NCAA Football News

Back and Better Than Ever, DeVante Parker Looking Like a Top 2015 Draft Prospect

Just two games into his injury-shortened senior season, Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker has already raised his stock as a projected first-round pick for the 2015 NFL draft.

After breaking the fifth metatarsal in his left foot during an August practice, Parker underwent surgery that forced him to miss Louisville’s first seven games this year.

He hasn’t shown any lingering effects of the injury or the missed time since returning to action. Instead, Parker is playing better football than he ever has before.

A player who frequently flashed big-play ability in each of his first three seasons at Louisville, but did not consistently produce at a top-tier level, Parker has displayed the skill set of a No. 1 NFL wideout in his play already as a senior.

In just two games played, Parker already has 17 receptions for 346 yards. He had the best game of his career to date last Thursday against Florida State, in which he caught nine passes for 214 yards while going up against one of college football’s elite teams.

Assuming Parker stays healthy, he will have the opportunity to play in four more regular-season games and a bowl game this year.

Should he continue to play at the high level at which he has performed thus far, there’s no reason he can’t challenge Alabama junior Amari Cooper and West Virginia senior Kevin White to be the first pass-catcher drafted come April.

 

Spectacular Ball Skills

One does not have to work too hard to find numerous examples of Parker hauling in spectacular grabs.

A natural hands-catcher who plucks the ball out of the air, high-points the ball well and has tremendous body control, Parker has a skill for reeling in receptions that are tough for anyone, even an NFL wideout, to make.

One of Parker’s most memorable catches came in the 2013 Sugar Bowl, when he was just a sophomore, as he beat Florida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy to the end zone and hauled in an acrobatic 15-yard touchdown reception.

Skeptics might note that the catch above would not have counted as an NFL reception because he only got one foot in bounds, but it’s nonetheless an impressive display of his ability to contort his body and make a fully-extended grab.

Parker excels at spotting the ball in midair and having the ability to adjust his body to make a catch, even when it is contested by coverage. A great example of that came on the following 26-yard touchdown from Louisville’s Russell Athletic Bowl win last season against Miami.

Parker hasn’t had to make any catches with that degree of difficulty yet in 2014, but he’s looked as good as ever catching the ball, even when he has to work against coverage. One of the aesthetic catches he has already made this year was a 31-yard reception against Florida State cornerback and fellow potential first-round pick P.J. Williams.

Throughout his Louisville career, Parker has shown that he can make highlight-reel receptions and reward his quarterbacks for giving him chances to make plays.

Parker had some issues with drops early in his collegiate career, but he’s improved on those lapses. Considering the plays he can make with his hands, there’s no reason drops should be a significant issue for him going forward, as he has become a more experienced pass-catcher.

 

Physical Gifts

Parker might not measure up as the biggest or fastest wide receiver in predraft workouts, but he has more than enough size and speed to succeed as an NFL outside wideout.

Listed at 6’3” and 211 pounds by Louisville’s official athletics website, Parker is also reported to have an 80-inch wingspan, according to Mike Huguenin of NFL.com.

His height and length are a big factor in his ability to win contested-catch situations and catch passes out away from his body.

Parker has also been reported to run a 4.39-second 40-yard dash, according to Huguenin, but it would be somewhat surprising if he ran that fast at the NFL Scouting Combine.

While Parker is a fluid runner, he doesn’t stand out to be a burner.

He doesn’t exhibit a second gear downfield to enable himself to separate from a defensive back on a deep route when he fails to beat his opponent off the line of scrimmage. On overthrown deep balls, this can allow a defensive back to become the receiver on the play—and potentially make an interception—when he can keep a step in front of Parker.

That said, Parker does have enough alacrity to extend a play for a long gain when he has room to run. He made that immediately clear against Florida State last Thursday when he gained 71 yards on a catch-and-run on the opening play from scrimmage.

Parker won’t become famous for his lateral quickness or regularly making defenders miss in open space, but he has proven—especially in his pair of outings so far this year—to be a tough player to bring down once he gets going.

It appears that Parker has become stronger in his senior year, and he has been able to finish forward through tackles when running downfield. He’s also showing more ability than ever before to break free from contact and run away from missed tackles.

