NCAA Football News

Antonio Williams to Wisconsin: Badgers Land 4-Star RB Prospect

Wisconsin has landed its next potential star at running back. Antonio Williams announced his commitment to the Badgers on Thursday, choosing them over co-finalists Auburn, Duke, Notre Dame and Georgia.

Benjamin Worgull of had the report:

A 4-star recruit from North Stanly (North Carolina) High School, Williams was considered a lock to attend Wisconsin for much of the process. 247Sports' Crystal Ball projections gave the Badgers an 82 percent chance of landing the commitment as of Thursday morning, with Georgia (12 percent) and Auburn (six percent) the only others receiving consideration.    

Wisconsin hosted Williams for his unofficial visit for its 34-24 victory over Minnesota on Nov. 29. An impressive trip to Madison undoubtedly left the Badgers an even bigger advantage; Williams very publicly bemoaned having to leave the campus:

Of course, that's all without mentioning their recent run of pro-ready running backs. Melvin Gordon is well on his way to a trip to New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. Gordon has rushed 2,260 yards and 26 touchdowns heading into Saturday's Big Ten Championship Game and is considered a potential first-round pick, per

Wisconsin has produced at least one 1,000-yard rusher each of the last six seasons. Gordon will look to join Montee Ball and James White as the recent Badgers who are rumbling on Sundays. 

Auburn is the only other finalist that could boast about its recent running back success. Tre Mason, a Heisman finalist last season, is currently the starting running back for the St. Louis Rams. Notre Dame is one of the most storied programs in the country and Duke appears on the rise, but the line of logic is clear as to why most expected Williams to become a Badger.

Listed at 5'11" and 210 pounds, Williams is North Carolina's third-best player in the Class of 2016. Only outside linebacker Keion Joyner and defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence are higher on 247Sports' composite rankings. As a junior, he rushed for 2,852 yards and 36 touchdowns, per 247Sports. Competition level will be a bit of a question given the disparity between Big Ten play and his local high schools, but Williams appears to be developing into a star.

He doesn't boast elite speed but runs with a decisiveness and can overpower smaller defenders. Much more Ball than Gordon in terms of his downfield burst, Williams will need to prove he can handle elite college speeds before he becomes a contributor.

That said, he's still more than a year away from arriving in Madison. Thus far he's proven himself quite adaptable. 


Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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Cardale Jones' Performance vs. Wisconsin Will Decide Ohio State's Playoff Hopes

Ohio State's playoff hopes were broken as soon as J.T. Barrett's ankle was. 

At least that's the common perception. 

The selection committee's job is to determine the best teams moving forward. Sure, the Buckeyes have won 10 in a row and scored 40 points in eight of those games, including a 49-37 thrashing of No. 8 Michigan State. But losing one of the most dynamic players in America at the most important position on the field changes things significantly. 

OSU is an unknown entity without Barrett, and with several teams deserving of the top four spots, the selection committee will find it difficult to advocate rolling the dice on the Buckeyes, who feature such a glaring variable. 

Fortunately for Urban Meyer, whose playoff hopes were already falsely terminated twice this season (once after Braxton Miller's injury, another after Barrett looked terrible in a loss against Virginia Tech), he still has a week to convince the committee of his team's merits for the top four.

Or perhaps more accurately, Cardale Jones has a week to do the convincing. 

The odds are stacked against him. He's a sophomore with 19 career pass attempts and very little game experience. Even Barrett, who we now know is as talented as anyone in the country, struggled to quickly acclimate when he was thrown into the fire. 

But Jones is no slouch. He's 6'5" and 250 pounds with athleticism and a rocket arm. While he isn't as quick, elusive or as accurate as Barrett, he is a physical, dynamic threat who can thrive in Meyer's offense. 

"Cardale is a great player," Barrett said, via's Austin Ward. "I honestly feel like if I wasn't starting this year, Cardale would have done the same things I did this year. Cardale is that talented. He definitely can do it."

While that's pretty basic teammate-speak, Jones has the perfect stage to put his talent on display. 

No. 12 Wisconsin, one of the hottest teams in the country, has won seven in a row and allowed just 17.6 points per game over that span. The game is also on a neutral field, and it's an opponent Ohio State has yet to play this season. 

The Buckeyes were already expected to leap-frog into the top four with a Big Ten championship win, which would vault them to 12-1. If Jones lights up the Badgers and leads his team to a statement win in arguably its second-most difficult game of the season, that's enough proof to suggest a major drop-off just isn't coming. 

Whether or not that happens is a different question entirely. But let's not erase Ohio State's playoff hopes quite yet. 

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Beware: This Isn't the Same 'Soft' Oregon Team

The assumption, even now, is that Oregon will eventually fail.

It’s why a team with all of the essential components—headlined by a create-a-player under center, a youthful bowling ball at running back and a wide receiver-consuming star at corner—is still soaring under the radar as it prepares for Arizona.

Everything is bright, quick and impossible to miss, and yet, we choose to miss it. Although Oregon has traveled light-years in the past decade while operating at lightning speeds, it still hasn’t earned our collective approval.

That can change this weekend when the Ducks plays for revenge, a Pac-12 championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff. Also on the line is an opportunity to silence all narratives that this team has been unable to shake.

“Internally, everybody probably knew what the perception was after losing to Stanford in back-to-back seasons and that overall style,” Andy McNamara, assistant athletic director for communications at Oregon, said. “It is kind of contrasting from a big-picture standpoint, but on both sides of the line we have guys who are pretty nasty.”

McNamara is not your typical university employee. Like everything else at Oregon, his title comes with flash. McNamara is a mouthpiece for the football team, releasing a weekly video on the Oregon website that highlights the latest happenings in the program, the Pac-12 and relevant national stories.

As part of this, McNamara watches a lot of football and, in particular, Oregon football. He has seen more than his share of immensely talented Eugene teams since arriving in 2005—the highlight being a three-point loss in the national championship back in 2011.

Over time, he has also watched the reputation of the program chameleon-ize: from the good (the facilities, the wins and the obvious national rise) to the bad (the idea that Oregon is still somehow “soft” or incapable of winning higher profile games with its unique style).

“It’s not a label that’s going to be easy to shake as long as we continue to put up points,” McNamara said. “We come across this perception all the time that it’s some gimmicky offense and the defense is sort of along for the ride. This is a really complete team in every facet.”

Oregon has the opportunity to showcase its completeness to the College Football Playoff selection committee on Friday. As the No. 2 team in the current Top 25, the Ducks will lock up a playoff spot with a victory over Arizona. They’re also in contention for the No. 1 seed.

On October 2, the night Arizona walked off the Eugene turf following its 31-24 victory, this end-of-season scenario never felt feasible, not after another crushing disappointment.

The Ducks, coping with substantial injuries to the offensive line and relying heavily on youth, had ample excuses as to why they were unable to overcome Arizona, a team that proved its worth over the course of the season.

