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Baylor President Releases Statement on Art Briles' Handling of Sam Ukwuachu

Baylor University president Ken Starr released a statement in support of the Bears' head football coach, Art Briles, whom Starr maintains was unaware of Sam Ukwuachu's previous history of violence prior to his arrival in Waco, Texas.

Briles and former Boise State head coach Chris Petersen have engaged in a public back-and-forth about who knew what and when regarding the circumstances of Ukwuachu's transfer from Boise State. On Friday, Starr wrote a firm defense of Briles:    

At no time did any Boise State official ever disclose any record of physical violence toward women. A variety of news sources ultimately corroborated the accuracy of Coach Briles’ account. In addition, in recent days, Coach Briles has made it absolutely clear that he is fully supportive of the independent investigation which will – among other things – ensure the thoroughness of the transfer admission of student-athletes, as well as of policies and procedures designed to safeguard the character and well-being of our entire student body.

"I know and respect Coach Petersen and he would never recommend a student-athlete to Baylor that he didn't believe in," said Briles in his statement about the situation back in August, per USA Today's George Schroeder. "In our discussion, he did not disclose that there had been violence toward women, but he did tell me of a rocky relationship with his girlfriend which contributed to his depression."

A McLennan County judge sentenced Ukwuachu to 180 days in jail and 10 years for probation after the former Bears player was found guilty of sexual assault.

The ongoing investigation of the sexual assault charges had largely gone unnoticed in the public eye until a report from Jessica Luther and Dan Solomon in Texas Monthly. That report also called into question the veracity of Baylor's own investigation into the claims.

According to Tommy Witherspoon of the Waco Tribune, Bethany McCraw, Baylor’s associate dean for student conduct administration, testified that "a preponderance of the evidence" essentially cleared Ukwuachu during the internal investigation.

The school has since enlisted the services of a Philadelphia law firm to examine how the school handles sexual assault allegations on campus, per Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan vs. Utah: Live Score and Highlights

Utah 3, Michigan 0—Early 1st Quarter

The Michigan Wolverines and Utah Utes are squaring off in a nonconference battle. Fox Sports 1 is broadcasting the matchup.

Feel free to join the conversation in the comments section below.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Mike Riley Reveals Names of 5 Suspended Nebraska Players vs. BYU

Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach Mike Riley announced Thursday that five of his players are suspended for Saturday's season opener against BYU.

Samuel McKewon of the World-Herald reported Michael Rose-Ivey, Cethan Carter, Jonathan Rose, Robby Painter and Joe Keels will be held out of action to kick off the 2015 season. McKewon also added context for the first three players mentioned:     

Riley is in his first year at the helm in Lincoln, taking over for Bo Pelini after a 12-year stint at Oregon State. He had previously confirmed that five players were suspended for one game in mid-August, per the Journal Star's Brian Christopherson, but didn't reveal their names until Thursday.

Nebraska beat writer Michael Bruntz of 247Sports hinted at the uncertainty entering the BYU contest with a new coach in Riley taking over.

"I think it will be a pretty close game. Finally going to see what [nine] months of work looks like for [Nebraska]," said Bruntz, per ESPN 99.1 FM.

The Cornhuskers lost three of their last four games last season to finish with a 9-4 mark. The hope is Riley will provide a fresh start to get the program over the hump in a talented Big Ten.

At least Rose-Ivey, a 2013 member of the conference's All-Freshman Team, is the only marquee Nebraska player who will be held out of the impending showdown with the Cougars. But Riley's side could have used Rose-Ivey's help in facing a dynamic, dual-threat quarterback in BYU's Taysom Hill.

Tommy Armstrong Jr.'s skill set provides Nebraska with an athletic signal-caller of its own. It will be interesting to see how Armstrong fares considering he completed just 53.3 percent of passes in 2014 and no longer has the services of running back Ameer Abdullah, now a member of the Detroit Lions.

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TCU vs. Minnesota: Live Score and Highlights

The second-ranked TCU Horned Frogs and Heisman Trophy hopeful quarterback Trevone Boykin start their run toward a national championship tonight against a Minnesota team they'd better not overlook.

Last year in Fort Worth, Texas, coach Gary Patterson's squad rolled over the Golden Gophers by a score of 30-7 in a game where TCU held Minnesota's vaunted rushing attack to just 99 yards.

Gone are star runner David Cobb and tight end Maxx Williams, but that hasn't stopped several from hyping the Gophers as an upstart team that could seize control of the Big Ten West division. It's safe to say these two programs are on the rise.

Minnesota's Eric Murray and Briean Boddy-Calhoun are both Bednarik Award watch list members, and they anchor a strong secondary. A standout performance from Boykin could make him an early favorite for a slew of postseason awards. 

