NCAA Football News

4-Star Rashad Roundtree Commits to Georgia, Immediate Impact Player for Bulldogs

RashadRoundtree—a 4-star safety, per 247Sports—has officially committed to the Georgia Bulldogs.

Head coach Mark Richt snagged a huge commit by keeping this Georgia native in state, and Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down how this stud will fit in Athens.

How well do you think he will do at Georgia?

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Watch Miami Commit Lay Out for Incredible One-Handed TD Catch

2015 wide receiver Terrell Chatman made a diving one-handed touchdown catch this past weekend. This Baton Rouge, Louisiana, native put his body on the line and came up with one of the best grabs of the year.

Do you think this is the best catch of the year?

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida State Football: 2015 Recruits 'Noles Need to Land

Florida State's recruiting class was already looking good. But the verbal commitments of 4-star tailback Jacques Patrick on Oct. 27 and 5-star cornerback Tarvarus McFadden on Oct. 31 puts the Seminoles and coach Jimbo Fisher in position to land the nation's No. 1 class in February.

"It was the kind of week that pushes an excellent recruiting class into elite territory," Bleacher Report recruiting analyst Tyler Donohue said. "Jimbo Fisher has this team recruiting at a much higher level than any team in Florida right now, capitalizing on a remarkable on-field stretch."

The Seminoles have 247Sports' No. 2 class behind Alabama thanks to the commitments by Patrick and McFadden.

Patrick, who is from Orlando, Florida, has three straight 2,000-yard seasons and is currently pushing toward a fourth. He is 6'1" and 230 pounds. A bruising downfield rusher who also has speed (4.5 in the 40).

"Patrick is a North-South battering ram," Donohue said.

McFadden is 6'3" and 200 pounds. A physical corner with the size to match up well with any receiver.

"He was impressive at The Opening this summer," Donohue said. "His size and skill set follows suit with how things are trending at cornerback in college and the NFL, though high school prospects like him are difficult to find." 

Here's a look at FSU's 20 verbal commitments for 2014 so far, according to 247Sports.com:

 

Quarterbacks: Deondre Francois, De'Andre Johnson, Kai Locksley

Running backs: Jacques Patrick, Johnny Frasier

Wide receivers: George Campbell, Auden Tate, Nyqwan Murray

Tight end: Jalen Wilkerson

Offensive linemen: Abdul Bello, Cole Minshew, David Robbins

Defensive linemen: D.J. Jones, Darvin Taylor

Linebackers: Sh'mar Kilby-Lane, Brian Bell

Defensive backs: McFadden, Derwin James, Calvin Brewton, A.J. Westbrook

Now, let's take a look at five recruits FSU would love to land in the next few months:

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Ranking the Biggest Trap Games Left on the Schedule for CFB Playoff Contenders

With 14 power-five teams at one loss or less, it looks almost certain that the first-ever College Football Playoff will be embroiled in ugly controversy.

Though many folks are already predicting which teams will get left out in the cold, keep in mind that the committee may not be tasked with anything more than a simple exercise of filling in the blanks. It could be as easy as penciling in the names of the only four teams that didn't lose after Week 10.

With six games remaining that pit one legit playoff team against another, the plot thickens. Six losses are a certainty, dropping the number of potential candidates to eight. Add in the four major conference championship games and the field shrinks even further.

Here’s a look at 13 potential playoff teams and 13 opponents—ranked by the level of threat—that could add that telltale first or second loss.

Some of these games are more obvious than others, but all present a potential statistical mismatch that could make a contender or pretender in 60 minutes.

Begin Slideshow

ESPN College GameDay 2014: Week 11 Schedule, Location, Predictions and More

There is only one contest on the 2014 Big Ten schedule outside of the conference title game that matters in the national picture—Saturday’s showdown between No. 14 Ohio State and No. 8 Michigan State.

ESPN’s College GameDay responded accordingly and will take its traveling pregame show on the road to Spartan territory in Week 11:

 

ESPN College GameDay: Week 11 Info

Date: Saturday, Nov. 8

Time (ET): 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Location: 
Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan

Watch: ESPN 

Live Stream: WatchESPN

 

Preview and Prediction

The stakes could not be higher for this clash under the Saturday night lights.

For one, this is an elimination game in the race for the College Football Playoff. Whether it is Ohio State or Michigan State that comes out on top, the loser will have two losses and plummet down the rankings. The winner will have the inside track to the Big Ten Championship Game from the East Division and a marquee victory to show off to the selection committee.

What’s more, there is an element of revenge, at least from Ohio State’s perspective.

