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College Football Picks Week 5: Odds and Spread Predictions for Top 25 Teams

Consistency hasn't been in the cards during the first four weeks of the college football season. With some major upsets already occurring, the game's Top 25 polls have taken on different looks all season. 

With five of the Top 25 teams going down in Week 4, the Associated Press poll was shaken up yet again heading into Week 5:

The five teams that lost last week are out of the rankings, and the new schools taking their place inhabit the last five spots of the poll. Some of those newcomers are going to be given stiff tests upon their arrival, as Week 5 is set to offer some enticing matchups. 

Let's take a look at the upcoming schedule for the Top 25, the latest odds and my spread predictions. All odds are courtesy of OddsShark.com


Game of the Week 

No. 13 Alabama at No. 8 Georgia

The best team of the Eastern division of the SEC takes on the fourth-place group in the West. It's a bit odd to say that Alabama is fourth in anything, but a loss to Ole Miss saw the Crimson Tide drop 10 spots in the national rankings a few weeks ago. 

That loss helped create an even spread heading into Saturday, and a major battle on the ground is set to take place at Sanford Stadium. 

Through the first four games of the season, Alabama running back Derrick Henry has recorded eight touchdowns to go with his 422 yards. Georgia head coach Mark Richt is the next man who has to formulate a way to stop him. Richt spoke with UGASports.com's Radi Nabulsi about Henry:

Richt has the perfect answer for Henry in running back Nick Chubb. The Georgia rusher is a yard short of 600 in four games. He's been unstoppable since the middle of last season, recording 12 straight games of over 100 yards rushing, according to SportsCenter.

With two premier running backs, it's up to each team's defense to decide who will come out of Week 5 with a win. Georgia's rushing defense has averaged over 100 yards allowed per game, while Alabama's has averaged less than 60 yards allowed. 

For that reason, Alabama will win a close one 28-23. 

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How Florida Set Up QB Will Grier to Be the Present and Future for the Gators

I sat in the press box at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium last Saturday afternoon as Florida quarterback Will Grier orchestrated a miraculous comeback in the final frame—in which he went 11-of-18 over the final two drives, tossed two touchdown passes and led the Gators to a 28-27 win over Tennessee—and one thought kept popping into my mind.

The future is now.

In one short month, Grier has transformed himself from QB No. 2 in Gainesville to the future of the Florida football program, and Saturday's sizzling fourth quarter was the college football equivalent of a teenager getting his driver's license. 

Grier has head coach Jim McElwain—and also former head coach Will Muschamp—to thank.

He came to Florida as the No. 2 pro-style passer in the class of 2014, but there was some doubt on just how good he really was at Davidson (N.C.) Day High School.

Sure, he threw for 14,559 yards and 195 touchdowns, but as Langston Wertz Jr. of the Charlotte Observer noted in 2013, Davidson Day's place in Division III and II during his high school years didn't exactly provide tough competition for the prep superstar.

"In 25 years of working at this newspaper, I can’t think of too many athletes who have been scrutinized more heavily," Wertz wrote. "As Grier burst onto the high school football scene two years ago at Davidson Day, putting up video-game statistics, the critics have been strong and loud. They say he’s too old (he’s not). They say he’s not that good (he is)."

The questions followed Grier to Florida.

The prep star enrolled at Florida in January 2014 with the possibility in mind of earning primary backup snaps behind former Gator quarterback Jeff Driskel and—perhaps—an even bigger role if Driskel struggled.

Instead, former head coach Will Muschamp redshirted the then-6'2", 190-pound Grier partly because Grier needed to put more weight on if he intended to endure the grind and hits that occur in the SEC.

As Andy Hutchins of AlligatorArmy.com noted, he went from 190 pounds in high school to 197 this past spring, to 215 during the fall.

Not bad.

That durability was important last weekend against Tennessee. Grier was knocked around quite a bit by the Vols, but he came up big with the game on the line on those two critical drives.

"Everybody's taken hits. Everybody's beat up. You just have to work through it," Grier said in the press room following the game. "If it ain't broken, you've got to keep going. That's just part of this game. It's a violent game. You have to take a beating and keep going."

What's more, as Mark Long of the Associated Press noted last year, Muschamp could have burned Grier's redshirt last year after Driskel was benched in the win over Tennessee and Treon Harris, who saved that game in the fourth quarter, was suspended.

Instead, Driskel played against LSU, Harris was reinstated and played the rest of the season, and Grier was given the proper time to develop both mentally and physically.

That progression continued with McElwain in the house. 

Grier didn't earn the start in Game 1. That responsibility was Harris'. But as the Gators have won, Grier has slowly but surely evolved into the "starter" in Gainesville.

He started and split time with Harris in Game 2, took every snap of Florida's first SEC road trip in a win at Kentucky in Week 3 and then grew up in front of the eyes of over 90,000 fans at "The Swamp" last Saturday.

"What I liked more than anything was how calm he was in the situations when we needed it most," McElwain said. "That's something we can build on."

McElwain won't anoint Grier as the unquestioned starter. As the Associated Press noted on Wednesday (via: ESPN.com), McElwain is still keeping Harris in the fold as an option now that he has returned from suspension.

Make no mistake, though. That's part of the plan.

Harris' experience and versatility is important to keep in the mix for a Gator team that might need it at times. But Grier has done everything asked of him to become a star, bided his time both as a redshirt and while Harris was more a part of the equation, and came of age Saturday afternoon in Gainesville.

What's more, the weapons around him are players he can grow with.

Freshman Antonio Callaway had 112 yards and that 63-yard game-winning touchdown against the Vols. Sophomore Brandon Powell had 64 yards and caught the touchdown pass late in the fourth to bring the Gators within one score. And Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite are talented backs who are more than capable of taking over once junior Kelvin Taylor moves on.

Saturday's remarkable comeback was just the beginning for Grier.

Despite being only a redshirt freshman, he was brought along slowly, thrived in a big spot and proved that the best is yet to come.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.comBarrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee. 

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ESPN College GameDay 2015: Week 5 Schedule, Location, Predictions and More

With conference play either right around the corner or in full swing for different leagues across the country, there are few remaining opportunities to make a nonconference statement this college football season. 

The undefeated Clemson Tigers have just that opportunity Saturday when the undefeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish come to Death Valley.

