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Nebraska Chancellor Defends Hiring Mike Riley over Bret Bielema with YOLO Tweet

When Nebraska hired Mike Riley as head coach, many Cornhuskers fans questioned why Arkansas' Bret Bielema wasn't lured to Lincoln.

Well, Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman put those thoughts to bed with this amazing YOLO tweet:

Chancellor Perlman nailed it—you don't want a coach who might bolt at the next opportunity.

We already know though, Chancellor Perlman knows that's the motto. YOLO.

[Twitter]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Championship Game 2014: Missouri's Defensive Front a Problem for Alabama?

ATLANTA — One thing became abundantly clear during Alabama's 55-44 win over Auburn last weekend in Tuscaloosa: Quarterback Blake Sims can be rattled.

Sims threw three interceptions and Auburn built a 33-21 lead early in the third quarter before he got it together, hooked up with wide receiver Amari Cooper two more times and led the Tide to the big win.

If Missouri has a chance to spring the upset at the SEC Championship Game on Saturday, it's going to have to rattle Sims again.

The good news for the Tigers is that they have the personnel to do just that.

Defensive end Shane Ray has an SEC-best 12 sacks this season, while fellow defensive end Markus Golden has 8.5. The duo is better than anything Auburn had in terms of getting after the quarterback, and Alabama head coach Nick Saban knows the kind of challenge Ray and Golden present.

"The challenge is, can you keep a hat on a hat with these guys and not let them get the kind of penetration to create the negative plays and the disruptions to your offense?" he said on Friday. "The way they play defense, when they get you behind on down and distance, that plays right into their hands. It's going to be really important to be able to control the line of scrimmage and not allow these guys to get a lot of penetration with their movement and their quickness."

The Crimson Tide have given up 11 sacks all year—the fewest in the SEC. It'll be strength vs. strength in the trenches when Alabama has the ball in passing situations.

One man in charge of keeping them at bay is freshman offensive tackle Cam Robinson. Robinson banged up his shoulder last week against Auburn but has practiced this week and should be good to go Saturday vs. the Tigers.

"I don't think anybody is really 100 percent at this time of year," Saban said. "He has practiced all week and we do expect him to play in the game."

Missouri's been able to get after the quarterback, but don't tell head coach Gary Pinkel that it matters, because he downplayed his team's ability to get pressure on the quarterback on Friday.

"It sounds good that we get to the quarterback a lot." he said. "We have. But they've done a great job protecting. It's going to be interesting to see who wins that battle as the game goes on."

This is where the game will be won and lost, and Missouri absolutely has the horses to get after Sims. When that happens, the ball will be in Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin's court to make an adjustment.

As D.C. Reeves of TideSports.com noted earlier this week, the protection schemes in the Alabama offense have evolved over the season to a point where the role of running backs and tight ends in pass-blocking is almost nonexistent:

How much will Alabama's offense change if five isn't enough?

That will be the key to the game.

Missouri will force Sims to scramble and make quick decisions on the run, as he has done so many times throughout the season—15-minute stretch in the Iron Bowl notwithstanding.

If he can not only find Cooper, but tight end O.J. Howard, a running back out of the backfield if he's not blocking and other safety valves, he should find success.

Missouri has the talent, and whether Robinson is healthy or not, there will be times when Golden and Ray get into the backfield and force Sims to make quick decisions. It'll be up to Sims to make sure the events that allowed Auburn to build a lead in the Iron Bowl don't repeat themselves.

If they do, that'll be Missouri's best shot to spring the upset and create more college football chaos during the final week of the season.

 

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

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

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Meet Mike Riley, the New Head Coach of Nebraska Football

Say hello to your new head coach, Nebraska fans. Mike Riley is officially in charge.

Riley is an Idaho native and a graduate of the University of Alabama. He played for Paul “Bear” Bryant and won three SEC titles and one national championship, per Huskers.com. Despite earning a bachelor’s degree in Social Science, Riley said he was born to coach football.

