NCAA Football News

Sam Foltz, Mike Sadler Die in Car Accident Following Football Camp

Nebraska punter Sam Foltz and former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler were killed in a car accident Sunday morning.

Kevin Cole of the Omaha World-Herald reported Foltz's death, with Nebraska chancellor Ronnie Green confirming the accident occurred while he "was on his way home from a football camp at the University of Wisconsin."

Jon Johnston of Corn Nation reported that Sadler was killed in the same accident. SB Nation shared the police report, which noted LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye was also involved in the crash:

Per Ross Dellenger of the Advocate, an LSU spokesman said Delahoussaye was hospitalized after the crash. He needed stitches and suffered burns to his legs.

Michigan State head football coach Mark Dantonio offered condolences to his former player's loved ones on Twitter:

"All of the University of Nebraska is heartbroken," Green said, according to Cole. "I don't know what else to say."

The Nebraska athletic department shared its thoughts on Twitter:

Kohl's Kicking Camps issued a release following the news of Foltz and Sadler's deaths:

Cornhuskers head football coach Mike Riley released a statement, via ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg: "Sam was universally loved and respected by everyone he touched and on whom he had a positive influence."

Foltz, 22, was entering his senior season with the Cornhuskers. He was named the Big Ten Punter of the Year in 2015 and was on the recently released preseason watch list for the Ray Guy Award, which is given to the nation's top punter.

Sadler, 24, was a four-year starter at Michigan State from 2011-14 and a member of the 2013 team that won the school's first Rose Bowl since 1988. He had a key play in a 2013 win against Iowa, running a fake punt 25 yards for a first down on 4th-and-seven to set up a field goal that put the Spartans up 23-14.

According to Sadler's page on the Michigan State athletics website, he was a four-time Academic All-American and a semifinalist for the Guy Award in 2013.

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Iowa DL Faith Ekakitie Held at Gunpoint by Police While Playing 'Pokemon Go'

Iowa Hawkeyes defensive lineman Faith Ekakitie was stopped and searched by Iowa City Police on Wednesday, with four officers holding him at gunpoint.

Ekakitie wrote about the situation on Facebook, and his account of the events began getting attention over the weekend.

Ekakitie said he fit a suspect profile for a recent armed robbery but was simply playing Pokemon Go, had his headphones on and didn't realize cops were approaching him:

Today was the first time that I've ever truly feared for my life, and I have the media to thank for that.

Today I was surrounded and searched by approximately five Iowa City Police Officers. My pockets were checked, my backpack was opened up and searched carefully, and I was asked to lift up my shirt while they searched my waistband. Not once did they identify themselves to me as Iowa City Police officers, but with four gun barrels staring me in the face, I wouldn't dare question the authority of the men and woman in front of me. This is what happened from my point of view.

From the police officers['] point of view, all they knew was that a bank had just been robbed less than ten minutes ago. The suspect was a large black male, wearing all black, with something on top of his head and the suspect is armed. As they drive past an Iowa City park that was less than 3 minutes away from the bank that was just robbed, they notice a large black man, dressed in all black, with black goggles on his head. They quickly move to action and identify themselves as the Iowa City police and ask me to turn around and place my hands up. I do not comply, they ask again, and again no response from me. So they all draw their guns and begin to slowly approach the suspect. In this situation, what the media would fail to let people know is that the suspect had his headphones in the entire time the Police Officers approached him initially. The suspect had actually just pulled up to the park because he was playing a newly popular Game called Pokemon Go. The suspect didn't realize that there were four cops behind him because his music was blaring in his ears. The suspect had reached into his pockets, for something which was his phone, but for all the cops could have known, he was reaching for a gun. The suspect could very well become another statistic on this day.

I am not one to usually rant on Facebook or anywhere else, but with all of the crazy things that have been happening in our world these past couple of weeks it is hard to stay silent. I am thankful to be alive, and I do now realize that it very well could have been me, a friend of mine, my brother, your cousin, your nephew etc. Misunderstandings happen all the time and just like that things can go south very quickly. It is extremely sad that our society has brainwashed us all to the point where we can't feel safe being approached by the police officers in our respective communities. Not all police officers are out to get you, but at the same time, not all people who fit a criminal profile are criminals.

To close his post, Ekakitie thanked the Iowa City Police for being professional and handling the situation well after the initially aggressive approach.

He also implored others to pay more attention to their surroundings and "at least to attempt to unlearn some of the prejudices that we have learned about each other and now plague our minds and our society."

As Marc Morehouse of the Gazette reported, police responded to the robbery at 1:53 p.m. local time Wednesday. According to the release Morehouse cited, the investigation into the case is ongoing.

Ekakitie is a senior-to-be who appeared in 12 games last season and tallied 13 total tackles and 0.5 sacks, per CFBStats.com.

Many athletes have recently spoken out about violence involving police officers.

NBA players LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul opened the ESPY Awards with an introduction that called for a stop to gun violence.

The WNBA's Phoenix Mercury, New York Liberty and Indiana Fever wore black warm-up shirts to raise awareness of the issue. All three teams and the participating players were initially fined, but WNBA President Lisa Borders announced Saturday that the league had withdrawn the fines, per ESPN.com.

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Ranking the Best 5th-Year Seniors in College Football in 2016

College football scholarships provide the opportunity for four seasons of competition spread over five years, which allows players who aren't ready or needed as freshmen to get a chance to ease into the college game. Even with more and more freshmen getting thrown into the fire right away, there are still quite a few who wear a redshirt that first season.

That means if they stick around until the end, they become fifth-year seniors, the highest level of experience in college.

