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Power Ranking the Projected Pac-12 Starting Quarterbacks

The Pac-12 is traditionally loaded with quality arms, and 2015-16 will be no exception, despite the departure of Marcus Mariota from the league...

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Navaughn Donaldson to Miami: Hurricanes Land 4-Star OT Prospect

The Miami Hurricanes have already put together a strong recruiting class for 2017, and that class got even stronger following the addition of Navaughn Donaldson.

The 4-star offensive tackle confirmed Sunday night on Twitter he'll head for Coral Gables, Florida:

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Donaldson is the No. 22 offensive tackle in the country and ranks 147th in the 2017 class. After his commitment, Miami has the second-best class in the country on 247Sports, so the 'Canes will only climb up the leaderboard.     

Donaldson is a massive presence on the offensive line. He stands at 6'5" and 300 pounds, so the Miami staff won't have to worry about others overpowering him at the line of scrimmage. He'll be a major difference-maker in the running game.   

As you'd expect with a player of his size, Donaldson doesn't excel in pass protection, but he'll be more than good enough to play on the right. The Vine below, courtesy of College Spun's Dustin Tackett, illustrates Donaldson's ability to move laterally:

So far, Miami head coach Al Golden had yet to land an offensive lineman to anchor his 2017 class. Donaldson will be that exact player.

He should grow into a steady presence on the Hurricanes O-line following a year or two of seasoning after his arrival.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football: Games That Could Ruin Cornhuskers' 2015 Season

At one point in history, any loss would be considered catastrophic for Nebraska football fans and something to agonize over throughout the year. But Nebraska fans have endured enough multiple-loss seasons under Frank Solich and Bill Callahan, and enough comically bad losses under Bo Pelini to be numbed to the pain of an individual defeat.

But even if Nebraska fans have become (somewhat) accustomed to losses, there are still a number of games on the schedule that could ruin Nebraska’s 2015 season. Here are those games and why those individual losses would be so catastrophic.

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Georgia Football: Games That Could Ruin the Bulldogs' 2015 Season

The Georgia Bulldogs are looking to do something they haven’t done in 10 years, and that’s win the SEC title. Since that time, they have either shared or won the SEC East title three times and have been to the SEC Championship game twice.

After coming in third place in the SEC East in 2013 and second in 2014, it would seem like the Bulldogs will take the next step and win the division outright. Based on the talent on the roster and the returning starters they have coming back, the Bulldogs could be the favorite to win the East and make a run at the SEC title and College Football Playoff.

However, there are a few games that could ruin the Bulldogs' season if they are not careful.

 

South Carolina

This game has always been one that haunts the Bulldogs when the season comes to an end. The Gamecocks have beaten the Bulldogs four out of the last five times, and it was 2013 when the Bulldogs last beat South Carolina.

When these two teams got together last season, the Bulldogs came up short because of a few questionable coaching decisions, and the defense had a hard time stopping the South Carolina offense. This year, the Gamecocks will have a new quarterback just like the Bulldogs.

Steve Spurrier not dead yet...last 5 years South Carolina vs 5 Biggest rivals; Clemson 4-1 Georgia 4-1 Florida 4-1 Mizzou 2-1 Tennessee 3-2

— Jim Dunaway (@jimdunaway) July 22, 2015

But this game got a little more juice when head coach Steve Spurrier put Atlanta-Journal Constitution columnist Mark Bradley on blast after Bradley said that he’s not sure if Spurrier has anything left because of his age. No matter the talent level of each team, this game will be interesting and intense.

 

Tennessee

When the Bulldogs travel to Knoxville on October 10, they know they are in for what could be their toughest road game of the season.

The last two times the Bulldogs played the Vols, both games came down to wire. In fact, when the Bulldogs traveled to Knoxville in 2013, the Bulldogs had to win in overtime.

This year, many Vols fans believe that with the leadership of quarterback Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee will contend for the SEC East title. And because Georgia will be coming off what could be a physical contest against Alabama the week prior, this easily could be a game that could cost the Bulldogs a trip to the Georgia Dome.

Georgia has suffered some bad losses in Knoxville (such as the 2007 and 2009), but they have also had some good wins too (such as 2001, 2003 and 2013). So this will be another close contest that will come down to the end.

 

Georgia Tech

Let’s say the Bulldogs have a 7-1 record in the SEC and rank in the Top 5. When they face Georgia Tech in the regular-season finale, it doesn’t mean they can take a break.

Both teams have always been rivals, but the last two years have seen the rivalry take new heights. Both games have gone into overtime, and each team has come out on top. (Georgia won in Atlanta in 2013, and Tech won last season in Athens.)

Both teams ranked in the Top 10 last season in the AP Top 25 poll (via CBS Sports), and both are looking to reach their respective conference championship games the week after. The Yellow Jackets would love nothing more than to ruin the Bulldogs season with a second consecutive win. And it could happen because Tech is emerging as one of the better teams in the country.

The Bulldogs know that they will have their hands full in Atlanta, but they can’t afford to lose this game if they want to be considered in the College Football Playoff.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alvin Bailey Arrested for Failure to Appear in Court: Details and Reaction

According to the Tampa Bay Times' Greg Auman, University of Florida wide receiver Alvin Bailey was arrested Saturday after failing to appear in court. In May, Bailey was charged with a misdemeanor citation for driving with a suspended license, and a warrant was issued for his arrest after he failed to appear in court on June 9.