"For me personally, I never knew what else there was to be besides a football coach," he said during his introductory press conference. "I went to college and got my history degree, and I have never taught history."

Riley was signed to a five-year contract and will earn $2.7 million per year. He will have an automatic $100,000 increase every year of his contract, as Eric Olson of the Associated Press reported.

That's not all you need to know about Nebraska's new head coach, though. From his experience to his ability to develop talent, fans have a lot to learn about the man from Corvallis, Oregon.

Here's what you need to know about Riley.

 

He's Well Liked

This is important. While winning championships are too, Shawn Eichorst was clear that it means nothing if it's not done the right way.

"I want us to compete for Big Ten championships and national championships," Eichorst said. "But those pursuits are meaningless unless we do it the right way: with class, sportsmanship and integrity."

Riley embodies those traits. Looking at the national media's reaction to Nebraska hiring Riley shows that.

Unfortunately, Bo Pelini never was able to really create that relationship with the public. While @FauxPelini and the famous cat helped, it wasn't enough in the end.

As for Riley, he has a slew of fans from all across the country. Nebraska fans may be getting used to the new coach, but one thing everyone can rest easy with: Riley is well liked.

 

He Can Recruit, but More Importantly: He Can Develop Talent

Riley knows how to recruit. However, looking at his recruiting class rankings while at Oregon State may not give the most confidence to fans. The Omaha World-Herald, using Rivals.com, put together those rankings for reference:

The Omaha World-Herald didn't stop there, though. The newspaper also highlighted AP All-Americans Oregon State produced in those same years.

It's interesting to look at, isn't it? What it shows is that Riley may not recruit the flashiest, highest-rated players, but what he does instead is find the raw talent and develop it.

Many have said Nebraska has better resources than Oregon State. The question was even brought up in Riley's introductory press conference.

"You know, I think that resource-wise I tend to be one of those guys that looks at the bright side," he said. "So what you have you enhance, and what you don’t have you try to make better."

It also doesn't hurt that Riley has recruiting ties in Texas—a state Nebraska focused on heavily while a member of the Big 12, although a slight shift in recruits from the Longhorn state has happened as a result of the conference change. Husker fans would like to see more attention put back in Texas, which is something Riley can do.

So take heart, Nebraska fans. Riley's recruiting rankings may not look impressive at first, but they don't tell the whole story.

 

He Has Experience

There's no denying the experience Riley brings to the table. In fact, it may be the most impressive aspect of his resume if you had to pick one.

The experience was enough to impress junior offensive lineman Givens Price. After Riley was introduced, a few players had a chance to speak with the media.

“I really wasn’t sure who he was but I did a little research myself, and I was impressed with the things that I’ve read," Price said. "I know he was in the NFL, and he’s been coaching for a while. When you have that much experience, you’ve been bouncing around; you’re going to be good at what you do. So I’ve been reading he’s an incredible teacher so I’m looking forward to that.”

Price is right. Riley has been coaching for some time, not only in the United States.

As a coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League, Riley won two Grey Cup championships, which brings intrigue to those in the college football realm.

Nebraska fans obviously want Riley to win championships. Eichorst believes the experience the 61-year-old coach has will pay off in the long run.

"Simply, we will win with Mike," Eichorst said.

 

He Appreciates Nebraska's History

At the podium during his press conference, Riley couldn't say enough about the history and tradition of Nebraska football.

“My knowledge of football about Nebraska goes back to what everybody knows of Nebraska football nationally," he said. "That was me, except I was a freshman on that team that Johnny Rogers ran all over in the Orange Bowl against Alabama. So I am deeply respectful of history and tradition in our world of college sports. Nebraska has it."

He also referenced one of former Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne's books and how he has used it to draw inspiration from prior to team meetings.

Additionally, Riley respects Nebraska's storied tradition of the walk-on program. As a result, he fully intends to keep it in place.

