NCAA Football

Alabama Game Is Exactly Why Urban Meyer Came to Ohio State

COLUMBUS, Ohio — All things considered, Urban Meyer's first season at Ohio State couldn't have gone any better. Taking over a mismatched roster that was a season removed from going 6-7 and possessed no shortage of distractions, the Buckeyes won all 12 of their games in 2012, finishing third in the final AP Top 25 of the season.

But for Ohio State's two-time national champion head coach, that wasn't enough.

Because as the Buckeyes sat out the postseason due to NCAA violations committed by former head coach Jim Tressel and members of their 2010 team, Meyer opted to serve as an ESPN guest analyst for the BCS National Championship Game in Miami. It was there that Meyer witnessed Alabama dismantle Notre Dame en route to its third national championship in four seasons, giving him a firsthand look at just how far away his program was from capturing a crystal ball.

"Where are we? I don't like to deal in speculation, but I think we're a very good team that can compete with any team in the country," Meyer said in January of 2012. "But to say we could roll in there and beat a team like that, first of all I don't want to speculate, and then if I was going to give you an honest answer, I think right now we have too many holes to fill."

Nearly two full years later, Meyer's Buckeyes find themselves matched up with the Crimson Tide in the first-ever College Football Playoff. And the Ohio State head coach will now get to see just how close he's come to filling those holes.

Meyer hasn't made any bones about targeting Alabama since arriving in Columbus, for reasons that extend beyond the Crimson Tide's status as the cream of the crop in college football. In fact, one could argue that Alabama is the biggest reason why Meyer currently finds himself coaching the Buckeyes.

After all, it was the Crimson Tide who brought an end to Meyer's budding dynasty at Florida in the late-2000s, topping the Gators in the 2009 SEC Championship Game on the way to their first national championship under Nick Saban. It was after that game that Meyer infamously suffered from health issues that would lead to a sudden short-lived retirement, before he ultimately called it quits in Gainesville a year later.

“I have a hard time remembering our address or phone number, but I could tell you every play in those games,” Meyer said of his SEC battles with Saban. "The 2009 Alabama team was arguably the best that I can remember going against or getting ready to prepare.”

As Meyer took a year off from coaching before returning to help rebuild the Buckeyes, the Tide continued to roll, capturing national titles in 2009, 2011 and 2012. This year, Alabama enters the College Football Playoff as the nation's top-ranked team, a 1/1 favorite to add to its trophy case, per Odds Shark.

That's why Meyer hasn't been shy about using the Crimson Tide as a measuring stick for Ohio State, especially on the recruiting trail. When 5-star safety Vonn Bell committed to the Buckeyes over Alabama on national signing day in 2013, he did so with clear intentions, sharing a part of Meyer's pitch in the process.

“We all on a mission. We want to do something special,” Bell said during his nationally televised announcement. “We’re gong to try to beat ‘Bama at national championships and try to get that crystal ball."

Later that day, Meyer didn't dispute using taking down Alabama as a recruiting tool.

"If that's a perception that we're chasing them, that's fine. I wouldn't disagree with you," Meyer said. "Anytime teams start talking about who is the king of the hill right now, those words might come out of people's mouths.

"Including mine, once in a while."

Based on the makeup of Meyer's recruiting classes, it's been more than every once in a while. Since he took over the Ohio State program in 2012, the Buckeyes have consistently gone head-to-head with the Crimson Tide on the recruiting trail, pulling a number of key players from the grasp of Saban's stronghold in the south.

That's how Bell, Joey BosaRaekwon McMillan and Johnnie Dixon have each ended up in Columbus in the past two years, as Meyer has attempted to add SEC-caliber talent to his roster with Alabama in mind. It's also not a coincidence that Saban has extended Alabama's recruiting efforts to Ohio in recent years either, which some insiders have theorized as an attempt to force Meyer's focus back to the Buckeye State.

But despite the Buckeyes having seemingly been on a collision course with the Crimson Tide for the past three years, the matches between Meyer and Saban have been limited to the recruiting trail. That will change in the Sugar Bowl, when Ohio State will finally face Alabama on New Year's Day.

And according to Meyer, there may be more than the right to play in the national championship game on the line.

