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B/R 5th Down: LSU Bride Trolls Alabama Groom, OSU Player Used as Tackling Dummy

Editor's note: Bleacher Report's 5th Down captures the top social media college football stories of the week. As this long, bitter offseason continues, we'll focus on moments from the schools, coaches and players that kept us entertained as we wait for actual college football to make its highly anticipated return.

 

1. Sweet sabotage for one Alabama-LSU couple

Love knows no boundaries, including college football fandom. This is especially true of LSU fan Alexa DuBois and her new husband, Alabama fan Mike Portillo.

But DuBois couldn't help but pull off a rivalry-themed prank of Portillo on their wedding day.

Portillo's wedding cake was decorated with Alabama's colors and even featured a large Crimson Tide logo in the middle. However, when Portillo cut into the icing, the cake was revealed to be colored with the famous purple and gold of LSU, shown here by WBRC FOX6 News' Rick Karle:

According to Julie Boudwin of NOLA.com, DuBois continued the prank of her new husband by getting the DJ to play the Tigers fight song, which prompted a loud "LSU" chant from those in attendance.

There's no doubt this new couple will be ready for November 5, when the Tide visit the Tigers in Death Valley. DuBois might have won on her wedding day, but Portillo could get all the bragging rights in this divided household with a sixth straight Alabama victory.

 

2. Raekwon McMillan gets trucked as J.T. Barrett does his best Bachelor impression

Ohio State hosted a football clinic for women Sunday, and two of its star players—linebacker Raekwon McMillan and quarterback J.T. Barrett—found themselves in completely different situations at the event.

McMillan got up close and personal with some of the clinic's participants. The Ohio State middle linebacker was a human tackling dummy, and the Buckeyes posted this video of McMillan taking the brunt of one huge hit:

Barrett received the better end of the deal at the clinic, as he was a popular figure to those in attendance. The team's Twitter account took a guess at a possible TV future for the starting quarterback:

(I'm sure Bleacher Report's own Barrett Sallee and a surprisingly large section of College Football Twitter appreciates the Bachelor reference from the Buckeyes.)

Head coach Urban Meyer dished out some punishment of his own at the clinic when two participants showed up wearing blue. The color of rival Michigan just isn't allowed at Ohio State—except for one special occasion—as these two women quickly found out by having to do pushups on stage:

At least their fate was still better than McMillan's.

 

3. Charlie Strong lands at the wrong airport

After a pair of rough seasons to open his tenure as Texas head coach, Charlie Strong is trying to get the Longhorns on the right course.

If Strong's trip to Houston last Friday was any indication, that process is still ongoing.

According to Ryan Autullo of the Austin American-Statesman, Strong showed up late to his scheduled appearance at the Houston Touchdown Club because the plane he was on landed at the wrong airport:

The city of Houston has two major airports, Bush and Hobby, so Strong had to do a little more traveling than he expected. As Alex Chippin of The Score noted, the extra flight was fitting for a coach whose favorite phrase on Twitter is "#LetsRide."

However, Strong's arrival was worth the wait for those in attendance. According to Evan Basha of KPRC-TV, Strong told the Touchdown Club that Texas was working on bringing back the football rivalry with Texas A&M:

The Longhorns and the Aggies haven't met since 2011, the year before Texas A&M left the Big 12 to join the SEC. Rumors of restoring the series have gone on since the departure, but Strong's statement could be a signal of something concrete.

Hopefully by the return of the rivalry, Strong can get his plane pointed in the right direction so he can take on Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and his famous helicopter.

 

4. Rutgers secret society declares war on Jim Harbaugh

Speaking of Michigan, the Wolverines and their head coach were the subjects of one of the weirdest offseason stories to date.

Last week, Michigan hosted a satellite camp at Paramus Catholic High School in New Jersey, the alma mater of star three-way player Jabrill Peppers. New Jersey school and Big Ten rival Rutgers had some supporters who weren't happy about Harbaugh's trip to the Garden State.

According to Keith Sargeant of NJ.com, a secret society called the "Order of Bulls Blood" pranked Paramus Catholic by putting Rutgers magnets and, strangely enough, a teddy bear on the school's football field. The group also wrote messages on the campus' sidewalks with chalk:

In addition to the pranks, the Order of Bulls Blood sent a letter to Harbaugh—which has a NSFW message in the first letters of each paragraph—that quickly made the rounds on social media:

Harbaugh responded to the message in the most Harbaugh way possible:

Michigan visits Rutgers on October 8. There's no word yet if the teddy bear will make another appearance. 

 

5. Dan Mullen fires Twitter shot at Michigan

Rutgers wasn't the only school that tried to get under Michigan's skin this past week.

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen fired a much friendlier shot at the Wolverines on Twitter after taking part in a satellite camp in Pearl, Mississippi, that included Harbaugh:

The Bulldogs' Gator Bowl blowout victory on New Year's Day in 2011 capped a 7-6 campaign for the Wolverines under then-head coach Rich Rodriguez. Four days later, Rodriguez was fired.

Unfortunately, Harbaugh didn't have much ammo with which he could fire back, as the Gator Bowl is the only meeting all-time between Michigan and Mississippi State. The winningest program in college football history is winless against the Bulldogs from Starkville.

But if the two coaches happen to square off in the future, don't expect Harbaugh to forget about the latest yet lighthearted volley in the ongoing war between Michigan and the SEC.

 

6. Alabama freshman LB shows off massive new tattoo

Lyndell "Mack" Wilson is proud of where he's from and where he's going to play his college football.

Wilson, a native of Alabama's capital of Montgomery, recently enrolled in Tuscaloosa to play for the Crimson Tide. The 5-star outside linebacker showcased his Alabama pride by tweeting out a quick video of his new forearm tattoo:

The new ink should win over Tide fans everywhere, and there's a good chance Wilson will come up with some sort of celebration to show off the massive "ALABAMA" across his arm whenever he makes big plays down the road.