"I think, historically, it’s been one of the neat things about Nebraska football," he said. "The tradition of so many walk-on players and contributions they’ve made to the program. Believe me, I am all for it. "

If Nebraska fans feel good about nothing else, Riley's understanding of what Nebraska has been and what it can be again has to be bright spot.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand via the Huskers' introductory press conference, unless otherwise noted.

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The 3 Biggest X-Factors for Florida State vs. Georgia Tech

It all comes down to this. Despite being the lone undefeated team in the nation and the reigning national champions, No. 4 Florida State is clinging to its spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

A win Saturday night against No. 11 Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship will almost certainly send the Seminoles into the playoffs—but a loss halts a 28-game winning streak and crushes those championship dreams.

So, who are the three biggest X-factors for Florida State in this game? Let’s take a look.

Begin Slideshow

Notre Dame Football: Steadiest Positions for Irish After Regular Season

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — So much attention in the past week has centered around Notre Dame football’s widespread problems after a 49-14 whipping at the hands of USC on Saturday.

Earlier this week, we investigated the biggest questions for the Irish during the bowl season. Now we’ll examine Notre Dame’s positions of strength, an exercise that reveals the strong points of the Irish squad while also showing how uncertain many positions are moving forward.

Let’s have at it.

 

Running Back

Sophomore running back Tarean Folston emerged as the top back as the season sped along, and his development alone would have positioned running back as one of Notre Dame’s steadiest positions.

But fellow sophomore back Greg Bryant also flashed against USC—tallying a career-high 79 yards on the ground. We’ll need to see more from Bryant before his role in the backfield becomes a certainty, but the Irish certainly have the pieces in place.

Folston racked up 816 rushing yards and averaged 5.3 yards per rush, while Bryant has notched 287 yards on 52 carries (5.5 yards per carry).

Irish head coach Brian Kelly has praised Folston’s recent improvement in pass protection—the one key area that had been holding him back, in the estimation of Kelly—and Bryant surged back onto the radar against the Trojans, especially in the second half. Can he carry that momentum forward?

The Irish should feel confident in their backs heading into the bowl game and 2015.

 

Wide Receiver

Let’s call the drop-ridden USC game an aberration for a receiving corps that eclipsed expectations this season. With no proven pass-catcher on the roster for the season opener against Rice in August, the group of youngsters stepped up and delivered.

Sophomore Will Fuller has headlined the contingent with his 14 touchdown grabs, tied with Alabama star receiver Amari Cooper for the second most in the country. Fellow sophomore Corey Robinson has impressed as both a possession receiver, especially on underneath routes, and as a red-zone target, where he utilizes his lanky 6’4.5” frame.

Meanwhile, senior Amir Carlisle and junior C.J. Prosise held down the slot, while junior Chris Brown was actually third on the team in receptions and yards.

“He’s played well the last three weeks,” Kelly said of Brown before the USC game. “Really have seen a different guy after the Arizona State game, just seen a look in his eye that has the makings for me of what I’ve wanted to see from him all year. Just he wants it bad.”

The Irish boasted depth at the position entering the season. Now, the deep position has added experience and production, a combination that bodes well for 2015 to catch plenty of passes from Notre Dame’s quarterback—whomever that may be.

 

Cornerback

Saturday’s performance against Cody Kessler and the Trojans doesn’t accurately justify the strength of this position moving forward. Notre Dame left its cornerbacks in man-to-man coverage, and Kessler tossed six touchdowns.

But sophomore Cole Luke has emerged as a strong cornerback for the Irish. Before the USC game, Kelly said Luke “is turning into an ‘A’ player.” Kelly said the second-year defensive back was probably a ‘C’ player entering the season and is currently a ‘B+’ based on his impressive season.

Fellow sophomore Devin Butler has earned increased playing time in recent weeks with graduate student Cody Riggs battling a stress reaction in his foot. Though Butler has been burned for a few touchdowns, his extra experience this season should pay off moving forward.

