NCAA Football News

Auburn Football: Breakdown of Tigers' Schedule and Predictions for Each Game

The Auburn Tigers enter the 2015 season with loads of talent and plenty of hype as a serious contender for the College Football Playoff. 

Head coach Gus Malzahn’s team landed at No.7 in the preseason Amway Coaches Poll in addition to being picked by the media to win the SEC, which would pretty much ensure a chance to play for a national title. 

Much of the excitement around the team is warranted even though the Tigers stumbled down the stretch to an 8-5 record in 2014. Jeremy Johnson will take over at quarterback in Malzahn’s high-powered offense, and the junior is a possible Heisman Trophy threat thanks to his exceptional passing ability and the offensive weapons at his disposal. Will Muschamp also joins the program to take over a defense that finished ninth in the SEC in total defense last season. 

The road to a championship is never easy in the treacherous SEC, especially in the West Division. Auburn will have to conquer such a task, but its schedule is favorable for SEC standards. Alabama and Georgia, the Tigers’ two toughest opponents, come to Jordan-Hare Stadium, and the team plays Kentucky out of the SEC East rather than a tougher challenge like Tennessee. 

Let us now go through Auburn’s schedule and predict how the Tigers will fare this season.


Idaho, Jacksonville State and San Jose State 

Every team has its “cupcake” games on the schedule, and these three opponents are Auburn’s. 

Jacksonville State visits Auburn in Week 2, and even though the Gamecocks finished 10-2 and won the Ohio Valley Conference last season, they will still be thoroughly outmatched as a FCS team and will not be able to beat the Tigers at home. 

San Jose State and Idaho, Auburn’s opponents in Weeks 5 and 11, respectively, are in the same boat as Jacksonville State regarding a disparity in personnel. These two teams will also be tune-up games for the Tigers.


Louisville, Sept. 5 

The season opens up with a challenge against ACC foe Louisville at the Georgia Dome. 

The Cardinals impressed in head coach Bobby Petrino’s first season back at Louisville, finishing 9-4. Unlike most of Petrino’s past teams, he won with defense, which finished sixth nationally in total defense. 

That unit only returns four starters, but some big-time transfer additions should help. The defensive line adds former Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Devonte Fields of TCU, while the secondary adds former Georgia contributors Josh Harvey-Clemons and Shaq Wiggins. 

Louisville has enough surrounding talent on defense to at least stop the Tigers from scoring at will. However, the offense faces major issues. A revolving door at quarterback saw three different players start for the Cardinals, and the team still has not decided on a starter as all three return. 

In addition, Louisville loses its top three receivers and three starting offensive linemen from 2014, which will not help quell the instability at quarterback. This should offer Muschamp and his defense a prime opportunity to make a splash and create havoc with star defensive end Carl Lawson to go along with some heavy blitzing. 

Auburn has more ability, depth and proven playmakers on both sides of the ball than Louisville. It may be close early as both teams go through first-game jitters, but the Tigers should be able to take advantage of the Cardinals’ inept offense and wear out the defense. Auburn wins 28-13.


At LSU, Sept. 19 

Auburn and LSU have had a physical rivalry throughout the years, but the Bayou Bengals have dominated at home recently. 

Auburn has not beaten LSU in Baton Rouge since 1999, but that streak could be broken in 2015. 

Head coach Les Miles has again produced a loaded depth chart, particularly on defense. However, quarterback still remains the Achilles’ heel of the team. Take a look at the numbers of Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings, the two men vying for the job, in SEC play last season:

The massive inefficiencies coupled with the turnovers make LSU a beatable team in 2015, especially early on in the season when either quarterback is likely still not comfortable effectively running the offense. 

With a vaunted secondary led by Jalen Mills and a strong front seven featuring linebacker Kendell Beckwith and defensive tackle Davon Godchaux, LSU will undoubtedly be able to combat Auburn’s offense. 

Yet, Auburn will load up to contain running back Leonard Fournette and force either Harris or Jennings to win the game, which at this point would not seem likely. Auburn is able to escape LSU with a win to start SEC play. Auburn wins 20-10.


Mississippi State, Sept. 26 

A week after a grueling battle with LSU, Auburn must come right back to take on Dak Prescott and the Mississippi State Bulldogs. 

Prescott led his team on a magical season as the Bulldogs spent four weeks as the nation’s top ranked team. They also took down Auburn 38-23 in a high-profile matchup. 

The star quarterback is essentially the only key player returning for head coach Dan Mullen’s team. A whopping 13 starters are gone, and the team must replace instrumental pieces such as running back Josh Robinson and linebacker Benardrick McKinney.

