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2015 Recruits Who Will Bring More Speed and Athleticism to the Big Ten

Four years after a recruiting process that began with little traction for Alabama native Ameer Abdullah, the former 3-star recruit—who was spurned by in-state powers Alabama and Auburn—is dominating the Big Ten as a slashing running back at Nebraska.

One of the most notable perceptions as to why the Big Ten has struggled in recent years is its lack of speed and athleticism when compared to leagues such as the SEC or the Pac-12. 

However, many Big Ten schools are hitting the recruiting trail hard in the 2015 cycle in search of speedy athletes like Abdullah to supplement their rosters.

Powers such as Ohio State and Penn State are faring particularly well, but the rest of the league remain vigilant of their pursuit of some of the top prep athletes in the country.

Which 2015 recruits are set to stock the Big Ten with ample speed and athleticism?

*Recruits listed in alphabetical order. 

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Texas Football: The 5 Most Surprising Longhorns in 2014

Texas' road to 3-5 has been a disappointing exercise in self-destruction—one five-yard penalty and bad snap at a time.

At least the Longhorns and their fans have been able to enjoy the surprise development of Tyrone Swoopes, his go-to receiver and some new starters on the defense.

Relative to somewhat low expectations, these players have come out and established themselves as budding stars in 2014. Whatever reason for optimism lingers moving forward starts with these guys.

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NFL Draft Stock for College Football's Top Performers

College football's top players are looking to show what they've got in hopes of making it to the next level.

Bleacher Report's Michael Felder and Matt Miller discuss the underrated players who have seen their draft stocks boom.

Who do you think has seen a big rise in his draft stock?

Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football: Ranking the 5 Most Surprising Cornhuskers in 2014

Nebraska fans have been pleasantly surprised by a number of players in 2014. While stars like Randy Gregory, Ameer Abdullah and Kenny Bell have been (in the immortal words of former Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green) who we thought they were, some Cornhuskers have either stepped up performances from previous years or come completely out of the blue to become stars.

Here are five Cornhuskers who have given Nebraska fans far more than they expected this season.

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ESPN College GameDay 2014: Week 10 Schedule, Location, Predictions and More

No. 10-ranked TCU will venture outside the Lone Star State in Week 10 for an epic Big 12 matchup against the No. 20-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers, one of the more surprising success stories of the 2014 college football season.

TCU is coming off a staggering 82-27 win over Texas Tech, a game in which they scored 10 touchdowns and put up nearly 800 yards of total offense. The Mountaineers are no slouches, however, and have rattled off four wins in a row against Big 12 opposition.

This could very well be the game of the week, and ESPN's College GameDay announced, via Twitter, that the program will be on hand in West Virginia to capture the excitement:

Long-time prognosticator Lee Corso and the rest of the merry band of traveling pigskin predictors will make the trek up to Morgantown, West Virginia, on the banks of the Monongahela River, for what should be a highly entertaining contest between two rivals.

TCU, by virtue of their top-10 ranking, are still playing for a shot, however remote, at the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Here is all the info you need to watch the preview show and the big game later in the day.



ESPN College GameDay: Week 10 Info

Date: Saturday, Nov. 1

Time (ET): 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Location:
Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, West Virginia

Watch: ESPN

Live Stream:WatchESPN

 

Preview and Prediction 

West Virginia has been an impressively stubborn team in 2014, refusing to back down against even the toughest of opponents. That steely grit and determination will be absolutely necessary against an awe-inspiring Horned Frogs offense.

The Mountaineers are 1-2 against ranked opponents this season, but their overall point differential in those games is just minus-nine. Indeed, quarterback Clint Trickett and company have been playing their best football as of late, scoring signature wins over then-fourth-ranked Baylor and conference-rival Oklahoma State in Weeks 8 and 9, respectively.

Trickett may not strike fear into opposing defensive coordinators the way TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin does, but he's certainly had his moments this season. The senior slinger has 17 passing touchdowns against just five interceptions this season, and he certainly put up points in a hurry in the Mountaineers' 34-10 win over the Cowboys in Week 9, per SmartFootball.com's Chris B. Brown:

Trickett's favorite option is the virtually unguardable wideout Kevin White. The secondary-shredding senior has 72 receptions for 1,047 yards and eight touchdowns in 2014. He routinely makes unbelievable catches and will be the focal point for the Horned Frogs' defense on Saturday.

TCU should be able to scrounge up a couple of turnovers in this game, considering they've forced opponents to cough up the football 21 times this year, tied for sixth best in the nation per NCAA.com.

Early turnovers, or really any turnovers, are a dangerous proposition against the Horned Frogs, who are averaging 50.4 points per game, the best mark in the nation.

For a sampling of the absurdly high offensive standards at TCU, look no further than this quote from head coach Gary Patterson after his team put up 82 points against Texas Tech. Via a postgame report from GoFrogs.com:

I don't think we played well all game. We still had to kick three or four field goals in the red zone in the second quarter. If you want to win a championship, you have to play better. I'm way happy for them, but I told them before the ballgame they weren't ready after watching them warm up. Fortunately for us, we didn't play well and we won a ballgame.

It's tough to figure out who might've upset Patterson in that game, considering there were star turns all around. Boykin threw seven of his 21 total passing touchdowns against Texas Tech. The fleet-footed quarterback has been pure nightmare fuel for defensive coordinators all season long.

The Mountaineers' blueprint for success should be their 41-27 upset win over high-octane Baylor, but TCU is better suited to deal with West Virginia's blitzing strategy.

