NCAA Football

Nebraska Football: 5 New Year's Resolutions for the Cornhuskers

Nebraska football fans have been looking forward to the new year even more than usual with the firing of Bo Pelini and the hiring of Mike Riley. So as a new year dawns, it’s a good time to look forward and see what kind of resolutions for 2015 would help move things forward and make things better for the Cornhuskers.

Here are five to consider—and hopefully keep in place longer than the two weeks my “do sit-ups every night” resolution is likely to survive.

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Versatile 4-Star Recruit Kris Boyd Tweets Top 5

One of the best defensive backs in the country has narrowed his list of college choices down to a final five, setting up a battle between four Texas schools and the defending national champions.

Kris Boyd, a 4-star cornerback who also plays running back for Gilmer (Texas) High School, made his announcement via Twitter on Thursday:

Rated as the No. 101 prospect in the Class of 2015 and the country's 10th-best cornerback, according to 247Sports, the 6'0", 185-pound Boyd is scheduled to participate in Saturday's U.S. Army All-American game.

Boyd has already made an official visit to Florida State, going there in late November, and has booked a trip to Baylor on Jan. 23. Trips to TCU, Texas and Texas A&M remain to be scheduled.

According to Wescott Eberts of SB Nation, Boyd "isn't worried about the depth charts at the schools that he's considering." However, a look at who his prospective destinations have coming back in the secondary and who they've already received commitments from points at a few schools where he'd have a better chance to play right away.

Every team figures to have a starting spot to fill next season, and Florida State could be replacing both of its corners if juniors Ronald Darby and P.J. Williams declare early. Texas is graduating seniors Quandre Diggs and Mykkele Thompson, while A&M loses Deshazor Everett and TCU will be without Kevin White.

All five schools have at least one cornerback commitment in their 2015 classes, with TCU already getting pledges from three players including 4-star prospect Deshawn Raymond. Florida State has a pledge from the country's fourth-best corner recruit, 5-star Tarvarus McFadden, while Baylor's lone corner commit is 3-star Jordan Tolbert.

Baylor's only senior in the secondary is nickelback Collin Brence.

Though most schools are looking at Boyd as a defensive back, he ran for more than 3,500 yards and scored 60 rushing touchdowns as well as 15 receiving TDs in three varsity seasons. Brian Perroni of Gigem247.com wrote Texas A&M is the lone school giving strong consideration to using Boyd as an athlete, "something he has been excited to hear," and with A&M having loaded up on defensive backs in the previous recruiting classes his best chance to get on the field might be in a hybrid role.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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Jameis Winston Fumbles on Crucial 4th-Down Play, Oregon Ducks Return It for TD

Facing a crucial 4th-and-5 in the third quarter of the 2015 Rose Bowl—a game that doubled as the national semifinal—Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston made a mistake that likely ended any chance his team had at a comeback.

Down 39-20 with just under three minutes to go in the quarter, Winston kept the play alive by scrambling around in the backfield, but as he tried to throw the ball, he lost control of it. Ducks linebacker Tony Washington scooped up the fumble and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown.

As you may notice, Winston was not the only one who had a rough time on the play. The referee took quite the spill as the Ducks went for the loose ball.

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher had a simple message for Winston after the costly mistake:

Of course, in a battle of the past two Heisman Trophy winners, the 2012 winner of the award, Johnny Manziel—who was an Oregon commit at one point—needed to weigh in on what was happening:

Oregon's extra-point attempt was blocked, but the Ducks still held a comfortable 45-20 lead with 1:36 remaining in the third quarter.

[Vine]

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Oregon's Derrick Malone Rips Ball Away from Florida State RB Dalvin Cook

If Oregon goes on to defeat Florida State in the 2015 Rose Bowl, this play by Ducks linebacker Derrick Malone will go down as one of the biggest plays of the game.

Oregon held an 18-13 lead at halftime, but Florida State got the ball to start the second half. With the Seminoles driving, Malone came up with a game-changing play.

Malone caught Florida State running back Dalvin Cook from behind and ripped the ball away for a momentum-shifting turnover. Oregon went on to score a touchdown on the ensuing drive to take a 25-13 lead.

[Vine]

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Sugar Bowl 2015: Live Score, Highlights for Ohio State vs. Alabama

Keep it locked right here as Bleacher Report brings you live coverage of the 2015 Sugar Bowl! 

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Gene Chizik Reportedly Set to Become Defensive Coordinator at North Carolina

Former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik is reportedly set to continue his career in college football as defensive coordinator of the North Carolina Tar Heels.

ESPN's Joe Schad reported the news on Thursday:   

Chizik has called the shots on defense most notably at Auburn and at Texas. Having a national championship on his resume and success in the SEC makes Chizik an ideal candidate for a coordinator position after a couple of underwhelming seasons to close his Auburn coaching tenure.

Three years' probation, losses of scholarships and a postseason ban in 2012 comprised a pile of problems in Chapel Hill, and this year the NCAA reopened its investigation into UNC's academic scandal.

North Carolina ranked 117th out of 125 FBS teams in yielding 497.8 yards per game (h/t NCAA.com). Almost needless to say, an upgrade on that side of the ball is a dire need for the struggling program.

