NCAA Football

Michigan Gives Mullen Best Chance for Long-Term Success

According to Michael Bonner of The Clarion-Ledger, Dan Mullen has not had any contact with the University of Michigan. However, with Mullen yet to sign an extension with Mississippi State and Michigan's head coaching position remaining vacant, the rumors continue to rage.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer discuss the Mullen rumors.

Should Mullen bolt for Ann Arbor? Check out the video and let us know!

 

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Marcus Mariota Cracks Jokes on David Letterman's 'Top 10'

Now that he's won a Heisman Trophy, it's safe to call Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota a household name.

Following the traditional path of celebrity, we knew it would only be a matter of time before Mariota ended up on the Late Show with David Letterman

Mariota took his comedy chops to the Ed Sullivan Theater on Monday night, listing the top 10 thoughts that went through his head after he won the 2014 Heisman Trophy. The 21-year-old held his own on stage, drawing a huge laugh with this jab at New York's underachieving football teams:

Appearing on Letterman has become a rite of passage for Heisman winners. Jameis Winston, Johnny Manziel and Robert Griffin III have all appeared on the program.

Mariota is probably too young to get the Don Ho reference, but he makes a good point about not spiking the trophy. The Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League showed us what can happen when you don't take care of your hardware, via SB Nation's Rodger Sherman.

Next up for Mariota's Ducks are the undefeated Florida State Seminoles. Bleacher Report's Tom Weir is calling this Rose Bowl matchup "a battle for the soul of college football."

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Bo Pelini to Youngstown State: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Days after it was denied that Bo Pelini would be the next head football coach at Youngstown State, the former Nebraska coach will reportedly take the job with the Penguins. 

WKBN 27 in Ohio had the news:

Pelini will be the seventh head football coach in Penguins’ program history.

Pelini replaces Eric Wolford, who was fired after five seasons, posting a record of 31-26 and going without a playoff appearance.

Pelini is a 1986 graduate of Cardinal Mooney High School, and a 1990 graduate of Ohio State University, having played safety for the Buckeyes.

Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated also reported Pelini's hiring on Twitter:

According to Joe Scalzo of the Youngstown Vindicator, Pelini was enticed by what Youngstown State had to offer on and off the field:

Pelini will join former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel at Youngstown State, who currently serves as university president.

Matt Hayes of the Sporting News weighed in on Pelini's move:

Pelini spent seven seasons as head coach of Nebraska, winning at least nine games every year and compiling a 67-27 record before being fired on November 30. The Cornhuskers will take on USC in the Holiday Bowl with interim coach Barney Cotton leading the way. 

Youngstown State didn't contend for an FCS national title under previous head coach Eric Wolford. The Penguins' last playoff appearance was in 2006. Pelini brings instant credibility to this program, though he has a tough task ahead of him to rebuild it. 

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5 College Football Bowl Games That We Could Do Without

Whether you're of the mindset that there are too many bowl games, not enough or just enough, one thing is certain: Not all bowls are created equally.

The yearly ranking of bowl games from an interest standpoint can show just how wide the gap is between the top of the slate and the bottom. From the two playoff semifinals to traditions like the Cotton Bowl, the top of the bowl slate is stacked. 

Get down to the bottom of it, however, and there are some real snoozers. 

Which bowl games could college football easily do without? The answers are in the following slides. 

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Florida Gators' Defense Will Continue to Roll Under New DC Geoff Collins

According to Thayer Evans of SI.com, Mississippi State defensive coordinator Geoff Collins will become the Florida Gators' new DC for the 2015 season.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder discuss the impact that Collins can make on the already stellar Florida defense.

Was this a good hire for the Gators?

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why Georgia Could Be in for a Long Season in 2014

"Next year" is seemingly always the year for Georgia—a program that has been ranked No. 1 in the country, played in two SEC Championship Games and been within five yards of a national title berth since its last conference championship in 2005.

Next year won't be the year.

Even in a down SEC East, it is going to take a lot for the 2015 Georgia Bulldogs to break through that glass ceiling, win the division and contend for a spot in the second annual College Football Playoff.

The roster turnover is just going to be too much for head coach Mark Richt's crew to overcome.

No, it's not the expected loss of running back Todd Gurley. True freshman running back Nick Chubb proved that he's more than capable of picking up the slack by in Gurley's stead in 2014, gaining 1,281 yards and 12 touchdowns. He'll have insurance behind him in the form of Sony Michel and Keith Marshall.

They might have to be the offense, though.