Notre Dame is also scheduled to receive a big boost from cornerback KeiVarae Russell, who has announced his intention to return to the program in the summer in preparation for the 2015 season. Should nickelback Matthias Farley come back for a fifth year—as is expected—Notre Dame will have a solid lineup of corners to man the perimeter.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

ACC Championship 2014: How RB Karlos Williams' Injury Will Impact Florida State

Facing their toughest challenge of the season in Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game, the Florida State Seminoles will be without running back Karlos Williams as they look to polish off a second straight undefeated regular season, per ESPN.com.

Just like every first-half deficit, Jameis Winston pick, off-field controversy and on-field blunder, it isn't going to affect the Seminoles one bit.

This is a team that has been through the gauntlet both on and off the field—soft schedule be darned—and losing a key leader shouldn't leave head coach Jimbo Fisher and company worse for the wear as they approach Saturday's matchup with the Yellow Jackets.

There are two main reasons why Williams' absence won't affect Florida State, and it starts with the fact that the Seminoles' rushing attack isn't very good to begin with.

In other words, it hasn't played a huge role in the victories in 2014, so why should it be a big deal now?

In 2013, Florida State finished with the 28th-best rushing offense at just over 200 yards per game. The Seminoles' backs averaged 5.63 yards per carry collectively.

In 2014, Florida State is 105th in country in the same category with just 131 yards on the ground per game and its backs are barely notching four yards per carry.

You could look at those numbers and determine that by losing one of their top two backs, the Seminoles are in even more trouble than usual.

But the point is that the rushing attack hasn't produced even with Williams on the field. There's no doubt his leadership in crunch time will be missed, and the 10 touchdowns Williams has on the ground are nothing to scoff at.

At best, however, Williams has been a player tasked with keeping defenses honest. He isn't the focal point of either side's game plan and has just one 100-yard outing on the season.

All of this wouldn't hold much weight if it weren't for the second and more important reason Florida State will be fine without Williams: freshman freak Dalvin Cook.

As the lightning to Williams' thunder, Cook has burst onto the scene in his first year in Tallahassee and rushed for 728 yards and seven touchdowns. Against Miami, Cook had 92 yards on just seven carries, two of which went for scores.

There are certain backs who look like they're moving at a different speed with the football in hand, and Cook is one of them. He cuts without slowing down, accelerates like he's on a drag strip and outruns anyone and everyone in the open field.

Cook didn't play in the season opener against Oklahoma State, and through the team's first five games, he had just 128 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries.

He's since posted three 100-yard rushing efforts, and while he still lacks the bruising, between-the-tackles ability of Williams—not to mention experience in the system—he's become the Seminoles' best option on the ground.

Cook isn't some freshman racking up yards in garbage time, either. Florida State's struggles have been well-documented, with four out of the last six wins coming by five or fewer points.

In the 2013 regular season, there wasn't a single game in doubt heading into the fourth quarter.

What it means is Cook shouldn't be intimidated by the opponent or the stage, even if the game is close in crunch time. When he does tote the rock, he won't be up against the 1985 Chicago Bears either. The Yellow Jackets are 72nd in the country in rush defense, allowing nearly 170 yards per game.

His teammates have plenty of confidence that he can get the job done, too. "There's not enough positive things you can say about Dalvin. He's been very, very vital to our success," senior center Cameron Erving told ESPN.com.

Fisher explained to reporters how bringing Cook along at the right pace has been important for his development:

Sometimes when young backs are in the game, you have to call when they get the ball or a couple pass protections that they understand.If you don't, they can be in trouble because your star quarterback can get killed. ... Now his knowledge and learning of the whole offense, I think, is what's growing and you feel confident with him in there and he's running the football really well.

The key to victory has been and will continue to be limiting mistakes early so the stage isn't set for a comeback late. If the Winston from 2013 decides to show up, it won't matter who's in the backfield because Florida State can build a lead and coast to a win.

