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Ohio State Football: How Does Urban Meyer 2.0 Handle a Loss?

Eight minutes into his meeting with the media on Monday, Stan Drayton found himself at a loss for words. And it wasn't because of a question that had anything to do with his running back rotation.

"Is Urban handling losses any different than he did during his time at Florida?" the Ohio State running backs coach was asked, a camcorder held mere inches from his face.

"Wow," Drayton responded after a pause. "You got me on that question. I would have to say..."

The question—and answer—were obviously complicated.

When Urban Meyer unexpectedly retired from Florida in 2009, he did so facing a sobering reality: his next loss could be his last.

The health issues that led to Meyer's early retirement have never really been defined, but this much we know: In the early morning following the Gators' loss to Alabama in the 2009 SEC Championship Game—a de facto play-in game for the BCS Championship Game—Meyer was admitted to a hospital after suffering from chest pains. The two-time national champion coach's initial retirement lasted less than 24 hours, however, as Meyer opted to return to Florida for the 2010 season following a brief leave of absence.

And as it turned out, Meyer's next loss wasn't his last. The post-Tim Tebow era in Gainesville turned out to be lower risk and much lower reward, as the Gators ultimately struggled to an 8-5 record after enjoying a 26-2 run from 2008-09.

Meyer would again leave Florida, this time for good, and again citing his health and family as his primary reasons why. He was 46 years old and admittedly unable to deal with the stress of his high-pressure job, a question that understandably followed him when he took over Ohio State in 2012.

"I feel fantastic now," Meyer insisted during his introductory press conference at OSU. "I was proud I had balance for quite a while. I lost that near the end. My health is in good shape. I've been checked out over and over again."

For the better part of his first two years in Columbus, Meyer developed a pretty good recipe for dealing with losses: he didn't. 

In his first season with the Buckeyes, Meyer directed a bowl-ineligible team to a 12-0 record. And while his Ohio State tenure was considered an instant success, it left many—including his own wife—wondering what he'd do when that inevitable first loss with the Buckeyes came.

"At the end of the last game, I said, ‘Really, you really had to go undefeated the first year?’" Shelley Meyer told Eleven Warriors in 2013.  "Where do you go from there?"

As it turned out, the answer was 12 more wins, before that haunting loss finally arrived. Again with a trip to the national title game on the line, Meyer's team fell victim in the conference championship game, with the Buckeyes losing to Michigan State.

After the game, Meyer was infamously pictured solemnly eating pizza, but by all accounts, he seemed to handle the loss about as well as anybody could have expected him to.

Since that cold December night in Indianapolis, however, Ohio State's misfortunes have snowballed into a stretch of three losses in four games, including last weekend's defeat at the hands of Virginia Tech. So how is the third-year Buckeyes head coach dealing with the first extended adversity that he's faced since coming to Columbus?

Like all things Meyer-related, it's tough to tell.

Meyer admitted to not sleeping much on Saturday night before putting in a full day of work on Sunday—neither of which are abnormal activities at this time of year for a football coach after a win or a loss. Asked by B/R in July how he was handling his daughter Nicki's famous pink contract on the back end of back-to-back losses in the Big Ten Conference Championship Game and Orange Bowl, Meyer insisted he was abiding by the rules put in place for him by his family

"I was where I was and it wasn't pleasant," Meyer said. "It affected a lot of people. I don't want to do that again."

If there's one person on the Ohio State staff who can vouch for where Meyer was four years ago it's Drayton, who served as the Gators running backs coach from 2005-07 and again in 2010. The now-Buckeyes assistant has seen his boss at his lowest of lows but insists that Meyer is now handling losses better than he was during his time in Gainesville.

"I would have to say, absolutely, yes," Drayton finally answered. "Urban is very encouraged by a bunch of motivated young men that want to make it right...nobody's reflecting emotionally on this game right now. We're moving forward."

And while that may be the politically correct answer, sprinkled with bits of truth, not everybody inside the walls of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center seems to be moving on from Ohio State's loss to the Hokies as quickly as Drayton claims to be.

"I'm still hurting," Meyer admitted Monday morning. "We'll be ready by tonight, get it out of our system and go."

With at least 10 games remaining on their slate, Meyer and the Buckeyes don't really have any other choice.

Although Meyer appears to be dealing with Ohio State's recent defeats better internally, his external actions have made it clear to his players that losing doesn't sit well with him.

As detailed in Wright Thompson's 2012 profile, most of Meyer's weeks as a head coach have culminated with a Victory Meal, a celebration of his team's most recent win.

They'd gather after a win, eating steak and shrimp, watching a replay of the game. They'd hang out, enjoying the accomplishment. Players and coaches loved Victory Meal, and Meyer often sat at the front of the room, glowing inside.

Only on Sunday, there was no Victory Meal, because, well, there was no victory. Rather than dine on prime cuts, the Buckeyes were served a less-than-memorable meal consisting of spaghetti and meatballs.

"We still had dinner. It just wasn't the same quality of food," Drayton said. "I don't even remember [what it was]. I just remember swallowing something."

"It's something that I really did not enjoy and something I cannot get used to," added sophomore safety Tyvis Powell, the only OSU player to meet with the media on Monday.

And while the Buckeyes will have to wait another week for their next surf-and-turf meal, the formerly unreasonable Meyer now finds himself as the voice of reason inside his team's locker room. That's not something that could have been said four years ago, but thus far, Meyer appears to be passing what's been one of the toughest tests of his coaching career.

"He remained calm about it. He paints the big picture for you," Powell said. "All you think about is the loss, but he tries to get you to move on and move forward and look to the future rather than sit back and dwell on the loss."