Bears quarterback Bryce Petty completed just 16 of 36 passes in that game and was under constant pressure. Boykin is much more mobile and should be able to buy time with his feet and find guys like Josh Doctson and Deante' Gray.

The only way to limit his effectiveness may be to move him to a different position, as Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen jokingly suggested, via Fox Sports Southwest's David Ubben:

The home crowd should give the West Virginia defense a boost, but it simply won't be enough for this team to keep pace. The score will be close, but in the end the Horned Frogs will come away victorious.

Prediction: 52-31, TCU wins

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Picks Week 10: Odds and Spread Predictions for Top 25 Teams

With the release of the first College Football Playoff rankings, each team now knows where it stands in the eyes of the committee. Of course, the only thing that matters is that the squads find ways to keep winning.

No matter where teams are at this point of the season, a lot can change over the next two months. Anyone can lose at any time, starting with this week, which features a number of dangerous matchups for the nation's top programs.

Here is a look at the latest official Top 25, Bleacher Report's Top 25 and predictions for Week 10 of the college football season.

 

Top Games to Watch

No. 3 Auburn at No. 4 Ole Miss

Ole Miss might have suffered its first loss of the season Saturday at LSU, but you cannot blame the defense. The Rebels allowed just 10 points in Baton Rouge, continuing a trend of great play throughout the season.

The defensive side of the ball is not only a strength for Ole Miss; it is arguably the best unit in the nation. Alex Brown of Optimum Scouting broke down the squad's talent level:

ESPN's Joe Schad provided some stats for how the elite defense matches up against Auburn:

As good as Auburn is with its read-option rushing attack, it will be difficult to move the football at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, and this will be another low-scoring battle.

Meanwhile, Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace should be more comfortable at home, especially against a Tigers defense that ranks just 75th in the country against the pass. If he can find a way to get the ball to Laquon Treadwell in space, the Rebels will be able to get enough points to win.

Auburn has one of the more talented teams in the nation, but road games against Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama could end up dooming a run to the national championship.

This game will not be pretty, but Ole Miss will find a way to come out on top at home.

Prediction: Ole 17, Auburn 13

 

No. 7 TCU at No. 20 West Virginia

While that SEC battle is going to be all about defense, this Big 12 contest will look more like a track meet.

TCU has the No. 1 offense in the country, scoring 50.4 points per game. Even in the team's only loss, the Horned Frogs totaled 58 points against Baylor. While West Virginia's defense has improved lately, it will be difficult to slow down Trevone Boykin.

However, the Mountaineers have their own quick-strike offense with Clint Trickett throwing the ball to receiver Kevin White, one of three players in the nation with over 1,000 receiving yards in 2014.

Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com is impressed with what he has seen from the senior this season:

Of course, Trickett deserves credit on his own, as he has not let any defense slow him down this year. He has thrown for over 300 yards against top defenses such as Alabama and Oklahoma, and he gives his team a chance to win any game.

Considering TCU has only played in two true road games this season and zero outside the state of Texas, the offense could have some problems in the intimidating environment of Morgantown. If Boykin is slowed down even a little bit, it could be all West Virginia needs to pull off an upset in a back-and-forth battle.

Prediction: West Virginia 41, TCU 38

 

Stanford at No. 5 Oregon

There are two different matchups between ranked Pac-12 teams, but this is the one people really want to watch. Oregon is in position to play its way into the College Football Playoff if it wins out, but Stanford has represented a thorn in the team's side over the past few seasons.

Since Marcus Mariota became the starting quarterback in 2012, the Ducks have lost only four games. Two of them were against Stanford, with each seemingly knocking the squad out of the national title picture.

Despite this lack of success, head coach Mark Helfrich does not have any doubts about his quarterback, via Andrew Greif of The Oregonian:

Marcus Mariota doesn't need to beat anybody to prove the greatness of him. I know that he as a competitor wants to beat everybody and it doesn't matter if it's Stanford or whoever he's going to compete like heck to win as a competitor, as a teammate but again that's kind of an external factor that doesn't help him make a read better. If he prepares with a little chip on his shoulder great, and then just go out and play fast.

Still, it is not a coincidence the Cardinal have had success against Oregon. They consistently have one of the best defenses in the nation (No. 2 in scoring in 2014) thanks mostly to a defensive front that hits hard and tackles well.

ESPN's David Lombardi notes how consistent the unit has been in recent years:

As the Ducks deal with injuries and reshuffling along their own offensive line, Mariota could be under a lot of pressure throughout the game.

Playing at home will give Oregon a boost, especially with Kevin Hogan and the Stanford offense struggling to score on the road. The team is averaging only 14.7 points in three games away from home.

That should allow the Ducks to pull out a win, but it will be difficult to cover the spread.

Prediction: Oregon 24, Stanford 20

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Top Big 12 Football Storylines Heading into November

The Big 12 is perhaps the most chaotic and unstable conference in the nation. 

Heading into October, the Oklahoma Sooners were a write-in for the College Football Playoff. Now they're an afterthought, being replaced by a three-way dash to the finish line between Kansas State, TCU and WVU—the latter two of which nobody would've predicted. 

The Big 12 also has a surprise Heisman Trophy candidate in Trevone Boykin, the revived Horned Frogs gunslinger who, had it not been for a monumental collapse at Waco, could very well be at the reins of the Big 12's most talented team. 

So what are the biggest storylines for the Big 12 in November, the month in which college football seasons are truly won and lost?

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LSU Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of November

The LSU Tigers have new life. 

Head coach Les Miles led his team to a 3-1 record in October. LSU is now 7-2 overall with an outside chance of making the College Football Playoff. 