The Tar Heels require reparations on and off the field. For Chizik, this is a great opportunity to make the most of a new, challenging situation and position himself for another head-coaching gig in the future.

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Baylor's Cotton Bowl Collapse Proof Bears Still Aren't Ready for the Big Stage

For the second straight year, the Baylor Bears have fallen apart in a major bowl game following Thursday's 42-41 collapse to Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl, a game that saw the Bears cough up a 20-point fourth-quarter lead. 

Last year, after the Bears won their first-ever Big 12 title, they fell flat in the Fiesta Bowl against UCF, a team that was essentially a one-trick pony with Blake Bortles. That loss left lingering questions as to whether or not Baylor could handle the big stage. 

This year, Baylor did its best to prove that theory wrong. The Bears won their second Big 12 title in a vigorous campaign for a spot in the College Football Playoff that fell infamously short. But a berth into the Cotton Bowl against Big Ten superpower Michigan State seemed like a good consolation prize. 

And for three quarters on Thursday, it was. The Bears built up a 41-21 lead and were coasting. They looked like they were going to follow up TCU's dominating win over Ole Miss and make a huge statement for the Big 12. 

Instead, the old narrative held true. Baylor doesn't belong under the brightest lights that college football has to offer. The Bears aren't ready for the biggest stages. 

Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News shared the opinion that Baylor's perception will carry over. 

The collapse started with Chris Callahan's missed 46-yarder that hit the upright. 

On the ensuing Michigan State drive, Sparty drove 71 yards in just five plays, capitalized by an eight-yard pass from Connor Cook to Josiah Price for a touchdown. That pulled the Spartans to within 13 points. 

Three minutes later—the price of running uptempo for Baylor—the Spartans started a nine-play, 60-yard drive that ended more than four minutes later with a one-yard touchdown run by Jeremy Langford to get within six points.  

The Bears took over with 4:55 on the clock and earned one last chance to make that statement for themselves and for the Big 12—to prove they belonged.

After burning nearly four minutes off the clock, the Bears lined up for another Callahan field goal, this one from 43 yards out. 

But it was Michigan State that came through with a blocked field goal that it took back to the Baylor 45. It took just three completions for Cook to move his team down the field for the game-winning score.  

That score sank the hearts of the Waco community but also proved that Baylor isn't elite. The Bears didn't deserve to be in the playoffs. 

As Craig Smoak of ESPN Radio points out, Art Briles felt after the game that the whole ordeal was more than forgettable. 

Make no mistake, the Bears will be an excellent team next year. Bryce Petty's backup, Seth Russell, saw significant time this year and should be able to keep up the pace that Robert Griffin III set a few years ago. 

Russell will also have KD Cannon, who as a freshman hauled in 58 balls for 1,030 yards and eight scores this year, to throw the ball to. Shock Linwood will return, as will Shawn Oakman on defense. 

The Bears should have their third opportunity in as many years to prove they are elite. 

But for now, Thursday's collapse showed that the Bears simply aren't. 

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Auburn's Defense Has Long Way to Go, but Will Muschamp Can Fix Tigers' Problems

TAMPA, Fla. — A new year didn't bring new change for the Auburn defense.

On the first day of 2015, the Tigers gave up 521 yards—including 251 rushing yards to Heisman runner-up Melvin Gordon alone—in a 34-31 overtime loss to Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl.

New Year's Day marked the seventh straight time Auburn allowed more than 400 yards of total offense and 30 points to a FBS opponent.

Thankfully for Auburn, there are 364 days left in the year to turn things around defensively and get back into contention for a College Football Playoff spot.

And the man hired to be the architect of that change was at Raymond James Stadium on Thursday afternoon—incoming defensive coordinator Will Muschamp.

"We just hired the best defensive coach in football," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. "He's going to get our defense going 100 percent."

Muschamp did not coach his new team in the Outback Bowl as Charlie Harbison, the safeties coach under former coordinator Ellis Johnson, served as an interim coordinator for the game.

The former Florida coordinator sat in a booth with a headset and continued to do what he had done during Auburn's bowl practices.

"He was listening and observing," Malzahn said. "He's trying to get to know our guys and see how they'll react."

Muschamp had a lot to observe Thursday, and it was not pretty.

An Auburn defense that started the 2014 season strong in stopping the run allowed 400 rushing yards to the Badgers. The Outback Bowl was the first time a Tiger opponent had rushed for more than 350 yards since Johnny Manziel's Texas A&M team thrashed Auburn 63-21 in 2012.

"They did a good job scheming us, spreading us out and running between the tackles," junior linebacker Kris Frost said. "When you least expected it, they hit you with the play-action fake. You kind of have to stay on your toes about all of it. That's what kind of makes stopping their run difficult."

Senior cornerback Trovon Reed's explanation for Wisconsin's success was much simpler, according to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer's Ryan Black:

While Gordon and the rest of the Badgers ran wild, the Tigers still made stops—including three interceptions of Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave—and had chances to change momentum on defense.

But defensive penalties extended drives and handed out free yards for Wisconsin, including an early pass-interference call on struggling senior cornerback Jonathon Mincy and a late hit by Frost on the final drive of the fourth quarter.