Regardless of the circumstances attached, the “Same Ol’ Ducks” headlines poured in; narrative prevailed yet again.

Only days later, the offensive line started to return some key pieces, which helped Oregon power past UCLA the following weekend. Then the youth who struggled early on started to develop. Then Oregon hit its stride.

Since falling to Arizona 31-24 more than two months ago, the Ducks have averaged nearly 48 points per game and outscored their opponents 333-163.

“I think they’ve gotten more comfortable with some of the new guys they have in key roles, and I think they’ve gotten healthier in certain spots,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. “But they were really playing well before we played them. Now they’ve just been rolling right by people. In all three phases they’ve just been dominating.”

Rodriguez, like the rest of the football universe, can’t help but marvel at some of the things Marcus Mariota does with the ball in his hand. At the same time, his defense—led by the spectacular Scooby Wright, a Heisman contender in his own right—has been able to keep the quarterback in check its past two meetings.

Mariota’s health along with the health of those trying keep him upright played a role in these games. With that fine print considered, the Wildcats have found a formula most Pac-12 teams are still searching for.

26% of Marcus Mariota's turnovers in his college career have come against Arizona. 3 INTs and 3 fumbles.

— Daniel Berk (@DSBerk) December 1, 2014

Still, Rodriguez understands the obstacle ahead. The trick to shutting down Oregon begins in the most obvious of places. It’s also easier said than done despite the promising track record.

“I think Marcus has been one of the best quarterbacks in the country since probably the day he took his first start,” Rodrigeuz said. “If you didn’t have to play him, you’d love watching him. In my opinion, he’ll win the Heisman.”

Mariota, however, is not alone in his offensive efforts. The newest piece to the Oregon machine, running back Royce Freeman, has made a splash in his first season on campus. If you’re looking for a singular piece that single-handedly destroys all notions of being “soft,” look no further than the 229-pound true freshman.

Freeman has emerged as one of the most dangerous threats in the conference. He didn’t burst onto the scene out of the gate, although the timing of his surge should come as no surprise. As Freeman got going so did the Ducks.

“It was one of the runs against UCLA where it started to click,” Freeman told Bleacher Report in October. “I broke a good amount of tackles and finished a run hard. Every time I get the ball I need to have that attitude.”

Since the loss to Arizona, Freeman has hit the 100-yard mark in five of seven games and totaled 98 and 99 yards in the other two matchups. He’s also found the end zone 12 times, pushing his total touchdowns to 17 in his first season. His emergence as Stanford antidote has shown up in plenty of other situations.

The defense—as McNamara so aptly stated above—has remained the forgotten piece. While you won’t confuse Oregon with Stanford, the play has outperformed the perception yet again.

For the second consecutive year, the Ducks are No. 2 in the Pac-12 in scoring defense. In the past month, Oregon has given up more than 20 points only one time.

Defense will never be the bedrock of this team’s identity, even with a player like Ifo Ekpre-Olomu patrolling the back end, which will undoubtedly be tested on Friday. It also doesn’t have to be, at least not with the way this particular team is constructed.

This is by no means a perfectly balanced group, although no such team exists in 2014. Since its one and only loss to Arizona in October, however, Oregon has had the look of the sport’s most dominant team.

“Obviously there are a lot of guys who were a part of that,” head coach Mark Helfrich said. “Anytime you do something for a second time or you see somebody across the country do something you don’t want to repeat, hopefully you’re learning from those situations.”

The topic of revenge will be sold in (and throughout) the Pac-12 championship in bulk. With both teams vying for a playoff spot, however, no further motivation is necessary. That doesn’t mean you won’t be tired of the term halfway through the second quarter.

The reality, however, is that Oregon’s loss to Arizona earlier could end up being a blessing in disguise. While it originally drove a tired narrative home, it also served as a valuable turning point at a time when Oregon was still finding itself.

“I think the best thing that might have happened to us this year was losing that game to Arizona,” McNamara said. “Not that we were sloppy or played awful in that game, it really just refocused the team. They began to play a little bit looser and with more confidence, something that has continued to build since this season has gone on.”

Operating with a style that has made it unique and remarkably successful, Oregon will look to free itself of all narratives on Friday night. To do so it won’t suddenly change what got it to this point, nor should it.

"Dealing with success is sometimes harder than dealing with defeat," Helfrich said. "I think that’s been equally impressive."

With the necessary tweaks in place and the likely Heisman winner fully operational, Oregon will stay the course and incorporate the smaller, finer changes to its already successful blueprint. The overall identity of this team has not shifted.

It still wants to move as fast as it possibly can—faster than anyone it plays against. It wants to bloody teams with touchdowns and destroy scoreboards in tremendous and destructive fashion, operating in the most high-tech and eye-popping threads on the planet.

The new plan looks a lot like the old plan, which might ignite familiar reservations. There's only one way to change that.

Label this team, if you dare, at your own risk.


Adam Kramer is the College Football National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

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Big Ten Championship 2014: Preview, Predictions for Ohio State vs. Wisconsin

The Ohio State Buckeyes enter Saturday's Big Ten Championship Game with an outside shot to qualify for the inaugural College Football Playoff. Standing in their way are the Wisconsin Badgers in what should be an epic matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Prior to the Buckeyes' victory over archrival Michigan last week, OSU figured to enter this conference-title clash with a big edge at the quarterback position. Unfortunately, J.T. Barrett, who did so well in Braxton Miller's stead, fractured his ankle versus the Wolverines.

That leaves former third-stringer Cardale Jones tasked with making his starting debut for the Scarlet and Gray on just about the most pressure-packed stage fathomable. Good luck, young man.

Below is an overall preview of Saturday's showdown, along with several predictions as to how Jones will fare, how the game will unfold and a final score projection.

Note: Statistics courtesy of




Ohio State Leans Heavily on Ezekiel Elliott

One may glean over the general statistics prior to the Big Ten title kickoff and be led to believe the Buckeyes have no chance to run on a Badgers defense that concedes just 3.03 yards per carry.

Bear in mind, though, that all of Wisconsin's ranked opponents that have run the ball well have been so one-dimensional that it could load the box and focus most of its efforts on clogging running lanes.

Jones must keep the Badgers secondary honest. With how dangerous the likes of Jalin Marshall, Michael Thomas and Devin Smith are in space, that shouldn't be too much of a challenge with the wide throwing windows the Buckeyes' spread system generates.

Then it's up to Elliott to pound the rock. OSU's strapping sophomore is an explosive, 225-pound ball-carrier who showed off his breakaway speed on a 44-yard touchdown run that sealed the Michigan win.

Big Ten Football notes how ball control will probably go a long way in determining the conference champion:

The Buckeyes' trademark read-option should also be effective, as Jones offers some serious might of his own at 6'5" and 250 pounds. It's going to be a far more physical festivity for Ohio State's offense than the speedier runners Wisconsin will deploy in an effort to knife through its adversary.

