NCAA Football

Florida State vs. Georgia Tech Complete ACC Title Game Preview

Florida State had played The Citadel in September, a game that may have been nearly three months ago but could be the perfect preparation for Saturday's ACC Championship Game against Georgia Tech.

The Citadel plays a triple-option offense, which means one of three things will happen: The quarterback will keep the ball and run, he will hand it off to the fullback on the dive play or he will pitch to a running back. Yes, Georgia Tech does pass the ball—but it's happened just 91 times in 12 games.

So FSU knows what is coming on Saturday.

"Citadel ran it pretty good," FSU linebacker Terrance Smith said. "We had a good chance to face it this year. I think we're a little more prepared than other teams are facing it."

Georgia Tech (10-2) runs the ball extremely well, racking up 333 yards on the ground each game. It will be a tough challenge for FSU (12-0), which is looking to win its third straight ACC title and earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Here's a look at Saturday's ACC Championship Game (8 p.m., ABC).

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Clemson Football: Best Bowl Options for the Tigers

It’s bowl season for the college football world, but it’s still unclear where the Clemson Tigers will wrap up their season.

Last season at this time, the Orange Bowl was looking pretty good for head coach Dabo Swinney and company, but that's not the case this year.

Georgia Tech’s victory over Georgia could likely give the Yellow Jackets the edge for the Orange Bowl if Florida State wins the ACC Championship Game this Saturday.

The Tigers still have a shot at the ACC-affiliated BCS bowl game, but other options appear to be more realistic at this point.

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Bowl Projections 2014: Predictions for Best Potential Non-Playoff Matchups

When the College Football Playoff selection committee decides on its final four to include in the postseason picture, all contending teams but those in the nation's elite quartet will be disappointed. But that doesn't exclude them from postseason action.

There are plenty of potential bowl-game matchups to ponder, what with three of the four other marquee contests to be decided by at-large representatives at the committee's discretion.

Championship weekend still leaves a lot to be decided, as teams in the current Top Four could find themselves out of the mix if they stumble.

Provided the weekend doesn't bring too big of a shake-up, though, it's becoming clearer which programs may meet to entertain fans outside of the new playoff format.

Below is an overview of some of the better showdowns that could be on tap once conference championships are decided, along with predictions as to how they'd unfold.

Note: Statistics are courtesy of NCAA.com unless otherwise indicated.

 

Arizona vs. Ole Miss

Imagine this: The two teams to beat the top two College Football Playoff seeds squaring off against each other. The Wildcats defeated Oregon on the road, while the Rebels knocked off Alabama in Oxford.

This scenario implies that the Ducks will avenge their only defeat of the year and knock off Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship Game. That will only fuel the fire for a program gaining momentum under coach Rich Rodriguez.

ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg praised the job Rodriguez has done in his short stint in Tucson:

Ole Miss ought to be pumped for the challenge of containing the Wildcats' spread attack with its defense that allows just 4.63 yards per play.

The Rebels just capped off a regular season to be proud of with some encouraging trends in booting Mississippi State from the playoff picture, per ESPN Stats & Info:

Hugh Freeze has done a comparable job in limited time to Rodriguez, building Ole Miss into a formidable force, and the core of the team will have plenty of returning members. This prospective bowl game would be a tone-setter moving forward for both Arizona and the Rebels.

Freshman Wildcats quarterback Anu Solomon would be the X-factor in this one, because the Rebels would be keyed in on stopping first-year star rusher Nick Wilson, who's already had 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground.

The disparity in defenses would likely give Ole Miss the edge, but it would be close, given Rebels QB Bo Wallace's tendency to turn the ball over, what with five interceptions in as many recent starts.

Prediction: Ole Miss 28, Arizona 24

 

Ohio State vs. Mississippi State

Even if the Buckeyes win the Big Ten title, they still may be on the outside looking in at the Top Four. Part of the reason is that OSU is down to its third QB in Cardale Jones.

Jones' play will determine how formidable the Bucks look in the committee's eyes should they emerge with the conference championship versus Wisconsin. ESPN.com reporter Brian Bennett doesn't believe it's feasible for OSU to sneak in at this point:

Matching up with the new system's inaugural No. 1 team in Mississippi State isn't a bad consolation prize for the Buckeyes, though.

The SEC has given Ohio State fits, highlighted in an embarrassing 41-14 national championship loss to Florida following the 2005 campaign. Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer happened to be at the helm of that loaded Gators team.

Although OSU boasts a stout front seven and is 19th in the country in total defense (h/t NCAA.com), containing the Bulldogs' dual-threat signal-caller Dak Prescott would be a tall order. That's what would make this game such a compelling test.

Despite two losses down the stretch, there's no denying Prescott has helped put Mississippi State on the map in 2014 with his brilliant play:

Under Jones' direction, Ohio State would likely have to pound the rock from the spread with sophomore tailback Ezekiel Elliott and hope Jones can also be a threat on read-option keepers.

Imposing physical will on an SEC defense that yields 3.7 yards per carry and is headlined by star linebacker Benardrick McKinney will be tough for the Buckeyes to do.

However, they could gain national clout and establish a springboard for 2015 national contention by defeating a quality opponent from what's widely perceived as the best conference.

It would probably come down to which QB could make a big play when it mattered most, and for that reason, Prescott and Mississippi State get the nod in what would be a thrilling contest.

