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Nick Marshall Will Not Start Auburn's 2014 Season Opener vs. Arkansas

When Auburn takes the field to start its 2014 season, quarterback Nick Marshall will be on the bench. Head coach Gus Malzahn announced the news on Friday, per Joel Erickson of AL.com:

Auburn starting quarterback Nick Marshall will not start against Arkansas, Tigers coach Gus Malzahn announced after the first practice of training camp on Friday.

Malzahn made it clear that Marshall will play in the game, although he hasn't said how long it will be before the senior takes the field. 

"Nick is still our starting quarterback," Malzahn said.

Sophomore Jeremy Johnson will get the nod, becoming the eighth different QB to start an Auburn opener in as many years, as noted by Brandon Marcello of the AL.com:

Matt Brown of Sports on Earth drew a parallel between Marshall's suspension and the half-game Johnny Manziel was forced to miss last year:

CBSSports.com's Tom Fornelli speculated Marshall won't be benched for long:

Considering that it was a relatively minor offense, and that Marshall has already paid the fine, I can't imagine he'll be held out of the game for too long. Were Auburn playing San Jose State to open the season instead of a conference opponent in Arkansas, it's possible he would be held out for the entire game.

This comes a few weeks after Marshall was cited for marijuana possession. The senior QB wasn't arrested since the amount of marijuana he possessed was less than an ounce. The case was closed when Marshall's mother, Shalina Cliett, paid the $1,100 fine—$1,000 for possession, $100 for illegal window tinting—stemming from the charges.

"Nick made a mistake and he'll have to deal with the consequences," Malzahn said during the SEC's media days, per USA Today's Paul Myerberg. "I'm not ready to say what those consequences are at this time, but he will deal with it."

Arkansas projects to be one of the worst teams in the SEC, and Malzahn admitted that Johnson will be taking more snaps this year independent of Marshall's punishment, per Ryan Black of the Ledger-Enquirer in Columbus, Georgia:

Marshall's absence does open the door ever so slightly for the Razorbacks to pull off the upset. He's as important to Auburn's success as any other player. 

If he's only out for a few plays, though, his punishment will have little effect on the outcome. The Tigers are the far superior team and have won their last eight home openers.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Everett Golson vs. Malik Zaire: Updates on Notre Dame's QB Battle

As the calendar moves over to August, Brian Kelly remains no closer to figuring out Notre Dame's best option at starting quarterback.

The Fighting Irish head coach admitted that neither Everett Golson nor Malik Zaire has done enough yet to earn the job, per JJ Stankevitz of CSNChicago.com:

In an ideal world, I think every coach would want one quarterback that has clearly demonstrated a consistency, great leadership and the ability to take you to a championship. And so if that guy shows himself, I'm ready to name him the quarterback on that day.

So I'm not playing a game where, you know, we are trying to create artificial competition within the ranks. I think we still have competition for that particular role to show itself.

Golson was suspended from the team last year for academic reasons and returned in March. He obviously has the experience edge on Zaire. The senior signal-caller played 12 games in 2012, throwing for 2,405 yards and 12 touchdowns to six interceptions.

Those who think Golson should be the starter will likely point to how much he helped Notre Dame reach the BCS National Championship two seasons ago.

However, Kelly appeared to downplay Golson's contributions to that success, per ESPN.com's Matt Fortuna:

Blue & Gold Illustrated's Dan Murphy saw that statement as less a critique on Golson and more an opinion that whoever is QB won't have the kind of defensive support the '12 Irish provided:

Zaire entered South Bend with a fair amount of hype. He ranked 168th overall and was the fifth-best dual-option quarterback in the country, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. Since his style is similar to Golson's, Kelly's decision becomes even trickier.

ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit thinks Golson should get the nod because of his time under center:

The Fighting Irish look to be in for a bounce-back campaign in 2014, and much of their success will hinge on how well Golson or Zaire performs.

Kelly has to make the right decision here. Notre Dame's season depends on it.

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Alabama Football: Early Suspensions Hit Crimson Tide Hard Up Front

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama coach Nick Saban took to the podium on Friday at the start of the Crimson Tide’s fall camp preaching discipline, buying in and a challenge to “resurrect our identity in terms of what we want Alabama football to be.”

And if his point weren’t clear enough, his next statement was.

