora likes it. 

"I like it hot. I think it's good for us," he said.  

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. 

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5-Star Tennessee Legacy Kahlil McKenzie Opens Up on His Love, Future with Vols

Kahlil McKenzie, out of California, is rated a 5-star defensive tackle, according to 247Sports' Composite. This West Coast monster has decided to take his talents to Rocky Top and play for his father's alma mater. Butch Jones is receiving an absolute animal in McKenzie, which will add serious talent to the defensive line.

McKenzie took some time to talk with Bleacher Report's Michael Felder about his recruitment and why he chose Tennessee.

How well do you think he will do at the collegiate level?

Watch the video and let us know.

 

Rankings courtesy of 247Sports Composite.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5 Alabama Players Sure to Surprise at Fall Camp

It’s been a few months since we’ve gotten an up-close look at the Alabama football team.

For the first time since A-Day, we’ll get to see the Crimson Tide prepare for the 2014 season when fall camp opens over the weekend.

Alabama is breaking in new starters at key positions and has plenty of young talent fresh off of yet another No. 1 recruiting class.

It’s hard to “surprise” most people at Alabama, since most players come in so highly rated and publicized, but some still make an impact when they aren’t necessarily expected to.

Here are five players to watch in that regard at fall camp.

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Preseason College Football Rankings 2014: Projecting Amway's NCAA Poll

Gone are days in college football when deciphering the complex computer formulas used to determine the top teams was more difficult than most of the actual college classes across the country.

While the BCS is no longer, the coaches poll is here to stay with a couple of differences. For one, Amway has partnered with USA Today and the American Football Coaches Association. More importantly, the poll doesn’t play a role in determining the participants in the College Football Playoff like it did during the BCS era.

That doesn’t mean fans aren’t hungry for a little late-summer football (and debate) when the initial Amway poll is set to be released July 31. 

With that in mind, here is a projection for what those rankings will look like. Remember, this is simply a prediction on what the poll will be rather than a personal Top 25 ranking.

 

25. Florida

Call this a vote for program name only.

The Florida Gators couldn’t even beat Georgia Southern last season, let alone compete for an SEC crown. However, a healthy Jeff Driskel and a loaded defense that features Dante Fowler and Jonathan Bullard should help Florida improve drastically on its 4-8 record. 

It may just be enough to warrant a Top 25 vote.

 

24. Texas

As long as we are handing out votes based on past performances, let’s put Texas in the mix. 

Still, Charlie Strong’s presence should provide an immediate boost to one of the best programs in the history of college football. ESPN’s Numbers Never Lie explained why:

The Big 12 is typically known for its strong offenses, so a stout defense could help the Longhorns win a number of closely contested games. It won’t get them in the College Football Playoff, but it will be an improvement from last season.

 

23. Clemson

Clemson enjoyed one of the best seasons in program history last year. An Orange Bowl victory over college football blue blood Ohio State topped it off, but the Tigers lose Tajh Boyd and the dynamic Sammy Watkins.

That is the lifeblood of the offense. 

Still, a defense led by superstar Vic Beasley will help Clemson win plenty of games.

 

22. Texas A&M

Rumor has it Texas A&M lost a fairly important piece from its offense to the NFL draft and Cleveland Browns this offseason. 

Somehow, life will move on without Johnny Manziel. Returning 15 starters certainly makes life much easier, but getting through the likes of Missouri and South Carolina from the SEC East, on top of the always strong SEC West, certainly doesn’t.

 

21. Nebraska

Nebraska may still be on the outside looking in at the likes of Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin when it comes to the Big Ten pecking order, but it should once again be solid in 2014. 

The Cornhuskers will be tested early against Fresno State (on the road) and Miami but don’t have to play the Buckeyes or Michigan. Even if they trip up on the road against the Spartans and Badgers, the Huskers should find a way to win eight or nine games.

 

20. Mississippi 

All those recruits have to grow up eventually and produce on the field. Mississippi fans will be treated to an even better team than the one that won eight games last season.