One particularly impressive example came against North Carolina State in his first game back this year. Parker caught a short pass, power spun through a tackle to free himself from one defender and maneuver outside away from another, then showed the balance of a ballerina as he tiptoed along the sideline to finish with a 22-yard conversion on a play that began in a 1st-and-20 situation.

 

Becoming a Star in the Intermediate Area

Despite being best known for his big plays, Parker’s bread and butter will be his ability to make plays in the intermediate passing game, an area where the receiver has shown vast improvement.

As demonstrated in the tweet below, Parker has effective, sudden footwork coming out of his stance that enables him to gain immediate separation from defensive backs on quick slants.

From slants and hitch routes to comebacks and curls, Parker’s improvement as a route-runner has been evident. Able to break rapidly with little to no wasted motion, Parker is, as Rotoworld’s Josh Norris described it, “so good at creating that sliver of separation” to get open.

It seems as though Parker, along with new Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino and offensive coordinator Garrick McGee, are increasingly understanding what the Cardinals star playmaker’s strengths are and how those can best be utilized.

One lingering area where scouts and coaches should seek and expect improvement is in Parker’s run blocking, a capacity in which he has regularly struggled despite his size. The aforementioned strength he has shown in breaking tackles should also be able to be translated to winning against defenders as a blocker.

Overall, however, Parker’s really starting to show refinement in his game and the polish to advance to the next level and continue the sudden trend of wide receivers becoming rookie sensations.

 

Comparing Parker with the Draft’s Other Top Wide Receivers

Much like the 2014 draft, which had five wide receivers selected in the first 28 picks and 12 off the board in the top 63, it looks as though the 2015 draft will also be loaded with early-round talents.

Individually, Parker has the talent of a top-20 selection. Whether he makes a run at going in the top 15, or perhaps falls into the late first round or out of it altogether, depends largely upon how he ends up comparing with the other notable wideouts in the draft class.

Amari Cooper remains the favorite to be the 2015 draft’s first pass-catcher selected, assuming he declares. Cooper is much more laterally agile than Parker, but Parker could be preferred in some circles because of height advantage over Cooper, who is listed at 6’1”.

Kevin White, at 6’3” and 210 pounds, has virtually identical listed measurables to those of Parker and is a similar prospect in many ways. White utilizes his size more effectively as a pass-catcher and blocker, but Parker is likely to test slightly better in regards to his athleticism, while he also has a more complete body of work than White, relatively unknown prior to this year.

Truly, there’s no clear-cut pick between those top three—all of them are performing at a high level and have well-rounded skill sets that make them capable of being immediate contributors in NFL offenses.

Further complicating matters are a number of other potential first-round picks who, if they enter the draft as juniors, can make a legitimate case for being one of the draft’s best pass-catchers.

Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong is another 6’3” wideout who has been highly productive and wins at the catch point with his size and ball skills.

Michigan's Devin Funchess, a converted tight end who stands at 6’5” but is also a very nimble athlete, might have the most mismatch-creating potential of any passing target eligible for the 2015 draft.

Auburn’s Sammie Coates has struggled to catch the ball consistently and run routes in his junior year, but he has explosive physical traits and as much deep playmaking ability as any wideout in college football.

There’s also USC’s Nelson Agholor, who lacks the size of the other top prospects but is a sharp route-runner who can dynamically create yardage in the open field both on offense and as a punt/kickoff-returner.

The battle to be the top receiver or simply among the top wideouts will rage not only throughout the remainder of the college football season but also into the NFL Scouting Combine and pro-day season.

How that battle will shake out remains to be seen. What should be clear is that Parker belongs near the top of the group, if not at it, should he remain healthy and continue to produce at a high level.

 

All GIFs were made at gfycat.com using videos from Draft Breakdown and YouTube.

Dan Hope is an NFL/NFL Draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.

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Michigan Football: Injuries Not to Blame for Wolverines' Struggles

When Brady Hoke confirmed that former 247Sports 5-star recruit Jabrill Peppers would redshirt this season it was another blow to Michigan’s already slim bowl chances. Peppers joins other starters in linebacker Desmond Morgan and running back Derrick Green on the shelf while Hoke tries to coax two more victories to make his team bowl-eligible.

Whatever happens over the next few games, Hoke will not be able to blame injuries for his team’s fate.