He was later released Saturday evening after posting $5,000 bond, per Auman

According to 247Sports' Thomas Goldkamp, Alachua County court records indicate Bailey was first cited on May 8, 2014, for driving with a suspended license. One year later, Bailey was cited again for driving with a suspended license. According to Goldkamp, the second offense was classified as a second-degree misdemeanor. 

A redshirt sophomore, Bailey hails from Seffner, Florida, and attended Armwood High School before committing to the Gators three years ago. 

Although he's a former 4-star recruit, according to 247Sports, Bailey has yet to make a noticeable impact on the Gators offense. A quick scan of his game logs reveals Bailey has yet to tally a catch or score a touchdown at the collegiate level.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Marlon Character to South Carolina: Gamecocks Land 4-Star DB Prospect

Steve Spurrier landed his first blue-chip defensive back ahead of the 2016 season after Marlon Character committed to the South Carolina Gamecocks.

Rivals.com's Woody Wommack first reported the news:

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Character is the No. 13 safety in the 2016 recruiting class. He ranks 275th overall and 22nd in the state of Georgia. The Atlanta native likely sealed the deal after visiting the South Carolina campus Saturday:

Character spoke about the motivation behind his decision.

"I will be able to play five positions, and there’s more opportunity to get on the field and showcase my talent," per Phil Kornblut of the State in Columbia, South Carolina. "[Co-defensive coordinator Lorenzo] Ward is not afraid to play freshmen at corner. I would be one of the biggest ones he has."

According to Scout, Character was timed at 4.49 seconds in the 40-yard dash. While that's not blinding speed, he should be plenty quick enough to thrive at safety—should he play there instead of cornerback.

More importantly, he's strong enough to wrap up on follow-through on his tackles. Character also possesses the agility and on-field IQ to quickly react and adapt to how a play is unfolding.

The biggest knock on Character is arguably his pass coverage. As a safety, he won't need to drop back in man-to-man coverage on every play, but his coaches will at least want to feel confident that he will be able to do so effectively when necessary.

In a way, struggling in coverage isn't the worst thing in the world. The right coaching staff can turn that around. Meanwhile, Character's instincts and physical tools are what really counts.

His desire to play right away could mean Character provides an immediate impact when he joins the Gamecocks next year.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Football: 15 Transfers Who Will Make an Impact in 2015

SEC football programs are known for their ability to recruit, and every season's top-10 rankings are evidence of that fact. But there's more to recruiting than scouring high schools.

Each offseason, coaches look toward junior college programs to find instant-impact players. They also try to take advantage when players look to transfer from peer programs. Though these players normally must sit out a year, some are worth the wait.

Recently, there has been a wave of players transferring up a level (from the Football Championship Subdivision) who are eligible to play immediate.

Teams such as Florida have been able to use that to their advantage to fill major depth needs like getting Fordham's Mason Halter to come to Gainesville to help shore up the offensive line.

Another recent rule change that has become advantageous to SEC programs is the graduate transfer rule, which allows players who've graduated to transfer where they want and be immediately eligible as well.

South Carolina defensive back Isaiah Johnson—a Kansas transfer—is a good example of a player who may step right in and start.

No matter the method, transfers are a key part of today's college football, and there is going to be a significant impact felt in the SEC in 2015. As a matter of fact, there are far too many potential elite transfers to mention.

But let's take a look at a few who should provide help right away. They may just wind up being in the difference in winning an SEC championship.

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2015 Fall Camp Previews for Each College Football Top 25 Team

The 2015 college football season is now less than six weeks away, and before you know it the games will be back. Before that can happen, though, teams have to come together and prepare for the year ahead.

Conference media days have been going on since mid-July, and all of the many award watch lists have been released. Now all that remains is for the actual football to happen, which starts Sept. 3 and will run through the 2016 college football championship game Jan. 16 in Glendale, Arizona.

What happens in between those dates will have a lot to do with how teams go about their preseason training camps. Returning players have been trickling back to campus throughout the summer, and most schools' newcomers have either arrived or will be showing up soon.

Here's our quick look ahead to what's in store during training camp for every team in Bleacher Report's post-spring practice top 25.

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Big 12 Football: Ranking the Top 2015 Must-Watch Games

Well, look at that. It's almost August, which means it's almost time for preseason camp. Football, even if in practice form, is almost here. 

Still, we know the summer offseason is a tough time for everyone. Be real: How often do you scope out team schedules to find the top games you're looking forward to this year? It's okay to be honest; you're among friends. 

Anyway, that was the inspiration for this little list: the must-watch Big 12 games of 2015. Preseason media polls, projected playoff contenders and interesting out-of-conference games with big storylines were used here. 

So take a look and let us know if we missed anything. 

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4-Star Xavier Kelly Commits to Clemson: What Versatile DE Brings to Tigers

Coveted Kansas defensive end Xavier Kelly announced his intentions to attend Clemson on Friday afternoon, selecting the Tigers over seven other finalists:

Kelly, a 4-star recruit, also considered Alabama, Oregon, Georgia, Florida State, Kansas State, TCU and Michigan.

Clemson helped separate itself from a loaded pack of powerhouse programs by providing an extremely positive experience during his trip this spring.

"That was my best visit," he said during an online announcement with ESPN. "Academics were a 10 [out of 10], the campus was a 10, the stadium was a 10...everything was a 10."