Prediction: Mississippi State 27, Ohio State 20

 

Georgia Tech vs. Michigan State

Two of the nation's top 10 teams in turnover margin would battle it out for bragging rights in what might be a game filled with explosive plays and quick scores.

Both offensive lines like to get physical and run the ball, yet Connor Cook offers Sparty a big edge under center. Michigan State's defense is also far superior.

Cornerback Trae Waynes can lock down anyone in the Yellow Jackets' receiving corps, and the Spartans have the personnel on the defensive line to make Georgia Tech's one-dimensional, triple-option rushing attack wilt.

A devastating loss in DeAndre Smelter, the Yellow Jackets' leading receiver with 715 yards on 35 receptions and seven touchdowns, added a Pyrrhic victory element to the team's triumph over Georgia last week. Per Kelly Quinlan of Rivals.com:

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson weighed in on Smelter's absence on Sunday before he was ruled out for the rest of the year, via ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson:

He's been a really good player for us all year. He's been a go-to guy, not only receiving but he's a really good blocker and a really good football player. If he doesn't play, he's a guy we'll really miss. But our feel has been it's gotta be the next guy up. We play a lot of guys at that position. Micheal Summers, Ricky Jeune, Corey Dennis will have to step it up.

One constant positive, though, is that prospective ACC runners-up—provided Georgia Tech falls to Florida State in the conference championship—keep drives alive better than anyone in the country.

The Justin Thomas-led offense converts third downs at a 57.4 percent clip—ahead of both Auburn and Alabama, respectively.

But thanks to its excellent balance between Cook's savvy and Jeremy Langford's ball-carrying faculties, Sparty is 12th with a success rate of 48.3 percent on third down. Coach Mark Dantonio's defense also only concedes 30.5 percent of conversions to opponents.

In arguably the most critical areas of the game—third downs and turnovers—Michigan State is just a little bit better.

This clash of iron wills would go Sparty's way. Thomas' unique play at quarterback—he has a 16-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio and leads Georgia Tech in rushing—would make it closer than many would expect for three quarters until passing becomes necessary.

Prediction: Michigan State 31, Georgia Tech 21

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Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Missouri Tigers Complete SEC Championship Game Preview

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Georgia Dome might be starting to feel like home for Alabama.

The Crimson Tide opened up the season in Atlanta and have played there once in each of the last two seasons. They’ll be back again on Saturday.

Alabama has overcome its one loss of the season to win the SEC West (in thrilling fashion) and earned another berth in the College Football Playoff.

This game is essentially a quarterfinal game for the playoff. Alabama is all but guaranteed the No. 1 seed if it wins. Missouri could sneak into the top four with a resume-boosting win and a couple of results going its way around the country.

It’s one more big game for Alabama in a season full of them.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Date: December 6

Time: 3 p.m. CT

Place: Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia

TV: CBS

Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, Mizzou Radio Network

Spread: Alabama by 14, according to OddsShark.

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Albert Huggins Sets Decision Date: Which Program Is Best Fit for 4-Star?

Elite defensive lineman Albert Huggins is nearly ready to determine his collegiate future. Georgia and Clemson are expected to vie for a commitment from the Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School standout when he announces those intentions Dec. 12, per Ryan Bartow of 247Sports.

The 6'3", 279-pound South Carolina prospect holds more than 20 scholarship offers, creating a list that includes Alabama, Miami, Auburn, LSU and Notre Dame. Despite an array of potential suitors, this pursuit appears to come down to two teams within nearby proximity to his hometown.

Huggins, who landed on the national radar with 135 total tackles and 18 sacks as a sophomore and junior, is rated 12th among defensive tackles in 247Sports' composite rankings. His efforts earned him an invitation to compete in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Orangeburg-Wilkinson head coach Tommy Brown believes the best is yet to come due to Huggins' drive, he explained to Michael Burns of The Greenville News.

Along with his athleticism, he has an intense work ethic. Most kids that size don't work as he does. I've been around a lot of big kids. This kid is so intent on getting better every time he steps in the weight room, and you can't teach that. Most big kids don't have that; they're naturally strong. But this kid loves to work out, and he loves to get better. That's something that I've never seen in my years of coaching with a guy his size. With that type of attitude, your upside is unlimited.

College coaches took notice of his upside early, and now it seems just two are still in play to land a pledge from the persistent big man.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and Georgia coach Mark Richt will each spend personal time with Huggins during in-home visits before his decision, per Bartow. Both programs currently hold top-10 2015 recruiting classes and could vault further up national rankings with Huggins on board.

 

Georgia

No team has greater potential to put together a "dream" defensive front during this cycle than the Bulldogs. Richt already holds a coveted commitment from top-rated tackle Trent Thompson and four 4-star defensive ends, including former Alabama pledge Jonathan Ledbetter.

Ledbetter and South Carolina product Michael Barnett are both capable of sliding inside to play defensive tackle given their physical stature. Meanwhile, Georgia remains among the favorites for Virginia defensive end Josh Sweat, who is considered the consensus No. 1 overall 2015 prospect.

A commitment from Huggins would certainly be a case of the rich getting richer, though it would be difficult for the Bulldogs to promise him early playing time. Despite depth at the position, Huggins has remained a key priority for Richt and his staff throughout the process.

The team welcomed him to campus in November for an official visit and created a positive impression.

"I like it there," Huggins told Bartow (subscription required). "Just know that. I can see myself there in the next couple of months. They treated us like family."

