NCAA Football

College Football Playoff Championship 2015: TV Schedule, Odds and Predictions

There will never be a lack of controversy when it comes to deciding who gets to play for the national championship, but the inaugural College Football Playoff certainly isn't short on storylines. 

In the Sugar Bowl, it's No. 4 Ohio State vs. No. 1 Alabama. Urban Meyer vs Nick Saban. The Buckeyes' explosive offense vs. the Crimson Tide's star-studded defense. 

And as Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan discussed, via The Times-Picayune's Trey Iles, a whole lot of history:

The opportunity to host two national powers with such great tradition is a true honor. Alabama boasts 15 national championships and met the challenge of another difficult SEC season, while Ohio State has been a perennial power in the Big Ten and has seven national titles of its own. With all that, we have little doubt that this game will produce another memorable chapter in the great history of the Sugar Bowl.

In the Rose Bowl, it's No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State. Jameis Winston, the defending Heisman Trophy winner, will exchange offensive haymakers with Marcus Mariota, who is expected to be the next Heisman Trophy winner. 

For everyone not from TCU or Baylor, it's a dream pair of semifinal matchups, as Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage noted:

Buckle up. 

 

While the matchups are tantalizing in terms of narratives, they aren't exactly toss-ups, with the oddsmakers favoring both Alabama and Oregon by more than a touchdown. 

It's not difficult to see why. After inconsistent starts, the Tide and Ducks have been the two best teams in the country since the middle of October. Comparatively, Ohio State (inexperienced QB) and Florida State (only two double-digit wins in its last seven) face fairly large question marks. 

Still, don't expect either to turn into a blowout. Meyer has two national championships and is 7-2 in his career in bowl games. Jimbo Fisher has one national championship and is 4-0 in the postseason. Each head coach, who has loads of talent to work with, will have his team prepared for the semifinals. 

However, while both will cover the spread, neither will earn the upset.

Alabama is just too good on both sides of the ball. It is 11th in the nation in yards per play and 10th in yards per play allowed, per TeamRankings.com. Meyer, via The Tuscaloosa News' Cecil Hurt, put it simply:

Ohio State, even with sophomore Cardale Jones making just his second career start, has the offensive arsenal to keep up (just ask Wisconsin). But ultimately, Amari Cooper and the Crimson Tide offense will be too much for the Buckeyes. 

For the Ducks, it's all about Mariota. With a ridiculous 38-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio on the season, the junior has proven to be the best player in college in 2014. Florida State, which has struggled to contain Justin Thomas and Treon Harris in the past two weeks, will have no answer for the versatile, up-tempo attack.

Predictions: Alabama 35, Ohio State 28; Oregon 38, Florida State 31 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Sugar Bowl 2015: Full Preview and Predictions for Alabama vs. Ohio State

After a wild season with a chaotic finish, the College Football Playoff is finally set. In the final game of a full New Year's Day slate, two of the sport's most illustrious programs will face off for a chance to play for the national championship.

Coming off wins in their conference championships, Alabama and Ohio State will match up in New Orleans in the second semifinal. Years after facing each other three times in the SEC, Nick Saban and Urban Meyer will match up for a fourth time on the national stage.

Along with the coaching battle, both offenses pack plenty of firepower. Whether it's Blake Sims and Amari Cooper or Ezekiel Elliott and Devin Smith, fans will get their money's worth on New Year's Day.

Prior to the pivotal battle getting underway, here's a look at the full preview and predictions for the 2015 Sugar Bowl.

 

Viewing Information

Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans

When: Jan. 1, 2015

Start Time: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

 

Preview

Coming into the year, many analysts believed both programs would contend for a title. Even after losing two quarterbacks throughout the season, Ohio State has survived to enter the playoff bracket.

Both programs feature offenses playing at a very high level, but the Buckeyes come in after rolling Wisconsin. Cardale Jones got his first start under center and responded with three touchdowns to go along with Ezekiel Elliott's 220 rushing yards and two scores.

Ohio State might not have its first two choices at signal-caller, but it still looked dominant enough against Wisconsin to secure a spot. Playoff chairman Jeff Long referenced the huge win, per Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:

Fans also get an opportunity to feast their eyes on another explosive offense on the other side of the field. Alabama has been defined by its passing game, and one player in particular, this season.

Cooper currently holds the SEC record for a single season with 115 receptions this season for a total of 1,656 yards and 14 touchdowns. The junior has three games with over 200 yards this season and four with multiple touchdowns.

Meyer put it simply when talking about Cooper's ability, via Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News:

Along with the potent passing game, the Tide also offer one of the best defenses in the country. Outside of a shootout with Auburn in the Iron Bowl, Alabama has been stout against great competition throughout the year.