What's likelier to happen is what we've seen in recent weeks: the 'Noles feeling out their opponent and finding a way to win no matter how it looks.

Even if Winston goes off, Georgia Tech has earned enough respect that folks won't assume it'll roll over and die.

Williams has never been the key cog in the offense, and his backup is playing at a higher level. Cook's ability to break off long runs should force the Yellow Jackets to creep in toward the box, at which point Winston will have numerous opportunities to showcase his skills throwing the ball downfield.

Is Williams being ruled out a tough break for the kid and the team? Absolutely, but when you're Florida State, there aren't many problems you can't find answers to.

Losing Williams for the biggest game of the season is a problem, and the answer lies in the arm of Winston and the freshman freak.

 

Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Coaches Jim McElwain Should Target to Fill out Florida Staff

Former Colorado State coach Jim McElwain may not be a "wow" hire for Florida, but the response he has received has generally been positive. 

"Everyone in Gainesville should rejoice for the type of coach he can be," SEC Network analyst Greg McElroy said. McElroy played quarterback for McElwain from 2008-10 at Alabama. 

Will McElwain be a good head coach for Florida? The only time that can be evaluated is four or five years in the future. But here's what McElwain can do right now to get off to a good start: Hire an excellent staff. 

Hiring a solid staff is as important as anything McElwain will do on the recruiting trail or the field, if not more so. It lays the foundation for everything else he will do going forward. 

As Scott Roussel of FootballScoop.com tweeted earlier this week, McElwain's staff at Colorado State was better equipped to recruit Colorado and Mountain West Conference area as opposed to Florida and SEC territory. In essence, he'd have to start largely, if not completely, from scratch. 

That means evaluating the assistants left behind from the Will Muschamp staff and likely bringing in some new faces. Which direction will McElwain look? Here's a short list of some possibilities:

 

Offensive Coordinator

Names to Watch: Billy Napier, Doug Nussmeier 

McElwain is an offensive coach with a background in coaching up quarterbacks. Because of that, he'll always have a hand in the offense. But expect Florida's new offensive coordinator to have a similar background. 

The two names who have emerged at FootballScoop.com and Coachingsearch.com are Alabama receivers coach Billy Napier and Michigan offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. Napier and McElwain previously worked together at Alabama and Colorado State, and Nussmeier actually succeeded McElwain as the Tide's offensive coordinator in 2012. 

McElwain is clearly fond of Napier, hiring him as the assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach at Colorado State in 2012. The chance for a promotion would probably be enough to lure Napier to Gainesville.

However, Nussmeier is also an excellent option. He's had success as the OC at Fresno State, Washington and Alabama, but the situation at Michigan was too dire from him to make an impact in year one. The experiment in Ann Arbor didn't work out, so it wouldn't be surprising for Nussmeier to try his luck elsewhere. 

 

Defensive Coordinator

Name to Watch: D.J. Durkin

While McElwain may look elsewhere for an offensive coordinator, his defensive coordinator may already be on Florida's coaching staff.

D.J. Durkin just finished his first year as the Gators' DC but has been on the coaching staff since 2010. Florida may have been a disappointment in 2014, but that was hardly Durkin's fault. The Gators gave up just 21 points per game, finished second in the SEC in yards per rush allowed (3.16) and third in yards per pass attempt (5.9). 

There's an argument to be made that those numbers could be even better if Florida's offense was able to stay on the field longer instead of converting just 35 percent of its third downs. 

 

Other Positions

Name to Watch: Travaris Robinson, Chris Leak 

Robinson, better known as T-Rob, has been Florida's defensive backs coach since 2011 and is the team's recruiting coordinator. He's coached secondary players like Matt Elam and Vernon Hargreaves III, but he may be better known as an ace recruiter.