 

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

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Insider Recruiting: Sanctions Lifted, Which 5-Star Recruit Could Penn State Flip

The Penn State Nittany Lions are looking to bounce back stronger than ever now that the NCAA has lifted their recruiting sanctions starting in 2015. Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson talks with 247Sports' JC Shurburtt about what this means for their upcoming recruiting. Who do you think head coach James Franklin can bring to Penn State in the future?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Texas A&M Football: What You Should & Shouldn't Be Concerned About After Week 2

The Texas A&M football team has started the season with two consecutive wins and rose to No. 7 in the latest AP poll. The Aggies have shown some surprising strengths and a few expected weaknesses during their first two games.

The Aggies feature one of the younger teams in the SEC overall. Head coach Kevin Sumlin has played 14 true freshman during the first two games. With that kind of youth, you expect to see some youthful mistakes.

The Aggies have had their share of mistakes, but they have also had some standout performances from some of their younger players. The future of the program is definitely bright as the Aggies feature a number of young players who are playing significant roles early in their career.

This is a look at some of the strengths and weaknesses of the 2014 Texas A&M football team.   

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College Football Rankings 2014: Power Ranking All 128 Teams for Week 3

Another week, another round of major movement among the top teams in college football.

Thanks to some marquee matchups between highly rated teams, as well as a few major upsets, Bleacher Report's power rankings went through a significant shake-up. Teams that were ranked in the 20s a week ago are no longer among the top 50, while others that were sitting in the 30s or 40s are now in the top 25.

And spoiler alert: The top of the power rankings has even more turnover.

Our power rankings are comprised of an average of five ratings: The Associated Press media and Amway coaches polls, Bleacher Report's Top 25, ratings guru Jeff Sagarin's computer ledger and my personal ranking.

Take a look at how we ranked all 128 FBS teams heading into Week 3 and then let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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Alabama Hasn't Even Scratched the Surface of Lane Kiffin's Playbook, Yet

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Through two games, Alabama fans have started to get an idea about new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin’s offense and how it may be different or similar to what the Crimson Tide have run in the past.

Essentially, it’s not that different from Alabama’s offense under head coach Nick Saban. There’s a heavy emphasis on running the ball with power and setting up the play action. But we’ve also seen a number of new formations and players being used in different ways.

And, we’ve only seen a small part of it.

It would be foolish for Alabama to show its entire hand on offense right away, especially in a game against West Virginia, a power-five team that isn’t quite on the Crimson Tide’s level yet, and definitely not against group-of-five Florida Atlantic. And with lowly Southern Miss visiting on Saturday before SEC play, don’t expect to get much more insight into what Kiffin’s trying to do.

“I think there's a lot left on the table that we can show,” tight end Brian Vogler said on Monday. “I think the coaches are saving that up for maybe if it just works on a different defense. We put in a lot of stuff, and we take stuff out for certain defenses, and we game-plan around it. So I think a lot of the offense is still out there. The coaches are just waiting to use it.”

The Mountaineers ran a 3-3-5 stack defense which, while unlike anything Alabama sees regularly in the SEC, was built to stop spread attacks like West Virginia sees in the Big 12. If Kiffin was going to open things up, especially in the passing game, this wasn’t going to be the game to do so.

The result? Alabama ran the ball for almost 300 yards, with T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry each hitting the 100-yard mark.

Against Florida Atlantic, Alabama knew it had the distinct talent advantage. The Owls cornerbacks were playing off of the Crimson Tide’s quick receivers. That led to the onslaught of screen passes thrown their way on Saturday.

Right tackle Austin Shepherd said most of those plays have a run option, and FAU was playing the run while setting their defensive backs to not get beat over the top.

“They’re kind of option plays. You can run or pass it,” Shepherd said. “We’re blocking the run. If they’re loading the box, we’re going to split the ball out.”

It’s almost a cliche to say, but right now, Alabama is just taking what the defense is giving it. And that’s nothing new for the Crimson Tide.

“If you go back and look at games, not this season but in the past, we'll run plays over and over again because it just works,” Vogler said. “I remember in the SEC Championship we ran the same play six times in a row because it worked. If something is working for us, we are going to use it the rest of the game.”

That year, of course, Alabama had one of the best offensive lines in college football history. It could move defensive fronts at will. And Vogler is right: Alabama’s official play by play does indeed show a stretch at the end of the third quarter of six straight run plays up the middle or to the right side that helped set up a go-ahead touchdown.

This season, Alabama’s strength is on the perimeter. Its receivers are dangerous in open space. So it makes sense that if defenses are giving it that open space, the Crimson Tide would exploit it.

“We had the numbers, and it was what we were looking for,” Vogler said.” We spit it out there and with guys like Chris Black, Christion Jones, Amari Cooper out there to make plays, it's real nice.”

While Alabama and Kiffin don’t want to show their full arsenal right away, they haven’t had to, by any stretch. They’ve had plenty of success taking what the defense has given them, whether that’s from a talent-level standpoint or schematically.

So when could we expect to see the playbook open up a little bit more?

The first likely candidate is Florida on September 20. The Gators have the talent on defense to match up with Alabama. Cornerbacks Vernon Hargreaves III and Jalen Tabor can match up with Cooper, Black and the like. The Crimson Tide won’t be able to bubble screen them to death.

Kiffin’s offense has been innovative and a fresh look for a unit that got stale at times under Doug Nussmeier. But it hasn’t come close to being fully unleashed yet.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats come from CFBStats. All recruiting information comes from 247Sports.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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How Doug Nussmeier Can Turn Michigan Offense Around After Week 2 Disaster

Doug Nussmeier agrees with you about Saturday’s 31-0 loss to Notre Dame. In fact, the first-year Michigan offensive coordinator stands, in terms of perception, with the rest of the public.

“Not very good, obviously, when you don’t score and you’re the offensive coordinator, it’s not good,” he replied when asked to grade his national TV debut with the Wolverines in South Bend. “It’s been a lot of reflection: What we could have done differently. What should we have done differently? Obviously, you know, we take big ownership in this. And when you don’t score points, it falls on everybody, and you start with offensive coordinator.”