With two undefeated, Top 15 teams squaring off, it is only natural ESPN’s traveling pregame show College GameDay will make an appearance. The program announced its impending presence shortly after the Week 4 schedule came to an end:

Make sure you watch because you never know what can happen when the show visits Clemson:

The actual game takes place Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. Here is everything you have to know for GameDay and the showdown on the field.


ESPN College GameDay: Week 3 Info

Date: Saturday, Oct. 3

Time (ET): 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Location: Clemson, South Carolina

Watch: ESPN 

Live Stream: WatchESPN


Preview and Prediction

While both teams have a zero in the loss column, there are still lingering questions about how good they will be against elite competition. Saturday is a chance to provide a resounding answer.

After all, Notre Dame’s opponents are a combined 4-11 on the season (the Georgia Tech win doesn’t look as good after Duke handled the Yellow Jackets, and Texas is not exactly the Longhorns of old), and Clemson looked vulnerable in a narrow 20-17 victory over 1-3 Louisville. The Tigers’ other wins came against overmatched Wofford and Appalachian State.

Another concern for both squads is injuries. Clemson lost standout wide receiver Mike Williams (who tallied 1,030 receiving yards in 2014) to a fractured neck in the season opener, and the Fighting Irish are already without six players due to season-ending setbacks.

Quarterback Malik Zaire and running back Tarean Folston were two of those injuries for Notre Dame, but replacements DeShone Kizer and C.J. Prosise have carried the offense. In fact, Prosise’s 600 rushing yards are the most ever by a Notre Dame running back in the first four games of a season.

Clemson still has its backfield duo intact with preseason Heisman dark horse Deshaun Watson and Wayne Gallman.

Watson boasts 641 passing yards and seven touchdown passes and is also a threat to move the ball with his legs, but Saturday represents a golden opportunity on a national stage to prove the hype surrounding the preseason first-team All-ACC quarterback was merited.

In Clemson’s one game against an opponent of note (Louisville), Gallman rescued the offense after Watson threw two interceptions and looked overwhelmed at times. Gallman tallied 139 rushing yards on the day and has 310 yards and three touchdowns on the ground this season.

The Notre Dame defense that allowed 450 yards to UMass, including an 83-yard touchdown run in the first half, must play better against Watson and Gallman if it hopes to leave Clemson with a road victory. The Fighting Irish also allowed more than 400 yards against Virginia (416) in a game they needed Kizer to engineer a miraculous comeback.

If the defense allows explosive plays to a stronger opponent like Clemson, a comeback won’t be in store. 

Notre Dame’s best chance to move the ball is with Prosise. He is averaging an astounding 8.1 yards per carry, although much of the credit belongs to the offensive line, as Matt Fortuna of ESPN.com highlighted:

Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press wondered if the physicality of the Notre Dame offense would be enough to outlast Clemson:

Ideally for the Fighting Irish, Prosise will pick up chunks of yardage early. In turn, that will open up the passing attack with wide receiver Will Fuller, who already boasts 454 receiving yards and six touchdown catches.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was well aware the Fighting Irish have an explosive offense during his press conference, per ClemsonTigers.com:

I mean, they're disciplined, they're physical, they're fast, they're well-coached. Again, offensively they're really complete. They've got an excellent offensive line. They've got great skill. They just keep coming up with quarterbacks. It's unbelievable these guys they've got playing quarterback. The Kizer kid has stepped in and done a tremendous job. They haven't missed a beat.

The running back, No. 20, he's averaging 8.1 yards a carry. Tight ends are very physical and talented. This is as good an offensive line as we've seen in a long time, so it's just a complete group, and they do a great job with how they call the plays.

Notre Dame may bring plenty of weapons to the table, but Clemson’s defense will be up to the challenge.

It ranks ninth nationally with 260.7 yards allowed per game and swarmed to the ball against Louisville, as it forced two turnovers and made critical stands in the waning minutes to preserve the victory.

Russo mentioned there is a lack of depth up front for the Tigers, but Shaq Lawson, Kevin Dodd, Scott Pagano and Carlos Watkins form a dominant defensive line. Andrea Adelson and Fortuna of ESPN.com praised their ability to step in as four new starters and pointed out opposing runners are averaging a mere three yards per carry against the Tigers. Clemson is also averaging 9.3 tackles for loss a game.

Lawson is a star who will fly into Notre Dame’s backfield on passing downs and pressure Kizer throughout the contest.

Ultimately, Notre Dame’s inexperience with Kizer under center in a hostile environment against this swarming defense will prove to be the difference. It is a meager 2-5 under coach Brian Kelly on the road against ranked teams (both wins occurred back in 2012), and the crowd in Clemson will be raucous from before the opening kick.

The Fighting Irish have enough talent to challenge any team in the country on a neutral field, but Saturday night will belong to Death Valley and the formidable Clemson defense.

Prediction: Clemson 24, Notre Dame 17

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University of Cincinnati Saxophone Player Goes Down Hard Running onto Field

The University of Cincinnati band directors may need to take a break from teaching their students how to march during their shows and instruct them how to run.

It was just a few years ago that a trumpet player went down hard and lost a mouthpiece while running down the stadium steps. Well, Thursday night at Cincinnati's home tilt with Miami (Florida), another band member ate turf.

This Bearcats saxophone player successfully ran down the stairs, but as he hurried through the end zone, he took a spill.

Give the saxophone player credit. He got right up and continued running to his spot.

[ESPN College Football]

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Les Miles Comments on Leonard Fournette Testing NFL Draft Early-Entry Rule

LSU Tigers head football coach Les Miles has dismissed the notion that his superstar running back Leonard Fournette will test the NFL draft eligibility rules and risk cutting his collegiate career in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, short.

Miles spoke on the matter Wednesday night during his weekly radio show and intimated the sensational sophomore wouldn't sit out next year in a bid to go pro, as reported by ESPN.com:

To me, there's a lot of people out there stirring the pot. Just, let's make controversy. Why not? OK? I can't imagine that Leonard would be sitting anywhere inactive for a fall. I just can't possibly imagine it.

I think there's a lot of speculation and a lot of conversation that speaks to 'what if' for someone else. ... What if he's got goals to go down as one of the greatest running backs ever? What if he really enjoys his teammates and enjoys being a part of a college atmosphere? What if he's serious about getting his degree? What if he has a financial position that offsets injury? What if -- I mean, what if, my goodness. You could 'what if' forever.

The current rules mandate that prospective NFL draft entrants be three years removed from high school before making the leap. Some believe it'd be in Fournette's best interest to not play football as a junior to avoid the risk of injury.