The Spartans ended Urban Meyer’s 24-game winning streak to start his tenure at Ohio State in last year’s conference title game and prevented the Buckeyes from reaching the national title contest. It is still Meyer’s only Big Ten loss, but it sent the program into something of a mini-slump considering it lost the Orange Bowl to Clemson, lost Braxton Miller for the 2014 season to injury and then lost in the second game this season to Virginia Tech.

That’s a lot more losing than Ohio State and Meyer are accustomed to, and a big win would certainly remedy those feelings.

As for Michigan State, it hasn’t beaten the Buckeyes at home since the last century (1999) and needs another win of merit on the resume after it lost to Oregon earlier this season.

You can throw any of those three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust Big Ten stereotypes out the window as well, since both the Spartans (45.5 points a game) and Buckeyes (45.6 points a game) are in the top five in the nation in scoring offense.

Something will have to give when J.T. Barrett and the Ohio State offense that has scored 50 or more points in five of the last six games take the field against a Michigan State defense that has held five of its opponents to 17 or fewer points this year. 

College GameDay pointed out why the Spartans will have their hands full against the Ohio State signal-caller:

Barrett has completed at least 60 percent of his passes in every game since the loss to Virginia Tech and has kept the Buckeyes afloat without Miller. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio commented on Barrett and the Ohio State offense, via Kyle Austin of MLive.com:

They had a big injury when Braxton Miller, a big emotional deal for them. I thought they did an outstanding job in terms of not letting the team go south, they brought in the other guy has gotten much much better with experience and he has grown and he's a great football player, he's very high in a lot of things statistically, 20 touchdowns, five interceptions.

Michigan State can’t focus all of its attention on Barrett and the passing game, though, since the Buckeyes have rushed for at least 200 yards in the last six games.

Ultimately, every yard and every point is critical in showdowns like this. For as effective as Ohio State’s offense has been statistically, its touchdown rate inside the red zone is only 69 percent. If the Buckeyes cannot convert their opportunities inside the 20-yard line, it could be a long day on Saturday against a solid defense.

The best defense may be a good offense for the Spartans, as Connor Cook and Jeremy Langford lead a balanced attack that has gained at least 420 yards in every single game this season. Incredibly, Michigan State has gained only 44 more passing yards than rushing yards this year, which is a testament to the offense’s balance.

The good news for Buckeyes fans is that this will be a much better Ohio State defense than Michigan State faced in last year’s Big Ten championship. It is 17th in the country in points allowed per game at 19.9 and is better suited to slow the Spartans offense down than it was last year when Cook threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns.

Statistically, this game will feature two strong defenses and two high-octane offenses that have lit up the scoreboard all season. It figures to be a nail-biter that comes down to the final minutes.

Regardless of what the overall numbers say, though, it’s just too hard to ignore the fact that the Buckeyes offense has looked completely different in its two games against opponents of note this year (Virginia Tech and Penn State). Most of the impressive numbers have come in the easy contests against the Kent States, Cincinnatis and Rutgers of the world.

Barrett threw three interceptions against the Hokies, while no running back topped 32 yards on the ground. Barrett threw for a whopping 74 yards against the Nittany Lions, and the offense didn’t score in the second half until overtime.

Michigan State's defense is better than both of those opponents.

The raucous crowd will be a problem for the redshirt-freshman Barrett, much like it was for stretches at Penn State, and the Spartans defense will make enough plays to get the victory. 

Michigan State will still be in the College Football Playoff race after the game, while the young and talented Buckeyes will start looking ahead to a 2015 season that could be special.

Prediction: Michigan State 27, Ohio State 21

 

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College Football Picks Week 11: Odds and Spread Predictions for Top 25 Teams

The College Football Playoff brings a whole new level of intensity to this point of the season. As we begin to head down the final stretch, more teams than ever are jockeying for position in an effort to claim a spot in the Top Four.

After 10 turbulent weeks of action on the amateur gridiron, only two undefeated teams remain in the selection committee's Top 25. They are followed closely by a bevy of one-loss teams champing at the bit for a chance to rise to the top of the pecking order.

With some enticing Week 11 matchups full of playoff implications on the way, we should expect these rankings to shift once again. Will the nation's top teams be heavily tested and pave the way for alterations at the top of the hierarchy?

Here's a look at the College Football Playoff selection committee's Top 25 with corresponding matchup odds and expected outcomes.

Week 11 College Football Playoff committee rankings can be viewed at CollegeFootballPlayoff.com.

All game odds courtesy of Odds Shark and current as of November 6.

 

Marquee Games

Kansas State (+6) at TCU

This matchup's outcome will rely heavily on how well TCU junior quarterback Trevone Boykin can play in a contest that will put him under plenty of pressure from both the game's implications and the Kansas State defense.

