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How Nebraska Joining Big Ten Has Worked so Far

The Big Ten is expanding once again. With the addition of Maryland and Rutgers, the Big Ten will now boast a total of 14 universities.

It's hard to believe it was a conference of only 11 until three years ago. Much like Maryland and Rutgers now, Nebraska made the switch to the Big Ten in 2011.

Since then, the Huskers have spent time getting acclimated to the new conference. How has it all worked out?

From a football perspective, the Big Ten has been nothing short of a roller coaster for the Huskers. In 2011, Nebraska stepped into its new conference with high hopes. It was assumed the Huskers would have a great shot at representing the "Legends" side of the division in the Big Ten championship.

Things didn't go exactly as planned. The Huskers fell 48-17 to Wisconsin in prime time that year. Nebraska then went on to lose 28-25 to Northwestern and 45-17 to Michigan, which ultimately seated Michigan State at the top of the "Legends."

As for 2012, the Huskers did make it to the Big Ten championship. Nebraska fell to UCLA 36-30 and Ohio State 63-38 during the regular season, but the team managed to get past those setbacks and make it to the championship game. Unfortunately, the Badgers handed Nebraska an embarrassing 70-31 loss.

In its third year in the conference, Nebraska football once again did not make it to Indianapolis. With losses to UCLA, Minnesota, Michigan State and Iowa, it was ultimately too much for the Huskers to overcome.

In the three seasons of Big Ten play, Nebraska football has ended with four losses. Fans are torn on what that number means, as Paul Myerberg of Pre-Snap Read noted in 2012. He even went on to question if nine-win seasons are the norm. Two years later, the question still remains.

It's not that things have been bad for Nebraska in the Big Ten. It's just been repetitive, as Matt Brown of SportsOnEarth.com said. "But Nebraska remains a good fit for the Big Ten culturally, and it now stands as the clear power, historically, in the new Big Ten West," he concluded.

Ultimately, Brown is right. Nebraska has been a good fit for the Big Ten and the Big Ten has been a good fit for Nebraska. It hasn't been an easy three years for the football program, but overall, it hasn't been a bad deal.

Looking at the Huskers' 2013-14 postseason recap for all sports shows promise. From men's basketball making it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 16 years to the baseball team winning one game in the Stillwater regional, Nebraska has made its presence known.

From a financial standpoint, things are also looking up for the Huskers. As reported by Henry J. Cordes of the Omaha World Herald, "In 2017, when Nebraska will finally be on equal financial footing with the core Big Ten schools, the school's annual revenue from the conference could well swell to between $40 million and $50 million a year. Such a figure is astounding compared with four years ago, when the Big 12 paid NU $9 million."

As Maryland and Rutgers prepare to join the Big Ten, Nebraska can look back on the last three years and feel at ease with how it's gone so far. There are plenty of goals left to achieve, but it hasn't been a bad move overall.

There will always be the fans who miss the Big 12 (or the Big 8, specifically), but the Big Ten has been pretty good to the Huskers.

A season with less than four losses just might make it great.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

T.J. Simmons Commits to UCLA: What the Florida RB Recruit Brings to the Bruins

Jim Mora and the UCLA football team received some good news Monday as talented 3-star running back T.J. Simmons committed to the Bruins, as reported by Amy Campbell of Scout.com and Ed Lewis of BruinSportsReport.com

The Lakeland, Florida native opted for UCLA over the likes of Ohio State, Florida, Auburn, Notre Dame and Wisconsin, among others. 

Simmons' addition is a massive coup for Mora and the staff. It is no secret that the Bruins are targeting speed on the offensive side of the ball for this recruiting cycle. This axiom is especially true in regards to the backfield. 

Nicknamed "Speedie," Simmons brings very good speed to the table and is a threat to take the ball to the house at any time—as seen in his highlights. This characteristic is somewhat lacking within UCLA's current stable of backs.

Not only is Simmons proficient when it comes to quickness and pure speed but he's also a powerful runner with a strong lower base. He's good at getting low and exploding through holes up the field. 