The Tigers put themselves in an 0-2 hole in SEC play with an opening-month blowout loss in Auburn. LSU bounced back in its second consecutive road game against Florida, edging out the Gators late 30-27

LSU played its best game of the season against Kentucky the following week in Death Valley, blowing out the Wildcats 41-3. The Tigers rode that home momentum with a thrilling upset victory over unbeaten Ole Miss 10-7

LSU will only play three games and have two bye weeks during the month of November. The fun will start when Nick Saban and his Alabama Crimson Tide return to Baton Rouge on November 8. 

Here is a full preview of what lies ahead for the Tigers. 

 

LSU vs. Alabama, November 8

The Tigers and Tide have played each other after bye weeks every season since 2010. Saban has been victorious over Miles the past three times they have met.  

Alabama, like LSU, will be coming off a three-game winning streak. The Crimson Tide own the conference's best rush defense, holding opponents to less than 100 yards per game. On the other hand, the Tigers eviscerated the formidable Landshark defense of Ole Miss on the ground for 264 yards.

Saban will load the box and force quarterback Anthony Jennings to win the game through the air. Jennings must be able to complete intermediate throws to keep the defense honest. 

LSU will have its hands full stopping the powerful Alabama running game led by running back T.J. Yeldon, who scored the game-winning touchdown for the Tide the last time he visited Tiger Stadium. Quarterback Blake Sims and receiver Amari Cooper could be the best one-two combo in the country through the air. 

Alabama will likely be without starting left tackle Cam Robinson, though, per Cliff Kirkpatrick of the Montgomery Advertiser. That could spell trouble with the raucous Tiger Stadium crowd. Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil left last Saturday's game against LSU with an injury, which led to a dominant performance from the defensive line in the second half.

The game will be closely contested between the evenly matched teams. But the Crimson Tide have a slight advantage in talent and experience at the skill positions on offense. They will edge it out in a close one. 

Score: Alabama 21 - LSU 17

 

LSU at Arkansas, November 15

The recovery period for any team after playing Alabama is brutal. So it is not ideal for LSU to play the physical Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville the week after playing the Crimson Tide. 

Hogs head coach Bret Bielema has seen improvement on the field this year, though it has not necessarily shown in the win column. Arkansas only lost to Alabama by one and had a late collapse against Texas A&M. 

The weakness of LSU's defense has been up the middle, though it has improved with the insertion of Kendell Beckwith at middle linebacker. The Tigers will be tested by the powerful Arkansas offensive line and running backs corps. 

The key will be exploiting the Hogs' weaknesses. Quarterback Brandon Allen and his receivers are below average, so the Tigers should have no problem with stopping them through the air. On the other side of the ball, LSU receivers Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre should shred Arkansas' porous secondary. 

Eight of the last nine games between LSU and Arkansas have been decided by one possession or less. The Razorbacks outplayed the Tigers in Death Valley last season but lost thanks to some late heroics from Jennings.

This one should be close as well, but expect the Tigers to win on a late field goal by Colby Delahoussaye. 

Score: LSU 24 - Arkansas 21

 

LSU at Texas A&M, November 27 (Thanksgiving)

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin has not been able to figure out LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis. 

The Tigers defense stifled Johnny Manziel in the team's two matchups against the Heisman trophy winner. Now, Sumlin must find a way to move the ball with sophomore Kenny Hill and a young offense.

But Sumlin's biggest issues will not be on offense, as LSU's ground game pounded the Aggies defense for 324 rushing yards last season. Texas A&M's run defense, as well as its pass defense, has not been much better in 2014.

Texas A&M will have a hostile crowd at Kyle Field. But one thing that will silence a crowd is a slow and steady beatdown in the trenches. A rested LSU after a bye week wins comfortably in College Station.

Score: LSU 38 - Texas A&M 24 

 

Stats, rankings and additional information provided by CFBStats.com,ESPN.com and LSU Sports Information. Recruiting information provided by 247Sports.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: Devin Gardner's Last Chance to Salvage Legacy

A year ago Devin Gardner was the unquestioned leader of a 6-1 Michigan squad that was battling for a berth in Big Ten championship game.

Then the bottom fell out.

Michigan has since gone 4-10, he was injured, benched for a game and coach Brady Hoke is squarely on the firing line.

Gardner now faces the last few games of his collegiate career with a final opportunity to salvage his tarnished legacy.

It’s difficult to imagine how last November could have been worse for Gardner.

  • A horrific 1-4 stretch that included bookend losses to key rivals Michigan State and Ohio State.
  • He was pounded mercilessly as his offensive line struggled to compete during the backstretch of the Big Ten season.
  • His epic fourth-quarter performance versus Ohio State ultimately fell short, and an injury during the game ended his season.

When Gardner returned from injury for spring practice, he had a new offensive coordinator, new plays to learn and new competition for the starting quarterback job.

This is not what most people expected when Gardner committed to Michigan in 2010. He was an elite 4-star recruit and one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the state of Michigan.

Unfortunately, his time at Michigan coincided with the collapse of the program first under Rich Rodriguez and now Brady Hoke. He also was stuck behind the singular talent of Denard Robinson on the depth chart for three seasons. The turmoil in the program also resulted in Gardner playing for three separate offensive coordinators (Calvin Magee, Al Borges and Doug Nussmeier), not too mention being switched to wide receiver for most of the 2012 season.

Gardner battled the competition and won back the starting position by the start of this season. But the same problems that plagued him during the end of last season returned.

The offensive line was only marginally improved, and Gardner continued to turn over the ball at a frantic pace.