 

Clemson

The Tigers' recent rise to prominence is predominately credited to an explosive offensive attack that has featured current NFL standouts like Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Ellington. These days, with young, developing talent taking the reins on offense, it's become more of a balanced effort.

Clemson is among national leaders in yards allowed this season and features three first-team All-ACC defenders. With standouts like Grady Jarrett and Vic Beasley leading the charge, the Tigers' identity has advanced beyond just an offensive juggernaut.

Huggins used an official visit at Clemson during Thanksgiving weekend. It provided another glimpse at game day on campus.

"I've already seen the coaches, the fans and how they act like a family," he told Phil Kornblut of PalmettoSports.com prior to the trip. "I want to see more of it. That's why I'm going up there. I know how (Clemson co-defensive coordinator Marion) Hobby is and how the defensive lineman are, I just want to go there and see them ball out."

Huggins witnessed Clemson snap a five-game losing streak against South Carolina and outgain the Gamecocks by nearly 160 yards.

The Tigers hold commitments from 4-star defensive ends Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant, along with quality North Carolina tackle Sterling Johnson. However, none of these players appear to present the immediate impact capabilities of Huggins.

Clemson remains in need of beef along the interior, and he could become a mainstay up front for the Tigers as a freshman. The potential to play early for a program putting together the pieces of a well-balanced title contender makes the Tigers his preferred fit at the conclusion of a frenzied recruiting race.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Recruits Who May Be Impacted by Auburn Firing DC Ellis Johnson

With Gus Malzahn announcing the firing of defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson over the weekend, the immediate impact from that choice will affect Auburn’s efforts with its 2015 recruiting class.

Seven of the Tigers' 19 current commitments are slated to play defense on the Plains.

Additionally, there are a number of top defensive players that the Tigers are active with two months prior to signing day.

Which top recruits might be impacted by the change to the Tigers coaching staff?

 

Byron Cowart

The early speculation on Johnson’s potential replacement has centered on former Florida head coach Will Muschamp, as noted by Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports.

If that scenario comes to fruition, expect some new names to pop up on Auburn’s radar—with the biggest potential prize being 5-star defensive end Byron Cowart.

Josh Newberg of Noles247 (subscription required) reports that the Tigers could emerge as the favorite in the Cowart sweepstakes should Muschamp end up in Auburn.

Cowart has tentatively scheduled a visit to Auburn on Jan. 16, and he told Keith Niebuhr of AuburnUndercover (subscription required) that the Tigers could move up on his list depending on who they hire.

"That would be crazy if they got Will Muschamp," Cowart told Niebuhr. "It would help them."

 

Richard McBryde

Another pressing question for the Tigers’ commits is which scheme the new defensive coordinator will install, and if it will have any similarities to Johnson’s base 4-2-5 look. 

Richard McBryde, a 4-star linebacker pledge, is one of the players who was a perfect addition for Johnson’s scheme, as noted by Niebuhr (subscription required).

However, as Niebuhr reports, McBryde has indicated that he’s “pretty sure” that he’s sticking with Auburn.

It will be interesting to see whether the new hire wants to make wholesale changes to the defense or adapt to the personnel currently on hand and in the recruiting class.

 

Daron Payne

One of the Tigers' top remaining targets in the 2015 class is 5-star defensive tackle Daron Payne.

The 6’2”, 325-pounder—who checks in as the top prospect in the state of Alabama—visited Auburn two weeks ago for its home finale against Samford, and he was in attendance for last weekend’s Iron Bowl.

It’s no secret that one of Auburn’s biggest needs in the 2015 cycle is at defensive tackle, and that’s been a huge part of Malzahn’s pitch to Payne, as noted by Niebuhr (subscription required).

The Tigers are in a tight battle with Alabama for Payne—who is scheduled to announce his commitment at the Under Armour All-America Game next month.

Considering the timing of Johnson’s departure, the Tide would figure to be in the pole position for Payne at the moment.

However, Payne figures to be a top priority whenever the new defensive coordinator is announced.

 

D’Andre Walker

Another hotly contested race in the 2015 cycle has been the tug-of-war between Auburn and Georgia for 4-star defensive end D’Andre Walker.

Walker visited both the Tigers and the Bulldogs last month, and this news may be enough for the home-standing 'Dawgs to make a surge with the 6’2”, 218-pounder.

Walker told Niebuhr (subscription required) that the Tigers’ depth chart is one of the biggest reasons that he is heavily interested in Auburn.

The Tigers will still have a need for athletic edge-rushers such as Walker regardless of which direction Malzahn turns to in his search to replace Johnson.

 

Other Recruits of Interest

Before Johnson’s departure, the Tigers were making inroads with other talented prospects, such as 5-star defensive end Terry Beckner Jr., 4-star defensive tackle Neville Gallimore and 4-star linebacker Jeffery Holland.

It will be interesting to see how the new defensive coordinator prioritizes these players and whether they are as receptive to the new staff.

Regardless, this vacancy will have a ripple effect on some of the biggest names in the 2015 cycle.

If Malzahn can lure a top defensive mind to the Plains, expect Auburn’s class to finish on a high note come national signing day.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Should Brian Kelly Stay at Notre Dame?

Notre Dame has not been the same team since its loss to the Florida State Seminoles. The Irish went 1-5 in their last six games of the season, and head coach Brian Kelly is left looking for answers.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer debate whether Kelly should move on or stay at Notre Dame in 2015.