If the Gophers' offense can generate first downs and keep TCU off the field, this could be a grind-it-out game. If it turns into a high-powered air assault, it'll be difficult for Minnesota coach Jerry Kill's team to stay in it.

Stay tuned here as we at B/R will have all the scores, highlights and live-blogging action when the game starts at 9 p.m. Eastern.

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UNC vs. South Carolina: Live Score and Highlights

South Carolina's Carson busts a 40-yard dagger for a TD, and USC takes its first lead...USC 17 UNC 13  

The live updates will keep on rolling in throughout the evening, so stay tuned for more comments, highlights and analysis. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5 Things Cougar Fans Should Watch for During Houston's 2015 Season Opener

It’s that time of year again in Houston, when the Cougar faithful don the red and white and head down to TDECU Stadium to see their football team. Historically speaking, Houston Cougar football is exciting, high-scoring and innovative. While most of that was lacking the last few years under the direction of departing head coach Tony Levine, Houston fans are hoping the newly hired Tom Herman can restore the Coogs back to their winning ways.

Here are five things to watch for during Houston’s 2015 season opener against Tennessee Tech.

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4-Star William Poole III Is Racking Up Offers, Wants to Major in Computer Tech

With Sept. 1 being the first day college coaches can reach out to rising juniors in the 2017 class, it was a pretty hectic day for 4-star corner William Poole III.

Included in the barrage of contact from colleges were offers from Big Ten powers Michigan State and Ohio State. Purdue and UCF also offered him this week, bringing his total to 33 offers.

The 6’0”, 170-pound Atlanta native admits the offer from the defending national champions was one he was looking forward to.

“That was a highly anticipated offer,” Poole told Bleacher Report. “They came to see me back in the spring. [Cornerbacks] Coach [Kerry] Coombs came to one our practices to check me out, and he spoke with me afterward and told me that he liked me and thinks that I’d be pretty good on the next level. A couple of months later, when the rules allowed them to, they came back to offer me.”

Poole admits that he’s still not as familiar with the Buckeyes program as he’d like to be, but he expects that to change now that head coach Urban Meyer and his staff have made it known they plan to recruit him hard.

“I know they are a good program,” Poole said. “Speaking with Coach Coombs and the rest of the staff up there, I know I have a good relationship with them. It’s only going to get stronger. With that said, I’m still learning about Ohio State. I’ve never been up there. But now that they’ve offered, I can begin to learn more and get that process moving with them.” 

The offer from the Spartans also caught his attention due to the program’s reputation of producing elite players on defense.

“[Michigan State has] a good tradition with producing defensive backs,” Poole said. “Maybe I could be on that train one day, you never know. I’m not very familiar with their coaching staff. I’ve only talked with their defensive backs coach [Harlon Barnett], but I do want to grow that bond with all of their staff, including the defensive coordinator. Maybe next summer, I can take a visit up there to check them out and see what they have to offer.

With his ever-expanding offer list seemingly growing by the day, Poole insists he’s in no rush to name any leaders. However, there are a few programs that he communicates with frequently.

Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia Tech make up the early group of schools he’s developed strong relationships with at this stage.

He also notes that he hopes to hear more from SEC powers Tennessee and Texas A&M—both of whom have already offered him. Of schools that have yet to offer, Oklahoma and USC are two programs he hopes to see officially jump into the picture.

Still, he admits that he’s already thought of a timeline for how his recruitment will play out.

“I sat down with my parents about that recently,” he said. “After my junior season is over, I want to start trimming my list down to a Top 10. I will take some visits in the spring and summer. Before my senior year begins, I want to cut it down to a Top 5. Those would be the only five schools that I would then focus on. Whenever the time is right after that point, I will commit.”

Poole reports a 3.0 GPA with tentative plans to major in a field related to computer technology.

As for his criteria in eventually picking a school, Poole is looking for a good fit on and off the field and somewhere not too far away from the metro Atlanta area. 

“I just want to go somewhere where I feel most comfortable at,” Poole said. “I want to find a program where I fit in with what they are doing on defense. The relationship with coaches is also important. Right now, I prefer to be closer to home because I’d want my family to be able to come and see me play.”


Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Multiple Rutgers Football Players Arrested for Assault: Latest Details, Reaction

Five Rutgers football players were charged Thursday with a variety of crimes related to the alleged assault of multiple individuals in April. 

According to documents obtained by Keith Sargeant of NJ.com, five current Rutgers players—Nadir Barnwell, Ruhann Peele, Andre Boggs, Delon Stephenson and Rahzonn Gross—were among 10 people charged in multiple violent crimes that vary from robbery to the breaking of another student's jaw.