Gardner personally has more interceptions (10) than 97 teams in the NCAA FBS division. And many of them are simply inexplicable. In an effort to make a big play, Gardner will sometimes see something that simply isn’t there.

In the aftermath of a 35-11 loss to Michigan State, Hoke tried valiantly to explain Gardner’s mistakes.

“He's constantly trying to make a play," said Hoke. ”The pick-six was a pretty athletic play in some regards by the defender. Tried to maybe put it in there in a small window. Part of it is he's aggressive, he believes in himself, believes in making plays. Do you coach [him] to try and not to? Yeah, every day.”

Gardner has four guaranteed games left in his collegiate career. His incredible performance versus Notre Dame last season is a distant memory. Unless he flips the script during these next few games, he’ll be remembered as the quarterback who threw too many interceptions, fumbled too many times, got sacked too often and whose performance got Brady Hoke fired.

Last week Gardner told Angelique Chengelis ofThe Detroit News:

"You can only control what you control…You can't control anything else. I can't control if a coach wants to bench me. I can't control tipped passes. I try to control the things I can control.”

The Devin Gardner who showed up last year against Notre Dame and Ohio State would tear up the next three teams on the schedule—Indiana, Northwestern and Maryland.

The next few games could be a small measure of redemption for Gardner.

He’s in control of his legacy—it's his move.


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

Follow
@PSCallihan

All season statistics from mgoblue.com, official University of Michigan athletic department website.

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Jameis Winston, Dalvin Cook Save Florida State's Season with Clutch Comeback

Count on Florida State being down. But don't count the Seminoles out. 

Even staring in the face of a 21-point deficit on a Thursday night in a tough road environment? Nope.

As long as FSU has time left on the clock, there's apparently enough time for a comeback. No. 2 FSU has done it time and again in 2014, and on Thursday, the Seminoles dug themselves another hole only to climb out and emerge with a 42-31 win over No. 25 Louisville.

After dismantling teams in 2013, FSU has been resilient in 2014. The Seminoles shook off a 24-7 deficit at North Carolina State and came back to secure a 56-41 win. And just 12 days ago, FSU responded by matching then-No. 5 Notre Dame score for score in the second half before a goal-line stand gave the Seminoles a 31-27 win.

Good? Lucky? FSU has been both this season en route to an 8-0 start. And the Seminoles needed to be both again on Thursday.

Quarterback Jameis Winston was awful in the first half, completing just 10 of 22 passes for 123 yards. And he tossed a pair of interceptions that gave Louisville a short field and led to two Cardinals touchdowns that helped them jump out to a 21-0 lead.

The second half was a far different story. Playing from the shotgun after hurting his ankle and limping the rest of the way, Winston completed 15 of 26 passes for 278 yards after halftime—including touchdown passes of 68 yards (to Travis Rudolph), 47 yards (to Ermon Lane) and 35 yards (to Freddie Stevenson).

Even Winston's third interception, on the first drive of the third quarter, was turned into something of a positive when the FSU quarterback jarred the ball loose from Gerod Holliman and forced a fumble. (It was the second lucky break for FSU on Thursday, including tight end Nick O'Leary's fumble recovery in the end zone that gave the Seminoles their first points.)

While it was beginning to look like Winston's worst college game for the first 30 minutes, he did what has become almost routine. Winston now has six 300-yard passing games in seven ACC road contests the past two seasons. He finished Thursday night with 401 passing yards, half of it a stick-figure-ugly drawing and the other half a museum-worthy masterpiece.

With Winston hobbling, FSU turned to its struggling running game. Coming into Thursday's contest, FSU was 104th of 128 FBS teams in rushing. The Seminoles were averaging just 125.86 rushing yards per game. And Louisville had the nation's best rush defense, allowing just 68.75 yards per game.

FSU found a way to run, however, even with Karlos Williams limping. Williams had 72 rushing yards but has been battling an ankle injury and hobbled to the sideline against Louisville. True freshman Dalvin Cook ran nine times for 110 yards, including second-half touchdown runs of 40 and 38. And he grabbed four passes for 40 yards.

On one drive alone, Cook caught three straight passes from Winston before ripping off a 38-yard TD run. True freshmen aren't supposed to do that on the big stage. But Cook turned short-yardage plays into big gains.

He used his breakaway speed on the second run to put FSU ahead 35-31 to stay—ensuring that the Seminoles won their 24th straight game and would remain in the playoff picture.

View this FSU team however you like. On one side, FSU is inconsistent and flawed, possessing a shaky offensive line and an injury-depleted defense. On the other, FSU has an offense that just simply puts points on the board each week. Winston has now played 21 college games. And he's never been held under 30 points.

There are four regular-season games left. How much longer can FSU keep up the Houdini act? It's bound to catch up with the Seminoles at some point...but then again, it also hasn't.

No matter what the perspective is on FSU, the Seminoles keep showing their response in the face of adversity. Ugly? Yes. But unbeaten? Also, undeniably, yes.

And nearly two years after losing its last game, at home to Florida on Nov. 24, 2012, FSU is still very much in the playoff picture.

 

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report, all quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. All stats courtesy of seminoles.com.

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Alabama Pass Rush Only Gets Deeper with Return of Denzel Devall

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — One of Alabama's best positional units is about to get even better.

The Crimson Tide’s pass rush, which, at 21 sacks, is one away from equaling last season’s total, will see the return of one of its most experienced players when Alabama travels to LSU next weekend in a pivotal SEC West matchup.