All teams struggle with lost starters and nagging ailments as the season progresses—but Michigan’s lack of depth and competent backups on offense are particularly glaring for a team that has consistently had top recruiting classes under Hoke.

Hoke shared his thoughts on Peppers’ potential impact on the team.

"We were very excited about what he brings from an attitude standpoint, his explosiveness, athleticism and the make-up speed—all the things that made him one of most recruited guys in this country,” said Hoke. “We lost a [starting] nickel or a safety.”

Peppers joins fellow defensive starter linebacker Morgan on the redshirt list.

There’s no doubt that Peppers and Morgan would have improved the defense—but the defense hasn’t been the top problem for Michigan.

The Wolverine defense has been competent (ranked ninth nationally) this season, while the offense (ranked 114th nationally) that has been truly awful.

Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier was hired to fix an offense that ranked 87th last season but is struggling with the same problems that dogged his predecessor.

Quarterback Devin Gardner, in the words of NFL.com draft analyst Bucky Brooks, "continues to be a turnover machine in the pocket.” Only four teams in the nation have more interceptions than Michigan and only five have more total turnovers largely because of Gardner.

On most teams a quarterback with Gardner’s statistics would have been benched. A move that Hoke tried with disastrous results early in the season. Backup quarterback Shane Morris experienced an injury, later diagnosed as a concussion, that engulfed the program in a firestorm of controversy.

Even without the injury, Morris isn’t ready to challenge Gardner for the starting position.

As bad as Michigan's season has been, if Gardner had been lost because of an injury it could have been even worse. Hoke and his staff have not prepared a backup for what is arguably the most important position on the team.

Morris, like Gardner, struggled behind an offensive line that is only slightly better than last year. It’s baffling that Michigan has failed to develop a better offensive line by Hoke’s fourth season.

The offensive line’s poor development is the worst indictment of Hoke’s tenure. Everything begins up front and Michigan still isn’t very good in the trenches.

The loss of Green hurts the Michigan running attack but running back is the one position on offense that does have good depth. The emergence of Drake Johnson who entered the season deep in the running back rotation proves the point.

Michigan still hopes to make a bowl game and if that happens Hoke might save his job. David Brandon may be gone but as long as an interim athletic director remains in place it’s doubtful that Michigan will be quick to hire a new coach.

But if he can’t get Michigan into a bowl game or a permanent athletic director is named then that calculus changes significantly.

Hoke had better not try to use injuries as an excuse—despite some high profile players going down the argument just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

 

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand.

Follow @PSCallihan

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Oregon Football: 2015 Recruits the Oregon Ducks Need to Land

The 2014 version of the Oregon Ducks are succeeding wildly on the field and have a chance to advance to the inaugural College Football Playoff. The Ducks are ranked No. 4 by the College Football Playoff committee and are in first place in the Pac-12 North. There’s no doubt that the success of the Ducks on the field has helped them in recruiting this season.

Oregon’s average recruiting class over the past 10 seasons has ranked No. 22 nationally, per Scout.com (h/t FishDuck.com). However, the Ducks are on a roll this season in terms of recruiting and have already had 15 student-athletes commit to the program, per 247Sports.

According to 247 Sports, the Ducks’ 2015 class is ranked No. 17 in the country and have gotten commitments from six 4-star recruits and nine 3-star recruits.

Oregon has signed four consecutive top-25 recruiting classes and is on pace to tack on another year to that streak. But there is a long way to go, and the Ducks need to add a few more prized recruits.

 

Recruits Ducks Need to Land 

The Ducks currently have the second-best recruiting class in the Pac-12, according to 247 Sports. But there are still positions that need to be filled, and the Ducks have a few star student-athletes that are interested in the program.

The two main targets remaining for Oregon are defensive ends Josh Sweat and Keisean Lucier-South.

Sweat, who is the No. 1 recruit in the entire country, is a 6’5”, 240-pound defensive end from Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake, Virginia. Currently, Sweat is down to his final five schools—Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Georgia, Florida State and Oregon.

While the Ducks certainly aren’t the favorites to land Sweat, mostly due to location concerns, they still have a shot to land the best defensive lineman in the country. Sweat is currently out for the year due to injury, but he’s still considered the most prized recruit of the 2014 recruiting class.

There were concerns that Sweat would not be making a visit to Oregon due to his injury; however, Sweat tweeted in early October that he would be paying a visit to the Ducks at some point before his recruitment is over.

