NCAA Football News

Predicting the 2014 Win-Loss Record for Every New College Football Head Coach

Last winter, the coaching carousel was a bit quieter than normal. Although several major positions (Penn State, Southern California and Texas) opened up, only 20 FBS institutions will boast new head coaches when preseason practice opens up next month.

With conference media days and the opening of fall practice just around the bend, speculation will begin on just how well (or how poorly) these coaches will perform in their inaugural seasons at their respective institutions. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and that’s exactly the opportunity these coaches will have in 2014.

We decided to take a look at just how each new coach will fare this fall. Here’s our shot at predicting the 2014 win-loss record for every new college football head coach.

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Notre Dame Football: Reviewing the Week in Recruiting

Notre Dame football had a busy week in the recruiting world.

Three commitments joined the class, but the Irish missed out on three other marquee names.

Notre Dame’s Class of 2015 now sits at 17 commitments after landing 10 pledges over a 34-day stretch ending this week.

We’ll take a look back at the eventful week in Fighting Irish recruiting and analyze what each result means to the program.

Here we go.

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Wisconsin Football: Over/Under Stat Projections for Melvin Gordon in 2014

In what seems like a regular thing at this point, the Wisconsin football team has a Heisman Trophy candidate in its backfield. This year, as well as last year, it's Melvin Gordon. And without James White coming in and "stealing" carries from the talented junior from Kenosha, Wisconsin, this could very well be the season that Gordon at least makes it to New York.

Though Gordon struggles in pass protection at times while also providing little help as a receiving threat, this is something he has worked on throughout the offseason, with ESPN's Adam Rittenberg reporting, "Gordon remained [after a spring workout], running routes and catching passes from walk-on quarterback Thad Armstrong."

With the hope that Gordon improves in the passing game, let's take a look at the over/under for just how good Gordon can be this season now that he is the clear No. 1 back for the Badgers with an outstanding line in front of him.  

As a baseline, take a look at the table below to see his stats from his freshman and sophomore campaigns. Also keep in mind that Gordon played in three games in 2011—though it didn't count against his eligibility—amassing 98 yards on 20 carries to go with a touchdown.

YearAttemptsYardsTouchdownsAverageLong2013 206 1,609 12 7.8 80 2012 62 621 3 10.0 60

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Tennessee Football: 5 Toughest Players Vols Face in 2014

The Tennessee Volunteers' 2014 schedule is widely regarded as one of the toughest in the nation. A big part of that is due to the extremely skilled players the team will match up against each week. 

In fact, many of the opponents the Vols face this upcoming season have rosters loaded on both sides of the ball with All-SEC, All-American and even Heisman Trophy candidates.

Since Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter left for the NFL in 2012, Tennessee hasn't truly established any elite athletes on either offense or defense, although players like Marquez North, Cameron Sutton and A.J. Johnson could achieve that status with solid play this season.

In order to compete throughout the team's gauntlet of a schedule, the Vols need more exceptional playmakers of their own to emerge to offset the big plays generated by opposing superstar athletes. 

Here are the top five toughest players Tennessee's offense and defense will face during the 2014 season.

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How Does Brady Hoke Stack Up Against Wolverines' Former Coaches?

Brady Hoke expounded on the importance of tradition when he became Michigan’s head coach. Now entering his fourth season, high expectations fueled by the storied past of Michigan football threaten to swamp the program.

Program Winning Percentage 1969-2007 (at least 400 games played) Rank Team Winning % Wins Losses Ties Total Games 1  Nebraska 0.79979  383 94  5  482 2  Michigan 0.77612   360 101  8  469 3  Ohio St. 0.76609  353 105  8  466    Source:   Stassen.COM        

Fans in Ann Arbor, spoiled by a 40-year run of success, are eager to forget the disappointment of the last six seasons.

Program Winning Percentage 2008-2013 Rank Team Winning % Wins Losses Ties Total Games 53t  Toledo 0.54467 41 34  0  75 55t  Michigan 0.53947 41 35  0  76    Source:   Stassen.COM        

Here’s a look back at the first three seasons of Michigan football coaches since 1969. How does Brady Hoke compare? 

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Elite 11 2014: Quarterbacks to Watch During Epic Competition

The future stars of college football will be in action from July 5 to July 10, as the 2014 Elite 11 quarterback competition will show the nation which signal-callers are poised to excel at the college level.

Quarterbacks like Matthew Stafford, Matt Cassel, Jake Locker, Andrew Luck, EJ Manuel, Geno Smith and others are all alumni of the Elite 11 competition, so it's reasonable to say that a few of the athletes we see in action in a few days will eventually find their way to the pros.

Then again, their goal is to focus on the competition at this point, as it's often a good precursor to how successful they'll be in college.

There will certainly be a ton of buzz surrounding the nation's top recruits once the tournament kicks off, so get familiar with the names of the top guys before the action gets underway.


Josh Rosen

Josh Rosen, a UCLA commit, already has the size (6'4", 205 pounds) to get scouts buzzing. Despite not yet throwing a pass in college, Rosen should have his sights set on the pros.