Unlike last offseason, when rising redshirt senior Hutson Mason slid into the top spot of the quarterback depth chart after Aaron Murray moved on, there are no experienced quarterbacks that have total trust of the coaching staff on the roster.

Rising sophomore Brice Ramsey, junior Faton Bauta and freshman Jacob Park are all talented, and Ramsey and Bauta both earned mop-up snaps in 2014. That's a far cry from Mason, who served as Murray's primary backup and learned the system for nearly four years before making his first start late last year.

Ramsey will likely be the favorite. The former 4-star prospect, per 247 Sports, from Kingsland, Georgia, came to Georgia in the class of 2013 and has had some time to learn the offense after running primarily a "Wing-T" at Camden County High School. 

Is it enough time to get comfortable, though?

Sure, draft-eligible junior Malcolm Mitchell will be back, according to Tanya Sichynsky of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but Chris Conley and Michael Bennett—Georgia's top two receivers from 2014—will both be gone. Ramsey, or whoever wins the quarterback job, better develop the chemistry that Murray and Mason had built for years with that receiving corps, because Georgia is at its best when there's a consistent connection to move the chains.

On top of that, linebackers Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson will exhaust their eligibility after the bowl game, as will cornerback Damian Swann—who came on strong with 62 tackles and three picks after a rather lackluster 2013 season. Richt announced that linebackers Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins will be back, per Sichynsky, although Jenkins' return might not be entirely set in stone, according to Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald.

There's a ton of roster turnover in Athens, and that's not good for a team that couldn't find a way to stay consistent even with veterans all over the field.

Is there anything to suggest that 2015 will be different?

Nope.

If anything, the East will be better than it has been over the last two seasons. Florida turned over a new leaf and is rebuilding the program with offensive-minded head coach Jim McElwain. Tennessee's rebuilding effort is entering Year 3 and includes a small village of talented skill players on offense and a defensive line that includes Derek Barnett and incoming monsters Khalil McKenzie and Shy Tuttle.

Georgia has a great class coming in 2015, but with Alabama in Athens and Auburn on the Plains, the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville and a road trip to Tennessee on the schedule, next year won't be Georgia's year.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tom Herman to Houston: Latest Contract Details, Comments and Reaction

Ohio State offensive coordinator  Tom Herman has been a popular head-coaching candidate since the end of the regular season. He has now reportedly been hired as the head coach of the Houston Cougars.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports reported the news:





Brett McMurphy of ESPN confirmed Feldman's report, and reported that the coach would remain with the Buckeyes through the College football playoffs: 

Herman, 39, was hired in December of 2011 by Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and has been a big part of the team’s success since. He also earned the Broyles Award as the top assistant coach in the nation earlier this month.

Feldman provided his reaction to the move:

This will be Herman’s first shot at being a head coach at the collegiate level. He is taking over for the fired Tony Levine, who went 21-17 over his three years as coach. The Houston program is coming off a 7-5 season and will play Pittsburgh in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.

Houston reportedly interviewed former Florida head coach Will Muschamp in the process, but Herman is an intriguing candidate with plenty of upside. He has helped shape Ohio State's offense into a top-tier unit and has direct experience working with quarterbacks, so it will be interesting to see what he can do with the Cougars.

 

*Stats via ESPN.com.

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College Football Playoff 2014-15: Schedule, Odds and Projections for Final 4

The inaugural College Football Playoff has something for everyone.

Of course, fans of Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State will be extremely interested, but it doesn't stop there. This playoff features a Sugar Bowl that will be contested between two of college football's most iconic head coaches, Nick Saban and Urban Meyer. It also boasts a battle between Heisman-winning quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota in the Rose Bowl.

These semifinal contests are undoubtedly must-see TV.

Unfortunately, New Year's Day is still a couple of weeks away, so we're still in for a sizable wait before these four elite squads return to the amateur gridiron. For now, let's take another look at the playoff's schedule to ingrain the essential information in our minds in an effort to ensure we don't miss a moment of action. If you plan on doing some wagering, don't fret. We'll take a look at some updated odds and predictions as well.

 

Sugar Bowl

Who: Alabama vs. Ohio State

When: Thursday, January 1, 2015

Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana

Time: 8:30 p.m. EST

Channel: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Betting Info (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 58.5
  • Spread: Alabama -9.5

 

Prediction

Generally when a third-string quarterback—of any team—is slated to face the stingy defense of the Alabama Crimson Tide, many of us begin bracing ourselves for a nightmarish showing. However, that's not quite the case when it comes to Ohio State's Cardale Jones.