Rated eighth nationally among weak-side defensive ends in composite 2016 rankings, Kelly collected more than 30 scholarship offers by the end of his junior year. The 6'5", 255-pound playmaker previously pledged to Kansas State but backed out of that commitment in March:

Kelly is capable of collecting sacks and quarterback hurries in bunches while working against lumbering offensive linemen. His first-step burst is elite enough to send even polished blockers back on their heels. 

This effectiveness as a speed rusher is reflected in his sub-4.6 time in the 40-yard dash, and Clemson coaches could be tempted to implement him as a stand-up defensive threat along the edge at times. He displayed some fundamental flaws on his sophomore film, but Kelly really cleaned things up and took his approach to another level last fall.

"I think I have a much better feel for the game now,” he told Juan Herrera of TheLeftBench.com. “I think I’m just more comfortable playing now that I’m faster and stronger than I was my sophomore year.”

His athleticism also shines on the basketball court, where Kelly led Wichita East to a state title last season. He tallied 22 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks in the championship game, per VarsityKansas.com.

Kelly provided further evidence of his rare abilities with this slam:

He becomes the 11th member of a Clemson class that now rates 14th nationally in composite rankings. Kelly joins linebackers Rahshaun Smith and Tre Lamar as 4-star defenders expected to enroll at the university next year.

 

Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Xavier Kelly to Clemson: Tigers Land 4-Star DE Prospect

Clemson landed another big-time recruit Friday as defensive end Xavier Kelly committed to play for the Tigers starting in 2016.  

According to Ken Corbitt of the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Wichita, Kansas, native will don orange and white after considering several top-flight schools.

Per 247Sports, the 6'5", 255-pound lineman is a 4-star prospect who rates as the No. 8 weak-side defensive end and the No. 103 overall recruit in his class, as well as the top player coming out of the state of Kansas.

Kelly recently tweeted his final eight college choices, and the list was littered with many of the best football programs in the nation:

While every school likely had their merits, Kelly was extremely positive about Clemson after a recent visit. According to Phil Kornblut of the State, Tigers players and commits assured Kelly that playing in Clemson, South Carolina, would be a great experience:

They were just telling me nothing but great things about Clemson and giving me a lot of good reasons why I should go there. They really need me and I'm in a perfect position to come at this time. I love everything about Clemson. It's a family environment and they are all about academics. They really care about their players outside of football.

When it came time for Kelly to make his decision, the virtues he described with regard to Clemson ultimately won out over the other seven options.

With quarterback Jameis Winston having left Florida State for the NFL, Clemson may very well be the team to beat in the ACC this season and beyond.

Provided Kelly develops into the type of pass-rusher most expect him to become, the Tigers should be in the mix for a College Football Playoff spot moving forward.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Obstacles That Could Prevent Auburn from Winning the SEC Championship

The buzz surrounding the Auburn Tigers reached a fever pitch earlier this month at SEC media days in Hoover, Alabama, when more than 1,000 media members picked head coach Gus Malzahn's crew as the favorites to win the SEC championship in 2015.

The Tigers have one of the best wide receivers in the country in D'haquille "Duke" Williams, a veteran linebacking corps led by Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy, an experienced offensive line with Shon Coleman, Avery Young and Alex Kozan, and a potential star corner in Jonathan Jones.

On top of that, the arrival of defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and return of defensive end Carl Lawson from an ACL tear should stabilize a defense that's in desperate need of stability.

What could derail the Tigers' train to the title? 

Here are a few things to keep an eye on.

 

Depth in the Trenches

Auburn's biggest problem last year was the inability to find a consistent pass rush. The Tigers managed just 21 sacks on the season—11th in the SEC and 94th nationally. 

Simply put, Lawson's season-long absence eliminated Plan A, and former defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson didn't have a Plan B.

"That was our Achilles' heel on defense," Malzahn said at his Tiger Trek event in Atlanta in May. "When you can’t put pressure on the quarterback, it makes it tough on everybody."

The combination of Lawson's return and Muschamp's presence should help. Lawson is as much of a Dante Fowler Jr. clone as anybody on Auburn's roster, and he should thrive in the "Buck" position that is featured so prominently in Muschamp's defense.

Lawson's success or failure will help 6'4", 296-pound tackle Montravius Adams, who, as Jack Farrell of Pro Football Focus noted, was Auburn's lone bright spot in the pass rush last year:

Somebody else has to step up, though. 

Senior DaVonte Lambert and junior Gimel President gained valuable experience last year, tackle Dontavius Russell is a redshirt freshman whom the coaching staff is high on, and blue-chip freshman Byron Cowart has everything it takes to be a true three-down defensive end from day one.

What if that talent and depth don't come together, though? It could be what costs Auburn a shot at the SEC title and College Football Playoff for the second straight season.

 

Jeremy Johnson Doesn't Live Up to the Hype

For a guy who has two career starts under his belt, junior quarterback Jeremy Johnson is getting plenty of Heisman hype. From trophy buzz (which I attempted to explain in this story) to second-team All-SEC honors at media days, the hype train is going full speed.

His head coach isn't doing much to slow it down, either.

"I'm very excited about Jeremy," Malzahn said at SEC media days. "Even in high school—I started recruiting him in ninth grade, and he ran a very similar offense. The fact this will be his third year in our system, even though he's the backup, he got a lot of reps with the ones in practice."

What if it doesn't work out, though? 

If Johnson isn't the difference-maker that he's expected to be, Auburn will either have to adjust its scheme and place even more emphasis on the running game (which worked for Malzahn over the last two seasons) or turn to redshirt freshman and 2013 Elite 11 MVP Sean White.