Wilson made the right call in getting the tattoo after he signed and enrolled at Alabama. Maybe new teammate and fellow linebacker Reuben Foster warned him about doing it too early.

 

7. Oregon WR Devon Allen is still insanely fast

Oregon's football program is home to some of the fastest players in the country, thanks to the influence of the Ducks' legendary track program.

Ducks wide receiver Devon Allen showed why he has a strong claim as the fastest player in college football by winning his second NCAA title in the 110-meter hurdles. CSNNW's Jordan Kent shared a glimpse of Allen's win in front of his home crowd at Hayward Field:

Allen won his first national title in 2014, but a knee injury he suffered in the 2015 Rose Bowl kept him from defending his title last season. After recovering, he's picked up right where he left off on the track.

On the football field, Allen had a quiet 2015 season after recording 684 receiving yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman in 2014.

Perhaps his return to success on the track—he will also compete for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team next month—will signal a return to bigger numbers in an Oregon offense that thrives on world-class speed.

 

8. Reddit user puts college football into the Sorting Hat

College football fans all have their own unique ways of getting through the long offseason. One Reddit user decided to spark some discussion by dividing every FBS team into houses from the Harry Potter book series.

Reddit user bakonydraco, who sports Stanford flair by his name, placed every team in the top subdivision into four categories related to the fictional houses. Here are bakonydraco's explanations for each house:

Gryffindor values bravery, daring, nerve, and chivalry. To measure this, I used winning percentage from 2006-2015 against Top 10 teams, courtesy of BCF Toys

Slytherin house values ambition, cunning and resourcefulness. To measure this, I used /u/Drunken_Wanderer's data from last year on revenue by FBS team.

Ravenclaw values intelligence, knowledge, and wit. To measure this, I counted the CFB Academic All Americans through last year as compiled by /u/jdchambo/u/nickknx865 and I last summer.

Hufflepuff values hard work, dedication, patience, loyalty, and fair play. Hufflepuff gets the leftovers the very nice teams.

The Reddit CFB Twitter account tweeted out a snapshot of the team-by-team results for the exercise, which was inspired by a comment from the always-entertaining Belk Bowl:

A lot of these results—Alabama and Texas in Slytherin, Stanford and Notre Dame in Ravenclaw—are perfect. But as College GameDay pointed out, who would've predicted Kansas to not be in Hufflepuff? Things are looking up for you, Jayhawks!

 

9. And, finally, a Washington State assistant releases tasty Top 10

One of the biggest trends with recruits is players posting "edits," or Photoshopped images of themselves. A lot of times a recruit will post an edit with the logos of the programs he's considering as a way of announcing his finalists.

Washington State linebackers coach Ken Wilson decided to join in the edit craze by releasing his own top 10. But instead of teams, Wilson went with something more near and dear to the heart of a traveling football coach—fast food restaurants:

Wilson has a list worthy of at least a 4-star rating. I loved his tweet, and since fast food is as important to a sports journalist as much as it is to a college football recruiter, I came up with my own top 10.

I'd like to announce that I have narrowed my fast food finalists down to Chick-fil-A, Cookout, Zaxby's, Sonic, In-N-Out, Bojangles, Whataburger, Dairy Queen, Five Guys and Full Moon BBQ.

What would be in your Wilson-inspired fast food top 10 tweet, 5th Down readers? Let me hear them in the comments below.

 

Justin Ferguson is a National College Football Analyst at Bleacher Report, and he wants to know what position that teddy bear is going to play for Rutgers in 2016. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Breaking Down the Best Offensive Players in Each College Football Conference

Right now is a great time to be an offensive player in college football. The proliferation of the Air Raid and other spread, hurry-it-up offenses have taxed defenses and scoreboards across the nation and made the game far more fun to watch than the staid, by-the-book National Football League.

Players have freedom to thrive, make big plays and score lots of points. Wasn’t Alabama 45, Clemson 40 a lot more fun to watch than Alabama 21, LSU 0 in the 2012 national title game? Of course. There’s a wealth of offensive talent spread across the nation, and five of the top 10 Heisman Trophy vote-getters from 2015 will return this fall.

Want a preview of the best offensive players in America? Here’s a look at the top offensive players in each FBS conference. Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments.

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Tate Martell to Ohio State: Buckeyes Land 4-Star QB Prospect

The Ohio State Buckeyes added one of the elite offensive playmakers in the entire 2017 recruiting class Sunday when quarterback Tate Martell joined the fold.

Martell took to Twitter to announce his decision:

The 5'10 ½" and 203-pound Martell is a 4-star prospect, per 247Sports' composite rankings, and the No. 33 overall player, No. 1 dual-threat quarterback and No. 1 recruit from the state of Nevada in the 2017 class.

While Martell is a Las Vegas native, he generated interest from across the nation as a top-notch prospect. National powerhouses such as Ohio State, Alabama, USC and Michigan were all on his 247Sports college list, and he originally committed to Texas A&M before he reopened his recruitment in May.

There was plenty of drama surrounding Martell's decommitment from the Aggies, as Connor Tapp of 247Sports noted Texas A&M assistant coach Aaron Moorehead apologized for sending critical tweets after Martell decommitted. Tapp explained: "Moorehead's tweets criticized Martell—without mentioning him by name—for lacking loyalty and accountability."

Kevin Wade of Scout.com reported in April that Martell planned to use all of his official visits even before he decommitted from Texas A&M, which indicated he was still open-minded about his collegiate future.

Martell's choice to join the Buckeyes comes after the 247Sports' "crystal ball" predictions were split on May 5, with 42 percent going to Ohio State, 38 percent going to Texas A&M, 12 percent going to USC and eight percent going to California.