The Ducks would be absolutely over the moon if they were able to get a commitment from Sweat; however, Lucier-South, another defensive end, would also be a welcomed addition to a defense that is ranked No. 105 in the country in total defense this season.

Lucier-South, who goes to high school at Orange Lutheran in Southern California, is the No. 23-ranked player in the country and is the second-ranked defensive end in the nation.

He has also nailed down his list to five schools and is considering UCLA, Michigan, Oklahoma, Alabama and Oregon.

Lucier-Smith visited Oregon last weekend against Stanford and raved about his visit."They are in the mix. I have no leader, but they are doing a great job," said Lucier-South, according to Andrew Nemec of The Oregonian. "For that visit, I'd give it an A-plus. I think Oregon will probably be there in the end, because it's a good fit for me."

The Ducks are currently recruiting Lucier-South as an outside linebacker and would likely play him in a role similar to that of current outside linebacker Tony Washington.

There are a couple of other recruits on the Ducks' radar that would be huge grabs for Oregon this season, and they mostly reside on the defensive side of the ball. Marvell Tell, a 4-star safety from Crespi High School in Encino, California, visited Oregon during the weekend of Michigan State and is the No. 4-ranked safety in the country.

When asked by Aaron Kasinitz of The Oregonianin July why he’s considering the Ducks, Tell said: "It's probably the same thing with everybody. It's the uniforms."

Two other defensive recruits the Ducks are keying in on are Malik Jefferson, an outside linebacker from Mesquite, Texas, and John Houston, an inside linebacker from Gardena, California.

 

Ducks' 2014-15 Class Looks Strong

Last weekend the Ducks picked up perhaps their strongest recruit so far this season. Canton Kaumatule, a 4-star defensive end from Honolulu, Hawaii, committed to the Ducks during his official visit against Stanford.

Kaumatule, who is 6’7”, 290 pounds, is the No. 31-ranked recruit in the nation and No. 4 defensive end, according to 247 Sports. Kaumatule was blown away by the treatment from Oregon fans last weekend while his flight was delayed in Portland on his way to Eugene.

"We had a little delay in the flight, so we had to fly to Portland first, then to Eugene," said Kaumatule, according to The Oregonian’s Nemec. "The people were so nice. I was already like, 'Oh my goodness, this is awesome.'"

Here is an analysis of Kaumatule from Scout.com national recruiting analyst Greg Biggins:

Kaumatule already has an NFL body at 6-7, (295) pounds and a non-stop motor. He's an improving athlete, very strong at the point of attack and one of the most physical linemen in the nation. He already looked like a college player when he was just a freshman and he just keeps getting better. He's relentless in pursuit and plays like his hair is on fire.

Kaumatule represents one of Oregon’s four biggest recruits this season. The Ducks had already landed Taj Griffin, an all-purpose back from Powder Springs, Georgia, Travis Waller, a dual-threat quarterback from Anaheim, California, and Alex Ofodile, a wide receiver from Columbia, Missouri.

All four players should have an immediate impact on the Ducks program, and it would not be a surprise to see all four of them on the field for the Ducks in 2015.

The Ducks are well positioned to grab another top-25 recruiting class and could even grab a top-10 or top-15 class if they are able to sign Sweat or Lucien-South.

 

Statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise stated. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise stated.

Jason Gold is Bleacher Report’s lead Oregon writer. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheSportsGuy33.

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Miami Football: 2015 Recruits Hurricanes Must Land

The Miami Hurricanes are heating up on the football field, and they'll look to continue that success on the recruiting trail.

Currently, Al Golden and his coaching staff have assembled 247Sports' third-best group in the Atlantic Coast Conference and 15th-best nationally.

Whether a particular athlete fits the system, occupies a position of need or is flat-out talented, a handful of high-school stars stand out as must-land players for the 'Canes.

Since recruiting is an ever-changing, volatile landscape, committed prospects—both to Miami and other programs—are included.

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Texas Football: 5 Matchups to Watch for Texas vs. West Virginia

The only way Texas will be able to reach a bowl this season is by knocking off a Top 25 opponent. This week's home matchup with No. 24 West Virginia would be a great move toward a strong finish.