Bo Wallace is the headliner at quarterback and Laquon Treadwell will be there to reel in plenty of passes. Hugh Freeze’s stout defense will do enough to keep the Rebels in plenty of games, and it will be up to that offense to come through when it matters.

 

19. Arizona State

Arizona State has a bright future ahead of it on the recruiting trail and the football team, but it should take a step up in 2014 as well. 

As Doug Haller of The Arizona Republic noted, coach Todd Graham pointed out fans shouldn’t overlook this year’s bunch on account of what the future holds:

Quarterback Taylor Kelly will be the straw that stirs the drink, while Jaelen Strong and D.J. Foster give the Sun Devils a supporting cast that will help them light up the scoreboard on offense. 

A 54-51 victory counts just as much as a 10-7 one.

 

18. Kansas State

Consistent and productive quarterbacks win a lot of games at the college level, and senior Jake Waters will be just that. 

That nonconference showdown with Auburn will be a much stiffer test for the Tigers than many people realize, and Bill Snyder’s program will have a golden opportunity to put itself on the 2014 map. Few signal-callers in the country would be better to lead the Wildcats’ efforts in doing that than Waters.

 

17. Washington

Few teams in the country lost as much talent in three players as Washington did this offseason with the departures of Keith Price, Bishop Sankey and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, but the Huskies also added an important piece.

Head coach Chris Petersen

Even with the loss of all that offense firepower, the former Boise State front man gets a strong defense to work with on the other side of the ball. That will be enough to keep the Huskies in the Top 25.

 

16. Notre Dame

It wouldn’t be a preseason poll without Notre Dame in the Top 25 somewhere, even in the years that the Fighting Irish eventually fail to live up to expectations.

2014 may not be one of those seasons, though, because Notre Dame gets quarterback Everett Golson back after an academically based suspension. He was last seen on the football field leading his squad in the national title game. 

Throw in a strong secondary and the Fighting Irish should be much better than last year.

 

15. USC

It may be a commentary on where USC is in the Pac-12 pecking order that seeing them at No. 15 seems high, given how dominant a program it was not long ago. 

Still, quarterback Cody Kessler led the Trojans to six wins in his last seven starts and that momentum should carry over to the early season. Of course, having Nelson Agholor and Leonard Williams to catch his passes certainly helps things as well.

 

14. Baylor

It was a disappointing end to what was a magical 2013 season for the Baylor Bears, but they should bounce back from a Fiesta Bowl loss to Central Florida.

Bryce Petty will make sure of it.

There are some new faces around the quarterback, but the aerial attack that lit up the scoreboard so often last year should be back in full force. Petty could very well find himself in Heisman Trophy discussions, and if Baylor can find a way to knock off Oklahoma, the team could challenge for a vaunted postseason spot.

 

13. Wisconsin

Wisconsin has what can only be described as a very manageable schedule after its opener with LSU. The Badgers miss Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan on the slate and could very well cruise to the Big Ten title game.

That is why that initial game against the Tigers is so important.

Not only is it a chance for the Big Ten to pick up a crucial nonconference win against the mighty SEC, but victories over the likes of Minnesota, Purdue and Rutgers all season won’t mean much in the eyes of voters if Wisconsin loses its one game of note.

 

12. Stanford

There is some bad news for Stanford in terms of the Pac-12 race, and it comes in the form of the schedule. Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News explains:

Veteran quarterback Kevin Hogan will help the Cardinal deal with that slate, as will dynamic playmaker Ty Montgomery at wide receiver. The defense is always strong, so the formula is in place for another run at the conference title.

A showdown with Oregon in Eugene could be the difference-maker.

 

11. Georgia

You know the initial Top 25 poll is going to be rife with SEC teams. Georgia just happens to be one of them.

The Bulldogs lost to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl last season, but injuries derailed the entire campaign. This year, Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall and Hutson Mason will lead the offense, but there may be more questions on defense.