De’Runnya Wilson, a strong receiver, will give a smaller Auburn secondary some issues. However, the Tigers are superior to the Bulldogs at every position outside of quarterback. Especially with the game being at Auburn, Malzahn and his team will get revenge in 2015. Auburn wins 34-20.


At Kentucky, Oct. 15 

Kentucky greatly improved in its second year under head coach Mark Stoops, going from 2-10 to 5-7 while looking much more competitive. 

Quarterback Patrick Towles will be back after throwing for over 3,000 yards last season. He will be surrounded by Stanley Johnson, last season’s leading rusher, and leading receiver Ryan Timmons. 

On defense, replacing first-round pick Bud Dupree will be a challenge, but returners such as nose tackle Melvin Lewis and safety A.J. Stamps will be able to anchor a unit that returns seven starters total. 

The Wildcats are on the rise and should be able to clinch a bowl in 2015, but they are still heavily mismatched against Auburn, even at home. 

Towles will lead a couple of scoring drives, and the home crowd will keep the game close early, but Kentucky does not have enough defensive line depth to stop Auburn’s rushing attack. This will wear down the Wildcats and create more space on the outside for star receiver D’haquille Williams. Auburn wins 38-20


At Arkansas, Oct. 24 

At this point in the schedule, this will be Auburn’s toughest matchup so far in 2015. 

Arkansas returns a powerful rushing attack headlined by Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, who each ran for over 1,100 yards and 12 scores in 2014. Add in Brandon Allen, who has the most starts of any active quarterback in the SEC with 25, and a strong offensive line and the Tigers will have their hands full on defense. 

Yet, there are two reasons Auburn can still feel good about this game. 

Firstly, Allen has been ineffective against Auburn in his career. Check out his combined numbers from two starts against the Tigers: 

Considering this in two starts, these statistics are extremely pedestrian. Arkansas has also not had much success running the football against Auburn in the last two seasons, both under head coach Bret Bielema. The Razorbacks are averaging 188 yards rushing against the Tigers while averaging 213 yards per game total in that time span. With Muschamp revamping the defense, there is not much reason to believe much will change on the ground. 

Arkansas’ defense will also be down from last year’s unit that finished second in the SEC in total yards per game. Stars such as Trey Flowers, Darius Philon and Martrell Spaight are all gone with not a great deal of experience taking their place. Seeing how Johnson carved up Arkansas for 243 yards and two touchdowns in just the first half against last year’s defense, he and the Tigers should have no issues this season. 

Auburn should comfortably outscore Arkansas on the road. Auburn wins 31-17.


Mississippi, Oct. 31 

Auburn and Mississippi played a classic last season in Oxford that the Tigers ended up winning 35-31 after a late defensive stop. 

The two teams play at Jordan-Hare Stadium this season, and while Auburn is much improved, Ole Miss is not, particularly on offense. The team does not have a quarterback, and there is definitely a possibility that the Rebels could be on their second or third signal-caller by the time Week 9 rolls around. This could slightly neutralize receiver Laquon Treadwell and tight end Evan Engram, Mississippi’s two top offensive weapons. 

The defense is still stout with the return of defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche and safety Tony Conner. The unit will likely not be as strong as last season after losing stalwarts such as linebacker D.T. Shackelford, cornerback Senquez Golson and safety Cody Prewitt. Auburn scored 35 on the Rebels last season on the road, and that number could very well be similar in 2015. 

This will be another case of one team not being able to keep pace with Auburn offensively. Auburn wins 35-17.


At Texas A&M, Nov. 7 

Defensively, this game represents the worst matchup all season for Auburn. 

Quarterback Kyle Allen leads probably the best passing attack in the SEC. He impressed after taking over as the Aggies signal-caller halfway through 2014 and finished with eight touchdowns and only three picks against SEC competition. Allen also has a loaded arsenal of weapons with receivers Christian Kirk, Speedy Noil, Ricky Seals-Jones and Josh Reynolds. 

Auburn’s biggest weakness is its secondary, and Texas A&M is the best team to exploit that. The Tigers finished 10th in the SEC in passing yards allowed per game and also surrendered 277 yards on four touchdowns to Allen at home in 2014, his first career SEC start. 

Behind Blake Countess, Joshua Holsey and Jonathan Jones, Auburn has no real proven depth at cornerback. This should be tempered a bit by this point in the season, but no team on the schedule presents the passing depth of A&M. 

The Tigers will be able to score as well. Texas A&M was the conference’s worst defense in terms of yards allowed per game in 2014, but it was still able to beat Auburn. The unit will definitely be improved with new defensive coordinator John Chavis taking over. 

With Auburn having to constantly pass to keep up with A&M, this will play perfectly into the Aggies’ strength, which is the pass rush with Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall. The Tigers will be doomed by their pass defense and Texas A&M will clinch the game with a sack on the final drive to hold on and hand Auburn its first loss. Texas A&M wins 45-41.


