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Who Will Be the Secret Weapon for the Florida Gators in 2015?

The Florida Gators enter the 2015 season with a new look. With head coach Jim McElwain in charge, they will try to re-establish their program as a national powerhouse. But who will be their secret weapon?

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee breaks down who will be the X-factor on offense for the Gators.

Who will break out on offense for Florida in 2015? Check out the video and let us know!

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Ohio State Football: Will Backloaded Schedule Spoil Buckeyes' 2015 Playoff Run?

If championships are truly won in November, Ohio State is in for a stiff challenge this fall. 

The Buckeyes, fresh off their improbable tear through the 2014 postseason, are gearing up for another championship run in 2015, but a treacherous November slate that features Minnesota, Michigan State and Michigan could prove to be a significant speed bump along the way.

And if Meyer wants to propel his team into the College Football Playoff for the second consecutive year, he'll likely have to navigate that November stretch unscathed.

Of course, three of the four teams that participated in the first playoff (Ohio State, Oregon and Alabama) brought a lone blemish into the postseason, but all of those defeats were suffered before the first week of October rolled around. 

Other contenders such as Mississippi State, Michigan State and even Ole Miss weren't as fortunate, losing pivotal November games that crushed their chances of making it into the coveted final four.

The Buckeyes are hoping to avoid a similar fate this year. The challenge will start on November 7 with Minnesota. 

These two met last October under frigid Minneapolis conditions, with the temperature dipping to a chilling 15 degrees at kickoff. The Buckeyes scored the first 14 points in each half, but the Gophers battled back before eventually falling 31-24.

"I challenge any team in the country that wants to go ahead and schedule this one in November," Meyer said, according to Dave Campbell of the Star Tribune.

"That was a really great team that we just played," receiver Evan Spencer added, via Campbell.

That really great team will be making the return trip to Columbus this fall, though, and the Buckeyes have more than just home-field advantage on their side. Meyer's squad will be well-rested for the matchup, coming off a nicely timed late-season bye week. The Buckeyes will also have some bulletin-board material to use as motivation.

If the Buckeyes handle Minnesota, they'll get a tuneup game on the road against Illinois—a team they have outscored by an average of 32 points with Meyer at the helm—before the most difficult stretch of the season.

Mark Dantonio and Michigan State have battled Urban Meyer's Buckeyes harder than any team since 2012. Their first matchup three years ago in East Lansing, Michigan, was a defensive slugfest that Ohio State won, 17-16. A year later in the conference title game, Michigan State halted the Buckeyes' 24-game win streak—and their chances of making the BCS title game—with a 34-24 upset.

Ohio State got revenge in Spartan Stadium last November when quarterback J.T. Barrett amassed 386 total yards and five touchdowns in a surprising 49-37 victory. It was a win that validated the Buckeyes as contenders and propelled them back into the playoff conversation.

This year, it will be the Spartans looking for revenge. They'll look to replace key contributors such as tailback Jeremy Langford, defensive end Marcus Rush, safety Kurtis Drummond and cornerback Trae Waynes this fall, but they'll return an excellent core of 14 starters highlighted by quarterback Connor Cook and defensive end Shilique Calhoun. 

The Spartans are so loaded, in fact, that they're projecting as the No. 8 team in the country, according to Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com. And if the Spartans can beat Oregon at home in Week 2, there's a great chance they could invade Columbus as a top-four, undefeated team on November 21.

And just seven days after Ohio State plays in what could be a top-five matchup, they'll have to hit the road to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to face a Michigan team that will be desperate to beat the Buckeyes. 

It will be the first Ohio State-Michigan game with the fiery Jim Harbaugh on the opposite sideline, and it's safe to assume he'll have his team ready to play. The Wolverines have risen to the occasion in each of their last three meetings against Ohio State despite the inferior coaching of Brady Hoke.

With Harbaugh in control and a crazed fanbase in the stands, this year's version of The Game won't be a breeze for Ohio State. 

Will the Buckeyes be up to the task this fall? Will they flex their muscles down the stretch of the season for another run at the playoff?

If the past is any indication, the answer is yes. Ohio State is a perfect 12-0 in November games under Meyer, winning by an average of 20 points per game. But only three of those games came against teams ranked in the top 25, and another three came against the walkover Illini team.

This fall, the Buckeyes could see a trio of top 25 teams in the final month alone. They'll need to be at their best to make it to December. 

 

David Regimbal is the Ohio State football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Predicting the Winner of Each College Football Conference in 2015

Memorial Day is almost upon us, and with it, the beginning of summer. We’re still more than three months away from the kickoff of the 2015 college football season, but we’re not far at all from college football preview magazine season.

Soon, people across America will be picking up glossy magazines at grocery stores and bookstores, soaking up all the information they can find on their favorite teams and their rivals. It’s the perfect time to make predictions, and that’s what we’re doing here. Here’s our guess at who’ll win each major college football conference in 2015.

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Should Auburn or Alabama Be the Favorites in the SEC West?

