Texas Longhorns: Tennessee Volunteers

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.

Birmingham NFTC notebook 

March, 30, 2014
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HOOVER, Ala. -- The state of Alabama is home to four of the last five national championships, and there was no shortage of talent on hand Sunday as the Nike Football Training Camp made a stop in the Yellowhammer State. By the end of the day, seven players from four different states earned their invite to The Opening.

New offers pique Payne’s interest

The top-ranked player at the event was defensive tackle Daron Payne, a local product, ranked No. 23 overall in the ESPN 300. He didn’t make the list of players invited to The Opening, but based on the media coverage, he was still the center of attention, both on and off the field.

The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: As the center of an intense recruiting battle between Florida, Georgia, Ohio State, Texas and Texas A&M, a four-star linebacker will lean on those close to him when it comes time to make a decision; and two future SEC opponents took turns testing each other at Sunday’s Atlanta Nike Training Camp.


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Altanta Elite 11 regional camp notebook 

March, 21, 2014
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SUGAR HILL, Ga. -- Several talented quarterbacks took the field at the Atlanta Elite 11 regional camp on Friday. Though no official invites for the Elite 11 finals, held in Beaverton, Ore. in July, were extended, there were five finalists with potential to eventually earn an invite. The finalists included Anthony Ratliff, Austin King, Kendall Hinton, Ross Trail and Alex Malzone. Four of the five finalists were from out-of-state. King is from Alpharetta, Ga.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: Snapchat is quickly becoming one of the most popular forms of social media around, but college football coaches won’t be able to use it as a recruiting tool; keep an eye on Indianapolis, because the city again will be one of the top spots in the Midwest for recruiters; and one of the top 2015 prospects in Missouri has a busy spring on tap.


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Early Offer: 2015 begins now 

February, 7, 2014
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: The ink was barely dry on the letters of intent for 2014 class when one of the best for the 2015 class came off the board; and what schools and recruiters have jumped out of the gate with success with players that won’t sign for another 360-plus days.


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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?


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: Steve Sarkisian and USC landed a major building block for their future this past weekend when a blue-chip 2015 quarterback committed; a longtime Texas commit flipped to rival Texas A&M on Sunday; and a five-star cornerback said he will narrow his list to four schools early this week.


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There’s a staunch belief of many that recruits should commit to programs and not coaches. That wasn’t the case for Texas on Tuesday, as it lost two commits in roughly a 30-minute span.

Minutes after four-star defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio/Warren) announced on Twitter and confirmed via phone interview he will look elsewhere after defensive line coach Bo Davis reportedly opted to take a coaching position at USC, fellow four-star defensive tackle Courtney Garnett (New Orleans/St. Augustine) followed suit, announcing on Twitter that Texas “is no longer an option.”


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3-point stance: Confusing end for Mack

December, 16, 2013
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1. Mack Brown conducted his retirement press conference at the University of Texas on Sunday with the same charm and straightforwardness that he conducted so many of his big-stage moments. Brown said he began this season convinced that the Longhorns would return to national prominence. So did a lot of writers. It doesn’t surprise me that the writers had no inkling that the Longhorns wouldn’t be able to stop anyone. But Brown sounded just as surprised as the rest of us that his team stumbled. That’s a head-scratcher.

2. Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher, trying to explain what sets apart his Heisman trophy winner, quarterback Jameis Winston, from other redshirt freshmen. “He throws a touchdown, he has to understand why he did it so he can repeat it. … He always wanted to know why he had success, or why he had failure, so he could repeat it or fix it. And that’s very rare in a young player.”

3. Will Texas thrive under a new head coach? The cautionary tale is Tennessee, which forced out Phillip Fulmer, a future Hall of Famer, five years ago. Since then, the Volunteers have floundered under three head coaches (cumulative record: 28-34. Then there’s Army, which fired Rich Ellerson on Sunday after a 12th consecutive loss to archrival Navy. Ellerson is the third Black Knights head coach to be relieved of his duty without beating the Midshipmen. Army never should have run off Bob Sutton, now the Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator.

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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RecruitingNation released its first ever ESPN junior 300 in mid-July, and a slew of already committed prospects have put six programs off to an electric start in the 2015 recruiting cycle. With the college season just days away, here are the fast starters with future commitments on the horizon.


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BEAVERTON, Ore. -- The Opening has concluded and it did not disappoint. The top prospects in the nation were invited to Nike headquarters to display their ability and compete against the best of the best.

RecruitingNation was on hand for every event to take in the happenings throughout the week. Here are a few storylines:

Who committed

Florida State landed two in-state prospects during the final day of The Opening on Wednesday: four-star offensive tackle Corey Martinez (Tampa, Fla./Tampa Catholic) and three-star safety Trey Marshall (Lake City, Fla./Columbia). Marshall was a finalist for the SPARQ national championships where he posted a 40-yard-dash time of 4.34 seconds. ESPN 300 linebacker Dillon Bates (Ponte Vedra, Fla./Ponte Vedra), son of former Tennessee Volunteers and Dallas Cowboys safety Bill Bates, verbally committed to the Vols. Four-star linebacker D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito) verbally committed to USC over UCLA.


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There are times where it seems as though defensive end Keisean Lucier-South (Orange, Calif./Orange Lutheran) is playing a video game out on the field, as the 6-foot-4, 200-pound defensive end can be a terror on both sides of the ball. Off of it, Lucier-South said life has begun to reflect a virtual reality as well.

It began this past December, when the sophomore made contact with his first college coach. But rather than the usual feeling-out process recruits and coaches go through, Lucier-South was thrust immediately into the ranks of the early offered. That first offer came from Boise State.


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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- ESPN 150 linebacker Dillon Bates (Ponte Vedra, Fla./Ponte Vedra) is no stranger to the game of football. His well-known father, Bill Bates, starred at Tennessee and had a 15-year NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys. His older brothers Graham and Hunter played college football at Arkansas State and Northwestern, respectively. But Dillon, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound outside linebacker, is working on making his own name.

Bates holds over 20 offers and has narrowed down his choices to a top five of Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Texas and South Carolina, but recently added an offer from Florida State. The four-star Under Armour All-American, who will announce his decision at The Opening in July, admitted he was excited to learn of the Seminoles offer.

Bill Bates, Dillon Bates
Courtesy of Bates familyDillon Bates (right) has been able to rely on guidance from his famous father during his recruiting process.
"It's really intriguing and humbling to know that all the schools in Florida have offered me," Bates said. "Just the feeling that I can go anywhere in Florida and everything. Just the prestigious school like FSU and all the great players that have come from FSU -- it's just really great to know that I could be among them."

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Scene & Heard: 2014 Season Storylines
National recruiting reporter Gerry Hamilton joins ESPN's Phil Murphy to discuss some of the top storylines to watch for the 2015 recruiting class during the 2014 college football season.
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