Saban announced that defensive linemen Brandon Ivory and Jarran Reed, as well as sophomore linebacker/defensive end Tim Williams, were all suspended for “violation of team rules and policies.”

He didn’t go into any further detail regarding their transgressions (though Reed was recently arrested for DUI) and said that their return was conditional upon “completion of the requirement of what they have to do relative to their suspension.”

It’s obvious that Saban is putting his foot down early after a divided locker room and entitlement were cited for the two-game skid to end the 2013 season.

It also, though, leaves a few pretty big holes on defense, especially up front.

Nose tackle wasn’t really a strength last season, with the middle of the defense lacking the push it previously got from the likes of Jesse Williams, Josh Chapman and Terrence Cody.

Ivory is the returning starter, and Reed was expected to be his backup.

Both could be back before the season starts, and if so, all of this is moot. But if one or both have to miss playing time, it could mean some trouble up front.

Junior Darren Lake has played only sparingly during his career and had surgery on an injured pectoral muscle in the spring, though Saban says he is fully recovered. Another nose tackle from the spring, Dakota Ball, was experimenting with the tight ends at Friday’s practice.

Defensive end A’Shawn Robinson could slide into the middle in base, though it would limit the disruptiveness and productivity he flashed as a freshman a season ago, when he led Alabama with 5.5 sacks.

That normally would free up Williams, a 4-star defensive end out of high school, to build off of his freshman-year reserve duties, but he’s out indefinitely, too.

The talent is still there, though, to be a dominant group even without the trio. Allen joins Robinson as a rising sophomore who saw regular playing time as a freshman. D.J. Pettway is back after a year in junior college. Dalvin Tomlinson and Dee Liner were both 4-star recruits coming out of high school and will be sophomores in the fall.

Alabama would be in a tricky spot if one or all aren’t back by the West Virginia game. But if there’s one sport where Alabama could afford some discipline issues, it’s on the defensive line.

 

Other Notes from the Start of Fall Camp

Eddie Jackson

Cornerback Eddie Jackson, who had spring surgery to repair ligament damage in his knee, was out on the practice field on Friday going through drills. Saban said he is doing straight-line running but is still working on cutting and changing direction.

“We're very encouraged with where he's at,” Saban said. “We're making no predictions about when he'll be able to get back and play. We're just going to evaluate him one day at a time and try to bring him along so that at some point in time he's going to be able to come back and contribute for us.”

 

Quarterback

Saban gave his criteria for what he’s looking for in the new quarterback.

“It's going to come down to, in my opinion, three things,” he said. “It's going to come down to the guy that can basically have the best judgement, decision-making, relative to doing what we need them to do. The guy that is most accurate in throwing the ball to the right place at the right time to give guys the opportunity to make plays, and their leadership to affect other people. 

"Those are the three things that are the most important to me at this position right now, to see who can do that the best.”

 

Jacob Coker

The media got to see Florida State transfer quarterback Jacob Coker throw for the first time, as Coker went through his first practice in an Alabama uniform. He sported the No. 14 he wore at Florida State, showing off his strong arm, while letting some sail on him, which is to be expected early on.

“He's a good guy,” running back T.J. Yeldon said. “He's different. He's from my area—Mobile area. So we've kind of bonded with each other. I had class with him. We just talked and stuff. It was good.”

 

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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Biggest Storylines Heading into Wisconsin Football Fall Camp

Coming off of a 9-4 season, the Wisconsin football team looks to build off of last season's successes and learn from its mistakes.  With a series of very winnable games coming after the opener against LSU, the Badgers have a chance to reach the inaugural College Football Playoff.  But to do that, they have a lot to figure out by opening day.

Gone is the entire starting front seven and then some, along with the two receivers who did anything last season.  Just to make things more interesting, even in positions where the incumbent is still on the roster, there is a position battle at both quarterback and kicker.

Without further ado, let's look at four of the biggest storylines heading into the Badgers' fall camp.

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Every College Football Playoff Contender's Most Important Fall Camp Battle

We have spent the offseason bickering about position battles in the abstract, but with fall camps beginning to open, and the season sitting weeks instead of months in the future, now is when the real decisions get made.

Even the deepest, best, most -complete teams in college football have multiple positional hierarchies to sort out this next month, and some are more important than others. If the battles take place at a position of need—at a rare spot where a good team is weakest—it can alter the course of the entire college football season.