“It’s arguably the best program in America," Meyer said of Alabama. "To go take a swing and knock them off would be a monumental achievement for a bunch of guys from Columbus, Ohio.”


Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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College Football Recruits Who Dominated High School State Championship Games

Another sensational high school football season is history after state championship runs concluded across the country. Teams left standing were often led by college-bound playmakers who aimed to deliver a new trophy to their community.

We've spent the past four months keeping a close eye on top 2015 prospects as they took on the task of carrying programs to the promised land. Here's a look at several standouts who turned ambitious goals into reality during recent weeks.

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UCLA Football: Physical Kansas State Could Expose Bruins Biggest Issue

Known for a style of football that's low on frills but high on physicality, No. 11 Kansas State serves as a barometer for just how much No. 14 UCLA needs to improve upon its most glaring issue for the 2015 season. 

The Wildcats perfectly reflect their head coach, Bill Snyder. Snyder is the oldest active sideline general in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and his Kansas State team plays with an old-school approach. 

A stifling defense complements a methodical, power-based offense—and vice versa. The Kansas State defense allowed just 21.8 points per game and 124.4 rushing yards to wear down opponents on one side then squeezed the air out of the ball on the other with an average time of possession of 32 minutes, 31 seconds. 

It's exactly Kansas State's brand of football that thwarted UCLA's bid for the Pac-12 Championship Game last month. The Bruins dropped a 31-10 decision to Stanford on Nov. 28 that both took them out of the Pac-12 South title race and exposed the most significant facet holding UCLA back. 

"Execution on our part," center Jake Brendel said. 

An inability to match the physicality of team like Stanford or Kansas State may not be the issue for UCLA, Brendel said. But when the Bruins have taken stiff shots from such opponents, their execution tends to suffer on both sides of the ball. 

UCLA's fourth loss to Stanford since 2012 may have shined a light on the Bruins' collective need to get tougher, but their struggles against other power teams say it isn't just the Cardinal giving them fits. 

Their first loss of the 2014 season came against Utah. The Utes cultivated a hard-nosed, defensive identity under head coach Kyle Whittingham, and this year, that identity manifested in a nation-leading 55 sacks. 

Ten of those came against UCLA on Oct. 4. 

Kansas State is not nearly as prolific a sacking defense, but the Wildcats defensive front is more than capable of causing some havoc. 

The majority of the team's sacks come from the defensive line. Ends Ryan Mueller, Travis Britz and Jordan Willis combine for 12.5, more than half the Wildcats' total.

And if Kansas State's defensive linemen aren't producing sacks, they can use their collective length to disrupt opposing quarterbacks, setting the stage for the nation's No. 17-ranked intercepting defense.  

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley's ability to quickly and decisively run zone-read plays is crucial to combating Kansas State's pass rush. The Bruins cut down on sacks allowed late in the season as Hundley became more of a run threat out of the zone read.

But Kansas State is well-versed in defending such an offense, as Auburn running back Cameron Artis-Payne explained after the Tigers met the Wildcats on Sept. 18. 

"They did not get out of their gaps. They stayed in their gaps, and it did not create a lot of cutback lanes for the zone read," Artis-Payne said via "They were tough."

Linebacker Jonathan Truman is the kind of highly active ball hawk Pac-12 teams are employing more in order to attack zone-read and spread offenses. Think Arizona's Scooby Wright or UCLA's own Eric Kendricks.

With Truman backing up the defensive line, Kansas State has the ability to slow down UCLA's rushing attack—and that spells trouble for what offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone tries to do with his scheme.  

"We got ourselves in obvious passing situations," Brendel said following the Stanford loss. "And you can't do that with our offense." 

Establishing a consistent rush against the stout Wildcats front seven isn't just imperative for winning the Alamo Bowl; it's also a look ahead to 2015. 

With Hundley likely headed to the NFL, the Bruins should open next season with a completely unproven quarterback behind center.

Whether that's Asiantii Woulard or incoming 5-star freshman Josh Rosen—or someone else—will play out over the offseason. But no matter who wins that job, UCLA must rely heavily on the Pac-12's leading rusher this past season, running back Paul Perkins.  

Though Perkins shouldered the majority of the load en route to 1,381 yards, UCLA head coach Jim Mora talked throughout the regular season of establishing a multifaceted run game. 

The Bruins' response to Kansas State should put that concept to the test.  


Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics courtesy of Recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports composite scores. 

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UCLA Football: Physical Kansas State Could Expose Bruins Biggest Issue

Known for a style of football that's low on frills but high on physicality, No. 11 Kansas State serves as a barometer for just how much No. 14 UCLA needs to improve upon its most glaring issue for the 2015 season...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

LSU Football's Huge Offseason Problem

In what seems like an annual ritual in Baton Rouge, LSU head coach Les Miles is awaiting word on which underclassmen are moving on to the NFL early.

Eighteen Tigers have left school early over the last two seasons, including running back Jeremy Hill, wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry and guard Trai Turner off last year's offense.

This year could be another sequel to the popular movie.

Jim Kleinpeter of The (New Orleans) Times-Picaynue reported on Sunday that cornerback Jalen Collins received a favorable grade from the NFL Advisory Committee and will enter the NFL draft while safety Jalen Mills didn't get the news he wanted and will return to school in 2015.

While players realizing their professional dreams is a great thing, Miles better hope that fellow Tigers who are on the fence take the more conservative route chosen by Mills.

According to Kleinpeter, linebacker Kwon Alexander, defensive end Danielle Hunter, guard Vadal Alexander and offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins are all considering leaving. Rand Getlin of Yahoo Sports tweeted last week that Hunter was leaning toward staying.

LSU can't afford its roster being decimated again by the NFL. 

Hunter had a strong season against the run, notching 12 tackles for loss and returning a fumble for a touchdown for defensive coordinator John Chavis' defense—which finished as the SEC's best in 2014 (305.8 yards per game). Kwon Alexander finished with a team-high 79 tackles, and if he and Hunter leave, four of the Tigers' top five tacklers could be out the door.

From an offensive standpoint, LSU is already losing second-team Associated Press All-American tackle La'el Collins and center Elliott Porter. Losing two more starters would be devastating to a Tigers offensive line that routinely plowed the road for running back Leonard Fournette and the rest of those Tigers running backs.

Would a new cast be as successful? Would a new cast keep pressure out of the faces of quarterbacks Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris? That's unlikely.

On top of possible roster issues, Chavis has been chasing money, too.

The sixth-year defensive coordinator of the Tigers reportedly flirted with Texas A&M about its vacant defensive coordinator position but recently signed a three-year, $4 million deal to stay with LSU, according to ESPN Radio 104.5's Derek Ponamsky.

If that's correct and Chavis sticks around, it's a huge get for Miles. Chavis was a big reason LSU was successful in 2014, as Gannett Louisiana's Glenn Guilbeau notes.

The quarterback situation has hamstrung the offense and forced the Tigers to rely heavily on their defense to be successful. There are talented players behind those thinking about leaving, including defensive end Tashawn Bower, linebacker Clifton Garrett and cornerback Ed Paris. 

You can only hit the reset button so many times before the machine goes on tilt, though, and some continuity would go a long way toward creating consistency in Red Stick.

Of course players want to live their dreams, and even those drafted in the late rounds and undrafted free agents have the opportunity to live their dreams but come back to finish their degrees after their playing careers are over.

For LSU in 2015, though, it needs those players who are on the fringe to come back to Baton Rouge if it wants to legitimately compete for the SEC West.


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, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee

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Which Team Will Close the Strongest Heading into National Signing Day?

National signing day is quickly approaching, with all of the top college football programs positioning themselves to sign the best talent in the land. And with many of the top players still uncommitted, there are programs that can still salvage their recruiting classes.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer select which school they believe can snag the top recruits and end the recruiting season with a bang. 

Which school can land the top remaining players? Check out the video and let us know! 

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Miami Football: Holiday Wish List for the Hurricanes

What's on your Christmas list? Well, if the Miami Hurricanes football program made one, ol' Saint Nick would be reading an extensive report of necessities.

But instead of highlighting all the minor issues surrounding the team, let's focus on five holiday wishes for the 'Canes.

Now, each once included actually has a somewhat-realistic nature, so far-fetched dreams like a brand-new on-campus stadium are not included. Sorry, folks. It ain't happening, nor is Santa Claus bringing one down the chimney.

Rip off the wrapping paper, and check out what's inside Miami's list. Next year, we'll find out if the Hurricanes were naughty or nice.