ESPN Stats & Info notes what appears to be a pivotal matchup for the two sides:

Ohio State clearly isn't a team full of schmucks either after dismantling Wisconsin to the tune of 59-0. Holding Melvin Gordon in check is no easy feat, so creating opportunities through the running game will prove difficult for the Tide.

Each team comes in with strengths and weaknesses, but they are clearly two of the best teams in the country. The second semifinal promises to be an intriguing one in the Superdome with a chance at a title on the line.

 

Prediction

The argument over who deserved to earn the No. 4 seed will continue to rage on, but Ohio State will put up a huge battle. Led by Jones, the Buckeyes have a chance to make things interesting in the biggest game of the Meyer era.

Ultimately, it will be Alabama moving on to play for a fourth title in the last six seasons. The Buckeyes will prove to be a worthy opponent, but Saban will flex his defensive muscle against Meyer as he did in the 2009 SEC Championship Game.

Prediction: Alabama 31, Ohio State 23

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Rose Bowl 2015: Full Preview and Predictions for Oregon vs. Florida State

The second-ranked Oregon Ducks will make a familiar trip to the Rose Bowl, this time with much different implications as they take on undefeated Florida State for a spot in the national championship game.

The College Football Playoff selection committee pegged the two teams for their first-ever appearance against each other in the history of both programs, and one of two national semifinals boasts nearly every exciting storyline you could dream of. 

From Oregon chasing its first national title against the defending champions to two of the nation's most decorated gunslingers going at it, there won't be any reason to change the channel throughout the afternoon of New Year's Day.

No strangers to the spotlight, both Florida State and Oregon are unlikely to back down in a national semifinal with legacies on the line.

 

2015 Rose Bowl: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State

When: Thursday, January 1

Where: Rose Bowl Stadium, Pasadena, California

Start Time (ET): 5 p.m.

TV: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Odds (via Odds Shark): Oregon -8, as of December 7

 

Oregon vs. Florida State Preview

It's hard to imagine a program going undefeated en route to a national title, follow it up as the nation's only unbeaten a season later and emerge from that as the nation's third-ranked team. But that's exactly where Florida State is as it enters the Rose Bowl.

Of course, winning eight of your games by six points or fewer—many against unranked foes—will do that. As easy as the Seminoles made winning look a year ago, it's been like pulling teeth for them to grind out some of their 2014 victories.

But there wasn't any beating around the bush for Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich when he addressed Florida State's winning streak Sunday, per the Tallahassee Democrat's Corey Clark:

Helfrich's Ducks may not be able to boast an unbeaten record, but they were able to exact revenge on their only defeat of 2014. That came in the Pac-12 Championship Game, when Oregon trounced then-No. 7 Arizona 51-13 to make no doubt of their superiority out west.

That convincing of a win on Friday night spurred folks like Altoona Mirror's Cory Giger to laud them as the potential No. 1 seed:

The big Rose Bowl matchup centers around the battle at the quarterback spot, with reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston going up against one of this season's Heisman hopefuls in Marcus Mariota. Ball security could loom large, as Winston has thrown a ghastly 17 interceptions on the year to Mariota's two.

Both quarterbacks have certainly shown the ability to take over games, which means it could really go either way. But if there's any doubt as to who has the better team around them right now, just remember that Oregon has won its last five games by more than 20 points, and Florida State has just two such wins all year.

 

Prediction

Winston and Florida State have shown time and time again throughout ridiculous circumstances that they're a team of destiny.

With that said, the Seminoles are going up against a buzz saw that is ready to chop them to pieces. Oregon will have no trouble mixing it up with an unconventional attack to get to the 40-point plateau for the ninth straight game, and Florida State won't be able to notch crucial turnovers against a poised Mariota.

Winston will show championship pedigree by battling back in it late like he's known to do, but that will come with the 'Noles already facing a 20-point deficit. A few late touchdowns won't be enough to even cover the spread, as Oregon advances to the championship.

Prediction: Oregon 41, Florida State 30

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bowl Games 2014-15: TV Schedule and Predictions for Top Matchups

The 2014-15 bowl game schedule was revealed on Sunday, and there are a number of matchups to look forward to even outside of the elite, inaugural College Football Playoff.

Although all but four teams will be disappointed not to be in the running for the national title, there is still plenty of postseason action for them to get in on. Those who were just on the fringe, such as Big 12 co-champions Baylor and TCU, will get a chance to prove themselves against quality opponents.

The focus will inevitably fall on the new playoffs, which feature the four top-ranked teams battling each other on New Year's Day.