The top fifth-year seniors tend to be a mixture of late bloomers and those who put academics over athletics, forgoing any dreams of playing football professionally until their college days are complete. Some also had to sit out a year somewhere in the middle, either because of injury or a change in schools. These are the 12 best, ranked in order of their individual abilities and what they will mean to their respective teams in the 2016 season.

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Jhavonte Dean to Alabama: Crimson Tide Land JUCO CB Prospect

The Alabama Crimson Tide reportedly bolstered their future defense on Saturday with a junior college recruit.

According to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports, cornerback Jhavonte Dean “verbally committed” to head coach Nick Saban’s program. The 6’2”, 180-pounder is a 4-star prospect, per 247Sports’ composite rankings.

More to follow.   

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Amir Riep to Ohio State: Buckeyes Land 4-Star CB Prospect

Coveted cornerback Amir Riep announced Saturday that he's going to play college football at Ohio State, providing a sizable boost to the Buckeyes' 2017 recruiting class.

Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com confirmed the defender's school choice.

Riep is a 4-star prospect from Cincinnati who rates as the No. 119 overall recruit in the 2017 class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. He also checks in as the No. 15 corner in the country and the third-best incoming player from the football-rich state of Ohio.

While those are rock-solid rankings, the amount of interest he generated is usually reserved for players somewhere around the top 10. 247Sports noted he received more than three dozen offers, including interest from the nation's top programs.

He told Wasserman back in March that the sheer volume of interest came as a surprise, but he enjoyed going through the process.

"It's a lot of fun," Riep said. "It's kind of crazy. I never thought it would be like this. I knew I would get offers, but I didn't realize it would get [to this extent]."

The Colerain High School standout still needs more polish, especially in terms of being placed on an island in man coverage, but his raw tools are impressive. His combination of athleticism and football IQ is among the best in the class.

TOSU Recruiting showcased his read-and-react ability against both the pass and the run:

TriStateFootball.com also came away impressed with the corner's all-around upside:

He's probably best served playing a depth role at the outset and possibly gaining some experience on special teams at the same time. But if his development continues on its current trajectory, he should be a high-impact defender by some point in his second season.

Ultimately, Riep decided to stay in-state and join the Buckeyes. Being able to defend their home turf is important for head coach Urban Meyer and his coaching staff. Given the wide-ranging interest in the intriguing corner, this represents an important get for Ohio State.

It's always difficult to project how a recruit will fit into the puzzle this far in advance. That said, the Buckeyes have a young secondary that should play itself out by the time Riep arrives on campus. It wouldn't be a surprise if he can work his way into select packages early in his college career.

Regardless of his role as a freshman, this signing is more about the long term for Ohio State. A couple of seasons of coaching and getting a chance to play against top-flight competition should put Riep in position to succeed in a major way as an upperclassman. 

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Every Power 5 Conference Team's Biggest Concern Heading into Fall Camp

It’s almost time. Across the nation, college football conference media days are in full swing. Watch lists are being populated with, well, let’s be honest, too many players from every league. And we’re not far away from players strapping on pads and helmets and beginning serious preparation for the 2016 college football season.

Graduation, attrition and the NFL draft mean that change is the only constant, and every team, from returning College Football Playoff qualifiers to a Kansas team that finished 0-12 in 2015, has questions. Some have more than others, of course, but all coaches will spend the next month trying to answer their most pressing queries before the regular season kicks off.

Here’s a look at the biggest concern for every Power Five team entering fall camp.

 

Note: All recruiting rankings are courtesy 247Sports.

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Hunter Echols Decommits from UCLA: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Hunter Echols, a 4-star prospect from the 2017 recruiting class, announced Friday he is no longer committed to the UCLA Bruins.

Echols took to Twitter to break the bad news for Bruins fans:

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Echols is the seventh-best weak-side defensive end, 14th-best recruit from California and 97th-best overall prospect in the 2017 class. He hails from Cathedral High School in Los Angeles.

More to follow.

       

Star rating and rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Oklahoma Sooners 2016 College Football Betting Preview, Championship Odds

Two years ago, the Oklahoma Sooners ended their season with a 40-6 bowl blowout loss to Clemson, and last January they lost the rematch against the Tigers in a national semifinal bout. The Sooners rate among the favorites to return to the College Football Playoff this season, but so does Clemson.

 

2015 Oklahoma record: 11-2 SU, 9-4 ATS

2016 regular-season wins over/under: 10

2016 odds to win Big 12: -140 (bet $140 to win $100)

Odds to win national championship: +1200

 

Last Year in Review

Helped by a late rally at Tennessee, the Sooners started 4-0 last year. But they then lost a real puzzler to Texas as 16-point favorites on the college football betting lines at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. Oklahoma then beat up on the rest of the Big 12, winning its last seven games by an average score of 52-19 and going 6-1 against the spread in the process.

So the Big 12 got its CFP berth, but unfortunately the Sooners only carried that banner for about two quarters in the Orange Bowl before fading late in a 37-17 loss to Clemson. Oklahoma had better hope that showing doesn't affect its CFP chances later this season.

 

This Year in Preview

Oklahoma returns 13 starters this season, the same number it had for last season. Seven are back on offense, including Heisman-candidate quarterback Baker Mayfield (68 percent completions last year, 36/7 touchdowns/interceptions), record-setting running back Samaje Perine (3,000 rushing yards in two seasons), dual threat Joe Mixon (1,100 yards from scrimmage, 11 touchdowns last year) and three along the line. And six starters are back from a defense that held foes to 22 points per game last year.

 

Oklahoma 2016 Schedule

The Sooners open this season with a neutral-site match against a dangerous Houston outfit, and a couple of weeks later they host fellow national championship contender Ohio State. From there, OU visits TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia, hosts Baylor and Oklahoma State and, of course, plays the Shootout with Texas in Dallas. Oklahoma can afford one loss along the way and still have a shot at the CFP, but two would be too many.