The sophomore was thrown into the fire to make his first-career start in the Big Ten Championship Game following a season-ending injury to J.T. Barrett. Making matters worse, he was set to take on a very good Wisconsin defense. Well, as it turned out, he torched the Badgers for 257 yards and three touchdowns in a brilliant performance.

After the game, Jones spoke about his team's role in his confidence during an interview with Sean Merriman of BTN.com,"There's no doubt, I was confident coming into this game. But my teammates and my coaches took my confidence to a whole new level that I've never felt before."

Not only does he have a contingent of very solid players backing him—along with a great head coach—but his showing against Wisconsin has him flying extremely high entering this semifinal clash.

Helping Jones' case, the Crimson Tide hasn't been able to thoroughly prepare for the quarterback due to a lack of film, according to Bill Rabinowitz of The Columbus Dispatch:

So, should Alabama's defense be scared?

Let's not go that far. After all, this is the same defense that held five of the six ranked teams it faced this season to 23 points or fewer. Coming into the Sugar Bowl, the Crimson Tide is ranked fourth in the nation, allowing just 16.6 points per game, but that isn't the team's most important statistic.

Alabama is ranked 17th in the nation in first downs allowed, giving up a total of 211 during the year. That's extremely valuable for the Crimson Tide against an Ohio State team that didn't sustain a scoring drive longer than seven plays with Jones at the helm against Wisconsin. Making the Buckeyes work for first downs and methodically move the ball down the field isn't something they've had to do with their current quarterback.

Accumulating big plays against Alabama isn't exactly easy to do for any quarterback—not matter his confidence level. Expect Jones to find success against the Crimson Tide, but not enough to put Ohio State through to the championship game.

Prediction: Alabama 30, Ohio State 24

 

Rose Bowl

Who: Oregon vs. Florida State

When: Thursday, January 1, 2015

Where: Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California

Time: 5 p.m. EST

Channel: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Betting Info (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 71
  • Spread: Oregon -9.5

 

Prediction

Marcus Mariota turned out to be the heir apparent to Jameis Winston, earning this year's Heisman Trophy. Now, the quarterbacks are set to duel in the Rose Bowl.

While Mariota certainly had his share of attention—and rightfully so—winning the Maxwell, Davey O'Brien and Heisman, he focused on his upcoming task against the Seminoles during a press conference, via ESPN.com, "I'm just looking forward to getting back on the field and playing again. We do have a team goal."

Here's what the quarterback had to say during his acceptance speech, via SportsCenter:

A focused Mariota is an enormous threat to Florida State. He won the Heisman for a reason, passing for 3,783 yards and 38 touchdowns against just two interceptions, adding 669 rush yards and another 14 scores. Considering the Seminoles currently hold the nation's 51st-ranked total defense that allows 378.3 yards per game, this signal-caller could be in for another big day.

Oregon has been putting up some massive points all season long. The Ducks are averaging 46.3 points per game, ranking third in the nation in that category and are coming off a 51-point performance against Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Winston has his work cut out for him.

Unfortunately, Florida State's signal-caller saw a massive drop-off in production from his Heisman-winning 2013 season to this year. Here's a look at the comparison:

Those aren't the kind of numbers that will allow Florida State to earn another national championship. After all, the Seminoles struggled down the final stretch of the season, winning their last four games by five points or fewer against unranked opponents. Still, Winston will get his chances to produce against an Oregon pass defense that ranks 100th in the nation, allowing an average of 259.5 yards per game through the air.

This game will be a shootout, and while Winston has flourished under center at Florida State in the past, he hasn't been able to duplicate that prowess of late. That's not exactly a comforting fact when he's set to face off against one of the nation's most dangerous signal-callers and reigning Heisman winner.

Prediction: Oregon 42, Florida State 31

 

All team statistics and rankings courtesy of NCAA.com and current as of December 15.

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10 College Football QBs Poised to Break Out in 2015

Who is next season’s version of this year’s TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin?

Boykin went from averaging 150 yards per game last season to 309 this year, No. 7 in the FBS.  His passer rating improved from 122.01 to 146.63, and his record as the starter skyrocketed from 3-4 to 11-1.

If that weren’t enough, he came out of nowhere to finish No. 4 in the Heisman vote, ahead of Florida State’s Jameis Winston, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott and Baylor’s Bryce Petty.

Though the possibilities are endless, and many of these guys still need to win the starting job, here are a handful of quarterbacks who could make a similar run in 2015. 

Keep in mind that it will take more than 5-stars to get it done.  Potential candidates will also need solid pass-blockers and talented receivers who can consistently catch the ball.

