NCAA Football

Expert Preseason College Football Predictions That Were Way Wrong

Well, they looked good at the time...

Less than four months ago, when the 2014 college football season was still to be played, the long offseason made for a lot of idle time. One way to fill this void is with a healthy dose of expectation, speculation and prognostication.

In other words, preseason predictions.

Which school will win the first-ever College Football Playoff? Who is in line to win the Heisman Trophy? What will be the breakout team in 2014? Who will rise? Who will fall?

Really, it's all about trying to make educated guesses based on past results and a perception of the future. If they all came true, the predictors would probably be better off devoting their time to sports betting.

For the most part, the experts in college football didn't do so badly this year. Presumptive Heisman winner Marcus Mariota was at or near the top of nearly every preseason ranking for the award, while Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State and Oregon were among the more frequent choices to qualify for the semifinals.

Where did we go horribly wrong, though? Check out some expert preseason predictions that fell far short of coming true.

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Bowl Games Schedule 2014-15: TV and Live Stream Info for Every Matchup

The 2014-15 bowl schedule features matchups capable of becoming instant classics all across the board, but only four teams are playing for the chance to make an encore performance.

That's because the first year of the College Football Playoff is finally here, with four storied programs entering the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl games possessing the chance to get to Arlington, Texas, for the national championship game with a win.

The controversy and second-guessing appropriately followed the CFP selection committee's decisions, but that quickly took a back seat when it was released that snubbed teams like Baylor and TCU would get huge chances in New Year's Six games to prove their worth against elite foes.

Let's take a look at every single bowl matchup of the 2014-15 postseason and glance closer at the two games with even bigger implications.



Live Stream: Games on ABC and ESPN networks can be streamed live on The Hyundai Sun Bowl can be streamed live on

Note: Bowl schedule courtesy of


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

The unbeaten Florida State Seminoles have kept their hopes of defending their national title alive, despite playing in tough tests every week down the stretch. To keep themselves alive for one more game, they'll have to top a team that hasn't faced a tough test in months.

Ever since an early October loss to Arizona at home, the Ducks have been more than unbeatable, scoring 40 points in each of their games to follow it up. After drubbing the Wildcats 51-13 in a Pac-12 Championship Game rematch, they more than earned the right to play close to home in the Rose Bowl.

The matchup pegs not only two of the top teams in the country, but also more than likely two Heisman Trophy winners. Last year's champion, Jameis Winston, will go up against Marcus Mariota, who will more than likely snag the 2014 Heisman. 

ESPN Stats and Information showed the similarity between the two passers' Heisman campaigns:

Mariota has been much more careful with the ball this season, throwing just two interceptions all year to Winston's 17. Add that to the speed and weapons Mariota has at his disposal in a dangerous Oregon offense, and the Ducks boast an even larger advantage.

But one aspect of the game all too often ignored is a mouth-watering matchup of young running backs in Royce Freeman and Dalvin Cook, as Sports Illustrated's Martin Rickman noted:

Florida State's defense has not been the dominant force it was a year ago, but even in its struggles, the Seminoles have found ways to generate turnovers and give Winston chances to win the game. Getting any sort of stops will be tough for them in this one, against an Oregon offense that not only avoids turnovers but also generates points at a gaudy rate.

Winston has put his team on his back and led it through some incredibly tough situations, but New Year's Day will prove to be the toughest position yet. Whether he can rise to the occasion against the mighty Oregon Ducks will decide whether Florida State's run continues or is brought to a screeching halt. 


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

Head coaches Nick Saban and Urban Meyer are no strangers, from their SEC battles to battling in games with national title implications. But when the Sugar Bowl arrives, it will be unchartered territory for both coaches.

This time, Meyer leads the Ohio State Buckeyes into the first-ever CFP against Alabama in a game that pegs two elite foes that have overcome a plethora of adversity throughout the season.

An early season loss at Ole Miss put the Crimson Tide behind the eight ball in the treacherous SEC, but they navigated through tough games against LSU, Auburn and Mississippi State. Alabama's once-unstoppable defense has been porous in stretches, but the offense has more than bailed it out.

Much of that is due to Blake Sims' emergence, as Saban told Sports Illustrated's Zac Ellis:

Ohio State knows all about overcoming adversity this season. The Buckeyes suffered an early defeat to Virginia Tech, but they have since won 11 straight, despite losing freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett for the season and replacing him with Cardale Jones.

The squad's performance resulted in Meyer lauding the team as the most improved one he's ever coached, which is saying something, as Big Ten Football noted:

Jones was magnificent in his starting debut against a strong Wisconsin defense, but matching that success against Alabama will be tough. Even with the Tide's struggling secondary, Alabama's run defense remains formidable and should plug up Ezekiel Elliott's running lanes.

Ohio State will be forced to put Jones in positions where he has to make the winning plays, and that's not a position he's been in through his young career. The Buckeyes defense will have to make some huge plays to stifle Amari Cooper and the Alabama offense in order to give Jones and Ohio State an outside shot at pulling off the upset. 

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Dan Mullen Got Robbed for SEC Coach of the Year

A 10-2 record at a program where 10-win seasons are the college football equivalent of a Sasquatch sighting, the first No. 1 ranking in program history and a quarterback who was in the thick of the Heisman Trophy race for the majority of the year would typically land any coach consensus SEC Coach of the Year honors.

Well, except for Mississippi State's Dan Mullen.

The sixth-year head coach of the Bulldogs has racked up quite a few awards so far this offseason but was robbed of the SEC Coach of the Year award by his own peers. 

The conference announced Wednesday that Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel is the 2014 SEC Coach of the Year, as voted on by the league's coaches.