Seth Emerson of The (Macon) Telegraph explains why:

Somewhere, Steve Spurrier is preparing his next verbal jab.

 

10. LSU

We already covered how important the season opener between Wisconsin and LSU is for the Badgers. While the Tigers have more chances against quality competition to make up for a loss, the other way to look at it is a nonconference loss in the SEC means a three- or four-loss season is a legitimate possibility.

Les Miles certainly doesn’t want that. 

A new quarterback will be leading the way, but running back Leonard Fournette enters the fray with a boatload of hype. Whether he can deliver on it could determine the entire season for the Tigers.

 

9. South Carolina

The SEC East is up for grabs. With Georgia dealing with off-field issues and Florida still trying to figure out how to win again without Urban Meyer on the sidelines, South Carolina is in prime position for a run.

Running back Mike Davis is a dark-horse candidate for the Heisman Trophy, and he could very well carry the offense after the departure of Connor Shaw. Davis will get plenty of carries, which means plenty of yards and touchdowns.

Still, the Gamecocks would settle for plenty of wins over a Heisman.

 

8. UCLA 

It’s no longer all about Oregon, Stanford and USC in the Pac-12.

UCLA has quarterback Brett Hundley calling the shots, and there may not be a more dynamic quarterback in the country. However, he still has to prove that against elite competition and will have the chance to do so this year.

The Bruins are on the way up, and this may be the year it all comes together. At least they have captured the admiration of rivals, as Stanford coach David Shaw was certainly impressed heading into the season, via Josh Peter of USA Today:

I think you can make a case of what Jim Mora has done in the last two years at UCLA is as good as what anybody's done in the nation. As far as what they've done and style of play, they've become a physical, get-after-you football team. ... He's built something in UCLA that was not there before.

 

7. Michigan State

Michigan State probably deserves to be ahead of some teams that will be ranked higher based on last season’s dominance, but college football preseason polls rely heavily on name recognition.

The Spartans were the first team to beat Ohio State under Meyer in 25 tries, were clearly the better squad in a victory over Stanford in the Rose Bowl and were a poorly officiated game against Notre Dame away from being undefeated. Expectations have never been higher in East Lansing. 

Still, a young defense that lost some of its firepower will be tested early against Oregon’s scary offense. A victory there could propel the Spartans to some special things this season.

 

6. Oklahoma

Oklahoma beat Alabama in arguably the most impressive bowl-game performance this side of Florida State’s national title, but this isn’t some Cinderella story we are talking about.

It’s the Sooners.

Few programs in college football history win at the rate of Bob Stoops’ squad, and 2014 will be no different. Trevor Knight will be expected to live up to his Sugar Bowl heroics, which is certainly a lot of pressure, but he is capable of doing just that.

If he does, the Sooners could find themselves in the College Football Playoff.

 

5. Auburn

Auburn has the SEC’s reputation, a trip to the national title game last year and the return of quarterback Nick Marshall working in its favor, so a spot in the top five shouldn’t be that surprising.

The Tigers do lose running back Tre Mason and Dee Ford, and their luck they enjoyed last year may run out this season. Remember, Auburn was a couple of miraculous plays away from losing a couple more times in its charmed run to the national title game.

The Tigers will still find a way to win plenty of games this season with the option attack, but a trip to the playoffs may be asking a bit much.

 

4. Oregon

Marcus Mariota is arguably the top quarterback in the country this season, and SportsCenter notes that he will have plenty of time to focus on football:

Before we all get up in arms with fake outrage, the light course schedule is because he already graduated. The only question now is whether he can parlay that free time into a national title for Oregon after the program has come so dauntingly close the past few years. 

The Ducks need to reload in the receiving corps and get over a nonconference hurdle in Michigan State, but they should be among the nation’s best. As always, look for plenty of points.

 

3. Ohio State

Chalk this ranking up to the importance of the coach and quarterback combo in college football.