Nine of the 10 defendants were arrested Thursday, but Daryl Stephenson—brother of Delon and former Rutgers student—remains at large. Rutgers has officially suspended the students pending the investigation. 

"The students involved are currently suspended from our program," athletics director Julie Hermann said in a statement, per Sargeant. "We continue to monitor the situation. We will have no further comment as this is a pending legal matter."

The arrests come as part of an ongoing investigation into multiple crimes committed this spring. The Rutgers players have been indicted on charges relating to an April brawl, in which they allegedly jumped other individuals unprovoked following an altercation. The man, a 19-year-old student, suffered a broken jaw. 

News of the arrests comes in the same week that it was revealed Rutgers coach Kyle Flood is under investigation for academic impropriety. Sargeant reported Flood contacted a university professor in an attempt to help Barnwell gain eligibility. The head coach allegedly went behind the university's back and emailed a professor from his private account, perhaps in hopes of changing the grade.

"Any correspondence that I had with a professor in regard to a student-athlete would really be of this nature: One, to be in support of whatever decision that faculty member made, and two, to inquire as to whether or not there would be an opportunity to earn a better grade," Flood said.

Barnwell was a projected starter at cornerback, while Peele was expected to be an integral backup. Delon Stephenson was the team's projected starting free safety. 

Even if Flood is found not guilty of attempting to coerce a professor, his program appears to be going up in flames just days before the 2015 season opens against Norfolk State. Flood was already facing pressure after an up-and-down first three seasons as head coach, and these controversies are only going to make his seat hotter. 


Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Title Contenders with Easiest 2015 Schedules

For college football's top teams as the 2015 season begins Thursday, the goal is clear: Put themselves in position to play for a national championship four months from now.

But as all teams aren't created equal, neither are the obstacles they're scheduled to face on their journey toward a title. Some have a much easier road than others, to the point that not being able to navigate the slate would be the biggest argument against their case to be worthy of a playoff bid.

Using teams that had the best odds to win the national title entering this season (according to OddsShark), we've ranked those championship contenders based on the ease of their 2015 schedules. Factors include the record of their opponents from last year, how many were bowl teams and how many of those bowl foes are being played on the road.

This isn't a list of all the potential title teams, since some have schedules that are considered far too difficult and thus have their hands full this season. Rather, this only ranks teams whose schedules are on the easier side of the spectrum.

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Oregon Football: Realistic Expectations for QB Vernon Adams in 2015

“Now what?”

That was the question Oregon Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich and his top lieutenants asked themselves when the reality of the 2015 season finally hit them despite the months and months of talk, foreshadowing and declarations.

Marcus Mariota, arguably the best quarterback in school history, Heisman Trophy winner, team leader and all-around great guy was gone.

Now what?

Enter Vernon Adams, a much-discussed transfer from the Eastern Washington Eagles who was named Oregon’s starting signal-caller last week for the team’s opener against…Eastern Washington. As if that storyline wasn’t juicy enough, a former FCS player taking over for the Heisman winner surely adds to the level of intrigue.

Expectations will be high this season for Oregon, a Pacific Northwest powerhouse with a lofty ranking in the polls and designs on capturing another Pac-12 title. With Adams under center, he’ll be frequently compared to his predecessor, but once the games begin, the year becomes about him and not the ghost of number eight.

“The honest truth is Marcus bailed us out of three or four games last year with his play,” offensive coordinator Scott Frost told USA Today's George Schroeder. “I don’t think with the guys around him the quarterback has to be Superman to make it go, but you never know how the season is gonna go.”

If we peer into our crystal ball, though, what can we expect to see out of Adams?

While he may think of himself as Superman given the swagger he displays on the field at times, asking him to reach and repeat Mariota’s numbers is hard to fathom. Adams is bound to throw more interceptions—Mariota had just 14 in his career and only four last year—and it will be equally tough to match the 10 yards per attempt the veteran had either.

Adams is good, but he is not that good.

A run at a repeat trip to the College Football Playoff can’t be ruled out, however, with the Ducks’ new starter given the talent that has been assembled in green and yellow. A one-loss regular-season campaign can’t be the expectation, as some backsliding needs to be expected after a magical 2014. A tougher schedule, especially in Pac-12 play, will contribute to that as much as anything the team’s signal-caller does.

Still, no matter how prolific any dual-threat quarterback is, his primary job description remains the same: distribute the ball to the team’s playmakers. This is where Adams may have a leg up on Mariota due to the experience around him at the skill positions.

