NCAA Football News

Every Top 25 Team's Must-Win Game of 2015 College Football Season

Sure, college football's coaches and players might call every game a "must-win." It's one of the biggest go-to cliches in sports.

But that doesn't mean it's completely true. Instead, when the schedules are finalized and the rosters are set, every team has that one game that it just has to win in order to keep its dreams alive.

Here is the biggest must-win game for every team in Bleacher Report's latest preseason top 25. These games were determined by the matchup's potential implications, placement on the schedule and amount of damage a loss could do to the team's conference and national title chances.

These aren't necessarily the biggest games on a given team's schedule, even though several of them are. They are the ones that can make or break a season the most.

Agree with the must-win selection for your team? Have any other suggestions? Share them in the comments below.

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Jim Harbaugh's Impressive Recruiting Haul Just Getting Started at Michigan

Jim Harbaugh remains nearly three months shy of his debut as Michigan head coach, but he's already helped to send a frustrating 2014 Wolverines season into the rear-view mirror.

College football programs that finish the fall at 5-7 aren't supposed to thrive on the recruiting trail. That sentiment held true for nearly the first four months of Harbaugh's tenure in Ann Arbor. The former Michigan quarterback and his coaching staff didn't land a single 2016 prospect until April.

Then, in head-turning fashion, the Wolverines caught fire.

Despite starting his tenure with a 14-week commitment drought in the cycle, Harbaugh has since served notice to the college football universe. The Wolverines, now up to 10 pledges in June alone, are surging and currently sit at ninth in 247Sports' national composite rankings.

Embrace the craziness folks—Harbaugh is already making a major impact in his return to college football. 

The 51-year-old, called "the LeBron James of coaching" by a blue-chip recruit within a week of his hiring, is ruffling feathers on the recruiting trail and getting the job done. When his satellite camps—held in seven different states—were called into question by SEC coaches, Harbaugh didn't blink.

"In my America, you're allowed to cross state borders," he told George Schroeder of USA Today. "That's the America I know."

He crossed a state border on Wednesday, securing a commitment from coveted Wisconsin offensive lineman Ben Bredeson. The 6'5", 293-pound blocker, rated fourth nationally among players at the position, chose Michigan over the in-state Badgers and Notre Dame:

Bredeson becomes the highest-rated 2016 Wolverines pledge and the ninth pickup this month. Following its initial 14-week lull, Michigan's new regime has reeled in 13 rising high school seniors since April.

The haul features another pair of high-profile offensive linemen in Detroit's Michael Onwenu and Illinois tackle Erik Swenson.

Bredeson was joined a few hours later by Florida defensive back Josh Metellus, who also announced his decision on Twitter:

Michigan received a significant boost in early April, when 4-star Indiana quarterback Brandon Peters joined the class.

"I'll definitely be putting in a good word for Michigan with the other recruits and just work to sell the program," Peters told Bleacher Report at the time.

The 6'5", 205-pound passer gained a potential backfield partner five days later when local 4-star running back Matthew Falcon announced his intentions. The dynamic in-state rusher believes Michigan will make significant strides in a hurry under Harbaugh.

"They’re doing big things. They’re on the rebuilding path to get Michigan back to where it once was," he told Bleacher Report.

A bevy of commitments have followed, further highlighted by Indianapolis running back/wide receiver Chris Evans and Florida cornerback Antwaine Richardson.

Michigan, which now boasts the third-ranked class in the Big Ten Conference, may just be getting started.

Future recruiting endeavors center on several top-tier players, including No. 1 overall 2016 prospect Rashan Gary. It may come down to Michigan versus several SEC powerhouses for his pledge, and the Wolverines employ his former high school coach in Gary Partridge.

"Michigan is going to do great things in a couple years," he told Bleacher Report. "You may not see it this season, but Michigan will be an up-and-rising program soon."

Gary, a New Jersey native, is among a group of mid-Atlantic standouts seriously considering a collegiate career in Ann Arbor. Maryland offensive lineman Terrance Davis, Pennsylvania tight end Naseir Upshur and New Jersey wide receiver/defensive back Ahmir Mitchell are each considered strong candidates to land with the Wolverines on national signing day.

“(Harbaugh is) a great recruiter," Mitchell told Bleacher Report. "He’s very hands-on and doesn’t like other people doing things for him. He was with us the entire visit. It was a lot of fun checking out campus, talking and spending so much time with a coach who has such a high reputation.”