Georgia, Nov. 14 

The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry may only be slightly in Georgia’s favor historically at 53-51, but the Bulldogs have dominated Auburn as of late. 

Check out the results between the two teams the last four seasons: 

Notice the rushing yards racked up by Georgia. This is significant because once again the Bulldogs will rely heavily on its ground game behind Heisman contender Nick Chubb. He gashed Auburn for 144 yards on 19 carries in 2014. 

With Georgia returning four starters on the offensive line, Chubb should again have a great day running the ball. Brice Ramsey is also the favorite to win the quarterback job in Athens, per Sam Cooper of Yahoo Sports. He should be fully comfortable and entrenched at this point of the season, which makes Georgia even more dangerous offensively. 

Defensively, head coach Mark Richt’s team has some question marks in the secondary, which Auburn can exploit with Williams and Ricardo Louis. However, a disruptive front seven, led by defensive tackle Trent Thompson and linebackers Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins will keep the Tigers’ rushing attack at bay. 

If this happens, Auburn will be too one-dimensional on offense and Georgia will dominate possession with its running attack. Richt again continues his control of the Tigers, who drop a second straight game. Georgia wins 27-17.


Alabama, Nov. 28 

The Iron Bowl is always one of the best games of the college football season, and it should stay that way in 2015 with these teams so evenly matched. 

Alabama again boasts a powerful defense with a front seven anchored by defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson and linebacker Reggie Ragland and has a secondary that is experienced and extremely talented despite getting torched at the end of last season. 

Under Malzahn, Auburn has been able to handle Nick Saban and Kirby Smart’s vaunted defense. Here are the basic numbers from the last two seasons against the Crimson Tide: 

Auburn has shown it can either run all over Alabama or shred it through the air if necessary. With the plethora of weapons the Tigers have this season, they again will be able to move the ball. 

In the past two seasons, Alabama has countered with an explosive offense of its own. That is not likely to be the case now that Amari Cooper is no longer around to single-handedly dismantle Auburn’s secondary, as can be seen in the highlights below: 

Alabama currently does not have a quarterback, and there is no telling at this point how effective the position will become for the Tide in 2015. Also, running back Derrick Henry is really the only proven playmaker on the entire offense. 

Henry will have a solid game, but Auburn’s front seven will be able to keep him from running wild. Alabama’s passing game will not be enough to threaten the Tiger secondary. Plus, the offensive line is not the caliber of Georgia’s, so do not expect Alabama to follow the Bulldogs’ ground-and-pound strategy. 

Auburn will give itself a chance to win the SEC West with a win over Alabama. However, the outcomes of others in the division could keep the Tigers from a shot at a conference title and thus, a spot in the College Football Playoff. Auburn wins 28-21.


Auburn Finishes 10-2 (6-2 in the SEC)


All statistics are courtesy of

All returning starter information comes from Phil Steele's projections.

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UCLA Football: First Impressions from 2015 Fall Camp

The UCLA football team has officially started its first week of fall practice in San Bernardino. 

As is the case with the commencement of such a period, there aren't a ton of conclusions to draw from the first day. A certain bit of rust has to be eradicated, and the players should undoubtedly be a whole lot better at the end of camp when compared to the beginning. 

With that said, personnel musings dominated the initial practice. Multiple players were absent from camp for a myriad of reasons. 

This piece will delve into the first impressions from fall camp for Jim Mora and the UCLA Bruins. 

Begin Slideshow

Ohio State Football: How Virginia Tech Game Is Motivating Buckeyes in Fall Camp

The anticipation for the season-opening clash between Ohio State and Virginia Tech has been building for months.

The Hokies, fresh off of a disappointing 7-6 campaign, have been hyping the game, which will take place on Labor Day in prime time at Lane Stadium. Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer called it "the most anticipated game ever to come" to Blacksburg, Virginia, via Fox Sports, and the university has even canceled classes for September 7 in anticipation of heavy "campus traffic loads." 

But it's not just the folks in Virginia Tech's camp who are excited for the marquee showdown. The Buckeyes are also eager to make the trip south for the rare Monday night kickoff.

That anticipation stems from the 35-21 loss the Hokies handed the Buckeyes in their home opener last year in Ohio Stadium. It was the lone blemish of Ohio State's College Football Playoff National Championship season, and the Buckeyes are motivated to avenge that defeat in Blacksburg.

Proof of that came in early June when Ohio State safety Tyvis Powell posted a warning to Virginia Tech on Twitter.

On the other side of things, Virginia Tech is very aware of Ohio State's desire to get even. Defensive tackle Luther Maddy responded to Powell on Twitter, saying, "We got the same amount of time to put in work as you!"