Don't be surprised if Elliott racks up close to 200 yards on the ground, depending on how often Jones keeps the ball. Based on how thin the Buckeyes are at QB, they'd probably prefer Elliott to be the predominant workhorse as is.


Melvin Gordon Continues to Shine

As bruising and toll-exacting both Elliott and Jones should be on Wisconsin's front seven, the big Badgers offensive line should do its fair share of brute-force combat in the trenches.

That will allow the likes of Gordon—holder of the NCAA single-game rushing record for one week, as outlined in the video above—to use his electric speed to rip off yards in chunks.

Elliott couldn't help but gush about Gordon, via OSU's official athletics department Twitter:

It doesn't seem to matter what opponents do. All Gordon does is find the end zone with regularity to bail out an odd, two-QB system that prevents Wisconsin from being a truly elite team.

Ohio State is just 40th in rush defense, so it figures to have a tough time dealing with arguably the best tailback in the game. The key will come down to stopping Tanner McEvoy on quarterback keepers to diminish the multifaceted nature of the Badgers' rushing attack.

Should Gordon not have success, Corey Clement is also a force to be reckoned with, as he's compiled 830 yards rushing and eight TDs of his own. Wisconsin's backfield depth will keep both primary backs fresh, contributing to a tight contest.


Cardale Jones Upstages Wisconsin QBs, Leads Buckeyes to Win

It's amazing to ponder that Jones, despite the huge stakes, such little experience and prior status as the No. 3 option on the depth chart, may be superior to the Badgers' two best signal-callers.

But it isn't too much of a stretch. McEvoy, who had played safety for Wisconsin the year prior, beat out previous incumbent Joel Stave in a QB competition before the 2014 campaign commenced.

McEvoy is now deployed as a rushing specialist because he has some of the least natural accuracy you'll ever see out of a college quarterback.

Ohio State can almost always presume McEvoy won't be airing it out when he's on the field, considering he has 21 carries and one passing attempt in his past four games. Meanwhile, Stave has been serviceable but not spectacular despite being complemented by an amazing runner in Gordon.

The good news for the Badgers is that Stave is coming off a big performance in the team's most recent win over Minnesota (11-of-18 passing, 215 yards and two touchdowns). However, he'll face a far tougher pass rush led by Buckeyes star Joey Bosa, as OSU ranks tied for 11th in the nation with 37 sacks.

Jones is facing a fourth-ranked scoring defense in Wisconsin, but as mentioned above, he'll have Elliott to lean on and brings his own blend of power and athleticism as a ball-carrier. It's feasible to believe that Ohio State will beat the Badgers at their own game, though it will be close thanks to Gordon's brilliance.

The deck is stacked against Jones. Even a decent outing under the circumstances may be skewed due to the difficult challenge Wisconsin's defense poses.

Although the numbers may not be all too aesthetically pleasing in the end, that Jones could come in and finish off a Big Ten title would have to help the Buckeyes' cause to ascend one spot into the Top Four.

It's on Ohio State to keep Gordon in relative check, make sure McEvoy doesn't get loose on the ground and to apply pressure on Stave to force turnovers and grind out a win in Indy. Based on the Buckeyes' better all-around talent on both sides of the ball and superior plus-five to minus-two turnover margin, they get the winning nod.

Prediction: Ohio State 27, Wisconsin 24

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5 Most Important College Football Recruiting Visits of Week 15

National signing day is now just two months away, putting pressure on college football programs to stockpile talent. It's also crunch time for high school prospects, who must determine where they plan to spend the next stage of their playing careers.

Campus visits carry more weight with each passing week, and there are several worth watching in the coming days. Here's a look at five key recruits expected to embark on meaningful trips.

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Pittsburgh Football: (Sun) Devil They Know Is No Better Than Devil They Don't

Much has changed for No. 17 Arizona State in the three weeks since Bleacher Report national college football columnist Greg Couch hailed head coach Todd Graham as "The Smartest Bad Hire in College Football History."

Not much has changed for Pitt, however, in the three years since Paul Chryst took Graham's infamously vacated job. But I refuse to throw Chryst under the team bus for another regrettable regular season without making Graham grab a wheel.

At one point, ASU was 10 spots above its current spot in the AP poll, and the snake who got on the first plane to Tempe stood an outside chance of slithering into the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Then suddenly, Steel Citizens who couldn't find Corvallis without the aid of Google Maps most assuredly danced on the Sun Devils' grave by the pale moonlight as Oregon State, and later Arizona, knocked them out of Pac-12 contention.

Those spiteful Pitt fans haven't had as much to cheer about locally, save for transcendent individuals like ACC Player of the Year James Conner. Even with the nation's No. 4 rusher, the Panthers had to claw the bottom of the barrel for wins over Syracuse and Miami just to "achieve" a fourth consecutive 6-6 regular campaign and token bowl bid to be announced Sunday.

As recently as Week 12, ASU under Graham has become something that Pitt has not been under Chryst—relevant—hence the horn-tooting. But does he really deserve to be called a "smart bad hire"? Can ASU really have its devil's food cake—see what I did there—and eat it?

Graham should be judged on all his deeds, not just the ones that headline The State Press sports page. Certain deeds belie whatever genius a man possesses.

Couch said, love him or hate him, it's time to resign ourselves to the notion that Graham was "the right guy" after all. Just like Woody Hayes was the right guy for Ohio State...until he punched Charlie Bauman.

Just like Bobby Collins was the right guy for SMU...until his brazen cheating KO'd that whole program.

Just like Joe Paterno was the right guy for Penn State...until...well, you know.

"Graham is not a study in disloyalty or anti-commitment as people have labeled," Couch wrote.

Thirty-six months and 2,048 frequent-flyer miles ago, he was given a position of authority with which he loudly presented himself to his players as loyal. Those players, coincidentally, were then stabbed in their collective back by a small man with a red pitchfork.

There are over 120 teams in the FBS, filled with student-athletes working their tails off year-round in good faith because they all want to win just as badly as Graham does. Yet he decided one innocent group of student-athletes was more deserving of professionalism than another.

Isn't that the essence of disloyalty?

That decision exacerbated Pitt's ongoing run of mediocrity by stunting players' recruitment, development and, above all, trust. Chryst has simply tried to make the you-know-what sandwich left in his lunch pail more edible.

"Sure, he has done some sneaky things, treated his players poorly," Couch continued. "But coaches shouldn't be expected to stick around in any job longer than they want, longer than it seems like the right place to be."

Well, if nothing else, Graham has certainly demonstrated a better understanding of the new American way than his counterpart. Chryst has spent the last three years recruiting players who will love his program unconditionally and weeding out those who won't. Those who stick have come to expect their devotion to be reciprocated.

Oh, that unpatriotic scoundrel!

Seriously, though, if it's too big to ask for a grown man tasked with setting an example for young men to say what he means and mean what he says, then what does that tell you about the sorry state of his profession?