Other than Devin Funchess’ team-leading 107 receiving yards, the Wolverines were held tightly in check by the Irish defense, which ended the rivalry series with its first shutout. Michigan rushed for 100 yards, but it only averaged 2.9 yards per carry. It converted just four times on third down and failed to reach the red zone.

Adding salt to the wound, Matt Wile missed 46- and 48-yard field-goal attempts. The latter wasn’t really his fault; he slipped. But it was most certainly the lowlight in terms of scoring tries.

So where is Nussmeier to go from here? He has roughly three days to prepare a game plan for the Miami (Ohio) Red Hawks, who invade The Big House on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET). Surely he has something up his sleeve, something to make everyone forget about his tactical failure and subsequent drubbing by a defense that gave up 17 points to Rice in Week 1.

“[The offense is] still in infancy stages here, we’re still learning to play consistently well,” said Nussmeier, later adding: “It’s about 11 guys on every play, doing the right thing. ... If it’s 10 guys doing the right thing, and one guy doing the wrong thing, you’re doomed.

“We’ve got to get 11 guys, on every play, doing the right thing.”

The former Alabama OC says that there is no timetable, no measuring chart or barometer for his group. Progression will come when it comes: “We’ll go as fast as we can,” he said, while also mentioning that “procedural” details need to be corrected and enforced.

Maybe another review of Week 2’s game film would help? Maybe a quicker release for Devin Gardner, who’s been criticized for holding on for too long, would be a remedy to the situation.

“If you go through the tape, and some of you, I know, do that and play coach...but some of the three-step-drop game, you’re not going to do much with anyway...” said coach Brady Hoke.

Fair enough. X's and O's won’t be dissected and discussed too much. That’s Hoke and Nussmeier’s job. But mentioning players who could help is fair game.

 

The Styling of Fleetwood

He’s 5’7” (is he?!) and not very heavy.

But he’s all muscle and athleticism.

His name, this year, is “Fleetwood.” The 169-pound junior from Detroit is a touchdown waiting to happen. However, his goose egg in the TD column is one of the most mind-boggling stats in the Big Ten.

How does this guy not have at least a few from a return? What about a dump-off/flair play? Those could work. Due to his size, he can get lost in the backfield and use his afterburners down the sidelines. He and Gardner hooked up for one against the Irish. If perfected, it could be a go-to this fall.

It’s all a novel idea, something that’ll need a robust O-line in order to work. But Dennis Norfleet can provide the “explosive play”—defined by Nussmeier as a 12-yard run or 16-yard pass—to Team 135’s offense.

“My role on the team: I’m a guy who can bring a spark that makes everybody happy,” said Norfleet. “I’m just being the teammate to get everybody going. You know, to bring fire. That’s what I do...”

Bring it, Fleetwood. And then bring some ice to cool off those Hot Wheels which have led to 1,817 kick-return yards, the second most in program history.

 

Spread from Funchess?

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Well, the connection isn’t “broken,” but Funchess sustained a ding or two versus the Irish, causing him to leave the game. But he returned and finished. Hoke, who doesn’t like answering injury questions, said that the 6’5”, 236-pound junior Biletnikoff candidate receiver is “fine.”

Funchess is the obvious target. He’s the guy who’ll make the game-winning touchdown catch. He’s the guy who’ll take on the top defensive backs—plural, as in more than one at a time—and rack up the big stats.

But he can’t be the only option. He’s a safety net, but Nussmeier can’t turn him into a crutch. There are plenty of receivers—Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson and even freshman Freddy Canteen, who Michigan is trying to “get going”—to utilize on game day.

And once tight end Jake Butt is fully healthy, he’ll be a true asset. As of Monday, the 6’6”, 249-pound sophomore was placed atop the depth chart. During the presser, defensive end Frank Clark, linebacker Jake Ryan—both seniors—and Norfleet expressed optimism toward their young teammate who's overcoming an ACL tear. 

Nussmeier won’t rush Butt back into action. However, he’ll probably throw more reps his way this weekend. He should also look into reestablishing the type of run game that saw Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith gouge Appalachian State for 285 yards and three scores. 

That’s just an educated guess and suggestion, not an attempt to "play coach.” Leave that to the filmheads and armchair quarterbacks. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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SEC Football Q&A: O.J. Howard, Georgia's Game Plan and an Upset for Tennessee?

It's Tuesday, and that means it's time for a little SEC Q&A.

Heading into Week 3, we now know a lot about each team's strengths and where they need to improve. Week 3 offers compelling conference and out-of-conference matchups, with Georgia traveling to South Carolina for an SEC East showdown and Tennessee heading to Oklahoma in search of an upset over the Sooners.

Will Vols' head coach Butch Jones get that upset? Will Georgia continue to roll? Let's take a look at Week 3 and beyond with a little SEC Q&A.

 

I'd love to have an answer for you, because when you have a 6'6", 240-pound tight end who can catch and run, it's a good idea to use him.

Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has not.

Howard doesn't have a catch on the season and has only been targeted once. That pass—which was intercepted—came in the fourth quarter of the season opener vs. West Virginia when Blake Sims tried to force a pass up the seam into double coverage.

This is somewhat of a shock because, as B/R's Alabama lead writer Marc Torrence noted this summer, head coach Nick Saban was pleased with Howard's progress.

"Having a guy like that, really there's a lot of multiples in terms of how you can use him and create problems for the defense to have to adjust to him," Saban said. "He's worked hard and responded well.”

Kiffin has done rather well during his first two games as the Crimson Tide offensive coordinator, putting Sims in positions to succeed while still allowing fellow quarterback Jake Coker the opportunity to show his upside at appropriate times. He's spread the carries around to Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon and used wide receiver Amari Cooper as a big-time weapon as the quarterback battle sorts itself out.

The biggest (and perhaps "only") criticism of Kiffin's play-calling through two games is Howard's absence, which shouldn't continue much longer.

 

Yes, and it should not only against South Carolina but every game of the season.