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Bowl Games 2014-15: Full Schedule and Predictions for Every Matchup

The 2014-15 college football season has been one of the wildest in recent memory, but the excitement is far from over, as the packed schedule of bowl games is just a few days from kicking off.

Add in the fact that this season will feature the inaugural College Football Playoff bracket, and fans of the sport will be treated to one of the most unique postseasons imaginable. If the bowl games are as exciting as the regular-season action, college football fans will have their expectations met.

Here is all the vital viewing information and predicted winner for every bowl game of 2014-15.

 

*All games can be live streamed via WatchESPN.com.

 

Team to Watch: Oregon Ducks

There are many teams with the ability to steal the show during bowl season, but few have the offensive firepower that the No. 2-ranked Oregon Ducks possess.

Oregon will square off against the Florida State Seminoles in the Rose Bowl on January 1.

Most football fans know the Ducks for their high-powered offensive unit. The third-ranked offense is 11th in the nation in passing yards per game with 308.9 and 22nd in rushing yards with 237.3 per game.

It’s clear that the 30th-ranked defense of Florida State (allowing 23 points per game) will have trouble slowing down Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota and the fast-paced Ducks’ offensive attack.

Oregon players are not taking the matchup lightly, though, and Ducks cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu heaped praise on the Seminoles, via Andrew Greif of OregonLive.com:

I think in college football they focus too much on what the score was. Win's a win, I always think. With Florida State this year a lot of teams have been able to keep up with them and play them tough but you see at the end of the game when it really comes down to it, they've been able to dominate at the end of the game.

While there is no denying the firepower of the Oregon offense, the defensive unit has flown under the radar all season. The Ducks have only allowed 22.5 points per game and have managed to stifle elite programs such as Michigan State, UCLA, Stanford, Utah and Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Florida State has struggled with consistency this season. The Seminoles may have the 14th-ranked pass attack (299.8 yards per game), but the run attack is a lowly 104th in the nation. With Oregon possessing a tough secondary, FSU quarterback Jameis Winston could be in for a long night.

Both teams deserve an immense amount of credit for making it to this portion of the season, but Oregon has the depth and talent on both sides of the ball to be a viable national-championship threat and move past the Seminoles.

The Ducks will earn the victory and advance to likely play the Alabama Crimson Tide for the inaugural College Football Playoff trophy.

Predicted Winner: Oregon 34, Florida State 30

 

*Stats via ESPN.com.

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Georgia Football: Ranking the 10 Best Bulldogs from 2014 Regular Season

The 9-3 record is not the record the Georgia Bulldogs envisioned when the 2014 season began. But that is where they are and they will look to go 10-3 when they play Louisville in the Belk Bowl.

A lot of players that have made the Bulldogs a contender in the conference this season. Some are seniors who have come on strong in their final year and some are true freshmen who will only get better as they progress in the system.

Here are the top 10 Bulldogs from the 2014 regular season.

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Season-Defining Moment for Every Pac-12 Football Bowl Team

The Pac-12 Conference is sending eight teams into bowl season in 2014, and for every one of them, the season can be split up into a series of defining moments...

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Notre Dame Football: Top Recruits on Irish's Wish List

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — With 21 members already pledged to Notre Dame football’s recruiting class of 2015, the Irish have zeroed in on the final crop of prospects to round out the class:

The holiday season is upon, so let's narrow down that group even further and project Notre Dame's wish list. The Irish hosted a slew of current commitments and other top targets on campus this weekend for their year-end awards banquet:

For our purposes , we'll consider the elite prospects the Irish would love to land. Higher-ranked recruits will take precedence, and only those with legitimate reported interest in Notre Dame will be considered.

 

Iman Marshall

USC seems like the odds-on favorite for the services of 5-star cornerback Iman Marshall, the No. 3 overall player in the country. But Notre Dame got the Long Beach, California, native on campus last weekend for an official visit:

Marshall is slotted as the top-ranked cornerback in the country, and although Notre Dame is well-stocked in the secondary in its 2015 class, the 6'1" 190-pounder is the type of talent who has a spot in any recruiting class at any point in the process.

 

Soso Jamabo

Notre Dame has continued its search for a second running back in the 2015 class, and its plans centered around 5-star Soso Jamabo for a while. The No. 33 overall player in the nation and the No. 2 running back, Jamabo is an impressive talent.