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USC Football: Holiday Wish List for the Trojans

The 2014 campaign was something of a feeling-out period for USC football. First-year head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff worked with a young Trojans roster, and they navigated a road with its share of bumps.

The coming offseason is a pivotal one for Sarkisian. It took much of this past year for the program to discover its personality, which wide receiver John "JuJu" Smith said is "great."

"When [negative] stuff goes down...and then [our ability to keep] bouncing back, it's great," he said.

If this year was about the Trojans discovering their identity under Sarkisian, next year is about building upon what they learned.

Prospects for a breakout 2015 season are bright and could only get brighter in the coming months, so long as a few things break in the Trojans' favor.

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USC Football: Holiday Wish List for the Trojans

The 2014 campaign was something of a feeling-out period for USC football. First-year head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff worked with a young Trojans roster, and they navigated a road with its share of bumps...

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Jalen Merrick Names His Top 3: Which Program Is Best Fit for 4-Star OL?

Considering that Jalen Merrick is an early enrollee who is weeks away from beginning his college career, the time is rapidly approaching for the 4-star prospect to make a decision.

He took a step forward in that direction over the weekend when he announced a top three of Arkansas, Florida and Florida State, according to Christopher Nee of Noles247 (subscription required).

All three of his finalists have a need for offensive linemen in the 2015 cycle—with each school already having at least two prospects already committed at the position.

However, can Arkansas pull one of the best players in the Sunshine State away from the Gators and the Seminoles? Also, which program of the three programs provides the best fit for Merrick?



Since Bret Bielema arrived in Fayetteville, he's transformed the Razorbacks into a program whose offensive identity is shaped by its powerful ground attack.

That message was reiterated to Merrick on his visit to Arkansas, as noted by Ryan Bartow of 247Sports (subscription required).

"Coach Bielema said he's inverting things at Arkansas like they did at Wisconsin," Merrick told Bartow. "They have a huge, huge emphasis on the offensive line. [Razorbacks offensive line] coach [Sam] Pittman isn't afraid to play true freshmen."

In terms of scheme fit, Merrick's skill set complements the Hogs physical mentality in the trenches.

However, as Ourlads shows, the Razorbacks are scheduled to lose only one offensive lineman to graduation this year. The flipside to that is that two true freshmen were able to crack the two-deep this year.

Heading to Fayetteville would give Merrick a chance to compete against some of the country's top defensive linemen in a loaded SEC West.



If the opportunity to play right away is critical to Merrick, no depth chart in the country can possibly be more appealing than the one in Gainseville.

With junior Tyler Moore already announcing his decision to enter the NFL draft and fellow junior D.J. Humphries considering making a similar jump, new head coach Jim McElwain could field a line unit with only three players returning from the team's two-deep this season.

However, the uncertainty surrounding the rest of McElwain's staff could hurt the Gators' chances with Merrick.

"I'm cautious with Florida with their new staff, but I'm still considering them because I like the environment," Merrick told Bartow earlier this month (subscription required).

While there are positives in the Gators favor, unless current Gators offensive line coach Mike Summers is retained by McElwain, it's hard to imagine him deciding on heading to Gainesville without having developed a relationship with his future position coach.


Florida State

While Arkansas provides Merrick with a great scheme fit and Florida has the need for big bodies to step in and play early, Florida State appears to merge those two factors better than his other two finalists.

The 'Noles will lose four offensive linemen due to graduation. Another plus is that Seminoles offensive line coach Rick Trickett is among the nation's best at developing talent at his position.

As Merrick told Bartow (subscription required), Trickett was highly impressed with what he saw out of Merrick during his summer camp visit to Tallahassee.

Coach Trickett was still raving about my camp performance. He said he's coached 42 years and I was the best looking offensive lineman he's seen go through agility drills. He has high expectations for me. He wants to make sure I'm the best. He said they are losing four offensive linemen so I'd have the chance to play early.

With that type of endorsement from Trickett, it's clear that FSU holds his abilities in high regard.


The Pick

Each of Merrick's final choices present an opportunity for him to find success at the next level.

However, considering factors such as location, playing time, coaching stability and opportunity, Florida State gets the slight nod over Arkansas as the option that provides the best fit for Merrick.


Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Postseason Awards for 2014 College Football Freshmen

After two straight years in which a freshman won the Heisman Trophy, the biggest awards in college football went across the board to non-first-year players this season.

But the lack of major hardware was misleading for a freshman class that played as well as any group in recent memory. Some positions were stronger than others, but on the whole the 2014 class had both superstars and depth to spare.

Which got us thinking: Why not hand out their own major national awards?

No freshman played well enough to beat Melvin Gordon for the Doak Walker Award, but plenty played well enough to win the Freshman Doak Walker Award. No freshman played well enough to beat Scooby Wright for the Chuck Bednarik Award, but plenty played well enough to win the Freshman Chuck Bednarik Award.

The list that follows is a subjective ballot for the Freshman College Football Awards—the way I would have voted for each trophy if (a) I had a vote and (b) only first-year players were eligible.

Statistics played a major role but were overruled in matters where level of competition or tape study made a difference.

Sound off below and let me know where you agree or disagree!


Note: All recruiting info refers to the 247Sports composite rankings.

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Will Oregon Contain Jameis Winston and the Florida State Offense?

The 2015 Rose Bowl features the two past Heisman Trophy winners, powerful offenses and defensive units that don't get enough credit. Mix in a berth in the college football championship game, and you have yourself one memorable football game. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer break down the game and dish out their predictions for the Rose Bowl.

Who will win: Oregon or Florida State? Check out the video and let us know!  

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Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel Shows Up to Team's 'NFL Day' in Style

Apparently, Missouri's "NFL Day" isn't just for the players.

The Tigers' NFL Day tradition allows the players to wear whatever they want during the team's final on-campus practice of the season. It's a lot easier for the players to feel comfortable wearing whatever they want when their coach participates as well.

This year, Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel showed up to NFL Day with some big-time swagger. Let's just say his players loved the look.

Here's a closer look at Pinkel's outfit:

The 62-year-old coach has some serious style.

[Gary Pinkel, Mizzou Football; h/t ESPN]

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Watch the Best High School Football Plays of 2014

The 2014 high school football season produced some memorable moments. From outstanding punt returns and wild catches to extreme trick plays, this season had it all. 

Bleacher Report scoured through all the plays and compiled the best plays from the 2014 season in the video above. 

What was the best play of the 2014 season?


*Highlights courtesy of Hudl 

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Miami Beach Bowl 2014: Live Score, Highlights for BYU vs. Memphis

Memphis 24, BYU 21 — Late 2nd quarter

Game action is now underway between BYU (8-4) and Memphis (9-3). ESPN is televising the matchup nationally from Marlins Park in Miami, Florida.

We are watching the game, providing live analysis as the action unfolds:

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Forbes Announces 2014's Most Valuable College Football Teams

The University of Texas football program will finish outside the Top 25 for the fourth time in five seasons in 2014. Regardless, according to a valuation from Forbes, the Longhorns still sit atop the standings where it really counts: the bank account. 

The magazine listed Texas atop its rankings of the most valuable college football programs Monday, estimating its worth at $131 million. That comes on the back of a $74 million profit buoyed by the Longhorn Network, Big 12 television contracts and perhaps the largest donor base in the nation.

Texas is valued at $9 million more than the next highest school, Notre Dame, which proves on-field excellence is not always the reason for high revenue. None of the three programs sitting atop the list (Michigan is No. 3) have won a national championship since Texas in 2005. Michigan has not won an outright national championship since 1948 while Notre Dame's last title came under Lou Holtz in 1988.

Note: The remainder of the list can be found at

The list becomes far more representative of recent excellence after the initial trio. Alabama, currently the nation's biggest power, is one of four straight SEC schools following Michigan. LSU, Auburn and Tennessee—the latter an outlier but still a more recent champion than Notre Dame or Michigan—follow the Crimson Tide.

Tenth-ranked Georgia gives the SEC five of the 10 most valuable programs. Overall, nine of the SEC's 14 programs appear in the top 20—by far the most in the nation. The Big Ten is second with five schools (Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Nebraska and Michigan State). Despite its on-field success, the Pac-12 did not place a single team higher than No. 14 Washington and had only three teams on the list (No. 19 USC and No. 20 Oregon).


Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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SEC Football: Holiday Wish List for Every Team

The holiday season is here, and SEC teams are hoping they earned spots on Santa Claus' "nice list."