What does it tell you that Chryst doesn't see it that way?

"He isn't even a symbol of the greed of college football," Couch said of Graham. "He is just a guy who has left a job as soon as a better one came along. Be honest: You would do the same thing."

That's not what Chryst did. He humbly battled through his first year at Pitt with—generally speaking—an island of misfit toys. When his alma mater needed someone to replace Bret Bielema, just as some Pitt fans contracted Here-We-Go-Again Syndrome, Chryst publicly reaffirmed his commitment to their team.

One guy turned down, presumably, a dream job (as opposed to a "dream job") for the greater good. One guy did the polar opposite.

There will be blood on the hands of athletic director Steve Pederson, with whom Graham butted heads, unless Chryst wins at Pitt as consistently as Graham has at ASU.

Still, if you were Pederson, and you had a program-changing and potentially career-defining decision to do over, which personality would you put in charge?

One of the first players to take advantage of Chryst's open-door policy at Pitt was beleaguered quarterback Tino Sunseri, who was once called out publicly by Graham for an "average" performance after throwing for 419 yards in a win over Connecticut. 

When he would share stories with Chryst about his relationship with Graham, the two men could be heard sharing boisterous laughter.

Sunseri, following a wildly inconsistent junior season, had become a lightning rod for all Pitt's struggles. Sometimes it was called for, as Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook wrote at the time, but sometimes, as was the case with Graham's put-down, it wasn't. 

Under Chryst, Sunseri quietly threw for the second-most single-season yards in school history, and he threw 271 straight attempts without an interception at one point.

Lost in the disappointment of Chryst's .500 lifetime record at Pitt is the fact he got Sunseri's successor, Tom Savage, a hard-luck journeyman, to the NFL.

Though neither was a program savior, this noteworthy pattern continued as new starter Chad Voytik improved steadily this season.

The redshirt sophomore, who threw for 15 touchdowns against seven interceptions, registered seven TDs and just two picks in the second half of this season, while boosting his completion rate by almost 10 percent.

Voytik finished the regular season a respectable 30th among FBS passers with a 143.8 efficiency mark.

Chryst has not yet put a finished product on the field, as his vulnerable and inexperienced defense has demonstrated this year.

But between the annual maturation of his quarterbacks, the increased stubbornness of his offensive line (which has allowed fewer than half as many sacks as last year), the eye-popping playmaking of receiver Tyler Boyd and Conner's aforementioned accolade (or should I say, "ACColade"?), it's clear he's getting closer.

Furthermore, he's doing it with the youngest team in major college football. While Voytik's recruitment, retrospectively, might have been the only redeeming quality of Graham's stint, Chryst's recruiting classes are starting to bear fruit.

Highlighting his next one will be cornerback Jordan Whitehead of nearby Central Valley High School, arguably Pennsylvania's top prospect.

Fans bemoaning the decline of the program since the Dave Wannstedt era have to realize the program will be better off once Chryst has what Wannstedt had at his peak: a team chiefly featuring upperclassmen and boasting NFL-caliber talent at multiple positions.

That is not to say Pitt shouldn't be on a better trajectory than it is now. Every game—with the exception of that historically nightmarish homecoming date with Georgia Tech—was within the Panthers' reach. 

Losing at home to Akron is indefensible for all involved. Chryst's butchery of what should have been a quality win over Duke also underscores the growing pains he's been through as a game-day coach.

Graham, meanwhile, is coming off a 9-3 regular season with his own 11-man senior class that, along with Pitt's, is one of the least voluminous in the country.

"I don't mind growing pains if we're growing," Chryst said to flagship radio station 93.7 The Fan (KDKA-FM) midseason. "But if we're just going through pain for the sake of pain, not real smart."

Next year, Pitt needs to start showing tangible signs of growth. It wouldn't hurt if whatever defensive talent Chryst has to work with, such as Whitehead, starts making beleaguered coordinator Matt House look like an overnight genius.

Otherwise, Chryst's legacy will be tainted, and Pederson's seat should be piping hot, if it isn't already.

But for now, the pen is still very much in Chryst's hand. And we should be more forgiving of this coach, who came to town with a plan and stuck to it while holding players to rational standards, than the copperhead who bolted for The Copper State when he realized what he wanted wouldn't just be handed to him.

Pittsburghers, thirsty as a desert-dweller for the glory days, were willing to drink Graham's Kool-Aid. To hear a man make bold, "high-octane" promises who did not appear allergic to expectations was their ultimate refreshment after years of seeing their team underperform, or sometimes, barely perform at all.

Now that Graham has left with "speed, speed, speed," dealing with the mild-mannered Chryst has been an ironically nice change of pace.

One of my most vivid memories of working for the flagship for four years was its coverage of Graham's clandestine exit.

Late-night host Chris Mueller invited listeners to play "Name That Press Conference," a satirical game in which callers were asked to properly identify out-of-context yet eerily similar sound bites from Graham's introductory conferences at both Pitt and ASU.

Weekend host Bob Pompeani actually booked him on his show to give him a chance to account for himself. Graham backed out at the last minute, doing so—fittingly—by shooting Pompeani a text message that read, "That chapter of my life is over."

I'd like to believe that in another three years the book on Chryst will be easier for Pitt fans to digest. I'd also like to believe both Graham and his apologists will still appear vindicated. But it's not how you start. It's how you finish.

ASU, as Couch corroborated, has divorced itself from any previously harbored skepticism and made its marriage to Graham a happy one. I understand completely. I'm just bracing myself for the messier divorce that will ensue when Graham contrives a way to alienate that fanbase too.

If you're one of the fans who doesn't care how sausage is made, you can call Graham a "smart bad hire" until proven otherwise. If you're a true Pitt fan, you can call him addition by subtraction.

I can only wonder what he'll be called when the next "dream job" beckons.


Statistics courtesy of, and the University of Pittsburgh Athletic Media Relations Office. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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Which 5-Star Recruit Is Top Priority for New Florida HC Jim McElwain?

Jim McElwain, newly hired head coach of the Florida Gators, has his work cut out for him in his attempt to turn around the Gator program. Florida has many needs, but none more pressing than at offensive line. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder was joined by beat writer Nick de la Torre to get a better feel for Florida's recruiting situation. 

What is Florida's biggest need?

Check out the video and let us know! 

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Florida State's Mario Edwards, Jr. First Showed Glimpse of Talent vs. GT

Mario Edwards, Jr. arrived on campus before the 2012 season overweight. The nation's top defensive end prospect had eaten his way out of potential playing time and it appeared a possibility that he would redshirt.

And then All-American Brandon Jenkins was lost for the season in Week 1 with a foot injury. While trying to slim down, Edwards would see some playing time as a reserve. But then another defensive end, Tank Carradine, suffered a torn ACL in the final regular-season game.