Both scenarios could work, but in the SEC West, adjusting on the fly doesn't seem like a championship-level proposition.

The Tigers will flourish or flop on the success or failure of Johnson. While many, including yours truly, think he'll be a star, he still is one of the biggest mysteries in the SEC.

 

No Deep Threat Emerges

Williams was an absolute monster last year when he caught 45 passes for 730 yards and five touchdowns playing alongside bona fide deep threat Sammie Coates.

Williams probably can be a superstar without a big-time deep threat playing alongside of him, but it's better for Auburn if he doesn't find out.

Ricardo Louis seems like he's been on The Plains for a decade, and the 6'2", 215-pound speedster of "Miracle on the Plains" fame has track star speed and is stronger than most think. Melvin Ray, Marcus Davis and Tony Stevens all have potential as well.

In an ideal situation for Auburn, one would step up and become a deep threat to complement Williams. It seems like Johnson already has a good idea of who's going to play Robin to Williams' role as Batman.

"Melvin Ray and Ricardo Louis are both seniors, and have a very good chance of playing at the next level," Johnson said. "We're looking forward to them making a lot of plays."

This isn't 2013, when Coates was really the only wide receiver who threatened defenses as Auburn rolled to the SEC title. While Johnson can run much better than he's shown over the last two seasons, he's no Nick Marshall. The offense will be much more balanced in 2015, and to click at the highest possible level, a new deep threat has to emerge.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

How Malik Zaire Compares to Past 1st-Year Starting QBs at Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team continues to gear up for its season opener against the Texas Longhorns, which is now just six weeks away.

When the Irish take the field against the Longhorns at Notre Dame Stadium, quarterback Malik Zaire will be making his second career start. With high expectations for the Irish in 2015, what can Notre Dame fans expect from Zaire in his first season as a starter?

The southpaw’s collegiate resume consists of seven games, 35 pass attempts, 21 completions, 266 yards, one passing score, two rushing touchdowns and 187 rushing yards on 33 carries.

Let’s take a look at other recent first-year starting quarterbacks at Notre Dame, breaking down their first seasons under center.

 

Everett Golson

Throughout spring practice, when Zaire and fifth-year quarterback Everett Golson were competing for the starting job, Golson was the signal-caller boasting all the experience.

But in 2012, Golson was settling into his first season as the starter and was, of course, sometimes relieved by Tommy Rees, who had started 12 games in 2011.

In Notre Dame's undefeated regular season in 2012, Golson completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,405 yards. Averaging nearly 27 pass attempts per game, Golson tallied 12 touchdown tosses against six interceptions.

Golson had no prior game experience after redshirting in 2011.

 

Tommy Rees

Before Golson, Rees quarterbacked the Irish, first for four games in 2010 as a true freshman and then in 12 starts in 2011.

In leading Notre Dame to four wins down the stretch in 2010, Rees finished his rookie campaign by completing 61 percent of his passes for 1,106 yards, 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Then as the starter in 2011, after replacing Dayne Crist at halftime of Notre Dame’s eventual season-opening loss to South Florida, Rees upped his completion percentage to 66, gunning for 2,871 yards, 20 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

 

Jimmy Clausen

Jimmy Clausen started 24 games for the Irish between 2008 and 2009. Prior to that, the highly touted prep star earned his first career start as a true freshman in 2007 in Week 2 against Penn State, following a season-opening 33-3 beatdown at the hands of Georgia Tech inside Notre Dame Stadium.

Clausen wound up making eight more starts in 2007, completing 56 percent of his passes and recording only seven touchdown passes to six interceptions. Of course, in 2008 and 2009, Clausen eventually edged onto the path paved in 2005 and 2006 by Brady Quinn.

But as the Week 2 starter in 2007, Clausen set a mark for the earliest any Irish freshman quarterback had started since 1972, and the returns weren’t immediately rosy in a 3-9 season.

 

Brady Quinn

Coming off a 10-3 season in 2002, the Irish entered the second year of head coach Tyrone Willingham's reign with Carlyle Holiday under center.

Notre Dame followed a season-opening overtime win over Washington State with consecutive losses to Michigan (38-0) and Michigan State (22-16). For Week 4 in West Lafayette, Indiana, Quinn grabbed the starting nod against Purdue.

The 6’4” Ohio product never looked back, starting for the Irish over the next four seasons. But in that initial freshman campaign, Quinn completed just 47 percent of his passes, chucking 15 interceptions to nine touchdowns.

Now, Zaire is entering his third full season at Notre Dame and will have had a full summer to prepare as the starter. Moreover, it’s worth monitoring Zaire’s pass attempts per game, given the run-based approach utilized successfully against LSU in the Music City Bowl and the way Golson managed the offense and limited turnovers in 2012.

Zaire steps into a more enviable position than Quinn, Clausen and Rees did when taking over as the starter. With a full cupboard of returning starters and upperclassmen, Notre Dame's outlook this year resembles the situation into which Golson stepped in 2012.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is the lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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Power 5 Schools with the Biggest Gains and Losses in Stadium Attendance

Attendance at major college football games is either booming or busting—the answer depends on which programs you ask.

Thanks to high ticket prices and the growing number of high-definition broadcasts for nearly every game, more fans are deciding to stay out of the stadiums. According to the NCAA, average attendance for FBS games declined from the 2013 to 2014 season.

But even during this slide in crowd numbers, several schools are still expanding their stadiums and smashing attendance records due to higher fan interest and long sellout streaks.