Since both games are bound to be epic, it's worth taking a closer look at them, along with the best non-playoff game on tap.

Note: Statistics courtesy of NCAA.com.

 

 

Predictions For Top Bowl Matchups

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State

The head coaching matchup of Alabama's Nick Saban and his Ohio State counterpart Urban Meyer alone makes this a massive draw.

Various pitfalls have prevented the Buckeyes from rising as prominently into the national championship picture. That they were able to overcome the loss of two potential Heisman quarterbacks to win the Big Ten in such dominant fashion is a testament to the program Meyer has built in Columbus.

Even Meyer is a bit surprised the Buckeyes are in this position, via ESPN.com's Austin Ward:

We're a young program, a team where if you had told me this in August, I would have said not yet. Maybe next year, but not this year because we're just so young.

[...] When Braxton was the quarterback, I still didn't know. Four new offensive linemen. Brand new tailback. Issues on defense. I didn't know. I liked the young players, I thought once they grew up it was going to be [good]...They just grew up rather quickly. When did that start? I started seeing it but I didn't believe it completely until the experience we had on Saturday night.

While the Crimson Tide rightly carry clout with their record of success, physical, run-heavy style of offense and tenacious defense, Ohio State has many of those same attributes with its current team.

Ezekiel Elliott is a bruising ball-carrier who can thrive even against Alabama's stout front seven. Wisconsin was supposed to be a formidable opponent, yet Elliott compiled 222 yards rushing and two scores on just 20 carries in the Bucks' 59-0 victory.

Tony Gerdeman of The-Ozone.net noted how Elliott was able to find some space, which could be a sound strategy versus the Tide, too:

But the body of work Alabama has put together in the SEC this year can't be ignored, as it is in the best conference in the country.

Blake Sims is a fifth-year senior who finally got his shot and made the most of it with great decision-making and more explosive playmaking ability than the Tide have enjoyed in years at the position.

Sims seems to be the safer bet to handle the spotlight than Cardale Jones—despite the latter's magnificent debut in the conference title game. Since Alabama has film on Jones and ample time to prepare, it will likely force him into a critical mistake that Sims won't make.

A No. 1 receiver battle for the ages between Ohio State's Devin Smith and Alabama's Amari Cooper will also unfold, but the Tide have the edge there as well. In a close contest that should feature plenty of ground-and-pound football, Alabama will pull off a tight win.

Prediction: Alabama 24, Ohio State 20

 

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State

The head coaches, running backs and top wideouts headline the Sugar Bowl, but in Pasadena, it's all about the most important position on the field.

Oregon's Marcus Mariota is the front-runner to take the Heisman away from previous winner and Rose Bowl counterpart Jameis Winston. Whether Mariota can rise to the occasion and lead the Ducks one game away from taking the national championship from the Seminoles remains to be seen.

Where the Ducks star stands out is his lack of giveaways, something Winston has been susceptible to. ESPN Stats & Info highlights Mariota's mind-boggling production:

As opposed to the Sugar Bowl, this matchup will be a complete clash of styles. Mariota and Oregon will be pushing the tempo as much as possible. For a Florida State defense that struggles against the run, that's bad news.

But Winston managed to light up Georgia Tech for 309 yards passing and three TDs in guiding FSU to the ACC title. That was with just 25:05 of offensive possession, too, and it showed again that Winston can overcome adversity and execute an intricate, pro-style offense.

This one could come down to which dynamic signal-caller gets the ball last, but the Ducks present the matchup problems and tools to make Florida State's seemingly endless luck run thin. Between DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead on the defensive front, the personnel is there for Oregon to do enough to slow Dalvin Cook out of the Seminoles backfield.

Combine that with Mariota's ball security and superior athleticism to Winston's, and the Ducks should find themselves meeting Alabama for all the marbles on January 12.

Prediction: Oregon 41, Florida State 30

 

Cotton Bowl: No. 5 Baylor vs. No. 8 Michigan State

Either the Bears are going to have a demoralized hangover from being the last team out of the College Football Playoff, or they will take out that frustration on the Spartans in the Cotton Bowl.

Based on the poise Baylor star Bryce Petty exuded on Twitter after the disappointing news from Sunday, yours truly is more inclined to believe the former scenario is most probable:

As much fanfare as the Oregon-FSU matchup will get for its QBs, NFL.com's Gil Brandt is looking forward to the field generals that will occupy the gridiron in Arlington:

Sparty's defense has been reputable under coach Mark Dantonio, yet it was lit up for 49 points by the Buckeyes in a season-defining game. That was the last time Michigan State faced a truly explosive, spread-based opponent.