In fact, ESPN graded Robinson as the No. 1 recruiter in college football in October of last year. Florida has finished with a top-10 recruiting class nationally in each of the last three years, according to 247Sports.com

Since Robinson joined the Gators' staff, three defensive backs—Elam, Jaylen Watkins and Josh Evans—have been drafted into the NFL

Leak is an interesting option to keep on the staff. The former Gators quarterback has been on Muschamp's staff for two years, first as graduate assistant and then wide receivers coach. Florida's wide receivers have been an inconsistent group, but Demarcus Robinson has emerged this season with 47 catches for 774 yards and seven touchdowns. Additionally, Leak is also a good recruiter. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU Football: Ranking Best Tigers from 2014 Regular Season

LSU did not have the season it wanted. 

The Tigers finished 8-4, which is their worst mark since 2008. But it could have been even worse. 

Credit must be given to LSU for salvaging a season that was met with an 0-2 conference start. The Tigers would win four of their remaining six conference games, finishing with an impressive 23-17 win on the road against Texas A&M.

LSU head coach Les Miles and the rest of the coaching staff deserve credit for making some changes after the slow start. The players responded with a three-game winning streak and a valiant effort against Alabama. 

Here are the six Tigers that stuck out above the rest this season.

Begin Slideshow

Thomas Tyner Injury: Updates on Oregon RB's Shoulder and Return

The Oregon Ducks won't get running back Thomas Tyner back in time for the Pac-12 Championship Game. He reportedly didn't travel with the team to face the Arizona Wildcats at Levi's Stadium on Friday night.

Aaron Fentress of Comcast SportsNet reports it will be the third straight game he's missed: "Oregon running back Thomas Tyner will miss his third consecutive game when the Ducks face Arizona in tonight's Pac-12 Championship Game in Santa Clara, Calif., according to a team source. Tyner did not travel with the team."

Tyner ranks third on the team in rushing behind Royce Freeman and quarterback Marcus Mariota. Freeman figures to continue playing a more extensive role within the high-powered offense. Byron Marshall will likely pick up the remaining slack.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Thomas Tyner Injury: Updates on Oregon RB's Shoulder and Return

The Oregon Ducks won't get running back Thomas Tyner back in time for the Pac -12 Championship Game. He reportedly didn't travel with the team to face the Arizona Wildcats at Levi's Stadium on Friday night...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Notre Dame Football: Ranking Irish's Top Performers from 2014 Regular Season

While Notre Dame awaits its postseason destination, the stench coming from the Irish's November performance still hangs in the air. A 7-5 record came after the Irish started 6-0, a young and injury-depleted roster crashing. That collapse has done its best to shake the foundation of a program that appeared on solid footing. 

That's still likely the case. But a four-game losing streak and a blowout loss to USC—the worst of the Brian Kelly era—has Irish fans questioning everything, including their head coach. 

But the season wasn't all disappointment. We saw numerous young players emerge, including a sophomore class that looks like it has what it takes to lead Notre Dame into the College Football Playoff.

The offense scored more points than any Irish offense since Charlie Weis' 2005 team, doing so with mostly underclassmen at skill positions and all but Ben Koyack and Christian Lombard returning.

While defensive struggles in first-year coordinator Brian VanGorder's system saw the Irish give up more than 30 points in seven straight games to end the season, when the unit was healthy it performed well. 

Let's take a look back and rank the regular-season's top performers.

Begin Slideshow

Wisconsin vs. Ohio State: TV, Live Stream Info, Preview for Big Ten Championship

With two Heisman contenders under center lost for the year, Urban Meyer's Ohio State Buckeyes have never been more vulnerable as they head into the Big Ten Championship Game against the Wisconsin Badgers. 

Outside of an early-September loss, the Buckeyes have run the table this season and stand a legitimate chance at making the College Football Playoff. But the task is more difficult than ever now that the staff is forced to turn to sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones at the worst possible time.