So in honor of the first day of August—the start of the first month of the season—we've taken a group of the top College Football Playoff contenders and highlighted their most impactful fall battle.

The 13 teams included as contenders are the top 13 teams in the Amway Preseason Coaches Poll, which was not necessarily done on purpose. It does, however, feel like there's a pretty distinct drop-off between No. 13 and No. 14—two teams that ironically play each other in Week 1—and another between No. 17 and No. 18.

Chime in below and let me know where you agree or disagree.

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Ohio State Football: Inside the Florida Media's Beef with Urban Meyer

During Urban Meyer's appearance on ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike—which was being hosted by two guys not named Mike—the Ohio State head coach managed to slip in a subliminal shot at the media when asked about his time as the head coach at Florida.

"The one thing I learned probably about five years ago is to focus on what you can control. We had a great run down there. I loved Florida," Meyer told fill-in hosts Jorge Sedano and Herm Edwards. "Sometimes you'll hear one or two people with pens in their hands saying certain things, and I don't understand."

At the time, I joked that the latter half of Meyer's quote was a nod to my poor wording of questions at Columbus press conferences. But anybody who's been following Meyer's relationship with the media since leaving Gainesville knows that he was referencing Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi, who holds an admitted disdain for the two-time national champion head coach.

"I've not been kind to Urban Meyer, but I don't like Urban Meyer," Bianchi recently said on his radio show on 740 The Game in Orlando, Florida. "I don't like the style of coach he is. I think he's disingenuous. I think he's dishonest."

And that's fine.

Bianchi isn't the only one to hold that opinion, and you could find plenty of people in Columbus with similar things to say about Nick Saban, despite having never interacted with the Alabama head coach as Bianchi has with Meyer. If that's how Bianchi truly feels about Meyer—and clearly, it is—he has every right as an American to express it.

But why now? Why four years after Meyer's last season with the Gators and on the eve of his third with the Buckeyes is Bianchi still spending time writing and talking about the Ohio State head coach?

Schtick aside, Bianchi's latest piece on Meyer stems from comments that Urban's wife, Shelley Meyer, gave to Bucknuts.com about Florida fans' treatment of her husband. "I think they feel like they were kind of left at the altar," Shelley said.

It's certainly possible the author went into the interview intending to rile up Gators fans—why else would the piece lead with that subject?—but whether Shelley was baited into her comments or not is neither here nor there. Intentionally or not, the first lady of Ohio State football needled her husband's former fanbase, and as one of the voices of Florida media, Bianchi felt compelled to respond.

But do his comments and criticisms really carry weight?

His admitted bias aside, Bianchi's recent shots at his adversary deal with the discipline that Meyer doled—or didn't dole—out during his time in Gainesville:

I don't much like coaches such as her husband; disingenuous coaches who run crime-ridden football programs; head-in-the-sand coaches who once allowed former player like Aaron Hernandez to stay on the University of Florida football team even after he sucker-punched a bar employee in Gainesville so violently that it burst the guy's ear drum; enabling coaches who actually kept former UF running back Chris Rainey on the team even after he was arrested for threatening to kill his girlfriend.

Never mind that Meyer has extensively denied enabling Hernandez during his time at Florida or that the death of former Florida corner Avery Atkins—who Meyer dismissed from the team in 2006—has admittedly "haunted" the former Florida head coach. Is it not possible that a man can change his philosophy?

Since arriving in Columbus, Meyer apparently has, telling reporters at Big Ten media days a year ago that he wanted Ohio State to have "as harder or harder" discipline than any other program in the country. And while that's certainly up for debate, he's certainly attempted to live up to his word, dismissing no fewer than seven players in the last two years at OSU and even suspending stars Carlos Hyde and Bradley Roby a year ago for incidents in which Hyde was never charged and Roby had charges dropped.

Say what you will about Meyer's discipline at Florida—and Bianchi has—but it's impossible to argue that it hasn't evolved since he arrived at Ohio State.

Bianchi's other primary argument is an old one: the manner in which Meyer left Florida. Quoting Gators great Lee McGriff, Bianchi attempts to paint the picture of a man who lied to spurn Florida, in favor of greener grass in Columbus, Ohio:

"Urban made such grand statements about, 'I'm a Gator. I love the Gators. This is utopia. This is paradise. This is my life.'" McGriff told me not long after Meyer took the Ohio State job. "And then he said he was done coaching [because of burnout]. And now, suddenly, he's at Ohio State, which is as big-time as big-time gets. He jumped right back into the frying pan. It's not like he's coaching Dartmouth in the Ivy League. That left a lot of Gator fans saying, 'Whoa, who is this guy?'"