Yes, the same Pinkel who lost at home to Indiana and got shut out by Georgia at home. Sure, back-to-back SEC East titles are impressive, as is the undefeated SEC road record over that time span. 

But was there anything historic about Pinkel's season this year?

Aside from the back-to-back SEC East titles, not really. Sure, Missouri navigated through the rather calm waters of the SEC East with some new pieces of the puzzle to get back to the Georgia Dome. But we already knew Pinkel is a good coach. He has produced double-digit win seasons five times since 2007.

He's a tremendous coach who has proved he can do less with more time and time again across two conferences. This season was great, but it's also par for the course for Pinkel.

Meanwhile, Mullen's season is dripping with history.

In addition to the 10-2 record and the first No. 1 ranking in program history, the Bulldogs will play Georgia Tech in the 2015 Capital One Orange Bowl—their first Orange Bowl appearance since 1941 (following the 1940 season).

That's not only worthy of coach of the year honors; that's worthy of a parade in Starkville.

This is a program that has reached the 10-win mark only two other times since the turn of the century—the 20th century. 

If anybody should recognize the work Mullen did this year in Starkville, it's his peers. He took a team that, according to recruiting services, isn't nearly as talented as the others in the SEC West and made it play like a champion in the toughest neighborhood in the nation.

That deserves recognition.

Sure, Mullen has already filled his trophy case this offseason, including SEC Coach of the Year awards from Athlon Sports and The Associated Press, according to Michael Bonner of The Clarion-LedgerThose are great, and Mullen should be proud. But he didn't get the one that matters most.

That's a shame.


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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College Bowl Picks 2014-15: Latest Odds and Predictions Against the Spread

When it comes to winning in bowl season, mindset is everything.

Expectations are built throughout the season inside each locker room, and not getting to a postseason game that's highly desired can leave teams listless to finish out the season. With that said, other programs motivated by their bowl appearance will take advantage of the chance to play a top-quality foe on national television.

The bowls do a fantastic job of pegging marquee matchups, and this year is no different, but analyzing how motivated a team will be can allow you to better navigate some interesting odds for bowl season.

Let's keep that in mind and make a prediction for every single bowl on tap for the holiday season.

Note: Odds via Odds Shark as of December 10.


Predictions for Top Bowls

Peach Bowl: Ole Miss vs. TCU (-3)

After their College Football Playoff hopes were dashed by the committee, TCU will have its chance to make a statement against a proven foe in the Peach Bowl versus Ole Miss.

For those taking the action in objectively, this is probably the most fascinating matchup of the bowl season. It pegs TCU's No. 2 scoring offense against the dominant defense of Ole Miss, which ranks atop the nation allowing just 13.8 points per contest.

The stout Rebels defense will have its hands full with Trevone Boykin, the Horned Frogs' junior quarterback who made a serious Heisman Trophy case with over 4,300 total yards and 38 touchdowns accounted for. 

TCU has been on fire to close out the season, and head coach Gary Patterson doesn't see the playoff snub hampering his team's mindset, per The Clarion-Ledger's Hugh Kellenberger:

The Horned Frogs shouldn't be lacking in motivation after coming off a 4-8 campaign last year, but Ole Miss is battle-tested when it comes to facing top competition. The Rebels stifled Alabama's potent offense as well as Mississippi State's, holding each to 17 points scored.

Quarterback Bo Wallace and the Ole Miss offense has been stagnant at times against SEC defenses, but the Horned Frogs' defensive unit struggles in tight games. TCU has been in four one-possession games this season and allowed 30 or more points in each.

The Rebels offense will rack up the points early, and Boykin won't be used to the speed and physicality of the Ole Miss front seven. He'll show the resolve to get back in the game, but the Rebels will easily win to beat the spread.

Prediction: Ole Miss (+3) beats TCU, 34-30


Outback Bowl: Auburn (-6.5) vs. Wisconsin

What was already a mouth-watering New Year's Day matchup between Auburn and Wisconsin received an added wrinkle of interest with some news Wednesday afternoon.

That moment came when Wisconsin announced Gary Andersen had left his job as Badgers head coach for the same position at Oregon State. It was a shocking move, to put it lightly, and significantly clouded a week in which running back Melvin Gordon had been announced as a Heisman Trophy finalist.

Priority No. 1 for athletic director and former coach Barry Alvarez is finding a replacement, but he may decide to step back on the sidelines for a game, as told to Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman:

Alvarez can help motivate his down players by coaching the game, but he can't do much to stop the high-powered Auburn offense—an offense feasting its eyes upon a beleaguered Wisconsin defense fresh off conceding 59 points to Ohio State.

Ezekiel Elliott had his way against the Badgers' previously stable defense, cutting through open lanes at ease. With quarterback Nick Marshall and running back Cameron Artis-Payne running their deceiving option attack, lanes will become even more open.

As Bleacher Report's Zach Kruse noted, watching Gordon in his last game might be the only plus for Wisconsin fans:

Even if Gordon has a huge day in his final collegiate appearance, Wisconsin won't be able to air it out at the rate necessary to hang with Auburn. Tigers wideouts Sammie Coates and D'haquille Williams will take the top off the Badgers defense en route to an Outback Bowl rout.

Prediction: Auburn 44, Wisconsin 20


Note: Team stats per unless otherwise noted.

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What Should Expectations Be for Texas Longhorns in 2015?

The Texas Longhorns are continuing to build a solid foundation under head coach Charlie Strong. However, their fanbase is one of the most passionate in college football, expecting a national title each season. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer discuss what the expectations are for the Longhorns in 2015.

How many wins will Texas finish with in 2015?

Check out the video and let us know!

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Felder's Awards: Who Deserves the 2014 Defensive Heisman?

