Texas Longhorns: Vanderbilt Commodores

Florida has Florida State. Georgia has Georgia Tech. Kentucky has Louisville. And, of course, South Carolina has Clemson.

When it comes to the new SEC scheduling format starting in 2016, those four schools are already on board. Their annual rivalry games fulfill the league’s forthcoming requirement for a yearly nonconference game against an ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12 school.

But for the rest of the teams around the league, there’s a void.

Sure, they can go year to year and rotate in nonconference opponents. But where’s the fun in that? Let’s create some new rivalries, and in the case of some programs, reignite old ones.

[+] EnlargeBob Stoops and Nick Saban
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertThe spectacular salaries of college football coaches such as Bob Stoops, left, and Nick Saban are generated mostly by the labor of unpaid workers.
Alabama-Oklahoma: If FSU wasn’t already taken, the Noles would have been a perfect fit. The physical and philosophical proximity between programs is obvious. But looking elsewhere, Oklahoma might be a fun matchup. The Sugar Bowl has already created tons of tension on both sides with Sooners coaches delighting in calling out Nick Saban and the SEC.

Arkansas-Baylor: Call it a throwback to the old Southwest Conference. Arkansas, which didn’t join the SEC until 1992, has played more games against Baylor (69) than any school in its current conference. On top of that, the differences between Bret Bielema’s physical style and Art Briles’ free-flowing offensive scheme would be a joy to watch.

Auburn-Oregon: Recent history and playing styles dictates this matchup. Not only do we get a rematch of the 2010 BCS National Championship Game, but it pits offenses that live to go fast. Maybe it could be a two-hand touch game in which whoever reaches 100 points first wins.

LSU-Notre Dame: We couldn’t make a list of nonconference matchups and leave Notre Dame off, could we? Pitting the Golden Domers against an SEC program would be appointment viewing. Make that program LSU and the opposing coach Les Miles, and television networks will scratch each other's eyes out to get the game.

Mississippi State-Texas Tech: The Bulldogs have shied away from high profile nonconference games in the past, loading up on the likes of Memphis, UAB and South Alabama. Well, it’s time to infuse a little spice into the schedule. Kliff Kingsbury is too cool to keep out of the SEC. His Red Raiders would be a good matchup with Mississippi State, which faced Texas Tech seven times from 1953-70.

Missouri-Kansas: Does this one really need to be explained? The Border War should have never gone away in the first place. Now is the perfect opportunity to save face and bring back a rivalry that goes all the way back to 1891.

Ole Miss-Miami: We’ve got to get ‘The U’ involved. Miami and Ole Miss have already played a few times in their history, with the Rebs holding a 2-1 series lead. But bigger than that, it would get the SEC back into South Florida on a permanent basis because Miami and Florida don’t have the common sense to do that already.

Tennessee-North Carolina: Even if most people don’t remember it, there’s history there. Tennessee and UNC have played 29 times, with the Vols holding a 20-8-1 advantage. Plus, even if your memory is short, you should recall the double overtime Music City Bowl from 2010 between the schools. If they can re-create that just once, it would make the rivalry worth it.

Texas A&M-Texas: See Missouri-Kansas. Don’t let conference affiliations ruin great rivalries. Texas A&M-Texas should have never been shelved in the first place. And while the UT administration might not see a reason to bring it back -- nor Texas A&M's leadership, for that matter -- surely both fan bases do.

Vanderbilt-Duke:Call it a private school showdown. The proximity is reasonable, the fan bases similar, and the rivalry could easily extend to the hard court. Plus, have you seen Derek Mason’s nonconference schedule this year? It needs help.

Now that the 2014 class is in the books it’s time to take a look at which teams need to make a big splash in recruiting for the 2015 class. Below are five teams we feel have to perform well in recruiting to move forward and re-establish their programs among the college football elite. There are always peaks and valleys in recruiting, but there’s also an expectation level that some programs no matter what will always perform to a high standard and that’s not always realistic.

For these programs, it won’t just be about how good the players are that they sign in 2015; it will also be about what type of person that player is to represent the program and establish a new chemistry. These programs are laying down a new foundation, and it will be this class that will be looked back upon as one that got the ball rolling. These programs need to make the Tennessee-type splash of 2014. Just ask Ole Miss about its 2013 class and what one recruiting cycle can do to reenergize a program. We’ve closed the door on the 2014 class now, here’s to opening the door for the 2015 class. Let’s get off to a fast start shall we?

Army Bowl notebook: Jan. 2 

January, 2, 2014
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SAN ANTONIO -- Thursday’s practice session for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl saw players in more of a rhythm on offense, but it also saw defensive players showing their skills. If Thursday is any indication, Saturday’s contest could be a low-scoring affair.