Hudl.com shared some of his highlights from his junior campaign that displayed his overwhelming talent that enticed so many blue-chip programs to pursue him during his recruiting cycle:

Scout.com provided a breakdown of Martell's game and pointed out he "is accurate on the short, intermediate and deep throws." Martell can hit wide receivers all over the field, but his athleticism also helps him stand out because he can escape pressure in the pocket or pick up first downs with his legs when plays break down.

Scout.com also listed "poise and leadership" as strengths for Martell, which will help him earn the respect of his new teammates from the early stages of his college career. If he fulfills his potential from a talent perspective and continues to be an on-field leader from the quarterback spot, Martell may be the face of a talented Buckeyes squad in the near future.

247Sports ranked Ohio State's 2017 class No. 1 in the country, and it only got stronger with Sunday's news.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Keldrick Carper to Texas A&M: Aggies Land 4-Star Athlete

The Texas A&M Aggies received a commitment for the class of 2017 on Sunday from 4-star athlete Keldrick Carper.

Carper announced his decision on his Twitter account.    

According to 247Sports' Brian Perroni, Carper's top four schools were Arkansas, Miami, Notre Dame and Texas A&M. 

Standing at 6'3" and 185 pounds, Carper is the 23rd-ranked athlete in his class and the 12th-ranked prospect in Louisiana. He is likely to play at cornerback or wide receiver in college, but Perroni sees Carper playing on the defensive side of the ball.

"He will likely play in the secondary for A&M, much in the same role that Donovan Wilson currently plays," Perroni wrote.

Head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff are recruiting Louisiana well recently, as TexAgs' Billy Liucci noted:

Travis Etienne, a 3-star running back, is the other commit from Louisiana. 

The Aggies already have a deep receiving group that features Christian Kirk, Speedy Noil, Ricky Seals-Jones and Josh Reynolds, so Carper would have a quicker path to the field playing defense.

Should he play in the secondary, Carper will join a unit that only allowed 161.3 passing yards per game last season, which was fourth-best nationally. Gridiron Now's Cavender Neutze noted the unit will be strong again this season, as numerous key pieces from last season are returning.

Carper is a big and athletic player who could develop into a force at cornerback or safety. He has the size to cover bigger receivers and tight ends while also possessing the speed and quickness to stay with slot receivers. Expect Carper to become an immediate contributor for the Aggies because of his versatility. 

 

Recruiting information and star rankings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

Statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com. 

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Tennessee Football Recruiting: What Maleik Gray's Commitment Means for the Vols

With one huge tweet Sunday afternoon, Maleik Gray single-handedly flipped the narrative on Tennessee's sputtering recruiting returns for the 2017 class.

Now there's renewed reason for excitement for the Volunteers' recruiting class as summer camp begins to heat up.

The 6'2", 186-pound safety from La Vergne, Tennessee, is the nation's fifth-rated player at his position and No. 57 overall, according to the 247Sports' composite rankings. In a loaded year for talent within state boundaries, he is the fourth-rated player in Tennessee.

He chose UT over Florida State, Clemson, Georgia, Alabama, USC and many others, and his commitment surged Tennessee up 14 spots in 247Sports' recruiting rankings to 22nd.

"They have just been there since [Day 1]," Gray told VolQuest's Brent Hubbs and Austin Price. "I enjoy everything about Tennessee. I love it football-wise. I love it academically. It's just always felt like home."

That breeze from the Smoky Mountains was a sigh of relief from UT fans who follow recruiting religiously when Gray's commitment became public. Though Vols head coach Butch Jones can't mention Gray by name, he sent out a celebratory tweet with an obvious connection to the news:

Thus far, things haven't added up for the Volunteers in in-state recruiting for 2017. UT looks like it's trending upward on the field following 2015's 9-4 campaign, and Jones has been steadily increasing the Vols' win total each year in Knoxville.

With Tennessee losing a lot of talent to the NFL draft following the '16 season and with this being arguably the best crop of Volunteer State talent in a decade (if not ever), the casual football fan may think Jones would be racking up commitments on the recruiting trail.

After all, he's done a banner job of keeping top players at home in his first three full recruiting classes.

But, for whatever reason, things haven't gone that way just yet.

The Vols are right in the thick of things for multiple top-notch Tennessee high schoolers, but Gray is just the second player from Tennessee on the Vols' current commitment list, joining kicker Brent Cimaglia.

Elite Oak Ridge receiver Tee Higgins pledged early to UT but backed off that commitment, even though he recently referred to the Vols as his current leader, per 247Sports' Ryan Callahan.

Two players the Vols wanted—receiver Amari Rodgers and running back Cordarrian Richardson—chose Clemson over Tennessee. Also, UT was dealt a significant blow this week when defensive tackle Rutger Reitmaier selected Oregon after long referring to Tennessee as his leader.

So Gray's commitment was needed if for no other reasons than perception and momentum. But it's bigger than that. Let's take a look at why it was such a big deal.

 

Where's the Gray Area?

The best thing about getting a player of Gray's caliber is his immense upside. He's an elite defender who is big, rangy and fast. Though he's listed at 186 pounds, he probably tips the scales at a bit more than that, and he possesses a projectable frame that can hold more weight.

Rivals.com analyst Woody Wommack told VolQuest's Paul Fortenberry that Gray plans to focus exclusively on playing safety this year, which should help him hone his skills at the position.

But like many of UT's more exciting recruits in recent years—such as Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Jauan Jennings, Tyler Byrd and Jonathan Kongbo—Gray isn't just pigeonholed into one spot. His versatility is an asset to his game.

He's athletic enough to play cornerback, which he has done at the high school level. He also has the frame and strength to grow into a linebacker.

That's the type of versatility UT defensive coordinator Bob Shoop covets and the kind the coach has been able to exploit throughout his career leading defenses.