Here are the 10 Power 5 programs that had the largest improvements in average attendance from 2013 to 2014—and the 10 that saw the biggest drops in crowd numbers last season. Major independents BYU and Notre Dame, due to their comparable crowd sizes, were eligible for this list.

The average attendance numbers here are from the NCAA's official releases in 2013 and 2014. As Jon Solomon of CBS Sports wrote in his analysis of 2014's results, these figures "represent the announced crowd totals schools reported to the NCAA and not necessarily actual attendance."  

 

Biggest Gains

1. Texas A&M (+17,988 fans): Kyle Field added nearly 24,000 seats to its capacity during the first phase of a $450 million renovation project. A reported crowd of 110,633 fans attended the Aggies' home game against then-No. 3 Ole Miss, which was the largest attendance for a football game in the history of the SEC and the entire state of Texas. A&M's average crowd count will make an expected drop this season, though, as the capacity of the completely renovated Kyle Field will just be 102,512.

2. LSU (+10,305): Another SEC West team expanded its stadium between the 2013 and 2014 seasons as LSU's "Death Valley" added nearly 10,000 seats to bring its official capacity to 102,321. According to Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com, another factor in LSU's big gain was a change in how the athletic department counted attendance by including non-admission attendees.

3. Florida State (+6,790): Florida State didn't add any seats to Doak Campbell Stadium, but it still got a big-time boost in average attendance following its 2013 national championship season. Jimbo Fisher, Jameis Winston and the rest of the Seminoles benefited from having their three biggest regular-season draws—Clemson, Notre Dame and Florida—all at home in 2014.

4. UCLA (+6,365): According to the program's website, UCLA broke its all-time attendance record with an average of 76,650 fans at the Rose Bowl in 2014. A major factor in the big gain here was a crazy-good home schedule that included matchups against Oregon, Arizona, Stanford and rival USC.

5. Maryland (+5,703): Maryland's move from the ACC to the Big Ten paid off in terms of attendance last season. According to Alex Kirshner of SB Nation's Testudo Times, four of the Terps' six games at Byrd Stadium had more than 50,000 fans in attendance—and Maryland had only one such game in their last four years of ACC play.

6. Mississippi State (+5,432): Stadium expansion was a strong theme in the SEC West last season as Mississippi State opened the doors to a renovated, 61,337-seat Davis Wade Stadium. The famous cowbells reached new levels of noise in October, when No. 3 Mississippi State knocked off No. 2 Auburn in front of a school-record crowd of 62,945 fans.

7. Penn State (+5,036): In James Franklin's first season at Penn State, Beaver Stadium's average attendance moved back over the 100,000-fan mark to 101,623. Franklin's team had a pair of huge home games in Big Ten play to help those numbers—a White Out double overtime game against eventual national champion Ohio State and a season finale against conference powerhouse Michigan State.

8. Arkansas (+4,925): Arkansas fans came out in bigger numbers for the Razorbacks' return to the postseason after two losing campaigns. Five of Arkansas' six regular-season wins came in Fayetteville, including back-to-back shutout victories over SEC West rivals LSU and Ole Miss.

9. Tennessee (+4,170): The Volunteers fell just shy of a 100,000-fan average last season as they made their own return to a bowl game. However, they did play four games in front of sellout crowds as the Rocky Top faithful packed Neyland Stadium for the matchups against Utah State, Florida, Alabama and Kentucky.

10. Rutgers (+4,083): The 10th and final team to raise its average attendance by more than 4,000 fans last season, Rutgers saw an increase in crowds with its own move to the Big Ten. The school, which has been playing home football games since 1869, set its attendance record with 53,774 for the Big Ten opener against Penn State.

 

Biggest Losses

1. Purdue (-13,684): After an ugly 1-11 season in 2013, Purdue's attendance took an extreme nosedive in 2014. The average crowd of 35,269 was the smallest at Ross-Ade Stadium since 1951, and the year's smallest attendance (30,117) came in its final home game of the season against Northwestern. According to Mike Carmin of USA Today, Purdue responded by lowering 2015 season ticket prices for nearly 90 percent of its seats.

2. Pittsburgh (-8,606): Pittsburgh had crowds of less than 40,000 for its final two home games of 2014, which dented the Panthers' average attendance. This followed a 2013 season in which they averaged nearly 50,000. Heinz Field only had 32,549 in the stands for the ACC game against Syracuse—one that the Panthers needed to win in order to keep their bowl hopes alive.

3. Virginia (-6,959): Even though the Cavaliers improved their record by three wins last season, their attendance numbers took some hard losses. According to David Teel of the Daily Press, Virginia's average home crowd of 39,320 was the lowest in 21 years. Several factors could have been in play here, including an oversaturation of five home games in six weeks, a four-game losing streak and growing frustration with head coach Mike London.

4. Arizona State (-5,510): While Arizona State posted its second consecutive 10-win season last year and was ranked during each of its home games, the attendance still dropped at Sun Devil Stadium. Arizona State had only one sellout—a win against Notre Dame—on a schedule in which the only other marquee game was a Thursday night one against UCLA.

5. Texas (-4,873): A head coaching change to Charlie Strong didn't put more Texas fans in the seats last season—it did the opposite. And things could get worse for attendance after a rebuilding 6-7 season. Texas athletic director Steve Patterson came under fire this offseason when Chip Brown of Horns Digest reported an average increase in season ticket prices of 21.5 percent, instead of the 6 percent Texas announced.

