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Marcus Lattimore Will Return to South Carolina in Ambassador Role

Having already retired from the NFL, Marcus Lattimore is setting his sights on finishing his college education. The former South Carolina running back will return to Columbia and take classes starting next month, while also serving as an ambassador for the school.     

Lattimore said that he plans on graduating in 2016, per David Cloninger of The State:

Lattimore will enroll for South Carolina's spring semester in January and begin completing his degree in public health. He'll also take a position as an ambassador for the school and its football program, although an official title has yet to be bestowed.

'There's been some back-and-forth,' he said. 'I'll most likely work with the university, coach (Ray) Tanner, president (Harris) Pastides, coach (Steve) Spurrier, whatever they need me to do. No official title that we have talked about yet, but we're trying to get something nailed down.'

Lattimore, 23, ran for 2,677 yards and 38 touchdowns during his three years as a Gamecock, earning a reputation as one of the best running backs in the country. He likely would've been a first-round pick in the 2013 or 2014 NFL draft had he not suffered a major knee injury in a game against Tennessee in October 2012.

The San Francisco 49ers gambled on Lattimore, drafting him in the fourth round in 2013. He failed to appear in a single game for the team and announced his retirement back in November.

Grantland's Michael Baumann wrote about the force of nature Lattimore was in college:

Even among such highly regarded company, though, Lattimore stood out. He was an Eddie George–type runner, a tallish back who'd move the chains against whatever defensive front he faced, whether it was Furman or LSU or Patton’s Third Army. He got America's most famous run-and-shoot coach to run a grind-it-out power game, because while Spurrier tends to be pass-happy, he's not stupid. Lattimore wouldn't reverse his field and make five guys miss, like Reggie Bush, but he'd take the ball and eat up the opposition, 4.8 yards at a time.

This isn't the perfect end to Lattimore's sporting career, but this at least offers him a chance to make a positive impact on the South Carolina football program.

Lattimore will be able to earn his degree and mentor future generations of Gamecocks players.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jaelen Strong Declares for 2015 NFL Draft: Latest Details and Reaction

Arizona State wide receiver Jaelen Strong has opted to leave Phoenix early to take his talents to the pros in declaring for the 2015 NFL draft on Monday.  

The Sun Devils announced the news, via Bryan Fischer of NFL.com:

Matt Miller of Bleacher Report weighed in on Strong's draft stock:

Strong will be joining another deep crop of receivers on the heels of a prior class that featured the likes of Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans and Odell Beckham Jr., among others. The Sun Devils star should be among the most sought-after prospects at his position.

At 6'3" and 215 pounds, Strong has the size to deliver at the NFL level right away as a weapon on the outside. His tremendous ball skills resulted in one of the best highlight-reel catches of the college football season in a big win over Notre Dame:

Rising to the occasion to such a degree in a high-profile game suggests Strong is ready for the professional spotlight. Posting back-to-back seasons of 70-plus receptions, 1,000 yards and at least seven touchdowns in the difficult Pac-12 conference shows that Strong has the chops to make the NFL leap, too.

There is reason to believe that Strong will be a first-round pick, so it's hardly a surprise he chose to forgo his final year at Arizona State. Senior Sun Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly will no longer be in the fold in 2015, which had to have an impact on Strong's decision when he weighed all the factors.

With the number of underclassmen declaring for the draft likely to emulate last year's record number, there is a good chance high-quality but not elite prospects like Strong could fall to better teams. Depending on the situation he lands in, Strong could find himself as a big rookie contributor for a playoff contender.


Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jaelen Strong Declares for 2015 NFL Draft: Latest Details and Reaction

Arizona State wide receiver Jaelen Strong has opted to leave Phoenix early to take his talents to the pros in declaring for the 2015 NFL draft on Monday. The Sun Devils announced the news, via Bryan Fischer of NFL...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Mike Bobo to Colorado State: Latest Contract Details, Comments and Reaction

After years of being Mark Richt's right-hand man on his offensive staff, Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo is finally getting a program of his own. Bobo and Colorado State came to an agreement on Mondaythat will make him the 21st head coach in program history.   

Matt L. Stephens of the Coloradoan reported the news:

Terry Frei of The Denver Post originally reported Monday that Bobo and Colorado State administration were closing in on a contract. The 40-year-old Georgia lifer impressed in final interviews Sunday, and the two sides worked quickly to get a deal done.

Bobo takes over for the departed Jim McElwain, who replaced Will Muschamp at Florida. McElwain, who worked as Nick Saban's offensive coordinator at Alabama before landing at Colorado State, went 22-16 in his three seasons. The Rams were one of the nation's biggest surprises in 2014, going 10-2 during the regular season and spending time inside the Top 25.