Things have seemingly quieted in Jamabo's recruiting of late, but Notre Dame and UCLA are among the schools reportedly in the mix. According to 247Sports National Recruiting Director Steve Wiltfong, the Bruins "may have the edge over Notre Dame, but the nation's No. 2 running back keeps things close to the vest."

Jamabo is an elite back the Irish would love to pair with current running back commitment Josh Adams.

Jamabo took his official visit to Notre Dame for the Michigan game in early September.

 

Aliz'e Jones

Notre Dame will also battle UCLA for top prospect Aliz'e Jones, the No. 1 tight end in the country and the No. 53 player overall. Jones has been committed to the Bruins since last November, but the Irish hosted the athletic 6'4", 222-pound tight end on campus last weekend:

As it stands right now, Notre Dame does not have a tight end pledge in the current class. With senior tight end Ben Koyack out of eligibility following this season, the Irish are scheduled to return current redshirt freshmen Durham Smythe and Mike Heuerman as well as true freshmen Tyler Luatua and Nic Weishar.

Still, Jones is the type of high-end target Notre Dame would be thrilled to land.

 

Equanimeous St. Brown

With a long name to match his long frame, 4-star wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown is pegged as the No. 10 wideout in the country and the No. 124 player overall.

An Anaheim, California, native, St. Brown is reportedly also considering Stanford and Utah, among other schools, and he took an official visit to South Bend in early October.

Brown’s solid blend of size (6'5", 205 pounds) and athleticism is unparalleled in Notre Dame's current crop of wide receiver commitments—C.J. Sanders, Jalen Guyton and Miles Boykin—none of whom is ranked higher than 22nd at the position.

Adding St. Brown would give the Irish a variety of pass-catchers in its incoming freshman class.

 

Ronald Jones II

Jamabo is regarded as one of the top two or three running backs in the country, but 4-star back Ronald Jones II is no slouch either. The No. 86 overall player in the 2015 class, Jones took his official visit to Notre Dame over the weekend and decommitted from Oklahoma State on Sunday night:

Notre Dame and USC appear to be the leaders to ink Jones at this stage:

Again, Notre Dame has continually widened its reach in the search for a second running back. Jones and Jamabo figure to be atop the wish list.

 

Ykili Ross

An official visitor for Notre Dame’s home finale against Louisville on Nov. 22, 4-star defensive back Ykili Ross remains a target for the Irish. Listed as the No. 131 overall player in the country, Ross offers a lean frame at 6'2", 185 pounds.

Ross, who hails from Riverside, California, took an official visit to USC last weekend:

Like the other names here, Ross is an athlete the Irish would welcome into one of the final spots of their 2015 class.

These six players headline a projected Notre Dame wish list, but other recruits who could be in play down the stretch for the Irish include defensive back Frank Buncom IV, safety Tyree Kinnel, athlete Gary Jennings, safety Ben Edwards and running backs Jordan Cronkite and Nick Brossette.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting stats and information courtesy of 247Sports, and all quotes obtained firsthand. Star ratings reflect 247Sports' composite rankings.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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Quick Lane Bowl Betting: Rutgers vs. North Carolina Odds, Pick

Rutgers is 6-1-1 against the spread over its last eight bowl appearances; North Carolina is 6-3-1 ATS over its last 10 bowls. Two good recent bowl bets meet when the 7-5 Scarlet Knights and the 6-6 Tar Heels play in the first-ever Quick Lane Bowl on Friday, December 26, at Ford Field in Detroit.

 

Quick Lane Bowl point spread: Tar Heels opened as three-point favorites; the total was 66. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 25.7-25.1 Tar Heels

 

Why the Scarlet Knights can cover the spread

The Knights started 5-1 this season. They scored a cross-country upset at Washington State and a victory at Navy. The only loss in that span came in a tough 13-10 decision at Penn State. Rutgers also picked up its first-ever Big Ten victory, a 26-24 win over Michigan, before losing three straight to some of the bigger boys of the conference.

But the Knights won two of their last three games, beating Indiana and Maryland to become bowl-eligible for the fourth straight season. Rutgers trailed the Terrapins 35-10 late in the second quarter but rallied back behind quarterback Gary Nova, who threw four touchdown passes to up his season total to 20.

 

Why the Tar Heels can cover the spread

The Tar Heels started just 2-4 this season, with losses at East Carolina, at Clemson and at Notre Dame. But Carolina then won four of its next five, knocking off eventual Coastal Division champion Georgia Tech 48-43 and bowl-bound Pitt and Duke.

