NCAA Football News

Virginia Tech Football Recruiting: Latest Updates on Commits, Visits and Targets

This weekend is shaping up to be one of the biggest recruiting weekends in Virginia Tech football history. The Hokies are set to host a number of talented high school players, including three 5-star recruits, per 247Sports (subscription required). 

Since new athletic director Whit Babcock took over earlier this year, Virginia Tech has amped up its recruiting efforts. Two new positions were created: Chuck Cantor was hired as the program's first director of player personnel, while Thomas Guerry was later hired as the director of high school relations. 

So far, the Hokies have gotten off to a modest start for the class of 2015. They currently stand at 15 verbal commitments, some of whom were 2014 signees and are in prep school for the fall semester. According to 247Sports, Tech is currently ranked No. 34 nationally in recruiting. 

The Hokies' big win over Ohio State almost two weeks ago was even bigger in terms of recruiting. Some of the nation's top talent was present at the game, including the nation's No. 1 overall player, Josh Sweat of Chesapeake, Virginia. 

Here's a look at how Tech presently stands with some of its biggest remaining targets and current commitments. 

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BYU Football: 3 Keys to Beating Virginia

While riding an impressive 3-0 record, BYU will host Virginia on Saturday (1:30 p.m. MDT, ESPN). The Cougars and Cavaliers played last season, and after a bizarre lightning delay, UVa squeaked by with a 19-16 win.

This will be BYU's second home game of the season, as they beat Houston last week in Provo. Virginia is also coming off of an impressive win after upsetting then-No. 21 Louisville a week ago.

The Cavaliers will definitely be a tough team for BYU to beat, but what must the Cougs do to pull off a win? Here are four keys to a BYU victory against UVa.

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Alabama Dining Hall Serves Gator Bread During 'Beat Florida' Week

The Alabama Crimson Tide will be taking on a big SEC rival in the Florida Gators on Saturday, and their campus is coming up with some creative ways to get excited for the game.

People will be eating these gator-shaped bread loaves at the dining hall on the Alabama campus during "Beat Florida" week. 

[Twitter, h/t College Spun]

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Parents of FSU Backup QB Sean Maguire Gave Away Tickets Before 1st Start

After Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was suspended for the first half of Saturday's game against the Clemson Tigers, Sean Maguire found out that he'll be getting his first career start in a big conference showdown.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like his parents are going to be there.

According to Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel, Maguire's parents already sold their tickets to relatives, assuming that there was no way their son would start ahead of the Heisman-winning quarterback.

Maguire will have his hands full against the Tigers, but the Seminoles are hoping he can keep them in it until Winston returns for the second half.

[Twitter, h/t College Football Talk]

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Tennessee Football: What the Volunteers Must Do to Upset Georgia

The Tennessee Volunteers are enjoying a week of rest before traveling to Athens, Georgia, on Sept. 27 to take on the No. 13 Bulldogs—the first of many opportunities for the team to score an SEC upset this season. 

As odd as it sounds, the Vols are renewed following a blowout 34-10 loss to No. 4 Oklahoma last Saturday. Most teams that lose by 24 points find few positives in their performances. But for Tennessee, three plays were the difference between a resounding loss and giving the Sooners a run for their money well into the fourth quarter.

Tennessee fans, coaches and players are fed up with moral victories, but when a team is forced to rely on brand-new offensive and defensive lines and one of the youngest rosters in college football, you take what you can get.

And in this case, what you get is a surprisingly stout defense, a vastly improved quarterback and, most importantly, a team that doesn't give up. 

For Tennessee to pull off a win between the hedges two Saturdays from now, it'll need all of the above—and then some. 

Here are the team's four keys to victory. 

 

Establish the running game

Tennessee has no chance against the Bulldogs if the offensive line can't open up running room for Jalen Hurd and Marlin Lane. Georgia's defense, while not elite, is still upper-echelon in the SEC.

And while Justin Worley is vastly improved over last season, he's not at a level where he can pick apart the Bulldogs secondary if the defense doesn't respect the ground game.

Getting manhandled by the Sooners may have done the Vols' young offensive line a big favor, as the Bulldogs' defensive front isn't nearly as fast and disruptive and should be slightly easier to contain. 

Meanwhile, Jalen Hurd, who is looking more and more like the Vols' marquee running back, needs to continue running hard and getting tough yards after contact.

In fact, Hurd's 48 carries so far is third in the SEC behind only Vanderbilt's Ralph Webb (58) and Arkansas' Alex Collins (50), according to Ben Frederickson of the Knoxville News-Sentinel

Despite his number of touches per game, the offensive line simply doesn't have the experience and push to allow him to reach the second level untouched, and he'll need to break tackles to move the chains and set the offense up for 3rd-and-short conversions.