Earlier this year, Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster told Andy Bitter of the Roanoke Times that he knows the Buckeyes will be mad when they meet on the field.

"They’ll want to score 100 points on us, I know that," Foster said. "They’ll want to beat us down. But we’ll be ready to play."

The matchup is keeping the Buckeyes focused during fall camp.

After the first practice coming out of summer on Monday, J.T. Barrett mentioned the Virginia Tech game as one that he's had circled for a while.

"You can say I have that one marked on the calendar," Barrett said, according to Bill Landis of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. "It does mean a lot to me personally being that I did play the game that we lost and I wasn't prepared."

The Hokies completely overwhelmed Barrett in last year's meeting, sacking him seven times and forcing him into his worst throwing performance of the year. Making the second start of his career, Barrett completed just nine of 29 passes and threw one touchdown against three interceptions.

And Barrett's not alone.

Speaking at Big Ten media days in Chicago two weeks ago, leaders of the Ohio State football team talked about their eagerness to meet the Hokies again.

“Looking at a chance to definitely get some payback on them,” defensive tackle Adolphus Washington said, according to Mark Berman of the Roanoke Times

Offensive tackle Taylor Decker mentioned the unique "Bear" defense the Hokies deployed that confused Ohio State and lamented their lack of preparation, vowing that it will be different this year.

“But I think if our preparation was on the same level, we’ll beat them every time,” Decker said, according to Berman.

With all the expectations and preseason hype surrounding Ohio State, Urban Meyer is thankful they have a worthy Week 1 opponent to focus on. Instead of spending time getting his team to buy into the week-to-week mentality, Meyer can get his Buckeyes to hone in on one opponent.

“The fact that you’re playing an evenly matched opponent on the road — or at some positions, maybe more talented — that gets your focus,” Meyer said, via Berman. “We have to get much better than we are at this moment to win that game.”


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

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FSU LB Matthew Thomas Reportedly Ruled Ineligible for 2015 Season

Florida State linebacker Matthew Thomas arrived on campus in 2013 with high expectations, but he has struggled to see the field and will not play a single down during the 2015 season.

Safid Deen of the Tallahassee Democrat noted that “redshirt sophomore Matthew Thomas has been ruled ineligible to play next season, a source confirmed to the Tallahassee Democrat on Tuesday.”

Deen also pointed out that Thomas was not expected to immediately contend for playing time this year because “he’s still recovering from shoulder surgery in the spring.”

Gene Williams of said that: “A Florida State source indicated that the staff is still hopeful that the redshirt sophomore will be able to return to the team next spring. If that happens, the Miami native will have two years of eligibility remaining starting next fall.”

Thomas was a 5-star recruit, per 247Sports’ composite rankings, and a major part of the Seminoles’ 2013 recruiting class, but he only played in four games in 2013 and eight games in 2014. He has dealt with injuries and off-field issues throughout his career and is yet to fulfill the expectations that surrounded him out of high school.

John Taylor of College Football Talk added more context:

To say that Matthew Thomas‘ time in Tallahassee has been adventurous would be a rather sizable understatement.  And, unfortunately, that adventure continues.

A five-star member of Florida State’s 2013 recruiting class who apparently preferred USC even as his mom didn’t, and who wanted a release to transfer to either USC or Georgia in May of that year, Thomas ultimately decided to stick with the Seminoles… and promptly saw his true freshman season wiped out by a shoulder injury.  The following season, Thomas was suspended for the first month and a half of the year because of an unspecified violation of team rules and then had ankle issues when he returned; he missed part of spring practice this year with another shoulder injury, and was ruled out of summer camp because of the same issue.

Although Thomas is less than 100 percent healthy, this is still a blow to the Florida State linebacker depth. Senior Reggie Northrup is still recovering from ACL surgery from January, and Tyrell Lyons, Ro’Derrick Hoskins, Delvin Purifoy and Sh’Mar Kilby Lane are all relatively unproven commodities and redshirt sophomores or younger entering the season.   

What’s more, the team is still waiting on the arrival of a transcript for junior college transfer Lorenzo Phillips so he can practice, per the Orlando Sentinel's Brendan Sonnone.

Florida State is still one of the best programs in the country and recruits talented playmakers every year, but this is a young linebacker core behind Northrup and Terrance Smith. It will need to step up and make plays this season without Thomas if the Seminoles hope to return to the College Football Playoff.

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Georgia Football Recruiting: Bulldogs Infiltrating Backyard of Fellow SEC Power

In landing 2017 4-star athlete Devonta Smith, Georgia head coach Mark Richt and his staff were able to pluck an elite talent out of fellow SEC heavyweight LSU’s backyard.