West Virginia has been one of 2014's biggest surprises, riding its all-around offensive attack and stingy secondary to a 6-3 record, with all three losses coming against Top 10 teams. Based on that strength of schedule and a statement win over Baylor, the Mountaineers are one of the few three-loss teams left in the rankings.

That's bad news for the Longhorns, who have struggled with West Virginia's peers of late. Per The Austin-American Statesman's Brian Davis, the Longhorns are 4-19 against ranked teams since 2010, coming up empty all four times this season.

For Texas to reverse that trend, it will need to win at least three of its five key matchups. And it starts with slowing down the Mountaineers' best offensive player.

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Clemson vs. Wake Forest: Game Grades, Analysis for Tigers

Although it was nervy for a while, the No. 21 Clemson Tigers were able to pull out the victory on the road against a feisty Wake Forest team by a score of 34-20. 

The Tigers outgained the Demon Deacons 427 to 119 in terms of total offense. Signal-caller Cole Stoudt threw for 282 yards and three touchdowns on the evening. Running back Wayne Gallman chipped in with 106 yards on the ground, including one rushing touchdown and a receiving score. 

Dave Clawson's team put up a valiant effort in the loss. Undermanned, the Demon Deacons went toe-to-toe with the Tigers for three quarters—until Clemson pulled away in the fourth quarter. 

A full box score can be found here, courtesy of NCAA.com. Check out first-half grades and final grades for the Clemson Tigers. Additional analysis for position units will also be addressed. 

Clemson Tigers Analysis

Passing Offense

In the first half, Clemson didn't look to attack down the field very often. Credit Wake Forest for applying some pressure on Stoudt. However, in the second half, Clemson's signal-caller was very effective. He finished with 282 yards passing and three touchdowns. 

Stoudt began to spread the ball around efficiently to his talented receiver corps. Eight Clemson receivers caught passes on the night. Artavis Scott in particular was explosive. The freshman led the team with eight receptions for 122 yards and two touchdowns. 

 

Pass Defense

Clemson was fooled on a trick play early in the first quarter. However, the Tigers challenged the Wake Forest receivers at the line of scrimmage—daring Wake quarterback John Wolford to beat Clemson deep. On the night, Wake Forest's longest pass play went for 24 yards—and it was on the reception to Wolford from receiver Jared Crump.

Clemson held Wake Forest to 112 passing yards on 30 attempts. This is an outstanding and highly productive effort. 

 

Rushing Offense

Wake Forest did a very good job of bottling up Clemson's rushing efforts in the first half. The Tigers rushed for only 26 yards. Staying true to their usual form this year, Clemson ran the ball much better in the second half. 

Gallman finished with 106 yards on 19 carries. The team as a whole rushed for 145 yards on 37 carries. While it wasn't a banner evening, the offense got much-needed balance in the second portion of the game. 

 

Run Defense

Wake Forest entered the game as the nation's worst team running the football. On average, the Demon Deacons rush for 34.5 yards a game. In the first quarter alone, the team piled up 30 yards. Wake was actually getting a decent push against Clemson's vaunted defensive front. 

However, this quickly subsided. Pressure up front from Grady Jarrett and Vic Beasley (among others) offered little time for the ground game to get its legs going. The negative plays (via sacks and tackles behind the line of scrimmage) crippled the Demon Deacons' rushing attack. 

For the night, Wake rushed for seven yards on 34 carries. 

 

Special Teams

The muffed punt by Adam Humphries was poor. He should have let the punt go over his head, as opposed to battling a wind gust for the ball. It was exacerbated even further, as Wake Forest ended up scoring a touchdown off of the turnover. 

Kicker Ammon Lakip was solid on the evening, as he connected on both of his field-goal attempts.  

 

Coaching

The staff didn't utilize the considerable speed advantage it had on offense. Early on, there really wasn't much of an effort to test Wake Forest deep, nor was there an attempt to get the receivers in space. However, the third-down screen pass in the second quarter to Gallman for a touchdown was a very nice play call by offensive coordinator Chad Morris.

Defensively, Clemson stood steadfast in its plan to press the Demon Deacons at the line of scrimmage—while rarely mixing things up coverage-wise. 

In the second half, Morris made much more of a concerted effort to find balance on offense. By beginning to run the football with effectiveness, it opened up the passing game. The receivers were lined up in different spots, and the Tigers were able to exploit some mismatches on the perimeter.