Ohio State returns senior and Heisman Trophy candidate Braxton Miller, who will be expected to lead Meyer’s offense to new heights this season. Ultimately, the fate of Buckeye Nation rests on the surgically repaired shoulder and legs of Miller, but there are other question marks.

Ohio State needs to improve its lackluster pass defense from a year ago, and the loss of Carlos Hyde and four of the five starting offensive linemen from a year ago is certainly noteworthy. If Miller can stay healthy, the offensive line gels and the secondary improves under new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash, the Buckeyes will be in the College Football Playoff. 

That is certainly a lot of “ifs,” but all are manageable for Ohio State.

 

2. Alabama

We can debate whether Alabama is the second-best team in the country, but Nick Saban’s bunch always gets the benefit of the doubt in the preseason because of the established dominance it has enjoyed over the past decade.

The Crimson Tide should be motivated after losing their last two games last season, and T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper will help new quarterback Jacob Coker rack up some impressive stats. 

If Coker can get past showdowns with Auburn, LSU and Mississippi, a spot in the playoffs is almost assuredly waiting.

 

1. Florida State

Until someone knocks Florida State off the championship perch, the Seminoles will be No. 1.

Returning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston will lead the way and look to join Archie Griffin as the only players to win college football’s most prestigious award twice. There are certainly some tests in place with games against Oklahoma State, Clemson, Notre Dame and Florida on the schedule, but the Seminoles are loaded with talent. 

They are once again the favorites.

 

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Florida Coach Will Muschamp Doesn't Know How to DM Recruits on Twitter

Anyone who wanted to see how Florida coach Will Muschamp handles recruiting was able to get a small glimpse of it on Monday night.

Muschamp accidentally tweeted, instead of personally messaged, a couple of notes that appear to have been directed at a player the Gators coach was trying to bring to Gainesville. Unfortunately for Muschamp, the whole world was able to see part of a private conversation.

The tweets have since been deleted.

[Twitter]

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Why Losing RB Carlos Hyde Won't Be an Issue for Buckeyes in 2014

The Ohio State Buckeyes are looking to continue their success on the field during the 2014 season. With star quarterback Braxton Miller returning for another year, Urban Meyer and the coaching staff have one less position to worry about. Carlos Hyde, on the other hand, has taken his talents to the NFL, leaving a big hole to fill on the offensive side of the ball.

How well do you think the Buckeyes will do in 2014?

Watch Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer break down the position battles in Columbus.

 

Rankings from 247Sports' composite rankings.

 

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College Football Recruiting LB Rankings 2015: Top 10 After the Opening

Ferocious, instinctive, athletic and disruptive. These adjectives apply to many of the nation's premier linebacker prospects who have commanded continuous collegiate interest throughout the 2015 recruiting cycle.

Seasons of high school game film and standout performances at showcase events like The Opening—an annual invite-only July camp in Beaverton, Oregon—have provided a strong sample size for several top-tier defenders. Recent recruiting-service rating alterations continue to alter the landscape when it comes to establishing a pecking order for playmakers at the position.

In the aftermath of newly released 247Sports composite rankings, we broke down the top 10 linebackers from a talent-packed group. Here's our analysis based on film study sessions and firsthand accounts of what we witnessed at The Opening.

 

This article is part of Bleacher Report's CFB 200 Recruiting Rankings Series. The overall rankings are based on the 247Sports composite, which takes into account every recruiting service's rankings. The positional rankings also correspond with those composite scores. Stay tuned over the next two weeks as we take an in-depth look at college football's stars of tomorrow.

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2014 All-Big Ten Team and Standings Predictions Revealed by Media

While much of the hype surrounding the 2014 college football season seems to be focused on the talent-rich SEC, the release of the preseason All-Big Ten Team suggests that the Big Ten is stacked in its own right.

As revealed by Brent Yarina of BTN.com, one writer from all 14 Big Ten programs submitted votes to assemble a consensus preseason team. Many of the selections were fairly obvious, but others will undoubtedly spark plenty of controversy and conversation.