However, the Bulldogs may not be done in their pursuit of top prospects from the Pelican State. 

As Smith told Kipp Adams of Dawgs247, he’s close friends with 2016 4-star corner and Kentwood, Louisiana, product Shyheim Carter—who announced he was backing off a commitment to Alabama on Monday.

"Shyheim is like my brother—we have known each other since we were little," Smith told Adams. "We have always said how great it would be to play together. I think Georgia has a pretty good shot to land him, and I plan to try and get him to go there. We really want to play together."

As his Crystal Ball page indicates, Georgia is trending heavily with the nation’s No. 5 corner and the No. 51 player overall in the 2016 cycle.

Another touted Louisiana prospect who is strongly considering Georgia is 4-star offensive lineman Willie Allen—who told Scout’s Chad Simmons that he will take one of his official visits to Athens in the fall.

Allen was in Athens for the Bulldogs ‘Dawg Night’ camp last month, and the fact that they will get a return visit is a signal of Allen’s legitimate interest in the ‘Dawgs.

Both Allen and Carter are among the Top 5 prospects in Louisiana in the 2016 cycle, and Smith is one of the state’s Top 10 recruits in 2017.

While their activity in Louisiana may seem unusual, a few factors are helping the Bulldogs make in-roads in the talent-rich territory.

For starters, new Director of Player Personnel Sam Petitto—who got his start in coaching in the prep ranks in Louisiana—has been singled out as playing a critical role in building relationships with prospects from his home state, as noted by Adams.

"Sam Petitto being at Georgia makes me feel even more at home there," Smith told Adams. "I know the type of man he is, and I know he will always stay on me and never let me slide. Sam says Georgia is a great place that fosters a strong, competitive environment while also building a family environment."

Petitto is part of a facelift of Richt’s staff that has seen several new coaches come on board over the last two years.

Those new additions have helped revitalize the Bulldogs program, and have them on the verge of landing the program’s second consecutive Top 5 recruiting class. To put that in perspective, Richt has only had two such classes, in 2006 and 2009, meet that benchmark since he arrived in Athens back in 2001. 

Alabama is one out-of-state program that has had success beating out LSU for blue-chip prospects in past years.

While Georgia has some work to do in landing touted prospects such as Carter and Allen, the Bulldogs appear to be on the right track in making a dent with a handful of elite prospects in the Pelican State.


Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.



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Alabama Football: Will Lane Kiffin Be Hot Coaching Commodity After 2015 Season?

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — All rivalries are not created equal, especially when it comes to football in the Southeastern Conference.

Yet all are trumped when facing your own brother.

Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin had done that only once before last season. In 2004 he was quarterbacks coach for Pete Carroll at Southern California, and on Week 2 the No. 1 Trojans hosted Colorado State, where his younger brother Chris was a defensive lineman.

The final score was 49-0, Trojans.

Chris is now the defensive line coach and defensive recruiting coordinator for Ole Miss, which knocked Alabama out of the No. 1 spot in the rankings with a 23-17 victory last season. Think he might have said something during the annual family vacation in Florida?

“I really don’t need to, I think he understands,” a smiling Chris said, adding that he would have really rubbed it in had the Crimson Tide not won the SEC title.

“That was not a fun day,” the older brother said in response about the game. “But I did see him at the beach, and he did say something about it, so …”

Such bragging rights are “crucial” (as Chris put it) in such football families, and for a long time they were dominated by their father, legendary NFL coach Monte Kiffin, the architect of the “Tampa Cover 2” defense. Of course, another family showdown looms with Ole Miss at Alabama on Sept. 19 (9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN), but Lane could be on the verge of something special this fall. 

His history is well known. Despite being just 40 years old, Kiffin’s already won a national championship, coached a Heisman Trophy winner and has been the head coach of not only an NFL team but two prominent college programs.

However, none of them panned out as well as hoped. USC’s title and Reggie Bush’s Heisman have since been vacated, while Kiffin went 5-15 with the Oakland Raiders (2007-08) and a combined 35-21 with Tennessee (2009) and USC (2010-13).

But last season, Alabama’s offense had a record-setting year despite being led by a player who had tried running back, wide receiver and defensive back before settling in at quarterback. His mobility and comfort level playing at a faster pace helped lead to the decision to often go hurry-up, no-huddle.

“We changed what we had done for Blake,” Kiffin said. “We went to a different approach.”

Against Florida in Week 4, Sims threw for more yards (445) than any quarterback Nick Saban has ever coached and set the program record for total yards in a single game (484). He ended up breaking the Crimson Tide single-season passing record during the second quarter of the 2014 SEC Championship Game against Missouri.

Although Sims was a new starter, nearly every other offensive starter had returned from the 2013 team, including wide receiver Amari Cooper, who won Alabama’s first Biletnikoff Award for best receiver.