Simmons won't be overly elusive in terms of making people miss, but he's a one-cut-and-go type of runner. In essence, he's in the mold of a traditional Kennedy Polamalu running back.

From a personality standpoint, Simmons is impressive. He appears to be a very respectful and articulate young man. 

As is the case with many commits on the other side of the country, holding onto Simmons might be difficult. Last year, fellow Florida running back Marlon Mack had committed to the Bruins. However, he ended up staying closer to home and signed with South Florida. 

Simmons has visited UCLA unofficially. Mack committed to the Bruins without stepping foot on campus. Having a familiarity with the campus and area could bode well for the Bruins in the long run. 

The commitment of an elite tailback from Florida truly does add credence to the thought that UCLA is becoming a prominent program. In previous years, UCLA beating out perennial powers for the likes of a recruit of this level would be unheard of—especially one residing on the opposite coast. 

He and current running back commit Bolu Olorunfunmi could make a nice combination of power and speed for the Bruins in the future.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

T.J. Simmons Commits to UCLA: What the Florida RB Recruit Brings to the Bruins

Jim Mora and the UCLA football team received some good news Monday as talented 3-star running back T.J. Simmons committed to the Bruins, as reported by Amy Campbell of Scout.com and Ed Lewis of BruinSportsReport...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Complete Preview for The Opening 2014: Which Recruits Will Break out in Oregon?

The biggest names in the 2015 class will be heading out to Oregon for The Opening in a few days. Recruits from all across the country are excited to show how they can perform against the best of the best. 

Who do you think will stand out? Which matchup are you most excited to see?

Watch Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder and 247Sports Analyst JC Shurburtt discuss who to watch at The Opening.

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital

Rankings from 247Sports Composite

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU Football: Why Kwon Alexander Will Be Tigers' X-Factor in 2014

LSU linebacker Kwon Alexander's type of play can make anyone feel some type of way

Alexander's flashes of brilliance on film are impressive as any on LSU's defense. He is a physical force in the running game and can also defend a slot receiver in man-to-man coverage. It is unusual for a linebacker to be that versatile. 

Alexander has the capability of being LSU's leading tackler next season. But it all comes down to if he can master the little things required to be a great linebacker.

Here is why Alexander will breakout next season.   

 

Position Change

Alexander will have more freedom to make plays next season as he moves from strong-side to weak-side linebacker to replace the departed Lamin Barrow. Barrow led the team in tackles comfortably and was arguably LSU's best defensive player the last half of the season. 

Alexander is not as strong between the tackles as Barrow, but he does have more sideline-to-sideline range. Ball carriers attempting to turn the corner on his side of the field are often unsuccessful doing so. 

LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis will likely give Alexander a green light to play more aggressively this season. There are few, if any, linebackers in the SEC better than him at darting into the backfield to make plays. 

In the spring game, Alexander showed off his skills in his new role and jersey number. He only recorded three tackles but had a smooth 26-yard interception return for a touchdown. 

Now I'm getting older, heart getting colder pic.twitter.com/0owJ4XHACy

— Alexander the Great (@Showtime17Kwon) June 25, 2014 

 

Pass Defense 

Alexander's most valuable asset is in pass coverage, as he possesses the swiftness of a defensive back. He should have more opportunities to make plays now Barrow is gone. 

LSU's base defensive formation is a 4-3, but defensive coordinator John Chavis runs plenty of "Nickel" packages. The Nickel substitutes a linebacker off the field in favor of a defensive back. Last season, Alexander was often the linebacker taken off the field in favor of Barrow and D.J. Welter. 

Expect Alexander and Welter to be the linebackers on the field when Chavis calls for the Nickel. But even if LSU is in its base 4-3 package, the speed of Alexander is a near equivalent of having an extra defensive back on the field while not having to sacrifice a ferocious run-stopper.

 

Little Things

An X-factor does not necessary have to make that plays that make the highlight reel or stat sheet. Sometimes the little things are what makes a difference in a defense. 