6. Oklahoma State (-4,739): Oklahoma State's attendance suffered from a lack of big-time home games and a rough losing streak in 2014. The Cowboys only drew 52,495 fans for their matchup against Texas, which was the fourth of what would be five straight losses late in the season. Oklahoma State had to travel to TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma last year, but will get all three at home in 2015.

7. Washington (-4,261): After Washington had the nation's biggest attendance increase in 2013, the Huskies lost an average of more than 4,000 fans in 2014. The Huskies had an additional nonconference game in their 2014 schedule, and three straight weeks of Eastern Washington, Illinois and Georgia State definitely affected the final numbers.

8. BYU (-4,084): Independent school BYU will get lumped in with the big boys here, but not in a way its fans would like to see. According to Alex Clark of The Universe, BYU's home attendance hit its lowest mark since 1981 thanks to a number of factors, including a weak slate of opponents and the season-ending injury to star quarterback Taysom Hill.

9. Kansas (-3,807): The sights on the field were rough for Kansas for most of 2014, and that extended to the stands. Average attendance dropped to 34,077—almost 16,000 less than the capacity at Memorial Stadium—for the Jayhawks as they experienced their sixth straight losing season.

10. Iowa State (-3,164): Heading into the 2013 season, Iowa State was riding on the momentum of back-to-back bowl appearances and some of its largest crowds in school history, according to Paul Myerberg of USA Today. That did not last. Iowa State fell in attendance for the second straight year and sat at an average of 52,197, during what was a 2-10 season for the Cyclones.

 

Justin Ferguson is an on-call college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR. 

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Tyler Boyd Gets 12 Months' Probation for DUI: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

Pittsburgh Panthers star wide receiver Tyler Boyd has received a 12-month probation sentence following a June arrest on DUI charges.

Adam Brandolph of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported the details of Boyd's punishment Friday: "Common Pleas Judge Robert C. Gallo ordered Boyd to spend 12 months on probation and take safe driving classes. His driver's license will be suspended for 90 days, and he also must pay court costs. If he successfully completes the program, he can ask the court to expunge his record."

The Associated Press (h/t USA Todayreported July 1 that Boyd waived his right for a preliminary hearing in an effort to receive probation for a first-time offense.

According to Sam Werner of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, on June 16 Boyd was formally charged with DUI and summary charges for underage drinking and traffic violations after he was arrested days earlier: "He was pulled over about 2:35 a.m. Friday after trying to pass another vehicle on Route 885 in Jefferson Hills. When stopped, the officer smelled a 'moderate amount of alcoholic beverage' on Boyd's breath, according to the police report."

As a result of Boyd's DUI charges, Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi suspended the junior wide receiver from team activities for one month. He has since been allowed to return to the Panthers as they prepare to open the season on September 5 against Youngstown State.

Boyd's talent on the field is undeniable. He's had over 1,100 yards receiving in each of his first two years at Pittsburgh and made the All-ACC First Team in 2014.

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How Pac-12 and Big Ten Have Stepped Up to Challenge SEC Long Term

He might be a king of hot college football takes, but ESPN's Paul Finebaum didn't even have the SEC's back—at SEC media days, no less. 

"Overall, I think the SEC may be overrated," Finebaum said on the SEC Network broadcast earlier this month. "Last year we sat here and talked about can the SEC get two [teams] in the College Football Playoff?' I'm not sure they're going to get anyone this year." 

Overrated is a subjective term, and you can draw that conclusion if you wish on your own, but it is interesting to look back at last year's College Football Playoff standings. Just over 50 percent of the time, the SEC had at least two teams ranked among college football's top four. The inaugural standings featured four SEC teams—Mississippi State, Auburn, Ole Miss and Alabama—among the top six teams. 

Yet Auburn would finish 8-5. Ole Miss, suffering the consequences of key injury problems, lost four of its final six games, with the last two losses by a combined score of 72-3. Mississippi State lost three of its last four games and Alabama didn't make it past the Sugar Bowl in the playoff's semifinal round. 

Overrated? Let's just put it this way: For one reason or another, the dominant SEC West didn't exactly finish on the right foot.

However you want to view it, it begs the question: Is the top of the SEC losing ground to conferences like the Big Ten and Pac-12? When you've won seven straight national titles before going through a two-year drought, it's fair to wonder. 

Some of it has to do with the rise/resurgance/etc. of other blue-blood programs outside the SEC like Florida State and Ohio State. But what really matters for the Big Ten and Pac-12 in terms of closing the gap are coaching and recruiting. Both conferences have invested heavily in those two areas in the past year or so. 

The Big Ten got a boost perception-wise when Ohio State went on its remarkable run to win the national championship, but that alone doesn't mean the Big Ten is closing fast on its Southeastern counterpart. It means Ohio State is in the middle of a potential dynasty with head coach Urban Meyer.

If anything, Michigan finally pinning down Jim Harbaugh as its head coach does more for the overall strength of the conference. Think about what the Big Ten East Division has in its head coaching arsenal now: Meyer, Harbaugh, Mark Dantonio (Michigan State) and James Franklin (Penn State).

At its four blue-blood programs, the Big Ten has a group of either proven head coaches or up-and-coming stars. In the last three years, three of the aforementioned Big Ten coaches have won a Rose Bowl (Dantonio), national championship (Meyer) and have made a Super Bowl appearance (Harbaugh). Franklin, meanwhile, took Vanderbilt to back-to-back nine-win seasons. 