Alabama is the defending SEC champion, but its bitter intra-state rival Auburn is the team that's generating the most offseason momentum.

By now, you've seen all the Auburn hype. ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach has Auburn losing in a national semifinal, while his colleague Brett McMurphy has the Tigers playing for the national championship against TCU. SportingNews.com's Bill Bender has them losing to the Horned Frogs in the Orange Bowl national semifinal. Steve Lassan of Athlon Sports (via FoxSports.com) says that Auburn could be a "major player in the 2015 playoff."

Hello hype train.

It's looking more and more like Auburn has a legitimate chance of being chosen as the SEC favorite when SEC media days kicks off in Hoover, Alabama, in July.

Why?

A stable quarterback position with junior Jeremy Johnson being named the starter following spring practice and the presence of new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp have a lot to do with it.

"We did lose a lot of quality players who really helped us the last two years," head coach Gus Malzahn said. "Here at Auburn, we want to win championships every year. That's the expectation. From a coaching standpoint, you don't get too caught up in preseason polls."

Should Auburn really be the favorite, though?

No.

Alabama should.

Before we go any further, I'm not using the "Alabama is the defending champ until proven otherwise" rationale. The fluid nature of college football rosters that change from year-to-year makes that argument look incredibly silly and shortsighted.

This is more about Auburn and Alabama being viewed through different lenses in 2015.

Auburn is getting the benefit of the doubt because of Johnson. He's a tremendous quarterback who's in a great system led by Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee that always finds a way to click. But it's not like Johnson being named the starter was breaking news. The quarterback battle on the Plains was a mere formality rather than a true battle.

Defensively, does Muschamp matter that much?

Granted, all Auburn's defense has to be is adequate to contend for the SEC title, but we really don't know much about that defense. Star defensive end Carl Lawson sat out most scrimmages this spring, the interior of the defensive line is still searching for depth behind Montravius Adams, Dontavius Russell and Maurice Swain, and star corner Jonathan Jones recently underwent foot surgery.

Despite that, Muschamp is still getting the benefit of the doubt.

Why isn't Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin?

All he did during his first season as the Crimson Tide offensive coordinator was post a program-best 484.5 yards per game with a quarterback—Blake Sims—who once was a running back during his time in Tuscaloosa. 

Are there roster holes?

Sure, but players like running backs Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake have played plenty of football over the last two seasons, and we already saw Kiffin turn around an offense last spring that was in a much more dire situation than the 2015 edition.

Defensively, you've heard plenty about Alabama's front seven. It's one of the best in college football. The big problem is at the back end, where new defensive backs coach Mel Tucker needs to find someone to step up opposite Cyrus Jones at the other cornerback spot. During the spring game, wide receivers ArDarius Stewart and Robert Foster had a field day, but there weren't many blown coverages and players like Marlon Humphrey and Tony Brown looked comfortable.

That should matter, but it hasn't seemed to click quite yet.

That's not to say that Auburn won't contend. It probably will, and that Iron Bowl matchup in late November on the Plains is shaping up to be a big one. But it seems like the two rivals are being viewed quite differently this offseason, and what counts as momentum for one doesn't even register for the other.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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B/R Exclusive: 4-Star WR Austin Mack Breaks Down His Top 8

Austin Mack is entering the final stretch of a frenzied recruitment with eight college programs still in the mix.

The 4-star Indiana wide receiver revealed his list of favorites Monday morning, setting the stage for a June 7 announcement ceremony:

Mack, a 6'2", 205-pound playmaker from Bishop Luers High School, is rated 20th nationally among receivers in 247Sports' composite rankings. He caught 69 passes for 1,062 yards and 15 touchdowns last fall as a junior.

"I'm an all-around wide receiver who commits to the little things," Mack said. "I'm smart enough to memorize playbooks quickly and execute my assignments, whether I'm blocking downfield or running crisp routes. For a high school player, I'm polished. You can put me anywhere on offense, and I can contribute on special teams. I believe I'm ready to compete in college."

So where will he land at the next level?

"I haven't decided yet," Mack said. "Everyone on that list still has a chance."

Bleacher Report recently caught up with the coveted pass-catcher to discuss each of his eight options. 

 

Alabama

The first of three SEC schools included on Mack's list made a strong impression during his campus visit in late March, when the Crimson Tide formally extended a scholarship offer. As usual, much of the appeal in Tuscaloosa starts with head coach Nick Saban.

"Sitting down with Saban and talking about your future with him is crazy," Mack said. "It's almost like being a little kid and meeting your favorite football player. I've grown up watching him coach on TV, and he's very respected throughout the country. It was really awesome to hear from Saban that I earned a scholarship to play for him."

The three-time national champion has assembled five straight top-rated recruiting classes. A crowded depth chart still seems appealing for Mack based on what he understands about the team's offensive needs.

"Surprisingly, even though they have a lot of talent on the team, there's actually an opportunity to compete early at wide receiver," he said. "Alabama is Alabama. There's nothing else quite like it."