Alexander can change offensive game plans. If he threatens to blitz pre-snap, a quarterback must also know he can sink back in coverage. The ground he covers can be frustrating for opposing offenses.

Alexander is also a superb special teams performer on both return and coverage units. His special teams duties may change now his defensive snaps will increase, but expect him to shine if given the opportunity. 

 

Conclusion

The LSU linebackers, despite losing Barrow, should be better a whole. The Tigers' second-leading tackler D.J. Welter returns as the starter up the middle. Lamar Louis should join Alexander and Welter in the starting lineup. Backups Debo Jones, Kendell Beckwith and Ronnie Feist should keep the unit fresh. 

Alexander was LSU's highest rated player in the 2012 recruiting class. His All-SEC talent has yet to be fulfilled, but expect him to be the star of the group and the X-factor for LSU.

There is a downside for LSU if Alexander performs at his best. The junior could bolt early to the NFL next offseason if he has a stellar 2014 campaign. He references the future riches that could lie ahead in his Twitter bio

If his dreams become reality, he could eventually be known as "Rich Homie Kwon."    

 

*All statistics and rankings were provided by LSU Sports Information and247Sports.com. Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida State Football: Incoming Freshmen Most Likely to Impact This Season

Florida State may not have won the 2013 national title without a pair of true freshmen.

Jalen Ramsey and Nate Andrews both started at defensive back and were key to a defense that was No. 1 in the nation against the pass. Ramsey started first at corner and then moved to safety, recording 49 tackles and an interception. Andrews added 35 tackles and ended up leading the team with four interceptions.

Which true freshman will have an impact for the Florida State football team in 2014? The roster is deep and experienced, but the most likely position where a newcomer could start would be at wide receiver.

FSU returns just one consistent, established receiver in senior Rashad Greene (76 catches, 1,128 yards, nine touchdowns). Senior tight end Nick O'Leary (33 catches, 557 yards, seven touchdowns) is the No. 2 returning pass-catcher, and he's improved each year at finding holes in defenses. But FSU needs more receivers to establish themselves, players who can be counted on to complement Greene and O'Leary.

The Seminoles have two seniors in Scooter Haggins and Christian Green. A trio of sophomores—Jesus Wilson, Isaiah Jones and Kermit Whitfield—are also options.

But three true freshmen have arrived on campus in the past few weeks: Travis RudolphErmon Lane and Javon Harrison. All of them have begun learning the playbook and working with teammates during the summer, including seven-on-seven workouts.

Rudolph is 6'1'' and 185 pounds. He's not the tallest, but he is fast (4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash). He's tough and physical, runs good routes and is able to turn short catches into big gains. He also has a 34-inch vertical.

Lane is 6'2'' and 180 pounds. He's an instinctual receiver who uses his body to get an inside position on a corner and also goes up for the ball well (as indicated by a 36-inch vertical).

Harrison is 6'1'' and 190 pounds. He runs the 40 in 4.68 seconds (not elite speed) but makes up for it with a 33-inch vertical.

FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said all are taller, physical receivers but have the versatility to line up outside or inside.

"When you get three of them to be able to spread the field, inside guys, outside guys," Fisher said. "These guys are all big body guys. But big body guys that are outside guys that have the capabilities to go inside, which is very rare."

FSU fans can only hope that a few of the freshmen make an impact in 2014. And they will be mentored by Greene, who had one of the best seasons of any FSU freshman receiver when he had 38 catches for 596 yards and seven touchdowns in 2011.

"I've definitely been taking those guys under my wing," Greene said. "Teaching them the right things, how to run different routes and concepts. Giving them a head start on the playbook. We're definitely going to need those guys right away. I don't want anyone on this receiving corps to miss any steps going in to fall camp. I'm doing a great job at coaching those guys and those guys are doing a great job at wanting to be coached and wanting to learn."

 

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained first-hand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. Stats are courtesy of seminoles.com and NCAA.com. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon Football: Why Arik Armstead Will Be Ducks' X-Factor in 2014

He arrived at Oregon in 2012 amid much fanfare, a 5-star defensive line prospect and standout in two sports. Two years later, Arik Armstead's sole focus is on the football field, where the junior is the X-factor in the Ducks defense. 