Here are a few notes:

Cannon reaffirms Baylor commitment … again.

For the Baylor fans who read the late-Wednesday tweet coming from ESPN 300 receiver K.D. Cannon (Mount Pleasant, Texas/Mount Pleasant), don’t read anything into it.


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The more coaching talk heats up, the more you'll start to hear Vanderbilt coach James Franklin's name mentioned.

Such is the life of a hot coaching name in a business full of constant turnover.

Vandy fans might not want to hear about it, but Franklin is a hot commodity in the coaching world, and there's no surprise that high-profile programs looking to rebound tomorrow are very interested in the Commodores' young coach.

Reports have surfaced that Franklin's name has come up for the vacancy at Texas, and he could be the top choice at Penn State since it appears as though Bill O'Brien has taken the Houston Texans job. There has even been some talk that NFL teams could be interested in Franklin.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesJames Franklin has Vandy on the right track.
The fact of the matter is when you win 23 games in your first three years at Vanderbilt and make three straight bowl games (first time in school history), you're going to garner a lot of attention. When you win nine straight in the month of November, people will take notice. When you sweep Florida, Georgia and Tennessee in the same season, folks' ears perk up.

Franklin deserves the attention he's getting. He deserves for bigger schools around the country to have serious interest in him. He deserves to have his name up there with the top coaching names during these searches. He's a hard-nosed coach, a dynamic recruiter, a true players' coach and an exceptional developer of talent. He sold a program used to losing on top of losing, so imagine what he could do at a proven winner.

People went from being shocked that Franklin lifted the Commodores out of the SEC's cellar so quickly to being shocked that he's still in Nashville. How long he'll be there is a mystery, but Franklin isn't touching rumors. Honestly, he never discusses subjects not pertaining to his team or his team's next opponent.

When asked earlier this month about his name being linked to the Texas job made open by the resignation of longtime coach Mack Brown, Franklin did an amazing job of dodging the subject all together by putting the attention on his team and Saturday's BBVA Compass Bowl matchup against Houston.

On Monday, he seemed very happy with everything Vandy related.

“I love the Vandy fans. I love the Vandy nation. I love everything we’re doing,” Franklin said.

“I’m extremely excited to play Houston on the 4th and continue to build our program. … Just very, very, very proud. Just going around Christmas and shoppingü and there’s excitement and a buzz, and you go to the airport and you see more black and gold and everything that’s going on.”

Vandy fans have to be happy to hear that. You know where your coach's focus is, despite all the potential distractions being thrown his way. But when Vandy's season ends on Jan. 4, get ready for more distractions … and no game to deflect them.

Speculation will only grow as vacancies go unfilled. Franklin has done an excellent job at Vanderbilt, but you have to wonder what he could do with more resources, a bigger recruiting market and a bigger program attached to his name.

It's likely coming one of these days, and we'll find out soon if that day is soon.

Cornell, No. 1 in 2015 class, narrows list 

November, 20, 2013
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Jashon Cornell (St. Paul, Minn./Cretin Derham-Hall), the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2015, has narrowed his top list. After much deliberation, Cornell has cut the list of schools in the running down to 15.

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Programs off to fast start in 2015 

November, 19, 2013
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While recruiting is undoubtedly a marathon and not a sprint, that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with a good start.

The key for any program is being able to sustain and finish strong, and only time will tell which programs will be able to do that, but what we do know is which teams are off to a fast start in the Class of 2015. Below are the five programs that are leading the pack early for 2015, as well as a few other notable fast starters:


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SAN ANTONIO -- Wednesday was a day off for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl teams. Instead of working out and participating in drills, the players took in visits around the city -- including a stop at the Alamodome for photo opportunities and to see their game apparel -- and used the day to recover from two days of practice.

The teams will return to the fields on Thursday in arguably the most important practice of the week. Here are five things to keep an eye on for Thursday’s practice:

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#BlueChipBattles: Nov. 30

November, 30, 2012
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Carl Lawson, Dee Liner, Reuben FosterESPN.comCarl Lawson, Dee Linerand Reuben Foster are still committed to Auburn, but the Tigers' coaching situation could change things for the three ESPN 150 recruits.

Auburn bid farewell to head coach Gene Chizik on Sunday. Could the Tigers also be saying goodbye to a trio of ESPN 150 recruits who could take their talents elsewhere?

Each week, RecruitingNation summons its writers from around the country to compile a list of the top 10 battles for elite football recruits leading up to February's signing day.

Here are this week's top battles Insider, and you can take a shot at ranking the top 10 recruiting battles on SportsNation.