 

Michigan

The Wolverines would love to pair Mack with 4-star Indiana passer Brandon Peters, who became the new regime's first 2016 commit in April. The two have an established relationship that could continue to develop in college.

"Brandon is actually one of my boys, and he's not too far from me here in our home state," Mack said. "We talk all the time, and now, he's really trying to recruit me."

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has hosted him on campus twice since March. Like many Wolverines target on the recruiting trail, Mack admits he's intrigued by the new era in Ann Arbor. 

"Jim Harbaugh, as a person, is great. He's all about what Michigan stands for as far as character," Mack said. "His staff is very impressive, and they're all NFL-caliber guys. The thing that's special with them is I love the coaches."

 

North Carolina

UNC is the only East Coast college program to make the cut on this list. Mack traveled to Chapel Hill earlier in the process and is compelled by the Tar Heels attack.

"That offense is dynamic," he said. "They get the ball in the hands of their playmakers a lot, and that's exactly what you look for as a wide receiver."

Mack also enjoyed the environment that would await him as a student.

"It's a beautiful school and there's a lot to like about the area," he said. "They also made it a point to really talk about the academics at North Carolina, and that stood out to me. It's definitely a university I'm seriously considering."

 

Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish are in the mix for several receivers from across the country in this cycle. Mack is an in-state product who fits the bill for what head coach Brian Kelly looks for at the position.

Dating back to 2011, Notre Dame has signed the top-ranked Indiana prospect each year. Mack, who currently rates second on that list, now enters the crosshairs in South Bend.

"The tradition there is crazy, and its atmosphere is totally different than any other campus," Mack said. "They're all about being prestigious with both football and academics. That's huge for a person like me who really cares about education."

 

Ohio State

The Buckeyes are viewed as a favorite in this race, based on 20 expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball. Ohio State is expected to sign Mack in 90 percent of projections.

"The Ohio State coaching staff has definitely been recruiting me hardest," he said. "They were actually the first really big school to offer me, and they've been hitting me up almost daily since before last signing day when a lot of teams were focused on 2015 guys. That made a big impact."

This longstanding recruitment has resulted in multiple trips to Columbus, including the unique experience of attending Ohio State's national championship celebration in The Horseshoe.

"Columbus is buzzing right now, and there's a lot of energy in that town after the championship," Mack said. "There's nothing like Buckeyes fans. They are absolutely crazy. It's a great place to be."

 

Tennessee

Knoxville is expected to be the final stop in Mack's pre-commitment travel itinerary. He was in town last weekend, getting an up-close look at how Tennessee operates.

"It was a great experience to go down there, spend time with the coaches in person, and see what they had to offer," Mack said. "The football atmosphere is great and I like what the school offers academically. It was a good trip."

Volunteers quarterback commit Jarrett Guarantano was a driving force in convincing Mack to check out Tennessee. He remains in full-on recruiter mode less than three weeks away from the receiver's decision.

"Oh yeah, Jarrett's still talking to me about Tennessee," Mack said. "More than ever."

 

Wisconsin

Mack has an interesting personal connection to the Badgers coaching staff. His wide receivers coach, Dre Muhammad, previously played for Wisconsin wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore when both men were with the Oakland Raiders.

"I know what to expect from his coaching and understand how he can help me develop at the next level," Mack said.

He is a big fan of how the Badgers attack defenses and sees a fit for him within the offensive scheme.

"It's a pro-style offense with a really strong run game that opens things up for receivers," Mack said. "You get an opportunity for a lot of one-on-one matchups against defensive coverages. From a business standpoint, playing football at Wisconsin wouldn't be a bad idea at all."

 

Vanderbilt

The Commodores present another opportunity for Mack to compete in the SEC. Vanderbilt is his second potential landing spot in Tennessee.

"I'm really high on their coaching staff. They might be the most intense college coaches I've met during this recruiting process," he said. "I really enjoy talking with (head coach) Derek Mason and his assistants."

Mack has made education a top priority throughout his search for the right fit. He gives Vanderbilt high marks in that spectrum.

"Academically, they're one of the more prestigious schools," Mack said. "The chance to play in the SEC with those kind of academics is huge." 

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football: Coach Mike Riley's Biggest Challenges for Nebraska in 2015

Mike Riley knew he had a big job on his hands when he took over as Nebraska’s head football coach. But now that spring practice is over, Riley will be focusing on the upcoming 2015 season. As we settle in for a long summer offseason, let’s take a look at three things that will be occupying Riley’s attention as he prepares for the upcoming campaign.

 

What the Quarterback Will Be

Notice the very specific phrasing of this challenge. It’s not who Nebraska’s quarterback will be—all evidence points to junior Tommy Armstrong, absent injury. The bigger question is what the role of quarterback will be in Nebraska’s new offense.

At Oregon State, Riley’s quarterbacks were pure pocket passers. Riley’s most recent signal-caller, Sean Mannion, left Corvallis as the Pac-12’s career passing leader and was a third-round pick by the St. Louis Rams in this year’s NFL draft.