Baylor is lethal with the veteran Petty at the controls, with three receivers who have at least 50 receptions and four who have at least six touchdown grabs. Such an array of weapons is enough to keep any adversary on its heels.

It will take an exceptional effort from the Spartans' offensive leaders, QB Connor Cook and senior running back Jeremy Langford, to keep Michigan State in this one. The balance Cook and Langford present will keep their side executing at a top-10 national level on third down, helping to keep the score close.

However, there won't be quite enough speed on Michigan State's defense or personnel in the secondary to account for the Bears' myriad of playmakers.

Once the fourth quarter hits, the tempo Baylor plays with, the toll RB Shock Linwood will exact on Sparty and the Bears' exceptional skill players will be the difference.

Prediction: Baylor 35, Michigan State 23

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bowl Games 2014-15: Latest Odds, Predictions for Entire Schedule

Let the College Football Playoff experiment begin.

Following weeks of heated debate over which four schools should participate in the inaugural postseason bracket, the selection committee finally locked down the representatives on Sunday. SportsCenter shows the final rankings entering bowl season.

While three-quarters of the quadrant crushed their way into the final four, Florida State tested its fortune one more time with a close call. Even as the bite-sized tournament's lone undefeated team, the Seminoles wield the worst probability of capturing another title, per ESPN Stats & Info.

Tensions will rise until the two playoff contests occur on New Year's Day, but football fans can fill the void with the myriad of other bowl games. At this rate, it's probably rarer to find a company not sponsoring one of these showdowns.

 

College Football Playoff Preview

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State

A crushing injury to freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett figured to expel Ohio State from the playoff picture, but a 59-0 beatdown of Wisconsin propelled the Big Ten champions into the main event.

TCU and Baylor both have axes to grind, but ESPN Stats & Info gives the Buckeyes a major advantage in their level of opposition.

Starting the season as a third-stringer behind Braxton Miller and Barrett, Cardale Jones delivered 257 passing yards and three touchdowns to top the Badgers on Saturday. Per NFL.com's Albert Breer, the performance left head coach Urban Meyer convinced his squad would make the cut.

The defense deserves just as much credit after containing Heisman Trophy hopeful Melvin Gordon to 76 rushing yards on 26 carries, his first output below 120 yards since Week 2. With a long run of 13, the Wisconsin star failed to rattle off a 20-yard rush in a game for the first time this season.

Yet the Buckeyes will once again be tasked with shutting down an offensive monster. This time, it's Amari Cooper, who has caught 25 passes for 307 yards and three scores over his last two games against Auburn and Missouri. 

The junior's dominant display set a pair of SEC records on Saturday, per the SEC Network's Twitter page:

While Ohio State scores 45.2 points per game, good for fourth in the FBS, the Crimson Tide have averaged 48.3 points over their past trio of contests. Quarterback Blake Sims quietly touts a fourth-best 9.2 yards per attempt heading a potent passing attack.

Alabama produces 130.2 more passing yards per game than Wisconsin, and a defense surrendering 14.6 points a contest creates a ferocious challenge for Jones in just his second start. The Crimson Tide are used to steep competition after combating the SEC, so look for them to return to the national championship game.

Prediction: Alabama 34, Ohio State 20

 

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State

Think ESPN likes this matchup? Top quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston will audition for bottom-dwelling NFL clubs as Oregon battles to usurp Florida State's grasp on the NCAA throne.

In all likelihood, this is a collision between last year's Heisman winner and this year's Heisman victor. The committee might as well spare some expenses and send Mariota the trophy after he scored five touchdowns against Arizona during the Pac-12 title clash.

ESPN's John Buccigross demonstrates how Mariota has already exceeded the accomplishments of both Johnny Manziel and Winston.

Meanwhile, Winston has thrown a dozen interceptions during the last seven games. During that stretch, the Seminoles sustained a 6.1-point margin of victory. Through the same time frame, Oregon has decimated all its opponents by an average of 28 points per contest.

The Ducks have won all but one game by double digits this year; the Seminoles have claimed seven victories by six points or less. Sure, a win is a win, but their inclination to salvage close victories reflects their shortcomings on both ends.

They relinquish 378 total yards per game, shunning them from the FBS top 50. Oregon fares even worse at No. 82 with 414 yards allowed, but it also averages 111 more yards than FSU on the other side. Points will come plenty in this shootout, but Jimbo Fisher's squad won't be able to contain Mariota's powerhouse.

Anyone who scoffs at the Seminoles not brandishing the No. 1 rank will quickly realize why when they get outclassed by a superior team.