Only this ignores that Meyer has repeatedly stated that Ohio State was the only job that he was willing to put an early end to his retirement for and that upon his departure from Florida, the Buckeyes already had an established head coach in Jim Tressel.

At the time of his retirement, did Meyer know that six months later, Tressel would resign from his childhood dream job? Probably not.

Having brought the Gators two national championships and their greatest run in program history, one would think that Meyer would have little to apologize for when it comes to his career in Gainesville. But Meyer, nonetheless, has shown contriteness for the way that his time in Florida ended, admitting to CBS Sports that it was an unnatural transaction.

"I look back now, the way it ended was certainly a regret. Does that mean it haunts me? Not at all. I've always felt our job is to do a good job and do it the right way," Meyer said in 2013. "It just wasn't a normal way to move on. There would have been if I would have stayed out. I was worried about survival for a little bit."

Having both evolved and apologized since his time at Florida, it's hard to understand why Meyer is now being criticized for events that took place then. Like Cleveland fans with LeBron James, Bianchi's criticisms may have held water in 2010, but it's 2014 and most rational people appear to have moved on.

Like Shelley Meyer said, get over it.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand, unless noted otherwise.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: 5 Players Who Took It to the Next Level in Summer Workouts

Brian Kelly kicked off Notre Dame's 2014 season with an opening press conference on Friday.

With the Irish ready to start fall camp on Monday, the Irish's fifth-year head coach gave us a long-awaited update on the status of his football team. 

With a schedule that features 10 opponents with winning records in 2013, including six teams that are coming off of double-digit victories, Kelly knows the battle his team faces on a weekly basis.

So as he got the media and fans up to speed on the state of the Irish, he highlighted a few key players who took a big leap forward this summer. 

The Irish coaching staff used June to stage its own version of OTAs, while July was spent training with Paul Longo's strength staff. 

Here are five players who took their games to the next level this summer. 

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. Official heights and weights provided by Notre Dame Sports Information.

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USC Football: How Defense Can Lead Trojans Back to Top of Pac-12

Deantre Lewis capped Arizona State's ninth and final scoring drive last September against USC with a one-yard touchdown run. Seven of those drives ended in touchdowns, with five different Sun Devils crossing the goal line. 

As kicker Zane Gonzalez's extra-point attempt sailed through the Sun Devil Stadium uprights, Arizona State wrote its name in the USC record book in a dubious category—tied for most points a Trojans defense surrendered in one game.

Oregon set the mark with 62 points of its own the season prior. Defensive lineman Leonard Williams was on the field for both games. 

"I never really hold onto things of the past," Williams said last week at Pac-12 media days. "At the same time, you do want to get back on those teams you lost to. You want to be able to beat those teams." 

Williams, the leader of a talented defense in 2014, said that such recent missteps fuel the group's motivation. New head coach Steve Sarkisian's arrival is a chance to move beyond the failings of the recent past and an opportunity to replicate the high benchmark set by Trojan defenses of the previous decade.    

"[We] want to be more dominant than we have been the last few years," Williams said. "We're definitely going to come out with a chip on our shoulder." 

In the offensively inclined Pac-12, defense has proven key to winning the conference championship. Stanford claimed the last two Pac-12 titles by building up from a tenacious defensive unit. 

If the Trojans are to win their first conference crown since 2008, they must do likewise. Fortunately for them, they're similarly constructed. 

Sarkisian called the defense's front seven "the strength of our football team."

Last year, Williams powered USC to a No. 14 national rank against the rush. Opponents mustered just 3.95 yards per carry against the Trojans, and three times USC held teams below two yards per game for an entire game.

USC also grounded high-flying passing attacks in Washington State, Oregon State, Cal and Fresno State last season. Of those four, all of which ranked in the top 10 nationally for passing offense, not one reached the 300-yard mark against the Trojans. 

The problem for USC's defense came against teams with mobile quarterbacks and zone-read offensive systems. 

USC allowed just 14 rushing touchdowns all last year—nine came against Arizona State and UCLA, both of which run zone read. 

The Sun Devils and Bruins were also two of just three USC opponents to reach the 30-point mark. The third was yet another zone-read-based offense, Arizona. 