His junior season was remarkable, throwing for 3,200 yards and 39 touchdowns. His skills were on display all season, as his great touch and refined mechanics from the pocket make him one of the best pure passers in the Elite 11 competition.

Rosen has very good arm strength to generate good zip on the ball, and he doesn't sacrifice accuracy to get the ball to his receivers in a hurry. He'll put the ball where his receivers can catch it, and he'll do it quickly.

The kid is certainly an exciting prospect, and Pac-12 Network analyst Yogi Roth, via Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports, thinks that he looks like one of the game's all-time greats: "I don't know what Troy Aikman looked like in high school, but I bet this is what he looked like. The ball rips out of his hand. He's got a good frame, and on tape he's athletic."

It'll be interesting to see how he fares against higher-level competition, but all signs point to success for Rosen.


Ricky Town

Committed to USC, Ricky Town actually made headlines back in April when he turned down Alabama head coach Nick Saban in an email, via Michael Carvell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

I sent Coach Saban an email and said ‘Thank you for everything, but I have to do what’s best for me.’ I never heard back from Coach Saban. But one of the girls that works in his office, she wrote back and said ‘Best of luck.’

There are multiple reasons why he was coveted by Saban. First of all, Town has great size at 6'4", 205 pounds (yes, the same as Rosen's measurements). Town moves well in and out of the pocket, and his accuracy isn't affected when he has to go on the run. He completed 70 percent of his passes last season.

He has great arm strength that allows him to go over the top of defenses, but sometimes he gets a little too excited. Too frequently Town can be seen throwing the ball well over his intended receiver. While they often drop for incompletions, it's a dangerous game to play. Those passes can easily get picked off and taken the other way.

For Town, the Elite 11 competition will be all about staying within himself and making the right passes. He doesn't always have to go down the field, but he needs to be accurate when those opportunities present themselves. At the next level, quarterbacks don't always get long incompletions back.


Kyler Murray

Kyler Murray has committed to Texas A&M, and the Aggies are getting a very quick quarterback in and out of the pocket. Elite 11 tweeted a clip of his strong footwork and speed while rolling to his right:

Murray is a bit small at 5'11", 185 pounds, but he could gain a few pounds over the next couple of years. He's right on the cusp of 6'0", and it's not completely out of the question for him to gain an inch or two in the near future. That said, he's still capable of destroying collegiate defenses.

He's a dual-threat quarterback who usually takes what the defense gives him. If the opposition plays him up in the box, he delivers strong strikes down the field. If the defense backs down to defend against the pass, he will burn them on the ground.

Good mechanics allow Murray to be extremely accurate in mid-range situations, but he needs to work on accurately throwing the deep ball with consistency. When he puts that part of his game together, he'll be difficult to stop.


Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR

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Notre Dame Football: Irish Can Celebrate Independence Thanks to Jack Swarbrick

Independence Day.

The Founding Fathers legally separated from Great Britain. Will Smith saved America (and the world) from an alien invasion. And Jack Swarbrick kept Notre Dame free of a conference in football. 

Sure, those are probably in order of importance. But on a festive day with family barbecues and fireworks, for Notre Dame fans, it's worth taking a look back at a whirlwind past few years and being thankful that the Irish survived a massive reshuffling in college athletics and came out on the better end of it. 

Irish fans have Swarbrick to thank for it. Notre Dame's athletics director (technically, he's a university vice president, too) found himself in the middle of a ferocious land grab that saw century-old rivalries detonated and conferences imploded after Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and his council of presidents and chancellors declared an interest in expansion in December 2009. 

From there, things got nuts. Nebraska jumped at the chance to join Delany and the Big Ten. The SEC moved into Texas and Missouri, grabbing A&M (and capitalizing on the Johnny Football explosion) and Gary Pinkel's Tigers, further gutting the Big 12.

On the West Coast, Larry Scott tried expanding to 16 before settling on adding Colorado and Utah. West Virginia and TCU jumped at a chance to fill a rapidly expanding void in the Big 12. While the Big East was trying their best to plug holes, Delany struck again with the news that Maryland and Rutgers were joining the B1G (no use in calling it "Ten" anymore).

Meanwhile, the ACC was in a state of flux as well. Having been relatively stable since the additions of Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech in 2004-05, Pitt and Syracuse joined the conference in 2013. Louisville joined as of July 1, free from the American Athletic Conference, a rebranded and repackaged Big East. 

(Confused? You should be. An insane 78 programs changed conferences in the BCS era.) 

All that movement put Notre Dame in a tricky spot. As a university—and football program—with a national footprint and a network television deal of its own, it had long been the apple of Delany's eye. But with a school history tied to football independence, Swarbrick's main mission was to protect the Irish's interests in football while making sure the university's other 20 varsity teams had a conference to call home. 

But before finding a new home for all Irish sports, Swarbrick had to solve college football's postseason. (That's all.) After surrendering Notre Dame's cozy stakeholder seat in the BCS, Swarbrick needed to make sure the Irish had an opportunity to compete for the four spots in the College Football Playoff. 