Gray can play sideline-to-sideline, or he can step up and be a force in the box. He has the chance to be a prototype safety at the next level.

Yes, the Vols are currently loaded at that position. But when you factor in the fact that Todd Kelly Jr. will be entering his final season in Knoxville by the time Gray steps foot on campus, playing time will be there for the taking on the back level.

Scout.com analyst Chad Simmons discussed Gray's lofty ceiling upon his commitment to the Vols:

He really can run and close on the football with the best of them. He is used on blitzes, and he is very effective there. Coverage is not a true strength of his, but he is solid there. He can improve his footwork and his recognition in coverage. When he makes a tackle, he tackles with pop. He knows how to tackle through the opponent. Overall, Gray is a playmaker on defense.

After favoring Florida State and USC throughout his recruitment, the Vols did some stellar work to get back in the mix and storm to the lead for Gray's services. Other teams won't stop recruiting him, but to get Gray in the fold this early is big.

 

Will Gray Equal Momentum?

Peer recruiting is pivotal these days, and the Vols have witnessed plenty of examples of that against them so far in this cycle, as Rodgers and former quarterback commitment Hunter Johnson will try to lure Volunteer State prospects away from the state to play with them at Clemson.

Gray could be a huge boost for the Vols in reversing those efforts to steer Tennessee kids away from UT.

He plays with a lot of highly ranked and heavily recruited players on Tennessee's radar, especially those around the Nashville area.

Guys like running back Ty Chandler, Oakland safety JaCoby Stevens, offensive tackle Obinna Eze and La Vergne receiver Princeton Fant run in the same circles as Gray. Fant and Gray play at the same high school and have been on several visits to UT together.

If Gray is a vocal recruiter and alpha dog for the Vols on the trail, he could get the attention of those guys and perhaps even Higgins and Smith, who are also among the best prospects in the state.

When you have so many national recruits within state borders like Tennessee does this year, it's tough to get a lot of early commitments, but Jones has positioned his Vols nicely with a lot of the in-state players.

It just has to yield signees. Second place never matters in recruiting.

When the recruiting efforts pay off like Gray's did Sunday, that gets other prospects listening. It's a nice time for Tennessee to be building momentum with the Orange Carpet Day recruiting event coming up next week and several other summer camps on the docket.

Maybe Gray can be present at those events, and that will be another orange-toned voice to urge others to follow in his footsteps.

Having an Under Armour All-American like Gray in the fold doesn't just lead to in-state success; it also sends shock waves around the nation.

Jones has too strong of a track record in recruiting throughout his time in Knoxville to think the Vols will be down that long in the rankings. Gray could be that catalyst to get the prospects off the fence—much like Jalen Hurd and Todd Kelly Jr. were a couple of years ago.

Last year, the Vols didn't target a lot of players within the Volunteer State, so there weren't any momentum-swinging prospects needed, but that's not the case in the '17 cycle.

The Vols desperately need to keep the elite players at home with so much talent cycling out if they want to start their own run of competing for championships every year.

Gray is the type of player UT needs to lure if it is going to play at a high level.

 

All quotes and information gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information gathered from 247Sports unless otherwise noted. All stats gathered at CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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Luiji Vilain to Michigan: Wolverines Land 4-Star DE Prospect

Luiji Vilain has been one of the most sought-after high school football prospects in the country for some time now, and the Michigan Wolverines received a boost Sunday when the 4-star defensive end made his commitment official. 

Vilain announced his decision with a post on Twitter:    

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Vilain is the 102nd-ranked player in the class of 2017 and the eighth-ranked weak-side defensive end among all 2017 recruits. He's also the third-ranked player in the state of Virginia. 

A native of Canada who played his high school ball at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia, Vilain turned heads thanks to his size and his speed off the edge.    

"Luiji is really fast off the edge," Vilain's Canadian mentor and trainer, Victor Tedondo, said in 2014, per NJ Advance Media's Todderick Hunt. "Right now, he's about 6'3 ½", 230 pounds. And he's long, long arms and his speed off the edge is phenomenal. He's not gonna be moving inside any time soon. He's gonna be a kid suitable for a 4-3 defense as a defensive end."

Now 6'4" and 240 pounds, per 247Sports, Vilain has the look of a dynamic speed-rusher off the edge who can wreak havoc with an arsenal of spin and swim moves.

And while he could stand to expand that repertoire by learning how to utilize his power to supplement tremendous speed, there's plenty of time for that development to occur at the next level. 

Vilain may still be a tad rough around the edges, but he has the raw physical tools necessary to evolve into a pass-rushing force when he starts suiting up for the Maize and Blue on Saturdays. 

 

Recruit and star rankings courtesy of 247Sports

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Maleik Gray to Tennessee: Volunteers Land 4-Star Athlete Prospect

Maleik Gray has been torching opposing defenses at LaVergne High School for years, and he announced Sunday that he'll look to continue that trend at Tennessee after making his commitment official. 

Gray announced the news on Twitter:

The 4-star athlete is the fourth-ranked player in the state of Tennessee and the fifth-ranked safety in the Class of 2017, per 247Sports' composite rankings. Among all 2017 recruits, he occupies the 57th overall spot. 

At 6'1 ½" and 195 pounds, Gray proved capable of bursting through holes in a flash or powering over defenders with some surprising strength. 

A dynamic weapon out of the backfield, Gray is the sort of game-breaker who can be utilized in a variety of fashions. Not only can he take direct handoffs and read defenses before bursting through the line, but he can torch defenses as a receiver via screen passes or wheel routes.

However, Bleacher Report's Brad Shepard noted he's strong enough to potentially play linebacker at the next level. And he possibly has the most upside as a safety, as Scout.com offered in its analysis of the player:

Gray spends a lot of time inside the box on the high school level, but he will likely start out in the secondary at safety in college. He could become a hybrid due to his size, his ability to play the run, and how effective he can be used in blitz packages. He really can run and close on the football. He plays with great instincts and he stays around the ball. Gray is very athletic and he shines at running back and wide receiver some as well. His home is on defense in the future.