Bleacher Report NFL draft expert Matt Miller explained how such a course of action could be problematic:

Fournette, who has rushed for 631 yards and eight touchdowns in only three games this season so far, has said he won't be leaving LSU in the near future, recently writing on Twitter, "I will never jump ship. ... I'm drowning with my brothers."

A cautionary tale that ought to discourage Fournette from challenging the rules involves another running back in Maurice Clarett. The former Ohio State star unsuccessfully attempted to enter the 2004 draft after being dismissed from the Buckeyes program.

Clarett's situation was different, and his legal problems created the ultimate disaster scenario. Yet it's still a past case worth paying attention to.

ESPN's Jemele Hill brought up a more recent example in 2013 No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Jadeveon Clowney:

During his last year at South Carolina, Clowney took offense to those who questioned his effort. This plays into the point Miller made about passion for football.

Even though the 6'1", 230-pound Fournette appears to be fully capable of playing on Sundays right now, he is still only 20 years old. Becoming a pro athlete and handling all that goes with it at his age would be a considerable challenge beyond the gridiron.

No matter what he decides to do for the foreseeable future, the NFL will be there for Fournette when the 2017 draft rolls around. This year's draft was the first time a running back was taken in the first round since 2012, but Fournette is the type of transcendent talent who merits an early selection on Day 1.

If Fournette can remain healthy and continue putting up monster numbers in the SEC, there's little doubt he'll be a first-round NFL draft choice in the future. The discussion will then revolve around how high he'll go.

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Cincinnati RB Hosey Williams Disappears Completely into Pile, Re-Emerges for TD

Even though it looked like Hosey Williams was stuck in the pile at the line of scrimmage, the Cincinnati Bearcats running back kept his legs moving and found a way into the end zone.

On 1st-and-10 from the Miami 29-yard line, Williams took the handoff and ran straight at the pile. Hurricanes defensive back Rayshawn Jenkins appeared to have Williams stopped, but the running back didn't give up.

Eventually, he was able to get out of the defender's grasp and break through for the score.

Here's a better look at the run:


Williams' 29-yard touchdown helped give the Bearcats a 7-3 lead less than five minutes into the game.


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Kayden Lyles to Wisconsin: Badgers Land 4-Star OG Prospect

Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst is racking up the miles on the recruiting trail on Thursday. First, he secured the commitment of 4-star defensive tackle Garrett Rand, per Badgers247's Evan Flood. Later on in the evening, 4-star offensive guard Kayden Lyles announced he's heading to Madison, Wisconsin.

Lyles confirmed his commitment on Twitter:

Unlike Rand, Lyles won't join the Badgers until 2017. According to 247Sports' composite rankings, he is the No. 4 guard and No. 95 player overall in the 2017 recruiting class.

Flood pictured what members of the Wisconsin coaching staff and roster are doing to celebrate the imminent arrivals of Rand and Lyles:    

Lyles' brother, Kare'—a member of the 2016 class—committed to the Badgers back in March, and Richard Obert of AZCentral.com wrote the connection between the Lyles family and Wisconsin football goes back a generation:

The brothers' father, Kevin, was a tight end on Wisconsin's 1993 team, which beat UCLA in the Rose Bowl.

Former Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst, the new Wisconsin head coach, played quarterback for the Badgers in the late 1980s. His offensive coordinator is Joe Rudolph, who was teammates with Kevin Lyles and captain of the Wisconsin 1993 team. Rudolph also works with the offensive linemen.

Over the years, Wisconsin has seemingly produced an assembly line of massive offensive linemen who have opened up running lanes for the likes of Melvin Gordon, Montee Ball, James White, P.J. Hill, Michael Bennett and Ron Dayne.

In that regard, Kayden Lyles (6'3", 290 lbs) will fit right in with the Badgers. He's a tremendous run-blocker who can overpower opposing defensive linemen in close quarters and also move around in order to open up holes a little further downfield.

Lyles leaves a little bit to be desired as a pass-blocker, but that issue will be mitigated by the fact he'll almost certainly play at guard when he joins the team.

As long as he stays healthy and continues to improve, Lyles should become a key member of the Badgers offensive line in a few years.


Note: Recruit star rankings are courtesy of 247Sports.

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College Football Teams on High Upset Alert in Month of October

The calendar has shifted to October, which in the college football world means we're getting into the meat of the schedule. The first month had plenty of great matchups but also a lot of dogs, but in October the presence of conference play raises the overall level of each week's schedule.

It also means there are far more occasions when the best teams in the FBS will be on upset alert.

It could be the opponent, the venue or when the game sits on the slate, or some combination of these factors that makes certain games more dangerous than they might appear on paper. It was this weekend last October when it seemed like no ranked team was safe, with Oklahoma, Oregon, UCLA, USC and Wisconsin all losing to unranked or lower-ranked opponents.

Which teams have the most to worry about in this department this October? Take a look at which teams we think should be looking over their shoulders.

Begin Slideshow

Don't Lose Sight of What Leonard Fournette Is Doing Now Amid NFL Debate

As the calendar turns from September to October and the college football season really kicks into high gear with conference play beginning in earnest, it’s time for two of everybody’s favorite things to happen: the early-season Heisman Trophy being handed out and a pointless debate that riles up fans from Sunday to Friday.

This year, the two are related because they converge on one player: LSU running back Leonard Fournette.

Following another nearly flawless performance against Syracuse in Week 4 in which Fournette rushed for 244 yards and two scores, the big sophomore is up to eight scores already this season—all against Power Five competition—and is averaging a ridiculous 8.6 yards per carry.

Naturally, these types of numbers have led to the Tigers star taking the early lead in the Heisman race.

Based on his hot start, there's good reason for that, and even those already holding the prestigious trophy have started to label Fournette as the front-runner for the Heisman.

"He's better than I was," former Georgia star and 1982 Heisman winner Herschel Walker told TMZ earlier this week.

That’s high and deserving praise based on what Fournette has accomplished so far this season. The fact that he’s being labeled the guy in college football at this point has, however, spawned a pointless debate that has filled up sports talk radio and set social media on fire with hot takes galore.

As noted by NFL.com's Chase Goodbread, there's a notion going around that Fournette, a sophomore, should sit out his junior season in 2016 in order to save himself for the 2017 NFL draft. Even his head coach is not buying the talk.