Georgia's game plan against Clemson was exactly why I picked the Bulldogs to finish the season undefeated and to be SEC champs and the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff. The Bulldogs have the running back depth to use Todd Gurley at the perfect times, allow quarterback Hutson Mason to be more of a game manager than gunslinger and a defense that's properly coached for the first time in a long time.

As long as everybody stays healthy, head coach Mark Richt is doing the right thing limiting Gurley's first-half carries, using him on special teams and then bringing him in as the hammer in the second half to lean on worn-out defenses.

This is the luxury Georgia has. It is absolutely loaded with the talent to the point where putting your best player on special teams and "risking injury" (which is silly, because there's an injury risk on every play) is something the coaching staff can do to make the team better.

Yes, Georgia will stick with that this week, although I do expect them to take more shots deep with quarterback Huston Mason against an undermanned Gamecock pass defense.

 

A chance, sure. 

As I wrote earlier this week, running back Jalen Hurd is maturing at the right time. Either Hurd or senior Marlin Lane will have to play big, because keeping the ball out of the hands of Sooners' quarterback Trevor Knight and that offense will be job No. 1.

A big question for Oklahoma is cornerback Zack Sanchez, who left last weekend's game with a shoulder injury. Sooners' head coach Bob Stoops expects him to play Saturday, according to Eric Bailey of the Tulsa World.

If that's true, and Sanchez shows no ill effects from that injury, he'll make it tough on quarterback Justin Worley and wide receiver Marquez North.

No, I don't think Tennessee stands much of a chance in Norman. The Sooners are a more complete team from top to bottom, have the advantage of playing at home and a front seven that will force quick decisions from Worley. 

 

No, and it shouldn't be the expectation. After all, when was the last time Arkansas won the SEC?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Head coach Bret Bielema inherited a mess in 2013, and he's trying to play LSU and Alabama-style football with players that aren't at the same level of those traditional SEC West powers. Toss in defending SEC champ Auburn and the emergence of Texas A&M as a team that not only can get hot but has staying power, and Arkansas plays in the toughest neighborhood in college football.

It shouldn't be about SEC West titles for Bielema, at least not within five seasons. It should be about being in the SEC West discussion. Consistently being in the division title discussion is as good as Arkansas has ever had it since joining the conference in 1992, and getting back to that point should be the goal for Bielema and the focus for Arkansas fans.

Once that happens, then talk about the conference title. But you have to get to that point first, which is much easier said than done.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report and 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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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Full List of Week 3 College Standings and Polls

Thanks to a batch of brave scheduling, there is a lot of noticeable movement to talk about in the Week 3 college football polls.

Both the Amway Coaches poll and Associated Press poll contain plenty of surprises after their Sunday release this time around. Some matchups were obviously going to produce movers (USC-Stanford), while marquee upsets facilitated momentum on their own (Virginia Tech-Stanford).

Below, let's take a look at both polls and key in on a few of the notable movers and what it means for each school's future in the coming weeks.

 

Amway and AP Week 3 Top 25 Rankings

 

Breaking Down Notable Movers

Virginia Tech

Hokies fans surely have a mixed reaction to this one.

On one hand, they have to be proud that Virginia Tech makes an appearance in both polls, rising 21 spots alone in the AP poll, but as Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman points out, the other poll seems to have made a tiny mistake:

Not only did Frank Beamer's team go to Columbus and pick up a win, it dominated the Buckeyes, Braxton Miller or not.

Known for his perennially strong defenses, Beamer dialed up a game plan that had Urban Meyer's side on its heels all night. Quarterback J.T. Barrett completed just nine of his 29 attempts, going for 219 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions in the process. Barrett also led the team in rushing with 70 yards and a score.

As ESPN Stats & Info notes, Beamer dialed up a ridiculous amount of aggression to counteract what is supposedly a better team in a hostile environment:

So how does the marquee upset mesh with the rest of the season for the Hokies?

Not so well. Beamer and Co. have a tough schedule if they are to win the ACC, with dates against North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Miami (Fla.) and Duke to come.

The good news is that the Hokies defense should continue to cause issues for any offense it encounters. Quarterback Michael Brewer held up better than anticipated and should only continue to get more comfortable.

Expect the Hokies to hang around in the polls for a while.

 

Texas A&M

The hype train for the Texas A&M Aggies continues to grow.

One week removed from taking down South Carolina on the road while Kenny Hill beat a Johnny Manziel record on his way to 511 yards and three scores, the Aggies went out Saturday and destroyed Lamar, 73-3.

The rout caused the Aggies to move up two spots in the AP poll (including two first-place votes) and another five in the Amway poll.

At this point, it's as if Manziel never left when it comes to national-title talk. Hill threw for another 283 yards and four scores before getting yanked from the game, and 11 different players caught at least one pass in the process.

Remember, though, that much of the credit can go to coach Kevin Sumlin, as College GameDay illustrates:

Do not expect Texas A&M to stick around with such high marks, though. The next two weeks are simple and will further get the hype train rolling (Rice and SMU), but the schedule is one of the most unkind the country has to offer.

The Aggies have to travel to Alabama, Mississippi State and Auburn, not to mention they welcome Ole Miss and LSU to town.

A playoff berth seems like a possibility, but it's going to take the offense continuing to produce against the best of the best.

 

Notre Dame

A move up a minimum of four spots in each poll speaks volumes about the job Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have done to start the season.

The team started with a win over Rice, but Saturday's triumph over Michigan—a jaw-dropping affair at 31-0—has announced that the Fighting Irish are very much playoff contenders. As Matt Fortuna of ESPN notes, the program is finally back up around some of their rivals:

It's certainly not as flashy, but the Notre Dame defense deserves a ton of credit for the victory. It held explosive Wolverines signal-caller Devin Gardner to 189 passing yards, and the entire offense rushed for just 100 yards.

Best of all, Everett Golson is back in full force. He threw for 226 yards and three scores against the Michigan defense, and his comeback story has the attention of many, including Bleacher Report's Matt Miller:

We have always known Golson is a talented player, but nobody could have predicted he would be up to speed this quickly—not even his private coach, George Whitefield. He told Feldman, "I thought it'd take a couple of games before he'd really settle in -- maybe by like Game 5."