 

Contain Todd Gurley and Sony Michel

Injuries have made Georgia's unbelievable depth at running back a little less terrifying for Tennessee defensive coordinator John Jancek.

Freshman running back Nick Chubb just had surgery on his thumb, according to The Atlanta-Journal Constitution's Chip Towers, while junior tailback Keith Marshall is still battling knee issues from an injury suffered against Tennessee last season.

Unfortunately for the Vols, that still leaves Georgia with Sony Michel, one of the top running backs in the 2014 class, and Todd Gurley, the top running back in the country.

Tennessee's defensive front isn't the anemic and inexperienced group many thought it would be prior to the season, but it also hasn't been tested by an athlete of Gurley's caliber. 

Unlike previous seasons, the Vols have enough speed to mostly contain Gurley on the perimeter, but where he excels is breaking tackles and gaining huge yardage straight up the middle.

Luckily for Tennessee, the interior defensive line will have a familiar face for that test, as redshirt junior Trevarris Saulsberry is back from a knee injury, according to GoVolsXtra's David Cobb

The Vols will need Saulsberry in order to keep fresh legs on the field and prevent Gurley from breaking long runs and putting the Bulldogs offense in scoring position. 

 

Get the ball to Marquez North

Marquez North is simply Tennessee's best player on offense. He runs excellent routes, makes defenders miss and is athletic enough to come down with tough, contested catches.

While Worley has been great at spreading the ball around to multiple wide receivers this season, North should always be his main target. Georgia's defensive backs aren't as small as some in the SEC, but North's 6'4", 225-pound frame gives him a huge advantage both at the line of scrimmage and in the air when fighting for jump balls.

Last season, North hauled in his only touchdown catch of the year against the Bulldogs. I expect him to add at least two more to that tally in two weeks.

And while North isn't quite the same caliber player as former Vols wide receiver/kick returner/freak athlete Cordarrelle Patterson, it wouldn't surprise me to see the coaches use him similarly in a few packaged plays just to get the ball in his hands. 

 

Keep the crowd out of the game

The Vols caught a break when it was announced the matchup against Georgia is scheduled for a noon kickoff. Playing under the lights is almost always bad news for the away team, especially against a conference rival eager to claw its way back into the hunt for a divisional title. 

While the Bulldogs' loss to South Carolina last week means there's no way they'll overlook the Vols, Tennessee can take advantage of the early start time and surprise Georgia with a quick score. 

If that fails, the Vols really can't afford to get behind early and let the Bulldogs feed off the crowd and gain momentum. If Jones needs any inspiration, he need look no further than Tennessee's disastrous trip to Athens in 2010, where nearly everything that could go wrong for Tennessee did go wrong that day.

 

Final thoughts 

Tennessee has the talent to steal a win in Athens in two weeks, and Jones scored the biggest win of his career last season against South Carolina coming off a similarly tough loss and bye week. 

Plus, there's no doubt Jones, his staff and his players—especially Pig Howard—want revenge for last year's devastating overtime loss to Georgia in front of a sellout Neyland Stadium crowd. 

While the Vols will likely be heavy underdogs heading into this contest, the team has all the pieces to get its first upset win of the season and begin building a resume for claiming its first SEC East crown since 2007. 

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UCLA QB Jerry Neuheisel Has Fan in Bruins Head Coach Jim Mora

The outpouring that UCLA teammates showed for quarterback Jerry Neuheisel after the Bruins’ 20-17 over Texas last Saturday was a testament to the respect he has in the locker room.

Neuheisel evidently has his fans within the UCLA program, and perhaps none more so than head coach Jim Mora.

“I was so excited him for Saturday,” Mora said Tuesday on the Pac-12 coaches teleconference.

Neuheisel filled in for third-year starter Brett Hundley in the first quarter after Hundley injured his non-throwing elbow, landing awkwardly on a run. Playing the first meaningful snaps of his college career, the redshirt junior Neuheisel went 23-of-30 passing for 178 yards with two touchdowns.

His second score—a 33-yarder to wide receiver Jordan Payton—put the No. 12-ranked Bruins ahead for good late in the fourth quarter.

The excitement Mora felt was shared among the team, as Neuheisel’s fellow Bruins lifted him into the air at the end game and broke into chants of “Jerry! Jerry!”

The cinematic ending in AT&T Stadium is part of a potential bigger climax this season. Neuheisel may not face another situation like this again in 2014—Hundley’s status for the Bruins’ next game, Sept. 25 at No. 15 Arizona State, is unclear—but with the spotlight on him for this one night, Neuheisel delivered.

For Mora, that came as no surprise.  

“Jerry is always prepared. He’s a very smart young man,” Mora said. “Whenever he steps in at practice and gets his reps, he’s very prepared. And I think we were all very confident we could go in and run our entire offense with him and that he’d be able to produce for us.”

