NCAA Football News
Last winter, two of college football’s best programs went through a tough process at the same time. Florida and Michigan both found themselves badly needing change. Will Muschamp’s leadership had left the Gators stagnant, while the Wolverines had regressed under Brady Hoke’s watch.
It was time to make a change, and both programs did that, firing their head coaches. The programs took different routes with their hires, with Florida plucking Jim McElwain from Colorado State and Michigan waiting until the NFL regular season wrapped to lure prodigal son Jim Harbaugh back to Ann Arbor.
As we hit midseason, it’s clear, at least initially, that both hires were a success. Florida is 5-1 and ranked No. 13 in the latest Associated Press Top 25, and Michigan is just behind at No. 15 with a 5-2 mark.
In fact, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit told Justin Dacey of MLive.com recently that Harbaugh has righted a "lost" program.
"When he came back and decided to say, 'As a Michigan man, I'm going to bring Michigan back to being who they are—elite and special,'" Herbstreit said."
Which raises the question: Who’s doing a better coaching job? Let’s take a look. This is an examination of what Harbaugh and McElwain have done, not what’s ahead, given that McElwain’s job could get a lot tougher without starting quarterback Will Grier, who’s serving a one-year NCAA suspension for a positive performance-enhancing drug test.
Both programs have been extremely competitive, and neither has a “bad” loss. Combined, their three losses came to No. 3 Utah, No. 5 LSU and No. 7 Michigan State, and none by more than seven points. Michigan lost Harbaugh’s debut at Utah, 24-17 and was on the verge of beating the Spartans before a bizarre mishandled punt led to a final-play touchdown and a 27-23 defeat. Florida played LSU off its heels in Baton Rouge before falling 35-28.
While the Utah loss looked poor at the time, it has gained value by the week as the Utes have emerged as a Pac-12 powerhouse. The Michigan State and LSU losses should have similar staying power.
What are these coaches working with? They didn’t exactly inherit empty cupboards. While neither Harbaugh nor McElwain had a top-20 2015 recruiting class, per 247Sports (Florida was No. 21, Michigan No. 37), the classes’ lower rankings can be explained by the turmoil that inevitably surrounds a coaching change.
Let’s look at the previous three classes, as rated by 247Sports. In 2012, Florida had the nation’s No. 3 class, and Michigan was No. 6. A year later, Florida had the nation’s No. 3 class again, with the Wolverines right behind at No. 4. In 2014, both teams slipped a bit: Florida was No. 9 and Michigan was No. 20.
Averaged out over three years, Florida’s classes were No. 5.3 nationally. Michigan’s were No. 10. Again, that’s not too shabby, but McElwain had slightly better talent to work with.
Both programs entered with quarterback questions. Florida returned sophomore Treon Harris, who started the final seven games last season, but Grier was the more polished pocket passer. Michigan returned one-time starter Shane Morris, but Iowa graduate transfer Jake Rudock proved himself a better game manager.
Senior Trip Thurman was the only returning starter on the Gators’ offensive line, and Florida starts a graduate transfer from FCS program Fordham, senior Mason Halter, at right tackle.
Despite those issues, the Gators offense has improved from a year ago. Last fall, the Gators were No. 93 nationally in total offense and No. 104 nationally in pass offense. Now, they’re No. 86 nationally in total offense with a significant improvement in pass offense, ranking No. 49 nationally.
Michigan returned five players with starting experience on the offensive line (which struggled a year ago) but had little experience in the receiving corps, returning just five touchdown catches from 2014. And that offense finished No. 112 nationally, and No. 110 in passing offense.
This fall, the Wolverines have shown some improvement, but not as much as the Gators. With Rudock running the show they are No. 90 nationally in total offense and No. 98 in passing offense, barely in the top 100 nationally.
However, Harbaugh did inherit a strong defense that ranked No. 7 nationally in 2014, and it has been strong again this fall, ranking No. 7 nationally through seven weeks. Muschamp left McElwain a strong defense, and he has largely maintained it. A year ago, the Gators ranked No. 15 nationally in total defense, and they’re No. 22 this season.
Look at all the numbers, and it’s close. Very close. Both programs began the season outside the Top 25, and both are solidly in it now, with an opportunity to win their respective divisions (Florida is in the SEC East driver’s seat, while Michigan remains in contention for the Big Ten East).
Which coach is doing the better job? Florida’s offensive improvement, given the lack of experience on the offensive line, gives McElwain the slightest of edges, at least for now.
Both programs, however, are clearly on the road back to national prominence. Ultimately, the story is far from over.
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A huge class of 2016 recruit put himself back in play Friday as defensive end Oluwole Betiku decommitted from UCLA.
The Nigeria-born prospect made an official announcement via Twitter, citing a desire to take a deliberate, calculated approach to choosing his school:
According to 247Sports, Betiku is a 5-star prospect who ranks as the No. 11 overall recruit in his class and the top weak-side defensive end.