Edwards had his chance to not just play but start in the ACC championship game against Georgia Tech.

"That was my coming out game," Edwards said. "For me to do it in college was definitely big. I came in overweight, and for me to get my weight down and then go out and have a good game was definitely a confidence boost for me."

Edwards had seven tackles that day, helping limit Georgia Tech's triple-option offense to 183 yards on 52 carries. FSU needed a run-stopping defensive end, a player who would "set the edge" and not let any Yellow Jackets run wide and find green grass.

He did just that in his first start. It was something he had done on Friday nights but never in college.

"He played one heck of a football game for us," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "You saw the potential and what he could be. To go out and perform like he did, in that game, was huge. And I think it really kicked his career off."

Now a redshirt junior, Edwards has developed into an All-ACC defensive lineman. He has 41 tackles and 11 tackles for loss going into Saturday's ACC title game against Georgia Tech.

The Yellow Jackets' triple-option offense is tricky, featuring far too many potential ball carriers for a defensive player to watch in the moments after a snap.

"You have four people in the backfield that can touch the ball at any given time and it's all tricks," Edwards said. "There are so many things you can do. If you're not assignment-sound or reading your keys, it will mess you up."

Current Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas didn't play in the 2012 game against FSU. But Thomas has run for 861 yards and five touchdowns this season, leading the Yellow Jackets in rushing when he's not handing the ball off.

"He's shifty," Edwards said. "He's a real fast quarterback. He does good with faking it and then pitching it. You will guess that he's doing something and he'll make you pay for it."

Bob Ferrante is the lead FSU writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. Stats courtesy of, or FSU game notes.

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Recruiting Awards for the Top 2015 Defensive Tackle Recruits

The 2015 class of defensive tackles is deep and talented. Distinguishing which player is the absolute best is a tough task with each recruit possessing specific skills sets needed to excel at the college level.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down the skills of all the top defensive tackles of the 2015 class.

Which defensive tackle listed will make the most impact at the next level?

Check out the video and let us know! 

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10 Biggest Surprises of the 2014 College Football Season

Anyone who says they predicted even a few of the craziest things that have happened during the 2014 college football season is 1) a major fan of chaos and 2) probably lying.

The long offseason leaves plenty of time to guess what's going to happen during the fall, but while some things are easy to project—Nebraska will win nine games, Navy and Georgia Tech will run for a bunch of yards and at least one team ranked high in the preseason will fall way short of expectations—there will always be far more occurrences during the season that come as huge shockers.

The 2014 season was no different, as on a weekly basis something happened that had us all saying variations of "wow!" But looking at it from an overall perspective, here are the 10 biggest surprises of this season, ranked based on how unexpected they were either before the season or as the campaign progressed.

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5-Star CeCe Jefferson and Other Florida Recruits React to Jim McElwain Hire

Florida entered a new era Thursday when it finalized an agreement with former Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain. Despite success in Fort Collins, it's his former employer who recruits are most familiar with at first glance.

"He's coached under [Nick] Saban, so he has the experience," 5-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson told Bleacher Report.

The coveted Sunshine State standout is one of several prospects who've surveyed a tenuous situation in Gainesville during the past year. With Will Muschamp's star dimming as the 2014 season progressed, plenty of pledges jumped off the bandwagon while others held back commitments to see how things played out.

“When recruits my age were growing up, we saw that team dominate," Gators tight end target Daniel Imatorbhebhe said. "It was Tim Tebow running over people, Percy Harvin making big plays and just a ton of success. That’s not really how guys see the team anymore, and it's probably held them back from picking up some big-time players.”

So, is McElwain the man who can return Florida to those dominant days?

“I honestly don’t know much about Coach McElwain. I’m not even really sure what he looks like," Imatorbhebhe admitted. "Now that his hire is official, I’m going to start looking into it."

Star Tampa receiver commit Auden Tate was a bit more blunt.

“I’ve never heard of him," he told Luke Stampini of 247Sports (subscription required).

McElwain is a relative mystery man to most Florida prospects. SEC squads don't often cross paths with Mountain West Conference members on the recruiting trail.

Still, everyone respects victories, and those are exactly what he racked up at Colorado State. McElwain collected 18 wins during the past two seasons with a program that managed just 16 in the four years that preceded his arrival.

“I’ve heard that [Florida athletic director] Jeremy Foley doesn’t settle for anything but the best," Imatorbhebhe said. "If that’s the guy they wanted all along, then that means it was probably for a very good reason."

Foley explained the characteristics that drew him to McElwain on the team website.

"He has recruited the South and the state of Florida and has spent time coaching at the highest level in the NFL [with Oakland]," he said. “He has an engaging personality and is someone who can connect with a variety of audiences, and he operates with a high level of integrity."

McElwain's resume includes a four-year stay at Alabama, where he served as offensive coordinator during two national championship runs. Running back Mark Ingram earned the 2009 Heisman Trophy as a centerpiece in his attack, while Trent Richardson emerged as a finalist for the award two years later.

Both became first-round NFL draft selections—a rare feat for today's top college rushers.

Early benefit of the doubt is easier when your track record includes successful work with a legend like Saban, as Jefferson alluded. Recruits aware of his background appear impressed.

If you’ve done your research on him, he’s a great hire," Florida offensive lineman commit Tyler Jordantold Andrew Spivey of "He’s a good offensive mind who has coached at the highest level before.”

Imatorbhebhe believes his accomplishments as an assistant command respect.

"He had a lot of success at Alabama and helped Saban win championships," he said. "That's pretty strong, and it's definitely a good sign for the Gators."

McElwain must elevate the team's on-field performance to validate the hefty price Florida paid for his services, but first the focus shifts toward a 2015 recruiting class that has fallen apart.

The group rapidly eroded during Muschamp's final campaign and currently includes just nine pledges. It rates 61st nationally in 247Sports' composite class rankings, listed below the likes of Louisiana Tech and San Jose State.

McElwain has two months to turn things around and salvage a successful signing day. His sales pitch should center on an opportunity for recruits to return a proud program to prominence, so the next eight weeks will speak volumes about how high school stars view Florida's new leader.

"We'll see what he's bringing to the table," Jefferson said.


Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report national recruiting analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Ohio State vs. Wisconsin: How to Solve the Melvin Gordon Problem

COLUMBUS, Ohio — After watching film of Wisconsin in preparation of this weekend's Big Ten Championship Game, Ohio State linebacker Curtis Grant was left with one question: "Are we playing the Green Bay Packers or are we playing Wisconsin?"

This isn't a "Could Kentucky beat an NBA team?" scenario, but Grant's confusion between his college opponent and its professional counterpart isn't unfounded.

Watching the Badgers run the ball, it's easy to mistake them for an NFL squad—between both their star running back and the players blocking for him.

With only conference championship weekend standing between now and the presentation of the Heisman Trophy, Bodog (h/t Odds Shark) lists just two players with odds to take home college football's most prestigious individual award.