Prediction: Oregon 45, Florida State 27

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football's All-2014 Season Team: Top Performers at Every Position

Championship Week featured a light slate of 14 games, so in lieu of the usual All-Week team, let's instead look back on the 2014 college football season in total.

Who were each position's top performers…for the year?

The theory of this article is similar to, but not exactly like, an All-America team. The main difference, though, has to do with form more than matter. Instead of building out a traditional All-America team, I will build this in the same style as my All-Week teams throughout the season: with the best two players/groups at 11 different positions.

Like the All-Week teams, the All-Season team weighed numerical merit against strength of competition. It was not as simple as sorting for each position's statistical leaders, copying and pasting.

Who those statistics came against was vital.

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Miami Beach Bowl 2014: Preview, Predictions for Memphis vs. BYU

The inaugural edition of the Miami Beach Bowl will feature the BYU Cougars (8-4) and the Memphis Tigers (9-3). The two teams are coming into the game on winning streaks of four and six games, respectively, and will make for an entertaining pre-Christmas bowl.

The Cougars started the season 4-0, but after losing potential Heisman candidate and star quarterback Taysom Hill to injury, they lost the next four games. Backup QB Christian Stewart managed to rally the squad to four-straight wins to close out the regular season.

The Tigers were one of three champions of the American Athletic Conference, along with Cincinnati and Central Florida. Memphis boasts a top-five defense that has surrendered only 17 points per game, which has carried them to nine wins.

This is the first meeting between Memphis and BYU, but it will surely be a good one. Read on to find a complete preview for the first Miami Beach Bowl.

Date: Monday, December 22nd

Time: 2 p.m. ET

Place: Marlins Park, Miami, FL

TV: ESPN

 

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Liberty Bowl 2014: Preview, Predictions for Texas A&M vs. West Virginia

Texas A&M will face West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl on December 29 in Memphis, Tennessee. The game will make for an intriguing matchup between two big-name programs.

The Aggies finished the 2014 regular season with a 7-5 record overall and a 3-5 record in the Southeastern Conference. The Mountaineers finished their regular season with a similar 7-5 record.

This is the sixth year in a row that the Aggies have qualified for a bowl game. The Aggies are starting four true freshmen and have 11 true freshmen listed on the depth chart.  

The Texas A&M coaches can use the extra practices for the bowl to get another look at the freshmen and to get them important reps to help expedite their progress as players. 

This bowl game represents the first step in the process of the Aggies becoming a conference and a national title contender in 2015. This following is a complete preview of the 2014 Liberty Bowl. 

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Heart of Dallas Bowl 2014: Preview, Predictions for Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech

Illinois (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten) will face Louisiana Tech (8-5, 7-2 Conference USA) in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on Friday, December 26.

Illinois won its last two game of the season to become bowl-eligible, while Louisiana Tech lost 26-23 to Marshall in the Conference USA title game.

This game will mark each team’s first bowl appearance since 2011.

Date: Friday, December 26, 2014

Time: 1 p.m. ET

Place: Cotton Bowl Stadium (92,100), Dallas, Texas

Television: ESPN

Radio: The Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl network coordinated by RedVoice LLC.

Spread:TBD via Odds Shark

Last Meeting: Louisiana Tech and Illinois last played in 2012 when the Bulldogs went to Champaign and took home a 52-24 win.

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Bowl Projections 2014: Playoff Predictions and Championship Odds

Weeks of heated debate led to this. The selection committee unveiled its final College Football Playoff rankings on Sunday, with Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State occupying the top four seeds.

Fans and analysts projected potential semifinal matchups over the past couple of months, but now everybody has something tangible to sink his or her teeth into and examine. The Crimson Tide and Buckeyes will meet in the Rose Bowl, with the Seminoles and Ducks facing off in the Sugar Bowl.

Both games are worthy of being a national championship, and you can see any one of the quartet emerging as the last team standing. That's evident in the relative closeness of their odds to win the national championship. (Note: Championship odds are courtesy of Vegas Insider.)

Below, you'll find brief previews for this year's semifinals.

 

Sugar Bowl

No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes

It may sound reductive, but this game will likely come down to who has the better quarterback.

When teams throw Blake Sims out of his comfort zone, Alabama's offense takes a step back. Some of Sims' worst performances this year have coincided with the Crimson Tide's closest games.

The senior quarterback was 19-of-31 for 228 yards and an interception in the 23-17 loss to Ole Miss. In the narrow victories over Arkansas and LSU, he was a combined 31-of-66 for 370 yards.

Jacob Coker nearly replaced Sims early in the third quarter of the Iron Bowl, at which point the Tigers led 33-21. Sims eventually recovered and Alabama outscored Auburn 34-18 in the second half. It was a real Jekyll-and-Hyde performance.