"To me, there's a lot of people out there stirring the pot," LSU’s Les Miles said during his weekly radio show on Wednesday night, according to ESPN.com. "Just, let's make controversy. Why not? OK? I can't imagine that Leonard would be sitting anywhere inactive for a fall. I just can't possibly imagine it."

My first reaction to this topic was similar to Miles’ opinion: This is simply debate for debate’s sake after a somewhat slow week. My second thought was along the lines of "not again."

We went through the positives and negatives of this a few years ago when South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney was coming off a phenomenal sophomore season and being dragged into the same debate over sitting out in order to save himself for the NFL.

The debate is foolish for a number of factors and, quite simply, it’s pointless.

Until a young player actually decides to sit out for a year, we’re all just talking about hypotheticals. Secondly, until the NFL actually changes its rules to allow players less than three years out of high school to enter the draft, we’re all just rambling on about something that can’t and won’t happen.

It was the case with Clowney and it is the same case with Fournette. It was the case before those two, too.

Now would also be a good time to remind those who have forgotten that we’ve had experience with terrific college players sitting out a season before (including a running back), and things simply haven’t worked out for them. We shouldn’t expect anything different if Fournette were to do the same.

Remember, back in 2003 after he was suspended by Ohio State, Maurice Clarett took to the courts in order to get himself to be declared eligible for the NFL draft after just two seasons.

After the initial ruling came down in his favor, Clarett was later stuck in no-man’s land when an appeals court overturned the decision and left the running back unable to play in college (he hired an agent) or the NFL.

It was one of the greater what-ifs in college football. What would have happened had Clarett kept his head on straight and returned to Columbus after a sensational freshman year that was capped off with a surprise national title over one of the best teams ever assembled?

Heck, what would have happened if the diminutive back would have been eligible for the draft and made his way through the NFL despite being years younger than his fellow wide-eyed rookies?

We’ll never know, of course. Clarett was surprisingly drafted in the third round in 2005 but never played a down in the league. USC wide receiver Mike Williams, who followed a similar path in declaring himself eligible for the draft after his sophomore season, was taken in the top 10 in 2005 but failed to amount to much at the next level.

Each may have had the opportunity to trade in their skills for a paycheck, but it didn’t seem to work out long-term for either.

Those were two fantastic college football players who had a season taken away from them in the sport where everybody enjoyed watching them play at the highest level.

Fournette can do whatever he pleases after this year—and it’s crazy we’re talking about this subject only four games into 2015—and it can be his decision.

We adults, fans, pundits and coaches shouldn’t lecture him on what to do and what not to do, but for completely selfish reasons, it sure would be a shame to not be able to see Fournette play next year.

We simply get too little time with star players as the college game stands. Whether it be injuries, early draft entries or the simple fact that waves of replacements land at colleges across the country each February, one’s shelf life in college football is simply not all that long.

"It's a bad idea to talk about leaving early, just wait and your time will come,” Walker added in his interview with TMZ. Amen.

Stop the silly debate about sitting out for the NFL and take a moment to enjoy generational talents like Fournette, Georgia’s Nick Chubb, Cal’s Jared Goff, USC’s Adoree’ Jackson and others. Before you know it, we’ll only be able to see them in a different jersey on Sundays—and in a far different version of the sport of football to boot.

More to the point, even with somebody who looks 35 years old like Fournette, there’s a reasoning behind that three-year rule the NFL has to prevent early entries into the draft: Players simply aren’t ready physically and mentally.

Rookies in the NFL struggle for many reasons, and part of it is because they have to adjust to a much more complex job. The other part is the physical pounding they are taking from older players over a much longer season. At a position like running back, that is magnified even more than at another spot like quarterback.

So I’ll say it again: Stop the silly debate over Fournette sitting out in 2016. In fact, forget all about it because it is such a moot point.

Soak in those runs where he punishes teams between the tackles and finds the end zone from over 50 yards away. Enjoy the tailback who is deservedly in the running for the award handed out to the most outstanding player in college football.

More than anything, keep an eye out to see if he can single-handedly will a one-dimensional offense to a division and possibly an SEC Championship.

College football should be glad to have the opportunity to see Fournette in an LSU jersey this season and next, even if that might not be the case for opponents on the Tigers' schedule.


You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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Garrett Rand to Wisconsin: Badgers Land 4-Star DT Prospect

No matter the result of Saturday's game against the Iowa Hawkeyes, this week is already a win for head coach Paul Chryst and the Wisconsin Badgers. According to Badger247's Evan Flood, Wisconsin secured the commitment of 4-star defensive tackle Garrett Rand on Thursday.

"He loved the coaches and the fans. Just a good positive environment all around," Rand's father said to Flood of the Badgers' program.

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Rand is the No. 15 defensive tackle and No. 131 player overall in the 2016 recruiting class. With his addition, Wisconsin climbed seventh spots to 24th in 247Sports' composite team rankings.

One of the things that immediately stands out about Rand is his strength. 247Sports' Steve Wiltfong highlighted just how much power he'll bring to the defensive line in Madison, Wisconsin:

That level of strength is all the more impressive since Rand is listed at 6'3" and 275 pounds.

Because Rand's a bit smaller for a defensive tackle, Chryst could use him as a defensive end in certain situations. The Chandler, Arizona, native is tough to block when he gets a full head of steam.

While his technique still needs refinement, Rand could have an immediate impact on the Wisconsin defense if the staff wants to use him right away.    

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Why the Alabama Special Teams Could Be Its Achilles' Heel vs. Georgia

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — More than anything, there was a sense of relief last week that perhaps the University of Alabama football team had finally turned a corner in one important area.

It wasn’t the passing game, which still has question marks, or the defense that pulled off a shutout, but rather the Crimson Tide's special teams.

Adam Griffith made two solid field goals during the 34-0 victory against Louisiana-Monroe at Bryant-Denny Stadium, drilling attempts from 40 and 35 yards. Even with them, the struggling kicker was just 3-for-7 on the disappointing season.

“We have a lot of confidence in Griff, I’ve always said that,” head coach Nick Saban said. “I think that getting his plant foot right is something that he’s now doing and has confidence in. Hopefully he’ll be able to build on the success that he had today and continue to do a nice job for us in the future.

“I think he just has to think the right things and focus on the technique that he needs for us to have success, and when he does that, he’s a very good kicker.”

Still, the biggest surprise with the Crimson Tide in 2015 has been the porous special teams play, which may have cost Alabama one game and can easily make the difference in a showdown like it has Saturday at No. 8 Georgia (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, CBS).