#BlueChipBattles: Nov. 16

November, 16, 2012
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Alvin Kamara, Derrick GreenESPN.comUncommitted 2013 running backs Alvin Kamara and Derrick Green.

ESPN 100 running backs Alvin Kamara and Derrick Green can score from anywhere on the field thanks to their breakaway speed, an attribute that makes them very attractive recruits to the Oregon Ducks. Oregon's pursuit of the duo headlines this week’s #BlueChipBattles. Insider

Click through for our list to rank the top 10 recruiting battlesInsider.

ESPN 150 S Vonn Bell down to 7 

June, 30, 2012
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Under Armour All-America safety Vonn Bell (Rossville, Ga./Ridgeland) has picked up close to 30 offers during the recruiting process, but as is always the case, there can be only one school on top in the end, so the 6-foot, 185-pound ESPN 150 prospect sat down with his family and coaches to try and narrow things down a bit over the summer. On Saturday, Ridgeland head coach Mark Mariakas announced a top seven.

"Vonn Bell made contact with the following schools, Ohio State, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, Vanderbilt and Clemson, and told them they were on his short list of schools that he will commit to," Mariakas said. "By Labor Day he will cut this list down to two schools and go from there with the process. This list is in no order."

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ESPN 150 ATH Vonn Bell is in no rush 

May, 28, 2012
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Rossville, Ga. -- Less than three miles from the Tennessee border, coaches from Auburn and Tennessee watch as defensive back Vonn Bell (Rossville, Ga./Ridgeland) makes it look easy against his teammates during the school’s spring scrimmage. Three carries result in three spectacular touchdown plays for the 6-foot, 185-pound ESPN 150 athlete, who would also make his presence known on defense with a couple bone-jarring hits before letting the backups take over.

For Bell, who is coming off an All-State season in which he made 180 tackles, five interceptions, three forced fumbles and three recoveries for touchdowns on defense, as well as 37 rushes for 280 yards and five touchdowns, 31 catches for 487 yards and six touchdowns on offense, it was just another day at the office.

More than 15 programs made the trip in the last month to Rossville to evaluate Bell, who has done his best to return the favor, making trips to Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Tennessee, Texas and Vanderbilt this year. It is all part of a process that Bell and his parents take seriously.

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The days of the Rose Bowl being the bowl of bowls could soon be coming to an end now that the SEC and the Big 12 have agreed on a five-year bowl partnership.

The new deal, announced Friday, will have the champions of the Big 12 and SEC meet in a New Year's Day bowl game annually beginning with the 2014 season. So while it won’t have the tradition of the Rose Bowl, it’ll have the viewers and it’ll have the popularity.

We’re seeing more and more how power is truly the most important component in college football, and this is a great example. Soon, we’ll have the two best BCS conferences going at it in their own special bowl competing with the beloved Rose Bowl.

We’re joined on the SEC blog by Big 12 blogger David Ubben to get his thoughts on what this means for the Big 12. We’re gentlemen down here in SEC country, so we’ll let him go first:

David Ubben: Rose Bowl, we love you. Not as much as Jim Delany does, but I'm not sure anyone can stake that claim. Anyway, it's time to face an unfortunate truth: You've been one-upped. The unnamed, unplaced bowl partnership between the Big 12 and SEC won't have the same level of tradition, but it will feature better teams. That's a powerful draw.
The BCS has played 14 national title games since its birth. The Big 12 or SEC have participated in 12 of them. Teams from the league have met in the game twice.

Now, they'll have another big stage to showcase their top teams. If a Big 12 or SEC champion is in the four-team playoff that will likely begin in the 2014 season, the next-best team will fill their place in the annual game. Deciding who plays in that game is up to each conference. The nation's two best conferences will get a much-needed opportunity to face one another on the field and test the hotly debated offense vs. defense theories on the field annually. The nation's college football fans were robbed of that when Oklahoma State was squeezed out of the national title game for SEC West second-place finisher Alabama. This year, the SEC and Big 12 only play once, when eight-win Texas travels to face two-win Ole Miss in September. Not exactly must-see TV.

This will be.

It assures the Big 12 a place at the adults' table of college football, further extending the distance between college football's top four leagues -- the SEC, Big 12, Pac-12 and Big Ten, in that order -- and the ACC and Big East. The ACC and Big East have the Orange Bowl, but any game like the SEC and Big 12 put together will pale in comparison when it comes to TV ratings and more importantly, TV money.

Only a few months ago, the Big 12 had eight teams, with half the league considering a move to the Pac-12 and the conference on life support. Things are looking very different now. It's about to sign a giant television deal, likely extending the grant of rights into the next decade and assuring stability at least through then, and probably beyond.