This year is the exact opposite. The only returning starters are offensive linemen Ryan Kelly and Cam Robinson. Tight end O.J. Howard played in every game in 2014, but with just three starts. While fans are still waiting for his breakout season, he had 17 catches for 260 yards and no touchdowns.

“It’s not Little League, where everyone gets the same amount of touches,” Kiffin said. “You saw it last year with Amari and everything being so lopsided. It came down to ‘OK, if he’s your best player, give him the ball.’

“It’s a basketball mentality. If LeBron’s got 30 at the half, you’re not going to stop passing it to him. I think Amari had 47 catches in the first quarter of games alone. Now he’s gone, so where are those catches going to go? I think O.J. could be a lot of that. He’s a very special player.”

So might be running back Kenyan Drake, who was beginning to emerge as a versatile threat out of the backfield when he sustained a fractured leg and dislocated ankle against Ole Miss. Florida discovered what a tough matchup he can be when on the first snap, Drake burned the man coverage of a linebacker for an 87-yard catch-and-go touchdown.

“I was very thankful to Kiffin for putting his trust in me to do that, and I look forward to seeing what he has up his sleeve this year,” Drake said.

However, as with the top three returning wide receivers, Robert Foster, ArDarius Stewart and Chris Black, who combined for 23 catches and 382 yards in 2014, the key word with all of Alabama’s potential playmakers has to be “potential"—even running back Derrick Henry. He’s never been the primary ball-carrier at this level.

Like last year, the winner of the quarterback competition will go a long way toward determining Alabama’s offensive philosophy, and even then it will remain a work in progress. Senior Jake Coker, who lost out to Sims last year, is the closest thing to an incumbent, and Alabama will give reps to all five contenders during Saturday’s first scrimmage of training camp.

“The one thing about Jake is that there was probably too much put on Jake right away,” Kiffin said. “You would compare it to an NFL rookie quarterback who held out because he didn’t have spring ball. People forget about that when all of the sudden the guy comes in and is supposed to be the guy.”

Consequently, should Alabama’s offense put up comparable numbers to last year, a lot of the credit will go to Kiffin, who would go back to being “the guy” for top-level job openings.

In addition to owning a football name, having been a top assistant for Carroll and Saban would be hard for anyone to overlook, especially since Kiffin, to play off his basketball analogy, didn’t do a one-and-done with the Crimson Tide.

“This chapter wasn’t over yet,” Kiffin said about the inquiries he received this past year. “There’s still so many things to learn from Coach.

“Just going into the offseason, it’s kind of like being a freshman. I’ve said that to one of our coaches. I feel like a sophomore now, where last year you’re a freshman just trying to figure it out, trying to get the scripts ready, get to practice and stuff. Now you really start to understand how and why he does it and why it’s so successful.”


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer.

Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

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Why 'Hard Knocks' Style TV Shows Are the Future of College Football

It's finally here. College football will get its own version of "Hard Knocks" during preseason camp. Fans looking for additional access will get it in the form of "A Season With Notre Dame" on Showtime this September. 

The news became official Tuesday afternoon. In a release obtained by Paul Skrbina of the Chicago Tribune, Showtime sports executive vice president and general manager Stephen Espinoza said, “The passion of the players and head coach Brian Kelly will make for a compelling television series that will appeal beyond hardcore college football fans to all viewers who appreciate great storytelling.”

Scott Roussel of first reported the possibility of Notre Dame joining teams with Showtime to create college football's version of the popular HBO show, which tells the preseason camp stories of an NFL team every year. 

As Roussel notes, this kind of unique access is a good thing for Notre Dame's exposure: 

While providing an unquestioned financial boost to the university, certainly the potentially larger boost for Notre Dame is the national storytelling the series will provide and the expected bump in appeal for the program, the coaches and its players. Under Armour won’t hate the exposure, either.

The series should provide excellent insight into how Brian Kelly coaches his team, how new offensive coordinator Mike Sanford Jr. leads the offense, and there is no doubt that a large part of the population will watch just to enjoy Brian VanGorder’s exchanges with his players.

Access in college football is tricky these days. Unlike the NFL, there's not a uniform way for local and national reporters to have access to practices, players and coaches. Many programs, in fact, have invested heavily in in-house access to provide stories and content. 

As a result, what fans see is a limited version of what actually happens in practice, let alone how an entire program is operated. 

A "Hard Knocks"-esque show for college football breaks the mold there. It probably won't be a complete peeling back of the proverbial curtain, but it should lift it enough to give outsiders a refreshing view on major college football: the position battles, the injuries, the decision-making, life as a student-athlete.  