Sophomore Royce Freeman is a fringe Heisman Trophy contender himself. Bralon Addison, the team’s most explosive receiver two years ago, returns to action fully healthy after a devastating knee injury and finds himself as a backup due to the amount of depth the team has at wideout. Charles Nelson proved to be a speedy option in space as a true freshman receiver, and Byron Marshall brings a wealth of experience out of the slot as well.

Throw in tight ends Evan Baylis and Johnny Mundt, a fair amount of experience returning along the offensive line, and there’s a reason why many still believe a championship season is possible in Eugene even if there is some regression when it comes to the play behind center.

Much has been made of Adams’ transition from FCS star to FBS starter, and it’s certainly something to keep an eye on. But don’t discount the fact that he’s got an impressive resume that leads one to believe that it won’t be as big of a jump as going from college to the NFL that some are making things out to be.

At Eastern Washington, all Adams did was put up a 110-to-31 touchdown/interception ratio. Read that line again while parsing out the relevant stat: 110 touchdowns in three seasons. It wasn’t just against overmatched FCS teams either. He beat a then-top 25 team in 2013 by topping Oregon State with 518 yards of total offense. Last year, against a defense that featured three early NFL draft picks, Adams rolled up 475 yards and seven touchdowns in a narrow loss to the Washington Huskies.

The bottom line is that Adams has what fellow quarterback Jeff Lockie did not in the race to replace Mariota: experience being the guy. In the coaches’ eyes, that outweighed any advantage Lockie had when it came to knowing the Ducks’ offense—something that became clear when Adams won the job in just two weeks of fall camp.

It will be difficult for anybody to replicate what Mariota was able to do in Eugene. That’s not Adams’ aim nor should that level of play be the expectation. Given the success in Oregon’s offense that others like Darron Thomas and Dennis Dixon have had, however, it’s not unreasonable to think similar numbers will be there for Adams at the end of the year just as double-digit wins will be.

Whether that translates into FBS accolades or an early, season-defining win in Week 2 over Michigan State won’t be answered until the red contact jersey is ripped off and the snaps start counting for real.

After months of speculation, a minute-by-minute update on a math test and a tight quarterback battle, it’s time for fans, the media and NFL scouts to ponder that same question that Ducks coaches did several months ago.

Now what, Vernon?

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon Football: Realistic Expectations for QB Vernon Adams in 2015

“Now what?” That was the question Oregon Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich and his top lieutenants asked themselves when the reality of the 2015 season finally hit them despite the months and months of talk, foreshadowing and declarations...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Alabama's Toughest Schedule Ever Will Make or Break the Tide in 2015

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — One of things that appeals to many prospects who end up playing football for the University of Alabama is the chance to play in numerous high-profile games like Saturday’s season opener against Wisconsin.

It’s one of the few Week 1 matchups of ranked teams, No. 3 vs. No. 20, according to the preseason Associated Press Poll. It will be played in arguably football’s finest venue, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and in the brightest of spotlights thanks to the ABC/ESPN media conglomerate.

One has to wonder, though, if Alabama had known how the rest of its 2015 schedule would look like, if it might have passed on this game.

Probably not. Nick Saban has always preferred to face a high-profile opponent outside of the eight-game league schedule—the next three being Southern California, Florida State and Louisville—and there are too many rewards to be gained.

“We've liked the neutral-site games, the quality of opponents that we're able to play, the focus that the players have on playing a big game the first game,” Saban said. “I think the exposure that the program gets on a national level playing in these kind of games are all important factors.”

So is the sizable payout of $4 million along with nice recruiting bump. While the Cotton Bowl is always interested in hosting Alabama, the last visit was the 2012 opener when it dismembered Michigan 41-14. This time it returns with numerous players from the Lone Star State including quarterback Alec Morris, defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson and defensive backs Tony Brown, Kendall Sheffield, Deionte Thompson and Maurice Smith.

But this is just the start of what most consider the toughest schedule in college football this season, and it could potentially be the most difficult ever.

Thanks to facing the two most hyped teams in the SEC East, Georgia and Tennessee, Alabama is slated to play seven teams ranked in the preseason poll, along with the two top vote-getters outside of the Top 25, Mississippi State and Texas A&M. It’s likely only a matter of time before both move up.

There isn’t a coach in the SEC West who can say that they’ve seen something like this before, because no one has—ever.

Last season was close with Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State all in the top five of the Associated Press Poll at some point, with only Arkansas never cracking the Top 25. The Razorbacks just missed, knocking off two ranked teams in November before trampling Texas 31-7.

“It’ll be challenging, but that’s why you come,” said LSU defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, the former Ole Miss head coach who is back in the league after serving as USC’s interim head coach in 2013.