Defensively, Brent Venables did a nice job of becoming more diverse in his coverage calls. This helped to confused Wake Forest's inexperienced offense. 

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Ohio State Football: X-Factors for the Buckeyes Against the Spartans

Urban Meyer and the Ohio State football team have had 11 months to linger on the devastating and gut-wrenching upset loss they suffered to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game last December.

This Saturday, the Buckeyes will finally get a chance at redemption when they hit the road for a prime-time matchup against the Spartans in East Lansing.

The game has huge implications for not only the Big Ten as a conference, but for the landscape of college football's first-ever playoff. Ohio State and Michigan State represent the league's best chance of making the highly anticipated postseason, and Saturday's showdown will be a pivotal moment for the conference as a whole.

Will the 14th-ranked Buckeyes get the resume-boosting win they desperately need, or will the Spartans prove themselves as the class of the Big Ten once again? Mark Dantonio's squad opened as two-point favorites early this week, but the line has jumped to 3.5, according to Odds Shark

Michigan State is getting the benefit of the doubt thanks to a home-field advantage that will certainly have an impact on a young Ohio State team. That's one of the components working in Dantonio's favor, so the Buckeyes will need to overcome a hostile road environment with some X-factors of their own.

Because when looking at these teams, it's easy to see how even they really are.

 

Mirror Images?

Dantonio and Meyer have been successful in building Big Ten juggernauts—but they reached that pinnacle from two very different paths. 

It took a few years for the Spartans to find their groove under Dantonio, going 22-17 in his first three seasons with the program (2007-09). But since 2010, Michigan State has averaged 10.5 wins per year—relying on a consistently good defense and efficient offenses led by quarterbacks such as Kirk Cousins.

Ohio State has thrived under Meyer, losing just three of its 34 games since the start of the 2012 season. The Buckeyes have buried a majority of their competition behind the strength of one of the nation's most productive offenses, but defense has been a consistent issue.

Even though both teams dropped Week 2 matchups against nonconference opponents, Michigan State and Ohio State have taken their games to another level. The Spartans offense is producing at the highest level of the Dantonio era, and the Buckeyes defense is surging under new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash.

That improvement will pin two evenly matched teams against each other this Saturday.

What will Ohio State have to do to overcome such a strong opponent on the road?

 

When Ohio State's on Offense

Meyer's top priority on Saturday night should be getting J.T. Barrett settled into the game, because the young signal-caller struggled mightily the last time he was on the road. Against Penn state in a prime-time matchup in Happy Valley two weeks ago, Barrett threw for a season-low 74 yards and tossed two costly interceptions in a seven-point double-overtime victory.

Some of those struggles can be tied to Ohio State's conservative play-calling. As the Nittany Lions rallied, Meyer and the Ohio State coaching staff buttoned things up, leaning on Ezekiel Elliott and an improving rushing attack. But Meyer knows a similar game plan won't get it done against the Spartans.

"To win this game... We'll have to open up a little bit," Meyer said on Thursday, according to DJ Byrnes of Eleven Warriors

That means Ohio State's pass-catchers will have to step up. 

During the Big Ten title game last year, senior Corey "Philly" Brown hauled in five catches for 53 yards and a touchdown. The rest of Ohio State's receivers and tight ends combined for just two catches (one each from Devin Smith and Jeff Heuerman) for 47 yards.

Barrett has been incredible at distributing the ball this season, as Ohio State has eight different pass-catchers with more than 100 receiving yards. Sophomore Michael Thomas and senior Devin Smith, who have combined for 882 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns, lead the way for the Buckeyes.

“We’re going to be ready. We know we have a great game plan coming in," Smith said, according to Eric Seger of The Ozone. "We’re going to come in (Thursday), finalize everything and just go out there Saturday and just try to be productive.” 

They'll have to be ready to overcome a challenge, because Michigan State and its eighth-ranked passing efficiency defense await.

 

When Ohio State's on Defense

When these two teams last met, Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook gashed Ohio State's beleaguered secondary with 304 passing yards and three touchdowns. 

That was against a unit that finished the year ranking 110th nationally defending the pass. That inefficiency prompted Meyer to make a change, which brought Ash from Arkansas to join Luke Fickell and the Buckeyes defensive staff.