Mora may have not been surprised by Neuheisel’s success with the opportunity he was given on Saturday. However, the quarterback being with the Bruins to have that opportunity defies convention.

Neuheisel had every reason to transfer. He trailed Hundley on the depth chart and perhaps could have seen more playing time elsewhere, which was motivation for former Bruins quarterback T.J. Millweard to exit in August 2013.

Neuheisel had also committed to a different coaching staff—one his own father headed. 

Rick Neuheisel was UCLA's head coach from 2008 through 2011. He was fired after finishing 6-8 his final season, but he left behind the foundation on which Mora has gone 22-8. 

Himself a veteran of the coaching carousel, Mora said he relished Neuheisel's performance Saturday in part because the coach feels a sort of kindred bond with the quarterback.

"I don’t think there’s anyone who could understand his situation more so than me," Mora said. "My dad’s been fired. I was on his staff when he resigned in New Orleans."

Jim E. Mora coached for five decades, five of which were spent with his son as an assistant for the New Orleans Saints. 

"I understood exactly what it was like for Jerry to feel the way that he felt," Mora said.

Both for that reason and because of his "respect for Rick," Mora said he is mindful of emphasizing the current staff's goals without slighting the work of the previous staff. 

"I say a lot of things I regret. I have that tendency," he said. "Right out of the gate, I think I said I wanted to change the culture, and that always bothered me because really, what I wanted to do, was create our own culture."

Neuheisel has helped contribute to the establishment of that new culture, and Saturday was his opportunity to put an especially prominent signature on it. 

Watching from the Pac-12 Networks studios, where he's now an analyst, Neuheisel's father watched proudly. 

And he wasn't the only one happy to see that game-winning drive. 

"I’m so happy he stayed with the program," Mora said. "It says so much about him, and it says so much about Rick and Susan as well and the type of kid they raised."

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics compiled courtesy of CFBstats.com 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Auburn vs. Kansas State: Live Score and Highlights

Auburn 10, Kansas State 7 ; Early 4th Quarter

A massive nonconference tilt takes place Thursday night, as the Associated Press' No. 5 Auburn Tigers travel to take on the No. 20 Kansas State Wildcats at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas. 

The game takes place at 7:30 p.m. ET. It can be seen on ESPN. 

Per Odds Shark, Auburn is favored by seven points. A full box score of tonight's game can be found here at NCAA.com. 

 

Bleacher Report appreciates you tuning in with us tonight. Stay here for score updates, social media, analysis and much more! 

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7 Most Important College Football Recruiting Visits of Week 4

The fourth weekend of 2014 college football action is nearly upon us. As usual, programs are set to welcome coveted prospects to campus for game-day festivities with an opportunity to take strides toward crucial commitments.

The recruiting trail that leads these athletes to national signing day is long and winding, featuring stops at various universities along the way. Several talented prospects will make another step in the process before Sunday by spending personal time with collegiate coaches, players and, of course, frenzied fanbases.

Here's a look at key campus visits to keep an eye on this weekend and how they could impact various recruiting classes.

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The 14 Biggest Disappointments from the 2014 College Football Season so Far

We're not mad, we're just disappointed.

Using the royal "we" to represent college football fans as a whole, we had certain expectations of players, teams and coaches heading into the 2014 season. Big numbers, great performances, utter dominance. You know, the usual embellishments and conjecture that percolate during the way-too-long offseason.

The hype machine built up these figures, made us believe they were going to considered among the best ever at their position, or rank up there with the best coaches or teams in college football history.

Instead, through three weeks we've just been left with a lot of dissatisfaction.

Taking into account past results and preseason hyperbole, we've identified the season's biggest disappointments to this point. Disagree with our choices, or think we've left someone out? Please let us know in the comments section.

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Why College Football Fans Should Prepare for Chaos in Week 4

College football fans, get your ice packs and ointment ready for all the jaw-dropping that will happen this weekend.

Not even a quarter of the way through the season and we’ve already had a year’s worth of craziness, chaos and wild action.

What have we learned from all this? Expect the unexpected. Not just this weekend, but for every Saturday until December...when it becomes a daily expectation thanks to bowl season.

 

Expect GIF-worthy moments

Expect ridiculous penalties called, such as for phantom punches that don't land. That's what happened when BYU center Tejan Koroma tried to swing at a Houston blocker but ended up getting only air, yet he was ejected.

Expect players, coaches and fans to act and react in ways that only a few of us will notice in real time but thanks to the beauty of the Internet will get captured (and looped into an animated GIF, or a Vine) for posterity so that we can all enjoy it over and over again.

Like this awesome display of ball boy speed:

Or footage from one of the worst fake punts in college football history, but will forever be remembered for one player executing the "fainting goat" in an effort to trick the defense:

The big touchdowns and long runs will get plenty of views on TV and online in video form, but it's the little, off-the-wall moments that stick with us.