Other primary possibilities include 5-star California linebacker Caleb Kelly, 4-star Kansas defensive end Xavier Kelly and dynamic New Jersey wide receiver Brad Hawkins.

The floodgates have finally opened for Harbaugh on the recruiting trail, but this party is just getting started. Michigan is primed for a scintillating summer, and a strong start to the season should set up the Wolverines to challenge for a top-five class in this cycle.

If you thought folks at Michigan were excited when the former San Francisco 49ers head coach returned to his alma mater, stay tuned for what lies ahead.

A foundation for a new and promising future is being laid piece by piece, commitment by commitment.


Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

Recruit information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Why Satellite Camps Aren't Sustainable for Urban Meyer and Ohio State

COLUMBUS, Ohio — With a little more than seven months to go until national signing day, Ohio State has already secured 16 commitments for its 2016 class, which currently ranks third in the country.

And until today, the Buckeyes managed to put together what could be a historic haul without having held a single satellite camp.

That sentiment changed on Wednesday, when head coach Urban Meyer officially dipped his toes in water that he's admittedly uncomfortable with. Serving as a guest instructor at an FAU camp in Boca Raton, Florida, Meyer and members of his staff took part in their first satellite camp, a practice introduced to the Big Ten a year ago by Penn State's James Franklin and made polarizing by Michigan's Jim Harbaugh this spring.

But regardless of whatever success Ohio State may seemingly see as a result of Wednesday's camp, don't expect the practice to become a habit for the Buckeyes. Meyer even said as much earlier this spring, as he first revealed his program's plan to set up shop in South Florida this summer.

“Am I fan of that? Not really,” Meyer said of satellite camps, which are currently outlawed in the SEC and the ACC. “A big allure to Ohio State is getting them here on campus.”

The three-time national champion head coach went as far as to say he thinks the NCAA should altogether ban the practice of satellite camps, which sees coaches serve as guest instructors at other schools' camps typically outside of their respective regions.

But with Harbaugh upping the ante, planning an unprecedented 10-stop tour of satellite camps for the summer, Meyer saw no choice but to give it a shot.

"What happens is monkey see, monkey do. ‘They did this, so let’s go do it,'" Meyer said. "If it helps us, we'll do it."

It's entirely too early to tell whether the Buckeyes' foray into the satellite camp territory will be successful, but it's already clear that the FAU-hosted event was a star-studded affair.

According to 247Sports' Josh Newberg, some of South Florida's top prospects turned out for what would have likely been an otherwise under-attended event, including 2016 5-star defensive end Nick Bosa, 2016 4-star defensive tackle Malik Barrow, 2017 5-star wide receiver Trevon Grimes and 2017 4-star wideout Bruce Judson.

And while holding a camp on such fertile recruiting grounds certainly can't hurt Ohio State's cause, the reality is that it may just not be necessary.

Meyer and his staff had already nabbed commitments from Barrow and Judson prior to the camp and have privately felt even better about their standing with both Bosa and Grimes, each of whom is projected to wind up a Buckeye, according to 247Sports' Crystal Ball projections.

A strong presence—particularly since Meyer arrived in late 2011—is nothing new for Ohio State in South Florida, which has given the Buckeyes Joey Bosa (Nick's brother), James Clark, Johnnie Dixon and Torrance Gibson in the past four years. Ohio State's future classes indicate that pipeline won't be coming to an end anytime soon and only appears to be getting stronger.

So if the Buckeyes can attract South Florida's top talent without the help of a satellite camp, why put the effort and resources into running one?

Perhaps Meyer opted to run his first camp in an area where he knew he'd have success, a fail-safe trial that could lead to more ambitious trips into areas like Texas or California. Or maybe it was merely a move to counteract the noise of Harbaugh's "Summer Swarm Tour," which has already helped boost Michigan's 2016 class to the nation's No. 9 ranking.

But in reality, it's more likely that Meyer was just testing the satellite camp waters, giving a shot to a practice that may be banned nationwide sooner rather than later. Regardless of what his motive was, the Buckeyes head coach admitted that he already knows how he'll be judging whether or not holding a satellite camp was worth it.

“There’s easy ways to evaluate how your camp went," Meyer said. "Did you get anybody out of the camp?... Did people visit? I don’t know that."