Year in and year out, with a few notable exceptions, defensive players are rarely recognized for the Heisman Trophy.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder gives you his picks for defensive Heisman.

Who would get your defensive Heisman?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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Sugar Bowl 2015: Breaking Down Biggest X-Factors in Alabama vs. Ohio State

Ohio State earned the final spot in the College Football Playoff, but the real challenge starts now with a Sugar Bowl matchup against Alabama.

Each of these teams are loaded with talented players on both sides of the ball, many of whom will be playing on Sundays in the future. However, it's not always the best players who make the difference in a competitive battle like this one.

While everyone will have to be at his best in order to advance to the national title game, these players will especially be important as X-factors for their team's success.


Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama

T.J. Yeldon had secured the position as the go-to option for Alabama out of the backfield, with Derrick Henry appearing to be relegated to backup duty. Even in the run-heavy offense, the sophomore only averaged nine carries per game in the month of November.

However, the running back reminded people what he can do in the SEC Championship Game with a career-high 141 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the win over Missouri.

College GameDay joked about the challenge of tackling the 6'3", 241-pound behemoth:

Meanwhile, the real usefulness of the running back comes when he is still relatively fresh at the end of games. Matt Brown of Sports on Earth noted this issue for opposing defenders:

Yeldon will still have a big role in this game, but Henry is the one who can really be a difference-maker for the Ohio State defense. If he plays well, it could make the Crimson Tide very difficult to stop.


Xzavier Dickson, LB, Alabama

With a quarterback making just his second start, Alabama will want to do whatever it takes to put him under as much pressure as possible. That role will fall on Xzavier Dickson. 

The senior heads into the bowl season with eight sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hits, all of which lead the team.

Despite this, he doesn't get the credit he deserves, as noted by D.C. Reeves of TheTuscaloosa News during the win over Missouri:

He certainly cannot be overlooked in the Sugar Bowl, as his job will be extremely important. Although he only has one sack in the last four games, he needs to find a way to at least get pressure on Cardale Jones whenever possible.

If Alabama gives Ohio State time to develop plays, the Buckeyes have the skill to put up a lot of points.


Dontre Wilson, RB, Ohio State

Although Dontre Wilson has been out since breaking his foot against Michigan State, he appears on track to return for the Sugar Bowl, according to Eleven Warriors:

If the sophomore is able to return, it would give a huge boost toward Ohio State's scoring chances in this one.

While the running back had trouble getting carries behind Ezekiel Elliott and Curtis Samuel, Wilson was a big factor in the passing game before getting hurt. Even after missing the past four games, he finished fourth on the team in receiving yards and third with 14.3 yards per catch.

Additionally, Wilson is especially important in the return game after averaging 9.7 yards per punt return and 24 yards per kickoff return. Only Elliott finished with more all-purpose yards this season than Wilson's 1,064 despite playing just nine games.

The dynamic player can score whenever he touches the ball and can be a game-changer in this one.


Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State

Usually a starting quarterback is not considered an X-factor, but most teams are usually not relying on such an inexperienced player in such an important game.

Jones made his first career start in the Big Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin and responded with three touchdowns, a 255.8 efficiency rating and a 59-0 win.

"Surprise, you're right, I don't use the word," head coach Urban Meyersaid after the game. "I guess I'll use it for the first time. I was a little surprised. ... He's one of the most improved players I've ever been around."

Of course, it's important to remember that Jones only needed to throw 17 passes in a blowout victory while his teammates were able to do most of the work. This will not necessarily be the case against the No. 1 team in the nation.

The sophomore will be under pressure all day long, and he will be forced to make more plays himself with Alabama likely to slow down the rushing attack. His ability to respond will be the deciding factor in this game.


Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

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Heisman Watch 2014: Updated Odds and Final Predictions for Tight Race

Jameis Winston not being named among the Heisman Trophy finalists was expected, but it also made official one reality—the trophy will have a new owner come Saturday night in New York City.

It's been a wide-open battle for the Heisman since the start of the season, and the play from some of the game's top stars reflected that. If anything, it's a surprise only three players were invited to the Big Apple, with standout quarterbacks like TCU's Trevone Boykin and Mississippi State's Dak Prescott staying at home.

But the final three—Marcus Mariota, Melvin Gordon and Amari Cooper—aren't too shabby, as CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd noted:

The competition might already feel like it's decided, depending on who you are—or how much you pay attention to college football. But with three deserving superstars being invited to the party, anything could happen. 

Let's break down the latest Heisman Trophy odds, with just a few days to go.


Note: Heisman Trophy odds are courtesy of, last updated December 10


Oregon QB Marcus Mariota: 1-80

Is anyone really surprised at this point that Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota boasts some of the most lopsided Heisman odds in history?

It shouldn't when you take a look at his body of work throughout 2014. The Ducks quarterback has completed every prerequisite voters have ever asked of a Heisman winner.

With 3,783 passing yards and 52 total touchdowns, Mariota has spectacularly only thrown two interceptions all season. He ranks up there with Winston's 2013 Heisman campaign in almost every major category, per ESPN Stats and Information:

Must your Heisman winner be the leader of a contending team? Mariota has that box checked, as well.

Oregon's early season struggles were noticeably due to a banged-up offensive line, and the Ducks have been on a furious run to the College Football Playoff since becoming healthy again.

It didn't take long for Mariota to resurface as the Heisman leader after an early slip-up against Arizona, as ESPN College Football showcased:

Mariota had his hands full entering championship weekend with a definitive rematch test against Arizona, but he dominated in convincing fashion while contender Melvin Gordon struggled mightily against Ohio State.

That result sealed the already apparent belief that the Heisman is all Mariota's.