But regardless of where he lines up, there's plenty to like about Gray's upside.

The physicality he flashed repeatedly in high school bodes well for his ability to make a smooth transition to the college game as the speed and size of his opponents become more daunting.  

Tennessee does have solid depth in the secondary, with Cameron Sutton, Evan Berry, Justin Martin, Emmanuel Moseley, Malik Foreman, Rashaan Gaulden, Marquill Osborne, D.J. Henderson, Nigel Warrior, Tyler Byrd and Baylen Buchanan all vying for playing time.

But Gray's versatility will certainly help him carve out a role at Tennessee, even if the team's defensive backfield remains crowded once he heads to campus.

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College Football Blue Bloods That Seemingly Never Play Each Other on the Field

Ohio State, Texas and Tennessee compete on the recruiting trail, but the actual teams never seem to take the field against each other. That's a regular theme for college football's blue-blood programs.

First, we should answer the all-important question, "What is the definition of a blue-blood program?"

The 10 best all-time winning percentages from schools with a long history of football compose the list. That includes Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Alabama, Texas, USC, Nebraska, Penn State and Tennessee. Sorry, Boise State.

Plus, the list is divided into a few subsections, including the number of all-time games and longest droughts—both during the regular season and overall.

Note: Not every matchup will be highlighted. Most every college football fan knows the annual matchups, like Michigan and Ohio State, Oklahoma and Texas or Alabama and Tennessee.

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Shi Smith to South Carolina: Gamecocks Land 4-Star Athlete Prospect

Highly touted athlete Shi Smith made his collegiate decision Saturday, as the South Carolina native announced his commitment to the South Carolina Gamecocks.

He made his commitment official with the following tweet:

Smith is a 4-star recruit who ranks as the No. 14 athlete, No. 2 player from South Carolina and No. 244 prospect overall in the Class of 2017, according to 247Sports.

The Union County High School standout received multiple scholarship offers during his recruitment, including strong pitches from South Carolina, Clemson and Alabama, per 247Sports.

While he certainly had a difficult choice on his hands, he admitted in February that the Gamecocks offered an extremely enticing situation thanks to head coach Will Muschamp's commitment to putting him in situations to succeed, according to to Phil Kornblut of the State:

I talked to Coach Muschamp and he said he wants me to say in state and the players they've gotten in state have made Carolina better. I've been to Carolina a lot of times and I've seen about everything there is to be shown. We were in Coach Muschamp's office and he showed me how they would use me, a sweep guy inside and outside. He said they would get me matched up with the worst DB on the field.

Smith has been utilized all over the field in high school and will likely continue to be deployed that way in college, but wide receiver figures to be his primary position.

He is a big play waiting to happen, as evidenced by his 50 receptions for 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior, per Kornblut, and that is primarily what made him such a highly sought-after recruit.

Matt Connolly of the State made reference to Smith's ability to be a game-changer following his commitment:

According to 247Sports, he is somewhat diminutive at 5'9.5" and 175 pounds, but he makes up for what he lacks in height with blazing 4.40 speed in the 40-yard dash.

Smith's speed and quickness have set him apart from his peers at the high school level, and while the speed of the game will increase exponentially in college, he still figures to be elite in that particular area.

The do-everything athlete is a threat to go to the house every time he has the ball in his hands, and his commitment represents a major coup for South Carolina because of his game-breaking ability.

While refinement in terms of route running and an even better overall understanding of the wide receiver position could help take Smith to the next level, he will have a chance to make an instant impact based solely on his remarkable physical tools alone.  

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Breakout Player to Watch on Every Power 5 College Football Team in 2016

College football is a very cyclical sport. Every winter, star players move on to the NFL via early entry and graduation, leaving big openings for younger players and reserves to fill. That’s part of the joy of college football for fans; we get to see unheralded talents emerge right before our eyes in spring and early-season games, becoming the next great talent.

Every team has potential breakout players—guys who fill bigger, more prominent roles and make a difference for their respective programs. Here’s a look at a potential breakout player for every Power Five team, as well as Notre Dame. Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.

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Alabama Football: 5 Toughest QBs Crimson Tide Will Face in 2016

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — One of the potential problems that the University of Alabama has in developing defensive game plans for the upcoming 2016 season is that a lot of them might have to be significantly reworked during the weeks and months ahead.

Roughly half of the teams have yet to name a starting quarterback, and in some cases those competing have a very different style of play. 

Mississippi State is a good example. Head coach Dan Mullen doesn’t appear to be close to naming a starter between sophomores Nick Fitzgerald and Elijah Staley, junior Damian Williams and redshirt freshman Nick Tiano.

At this point it wouldn’t be surprising to see all four get playing time and more than one to start before the Bulldogs visit Bryant-Denny Stadium on Nov. 12.

Similarly, Southern California and Auburn will be holding quarterback competitions during training camp (more on that later).

On the flip side, Arkansas has already named Austin Allen its new starter, and Kentucky did likewise with Drew Barker, but Western Kentucky has hit a major snag in trying to replace three-year starter Brandon Doughty. Heir apparent, Nelson Fishback, recently suffered a torn pectoral muscle requiring surgery.

The Hilltoppers visit the Crimson Tide on Sept. 10 (2:20 p.m., ESPN2.)

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Predicting Which Team Will Finish Dead Last in Every CFB Conference in 2016

Every college football team has high hopes during the offseason; that's a given. But in a few months, reality will set in, and we'll start to see the cream rise to the top. And consequently, the dregs will dip to the bottom.