One is Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who's favored to take home the trophy with odds of 1-10.

The other? Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon.

The Badgers back's 5-1 Heisman odds are well-deserved, too, seeing as Gordon leads the nation with 2,260 yards and 26 rushing touchdowns.

He also lays claim to the greatest single-game performance of any Heisman candidate, rushing for an NCAA record-breaking 408 yards and four touchdowns in Wisconsin's Nov. 15 win over Nebraska. That's the type of performance that the Buckeyes are dreading on Saturday, the type that keeps them up late at night longer than the unproven nature of first-time starting quarterback Cardale Jones does.

For Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, Gordon's evisceration of the Cornhuskers conjured up memories of former Michigan running back Tim Biakabutuka, who gashed the Buckeyes for 313 yards when Fickell was a defensive lineman at OSU in 1995.

"I've been a part of one that's not been like that and I don't ever want to relive it," Fickell said. "I know as a defense, there's never any more of a sick feeling than to see things like that."

If there is anything that can give the Buckeyes defense confidence heading into Saturday's showdown, it's that while Wisconsin has seemingly always been well known for its rushing attack, Ohio State has had recent success bottling up the Badgers.

Two years ago, it was Montee Ball headlining the Wisconsin run game as an 1,800-yard rusher who would go on to be a second-round pick by the Denver Broncos. While he rushed for 191 yards in the Buckeyes' 21-14 overtime victory, it took him 39 carries to do so and he only managed to find the end zone once.

Last season, Ohio State got its first look at Gordon as a feature back, holding the then-sophomore to 74 yards in a 31-24 Buckeyes' win.

In fact, OSU limited the Badgers to just 104 yards in the last meeting between the two teams—well below Wisconsin's per-game average of 283.8 rushing yards in 2013.

"You look at last year, you look at two years ago, they've had great running backs there," Fickell said of the Badgers. "We've had success against it. It comes down to playing team defense."

But while the Buckeyes have been able to do just that recently against the Badgers, the same can't be said about their last month of the season. Starting with its Nov. 8 statement win over Michigan State, Ohio State has endured a disturbing trend of allowing big games to the Big Ten's stable of talented running backs.

It was on that day that Spartans back Jeremy Langford gashed the Buckeyes for 137 yards and three touchdowns. A week later, Minnesota's David Cobb ran for 145 yards and three scores in OSU's 31-24 win.

Indiana's Tevin Coleman tallied 228 yards and three touchdowns against the Buckeyes, and even Michigan's Drake Johnson ran for 74 yards and two touchdowns before tearing his ACL in the third quarter of last weekend's rivalry game.

Altogether, Ohio State has surrendered an average of 199.5 rushing yards per game in its last four contests.

So how does a struggling rushing defense contain the nation's best running back? Do the Buckeyes even have a chance to do so? Fickell insists they do.

While Gordon has rushed for 100-plus yards in all but one of the Badgers' games this season, the Ohio State co-coordinator has seen teams limit the 6'1", 207-pounder's big-play ability. Fickell knows that he'll need to get a similar effort from the Buckeyes this Saturday in order to keep Ohio State in the conversation for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

"The teams that have done as good of a job as they can—even last week [Minnesota] didn't let him out," Fickell said. "If you can force him to stay inside, you know he's going to get some yards, but you've got 11 guys that have to help get his ass down."

Buckeyes cornerback Doran Grant stated OSU's game plan is even simpler than that.

"Pursue him and get him on the ground," the defensive back answered when asked how the Buckeyes can stop Gordon.

Isn't that easier said than done?

"That's what we have to do," he replied.


Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Mike Riley to Nebraska Is the Most Shocking Silly Season Hire in Recent Memory

There were no planes tracked and no advance intel of back-room conversations. Just as the ink dried on Jim McElwain’s contract at Florida, Nebraska turned the football world on its head with one unanticipated social media bomb.

#Huskers, help us welcome Coach Mike Riley to the Big Red family! #GBR

— Nebraska Huskers (@Huskers) December 4, 2014

Mike Riley, the 61-year-old Oregon State lifer and In-N-Out Burger enthusiast, is Lincoln bound. Even if that news came provided with ample warning, it would still require some time to mull over. Given the unexpected nature of the announcement, however, it’s even more shocking that this is who the Cornhuskers’ quickly tabbed as Bo Pelini’s replacement.

Not since Jim Mora’s hire at UCLA has the "Silly Season" so aptly lived up to its name. Then again, the hiring and firing season in the college football world didn’t acquire its title by chance. It was crafted as a result of mind-blowing, perception-alerting moments just like this.

There is the question of fit and timing when it comes to this hire—items that will be addressed momentarily—but the release of this news is what jumps out most, at least initially.

At a time when no rumor (legitimate or manufactured) goes unexplored thanks to the influence of social media, Nebraska somehow controlled its own messaging. It then relayed this information through the outlet that has changed the process entirely—Twitter.

Although the book is still out on his ability to hire and fire coaches, we know now that athletics director Shawn Eichorst has a fabulous poker face. Not only did he keep a high-profile hire completely under wraps—beyond a brief blip on the radar with Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema—but Eichorst managed to lure away a program fixture and a beloved personality from a post many, including myself, thought he would never leave.

Riley started his first head coaching stint at Oregon State back in 1997. After only two seasons, Riley left for the NFL, where he coached the San Diego Chargers. He also latched on with the New Orleans Saints as an assistant before returning to Corvallis in 2003. For the past 12 years—an eternity in the ever-changing coaching world—Riley has led Oregon State.

Even through ups and downs, it felt as though Riley would remain at the program for the foreseeable future. There was no reason for either side to make a change, not given the expectations and the obvious comfort on both sides. Results certainly could have been better—especially in recent years—although they also could have also been much worse.

That popular notion vanished on Thursday in one unexpected blast. In making this change, Riley will leave behind a program with nominal expectations for a school trying to rekindle its national power status.

It’s why Pelini, who was serviceable at worst, was relieved of his duties to the surprise of many. The apparent friction within university walls between the coach and the administration (and the fans, for that matter) played a significant role in this decision, as well. The person tasked with making the change confirmed as much when he announced the change.

"I think we gave coach [Pelini] ample resources and ample support," Eichorst said, via Mitch Sherman of "We didn't meet expectations, both on and off the field."

Riley is, in many ways, the opposite personality of the man they just let go. Riley is loved and respected by all, as was evident in the rave reviews handed out by media members when the hiring was announced. Whether he can deliver similar results—or better yet, something more—remains a great unknown.

Heard #Nebraska was determined to hire a "really good guy who ppl in the community would like" well, Mike Riley is that. Otherwise, stunning

— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) December 4, 2014

It is unfair to compare Riley’s and Pelini’s records over the past four years side by side, not when you take into account the vast differences in philosophy and overall resources at the two schools. You have a much better chance of succeeding in Lincoln for a variety of reasons, and leaning on records alone is unfair to the parties involved.