 

Betting on the Sooners

OU has big expectations but little room for error. To reach the CFP they have to beat Houston and Ohio State and win the Big 12, and their futures odds don't provide enough value on a proposition like that. Week-to-week, the best value on the Sooners comes when they play on the road, where they're 13-6 ATS over the last four seasons.

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Winners and Losers of 2016 ACC Media Days

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — College football's "talking season" got into full swing this week for the ACC, and the conference found itself having more reasons to speak loudly and proudly for this year's edition of its media days kickoff.

All 14 members of the ACC, which kicked things off with a major announcement for its future in the college football landscape, had their time in the spotlight at the Westin Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina.

With the continued greatness of defending conference titleholder Clemson and recent national champion Florida State combining with the excitement generated by high-profile hires throughout the league, the ACC is heading into what could be its best college football season in recent memory.

The topics of discussion in the Queen City ranged from the typical preseason depth chart chatter to the bigger-picture issues that are dominating offseason coverage across the country. Some players and coaches stood out with their comments to the media, including one player who had an outfit one has to see to believe.

Here's a recap from the best and the worst from the interview sessions in Charlotte, featuring several winners and losers from the 2016 ACC Football Kickoff.

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Cristian Garcia, Florida LB, Helped Stop Sexual Assault Behind Gainesville Bar

Florida Gators linebacker Cristian Garcia stopped an alleged sexual assault behind a bar early Thursday morning, according to Gainesville, Florida, police. 

Per First Coast News WTLV, the junior walk-on works security at 101 Cantina, and he rushed to the 19-year-old victim's defense after witnessing 34-year-old Christopher Shaw allegedly raping her while she was unconscious.

Shaw was arrested and charged with sexual battery.

Garcia is a Miami native who appeared in one game for the Gators last season.

Per First Coast News WTLV, Garcia had the following to say regarding the incident and his decision to stop it: "The girl was basically unconscious, so I knew there was no way she could be giving consent. ... I hold strong moral values and I don't think anyone should be taken advantage of in that kind of way."

Shaw escaped after a struggle with Garcia and a co-worker, but Gainesville police were able to apprehend him.

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Ovie Oghoufo to Notre Dame: Fighting Irish Land 4-Star OLB Prospect

Notre Dame boosted its class of 2018 recruiting haul in a big way Friday by securing a commitment from outside linebacker Ovie Oghoufo. 

The Farmington, Michigan, native announced his intention to play for the Fighting Irish with the following tweet:

According to 247Sports, Oghoufo is a 4-star prospect who ranks as the No. 22 outside linebacker, No. 5 player from the state of Michigan and No. 271 overall recruit in his class.

Per 247Sports, the 6'3", 207-pound standout chose Notre Dame over offers from other big-name schools such as Michigan and Michigan State. The Fighting Irish scored a major coup by swiping Oghoufo from his home state and outflanking a pair of rivals for his commitment.

While Oghoufo is still a couple of years away from attending Notre Dame and could be even further away from becoming a major contributor, landing him is significant after the Irish lost a heart-and-soul linebacker in Jaylon Smith to the NFL draft.

It is difficult to project how players will fare at the collegiate level years in advance, but Oghoufo already has the combination of size, speed, athleticism and instincts that suggests he could become a force shortly after arriving in South Bend, Indiana.

Notre Dame has produced some big-time linebackers in recent years such as Smith and Manti Te'o, and Oghoufo seemingly has a talent level that could match or even rival theirs.

    

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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2016 Fall Camp Previews for Each College Football Top 25 Team

The first game of the 2016 college football season is just over a month away, and the season kicks into full gear in less than six weeks. That means preseason training camps are just around the corner.

Camp is when programs start to formulate the game plan for the upcoming year, as new arrivals mix with returning veterans to form the best possible lineup and rotation. Position battles have to be decided, and previously injured players get a chance to show they can contribute again.

Using Bleacher Report's most recent Top 25 rankings, here's our look at what to expect during preseason training camp for college football's best teams.

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B/R Recruiting CFB 200: Top Running Backs of 2017 Class

After thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analysts Damon Sayles, Sanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 200 players in the 247Sports composite rankings and provided in-depth analysis on each young athlete. Bleacher Report will run a position-by-position breakdown series of the best college football recruits in the class of 2017. Here we present the Top Running Backs.

   

Big-play ability out of the offensive backfield provides a pivotal boost for an entire attack by keeping a defense honest. Consistent effectiveness from a team's collection of running backs can keep heat off its quarterback and wear down an opposing defense over the course of four quarters.

The 2017 recruiting class is loaded with elite talent at the position, providing perhaps as much promise of any group since a 2014 crop that included current college football stars such as Leonard Fournette, Nick Chubb, Christian McCaffrey, Royce Freeman and Dalvin Cook.

Immense expectations will greet many of these playmakers when they arrive on the college campus of their choice. Several members of this collection can make an immediate difference as ball-carriers or pass targets, placing them in the mix to play key roles during a pursuit for 2017 College Football Playoff spots.

Our B/R Recruiting CFB 200 series rolls on with a closer look at top-rated running backs, who were assessed based on a criteria of speed, power, agility, vision, ball security and receiving skills.

   

Player order and star ratings based on 247Sports' composite rankings through July 21. Unless otherwise noted, player stats are courtesy of 247Sports.

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Is Kevin Sumlin's Confidence a Front, or a Sign That Texas A&M Could Be Back?

I've spoken with Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin face-to-face twice over the last three months—once at SEC spring meetings in Destin, Florida, in early June, and again in mid-July at SEC media days in Hoover, Alabama.