“I really believe this, the front-seven play in the SEC is just more dominant—not that they don’t have great players out there, there’s more of them here. When I was back out West, I thought the offenses were more wide open with the spread and score more points, but now in the SEC everyone spreads. It’s kind of equaled out.”

When Alabama won the 2009 and 2012 national titles, it played six different ranked opponents along the way. In 2011 it was five.

Should the Crimson Tide hit each opponent right and reach this year’s SEC Championship Game, that’s 10 ranked opponents plus possibly two more in the playoffs.

That’s never occurred in college football. No team has come close.

The record for the most ranked teams a national champion faced is eight, by LSU in 2007 when it went 12-2 and beat Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game. Some consider it the toughest schedule ever played.

(Incidentally, the Notre Dame record is seven, in 1989 and 1990 when Lou Holtz was the coach. The record for a national champion facing teams ranked in the top five of the AP poll is four by Penn State in 1982.)

Alabama faced eight ranked teams in 1970 and 2010, when it went 6-5-1 and 10-3, respectively, and that 2010 squad faced six straight SEC opponents that were coming off a bye.

But seeing such a loaded schedule is becoming more commonplace, especially with how tough the SEC West has become. Arkansas played eight ranked teams last season, and Auburn has faced seven in each of the last two years.

Just one or two years ago, Alabama was being criticized for its “soft” schedule, although a lot of that had to do with the SEC schedule rotation and the decline of other programs like Tennessee.

This fall it’s the biggest hurdle the Crimson Tide has to clear and could decide if the season will lead to a championship or be more like three-loss 2010.

“We wouldn’t have it any other way,” junior defensive end Jonathan Allen said about the challenge. “We love playing a demanding schedule, and we love getting up for games week in, week out.”


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Cardale Jones Released from Hospital After Migraine

Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones appears to be doing much better after a severe migraine headache forced him to the hospital Wednesday. 

According to Bleacher Report's Ben Axelrod, citing an Ohio State spokesperson, Jones was released from Wexner Medical Center and is "doing fine."

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, speaking to Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch, provided details on Jones' ailment:

Per Rabinowitz, Meyer also said Jones will be fine but will be limited in practice Thursday.

With Jones and J.T. Barrett returning, Meyer has not named a starting quarterback for Monday's season opener against Virginia Tech, but he told reporters, via Bill Landis of the Northeast Ohio Media Group, he has "an idea" of who will be under center to start the game.  

Jones became a breakout star for the Buckeyes during their run to a national title. He took over as the starting quarterback after Barrett was injured in the regular-season finale against Michigan, throwing for 860 yards and seven touchdowns in three games. 

Fortunately, Jones' health scare seems to have been a contained incident that will allow him to remain in the mix for the quarterback job when Ohio State begins its quest to defend the national championship. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Most Important College Football Recruiting Visits of Week 1

The college football season starts this week, launching long-awaited championship chases across the country. It also opens the door for star high school prospects to take a closer look at campuses and game day atmospheres, especially for senior athletes slated to take expenses-paid official visits with family members this fall.

Each week at Bleacher Report, we'll examine anticipated recruiting visits that may ultimately shape the outcome on national signing day. Here's a look at key travel plans for the 2015 campaign's opening weekend.

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Ranking the Best SEC Matchups of Week 1

It's been two years since an SEC football team hoisted the national championship trophy, a drought that seemed unthinkable during the conference's seven-year run of dominance.

Now that Week 1 of the 2015 college football season is upon us, several programs will start their quest to end that lull and knock Ohio State off its lofty perch.

Others will either try to make a leap to another level or battle into a bowl game.

While it isn't a week full of top-10 showdowns, a few teams have some strong early-season tests at neutral-site venues. A couple of them will match up teams that are ranked in B/R's preseason top 25 poll.

No. 4 Alabama must play 21st-ranked Wisconsin in Dallas in one of the marquee games of the first week. Everybody will get a taste of whether No. 25 Texas A&M is a contender or pretender in a showdown with the 16th-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils.

Before all that, on Thursday, there's the battle of the Carolinas between the Gamecocks and Tar Heels in Charlotte.

Other teams play tough lower-tier programs, and then there's the usual slate of early-season cupcakes to iron the kinks out of teams (against Skyhawks, Warhawks and Redhawks, etc. No, seriously).

With 14 games on the slate involving SEC teams, let's rank all the Week 1 action in the conference.

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SEC Extra Points with Barrett Sallee: Prepare for Alabama's Freshmen Playmakers

Bama Freshmen Set to Explode

While the majority of the focus in Tuscaloosa has been on the constantly evolving quarterback battle, a funny thing happened—freshmen playmakers started to surface.