 

Expect the skies to open up

Through three weeks there have been more than a dozen games delayed by lightning and rain, including one cancellation with Florida's opener against Idaho washed out Aug. 30 after The Swamp became a, well, swamp and too many bolts hit too close to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville.

And with the remnants of a hurricane that hit Mexico and rolled into the Southwest U.S. expected to impact weather throughout the Midwest on Saturday, storm delays are possible.

 

Expect a major upset. Or several

There weren't many people who predicted Virginia Tech to go to Ohio Stadium and beat Ohio State in Week 2, and even fewer who picked Boston College to rise up and run past USC in Week 3. Some backed Texas A&M at South Carolina in Week 1, but to project the Aggies would not only win but dominate, that wasn't part of anyone's expectations.

That means teams like Oregon (at Washington State), Oklahoma (at West Virginia) and Wisconsin (vs. Bowling Green), among others, should be on upset alert.

It also means the 11 FBS schools playing FCS teams this week shouldn't be surprised if that team that got paid a lot of money to come in and (presumably) lose big decides to actually put up a fight. Five FCS teams have won already this season, and though North Dakota State's win at Iowa State counted as the most significant there were several other close calls.

Purdue is hosting a 3-0 Southern Illinois team, and could join that infamous list this Saturday.

 

Expect to be entertained

Even with nearly 20 percent of FBS teams on a bye this week, including nine ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, there are only a handful of big-time matchups on the schedule. One of those kicks off the slate on Thursday night, between Auburn and Kansas State, while on Saturday we'll see four conference games pitting unbeaten teams against each other.

But if the first few weeks have taught us, the best games don't have to be the most anticipated ones. Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee went three overtimes last week, as did Florida and Kentucky, while last Friday a quarterback who was top-rated passer in the 2012 recruiting class went out and had the kind of debut—Gunner Kiel threw for 418 yards and six touchdowns in Cincinnati's 59-38 win over Toledo—that made it hard to believe he had to sit out two seasons before getting into a game.

What will wow us this weekend? We can't say for certain, but we do know this: when it happens, we should have been expecting it.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida State's Ground Game—Not Sean Maguire—Could Be Difference vs. Clemson

The national narrative may state otherwise, but a Florida State victory over Clemson Saturday night doesn’t depend on the right arm of Sean Maguire, who will get his first career start because of Jameis Winston’s first-half suspension

No, a potential Seminoles triumph over the Tigers is all about the legs of a running game with a lot to prove.

Maguire can’t make mistakes and will have to rely on proven pass-catchers Rashad Greene and Nick O’Leary when FSU does go to the air in the opening two quarters, but the ‘Noles’ all-senior offensive line and its stable of game-breaking tailbacks can make it that much easier on the team’s new—albeit brief—starting quarterback.

Sounds easy enough but there’s a catch. If FSU’s rushing attack is to exert its will against the Clemson defense inside Doak Campbell Stadium, it will mark the first time this season the Seminoles’ ground game will have lived up to its potential. Despite the return of the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, FSU’s offensive identity was expected to be run first, break games open in the passing game second.

But that hasn’t happened. Yet.

The potential is there for senior Karlos Williams to have his first big game as a full-time starter. Williams boasts impressive size, speed and ability (he averaged a nation’s sixth-best 8.0 yards per carry as a reserve last season and notched 11 touchdowns) but has yet to match that skill set with output in 2014. Through two games, Williams, a former safety that switched to tailback prior to the second game of the 2013 season, is averaging 4.1 yards per carry, hasn’t had a rush go for longer than 20 yards and has just one touchdown.

The Seminoles also have the services of redshirt sophomore Mario Pender and true freshman Dalvin Cook that Maguire can rely on as Williams replacements or together in two-back sets. Sophomore Ryan Green has not yet played this season while rehabilitating a fall-camp hamstring injury but could be in uniform Saturday, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said at his Monday press conference.

Like Williams, both Pender and Cook possess elite speed that could change the scoreboard on any play. They have shown flashes in the first two games—Pender had a memorable first career carry that went for a score against Oklahoma State, and a week later Cook showcased his ability to bounce the ball outside and find the end zone against The Citadel—and similar performances against Clemson would be important for a team under the offensive direction of an inexperienced quarterback.

In the season-opening loss to Georgia, the Clemson defense let Bulldogs Heisman trophy candidate Todd Gurley register 198 yards on just 15 carries. FSU doesn't have a tailback as talented as Gurley on its roster, but the trio certainly has the athletic prowess to churn out a large number of yards if given the opportunity.

A renewed focus has also been placed this season on featuring the tailbacks in the Florida State passing game, and before his suspension Winston was doing a much better job of checking down and letting FSU’s rushers make their mark through the air. Williams enters the game third on the team with seven catches this season, and Maguire would be wise to utilize his playmakers when Fisher dials up a passing play.