Wisconsin has no CFP aspirations at this point thanks to a season-opening loss to LSU and a horrific loss to Northwestern on the resume. What Gary Andersen's team does have is lofty bowl expectations and a Heisman contender in the backfield by the name of Melvin Gordon.

These two put on a show last season and are sure to do so once again with so much on the line. Anything less will be a resounding disappointment. 

 

When: Saturday, Dec. 6, 8:17 p.m. ET

Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana

Television: Fox 

Live Stream:FoxSportsGo

 

Preview

The weight of the world falls on Jones, who has attempted all of 17 passes this season.

The cleats to fill are quite large. J.T. Barrett replaced Braxton Miller and threw for 2,834 yards and 34 touchdowns to become a Heisman contender himself while allowing the Buckeyes to rank fifth nationally in scoring.

Jones is, of course, taking the task at hand in a serious manner, as illustrated by Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch:

Inexperience under center is just that, though, which means one of the nation's top defenses can sell out to stop the Ohio State ground game if Jones does not prove early and often that he can go over the top.

The showdown on paper is one between a top defense and offense:

Much of that hinges on Jones, as it does Ohio State lead back Ezekiel Elliott. The sophomore has rushed for 1,182 yards and 10 scores this season on a 6.0 yard-per-carry average but faces the toughest challenge of his season with Wisconsin so focused on stopping him.

In turn, the focal point for Ohio State suddenly comes on the defensive side of the ball.

The Buckeyes may rank 29th defensively, but just last season the unit did the unthinkable and held Gordon in check. Wisconsin rushed for just 104 yards, its lowest total in any game over the course of the past two seasons.

For Buckeyes defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, the task at hand boils down to the fundamentals.

"In order to stop a running game, you've got to have great team defense, you've got to surround the ball, you've got to build a wall at the line of scrimmage, you've got to swarm tackles," Fickell said, per The Associated Press (via ESPN.com).

Not only does it sound simple, the Buckeyes have already proved they can do it. 

Except it is never that easy with Gordon this year.

Gordon has rushed for 200 or more yards in five games this season and has 31 rushes of 20 yards or more, good for a higher total than 118 of 124 teams. As ESPN's Joe Schad points out, the Heisman contender turns up his play against strong competition, too:

Joey Bosa and the Ohio State defense have a lot of work to do, to say the least. It at least helps, though, that the unit will not need to worry about Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave (1,042 yards, eight touchdowns, four interceptions) all that much.

When they do, the Buckeyes just so happen to rank 11th in the nation with 37 sacks on the season.

That said, the unit is in its worst stretch of the season at the moment considering its last four opponents have scored 37, 24, 27 and 28 points, respectively. Going into a matchup with a player as talented as Gordon, that places a shadow of doubt over whether or not the Buckeyes can beat the Badgers at their own game.

If Saturday was Jones' second or third start, perhaps it would be easier to roll with the Buckeyes. But his first start comes in a conference title game against a Top 15 team that can control the pace of the game with a Heisman contender on the ground.

This time Gordon will have his revenge. The collective stress level of the CFP committee will be in great debt to the man, too.

Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Ohio State 24

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

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Tyron Johnson Tweets Top 5: Which Program Is Best Fit for 5-Star WR?

Top Louisiana prospect Tyron Johnson is among the most heavily pursued offensive playmakers leading up to national signing day. The 5-star receiver provided some insight on where he currently stands in the process Friday morning, tweeting his top-five list:

Johnson, a 6'1", 191-pound playmaker from Warren Easton High School in New Orleans, included in-state powerhouse LSU. The Tigers must contend with SEC opponents Auburn and Georgia, along with Big 12 teams Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.

Rated second nationally among receivers and 21st overall in 247Sports' composite rankings, Johnson could provide immediate big-play ability at the university of his choice. The Under Armour All-American has tallied more than 1,500 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns while leading Warren Easton to a state title game appearance, per James Smith of NOLA.com.