If that’s going to be what Riley is expecting, Armstrong is a bad fit. Mannion had a career 64.6 completion percentage and a 1.43 touchdown-to-interception ratio (according to Sports Reference), while Armstrong has a career 52.9 completion percentage (according to Huskers.com).

But Riley might be changing his expectations of his quarterback. His first quarterback recruit for 2016 (according to 247 Sports) is Terry Wilson, a dual-threat quarterback. Why would Riley be bringing in a dual-threat quarterback if he wanted to move Nebraska into a pocket-passer style of offense?

It’s clear that Armstrong will not be Riley’s Joe Dailey, a run-first quarterback asked to run a pass-heavy offensive scheme. But trying to find that balance between the offense Riley has run with the talent in Lincoln will be one of Riley’s biggest challenges this season.

 

How Nebraska Adapts to a New Defense

Nebraska’s defense will look quite different under new defensive coordinator Mark Banker. As described by Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald, Banker’s Blackshirts will think less, react more and play fast. That’s in stark contrast to former head coach Bo Pelini’s focus on complex schemes and blitzes to keep opposing offenses off balance and look for advantages in matchups.

It sounds great, a very exciting style to watch. But it will also mean that Nebraska will have to win more battles athletically as opposed to a reliance on scheme to make up the gap against a more talented opposing offense. A team playing fast is also vulnerable to misdirections, counters and other offensive schemes designed to use a defense’s speed and aggression against it.

Particularly in year one of Banker’s new defense, Nebraska could be faced with growing pains as it learns how to play defense fast and simple. That could result in some ugly plays, which could lead to ugly losses if not managed properly.

 

September

“Wake me up when September ends.”

– Green Day

Say what you will about Pelini and the way he left, but he consistently won nine games. He never had his Callahan moment of a losing season and missing out on a bowl game. Yes, he never won the big prize, but he never guided Nebraska onto the reef like coaches past had done.

Some still question the hiring of Riley, whose career record of 93-80 in college may not inspire confidence in his ability to lead Nebraska to compete with Urban Meyer at Ohio State and Jim Harbaugh at Michigan. Of course, as a smart and particularly handsome analyst observed, Riley’s record in Corvallis was far more impressive than the .538 winning percentage given the limitations at Oregon State.

But there will still be some skepticism about Riley’s ability to win at Nebraska, and his first three games present a stern challenge. A home opener against BYU and dark-horse Heisman candidate in quarterback Taysom Hill could easily see Nebraska start off 0-1. And after a paycheck game against South Alabama, Nebraska has to make a trip to South Beach to play a very talented Miami squad.

Yes, on paper Nebraska should probably be favored to win both games. But given that Nebraska is also installing a whole new offense and whole new defense, it’s not at all implausible to imagine Nebraska losing to both BYU and Miami.

And a 1-2 start to his tenure could easily poison the well for Riley with the Nebraska faithful, particularly if NU struggles in the rest of the season and limps to a poor (dare I say) Callahan-like record in 2015.

Of course, the opposite is true as well. If Nebraska beats BYU and knocks of Miami on national television, Nebraska could find itself vaulted into the spotlight with a feel-good story of Riley’s success.

So while Riley should be afforded time to put his stamp on the program, the fact remains that the first three games of his career in Lincoln have the potential to define how he is viewed by the Nebraska faithful and the college football world as a whole. 

 

This column first appeared at The Double Extra Point, which you can follow on Twitter at @DblExtraPoint.

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Clark Yarbrough to Stanford: Cardinal Land 4-Star OT Prospect

The Stanford Cardinal bolstered their offensive line Tuesday with the addition of class of 2016 prospect Clark Yarbrough.    

The incoming offensive tackle shared the news on Twitter:

The 6’6” and 270-pound Yarbrough is a 4-star prospect, per 247Sports’ composite rankings, and the No. 95 overall player in the class of 2016. He is also the 12th-ranked offensive tackle and the No. 2 player in the state of Virginia.

A number of teams showed interest in Yarbrough during the recruiting process, including Virginia, Duke, Michigan, Florida and Clemson. He ultimately elected to go far from home and join a Stanford program that has developed a reputation for hard-nosed and physical running.

That sounds like something an offensive lineman can get used to during his college career. 

Yarbrough commented on his decision and why he chose to attend Stanford, per Jacquie Franciulli of Scout.com: "It was just a perfect fit for everything I was looking for in terms of great academics and a great football program."

Yarbrough is particularly important for Stanford because offensive tackle is an area of need moving forward.

Andy Drukarev of Rivals.com noted that “Stanford has only signed three true tackles in the last three recruiting cycles (Casey Tucker, Reilly Gibbons, Jack Dreyer), and with Gibbons leaving the program prior to the start of last season, the tackle position is a major priority for Stanford in the 2016 class.”

The opportunity is there for someone with Yarbrough’s strength at the point of attack and mobility from the offensive tackle spot to compete for playing time right away.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Clark Yarbrough to Stanford: Cardinal Land 4-Star OT Prospect

The Stanford Cardinal bolstered their offensive line Tuesday with the addition of class of 2016 prospect Clark Yarbrough...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

How Mike Riley Plans to Get Nebraska Back to the Promised Land

Nebraska is a college football riddle: What do you do when nine wins a season isn't good enough? Most places, after all, would love to have that problem. 