“Last year you might have seen us in a little bit more three or four wide [sets] at times,” Fisher said this week, “but our guys out of the backfield are dynamic and can match up on linebackers. Reads have taken us there and I think their capabilities are there.”

The capability to dictate the game also extends to Florida State’s offensive line. Even though the group lost center Bryan Stork to the NFL draft, FSU was expected to be dominant up front in 2014 with the return of future NFL selections Cameron Erving, Josue Matias, Tre’ Jackson and Bobby Hart and Stork’s senior replacement, Austin Barron.

But again, the first two games of the season haven’t reflected that popular notion.

FSU averaged 203 yards rushing per game in 2013 but so far this season ranks 73rd nationally in yards per game with 158 per contest. Against Oklahoma State and The Citadel, the same consistent gaping holes weren’t there like they were last year when Devonta Freeman, James Wilder Jr. and Williams were delivering sustained blows to defenses.

Like it was in last season’s 51-14 FSU victory over Clemson in Death Valley, pass protection by the offensive line will be key, and the premier matchup will be Erving versus superstar Tigers pass-rusher Vic Beasley. Erving handled Beasley in that FSU win, and the Seminoles benefited as Winston had time throw for more than 400 yards and Freeman churned out 84 yards on the ground.

Without consistent pressure, Winston was able to pick apart the defense and convert third-down conversions on 8-of-12 attempts.

A similar performance Saturday night will help keep the pressure off Maguire. And if he gets steady production from his stable of tailbacks, FSU’s replacement quarterback may get to experience some of the same success Winston did a season ago in a game with early-season College Football Playoff implications.

 

Brandon Mellor is a Florida State writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of Seminoles.com. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Follow @BrandonMellor on Twitter.

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Texas A&M Football Recruiting: Latest Update on 2015 Commits, Visits and Targets

The Texas A&M football coaches have one of the top recruiting classes in the nation committed for 2015. If the Aggies are able to land a couple of their remaining targets, they will have a chance to end up with the No. 1-ranked recruiting class in the country on national signing day.

If the Aggies sign all of their current commitments, they will have done a good job addressing most of their major needs. There are still some holes that need to be filled at linebacker and in the secondary, and the Aggies could also use an extra pass-rushing defensive end in the class.

There are still three months left in the high school football season, so there will be multiple prospects who will jump onto the Aggies' radar. The Aggies currently have 19 commits in their 2015 class and will likely add four or five more players by national signing day.

This is a look at the latest news on the Texas A&M commits and targets in their 2015 recruiting class.  

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Texas Tech DC Matt Wallerstedt Fired: Latest Details and Reaction

Texas Tech has reportedly fired defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt after he was suspected of being under the influence at the football facility on campus.    

Chris Vannini of CoachingSearch.com first reported the firing, noting that Wallerstedt joined head coach Kliff Kingsbury on the Red Raiders staff in 2013 after the pair spent one year together under Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M.   

Jake Trotter of ESPN.com confirmed the firing, adding that Wallerstedt got "sent home from the facility Monday" for appearing to be "under the influence of an unknown substance":

Wallerstedt is expected to be replaced by co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Mike Smith, who played for the Red Raiders and graduated from Texas Tech in 2004.

...

The Red Raiders are off this weekend, before traveling to play Oklahoma State next Thursday night.

Trotter cited sources as saying that Texas Tech's inept performance on defense—the group allowed 438 rushing yards in a blowout loss at home against Arkansas—had nothing to do with Wallerstedt's firing. 

Wallerstedt was in the second year of a three-year deal he signed after coming to Texas Tech, despite allowing 30.5 points per game (h/t Sports-Reference.com). In August, Kingsbury spoke to Don Williams of RedRaiders.com about bringing back his defensive coordinator for this season despite the poor stats :

"I just wanted there to be some consistency here on that side of the ball," said Kingsbury. "For so long, they’d seen a guy leave, a guy leave, a guy leave. I just felt that (length of contract) would kind of promote that."

Including Wallerstedt's dismissal, the Red Raiders will be using their fifth defensive coordinator since the start of 2010. For the football team, having a week off before traveling to play a conference rival does allow them to get acclimated to a new voice. 

In addition to his work at Texas Tech and Texas A&M, Wallerstedt served as the defensive coordinator at Air Force from 2008 to 2011 and was the linebackers coach at Kansas State for two years from 2006 to 2007. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big 12 Football: The Best 2015 NFL Draft Prospect from Each School

Each and every year, it seems the Big 12 is loaded with quality NFL draft prospects. 

While it doesn't necessarily clock out the type of NFL talent that the SEC does, the Big 12 still had two first-round picks and five picks in the first three rounds in the 2014 draft. 

The 2014 NFL draft was also the first time since 1937 that the Texas Longhorns failed to have a player selected. That'll surely change with Quandre Diggs and Malcolm Brown this year. 