With a more aggressive scheme, the Buckeyes have been much better defensively—especially against the pass. Ohio State ranks 18th in passing efficiency defense, 13th in passing yards allowed and is tied for seventh nationally in interceptions.

But a strong defensive line—fueled by super sophomore defensive end Joey Bosa—is helping Ohio State's young but promising secondary.

Bosa ranks fifth in the country in sacks per game and is tied for third in tackles for loss, which leads the Big Ten in both categories. He is Ohio State's most disruptive defender by a wide margin, and he'll need to be at his best against the Spartans Saturday night.

Michigan State knows the challenge Bosa presents.

"He's a great player," Michigan State left tackle Jack Conklin said, according to Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News. "You see him this season and last season, he bounces around a lot so the whole line is going to have to be ready to play against him."

 

All stats via NCAA.com.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Clemson vs. Wake Forest: Score and Twitter Reaction

The No. 21 Clemson Tigers got all they could handle from a game with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons squad before leaving Winston-Salem, North Carolina, with a 34-20 victory Thursday night.

Wake Forest entered the game winless in the ACC and a heavy underdog, even playing at home. However, midweek games have been crazy all year, and some of that magic rubbed off on the Demon Deacons.

Despite being outgained 427-119, Wake Forest remained tied with the Tigers in the fourth quarter until the Clemson offense simply became too much. The home team couldn't keep pace with the Tigers' array of weapons.

Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt started a bit slowly but improved as the game went on, finishing 27-of-42 for 282 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. His favorite receiver was Artavis Scott, who led the team with eight receptions, 122 yards and two touchdowns.

Running back Wayne Gallman chipped in 106 yards and a touchdown on the ground in addition to 43 yards receiving and another TD.

Compare that to Wake's leading offensive stars.

Quarterback John Wolford went for 88 yards and two touchdowns on 11-of-29 passing. Both TDs went to tight end Cam Serigne, who was Wake's leading receiver with 34 yards on three receptions. Running back Dezmond Wortham could only grind out 30 yards on eight carries.

By the numbers alone, Clemson dominated the game from start to finish. But the numbers only tell half the story.

The Tigers were by far the better team in the first half but shot themselves in the foot on two occasions with turnovers. As a result, Wake Forest headed into halftime tied with the Tigers, 17-17.

The Demon Deacons grabbed a 7-0 lead in the first quarter after Wolford hit Serigne for a four-yard touchdown pass. Wake Forest had a short field after cornerback Kevin Johnson intercepted Stoudt and returned the ball to the Clemson 43-yard line.

Clemson247 felt the turnover was more proof as to injured QB Deshaun Watson's importance to the offense:

In the second quarter, Stoudt made up for his mistake. After an Ammon Lakip field goal closed Clemson's gap to four points, 7-3, the senior quarterback found Gallman for an 18-yard touchdown pass to hand his team a 10-7 lead.

Here's a look, via Clemson Athletics:

The turnover bug bit the Tigers just one drive later, however. After a pass-interference penalty gave Wake Forest an automatic first down, the Clemson defense held strong and forced the Demon Deacons to punt. Tigers return man Adam Humphries then muffed the punt, and Johnson recovered the ball at the Clemson 13-yard line.

Aaron Brenner of The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina, wondered what Humphries was doing attempting to field the punt in the first place:

That turnover added to what was a great half for Johnson, as noted by ESPN College Football:

Wake Forest needed all of two plays before Wolford and Serigne connected on a touchdown strike for the second time, this one from 14 yards out, to grab the lead back from Clemson, 14-10. Serigne was the first freshman tight end to get two touchdowns in a game since 1998, per Wake Forest Football:

The Demon Deacons' advantage was short-lived. Stoudt once again responded. He led an impressive 12-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a four-yard touchdown pass to Scott. The Tigers enjoyed a 17-14 lead with 27 seconds left until halftime.

But that was just enough time for Wake Forest kicker Mike Weaver to line up and connect on a 50-yard field goal as the half expired to tie the game. The 17 points were the Demon Deacons' highest first-half total all year:

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was blunt in the assessment of his team, per ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy:

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee took a look at the first-half stats and couldn't believe that the two teams were tied:

Clemson failed to create much separation in the third quarter too. Lakip hit a 39-yard field goal to put the Tigers ahead 20-17 five minutes into the half, but they couldn't pad the lead any more. Clemson's offense was moving the ball better and not turning it over, but it still couldn't find the score that would break the game open.