So much for that.

It's huge news for the Fighting Irish. Like the Aggies, Kelly's squad has a brutal schedule that includes Stanford, North Carolina, Florida State, Arizona State, Louisville and USC.

In order to get to the coveted playoff, Golson has to play at an elite level in each contest. It's early, but it looks like he will not have any issues doing just that.

 

Stats via ESPN.com. Amyway poll via USA Today. AP poll via The Associated Press.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

New Maryland Uniforms Celebrate 200th Anniversary of 'The Star-Spangled Banner'

Maryland's football uniforms have turned heads in recent seasons, but Under Armour has found a way to make the Terrapins' uniforms for this week stand out even more—in a patriotic way.

Some college football teams will be wearing special "Stars and Stripes" helmets for their games this week. Under Armour and Maryland have a plan for something even more special.

For Maryland's game against West Virginia on Saturday, the Terrapins will wear uniforms that celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore at Fort McHenry and "The Star-Spangled Banner." The uniforms will not use the team's red, yellow and black. Instead, they will feature red, white and blue.

The uniforms will include the words of Francis Scott Key’s poem “Defence of Fort McHenry,” which ended up becoming the national anthem. The words will be on the helmet, the sleeves of the jersey and the bottom of the cleats.

Each uniform will also include a couple of key phrases.

This video helps explain the tribute.

Last year, Under Armour came out with patriotic uniforms for Northwestern to wear. This year, the company has found a way to celebrate a special anniversary in a unique way with new uniforms for Maryland.

[Under Armour Football, Maryland Pride]

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Drew Richmond to Ole Miss: Rebels Land 4-Star OT Prospect

Drew Richmond, one of the most coveted offensive linemen in the class of 2015, has verbally committed to Ole Miss, adding another 4-star player to an already solid class. 

Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger provided the news shortly after Richmond's announcement:

At 6'5", 320 pounds, Richmond has added weight during his time at Memphis University School and became a huge target for several notable programs. Despite holding offers from Georgia, Clemson and Florida State, the lineman chose to commit with the Rebels.

Ranked as the No. 6 offensive tackle by 247Sports' composite system, Richmond was one of the last remaining linemen remaining in the top 10. He was so highly coveted by Tennessee that he tweeted out a photo of the Recruiting Yearbook with his face plastered on the cover:

Richmond was also part of The Opening in the summer and made an impression on those in attendance. The Memphis native's results were shared by Ryan Callahan of 247Sports:

Top247 offensive tackle Drew Richmond of Memphis, Tenn., posted a SPARQ score of 83.85 behind a 40.5-foot power-ball toss. He also ran the 40 in 5.44 seconds, had a 22.4-inch vertical and completed the shuttle in 4.97 seconds.

As for Richmond, the lineman told Drew Champlin of AL.com his objective: "I just hope to do well so I can get my fifth star." While Richmond isn't considered a 5-star player, he's still a superb prospect.

Though he doesn't register a top ranking in any category, 247Sports has Richmond at an eight out of 10 on nearly every measurable skill. With a projectable frame, athleticism along with outstanding pass and run blocking, Richmond has a bright future at the college level.

He will likely have a chance to start during his freshman campaign, but being a star is not guaranteed in the SEC. After already bringing in a huge haul in 2015, Richmond will be a special recruit for Ole Miss in the future.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Georgia vs. South Carolina: Will This Huge Matchup Determine SEC East Champion?

The Georgia Bulldogs are taking on the South Carolina Gamecocks in a heated SEC East matchup. Bleacher Report's College Football Analysts Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee throw out some rapid-fire questions pertaining to this big-time battle. Who do you think will win?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Buy or Sell: Which Teams Are Legitimate College Football Playoff Contenders?

After a couple weeks of the 2014 college football season, Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer discuss which teams they are buying and selling as legitimate contenders for the College Football Playoff. Who do you think can make a run for a playoff spot?

Check out the video and let us know.

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USC Trojans vs. UCLA Bruins: Which Pac-12 Program Owns Los Angeles?

The USC Trojans and the UCLA Bruins are both 2-0 starting off the 2014 football season.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee discuss which Pac-12 program will be holding the crown as king of L.A. in 2014. Who do you think has the better team? 

Watch the video and let us know.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

2016 Prospects Who Are Already Better Than 2015 Prospects

While the 2015 class has six months left until national signing day, coaches across the country are already turning their attention to 2016 prospects.

The 2016 class has a few headliners who have already grabbed the attention of fans, analysts and colleges alike.

There are even a few positions where players have emerged as comparable talents to their counterparts in the 2015 class.

Which players in the 2016 class can potentially make that claim?

*Players listed in alphabetical order

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Brady Hoke, Devin Gardner and the Decline of an NCAA Football Powerhouse

Navigating out of a downward spiral is tricky business. Michigan football has endured them before, most recently during the forlorn Rich Rodriguez era of 2008-2010.

Three down years is about all you get in Ann Arbor, and Brady Hoke is in the advent of his third after the listless goose egg Team 135 put up in South Bend. For the record, Rich Rod went 2-1 against Notre Dame (but just 0-1 against Toledo, at The Big House, no less).

Perhaps Hoke was the victim of too much, too soon, having slayed a few dragons in his 2011 debut campaign (11-2).

The Wolverines, behind junior quarterback Denard Robinson, had an inspired season: from an amazing comeback victory over Notre Dame in the first-ever night game at the Big House, to a 45-17 dismantling of Nebraska in the Cornhuskers' first season in the Big Ten, to culminating in Big Blue's first win over (an albeit-depleted) Ohio State since 2003.

Hoke and the Wolverines capped off that season with a BCS bowl win over Virginia Tech. Not too shabby.