What should Kelly do? Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Wisconsin Badgers Complete Big Ten Championship Preview

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Facing the most uncertainty that it has all season, the Ohio State football team will head to Indianapolis for its second consecutive appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game. It is there that the Buckeyes will meet up with Wisconsin, who at 10-2 finds itself favored over 11-1 OSU.

That's because despite the Buckeyes' ascent in the College Football Playoff rankings, they'll be playing with their third-string quarterback in Cardale Jones following a season-ending injury suffered by J.T. Barrett against Michigan. Wisconsin, meanwhile, possesses the nation's second-ranked defense and will head to the Circle City riding a seven-game winning streak.

Will Ohio State be able to overcome the loss of his its second Heisman Trophy candidate this season, or will the Badgers end the Buckeyes' chances of landing in the first-ever College Football Playoff? We'll find out on Saturday. But until then, here's everything you need to know about this weekend's Big Ten Championship Game:

Date: Saturday, Dec. 6

Time: 8:17 p.m. ET

Place: Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana

TV: FOX

Radio:Ohio State Football Radio Network, Wisconsin Badgers Sports Network

Spread: Wisconsin (-3), via Odds Shark

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Matt Jones Reportedly Declares for 2015 NFL Draft: Latest Details and Reaction

Matt Jones ran over SEC opposition all season long. Now, Florida's junior running back will reportedly be running to the NFL next season.     

Nick de la Torre first reported the story:

De la Torre added more details about why Jones might be making the decision in his report:

First, he has a young daughter and the opportunity to start making money and being able to financially provide for her was a big factor that played into his decision. Second, Jones has already had two knee surgeries (one in high school) and has battled injures throughout his career at Florida. He is mostly healthy now after splitting reps with Kelvin Taylor and being on a 'pitch count' for reps in practice.

It's also possible that Jones doesn't want to be a part of the overhaul of Florida's program, as head coach Will Muschamp was fired midseason, though he finished the season as coach.

Jones was excellent for Florida this season, rushing for 817 yards, six touchdowns and a solid 4.9 yards per carry. He also caught 11 passes for 65 yards and a score.

He's likely to be a mid-round pick if he comes out in the draft, especially in a year when the position could be fairly deep with players like Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon hitting the league.

 

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Should Georgia Bulldogs Head Coach Mark Richt Be on the Hot Seat?

Despite several key injuries and suspensions, the Georgia Bulldogs finished the regular season with a respectable record of 9-3. But that's not enough in Athens, where expectations are always great.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss Mark Richt's status at Georgia.

Should the Bulldogs make a change at head coach?

Check out the video and let us know!  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Of Course Steve Spurrier Is Coming Back for 2015

What should have been an inevitability became a reality on Monday.

According to Josh Kendall of The State, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier will return to the program following a 6-6 season and the first loss to Clemson since 2008.

"Give me two or three more [years]," he told Kendall. "I used to say four or five, now I’m down to two or three. I mean, I could get in a car wreck, but I’m definitely planning on being back."

Of course he is. The return of the Head Ball Coach should never even have been in doubt, as Scott Hood of GamecockCountry.com notes:

This is South Carolina, not Alabama.

That's not a slight against the program Spurrier has built in Columbia, it's just the reality of the current state of the program.

When the best player in program history, the winningest quarterback in program history and the majority of the front four and secondary moves on, there are speed bumps. That's exactly where South Carolina found itself after star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, quarterback Connor Shaw, defensive end Chaz Sutton and corner back Vic Hampton, among others, moved on after the 2013 season.

For a program like Alabama, those rebuilding years are still 10-win seasons, as was the case in 2010. For South Carolina, though, they result in seasons like this. Inconsistency, uncertainty and frustration are inevitable, and something from which the Head Ball Coach couldn't escape.

That's OK, though.

The program is still on stable footing. Spurrier told Kendall that the staff will largely remain intact.

"All our coaches are out recruiting. All of coaches are under contract," he said. "Some of them may get a job somewhere else, you never know, and we’ll go from there. We are probably pretty flexible right now a little bit on the staff, but I believe that almost all of our guys will be back."

To put it more simply, coaches that are perceived to be part of the problem and not the solution (i.e.: defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward) are likely being told "hey, you might want to look somewhere else."

As Hood mentioned in the tweet above, the future is very bright. 

Running back Marcus Lattimore, who just retired from the NFL after attempting a comeback from knee injuries suffered at South Carolina, will be back on campus earning his degree this spring. Spurrier has already stated, according to Yahoo! Sports, that he would find Lattimore a job if he wants one.

The Gamecocks currently have the eighth-ranked recruiting class in the country, according to 247Sports.com. Five of those commitments are from defensive backs or defensive linemen—two glaring positions of weakness on this year's squad—who are rated with four or more stars.

Why walk away now?

He's made it known that he wants to build South Carolina into an SEC championship-caliber team, and in the SEC East, the door is about as open as it possibly could be. Florida is undergoing a coaching change, Georgia is breaking in a new quarterback, Tennessee is still building and Missouri has won the division twice with a grand total of one conference win over a team that finished with a .500 record (Georgia in 2013). 

Even for a 6-6 program that didn't live up to expectations, an immediate turnaround isn't out of the question.