Junior linebacker Denzel Devall is back at practice after having surgery on an ankle that he injured during the Ole Miss loss. Devall started every game before that loss at outside linebacker and had previously appeared in every Alabama game in some capacity since joining the team in 2011.

Several players have gotten playing time in his place and have turned Alabama’s pass rush from one of its weaknesses into one of its strengths. Senior Xzavier Dickson and redshirt sophomore Ryan Anderson, in particular, had been very effective filling in at outside linebacker in Devall’s place while he recovered from surgery.

Now, with Devall back in the mix, Alabama can feature a deeper rotation and make life even worse for opposing quarterbacks.

“We want to play all players that can play winning football,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Denzel has played winning football for us. Some of the guys that took his place played winning football. To me, it just adds to the depth and helps more guys to have to play and contribute in a positive way.”

When Devall went out, it seemed like the Crimson Tide didn’t miss a beat. In fact, they may have been even more effective.

It hasn't been just one guy who filled in for Devall.

The first man up was senior Xzavier Dickson. He was technically already a starter in Alabama’s base defense, but when Alabama goes nickel—where it has started all of its games this year—Devall was the lone outside linebacker playing with his hand in the dirt. When Devall went down, that duty fell to the 6’3”, 268-pound Dickson.

Dickson was a high-end 4-star prospect coming out of high school. He’s a brute-force rusher who seeks to overpower opposing tackles. On a different defense, he could be classified as a defensive end.

He’s enjoying a breakout year on the Alabama defense, thanks in part to the increased playing time. He currently leads the Crimson Tide with 6.5 sacks, more than any Alabama player had last year and actually more than Devall has for his career (five).

Dickson had two sacks against Ole Miss, and he totaled 2.5 in the three games that followed.

The other player who has benefited from Devall’s injury is Anderson.

Anderson is getting his first significant chunk of playing time since coming in alongside Devall in 2011 and redshirting his freshman year. When Alabama puts two outside linebackers into the game, or when Dickson comes out in those one-outside-backer sets, Anderson has been the next one in.

247Sports rated Anderson a 5-star linebacker prospect out of Daphne, Alabama. His UA career got off to a rocky start when he was sent home from Miami before the 2013 BCS National Championship Game at the tail end of a redshirt year. But he’s worked his way back into Saban’s good graces and is reaping the benefits.

Anderson is second on the team in sacks with three. He registered one against Ole Miss when he was called upon in-game to fill in.

"He’s stepped up in a big way," defensive end Jonathan Allen said. "You really can’t put a limit on what he’s done for us. Good fitting the run, pass rusher, driving back in coverage. He’s done a lot for us while Denzel’s been out."

It’s an interesting problem for Alabama to have. Its two best pass-rushers have been guys who are playing more because of another’s injury. Now that he’s back, how do Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart balance wanting to get that experience back without disrupting the rhythm of the guys who are playing so well?

His solution, as mentioned above, seems to be to play as many players as he can.

“Maybe they don't have to play quite as much, and maybe we can stay fresher,” Saban said. “It's always a good thing to get good players to come back. I'm sure that we're going to have to work Denzel back into it. It's going to take him awhile. He missed three or four weeks. 

“We're still pleased and happy that the other guys got experience and they've been productive and confident and they'll be able to play as well.”

That constant rotation—bringing out 4- and 5-star players only to sub in more 4- and 5-star players—is a hallmark of good Saban and Smart defenses and have been a huge reason for pass-rushing success.

Alabama has been able to do that to some extent this year already. And it will have yet another fresh and experienced body to throw into the mix going forward.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All stats come from cfbstats.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Florida State vs. Louisville: Game Grades, Analysis for Seminoles and Cardinals

The No. 2 Florida State Seminoles fell behind early but rebounded to knock off the 25th-ranked Louisville Cardinals 42-31 and earn an ACC win.

Louisville built a 21-0 advantage before Jameis Winston and a trio of true freshmen brought the Seminoles all the way back.

Pass Offense: Winston tossed three interceptions, but his trio of touchdowns proved to be more important. He hit freshman Travis Rudolph for a 76-yard score, freshman Ermon Lane for 47 yards and Freddie Stevenson for a victory-sealing 35-yarder.

Run Offense: After a slow start from Karlos Williams, freshman Dalvin Cook changed the tune in the FSU backfield, scampering for 40- and 38-yard touchdowns during the second half. The Noles ended with 173 yards and nine first downs on the ground.

Pass Defense: Florida State allowed a 71-yard completion on the night's first snap but otherwise contained Will Gardner and Co. Though DeVante Parker also snared a 52-yarder, he wasn't called for offensive pass interference, so it's silly to criticize the secondary for a blatantly missed penalty.

Run Defense: To begin, Eddie Goldman was spectacular. Behind him, the Noles were severely shorthanded, missing four of their top linebackers. Michael Dyer shredded FSU for 95 first-half yards, but the front seven tightened up and successfully forced Louisville to become one-dimensional.

Special Teams: Shockingly, Roberto Aguayo missed a 41-yard field goal, but it didn't factor in the final score. He tallied six extra points, and Cason Beatty netted 45.2 yards over four punts. 

Coaching: Though Jimbo Fisher and Co. had their players prepared, execution was a problem. Winston threw a couple of terrible passes, Williams mishandled an exchange—that Nick O'Leary brilliantly recovered—and the defensive line started extremely slowly. Fisher's gutsy play-action call that led to Stevenson's touchdown capped a superb game.

 

Pass Offense: Parker set a career high with 214 yards, but Gardner only completed 20 of 38 passes. The Cardinals did not record a third-down conversion through the air.