Predicted finish: Unanimous winner


Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon: 18-1

Gordon's trip to New York City will be overshadowed at home by Gary Andersen moving to Oregon State and in the Big Apple by Mariota's impending Heisman.

But considering the season he's posted, that's a crying shame.

The Wisconsin running back has had a historic junior season with the Badgers in many accounts. He has been a workhorse with 309 rushes, going for 2,336 yards, scoring 29 total touchdowns and accounting for 174 points by himself.

He's even close to breaking Barry Sanders' all-time record, which he can do with 293 yards against Auburn in the Outback Bowl—and don't put that past him because he's gone for over 250 three times this season. noted his place in the record books:

Gordon could have made some serious noise for late consideration as the winner, but he struggled against Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game with 76 yards on 29 carries.

His overall body of work is incredible enough to warrant a definite second-place finish, though.

Predicted finish: Second place


Alabama WR Amari Cooper: 50-1

Just being named as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy is an incredible feat for a wide receiver, and it just goes to show the type of season Alabama's Amari Cooper has had.

The junior wideout has shattered the Crimson Tide record books with 115 catches for 1,656 yards and 14 touchdowns—proving impossible to contain even when defenses base their game plan around him. Whether he runs short screens, slants across the middle or deep down the field, Cooper is lethal.

He also has some respectable plans if he happens to bring home the Heisman, as ESPN College Football captured:

Cooper was on the radar to start 2014, but he burst onto the scene with four consecutive 130-yard performances to begin his season. He's surpassed the 200-yard mark three times and has four multi-touchdown games—two of those games with three scores.

Alabama has reached the CFP in no small part because of Cooper, but his presence in New York City is based off his incredible individual play. He doesn't have the stats necessary to compete with Mariota and Gordon as a wideout, but he has already been rewarded with a trip to the Big Apple.

Predicted finish: Third place

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Rose Bowl 2015: Breaking Down Biggest X-Factors in Oregon vs. Florida State

It's not always the most high-profile players who decide a team's fate in a big game.

While most college football fans can name Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, some key plays by lesser-known contributors could end up making the difference in the big game between Oregon and Florida State.

Regardless of what we have seen from these teams during the year, the Rose Bowl is going to be extremely competitive from start to finish. The winner will be the squad that gets big-time performances from these X-factors.


Charles Nelson, WR, Oregon

Oregon has plenty of playmakers on offense between Mariota, Royce Freeman, Byron Marshall and others. Even with all these players, however, Charles Nelson is someone you cannot forget about if you're the opposing team.

The receiver is coming off a huge week where he put up stats in various categories in the Pac-12 Championship Game:

He only has a total of 17 catches on the year, but he turned five of those into touchdowns, as he is always a threat to score whenever he has the ball. Still, his biggest impact is on special teams, where he has scored two touchdowns on punt returns while averaging 15.5 yards per return.

“I’ve never seen a freshman make an impact on special teams—ever—in the way he has made," wide receivers coach Matt Lubick recently explained to Chantel Jennings of

Whether he is getting touches as a running back, receiver or returner, Nelson has a chance to score on any play, and he could really impact this game.


DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon

There might not be many more talented defensive linemen in the nation, but the problem with DeForest Buckner has been inconsistency. 

Bryan Fischer of saw this problem during the win over Arizona:

The good news is he can still impact the game with his ability to get into the backfield. He only has four sacks on the year, but he leads the team with 12 tackles for a loss. Even when he doesn't make a stop, he can still disrupt the play with his penetration.

Of course, Buckner will be in for a tough challenge against a quality Florida State offensive line. The key will be for him to be aggressive on each play and force his way into the action.

The Seminoles can score points, but they will be limited offensively if the defensive lineman can put pressure on Winston as often as possible.


Nick O'Leary, TE, Florida State

Rashad Greene is Florida State's most talented receiver, but Winston's most consistent option is probably tight end Nick O'Leary.

The Mackey Award winner as the best tight end in the country is as safe as they come when you need someone to make a big play. Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel saw this in the ACC Championship Game:

On the downside, O'Leary has not been targeted as often as he should be, failing to reach five catches in a game since late October.

If Florida State is going to move the ball consistently against Oregon, the senior will have to have a bigger role everywhere on the field and not just near the end zone.


Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State

Although it's hard to call Jalen Ramsey an X-factor as one of the team's most talented players, the reality is this is the best description for a player who does it all for Florida State.

The defensive back fills up the stat sheet in just about every category, finishing the regular season with 75 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions and 13 pass breakups. 

Matt Brown of Sports on Earth explained why the sophomore deserved consideration for the Heisman Trophy:

Ramsey is one of the most valuable players in college football because of his ability as a Swiss Army knife in the Florida State defense. The Seminoles have more holes than they had last year, with significant depth issues up front, but someone like Ramsey can do it all, moving all around the formation. He's physical against the run. He can line up as a stand-up edge rusher. He can roam the middle of the field as a safety. He can play cornerback.

He might not have a true position, but he is someone who is going to have a major impact if Florida State is going to win this game.

Although Ramsey cannot be expected to cover the entire field against Oregon, he will have to be all over the place in order to slow down the opposing offense.


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Army vs. Navy 2014: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

The Army-Navy game is one of the most highly anticipated events of the year, as this historic rivalry bursts with patriotism and captivates the nation. This year marks the 115th meeting between the Black Knights and Midshipmen, with Navy holding the series lead at 58-49-7.

While this is one of the most traditional matchups in college football history—the first meeting between these teams took place in 1890—there will be a bit of a modern twist this year. Navy will be sporting some new Under Armour uniforms featuring a "Don't Tread on Me" motto with a First Navy Jack theme. Take a look, courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens' official Twitter account:

The Midshipmen finished the regular season with a 6-5 record, earning a berth in the Poinsettia Bowl against San Diego State. While the Black Knights missed out on a bowl opportunity with a 4-7 record, they ended the regular season by defeating Fordham 42-31. With no bowl game forthcoming, Army will be looking to end its year on a high note.