Spurrier will be back, but he really didn't need to say it publicly.

It was a "gimmie."

 

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

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

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Will Alabama Keep No. 1 Ranking with Statement Win over Missouri?

Alabama logs another huge SEC victory with a 55-44 win against Auburn in the latest addition of the Iron Bowl. They now move their focus to the Missouri Tigers for a shot at the SEC Championship. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss whether a big win over Missouri will be enough to solidify the Crimson Tide as the No. 1 team in the country.

Who is the best team in the country?

Watch the video and let us know.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Making the Case for Hugh Freeze to Florida

The Florida job is a monster, and it appears that athletics director Jeremy Foley is going after Godzilla.

Or, at least, one of the characters in the movie.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze has established himself is one of the top up-and-coming head coaches in college football, after leading the Rebels to three straight bowls in his first three seasons in Oxford. His fine work culminated this year, in which he went 9-3 and won the Egg Bowl.

That sound you hear is the sound of cash registers.

Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel reported over the weekend that Freeze is on Foley's short list, and SBNation's Steven Godfrey reports that an offer has been made by Florida to Freeze that would pay him between $4.2 million and $4.3 million annually.

Florida, predictably, denied those offers.

That doesn't mean one won't be made or that the topic isn't being discussed between Florida and Freeze's representatives.

It's likely that Freeze—a Mississippi native—is just taking advantage of the opportunity to get a big raise (as he should). Whether that's the case or there's genuine interest, Florida is still the attractive girl at the prom who wants to dance.

What would be the draw for Freeze to go to Gainesville?

 

Foundation 

Florida is a sleeping giant in the SEC East and has the foundation in place for Freeze—or anybody—to orchestrate an immediate turnaround.

Freeze already did that once before, when he turned a Rebels team that had one conference win over a two-year span into a perennial bowl team.

At Florida, Freeze would inherit a program that has reeled in top-10 recruiting classes in each of the last three years, the best cornerback in college football in Vernon Hargreaves III, a veteran leader at linebacker in Antonio Morrison, a dynamic running back duo in Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor—both of whom can run between the tackles—and a potential superstar receiver in Demarcus Robinson.

"We’ve got a deep and talented roster, so don't let that new guy tell you he ain't got no good players," former head coach Will Muschamp said during the departure announcing his dismissal. "Tell you that right now. They got some good football players in that locker room."

He's right, and that's exactly why Muschamp is no longer employed there.

The talent was there to build off of the success of the 2012 team that went 11-2 and earned a Sugar Bowl berth, but an antiquated offensive system, inconsistency from the quarterback and some of the worst luck in college football history prevented Muschamp from doing that.

 

Opportunity

The SEC West is, more or less, seven cluster homes where all the neighbors blare Mastodon into the wee hours of the morning even if you call the cops seven times.

The SEC East, on the other hand, is the quiet neighborhood out in the country where you have to fill your car up with gas just to visit the next-door neighbors.

Six SEC West teams have played in the final five BCS National Championship Games, and another—Alabama—is currently the top-ranked team in the College Football Playoff rankings.

The East is a hot mess. 

Missouri has won the division in each of the last two seasons and gone 14-2 over that span, beating only one team—Georgia last year—that finished with an SEC record over .500.

If an SEC championship is Freeze's goal, it's much more attainable at Florida than at Ole Miss—despite Ole Miss' recent success.

 

Recruiting Bonanza

Part of the reason Ole Miss has been on the map over Freeze's first two seasons was the work he's done in living rooms.

The Rebels reeled in the eighth-ranked recruiting class in the country in 2013. That class featured the nation's No. 1 overall player Robert Nkemdiche, 5-star offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, 5-star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, 5-star safety Tony Conner and a boatload of talented players who have become stars in Oxford.

That class was the exception at Ole Miss, and Freeze had been working to make it become the rule.

It's been the rule in Gainesville for decades.

Can you imagine Freeze sporting the orange and blue in the fertile recruiting ground of Florida? He could throw a rock blindfolded and hit a dozen 5-star recruits. If he took the blindfold off, he could hit an entire class.

As Derek Tyson of ESPN.com correctly points out, three members of Freeze's Ole Miss staff—Tom Allen, Chris Kiffin and Dan Werner—have extensive ties to the sunshine state. Would Freeze bring all of them to Gainesville? Probably, but even if he doesn't, Florida still has coaches like defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson with Florida ties holding over from Muschamp's staff for now.

Freeze's ability to recruit combined with one of the most talent-rich states in the country would be terrifying to other coaches in the SEC.

 

It's a tough choice for Freeze.

It's no secret that he's happy in Oxford, takes pride in building the Ole Miss program into a national power and intends to sustain that success over a prolonged period of time. 

Florida is a destination job, though, and those offers only come along every once in a while.

It is, in every sense of the phrase, a "rich man's problem."

 

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU Football: Best Bowl Options for the Tigers

LSU head coach Les Miles can breathe a little easier than he did before Thanksgiving. 

Miles was under immense pressure to defeat Texas A&M on turkey day. He delivered with a 23-17 win. 

The Tigers not only won in an exciting game, but did so in style. The offense looked revived with 491 yards of total offense, 384 of which was on the ground. True freshman Leonard Fournette led the way with a career-high 149 yards and an emphatic touchdown run:

Looks just like Herschel/Bates https://t.co/fZll6XfoeL RT @cjzero: Leonard Fournette runs OVER Howard Matthews https://t.co/zEMcOW9XFt

— Kipp Adams (@KippLAdams) November 28, 2014

LSU's win makes them all the more appealing to bowl committees. The 8-4 Tigers must now wait for their fate next week.