So he worked in lockstep with SEC commissioner Mike Slive, one of the most unlikely marriages in collegiate sports history. But it worked, and Swarbrick was the driving force behind the four-team playoff (and monster TV deal) that will finally see college football crown a champion. 

"In my mind, he played a critical role in the success that we accomplished during the year," Slive told Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel.

College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock had this to say about Swarbrick's role in creating the new model: "Jack was our MVP."

With the postseason resolved, Swarbrick also found a way to upgrade Notre Dame's conference athletics home, continuing those conversations with ACC commissioner John Swofford while hammering out the playoff details.

And in moving to the ACC, he managed to find a geographically advantageous footprint, a group of like-minded universities and a way to keep football independent. 

Swarbrick said in September 2012:

We have monitored the changing conference landscape for many months and have concluded that moving to the ACC is the best course of action for us. This will enable us to maintain our historic independence in football, join in the ACC’s non-BCS bowl package, and provide a new and extremely competitive home for our other sports.

Notre Dame's other sports began ACC play in 2013, with the Irish men winning their first ever Capital One Cup in men's athletics. And football will begin its scheduling alliance with the ACC in 2014, set to play 15 games against the conference over the next three seasons. 

Sure, Swarbrick made concessions. Traditional rivalries with Michigan State and Purdue have been halted. As has the game with Michigan, with no scheduled matchup against the Wolverines on the books after the September date in South Bend. 

But staying independent isn't easy. So while we celebrate our country's most treasured holiday, ND Nation should tip their collective cap to Swarbrick's work these past two years. In the murky, murky waters of college sports, Notre Dame came out smelling like roses. 

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Florida Football: Realistic Expectations for Gators' QB Jeff Driskel in 2014

Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel has been the man of the offseason. Everybody is wondering how he’s going to recover from last year’s injury, if he can adapt to new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and if he is truly ready to turn the corner and lead the Gators through a tough SEC schedule. After last year, Florida fans' patience is running thin.

But nobody has mentioned reasonable expectations for the starting quarterback.

What do you expect from Driskel this season?

Florida has question marks for wide receivers, an offensive line with no depth and a young backfield that is likely going to be asked to grow up quickly. Driskel has thrown for only 2,271 yards and has 14 touchdowns to 10 interceptions in his career.

Given the circumstances and what we know at this very moment, here are the reasonable expectations for the Gators' starting quarterback.


Rushing for 500 Yards

Honestly, this expectation may be a couple hundred yards short. I expect Driskel and the Gators to run the ball a ton in this new offense. Last season, Roper ran the ball 544 times at Duke, which was good for fourth in the ACC. While this will eventually become more of a passing offense, Roper is likely to play to Driskel’s strengths early on and rely on them throughout the season simply because he’s a much better athlete than passer at this stage in his career.

For whatever reason, the offensive coordinators before Roper never used Driskel’s legs as much as they probably should have. Driskel has just seven career games with double-digit carries. Nick Marshall topped that last season alone, and Driskel is bigger than the sophomore at Auburn.

You can’t convince me that Driskel can’t be a top rushing quarterback in college football this season.

In an April interview with Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports, Roper touched on Driskel’s strengths:

He has everything physically. He does have great size, but he can really run. He's a fast guy. He can start quickly. He can change direction. His top-end speed is really good for a quarterback. He has a really good arm. He's accurate. I like his throwing motion. It's fast-twitch. He possesses everything.

Notice he touched on his running ability before anything else. Driskel is extremely fast for his size and can break off multiple long runs in a single game. He ran the ball 118 times in 2012, and 28 of those touches produced 10 or more yards. There’s no reason not to allow him to call his own number more this season.

Driskel has a career high of 408 rushing yards. He should have no problem shattering that record with at least 500 yards. That would mark the most rushing yards from a Florida quarterback since Tim Tebow in 2009.


Passing for 2,000 Yards and 15 Touchdowns

One of the main reasons Roper was hired is because he is prolific when it comes to the passing game. He likes to spread the field, throw it around and put up big numbers through the air. He’s the perfect coach for this era that seems to be breaking passing records left and right.

Let’s take a look at Roper’s passing numbers in the six seasons he was in the ACC:

The numbers to pay close attention to are the passing attempts, as Duke finished no less than third in the ACC in that department in Roper’s last five seasons. It’s clear Driskel is going to get plenty of chances to toss around the pigskin and should have little problem topping 300 passing attempts for the first time in his career. If he completes more than 60 percent of his passes like he has his last two seasons, a new career high in passing yards will be set.

Again, another number that may be a little low in the grand scheme of things, but we are talking about an offense that finished behind Texas State, Akron and Idaho last season. Florida could barely move the chains without tripping over its own shoelaces, so it simply wouldn’t be realistic to expect an outrageous season from a quarterback who hasn’t shown much in his first three years.

Is there potential to have a breakout season? Of course. Florida fans should also expect more given what they saw during the spring game. However, if everybody is being honest with themselves, a better and more efficient 2014 season from Driskel should be considered a success.