With a nearly 6'4", 240-pound frame to go along with speed, quickness and power to boot, the Junipero Serra High School (Gardena, California) standout has all of the makings of a future collegiate superstar.
Per Bleacher Report's Sanjay Kirpalani, Betiku has big-time aspirations moving forward as he hopes to provide for his family by making it to the NFL: "I came into the game of football just to make a way for my family. Make a way in my life and just to find a good situation. My mom and dad are still in Nigeria. My sister is over there and my brother. I want to be the breadwinner of the family one day. I feel like sports was going to be the way."
With Betiku's recruitment now wide open once again, Tom Loy of 247Sports tabbed Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, Penn State and Texas A&M as potential landing spots.
UCLA and head coach Jim Mora may not be out of the running despite the decommitment, but the Bruins will have no shortage of competition in their efforts to bring Betiku back into the fold.
Mora has done a great job on the recruiting trail of late as UCLA's Class of 2015 ranks 12th in the nation, according to 247Sports, but Betiku may ultimately be viewed by Bruins fans as the one who got away for many years to come.
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Saturday is almost here, which means you don't have much longer to set DraftKings lineups for Week 8 of daily fantasy college football.
But don't worry. We've done a little research, too.
Everybody wants to find a couple of sleepers, and the following five players are priced at $5,000 or less. Plugging them into a lineup provides a high-upside, cost-efficient option that allows flexibility.
Eric Dungey, QB, Syracuse ($5,000)
Baylor's Seth Russell will be an immensely popular play, but his $9,400 price tag likely makes the second quarterback a low-salary guy.
Perhaps the most reliable option will be Eric Dungey, who has scored at least 18.7 DFS points as the Syracuse starter. Last week, he tallied a season-high 26.5 points despite losing two fumbles.
Syracuse hosts Pittsburgh on Saturday, and it's not an outstanding matchup overall. But the two dual-threat quarterbacks the Panthers have played—Iowa's C.J. Beathard and Georgia Tech's Justin Thomas—combined for a total of 498 yards and two touchdowns.
Dungey's ceiling isn't tremendously high, but his floor is appealing.
Projection: 172 pass YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT; 68 rush YDS, 1 TD
Raekwon James, RB, Kent State ($4,300)
While Trayion Durham received the first shot at the starting job when Nick Holley went down, a sub-3.0-yard average gave Raekwon James a chance in Week 7—and he didn't waste it.
The freshman running back logged 20 carries for 85 yards, adding eight receptions for 56 yards during a five-point victory over Massachusetts.
Kent State probably can't keep up with Bowling Green's high-powered offense, but that doesn't spell disaster in the slightest. James has proved he's a pass-catching threat, and that'll come in handy when his team is inevitably trailing Bowling Green.
Although he's averaged 12.9 DFS points over the last four weeks, James has yet to score a touchdown. But this week, James will finally reach paydirt.
Projection: 71 rush YDS, 1 TD; 5 REC, 42 YDS
Keith Harrington, RB, Washington State ($3,700)
Be careful not to get overly infatuated with Keith Harrington, but he's a weekly double-digit player who can provide salary relief—and he's entertaining, too:
Just once in six games has the running back tallied fewer than 10.5 points. That's mostly because Harrington regularly contributes as a receiver, considering he has 23 catches this season.
What's most intriguing, though, is Washington State will face an Arizona defense that has surrendered 177.4 rushing yards per game and allowed a total of 15 rushing touchdowns.
Harrington should break off a couple of big runs, snag a few passes and find his way into the end zone once during a high-scoring contest.
Projection: 43 rush YDS, 1 TD; 4 REC, 37 YDS
Quenton Bundrage, WR, Iowa State ($4,300)
When Baylor steps onto the field, everyone knows what's coming: points, points and more points. But the Bears offense executes so quickly that opponents will have plenty of snaps.
And, more importantly, a team like Iowa State will be forced to throw, throw and throw some more, because Baylor will almost certainly build an early lead.
Allen Lazard is the Cyclones' No. 1 receiver, but Quenton Bundrage can rack up targets. The senior wideout has steadily improved throughout the season, which was an expected development after Bundrage missed all of 2014 due to injury.
Over the last two weeks, he's snagged 10 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. Expect Bundrage to continue his trend on Saturday.
Projection: 7 REC, 91 YDS, 1 TD
Canaan Severin, WR, Virginia ($4,100)
Similar to Bundrage and Iowa State, Canaan Severin and Virginia are bound to be trailing—probably right away, too.
The biggest difference, though, is Severin has established himself as the top receiver. Plus, North Carolina's secondary hasn't faced a player of the senior's caliber. Severin has scored a touchdown in three of his last four games.
Additionally, UNC is listed as 17.5-point favorites, according to Odds Shark. So, the Cavaliers are expected to be playing catch-up for most of the matchup, and Matt Johns really doesn't have options besides Severin and Taquan Mizzell.
Virginia won't win, but Severin will put up solid numbers.
Projection: 6 REC, 102 YDS, 1 TD
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Follow Bleacher Report CFB and DFS writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.
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