He is also a top kick returner in the 2015 class.

Now that we know which teams are vying for his commitment, let's take a closer look at each option.

 

Auburn

Johnson labeled Auburn his "leader" in early November and spent time on campus this summer. However, he was unable to follow through with a scheduled official visit last month due to high school playoff commitments.

It remains to be seen whether Gus Malzahn will successfully schedule a makeup date with Johnson. Auburn holds a commitment from top-ranked junior college running back Jovon Robinson and is looking to also secure a standout downfield target in this class.

Along with Johnson, the team remains in the mix for fellow 5-star receiver Chrsitian Kirk. The Tigers may need to replace a significant portion of production in the passing game, as top targets D'haquille Williams and Sammie Coates could both consider leaving early for the NFL.

Senior Quan Bray ranks second on the team in receptions.

If Williams and Coates remain on campus, Johnson wouldn't necessarily need to step up until 2016. Several offensive recruits are enamored with Malzahn's attack, and Johnson is at least very interested.

 

Georgia

Mark Richt and his staff have made receiver a priority position during this recruiting cycle. The Bulldogs landed 4-star pass-catcher Darius Slayton earlier this week, giving the team five prospects who are expected to end up at receiver next year.

Georgia has received underwhelming returns from recent signees at the position. Throw in the fact that leading receivers Michael Bennett and Chris Conley are seniors and it becomes apparent that additional depth is needed.

The Bulldogs have a young stockpile of talent in the offensive backfield and already hold a commitment from heralded 2016 quarterback Jacob Eason. Johnson would further enhance the future potential for an abundance of points, but Georgia has done an excellent job addressing its issues at receiver to this point.

 

LSU

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron aims to add to his impressive collection of in-state receivers and Johnson is the latest prize up for grabs. Last signing day, the Tigers landed Louisiana targets in 5-star prospect Malachi Dupre and all-time high school receptions leader Trey Quinn.

The duo have made a modest impact this season as LSU's passing game has largely sputtered due to inconsistent quarterback play. Sophomore Travin Dural is the only player who caught more than 20 passes during the regular season, a far cry from past LSU attacks that featured an abundances of NFL prospects.

That statistic may scare off receiver targets, but Johnson is comfortable with the Tigers staff. He's been on LSU's radar for a long time and holds substantial relationships with coaches and players alike.

However, we saw 5-star New Orleans receiver Speedy Noil spurn the team for Texas A&M last signing day and he's enjoyed immense success beyond state borders. Odds are in favor of Johnson taking a similar route.

 

Oklahoma State

The Cowboys have been known as a prolific passing team in recent years, highlighted by the success of eventual first-round NFL picks Dez Bryant and Justin Blackmon. The downfield attack isn't operating with nearly as much efficiency this season, but a weapon like Johnson could reinvigorate things.

Oklahoma State is still searching for an elite receiver in this cycle and coaches are likely doing all they can to line up an official visit with the New Orleans star. If the team can get him on campus for a weekend, its chances of actually pulling in his signature improve exponentially.

However, as along as he remains a stranger, there probably isn't a bigger long shot on this list than the Cowboys.

 

Texas Tech

The Red Raiders were an early leader in this race and remain a strong contender despite the program's disappointing season. Texas Tech fans are still largely fired up about the team's future with former quarterback Kliff Kingsbury leading the way, and that excitement extends into recruiting.

Texas Tech is on the verge of landing one of its strongest classes, headlined by Jarrett Stidham. The 5-star quarterback threw for more than 60 touchdowns throughout his past two seasons at Stephenville High School in Texas, surpassing 900 rushing yards during each campaign.

Johnson and Stidham could form a prolific duo for years to come in Lubbock. Aside from Oklahoma State, the Red Raiders presents his best option for emerging as a No. 1 target in 2015.

With Stidham on board, give the team a slight edge. Texas Tech is the top choice and best fit for Johnson two months shy of signing day.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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