McElwain's quick turnaround should be a boost for Bobo, who has yet to be a head coach at any level. His career began under center as a quarterback for Georgia, and he's spent all but one season as a coach in Athens. He worked his way up from a graduate assistant to quarterbacks coach and has been the Bulldogs' offensive coordinator since 2006. The only season he did not spend at Georgia was in 2000, where he was a quarterbacks coach at Jacksonville State.

Richt, who hired Bobo when he took the Georgia job in 2001, has largely kept mum on his protege's head-coaching desires. He has, however, confirmed to reporters that Georgia has a plan in place for Bobo's departure.

“We’ll have a plan for everything, I can say that,” Richt said, via Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald.

Georgia is slated to play Louisville in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 30. 

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee weighed in on the impact of the news on Georgia:

Bobo's departure marks the end of an era that will undoubtedly cast more speculation on where Georgia's program is headed. Richt made a big splash last offseason by poaching defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt from Florida State and may look for another high-profile hire to replace Bobo. Georgia needs far less tweaking on the offensive side of the ball than it did on defense in 2013, but it'll nonetheless be interesting to see which candidates arise.  

Bobo takes over a program that has historically struggled outside the Sonny Lubick years, though McElwain appears to have laid the groundwork for another continued run of success. We'll have to see whether Bobo can keep it going.


Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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Memphis TE Pumps Up Team with Helmet-Less Head-Butts

It's entirely possible that Memphis tight end Alan Cross is excited to be playing in the Miami Beach Bowl.

How do we know?

ESPN's cameras (via Reddit) caught Cross head-butting his teammates moments before kickoff against BYU on Monday at Marlins Park.

Marlins Park has seen plenty of home runs over the years, but not many head-butts. That's probably for the best.

No explanation was given for the odd display, so we'll have to assume Cross grew up rooting for Kevin Garnett.

Unfortunately for Cross, pregame enthusiasm can come at a price. Check out the gash on his forehead (h/t BroBible). That might require some medical attention.

Cross played through the self-inflicted wound and finished with three catches for 69 yards and a touchdown in a 55-48 win over BYU.

Let Cross' misguided pregame ritual be a reminder to always wear a helmet when head-butting. That said, an equally compelling argument could be made that head-butting should be done away with altogether.

Seriously, what happened to good old-fashioned high-fiving?

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football: Holiday Wish List for the Cornhuskers

What's on your wish list for the holidays, Husker fans? With the holiday season in full swing, there are likely plenty of items you hope you receive from family members and friends.

What about when it comes to the Nebraska football team, though? It's been a rocky end to the 2014 season, so Husker fans (as well as the team itself) likely have some items on the wish list. What could those items possibly be?

When it comes to a win-loss record, the Huskers did all right in 2014. Nebraska did finish the regular season 9-3. However, the Huskers finished third in the West Division of the Big Ten, and head coach Bo Pelini was fired. It wasn't a terrible season, but it left a lot to be desired.

With that in mind, what are those things fans are wanting? There's a lot worth wishing for, and as of now, nothing is truly out of reach in 2015.

Yet, at least.

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Daniel Imatorbhebhe Dishes on Becoming First Florida Commit of Jim McElwain Era

The new Florida coaching regime netted its first commitment last week when Georgia tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe pledged to the Gators. He ended a lengthy recruiting drought in Gainesville and provided a positive step for Jim McElwain, as the coach attempts to assemble a quality 2015 class with national signing day just six weeks away.

Imatorbhebhe, a senior at North Gwinnett High School, formerly committed to fellow SEC member Missouri. His decision ultimately came down to Cal and Florida. 

The 6'4", 227-pound prospect caught a career-high 32 passes in 2014, tallying 487 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in 11 games, per MaxPreps. He is rated 24th nationally among tight ends in 247Sports' composite rankings. 

Imatorbhebhe discussed his decision with Bleacher Report and foresees a strong finish for Florida's 2015 recruiting efforts.


Bleacher Report: How did McElwain establish a relationship with you?

Daniel Imatorbhebhe: I didn't know much about him or even what he looked like when he was first hired by Florida. He messaged me when he was in Atlanta and asked if I would be available for an in-home visit. It took me by surprise, but I was happy to meet him.


BR: How did the visit turn out?

DI: It was actually my birthday, and he came to house in time to watch us cut the cake. Then we sat down and just spent some time getting to know each other. He won over my family that night.


BR: How did he manage to make such a strong impression?

DI: He's very genuine. The way he answered our questions, he didn't dance around anything. Coach Mac was very straight-forward about what he wants to accomplish at Florida and how he plans to do it. He didn't need to talk down any other program, or scheme, or coaching staff.


BR: How does he plan to make an impact at Florida?

DI: He's ready and motivated to return the program back to where it was—getting Florida back to dominating the SEC East and contending for titles. That vision is predicated on doing things the right way every day. Whether it's on the field or off the field, attention to detail and effort are going to be very important.


BR: Do you expect other top Gators targets to feel the same way you do about Florida's new vision?