But Riley’s recent underwhelming seasons shouldn’t go unrecognized, either. Although there’s no doubting his ability to lead a program and develop talent, Riley has finished with a record below .500 in three out of the past five seasons.

His record against quality opponents—an enormous catalyst for Pelini’s undoing—also leaves plenty to be desired.

Per @brandonlvogel, Mike Riley is 4-21 against Top 10 teams, 14-41 against Top 25. #Huskers

— Erin Sorensen (@erinsorensen) December 4, 2014

It has been a struggle for Riley against premier competition, but that doesn’t mean the same trend will carry over. He will have access to means he’s never had before, at least not on this level. He’ll be given more money to assemble a staff, and he’ll be able to offer up a much more powerful brand and sales pitch on the recruiting road.

There are all the pieces in place for this plan to work brilliantly and for Riley’s record output to skyrocket back to the expected threshold.

It all makes complete sense on the surface level, and yet, it doesn’t lessen the shock of this unexpected marriage. From the delivery, to the fit, to the timing—this was a move we never saw coming.

Long live the Silly Season.

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Lane Kiffin's Contagious Sideline Swagger Rubbing off on Alabama Players

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Lane Kiffin’s Alabama career could almost be summed up by three GIFs and Vines.

There was Alabama’s touchdown to Kenyan Drake against Florida, Kiffin’s first “wow” moment as an offensive coordinator:

There were his fist bumps with Alabama players after an early touchdown at Tennessee:

And then there was the Vine heard ‘round the Iron Bowl, where Kiffin throws his hands up in celebration well before Blake Sims even let go of a 39-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper:

Those three moments almost perfectly encapsulate Kiffin’s brief time in Tuscaloosa: his brilliant play-calling and scheming; his ability to relate to his players in a way few coaches can; and his brash confidence that everything he does will work.

It’s created a perfect storm on offense for Alabama this season that’s allowed it to have one of the most prolific years in school history. The Crimson Tide’s offensive weapons are getting the ball, sometimes in creative ways. There’s no question the Lane Kiffin experiment has been a success.

And it’s gotten his players’ attention. Even they’ve seen those moments.

“He brings a lot of energy,” center Ryan Kelly said. “That little thing on Vine that’s been going viral, he’s so excited. He’s a great offensive mastermind. I think that’s why he was so excited. He knew it was going to work. He’s got all the confidence in all 11 guys he has out there on offense. To play for a guy like that, it’s great. It builds momentum for the offense the entire game.”

You don’t have to go too far back to remember a time when Alabama’s offense was known for clamming up and getting too conservative at times.

Fair or not, under offensive coordinators Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier, the Crimson Tide were known for a steady rushing attack with some play action and other passes thrown in.

That perception couldn’t be more different under Kiffin.

"I've been begging the offensive coordinators around here to open it up since I've been here," Saban lamented the Monday after an offensive explosion against Florida. "Jimbo Fisher was the best offensive coordinator I've ever had that ever did what I wanted to do. And everybody wants to run the ball. Now, we've always had a very good team to run the ball. And we had a very good defense, and it was really smart to play the way we played.

“Now, we have more skill players that are good perimeter players, and I think we are doing what we need to do on offense to take advantage of that. Lane does a really, really good job of taking advantage of what players can do. I think that has benefited us so far this season.”

Setting aside the crazy notion that Saban couldn’t get somebody on his staff to do something he wanted, it’s easy to see why he could have been frustrated.

He’s had weapons like Julio Jones and Amari Cooper and other explosive skill players with capable quarterbacks to get them the ball. It was a detriment that cost Alabama at times, like in the 9-6 overtime slugfest Alabama lost to LSU.

Kiffin hasn’t succumbed to that pressure to keep things conservative. He’s opened up the offense and resisted the temptation to go into a shell when things aren’t going well.

The Auburn game was a perfect example.

He dialed up two long touchdown passes to Cooper, a player he knows nobody can cover.

And he knew it was going to work, even when everything was going against Alabama, as millions of people watching on TV and social media saw.

“Coach Kiffin goes with the game, with the flow,” wide receiver DeAndrew White said. “He has fun with us on the sideline and makes adjustments when we need to make adjustments. When he calls a play, he expects a touchdown on each play he calls.”


Marc Torrence is the Alabama Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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How SEC Fans Should Feel About Missouri Now

Remember when Missouri was still considered an outsider in the SEC despite having the SEC logo stitched on its jerseys?

"The other school" in the latest round of conference expansion announced its presence in the SEC with authority, winning the SEC East in its second year in the league and then following it up with another division title this season.

Missouri wasn't the known commodity three years ago, but now it's known for one thing—winning.

Winning even when nobody gives it a chance.

Winning the way the Tigers want to play.

Winning in the toughest conference in America.

Last year, Missouri came out of nowhere to win the SEC East thanks to SEC co-defensive player of the year Michael Sam and Kony Ealy getting pressure off the edge and a secondary that capitalized on mistakes. On offense, a veteran cast of quarterback James Franklin, running back Henry Josey and wide receivers L'Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas joined forces with superstar Dorial Green-Beckham to lead the Tigers to Atlanta.

With all of those stars gone, Missouri was bound to regress to the mean in 2014.

Until it didn't.

All Missouri has done this season is produce a defense that's second in the SEC in yards per play (4.60), post the conference's second-best turnover margin (0.75), limit opponents to just 19.7 points per game and find enough offense to get the job done.

"Our players, obviously, they know what's going on," head coach Gary Pinkel said on Sunday. "They watch TV, they hear things. Certainly, they're competitors, and they have a lot of pride in who they are. I think our players drew off of that a little bit, the underdog, maybe not getting the respect that you want to. I think that's OK a little bit."

It's not OK, though.

Pinkel has coached Missouri teams that have won 10 or more games in five of the last eight seasons across two conferences. His offense is flexible enough to boast the nation's ninth-best rushing attack—as it did in 2009—or air it out as it did last season with what looked like three NBA power forwards playing wide receiver.

His defense, coached by Broyles Award finalist Dave Steckel, finds ways to generate pressure even when superstars walk out the door.

It's a team without superstars that's coached by superstars.

"We do a thing called 'Mizzou Made' here," Pinkel said. "We think we've developed players as good as anybody in the country. We have a plan and infrastructure set in to do that, professionally, personally, academically, player development. We have our system. It's a system that I learned from Don James when I was a coach with him at the University of Washington."

It's time to recognize Missouri for what it is—an SEC East power.

While it's true that the Tigers have only one SEC win over a team that finished the season over .500 over the last two seasons, it's still the only program that has taken advantage of a "down" SEC East.

Georgia couldn't do it with Todd Gurley, a veteran linebacking corps and a small village of talented wide receivers. South Carolina couldn't do it last year with No. 1 overall draft pick Jadeveon Clowney, the best quarterback in program history in Connor Shaw and stud running back Mike Davis. Florida couldn't do it with one of the most talented defenses in the country.