The start of the 2012 season proved to be a bridge too far, as Hoke's preseason No. 8 Wolverines got their comeuppance at the hands of Nick Saban's Alabama, 41-14, in the Cowboys Classic. Robinson's duck performance (four INT, one fumble) in South Bend three weeks later seemed apropos. 

The wheels hadn't fallen off just yet for Michigan football, as the team responded by posting three consecutive wins to start the Big Ten season, including the squad's first victory over Michigan State since 2007.

The tipping point for the program came the following week in Michigan's first visit to Nebraska since 1911. Robinson's all-purpose style finally undid him in the first half of that game as he fell awkwardly to the turf after taking a hit on a run for first down.

Wolverines fans knew the reality of a Denard-less Michigan was coming, but the middle of his senior season seemed premature. With the coaching staff having converted touted backup quarterback Devin Gardner to wide receiver at the beginning of the 2012 season, Michigan fans were forced to endure 30-plus minutes of Russell Bellomy in that fateful Nebraska loss.

Despite having no reps at quarterback, surely Gardner could have done better than the embarrassing Bellomy. Hoke scrambled Gardner into place at QB for the next three games, and the team responded with three nice wins.

Michigan would close the season with losses to Ohio State and an Outback Bowl defeat to South Carolina. An 8-5 record to finish the season smacked of the Rich Rod era, but all hope was not lost as Hoke's recruiting efforts were cause for optimism. Furthermore, Hoke would finally have his system in place for the 2013 season and his hand-picked players would start to fill up the depth chart.

A 5-0 start, including a largely dominant performance over Notre Dame (41-30), proved to be misleading after Michigan dropped six out of its last eight games to finish the 2013 season at a virtually unacceptable 7-6. 

That brings us to the here and now. A starting quarterback that seems to have regressed, a head coach that continues to look befuddled on national TV and a program that has ended up No. 1 on USA Today's Misery Index.

The knives are on the table in Ann Arbor, and the program's ever-impatient fanbase and scribes are sharpening the cutlery. Reasonable ultimatums are flying in on the heels of the debacle in South Bend.

TheDetroit News' Terry Foster makes a compelling argument for firing Hoke, and it's hard to make a case for his sustainability unless his team manages to beat Michigan State or Ohio State (preferably both) this season.

Ohio State is there for the taking without Braxton Miller, but both those aforementioned rivalry games will be on the road, where Michigan is just 7-12 under Hoke, including bowl games, as per Foster.

It's safe to say, Hokeamania has ceased to run wild in Maize and Blue Nation—Michigan will essentially need to run the table this season for the coach's tenure to not be permanently labeled the Brady Joke era. 3-8 against Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State will not be tolerated.

Maybe the good folks at Notre Dame were right, Michigan football is an empire in decline. A team that juggernauts need to take off their calendar to improve their strength of schedule. 

After watching Devin Gardner sputter his way through four quarters against Notre Dame and Hoke's dumbfounded expressions on the sideline throughout, it's fair to argue that Michigan isn't much of a football school at the moment.

The polar vortex continues to hover over Michigan's football program. If a warm front doesn't move in soon, it will be permanent winter for Brady Hoke as a Michigan Man. 

John Beilein's boys may have to pick up the slack once again. Apologies to Bo Schembechler, Michigan is more hardwood than gridiron in 2014.

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Tennessee RB Jalen Hurd Maturing at the Right Time for Butch Jones' Vols

Tennessee survived the tricky early part of their season, going 2-0, but now things get interesting. The Vols will head to Norman, Oklahoma, on Saturday night to take on the Oklahoma Sooners in a game that will serve as a gauge for this year's Vols.

Are they back? Can this team be competitive? Just how far off are they?

On the ground, they're close. A big reason why—quite literally—is 6'3", 227-pound true freshman running back Jalen Hurd. The Hendersonville, Tennessee, native only rushed for 29 yards in the season-opening win over Utah State but picked it up in the win over Arkansas State, rushing 23 times for 83 yards and a touchdown en route to SEC Freshman of the Week honors.

Hurd's improvement between Weeks 1 and 2 was noticeable.

"Jalen's progressed a lot," quarterback Justin Worley said in quotes released by Tennessee. "You may not see the yards per carry that he wants [and] that we want as an offense, but he gets those tough yards. He's done a great job of really embracing his role in protections and understanding week in, week out, where the different pressures are coming from."

Hurd's head coach Butch Jones agreed, which is why Hurd received the majority of the carries vs. the Red Wolves last week.

"We just play who is running the ball well, and we thought Jalen gave us a great opportunity," Jones said in the postgame quotes. "I thought Jalen got some tough yardage. I thought he hit the hole. Jalen runs hard."

The time between the first and second game of the season is when players improve the most, and Hurd is a prime example of that. So much so that Jones had no qualms about letting Hurd set the tone for the Vols.

That's great timing not only for Hurd, but for the Vols.

Tennessee's running game is still rather inconsistent—it ranks 11th in the SEC (139 YPG)—but there's some momentum building as the team prepares for its showdown with the Sooners Saturday night. That's big because, while tempo is part of Tennessee's goal on offense, pounding the rock and maintaining possession is probably a good idea—especially on the road.

Oklahoma has racked up a whopping 508 yards and 50 points per game in its first two games of the season, and Jones knows that their balance makes them difficult to stop.

"It's very difficult," he said during Monday's press conference. "They do a great job of balance, and also within that balance their scheme presents you problems because all of a sudden they go from an internal run to a play action deep post to all of a sudden a perimeter screen and you couple that with their athletes and their tempo and their size. It's a great challenge."

Hurd, and the Vols running game, can make it less challenging for the Vols' defense.

The Vols have weapons at wide receiver, but the absence of wide receiver Von Pearson—who's out with a high ankle sprain—takes away one of the primary weapons in that loaded receiving corps. That may shift more emphasis to the running game, and Hurd proved in his second college game that he can handle more responsibility. 