After missing a 54-yard attempt in the third, Weaver tied the game in the fourth quarter from 31 yards out with 11:08 to play.

Those three points helped bring the Demon Deacons back into the contest and build some confidence among the Wake Forest faithful.

Then, on the first play from scrimmage on the ensuing drive, Scott went 68 yards on a pitch-and-catch from Stoudt.

Scott's big-play ability was exactly what Clemson needed to shake itself back to life. ESPN.com's David Hale is already looking to the future, during which he sees Watson and Scott anchoring the Tigers offense:

Clemson doubled its lead, 34-20, on its next drive, with Gallman punching it in from 30 yards out. Although Wake Forest had 6:36 left to tie the game, the final touchdown broke the Demon Deacons' spirit.

Although Clemson continues looking up at the unbeaten Florida State Seminoles in the standings, the Tigers' win at least keeps them in the hunt for one of the six big New Year's Day bowls. The Orange Bowl reserves a spot for the highest-ranked ACC team not going to the College Football Playoff, which in all likelihood will be Clemson.

On the other side, Wake Forest's journey to its first conference win won't get much easier. The Demon Deacons play North Carolina State, Virginia Tech and Duke to wrap up the regular season.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Marcus Peters' Updated 2015 NFL Draft Stock Following Dismissal

Washington Huskies cornerback Marcus Peters was dismissed from the team on Thursday for a violation of team rules, as reported by Adam Jude of The Seattle Times.

Peters is arguably the top prospect at his position, presuming he chooses to enter the 2015 NFL draft. In light of his dismissal from Washington, it appears forgoing the final year of his collegiate eligibility is the best course of action for the redshirt junior.

However, The Seattle Times' report states that Peters clashed with the Huskies coaching staff multiple times. His dispute with an assistant during Wednesday's practice, combined with missing practice Tuesday and arguments with his superiors amid Saturday's win over Colorado, led to his dismissal.

As talented as Peters may be, what should turn out to be his final college coach, Chris Petersen, won't exactly be giving NFL talent evaluators a glowing endorsement.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller explains why Peters' solid, first-round stock may not budge despite an alarming, abrupt conclusion to his Huskies career:

CBSSports.com draft expert Dane Brugler expressed similar sentiment in his analysis:

Gil Brandt of NFL.com is on the other side of what should be some heated Peters debates in the coming months:

The good news is that prospective NFL suitors don't have to concern themselves with Peters getting injured for the remainder of the season.

As long as he stays in shape during his gridiron hiatus and can convince teams in pre-draft interviews that he simply couldn't coexist with Petersen, Peters shouldn't fall out of the first day.

Peters' ability to play press coverage translates well to the NFL, where he'll need to be physical right at the point of attack due to the plethora of illegal contact and defensive holding penalties called. It also helps that he tackles well and doesn't shy away from stepping up in run support.

This unfortunate Washington episode should also offer Peters some extra motivation to exonerate himself if there are any lingering, negative sentiments about how he'd jell in an NFL locker room. Teams that need help in the secondary should be running to the podium if Peters falls to them in the draft.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Football: 2015 Recruits Vols Must Land

As an encore to his seventh-ranked class in his first full season as Tennessee football coach, Butch Jones has pieced together an even more dynamic, versatile class in the 2015 cycle.

The Volunteers currently have a group of 26 prospects that is ranked fourth in the nation, according to the 247Sports. It also features more 5-star prospects (three) than anybody else.

But just because this class is clearly among the best doesn't mean UT is loaded at every position.

Hammering out an exact number of players Jones wants has been a practice in futility each of the past two seasons. Last year, UT brought in 32 players. So, while one would think that means the Vols would have a smaller class this year, it hasn't been the case.

Not only do the Vols already have more than the 25 commits that teams are allotted to sign, but they're actively recruiting several more players—a couple of which could really put this class over the top in terms of talent.

From elite skill-position players to need-meeters across both lines of scrimmage, the Vols have myriad options out there and remain high on the list of some of the nation's top players.

Let's take a look at the six players UT needs to sign in the next three months leading up to national signing day.

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