Ground and Pound

It's pretty safe to say neither of these teams are keen on taking to the air, as Navy's Keenan Reynolds attempted 96 passes this season, while Army's Angel Santiago threw a total of just 68. Both of these squads love to pound the rock, and we'll see plenty of ground-and-pound action on Saturday.

The Black Knights feature a dual-headed monster out of the backfield with Santiago and running back Larry Dixon. While Santiago has been good on the ground, Dixon has been the team's workhorse, carrying 176 times for 1,012 yards, an average of 5.8 yards per rush, and scoring nine touchdowns. He ended the season with a brilliant 158-yard, three-touchdown performance against Fordham.

This duo will get plenty of opportunities to gain chunks of yards at a time against a Navy run defense that is allowing an average of 199.8 yards per game, an average of 4.95 yards per carry and a total of 17 rushing touchdowns this season.

While the Midshipmen have a two-headed attack of their own, it's a little more lopsided, as their dual-threat quarterback handles most of the rushing duties. Reynolds has carried 205 times this season, gaining 1,082 yards and 20 touchdowns while averaging 5.3 yards per carry. He's complemented nicely by the speedy Noah Copeland, who is averaging an impressive 8.2 yards per carry on the year.

Army may be ranked slightly better in the run defense category than Navy, coming in at 92nd in the nation and allowing an average of 191.9 yards per game; however, the Black Knights have allowed 5.54 yards per carry and 18 rushing touchdowns on the season, giving Navy's speedy duo a very favorable matchup.


Scoring Opportunities

While both of these teams specialize in the running game, it does make their offenses rather one-dimensional. This can create a lower percentage of big plays due to opposing defenses honing in on the run. This makes taking advantage of scoring opportunities within the red zone extremely important.

Army is at a severe disadvantage in this category. While the Black Knights rank 84th in the nation in points scored, averaging 26.3 per game, they also rank 103rd in red-zone offense, scoring just 75.7 percent of the time they get within the 20-yard line.

In 37 red-zone attempts this season, Army has rushed for 24 touchdowns, passed for two and kicked two field goals, coming away empty-handed nine times. That percentage must drastically improve against a Navy team that ranks 47th in the nation in red-zone defense, allowing scores 80.9 percent of the time.

The Midshipmen have done nicely when finding themselves within the 20-yard line this season, ranking 43rd in the nation while scoring on 86 percent of their trips to the red zone. In 50 attempts this year, Navy has converted 43 times, rushing for 32 touchdowns, passing for five and kicking six field goals.

A good scoring rate from within the red zone will go a long way for Navy against an Army team that has struggled in that department this season, ranking 112th in the nation, allowing scores on 88.9 percent of opponents' trips inside the 20.


When: Thursday, December 13

Where: M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland

Time: 3 p.m. ET

Channel: CBS

Live Stream:

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 57.5
  • Spread: Navy -15


Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.



In a game that will feature plenty of clock-killing runs, getting out to an early lead is crucial. Time will wind down rather quickly in this contest, giving the trailing team few opportunities to make up ground. In this instance, that team would have to begin relying on the pass, which isn't a strong suit for either competitor.

While both Army and Navy are sound running teams, the Midshipmen have been able to take far better advantage of red-zone situations. This has propelled the team to average 34.5 points per game this season, while Army has averaged 26.3. Expect that to be a huge difference-maker when these teams face off.

We're guaranteed a fantastic showdown featuring plenty of players who deserve a great deal of respect both on and off the field. Although, there can be only one victor, and Navy appears to be the more well-rounded squad.

Prediction: Navy 35, Army 28


All team statistics and rankings courtesy of and current as of December 10.

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College Football Playoff Championship 2015: Dates, Odds and Matchup Predictions

In less than a month, the inaugural College Football Playoff will decide a true champion. With four teams now competing for the crown, each are deserving after winning conference titles in the final weekend.

The final four includes four of the most illustrious programs in college football history. Florida State and Oregon will face off in the Rose Bowl prior to Ohio State and Alabama taking the field in the Sugar Bowl for the right to make the national championship game.

Jameis Winston vs. Marcus Mariota will give way for Nick Saban vs. Urban Meyer. However, each of these programs has playmakers all over the field and some of the most impressive systems in the country.

With the bracket set, here's a look at the dates, odds and predictions for the College Football Playoff.

Odds via on Dec. 11 at 7 a.m. ET.


Rose Bowl

In terms of talent alone, the Rose Bowl is the matchup college football fans have been waiting for.

Both quarterbacks appear to have bright futures, but it's clear that this season has belonged to Mariota. Despite a slip-up against Arizona earlier this year, Mariota has led the Ducks back into the national title bracket and has them looking like a strong contender.

In fact, Mariota has been reminiscent of his opponent on New Year's Day, via ESPN Stats & Info:

Mariota against Winston will be the storyline, of course, but it's not quite that simple. Both signal-callers are equipped with impressive receivers like Byron Marshall and Rashad Greene, but their backfield partners will be difference-makers.

Royce Freeman has set the Pac-12 on fire as a freshman, collecting over 1,400 yards from scrimmage and 17 total touchdowns. Along with Freeman, Dalvin Cook has been another one of the most impressive frosh players this season.

Though Cook hasn't been the lead back all season like Freeman, David Hale of notes how productive he's been late in the year:

Winston and Cook will prove to be a difficult task for Oregon, but ultimately, the Ducks offense is more prolific. Having a dual-threat option like Mariota to go along with a power back like Freeman, Oregon will roll to the national championship game.