But Nebraska isn't like most places in college football, so that's the question first-year head coach Mike Riley has to answer. 

The Huskers have a history of national championships and Heisman winners. The program is still a game-day destination with world-class facilities and outstanding institutional/fan support—all the things that make up a blue-blood program. 

Yet Nebraska hasn't won at an elite level since the early 2000s. The likes of Bill Callahan and Bo Pelini could never replicate the success the program experienced under legendary coach Tom Osborne.

Can Riley reverse that trend? Yes and no. 

Understand this about the promised land for Nebraska: It's not a replica of the Osborne era. That's just not the Huskers' place in college football anymore. 

If Riley can lead Nebraska to a Big Ten championship at least once and multiple Big Ten West division titles, he'll have done his job. More specifically, if he can get Nebraska to play with consistency, those goals are more obtainable.   

Consistency—that's something Pelini's teams rarely had. If anything, they were consistently inconsistent. That was perhaps the biggest reason Nebraska never flourished under him. How many times were the Huskers in a position to take home a divisional or conference crown only to fall (sometimes astoundingly) short?

There were losses of every variety, with blowouts and heartbreakers alike. The 70-31 loss to Wisconsin in the 2012 Big Ten title game was an embarrassment. The loss to UCLA at home in 2013 was brutal. Up 21-3 with one minute remaining in the second quarter, Nebraska gave up a Paul Perkins touchdown. Then it gave up 28 straight points in the third quarter as part of a 41-21 defeat.

In order to get back to the level it wants, Nebraska has to be more consistent. That starts with winning the games it's supposed to win in a division that's—to put it one way—winnable. 

That goes without saying, right? Yes, but Brandon Vogel of Hail Varsity provides an in-depth answer as to why it's so important: 

Over the past seven seasons, Nebraska — according to Phil Steele’s data — was favored in 75.5 percent of its games. The Huskers won 71.1 percent of those games outright over that span. During Mike Riley’s tenure at Oregon State, the Beavers were favored 51.4 percent of the time and won outright 53.7 percent of the time. ...

Now, 2 percent above expectations might not seem like a huge deal, but it’s really hard for a coach, particularly one at a powerhouse program, to be better than the spread. That’s Riley challenge (sic) now. Assuming Nebraska is of relatively the same strength over the next five years (and 13 games per year), if the Huskers were favored 75 percent of the time and Riley was two percentage points better than that, he’s averaging 10.1 wins a season. Even if he’s just at that 75 percent number, that’s 9.8 wins per year, a half-game improvement per year over the average for the previous seven seasons.

That half-game could be a halftime adjustment. It could be finishing what the team starts in a game. It could be the difference between a second-place Big Ten West finish and a divisional title, or between another Holiday Bowl trip and a Rose Bowl berth.

It could also mean the difference between whether Riley has a job with Nebraska in five or six years or not. 

At Oregon State, Riley developed a reputation for taking a team of mostly under-the-radar players and getting every last bit of potential out of them. Though Nebraska is at a whole other level as a program, the same need applies. Riley has to get the most out of the talent available and the talent which is not yet on the roster. 

The benefit Riley has now is that he has resources available to recruit more than just under-the-radar players. Pulling out recruiting gems will still be part of the game plan, but so will landing bigger-name prospects. Nebraska may not have a natural recruiting territory, but it can still attract some blue-chip players Riley never would have had access to at Oregon State. 

As JC Schurburtt of 247Sports opines, Riley is as resourceful as any coach in the country. He'll make the most of his recruiting efforts in Lincoln: 

At Nebraska, you have a bigger, better brand to sell, but you still have to be resourceful and scour the country for talent (along with having a developed walk-on program for the in-state prospects). There’s no more proven head coach in the country at doing just that than Riley. The talent level at Nebraska will ultimately prove to be superior to what he had at Oregon State (and likely already is), but it’s his resourcefulness and ability to build a high-level roster on an annual basis that will pay dividends for this program.

That doesn't mean Nebraska will land top-10 classes regularly anytime soon, but Riley should be able to pull in top-25 classes with a mix of 4-star and higher 3-star targets from Oklahoma, Texas and elsewhere. One recent commit, dual-threat quarterback Terry Wilson, is from the Sooner state. 

He's also committed to keeping in-state and regional kids coming to Nebraska. 

“The one thing that we want to know for sure is that we’re going to keep all the best football players from right here,” Riley said, via Jon Nyatawa of the Omaha World-Herald

Riley is known as one of the nicest, most respected coaches in the business—but he's also known as a builder and developer. Nebraska may have been winning nine and 10 games under Pelini, but the program is not above the need to build and develop. 

Riley is establishing a new culture at Nebraska, one that's more fan-friendly and less abrasive. Pelini's attitude (he only cared about his players) never meshed well with the administration or the fanbase. 