Not surprisingly, the preseason All-Big Ten Team is rich with players from mainstays such as Ohio State and Michigan State, who both have College Football Playoff aspirations. With so much talent on their respective rosters, they certainly have a fighting chance.

Also, Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com revealed a poll predicting the 2014 Big Ten standings. The poll consisted of 29 Big Ten writers voting on how the East and West Divisions will play out.

Here is a complete look at the preseason All-Big Ten Team and Big Ten standings predictions as selected by the media, as well as further analysis regarding some of the top picks.

 

Breaking Down Top Selections

Braxton Miller

As a senior and Heisman Trophy candidate, it comes as no surprise that Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller is viewed by most as the Big Ten's premier player. Miller is coming off his best collegiate season and he will be the driving force behind the Buckeyes' push toward a Big Ten title and perhaps even a national championship.

Miller enjoyed the best season of his collegiate career last year as he racked up well over 3,000 total yards and accounted for 36 total touchdowns as well. He is the preeminent dual-threat quarterback in college football and keeps opposing defenses guessing on a play-to-play basis.

As good as Miller has been in past years, there is reason to believe that he could be even better in 2014. According to ESPN.com's Brian Bennett, Miller has improved both physically and mentally since the end of the 2013 campaign:

Perhaps the one concern relating to Miller stems from offseason shoulder surgery, but he seems convinced that all is well and he is poised to be the Buckeyes' go-to guy during the upcoming season, per ESPN.com's Austin Ward:

I feel like it's stronger. Man, everything that was damaged in there has been cleaned out. So even if I didn't have that injury, I feel like everything from before that injury has been cleaned out. I barely had any rust when I came back. With my footwork and everything like that, I had been focused on that throughout the spring. That's all I was doing, going back to work on my footwork, breaking down the defenses, and I watched a lot of film to make sure everything's good. Everything is in place. I'm at the end of my recovery, feeling pretty good and ready for camp. I'm ready to go for real.

That is certainly a promising self-diagnosis as far as Ohio State fans are concerned. Miller's penchant for running leaves him susceptible to injuries, but it is also his greatest strength. As long as he is 100 percent entering the season, though, the Buckeyes have a chance to do something special.

 

Melvin Gordon

Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon enjoyed a true breakout season in 2013 and emerged as one of the nation's best runners. Gordon gained over 1,600 yards on the ground, scored 12 times and averaged nearly eight yards per carry. With numbers like that, Heisman candidacy is a real possibility in 2014.

Big things were expected out of Gordon last year after he averaged 10 yards per attempt in 2012. He didn't disappoint, but expectations will be even higher this season. The Badgers are a run-first team and most of their eggs will be placed into the Gordon basket when it comes to moving the ball and putting up points on offense.

Gordon is a big-play threat, but he is also excellent in terms of making sure that he gets the most out of every run. That is apparent based on this incredible stat courtesy of the Wisconsin State Journal's Andy Baggot:

The Big Ten has churned out some fantastic running backs over the years and Gordon matches up favorably with pretty much any of them. Wisconsin has a long line of prestige at the tailback position, which is something that Gordon will only bolster during the upcoming season.

 

Shilique Calhoun

Offensive players tend to receive most of the accolades in college football, but it can be argued that no player will have a greater impact on the Big Ten this season than Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun. He really emerged as a sophomore last year to the tune of 7.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss, and it would be shocking if he doesn't match those numbers and then some in 2014.

Calhoun is part of a Spartans defense that was absolutely dominant in 2013. Although Michigan State lost a few key players from that defense to graduation and the NFL, the pieces are still in place for an elite side. Much of that burden will fall on Calhoun, who has already been dubbed the Big Ten's best defensive player, per Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star:

While Calhoun will be a key figure in every Michigan State game this season, he will be particularly important when the Spartans face Ohio State. The winner of that game could very well win the Big Ten East and the Big Ten as a whole. That would also potentially give the winner a chance of representing the conference in the College Football Playoff.