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Auburn Football: True Freshman Kalvaraz Bessent's Journey to the Plains

On Feb. 5, Kalvaraz Bessent faxed his national letter of intent to Auburn, officially committing his future plans to the Tigers.

The St. Mary's, Georgia, native was originally a commitment to in-state rival Alabama. But a few days after visiting the Plains the weekend of the 2013 Iron Bowl, he flipped his commitment from the losers of that instant classic to the winners.

Bessent, an Under Armour All-American who was rated as the No. 10 cornerback in the country, provided an immediate boost to Auburn's recruiting class.

Despite their run to the BCS National Championship Game, the Tigers allowed an average of 257.7 yards through the air in 2013—the second-worst pass defense in the SEC.

Auburn coaches saw Bessent as a player who could help turn around the secondary from day one.

"[Defensive backs coach Melvin Smith] identified [Bessent] as one of the best corners early on," head coach Gus Malzahn said on signing day. "We feel we have a guy that can help us immediately. He’s got very good ball skills and is a good cover guy."

However, just two days after Malzahn praised the incoming cornerback's potential, Bessent's future with the program was in jeopardy.

On the night of Feb. 7, Bessent was one of four people arrested and charged with two felony counts of marijuana possession following a traffic stop in nearby Nassau County, Florida.

According to's Brandon Marcello, police found more than 202 grams of marijuana, a digital scale and a .45-caliber handgun in the front passenger seat where Bessent was sitting. No one in the vehicle claimed ownership of the marijuana or the handgun.

The serious charges threatened Bessent's college football career before it even began.

"Here your son signs on a Wednesday to attend a major university on scholarship to go play football, then on Friday night, this happens," Timothy Bessent, Kalvaraz's father, told the Opelika-Auburn News' Alex Byington. "Of course it was a shock, the whole week of the whole ordeal, with the media exposure and everything, it was somewhat discouraging, embarrassing."

However, one week after the arrest, all charges were dropped against Bessent after the state attorney's office could not connect him to the marijuana.

A few weeks after the charges were dropped, Malzahn confirmed Bessent would join his fellow members of the 2014 signing class for summer enrollment and workouts on the Plains.

"Kalvaraz will be coming in," Malzahn said. "He will be on a probationary status when he gets here, but he will be coming in with the other signees."

According to Timothy Bessent's interview with Byington, Malzahn "didn’t lay out any specific parameters to his son’s 'probationary status' outside of doing what’s expected of him at practice and in the classroom."

Welton Coffey, Bessent's former head coach at Camden County High School, said the Auburn coaching staff were patient throughout the entire process.

"Coach Gus Malzahn handled the situation with great tact, integrity, wisdom and fairness," Coffey said. "It was an experience that we hope all young student athletes can learn from. We are glad that when all the details came out, that the charges were dropped against Kal."

Coffey declined to go into details about Bessent's arrest, which he said was a "very trying time for [Bessent], his family and the Camden County football program."

Bessent attended Auburn's A-Day Game in April and arrived on campus in May to begin training for the upcoming season.

If he is allowed to play under his probationary status, the talented cornerback could see several opportunities to play early and often for the Tigers.

With the departure of Iron Bowl hero Chris Davis, the Tigers have one returning starter—Jonathon Mincy, who is dealing with a recent drug arrest of his own—and a host of reserves with a small amount of first-team experience.

Standing at 6'0", he represents part of defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson's movement toward a bigger secondary.

Taller wide receivers such as Texas A&M's Mike Evans and Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin were constant threats against the Tigers last season, prompting a change in the way Auburn recruits its secondary

"If you look at this group...they have length," Malzahn said about Bessent and his fellow Auburn newcomers at defensive back. "They can run. They are good tacklers. They have very good ball skills. They will give us some versatility."

As part of that taller 2015 group of defensive backs, Bessent already has one advantage over Auburn's shorter veterans at the position.

According to his high school coach, another one of Bessent's advantages on the football field is something else that you cannot teach.

"Kalvaraz has got really good hips," Coffey said. "It's God-given. When you combine those with some good speed and ball skills like he has, that's what makes you a talented cornerback at this level."

Mincy's arrest and versatile defensive back Joshua Holsey's return from a season-ending injury have put the Tigers' cornerback rotation up for grabs.

Newcomers and veterans at the position will continue their battle for playing time in fall camp as the team sets sights on the 2014 season.

"Bessent has excellent upside at corner," 247Sports' J.C. Shurburtt said (subscription required). "I can see him contributing his first year and contending for All-Conference honors by 2015."

Although things looked bleak for a week in early February, Bessent still has the opportunity to make that type of early impact.


Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of

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Miami Football: Ranking 10 Best 'Canes in BCS Era

Year after year, talented athletes don the orange and green of the Miami Hurricanes. Some players stand above the rest and only one can be the best.

In 2013, the BCS breathed its last breath, ending a stretch of college football that contained a Miami team ESPN called the best in the era.