Before the SEC title game, 'Bama head coach Nick Saban alluded to how important it is for Sims to maintain his composure and remain confident on the field, via Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman:

On the other side, you've got Cardale Jones, who, despite his performance in the Big Ten Championship Game, remains largely untested in such a high-pressure situation. He's attempted 36 passes in his college career, 17 of which came against Wisconsin.

We're talking about a quarterback making his second career start in a national semifinal game against the top-ranked team in the country. That raises a red flag no matter what Jones did in his first start.

On the other hand, you could spin Jones' inexperience in a positive way. As Aaron Suttles of TideSports.com noted, the Tide staff doesn't have a ton of tape from which to devise a defensive game plan:

Jones isn't a carbon copy of J.T. Barrett, either, which means Saban can't expect to see the same offense Ohio State used the entire season. Plus, the Buckeyes' dominant performance against the Badgers meant Urban Meyer didn't have to open up his entire playbook and use a bunch of different looks with Jones.

That element of surprise could play majorly in OSU's favor.

You can't beat a team as good as Alabama with shaky quarterback play. Missouri, Mississippi State, LSU and Texas A&M all learned that the hard way. Jones doesn't have to throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns, but he can't complete fewer than 50 percent of his passes and have more interceptions than he does touchdowns.

Similarly, Sims can't let his emotions override his brain. That's when he makes silly mistakes and tries to force throws that aren't really there.

"Sometimes, it's a big game, and he starts putting a lot pressure on himself, and he gets a little anxious," Saban said of his QB, per ESPN.com's Alex Scarborough. "I don't think he really processes and makes as good of decisions when he gets like that."

Alabama has one of the most efficient offenses in the country when Sims is on his game. When he's not, you get the first half against Auburn.

In a head-to-head battle between Jones and Sims, you give the slight edge to Sims. Neither team owns a discernible advantage over the other, so Sims outshining Jones could well decide the outcome.

Prediction: Alabama 30, Ohio State 24

 

Rose Bowl

No. 2 Oregon Ducks vs. No. 3 Florida State Seminoles

Throughout the season, Florida State's built a reputation for starting games slowly. Then head coach Jimbo Fisher makes the necessary halftime adjustments, and the Seminoles look like a different team in the second half.

So far, FSU hasn't given itself more trouble than it can handle.

Against Oregon, a slow start could be fatal. The Ducks are capable of scoring a lot of points in a short amount a time. After a few bad drives, Florida State could be looking at an early 21-0 or 24-7 hole.

Oregon turned a 7-0 deficit into a 24-7 lead over Utah in a span of 12 game minutes, while a slim 6-0 lead over Arizona became a 23-0 edge in the final seven minutes and 27 seconds of the first half in the Pac-12 title game.

If the Ducks build an early double-digit lead, they won't fade like Miami or Louisville did.

A big reason Florida State doesn't want to be staring at a massive first-half deficit is Royce Freeman. The freshman running back improved as the season went on, running for over 100 yards in each of his last three games:

Florida State's run defense hasn't exactly been stout, giving up an average of 160.1 yards a game.

The 'Noles didn't win the ACC title because they shut down the Georgia Tech running game. The Yellow Jackets rushed for 331 yards on 59 carries in a 37-35 loss.

Between Freeman and Marcus Mariota, Oregon could carve up the Seminoles defense.

For Florida State, the game plan starts with slowing down Mariota. He's the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman Trophy and makes the Ducks go.

Fisher wasn't shy in his praise of the junior quarterback, per Rob Moseley of GoDucks.com:

When you think back to Oregon's rough patch earlier in the season, the team really had a hard time supplying Mariota with consistent protection. He was under duress quite often, and that set off a chain reaction that affected every facet of the team.

Bleacher Report's Jason Gold wrote in his Rose Bowl preview that getting after the QB will be one of FSU's keys to victory:

If there’s one area where Oregon’s offense has really struggled this year it is in protecting Marcus Mariota. The Ducks’ offensive line has allowed Mariota to be sacked 29 times this season.

If the Seminoles are able to get pressure on Mariota, flush him out of the pocket and contain his running ability, they may be able to slow down Oregon’s high-octane offense.

The Florida State pass rush will be getting a boost in the form of Eddie Goldman's return. The junior defensive tackle left the ACC championship with an injury, but Fisher's confident that he'll be back soon, per Tim Linafelt of Seminoles.com:

The Seminoles will need every healthy body they can get to stop an Oregon offense that looks to be truly hitting its stride for the first time all season.