Nine-win seasons may not be the end of the world for this program, but the attitude around the program has to change. Additionally, the blowout losses have to stop, and the ceiling has to be higher. 

Even if that ceiling is reached once every few years. 

 

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

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College Football Teams with Longest National Championship Droughts

There are plenty of ways to judge success in college football, but one tops all the others: being a national champion.

Through the years, only a select number of schools can lay claim to this honor, and some have been waiting a long time since their last titles. While only 46 of the 128 schools currently playing at the FBS level have ever been considered a national champion in some fashion, a dozen of them have been going through a title-less drought that dates back 65 or more years.

This makes Ohio State ending a 12-year championship void far less noteworthy, doesn't it?

Since the first games were played in the 1860s, some form of champion has been determined via polls or ratings systems, as well as through bowl alliances like the BCS and the four-team playoff system that went into use following the 2014 season. As a result, there have been many years where two or more schools have been able to lay claim to a title.

There are more than 40 championship selectors the NCAA lists in its record books as entities whose title declarations over the years hold merit. Some of those date back to 1869...and even then there was controversy over who won the title, as Princeton was the choice of two selectors while it and Rutgers were considered co-champions by a third.

The most frequent selectors have been The Associated Press media poll, which has been around since 1936, and the coaches' poll (currently called the USA Today/Amway poll) that has been in use since 1950, as well as certain computer rankings and ratings based on historical data. These are the ones the NCAA recognizes as the most representative and are what we used to determine which FBS programs have gone the longest since their last national titles.

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Everett Golson and the New Free Agency in College Football

In the end, the only things missing from The Decision: Everett Golson-style were Jim Gray and ESPN. But it's one thing waiting for the world's greatest professional basketball player, LeBron James, to pick his new team and another waiting for a college quarterback to decide where he'll transfer for one year of football.

It is different, isn't it?

If you don't know, Golson left Notre Dame, shopped himself around to different schools and announced Tuesday he'll play this fall for Florida State, per Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman:

Let the college football world's panic begin.

This is the latest example of college football free agency. It's also the latest example of what big-time college football is all about: football, not college.

"Free agency's a little bit of the recruiting puzzle in college football now, whether we want to believe it or not," said Terry Bowden, who has coached at every level of college football and is currently head coach at University of Akron. "The top 30 quarterbacks in the country always go to the same few schools every year. When one is passed by another one, he's looking to transfer so he can play somewhere else.

"I always keep my eyes open to see what players are leaving."

So why is this cause for panic? It's not just the transfer rules; it's the graduate transfer rule, specifically. Normally, when a player transfers from one school to another, he has to sit out a year before he can play. It's meant as a disincentive to transferring, keeping college football from having open-market free agency like in professional sports.

But with the graduate transfer rule, which Golson is taking advantage of, a player doesn't have to sit out a year if he has already graduated. The rule was put in place to allow players, who can have five years of athletic eligibility, to start working on a master's degree. But players are making football decisions, not academic decisions.

Golson graduated from Notre Dame this past weekend. He'll play for Florida State this fall.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby put it best, telling CBS Sports' Jon Solomon that the way the graduate transfer rule is being used "sort of smacks of 'hired gun.'"

He's right. It's not about academics. It's about football. Most people have accepted that by now. The players and coaches already know it, and most administrators do, too.

Bowden said when he coached Division II football, he found the players were all holding on to their dreams of playing in the NFL—same as when he coached Auburn. College football is the minor leagues, and that's what players like Golson are after: the best path to the big leagues.

Golson's decision to transfer to college football superpower Florida State is not the first one of these moves of this offseason. Eastern Washington star quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., who earned his degree, decided to transfer to Oregon. It was a move to the big time, where he'll get more exposure and a better shot at making it to the NFL.

This creates a situation where coaches have to worry they might lose their best player and big-time programs might start recruiting off of smaller programs' rosters. In fact, even dominant programs could lose players to other powerhouses with a better offer.

Look, this is about the professionalizing of college sports. That's where some panic comes in, and it's why the NCAA is looking at changing the rules, according to Dan Wolken of USA Today.

"It's a shame that happened at Eastern Washington," Bowden said of Adams' decision to play at Oregon. "You hate to see a team lose its quarterback. A school gives a kid a scholarship and all this time, and then he ups and leaves. But it usually isn't the team's best player that leaves. It's a kid who's not having success and is trying to have a great college experience.

Bowden has a perfect grasp on the reality here. He also noted coaches don't have any problem switching schools for better jobs, so it's hypocritical to demand players not be able to do the same thing.

The panic from most college coaches doesn't come from reality, though. It comes from a place of power.

Coaches like to have it over players. They make a player sit out a year as a freshman. They keep them around in the summers to work out. Sure, it's an investment for coaches. But it's also an investment for players, who are mostly on one-year renewable scholarships. Typically, coaches think that means they get to choose about renewing.

For nearly a week, everyone expected Golson to announce he was transferring to Florida State. But FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said they were still "negotiating," and then the decision didn't come off Monday as expected. Whispers leaked to the media that Golson might visit a few more schools before deciding.