While the program has long been considered one of the premier NFL-producing schools, these players are measured strictly on collegiate performance during the BCS' relevance.

That last part is important: The BCS existed from 1998-2013, so players will only be judged for contributions throughout the 16-year period.


Notes: All stats courtesy of Any marked years signify a given player the BCS-eligible seasons spent at Miami, but complete career stats will be provided.

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How Braxton Miller's Offseason Training Will Impact Ohio State in 2014

The Ohio State football team is still a few weeks from reporting for fall camp, but Braxton Miller isn't waiting that long to get ready for the 2014 season.

Coming off a shoulder surgery that cost him all of spring practice, Miller has been working hard this offseason to improve for his final year as the Buckeyes' quarterback. 

That's good news for Ohio State.

Getting healthy was a top priority. According to Cameron Moon of The Plain Dealer, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer says Miller is "not 100 percent, but he's close."

Due to offseason NCAA restrictions, Meyer and the Ohio State coaching staff can't evaluate summer workouts. Despite the direction of his coaches, Miller has made great progress.

Ohio State is expected to be one of the handful of teams to make a run at major college football's first-ever playoff—an array of media publications project the Buckeyes as a top-six preseason team—but Meyer will need his quarterback at his very best for that to happen. Ohio State must replace four multiyear senior starters along its offensive line, its top rusher (Carlos Hyde) and top receiver (Corey Brown).

That puts a lot of pressure on Miller, but the dual-threat signal-caller spurned last year's NFL draft to prove he can handle it.

“I want to help this team win a Big Ten championship next year,” Miller said in January, according to an official release from the school. “Plus, I want to improve as a quarterback in all aspects of my game."

Accomplishing that takes diligence—a trait that Miller has proven to posses throughout his collegiate career. For the second consecutive offseason, he has enlisted the help of quarterback guru George Whitfield, Jr., to improve his passing game.

That kind of offseason dedication has paid off for Miller so far. In each of his three seasons, he has shown dramatic improvement in the passing game.

Those improvements aren't lost on Meyer, who's expecting big things from Miller this season.

"If he makes the same strides he made year one to year two, year two to year three and this year, year four, he could have a great year," Meyer said, according to Moon's Plain Dealer feature.

Aside from working with notable quarterback coaches, Miller is putting in extra work with his teammates. Last week—on a Friday night in the middle of the summer—Miller was in Ohio State's practice facility running drills with receiver Jalin Marshall.

Working that hard and building that kind of chemistry during the offseason pays dividends on fall Saturdays. 


David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. 
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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One Commitment Every Big 12 Team Wishes It Could Get This Summer

As we head into the heat of summer, the temperature gauge on the recruiting trail in the Big 12 is starting to rise as well. 

Teams across the Midwest are trying to add depth and replace stars in the wake of the new college football era. 

One hot prospect will be outside linebacker Anthony Wheeler of Dallas, Texas. The 4-star recruit that's part of the 2015 class is targeted by both Texas and Oklahoma. 

With that, let's check out each Big 12 team's most coveted 2015 recruit heading into the summer. 


All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted. 

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12 College Football Teams Guaranteed to Struggle on Offense in 2014

In the high-scoring world of college football, to struggle offensively is a relative term.

In 2013 nearly half of the 126 FBS programs averaged 30 points a game or more, and scoring 20 points per game could still land you in the bottom 20 of the national rankings. And from a yardage standpoint the numbers were even more outlandish, with more than 70 teams gaining 400-plus yards per game.

But even with all those beefed-up statistics and overworked scoreboards, a number of teams will find it difficult to keep up with the Baylors and Oregons. That includes some programs that are expected to contend for division or conference titles, meaning some teams might have to (egads!) rely on defense to be successful during the 2014 season.

Whether it's because of roster attrition through graduation, early departure or transfers, changes to staff or just a poor offensive scheme, these are the 12 most notable teams that will struggle on offense in 2014.

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Michigan Football Recruiting: 10 Best Wolverine Recruits of BCS Era

Since the start of the BCS era in January of 1999, Michigan has remained a college football powerhouse. The Wolverines are always in the hunt for top talent around the country, and it has resulted in them signing some great recruits.

Former head coach Lloyd Carr signed a stud defensive back in 2001, and he got a good quarterback in 2004. 

Current head coach Brady Hoke got an elite quarterback of his own in 2013, which is the same year he signed a 5-star running back.


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

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Nebraska Football: Why Terrell Newby Will Be Nebraska's X-Factor in 2014

Nebraska football fans know who the stars on offense are for next season—Ameer Abdullah, Kenny Bell, Tommy Armstrong, and other players who are household names in Big Red Country. The question becomes who will be the player to step up and make a name for himself in 2014.

A leading candidate for that role should be Terrell Newby, a sophomore I-back. Here’s why.


He’s Fast

You can’t coach speed. Yeah, it’s a cliche, but cliches become cliches for a reason. Newby has the kind of breakaway, game-changing speed that can terrify an opposing defense. When you have a player, particularly in the backfield, who can score from anywhere on the field if given a seam, it can change the entire structure of an opposing defense.