Although Florida State is still unbeaten, the Ducks are arguably the hotter team. And with the Seminoles' continued problems in the first half, Oregon gets the nod.

The Ducks will take an early lead, and while FSU will claw its way back, the Pac-12 champions will wrap up the victory late.

Prediction: Oregon 38, Florida State 34

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Armed Forces Bowl 2015: Preview, Predictions for Houston vs. Pittsburgh

It used to be that six- and seven-win teams wouldn't sniff a January bowl game, so what a treat it must be for the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Houston Cougars to square off in the Armed Forces Bowl this year.

For Pitt, you look back at the schedule and quite frankly, there isn't a whole lot to like as far as big wins and memorable moments. The Panthers started 3-0, which included a 30-20 victory at Boston College, but followed it up with six losses in their next seven games, counting a 21-10 loss to Akron.

But quarterback Chad Voytik and company rallied in the final two weeks of the regular season with impressive victories against Syracuse and Miami to reach the all-important six-win mark and become bowl-eligible. The late-season push paid off, and the program will get an additional month of practice to not only prepare for Houston, but continue to get better as a whole.

Most folks are familiar with Houston from the occasional flirtation with an undefeated season or the offense that has, for so many years, put up plenty of big numbers through the air. The 2014 campaign got off to a slow start and the Cougars sat at 2-3 heading into an Oct. 11 contest with Memphis in which Houston emerged victorious.

That led to four more wins in the final six games of the season, an on Saturday Houston put up an admirable fight in a 38-31 loss to Cincinnati on the road. The Cougars will now have a chance to reach eight wins for a third straight year.

Here's what you need to know:

Date: Friday, January 2

Time: 12 p.m. ET

Place: Fort Worth, Texas

TV: ESPN

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Texas Bowl 2014: Preview, Predictions for Arkansas vs. Texas

The Texas Longhorns have a chance to finish year one of the Charlie Strong era with a record better than .500 in the Advocare Texas Bowl. But the game will be anything but easy for the Longhorns.

Texas will face 6-6 Arkansas, which made significant strides toward the end of the 2014 season.

The Longhorns control the overall series record against their former Southwest Conference foe and have won 56 games compared to the Razorbacks' 21.

But all-time record will not impact what happens when the two teams take the field on December 29. What team will leave Houston with a winning 2014 season record?

Let's take a look.

 

When: Monday, Dec. 29, 9 p.m. EST

Where: NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas

TV: ESPN

Last meeting: Sept. 27, 2008, Austin, Texas

Last meeting outcome: Texas 52, Arkansas 10

 

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Foster Farms Bowl 2014: Preview, Predictions for Maryland vs. Stanford

When: Tuesday, Dec. 30; 10 p.m. ET Where: Levi’s Stadium; Santa Clara, California TV: ESPN With both a new name and new home, the Foster Farms Bowl welcomes the Stanford Cardinal (7-5) and Maryland Terrapins to Levi’s Stadium...

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Quick Lane Bowl 2014: Preview, Predictions for Rutgers vs. North Carolina

The North Carolina Tar Heels (6-6) will meet the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (7-5) in the 2014 Quick Lane Bowl. 

It was the inaugural season for Rutgers in the Big Ten, and it started quite well for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers got off to a 5-1 start before dropping four of its final six games.

The Scarlet Knights dealt with several injuries throughout the season, but to be bowl-eligible in their first season in the Big Ten is a good accomplishment.

The high point of Rutgers' 2014 season was its victory over Michigan back on October 4.

For the Tar Heels, it was another disappointing season. At 6-6 (4-4 ACC), it goes down as another mediocre season in a year where the ACC Coastal Division was UNC's for the taking. 

Back-to-back wins over Pittsburgh and Duke in November were the highest points in UNC's season. 

This is the first year that Ford Motor Company is the official sponsor for this bowl game, formerly known as the Motor City Bowl. 

  • When: Friday, December 26, 2014
  • Where: Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan
  • Time: 4:40 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN
  • Radio: ESPN Radio
  • Spread: The spread is not currently available; we will update once it does become known.

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TaxSlayer Bowl 2015: Preview, Predictions for Tennessee vs. Iowa

On Jan. 2, the Tennessee Volunteers (6-6) will face off versus the Iowa Hawkeyes (7-5) in the TaxSlayer Bowl (formerly known as the Gator Bowl) in Jacksonville, Florida. 

This game represents an interesting dynamic. Both teams pride themselves upon playing extremely well on the defensive side of the ball. Tennessee allowed 23.9 points per game this season, and Iowa allowed only 24.0 points a game

The big difference comes in the category of experience. Iowa is a veteran-laden bunch. Tennessee relies primarily upon underclassmen. Regardless, this game presents an opportunity for both programs to begin the new year on a positive note. 