Someone has to finish in last place in every league, but to predict who that will be isn't as easy as you'd think. Just like the top contenders are all susceptible to having a bay day—and thus losing a game—even the worst teams can have luck go their way and pull out a few victories.

Seven of last year's last-place FBS teams went winless in their conferences, while the other three managed to win at least once.

Check out our predictions for who will finish at the bottom in all 10 FBS conferences. For leagues with two divisions, our picks are the teams that will be in last on their sides and will either have a worse record than the other division doormats or will have lost to them in crossover play.

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How Owen Pappoe Became Youngest Recruit Ever to Earn Invite to The Opening

Months before his first varsity tackle, immense expectations surrounded Georgia football standout Owen Pappoe.

Now, a historic invitation to America's premier prospect showcase should set the bar even higher for this 15-year-old phenom.

The Opening, an elite, invite-only event held annually at Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, will feature a rising sophomore for the first time when Pappoe hits the field next month:

Despite expansive accolades about his skill set, Pappoe didn't anticipate the development was even a possibility.

"I was very surprised. No way was I expecting this," he told Bleacher Report. 

Frankly, neither was The Opening staff.

"It definitely wasn't something we were looking to do, in terms of inviting a freshman, but his resume as we got to the end of the year was certainly very strong," Student Sports president Brian Stumpf said. 

Each summer, the most impressive college football recruits assemble in Beaverton for multiple days of testing, on-field and off-field training and a star-studded seven-on-seven tournament. Event alumni include Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott and Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who was the second defensive player selected in the 2016 NFL draft.

Among the 166 top-tier athletes invited to compete July 8-10, only six are underclassmen. In this group, five are headed toward their junior season and aim to eventually emulate recent two-time Opening attendees such as No. 1 overall recruits Rashan Gary (2016 defensive lineman) and Najee Harris (2017 running back).

And then there's Pappoe, who could potentially become the first of his kind—a three-time competitor.

"I'm just going out there to do what I do every day—play football," he said. "I'm not really worried about all the older guys who are ranked high because I want to go against the best of the best so I can prove to everyone what I can do."

Pappoe, who lists himself 6'1", 205 pounds, is predominately viewed as an outside linebacker prospect. However, since he remains in early stages of physical development, he understands his future progression may ultimately push him to safety or even defensive end.

We're looking at a prodigious defensive talent who carries more than 30 scholarship offers, could impact all three levels of a game plan and already spearheads a talent-laden attack at Peach State powerhouse Grayson High School.

"He was a very good player on a very good team as a freshman with over 100 tackles," Stumpf said.

Pappoe's rise to prominence occurred much quicker than he ever imagined. Until seventh grade, he viewed himself as a basketball player.

"I've only been playing football for three years so I never thought I'd make it to this point," Pappoe admitted.

He credits youth football coach Kenyatta Watson for convincing him to give the sport a shot. After some initial acclimation, the young playmaker found his groove and hasn't looked back since.

"It was kind of like hitting the ground running," Pappoe said. "I got all the jitters and butterflies out during those first summer practices."

Just a year after his introduction to football, he recorded 50 tackles—21 for loss—with 17 sacks and 16 touchdowns as an eighth-grader, according to Wesley Sinor of AL.com. Intrigue swiftly surfaced among coaching staffs across college football.

During a 10-day stretch in April 2015, when Pappoe was in the process of wrapping up middle school, offers arrived from Auburn, Miami, Boston College and Tennessee.

Still months shy of entering a high school classroom, he became the country's most coveted 2019 football prospect.

"I really didn't let it get into my head," Pappoe said. "It never felt like I needed to prove the offers weren't just all hype. That's not how I looked at it. All I needed to do was play ball."

He created his own hype last fall with a sensational freshman campaign and continued to turn heads on the camp circuit. Pappoe commanded attention from The Opening staff during a March 20 regional camp in Atlanta.

"At the camp we saw him, he was a top 2-3 linebacker in position drills," Stumpf said. "That was a regional camp that ended up producing six other Opening invites at linebacker. He also finished our tour with the highest Nike football athletic rating for a linebacker (128.22)."

Physical measurements and attributes aside, Pappoe approaches the game with the vigor of a veteran. 

"I play very fast, smart and physical," he said. "I'm great in open space. That's one of my best things, open-field tackling. I can come downhill too and make plays, or make an impact against the passing game."

Pappoe undoubtedly faces a lengthy whirlwind of a recruiting process that won't conclude until winter 2019, setting the stage for plenty of travel and countless conversations with several coaches who will change jobs during this duration.

Pappoe reports he's already journeyed to approximately 20 college campuses this year. Though he has high-level interest in various schools, including Miami, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Clemson and Kentucky, don't expect an extremely early outcome here.

"I'm not going to rush into any big decisions," he said. "I was about to come out with a top-five list a couple months ago but I talked to my parents the night before and we decided not to close any opportunities just yet. It's still very early in this process so it's important to take my time with it."

The spotlight will grow even brighter in July when he joins America's elite athletes at The Opening, where some participants are 18 years old. Despite years of hesitation to include someone Pappoe's age, the staff simply couldn't ignore his accomplishments.

"When we factor [season and camp performance] together, again it wasn't something we were looking for, the kid did everything that was asked of him going to a level beyond as a freshman. He earned a spot to come out and compete," Stumpf said.

Pappoe, becoming more comfortable with life as a high-profile prospect, plans to take it all in stride. He has work to do, in Beaverton and beyond.

"I play like I have no offers," Pappoe said. "If you come into a game thinking about how good you are because of all your offers, you're not going to play to the best of your ability. Rankings and offers don't matter on the field so I just give it all I got."

 

All quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Coaches Who Will Get off the Hot Seat in 2016-17

The hot-seat talk eventually comes for almost every head coach in college football. Yesterday's hottest names can quickly cool off with a bad season or two, changing their job security in a heartbeat. Others tasked with massive rebuilding jobs can see their clocks run out well before the task is complete.

