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Tennessee Football: 2015 Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

Now that Tennessee has been in the throes of fall camp for a couple of weeks, everybody has a better idea of the Volunteers' strengths and weaknesses.

Though offensive line issues persist, there have been flashes of talented players emerging as coach Butch Jones and his staff look for the best five linemen. 

Pretty much every other position has offered reasons for optimism.

Quarterback Joshua Dobbs, runners Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara and a veteran-laden defense are expected to lead Tennessee back into the conference conversation.

Freshman phenom Darrin Kirkland Jr. has blossomed in the past week to battle Kenny Bynum and Colton Jumper at middle linebacker. The youth at defensive tackle is coming into its own to provide depth at the position. A few young receivers are making their presence felt as some banged-up upperclassmen heal.

The Vols don't have enough depth yet across the board, but if they can stay healthy, there are many reasons to be excited about the upcoming slate of games.

Much is expected of UT as numerous publications are predicting the Vols to finish in the top 25 and battle for the SEC East crown with favorite Georgia.

There are a few detractors, of course, who aren't buying into the hype just yet. But with talent all over the field, the Vols are one of the nation's most intriguing teams.

Will that talent win out, or are the questions along the offensive front too great to overcome? Let's take a look at the latest and greatest game-by-game prediction as the opening kick draws near.

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Alabama's Defense Will Be the Best in the Nation in 2015

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Cam Robinson’s eyes got wide when he was asked about the University of Alabama defense on Wednesday evening, and not just a little wide but wide wide.

Robinson started every game for the Crimson Tide at left tackle in 2014 and faced nearly every top pass-rusher and defensive end the Southeastern Conference had to offer. But what he’s seeing now from his own teammates is different.

“Our defensive front seven is unbelievable, man,” he said. “I always told myself never to downplay anyone we play, but I tell myself that I play against the best competition in practice every day.”

There are a lot of players in college football, in the SEC especially, who could say something about the high level of talent on their own teams. Although with this, there’s no reason to doubt Robinson.

From the tea leaves in Tuscaloosa to Nick Saban’s press conferences, all the signs are there for the Crimson Tide to have another a top-notch defense—if not the best in the nation.

That standard is almost never a stretch, especially since Alabama clearly held the moniker in 2011 and 2012 when it won back-to-back national championships.

On paper it was pretty good last year: No. 12 nationally in total defense having yielded 328.4 yards per game and third in the SEC behind LSU and Arkansas. Only Ole Miss and LSU were better in scoring defense, and Alabama was No. 30 in passing defense.

Just don’t mention that to the Crimson Tide. Not a day has gone by during this calendar year that the players haven’t heard about the end of last season: giving up 537 offensive yards and 42 points to Ohio State (although it had an interception return for a touchdown) and 630 yards and 44 points to Auburn.

“We should have put 60 on them,” Tigers coach Gus Malzahn recently told ESPN’s Chris Low, a statement that will be wallpapered in the Alabama locker room on Thanksgiving week.

It was the most yards ever accumulated against an Alabama defense, which earlier in the season had shut down another spread team, 59-0, Texas A&M.

“First thing attributable to that was quarterback play against us in those games,” defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said. “You’re talking about complete opposites. No offense to the Texas A&M guy, but he didn’t play very well against us, and we played better, executed better, against them.

“Now those other two teams had something Texas A&M didn’t have, which is a dominant, physical running game. Make no mistake about it now. Auburn and Ohio State are not spread football teams, as much as y’all call them spread. They run the ball at you with power, they run counters and they are very physical. The combination of that and giving up big plays is what got us.”

So it was back to the drawing board because as senior linebacker Reggie Ragland put it: “We’re not allowed to have a bad season.” And when it comes to the Crimson Tide defense, good is not good enough.

Assistant coaches Mel Tucker and Tosh Lupoi were added, and coaches placed a higher priority turnovers, third downs and big plays, all of which appears to be working.

The front seven is the strength of the unit and has so much talent and depth across the board that coaches can tailor their approach to counter each week’s opponent, which considering the league’s offensive diversity, is really saying something. It begins with A’Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed and Jonathan Allen up front, but the players talk about having a pack mentality and attacking in waves.

“It’s not really like an individual thing,” senior defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson said.