As for the Pac-12, take a look at the list of coaches around the conference: Rich Rodriguez, Todd Graham, David Shaw, Mike Leach—these are just a handful of names. These are coaches who have done great things at other programs—think Texas Tech (Leach) and West Virginia (Rodriguez)—or have reached great heights with their current program. The Pac-12 is known as an offensive-minded conference, but this is a stellar group of "gurus." Oregon is almost at another level with Mark Helfrich, Chip Kelly and Mike Bellotti. To maintain the level of success the Ducks have had in the face of coaching turnover is remarkable. 

Other than the SEC, you'd be hard-pressed to find a conference with a more impressive group of coaches from top to bottom. 

Not only are these coaches sideline geniuses, but they're crushing it on the recruiting trail, too.

Let's start with the Big Ten. According to 247Sports' composite rankings, all four of those Big Ten programs have 2016 recruiting classes ranked among the top 11 in the nation: Ohio State (No. 1), Penn State (No. 6), Michigan (No. 9) and Michigan State (No. 11). That's as many as the SEC has: LSU (No. 2), Alabama (No. 4), Ole Miss (No. 8) and Georgia (No. 10). 

Granted, signing day is a long way off, and quantity doesn't always equal quality this time of year. For example: The top four SEC schools have five verbal commitments from 5-star prospects; the Big Ten has one. Still, the top of the Big Ten is at least on the right track in terms of bringing in blue-chip recruits. 

Speaking of top-end recruiting classes, the other conference with four top-15 classes is the Pac-12. Only ACC programs Florida State and Miami (FL) make up the rest of the top 15 classes for '16. Though it has only one top-10 class, USC, you could argue that no other Power 5 conference is getting more bang for its recruiting buck—so to speak—than the Pac-12. 

Comparing the top four classes for the Pac-12 and SEC, the Pac-12 actually has slightly more blue-chip (4-and-5-star) players verbally committed per class than the SEC. Averaging out the numbers, the top four Pac-12 classes are made up of about 56 percent blue-chip recruits. The SEC's top four classes are made up of about 55 percent. Yes, the difference is almost unnoticeable, but as far as quality goes, the Pac-12 is right up there with the SEC. 

Long term, the Pac-12 and Big Ten have to show that the current '16 standings aren't an anomaly. Other than bell cows Ohio State and Michigan, the Big Ten hasn't littered the recruiting landscape with top-15 classes over the past few years. The Pac-12 has done marginally better, with usual suspects USC along with Stanford, UCLA and Oregon interchangeably making a top-15 appearance since 2012. 

Why does this matter? SB Nation recruiting analyst Bud Elliott explained in 2014:  

Every BCS champion since recruiting rankings could be accurately tracked (2005, or four classes after Scout joined Rivals in rating players) has met a benchmark: it's recruited more blue-chips (four-and five-star players) than lesser-rated players over its four previous signing classes.

...

Coaching stability, attrition management, player development, scouting, support and a host of other factors have a lot to do with a team's success. But even doing all of those things well, it is very hard for a program to stay at an elite level if it's not bringing in a lot of top talent.

There's so much that goes into fielding a top-end program: recruiting, coaching (and coaching turnover), schedules and, yes, a little bit of luck along the way. It's an inexact science, too. Oregon doesn't pull in top-five recruiting classes, but it has been known to produce genius coaches. Conversely, USC is littered with blue-chip talent but has had a hard time finding the right head coach in the post-Pete Carroll era. 

But a broad-brush look at the Big Ten and Pac-12 shows that, if these conferences want to regularly compete with the SEC, it takes tremendous coaching and recruiting at the top. Based on what's happened in the past year or so in those respective areas, it's easy to see why these two conferences are ready to show they can play with anyone in the country. 

Especially those in the Southeastern part. 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports

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Elijah Holyfield Reveals Top 5: Odds on Where 4-Star RB Lands

Running back Elijah Holyfield, the son of boxing royalty and a premier 2016 college football prospect, is entering the final phase of his recruitment.

The 4-star playmaker is now focused on five programs moving forward, according to a video released by Scout.com. Holyfield identified Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee as the teams on top.

This SEC battle will be decided in just six weeks:

Holyfield, whose father is five-time world heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, trimmed down a list that previously featured 10 programs. Notre Dame, Oregon, USC, Louisville and Miami missed the cut this time.

He's keeping the process relatively local, as the allure of SEC competition is simply too captivating for the Atlanta-area rusher to ignore. Regional powerhouses have remained ardent throughout his recruitment.

“It's really tempting, because they don’t want to let you get out,” Holyfield told Lindsey Thiry of the Los Angeles Times. “A lot of schools are by me and they come by almost every time they can."

The 5'10", 204-pound prospect is rated fifth nationally among running backs in 247Sports' composite rankings. He nears his senior season at Woodward Academy considered one of America's top uncommitted offensive talents.

Holyfield rushed for a career-best 1,735 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2014, averaging 6.6 yards per carry. He added 27 receptions for 289 yards and three scores.

Now that Holyfield is headed toward a decision, let's take a look at his remaining contenders. We applied odds to each team, based on the likelihood he lands with that university.

 

Alabama: 4-to-1

The Crimson Tide probably would've been our favorite among this group just a week ago, but things changed dramatically a few days ago. North Carolina running back B. J. Emmons, rated third nationally at the position, pledged to Alabama on July 20. 

His presence, along with top-rated 2015 rusher Damien Harris, seemingly lessens the likelihood Holyfield lands in Tuscaloosa. Bleacher Report heard rumblings at The Opening that Holyfield was leaning toward the Crimson Tide, but head coach Nick Saban was still searching for a 2016 rusher at that stage.