Sugar Bowl

Oh man, this one is going to be fun. Every time Saban and Meyer have hooked up, it's always a hyped-up game. However, the last two matchups have been blowouts for Alabama when Meyer was coaching Florida.

This season, both coaches have found success in completely different ways.

For Saban, the Crimson Tide decided to completely overhaul the offense coming into the season by bringing in Lane Kiffin. The former Tennessee and USC head coach has been successful thanks in large part to trust from the man who handed the reins to him.

Leading up to the SEC Championship, Saban spoke about the job Kiffin has done, via Edward Aschoff of

He is exactly what I thought he was, does what I expected him to do. I got exactly what I expected. I don't think anybody else expected what I expected, to the point where I even got criticized for doing it by a lot of people. 

But I got what I expected. You all didn't get what you expected.

Criticism of decision-making is part of college football, but it didn't stop with bringing in Kiffin. Another huge part of the reason why Alabama comes in at No. 1 is quarterback Blake Sims, who was overshadowed by Jacob Coker in the offseason.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports notes how impressive Sims has been this season:

Sure, he has the likes of Amari Cooper to throw the ball to, but Sims has made all the right throws this year. He's also been a consistent force for the Tide, which is more than Ohio State can say about their signal-callers.

After losing both Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett this season, Meyer was forced to resort to Cardale Jones. The sophomore responded in the Big Ten Championship Game with three passing touchdowns.

One of the biggest roots of that success was the impressive offensive line, as Adam Kramer of Bleacher Report points out:

Regardless of who is under center, he will have protection and time to find the likes of Devin Smith in the passing game. Unfortunately, even Jones, Smith and Ezekiel Elliott won't be enough to take down Alabama and its stout defense.

Sims will continue to carry his team into a showdown with Oregon. Having an offense led by Kiffin, taking down a Pac-12 opponent on the biggest stage would also be sweet, sweet revenge for the former Trojans coach.


Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Georgia Football: 5 Bulldogs Who Can Raise NFL Draft Status in the Belk Bowl

The Belk Bowl means the 2014 season is coming to an end for the Georgia Bulldogs, and most of the seniors will never put on a set of shoulder pads ever again after the game on December 30.

For a few seniors, juniors and third-year sophomores, though, this is only the beginning.

The NFL will be the next step for some of the Bulldogs on the roster right now, and this game will be one of the final opportunities for them to impress NFL scouts in attendance.

The Bulldogs will not only be trying to earn their 10th win of the year, some will be looking to improve their draft status with a strong showing in the Belk Bowl.

Here are five players that can do just that. 

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Texas Football: 5 Longhorns Who Can Raise NFL Draft Status with Strong Bowl Game

Beating Arkansas in the Texas Bowl and finishing the season with a winning record would mean a lot to this entire Longhorn team. It could mean a whole lot more for the guys looking to make a strong impression on some NFL teams.

Defensive tackle Malcom Brown leads the crop of Longhorns with hopes of being an NFL draft pick this spring. Even as an underclassman, another impressive line from the junior would mean a likely first-round selection.

The rest of Texas' candidates have less certain futures. Quandre Diggs, Jordan Hicks, John Harris and Cedric Reed all have their flaws, but they have a golden opportunity to show off their talents against a quality SEC team.

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Scooby Wright Wins 2014 Lombardi Award: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright was named the 2014 Lombardi Award winner Wednesday, which is given annually to college football's best offensive lineman, defensive lineman or linebacker.

Wright was one of four finalists, coming out ahead of Ohio State defensive lineman Joey Bosa, Washington linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha and Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley.

The sophomore linebacker emerged as perhaps the best defensive player in college football in 2014, making 89 tackles and 14 sacks while leading Arizona to a surprise 10-3 regular season. Wright was one of a few shining lights on a defense that at times struggled to maintain consistent production.

The Pac-12 already honored him with its Defensive Player of the Year Award, and this week, Wright was named Bronko Nagurski Award winner as the nation's top defensive player

"Coming out of high school I didn't really have too many colleges knocking on my door—actually nobody really wanted me except Arizona," Wright, a lightly touted recruit, told reporters. "So I always have that little chip on my shoulder. You always remember those people who didn't think you were good enough. It still motivates me to this day."

Wright is the first player in Arizona history to win the Lombardi Award and second to take home the Nagurski. The last 10 Nagurski winners have gone on to be selected in the first two rounds of the NFL draft. The last Lombardi winner to not be selected in the first two rounds was Virginia Tech's Corey Moore, who won the award before the turn of the century.

While Wright will have to wait to play on Sundays—as a true sophomore, he's ineligible to enter the draft—he's unquestionably come a long way from a kid who had one FBS offer. Arizona fans will be eager to see what he can do for an encore next season.


Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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Oregon Football: Are Ducks the Real Underdogs Despite the Spread?

Based on statistics alone, the second-ranked Oregon Ducks should be favored over Florida State in the Rose Bowl, and they are. However, based on history, tradition and experience, the Ducks should be considered as underdogs in the College Football Playoff. 

It’s a role that the Ducks should relish, not shun.

The Ducks and Seminoles will face off in the 2014 Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 in a game that features the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston, and the likely 2014 Heisman recipient, Marcus Mariota.

On paper, Oregon is the better team. Not only have the Ducks been destroying opponents over their last eight games by an average margin of victory of over 26 points, but also they’ve been doing it against some of the better teams in the country.

Moreover, the Ducks are statistically better than the Seminoles nearly across the board. Oregon leads the Seminoles in points per game, passing yards, rushing yards, total yards, yards per play, sacks, strength of schedule, turnover margin and a host of other categories.