The Wildcats did not gash the Trojans for more than seven yards per carry as Arizona State had. Arizona also failed to reach the end zone via the rush, a feat UCLA accomplished five times in the regular season finale. 

However, the Arizona ground attack was effective enough to spread the USC defense, which quarterback B.J. Denker attacked through the air for 363 yards—the most the Trojans allowed all season. 

"The offense as a whole is really fast-paced. You've got to be ready to line up at any time," Williams said of facing zone-read quarterbacks. "Quarterbacks like [UCLA's Brett] Hundley are really good scramblers, so you've got to be ready to play situationally. They can run at any time, so you've got to be ready it.

"It's challenging," he added. "But we're ready for it." 

A new defensive coordinator is at the defensive controls. Justin Wilcox spent two years with Sarkisian at Washington, in that time transforming one of the Pac-12's worst defenses into one of the conference's toughest. 

The primary challenge for Wilcox is stopping the zone read, which USC sees throughout its Pac-12 South docket via Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA. Utah should also introduce elements in Dave Christensen's first season as the Utes' offensive coordinator. 

"I'm very confident in coach Wilcox and the whole staff," Williams said. "We have a lot of good, returning starters like Josh Shaw, Hayes Pullard and even Antwaun Woods is going to step up this year."  

The key to slowing these offenses could be as simple as talent. Last year, when Oregon wore down Wilcox's Washington defense in the fourth quarter, the defensive coordinator told Percy Allen of the Seattle Times Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota's playmaking abilities overwhelmed the Huskies. 

The secondary will play an integral role in USC's efforts to slow zone-read opponents. Dynamic sophomore safety Su'a Cravens is one Trojan to watch, as his speed and ability to read the field could make him a spy against mobile quarterbacks.

With its proven ability to contain passing attacks and skilled playmakers across each unit, the USC defense is that one step away from championship contention. 

As this group comes together under Wilcox's direction, a return to the top of the Pac-12 should be imminent—and nights like the Trojans' loss at Arizona State will be a distant memory.  

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics compiled via CFBstats.com

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USC Football: How Defense Can Lead Trojans Back to Top of Pac-12

Deantre Lewis capped Arizona State's ninth and final scoring drive last September against USC with a one-yard touchdown run. Seven of those drives ended in touchdowns, with five different Sun Devils crossing the goal line...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Biggest Storylines Heading into Michigan's Fall Camp

Brady Hoke welcomes his team to fall camp this weekend. Michigan is looking to forget last season’s 7-6 finish that forced Hoke to shuffle his defensive staff and hire a new offensive coordinator. The changes have stopped the grumbling in Ann Arbor for now, but pressure is mounting for Hoke to deliver a Big Ten title.

With scores of students foregoing season tickets, per Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com, and Michigan’s weak home slate threatening to snap its consecutive attendance record, the focus now turns to the field, where Hoke faces a Big Ten division with both Michigan State and Ohio State blocking his team’s path to the Big Ten title game.

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Preseason Top 25: College Football Playoff Predictions from Amway Coaches Poll

When the preseason top 25 Amway Coaches Poll was released Thursday afternoon, it generated significant conversation in the college football world, and with good reason: It signals the beginning of college football season and the march to the first College Football Playoff, which will pit the nation's top four teams against one another for the national title.

Multiple teams in the top 25 will begin preseason practice Friday, with scores more joining them by the day in preparation for the last weekend of August, when teams across the nation will take the gridiron for the first games of the season that truly matter.

If 2013 is any indication, we’re in for a wild ride. In January, Florida State and Auburn faced off in the final BCS National Championship Game, a classic decided in the final seconds with Jameis Winston’s touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin giving the Seminoles their first national title since 2000.

Where were the Seminoles and Tigers in August 2013? Barely on the national title radar.

Florida State was No. 11 in the coaches’ poll, and Auburn wasn’t ranked. Coming off a 3-9 season, Gus Malzahn’s bunch didn’t even receive a single vote.

Yet, there they were in Pasadena, slugging it out for the national championship.