The Heels then got upset by North Carolina State in their season finale, but they're still playing in a bowl for the sixth time in the last seven seasons. North Carolina is powered by quarterback Marquise Williams, who completed 63 percent of his passes this season for almost 2,900 yards and 20 scores and led the team in rushing with 700 yards and 12 more scores.

The Heels hit the 40-point mark six times this season, so they can move the ball.

 

Smart Pick

North Carolina holds an edge on offense, and while its defense leaves a lot to be desired, the Heels still probably have the Knights outclassed. The smart choice in this spot is with North Carolina, the favorite at the short spread.

 

Trends

  • Rutgers is 2-4 straight up in its last six games
  • The total has gone under in four of North Carolina's last five games

 

Note: All spread and odds data powered by Odds Shark. Follow us on Twitter for injury updates and line move updates.

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Pinstripe Bowl Betting: Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Boston College Eagles Pick

The Boston College Eagles will look to beat the Penn State Nittany Lions for the fourth straight time when they meet in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. The Eagles will face the Nittany Lions for the first time since 2004 and have won the last three meetings as underdogs but find themselves as favorites this time around.

 

Pinstripe Bowl point spread: Eagles opened as 2.5-point favorites; the total was 40. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 23.7-18.1 Eagles

 

Why the Nittany Lions can cover the spread

It's safe to say Penn State underachieved this year, especially after getting off to a strong 4-0 start and covering the spread in three of those games. But that does not mean that the Nittany Lions are not capable of pulling off the victory here.

They may have dropped six of eight games down the stretch, but four of the losses were decided by seven points or less. Penn State was 4-0 straight-up and against the spread in nonconference games, which is certainly a positive for bettors to consider when handicapping this game.

The Nittany Lions simply struggled in Big Ten play but thrived against everyone else.

 

Why the Eagles can cover the spread

Boston College exceeded expectations this season with an 8-4 record against the spread to go along with a 7-5 mark straight-up. The Eagles may have played the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles tougher than any team so far this year, sitting in a 17-17 stalemate for more than a full quarter before losing by a field goal with three seconds remaining.

They still easily covered the 16.5-point spread against Florida State and earlier in the season upset the USC Trojans 37-31 as 17-point underdogs. Boston College may have overachieved a bit this season, but winning three games outright as a dog has helped this team build plenty of confidence along the way.

 

Smart Pick

Truth be told, the Big Ten did not have a good season overall outside of the Ohio State Buckeyes going unbeaten against conference opponents and sneaking into the College Football Playoff. Penn State should have performed better than a 2-6 record in the Big Ten while BC's 4-4 mark in ACC play is at least respectable.

The Eagles lost only one game this year by more than 10 points compared to two for the Nittany Lions, who were routed 29-6 by the Northwestern Wildcats as 10-point road favorites. That loss at Northwestern ended Penn State's four-game winning streak to start the season and seemed to change the team's fortunes the rest of the way.

The Nittany Lions are 0-3-1 ATS in their past four bowl games and will see that trend continue in another loss.

 

Trends

  • Penn State is 1-4 ATS in its last five games
  • The total has gone under in six of Boston College's last eight games

 

Note: All spread and odds data powered by Odds Shark. Follow us on Twitter for injury updates and line move updates.

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Holiday Bowl Betting: Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. USC Trojans Odds, Pick

The Nebraska Cornhuskers will have to deal with the loss of head coach Bo Pelini and a potential home-field advantage for the USC Trojans as they try to pull off an upset in the Holiday Bowl. Pelini was fired and replaced by Mike Riley, but interim coach Barney Cotton will lead Nebraska. USC’s Steve Sarkisian will try to win his first bowl game there as the head man and help his Trojans beat the Cornhuskers and cover the spread for the third time in as many meetings.

 

Holiday Bowl point spread: The Trojans opened as four-point favorites; the total was 62 (line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 39.6-38.5 Cornhuskers

 

Why the Cornhuskers can cover the spread

Even though Nebraska did not finish the season well, dropping two of its last three games and going 1-3-1 against the spread in its past five, knowing Riley is on board for next year can only help. The Cornhuskers got off to an 8-1 start in 2014, going 6-2-1 versus the line before losing consecutive games to the Wisconsin Badgers and the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

They probably should have won the Big Ten West, which is one of the main reasons Pelini was let go. With Cotton on the sideline, the Nebraska players will not need to worry about the future like they would have if Pelini were still there.

 

Why the Trojans can cover the spread

San Diego is just two hours away from Los Angeles, making this an easy commute for USC. In fact, the only game closer for the Trojans would be the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

The shorter trip should give them more time to prepare for the Cornhuskers. Sarkisian was USC’s quarterback coach and offensive coordinator for the wins against Nebraska in 2006 and 2007, so he is somewhat familiar with his opponent, although Pelini became the head coach there in 2008.