Among the linebackers, there’s Ragland, Reuben Foster and Shaun Dion Hamilton at the other interior spot, and Dillon Lee can play almost anywhere. Denzel Devall and Ryan Anderson are the primary outside linebackers, while Tim Williams and Rashaan Evans appear poised for big seasons as pass-rushers.

Where Alabama has been most vulnerable the past couple of years has been in the secondary, especially cornerback, where the well of top-end recruits dried up around the time of Dee Milliner’s early departure in 2013. That drought is over, though, as the Crimson Tide again have quality depth.

In addition to All-SEC selection Cyrus Jones, Marlon Humphrey and Tony Brown are looking to make their mark. Maurice Smith and Anthony Averett appear to be a lot more comfortable, and true freshman Minkah Fitzpatrick has arguably been the surprise of training camp.

Finally, at safety, what Smart called “probably the biggest concern we have,” Alabama has had to replace Landon Collins, Nick Perry and Jarrick Williams.

Moving Eddie Jackson to strong safety appears to be paying off, with another converted cornerback, Geno Smith, at free safety. They’ve combined to play in 57 games, while Laurence Jones and Ronnie Harrison are thought to be the next wave.

“A lot better,” Saban said about the secondary after last Saturday’s scrimmage. “I like the way the group plays. Having Eddie and Geno at safety makes us a little more athletic, with a little more speed and a little more range on the field.”

He then noted that the defense had made a lot of interceptions, “and that was a good thing.”

Although the Alabama players and coaches would love nothing more than to see a statistical repeat of 2011, it’s probably not realistic considering the way the game has changed with hurry-up offenses executing run-pass-option plays as fast as they can. Regardless, Saban hasn’t changed the defense’s goal of yielding 13 points or less every game.

Even if Alabama doesn’t meet that, it might still be No. 1 in total and scoring defense.

“I just think we have to be hungry at all times,” Jones said “We’re going to be one of the most well-prepared teams and secondary in the country week in and week out. I just think as long as we get our personal attitude under control and knowing what we’re going out there to do, coming out there with that chip on our shoulder, I think the sky is the limit for us.”

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Predictions: Picking the Winner of Each Power Five Conference

With the college football season nearly upon us, it seems like a great time to make some predictions. Last season, all four participants in the College Football Playoff were champions of Power Five conferences, and this year could produce a similar outcome.

This article will serve as a breakdown of each Power Five conference—and each division—to make the most logical prediction heading into the season. There will undoubtedly be some contention with each pick, and at this time of the season, that's exactly the point of making predictions. So please let us know where we got it wrong and why we're not taking your team seriously enough.

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Auburn Football: 2015 Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

The 2015 Auburn football season is almost upon the Plains as head coach Gus Malzahn's Tigers look to erase the disappointing memories of last year's 8-5 record.

Auburn is a mixed bag of established talent, exciting potential and alarming areas—and one can find each of those on both sides of the ball.

Jeremy Johnson looks to be the real deal at quarterback alongside star receiver Duke Williams, a veteran offensive line and a star-studded backfield. But how the new starters adjust to the spotlight remains to be seen.

New coordinator Will Muschamp has brought a lot of promise to the Auburn defense, which is boosted by the return of pass-rushing specialist Carl Lawson, the linebacker duo of Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost and several starters in the secondary. However, depth is a huge issue for those defensive backs, who have given up big plays left and right since Malzahn took over.

Auburn has been a tough team to read for many media outlets this offseason, with predictions ranging from SEC champion and national title contender to another middle-of-the-road finish in the SEC. Here are my game-by-game predictions for what should be a must-see season of Auburn football.

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Which SEC School Is the New Leader for 2016 4-Star WR Kyle Davis?

The race to land coveted 4-star wide receiver Kyle Davis is down to a trio of SEC powers.

According to Keith Niebuhr of AuburnUndercover, Davis named Auburn, Georgia and Tennessee as his three leaders, with one unnamed program in that group currently occupying his No. 1 spot. 

"I can't say who, but yeah,” Davis told Neibuhr about his current favorite. “They went up to No. 1. Just a little [ahead of the others]. It was just the connection I have with the coaches. We have a great relationship, and that's important to me." 

Georgia has long been considered the odds-on favorite to land Davis since the 6’2”, 218-pounder backed off an initial commitment to South Carolina earlier this year. 