In the final game of a disappointing 8-5 season, the SEC's most penalized team finished with nine fouls for 75 yards.

After the game, Malzahn pointed to the flags as a crucial problem for his new defensive coordinator to solve.

"That's some of the same stuff that we've done this year," Malzahn said. "It's a good thing we hired the best defensive coordinator in college football, and he'll get it corrected."

While the statistics didn't show it at the end of a game with more missed tackles and frustrating third-down conversions, Frost said Muschamp has already an impact on Auburn's struggling defense.

"I feel like he brought a new feel, a new attitude, a new atmosphere to the defense," Frost said. "It's all about getting back to the old Auburn defense. Really, any time you do that, you're bound to be successful when you have something new. Change is going to happen, and with him, I think he's definitely the right guy for the job."

Muschamp definitely has a monumental challenge ahead of him, as the Tigers have not had a high-ranking defense since the last time he was on the Plains.

Auburn will lose several defensive linemen and defensive backs to graduation, and starting junior linebackers Frost and Cassanova McKinzy have toyed with the idea of declaring for the NFL draft.

But, according to the departing Reed, the future is still bright with the youth of Auburn's defense and its new coordinator.

"It's going to be a scary sight next year," Reed said. "We have some guys who are going to fill in some shoes and fill in well. There are a lot of young guys who could've played in this game today, but they were redshirting.

"Next year, I believe Auburn can go all the way."

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU.

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USC Football: Year 1 Losses, Not Wins, Lay Sark's Foundation

In defensive back Leon McQuay III's performance in USC's 45-42 Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska, the Trojans have a prime example of head coach Steve Sarkisian's mantra of building a foundation. 

“When you have those moments of adversity, what are you taking away from it?” Sarkisian said when describing the cornerstone mindset of handling defeat.

Take McQuay.

"To see a young man in Leon McQuay, who struggled [Nov. 22] against UCLA, come back and have two really cool, critical plays there at the end of the [Holiday Bowl] on the third- and fourth-down plays was awesome," Sarkisian said.

UCLA exploited numerous miscues in USC's secondary, including McQuay's whiff on wide receiver Thomas Duarte, which turned a short pass play into a 57-yard touchdown.

But against Nebraska, McQuay rebounded with some drive-killing plays that quashed Nebraska’s comeback effort.  

The sophomore did not just improve from a disastrous outing in the UCLA loss; his plays late helped USC avoid a repeat of its Oct. 25 loss at Utah, when the Utes drove for a game-winning score.

“The tackle he makes on the fly sweep was just out of sheer belief in himself,” Sarkisian said. “When Leon’s gotten in trouble, he’s waited. But [against Nebraska] he went for it, and he made his plays. The end result is we’re all really happy for him.

"That's what college football's about, watching a guy develop and continue to get better," Sarkisian added.

It's not just what college football is about; it's what USC football is about heading into the 2015 offseason.

USC won nine games in 2014, the third most by a Trojans team with a first-year head coach. Only Howard Jones in 1925 and John Robinson in 1976 were better, each winning 11.

So, when Sarkisian calls his debut campaign "a total success," the assessment has merit.

But the milestones by which Sarkisian and USC are measured are conference and national championships, which the coach discussed after the Holiday Bowl.

"Whether it's John McKay, Pete Carroll, John Robinson...I embrace [the expectations] every day," he said. "I'm going to come with an attitude that we're going to get better as a program the moment I step into the building."

USC could certainly get better by building off the positives that got it to nine wins: Cody Kessler's record-breaking season; John "JuJu" Smith looking like the program's next great wide receiver; Adoree' Jackson's triple-threat presence.

However, the negatives from the four losses might be more critical.

“There is so much we gained from those games that’s going to make us a better program going forward,” Sarkisian said.

The Trojans as a whole applied the lessons of losing on a Hail Mary Oct. 4 against Arizona State—coaches included. They used wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Smith deep for Nebraska’s final end-zone heave and adhered to one particular point of emphasis from the coaching staff.

“Just get the ball on the ground,” a relieved Sarkisian said.

It’s just one play, much like McQuay is just one player. But in both, USC can parlay the miscues of 2014’s losses into future success.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics courtesy of CFBstats.com

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USC Football: Year 1 Losses, Not Wins, Lay Sark's Foundation

In defensive back Leon McQuay III's performance in USC's 45-42 Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska, the Trojans have a prime example of head coach Steve Sarkisian's mantra of building a foundation...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Nick Saban's Coaching Style Bodes Well for Alabama in College Football Playoff

The Alabama Crimson Tide have been in perpetual national title contention in recent years, and head coach Nick Saban is the common variable.

In the inaugural College Football Playoff, Saban will lead Alabama in its bid for a third championship in four years. This win-or-go-home scenario that has a maximum of two games to play will commence as Alabama faces Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl on Thursday.

If any team is cut out to notch two victories over the highest quality of adversaries, it's one Saban commands.

Blue-chip players come and go, the coaching staff shuffles and the chemistry behind all the parts of the powerhouse program are reassembled. Saban keeps the Tide rolling.