The overwhelming impression that I received from the fifth-year head coach of the Aggies, who enters the 2015 season on one of the hottest seats in the country, is that he is brimming with confidence.

It's not the most shocking thing in the world.

After all, everybody's undefeated at this point of the season; coaches generally understand that the team is a work-in-progress at this point and have faith in their own ability. 

But is Sumlin's confidence a front to fend off mounting pressure to win now, or a sign that Texas A&M could be back?

It's the latter.

Here's a sample of some of Sumlin's confidence from Hoover:

"I like where we are," he said. "I like the chemistry of this football team. I like where the locker room is. I like where their mind is. And I think the three guys that we brought are pretty reflective of that, as you get a chance to know them and as you get a chance to talk to them."

Part of that chemistry stems from graduate transfer quarterback Trevor Knight. The former Oklahoma signal-caller represented the Sooners at Big 12 media days twice—including once when he had already lost the starting job—and was named as the team's captain in 2015 while backing up starter Baker Mayfield.

"[Knight] filled a void for us as a quarterback who was not just a transfer quarterback, but a guy who had real game experience and had some success," Sumlin said. "So, for us, it was a great match and I think has led to really a drama-free offseason."

The "drama-free offseason" line that has been prevalent in College Station this offseason might seem like lip service to outsiders.

After all, this is the same program that saw two former 5-star quarterbacks, who started games in 2015, leave the program within a week of each other in December and had an assistant coach go rouge on Twitter after a quarterback commit backed out and underwent some coaching upheaval within the staff.

It's not, though.

Sumlin has every right to be confident in his team, which should be in the conversation for the SEC West title when the calendar flips to November. 

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that the defense is a disaster.

Yeah, the Aggies finished next-to-last in rushing defense a year ago at 213.69 yards per game, but that wasn't the real problem. The defense, led by end Myles Garrett and safety Armani Watts, kept the Aggies in every game. Had former quarterback Kyle Allen not turned into a pick-six machine and former coordinator Jake Spavital not fallen into his typical play-calling rut midseason, then the Aggies could have made noise in the West last year. 

"If there's something that we got to be able to get better at, as I said before, it's stopping the run," Sumlin said. "And if [Garrett] needs to improve somewhere, that's probably where that is."

A slight improvement from Garrett coupled with a full season of sophomore Daylon Mack in the middle, and that line should shore up that run defense a little bit, which will go a long way toward minimizing the improvement the offense—Texas A&M's real problem from a year ago—must make.

With new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and his power-rushing attack that's founded in spreading defenses out and using tempo, Knight doesn't always have to be the guy who lit up Alabama with four touchdown passes in the 2014 Sugar Bowl following the 2013 season. He just has to give off the impression of being that guy from time-to-time. 

It's not a front by Sumlin in order to calm what could be a growing firestorm. 

The confidence is genuine and could lead to a turnaround in 2016 that will stabilize the program and give Sumlin some much-needed job security.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com, unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Big Ten Q&A: Who Should Be the Favorite to Win the B1G in 2016?

By this time next week, Big Ten media days in Chicago will have come and gone. That means the start of fall camp is almost here, and the 2016 season isn't far behind.

With the unofficial start to the upcoming campaign upon us, let's get to the latest Big Ten Q&A. This week, we'll tackle who should be considered the conference favorites, Nebraska's status as a league sleeper, the latest rap video star to emanate from Ann Arbor and the new opening in Ohio State's backfield.

As always, you can send me your questions on Twitter each week @BenAxelrod.

Let's get started.

           

While some conferences—like the SEC—unveil an official preseason poll at their annual media days, the Big Ten limits its preseason prognostications to a predictable list of 10 players to watch. The closest item the conference can claim to an on-record preseason poll is one conducted each summer by Cleveland.com, which has yet to reveal this year's picks.

In some seasons, the favorite is fairly easy to predict. Last year, Cleveland.com's poll deemed Ohio State a unanimous favorite to repeat as league champions as the Buckeyes prepared to defend their 2014 national title.

This year, however, forecasting the Big Ten favorite doesn't seem quite as easy. The premature top-25s released by members of the media favor Michigan, according to a list of such polls compiled by Bleacher Report's Justin Ferguson, but the Wolverines hardly hold a significant lead over Ohio State, while Michigan State and Iowa rarely trail too far behind.

As for my opinions of the division winners, in the West, it's hard to go against the Hawkeyes. Not only does Iowa return most of the key cogs—including quarterback C.J. Beathard and Thorpe Award-winning cornerback Desmond King— from last year's 12-0 team, but the Hawkeyes' two toughest games of the season against Michigan and Nebraska each come at home.

Consistency has hardly been a constant in Iowa City under Kirk Ferentz, but this year, the stars seem to be aligning. At this point, it'd take an upset or two for anyone other than Iowa to be representing the Big Ten West in Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game this December.

In the East, predicting a title winner gets trickier, but for now, I'm sticking with the Buckeyes. Even with all the uncertainty caused by a mass exodus of talent on the OSU roster, the Buckeyes don't only know who their starting quarterback is, but can lay claim to one of the best in the nation in J.T. Barrett, which is more than either the Wolverines or Spartans can say at the moment.

As for who would win a theoretical matchup between Ohio State and Iowa, I'd side with the Buckeyes. In Big Ten recruiting right now, there's Urban Meyer and there's everyone else, and 2016 could be the season that shows us exactly how important that is.

            

Early this summer—and in a previous Q&A—I made the case for Nebraska to be the Big Ten's sleeper team in 2016.

And while I still believe in a lot of the factors that went into my proclamation—last year's bad luck, the returning talent, the growth expected in Year 2 under Mike Riley—I keep coming back to two roadblocks that keep me from being confident in my pick: the quarterback and the schedule.