With skyrocketing pressure and high demands from supporters, especially in cutthroat Power Five conferences, hot-seat talk can creep up for anyone with underwhelming results.

These seven head coaches have varying levels of heat under their seats right now, but they all have one thing in common: solid potential to get off of them this fall. Thanks to favorable schedules, returning talent or smart assistant hires, these seven hot seat coaches have good chances at keeping their jobs for at least another season.

Let's take a look at these under-pressure head coaches and why they potentially have what it takes to turn their programs around in the 2016 college football season.

Which coach on the hot seat do you think will make the great escape this fall? Think any of these selections have zero chances at survival? Sound off in the comments below.

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Markail Benton Commits to Alabama: 4-Star LB Adds to Impressive Class

Late Thursday evening, Markail Benton was asked about his college future. He went to bed genuinely uncertain.

Friday morning, the Phenix City, Alabama, 4-star linebacker woke up with his mind a little clearer and his psyche much more relaxed.

After weighing options—and reweighing options on multiple occasions—Benton announced his verbal commitment to Alabama early Friday afternoon in front of family, friends, teammates, mentors and colleagues at Central High School.

The commitment was another big one for the Crimson Tide, as Benton chose Alabama over offers from Auburn and Florida State. He is the 12th pledge in Alabama's 2017 class—which is ranked No. 2 nationally.

Benton, a standout at Central High School in Phenix City, called it one of the toughest decisions of his life, as all three schools on his list scored high marks on everything he was looking for in a program. When it was time to make a decision, he said he was solid with his choice.

"I'd be in the bed at night thinking, 'Oh yeah, I'm going to this school.' And then I'd wake up and say, 'I'm going here instead,'" Benton said. "It was a hard decision, but at the end of the day, I thought I made the best decision for me."

Alabama will get a versatile linebacker at 6'2" and 237 pounds. Benton is capable of plugging holes and making beelines to running backs on running plays and covering receivers and tight ends on passing downs.

Benton will join a class that already includes 4-star linebackers in VanDarius Cowan and Gary Johnson. The class also has 5-star offensive prospects in offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood and running back Najee Harris, the nation's top-ranked player.

Benton had 19 offers collectively, including LSU, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Clemson and Ole Miss. He narrowed his choices to a top three of Alabama, Auburn and Florida State on June 2.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Central head coach Jamey DuBose knew about as much as the general public regarding Benton's decision.

"With a lot of my guys, I know what they are going to say, but that's not the case with Markail," DuBose told the Ledger-Enquirer's Michael Niziolek. "He's kept it to himself."

When it was time on Friday, however, Benton was collected in his approach.

Prior to his decision, Benton spoke highly about the prestige of the Alabama coaching staff, which includes head coach Nick Saban, defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and secondary coach Derrick Ansley, who led the charge in recruiting Benton.

"I know with them, I'll get really good coaching," Benton said. "It's just a good program with coaches who know how to win."

Benton continued: "Since I decided to commit, my phone's been blowing up [like] crazy. My Twitter, my Instagram, everything's been blowing up. Lately, I've had to turn my phone off just to think about where I wanted to go. Coaches have been trying to talk to me all week, but I haven't been dealing with it much. They all have been talking to my head coach."

With the decision now made, Benton delivered a message to the Alabama faithful: Expect a playmaker.

"They're getting a dog. You can't get any better than that," Benton said. "I'll be a good inside linebacker on first and second down and someone who likes to pass-rush on third down. I'll continue to work hard. There are lots of people you're competing against, so you've got to continue to get after it for the next level."

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: 5 Toughest RBs Fighting Irish Will Face in 2016

The front seven of Notre Dame football in 2016 could be the team's weakness, but the unit has several excellent chances to silence the critics.

In addition to facing college football's most versatile running back, the Fighting Irish will attempt to contain two of the nation's most dangerous tandems and a couple of other standouts.

Although the ranking is subjective, we believe the following players—and duos—will be the toughest for Notre Dame to limit in 2016.

James Butler (Nevada), Matt Dayes (North Carolina State) and Travon McMillian (Virginia Tech) just missed the cut. Who earned a spot?

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How Technology Will Change the Look of College Football as Early as 2017

DESTIN, Fla. — For the most part, college football won't look much different in 2016 than it did in 2015. 

Sure, you'll have centralized replay in some conferences including the SEC and ACC, and targeting calls that were missed live can be called after review in the SEC.

But that's about it, at least from a rules perspective. 

In 2017, though, big change could be coming.

Technological advances within stadiums helped the NCAA approve video to be used inside locker rooms and in coaches boxes as a teaching tool starting in 2017. That rule was initially passed for 2016, but was tabled in order to develop guidelines that ensure that it's applied consistently throughout all levels of college football, as well as between home and road teams.

"There's interest and concern about how that's deployed," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said at spring meetings earlier this month. "A consistent opportunity, whether you're the home or visiting team, to have that technology—televisions and monitors—in coaches booths or in locker rooms. That's the interest. What's the technology and how can it be consistent between both teams."

As it stands, teams will be allowed to go into the locker rooms at halftime and show players film of mistakes they've made, tendencies of opponents and plans for the second half starting in 2017. Similar technology—including the use of tablets—can be used by coaches in the press box. 

"What everybody thinks was a subtle thing, I think is going to be one of the greatest game-changers in college football history," Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said. "Right now, we don't use any electronic devices. The crazy part of this is that, I sat on the rules committee five years ago, and listened to the national high school director talk about their use of computers, and we're still using Etch-a-Sketch."

Bielema joked that a player could conceivably head to the locker rooms and "use the facilities" during a break in the action or while the other unit is on the field, and get a quick look at a mistake he made. That's one loophole the sport is looking to avoid, even though it's more of a theoretical problem than an actual one.