We'll take a very early look at the teams which will compete for that championship in January, but first, here's the top 25 to begin the season:

1. Florida State

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma

4. Oregon

5. Auburn

6. Ohio State

7. UCLA

8. Michigan State

9. South Carolina

10. Baylor

11. Stanford

12. Georgia

13. LSU

14. Wisconsin

15. USC

16. Clemson

17. Notre Dame

18. Arizona State

19. Ole Miss

20. Texas A&M

21. Kansas State

22. Nebraska

23. North Carolina

24. Texas

25. Washington

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Michigan 5-Star Freshman Jabrill Peppers Raps for Instagram Followers

Michigan's highly touted freshman, Jabrill Peppers, made headlines recently after sharing a progression photo of his muscular gains over the course of four weeks.

Now he's taken to Instagram to show us his rap skills for #4BarFriday.

[Jabrill Peppers, h/t YouTube]

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Examining Direction of Michigan Football Tradition Under AD David Brandon

One hundred and thirty-five years of tradition speaks volumes, and to its followers, suggesting that Michigan football is anything short of a way of life—the way of life—is blasphemous.

However, recent seasons haven’t been so kind. The program hasn’t been truly relevant since 2006, the year it reached No. 2 in The Associated Press poll before suffering a season-ending, 42-39 loss to No. 1 Ohio State.

Compounding matters, Michigan hasn’t won or shared a league title since 2004, has lost five of its past six to Michigan State and has dropped who knows how many (all but three) of the past meetings with the Buckeyes since the turn of the century.

Along with fourth-year coach Brady Hoke, athletic director David Brandon faces the pressure of restoring the Wolverines to their former ways—the ones that led them to an NCAA-leading 910 victories. Since 2010, he's done well for sports at the university across the board, but he's been constantly criticized by fans and media for his perceived lack of comprehension in regards to the foundation of Michigan football.

Is the time-honored tradition in danger of slipping away? Is Brandon’s ideology wronging a team that’s shied away from bells and whistles since its inception more than a century ago?

For John U. Bacon, the answer is a firm "Yes." The recently proposed idea of fireworks—Brandon’s doing—didn’t sit well with the revered author, educator and historian. But the idea of fireworks wasn’t the main issue.

It just stoked the fire set by, among other things, hikes in ticket prices and changes in the seating policy. The embarrassing losses certainly don't help, either. 

“[It was] One more push into the direction of minor league baseball, basically,” Bacon said during an interview with the Sports in the Mitten podcast. He continued:

It was a new high-water, or low-water mark, depending on your view point. When I heard that they were going to do fireworks after touchdowns against Penn State [at home], that’s when I went "Holy smokes. That’s a different thing altogether." They’ve been singing "Hail to the Victors" after touchdowns since 1898—that’d be one heck of a tradition to put aside for cheap pyrotechnics, basically.

Ultimately shot down by Michigan’s board of regents just days after being suggested, the original idea was to have in-game fireworks versus Miami (Ohio) and Penn State. That didn’t fly, so Wolverines fans don’t have to worry about an already lukewarm home schedule being tainted by gimmicky explosives.

Bacon, a lifetime follower of Michigan football who also teaches at the university, doesn’t think that Brandon is the enemy. However, he’s been critical of his onetime friend, suggesting that Brandon is “disconnected” from those whom he’s supposed to represent.

Tickets can’t be given away, says Bacon, who spotted a table full of freebies at an art fair in Ann Arbor. Student interest is down as well. The decades-long streak of 100,000-plus at Michigan Stadium is in real danger of being broken, and that’s because many supporters feel as if their concerns have fallen on deaf ears.

"If you have alienated your fanbase and don’t understand that it’s not a business to them, that it’s a religion, then you have the biggest problem that any AD can have," said Bacon, a New York Times bestselling author and syndicated columnist. "All of your plans [for the program], all of your dreams depend on your fans beings happy, in the church, and in the temple.

"If you don’t have that, you’re in trouble. And that’s what I’m hearing now. … He sees his fans not as fans, but as customers. They’re not customers. They’re believers."

 

Brandon's Actions

The AD's every move is immediately put underneath the microscope, even if he wasn't the one who did it. This past offseason, there were several media members and Michigan followers who thought that Brandon overrode Hoke's authority by initiating the hiring of new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. 

That wasn't the case, as tweeted by TheWolverine.com's Michael Spath:

But Brandon still rubs some the wrong way, as indicated by 97.1 The Ticket's tweet: 

Also, when Hoke's job was in question during the offseason, Brandon went out of his way to express his support with a blog post. In hindsight, that attempt wasn't very Michigan-like. It came across as a last-ditch effort to help the perception of his struggling football coach. 