Perhaps the one that stands out the most is the difference in points scored off turnovers. The Ducks have scored 428 points off of turnovers this year, while the Seminoles have only scored 83.

Not only do the statistics favor Oregon, Vegas and analytics do as well.

According to Odds Shark, the Ducks are currently favored by 9.5 points over the Seminoles. Ed Feng’s analytics website, The Power Rank, predicts that the Ducks will beat the Seminoles by 10.8 points at a neutral site and that Florida State has a 22 percent chance at victory.

Feng’s analytics also reveal that the Ducks should be ranked No. 1, as they are expected to have the largest margin of victory against an average team (27.91) in the nation.

To further this point, ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) also ranks the Ducks as the No. 1 team in the country, slightly ahead of Alabama. According to the FPI, Oregon’s 35.1 percent chance to win the national title is the best among the final four teams.

So then why are the Ducks the underdogs in the College Football Playoff?

Well, the reasoning mostly comes from the fact that the other three programs in the CFP—Alabama, Ohio State and Florida State—have been to the pinnacle before and have coaches who’ve won national championships. In fact, those programs have each won a national championship within the past 12 years.

Furthermore, the other three head coaches in the CFP—Jimbo Fisher, Nick Saban and Urban Meyer—have combined to win six of the past eight national titles.

Florida State, Alabama and Ohio State are three of the best football programs in the history of college football and have combined to win a grand total of 25 national championships.

While the Ducks have come a long way over the past decade, in part due to the influence and money of Nike and founder Phil Knight, they’re still on the outside looking in, and they’re doing it with a coach, Mark Helfrich, who is only in his second year at the helm.

We’re talking about an Oregon program that didn’t make it to a Rose Bowl from 1958 until 1994 and didn’t win a Rose Bowl from 1916 until the 2011 season. We’re talking about a team whose all-time winning percentage of 56.9 percent is ranked No. 46 in college football history.

Until 2007, Oregon’s overall record was 559-447-46, good for a winning percentage of 55.5. Since 2007, former head coach Chip Kelly’s first season (as offensive coordinator), the Ducks are 88-17, which is a 83.8 winning percentage.

The tide has turned quickly for the Ducks, and the program is now considered one of the finest in the nation. However, they’ve still yet to win a national championship, something that they’re reminded of every time they come close.

Oregon had an opportunity to win a national title in 2010 when it faced Auburn in the BCS National Championship. They lost on a last-second field goal, 22-19. It had a chance in 2012, only to have that opportunity evade them due a late-season loss to Stanford in Eugene.

The Ducks are creeping toward another shot at the title here in 2014 and with two more wins, will finally secure a spot as a true college football powerhouse. However, in order to get there, they’re going to have to take down the powers that be.

Perhaps it’s appropriate that in order for the Ducks to finally win a title that they’re going to have to do it by knocking off members of the college football hierarchy.

They’ll move one step closer to their goal of becoming a national power on Dec. 13 when quarterback Marcus Mariota likely raises the first Heisman Trophy in school history.

However, for now, without a national title under their belts, Oregon is still an outsider.

The Ducks are the underdogs. It’s a role they should cherish.


Statistics courtesy of unless otherwise stated. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise stated.

Jason Gold is Bleacher Report’s lead Oregon writer. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheSportsGuy33.

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Oregon Football: Are Ducks the Real Underdogs Despite the Spread?

Based on statistics alone, the second-ranked Oregon Ducks should be favored over Florida State in the Rose Bowl, and they are...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Nebraska Football: What Huskers Must Do to Prepare for USC Trojans

Practice has begun again for the Nebraska football team. This time, the Huskers are preparing for the Holiday Bowl, where the team will face the USC Trojans on December 27 at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

It's hard to predict how Nebraska's players will respond on the field to former head coach Bo Pelini being dismissed. Under the direction of interim head coach Barney Cotton, the Huskers will have a lot to prove in San Diego. So, what exactly must the Huskers do to prepare for the Trojans?

First and foremost, the Huskers offensive line needs to prepare for USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams.'s Kyle Bonagura summed up Williams best:

Despite being possibly the best pro prospect in the country -- ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has him No. 2 on his latest Big Board -- Williams has managed to fly somewhat under the radar. While other players in the Pac-12 put up massive sack numbers, the shared opinion among coaches and scouts is that Williams is the best defensive lineman.

Nebraska is going to need to run the ball in order to win. That means both I-back Ameer Abdullah and quarterback Tommy Armstrong will need a strong performance from the offensive line to make that happen.

After all, in 12 games only three opponents rushed for more than four yards per carry against USC, per Michael Castillo of FanSided. Williams will be out to limit Abdullah especially, so this is an immediate area that the Huskers should focus on in the next couple of weeks.

As for Armstrong specifically, he has the next couple of weeks to continue improving. There are no guarantees that he will be the starting quarterback next season, so a strong performance in the bowl game would be beneficial.

He primarily needs to work on having confidence and becoming more sound in his passing abilities, especially if USC forces him to win with his arm.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Nebraska secondary will have to prepare for USC's offensive game plan. Per NBC Nebraska, the Trojans are averaging nearly 300 passing yards per game. That means players like sophomore defensive back Nate Gerry will have to be able to make the necessary plays.

Gerry, for instance, has five interceptions on the season. To beat USC, the secondary will have to support Gerry and make those big plays. Failure to do so could result in a big night for USC quarterback Cody Kessler and his wide receiver Nelson Agholor.

Nebraska also must quickly adjust to the new leadership. The benefit is that the Huskers are familiar with and used to Cotton. That will help make things a littler easier.