Running back Damien Harris and wide receiver Calvin Ridley, in particular.

The former 5-star prospects in the most recent recruiting class both play in positions of need for the 2015 Crimson Tide, and head coach Nick Saban thinks that's a perfect storm for the two to be instant-impact youngsters.

"Running back and receiver are probably the two areas that are simplest for a guy to play, because you can minimize what he has to know," Saban said. "You can only play him on things that you know that he knows."

Both appeared on Alabama's first two-deep depth chart of the season when it was released on Monday. When asked specifically about how much they'll play, Saban didn't do anything to suggest a redshirt was in the future for either of his future stars.

"Damien Harris has had a really good camp, and certainly we have no apprehensions about using him in a game," Saban said. "Calvin Ridley has made progress. I think he needs to continue to improve and develop confidence in what he's doing. He's got a chance to be a real contributing player for us this year."

There's no doubt that the offense could use them. With running back Kenyan Drake likely moving all over the field, Harris might be forced to be the true No. 2 tailback behind junior Derrick Henry. At 5'11", 205 pounds, he has the size to be a force between the tackles and the speed to be dangerous in space.

Ridley is bracketed as a co-starter with Robert Foster at the "X" receiver spot entering the opener against Wisconsin. At 6'1", 188 pounds, he could become a key contributor to a receiving corps that is looking to replace the production of Heisman Trophy finalist Amari Cooper.

Keep an eye on the two stud freshmen in Tuscaloosa. They're going to be stars sooner rather than later.


A Little Help, Please?

Last season, Georgia running back Nick Chubb burst onto the scene and topped the 1,500-yard mark in essentially a half-season as the starting running back, filling in for suspended/injured star Todd Gurley as well as Keith Marshall and Sony Michel.

What will he do for an encore?

Not that, according to head coach Mark Richt.

"Having other healthy backs around him is going to help him," he said on Wednesday's teleconference. "I don't know if he'll carry it 37 or 38 times per game or whatever we had to do a couple of times—sometimes we just had to do it by virtue of the fact that we didn't have a lot of depth at that time. We do have more depth now, and guys know what they're doing and are quality backs as well."

With that said, though, expect "Chubb 2.0" to be much different than the first version. 

Richt spent the majority of the offseason refining parts of this game that were lacking during his freshman campaign.

"He is a better pass protector now and he is a better route-runner," said Richt. "He does catch the ball better. We spent most of our time in the spring on those skills. We mostly scrimmaged him on third downs. We didn't give him a lot of first- and second-down snaps in the spring. We did try to get him better in those areas, and I think he has improved."

Gurley jumped from 16 catches as a freshman in 2012 to 37 as a sophomore in 2013. If Chubb can make a similar jump from his 18 receptions a year ago, it will go a long way toward stabilizing the Georgia offense.


Position of Strength?

LSU's quarterback position is one of the biggest mysteries in college football, as has been the case virtually every offseason since 2007—when Matt Flynn led the Tigers to their last national title.

This year, it will be sophomore Brandon Harris getting the first snaps over returning starter Anthony Jennings in Saturday's season opener versus McNeese State. Jennings completed just 48.9 percent of his passes a year ago, and has been behind Harris—who has one career start (at Auburn a year ago)—ever since the close of spring practice.

Did Harris actually win the job or simply not lose it to a guy who completes less than 50 percent of his passes? The former, according to head coach Les Miles.

"Brandon Harris will take the first snap," Miles said. "He's taken the first snaps in every practice throughout the fall. We look forward to seeing him participate against McNeese. That's not to say that at some point we might not put in Anthony Jennings. He's had a productive fall camp. We look at that position as it continues to improve to be a strength for us." 

It better be.

LSU isn't going to be an SEC West contender if it's one-dimensional out of necessity, as it was a year ago. Harris has a big arm, is electric on the ground and can make throws on the run. Whatever held him back a year ago better be in the rearview mirror, because just a little explosiveness out of the quarterback could go a long way for the Tigers.


Duke On The Loose

Auburn wide receiver D'haquille "Duke" Williams' fall camp didn't start out great.

The 6'2", 224-pounder was suspended for about a week last month by head coach Gus Malzahn, and has "slowly been working his way up the depth chart" ever since.

With the showdown against Louisville looming, it seems like perfect timing that he's now a co-starter for the Tigers along with 6'4", 205-pounder Tony Stevens. When asked if Williams was running with the "ones" this week, Malzahn did his best to keep Louisville guessing.

"All of our receivers kinda mixed and matched. All of them have had opportunities to go with the orange and blue," Malzahn said. "On the depth chart, we listed 'or,' so we'll just see where we're at."