Calhoun is an extremely athletic defensive end who could wreak havoc on Miller in terms of preventing him from getting the edge on running plays. If Calhoun can do that and be a difference-maker in the Spartans' other games as well, then it will be very difficult to unseat him as the likely Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. 

The media appears to view the Big Ten East race as a fairly straightforward one with things coming down to the clash between Ohio State and Michigan State. It's a bit more uncertain in the West, though, as Wisconsin and Iowa lead the way, but Nebraska and Northwestern are getting some love as well.

Preseason media predictions are often a good barometer for where teams stand, but a few surprises always seem to emerge over the course of a season. That means some teams picked near the bottom will likely outperform expectations, while a contender or two is bound to disappoint.

With that said, it would be fairly shocking if the likes of Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin don't comprise the class of the Big Ten in 2014.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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Which Teams Could Afford to Be in a College Football Super Division?

Imagine you get the news that the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Pac-12 and the Southeastern Conference are breaking away from the NCAA to form a new top division of college football—what happens next?

After the shock and awe subsides, the nation will try and figure out which programs are in the new “super division” and which are left out in the cold.  This will not be decided by tradition, prestige or on-field performance—no, instead membership will be limited to those programs with the deepest pockets.

Think about it this way: Why are the power-five conferences threatening to split with the NCAA if it does not agree to restructure? 

What they want is autonomy, or enough control to make their own decisions.  Here’s what SEC commissioner Mike Slive had to say about it to Paul Myerberg from USA Today:

We seek to support the educational needs of our student-athletes through the provisions of scholarships linked to the cost of attendance rather than the historic model of tuition, room and board, fees and books.

Though this is only one reason, it’s a great starting point and it highlights the problem with the FBS: Half of the division can financially afford to do things differently—or buy autonomy—while the other half cannot.

So at the very least, schools will have to be able to afford the cost of full attendance to be in the new division.  According to Jon Solomon of CBS Sports, the average NCAA gap between an athletic scholarship and the actual cost of attending college is $3,500 per year.

This means that for a college football team with 120 players on its roster, it would cost $420,000 per year—on top of all of its other expenses—to fund this single rudimentary goal.

How many of the 128 FBS programs can afford it?

To answer this, we’ve utilized the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics Data Analysis Cutting Tool to calculate which football programs have an excess of funds to work with.

It’s simple: Football revenue less football expenses equal a “gain” or a “loss.” 

The figures provided in this analysis are for the 2012-13 fiscal year and, as a bonus, the data includes every FBS program except Navy and Air Force.  This means that private institutions such as USC, Notre Dame and Vanderbilt (often left out of finance databases) are included.f

According to numbers, 74 of the 128 programs (or 58 percent) could afford the extra $420,000 required to fund the football portion of full attendance.

To illustrate, Virginia Tech reported $38.6 million in football revenue and $24.5 million in football expenses in 2012-13.  This earned the Hokies an excess totaling $14 million.  After paying the $420,000, the football program would still have $13.6 million remaining.

In this case, “afford” is a relative term because where Alabama’s football coffers would have a cool $46 million in “profit” left after a set stipend to its athletes, Wake Forest would have only $700,000.

Add in that the $420,000 is only a starting point for additional costs—what about medical insurance, guaranteed four-year deals, a share of the merchandise licensing windfall, etc.—and you get the picture:  It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.

Here’s a look at what FBS football programs—not entire athletic departments—would have left in the excess column if they paid the additional cost of full attendance.   

 

40 Million Plus

There are only eight programs in this group and it’s no surprise that half of them hail from the SEC.  The balance come from the Big 12, Big Ten and independent Notre Dame; the ACC has no representatives here.  The excess for each is listed in millions of dollars. 

Texas (81.3), Michigan (57.9), Georgia (50.8), Florida (48.6), LSU (48), Alabama (46.6), Notre Dame (45.5) and Oklahoma (44.6).