Improved line play is a point of emphasis for Oregon heading into 2014. To that end, Armstead's emergence as a major contributor should play an integral role in the Ducks' Pac-12 championship pursuit—particularly because Armstead is taking on a bulk of the duties Taylor Hart leaves behind. 

Hart was—pardon the pun—the heart and soul of Oregon's defensive front in 2013 with 75 tackles, six tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. That's the level of production Armstead must match in his third season with the Ducks. 

The line rebuilds with 2013 breakout performer DeForest Buckner as its anchor. As his progression into a star playmaker continues, Oregon has the foundation for a devastating defensive presence up front. That would answer one recurring criticism of the Ducks' championship credentials. 

But for the unit to meet its potential, Armstead must reach his individually. His first two seasons did not quite live up to the lofty billing he garnered as a recruit. He made 26 tackles in 2012, but he suffered a sophomore slump with just 15 in 2013. 

First-year defensive coordinator Don Pellum obviously needs more from Armstead, and the junior is ready to respond in what he called a "takeover season." 

He isn't the only one looking for a takeover season. CBSSports.com NFL draft analyst Rob Rang has Armstead tabbed as a breakout candidate in the coming campaign:

Armstead's production is far from staggering but he boasts such an incredible combination of size and athleticism that he could wind up as Oregon's hottest NFL prospect on the defensive side of the ball...A monstrous man with natural power and light feet, Armstead's upside is undeniable.  

One dramatic step Armstead took this offseason was turning his attention exclusively to the gridiron. 

He left the Oregon basketball in January, giving him a full offseason to prepare for an expanded role. When asked by Victor Flores of DailyEmerald.com if the decision was beneficial, Armstead said: "Definitely. Being around my teammates more and lifting a lot more than I would have definitely helped me."

The result of that extra time spent in the weight room is 16 additional pounds of muscle, as reported by Matt Prehm of 247Sports. Armstead is now pushing 300 pounds on his 6'8" frame. That's a sizable load with which opposing offensive lineman must contend. 

That combination of length and mass should make Armstead more effective in shedding blocks, an area in which he has faced growing pains.

The below highlights from Oregon's 30-7 defeat of Texas in the Alamo Bowl show Armstead's struggles with the big, physical Longhorns offensive line. 

Should Armstead prove ready to meet his potential and indeed take over, the junior will be the X-factor Oregon needs on its defense.  

 

Statistics compiled via CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings and information culled from 247Sports.com composite scores. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon Football: Why Arik Armstead Will Be Ducks' X-Factor in 2014

He arrived at Oregon in 2012 amid much fanfare, a 5-star defensive line prospect and standout in two sports. Two years later, Arik Armstead 's sole focus is on the football field, where the junior is the X-factor in the Ducks defense...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Five-Star LB Justin Hilliard: Top Prospect Knows Where He's Going in 2015

Justin Hilliard is one of the biggest names in the 2015 recruiting class. On July 2, he will announce where he will be playing football at the collegiate level. 

Which school do you think he will choose?

Watch College Football Analyst Michael Felder interview Hilliard about his relationship with each program.


Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

Rankings from 247Sports' composite rankings.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Predictions for Every Team Joining a New Conference in 2014

Conference realignment will tone itself down in 2015, but the upcoming college football season features almost as many moving parts as any season in recent memory.

It's not just at the lower levels, either.

With Maryland and Rutgers moving to the Big Ten and Louisville moving to the ACC, even some of the "power-five" leagues will experience important turnover in 2014.

The movement of those bigger programs began a chain reaction as they all needed to be replaced by teams from middling conferences such as Conference USA. In turn, those teams from C-USA needed to be replaced from even lower-regarded conferences, and the teams from those lower-regarded conferences needed to be replaced as well.

But how can every new member be expected to fare in 2014? Is there a Texas A&M lurking in the bunch that is ready to compete for a conference championship? Or will everybody struggle to adjust?

Here is a realistic prediction for them all.

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