You can bet the delay and the whispers were all part of the negotiation.

Bowden said that's fine with him. He's quickly rebuilding his own team on transfers from big-time colleges, getting players who aren't getting the field time they want.

But things might be different if a star player walked into Bowden's office this afternoon, degree in hand, and said, "Coach, I'm leaving for Notre Dame."

"I'd feel terrible about that," Bowden said. "And I'd say, 'Son, let me get this right. Notre Dame is trying to win a national championship, and they're coming to Akron to find the players to do it? Are you sure they've promised you a starting job? You're going to start here.'

"It'd be my job to sell him on staying."      

Recruiting your own players. It's the new reality.

 

Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report.

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4-Star 2017 DT Fred Hansard's 'Explosiveness' Commanding National Attention

Fred Hansard fights the grip of sleep to wake up at 5 a.m. twice a week for speed and agility training. The 6'4", 310-pound lineman admits it isn't always an easy process.

"I really wasn't digging those workouts too much at first," he told Bleacher Report.

Then college coaches began showing up to see him at The Hun School in Princeton, New Jersey, and it became a bit less difficult to answer his morning alarm.

"When I saw these coaches showing up, I understood how important every morning run can be," Hansard said.

The sophomore defensive tackle doesn't need to search for proof. It arrived earlier this month in the form of several scholarship offers.

Hansard, who entered last season with just one offer from nearby Temple University, witnessed his recruiting process accelerate in a hurry. He received six offers from Power Five programs during a scintillating stretch that spanned May 6-12, altering his outlook about future possibilities. 

"It feels like my life pretty much changed in about a week," Hansard said.

Ohio State, Iowa, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Michigan and Arizona State each extended scholarships. His head coach, Todd Smith, warned him that a whirlwind was coming.

"Coach told me to be ready for a busy spring evaluation period," Hansard said. "I wasn't sure if that would turn out to be true, but the offers started rolling in and I knew he was right."

Smith recalls the first time he caught a glimpse of his eventual two-way starter. Hansard was considering a transfer from Camden Catholic High School, a move he eventually made.

"I've been doing this for a pretty long time, and I remember already seeing all the tools when I was watching his freshman film," Smith said of Hansard. "His violent first step, the natural strength and just God-given talent. It was all there."

Rated 12th nationally among class-of-2017 defensive tackles in 247Sports' composite rankings, Hansard's recruiting eruption was only a matter of time.

He recorded 34 tackles, including 23 for loss, and five sacks last fall, helping his squad secure a Mid-Atlantic Prep League title. A school that once produced top overall recruit and Florida State star Myron Rolle now has a new big man on campus.

That became apparent on May 6, when Hansard momentarily stepped out of chemistry class to receive some good news. Ohio State wanted him and wasn't willing to wait any longer to pull the trigger on an offer.

"The first thing that came to my mind was, 'That's the national champion,' and then I didn't know what to think. I'm just glad there were only about 10 minutes left in chemistry, because I was too excited to focus," Hansard said. "When the national champs offer you early, it makes you feel blessed. It's an opportunity to play for one of the best coaches ever."

By the end of the next day, Iowa had also offered. That Sunday—Mother's Day—it was Arizona State's turn to join the party.

"I was pretty psyched about that offer because I really liked Arizona when I visited before," he said. "It's my first Pac-12 offer, so it kind of shows that teams in different parts of the country want to recruit me."

Hansard returned to school Monday, May 11 with news that Virginia Tech offered.

The next morning—one of those especially early ones that await him each Tuesday—the avalanche of collegiate interest gained even more momentum. 

Michigan and Boston College both extended offers. The Wolverines actually sent an assistant coach to one of his bright-and-early training sessions, presenting the opportunity in person.

"I think Michigan is going to have some big seasons coming up," Hansard said. "[Head coach] Jim Harbaugh went to a Super Bowl, and there aren't many coaches who can say they've done that. I think he's going to be really successful at Michigan."

An offer list that featured five teams (North Carolina, Miami, Temple, Syracuse and Rutgers) just one week before had suddenly more than doubled in size.

"To be honest, most of those offers were a surprise," Hansard said. "It was the first time I really communicated with some of the schools."

That communication continues to expand.

Alabama assistant and ace recruiter Mario Cristobal met the fast-rising defender on the morning Hansard spoke with B/R.

"Hopefully, I can start to get some opportunities at SEC schools," he said. "Auburn and Alabama have both stopped by, and it feels like I have a pretty good relationship with them." 

It turns out those pre-dawn speed and agility drills are paying off in a big way.

"A lot of coaches like how I'm able to move well at my size," Hansard said. "They like the way I fire through my hips with my hands shooting up. I think my explosiveness stands out."

He's in good company as a coveted defensive tackle in New Jersey, home of top-rated 2016 recruit Rashan Gary.

"I got to talk to Rashan at a recent camp. He's a cool guy and told me all about some of his recruiting experiences and visits so far," Hansard said. "He told me stay humble with every offer that I get."