With that, let's check out the best NFL draft prospect from each school in the league. 

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4-Star DaMarkus Lodge Decommits from Texas A&M: Where Should He Turn Next?

Texas A&M suffered a rare setback on the recruiting trail Thursday when wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge decommitted from the Aggies after a three-month pact, per Taylor Hamm of 247Sports. The 4-star in-state recruit initially pledged in June but feels he may have limited his options too early.

“I still haven’t ventured out to everywhere I want to look at," Lodge told 247Sports. "This is all about me being able to go see other places.”

The 6'2.5", 190-pound Cedar Hill High School prospect rose to prominence as a junior. He stepped into a starring role for the perennial powerhouse program in 2013, catching 72 passes for 1,255 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Lodge landed offensive MVP honors in Cedar Hill's 5A Division II state championship victory over Katy High School. He punctuated a breakout campaign with two touchdowns in the title game.

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin lost his grip on one of the region's premier prospects. Lodge is rated seventh overall in Texas and eighth among receivers in 247Sports' composite rankings.

The Aggies are deep at receiver but must now intensify efforts to secure a commitment from 5-star target Christian Kirk, who spent an official visit at College Station last weekend. Texas A&M signed top-ranked Class of 2014 receiver Speedy Noil and holds a verbal pledge from 4-star Houston pass target Kemah Siverand.

Lodge's decision to reopen his recruitment leaves a hole for Sumlin to fill moving forward. It also sets the stage for another frenzied pursuit of a player who ranks among the top uncommitted athletes in the Class of 2015.

Several programs could pique his interest as national signing day nears, though 247Sports identifies Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU as potential landing spots worth watching. The report cites his desire to stay home as a reason schools like LSU and Ole Miss face an uphill climb in the recruitment.

Lodge displays excellent body control downfield, utilizing strength and savvy to gain separation. He plucks the ball away from his body and is fearless across the middle when asked to come down with receptions in traffic.

His power and wingspan enable Lodge to contend for passes in press coverage. He is perhaps at his best in red-zone situations, where he does a lot of damage along the boundary and can climb the ladder for high targets.

"I think I've come a long way during the past year," Lodge told Bleacher Report this summer. "It's important to focus on improving every day."

Naturally, collegiate teams took notice of Lodge's skill set early and often. He holds more than two dozen offers from across the country, but we'll focus on the possibilities pointed out by 247Sports.

Baylor is a burgeoning Big 12 program that produces at an elite level on offense. Quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Bryce Petty have orchestrated the attack with proficiency, helping enhance the program's national image under head coach Art Briles.

The team can certainly sell its willingness to use true freshmen early and often based on what we've seen from 2014 signee KD Cannon so far this season. The former 5-star recruit has 14 catches for 471 yards and five touchdowns through three games.

Cannon was added to the Biletnikoff Award watch list this week, putting him in the mix as America's top receiver. The Bears' vertical attack should continue to shine as more top prospects put their trust in the program, and Lodge could be the latest young playmaker to enjoy immediate success at Baylor.

TCU is still looking to make strides in the Big 12 Conference, and Lodge is exactly the kind of in-state talent who can take the team to another level. The Horned Frogs have done a quality job attracting capable recruits but haven't been able to consistently corral highly rated athletes while contending with the likes of Texas, Texas A&M, Houston and Texas Tech for top homegrown talent.

A commitment from Lodge could truly begin to reshape that narrative and present an opportunity for him to take over as an immediate go-to receiver.

Oklahoma presents an intriguing option beyond state borders. The Sooners have overcome a slow start this recruiting cycle to assemble a top-20 class that challenges for best in the conference.

Bob Stoops continues to secure Texas athletes splendidly, pulling in pledges from three 4-star 2015 prospects. Receiver is a position of need in this class at Oklahoma, as several other targets remain on the radar aside from Lodge.

The team will undoubtedly reciprocate interest and look to line up an official visit with Lodge. Oklahoma hosted several high-profile 2016 quarterbacks during last Saturday's game against Tennessee, and a receiver of Lodge's caliber would bolster sales pitches to those passers about the Sooners' offensive future.

It remains to be seen if Texas A&M can return to the forefront here or if other SEC squads could sneak in late to join the chase. Regardless, Lodge is clearly open to an array of possibilities, providing an intriguing and unexpected twist in the recruitment of one of Texas' finest.

Quotes obtained firsthand by B/R national recruiting analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

Recruit ratings and info courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Throwback Thursday: Tom Brady Leads Michigan Past Alabama in 2000 Orange Bowl

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady decided to do a "Throwback Thursday" post this week, so here's one all about him to thank him for sharing his pre-NFL resume.

On January 1, 2000, Brady played in his final game as quarterback of the Michigan Wolverines in the Orange Bowl.