However, both the Tigers and the Volunteers have been pushing hard for the nation’s No. 4 wideout and No. 45 player overall in the 2016 class.

Which school has a leg up on him in the final weeks leading up to his planned announcement Oct. 23? 

That’s tough to say, as Davis acknowledged to Niebuhr that he has great relationships with the coaches at each of his three finalists.

His latest visit was last weekend to Tennessee, where he took in a Volunteers practice. It was his second trip to Knoxville in the last month, as he made it to campus last month for the Vols' Orange Carpet Day event, according to Wes Rucker of GoVols247.

“I enjoyed it all. Everything. Every little thing about it,” Davis told Rucker about that visit. “I mean, every time I go up to a school, they roll out … well, in this case, they roll out an orange carpet. But it was great, man.”

He last visited Auburn back in May for the Tigers' Big Cat Weekend, but he admits that former Tigers star Sammie Coates and current standout Duke Williams are receivers whom he is fond of.

In fact, as Niebuhr detailed, part of the Tigers' pitch to him is to eventually take over the role that Williams is currently occupying. 

However, Davis also has plenty of connections to the Bulldogs program, which is located less than an hour away from his hometown of Lawrenceville, Georgia.

As noted by Kipp Adams of Dawgs247, his mother has developed a strong bond with Georgia assistants Thomas Brown and Bryan McClendon.

Additionally, Davis—who told Bleacher Report at The Opening that he plans to major in sports medicine with a minor in mass communication—said that the Bulldogs' plan for him academically is a big part of why he’s interested in staying close to home for college.

“They accommodate my academic aspect of what I want to do,” Davis said. “That’s why they are one of my front-runners.”

Davis, who was named MVP of the seven-on-seven tournament at The Opening, is one of the top offensive playmakers in the 2016 class who remains uncommitted. 

As such, his recruitment is likely to be a battle until he commits and then enrolls early at the school of his choice.

Though he admitted to Niebuhr that the gap between the three schools is very small, it’s hard to imagine Davis leaving his home state when it comes time for him to make his final decision.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football's Best Value Bets for 2015 Heisman Trophy

A shrewd bettor looks for value, and this certainly comes into play with the Heisman Trophy race. The trouble is, all of the offseason hype lauded on top contenders has caused their odds to shrink significantly.

Front-runner Trevone Boykin of TCU is a 9-2 favorite to win the Heisman, according to Odds Shark, while Ohio State stars Ezekiel Elliott and J.T. Barrett come in at 7-1 and 9-1, respectively.

Those are good odds if you're looking for a sure thing but not if you're trying to land a big score. Instead, it's necessary to go a little further down the list and identify players who might win but don't have the kind of odds that make it seem possible.

Jameis Winston was listed at 33-1 prior to making his collegiate debut in 2013, but after putting up a huge performance against Pittsburgh in his first game, he improved to 10-1. Three months later, he'd won the Heisman as an overwhelming 1-8 favorite.

Who are some potential value bets to take a flier on for 2015? Follow along, and we'll give you some suggestions.

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Texas Football: Does Charlie Strong Need to Name Starting QB Before Notre Dame?

The gap between Texas quarterbacks Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard appears to have opened back up. Or at the very least, the battle between the two isn't any tighter now than it was in the spring.

That appears to be the vibe coming out of Longhorn preseason practices this week. According to Ryan Autullo of the Austin American-Statesman, head coach Charlie Strong admitted there was a gap between Swoopes and Heard:

If that's indeed the case, it's a matter of time before Strong must name Swoopes the starter for Week 1 against Notre Dame—that is, if he hasn't already. Unofficially, Swoopes exited spring practices as the front-runner and entered preseason camp as the No. 1 guy.

Basically, he's been the presumed starter in an open competition from spring to August.

But even if it's in private, even if Strong never tips his hand to the media, establishing a definitive No. 1 and No. 2 is important for the offense's development.

It doesn't mean that the pecking order has to, or will, stay as is over time—Strong told reporters earlier this summer that Swoopes and Heard will play against Notre Dame—but giving the No. 1 guy a chance to build chemistry and leadership with his teammates in practice is critical.

Right as preseason camp was about to get underway, I wrote that playing Swoopes and Heard against Notre Dame could work if the competition between them was tight. Sometimes, a good way to break the tie is to put both players into live situations and see how they react.