So far the highlights have been a perfect 18-for-18 on extra-point attempts, a blocked punt against Middle Tennessee resulting in a safety, and the only successfully executed onside kick in the Southeastern Conference—although Ole Miss might argue it was due to illegally batting the ball forward.

Don’t expect the Rebels to do any complaining, though, because for the second straight year Alabama’s fumble issues on kick returns played a huge part in Ole Miss pulling out a win.

Moreover, none of Alabama’s three scholarship players on special teams are having a good season, including punter JK Scott, who appears to be having a sophomore slump after earning All-American status in 2014. Long-snapper Cole Mazza has also missed the last two games for what has only been called “medical reasons.”

"Great long snapper,” Scott said about Mazza during training camp. “He's the best in the country, hands down.”

Statistically, Alabama’s special teams have been a huge disappointment. 

  • Kickoff coverage: This is arguably where Alabama’s been its best on special teams. The net average, which means the kickoff yards minus the return, is 41.6 yards. That’s sixth in the 14-team SEC. 
  • Kickoff returns: Alabama’s averaging 18.6 yards per return, roughly half of league-leader Tennessee’s 35.2. It ranks 11th in the conference.
  • Punting: Scott’s average is a shocking 38.8 yards, and the Crimson Tide’s net yards per punt is just 36.3.
  • Punt-return average: Alabama’s 7.1-yard average is last in the league. Cyrus Jones finally broke a big return against ULM, only to see it officially listed as 22 yards due to a block-to-the-back penalty.
  • Field goals: Griffith’s 42.9 completion percentage is last in the league.

Last year Alabama was 14-of-22 on field goals, which tanked to 13th in the conference. It was eighth in kickoff coverage and kickoff returns and ninth in punt returns. But it was first in punting, as Scott regularly gave his team a huge advantage in field position.

As a freshman, his yards per punt (48.0), net yards per punt (44.67) and percentage of punts downed inside the 20-yard line (56.4) weren’t just the best in the nation on the collegiate level, but statistically better than any punter in the National Football League.

He hasn’t been anywhere near as steady in 2015, although Scott’s had six punts inside the 20 and the average return has been just 1.3 yards.

“I think that there’s been a little inconsistency sometime in his drop, which was the problem with the poor kick (against Wisconsin), in that he dropped the ball on the outside,” Saban said in early September. “So when he drops it correctly and hits it with a nice, smooth pace, he’s pretty consistent and kicks it really, really well. We have a lot of confidence in him. He just has to get confidence back in his drop, and he’ll be fine.”

Nevertheless, with Alabama’s high level of overall talent, it should be absolutely dominant on special teams. Among those who have stood out include former walk-on Michael Nysewander and reserve cornerback Tony Brown.

"I think he's a guy that takes great pride in the way he plays on special teams,” Saban said about Brown last week. “It's his role on the team right now, and he has done probably the best job through three games of anybody in terms of his production, his performance, the effort. He's been very disruptive.”

It’ll be an area to watch at Georgia, and not just because the Bulldogs have posted comparable numbers (11th in the SEC in punting and kickoff coverage, 12th in field goals and last in kickoff returns). Alabama has 14 players on the roster who hail from the state, many of whom are special teams staples, including Griffith, running back/kick returner Kenyan Drake and senior linebacker Dillon Lee.

“All the guys from Georgia, everyone—whether it’d be LSU or wherever you have a pretty good bit of guys from that state on your team—always, going home is exciting. Everyone wants to win. No one wants to lose to their hometown school.”


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

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In Toughest Test of Season, Notre Dame Can Pave Path Toward Playoff

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Three hundred and forty-eight days ago, true freshman third-string quarterback DeShone Kizer stood on the sideline in Tallahassee, Florida, as Notre Dame Fighting Irish football nearly toppled the then-No. 2 Florida State Seminoles inside a Doak Campbell Stadium crammed with more than 82,000 rabid fans.

A season later, Kizer is reflecting on that experience as he prepares to lead No. 6 Notre Dame into Memorial Stadium on Saturday night for a clash with the No. 12 Clemson Tigers.

“I’ve never heard anything so loud in my life,” Kizer said of the environment at the Florida State game. “It feels like your insides are shaking on third down.”

The decibel levels will likely be similar, if not higher, Saturday, and the stakes have the chance to provide a similarly robust reverberation for Notre Dame.

So far, Notre Dame has sidestepped the seemingly unending nightmare of season-ending injuries to start 4-0 and climb to No. 6 in the country.

“There were some tears shed because of it,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said of the six significant injuries. “They want to accomplish the mission. That has been a focus of the group was that they really want this mission to be accomplished.”

The Irish overcame defensive ineptitude and quarterback Malik Zaire’s fractured ankle to best the Virginia Cavaliers in the waning moments on the road in Charlottesville. A week later, they swarmed the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and slowed their prolific offense.

Now, a prime-time matchup with Clemson looms. The Tigers present Notre Dame’s toughest test of the season, certainly thus far and quite possibly within the entire scope of the regular season. Couple Clemson’s talented roster with the environment in Death Valley, and Notre Dame faces an assuredly difficult challenge.

This game and its buildup feel familiar. It was around this time last October when the Irish, ranked fifth at the time, were heading south to battle the Seminoles, the No. 2 team in the nation. Kelly said Tuesday that his team was well prepared for the environment in Tallahassee last season. The Irish were.

“Just didn’t make a play or two maybe at the end that we needed to,” Kelly said, of course stirring up furor around Notre Dame nation at the thought of offensive pass interference.

But even a swallowed whistle and a win against Florida State might not have drastically changed the outlook of Notre Dame’s season. Injuries ravaged the defense, which, in turn, helped allow Navy, Arizona State, Northwestern and USC shred the unit.

This year, a win against Clemson could pave Notre Dame’s path toward the playoffs. A home game against the USC Trojans in two weeks still awaits, and the Irish conclude the regular season at the Stanford Cardinal.

But first, the Irish must solve Clemson and provide answers to the questions about this year’s group. Can they?

After all, Kizer is making his first road start. Notre Dame is still searching for defensive consistency. Kelly is still learning about his team in some areas.

“I know this. It’s a close team,” Kelly said. “They’ll play hard for each other. There’s no quit in them. They’ll overcome adversity. I think they’ll go on the road, and they’ll battle for four quarters.”

Will that be enough?

Kizer, though he felt the tremors in Tallahassee last season, was far from the field.