The secret to Saban's immense success is quite well-known among college football followers. Allow this 60 Minutes tweet to do the explaining:

Saban is up against Urban Meyer and then the winner of Jimbo Fisher and Mark Helfrich if he gets past the Buckeyes. No one from that trio is a slouch, but there is no denying the consistent, elite results Saban has achieved.

John Middlekauff of Comcast SportsNet opines that Saban has actually created a proliferation in competition for the Southeastern Conference:

What makes Saban so unique is how he handles in-game situations with "The Process." Ever the perfectionist, Saban will ride his players harder than ever when everything appears to be going swimmingly.

It's when the Tide are in their lowest moments that Saban is the most encouraging. There's never any panic from the Alabama sidelines in the rare instances in which the Tide trail. This type of composed, collective cool is of paramount importance amid the unprecedented playoff atmosphere.

And though it's cliche to say Thursday's Sugar Bowl is "just another game," don't expect any different mentality from Saban or his players. That's reflected in Saban's comments before the game, as reported by TheAnniston Star's Marq Burnett:

I sort of look at this a little bit like when you're in the NFL playoffs. You have a game this week. It's the only game that matters only because if you don't play well in that particular game and don't have success in that game, you don't get to play the next game. And that's kind of how our focus and approach has been with this game.

Digesting the macro implications of making history and getting a win in this new postseason format may be daunting for most to consider.

By focusing so intensely on the macro and imploring players to do their job, Saban subtracts distractions that can come with the tremendous expectations and scrutiny from playing under his watch.

When the Tide lost at Ole Miss in October, there wasn't any sort of deviation from the norm. There was just a steadfast dedication by Saban to the status quo—which involves winning at an historic rate as a byproduct of The Process.

Regardless of how the maiden College Football Playoff voyage plays out, that Alabama is a part of it after an early-season defeat and managed to ascend to No. 1 and win the SEC again are outstanding accomplishments as is.

As long as Saban is at the helm, the Tide figure to be a factor in these playoffs for years to come because his fascinating approach to the art of coaching will keep landing them back to the precipice of greatness.

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Jalen Collins Declares for 2015 NFL Draft: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

LSU cornerback Jalen Collins has announced his decision to forego his senior season and enter the 2015 NFL draft.    

He posted the following on his Instagram account, confirming the news (h/t ESPN's Joe Schad):

A physical cornerback with good size (6'2", 198 pounds), Collins finished his junior year with one interception, nine passes broken up, 38 total tackles and three tackles for loss, per CFBStats.com.  

It was a bit of an up-and-down career for Collins with the Tigers. He started and impressed as a redshirt freshman, lost his starting job to Rashard Robinson as a sophomore and after Robinson was suspended, he re-took the job and showed much improvement. 

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller and WWL-870's Michael Detillier commented on his skill set and potential draft stock:

Even with the injury to Oregon's Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, there is a lot of depth to this year's cornerback class. Marcus Peters, Trae Waynes and P.J. Williams are all potential first-round picks. 

But if teams decide to wait a round or two before addressing their secondary, Collins serves as a potentially savvy selection. 

 

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Jameis Winston Dives for End Zone on 4th-and-Goal, Denied by Oregon Ducks

The Oregon Ducks' defense came up with a huge goal-line stand against Jameis Winston and the Florida State Seminoles at the start of the second quarter of the 2015 Rose Bowl.

Facing a 4th-and-goal from the Ducks' 1-yard line, the Seminoles decided to go for it. Winston led the option and decided to keep it himself. The 6'4" quarterback made a move toward the end zone and was initially credited with a touchdown.

However, after review, the referees correctly overturned the call on the field after seeing Winston's knee was down before the ball crossed the goal line.

Thanks to the goal-line stand, Oregon kept its 8-3 lead.

[Vine, The Big Lead]

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Jim Harbaugh's Personality Won't Be as Big a Deal at Michigan as Many Think

Every now and then, Jim Harbaugh steps outside of the comfortable realm of coaching and into that of an architect.

He’s always considered himself the “construction” type anyway.

He likes to get his hands dirty. He gets a thrill out of setting foundations and erecting football fortresses. During the past decade, the 51-year-old has reached the highest levels of the NCAA and the NFL.

His appetite for success is the stuff of legend.

That said, he’ll probably always be in high demand and considered for future vacancies, both collegiate and pro. According to Bleacher Report NFL columnist Mike Freeman, Michigan could be just a stop on Harbaugh’s trail back to the Sunday ranks.

He'll push the Michigan players to their breaking point, get the most out of them quickly, then build the talent. This process of restoring Michigan won't take seven years. Won't take five. The transformation will be fast and furious.

Then, as has happened everywhere else Harbaugh has coached, he will burn out many people around him, and then he'll be gone. This is the Harbaugh methodology. This is why he wins, and this is why he bolts.

So Michigan will get its title, Harbaugh will kick Urban Meyer's ass, and then he'll be gone. Probably back to the NFL.

Freeman makes rock-solid points—Harbaugh has nomadic tendencies. He’s brash and does things his way, on his time.  