Meyer will soon have those answers that he was seeking. But with a national recruiting base already in place and momentum on the Buckeyes' side, don't count on too many more—if any—Ohio State satellite camps to pop up in the near future.


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

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College Football Matchups We Can't Wait to Watch in 2015

The 2015 college football season is quickly approaching. If this season is anything like last season, fans will be in for some very intriguing matchups. 

Bleacher Report college football analysts Michael Felder, Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee offer which matchups they are most looking forward to. 

Which potential matchup interests you the most? Check out the video, and let us know! 

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SEC Football: Surprises from the Week 1 Opening Lines

It's June, and you're probably yearning for the fall to roll around so you can head to your favorite campus, fire up the grill and enjoy the opening weekend of the college football season.

Here's a little tease.

The offshore site 5Dimes released early lines for most Week 1 games this week, and included are several somewhat surprising spreads.

Which lines from Week 1 are most surprising?


Lots of Faith in Auburn and QB Jeremy Johnson

It shouldn't be that much of a surprise that Auburn is a favorite over Louisville in a game being played inside a Georgia Dome that Auburn routinely fills when it plays in the building. 

Nearly two touchdowns though? That's a bit much.

I'm more bullish on Auburn than most, but the Tigers still have to show off their more balanced attack with quarterback Jeremy Johnson at the helm against a Louisville pass defense that gave up just 199.6 yards per game through the air last year and had the fifth-best opponent passer rating (105.65) in the country.

On the other side of the ball, Will Muschamp was a fantastic hire for head coach Gus Malzahn, but a miraculous turnaround isn't what's expected of him nor is it necessary.

It especially shouldn't be expected in Week 1, when the Tigers are taking the field for the first time under Muschamp. You can practice all you want against the same team, but things are different when the lights come on and the jersey on the other sideline changes.

Auburn's defense only needs to be adequate for it to be in the title mix and anything more than that will be a bonus. There will be some growing pains early and that might prevent Auburn from truly hitting its stride till later in the season.

I think Auburn will win, but 13 points is way too high right now. I thought it'd be somewhere around seven, with 10 being the absolute max. That's a lot of faith in Johnson against a really good Louisville defense.


Do We Suddenly Trust South Carolina's Defense?

The South Carolina defense was a disaster last year, as it posted just 14 sacks—fewest in the SEC—and gave up 212.23 yards per game on the ground and 220.5 yards per game through the air.

Yet there the Gamecocks are, 5.5-point favorites over North Carolina on a neutral field.

Say what?

Is the presence of co-defensive coordinator Jon Hoke and junior college transfer defensive end Marquavius Lewis really going to flip the script and allow South Carolina to slow down a North Carolina offense that averaged 429.8 yards per game a year ago and returns a ton of weapons?

I'll believe that when I see it.

When South Carolina has the ball, it will be a matchup between a Gamecock unit that's a virtual unknown against a Tar Heel defense that has more holes than Swiss cheese. 

There's far too much uncertainty in this game for 5.5 points. If I had to pick right now, I'd probably pick South Carolina to win, but I'm surprised that the Gamecocks are more than a field goal favorite.


Nobody Knows What to Make of Texas A&M

The goal for oddsmakers is to get money on both sides, and Texas A&M being a four-point favorite over Arizona State screams "we don't know what to do."

If you get three points for being at home from Vegas, playing a Pac-12 team in a "neutral site" game in Houston just down the road from College Station should be worth at least 1.5 to the Aggies, right?

If you like high-scoring fun, this game will be for you.

Texas A&M has been the one of the most fascinating teams this offseason, after head coach Kevin Sumlin lured defensive coordinator John Chavis away from LSU and quarterback Kyle Allen has had to deal with the giant shadow of incoming freshman quarterback and Texas high school legend Kyler Murray.

As Phil Savage of the Reese's Senior Bowl and SiriusXM notes, that game could be the best one on the docket on opening weekend.

Because both offenses can move seemingly at will and both defenses are questionable at best, the four-point spread is basically the oddsmakers saying that they don't know what to do, will give Texas A&M a slight nod for being close to home and having Chavis on board, and will move it based on where the money goes.


Alabama's 'Holes' Are Changing the Public's Perception

The number stands out like the bat signal calling for help.

Nine new starters on offense, including a new quarterback for the Alabama Crimson Tide.