This group represents less than one percent of the total FBS membership.  

 

25 to 40 Million

The second tier consists of four SEC members, five Big Ten members and two programs from the Pac-12—the ACC is, again, out of the picture. 

Auburn (38.3), Ohio State (37.7), Texas A&M (35.3), Nebraska (34), Iowa (33.7), Oregon (32.5), Washington (32.1), Arkansas (31.2), Penn State (29.6), Tennessee (27) and Michigan State (26.8).

 

15 to 25 Million

The ACC finally gets in the game in the third income bracket with three members.  The balance of this group consists of two programs from the SEC, four from the Pac-12 and two from the Big 12. 

South Carolina (23.8), Clemson (20.8), USC (20.3), Florida State (19.2), Texas Tech (18.8), Oklahoma State (18.4), Wisconsin (18.4), Oregon State (16.3), Ole Miss (15.5), Arizona State (15.2), North Carolina (15.1) and UCLA (15).

 

10 to 15 Million

This group consists of two Big Ten members, four Pac-12 teams, two Big 12 programs, four ACC members and three SEC programs. 

Minnesota (14.7), Cal (14.1), Kansas State (14.1), Iowa State (14), Washington State (13.8), Virginia Tech (13.6), NC State (12.9), Utah (12.8), Illinois (12.2), Kentucky (11.8), Georgia Tech (11.2), Missouri (11), Colorado (10.3), Syracuse (10.1) and Mississippi State (10.1).

 

Five to Nine Million

This bracket is significant because it includes the first program that is not a member of a power-five conference other than Notre Dame.  That team is Boise State from the Mountain West.  

West Virginia (9.7), Indiana (8), Northwestern (8), Arizona (7.8), Stanford (7.7), Kansas (6.1), Boise State (5.6) and Baylor (5.5).

 

One to Four Million

Not only does this group offer a few surprises—Miami (Fla.), North Texas and Troy—but it is also the level where financial solvency becomes a real question mark.  In other words, can these programs really afford to be in a super division?

Miami Fla. (4.8), Maryland (4.8), Duke (4.4), Louisville (4.4), USF (3.8), BYU (3.7), Boston College (2.8), Army (2.7), UTEP (2.6), Purdue (2.1), Troy (1.9) and North Texas (1.2).

 

Less than One Million

Based on the numbers, these programs can barely afford to pay the full cost of attendance to its football athletes.  The amount left over for each, after paying the stipend, is listed in hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Vanderbilt (929), TCU (845), Wake Forest (669), Fresno State (566), Eastern Michigan (420), Wyoming (401), Marshall (256) and Florida Atlantic (141).

 

Notable Exceptions

Here are some surprising names from the list of 54 FBS programs that didn’t report enough income to pay the average full cost of attendance.  Unless otherwise noted, the shortfall is listed for each in hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Pitt (208), Virginia (354), Cincinnati (420), Rutgers (420), Northern Illinois (420), Central Florida (784) and UConn (2.9 million).

 

The Bigger Picture

While we know that 74 FBS programs could afford super-division membership at a $420,000 minimum investment, let's take a look at how the number drops by increasing the annual funds necessary.

Raising the requirement to $5 million would mean that only 42 percent of the FBS could afford to join the new division; at $10 million the number would dip down to 36 percent.

The power-five conference that stands to lose the most is the ACC, which would lose 42 percent of its membership if schools needed $5 million annually to meet increased financial obligations. 

The most bullet-proof league is of course the SEC, which would lose only Vanderbilt based on the 2012-13 figures.

The non-power-five conference with the most solvent football members is Conference USA, with Marshall, FAU, UTEP and North Texas all reporting an excess in 2012-13.  

Regardless of the specific numbers, it’s clear that only half of the current FBS programs could afford to pay the cost of full attendance and still have money left over for other new expenditures associated with a split.

Perhaps the million dollar question isn’t IF there will be a new division in college football, but which programs have enough money to enroll. 

 

 

 

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