 

Loyalty Over All

Matt Craw is a believer and has been since he could walk. His father, Garvie Craw, jumped into the history books with a pair of touchdowns during Michigan’s 24-12 victory over the Buckeyes in 1969, a blow that started the often-romanced “10-Year War” between Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes. 

Craw, a United States Marine, grew up around or has met what essentially boils down to a who’s who of Wolverines football, even becoming quite close to Schembechler, who assisted Crawfather and son—in making important life decisions. He’s a part of the family and reports having multiple one-on-one conversations with Brandon.

Recognizing the Schembechler lineage, Craw is confident that Brandon has the program’s best interest in mind. Tradition is tradition, and he doesn’t want that to get lost, erode or decay. Brandon may employ a different approach, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to destroy all things sacred.

Progression is the goal, and Craw doesn’t have a reason not to have faith in the Wolverines AD.

“With Brandon ushering in a business-savvy approach and spreading the Michigan man mentality that only a player under Bo's guidance could, Michigan seems poised to succeed,” Craw said by phone from his home in New Jersey.

“My dad did the same thing in living with the lessons Bo taught him—as does Richard Caldarazzo [attorney] and Dan Dierdorf [broadcasters]; Bo's boys, still spreading knowledge and making the University of Michigan a maker of men, and a pretty damn good football team too.

"All of my friends and contacts that are Michigan fans love what Brandon is doing. By keeping Michigan [fifth-most valuable NCAA football program in 2013, per Forbes] at the forefrontin terms of financial success—of college football, he is moving forward in a highly competitive world, competing with the SEC and the rest of the Big Ten for recruits and fan support.”

 

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

All quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Former 5-Star Prospect Bo Scarbrough Won't Join Alabama in Fall

For most college teams, losing a 5-star prospect would be devastating. For Nick Saban and Alabama, it's a notable blow but not one that will cripple the program. 

That's good news, because Bo Scarbrough won't be on campus in Tuscaloosa until at least January, according to Saban in a news conference held Friday (h/t Charles Power of 247Sports.com).

"We have an appeal in place because is very close to qualifying," Saban said. "Our goal is to get him here in January."

Scarbrough's situation has been up in the air for a few months. Saban told Andrew Gribble of AL.com on July 17 that the status of Scarbrough and another recruit, Montel McBride, was "incomplete" due to academic situations. 

"They won't be completed until the end of summer school," Saban said. "I can't really make a prediction on what their status will be until their summer school is over."

Alabama, not so shockingly, had the top 2014 recruiting class, according to 247Sports.com, thanks to 26 players ranked 3-star or better and six 5-star talents, including Scarbrough. 

The Alabama native was the 16th-ranked prospect in this year's recruiting class and told Gribble in February that it doesn't matter where he plays on the field.

"I think I bring a lot to the table," Scarbrough said. "I can be a (feature) player for that offense. I can play wide receiver. I can play tight end. I can play running back. As long as it's on the offensive side, I can do it."

Unfortunately, fans of the Crimson Tide and college football will have to wait to get their eyes on Scarbrough. The good news is that he should be on track to play with Alabama in 2015, which essentially enhances Saban's recruiting class for next year. 

It's not going to happen exactly as he wanted, but by potentially getting to campus early in anticipation of next season, Scarbrough can have a leg up on incoming freshmen and adapt to Saban's scheme with the goal of playing in games right away next year. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Is Jimbo Fisher College Football's Real QB Guru?

It's not like Florida State, the defending national champs, needed more attention, but it got it on Thursday. In the span of minutes, the Seminoles received verbal commitments from two 4-star quarterbacks: Kai Locksley and Deondre Francois

Suffice to say, it was a good day to be Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher

Francois, the No. 5 pro-style quarterback according to 247Sports' composite rankings, had his announcement planned. The Locksley commitment? It came as more of a surprise, especially given the timing and the fact that his father, Mike Locksley, is the offensive coordinator at Maryland. 

Even Francois was surprised, as he told Josh Newberg of 247Sports.com

I didn’t know he was going to commit. I got a text message from someone like two minutes before I was going to walk in. I’m not sure who the number was, they told me (Kai) Locksley just committed. I thought maybe it was a joke to get me to commit to Auburn. Then I think I looked on twitter or something and saw it was real.