“He knows it’s going to be loud, and the environment is going to be electric,” Kelly said. “But he can settle that environment down by playing really well.”

As small as his sample size is, Kizer has been tested. He found Will Fuller with 12 seconds remaining to beat Virginia on the road. He helped down Georgia Tech.

“There’s always some sort of a hype. We’re Notre Dame,” Kizer pointed out this week.

True, but the bulk of the 80,000-plus fans will be wearing orange, not blue, green and gold. Notre Dame has pumped in noise and practiced its nonverbal cadence throughout the week as if Memorial Stadium will be “the loudest environment that we’ve ever played in,” Kelly said, with little to no hyperbole.

“The best way of quieting a crowd down is making big plays,” Kizer said.

If the Irish make enough, they overcome arguably their biggest hurdle and move to 5-0 for just the sixth time since 1988.

“Everybody wants to get that opportunity to compete at the highest level,” Kelly said, “and this will be one of those opportunities.”


All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is the lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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Power Ranking College Football's Top 15 QBs Heading into Week 5

Now more than ever, college football is a quarterback's game. Don't have a good one and a team's chances for success are drastically lowered, since monster running backs who can carry an offense like LSU's Leonard Fournette are the exception rather than the rule.

Take a glance at the latest Associated Press Top 25 and you'll find that most of the highest-ranked teams are led by a top-notch quarterback. It's not the only reason they're succeeding, but it certainly helps. It's also a contributing factor for most of the teams that are off to better-than-expected starts, as strong quarterback play has paced the early achievements. 

A number of factors go into determining how good a college football quarterback is, however. With so many different systems in use, not every one has the same kind of numbers that would allow for a strict numerical comparison, so in power ranking the best in FBS we've put together a formula that takes into account total offense (and the percent of a team's output they're responsible for), completion percentage, yards per pass attempt, touchdown and interception rate and quarterback rating as well as how well their team is performing in 2015.

Check out our ranking of the top 15 quarterbacks in college football heading into Week 5, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

Begin Slideshow

Bleacher Report's Week 5 College Football Playoff Predicitons

Will your team make the College Football Playoff in 2015?

While the committee won't release its first rankings until November 3, we can use the AP poll with my algorithm to make a prediction. Let me explain the key take-home points in these results.


Is it too early to make a prediction?

Week 4 might seem too early to assign a probability for making the playoff. However, the performance of college football teams tends to persist from season to season.

The Michigan Wolverines have a century of tradition and the financial resources from packing over 100,000 fans into the Big House for every game. The Louisiana Monroe Warhawks, on the other hand, have the smallest athletic department budget of any FBS school. All this to say, it's unlikely these two schools trade places. 

At The Power Rank, I also rank teams by taking margin of victory and adjusting for strength of schedule.  Each teams gets a rating, which gives a predicted margin of victory against an average team. The visual below shows how these ratings tend to persist from year to year.

This persistence allows me to calculate preseason ratings that predict more than 70 percent of game-winners since the 2005 season. With the addition of data from four weeks of games, there can be an even better estimate of each team. So in reality, it's not too early to assign a meaningful probability to each team.


Parity rules the top 10

No team has better than even odds to make the playoffs; the Baylor Bears have the highest playoff probability at 48.6 percent. Seven teams have a greater than 25 percent chance to get selected as one of the final four teams.

With so many games left to play, no team has emerged as a clear favorite to make the final four. However, the numbers do identify seven teams with the best chance. The playoff probabilities of the top teams will also increase as more games get played, as there is less opportunity for a slipup. For example, the Oregon Ducks had a greater than 70 percent chance after week 11 last season.


Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Georgia Bulldogs will impact these numbers

The top 10 in playoff probability currently features four SEC teams. Georgia and Ole Miss have the third and fourth highest playoff probability, while Alabama and LSU just make the top 10. The Crimson Tide travel to Georgia this weekend in a game that will add clarity to the top of the conference. Just like the markets, my numbers consider Georgia the favorite with a 61.9 percent win probability.

If Georgia wins, it will confirm its spot among the top teams in the country. If Alabama wins, it most likely jumps into the top five for playoff probability.


What is wrong with the Pac-12?

The Pac-12 has zero teams in the top 10 for playoff probability. The UCLA Bruins are 11th with a 14.3 percent chance. How did this happen?

Oregon has been near the top of the conference for the last five years. However, the Ducks looked awful on defense as the Utah Utes beat them 62-20 on their home turf in Eugene on Saturday. The Stanford Cardinal similarly looked terrible in a opening-week loss at the Northwestern Wildcats. However, a win at USC has vaulted them back to 21st in the AP poll and dropped the Trojans to 19th.

Utah is doing better in the AP poll, at 10th following its stunning win over Oregon.  However, it doesn't fare as well in my numbers, which limits its playoff probability to 5.5 percent, only 17th best in the nation.


Notre Dame Fighting Irish's injuries

The 4-0 Notre Dame Fighting Irish have an 18.3 percent chance to make the playoff, eighth best in the nation.

However, they have suffered major injuries on offense as quarterback Malik Zaire, tight end Durham Smythe and running back Tarean Folston are done for the season. My numbers do not account for these injuries, and it's tempting to think that the team's playoff probability drops due to these losses. However, Notre Dame's offense has played admirably the last three games in spite of the injuries.

They face a stiff test, traveling to the Clemson Tigers on Saturday. By according to my yards per play adjusted for strength of schedule, Clemson has the best defense in the nation.


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Michigan vs. Maryland Rescheduled Due to Hurricane Joaquin

In the first of what will likely be a number of scheduling changes due to Hurricane Joaquin, Saturday's matchup between Michigan and Maryland will begin at noon ET rather than its scheduled 8 p.m. ET kickoff.

"The weather experts are still dealing with uncertain probabilities for the course of Hurricane Joaquin," Jim Hackett, interim director of athletics, said in a statement. "Thus we remain vigilant on developments and will err on the side of safety for all participants and fans."

Hurricane Joaquin is considered a Category 3—the middle of a five-category scale—and is gaining strength as it prepares to reach the Eastern United States this weekend. Chris Dolce of Weather.com reported that flooding is expected in the East Coast regardless of the track Joaquin takes, with some areas already beginning to see the effects before the storm even hits.

The storm is expected to bring downpours and high winds that would make travel associated with sporting events unsafe. Moving Saturday's kickoff to noon will theoretically allow the players and fans to make their way to the stadium and travel before the worst of the storm hits Maryland.