LSU athletic director Joe Alleva joined 104.5/104.9 ESPN's Culotta & The Prince on Monday morning to discuss possible bowl destinations. Alleva mentioned that LSU will be in the "Group of Six" bowl games, which includes The TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida, The AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl in Houston, Texas, The Belk Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina, The Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tennessee, The 56th AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee and The Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida.  

This bowl season will be the first time the SEC conference office will pick which bowl game the team goes to in the group of six, per Scott Rabalais of The Advocate. Schools will be allowed to rank its bowl preference, but the decision will ultimately be made by the SEC. 

104.5/104.9 ESPN's James Haralson included more important highlights from Alleva's interview:

Joe Alleva on @1045espn's #MorningDrive: Bowl-eligible teams will submit lists of the bowls that they would prefer going to.

— James Haralson (@jamesharalson) December 1, 2014

Joe Alleva on @1045espn's #MorningDrive: Conference office is looking at good matchups, and proximity for #LSU fans - on bowl destination.

— James Haralson (@jamesharalson) December 1, 2014

Joe Alleva on @1045espn's #MorningDrive: The Belk Bowl "wouldn't make sense" for #LSU because of the distance to travel.

— James Haralson (@jamesharalson) December 1, 2014

Joe Alleva on @1045espn's #MorningDrive: "I would be very shocked if we ended up in Shreveport." (On the Independence bowl)

— James Haralson (@jamesharalson) December 1, 2014

The most interesting comment Alleva made was about The Belk Bowl and its not ideal proximity. Pod Katt of AndTheValleyShook.com poked holes through that idea:

Joe Alleva apparently doesn’t know how to use a map. The Belk Bowl at BoA Stadium is only about a 1/2 hour farther driving than Tampa was

— Pod Katt (@valleyshook) December 1, 2014

Realistically, only Houston and Memphis are "drivable" Bowl destinations anyway. You would fly to Tampa/Jax/Nash/Char

— Pod Katt (@valleyshook) December 1, 2014

Katt is right. Only drives to Memphis and Houston are favorable. 

The Texas Bowl makes the most sense for LSU. The Tigers have alumni scattered throughout the east side of Texas, and Houston is the most favorable driving location, as it is only a four-hour drive from Baton Rouge. 

Jeff Howe of Horns247.com is reporting that Texas will likely play in the Texas Bowl. That means the Longhorns will play a team from the SEC.

Rumors are swirling of a possible matchup against old rival Texas A&M, but Chip Brown of Horns Digest said on 105.3 The Fan that the SEC will not allow it to happen. That opens the door for LSU. Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com believes the Tigers squaring off against the Longhorns will happen. 

The problem, though, is LSU played its season opener against Wisconsin in Houston's NRG Stadium, where the Texas Bowl takes place. A repeat trip might not be ideal for fans who went there earlier this year. 

Rabalais sees LSU eventually going to The TaxSlayer Bowl. Expert college football prognosticator Phil Steele and SB Nation's Jason Kirk predict the Tigers will play West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl.  

Alleva's interview this morning should provide comfort to LSU fans. Though the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana would provide an easier drive, the Tigers should never play in a bowl game of that caliber.

It is hard to predict where the Tigers will go. This season, it will be out of LSU and the fans' hands. 

Miles can only hope that the SEC league office in Birmingham is kind to him. 

 

Stats, rankings and additional information provided by cfbstats.comESPN.com and LSU Sports Information. Recruiting information provided by 247Sports.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower.     

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College Football Picks: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs. Florida State Seminoles

The Coastal Division Champion Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will square off against the Atlantic Division’s Florida State Seminoles in this season’s ACC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Saturday’s kickoff is set for 8 p.m. (ET), and the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.

Georgia Tech wrapped up play in the ACC with a huge 28-6 upset of Clemson as a two-point home underdog on Nov. 15, and this past Saturday it stunned Georgia 30-24 in overtime as a 10.5-point underdog on the road. The Yellow Jackets are now a perfect 5-0 both straight-up and against the spread in their last five games. The total has stayed “under” in three of their last four outings.

The Seminoles survived yet another scare to remain undefeated on the year with a tight 24-19 victory against rival Florida this past Saturday as seven-point home favorites. They are now just 1-3 ATS in their last four games and 3-9 ATS this season. The total has stayed under in their last four games.

 

Georgia Tech vs. Florida State Betting Storylines

The Yellow Jackets got hot at the right time of the year to claim this season’s Coastal Division title in the ACC, but the level of competition also helped their cause. The win against the Bulldogs definitely gives this team some credibility heading into this matchup, but you have be careful not to overestimate Georgia Tech in light of just how big a rivalry that game was.

One thing you do not have to question is the Yellow Jackets’ ability to move the ball on the ground. They are ranked fourth in the nation in rushing with an average of 333.8 yards a game. Quarterback Justin Thomas has thrown for only 1,460 yards, but he does have 16 touchdown passes. His biggest contribution has been with his legs after rushing for 861 yards and five scores. There is some concern on the other side of the ball with a defense that has allowed an average of 30.8 points in five of its last seven contests.