DI: I think people are going to be surprised about the kind of class that we're going to put together by signing day. Now that I understand the kind of man Coach Mac is and what his plan is for the program, I know it's only a matter of time before he gets things rolling with recruiting. Big stuff is in the works for these next few weeks.


BR: How confident are you that the program is on the rebound?

DI: Momentum is about to take a huge swing in the positive direction for Florida. It's something I'm excited about, and so should Gators fans [be excited].


BR: How does the new staff view your role within the offensive attack?

DI: They definitely see me as a pass-catching tight end who can stretch the field. Once I arrive on campus [Imatorbhebhe enrolls in January], the coaches will have a chance to really see what I can do. The focus will be to work on all aspects of my game.


BR: Your younger brother (2016 wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe) already has an offer from Florida. How did he react to your decision?

DI: Josh was happy for me. He's kind of sad that I'm leaving here in a couple weeks. But it's good that I'll be pretty close, because he'll be able to visit me often.


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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Veterans Making Last Stand in Music City Bowl

After nearly two months of nothing but bad news, Brian Kelly delivered some reasons for optimism on Sunday. Barring setbacks, both Sheldon Day and Cody Riggs will be in the starting lineup against LSU. 

The return of two key veterans on defense should help Brian VanGorder's struggling unit. And it desperately needed them. An Irish defense that has given up 30-plus points for a school record seven consecutive games will have its best defensive lineman and cornerback in the lineup against the Tigers. 

"Sheldon practiced in full gear and took reps in all of our team [drills],” Kelly said. "We’re a better football team with him. Cody Riggs as well."

The point is obvious. But it's also telling.

Given the opportunity to get healthy and move on to 2015, two key veterans have decided to get back on the field to help deliver an eighth victory that might only matter to the guys inside The Gug. 

For Riggs, that means testing a foot injury that's hampered him for the second half of the season. Any question of the fifth-year graduate transfer's allegiances to his teammates can end now, with Riggs prepared to take on LSU instead of saving himself for the NFL scouting combine. 

"This time off has helped a lot," Riggs told IrishIllustrated.com. "If I had to do it over again, I probably would have sat out so I could have been more of a help to my team. But that’s the nature of the game. You want to help. You just want to help your guys now."

Riggs' return means he'll end his career at Notre Dame with an opponent he saw plenty of times at Florida. And while the losses down the stretch put a damper on his season in South Bend, it's an experience he'll never forget. 

"They didn’t have to do what they did for me," Riggs said. "The guys on the team didn’t have to accept me the way they did."

If Riggs will be welcomed back in the huddle, Day's return is even more beneficial. Without Jarron Jones, it'll be up to Day to take as many snaps as possible as the Irish try to find a solution in the trenches for LSU's power running game. 

That means bowl practices set up to get Day's endurance back up. And a Christmas break that'll likely be devoid of Christmas cookies, with Day focused on getting back some work volume that was stolen when he injured his knee. 

"His injury is 100 percent, or we wouldn’t put him back out there," Kelly said of his junior captain. "Now getting from that 90 percent to 100 percent is football-related activities—fatigue, volume. So that 10 percent...it's taking reps, gets him stronger and stronger."

Picturing how the Irish plan to stop LSU makes more sense with Day and Riggs in the lineup. We'll likely see sophomore Isaac Rochell playing in Jones' empty spot, with the defensive end rotation including Romeo Okwara, Andrew Trumbetti and Grant Blankenship and the tackle depth coming from fifth-year senior Justin Utupo as well as underclassmen Daniel Cage, Jay Hayes and Jacob Matuska. 

In the secondary, Riggs' return will put him opposite Cole Luke. Going back to the opening-day starters will give VanGorder the comfort to put his cornerbacks in man coverage, allowing a safety to help out in run support. 

Without Joe Schmidt and with question marks still at safety, the defense is still held together with duct tape and glue. But it's a group that's going out there understanding it needs to find a way to win. 

"I think it’s a formidable task. It’s one where we’re gonna be challenged," Kelly said. "There’s a lot for us to get better at, what our last performance was. And we will. We will be much better than what we showed against USC."

On a young Notre Dame football team, there will be little transition from bowl game to spring practice, with the Irish's starting lineup against LSU likely only losing senior Ben Koyack. 

But even if the focus has shifted to next year, key contributions from veterans like Day and Riggs tell you that the Irish are going all in as they try to spring the upset against LSU. 


*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Players Who Will Start 2015 Heisman Campaigns This Bowl Season

When a quarterback or running back (or sometimes a wide receiver) plays well in a bowl game then returns the following season, a Heisman Trophy campaign might be born.

Last year, for example, Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight and Alabama running back Derrick Henry both enjoyed breakout performances in the Sugar Bowl and ended up at 25-to-1 or better to win the Heisman by February. This despite the fact that, prior to the Sugar Bowl, Knight had thrown just 90 career passes and Henry had received just 27 career carries.