“Our foremost priority is the safety and well-being of both teams, fans attending the game and staff,” Maryland Director of Athletics Kevin Anderson said in a statement. “Our collective decision in working with the University of Michigan and the Big Ten Conference was to kick off as early as possible because of the unpredictable nature of Hurricane Joaquin. In addition, those participating, working and attending the game would not have to travel in the evening in potentially dangerous conditions.”

Maryland-Michigan is the first major event in the area to announce a rescheduling, though more may be coming as the weekend approaches. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported that Sunday's matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington may be pushed back to Week 8 if Joaquin touches down in the area.

Expected weather patterns in Dolce's report show some areas of Maryland could see upward of five inches of rain over the next week. 


Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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Where Have All the Quarterbacks Gone?

Everything is an evolution. People get bigger and stronger. But unused muscles wither, shrivel and fade. And I think I just described the decaying state of Modern Quarterback Man.      

Their brains are going unused and losing their ability to function at a high level. So the NFL has had a shortage of top QBs for a few years, and now college football does, too.

Where did all the good quarterbacks go? It's simple: The old-time quarterback got a feel for the game and led the team from that knowledge. The modern-time quarterback is a Neanderthal in that regard.

The great modern offense at Oregon had no one in the pipeline when Marcus Mariota left, and it had to rely on a college graduate to transfer in for one year. He hasn't been any good. Same thing happened at Michigan, where Jim Harbaugh has so simplified the position for his QB that it's as if he is talking…real…slow to him so he can understand.

Auburn doesn't have a quarterback. Alabama doesn't seem to, either. South Carolina, where quarterbacks could go learn from Steve Spurrier, doesn't. There's a shortage of QBs in the SEC overall. These are spots where you'd expect two or three quarterbacks waiting their chance.

But no. How can that be? We know college coaches' dumbed-down spread offenses aren't preparing quarterbacks for the pros, but why are we now seeing fewer and fewer prepared to handle even the simplified college level?

There are a lot of reasons and theories as to what's happening, really. Coaches are taking too much of the game out of the QBs' hands, leaving many of them unable and unprepared to adapt when it actually is necessary. Meanwhile, college defensive coaches have had a few years to work on stopping the spread. They're starting to figure it out.

And it's all happening at the same point in the quarterback-evolution timeline as the emergence of the QB coaching guru, private coaches who are supposed to be fine-tuning and perfecting players.

"There are so many people out there who are tutoring quarterbacks and having private lessons and having this and that," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, a former star QB himself, said. "But ultimately, you've got to have a young man that has some skill, he's willing to become a student of the game and he's got to be tough.

"Playing quarterback at this level is difficult. You take a lot of hits. I just don't know if there's that many tough kids out there willing to take the hits to play the game."

I think the problem has to do with the way the game has evolved, mixed with the way youth sports is now coached. Kids are being over-coached and overspecialized to death.

In fact, DeShone Kizer, the quarterback who has stepped in at Notre Dame slightly short on fundamentals but strong on poise and leadership, never went to a quarterback camp. He didn't play football in the offseason, but instead played baseball and basketball. He never went to a guru.

"And therein lies another reason I liked him," said Chuck Martin, Miami (Ohio) head coach and former offensive coordinator at Notre Dame. Martin worked Kizer out twice during recruiting. "These quarterback gurus out there do way more harm than good, I would say.”

Martin also coached Everett Golson, who went to quarterback guru George Whitfield when he had been kicked out of school over an academic cheating scandal. Golson came back and played his best ever, becoming an immediate Heisman Trophy candidate.

For half a season. Then he fell apart.

"It's not because they don't know what they're doing," Martin said, talking about QB gurus in general. He did not name Whitfield specifically. "It's not because they don't know things we know.

"It's because quarterbacks are getting mixed messages. I'm coaching you, but you have your own quarterback coach—and he's telling you to do one thing and I'm telling you to do something else? You think that's helpful? That's crazy."

Let's start with the hurry-up spread offense. It spread across college football the past few years, took control out of the hands of the quarterback and moved it to the coach. Someone holds up a card calling the play on the sideline, and the quarterback takes the snap from a shotgun, takes a step or two back and fires to the sideline.

What's wrong with that? Nothing, if you don't mind your quarterback not learning how to lead a huddle, change cadence, take a snap from center, learn a five- or seven-step drop and read a defense over the entire field.

The brainwork is being done for them. And in the NFL, where most coaches know that you win from the pocket, there are just so few quarterbacks arriving out of college ready to do it. High school kids are moving on to college unprepared to lead, too. But the coaches have had success getting freshmen, such as Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel, to do it.

Now, even some of the great spread offenses in college—Oregon and Auburn—are finding out their quarterbacks aren't ready for that level.

Slow down. That's roughly what Steve Clarkson—maybe the top, best-respected QB guru—told me. He said quarterback play runs in cycles and college football is, at worst, in a down cycle. Several top quarterbacks have graduated, and their replacements just aren't quite ready yet, he said. Besides, he added, the SEC has always been based more on linemen than quarterbacks anyway, and the traditional quarterback conference, the Pac-12, is doing just fine.

"I wouldn't push the panic button," he said. "College football is going to have turnover, and you're going to have ebbs and flows. I think the quarterback position is in great hands."

Oregon is doing fine after losing Heisman winner Marcus Mariota and having no one it could trust in the pipeline? It went to transfer Vernon Adams, and the Ducks are now unranked.

"I think they just made a mistake when they couldn't bring him in for spring football [while he graduated from Eastern Washington]. He basically got the job within five days or so. That's tough from a chemistry standpoint.

"That might have been a calculated situation that might have backfired. But they have kids on the roster who are capable of being the next Mariota."

That said, Clarkson agreed with Martin that many of these private QB coaches are leading to confusion, sending mixed messages. Without naming anyone, he said that plenty of people in his field are taking on players who were already making it, claiming credit for them and trying to put their stamp on them.

Clarkson said he typically works with quarterbacks from the time they're "teenie boppers" and won't work with a college quarterback unless he already has a strong relationship with the player's coach.

At the same time, he said, college football created the QB guru business by limiting the number of hours players can work with their school coaches. He asked: If players want more coaching the rest of the year, then how else are they supposed to get it?

Akron coach Terry Bowden, the former coach at Auburn, said the over-specialization of coaching is a trend, but that it isn't helping. Kids play one sport now instead of multiple sports, and get 12-month training, "and I don't know if it makes a big difference. But I don't really like anybody fooling with my guy except my quarterback coach."