It has not always been pretty, but you have to give credit to head coach Jimbo Fisher and the entire Florida State roster for its ability to finish strong and win games. The Seminoles have consistently tested their resolve with numerous early-game deficits, yet in the end they have ended up on top in every game they have played for two seasons now. This has to count for something, especially this time of the year when so much is on the line.

The main man behind this incredible run has been quarterback Jameis Winston. After winning last year’s Heisman Trophy as a true freshman, he has thrown for 3,250 yards and 21 touchdowns this season while completing an impressive 65.1 percent of his 392 attempts. The biggest intangible he brings to the table is the ability to make the big play when his team needs one the most. Florida State’s defense has allowed an average of 22 points a game, and it also knows how to come up big when the game is on the line.

 

Georgia Tech vs. Florida State Betting Odds and Trends by Doc’s Sports

Point Spread: Florida State -3.5

Total Line: OFF

The betting trends on Odds Shark have the Yellow Jackets going 5-1 both SU and ATS in six games away from home this season, and the total has stayed under in six of their last nine games.

The Seminoles are a perfect 28-0 SU in their last 28 games, but they have covered ATS in only three of their last 10. The total has stayed under in five of their last eight games.

Head-to-head in this matchup, Florida State has won nine of the last 12 meetings SU, but it has failed to cover in the last five games. The total has stayed under in four of the last six meetings.

 

College Football Picks: Georgia Tech vs. Florida State Betting Predictions

There is no doubt it has been a bumpy ride wagering on Florida State this season, but this current 3.5-point spread is still a bit low when it comes to comparing the overall talent level on both of these teams. The Bulldogs should be able to hang tight with Florida State just like quite a few other teams have done this season, but in the end, look for the Seminoles to pull away to get the win both SU and ATS.

Take: Florida State (-3.5) over Georgia Tech; 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6

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Super 16 Poll Week 15: Complete Rankings Released for 2014 Season

Every week, new rankings are released that provide a look at the new College Football Playoff and the overall Top 25. What the Super 16 Poll attempts to accomplish is provide a look at a potential 16-team bracket and which teams would be involved in the extended playoff.      

There is currently only a four-team playoff, but we can dream of what the future might hold. Programs such as Mississippi State and UCLA might still stand a chance at a title while TCU and Baylor wouldn't have to worry as much about who is the better Big 12 team.    

Here's a look at the most recent Super 16 Poll, Bleacher Report rankings and analysis of the standings.

 

Analysis

Alabama overtook Florida State in the Week 14 rankings and remains at the top spot—which goes along with both the Associated Press and Amway Coaches polls.

The Crimson Tide look like a powerhouse program again after dismantling rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Along with their results on the field, the Tide are also helped by Ole Miss' win over Mississippi State because their lone loss was against the Rebels.

SportsCenter also notes how critical the Iron Bowl victory has been in recent seasons:

Amari Cooper blew the top off Auburn's defense by tying his season-high 224 receiving yards and three touchdowns in the same game. Having weapons like Cooper, Blake Sims and T.J. Yeldon—who has 1,065 yards from scrimmage and nine total touchdowns—gives the Tide one of the best offenses in the country.

If there were to be a 16-team playoff, Alabama would be the No. 1 seed. But it wouldn't be up to 'Bama alone to carry the SEC conference.

Following a loss to Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl, Mississippi State is on the outside looking in under the current system. Head coach Dan Mullen spoke about the loss and shared his thoughts on the team's chances to make the playoff, per George Schroeder of USA Today:

I didn’t think we were getting in the playoff, anyway. ... I’m sure we made a lot of people around the country happy. And maybe a lot of (selection) committee members breathed a big sigh of relief right now. They don’t have to consider it.

This is as tough as it gets. I don’t care about the stakes. This game is for bragging rights in the state. It’s the most important game we play. So obviously, it is a devastating loss.

Being one of the 16 teams in the playoff certainly wouldn't lessen the hurt after losing the Egg Bowl, but it would give the team a shot at a title. For a program that hasn't enjoyed as much success as some of its SEC counterparts, being in contention would be huge.

Along with the Bulldogs, Ohio State, TCU and Baylor wouldn't have to worry about results this weekend. Georgia Tech and Arizona might also have a chance at a title rather than playing in a bowl game with no implications.

The Super 16 Poll might not have any true significance at this point, but it should be interesting to see where each team lands moving forward. Several teams may be in favor of an expanded playoff, but it remains a pipe dream with only four getting in this year.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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UCLA Football: Best Bowl Game Options for the Bruins

UCLA fell short of its goal to win the Pac-12 Conference championship, but the Bruins still have plenty to play for in the postseason.

A win in its bowl game gives UCLA back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time since 1997 and 1998, but it also helps wash away some of the sour taste losing the regular-season finale to Stanford left the Bruins. 

"They've accomplished a lot, [and] that's why it's so disappointing. All of that gets overshadowed when you go out and you play like this in a big game like this," head coach Jim Mora said. 

Closing the book on 2014 with an emphatic win won't give UCLA its shot at the conference title, but it does mean a more fitting end for a group that, as Mora said, has accomplished much together. 

 

National University Holiday Bowl

Saturday, Dec. 27; 8 p.m. ET 

Qualcomm Stadium; San Diego 

Big Ten vs. Pac-12 

Qualcomm Stadium is a short jaunt from UCLA's Westwood, California, campus—less than two hours without traffic. 