Starting with the 1996 Rose Bowl, the Trojans are 9-3 ATS against Big Ten opponents.

 

Smart pick

The Cornhuskers may feel some sort of relief with Pelini out of the picture, but it is also difficult to find leadership from an interim coach. The first year as head coach at USC did not go perfectly for Sarkisian, but he has a lot more experience in big games than Cotton, including his playing days as quarterback for the BYU Cougars.

The Trojans have won eight of their past 10 bowl games straight up and ATS, including last year's 45-20 rout of the Fresno State Bulldogs as five-point favorites in the Las Vegas Bowl. If Wisconsin and Minnesota can both beat Nebraska and cover the spread, USC should have no problem doing the same thing in the Holiday Bowl.

 

Trends

  • The total has gone over in five of Nebraska's last six games.
  • Southern Cal is 14-5 SU in its last 19 games.

 

Note: All spread and odds data powered by Odds Shark. Follow us on Twitter for injury updates and line-move updates.

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Clemson Football: The 5 Best Moments of the 2014 Season for the Tigers

While there have been some painful memories from this year, the Clemson Tigers have plenty to celebrate this holiday season from a 9-3 regular season campaign.

Countdown lists that look back on the best moments of the year are inevitable in December, and they are a great way to remember the good times. They can also bring back sour tastes, but we will focus on the good moments for this list.

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Independence Bowl Betting: Miami Hurricanes vs. South Carolina Gamecocks Odds

The Miami Hurricanes and South Carolina Gamecocks will each be fighting for a winning record when they meet in the Independence Bowl. Miami will look to break a three-game losing streak straight up and against the spread after starting the season 6-3, while South Carolina has won two of three after dropping four of five.

 

Independence Bowl point spread: This game opened as a pick'em; the total was 60.5. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 32.6-29.5 Hurricanes

 

Why the Hurricanes can cover the spread

The Hurricanes seemed to lose their edge in the final month of the season, especially after falling to the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles 30-26 in a game they could have won. They were favored against the Virginia Cavaliers and Pittsburgh Panthers but lost to both of them following the home loss to Florida State.

However, Miami was one of the hottest teams in the country up until that point and may have ended up running the table had the team found a way to upset the Seminoles as a two-point underdog. Regardless, the Hurricanes have had plenty of time to recover from that disappointing stretch and still deserve to be favored here against the Gamecocks.

 

Why the Gamecocks can cover the spread

South Carolina played in a much tougher conference than Miami and finished with the same record despite facing better competition for the most part. This was not one of head coach Steve Spurrier’s better teams, but the Gamecocks found a way to become bowl eligible.

They now have some new life and can start building for next year against a Miami squad that really struggled at the end of the season. Unlike the Hurricanes, South Carolina has covered two of its last three games and showed some heart down the stretch even in defeat. Four of the team’s past five losses have been decided by seven points or less, proving the Gamecocks have continued to play hard for Spurrier.

 

Smart Pick

It’s hard to believe Miami has grown to a favorite in this game considering how poorly this team ended the season. The Hurricanes seemed to wave the white flag in their last two games, so how can bettors be expected to back them against South Carolina?

To make matters worse, they have also lost five of their last six bowl games both SU and ATS. The Gamecocks are certainly not the same calibre as they were the past three seasons with the likes of Alshon Jeffery, Marcus Lattimore and Jadeveon Clowney leading them to bowl wins.

But those star players left positive marks on the program that should resonate with this year’s team, while Miami was crushed by the Louisville Cardinals 36-9 in the 2013 Florida Citrus Bowl. Bet on the winning ways continuing for South Carolina.

 

Trends

  • Miami is 6-14 ATS in its last 20 games
  • The total has gone under in four of South Carolina's last six games

 

Note: All spread and odds data powered by Odds Shark. Follow us on Twitter for injury updates and line move updates.

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Heart of Dallas Bowl Betting: Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Louisiana Tech Odds

Louisiana Tech, in its second season under head coach Skip Holtz, nearly won the Conference USA Championship Game, and it's been one of the best teams in college football on which to wager this season, going 10-3 against the spread. The 8-5 Bulldogs get a shot at the Big Ten when they battle 6-6 Illinois in the fifth edition of the Heart of Dallas Bowl on Friday, December 26, at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

 

Heart of Dallas Bowl point spread: The Bulldogs opened as four-point favorites; the total was 61 (line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 39.9-21.7 Bulldogs

 

Why the Fighting Illini can cover the spread

The Illini won their last two games, upsetting Penn State and Northwestern, to become bowl-eligible for the first time in three seasons under head coach Tim Beckman. Illinois is also 4-2 over its last six games, easily covering as a 27-point underdog at Wisconsin and upsetting Minnesota.