Since Malzahn is keeping the world guessing, I suppose it's appropriate to take a shot at what's going on myself. Williams won't start, might sit out a series or two, but will be a factor in the season opener at the Georgia Dome.

Write that down in pencil, and then erase it if I'm wrong.


How a Job Was Won

To the surprise of no one, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze announced that junior college transfer Chad Kelly will take the first snap at quarterback on Saturday versus UT-Martin over sophomores Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade.

That's a departure from where the trio stood coming into fall camp, when Buchanan was the leading the three-man battle.

How did Kelly seal the deal?

"It's solely based on us charting who's ahead," Freeze said. "We had 10 categories that we charted (in fall camp), and he was leading in seven of them. That's the reason he's scheduled to get the first snaps."

Seven out of 10 isn't too bad, especially for a newcomer up against a couple of veterans in the system.

With that said, all three will play.

"Ultimately, I have confidence that all three could do good things with our football team," Freeze said. "They each have some strengths. The ultimate deciding factor will be how they play on game day."

OK, fine.

But is it a coincidence that Freeze is playing coy with his quarterbacks headed into a cupcake in the opener and a lackluster matchup against Fresno State in Week 2 before the showdown with Alabama in Week 3?

Probably not. Ole Miss will be the first real test for the new-look Crimson Tide secondary, so expect Freeze to keep things under wraps until the showdown with the Tide.


A Step Forward

If Mississippi State is going to dance with the SEC West's big boys again in 2015, it's going to need help from one of its biggest defensive linemen.

Chris Jones came to Starkville with a ton of recruiting hype, but has been more of a rotational player for the majority of his two seasons with the program. With turnover in the trenches, head coach Dan Mullen is counting on his 6'6", 308-pound monster defensive tackle with cat-like quickness to become a stabilizing force up front.

"He had success as a freshman," Mullen said. "When you do that, and have success as a freshman, you don't understand the strain of what you have to put in to continue to develop. He kind of plateaued a little bit last year. We've talked about him being desperate. If you want to be a great player, you have to be desperate to be great. I've really seen him that way. His demeanor in practice has really picked up."

Watch out for Jones in 2015. 

New defensive coordinator Manny Diaz intends to get Jones in one-on-one situations this year, and could move him over to end at times, according to Gene Swindoll of Scout.com.

He'll get to show what he's made of against Southern Miss in a late-night tilt in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on Saturday night, and could set the tone for his breakout season.


Saban Wants More

A lot was made of Alabama head coach Nick Saban's statement this week on how many national titles he feels that he should have under his belt.

Three at Alabama and one at LSU apparently isn't good enough.

"People talk about you won four national championships," he told ESPN's Paul Finebaum (via Connor Smolensky of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). "Well, I feel like we’ve had good enough teams to win eight. So I feel like we failed four times. I feel like I failed four times."

I'll say this once, and hope we can get it out of the way: What's the big deal?

It's the same reaction I had when Auburn's Gus Malzahn said he should have dropped 60 on Saban's Crimson Tide in last year's Iron Bowl. These are college football coaches who are brimming with self-confidence and confidence in their teams.

Of course they expect more, and think about what might have been.

It's not arrogance, it's confidence.

If you show me a head coach who doesn't have it, I'll show you a coach who will be out of work in the very near future.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics are courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Barrett 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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College Football Picks: Week 1 Predictions for Every Game

It was nearly eight months ago the last time we had a real-life, this-counts-for-something college football game involving teams from the Football Bowl Subdivision, when Ohio State capped off an amazing 2014 season with a win over Oregon in the National Championship Game. And at times since that January tilt in Arlington, Texas, it felt like we'd never reach the next season.

But we somehow made it through that interminable span, and the 2015 season is upon us. In droves.

There are college football games scheduled for the next five days, beginning with an ACC/SEC clash of border states Thursday and wrapping up with the start of Ohio State's title defense on a Labor Day visit to Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Virginia, to face the only team it lost to a year ago.

In between are a lot of other games.

Thanks to the shortened regular season (which has reduced bye weeks) and a whopping 48 teams playing FCS opponents, there are 87 games on the Week 1 schedule. And we've got a prediction for each and every one of them, along with a semi-educated explanation as to why we're making that choice.

Follow along for our picks to every Week 1 game, then give us your selections in the comments section.


Last season's record: 578-191 (.752)

Begin Slideshow

Biggest Questions Facing Each Top-25 Team Heading into Week 1

Major college football is back. It's really, really back. 

The action kicks off Thursday night at 6 p.m. ET, when North Carolina and South Carolina take center stage on ESPN in Charlotte, North Carolina. Until then, let's get you prepped with the biggest storyline facing each Associated Press top 25 team heading into Week 1. 