Missouri did despite not paying much attention to star value.

"I've never looked at a recruiting ranking since I've been coaching," Pinkel said.

That's absolutely coachspeak for most, but for Pinkel, it's a way of life.

Missouri is well-coached, efficient and flexible.

That's a recipe for success whether it's in a tough division or not.


Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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The Biggest Disappointments for Texas A&M in 2014

The Texas A&M football team had a disappointing regular season in 2014, with a 7-5 record overall and a 3-5 record in the SEC. There were multiple issues on this team that led to such a disappointing record. 

The Aggies were a very young team in 2014. That youth was a major reason why they lost five games. The Aggies should be an improved team in 2015 if they address some of the issues that plagued them this season. 

Building a football program is a fluid process. The Aggies and head coach Kevin Sumlin are three years into that process. They have enough talent in place at every position to compete in the SEC, but they need to continue to add talent at certain positions to be an elite program in the SEC. 

They also need to make some changes on the coaching staff. This is a look at some of the biggest disappointments during the 2014 season for the Texas A&M football team. 


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Replacing Bo Pelini with Mike Riley Is Hard for Nebraska Fans to Understand

Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst has found his guy. His name is Mike Riley.

Riley hails from Oregon State, where he has been the head coach for the last 12 years. He was also at Oregon State as the head coach briefly in 1997 and 1998 before heading to the San Diego Chargers. He returned to the Beavers in 2003.

When the news broke, the emotions were mixed. Some Huskers fans were elated while others were unsure of what to think.

What has fans the most confused is a statement Eichorst made during the press conference after Bo Pelini had been fired.

"Although we did win a bunch of games, we didn't win the games that mattered the most," Eichorst said.

That's an interesting quote to focus on, too. Pelini did struggle to win the big games for Nebraska, like both Michigan State and Wisconsin this past season. However, Riley's record at Oregon State doesn't exactly look significantly better.

As Hail Varsity's Brandon Vogel noted (via Phil Steele), Riley is 4-21 against teams ranked in the Top 10 and 14-41 against teams ranked in the Top 25. As for Pelini? He was 9-17 against ranked opponents during his time at Nebraska (he was 9-14 to start the season, per The Wall Street Journal).

Looking solely at that, fans are scratching their heads. However, it's not the whole story, as Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel noted:

And that is something worth considering. Riley, a defensive back for the University of Alabama in the early 1970s, was well-respected by fans and media. His demeanor, as Omaha's 1620 The Zone's Damon Benning noted, is something to pay attention to:

Additionally, Riley brings a lot to the table as far as recruiting is concerned, as noted by Barton Simmons of 247Sports.

"At Oregon State, Riley and his staff have developed a great reputation as evaluators and developers of talent," wrote Simmons. "Brandin Cooks was heading to UCLA, with a possible future as a defensive back, until Oregon State landed him as a future first-round draft pick at wide receiver."

The ability to recognize talent and recruit it will be incredibly important. It also doesn't hurt that he recruits well in the state of Texas, as's Max Olson pointed out:

Hiring Riley is likely hard for fans to wrap their heads around just yet. Eichorst did an impeccable job of keeping the news under wraps, which made the news even more surprising. Plus, Riley was 93-80 at Oregon State, which has to have some fans nervous.

However, wins and losses truly are not the whole story. Despite what Eichorst originally said after Pelini was fired, Riley possesses the qualities that the Huskers have been looking for. In a statement, per, Eichorst explained:

There was one coach who fit all the characteristics that I was seeking to lead our tradition rich football program.  Mike Riley has a proven record of success, a sound approach to football and teaching, an understanding of the educational mission of our university and the integrity and values that we cherish at Nebraska.  I have no doubt that Mike will assemble a tremendous staff and lead our student-athletes to win Big Ten titles and compete for national championships in the years ahead.

The standard has been set, and that's to win championships. Only time will tell if Riley can bring those to Nebraska.

In the meantime, it's okay to feel a bit conflicted.


Quotes from athletic director Shawn Eichorst obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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Barrett Sallee: Mike Riley Hire 'Doesn't Make Any Sense' for Nebraska

The Nebraska Cornhuskers have filled their vacant coaching position by hiring former Oregon State Beavers head coach Mike Riley, per's Mitch Sherman. Riley spent 14 seasons at Oregon State from 1997-1998 and again from 2003-2014. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee was joined by Stephen Nelson to discuss the Cornhuskers' hiring. 

Was this the right move by Nebraska?

Check out the video and let us know! 

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College Football Coaches Most Likely to Be with a New Team Next Season

The music has started up, and the gears are turning. The annual college football coaching carousel is under way, basically turning the next few months into a near-constant stream of potential changes in leadership at the top of various programs.

It's an exciting time for schools landing a new coach, while for those in jeopardy of losing theirs it's a time of trepidation. Seemingly every coach is in play when the carousel gets going, as last year 15 of the 20 openings in FBS were filled by existing head coaches at other college programs.

Two major such moves happened on Thursday, with Florida hiring Colorado State's Jim McElwain and Oregon State's Mike Riley moving to Nebraska.

Who are the other coaches most likely to make a move to another school this winter? Here's our list of the ones with the best chance to be wearing a new color palette when the 2015 season starts.

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Mike Riley to Nebraska: Latest Contract Details, Analysis and Reaction

Another high-profile coaching gig in college football has been filled, as Nebraska has hired former Oregon State coach Mike Riley.

The school announced the hire on its Twitter account:

Shortly after Florida filled its vacancy by hiring Jim McElwain, per Chris Low of, Nebraska named its replacement for Bo Pelini.

Riley coached Oregon State for 14 seasons, leading them to eight bowl games (they were 6-2 in those contests). He won 93 games in total in that time.

"It is truly an honor to join the University of Nebraska family," Riley said, per "Though we love Corvallis and Oregon State, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to coach at one of the nation’s most storied football programs and I can’t wait to get started."

Former Nebraska standout Prince Amukamara tweeted a welcome to the new coach:

This hire is going to surprise some people, no doubt. Pelini went 67-27 and won at least nine games each season dating back to 2008, but he was never able to return Nebraska to national prominence.

Bryan Fischer of reports that Riley may not have been the Huskers' top choice:

While Riley brings plenty of experience in the college game and in general—he also coached the NFL's San Diego Chargers for three seasons—he isn't the big splash many Nebraska fans may have been expecting. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports was certainly surprised, though he understood what the school sees in Riley:

Riley may not be flashy, but he's proven himself capable of building down-on-their-luck programs into competitive ones. He's got the coaching chops to succeed, and his offense should breathe life into the Huskers' program.

It's a new era for Nebraska's football program, and now Riley will have the unique challenge of accomplishing what Pelini could not—restoring Nebraska as one of the preeminent powers in college football. 


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