Hooray for recency bias!

Neither Knight nor Henry took advantage of their Sugar Bowl momentum, but others who played well in the postseason parlayed that into the following year.

The immediate name that comes to mind is Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, who had 361 total yards and five touchdowns in a blowout win over Rice in the Liberty Bowl, landed on the February odds board at 33-to-1 and competed for the Heisman all season.

The list that follows includes players of all types: bigger names who are already considered candidates and smaller names who might burst onto the scene during bowl season.

The biggest factor here (besides talent) was strength of opponent.

Georgia running back Nick Chubb, for example, will be a factor in the 2015 Heisman race. But his bowl opponent, Louisville, is one of five defenses allowing fewer than three yards per carry this season. He is not a safe bet to launch his Heisman run in the Belk Bowl and has thus been excluded from the list.

If the Bulldogs were playing Rice, on the other hand, Chubb would have been as obvious inclusion.

Sound off below with whom else you would add.


Note: All recruiting info refers to the 247Sports composite rankings.

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What Every College Football Fan Wants for Christmas in 2014

Ho, ho, ho, college football fans. It's your pal, Ben Claus. And I've noticed you all have been very, very good this year. 

Well, with the exception of all of those hateful emails you've been sending me. And those nasty message board rumors. And those unnecessary tweets toward recruits. And the vitriol you all have been spewing toward your rival fans because of the classless program they support.

But for the most part, y'all have been swell. 

So since it's the season of giving, we're feeling extra charitable and have decided to give fans everything for which they've asked. It wasn't easy. We had to work the elves overtime and do some favors for some shady people we hadn't met before.  

But here's betting you'll be happier than the Nintendo 64 kid on Christmas morning. 


1. An Eight-Team Playoff

We are nothing if impatiently awaiting the best thing before we have the first thing in front of us. Not one full year into the four-team College Football Playoff, ACC Commissioner John Swofford made the case to double the size of the postseason field once again. 

"In terms of the number of teams, [eight] would probably be ideal," Swofford said in November

There are two teams that would like to see that format take place sooner rather than later: Baylor and TCU. Both were left out of the playoff field this season while Ohio State, which lost to Virginia Tech in September, got the fourth and final spot. 

How soon until some folks get their wish? Who can tell, but for now, let's enjoy a four-team playoff and how it has enhanced the regular season. 


2. Jim Harbaugh to Michigan

If Fox Sports' Jay Glazer is correct, the San Francisco 49ers and head coach Jim Harbaugh will "cut ties within 24-48 hours after the regular season ends."

That shouldn't come as much of a surprise, as Harbaugh's days with San Francisco have appeared numbered for some time. However, Michigan has also reportedly been courting Harbaugh to come back to his alma mater. According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, Harbaugh is "conflicted" about what to do: stay in the NFL, or go back to college. 

If Harbaugh did decide to return to Michigan, it would be a huge hire for the Wolverines. The program is looking for a new coach and athletic director after Brady Hoke and Dave Brandon were let go, respectively. 


3. A Rose Bowl Quarterback Duel

The most compelling quarterback matchup in recent memory will take place in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day. Oregon's Marcus Mariota, this year's Heisman Trophy winner, will face off against Florida State's Jameis Winston, last year's Heisman winner.

Additionally, the two should be the first two quarterbacks selected in the upcoming NFL draft. 

Given that it's the "Granddaddy of Them All" and a playoff semifinal, you can bet fans want nothing less than an all-time classic. Just imagine Mariota and Winston playing brilliantly, combining for 600 passing yards and 10 touchdowns.

A shootout that comes down to the last possession would be the perfect way to start 2015.  


4. An Autographed Copy of Bo Pelini's Greatest Audio Hits

It still feels odd to type the phrase "former Nebraska coach Bo Pelini," but here we are anyway. Pelini, now the head coach at Youngstown State, didn't leave Lincoln after being fired without dropping some verbal coal into the stocking of Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst. 

"He's a f-----g lawyer who makes policies," Pelini said in a meeting with players that was recorded and submitted to the Omaha World-Herald

This, of course, came one year after Pelini was busted for dropping somewhere along the line of 1,000 f-bombs in a private moment of frustration in 2011 that was also recorded

A compilation of Pelini's greatest profane tirades would be the perfect soundtrack to this warm and fuzzy holiday season. 


5. True Detective Season 2: Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin 

Alabama coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin have been college football's odd couple, as described by Bleacher Report's Lars Anderson, but it's been fun to watch.

The combination of Saban's "I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed" look with Kiffin's shoulder shrugs have made for first-class entertainment. However, the acquisition has been wildly successful. The Tide have the SEC's most explosive offense and arguably the best offensive weapon in the country: wide receiver Amari Cooper. 