Without much warning, he left Stanford after four years—just as it reached elite status in 2010—to chase more. His quest prompted a slide over to San Francisco, where he claimed a pair of NFC West titles prior to losing Super Bowl XLVII to Baltimore and his brother, coach John Harbaugh, in 2012.

Freeman’s right: Harbaugh likes to build, move on to a new project and repeat. It’s been the hallmark of his career—a sentiment echoed by NBC Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, who goes one step further in the “Harbaugh won’t stay long” discussion:

Harbaugh has a reputation for wearing out his welcome and/or burning out within four years. So will it happen in Michigan, where he’ll have to deal with plenty of non-football considerations again, like recruiting and dealing with boosters and administration?

That’ll be the biggest question over the next four years. It’s widely believed that Harbaugh will do extremely well at Michigan; he’s done extremely well everywhere he has been. Maybe he’ll find a way to stay longer at his alma mater than he has elsewhere.

Or maybe the attraction of chasing a Lombardi Trophy eventually will bring him back to the NFL, where his brother (John) and his nemesis (Pete Carroll) have won the last two of them.

Either way, few believe Harbaugh will come close to spending the 20 years in Ann Arbor that Bo Schembechler did. Michigan fans who suffered though the Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke experiments probably won’t mind if it’s only a handful of great seasons.

Many of the reasons why people think Harbaugh will inevitably “bolt” back to the NFL are exactly the same reasons why he may settle down in Ann Arbor for the long haul, if not until the end of his career.

Unlike in the NFL, Harbaugh will probably have full control of everything at Michigan; he’ll be judge, jury and executioner. His word will be the law of the land, a type of command that collegiate fanbases adore and few pro general managers allow.

Harbaugh’s in-your-face methods at the pro level have been questioned, but his intensity and heavy-handed paternal nature is perfect for Michigan, which has had two likeable and painfully affable—but not winning—coaches since Lloyd Carr left in 2008.

Likeable coaches are fine, just as long as they win. But the hand-clapping and hand-holding routines haven't remedied what ails Wolverines football. The team needs someone who really understands what’s at stake.

“He’s won everywhere he’s been, and we need a coach who knows how to win,” said sophomore quarterback Shane Morris. “We’re ready to win. We’re ready to turn everything around. We’re just ready to get back to work.”

Regardless of how Harbaugh initially rubs some (he could ruffle a few feathers), or if he happens to struggle for a year or two (he's inheriting a time-consuming project), Michigan players will be trained to look at him as more than a coach.

They’ll look at him as part of Wolverines history.

They'll see Bo’s boy and a player their fathers, grandfathers, older brother and cousins told stories about while watching the game on Saturday.  

He’s a former Heisman finalist. He embodies Michigan, and there are few franchises or NCAA programs that can boast having a true hometown hero at the helm.

“We all loved coach Hoke—he’s a great coach and a great person; we loved him,” Morris said. “Having coach Harbaugh here, we’re all very excited to have a new coach.

He’s proven himself and has won everywhere he’s been. He knows football. He’s a Michigan man. He’s been here, he grew up here, and we’re all just very excited [to have him].”

It’s worth noting that Morris has memorized Harbaugh’s background.

The kid did his homework.

“He started three years here, and he played 13 years in the league [NFL]… I mean, he knows quarterbacking. He knows it in and out and I’m just excited to be able to work with him,” said Morris, who obviously knows he's getting more than just another coach. 

Harbaugh and Michigan were meant for each other. Success in the NFL may be the grand prize to most, but most aren’t Harbaugh. According to the man himself, “nobody has it better than us”—a battle cry he used to rally his family, the fans and the university before closing his introductory presser on Tuesday.

Those were words from a man who wants to walk down the streets of Ann Arbor as one of its own, not a visitor or temporary resident. Those were words from a man who knows he is where he is supposed to be.

In an effort to gauge his feelings, Harbaugh was asked if his personality was better suited for the college game. On the surface, his stories of yesteryear and mentality of "the team, the team, the team" seem like they'd resonate better with young men, not rich men with endorsements and incredible egos. 

“I feel like it’s the only personality I have…the other ones were all taken, so I got this one,” he said, grinning ear to ear. “We all have a great desire, a human agency, to be a part of a team. To be a part of something that’s bigger than yourself.

I have a great desire and I couldn’t be more excited, honored and humbled to be a part of this great team.”

 

Video: Lloyd Carr on Harbaugh’s Personality

Carr, a former Michigan coach, believes that Harbaugh is in the right place.

A historical moment, Tuesday's presser symbolized the start of a new era of Wolverines football. Carr feels that Harbaugh's touch will benefit student-athletes beyond the field of play. 

"Well, I think Jim is a very emotional guy and a very, very competitive guy," Carr said. "When you are that way, your players know, there's no doubt that they know what he expects.

I think based on his record and all of the things he's done in his career, he brings a great confidence to a team just because of what he's done. I think those things build on each other. He is a great motivator and I think he's a tremendous communicator."

 

Video: Harbaugh's Halftime Homecoming

Harbaugh, Michigan's newest football coach, addressed the fans this past Tuesday during halftime of the Wolverines' clash with Illinois at the Crisler Center. He appeared quite comfortable and professed his desire to reclaim glory on the gridiron. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

Unless otherwise noted, quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer.