Tired of getting stuck playing Boise State and UConn in everything to lose, nothing to gain BCS bowl matchups? Seven-time Big 12 champion Oklahoma won't have to worry about that anymore, and even if the Sooners are in the forthcoming national championship playoff, the next-best Big 12 team will have a quality opponent to prove itself against.

Another plus for the Big 12? The Cotton Bowl's odds of getting into the BCS as it stood were minimal. Now? It's still in flux, but does anyone want to bet against Jerry Jones and his wallet to get this game in his Dallas palace at some point? That's a big game in the Big 12 footprint, something that's never happened on the BCS bowl stage.

How will this affect Florida State, too? News has surely reached Tallahassee by now, and the Florida State spear-toting brass have to be wondering how much this factors into their wandering eye toward the Big 12. Is the ACC the place to be?

We'll find out soon, but on Jan. 1, 2015, there will be only one place to be.

This game.

Edward Aschoff: I couldn’t agree more with pretty much everything you said. There’s no question that both of these leagues have dominated the BCS since its first year in 1998. The conferences have been left out of the national championship just twice in the last 14 years and the SEC has participated in -- and won -- eight. The Big 12 has won two of its seven appearances.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive has just about everything he wants in his conference, but he hasn’t had the Rose Bowl. Sure, all those national championship trophies are nice, but an annual game like the Rose Bowl commands respect. The game that the Big Ten and Pac-12 covet so much, and is watched by millions annually, will now get a major run for its money. While they’ll be played in different time slots, there’s no question that this will turn into the ultimate popularity contest. If you could sense that Big Ten-SEC tension before, just wait. Now, the SEC will be looking down on the Big Ten and picking at the game it holds so dear. Don’t think that didn’t cross the commissioner’s mind when he was thinking about this deal.

The SEC has truly been front and center in the college football world for the past six years with its 6-0 record in BCS championships, and now it will pursue a game it thinks can have the gusto of the Rose. This is a great opportunity for the SEC to build another fine tradition for the country’s top college football conference. And fans/the media want to see more of these matchups. For the most part, we're all deprived of them during the regular season, so here's a chance for us to win something as well. These two conferences need to play more. The best should always play the best, and as David said, we can finally settle the whole offense-defense debate.

This also means that more SEC teams have the chance to play in a primetime, marquee matchup in January. If this had been in place last season, Arkansas, which certainly had a BCS-caliber team, would have played in a BCS-like bowl, since Alabama and LSU met in the title game. The Cotton Bowl got the matchup this game would have received, but it would have been on a much grander scale and much more attention would have been paid to it. Oh, and much more money would have come out of it.

It would likely help the SEC this year too, as there could be as many as five teams jockeying for BCS position. Imagine if the four-team playoff took place this season? You might have two more SEC teams fighting for a chance at a national championship, meaning this game would give No. 3 a chance strut its stuff in front of its own grand audience.

There’s no question that with a four-team playoff, the SEC will have more opportunities to put teams in the national championship, continuing its dominance. Now, Slive has helped to ensure that a high-caliber team left out of the championship hunt will still play in a game that will command the type of attention that comes with a BCS bowl.

Florida offers ESPN 150 CB Smith 

April, 26, 2012
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ESPN 150 defensive back Maurice Smith (Sugar Land, Texas/Dulles) is rapidly approaching the 20-offer plateau, and on Wednesday, the four-star cornerback picked up an offer from Florida, his seventh SEC offer.

When asked where the offer stood with him, Smith calmly gave a confident response.

“Pretty high,” he said.

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Maurice SmithTom Hauck for ESPN.com2013 DB Maurice Smith from Texas enjoyed his trip to Tuscaloosa for A-Day.
Tide on top for ESPN 150 Watch List member CB Smith after visit

When Texas offered Lone State cornerback Maurice Smith last month, the University of Alabama knew it had an uphill road to climb, but the Crimson Tide made up some ground and more during the weekend when Smith visited Tuscaloosa for A-Day.

“It was great,” Smith said. “We got to talk to Coach (Doug) Nussmeier, the coach out of my area. He really took me under his wing and showed me around the place. I loved the campus and the people around the campus. The environment was great.

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Is Gaines still an option for Texas? 

April, 12, 2012
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Texas wanted two tight ends for its 2013 recruiting class. Will Jeremiah Gaines be one of them?

The Red Oak tight end isn’t so sure. Other than getting a letter in the mail a few weeks ago, he hasn’t heard from Texas coaches since attending their second junior day on Feb. 25.

“I know for sure coach [Bruce] Chambers told me they’re graduating off a small class, which I understand,” he said. “But I haven’t talked to him since the junior day, so I don’t really know what’s up.”

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