When he was healthy, Taylor Martinez had that kind of speed, and we saw how it could affect Nebraska’s offense. While he does not have the overall talent of Ameer Abdullah, Newby’s white-hot speed has the potential to transform Nebraska’s offense.


He Can Play Special Teams

If turnovers were problem No. 1 for Nebraska, a lack of production in punt returns was problem No. 1A. Nebraska averaged 3.04 yards per punt return in 2013, ranking No. 123 nationally. That means if, on every punt, Nebraska simply caught the ball and immediately fell forward, its average punt return yardage would be only slightly less than what it achieved in 2013. That’s 5.01 yards per return less than the “average” team’s punt return output last year, No. 62 Northern Illinois.

Nebraska had 23 punt returns in 2013, which averaged out to 1.77 punt returns per game (fair catches and punts out of bounds don’t count as returns). So, even if Nebraska could just get to “average” in its punt return game, that would yield an additional 8.87 yards of field position in a game in punt returns.

That may not sound like a lot, but if you look at drive statistics from last year (courtesy of FBS Drive Stats), the difference in average starting field position between the worst team and the best team in FBS football last year was 9.5 yards. Now, it’s not exactly a like-for-like comparison, but the underlying takeaway is those 8.87 yards per game of field position Nebraska gave up compared to the “average” punt returning team makes a big difference.

Enter Newby, who looks absolutely primed to make a huge difference in special teams. He has the elusiveness to make a gunner miss, and the electric speed to take a small crease and turn it into a big gain. Combine that with the fact that he is not likely to be the primary ball-carrier, meaning he will be fresh and ready to contribute on special teams, and Newby could be a big difference-maker.

The only glimpse of that we have gotten publicly was in kick return drills at the spring game, where Newby (along with Jamal Turner) looked amazing. It may not be the first thing you think of, but if Newby can jump-start Nebraska’s punt return game, that could pay massive dividends to NU’s overall performance.


He’s Got The Coaches’ Trust

Last year, Newby had 54 carries as a true freshman. In the Bo Pelini era, only one true freshman I-back has gotten more carries—Rex Burkhead in 2009, with 81. That means the coaches like what they see in Newby and want to get him on the field.

With another year in the program and in the weight room, that workload should only increase. Combine that with an offense that should be less quarterback-centered with the departure of Taylor Martinez, and that suggests a significantly bigger role for Newby in 2014.

If you’d like to contact Patrick, send an email to

Or you could also always use the Twitter machine to follow @patrickrunge.

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Alabama Football Recruiting: 10 Best Tide Recruits from BCS Era

Alabama has signed an army of big-time recruits in the BCS era, which began in January 1999. This list was tough to put together, as current head coach Nick Saban has collected an exceptional amount of talent.

However, not all the players on this list were signed by Saban. A stud quarterback came to Alabama in 2001, while a highly rated offensive lineman joined to the Crimson Tide in 2006.

Yet Saban is responsible for the arrival of a 5-star receiver in 2008, plus a talented running back in 2009.

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The Opening 2014: Predicting Where All Uncommitted Recruits Will Land

With The Opening taking place on July 5-10, that means 162 outstanding recruits will be in Oregon competing against one another at Nike headquarters in Beaverton. While many prospects scheduled to be in attendance have already made their decisions, a good portion of the players at the event will be uncommitted.

Predictions are always fun, and this piece will focus on the uncommitted recruits at The Opening. A 5-star defensive tackle appears ready to announce he's following family tradition, while a 4-star receiver looks like he will be catching balls at UCLA.

Also, Texas could be the pick for a 4-star running back.

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Florida State Football: Top 5 Quarterbacks That 'Noles Will Face in 2014

The Florida State football team will face 12 teams that have good—but not elite—quarterbacks.

Every opposing quarterback on the schedule, even the ones in our top five, has a question mark. That includes the No. 1 choice, Notre Dame's Everett Golson, who isn't the most accurate passer (58.8 percent in 2012) and didn't play a snap in 2013.

For teams looking to try and upset FSU, this is bad news. The Seminoles are the defending champs, and the target on their backs is unmistakable. But FSU had the nation's No. 1 pass defense in 2013, allowing just 156 yards per game. And the Seminoles return a loaded secondary led by cornerbacks Ronald Darby and P.J. Williams and safeties Jalen Ramsey and Nate Andrews.

All of the quarterbacks have a strong supporting cast of playmakers around them. Here's a look at the top five quarterbacks that FSU will see in 2014.


5. Jake Heaps or Ryan Williams (Miami)

2013 stats: Ryan Williams: 22-of-32 for 369 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception. Heaps: 128-of-261 for 1,414 yards, 8 touchdowns, 10 interceptions (at Kansas).

Williams was having a strong spring until he tore the ACL in his right knee and had surgery. While it's not known when he may be able to return, he told the Miami Herald that he has had no setbacks in his recovery and hopes to be the starter going into the season. 