The Illini racked up 438 yards of offense against the Wildcats, 291 yards on the ground, while hitting their high-water mark for points this season. Illinois has had to play musical chairs at quarterback, but three guys have combined to post a 24-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

 

Why the Bulldogs can cover the spread

The Bulldogs started 2-3 this season but covered getting 34 points from Oklahoma (48-16) and 32 points from Auburn (45-17). Louisiana Tech then won five games in a row, hitting the 50-point mark a couple of times. And in the game that clinched the CUSA West title, the 'Dogs put up 76 on Rice.

Louisiana Tech then led favored Marshall late into the fourth quarter as an eight-point underdog before allowing a score with two minutes to go to lose 26-23. Quarterback Cody Sokol threw for 3,200 yards with 29 touchdown passes this season, running back Kenneth Dixon ran for 1,200 yards and 21 scores, and the Tech defense ranks 32nd in the country overall, 16th versus the run.

 

Smart pick

Louisiana Tech suspended a half-dozen players before the Marshall game, and it's unlikely they'll play in this bowl—and still the Bulldogs are favored by a touchdown. That might say more about Illinois than it does about Louisiana Tech.

So, the smart play in this spot might be with the Bulldogs despite the suspensions.

 

Trends

  • The total has gone over in six of Illinois' last nine games.
  • Louisiana Tech is 5-1 ATS in its last six games.

 

Note: All spread and odds data powered by Odds Shark. Follow us on Twitter for injury updates and line-move updates.

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Sun Bowl Betting: Duke Blue Devils vs. Arizona State Sun Devils Odds, Analysis

Two schools that had hoped to finish the season stronger will square off in the Sun Bowl, as the Arizona State Sun Devils will take on the Duke Blue Devils. The Sun Devils and the Blue Devils have each dropped two of their last three games both straight up and against the spread and will try to finish 2014 on a positive note.

 

Sun Bowl point spread: The Sun Devils opened as nine-point favorites; the total was 67 (line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 38.3-35.9 Blue Devils

 

Why the Blue Devils can cover the spread

Duke had an excellent shot at winning the ACC Coastal but lost two straight home games to the Virginia Tech Hokies and the North Carolina Tar Heels before defeating the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in their finale. Surprisingly, offense was an issue for the Blue Devils in the last month, as they combined for 36 points against the Hokies and the Tar Heels before routing the Demon Deacons 41-21 on November 29.

Like Arizona State, Duke went on a winning streak midseason, going 4-0 SU and ATS, with three of those victories coming on the road. Two of the wins for the Blue Devils came as underdogs, including a 31-25 victory at the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, who won the division but lost the ACC Championship Game to the Florida State Seminoles.

 

Why the Sun Devils can cover the spread

Arizona State finished tied for second in the Pac-12 South at 6-3, with two of those losses coming on the road over a period of 13 days. The Sun Devils were competitive in both of those setbacks but faltered in the second half each time; otherwise, they might have gotten the opportunity to play the Oregon Ducks for the Pac-12 title.

They enjoyed a five-game winning streak in the middle of the season, which gave them a shot at the conference championship, beating the USC Trojans, the Stanford Cardinal, the Washington Huskies, the Utah Utes and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, all teams that will be playing in bowl games this year. They also went 4-1 ATS during the winning streak.

 

Smart pick

The quality of competition is worth noting here, which is why Arizona State is favored by a little more than a touchdown in this spot. Only two of the four teams Duke beat during its four-game winning streak are in bowl games, and the Pac-12 was a stronger conference than the ACC overall.

Another key factor for bettors to consider when handicapping the Sun Bowl is how each team lost two of three to get to this point. The Blue Devils were blown out by intrastate rival North Carolina 45-20 at home and also fell to a bad Virginia Tech team 17-16, while the Sun Devils could have easily won one or both of the games they lost down the stretch.

Arizona State is clearly the better team and should win this game against Duke by double digits to cover the spread.

 

Trends

  • Duke is 17-5 SU in its last 22 games.
  • Arizona State is 16-5 SU in its last 21 games.

 

Note: All spread and odds data powered by Odds Shark. Follow us on Twitter for injury updates and line-move updates.

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