Tommy Armstrong Jr. is talented and experienced, but he's also been turnover-prone. Last year, the dual-threat signal-caller threw 16 interceptions, and a year before, his INT total sat at 12. Sure, there's a degree of luck that goes into whether a quarterback winds up picked off or not, but those are alarming results by any measure.

Can a team really win the Big Ten with its quarterback throwing double-digit picks? I'm skeptical.

And then there's the Cornhuskers' schedule, which appears less than favorable for a potential Big Ten title run. Even erasing the potential damage an early-season loss to Oregon could cause, Nebraska begins conference play on the road against a Northwestern team coming off a 10-2 regular-season campaign and faces Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa, each on the road.

In order to have a realistic chance at winning the Big Ten West, the Huskers would likely have to amass a 3-1 record over the course of those four road games. At this point, I'm not buying it.

In theory, I like the over-8.5-wins pick and understand at 8-1, Nebraska winning the whole league is decent value. But with the road the Huskers have ahead, even I can't say that I'd stand firmly behind either bet at the moment.

             

Have I seen Jim Harbaugh's cameo in rapper Bailey's Harbaugh-inspired "Who's Got it Better Than Us?" music video? Of course.

And if you haven't, you should check it out, too.

As for the notion this video might be what puts Michigan over the top, that might be a bit much. But as for the second question here about the Wolverines' relationship with the Jordan Brand, that is something worth taking note of.

Sure, Ohio State fans might conveniently not be able to make sense of a basketball logo on a football uniform, and kids today might know Michael Jordan more as an internet meme than they do a basketball icon, but the reality is that the Jordan Brand is still cool, as evidenced by the hype surrounding Wednesday's reveal of the Air Jordan XXXI shoe.

Earlier in the day, Michigan had a reveal of its own, with the first images of its Jordan Brand apparel being shown to reporters and, in turn, social media. No other college program can claim to have been a part of such a moment, which once again created headlines for the Wolverines in an offseason that's been full of them in Ann Arbor.

"Cool" and college coaches haven't always been one in the same, and yet Harbaugh has found a way to pull it off, whether he's riding around in a maize Lamborghini for a rap video or inviting Jordan to be an honorary captain at the Wolverines' opener. That shows up in recruiting, and thus far, Harbaugh's results have spoken for themselves.

Who's got it better than Michigan? When it comes to the offseason at least, Harbaugh's got the answer: nobody.

          

When now-former Ohio State running back Bri'onte Dunn was released from the program earlier this week, it was seemingly a big blow to the Buckeyes. After all, this was one of the key players expected to help replace the the 1,821 yards and 23 touchdowns Ezekiel Elliott is taking to the NFL.

But if you dig a little deeper into where the Ohio State running back situation stands heading into fall camp, it seems more likely the Buckeyes will be just fine.

For one, there aren't many fifth-year seniors who spend their first four years on campus as non-contributors before bursting out in their final campaigns. Sure, Dunn had Elliott ahead of him on the depth chart and Carlos Hyde before that, but even as recently as 2014, he had been surpassed by Curtis Samuel on the OSU depth chart for the role of Elliott's primary backup.

Now the Buckeyes will predominately be relying on Mike Weber, who likely would have won the starting job this fall with or without Dunn still on the roster. If anything, Dunn's departure should mean an increase in touches for Samuel, who was expected to resume a hybrid receiver-running back role in Meyer's spread offense.

Ultimately, however, Weber has always been the running back on the OSU roster with the highest upside heading into this season, even when comparing him with Dunn. His crowning as the Buckeyes's starter will be more of a formality than anything else, as the redshirt freshman from Detroit will get the first crack at being the next great running back in Meyer's spread system.

      

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. Recruiting and class ratings courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings.

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UTennessee Football Recruiting: 4 Commitments This Week Have Vols Hot on Trail

Tennessee football coach Butch Jones may not be having as much success recruiting in the Volunteer State as he'd hoped in the 2017 cycle, but the rest of the prospects aren't noticing too much.

With Thursday night's pledge of Mississippi receiver Jordan Murphy to the Volunteers following a visit, Jones has secured four verbal pledges in the past week from three different states.

While a lot can (and will) change on UT's commitment list between now and national signing day with tons of top targets still remaining, the Vols currently have 22 commitments.

Anybody complaining that only three are 4-star prospects on the 247Sports composite rankings should look at offer sheets. They should also recall that this method of recruiting—loading up on good players and then upgrading if opportunities present themselves—is the same way Jones built all his classes in Knoxville.

VolQuest.com's Rob Lewis noted the number of remaining spots in this class shrinking isn't something which UT fans should fret:

Obviously, Butch Jones has always viewed scholarship numbers as more of a 'suggestion' as opposed to a hard and fast rule, but no matter how creative the Vols get going forward, space is getting tight. That's even more noteworthy considering some of the guys Tennessee is still in play with not just at receiver but all over the board.

Losing nearby 5-star receiver Tee Higgins to Clemson still stings, but the Vols' momentum on the trail continues.

Murphy is a 6'1", 168-pound target from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, who had offers from Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, among others, and he chose the Vols.

His commitment follows that of Florida speedster athlete CJ Cotman on Wednesday night, which was surprising considering how many suitors the 5'11", 180-pound Clearwater cornerback had. He had offers from the "Big Three" Florida schools, along with Alabama, Notre Dame, Oregon and virtually everybody else.

Though he's a Composite 3-star player, his offer sheet is as good as anybody's. He's a dynamic athlete who is one of the fastest recruits in a state known for churning out burners, and while he told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan that he's planning on taking all five official visits, it's a big early get for UT and recruiter Larry Scott.