This isn't to say there aren't any top-flight college quarterbacks. UCLA has Josh Rosen, Cal has Jared Goff, TCU has Trevone Boykin and USC has Cody Kessler.

Part of it is just circumstance, and how good the team is around a quarterback. Last year, Ohio State had three QBs who seemed Heisman quality. Now, Braxton Miller moved to receiver, Cardale Jones hasn't been as effective as he was last year and J.T. Barrett isn't making a mark.

So even Ohio State, the defending national champs, is fighting off a quarterback issue.

"Quarterback's a unique position," Bowden said. "You have to have a special guy at that position. Everybody's searching for that guy."

Keep searching. But the way things are going, it's only going to keep getting harder to find the Neanderthal everyone wants.


Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report.

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Pretender or Contender: Which SEC Teams Have a Real Shot at the Title?

Teams have garnered certain reputations through the first four weeks of the college football season, and it's time to analyze who has earned them.

Which undefeated SEC team is fooling everybody? Which SEC team that just entered the Top 25 has a real shot of winning the SEC title?

Watch as Stephen Nelson and Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee discuss which teams are for real and which ones fall short in the video above.

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Chris Seisay Injury: Updates on Oregon CB's Status and Return

Oregon's defense was torched last week with cornerback Chris Seisay out of the lineup, and it looks as though the Ducks will have to continue on without him for the foreseeable future due to injury.

Continue for updates.

Report: Seisay 'Out Indefinitely' After Undergoing SurgeryThursday, Oct. 1

The sophomore defensive back has missed each of Oregon's past two games, and according to Matt Prehm of 247Sports, his absence will be extended for an indefinite amount of time after he underwent an undisclosed surgery.

Although the Ducks have yet to disclose the exact nature of Seisay's injury, he was seen with a walking boot on his left foot during Oregon's 62-20 loss to Utah, per Kenny Jacoby of the Daily Emerald.

Seisay ascended to a starting role in 2015 after filling in for the injured Ifo Ekpre-Olomu late last season, and he was thriving through the first two games.

The Vallejo, California, native totaled 12 tackles, one interception and one pass defended against Eastern Washington and Michigan State, and the coaching staff seemed to have supreme confidence in him.

According to Andrew Greif of the Oregonian, Ducks secondary coach John Neal felt very comfortable using Seisay in an expanded role:

You know what happens sometimes is you're with guys for long periods of times and they get to play and you know in the back of your mind, "If I put that guy in ..." I had (safety) John Boyett a long time ago and when TJ (Ward) got hurt, I put John Boyett in and I didn't blink an eye. I knew he'd do well and I feel the same way about Chris. He'll play more and more, he's a good player.

Unfortunately for Neal and the Ducks, Seisay is no longer an option for the time being, and it is unclear when or if he might ultimately return.

Freshman Ugo Amadi stepped in to play for him against Utah, and it didn't go well, as the Utes put up 62 points.

Amadi will have to sink or swim moving forward while sophomore Arrion Springs and freshmen Khalil Oliver and Glen Ihenacho take on greater roles as well.

If they don't step up with Seisay out of the lineup, then the 2-2 Ducks could be in grave danger of becoming irrelevant in 2015.


Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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5-Star Mack Wilson Tweets Top 8, Wants to Play 'Money' Linebacker at Next Level

As the nation's top-ranked outside linebacker in the 2016 class, Lyndell "Mack" Wilson is a wanted individual. The Montgomery, Alabama, standout nearly has 20 reported offers, and while some see him as a future all-conference outside linebacker, others would like to see him on the field early—which could mean playing time as a freshman as an inside linebacker in the right system.

Ask Wilson about it, and he'll make it plain and simple. 

"Position-wise, it doesn't matter," he said. "I want to play 'Money' linebacker."

For those unfamiliar with the term, "Money" linebacker, as Wilson described, is a do-it-all athlete at the position, someone who never comes off the field. In short, it's a place where you want your best athletes.

And Wilson, the nation's No. 13 overall player, can be someone's best athlete wherever he ends up.

The Carver High School senior narrowed his list Wednesday evening and posted a top eight on Twitter, the list featuring four SEC schools, two Pac-12 destinations and individual representatives from the Big Ten and ACC. The list, additionally, was ranked from No. 1 to No. 8:

Wilson shocked some by confirming that Florida is the current leader. He was believed to be a favorable target for one of the two in-state schools, Alabama and Auburn. While nothing is set in stone for when he announces on national signing day, the Gators have to feel good about the position they're in.

"He likes Florida," Todd Dowell, Wilson's mentor, told Drew Champlin of AL.com. "He likes the scheme and he kind of likes [head] coach [Jim] McElwain."

Alabama ranks No. 4 on Wilson's list, but Auburn didn't make the cut. Wilson said the decision to trim the schools was tough, but all eight programs had a common denominator.

"All of those teams have a great defensive program," Wilson said. "It's all going to come down to what I want to do and what best fits me academically."

Wilson said he's built solid relationships with coaches at all eight schools, and he's got a good shot at seeing starter's minutes as a freshman. Wilson is ranked as the nation's top outside linebacker, but he's been shining at Carver this year at middle linebacker.

This is where playing "Money" linebacker comes into play. Wilson, who now is 6'2" and 240 pounds, is strong, quick and explosive off the ball. At The Opening over the summer—then weighing in at 236 pounds—he threw the power ball 42.5 feet and had a vertical jump of 31.5 inches.

When Wilson puts pads on, he's even more dangerous. He had 11 tackles and a sack in his role as middle linebacker in last week's game against Prattville, a team that features a couple of Michigan 3-star commits in running back Kingston Davis and linebacker Dytarious Johnson, as well as 2-star Duke kicker pledge A.J. Reed.

Wilson said he's factoring in player-coach relationship, game atmosphere, academic growth and overall campus environment in his ultimate decision. And while Florida continues to do its part in staying atop Wilson's personal ranking, the other seven schools still have four months to make a run at the top spot.


Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles.

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College Football Week 5: Top 25 Upset Alert

Week 5 of the College Football season is here, and Bleacher Report is covering Top 25 ranked teams that are on upset alert this weekend.

Which Big 12 team should be weary of their unranked opponents? Which team may play shocker in their first time as an underdog since 2009?

Watch as Bleacher Report college football analyst Adam Kramer discusses potential upsets this weekend in the video above.

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