The pair gives Florida State three quarterback commits for the class of 2015, the other being 3-star De'Andre Johnson. That's a loaded class—assuming all three keep their pledges—considering the number and talent. The quarterback spot, after all, is traditionally a defined position with a starter and a backup. 

For what it's worth, Locksley is listed as an athlete by 247. Furthermore, B/R's Tyler Donohue believes Francois' ceiling as a college quarterback may be higher than Locksley's. How that affects commitments and potential position changes down the road remains to be seen. 

The early takeaway, though, is that Florida State could have options at quarterback. That's a good thing for Fisher, who is building the reputation as one of the premier quarterback developers in college football. 

"Quarterback gurus" have sometimes gone hand-in-hand with coaches who run some variation of a spread or pass-happy offense. Washington State's Mike Leach, SMU's June Jones, Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin, Baylor's Art Briles and Ohio State's Urban Meyer are just some of the active names that come to mind. 

But what about Fisher? As Bud Elliott of Tomahawk Nation tweets, Fisher's last three multiyear starting quarterbacks (EJ Manuel and Christian Ponder at Florida State, and JaMarcus Russell at LSU) were first-round draft selections.

It's impossible to ignore how some of those players fared in the NFL. Russell, selected first overall in 2007 by the Oakland Raiders, is widely considered one of the biggest draft busts in recent memory—if not the biggest. Ponder, selected No. 12 overall by the Minnesota Vikings in 2011, may very well be surpassed on the depth chart by rookie Teddy Bridgewater, another first-round selection for the Vikings. 

Manuel's career with the Buffalo Bills is still unfolding. 

Still, first-round selections mean first-round money. Manuel and Ponder signed four-year deals for nearly $20 million combined. Russell, of course, signed an enormous six-year $61 million contract in 2007 that would later be a driving force behind the rookie wage scale in the NFL.

One organization's financial carelessness is hardly Fisher's fault, however. For that matter, Fisher's job is pretty much done when a quarterback decides to go pro. When Fisher goes into a recruit's home, he can point to a pair of national championships, one at Florida State and one at LSU, and three first-round quarterbacks.

Fisher could have another first-rounder in Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston, should he leave after the 2014 season. Early mock drafts, like the one from Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com, have Winston as a top-10 selection next spring. 

Potentially, Fisher can lay claim to four first-round selections in a decade. Former Cal head coach Jeff Tedford can claim more, according to an ESPN.com article by Len Pasquarelli in 2005, though Tedford is no longer an active college coach. 

The point being, Fisher is in rare company. Not surprisingly, he's confident in his coach-up of his signal-callers. In a recent USA Today article by Dan Wolken, Fisher spoke out against the use of private quarterback coaches like George Whitfield: 

We've got good quarterback coaches. My guys aren't going out there. I'll coach them. When they go to pro ball, they can do whatever they want. We'll coach our guys. I don't think it benefits you. We know what we're doing, too.

Whitfield, who now has a regular analysis spot on ESPN, has gained a lot of attention in recent years for working with quarterbacks like Johnny Manziel. With the rise of quarterback camps like the Elite 11, quarterbacks are being taught by others not on their high school or college coaching staff. 

Fisher clearly prefers to keep that process in-house. Given his track record, it's easy to see why—and why there are quarterback recruits verbally committed to Florida State. 

It's also why Fisher deserves more credit as a quarterback developer. Looking at the number of players he's put in the NFL, one would be hard-pressed to find a coach who's done more in the past 10 years. 

 

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

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LSU Football: 4 Games That Could Ruin Tigers' 2014 Season

LSU head coach Les Miles will coach one of his youngest teams ever. Miles' Tigers will likely go through growing pains in the arduous SEC.  

But youth will certainly not lower the expectations in Baton Rouge. 

LSU fans want to win championships. Some have grown impatient as the Tigers have not reached the SEC Championship Game since 2011. 

The Tigers report to camp on Sunday and will hit the field Monday. The season opener against Wisconsin is at the end of the month, which does not give much time for the incoming freshmen to get acclimated to the team.

Fortunately for Miles, the Tigers could lose to the Badgers yet have their championship hopes still in tact. LSU could go unbeaten for the rest of the season and make the SEC Championship Game. 

SEC games hold more weight, particularly those in division. Here are four SEC West clashes that will determine if the season is successful for the Tigers.  

 

*Rankings and stats provided by 247Sports.com and LSU Sports Information. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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