However, it's unclear what fans can expect from Nebraska just yet.'s Garry Paskwietz compared the Huskers' current situation to the one USC was in just one year ago:

From the outside looking in, it's hard to know if the response to the firing of Bo Pelini at Nebraska was as emotional as it was for the USC players when Ed Orgeron was let go, but it sure sounds like both teams took the news in similar fashion.

In USC's case in 2013, the Trojans easily handled Fresno State 45-20, proving the team could overcome all that had happened.

The Huskers must do the same. Failing to move beyond all that has happened could guarantee a loss for Nebraska.

The Holiday Bowl isn't going to be an easy victory for the Huskers. However, there are things Nebraska can do to get prepared. That preparation starts now.

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College Football Playoff: Are 8 Teams Really the Answer?

During this first playoff season in college football history, many people (including me) have maintained and complained that the four-team format must be doubled to eight.

But now that the dust has settled (except at Baylor and TCU) does an eight-team playoff still have the same allure?

When one looks at the final College Football Playoff rankings it’s easy to say yes.

First, having eight teams would have averted all the Baylor and TCU arguments. They both would have been in at Nos. 5 and 6, and the Big 12 would have been spared its embarrassing decision to not name a conference champion.

Also, No. 7 Mississippi State and No. 8 Michigan State are 10-2 teams from Power Five conferences, and everyone below them was clearly distanced by having a third defeat or being from a lightly regarded league.

But wait a sec.

What was the key to Mississippi State and Michigan State ending the regular season with only two losses? The fact that neither won its division and didn’t have to suit up during championship week. Yes, sitting on the sidelines is what would have allowed both back into an eight-team playoff.

Don’t get me wrong. Both of those MSU schools fielded excellent squads. Michigan State led Oregon late in the third quarter in their September meeting, and Mississippi State’s early play merited the No. 1 ranking it held for four weeks.

But Arizona, Georgia Tech, Missouri and Wisconsin also were 10-2 teams whose division titles sent them to conference championship games. There, they lost to the final four playoff teams and were punished in the final rankings, while other schools benefited from having a figurative bye.

Maybe Michigan State wouldn’t have been beaten 59-0 by Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game the way Wisconsin was. And maybe Mississippi State could have made it close against Alabama again.

But the college football championship shouldn’t be about mulligans and second chances.

It also shouldn't be about diminishing big regular-season confrontations. That's what would have happened if Alabama had been beaten by Auburn in the Iron Bowl. The Crimson Tide still would have had a top-eight spot, rendering the outcome of one of the nation's biggest rivalry games meaningless.

We probably also need to think twice before we ask college teams to adopt an NFL-like postseason. And as for the crowd that cries for fairness, this is the one and only time I'll quote Stephen A. Smith: "Fair is a place where they judge pigs."

So, what would an eight-team playoff have looked like back in 2013?

Pretty hazy, quite frankly.

Based on that season’s BCS rankings, Missouri would have been last in, grabbing the eighth spot with an 11-2 record. Four teams with 10-2 marks would have been left out: South Carolina, Oregon, Oklahoma and Clemson.

2012 would have had a similar problem, with No. 8 LSU getting in at 11-2. But there would have been several other schools from Power Five conferences that also had only two defeats.

Perhaps the most eye-catching eight-team playoff would have come in 2011 when Boise State would have squeaked in at No. 7 with an 11-1 record. But again, several twice-beaten Power Five teams like Wisconsin, South Carolina and Michigan no doubt would have protested heatedly.

Having eight teams would solve some arguments but also would just create new ones elsewhere.

The other problem is logistics. Finding four neutral sites for first-round games wouldn’t be hard, but how often can you ask college fans to pack up and travel?

Only 45,618 fans from Oregon and Arizona showed up at 68,500-capacity Levi’s Stadium for the Pac-12’s conference championship on a neutral field in Santa Clara, California. 

And it wouldn’t be surprising if many fans skipped first-round playoff games and saved their cash for the possibility of spending it on a title-game ticket.

The No. 2 Oregon-No. 7 Mississippi State game would have matched schools that are about 2,500 miles apart. Having the top-seeded teams host first-round games could solve that issue, but there likely would be resistance to giving away that big advantage in the postseason.

There's also the question of how to schedule an additional week of playoff games.

If they're put on the back end, further lengthening the season, the college game will finish in late January, and the current setup already means seasons are ending later than ever. And if they're put earlier, toward the end of December, the playoff games will be messing with Christmas, another factor that could ruin the attendance and, with it, the game-day atmosphere.

So instead of adding a third round of playoffs, maybe we need to realize there already is a third round, the conference championship week. That proved to be a knockout round for the losing schools, didn't it?


Tom Weir covered college football as a columnist for USA Today.

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UCLA Football: 5 Bold Predictions for Bruins' Bowl Game

The UCLA football team will play in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Jan. 2 against the Kansas State Wildcats. 

Led by famed coach Bill Snyder, the Wildcats are a tough, fundamentally sound and hard-nosed football team. Playing a quality team from the Big 12 Conference provides head coach Jim Mora and his squad with a huge opportunity. 

This piece will make five bold predictions in relation to the contest. Four of the five proclamations will directly deal with the game itself, while a fifth deals within the realm of recruiting. 

Surely, UCLA will look to begin its 2015 season on a positive note. 


*UCLA vs. Kansas State will begin at 3:45 p.m. ET on Jan. 2. The game can be seen on ESPN. 


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UCLA Football: 5 Bold Predictions for Bruins' Bowl Game

The UCLA football team will play in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Jan. 2 against the Kansas State Wildcats. Led by famed coach Bill Snyder, the Wildcats are a tough, fundamentally sound and hard-nosed football team...

Begin Slideshow