Run Offense: Blocking by the Louisville offensive line was streaky, to say the least. The unit would dominate one drive then collapse the next, making the latter 30 minutes relatively ugly. Michael Dyer notched 134 yards and thee touchdowns but was limited to 39 after halftime.

Pass Defense: When the defense blitzed linebackers, Winston made it pay. If the Cardinals generated pressure through its defensive line, he struggled. Gerod Holliman registered two interceptions but had opportunities at two more. Blown coverages on Rudolph and Stevenson proved costly.

Run Defense: The Cardinals didn't allow Williams much running room, but Cook sliced through Louisville like it was hot butter. Allowing a pair of 38-plus yard touchdowns are unacceptable in a contest of this magnitude.

Special Teams: When Ryan Johnson needed a solid punt, he managed only a 27-yard kick. He finished with an average of 36.2 yards per attempt. James Quick should probably be relieved of punt-returning duties since he muffed one yet again. John Wallace drilled a 33-yard field goal and four extra points.

Coaching: Bobby Petrino was an excellent play-caller, and he gave Louisville a phenomenal chance to win. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham was great early but slowly regressed as the closing minutes ticked away.

 

Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

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FSU vs. Louisville: Score and Twitter Reaction

In 2013, Florida State made it look so easy you'd wonder if it was trying. In 2014, Jameis Winston and Co. seem determined to do anything other than take the clear path.

No matter, the result is still the same.

Winston threw three second-half touchdowns and Dalvin Cook scored on a 38-yard run with under four minutes left, as second-ranked Florida State came back from 21 points down to earn a thrilling 42-31 road win over Louisville on Thursday. 

Behind a raucous mixture of red and black at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, the Cardinals got off to a rousing start. Their defense throttled the Seminoles offense, picking Winston off twice in the first half to spur a 21-0 run led by Michael Dyer and the ground game.

But as they have all season, the Seminoles made plays with their backs against the wall.

Nick O'Leary recovered a Karlos Williams fumble for a touchdown to give Florida State its first score before the half, and Winston turned on the jets after the break. He threw touchdowns to Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane of 68 and 47 yards, respectively, and made a number of big plays despite being obviously hobbled by a leg injury. 

The turning point for Winston came on Florida State's opening possession of the second half, when it appeared his third interception would clinch the Louisville upset.

As Cardinals defensive back Gerod Holliman returned the pick deep into Seminoles territory, he was falling to the ground as a diving Winston came in and knocked the ball free. Florida State's ensuing drive would stall, but Winston was an entirely different player from that point.

He drilled Rudolph over the top on the third play of Florida State's next drive, starting a procession of trips into the heart of the Louisville defense. Only a Roberto Aguayo missed field goal kept Florida State from following that opening drive with four straight scores.

Cook accounted for 74 of the 80 yards on a drive to bring the Seminoles within 24-21, including a 40-yard touchdown scamper. Winston gave Florida State its first lead of the game two drives later, connecting with Lane from 47 yards out. Lane's catch was helped along when two Louisville defenders collided on what looked like a sure interception.

Dyer scored his third touchdown of the game on Louisville's ensuing drive to give the Cardinals a 31-28 advantage that proved short-lived. A bad Ryan Johnson punt on the Cardinals' next possession gave Florida State the ball at the 38-yard line, and Cook needed only one play to break outside for the game-winning touchdown.

The freshman back finished with 150 total yards on 13 touches, including the two scores. He's gone over the 100-yard mark in two of the last three games and may be emerging as the superior option to Williams, who had 72 yards on 16 carries.

Even in the loss, Louisville's skill-position players had a night to remember. Back at 100 percent health for the first time all season, Dyer and wide receiver DeVante Parker sliced into the Seminoles defense—especially in the first half. 

Parker and quarterback Will Gardner delivered a shocking blow on Louisville's opening play, connecting on a 71-yard strike. While the Seminoles defense would manage to get a stop on fourth down, it was one of a select few for the formerly powerful unit.

The Cardinals gained 488 yards and were forced to just two three-and-outs. Despite a number of Florida State mistakes giving Louisville shortened fields, Dyer and the running game helped the Cardinals win the time-of-possession battle 31:34 to 28:26 and control the tempo for most of the game.

The senior back, whose collegiate career has spanned four schools amid off-the-field troubles, lives for opportunities like these. Three years after being the Offensive Player of the Game at the 2011 BCS National Championship Game for Auburn, Dyer is back on the grandest stage making players miss.

It took a transfer from Auburn and aborted stops at Arkansas State and Arkansas Baptist College to get here, but he's come up big since becoming the Cardinals' primary back.

"Michael looks even better than he did before the North Carolina State game," Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino told reporters this week, referring to the number of injuries Dyer's had since coming to the university.

Dyer 134 yards to go along with his three scores. He's now gone over the 100-yard mark in back-to-back games for the first time since October 2011.

Parker, a potential first-round pick who missed the first seven games with a foot injury, was a constant thorn in the side of Jimbo Fisher's secondary. The senior set a career high with 214 receiving yards on his eight receptions. He accounted for nearly two-thirds of Gardner's 330 yards through the air.

Gardner's more famed counterpart capped off his team's second-half turnaround with a 35-yard touchdown to Freddie Stevenson. He finished with 401 passing yards and three touchdowns against as many interceptions. It was the first time in Winston's career he'd thrown three interceptions in a game.

Those picks will be a fitting reminder of how close Florida State came to losing Thursday night. For the second time in as many contests, the Seminoles were left sweating bullets as the final minutes were ticking off the fourth-quarter clock. Defined by their all-time excellence a year ago—no team came closer to two touchdowns in the 2013 regular season—these Seminoles are defined by how they overcome their flaws.