Tennessee will need it this week in Norman because Oklahoma is no joke.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report and 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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2014: Week 3 Standings and Top 25 Team Records

While Week 2 only featured a few big-time matchups, many of the results will play a big role going forward in the college football season.

As the top teams in the nation all look to earn a spot in this year's College Football Playoff, every game is important. A loss can change the entire perception of a conference, while even a narrow win might not be good enough to earn a top-four spot.

There will be questions about the polls throughout the season, but here is the latest look at each set of rankings, courtesy of USA Today, The Associated Press and Bleacher Report.

 

Florida State is the top name on each list, but there is certainly plenty of debate about what comes next.

It is hard to argue against Oregon being the most impressive in this young season. The Ducks had an easy win over South Dakota to open the year, but the latest victory over Michigan State is what really turned heads.

Oregon ended the game with 28 unanswered points to earn a 46-27 win over what was then the No. 7 team in the country. The squad made a normally elite Spartans defense into just another victim for the high-powered attack.

ESPN.com's Chris Low felt this should propel Oregon to the top of the polls:

While Florida State, Alabama, Oklahoma and Auburn all had big wins in Week 2, none of them were against even an average opponent, making the results much less impressive. There will be a chance for each squad to showcase what it can do down the line, but Oregon already has a marquee win under its belt.

On the other side of the coin, Michigan State's loss highlighted a miserable day for the Big Ten. Ohio State represented the only ranked team to lose to a squad outside of the Top 25, while Michigan lost a high-profile matchup against Notre Dame by a score of 31-0. 

Some analysts believe this could kill any chance for any school from the conference to get a bid to the playoffs, but commissioner Jim Delany thinks it is too early to make that determination. He told Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com:

Big games matter on big stages with big ratings and a lot of attention. In the three primetime games, we didn't win any. That's disappointing. I would say this: I said they would be disproportionately impactful but I didn't say they would be dispositive. We're not feeling very good but the facts are the facts. I would just say with 50 percent of the nonconference games and 100 percent of conference games remaining, it's premature to make any judgments.

With Wisconsin's Week 1 loss to LSU and Nebraska's narrow home win against McNeese State, nothing has been too impressive about the Big Ten so far this year.

The other notable game of the weekend was USC against Stanford, which featured a lot of great defense in a 13-10 win for the Trojans. Brett Edgerton of ESPN.com provided a big reason the Cardinal could not pull out the win:

None of the possessions were worse than the last one, which featured Stanford getting into field-goal range, only to fumble the ball—and the game—away with just seconds remaining on the clock.

This was a strong win for USC to prove it is a legitimate contender in both the Pac-12 and for the national title. Of course, tough games against Arizona State, UCLA and Notre Dame loom on the schedule.

The good news for fans is that the season is just getting started. There have been a few conference showdowns, but most of the most important matchups are still ahead.

We are free to debate which team is the best over the next few months, but in the end, it will all be decided on the field.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Wolverines vs. Miami (Ohio) RedHawks Complete Game Preview

Prior to last week’s matchup versus Notre Dame, head coach Brady Hoke said that the game was a measuring stick. After being demolished 31-0, there wasn’t very much to measure. The shutout snapped Michigan’s NCAA record of scoring in 365 consecutive games, going back nearly 30 years, and was yet another disappointing road loss to a key rival under Hoke's tenure.

Hoke is holding firm to his goal of winning the Big Ten title. But his team has a lot of work to do to prepare for division rivals Michigan State and Ohio State for a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game.

This game is a gut check for Michigan. Last year the Wolverines struggled to beat lowly Akron 28-24 after beating the Irish. Now, Hoke faces the task of keeping his team motivated after an embarrassing loss.

Miami coach Chuck Martin was previously Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator, and he’s well-acquainted with how his previous team exploited Michigan’s defense. Michigan will need to come out sharp to get its season back on track.


Date: Saturday, September 13, 2014

Time: 3:30 p.m. EDT

Place: Michigan Stadium (109,901), Ann Arbor, Michigan

Series vs. Miami (Ohio): Michigan leads series 5-0

Television: Big Ten Network

Radio: Michigan Sports Network, Sirius (113), XM (195)

Spread: Michigan by 31.5, via Odds Shark

Live Stats: MGoBlue.com GameTracker

Last Meeting vs. Miami (Ohio) 2008: Michigan 16, Miami (Ohio) 6

Michigan held Miami (Ohio) without a touchdown, repelling two drives inside the U-M 10-yard line, while the offense scored a pair of quick-strike touchdowns to begin the first and fourth quarters, helping the Wolverines earn a 16-6 decision on Sept. 6, 2008 at Michigan Stadium. A 50-yard pass on the first play of the game from freshman starting quarterback Steven Threet to wide receiver Martavious Odoms set up Threet’s nine-yard touchdown run. In the fourth, quarterback Nick Sheridan led Michigan on an 87-yard drive, capped by Brandon Minor’s 15-yard touchdown run.

*Information according to University of Michigan Wolverine Football game notes.

Begin Slideshow

20 Statistics That Will Surprise You After Week 2

Can anything about college football really shock you?

Come on—you are a fan who remembers 2012, when five-loss Wisconsin waltzed into the Big Ten title game and put up 539 yards of rushing on the No. 14 Nebraska Blackshirts defense.

And you sat there with the rest of us last season, mouths all agape, and watched in awe as Auburn’s Chris Davis returned Adam Griffith’s 57-yard field-goal attempt 100 yards for the most improbable 34-28 win in the history of the game.

Yeah, you’ve seen two freshmen win the Heisman, Vince Young ice USC in the BCS National Championship Game and Terry Bowden take the Akron job; what could possibly surprise you?

Well, take a look at a mere 20 numbers from the first 14 days of the 2014 season. This is why we love college football.

Begin Slideshow

College Football: Week 2 Recap, Pick Results and Final Thought

Week 2 of the college football season did not disappoint with a Top 10 matchup in Eugene, Oregon, and unexpected outcomes that no one could have seen coming.