South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp was asked if he would send his entire defense into the locker room to look at film between series'—a notion that garnered a sarcastic response.

"Nah, we might throw a pick, so we gotta have the defense ready to go," he said.

Right now, that technology is limited to locker rooms and press boxes. Change could be coming on the sidelines, though.

The NFL has used still images for decades, and recently brought tablets into the fold to display still images on the bench. While no specifics regarding sideline use of technology have been passed in the college game yet, coaches are hopeful that changes prior to the start of the 2017 season.

"A lot of focus about in-helmet communication, potentially for the 2017 season," Sankey said following the coaches meeting in Destin. "Then, if we're going to have technology for coaching purposes, what might that be? If we're going to access to still shots on the sideline—which was mentioned."

For coaches who have spent time in the NFL, similar teaching tools becoming available on the college sideline would be long overdue.

"Still shots, to me—that's all we had [in the NFL]—was very beneficial," Muschamp said. "Just from splits and sets offensively, and being able to quickly go through things and visualize for the players."

As of now, Muschamp won't get his wish, and college football will be stuck in the technological dark ages. 

As for in-helmet communication, the SEC coaches voted unanimously to allow radio devices in the ear of the helmets of one offensive player (the quarterback) and defensive player (typically a middle linebacker), which would mirror the rules that exist in the NFL.

"I'm for anything technology wise," said former South Carolina quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator G.A. Mangus. "Being someone that likes to go quickly, I wouldn't have to worry about 15 second cutoff because the ball will be snapped most of time before then. It gives another mode to calling plays, which is great when looking to change tempos. Young quarterbacks would benefit. Veteran quarterbacks who can change plays, maybe not as much. But crowd noise can still affect ability to hear."

The coaches don't make the final decision, and figuring out the logistics and costs for in-helmet communication is a bit different in a sport like college football that has 128 teams with vastly different revenue streams than it is in the 32-team NFL. 

But steps like video in the booth and locker room are already in the works, and there could be more to come of coaches get their wishes. 

"Technology is there, and it will be a part of the game," Sankey said.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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 SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football: 5 Toughest RBs Buckeyes Will Face in 2016

Ohio State will face a lethally talented crop of running backs this fall—a group that's headlined by Penn State's Saquon Barkley, Oklahoma's Samaje Perine and Northwestern's Justin Jackson.

Stopping (or even limiting) these talented ball-carriers will be a huge challenge for a defense that's replacing eight total starters, five of which are in the front seven. Superstar defensive end Joey Bosa and hole-clogging defensive tackle Adolphus Washington won't be back in 2016, so the Buckeyes need to find game-ready successors right out of the gate.

If co-defensive coordinators Luke Fickell and Greg Schiano fail to do so, these five running backs could shred the Buckeyes defense this season.

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Ranking Best SEC Football Head Coaching Matchups for 2016 Season

In Southeastern Conference football, the head coaches are rock stars.

So while everybody cares most about what happens on the field, there's a bit of a "battle of the bands" atmosphere on message boards and comments sections across the Internet leading up to the games, especially when it comes to coaching decisions.

Right now, Alabama coach Nick Saban owns the bragging rights, and a few new faces like Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze, Florida's Jim McElwain and Tennessee's Butch Jones are trying to take their programs to a level where they can be mentioned among the league's coaching elite.

But with a ton of turnover in the league—Mark Richt getting canned and replaced with former Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, Will Muschamp replacing Steve Spurrier in South Carolina and Barry Odom supplanting Missouri staple Gary Pinkel—there is plenty of wiggle room in league coaching rankings.

This year, a claim will be staked each week as some of the new guys try to prove they belong near the top. Others who were big-time names just a couple of years ago like LSU's Les Miles, Auburn's Gus Malzahn and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin will try to keep the temperature on their seats down.

As always, a lot of games have a lot of ramifications in 2016. There are always the divisional tugs-of-war for a spot in Atlanta, and a cross-divisional game even made this list.

So let's rank the top coaching matchups of the upcoming SEC season. The criteria will be magnitude of the outcome of the game, job ramifications and the fact that every coach can appear on the list just once. 

Here's a look at some of the top coaching grudge matches.

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University of Florida Names Football Field After Former Coach Steve Spurrier

The University of Florida gave its field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium a new name. It will now be Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium after the former player and head coach, the school revealed Thursday:    

Spurrier responded to the news in a statement (via FloridaGators.com writer Scott Carter):

Spurrier began his time at Florida as a quarterback in 1964, and he played in all 30 games over his three years at the school. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1966 after throwing for 2,012 yards and 16 touchdowns as he led Florida to a 9-2 record and an Orange Bowl win. 

After a 10-year NFL career with the San Francisco 49ers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Spurrier worked his way to the sidelines, getting his first head coaching gig at Duke from 1987-1989 before being hired as Florida's head coach in 1991. 

He spent 12 years in Gainesville, where he amassed a 122-27-1 record and won six bowl games. Spurrier's finest coaching moment at the school came in 1996, when he led Florida to a 12-1 record, a 52-20 win over Florida State in the 1997 Sugar Bowl and the national championship. 

It was the school's first national title in program history and the only one Spurrier ever won.

Florida director of athletics Jeremy Foley released a statement on the school's official website about what Spurrier meant to the program: "We feel this was an appropriate way to commemorate one the most legendary figures in Gator athletics history. Coach Spurrier did more than win a Heisman Trophy, a national championship and a bunch of games. Coach Spurrier changed the culture of Florida athletics."

Spurrier wasn't done with coaching when he left Florida in 2002, as he took a head coaching job in the NFL with Washington. But after going 12-20 in two years, he returned to college, coaching South Carolina for 11 years. 

Now Florida will honor Spurrier in its season opener on Saturday, Sept. 3, when it takes on the University of Massachusetts.     

 

Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com

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