Warchant.com provides Winston's take on FSU's ability to play from behind:

From a difficulty perspective, this should be FSU's most noteworthy contest before the ACC Championship Game. Florida State does not have another ranked opponent on its schedule, and its only road game is in two weeks against a shaky Miami outfit.

Then again, most people thought the Seminoles would come in and flex their muscles against ACC newbie Louisville on Thursday. If there's anything these first eight games have taught us, it's that those muscles might not have as much mass as they did in 2013.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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Florida State vs. Louisville: How Seminoles' Win Will Shake Up Week 11 Rankings

The Louisville Cardinals' No. 1-ranked defense could only pin down the reigning national champion Florida State Seminoles for so long on Thursday at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

Last year's Heisman winner Jameis Winston overcame three interceptions to rally the second-ranked Seminoles back on the road to a 42-31 victory.

Bleacher Report's NFL draft expert Matt Miller raised a great point in his analysis of Winston's roller-coaster performance that was brilliant in the end:

As one of only two power-five conference programs still undefeated, it appears Florida State will retain its rightful status as the second-ranked team in the College Football Playoff in Week 11.

The following quote from playoff selection committee chairman Jeff Long regarding the myriad of one-loss teams fortifies that notion.

"It was extremely difficult, more difficult than any of us had expected having gone through our mock selections before," said Long after the first rankings were released Tuesday, via ESPN.com news services. "There are 18 one-loss teams in FBS at this point in time, and the difference between many of them is very slim."

Barring an upset loss by No. 1 Mississippi State to Arkansas this weekend, the top of the NCAA football hierarchy ought not to change.

Winston didn't look like the best quarterback on the field for at least the first half or so. That designation belonged to Louisville's Will Gardner, who, to be fair, was helped by stud wide receiver DeVante Parker.

Interesting enough, Michael Dyer, a former Auburn running back who didn't play in the Tigers' loss to FSU in last year's national title game, was the one who gashed the Seminoles often.

ESPN Stats & Info contextualized how strong Dyer's effort was:

When it counted most, though, Winston rose to the occasion yet again, spreading the ball around well and getting some necessary help from his backfield on the ground and through the air.

Skip Bayless of ESPN praised Winston's grit:

Respect for the Seminoles' on-field product will only grow after this epic comeback in which they were trailing 21-0 at one point.

Florida State saw a couple freshmen step up and make big plays. Receiver Travis Rudolph had the game-changing, 68-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter, cutting the Louisville lead to 24-14.

The drives in which the Seminoles pulled to within three points and later took a one-possession lead at 35-31 were dominated by running back Dalvin Cook, per FSU Football:

ESPN College Football alluded to the rather easy road ahead in the victors' bid for an undefeated 2014 campaign:

Championship teams tend to do what Florida State did Thursday evening. The Seminoles weren't playing their best, yet they found a way to grind out a win against such a difficult defense.

That has to carry a lot of weight when the College Football Playoff selection committee sits down and assesses where Florida State resides among the game's elite. How the remaining opponents impact the Seminoles' perception is another matter.

But all coach Jimbo Fisher's resilient bunch continues to do is win. With an off-the-charts, big-game QB at the helm in Winston and a deep bunch of players that stepped up Thursday, the Seminoles deserve the benefit of the doubt in the rankings now and moving forward.

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Man Bizarrely Videobombs Jimbo Fisher's Postgame Interview

This man saw his opportunity to videobomb Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher's postgame interview on Thursday night, and he ran with it.

Who knows what he was thinking at the time, but he seemed to be enjoying himself.

ESPN 680's Mark Ellis shared a bit of information on the videobomber:

[Vine, Twitter]

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BYU Football: Will Bronco Mendenhall Ever Be Fired?

After last Friday's 55-30 loss to Boise State, BYU has arguably reached rock-bottom under head coach Bronco Mendenhall. With a four-game losing skid to non-Power Five teams escalating, the Cougars are scrambling for a solution to their struggles.

Blame whatever you please, but the coaching has been as ugly as anything in the past four games. BYU has come out unprepared, unmotivated and sloppy, and there is no one to shoulder the blame but Mendenhall. He has absolutely toyed with the reins to his defense, failed to prepare his players and simply been out-coached for the past several weeks.

Derik Stevenson, a former BYU linebacker, stated the truth clearly in a recent article:

(BYU football's) great culture...has taken some serious blows. The team is currently, officially the third best program in the state. There is no bigger fan and proponent of BYU than I am. But the reality is clear: Brigham Young Football is at a tipping point. (Mendenhall's) services have been appreciated. But it’s time for (Mendenhall) to go. Anyone that takes the time to truly dig into the stats can see that (Mendenhall is) not going to change.

I agree wholeheartedly with Stevenson's statements and know that BYU will never reach an elite level with Mendenhall at the helm. But when the truth rears its ugly head, reality is clear—Bronco Mendenhall may never get fired from BYU—at least, in the near future.

First off, even if the Cougars only win one more game this season and miss a bowl game, too many people love Bronco. He should be respected for putting faith first and building quality young men. But unfortunately at BYU, even for a football coach, that will always come before winning.

Mendenhall has had just enough success—on and off the field—to gain respect from the administrators, church leaders and nearly anyone who has a say at BYU. He may not be able to lead his team to home victories over Utah State and Nevada, but hey, his firesides are pretty great!