His opponent: the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Michigan fell behind 14-0 in the second quarter, but Brady was able to lead his team back and tie the game in the third.

Alabama answered right back with two touchdowns of its own, still in the third, before Brady once again brought his team back to see the game tied at 28-28 by the time the fourth quarter arrived.

However, neither team scored in the fourth, with Michigan blocking a 36-yard field-goal attempt as time expired to send the game to overtime.

On the first play of the additional period, Brady hooked up with Shawn Thompson for a 25-yard touchdown. The Wolverines went on to win the game when Crimson Tide kicker Ryan Pflugner's extra-point attempt in the first overtime missed wide right.

Brady passed for 369 yards and four touchdowns in the 35-34 win. A few months later, he would be drafted by the Patriots with the 199th overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft.

Michigan went 10-2 in Brady's final season and finished No. 5 in the polls. 

[ESPN

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Ohio State Football: Urban Meyer Reacts to Tumultuous State of Football

COLUMBUS, Ohio — With Ohio State enjoying a bye, Urban Meyer has had a little extra time to hit the gym this week. But what the Buckeyes head coach has typically used as a distraction during his daily treadmill trips hasn't been particularly enjoyable in recent days, as SportsCenter has showcased a steady stream of off-the-field football issues.

Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Greg HardyJameis Winston and Jonathan Dwyer have dominated headlines in the sports world for the past two weeks, and for all the wrong reasons. Meyer, for his part, has taken notice, and claims to have used each case as a lesson for his team.

"They know it, they see it. How do you not see it? I go work out, and I put on the thing and I noticed today every one of them, for I want to say 20 to 30 minutes, was issues. Not just NFL—college. They’re all teachable moments," Meyer said on Wednesday. "I think everybody in the country is using it.”

Meyer and disciplinary issues have always seemed to go hand in hand, ever since he oversaw a Florida program that endured 31 player arrests from 2005-2010. In less than three full years at Ohio State, no fewer than 10 Buckeyes have been arrested since Meyer took over the program in 2012.

How Meyer has handled discipline since coming to Columbus from Gainesville has evolved, although a few of the current issues in the news have certainly hit home for the Ohio State head coach. Domestic violence was at the core of the arrest of Gators running back Chris Rainey in 2010, as well as a 2013 investigation of former Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde, which didn't result in any charges being filed.

“We had a couple issues that we had to evaluate, but yeah," Meyer responded when asked if he had a zero tolerance policy toward domestic violence. "That’s one of the core values."

The other core values can be found plastered across a wall inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, underneath bolded red letters that spell out "DECISIONS." It should be noted, however, that not all of the Buckeyes' core values carry a zero tolerance policy, as evidenced by Ohio State's decision to stick by suspended All-Big Ten defensive end Noah Spence following his second failed drug test in less than a year, per ESPN.com's Austin Ward.

Nevertheless, this week's bye, coupled with football's seemingly never-ending barrage of bad news, has created a perfect storm for Meyer to preach the importance of off-the-field conduct to his players. Additional meetings on the topic have been held according to Buckeye players, who, like Meyer, haven't been shielded from the negativity surrounding their sport in recent weeks.

"We had some sessions over it," said sophomore safety Tyvis Powell. "Just basically telling us to be smart and make the right decisions."

Seems simple enough, at least in a team meeting or press conference setting, where saying or doing the right thing is more of a formality than anything else. But when one gets away from the coaches and cameras, it can be a different story, which was the lesson that the Ohio State players took away from the latest incident involving Winston.

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Winston will be suspended for the first game of Florida State's clash with Clemson this weekend after the sophomore quarterback was caught shouting a vulgar phrase (link contains NSFW language) at an FSU dining hall. And while Powell maintains that neither he nor his teammates would ever put themselves in that predicament, he also noted that the spotlight rarely dims for high-profile figures.

"People just gotta be smart about what they're doing," Powell said. "With or without a camera in front of you, you should always try to live your life right and do the right things. The fame might be getting to them or they get caught up in the fame and they forget about who they really are and what they're trying to do with their lives."

That was the sentiment echoed by senior wide receiver Evan Spencer, who expressed disappointment, in particular, with the current ongoing domestic violence issues in the NFL. The son of former NFL running back and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant Tim Spencer, the Ohio State wideout said that he believes that professionals should be held to a higher standard, given their status in society.

"So many people look up to them, when they go out and do something that's maybe not viewed as right or obviously not moral, they have to live up to the standard that they perpetuate on the field," Spencer said. "They have to take responsibility for what they've done."

But as Powell pointed out, society's problems aren't only persistent on the football field. In fact, a recent study conducted by FiveThirtyEight.com's Benjamin Morris showed that the arrest rate in the NFL for domestic violence is significantly lower than the national average.

"Although it seems like it's all football players that's doing it, it's not just football players," Powell said. "Everyone in society is doing it."