Heaps adds drama to the quarterback competition. The former Kansas quarterback, who graduated and is eligible to start for Miami immediately, completed just 49 percent of his passes last year. He has had an up-and-down college career, and The Palm Beach Post's Matt Porter analyzed his hit-and-miss performance against Kansas State in 2013.

It's possible Miami could start both Williams and Heaps in 2014. But either quarterback, along with tailback Duke Johnson and receiver Stacy Coley, could make for a dynamic offense when FSU visits Miami on Nov. 15.


4. Jeff Driskel (Florida)

2013 stats: 42-of-61 for 477 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions.

There are many knocks on Driskel, the most notable being his alarming number of turnovers. He has thrown just 14 career touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. But he's also been less than productive: He tossed 12 TD passes in 12 starts in 2012.

Driskel played in just three games in 2013 before breaking his leg against Tennessee on Sept. 21. But offensive coordinator Brent Pease is gone and coach Will Muschamp hired Kurt Roper, a former Duke offensive coordinator, who has installed a spread offense in Gainesville.

That offense should suit Driskel's talents better, according to Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee. Florida isn't deep at receiver, but Quinton Dunbar caught 40 passes for 548 yards (albeit without a touchdown) and Andre Debose is back for a sixth season after missing 2013 with injury. If healthy, Driskel and Co. will provide a much tougher challenge when the Gators play at FSU on Nov. 29.


3. J.W. Walsh (Oklahoma State)

2013 stats: 113-of-190 for 1,333 yards, 9 touchdowns, 5 interceptions.

Walsh hasn't won the starting job going into preseason practice, although Jake Trotter of writes that he appears to be the front-runner to start on Aug. 30 against FSU in Arlington, Texas. He will compete into August with Daxx Garman and Mason Rudolph.

Walsh has the ability to beat defenses with his arm and feet. He threw for 135 yards and ran for 125 yards and a touchdown in a win over Mississippi State. He also had 326 passing yards in a win over Texas-San Antonio and 322 passing yards in a loss at West Virginia.


2. Cole Stoudt (Clemson)

2013 stats: 47-of-59 for 415 yards, 5 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 2 rushing TDs.

Stoudt played mostly in mop-up situations as a backup to Tajh Boyd. But Stoudt is a senior with experience (287 college plays), and he's thrown just one interception. He has completed 72.3 percent of his passes, and coupled with the lack of mistakes, he should be an efficient quarterback despite being a first-time starter.

The 6'4'', 210-pounder won't be able to throw to Sammy Watkins (a first-round pick of the Buffalo Bills), but Clemson has enough speed and talent at receiver, led by senior Adam Humphries (41 receptions, 483 yards, two touchdowns). This is a different Clemson team but not one that FSU will overlook when the teams face off in Tallahassee on Sept. 20. 


1. Everett Golson (Notre Dame)

2012 stats: 187-of-318 for 2,405 yards, 12 touchdowns, 6 interceptions.

Golson is a dangerous dual-threat quarterback. He may be rusty early in the season after not playing in 2013 due to academic issues, but he should be warmed up by the time Notre Dame travels to Tallahassee on Oct. 18.

Mobile quarterbacks have had more success (relatively speaking) than dropback passers against FSU in recent years. Auburn's Nick Marshall threw for 217 yards and had two passing touchdowns and one rushing score against FSU (although he completed just 14 of 27 passes). Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas threw for 298 yards with a TD pass and TD run (along with two interceptions) in 2012. Both, of course, were FSU wins.

Golson is the most talented run-pass quarterback on FSU's schedule, although he's clearly not the best pure passer. One advantage: Notre Dame will employ a fast-paced offense. Still, Notre Dame has a deep receiving corps, led by DaVaris Daniels (49 receptions, 745 yards and 7 TDs).  


Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Stats and bio information courtesy of and school websites. Follow Bob on Twitter.

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Can Bo Pelini Recruit Well Enough to Get Nebraska into College Football Playoff?

Nebraska's last championship in football came in 1997—one year before the start of the BCS—when the Cornhuskers laid a whooping on Tennessee in the Orange Bowl, 42-17. 

But as the 1990s gave way to the 2000s, the Huskers' BCS bowl appearances began to dwindle. With the College Football Playoff era approaching this season, the Nebraska program is still solid, but it's not the championship-caliber one it once was. 

If nothing else, under head coach Bo Pelini, Nebraska has been consistent. The Huskers have won either nine or 10 games per season—no more, no less—from the moment Pelini took over the program in 2008. Nebraska has even competed for three conference titles under Pelini between its time in the Big 12 and Big Ten but has yet to take home any championships. 

The question constantly facing Pelini is whether he can get Nebraska back to the days the program experienced under former coach Tom Osborne. 

What does that require? It starts, as any coach will tell you, with the Jimmys and Joes.

Coaching matters, yes. Many of the coaches who have won national championships in the BCS era (Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Les Miles) are still around. Some good fortune matters, too. Alabama would have been on the outside looking in during the 2012 national championship had Iowa State not stunned Oklahoma State. Instead, the Tide got a rematch of their regular-season loss to LSU (and won 21-0). 