The two coaches are polarizing figures, and sometimes, that doesn't work under the same roof. It has in this case, however, and here's hoping for another season of Kiffin and Saban together before Kiffin inevitably leaves for another head coaching gig. 


6. Another Cinderella

What college football has truly missed over the past couple of years is a legitimate underdog. Sure, Houston had a great year in 2011, and Marshall came oh-so-close to being undefeated this year. However, those teams didn't present the same threat to the sport's big boys like the Boise State and TCU teams from 2009-11 Even Utah got in on the fun in 2008 by beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl for an undefeated season. 

It wasn't just that those teams won 12 or 13 games; it's that they were legitimately well-coached—Chris Petersen (Boise State) and Gary Patterson (TCU) were roaming the sidelines—and had some future NFL players. That's what made them compelling. 

Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, Oregon and Georgia were just some of the teams that fell against the Broncos and Horned Frogs during that span.  

College football just hasn't had that type of Cinderella team lately from start to finish. The four-team playoff doesn't guarantee a spot for a mid-major, but it would be fun to see one be in the conversation next year. 


7. The Return of College Football's Blue Bloods

Who ever thought they'd live in a world where Texas, Michigan and Florida have to rebuild while Baylor and Arizona take the game by force.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. There's more parity now in college football than there has ever been, and that's made the sport more interesting.

Still, it's amazing to think that Texas has to take back its own backyard on the recruiting trail, or that Michigan isn't the best program in its own state. 

However, the right hire can make all the difference, and head coach Charlie Strong appears to be doing great things for the Longhorns. On Friday, Texas got verbal commitments from 5-star linebacker Malik Jefferson, the No. 1 player in Texas, and 4-star athlete DeAndre McNeal. The turnaround appears to be underway for the Horns. 

Can others—Michigan, Florida and Miami—follow? 


8. A Healthy Ohio State Quarterback

Ohio State is in the College Football Playoff with a 12-1 record despite losing two quarterbacks—Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett—to season-ending injuries.

That's coaching. And recruiting. 

Miller, of course, missed the entire season with a shoulder injury, and Barrett, his replacement, sustained a fractured ankle in a win last month against Michigan. That means Cardale Jones is all that remains in the Buckeyes' quest for another national title—assuming Jones doesn't get hurt as well.

Ohio State could have an interesting situation this spring with three quarterbacks who could start for just about anyone in the country. However it all shakes out, though, here's hoping the Buckeyes have better injury luck in 2015.


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Game Is Exactly Why Urban Meyer Came to Ohio State

COLUMBUS, Ohio — All things considered, Urban Meyer's first season at Ohio State couldn't have gone any better. Taking over a mismatched roster that was a season removed from going 6-7 and possessed no shortage of distractions, the Buckeyes won all 12 of their games in 2012, finishing third in the final AP Top 25 of the season.

But for Ohio State's two-time national champion head coach, that wasn't enough.

Because as the Buckeyes sat out the postseason due to NCAA violations committed by former head coach Jim Tressel and members of their 2010 team, Meyer opted to serve as an ESPN guest analyst for the BCS National Championship Game in Miami. It was there that Meyer witnessed Alabama dismantle Notre Dame en route to its third national championship in four seasons, giving him a firsthand look at just how far away his program was from capturing a crystal ball.

"Where are we? I don't like to deal in speculation, but I think we're a very good team that can compete with any team in the country," Meyer said in January of 2012. "But to say we could roll in there and beat a team like that, first of all I don't want to speculate, and then if I was going to give you an honest answer, I think right now we have too many holes to fill."

Nearly two full years later, Meyer's Buckeyes find themselves matched up with the Crimson Tide in the first-ever College Football Playoff. And the Ohio State head coach will now get to see just how close he's come to filling those holes.

Meyer hasn't made any bones about targeting Alabama since arriving in Columbus, for reasons that extend beyond the Crimson Tide's status as the cream of the crop in college football. In fact, one could argue that Alabama is the biggest reason why Meyer currently finds himself coaching the Buckeyes.

After all, it was the Crimson Tide who brought an end to Meyer's budding dynasty at Florida in the late-2000s, topping the Gators in the 2009 SEC Championship Game on the way to their first national championship under Nick Saban. It was after that game that Meyer infamously suffered from health issues that would lead to a sudden short-lived retirement, before he ultimately called it quits in Gainesville a year later.

“I have a hard time remembering our address or phone number, but I could tell you every play in those games,” Meyer said of his SEC battles with Saban. "The 2009 Alabama team was arguably the best that I can remember going against or getting ready to prepare.”

As Meyer took a year off from coaching before returning to help rebuild the Buckeyes, the Tide continued to roll, capturing national titles in 2009, 2011 and 2012. This year, Alabama enters the College Football Playoff as the nation's top-ranked team, a 1/1 favorite to add to its trophy case, per Odds Shark.