And while that may be true, Meyer is determined to prevent his players from becoming a part of that problem. Which is why the last image that the Buckeyes see before leaving their training facility is their head coach's list of values, a notice that their decisions affect more than just themselves.

"It’s a reminder every time that we leave the Woody [Hayes Athletic Center] that you have to represent something that's one, for yourself and two, that’s bigger than yourself," Spencer said. "When we look at it, we really try to set an image after we leave here that we are gonna be respectful and be trustworthy and honest and treat everybody with respect and just be a good citizen."

As football has shown us in the last few weeks, sometimes that's easier said than done.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Showdown vs. Alabama a Make-or-Break Game for Florida QB Jeff Driskel

The arrival of new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper was supposed to be the cure for the downfield passing blues in Gainesville, but so far in 2014, the offense only looks like it has taken a half-dose.

Sure, the Gators offense is light years ahead of where it was last year from a statistical standpoint. After all, it is second in the SEC in total offense (593.5 YPG)—a stat that is partially skewed by the 72 yards it gained in the three overtimes against Kentucky.

Quarterback Jeff Driskel did, however, miss on quite a few shots deep despite hooking up with wide receiver Demarcus Robinson for 216 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

Driskel's head coach, Will Muschamp, agrees but noticed improvement as the game went on.

"You take a couple drops here and there in the game, a little off-kilter on the deep balls," Muschamp said in quotes emailed by Florida. "[Driskel] came back in the second half and really performed well."

There is a silver lining to Florida's passing game against Kentucky; Driskel developed a chemistry with a reliable receiver for the first time since Muschamp got the job in 2011, and despite being "off-kilter" on the deep balls, receivers were open.

Both are signs of progress for a Gators team that struggled in both departments for the better part of this decade. 

Saturday is a make-or-break game for Florida's offense.

Alabama was lit up to the tune of 365 yards by West Virginia's Clint Trickett in the opener due in large part to the connection Trickett had with Kevin White and apprehensive play from cornerbacks Bradley Sylve and Cyrus Jones.

Eddie Jackson slid in for Sylve for Week 2, and true freshman Tony Brown has been working with the first-team cornerbacks in practice this week in place of Jackson (quadriceps), according to Andrew Gribble of AL.com.

Alabama only gave up 147.5 yards per game over the last two games, but was that a product of weak competition—as was the case last year—in Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss, or has head coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart fixed the glitch?

Driskel needs to find out because he now knows that not only does he have a receiver he can trust but a scheme that he can rely on against a secondary that, while talented, is still very questionable.

On the ground, Driskel hasn't been the threat he was supposed to be. This offense was supposed to feature his ability to run more, but he only has seven carries through two games as opposed to the 9.8 carries per game he had in 2012.

"We had a couple keeps that I felt like he could've kept on some plays in the zone read that he didn't, and a couple that we don't want him to keep," Muschamp said in quotes emailed by Florida. "So a lot of that is by call in those situations, but we'll continue to work that as a week-by-week process as far as how many carries he's going to have."

All eight of Alabama's losses since 2008 have come against quarterbacks who can move. While not all had great games on the ground against the Tide, they did pose the threat, which puts stress on the defense.

If Driskel can pose that threat while staying in rhythm with his receivers—which is one of the "secrets" mentioned in this story from earlier this week—Florida has a great chance to spring the upset. It'd also signal that Driskel was written off way too early in his career and is finally in a scheme that fits his dual-threat abilities.

If he struggles, then it'll "business as usual."

For Driskel and the Gators, that'd be a bad thing.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Which SEC QB Could Play Himself into Heisman Contention in Week 4

The Mississippi State Bulldogs head to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to take on the LSU Tigers in a heated SEC West battle. Bleacher Report's College Football Analysts Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee debate how each team's performance can set them up for success in the future.

Who do you have as the winner of this matchup?

Check out the video, and let us know.

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College Football Week 4 Predictions: Picking Top-25 Games Against the Spread

Every underdog has its day—or in this instance, week—and Week 3 was a celebration of the little guys. Size and expectations for these teams varied greatly in nature, although the overall performances were noteworthy. 

The underdog covered the spread in 12 of the 18 games featuring Top 25 teams. In a few of these matchups, these teams—Boston College, East Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia—did much more than simply cover the spread.

What do underdogs have in store for an encore? Week 4 is here, as is our weekly feature where we pick each matchup featuring a team from the AP Top 25.

We don’t just predict a winner and loser—that would be incredibly boring. Instead, all games are handicapped with the point spreads in mind. (Texas A&M and SMU, for example, requires this number for the sake of making it watchable. Even then it might not be enough.)

After a respectable 10-8 showing in Week 3, we’re hoping to add more winners this time around.

That movement begins...now.

 

All spreads are courtesy of Odds Shark unless noted otherwise.

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