Boykin really emerged as a passer for the first time this season. We already knew he was a threat to run after watching him perform in 2013, but he's led the Horned Frogs to become the sixth-ranked passing team in the nation. ESPN College Football tweeted the difference in the signal-caller's play from 2013 to 2014:

However, the quarterback isn't coming off a strong performance.

The West Virginia Mountaineers have been playing solid defense lately, and that showed in Week 10 against an uncharacteristically inaccurate Boykin. The quarterback got off to a sluggish start, and he watched his team fall behind early. While TCU did come back for a win, Boykin completed just 12 of his 30 passing attempts for 166 yards, one touchdown and one interception for a passer rating of 23.6.

Now, he faces the challenge of righting the ship against a Kansas State team ranked 12th in the nation in points allowed, giving up an average of just 18.6 per game. If Boykin can't get it going early again in Week 11, TCU will be in serious trouble.

Kansas State's offense has the ability to sustain long drives and keep opposing offenses off the field. Quarterback Jake Waters flourishes in an offense revolving around high-percentage passes and the option to gain yards with his legs. He may not allow Boykin and Co. on the field long enough to do significant damage.

Prediction: Kansas State 30, TCU 27

 

Ohio State at Michigan State (-3.5)

Ohio State's offense is red-hot right now, but so is Michigan State's defense. This clash of Big Ten foes could answer the question of what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object.

After a close call against Penn State, the Buckeyes got things going in Week 10 against Illinois. Quarterback J.T. Barrett found more consistency due to a run-oriented offense and passing plays that were better suited to his skill set. This allowed him to finish the game completing 15 of his 24 passing attempts for 167 yards and two touchdowns.

Here's a look at what Barrett has produced this season compared to last-year's starter, Braxton Miller, via ESPN College Football:

A short passing game was a perfect complement to a running game featuring a bevy of highly skilled ball-carriers, including Ezekiel Elliott and Curtis Samuel. The running game continued to put the team in great position on third down, and as a result, the Buckeyes converted seven of their 12 attempts in that department.

Things won't be quite as easy Saturday against the Spartans. This defense has been playing some lights-out football lately, allowing 22 points or fewer in five of its last six games. Sparty crushed in-state rival Michigan in Week 10, allowing a mere 186 yards of total offense and forcing three turnovers.

Ohio State will have difficulty scoring on a defense allowing just 20.3 points per game, and the Buckeyes' emerging running game will have trouble finding room to maneuver against Michigan State's sixth-ranked run defense, allowing an average of 95.4 yards per game.

It's hard to bet against the immovable object in this one.

Prediction: Michigan State 34, Ohio State 23

 

Notre Dame (+2.5) at Arizona State

The Fighting Irish may be considered underdogs in Week 11 after allowing Navy to hang around in Week 10. However, that's nothing new for Notre Dame, as all four of its last games have finished within 10-point scoring margins.

Despite the team not being able to blow opponents out of the water, its only loss on the season was due to a last-second touchdown by Florida State. Everett Golson has stepped up tremendously in recent weeks, and he displayed the ability to get points on the board with his arm and his legs, accumulating six total touchdowns in Notre Dame's win over Navy.

Rotoworld's Josh Norris tweeted one example of Golson's passing prowess:

On the flip side, Arizona State has struggled to get points on the board in recent weeks, scoring 27 or fewer points in four of its last five games. The Sun Devils were taken into overtime in Week 10 by the Utes due to an inefficient offense. Arizona State racked up 444 yards of total offense but only converted two of its 14 third-down attempts.

Quarterback Taylor Kelly finished the game against Utah completing 18 of his 32 passing attempts for 205 yards, one touchdown and one interception for a 31.5 passer rating. That won't get it done against the Fighting Irish, so expect the Sun Devils to put running back Demario Richard to work.

Richard has a chance to have a big day against Notre Dame with middle linebacker Joe Schmidt on the shelf. However, Arizona State will need production across its offense to keep up with a surging Golson and a Notre Dame defense that is allowing an average of just 21.6 points per game.

Prediction: Notre Dame 27, Arizona State 24

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bowl Predictions 2014: Projections for College Football Playoff, Other Top Bowls

The expansion to the four-team College Football Playoff was never going to erase the controversy from the BCS era.  Indeed, with four regular-season games left for most teams, a plethora of schools still hold legitimate cases for reaching the final four.

However, the thinning-out process has already begun.  Two-loss teams like Ole Miss and Georgia are now likely out of contention, barring total chaos, and more teams will join those ranks this Saturday.  The Big 10 and the Big 12, the two power conferences most likely to get shut out, will each host a virtual elimination game between top contenders.

Let's take a look at the current snapshot of the playoff field and selection committee bowl games, highlighting the Week 11 games that could particularly impact the race for the biggest bowls.