Strong may still do that, and that's okay.

With that said, all signs indicate that Swoopes is the guy who will get first crack at the Irish defense. If reports are any indication, he's earned that chance. The junior took a ton of criticism last season and sometimes deservedly so.

However, based on tweets by Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News and Horns247, it sounds like Swoopes has taken that criticism to heart and used it become a better quarterback and leader:

One of the purposes of preseason camp is to see if there's any growth—or decline—from the spring. To hear Strong and Co. talk about Swoopes, it's easy to decipher that he's the one taking the steps forward.

During Big 12 media days in July, Strong and senior running back Johnathan Gray talked often about Swoopes for questions relating to the quarterback competition. On the other hand, Heard was usually only brought up when asked about specifically.

USA Today's Dan Wolken suggested that Heard has all the confidence in the world—and that's a good thing—but as noted by Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman, the takeaway from media days and practices is that Swoopes still has the edge:

What probably worries fans is that it's unclear if Swoopes truly improved during the offseason or if Heard is not living up to expectations.

We tend to vividly remember the most recent thing that happened, and the lasting memory of Swoopes from 2014 was him throwing for 57 yards in abysmal loss to Arkansas in the Texas Bowl. Before that, he threw four interceptions in a season-ending loss to TCU.

There was also a time, though, when Swoopes played well against Oklahoma, Iowa State and Oklahoma State. That gets brought up significantly less often.

Fans clamoring for change and improvement are understandably hesitant to give Swoopes any sort of due, but the reality is players can get better. They do all the time. If they didn't, we wouldn't have TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin as a preseason Heisman Trophy contender.

That's not to compare Swoopes to Boykin in any way, but if Swoopes has earned the trust of his teammates and coaching staff, then he deserves a chance to go out and prove them right. It doesn't mean he will, but he should at least have the opportunity.

Otherwise, what's the point of working?

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. Stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

4-Star RB Devwah Whaley Taking His Time, Finalizing Big 12, SEC Official Visits

As the nation's No. 4 running back, Devwah Whaley has a set plan for his college future.

After announcing his top five in June, Whaley said he will focus on taking two official visits during the regular season and three visits after the season. A silent commit will come before the end of the year, and a verbal commitment will come during the Under Armour All-America Game in January.

For Whaley, it's a step-by-step process, one that he wants to make sure he follows.

"At this point, I'm just taking everything day by day," said Whaley, a 6'0", 205-pound back from Beaumont, Texas. "I'm going through the process and enjoying it. I don't want to rush anything or commit too early. The main thing is that my mom and coaches aren't stressed. When I commit, I want to make sure it's the right decision for me."

The 4-star talent confirmed that Texas, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Georgia and Oklahoma will receive the official visits, and his early thoughts are that Oklahoma and Georgia will get the first two visits. Whaley said he'll take the Georgia visit the weekend of Sept. 18. He hasn't set a date for Oklahoma.

Whaley said both schools are places where he can see himself doing well.

"I felt like when I went on those visits, everything stood out," he said. "The coaching staff, the environment, the players...I really got a feel for everything that was important to me. You want to be comfortable wherever you go; it's got to be a home away from home, and I think Oklahoma and Georgia both were like that."

It's no secret that Whaley wants to play for a team with a run-oriented offense. He rushed for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior and more than doubled his totals from his sophomore year (557 yards, five touchdowns). Whaley is a north-south runner who has low-4.4-second speed in the 40-yard dash.

Oklahoma rushed for 261.2 yards, and Georgia rushed for 257.8 yards a game last season, which ranked them No. 11 and No. 12, respectively, among FBS teams nationally. Arkansas ranked No. 26 averaging 218 yards a game. Texas A&M (149.9 yards per game) and Texas (137.4) ranked No. 84 and No. 101, respectively.

Although running the ball is a priority, Whaley is quick to remind all that he's not a one-dimensional back. He is, however, a strong advocate for having a successful offense via an effective ground game.

"Playing football, you have to run the ball well. That's the name of the game," he said. "But a lot of schools find me to be complete back. I'm able to run and catch the ball. I like to block. I'm just a downhill type of back who plays with size and power."

