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After one-year hiatus, Alabama regains recruiting crown as rankings remain largely unchanged from Early Signing Period

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Welcome to the continuation of the new recruiting norm.

In years past, the first Wednesday in February served as bizarro, ofttimes frightening Christmas for fanatical recruitniks and college football fans all across the country. With the implementation of the December Early Signing in 2017, however, National Signing Day has very quickly morphed into, relatively speaking, an afterthought compared to what it once was.

Case in point: school rankings.

Following the second Early Signing Period this past December, the Top Four schools in the 247Sports.com composite rankings were, in order, Alabama, Georgia, Texas and Texas A&M; after signing day, the top four remained unchanged.

With just six four-star prospects (out of more than 340) left unsigned, the end of National Signing Day 2019 means the beginning, potentially, of another recruiting championship streak for ‘Bama. From 2011-17, the Crimson Tide pulled in the top-ranked class each year; in 2018, they tumbled all the way down to No. 5, Nick Saban‘s worst class ratings-wise since a fourth-ranked group in 2010.

Elsewhere in the Top Ten, No. 5 LSU and No. 6 Oklahoma flipped spots from a month and a half ago, while Oregon and Michigan held steady at Nos. 7 and 8, respectively. Florida made one of the most noteworthy jumps of the day, climbing from No. 11 to No. 9, pushing Clemson down one spot to No. 10.

Penn State, conversely, took one of the biggest drops of the day, tumbling from the Top 10 at No. 10 to No. 13, replaced by a pair of SEC schools — No. 11 Auburn (up from No. 12) and No. 12 Tennessee (up from No. 15). Ohio State (from No. 13 to No. 14) and Notre Dame (From No. 14 to No. 15) each fell one spot apiece. The status quo was in effect for Nos. 16-18 (Florida State, Washington, USC), with South Carolina at No. 19 and Nebraska at No. 20 rounding out the Top 20.

Stanford began Wednesday at No. 20 before ending it at No. 21; the Gamecocks had started the day in the same place the Cardinal finished it.

As for the best classes in each conference?

AAC — UCF (No. 56)
ACC — Clemson (No. 10)
Big 12 — Texas (No. 3)
Big Ten — Michigan (No. 8)
Conference USA — FAU (No. 66)
Independent — Notre Dame (No. 15)
MAC — Toledo (No. 71)
Mountain West — Boise State (No. 49)
Pac-12 — Oregon (No. 7)
SEC — Alabama (No. 1)
Sun Belt — Louisiana (No. 72)

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Louisville, at No. 73, was the lowest-ranked Power Five school.  No. 68 Oregon State (Pac-12), No. 67 Texas Tech (Big 12), No. 62 Illinois (Big Ten) and No. 57 Vanderbilt (SEC) had the lowest-ranked classes in their respective conferences.

Toledo announces future three-game series with Kentucky

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How about a little Power Five-Group of Five scheduling news to start off your Wednesday morning?

This week, Toledo announced that it has reached an agreement on a future three-game series with Kentucky, which is essentially a home-and-home plus a one-off.  The two schools will play in Lexington during the 2025 and 2028 seasons, with the Wildcats traveling to the Glass Bowl in 2027.

Specific dates for those matchups, which will be the first-ever between the school, weren’t divulged.

“We are very pleased to enter in this three-game series with the University of Kentucky,” said UT athletic director Mike O’Brien in a statement. “Bringing an SEC opponent into the Glass Bowl is huge for our football program and for our fans. We look forward to an exciting series with the Wildcats, beginning with the game in Lexington this fall.”

That 2027 game will mark just the second time an SEC school has ever traveled to Toledo for a football game, with the first being Missouri in 2014.  All told, the Rockets have played four games against members of that conference and have gone 1-3 in those contests, with the lone win coming against Arkansas in 2015.

Love lost as Memphis LB enters transfer portal

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For the third time this offseason, Memphis has seen a member of its football program sucked into the infamous portal.

Citing a source familiar with the decision, the Memphis Commercial Appeal is reporting that Nyle Love has entered his name into the transfer database.  No specific reason was given for the departure, although positioning on the depth chart would be a likely place to start.

Other FBS schools will be able to contact Love without receiving U-M’s permission, with the linebacker also retaining the ability to return to the Tigers if he so desires.  As we have noted multiple times in the past, the school now also has the option to strip Love of his scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered the portal.

If Love moves on to another FBS school, it’s very likely he’ll have to sit out the 2019 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.

Love didn’t play a down for Tigers after coming to the AAC school as a three-star 2018 signee.

USC confirms JT Daniels is still Trojans’ starting QB

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The drama in the Land of Troy, such as it was, is officially over.

For most, there was a three-man battle for USC’s starting quarterback job throughout this offseason — incumbent JT Daniels, Matt Fink and Jack Sears.  Tuesday, the Trojans ended the competition charade by confirming that Daniels will indeed be the team’s starter when they open the 2019 season later this month.

Most intriguing, though, is the fact that true freshman Kedon Slovis, who has been mostly an afterthought in the competition, has been chosen as the true sophomore Daniels’ backup over Fink, a redshirt junior, and Sears, a redshirt sophomore.

Daniels started 11 games as a true freshman for the Trojans this past season, with Sears starting the other.  Fink seriously contemplated a transfer this offseason before opting to remain at USC.  Slovis, meanwhile, was a three-star 2019 signee who was rated as the No. 26 pro-style quarterback in the country.

In his first season as a starter, Daniels completed almost 60 percent of his 363 passes for 2,672 yards, 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Michigan transfer Brandon Peters wins starting QB job at Illinois

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Michigan transfer Brandon Peters has won the quarterback derby at Illinois, Lovie Smith announced Tuesday.

“We loved Brandon when we got a chance to know him during the recruiting process,” Smith said. “Now that we’ve seen him on the field, he has been everything we though he would be. He has really thrown the ball well and is a better runner than he’s given credit for. Most importantly, he has moved into a leadership role for us. We’re pumped up about Brandon leading us heading into the season.”

A former 4-star recruit, the Avon, Ind., native is a graduate transfer who still has two years of eligibility remaining.

At Michigan he appeared in 10 games with four starts, completing 53 percent of his 110 throws for 680 yards and four touchdowns.

Illinois opens its season Aug. 31 at home versus Akron.