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Davante Davis Commits to Texas: Longhorns Land 4-Star Cornerback

While the Big 12's top teams have been cleaning up the past few days on the field, Texas continues to get the job done on the recruiting trail.

The Longhorns secured the commitment of cornerback Davante Davis on Thursday, as the 4-star prospect announced via Twitter his collegiate future:

Davis, from Miami, is rated by 247Sports as the No. 295 player in the Class of 2015, including the 26th-best cornerback in the country. He chose Texas over Florida State but also had offers from the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Miami (Florida) and Ohio State.

One of a group of prospects known as the "Florida Five," according to Mike Roach of HornSports.com, Davis is the second of five Florida-bred players who visited Texas in November during the weekend the Longhorns beat West Virginia. Linebacker Cecil Cherry, a 3-star recruit from that group, committed to Texas on Dec. 15.

The other members—tight end Devonaire Clarington, athlete Tim Irvin and wide receiver Gilbert Johnson—remain uncommitted, though Clarington and Irvin are scheduled to announce their pledges during Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.

At 6'3" and 200 pounds, Davis figures to be a great addition to a secondary in need of big bodies who can match up with the Big 12's many talented wide receivers. The Longhorns are graduating cornerbacks Quandre Diggs and Mykkele Thompson from a team that went 6-7 and lost to Arkansas in the Texas Bowl on Monday.

Davis is the third defensive back among Texas' 23 commitments, along with 4-star safety DeShon Elliott (Rockwall, Texas) and 3-star safety Jamile Johnson (Dallas), and the seventh player it has signed or received a pledge from since mid-December. The centerpiece of that recent haul was 5-star linebacker Malik Jefferson, the top-rated player in Texas and the No. 14 overall prospect in the 2015 class.

Texas moved up to 13th in 247Sports' composite rankings with the addition, jumping ahead of UCLA.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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Michigan State Starts 2015 Playoff Run with Epic Cotton Bowl Comeback Win

Michigan State scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to beat Baylor, 42-41, in the 2015 Cotton Bowl Classic.

The Spartans trailed 41-21 but fought all the way back to 41-35 and blocked a 43-yard field goal with just over a minute left to play. Connor Cook promptly drove the offense 81 yards in eight plays, hitting senior wide receiver Keith Mumphery for the game-winning touchdown with 17 seconds on the clock.

The 2014 Spartans were an obviously flawed team that benefitted from a lopsided schedule en route to a 11-2 record. They didn't beat a single team in the College Football Playoff Top 25 until Thursday.

But the momentum they got from beating Baylor—the highest-ranked team that didn't make the national semifinals—in manic fashion should carry well into the offseason and set the Spartans up for their own run toward the playoff in 2015.

They have, after all, won 11 games in four of the past five seasons.

Cook rebounded from an ill-advised, Brett Favre-esque interception to lead three fourth-quarter touchdown drives. He finished with 314 yards, two touchdowns and two picks on 24-of-42 passing.

The game he played was quintessential Cook. He made difficult throws look easy and easy throws look difficult. But the rising senior signal-caller, who announced in December that he plans to return next season, showed the moxie of a true Heisman candidate.

"When things are on edge, [Cook] can make plays," head coach Mark Dantonio told Tom Luginbill on the ESPN broadcast.

"And that's what he did."

Prior to beating Baylor, the Spartans were 10-0 against unranked opponents but 0-2 against the only great teams they played (Oregon and Ohio State). A five-point home win over Nebraska looked worse at the end of the season than it did at the time, and beyond that there were no quality wins on the schedule.

Seriously…what else did MSU have to point to?

Beating Penn State in State College? Northwestern did it first.

Beating Maryland in College Park? Rutgers did it, too.

Beating Michigan by 24 points? Don't make me laugh.

But a win over Baylor—fluky as it might have been—validated the Spartans' season and propelled them into what should be a legitimate playoff run next year. Provided they fix some of the problems that plagued them in 2014, they should once again compete to win it all.

The first order of business will be fixing the defense, which tried and tried but never seemed to compensate for the loss of Darqueze Dennard, Isaiah Lewis, Max Bullough, Denicos Allen and a slew of additional contributors from last year's Rose Bowl champion.

Pat Narduzzi's final Spartans defense belied the rest of his tenure, suffering regular coverage breakdowns, struggling to tackle in the open field and lacking the je ne sais quoi that made the 2013 group (and so many of its predecessors) so special.

Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty set a Cotton Bowl record with 550 passing yards on Thursday, averaging an absurd 10.8 yards per attempt on 36-of-51 passing.

It was a fitting end to an explosive play-filled season.

Having said that, there are reasons for optimism.

The loss of Narduzzi, who accepted the head coaching position at Pittsburgh, will hurt, but the promotion of defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett and linebackers coach Mike Tressel to co-defensive coordinator ensures a semblance of defensive continuity.

Defensive end Shilique Calhoun and cornerback Trae Waynes might (and probably will) declare for the NFL draft, but the way Narduzzi and his staff identified, recruited and developed talent the past eight seasons has fostered an insanely deep depth chart, especially considering the amount of MSU players who redshirt.