Here's everything you need to know:

Date: Friday, January 2

Time: 3:20 p.m. ET

Place: EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida

TV: ESPN

Radio: ESPN Radio

 

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Pinstripe Bowl 2014: Preview, Predictions for Penn State vs. Boston College

Penn State will play in its first bowl game since the 2011 postseason as the Nittany Lions (6-6) will face Boston College (7-5) in the Pinstripe Bowl.

This is Penn State's first bowl game after a two-year absence due to sanctions imposed as part of the Jerry Sandusky case.

The teams haven't played since 2004, when BC won 21-7.

Let's take a look a the Pinstripe Bowl, which will be played on Dec. 27 at 4:30 p.m. (ESPN).

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Russell Athletic Bowl 2014: Preview, Predictions for Clemson vs. Oklahoma

The Clemson Tigers and Oklahoma Sooners are set to square off in the Russell Athletic Bowl, played on Dec. 29 in Orlando, Florida.

The Tigers (9-3) are coming off a 35-17 win over their in-state rival South Carolina, while the Sooners (8-4) are limping into the postseason after losing to Oklahoma State this past Saturday.

Both of these teams came away with big bowl wins last season—Clemson in the Orange Bowl and Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl—so this matchup should be much anticipated.

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Music City Bowl 2014: Preview, Predictions for LSU vs. Notre Dame

With 10 previous matchups in their history, LSU and Notre Dame are already well-acquainted with one another.

However, the Tigers (8-4) and the Fighting Irish (7-5) will find themselves in a new locale for their meeting later this month.

Notre Dame and LSU are on very different paths heading into this year's Music City Bowl—a new postseason game for both sides.

The Fighting Irish started the year as dark horse College Football Playoff contenders with six straight victories. But a heartbreaking loss to national semifinalist Florida State away from home sent Notre Dame on a downward spiral as Brian Kelly's team dropped five of its final six games of the season.

Les Miles' young LSU team, on the other hand, has had an up-and-down season. The Tigers rebounded from an upset loss to Mississippi State and a blowout defeat at the hands of Auburn with a solid three-game winning streak before dropping a close loss to No. 1 Alabama and a frustrating shutout to Arkansas. But LSU has the momentum heading into this year's matchup in the Music City thanks to a 23-17 win against Texas A&M on Thanksgiving Night.

Will the Tigers keep moving forward into 2015 with another victory, or will Notre Dame end its losing skid with a season-ending victory against a SEC opponent?

Before we get to the breakdown of this matchup, here are all the basics you need to know:

Date: Tuesday, December 30
Time: 3 p.m. ET
Place: LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee
TV: ESPN

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Holiday Bowl 2014: Preview, Predictions for Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. USC Trojans

It's official. The Nebraska Cornhuskers and USC Trojans will head to San Diego to face off in the Holiday Bowl.

The NCAA confirmed the suspicion, but Husker and Trojan fans were both filling Twitter with word about the projection. Since its creation in 1995, the Cornhuskers have been to the Holiday Bowl a total of three times. The most recent being in 2010. This is USC's first time.

As for the series between the Huskers and Trojans, this will only be the fifth time the two have met. The last time Nebraska and USC saw each other was 2007 in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Huskers lost that matchup 49-31. That was also the final season of former head coach Bill Callahan's tenure at Nebraska.

Seven years later, the Huskers have just fired the coach that replaced Callahan: Bo Pelini. The change in Lincoln could make things in the bowl game interesting.

The Huskers have never defeated USC, dating back to 1969. The two only tied once in 1970. Can Nebraska overcome adversity and defeat the Trojans in the 2014 Holiday Bowl?

 

Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA

When: Saturday, December 27, at 8 p.m. ET

Watch: ESPN

Listen:Husker Sports Network

Betting Line via Odds Shark: TBD

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Predictions for Every Bowl Game

The time for the first College Football Playoff field has come. Naturally, there's a lot of controversy. Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State and Oregon are in; Baylor and TCU are out. 

As Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports tweets, no one is getting "robbed"; rather selecting the final spot is extremely difficult. But that's what college football signed up for, and that's the committee's job. 

The rest of the bowl season? It took shape on Sunday as well, and there are some great matchups on hand. 

Here's how the two major Top 25 polls looked after Week 15. The following slides contain each and every postseason bowl matchup, including the four-team playoff. Click on the links below to view the latest College Football Playoff, Associated Press and USA Today Top 25 polls.

College Football Playoff 

Associated Press

USA Today Amway Coaches Poll

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