But, really, recruiting is the important foundation.

It is also an inexact science, but there are two trends in recent years that indicated a program had a shot at a championship-caliber roster: home state and class rankings. 

The first is obvious. The more high school players per state, typically the more talent there is. In 2013, Football Study Hall broke down where college football players came from by percentage (from 2008-13). Not surprisingly, Texas, Florida and California were the big three. Georgia, Ohio, Alabama and Louisiana came next. Rust Belt states Pennsylvania, Illinois and Michigan rounded out the top 10. 

Lo and behold, every national champion from 2008-13 came from one of those states. Furthermore, blue-blood programs like Alabama and Ohio State are located near other recruiting hot beds like Georgia and Pennsylvania, respectively, as well. 

Not to mention, these programs recruit nationally. 

Nebraska, meanwhile, ranked 38th in the distribution of recruits. With homegrown players harder to find, the Huskers make a living feeding out of states like Florida, Missouri, Louisiana, Illinois and California. Nebraska recruited Texas far more heavily when it was in the Big 12, but that pipeline has largely dried up with the program's move to the Big Ten. 

If a program has to look elsewhere for players, it can be hard to land a top recruiting class. Sure, Nebraska has shiny first-class facilities and a top-tier tradition/atmosphere. But, as Matt Brown of Sports on Earth wrote in February, that only does so much: 

That storied history is not for nothing, but the further Nebraska is removed from that success, the less it matters. Nebraska's best claim aside from its history is its status as the only game in town, the sports team for almost everyone in the state. But that can go only so far. 

In the last five years, the Huskers have just one top-20 class—the No. 16 class in 2011—and no top-10 classes, according to 247Sports. Twice, in 2010 and '14, Nebraska finished outside the top 25. 

Now look at Florida State's, Alabama's and Auburn's classes from the five years leading up to their national championships. The difference speaks for itself. 

These rankings are all from one site, but it does provide a snapshot into how programs are recruiting. Not surprisingly, it usually reflects the state of the program. 

B/R colleague Michael Felder wrote in February that there's no such thing as an "average" recruiting class among the power-five conferences. Either a class is filled with quality additions or disappointments that will get a coach canned. That logic certainly applies to Nebraska. The Huskers' recruiting efforts have been mostly good—just not great. 

Which is all fine if a program is content winning nine and 10 games a season. Most, in fact, would love nothing more than to have that. But if a program wants to hoist a championship trophy, it can't have a top-20 class once in a while. Not without a lot of work cut out for it. 

Based on recent national champions, Pelini has a lot of work to do as a coach if he's going to overcome Nebraska's natural recruiting disadvantages. 


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports

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Alabama Football: Why O.J. Howard Will Be Team's X-Factor In 2014

On a team loaded with freakish talents at the skill positions, sophomore tight end O.J. Howard might be the key for Alabama’s chances to make it into the inaugural College Football Playoff this fall.

Sure, Nick Saban is used to having freakish running backs and wide receivers—and this year will be no different with the likes of T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Amari Cooper leading a loaded group of skill talent.

However, since his arrival in Tuscaloosa seven years ago, he’s never had a talent like Howard at the tight end spot.

Late last season, Saban commented on just how bright the former 5-star recruit’s future appears to be.

"To have a tight end like him that is certainly a threat in the passing game, either vertically, horizontally or play-action passes is really a tremendous asset for us," Saban told Andrew Gribble of "He's really matured a lot as a player and is becoming a better blocker and a good all-around player. I think that guy's going to be an outstanding tight end for us."

After showing glimpses of his potential by snaring 14 passes for 259 yards and a pair of touchdowns as a true freshman, Howard is on the verge of breaking out in 2014, as detailed by’s Chase Goodbread.

At 6’6”, 237 pounds and blessed with breakaway speed, Howard is a valued weapon who can help create a smooth transition for the new parts involved with the offense.

Specifically, new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and projected starting quarterback Jacob Coker will love the spoils that come with having a game-breaking talent like Howard at tight end.

He’s versatile enough to be flexed out wide as a receiver in certain sets, and he’s quick and physical enough to exploit mismatches against linebackers or safeties in the middle of the field.

With teams having to respect the Tide’s bruising running game, and be mindful of a receiving unit that could be the deepest segment of pass-catchers fielded by the Tide in Saban’s tenure, Howard brings a new dimension that gives defenses an almost impossible task in stopping the Tide.

Another area where Howard could make a big difference is in the red zone. Considering Alabama converted only four touchdowns out of 10 combined red zone trips in its last two games—both of which were losses—Howard’s ability to create mismatches will benefit Kiffin and his troops greatly in 2014.

The 2014 edition of the Tide are loaded for another national title run. Similar to their recent title teams, familiar elements such as a physical defense and an unrivaled complement of talented rushers are present.

However, after years of tight ends being relegated as sixth offensive linemen in its offense, Howard’s continued development may just be the difference in getting Alabama back to college football’s mountaintop.

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