That's why Meyer hasn't been shy about using the Crimson Tide as a measuring stick for Ohio State, especially on the recruiting trail. When 5-star safety Vonn Bell committed to the Buckeyes over Alabama on national signing day in 2013, he did so with clear intentions, sharing a part of Meyer's pitch in the process.

“We all on a mission. We want to do something special,” Bell said during his nationally televised announcement. “We’re gong to try to beat ‘Bama at national championships and try to get that crystal ball."

Later that day, Meyer didn't dispute using taking down Alabama as a recruiting tool.

"If that's a perception that we're chasing them, that's fine. I wouldn't disagree with you," Meyer said. "Anytime teams start talking about who is the king of the hill right now, those words might come out of people's mouths.

"Including mine, once in a while."

Based on the makeup of Meyer's recruiting classes, it's been more than every once in a while. Since he took over the Ohio State program in 2012, the Buckeyes have consistently gone head-to-head with the Crimson Tide on the recruiting trail, pulling a number of key players from the grasp of Saban's stronghold in the south.

That's how Bell, Joey BosaRaekwon McMillan and Johnnie Dixon have each ended up in Columbus in the past two years, as Meyer has attempted to add SEC-caliber talent to his roster with Alabama in mind. It's also not a coincidence that Saban has extended Alabama's recruiting efforts to Ohio in recent years either, which some insiders have theorized as an attempt to force Meyer's focus back to the Buckeye State.

But despite the Buckeyes having seemingly been on a collision course with the Crimson Tide for the past three years, the matches between Meyer and Saban have been limited to the recruiting trail. That will change in the Sugar Bowl, when Ohio State will finally face Alabama on New Year's Day.

And according to Meyer, there may be more than the right to play in the national championship game on the line.

“It’s arguably the best program in America," Meyer said of Alabama. "To go take a swing and knock them off would be a monumental achievement for a bunch of guys from Columbus, Ohio.”


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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Recruits Who Dominated High School State Championship Games

Another sensational high school football season is history after state championship runs concluded across the country. Teams left standing were often led by college-bound playmakers who aimed to deliver a new trophy to their community.

We've spent the past four months keeping a close eye on top 2015 prospects as they took on the task of carrying programs to the promised land. Here's a look at several standouts who turned ambitious goals into reality during recent weeks.

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UCLA Football: Physical Kansas State Could Expose Bruins Biggest Issue

Known for a style of football that's low on frills but high on physicality, No. 11 Kansas State serves as a barometer for just how much No. 14 UCLA needs to improve upon its most glaring issue for the 2015 season. 

The Wildcats perfectly reflect their head coach, Bill Snyder. Snyder is the oldest active sideline general in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and his Kansas State team plays with an old-school approach. 

A stifling defense complements a methodical, power-based offense—and vice versa. The Kansas State defense allowed just 21.8 points per game and 124.4 rushing yards to wear down opponents on one side then squeezed the air out of the ball on the other with an average time of possession of 32 minutes, 31 seconds. 

It's exactly Kansas State's brand of football that thwarted UCLA's bid for the Pac-12 Championship Game last month. The Bruins dropped a 31-10 decision to Stanford on Nov. 28 that both took them out of the Pac-12 South title race and exposed the most significant facet holding UCLA back. 

"Execution on our part," center Jake Brendel said. 

An inability to match the physicality of team like Stanford or Kansas State may not be the issue for UCLA, Brendel said. But when the Bruins have taken stiff shots from such opponents, their execution tends to suffer on both sides of the ball. 

UCLA's fourth loss to Stanford since 2012 may have shined a light on the Bruins' collective need to get tougher, but their struggles against other power teams say it isn't just the Cardinal giving them fits. 

Their first loss of the 2014 season came against Utah. The Utes cultivated a hard-nosed, defensive identity under head coach Kyle Whittingham, and this year, that identity manifested in a nation-leading 55 sacks. 

Ten of those came against UCLA on Oct. 4. 

Kansas State is not nearly as prolific a sacking defense, but the Wildcats defensive front is more than capable of causing some havoc. 

The majority of the team's sacks come from the defensive line. Ends Ryan Mueller, Travis Britz and Jordan Willis combine for 12.5, more than half the Wildcats' total.

And if Kansas State's defensive linemen aren't producing sacks, they can use their collective length to disrupt opposing quarterbacks, setting the stage for the nation's No. 17-ranked intercepting defense.  

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley's ability to quickly and decisively run zone-read plays is crucial to combating Kansas State's pass rush. The Bruins cut down on sacks allowed late in the season as Hundley became more of a run threat out of the zone read.

But Kansas State is well-versed in defending such an offense, as Auburn running back Cameron Artis-Payne explained after the Tigers met the Wildcats on Sept. 18. 

"They did not get out of their gaps. They stayed in their gaps, and it did not create a lot of cutback lanes for the zone read," Artis-Payne said via KStateSports.com. "They were tough."