When St. Nick comes down the chimney of SEC football teams, fans hope he brings them all of the items on their wish lists.

Which presents top the list for each SEC program?

The holiday wish list for every SEC program is in this slideshow.

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Michigan Football: Holiday Wish List for the Wolverines

Michigan fans are sulking at home while rivals Michigan State and Ohio State are both Top 10 teams in major postseason bowls. It’ll be a long offseason in Ann Arbor as the team searches for both a new coach and a permanent athletic director.

Here’s a wish list that could brighten up Michigan’s holiday season.

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Bowl Games 2014-15: Schedule and Predictions for Most Anticipated Games

Coming off a wild college football season, the bowl season has already started with a bang.

Teams like Utah and Utah State have already clinched convincing wins to cap off their seasons. However, most fans are awaiting the biggest bowl games New Year's Eve and Day.

The College Football Playoff features four deserving teams battling for a chance to make the national championship game. Meanwhile, Baylor, TCU and several others will look to end their seasons on a high note in the selection committee games.

Here's a look at the schedule and predictions for the biggest bowl games yet to be played.


Playoff Prediction

Let's be honest. While the Big 12 likely did deserve a team in the semifinals, four of the best teams made the final bracket. Alabama, Oregon and Florida State were convincing all season while Ohio State did exactly what it needed to contend for a title.

The Buckeyes might be underdogs coming into the matchup with the mighty Crimson Tide, but they have a secret weapon in Ezekiel Elliott. Well, maybe "secret" isn't the right word after he dismantled Wisconsin's defense for a Big Ten title-game record 220 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Even with his sensational year with over 1,600 all-purpose yards for Ohio State, Elliott feels he has more in the tank. The sophomore spoke about his success and expectations, via Doug Lesmerises of the Northeast Ohio Media Group:

I think there will be a lot of things that will improve, just like breaking tackles and things. I've left a lot of yards on the field this year just because of my wrist, I can't really carry the ball in my left hand, and can't really use my stiff-arm. I can't really use my hand to post on the ground. I have left a lot of yards on the field, something we are going to improve on next year.

After being overshadowed by Carlos Hyde last season, Elliott has a shot to make a name for himself on the big stage. Going against a stout defense like Alabama's, however, will be a tough task for the dynamic tailback.

The Tide come in allowing the fourth-least points per game while OSU ranks 11th in rushing yards per game and fourth in scoring offense. Alabama's offense might be the difference-maker, with Amari Cooper looking to win a second title.

Out on the West Coast, Oregon and Florida State will do battle for the Rose Bowl. The matchup obviously features the last two Heisman Trophy winners, but Marcus Mariota has been the equivalent of Winston from last season during the Seminoles' title run.

ESPN Stats & Info points out how effective he has been and compares him to other quarterbacks:

Winston hasn't been as consistent as he was in his freshman campaign, but the Noles have found a way to win every game. Given FSU's ability to close, Oregon will need to jump out to a big lead with Mariota leading the way.

The two signal-callers will have the spotlight firmly placed on them, but the running game will steal the show. Both Royce Freeman and Dalvin Cook have put together outstanding freshman seasons and will be game-changers for the Ducks and Noles, respectively.

At the end of the two semifinals, the explosive offenses for Alabama and Oregon will propel them to the final game on Jan. 12. Depending on who shows out on New Year's Day, predicting a winner for the showdown will be as tough as any recent championship game.


Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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LSU Football: Holiday Wishlist for the Tigers

LSU fans have plenty to be thankful for this holiday season. 

Sure, the Tigers were not at their best in 2014. This season will the first time they will not reach 10 wins since 2009. LSU head coach Les Miles has not reached the SEC Championship Game since 2011. With the talent Miles has had, that is disappointing.

But perspective is sometimes important. The Tigers did turn an 0-2 start in SEC play into a respectable 4-4 overall conference record.  

Looking at the big picture, LSU has not had an awful season under Miles. He has won at least eight games every season. Historic programs such as Michigan, Miami and Nebraska have been in constant turmoil and mediocrity since he has been in Baton Rouge. 

For Miles to get back to winning SEC championships, he needs a few things to go his way in the next few months. Let's take a look at LSU's holiday wishlist.

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