And, as it relates to Notre Dame specifically, Keith Arnold of Inside the Irish tweets that a "Hard Knocks" type of show could be good for the program's desire to increase its exposure to recruits: 

That's not to say a prospect is going to commit to Notre Dame because of the show, but it does open up Notre Dame to someone who may not have the Irish on their radar. 

If the show is successful— notes that "Florida State was very close to agreeing with a major cable production company to produce a similar series last season"—then don't be surprised if other big-name programs line up to do something similar. 

Notre Dame is the test subject, but Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State or even Washington State could always be next. Why? All of those programs have compelling head coaches and/or star players that even fair-weather college football fans know.

Notre Dame is a good place to start because it's a storied, polarizing program that people will want to tune in to watch. But imagine watching this type of show with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh or Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. The Buckeyes specifically are loaded with star power at the moment. Coming off of a national championship, Ohio State would have been an excellent selection here, too. 

Since money talks, today's coaches (or athletic departments) would be fine with opening up practices and meeting rooms for some extra change. Television, money and exposure are all things that drive the sport. 

In that way, college football is much like the NFL. 



Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

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The Battle to Become Jim Harbaugh's Next Frank Gore

Derrick Green could hardly hide his smile.

It was Michigan media day, and the Wolverines running back had just been asked to recall the day he found out his team had hired Jim Harbaugh as its new head coach.

It wasn't necessarily an uncommon question on that day, given the excitement that Harbaugh's hiring has elicited in Ann Arbor and the past seven months, but there was something genuine in Green's nonverbal response that couldn't be seen from the Michigan players at other positions on the eve of fall camp.

And the more Wolverines running backs you talked to, the more that trend continued to emerge.

"I was excited man," Green said. "An NFL coach who definitely likes to run the ball downhill. He's going to feed his backs. More so, he's a winning coach."

"He was just in the Super Bowl two years ago, he's our head coach now," fellow running back De'Veon Smith said. "That was my exact reaction."

One look at Harbaugh's track record during his time with the San Francisco 49ers, and the optimism of Green and Smith when it comes to their new head coach instantly becomes justified. In his four seasons as the 49ers head coach from 2011-2014, the team ranked a respective eighth, fourth, third and fourth in the NFL in rushing yards per game, a stretch that included three consecutive NFC Championship Game appearances.

Even more exciting for the Wolverines running backs than Harbaugh's recent results in the run game, however, is the way he went about obtaining them.

Featuring 5'9", 217-pound running back Frank Gore, Harbaugh's teams in San Francisco relied heavily on a power run game. Harbaugh's preference for bigger backs was also proven in the 2014 NFL draft when the 49ers selected 6'0", 235-pound running back Carlos Hyde, who rushed for 333 yards and four touchdowns in his rookie season out of Ohio State.

That's good news for the 5'11, 234-pound Green and the 5'11", 228-pound Smith, each of whom possess similar power running styles. They'll compete with one another and with USC transfer Ty Isaac (6'3", 240 pounds) and Drake Jonson (6'1", 207-pounds) for carries this season, as well as the right to be the first version of Gore in Harbaugh's Michigan offense.

"It's a good thing," Green insisted. "It's competition, but at the end of the day, we're just trying to make each other better."

That might be easy to say at a position like running back, where two-player systems have been more common than not. It's not like the heated quarterback competition that's currently underway in Ann Arbor, with Shane Morris and Jake Rudock vying to become the Wolverines' starting quarterback.

But sooner or later, one would imagine that Harbaugh would prefer that a feature back on whom he can rely consistently will emerge. For his part, the first-year Michigan head coach has remained mum on the battle, saying only that it's a luxury to have as many options as he appears to.

"There will be plenty of license and plenty of opportunity for one, two, three of our running backs to assert themselves, come to the fore and be counted on," Harbaugh said. "That, we'll be watching very closely and hoping that it occurs early here in camp."

With the Wolverines having entered a "submarine"—code for "no media access"—with the start of fall camp, it remains unclear where Michigan's pecking order at running back stands. Smith, however, appears to be the de facto front-runner to be the primary back after rushing for 519 yards and six touchdowns during his sophomore season in 2014.

That may not be all that impressive, given the high standards that Harbaugh has for his run game, but it gives the Warren, Ohio, native an experience advantage over his fellow Wolverines running backs. Green, also now a junior, rushed for 471 yards and three scores a season ago, while Johnson rushed for 361 yards and four touchdowns before tearing his ACL in Michigan's season-finale loss to Ohio State.

As a freshman in 2013, Isaac rushed for 236 and two TDs while playing for the Trojans before sitting out the 2014 campaign with the Wolverines due to NCAA transfer rules.

"They're young guys, young football players who are hungry," said new Michigan running backs coach and running back great Tyrone Wheatley. "They want to play. All these guys want to play."