If this month is any indication, those offers will continue to stack up as his upperclassman career nears.

"Fred moves like a 220-pound kid, so he has that rare blend of size, speed and athleticism that every college coach is looking for," Smith said. "At this point, I don't think he needs to do the camp circuit. We're going to let his film speak for itself for right now."

Hansard will fill just about every role along the defensive front in 2015 while serving as the team's left offensive tackle. Smith said the focus is on developing a well-balanced repertoire of moves, particularly in pass-rush situations.

"He won't be just a bull-rush guy," the coach said.

Hansard hopes to visit multiple campuses this summer. His previous college trips include Syracuse, Temple, Virginia Tech and Rutgers.

He is in no rush to make a decision and will let upcoming offers dictate how this recruitment progresses.

"I'm definitely enjoying the process, and I'm very excited to see what happens next," Hansard said.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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ACC Football: Updated QB Rankings After Everett Golson's Transfer to FSU

In the end, the one-day delay in Everett Golson's transfer announcement only prolonged the inevitable. The former Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback is indeed heading to the Florida State Seminoles for his final year of eligibility, according to a statement obtained by Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports

How does Golson's arrival shake up the ACC's quarterback picture? It's not clear yet, as it could have a huge impact or barely one at all. That depends on whether Golson is even named the starter for the Seminoles. He'll battle with Sean Maguire during preseason practice for that job. 

Golson's career to date has been marked by extreme highs and lows. When he's on, he can be a prolific and entertaining passer. When he's off, he's a turnover machine getting benched. 

As we try to make sense of Golson's future in Tallahassee, here are the updated power rankings for the ACC's quarterbacks based on last year's results along with possible 2015 outcomes. 

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100 Days from Kickoff: Bold Predictions Heading into 2015 Season

With summer right around the corner, the college football season is quickly approaching. If this season is anything like the last, fans should be in for a year filled with ups and downs and crazy endings. 

Bleacher Report's College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer break down and predict what will transpire this season. 

What is your bold prediction? Check out the video and let us know! 

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Tennessee Titans' Plan for Unleashing Deep Threat Dorial Green-Beckham

The Tennessee Titans selected 6'5", 237-pound wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham in the second round of the 2015 NFL draft.

What will Green-Beckham's role be in his rookie year? Will he be a big red-zone threat?

Watch as Stephen Nelson and Bleacher Report NFL Analyst Chris Simms discuss Green-Beckham's role with the Titans in the video above.

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Shawn Oakman Performs 40-Inch Box Jump While Holding 70-Pound Dumbbells

Baylor's Shawn Oakman is truly a special athlete.

The 6'9", 280-pound Bears defensive end became an Internet sensation during his team's bowl game due to his massive frame. As this video shows, he can put his size to good use.

In the video, Oakman manages a 40-inch box jump while holding 70-pound dumbbells. What an incredible display of athleticism.

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Which Team Is Challenging Ohio State for Big Ten Recruiting Title?

The Michigan State Spartans have been enjoying great success under head coach Mark Dantonio. In order to keep the wins coming, his staff must go out and recruit some of the best talent in the country.

Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Sanjay Kirpalani joined Stephen Nelson to offer an update on Michigan State's current class of recruits as well as potential additions.

Who else do the Spartans need to scoop up? Check out the video and let us know!

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Alabama Football: Predicting the Crimson Tide's 2015 Win-Loss Record

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — We have a pretty good idea of where Alabama stands as a team after spring practice—where its strengths and weaknesses are, who will be key players and who could be breakout candidates.

There are still a handful of summer enrollees from the Crimson Tide's 2015 recruiting class to get in the system, some of whom could be contributors, but otherwise, the roster and makeup is all but set in stone.

So let's take a look ahead at Alabama's 2015 schedule and go through some win-loss predictions for the season.

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Best- and Worst-Case 2015 Scenarios for Each Top 25 College Football Team

Let's start this countdown with a disclaimer.

The best-case 2015 scenario for each team in college football, from Ohio State to Miami (Ohio), is a perfect season that ends with a national championship in the second edition of the College Football Playoff.

The worst-case 2015 scenario for each team in college football is a winless season. (Though losing football altogether sounds like it might be a worse fate. Sorry, UAB.)

But those two groups are the best and worst possible scenarios in college football. What this list will do is provide the best and worst probable scenarios for each Top 25 team. Look at these scenarios as a range of what could realistically happen, given the team's overall strength and schedule for the upcoming season.

With that in mind, here are the feasts and famines for every school in Bleacher Report's Post-Spring Practice Top 25 from late last month. What would happen if everything clicked for your team—or if it became one of the biggest disappointments of the season?

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Who Will Be Texas' Offensive MVP for the 2015 Season?

The Texas Longhorns are doing everything they can to turn the tide and return the prestige back to their storied program. Running backs such as Johnathan Gray are helping lead the charge.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder joined Stephen Nelson as they discussed who could lead the offense for the Longhorns. 

Where will Texas finish next season? Check out the video and let us know!

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