More to the point, Cook will return to an offense that is only now starting to reach its potential. There are holes to fill at wide receiver, but the offensive line will return mostly intact.

With a first-round NFL draft prospect under center, Dantonio on the sideline and the momentum of having just won one of the craziest bowl games of the decade, MSU has everything it needs to compete for a national title next season—no matter that it has to host Oregon and play road games at Ohio State and Michigan (i.e., against Jim Harbaugh).

This is one of the 10 healthiest programs in the country.

And it got healthier, once again, this season.

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Cotton Bowl 2015: Game Grades, Analysis for Michigan State vs. Baylor

The No. 8 Michigan State Spartans shocked the fifth-ranked Baylor Bears 42-41 in the 2015 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Dallas on Thursday.

Michigan State (11-2) staged a 21-point fourth-quarter comeback, edging Baylor (11-2) for the program's fourth consecutive bowl victory. 

Pass Offense: Connor Cook threw a couple darts but fell victim to footwork issues, as per the usual. His shovel pass-turned-interception nearly cost the Spartans the win, but Cook led the game-winning drive with just 17 seconds remaining. The junior finished with 314 yards, two touchdowns and two picks.

Run Offense: Jeremy Langford eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the 10th consecutive game, setting a school record in the process. The senior finished with 162 yards and three scores, while R.J. Shelton added an 11-yard score on a jet sweep.

Pass Defense: All-American safety Kurtis Drummond was fried on Baylor's first two touchdowns, and it didn't get much better for the Spartans secondary. The unit allowed 603 yards and four scores, though Riley Bullough sealed the game with a late interception.

Run Defense: Michigan State limited the Bears to negative-20 yards, though five sacks contributed to that mark. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi elected to stack the box, and his players responded by completely shutting down the Baylor backs.

Special Teams: Marcus Rush blocked a field goal that would've ended MSU's hopes at a comeback, and RJ Williamson returned the kick 35 yards, setting up the winning score. Mike Sadler controlled a poor snap on the go-ahead extra point for Michael Geiger, who nailed six such kicks.

Coaching: Mark Dantonio called a perfectly timed onside kick during the fourth quarter. Narduzzi didn't have an exemplary finish to his MSU tenure, though Baylor's passing success was more well-designed exploitation than it was the result of a schematic problem.  

Pass Offense: Bryce Petty completed 36 of 51 passes, tossing three touchdowns and a handful of gorgeous deep throws. Petty racked up a Cotton Bowl-record 550 yards, and Jay Lee connected with Corey Coleman on a 53-yard double pass.

Run Offense: Baylor abandoned the ground game, though the offense essentially substituted quick passes for handoffs. Nevertheless, the Bears couldn't run when it mattered and directly contributed to Michigan State's final, ultimately costly drive.

Pass Defense: The defense contained MSU pass-catchers to just 9.0 yards per reception through three quarters but surrendered 19.9 during the final period. Alfred Pullom and Taylor Young each recorded an interception, though the latter takeaway included a block-in-the-back penalty that negated Young's touchdown.

Run Defense: Baylor ceded a season-worst 238 yards and four touchdowns. Plus, Michigan State converted 13 of 21 third or fourth downs, which were typically short-yardage scenarios due to early-down success on the ground.

Special Teams: Chris Callahan nailed two field goals, and the Bears stoned an early fake by Geiger, but Callahan's missed 46-yarder and blocked attempt hampered Baylor. Spencer Roth booted a 48-yard punt, and the kick-coverage unit limited the Spartans to 19.8 yards per return.

Coaching: Kendal Briles was nothing short of stellar in his play-calling debut, leading the Bears to nine potential scoring drives. Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett failed to slow Michigan State's frantic recovery, giving up 224 yards and 21 points during the fourth quarter.

 

Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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Devon Allen Injury: Updates on Oregon Star's Knee and Return

Thursday's Rose Bowl had somewhat of an ominous start for the Oregon Ducks, as star receiver Devon Allen injured his right knee on the opening kickoff against the Florida State Seminoles.   

Jake Zivin of KEZI9 in Euguene observed the details of Allen's injury:

Joseph Hoyt of the Daily Emerald later reported that Allen left the field in a wheelchair:

Allen would later return to the sidelines on crutches for the start of the second half, via Justin Hopkins of 247Sports.com:

Allen had a 20-yard kickoff return before he limped to the sidelines. The freshman entered Thursday's game second on the Ducks with 684 yards receiving, including a team-high seven touchdown receptions.

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Devon Allen Injury: Updates on Oregon Star's Knee and Return

Thursday's Rose Bowl had somewhat of an ominous start for the Oregon Ducks, as star receiver Devon Allen injured his right knee on the opening kickoff against the Florida State Seminoles...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Citrus Bowl 2015: Top Performers and Highlights from Missouri vs. Minnesota

The bowl games haven't been kind to the SEC lately, with Auburn losing to Wisconsin in overtime on New Year's Day and both Ole Miss and Mississippi State getting worked over by TCU and Georgia Tech, respectively, on Dec. 31. 