And if Harbaugh has his way, all of them will, although it will certainly be difficult to divide playing time evenly between the quartet. Isaac may have the most upside, but Smith and Green appear to have the inside track to the lion's share of the carries, with Johnson potentially being the odd man out as he returns from his knee injury.

Whom Harbaugh will ultimately rely on to be his next Gore won't be known until the Wolverines take the field for their Sept. 3 opener against Utah.

But if Michigan can find the same success on the ground that Harbaugh's teams did in San Francisco, it won't just be the running backs who will be smiling in Ann Arbor.


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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Strong Scrimmage Shutout Great Sign for Auburn's Defense Under Will Muschamp

When Gus Malzahn walked off the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Monday, Auburn's offense hadn't scored a single touchdown all day.

A pointless performance would probably cause the offensive-minded head coach's brain to short-circuit. After all, the Tigers have averaged at least 35 points per game during his two seasons in charge.

But Malzahn was surprisingly pleased with the outcome.

"The bottom line is the defense whipped the offense today," Malzahn said, per Brandon Marcello of "From a head coach's standpoint, I kind of like that."

Auburn reportedly ran 90 plays during its first scrimmage of fall camp, and the normally prolific offense only put up two field goals while fumbling three times.

Call Monday's scrimmage another sign of the Will Muschamp effect that has swept Auburn in 2015.

As Marcello noted in his post-practice recap, this performance is part of a growing trend under the Tigers' new defensive coordinator:

The performance by the defense is notable on the Plains, where offense usually dominates post-scrimmage headlines.

The development, however, does follow what can only be termed now as a trend for Will Muschamp's defense. The Tigers' A-Day scrimmage included only 38 total points, a stark contrast to the 58-3 score in 2014.

Whether the results translate in the season opener Sept. 5 against Louisville remains to be seen, but the early signs sure are promising for the Tigers' revamped defense under the former Florida head coach's guidance.

Muschamp's most identifiable characteristic as an assistant coach is his trademark intensity, and his defenses usually reflect that attitude out on the field.

Auburn players have remarked on the defense's physicality and intensity throughout the first few days of fall practice. On Monday, they had their first opportunity to show it in a completely live-ball situation.

"We were physical. That is something Coach wants us to be," senior cornerback Jonathan Jones said, per Ryan Black of Auburn Undercover. "I think we met his expectations today [of] being physical. We still have to improve a lot on X's and O's, but you can't beat how physical we were."

That physical nature has been lacking from Auburn's defenses under Malzahn and former coordinator Ellis Johnson. Across the last two seasons, Auburn has allowed an average of 410 yards per game.

Muschamp's defenses, however, have been elite everywhere he's been since his first stint as an Auburn assistant—especially when compared to the post-Tommy Tuberville years on the Plains.

One of the key figures in Auburn's defensive revitalization project under Muschamp excelled in Monday's scrimmage.

According to Black, Malzahn said sophomore defensive end and pass-rushing specialist Carl Lawson was "unblockable" Monday.

"You've just got to know where he's at. There's no doubt about that from an offensive standpoint," Malzahn said. "He disrupts. He's a disruptor, and a lot of times, even if he's not making the play, he disrupts stuff for other people."

Jones echoed his head coach and heaped praise on the Tigers' entire defensive line.

"Carl was great. The whole front, honestly, and that's going to help us this year," Jones said, per Marcello. "But having him back full go and out there pressuring quarterbacks, being unblockable—and the whole front, honestly, they dominated today, and I think that's really where the physicality started today, was with the front."

Monday marked Lawson's first live scrimmage since his ACL tear and subsequent surgery in the spring of 2014. He missed the entire season for the Tigers, who struggled mightily in pass rushing en route to a disappointing 8-5 record.

Lawson and the rest of the defense wasn't allowed to tackle junior quarterback Jeremy Johnson during the scrimmage, but Auburn's offensive leader still felt the effects of the strong performance.

"They were flying around, making plays," Johnson said, per Black. "They just beat us today."

Even though Johnson played a limited role in the scrimmage and the Tigers were still without top wide receiver Duke Williams due to a "discipline issue," Auburn's defensive performance is yet another sign of better things to come from the less successful side of the ball on the Plains.

And considering the amount of success Auburn has had moving the ball in game situations, one shouldn't worry about a rare scoreless performance from a Malzahn offense.

The Tigers offensive stars are already focused on rebounding from Monday's misfire in another scrimmage on Saturday.

"They definitely brought their energy today," senior wide receiver Ricardo Louis said, per Tom Green of the Opelika-Auburn News. "They brought that intensity. Offense is going to have to pick up next time we get out there."

They just know the bar is continuing to be raised by the new-look Muschamp defense.


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

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