Which storylines are we focusing on? With so many cupcake games, it usually revolves around key position players (i.e. quarterbacks) who will be taking the field for the first time.

If there's a key question mark heading into the season, can it be answered (or close to answered) right off the bat? For bigger games, the focus usually lies on key matchups that could decide the game.

With that, let's get to it. The top storyline for each top-25 team heading into Week 1 can be found in the following slides. 

Begin Slideshow

Ranking the Best ACC Matchups of Week 1

ACC action is back!

With week one of the 2015 regular season upon us, looking at the matchups from within the conference seems like the prudent thing to do. 

There are your standard cupcakes strewn about. It's a commonality for virtually every conference to feature weaker opponents early. However, there are a handful of games with tremendous intrigue. 

This piece will rank the 14 season-opening games for all of the ACC in order from the worst to best matchup. 


Begin Slideshow

Daily Fantasy College Football Week 1: DraftKings Optimum Lineup, Matchup Guide

College football fans rejoice—the wait is over. The 2015 season has finally arrived, with Week 1 set to start things off with a bang, beginning with a number of Thursday night showdowns and continuing into a busy first Saturday.

In a tough-to-predict industry such as daily fantasy sports, the early weeks of the college football season can be a breath of fresh air. There are always marquee clashes, but the opening weekend contains more lopsided matchups between Power Five powerhouses and overmatched opposition than you'll find any other Saturday this season.

Add a couple of interesting non-conference battles sprinkled in with the many inevitable blowouts, and DraftKings will be flooded with Week 1 players. With that said, let's break down some of the best plays for the weekend.


DraftKings Optimum Week 1 Lineup

Saturday games (11 a.m. ET to 3 p.m. ET) only listed.



Tommy Armstrong Jr., Nebraska ($7,000)

Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. offers DraftKings players a top-dollar gunslinger without having to buck up the salary for one. BYU's defense isn't the ideal matchup, but it is much more formidable against the run than the pass.

Armstrong's dual-threat ability will loom large, and producers around him should be hungry to fill the voids left by Kenny Bell and Ameer Abdullah.


Jaquez Johnson, Florida Atlantic ($6,200)

A $6,200 quarterback who averaged 22.9 DraftKings points per game last season is worth taking no matter the matchup, and it just so happens that Jaquez Johnson and Florida Atlantic are going up against an overmatched Tulsa defense.

Johnson's running ability will pad his already-strong stats from this Week 1 matchup.


Running Backs

Jalen Hurd, Tennessee ($6,900)

Tennessee bruiser Jalen Hurd was the workhorse in the Vols' backfield as a true freshman in 2014, and he's primed to take on an even larger role this season. Priced as the eighth-highest running back for his time slot, Hurd should finish near the top against a favorable matchup.

Bowling Green allowed over 200 rushing yards per game last season and also lost seven starters from that unit.


Sony Michel, Georgia ($4,700)

A certain blowout of Louisiana-Monroe will have star rusher Nick Chubb ($10,200) struggling to get the touches necessary to fulfill his heavy price tag. Instead, look toward Sony Michel, the speedy sophomore who broke the 150-yard plateau once last season

Even with star backs, the Bulldogs have remained committed to a by-committee approach, and that should surface again in this one.


Flex Option: Jordan Canzeri, Iowa ($3,900)

The travesty of Iowa running back Jordan Canzeri being listed below the $4,000 plateau is something DraftKings players should take complete advantage of. A tough matchup with Illinois State is a reason why, but it should only reassure daily fantasy owners that Canzeri will be getting plenty of the ball into the fourth quarter.

If the Hawkeyes rely on their biggest strength (a stout offensive line and running game), Canzeri will surpass 20 points.


Wide Receivers

Devin Lauderdale, Texas Tech ($5,200)

Get in on a sure-fire aerial assault while still preserving salary by nabbing Devin Lauderdale from Texas Tech. The Red Raiders' second-leading receiver in DraftKings' price books finished the season with 17 or more points in five of his last six games, and Texas Tech can expect to run the score up on Sam Houston State much like LSU did early last season.


Dom Williams, Washington State ($4,800)

It's a completely different story regarding their running backs, but Washington State's offense produces the best out of its receivers, and that should sway owners toward Dom Williams.

The Cougars' second-leading returning wideout had a three-game stretch of 23 points or more in 2014 and will benefit from DraftKings' point-per-reception system against a Portland State squad that went 2-6 in the Big Sky last year and finished on a four-game skid.


Play the DraftKings CFB "Dive for the Pylon" contest and win $300,000!

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