Linebacker Jonathan Truman is the kind of highly active ball hawk Pac-12 teams are employing more in order to attack zone-read and spread offenses. Think Arizona's Scooby Wright or UCLA's own Eric Kendricks.

With Truman backing up the defensive line, Kansas State has the ability to slow down UCLA's rushing attack—and that spells trouble for what offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone tries to do with his scheme.  

"We got ourselves in obvious passing situations," Brendel said following the Stanford loss. "And you can't do that with our offense." 

Establishing a consistent rush against the stout Wildcats front seven isn't just imperative for winning the Alamo Bowl; it's also a look ahead to 2015. 

With Hundley likely headed to the NFL, the Bruins should open next season with a completely unproven quarterback behind center.

Whether that's Asiantii Woulard or incoming 5-star freshman Josh Rosen—or someone else—will play out over the offseason. But no matter who wins that job, UCLA must rely heavily on the Pac-12's leading rusher this past season, running back Paul Perkins.  

Though Perkins shouldered the majority of the load en route to 1,381 yards, UCLA head coach Jim Mora talked throughout the regular season of establishing a multifaceted run game. 

The Bruins' response to Kansas State should put that concept to the test.  


Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics courtesy of CFBstats.com. Recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports composite scores. 

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UCLA Football: Physical Kansas State Could Expose Bruins Biggest Issue

Known for a style of football that's low on frills but high on physicality, No. 11 Kansas State serves as a barometer for just how much No. 14 UCLA needs to improve upon its most glaring issue for the 2015 season...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

LSU Football's Huge Offseason Problem

In what seems like an annual ritual in Baton Rouge, LSU head coach Les Miles is awaiting word on which underclassmen are moving on to the NFL early.

Eighteen Tigers have left school early over the last two seasons, including running back Jeremy Hill, wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry and guard Trai Turner off last year's offense.

This year could be another sequel to the popular movie.

Jim Kleinpeter of The (New Orleans) Times-Picaynue reported on Sunday that cornerback Jalen Collins received a favorable grade from the NFL Advisory Committee and will enter the NFL draft while safety Jalen Mills didn't get the news he wanted and will return to school in 2015.

While players realizing their professional dreams is a great thing, Miles better hope that fellow Tigers who are on the fence take the more conservative route chosen by Mills.

According to Kleinpeter, linebacker Kwon Alexander, defensive end Danielle Hunter, guard Vadal Alexander and offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins are all considering leaving. Rand Getlin of Yahoo Sports tweeted last week that Hunter was leaning toward staying.

LSU can't afford its roster being decimated again by the NFL. 

Hunter had a strong season against the run, notching 12 tackles for loss and returning a fumble for a touchdown for defensive coordinator John Chavis' defense—which finished as the SEC's best in 2014 (305.8 yards per game). Kwon Alexander finished with a team-high 79 tackles, and if he and Hunter leave, four of the Tigers' top five tacklers could be out the door.

From an offensive standpoint, LSU is already losing second-team Associated Press All-American tackle La'el Collins and center Elliott Porter. Losing two more starters would be devastating to a Tigers offensive line that routinely plowed the road for running back Leonard Fournette and the rest of those Tigers running backs.

Would a new cast be as successful? Would a new cast keep pressure out of the faces of quarterbacks Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris? That's unlikely.

On top of possible roster issues, Chavis has been chasing money, too.

The sixth-year defensive coordinator of the Tigers reportedly flirted with Texas A&M about its vacant defensive coordinator position but recently signed a three-year, $4 million deal to stay with LSU, according to ESPN Radio 104.5's Derek Ponamsky.

If that's correct and Chavis sticks around, it's a huge get for Miles. Chavis was a big reason LSU was successful in 2014, as Gannett Louisiana's Glenn Guilbeau notes.

The quarterback situation has hamstrung the offense and forced the Tigers to rely heavily on their defense to be successful. There are talented players behind those thinking about leaving, including defensive end Tashawn Bower, linebacker Clifton Garrett and cornerback Ed Paris. 

You can only hit the reset button so many times before the machine goes on tilt, though, and some continuity would go a long way toward creating consistency in Red Stick.

Of course players want to live their dreams, and even those drafted in the late rounds and undrafted free agents have the opportunity to live their dreams but come back to finish their degrees after their playing careers are over.

For LSU in 2015, though, it needs those players who are on the fringe to come back to Baton Rouge if it wants to legitimately compete for the SEC West.


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

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

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Which Team Will Close the Strongest Heading into National Signing Day?

National signing day is quickly approaching, with all of the top college football programs positioning themselves to sign the best talent in the land. And with many of the top players still uncommitted, there are programs that can still salvage their recruiting classes.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer select which school they believe can snag the top recruits and end the recruiting season with a bang. 