Whaley showed his combo skills last month at Georgia's Dawg Night camp. In addition to running well, he also showed that he had good hands in passing situations. It was a chance for Whaley to get in some rare camp time, as he hasn't competed in many camp settings during the spring or summer.

Whaley said he will use the next few weeks to finalize his official visit schedule and also prepare for his senior year at Beaumont Central. He said he will continue to research his top five, as he prepares to make a public announcement in January—and a private announcement weeks before that.

"I know what I'm looking for," Whaley said. "Academics are important; I know I'll need something to fall back on. Being able to come in and play right away also is a big impact.

"Wherever I go, I want to win games and compete for a national title. Going to the NFL is a goal, so I want to go to the place that'll help me get there, as well as help me become a better man and football player."

 

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

SEC Football: Biggest Remaining Position Battles in Fall Camp

Here we are, two weeks from the start of the college football season, and several key position battles around the SEC are still unsettled.

From Alabama's quarterbacks to Auburn's running backs to Georgia's defensive line, starting spots are still up for grabs on some of the highest-profile teams in the country.

Which position battles are the biggest? Our picks based on scheme, preseason ranking and number of contenders are in this slideshow.

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Big Ten Football: Biggest Remaining Position Battles in Fall Camp

Little by little, we're inching closer to the start of the 2015 college football season. Now is around the time in preseason camps when coaches will begin to establish pecking orders in open position battles. Ideally, there's a clear two-deep by Week 1, but realistically that's not always the case. 

For the Big Ten, there are some important position battles that remain unanswered. From high-profile quarterback battles at Ohio State and Michigan to establishing an offensive line at Wisconsin, we take a look at the most important competitions that have yet to be sorted out (and perhaps won't be for some time). 

Selections were made on incoming and returning players, the impact of any departing players/attrition and the overall position situation (e.g., offensive line, linebackers).  

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The Best College Football Game of Every Week of 2015 Season

With so many teams and so few places in the national title picture, college football has high-stakes games seemingly every single week.

On any given college football Saturday, multiple championship races are twisting and turning through nationally televised clashes and surprising upsets. Big games are always on the cards.

As fans continue to count down the days—maybe even the hours—until the return of college football, let's take a journey through the 2015 schedule and find the best-looking matchup for each weekend of the season.

These games were chosen by the potential championship stakes, overall quality of the teams and recent history between the two sides. Each week also has a pair of honorable mention games that will undoubtedly be big-time matchups.

Which games do you think will be the biggest ones in each week of the season? Let us know in the comments below. 

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Dear Football: The 2015 Elite 11 Story | Ep. 4

Uninterrupted is a platform that allows personalities to connect with fans on a much deeper level, with insight and content not fit for other platforms, media outlets or channels.

Interested fans get a unique perspective that brings them closer than ever to the personalities they care about.

The Elite 11 Camp brings together the top high school senior quarterbacks in the country in search of the best 11.

Warning: Video contains profanity.

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Uninterrupted: Ben Simmons Tells LSU Football Coach Les Miles He Can Play WR

After hearing that LSU football coach Les Miles wants him to suit up for his team this fall, Tigers basketball star Ben Simmons made it known that he can play wideout.

But he isn't a fan of wearing a helmet.

Last week, per Jerit Roser of the Times-Picayune, Miles said there'd be a spot on his squad for Simmons if the basketball player can prove that he can catch. Assuming that's the case, the coach believes his system would allow the 6'10" Simmons to set the NCAA record for touchdowns.

Word got back to Simmons that Miles is interested in getting him on the field on Saturdays. In his Uninterrupted video, the freshman responded to the football coach by saying that he could line up at receiver.

Uninterrupted is a platform that allows personalities to connect with fans on a much deeper level, with insight and content not fit for other platforms, media outlets or channels.

Interested fans get a unique perspective that brings them closer than ever to the personalities they care about.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Will LSU's Star RB Leonard Fournette Suffer a Sophomore Slump?

Running back Leonard Fournette had a stellar first year as a true freshman for the LSU Tigers. Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson and College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee predict whether Fournette can maintain that success during the 2015 season.

How do you think Leonard Fournette will perform this year? Hit the comment section below.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

FWAA 75th Anniversary All-America Team: Full List, Comments, Reaction

The Football Writers Association of America announced its 75th Anniversary All-America Team on Thursday. The honor recognizes the best players in college football across all three phases of the sport since the organization was founded in 1941.