 

Oregon vs. Utah

After a resounding win over kryptonite Stanford, the Oregon Ducks have finally broken into the playoff picture, earning the fourth and final seed in the committee's post-Week 10 rankings.  However, with the Ducks on an emotional high, this Saturday's game at Salt Lake City could be a prime letdown scenario:

Indeed, perhaps due to their struggles since joining the Pac-12, the Utah Utes have been largely overlooked by the public—even with their 17th-ranked designation.  The Utes lead the nation with 39 sacks, as their defense ranks 13th in the country, according to Football Outsiders' Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) metric. 

Thus, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota will face arguably his stiffest test of the season.  Though Mariota had issues escaping pressure earlier this season, the return of left tackle Jake Fisher has stabilized the line, as the Ducks have conceded just four sacks in their last four games.

A victory would also secure Oregon's spot in the Pac-12 conference championship game, where they would appear likely to host Arizona State.  This is the Ducks' toughest game until that potential conference championship, so a win could also effectively seal an opportunity to play for a playoff berth in the final week.

 

TCU vs. Kansas State

As two of the three one-loss teams remaining in the Big 12, TCU and Kansas State are playing an effective elimination game for the conference.  While it is no lock that the Big 12 even receives a playoff bid, the winner will hold the inside track to the conference championship, along with Baylor.

The game's premier matchup will lie on the perimeter, as Kansas State's Tyler Lockett faces off against TCU corner Kevin White.  Last week, White shut down his namesake, West Virginia's Kevin White, holding him to just three receptions for 28 yards.  Lockett is in a similar class in terms of explosiveness and the ability to vertically stretch the perimeter, and White realizes he will once again have his hands full:

Despite their higher ranking, the Horned Frogs could be underdogs in this game.  Not only is the game in Manhattan, but the battered Frogs are coming off a difficult and physical comeback victory in Morgantown.  Though the geographic travel is easier this week, hitting the road once again could stress a weary TCU squad.

Ultimately, the game will come down to the biggest strength on strength.  TCU's defense leads the nation in takeaways, which has led to an astounding 101 points off turnovers.  Kansas State has the seventh-fewest turnovers in the nation, so if the Wildcats offense can take care of the ball, they should make life difficult for Trevone Boykin and Co.

 

Ohio State vs. Michigan State 

The rematch of last year's Big 10 Championship Game holds less luster than last January's meeting.  However, while the Big 10 looks like the weakest Power Five conference in terms of overall depth, both the Spartans and the Buckeyes look like squads capable of crashing the playoff dance.

Ohio State has been teetering since the Spartans ended their 24-game winning streak in their last meeting, but the Buckeyes still harbor hope with just a single loss to Virginia Tech back on Sep. 6.  Freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett has held his own, throwing 23 touchdowns to just seven picks, while also maintaining a robust 9.0 yards per attempt average.  Indeed, some on Michigan State's defense have suggested that Barrett has represented an upgrade from preseason Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller:

Despite Barrett's strong play, Ohio State's road to the playoff will be difficult, even with a win.  The Buckeyes are ranked ahead of just two Power Five schools in the CFP Top 25, Duke and Utah, and the Virginia Tech loss is looking worse as the Hokies flounder at 4-5.  The Spartans' lone loss came in Eugene, though they too will suffer from a lack of marquee wins due to the weakened Big 10.

In truth, the winner will likely need the SEC to cannibalize itself for a realistic playoff shot, unless a heavy favorite like Florida State or Oregon falters.  But college football has always proven unpredictable, and the winner will put itself in position to exploit the unexpected if and when it arises.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Spectacular Ball Skills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Physical Gifts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Becoming a Star in the Intermediate Area

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Comparing Parker with the Draft’s Other Top Wide Receivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: Injuries Not to Blame for Wolverines' Struggles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Follow @PSCallihan

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Oregon Football: 2015 Recruits the Oregon Ducks Need to Land

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

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

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

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

 

Recruits Ducks Need to Land 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ducks' 2014-15 Class Looks Strong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Miami Football: 2015 Recruits Hurricanes Must Land

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clemson Tigers Analysis

Passing Offense

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

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

 

Pass Defense

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

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

 

Rushing Offense

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

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

 

Run Defense

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

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

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

 

Special Teams

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

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

 

Coaching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mirror Images?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

When Ohio State's on Offense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

When Ohio State's on Defense

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan State knows the challenge Bosa presents.

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

 

All stats via NCAA.com.

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

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Clemson vs. Wake Forest: Score and Twitter Reaction

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

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

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

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

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

Compare that to Wake's leading offensive stars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's a look, via Clemson Athletics:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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