Cotman is listed by some services as an all-purpose running back, but he's the kind of athlete who can play a lot of different positions at the next level, and the Vols love his speed and athleticism at corner. He may be the last player UT takes at the position in this cycle.

The discussed duo of Murphy and Cotman are important pieces to Tennessee's future, but they weren't the biggest news of the week.

That came on Tuesday when Virginia Beach brothers Breyon and Brandon Gaddy decided to commit to Tennessee over Clemson and others. It was a nice "gotcha" for the Vols after the Tigers have dominated them in-state so far this year. But their commitment is much bigger than that.

The Bishop Sullivan Catholic duo had been leaning to UT for a while, and they give Tennessee three potential defensive linemen from the Tidewater, Virginia, area in this class, joining Eric Crosby.

"Every time I went there, it felt like home," Breyon Gaddy told 247Sports' Ryan Bartow. "It felt it was a family there. I like the coaches and the players on the team."

Breyon Gaddy is a definite defensive tackle, tossing around his massive, 6'5", 335-pound frame on the interior in the mold of current Tennessee tackle Kahlil McKenzie. VolQuest.com's Paul Fortenberry likened Gaddy to McKenzie in a tweet upon his commitment as well:

But Brandon Gaddy could play several positions, including end or on the offensive line. There aren't many 289-pounders who can move like this:

With two huge linemen targets remaining from that area in Jordan Williams and Elijah Conliffe, it's possible the Vols could fill out most of their line class from that hotbed. With Williams, it's yet another Tennessee-Clemson battle, and Alabama offering Conliffe this week could make that a tough pull.

But Tennessee has already done extremely well in that area regardless of the decisions of Williams or Conliffe. Considering defensive line was one of the two biggest needs in this class along with running back, it's huge Tennessee has done so well in Virginia Beach.

Defensive line coach Steve Stripling and receivers coach Zach Azzanni have done some major work scouting that area and securing commitments. The Gaddy brothers had offers from Florida State, Georgia and many others.

It's been a good week for Tennessee on the recruiting trail, and the pledges send the Vols to 10th nationally in the 247Sports composite rankings and as high as sixth on Rivals.com.

Jones may not be doing a ton of head-turning with commitments from the top prospects in the nation, but the Vols are putting together a quality class.

With some players inevitably looking around, there will be plenty of turnover in both directions; Tennessee will lose some guys it doesn't want to, and it will cut some loose. It's the nature of the recruiting game, and it's the way the Vols have restocked the shelves in the past four classes since Jones has been in town.

But the four players UT secured this week are definite keepers and guys who will outfit the roster and keep Tennessee playing at a high level moving forward. These are the types of players who'd be takes by many of the programs in the region.

As Tennessee narrows its focus to players such as elite 4-star offensive tackle Trey Smith, Williams, star running backs Cam Akers and Ty Chandler and stud defensive back Deangelo Gibbs, among others, more attention can be spent on marquee talent down the stretch.

If the Vols add four or five more centerpiece-type players to this class, it has the potential to be one of the best put together by Jones in his Tennessee tenure.

   

All information gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information gathered from 247Sports unless otherwise noted. All stats gathered at cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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Michigan Most Popular Bet to Win 2016 College Football National Championship

The Michigan Wolverines are gaining traction as the favorite to win the college football national championship—at least among bettors who are wagering on who will win it all this coming season.

ESPN.com's David Purdum reported Thursday that Michigan has the most bets to win the third annual College Football Playoff at SuperBook and William Hill's Nevada book in Las Vegas.  

Purdum added that reigning national champion Alabama remains the No. 1 national title favorite, but the Wolverines have moved up to the second favorite from 15-1 to 7-1 as a result of the bets.

Much of Michigan's momentum has to do with head coach Jim Harbaugh, who went 10-3 in his first season at the helm in 2015 and guided the Wolverines to a Citrus Bowl victory. Other than a blowout loss in the regular-season finale to Ohio State, Michigan was competitive in every contest.

In addition to the promising immediate future that Harbaugh has inspired, he lured the nation's fifth-rated recruiting class of 2016, per 247Sports' composite rankings.

Among the prospects he landed was 247Sports' No .1 overall recruit, defensive tackle Rashan Gary. Considering the Wolverines ranked fourth in total defense last year, Gary's presence in the trenches figures to make Michigan even more formidable on that side of the ball.

Hard-nosed defense and a crafty, smashmouth offense make Harbaugh's Wolverines a great fit in the Big Ten. With another year under his tutelage, Michigan figures to take a step forward in 2016, which may be enough to qualify for the CFP.

Among the biggest hurdles on the Wolverines' schedule is going to Ohio State on Nov. 26, where Michigan will hope to get revenge for a 42-13 defeat this past year.

Although the Buckeyes lost standout starters in running back Ezekiel Elliott, wide receiver Michael Thomas, defensive end Joey Bosa and linebacker Darron Lee, they'll present a stiff challenge to Michigan with veteran signal-caller J.T. Barrett still in the fold.

According to Purdum, Ohio State has the most action as a national championship bet at Las Vegas' South Point book, but Michigan is right behind.

Should the college football season unfold as bettors suggest, the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry should hold as much weight as ever, while Alabama will continue its consistency in the difficult SEC.

Given the spat Harbaugh and Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban have had about satellite camps, a prospective playoff meeting would be among the most entertaining outcomes of the 2016 campaign.

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Michigan Wolverines 2016 College Football Betting Preview, Championship Odds

Five years ago, Michigan won 11 games in its first season under a new head coach, Brady Hoke. From there, it was all downhill. Last year, the Wolverines won 10 games in their first season under another new head coach. This time, though, they're in much better position to build upon that quick start under Jim Harbaugh.