Roger Staubach, Archie Griffin, Jerry Rice, Mike Singletary and Charles Woodson were among the players selected to the first team, with full results posted on the organization's official site. FWAA 75th All-America Committee chairman Kirk Bohls explained the trickiness of the process:

This was one of the most fun, yet most difficult exercises I've had in life - next to parallel parking, that is. Truly, it was an exciting - if not impossible - task to find the best 75 college football players ever. Please save your hate mail, but feel free to weigh in and tell us how we messed up. And I'm sure we did, but no one should argue that it wasn't a great idea to honor the best who have ever played the game. Let the debating begin.

Here's a look at the full group of choices:

Nebraska leads all schools with six players, followed by Ohio State and Pittsburgh with five each. In all, the release notes the top 75 come from 41 different schools. The top conference is the Big Ten with 19 selections, four more than the second-place ACC.

It's easy to see why the committee chairman talked about the difficulty of the process. There are countless players, including Tony Dorsett, Randy Moss, Bruce Smith and Dick Butkus, who could easily warrant a spot on the first team. But it's a major challenge to decide who should move to make room.

Tim Tebow is one player who always demands attention. Although his NFL career has never really taken off, he was a force at Florida, helping lead the Gators to a pair of national titles and winning the 2007 Heisman Trophy. The voters decided that warranted a spot on the second team.

Bomani Jones of ESPN doesn't agree with the placement of the polarizing Gator:

That said, while there will surely be debates about where certain players ended up, the bottom line is all three teams are loaded with talent. Though it's obviously impossible, a round-robin tournament between these squads would be a sight to behold.

The rosters should at least provide a good basis for debate while we wait for the final days to tick away before the new college football season gets underway.

 

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Way-Too-Early Predictions for Top Uncommitted 2017 Recruits

The Class of 2017 is stacked with young talent, including former LSU commit Dylan Moses. Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue predicts where these athletes will land.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Will FSU's Star WRs Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane Suffer a Sophomore Slump?

Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane came together as a stellar wide receiver duo during their first year with the Florida State Seminoles. Watch as Stephen Nelson and Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer predict whether or not this dynamic duo can maintain their success during the 2015 season.

How well will Rudolph and Lane do this upcoming season? Let us know in the comment section below!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Missouri Football: Tigers Could Succeed with a Multidimensional Ground Game

At this point during its SEC journey, Missouri has earned the benefit of the doubt, hasn't it?

After all, it weathered the storm in 2013 that included an injury to then-senior starting quarterback James Franklin, won the SEC East and was within a quarter of—perhaps—a berth in the BCS National Championship Game.

The following year, all it did was replace Franklin, stud wide receivers L'Damian Washington and Dorial Green-Beckham, running back Henry Josey and monster defensive ends Michael Sam and Kony Ealy and play for the SEC championship again.

If the third time is going to be the charm, head coach Gary Pinkel and offensive coordinator Josh Henson might have to reinvent the wheel.

The wide receiving corps for Missouri—as a group—has 10 total receptions heading into the season, with sophomore Nate Brown and his five career catches serving as the elder statesman of the group. What's more, J'Mon Moore and DeSean Blair—two presumed starters—got banged up this week, according to the Associated Press, via FoxSports.com.

Plus, it's not like Missouri has a reliable quarterback. Maty Mauk threw 16 touchdowns and 13 picks during the first three quarters of games in 2014, and nine touchdowns and zero picks in the final frame. 

"We need more consistency," Pinkel said at SEC media days in 2015. "There's no question about that. I think that Maty Mauk, he's 14-4 as a starter. He's remarkably good under pressure. We need more consistency from him. He knows that."

How will Pinkel do it? He could hop in the DeLorean and go back to the future.

It's hard to imagine based on the success that the Tigers have had at the wide receiver spot over the last few years, but Missouri finished ninth in the nation in rushing in 2011 with 243.46 yards per game.

Don't be surprised if they follow that same path in 2015.

Mauk isn't exactly Johnny Manziel on the ground but has proven over the last couple of years that he's fully capable of posing a threat on the zone read. He rushed for 373 yards and three touchdowns a year ago and has a strong offensive line returning to help him out.