No. 7 Michigan State and No. 3 Oregon played an intense game that went back and forth in the first half. The Ducks were up 18-7 until the Spartans went on a 17-0 run to take a 24-18 lead into the half. Michigan State would convert an early field goal in the third quarter, but it would be the last time the Spartans would score for the rest of the game.

Heisman hopeful Marcus Mariota and the Oregon offense went on to score 28 unanswered points with the help of speedy wide receiver Devon Allen and highly touted freshman running back Royce Freeman, who got into the end zone on the Ducks’ final two scores. All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu also could potentially have had one of the best defensive plays of the season when he intercepted a Connor Cook pass midway through the fourth quarter at the Oregon 4-yard line. 

Mark Helfrich came away with the biggest win in his two-year tenure with a critical 46-27 victory. It was the most points Michigan State has surrendered since 2011, when it lost to Alabama 49-7 in the Capital One Bowl. 

The biggest surprise of the day came when an underrated Virginia Tech team went into No. 8 Ohio State Saturday night and pulled off a 35-21 upset. A 63-yard interception return for a touchdown by Hokie cornerback Donovan Riley with less than a minute left silenced an Ohio Stadium record crowd of 107,517. In Virginia Tech's first win over a ranked nonconference opponent since 2009, it sacked quarterback J.T. Barrett seven times and gave Ohio State its first home-opener loss since 1978. A Frank Beamer squad, which lost a combined 11 games the last two seasons, could be a factor in the ACC this season. 

The final matchup between Michigan and No. 16 Notre Dame did not live up to the hype, as Fighting Irish quarterback Everett Golson passed for 226 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-0 blowout win. Texas was also steamrolled by BYU for a second consecutive season, as quarterback Taysom Hill rushed for 99 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-7 victory. 

The Pac-12 saw a high-profile matchup between No. 14 USC and No. 13 Stanford, which consisted of USC athletic director Pat Haden going down to the sideline to confront the referees, as well as other drama in a much-anticipated defensive ballgame. The Cardinal blew scoring opportunities with two missed field goals and turned the ball over three times in scoring position. For a second consecutive year, USC won on an Andre Heidari field goal. This time it was a career-long 53-yard field goal with 2:30 left in the fourth quarter. The Trojans snapped Stanford’s 17-game home winning streak with a 13-10 win, which was the longest home winning streak among FBS teams. In his first season at the helm, USC head coach Steve Sarkisian could have his team contending for a Pac-12 title. 

Nebraska likely had the most dramatic finish of the day against FCS McNeese State. After the Cowboys scored 10 unanswered points to knot things up at 24, potential All-American Ameer Abdullah pulled off a sensational 58-yard reception for a touchdown to give the Huskers the go-ahead score with 20 seconds remaining in regulation. Nebraska survived a potential huge upset, 31-24.

 

Game Attended: Michigan 0 at No. 16 Notre Dame 31

What figured to be another exciting game between the two winningest programs in their final matchup for the foreseeable future became the most lopsided victory in the history of the series. The closest Michigan came to scoring was on two field goals, one which was blocked. Notre Dame manhandled the Wolverines on both sides of the ball in a 31-0 win.

Senior quarterback Everett Golson had a second solid showing since returning to the team, as he was 23-of-34 for 226 yards and three touchdowns. On defense, the Fighting Irish made sure Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner was pressured in the pocket and managed to cause three interceptions. The only success Gardner had was getting the ball to wide receiver Devin Funchess, who accounted for 109 yards. 

Fourth-year Michigan head coach Brady Hoke is currently sitting on the hot seat after his offense failed to score for the first time since 1984. The Wolverines had previously led the nation with 365 consecutive games without being shut out, until Saturday night. While the offense couldn’t produce drives and had costly penalties, the defense had difficulty containing Golson and stopping Notre Dame from converting on third down. 

Notre Dame jumped to No. 11 in the AP Top 25 Poll and could have the opportunity to be a national title contender if Golson stays healthy and the defense continues to keep opponents off the scoreboard.  

 

Pick Results

Overall Record: 5-5

Week 2 Record: 1-4

Note: Team in bold indicates author’s pick

 

Prediction: Stanford 24, USC 20

Result: USC 13, Stanford 10

 

Prediction: Oregon 31, Michigan State 27

Result: Oregon 46, Michigan State 27

 

Prediction: Michigan 34, Notre Dame 28

Result: Notre Dame 31, Michigan 0

 

Prediction: Texas 20, BYU 17

Result: BYU 41, Texas 7

 

Prediction: Ohio State 28, Virginia Tech 20

Result: Virginia Tech 35, Ohio State 21

 

Final Thought

The Big Ten Conference was embarrassed in Week 2, especially for teams looking to contend for a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff. Heavily talented Michigan State couldn’t hang with a speedy Oregon squad once the fourth quarter began, and Ohio State suffered a shocking home loss to Virginia Tech. Michigan was also run over by Notre Dame 31-0. 

Purdue and Northwestern went down to MAC schools at home, as Central Michigan defeated the Boilermakers 38-17 and Northern Illinois outlasted the Wildcats 23-15.    

There were also close calls, as Nebraska survived FCS McNeese State, 31-24, and Iowa managed to get a late touchdown to hold off Ball State 17-13.    

Regardless of how bad of a showing the Big Ten had this past Saturday, there is still a chance that one team could advance to the College Football Playoff. At this point, Michigan State is still in the running if it wins out and clinches a Big Ten Championship. Wisconsin is another team that could be a major player because of its favorable schedule down the stretch. 

It was also confirmed on Monday that Penn State would be eligible to play in a bowl game this season as well. The Nittany Lions are a dark-horse candidate to win the Big Ten title now with sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg leading the way. James Franklin’s team, much like Wisconsin, has a favorable schedule with its difficult games being only at Michigan on Oct. 11 and at home against Ohio State (Oct. 25) and Michigan State (Nov. 29).  

It’s way too early to count out the Big Ten Conference, which consists of teams that can compete with some of the best in the country. 

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