 

2015 Michigan record: 10-3 SU, 7-6 ATS

2016 regular-season wins over/under: 9.5

2016 odds to win Big Ten: +175

Odds to win national championship: +1000

 

Last Year in Review

Harbaugh brought his rehab talents to Ann Arbor last year and got immediate results, taking a team that went 5-7 in 2014 to 10-3 and a bowl victory. The Michigan defense tossed three straight shutouts early in the season, and the Wolverines had Michigan State beat until the crazy blocked punt at the end. Michigan later laid an egg in a home loss to Ohio State but bounced back to bury Florida 41-7 in the Citrus Bowl to reach double digits in wins for just the second time over the last nine seasons.

 

This Year in Preview

The Wolverines return 14 starters this season, which is actually one fewer than they had going into last season. Eight starters are back on offense, including last year's leading rusher, top three receivers and four along the offensive line. And while they have to replace their starting quarterback, Jake Rudock, transfer John O'Korn threw 28 touchdown passes for Houston three seasons ago. Six starters are back on defense, although the Wolverines have to replace last year's top three tacklers.

Michigan averaged 396 yards per game on offense last year and could improve upon that this year. Defensively, the Wolverines held foes to just 281 YPG last year, but that figure will be tough to top.

 

Michigan 2016 Schedule

The Wolverines open with five straight home games this season and should be 7-0 heading into their showdown with the Spartans in East Lansing on October 29. Two weeks later, Michigan visits West Division favorite Iowa, and two weeks after that they finish with a trip to the Horseshoe to battle the Buckeyes. Pencil the Wolverines in for nine victories, but their whole season will come down to those last three road dates.

 

Betting on the Wolverines

It looks like Michigan is back to being Michigan, and unfortunately that offers virtually no betting value on the college football futures. The Wolverines almost have to run the table in the Big Ten, and they can't even get 2-1 on a conference championship board? The best place to play Michigan may be on the road, where they might be lined as an underdog three times.

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ACC Media Days 2016: Best Quotes and Reaction from Day 1

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The ACC descended on the Queen City on Thursday looking more like college football royalty than it has in recent years.

The league unofficially opened its 2016 season with the first half of the ACC Football Kickoff, the conference's version of media days, in Charlotte. ACC commissioner John Swofford and representatives of all seven Coastal Division teams took the stage at the Westin for what is a quickly growing event.

The ACC is coming off another strong year on the field, as conference champion Clemson made it to the College Football Playoff national title game. And while the Tigers aren't heading to Charlotte until Friday, the energy from the league's 2015 on-field success was evident throughout the day.

"With the best record among our peer conferences in New Year's six bowls and the College Football Playoffs, Florida State's national title in 2013, four straight Orange Bowl wins and 31 teams participating in bowls over the last three seasons, I think that we can all agree that what ACC football teams have accomplished has truly elevated our league," Swofford said.

Between several new big-name head coaches and the star players from the always competitive Coastal Division, there was definitely a lot to talk about from Day 1 of the ACC Kickoff. Here are the highlights from Charlotte.

          

Meet the new-look Miami

Mark Richt was introduced as Miami's new head coach more than seven months ago.

But the sight of the longtime Georgia head man wearing the orange and green of the Hurricanes was still somewhat of a shock to the system for some in attendance:

Richt's presence at the ACC Kickoff as Miami's head coach wasn't the only eye-opening thing concerning the Hurricanes on Thursday.

Miami's defensive player representative was its punter, senior Justin Vogel. Richt defended his uncommon move at the podium, saying he expects Vogel to be a key player for the Hurricanes this fall.

"This guy is super-talented. He's going to be one of our greatest weapons," Richt said. "I just think the guy, if he punts like I think he can, like I know he can, I'd be shocked if he's not in line for a national award."

Vogel, who averaged 42.48 yards per punt last season, said he was surprised when he received the news from Miami's media relations department that he would join star quarterback Brad Kaaya in Charlotte.

"I had no idea what [the ACC Kickoff] was," Vogel said. "Then I looked it up and went, 'Wow, this is a big deal.' I was shocked. That's a lot of respect from my coaches, that they would choose me. Not a lot of kids get picked for this, let alone specialists."

Vogel joining Kaaya and Richt in Charlotte was just another way the new head coach is doing things differently at Miami.

One of those areas is Miami's offensive scheme, and Kaaya is embracing the changes as the star leader of the Hurricane attack in 2016.

"One of the things about the scheme is it makes it hard for the defense to be right," Kaaya said. "We have a lot of different personnel packages. Coach Richt knows how to use the personnel. ... Last year I was in shotgun a lot more. This year we're going to mix it up a lot, a lot of under center."

Ultimately, Miami hopes the changes from the switch to Richt will lead toward its ultimate goal—something the Hurricanes have never done in their football history.

"You can say all the things you want about Miami and all the championships we've won getting back to years past," Kaaya said. "One thing we've never done is won an ACC Championship and a Coastal Championship. That's our goal for the season."

        

No more dancing for the commish

The last few editions of the ACC Kickoff have started with league commissioner John Swofford being evasive when asked about the league's long talked-about deal with ESPN that would feature a conference network.

Swofford may have been in a ballroom at the Westin on Thursday, but he wasn't going to show off his moves again.

"Some of you may be disappointed that I'm not going to be able to do the dance that I've done the last couple of years, dancing around some questions about television," Swofford said.

Swofford then happily confirmed the news that was reported by Brett McMurphy of ESPN earlier in the week—the ACC has a massive new media rights deal through 2036 with ESPN that will feature the launch of the ACC Network.

The network will launch next month as a digital channel through ESPN3 and WatchESPN. In 2019, it will become a linear channel much like ESPN's SEC Network. The league announced that the linear network will feature 40 regular-season ACC football games.