Which school can land the top remaining players? Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Miami Football: Holiday Wish List for the Hurricanes

What's on your Christmas list? Well, if the Miami Hurricanes football program made one, ol' Saint Nick would be reading an extensive report of necessities.

But instead of highlighting all the minor issues surrounding the team, let's focus on five holiday wishes for the 'Canes.

Now, each once included actually has a somewhat-realistic nature, so far-fetched dreams like a brand-new on-campus stadium are not included. Sorry, folks. It ain't happening, nor is Santa Claus bringing one down the chimney.

Rip off the wrapping paper, and check out what's inside Miami's list. Next year, we'll find out if the Hurricanes were naughty or nice.

Begin Slideshow

USC Football: Holiday Wish List for the Trojans

The 2014 campaign was something of a feeling-out period for USC football. First-year head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff worked with a young Trojans roster, and they navigated a road with its share of bumps.

The coming offseason is a pivotal one for Sarkisian. It took much of this past year for the program to discover its personality, which wide receiver John "JuJu" Smith said is "great."

"When [negative] stuff goes down...and then [our ability to keep] bouncing back, it's great," he said.

If this year was about the Trojans discovering their identity under Sarkisian, next year is about building upon what they learned.

Prospects for a breakout 2015 season are bright and could only get brighter in the coming months, so long as a few things break in the Trojans' favor.

Begin Slideshow

USC Football: Holiday Wish List for the Trojans

The 2014 campaign was something of a feeling-out period for USC football. First-year head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff worked with a young Trojans roster, and they navigated a road with its share of bumps...

Begin Slideshow

Jalen Merrick Names His Top 3: Which Program Is Best Fit for 4-Star OL?

Considering that Jalen Merrick is an early enrollee who is weeks away from beginning his college career, the time is rapidly approaching for the 4-star prospect to make a decision.

He took a step forward in that direction over the weekend when he announced a top three of Arkansas, Florida and Florida State, according to Christopher Nee of Noles247 (subscription required).

All three of his finalists have a need for offensive linemen in the 2015 cycle—with each school already having at least two prospects already committed at the position.

However, can Arkansas pull one of the best players in the Sunshine State away from the Gators and the Seminoles? Also, which program of the three programs provides the best fit for Merrick?



Since Bret Bielema arrived in Fayetteville, he's transformed the Razorbacks into a program whose offensive identity is shaped by its powerful ground attack.

That message was reiterated to Merrick on his visit to Arkansas, as noted by Ryan Bartow of 247Sports (subscription required).

"Coach Bielema said he's inverting things at Arkansas like they did at Wisconsin," Merrick told Bartow. "They have a huge, huge emphasis on the offensive line. [Razorbacks offensive line] coach [Sam] Pittman isn't afraid to play true freshmen."

In terms of scheme fit, Merrick's skill set complements the Hogs physical mentality in the trenches.

However, as Ourlads shows, the Razorbacks are scheduled to lose only one offensive lineman to graduation this year. The flipside to that is that two true freshmen were able to crack the two-deep this year.

Heading to Fayetteville would give Merrick a chance to compete against some of the country's top defensive linemen in a loaded SEC West.



If the opportunity to play right away is critical to Merrick, no depth chart in the country can possibly be more appealing than the one in Gainseville.

With junior Tyler Moore already announcing his decision to enter the NFL draft and fellow junior D.J. Humphries considering making a similar jump, new head coach Jim McElwain could field a line unit with only three players returning from the team's two-deep this season.

However, the uncertainty surrounding the rest of McElwain's staff could hurt the Gators' chances with Merrick.

"I'm cautious with Florida with their new staff, but I'm still considering them because I like the environment," Merrick told Bartow earlier this month (subscription required).

While there are positives in the Gators favor, unless current Gators offensive line coach Mike Summers is retained by McElwain, it's hard to imagine him deciding on heading to Gainesville without having developed a relationship with his future position coach.


Florida State

While Arkansas provides Merrick with a great scheme fit and Florida has the need for big bodies to step in and play early, Florida State appears to merge those two factors better than his other two finalists.

The 'Noles will lose four offensive linemen due to graduation. Another plus is that Seminoles offensive line coach Rick Trickett is among the nation's best at developing talent at his position.

As Merrick told Bartow (subscription required), Trickett was highly impressed with what he saw out of Merrick during his summer camp visit to Tallahassee.

Coach Trickett was still raving about my camp performance. He said he's coached 42 years and I was the best looking offensive lineman he's seen go through agility drills. He has high expectations for me. He wants to make sure I'm the best. He said they are losing four offensive linemen so I'd have the chance to play early.

With that type of endorsement from Trickett, it's clear that FSU holds his abilities in high regard.


The Pick

Each of Merrick's final choices present an opportunity for him to find success at the next level.

However, considering factors such as location, playing time, coaching stability and opportunity, Florida State gets the slight nod over Arkansas as the option that provides the best fit for Merrick.


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

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