However, the Missouri Tigers were able to redeem the conference somewhat with a 33-17 win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Thursday in the 2015 Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida.

The game started off rather sloppily, with three turnovers before the 11-minute mark of the first quarter. Tigers quarterback Maty Mauk overcame a rough start to play calm, collected football and free up a potent rushing attack with his legs.

After falling behind 14-13 midway through the third quarter, the Tigers powered to a win behind rushing touchdowns from Mauk and running back Russell Hansbrough, along with a fourth-quarter touchdown reception from senior wideout Bud Sasser, his second score of the day. Mizzou finished with a staggering 337 rushing yards, not far off the pace from Minnesota's total offensive output (373).

This edition of the Citrus Bowl featured long stretches of field-position jockeying, punctuated by the occasional highlight-worthy play. Let's take a look at a few of the top performers from the contest, followed by a quick look at the game's replay-ready efforts.


Top Performers

Markus Golden, DE, Missouri

Mizzou defensive end Shane Ray might've gotten the tiger's share of attention this season, but it was his pass-rushing counterpart Markus Golden who went about wrecking the Minnesota offense on this day, as Ray appeared to still be nursing an ankle injury and was seen limping throughout the game.

Golden, a senior playing his final game as a Tiger, was seemingly everywhere on Friday, harassing quarterback Mitch Leidner, chasing down ball-carriers and pummeling the Golden Gophers offensive line. Golden made his mark on this game early, picking up a spectacular sack-forced fumble just under a minute into the contest, which teammate Harold Brantley did well to recover.

Mizzou Football provided a look at his unbelievable first-half stats:

The St. Louis native wasn't quite as prolific in the second half, a byproduct of his own team's improved performance on offense. He did take time out from punishing ball-carriers to remind Minnesota who exactly they were dealing with, per CSN Chicago's JJ Stankevitz:

Golden was named the Citrus Bowl MVP for his efforts, per the game's official Twitter account: 

It was a fine way to end a spectacular season. Golden's ridiculous motor should make him a highly coveted prospect in the 2015 NFL draft, and this performance is certainly going on his audition tape.

 

Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota

Something tells me Maxx Williams is going to get a call from Minnesota's track-and-field coach fairly soon. Williams racked up seven catches for 98 yards and one touchdown in the Citrus Bowl, but it was the scoring play that had him looking like an eventual 110-meter hurdles champion.

Early in the third quarter, Williams took a wobbly pass from Leidner down the left sideline and vaulted not one, but two Tigers defenders en route to a 54-yard score. ESPN CollegeFootball provided a look at Williams' best Liu Xiang impression:

CBS Sports' Dane Brugler felt that play encapsulated the redshirt sophomore's draftability: 

That play will definitely be one of the lasting images from the game. Williams didn't have too much else to do on the afternoon, as Minnesota struggled to keep up, but he proved to be a dependable outlet for Leidner, who had a solid performance himself, completing 21 of 31 passes for 258 yards and one touchdown.

 

Marcus Murphy, RB, Missouri

The Tigers didn't need to feed Marcus Murphy the ball too often in this contest, but the speedy senior running back made every touch count in this one, racking up 157 yards on 12 carries and adding another 16 yards through the air on two receptions. 

Murphy touched the ball just eight times in the first half and just six more times in the second half. His best effort of the game was a 69-yard scamper that set up a seven-yard touchdown pass from Mauk to Sasser. 

Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thought the Minnesota defense was looking a bit bloated on that play:

Murphy was also very unlucky to have a long touchdown run erased by a Mizzou penalty. Still, the Kansas City Star's Tod Palmer noted Murphy's pro-caliber rushing ability after the play: 

Missouri had plenty of success running the ball against the Golden Gophers, and the constant threat of a big play from Murphy had much to do with that on Thursday afternoon.

 

Highlights

Briean Boddy-Calhoun's first-quarter interception off Mauk likely had some Tigers fans reaching for the remote early on, perhaps wary of another dour passing display from Mauk. ESPN College Football provided a look at the play:

Minnesota's Rodrick Williams Jr. had but one carry to give in this contest, but he certainly made it count. Williams sprang for a 20-yard rushing touchdown for the first score of the game, via ESPN College Football:

Mauk eventually smoothed things out in the passing game, although he was far from prolific through the air. He did, however, show off his toughness with an 18-yard scoring run that gave Mizzou a 19-14 lead it would never relinquish, via ESPN College Football:

Murphy wasn't the only Mizzou back to top the century mark in the Citrus Bowl. Hansbrough finished with 114 rushing yards of his own, 78 of which came on this epic run to daylight early in the fourth quarter that did much to shatter Minnesota's confidence in this contest. Via SEC Football: 

The game turned out to be an excellent send-off for many of Missouri's top stars, but the program could struggle to reload at key positions next season. Ray, Golden and possibly Murphy could all very well be playing on Sundays this time next year.

It's a disappointing end to the season for the Golden Gophers, who spent much of the year lurking in the back end of the various top-25 polls. They will have to find a greater spark on offense if they are to compete with Big Ten heavyweights such as Ohio State and Wisconsin in 2015.

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