For the ACC, the long-term effects of this network announcement are consistency and cash. The league's 14 football members are now locked in through 2036. Notre Dame, who is an ACC member in all sports except football, was a part of the unanimously approved deal.

If Notre Dame decides to become a member of a football conference in the next 20 seasons, it has to be the ACC.

With talks of conference expansion cranking back up across the country—the news of the ACC Network deal prompted the Big 12 to pursue adding members this week—the ACC essentially has "dibs" on the best non-power-conference team in the entire country.

In addition to all that stability, the network deal is expected to be a major financial boost for the ACC. The SEC's shared revenue has exploded since the launch of its own ESPN-backed network, and both the ACC and ESPN expect the new network to be a similar success.

The viewership has the potential to be even greater than the SEC Network once men's basketball enters the equation (Swofford announced the ACC basketball schedule would expand from 18 to 20 conference games to support the linear network, but there was no news of a move to a nine-game football schedule).

"We know that cumulatively ACC football and men's basketball regularly generates more viewers on an annual basis for ESPN than any other conference," Swofford said. "Having fans that follow our schools and our conference at this level is a very positive indicator, I think, of the overall popularity of our content."

As Swofford said early in his address Thursday morning, the ACC is "reveling in the best football stretch in its history." Thanks to the new network deal, things shouldn't slow down for the league anytime soon.

      

Tar Heels looking to stay on top

Defending ACC Coastal Division champion North Carolina brought a lot of energy to the middle portion of Thursday's media days action. 

Head coach Larry Fedora, who was sporting a new beard, had a booming introduction that tested the power of the speaker system at the Westin:

"We're excited about this 2016 season. No, we really are," Fedora said. "We're excited about the '16 season. ... We're fired up. We've had a great summer, and we're really looking forward to it."

Fedora's loud welcome was a perfect introduction for a North Carolina team still shouting for more respect in the ACC and throughout the country. The Tar Heels, represented by Des Lawrence and wide receiver Ryan Switzer, took Clemson down to the wire in last season's conference title game and almost crashed the College Football Playoff.

Lawrence kept things lighthearted with his sock choices and his dreams of becoming a reality show star:

But Lawrence got serious when asked about his and several of his teammates' absences from the round of preseason national award watch lists. He believes the Tar Heels are still overlooked, even after the successes of 2015.

"I think since the years when [UNC] had so much talent and people expected so much more, they've kind of put the brunt of expectations not being met on the guys now instead of just respecting the skills and talents they put forward on Saturdays," Lawrence said. "I do feel like we have as many playmakers as the teams who had several players on those watch lists. ... We're going to make them respect us."

For North Carolina to stay on top of the quickly improving Coastal in 2016, it will have to make a smooth transition to new starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky. The junior is replacing Marquise Williams, who put up more than 4,000 yards of offense and 37 touchdowns last season.

The early reviews of Trubisky as the new leader of North Carolina's big-play offense are glowing as the Tar Heels move closer to their opener in Atlanta against Georgia.

"I feel like Marquise would even tell you that Mitch's arm talent is unique and very rare," Switzer said. "Everything that he brings to the table...he's very composed, he's a very team-first kind of guy. I'm looking forward to seeing his talent displayed this year, especially with the guys that he has around him."

            

No-huddle notes

  • Count Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson among those who are "not a big fan of what [college football] does with the Playoff." Johnson wants to "take more of the subjectivity out of it" by seeing the CFP go to eight teams with the five power-conference champions, the top non-power conference champion and two wild cards.

  • Duke wide receiver DeVon Edwards, who is one kickoff-return touchdown away from tying the all-time FBS record, said he doesn't agree with the talk that college football could take the kickoff away in the future. "I would think the returner is the person that would take the most punishment at the end of the day, and I don't really have a problem with it. I like kick returning, and I don't think it should go away."

  • New Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente said he believes the Hokies' quarterback battle will be won by either senior Brenden Motley or JUCO transfer Jerod Evans. "That's not to say I'm disappointed with the younger kids or don't reserve my right to change my mind if we get in the middle of fall camp and the younger kids pass up the older kids. My evaluation so far is it will probably be one of those two."

  • Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi said he expects "nothing but the best performance" out of running back James Conner, who was recently declared cancer-free and is coming off a torn MCL. "I know when you look at him in strength and conditioning, our program this summer, he's measuring his body up to where it was. Based on our measurements, he's close to prime condition right now. I think he'd like to lose a few more pounds. But we've got him back to where we want to."

  • Virginia center Jackson Matteo gave a simple statement on preseason projections and the uncertainty of the upcoming college football season: "No one knows anything. ... All those ratings, those rankings, they're nice. They look great on paper. At the end of the day you have to put your helmet on and go out and play the game.

                  

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings are courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is a National College Football Analyst at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Ultimate Guide to 2016 Big Ten Media Days

After six long months, the unofficial kickoff to the 2016 Big Ten season is almost here.

Next week, the conference will host its annual media days in Chicago, which will be followed shortly by the start of fall camps all across the league.

But before the Big Ten players and coaches can take the field, they'll first have to face the press. Compared to the SEC's four days' worth of festivities, however, the Big Ten's two-day media affair is practically half the event—literally—that their friends in the South put on each summer.

Nevertheless, even with a much tamer setup relative to the SEC, the conference's upcoming media days should provide some memorable moments, especially with some of football's most powerful coaches involved. Factor in a league that appears wide-open as far as its championship race is concerned, and this year's Big Ten media days should make for must-watch programming for any college football fan.

Bleacher Report will be live on scene, reporting on Monday's and Tuesday's happenings in the Windy City. But in order to get you primed for the week—or days—that will be, here is your ultimate guide to the Big Ten's 2016 media days.

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