Secondly, even if Bronco lost every game remaining on the schedule—even against winless FCS team Savannah State—who has the right to fire him? BYU's current director of athletics, Tom Holmoe, has anything but the authority to give him the boot.

Holmoe had a five-season tenure as Cal's head coach and posted the following records:

*Four wins in 1999 were stripped after NCAA violations

On top of winning only 16 games through five seasons, NCAA violations under Holmoe gave Cal five years' probation and limited scholarships, among other punishments. He obviously has no right to fire Mendenhall, especially after eight straight bowl games.

Lastly, if BYU were to fire Mendenhall, who would they hire as a replacement? Apologies to the dreamers, but Andy Reid and Norm Chow aren't reasonable choices. Neither are Kyle Whittingham, Mike Leach, Robert Anae and (definitely not) Holmoe.

So, who's left? Navy's Ken Niumatalolo is a name that has been tossed around lately. So has Utah's Kalani Sitake, who is a former BYU star and proven defensive guru. But would anyone in their right mind want to face the expectations from BYU fans that are growing every year?

At this point, we can only wait and see how this all plays out. Maybe Mendenhall stays on board for several more seasons, or maybe a brave new coach takes the reins at BYU.

If anything is clear, it is that Mendenhall's time as a Cougar should be running short. He isn't the type of coach who can steer BYU to a nationally elite level or contend for a national championship. The biggest problem BYU faces is finding a way to say thanks and get him out the door.

Only time will sort out the mess that has sprung up in Provo. And at this point, unless things change, it will go downhill from here.

Someday, one can only hope that BYU will get back to being, well, BYU.

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Jameis Winston Throws 3rd INT of Game, Redeems Himself by Forcing Fumble

No. 2 Florida State found itself in some trouble at No. 25 Louisville on Thursday night, but the Seminoles caught a huge break at the beginning of the second half.

Trailing 21-7 at the start of the third quarter, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston threw his third interception of the game. However, Winston was able to redeem himself a bit by forcing a fumble on the return, with the Seminoles recovering the loose ball.

Florida State ended up turning the ball over on downs on the drive.

After just one play in the second half, Winston had already set a new career high with three interceptions in a game. 

[College Spun]

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Can Ohio State's Defense Fuel a Run to the College Football Playoff?

When the College Football Playoff selection committee released its first Top 25 rankings on Tuesday night, Ohio State (6-1) was buried at No. 16—placed behind 13 other one-loss teams.

The Buckeyes are facing a major uphill battle with just five games remaining in the regular season, needing to rise 12 spots in order to have a shot at this year's national title. 

A vastly improved and surging defense could push the Buckeyes up that hill and back into the playoff conversation.

Ohio State has been known for its offense since Urban Meyer took over three years ago, but in 2013, a leaky defense that surrendered an average of 38.3 points and 539 total yards to its final three opponents—Michigan, Michigan State and Clemson—cost the Buckeyes a chance to play for the national championship.

That prompted the hiring of Chris Ash as co-defensive coordinator and the complete overhaul of Luke Fickell's unit.

Meyer wanted a scheme that featured his defenders attacking the ball as opposed to the soft zones that opponents could pick apart.

That, in essence, is what drove Ash to join Meyer's staff.

“[Meyer] said he wanted a defense that challenges the offense, that’s aggressive, that will attack, not worry about the ‘what ifs,’ create confusion,” Ash told Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports. “Those are things I believe in to be successful. When he started talking my language, I started listening.”

Early returns from Ash's overhaul have been positive, as opposing teams are having a much harder time moving the ball against this year's Buckeyes.

Through seven games, Ohio State ranks 11th in total defense, 17th in passing yards allowed, ninth in interceptions and 25th in rushing and scoring defense. Led by super-sophomore defensive end Joey Bosa, who ranks fifth nationally in sacks per game, the Buckeyes have been very disruptive.

Despite their improved play, the Buckeyes haven't come close to reaching their ceiling defensively.

They're still susceptible to the occasional big play—which Cincinnati took advantage of in Week 3 by connecting on three long touchdown passes—and they can wear down late—which almost cost them last week against Penn State and its late rally.

With that said, Meyer knows that his team is close to reaching the dominant level he envisions.

If the Buckeyes can reach it soon, they could shoot up the rankings.

Consider Michigan State, which at this point last year was unranked with the same 6-1 record as the Buckeyes. The Spartans used a dominant defensive stretch to climb the BCS standings, allowing just 9.2 points per game in their final five regular-season matchups.

A 34-24 victory over Ohio State in the Big Ten title game vaulted Mark Dantonio's squad to a No. 4 ranking ahead of bowl selections.

It's hard to imagine the Buckeyes being that good, but if they continue to improve, they could see a similar rise in the polls.

 

All stats via NCAA.com.  

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

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UCLA Football: How the Bruins Can Upset Arizona

A massive Pac-12 South Division clash takes place Saturday night in the Rose Bowl, as the UCLA Bruins play host to the University of Arizona Wildcats. 

As is the case with virtually every contest in the division, this game has considerable implications for both teams in terms of becoming the South champion. 

Should UCLA lose this contest, it can virtually kiss its chances at winning the division goodbye. Rich Rodriguez brings a team that's looking to atone for two straight losses at the hands of the Bruins, including a 66-10 loss the last time Arizona played in Pasadena.

This piece will look at three aspects UCLA can utilize in order to upend the Wildcats. 

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UCLA Football: How the Bruins Can Upset Arizona

A massive Pac-12 South Division clash takes place Saturday night in the Rose Bowl, as the UCLA Bruins play host to the University of Arizona Wildcats...

Begin Slideshow

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