Russell Hansbrough is the best 1,000-yard running back you've never heard of.

The 5'9", 202-pounder from Arlington, Texas, can shake defenders out of their shoes but is big enough to take some pounding between the tackles. As Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes, he put on seven pounds from a year ago and is being counted on to be the work horse this year for the Tigers.

If the passing game is going to be a work in progress, having a multidimensional running game will keep defenses honest and open up some passing lanes for Mauk and the receivers when the Tigers decide to air it out.

Plus, there are options behind Hansbrough that Pinkel likes. Morgan Steward is a 6'0", 210-pounder who can play more of the bruiser role after sitting out the 2014 season with a hip injury, along with 5'11", 210-pound Tyler Hunt and 6'2", 215-pound Chase Abbington. Ish Witter can serve more in the changeup role formerly occupied by Marcus Murphy.

As Brandon Kiley of KTGR 1580 in Columbia, Missouri, notes, Pinkel expects Witter to be a big part of the game plan.

Yes, Missouri has roster holes, which is par for the course for Pinkel and crew.

But no coach in America is better at adapting to his players than Pinkel. Don't be surprised if that adaptation includes a shift toward a more ground-and-pound approach in 2015.

 

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

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B/R CFB 250: Top 29 Running Backs

Bleacher Report's CFB 250 is an annual ranking of the best players in college football, regardless of NFL potential. Through interviews with B/R Experts Matt MillerMichael FelderBarrett Sallee andAdam Kramer, authors Brian Leigh and Brian Pedersen have studied, ranked and graded the top athletes in the country, narrowed that list to 250 and sorted by position. Today, we present the Top Running Backs.

 

Other CFB 250 Positions

 

It's been a while since the college game has had as many talented ball-carriers as it did in 2014, and the best part of it is that so many of them are coming back. This is welcome news for everyone other than defensive coaches, who again have to figure out how to slow down and tackle some massive and masterful rushers.

Even with the top nine running backs from last year's rankings no longer in school, there's no shortage of big names who will be churning out big yardage in 2015. We could have gone far deeper than the 29 we've ranked, but we had to cut it off somewhere.

The following rankings are based primarily on players' skills as college players rather than how they'd fare in the NFL. Though they may be using this time to develop their games for the pro level, first and foremost their goals are centered around helping their teams succeed.

The rankings are based on a tabulation of six different categories (ball security, power, vision, hands, speed and balance) and on evaluations made by our writers in conjunction with Bleacher Report football experts.

 

Note: Any ties in overall grades were broken based on which player would give a hypothetical college all-star team the best chance to win.

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Shaun Crawford Injury: Updates on Notre Dame CB's Recovery from Torn ACL

Notre Dame freshman cornerback Shaun Crawford suffered a torn ACL during practice Wednesday, according to the South Bend Tribune's Eric Hansen

Continue for updates. 

Crawford Lost for the Season Wednesday, August 19

According to Scout.com's Pete Sampson, Crawford was vying for Notre Dame's starting nickel cornerback job and had rotated in with the first team during practice. 

The former 4-star recruit out of Ohio, according to 247Sports, had made a positive impression on coaches since arriving in South Bend, and his intensity appeared to put him in position to earn playing time as a true freshman.

"Shaun Crawford, that guy just continues to show up around the ball," offensive coordinator Mike Sanford said, per 247Sports' Nick Ironside. "It’s unbelievable. He shows up and he comes at the football with an unbelievable head of steam and sees it well." 

The announcement regarding Crawford's injury comes just days after Irish defensive tackle Jarron Jones was deemed out for the season with a torn MCL. Notre Dame will also be without running back Greg Bryant for the first four games of the upcoming season because of a suspension

However, Notre Dame has several options it can turn to as a way to overcome the loss of Crawford. 

"While the injury robs the Irish of a potential playmaker, the secondary is well-equipped from a depth perspective," NBC Sports' Keith Arnold wrote. "Grad student Matthias Farley is also a slot cornerback, the place where Crawford projected to help immediately. Starters Cole Luke and KeiVarae Russell will man the outside spots with sophomore Nick Watkins providing immediate depth as well."    

If there's any good news for Notre Dame, it's that Crawford won't lose his freshman year of eligibility since he suffered the injury prior to the start of the regular season, per Arnold.   

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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