That uncertainty is a big reason why Alabama is less than a two-touchdown favorite over Wisconsin in the AdvoCare Cowboys Classic, despite the Crimson Tide boasting one of the best defensive front sevens in the country and Wisconsin undergoing a coaching change and the loss of three starters on the offensive line.

Those 13 points might seem too high, but the perception of the Crimson Tide has changed over the last two seasons. Suddenly, after high-profile losses in major bowls, they're no longer invincible, and pesky little problems like replacing 5-star players with other 5-star players is a major issue in the minds of bettors.

Don't fall into that trap.

Even if Alabama's offense doesn't come out clicking on all cylinders against the Badgers, its defense will be just fine and allow the Tide to post at least a two-touchdown win even if it has to ride its own defense to get there.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Ben Bredeson to Michigan: Wolverines Land 4-Star OT Prospect

Offensive tackle Ben Bredeson has become the latest top recruit to make his future decision public. The Arrowhead High School star will reportedly attend Michigan.  

Bredeson took to Twitter to announce his choice Wednesday: 

Coming from the offensive line capital of the world in Wisconsin, Bredeson will follow a long line of players from the state with the talent to make an impact at the college level. High-profile names like Joe Thomas and Kevin Zeitler were from the state and wound up having careers in the NFL. 

While there is still a long way to go before Bredeson reaches that point in his career, he certainly has the right background to become a star.

Oh, he's also one of the best players at his position in this class, ranking fourth on 247Sports' offensive tackle list for 2016. 

Josh Helmholdt of noted on Twitter that Bredeson is the highest-ranked player to come out of Wisconsin in nearly a decade:

The only significant flaw for Bredeson coming into college is his size. He's certainly tall enough for an offensive tackle at 6'5", but he is still at an age in which he's growing into that frame at 270 pounds. He's going to get bigger and more physical, allowing him to match college defensive ends in the strength department. 

Bredeson is also learning to control his height at the point of attack. His size makes him intimidating to high school players, but he will have to play with a lower setup at college or else defenders will be able to get around him easier. 

Even with those minor flaws, Bredeson is a dazzling offensive lineman who brings versatility. He could start at guard, where there's less pressure, before moving to tackle as he gets experience and grows into his body. The young Wisconsin native is a superb athlete with agility who can be the face of an offensive line soon. 


Recruit star ratings and rankings via 247Sports, unless otherwise noted.

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Notre Dame Stat Projections: Will Malik Zaire Put Up Dominant Numbers in 2015?

With the departure of Everett Golson, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have a new starting quarterback in Malik Zaire. 

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Adam Kramer joined Stephen Nelson as they projected Zaire's stats. 

What type of numbers will Zaire put up in 2015? Check out the video and let us know! 

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Georgia and UCLA Set Future Home-and-Home Football Series

While it's a decade away from happening, college football fans can look forward to another pair of high-profile games between the SEC and the Pac-12.

On Wednesday, Georgia and UCLA announced a home-and-home series for the 2025 and 2026 seasons. The two teams will open their campaigns in Los Angeles on Aug. 30, 2025 and then in Athens on Sept. 5, 2026.

The news was first reported by the Athens Banner-Herald's Marc Weiszer.

"This home and home series provides an opportunity for our students and fans to enjoy a great matchup of two tradition-rich football programs in two of the most iconic venues in sports the Rose Bowl and Sanford Stadium," Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said in a statement. "These games will attract significant national attention on the opening weekend of the college football season, and we are thankful to our peers at UCLA for making this series happen."

The two teams have met only twice in their history, with Georgia holding a 2-0 record over UCLA. The Bulldogs defeated the Bruins 9-0 in the 1943 Rose Bowl and 19-8 in Athens in 1983.

UCLA now has three home-and-home series scheduled against SEC opponents. The Bruins play Texas A&M in 2016 and 2017 and then pick up a series against LSU in 2021 and 2024.

This Georgia-UCLA series will be another in a growing list of notable matchups between the SEC and the Pac-12 over the next decade, which includes a couple of one-off neutral-site games.

A spike in scheduling between the two conferences is partly due to a new SEC rule. Starting in 2016, each SEC team will have to play at least one nonconference opponent from a Power Five league.

While a lot can change between now and 2025—the players who will face off in this series are currently in elementary and middle school—a series pitting two Power Five teams who are consistently in the Top 25 is definitely good news for fans of the Bulldogs, Bruins and college football.


Justin Ferguson is an on-call college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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