Still, we've seen Alabama repeatedly overcome its crowded depth chart while targeting blue-chip recruits. The Tide signed six top-five running back prospects during the past five cycles and already hold a commitment from No. 1 overall 2017 rusher Najee Harris.

"The tradition they have at running backs and winning national championships is great," Holyfield told Chris Kirschner of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

 

Auburn: 2-to-1

Head coach Gus Malzahn and his staff have been relentless in this recruitment, and it's paid off, as Holyfield often reciprocates interest with visits to campus.

"It’s a home away from home," he told Kirschner. "I have been there multiple times and their players are really cool. It also helps that it’s really close to home. I really enjoy going there. Every time I am there, it’s like family.”

The family word is consistently a strong indicator of where high school players feel comfortable. More often than not, that's the ultimate element when it's time to pick a program.

Auburn is viewed as the favorite to sign Holyfield, holding 65 percent of 22 expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball. We tend to agree with that sentiment.

 

Georgia: 3-to-1

The in-state Bulldogs previously held a pledge from Emmons, but he backed off his verbal commitment last month and is now a member of Alabama's class. Georgia didn't prioritize the position in the 2015 cycle after landing 5-star 2014 duo Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.

Now the team must acquire a rusher capable of taking over when that tandem departs, which may very well happen after the 2016 season if both players stay healthy and productive enough to warrant early NFL consideration.

Bulldogs running back alum Thomas Brown joined the staff this offseason after coaching Wisconsin Heisman Trophy finalist Melvin Gordon last season. If Holyfield picks Georgia, he deserves a large dose of credit for the pickup.

“Georgia has the in-state factor going for them. I really enjoy playing with some of the players that I have gotten to know pretty well. Brown has also been a really big influence on me," he told Kirschner.

 

South Carolina: 12-to-1

Constant speculation surrounding the tenure of Hall of Fame head coach Steve Spurrier and his eventual retirement haven't helped Gamecocks recruiting efforts this cycle. Multiple South Carolina targets have told Bleacher Report they're nervous about committing to a program that could undergo a massive transition during their time on campus.

As a result, the team currently holds a recruiting class rated 54th overall and 13th among SEC squads in composite rankings. Holyfield is exactly the kind of player Spurrier and his staff are in dire need of to turn the momentum as the season approaches.

Based on his list of past campus visits among finalists and how things appear to be trending, South Carolina likely misses the cut for his top-five list if not for personal ties to the team.

“I had two teammates that play for South Carolina (Terry Googer and Benji Russell) and I got to hear a lot from their side and hang out with them while I was there and it’s really cool there," Holyfield told Kirschner.

 

Tennessee: 6-to-1

The Volunteers are viewed as a program rising up the SEC ladder and could soon contend for the East's spot in conference championship action. Consecutive star-studded recruiting classes have the arrow pointing up for head coach Butch Jones.

Holyfield could be another piece of the puzzle for Tennessee's future ascension. The team's 2016 class includes Elite 11 quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, and securing a prized running back prospect is now the top priority for the Volunteers in this cycle.

Tennessee will be counting on the strength of its staff relationships when Holyfield's announcement arrives. 

“(Running backs coach Robert) Gillespie has been one of my favorite recruiters throughout this process and he’s a really great guy. I really enjoy it up there," he told Kirschner.

 

Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.

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Braxton Miller's Move to WR Clears 'Path for a Repeat Championship'

Ohio State's Braxton Miller will move from quarterback to wide receiver for the 2015 season, according to SI.com's Pete Thamel.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder explains what this will do for the defending national champions in the upcoming season.

Do you think Ohio State will repeat? Watch the video and let us know!

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Bryce Mathews to Ole Miss: Rebels Land 4-Star OL Prospect

Ole Miss picked up another key piece for its 2016 recruiting class Friday in the form of Bryce Mathews. The highly touted offensive lineman should make an impact for the Rebels early in his collegiate career.  

Mathews confirmed his college choice on social media. He explained what led him to Mississippi in an interview with Barton Simmons of 247Sports: "I decided I'm going with Ole Miss. The first time I went there I was really drawn by what the coaches were saying. I felt a great connection with the coaches. I loved the town. It's a great town with the square. I felt like a lot of signs were pointing me there."

The 6'5 ½'' tackle is a 4-star prospect who rates inside the top 250 for the 2016 class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. He also checks in as the No. 3 player coming out of the state of Tennessee next year.

Along with his ideal frame, Mathews has displayed impressive athleticism and fluid movement, two crucial elements for the all-important left tackle position. He's also quite polished for a player with another year of high school ball to play.

One thing he'll need to work on over the next year is adding more power. He's currently listed at 280 pounds, which is a bit light, but there's plenty of room for more weight on his frame. The key is not sacrificing his quickness in the process.

All told, the upside is intriguing, but there's plenty of work left to do before he reaches his potential. Like many talented tackles, he'll probably start on the right side once he proves he's ready to join the starting lineup before shifting to the left side as an upperclassman.

If he continues to develop as expected, he'll be a major piece of the Rebels' success within a few years.

 

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Predicting the 2015 ACC Defensive Player of the Year

The start of the 2015 college football season is just a few weeks away, so let's take a look at some end-of-year predictions.

Check out Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer break down who should win the ACC Defensive Player of the Year award.

Who will be the ACC Defensive Player of the Year after the 2015 season? Watch the video and let us know!

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