That, coupled with the sizable alumni base in San Diego, means the Holiday Bowl is a veritable home game for the Bruins. 

Not that it matters too much, mind you. All three of the Bruins' losses this season came at home, and their last trip to San Diego ended in a 49-26 blowout loss to Baylor in the 2012 Holiday Bowl. 

How much that outcome impacts the selection process this time is debatable, and probably negligible. The Holiday Bowl has second choice of Pac-12 teams after the College Football Playoff and New Year's Six bowls make their selections. 

UCLA is the most likely pick should Pac-12 South champion Arizona be denied an invitation to either of the upper-echelon contests. CBSSports.com's Jerry Palm has the Bruins headed here. 

 

Valero Alamo Bowl 

Friday, Jan. 2; 6:45 p.m. ET 

Alamodome; San Antonio

Big 12 vs. Pac-12 

The Alamo Bowl gets the first crack at Pac-12 teams not participating in either the College Football Playoff or one of the New Year's Six bowls.

UCLA is most likely destined for San Antonio if Oregon beats Arizona in Friday's Pac-12 Championship Game to land in the playoff and the Wildcats are invited to one of the top-tier games.

That's the scenario many are projecting, including Phil Steele and SB Nation's Jason Kirk.  

A bowl game in Texas has potentially far-reaching implications for UCLA's future. Mora and his staff have upped the ante on recruiting the Lone Star State, last year landing 4-star linebacker Zach Whitley and this year, pursuing 5-star linebacker Malik Jefferson.

The Bruins already planted their flag in Texas once this season, beating Charlie Strong's Longhorns in Arlington, 20-17.   

 

VIZIO Fiesta Bowl 

Thursday, Dec. 31; 4 p.m. ET 

University of Phoenix Stadium; Glendale, Arizona

New Year's Six Invitation 

While UCLA would need certain breaks to go its way, the team could still land in a New Year's Six bowl game. At least one projection—that of ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy—has the Bruins bound for the Fiesta Bowl. 

UCLA's Fiesta Bowl hopes would get a big boost if Arizona is to lose Friday. That would be three losses for the Wildcats, which the Bruins beat head-to-head on Nov. 1. 

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.com

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UCLA Football: Best Bowl Game Options for the Bruins

UCLA fell short of its goal to win the Pac -12 Conference championship, but the Bruins still have plenty to play for in the postseason...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Big Ten Championship 2014: Wisconsin vs. Ohio State Odds, Schedule, Prediction

The 2014 Big Ten Championship Game features two teams that have been very impressive over the final stretch of the regular season. Wisconsin will represent the West in the title game after strong performances against Nebraska and Minnesota. Ohio State took care of business against Michigan State and Minnesota en route to winning the East.

These are two teams very capable of doing some serious damage against ranked opponents, and now they'll face each other for the first time since the Buckeyes took down the Badgers 31-24 on September 28, 2013. Needless to say, both teams are vastly different since that meeting.

Here's a look at the tale of the tape, via ESPN College Football:

So, here's the burning question: Which team has a better shot at the Big Ten title in a neutral location? Before Wisconsin and Ohio State return to the amateur gridiron, here's a look at all of the game's essential viewing information, followed by a prediction for the highly anticipated contest.

 

Viewing Information

When: Saturday, December 6

Where: Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana

Time: 8:17 p.m. ET

Channel: Fox

Live Stream: Fox Sports Go

Game Odds (via Odds Shark): Wisconsin -4

 

Preview and Prediction

The Badgers will have a very simple game plan entering this contest: Give the football to running back Melvin Gordon early and often. The junior ball-carrier has been virtually unstoppable this season, averaging 8.0 yards per carry while rushing for 2,260 yards and 26 touchdowns.

After a 151-yard performance Saturday against Minnesota, Gordon surpassed Ron Dayne for the most single-season rushing yards in Big Ten history, according to College GameDay:

Ohio State has been decent against the run this season, ranking 40th in the nation, but the Buckeyes are allowing an average of 4.03 yards per carry and have given up a total of 21 touchdowns on the ground. They'll need to tighten up that area of the game in a hurry or risk getting burned by Gordon.

While the Buckeyes handily defeated Michigan 42-28 in Week 14, it came at a significant cost. Exciting freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett was lost for the season with a broken ankle. This will force third-string quarterback Cardale Jones into action for the championship game.

While Barrett's loss is huge, head coach Urban Meyer doesn't seem overly concerned, according to Tim Shoemaker of ElevenWarriors.com:

Jones may have an enormous arm, but he'll be going up against one of the nation's stingiest defenses. Wisconsin is ranked second against the pass, eighth against the run, second in total defense and fourth in scoring defense. That's not a good omen for a quarterback who's coming into the game with 19 career passing attempts.

Of course, like the Badgers, the Buckeyes should be expected to rely heavily on the run as well. Jones is a dual-threat quarterback, and he's complemented by a great running back in Ezekiel Elliott. It may be touch sledding, but Ohio State really needs to get this ground game going to have a chance for the title.

In this situation, the cards are stacked against the Buckeyes. They're about to face the nation's most dangerous running back and are starting a very inexperienced quarterback against a very good defense. Wisconsin has the advantage, and that will translate into a win.

Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Ohio State 23

 

All team rankings and statistics courtesy of NCAA.com and current as of November 30.

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Steve Spurrier Announces Decision to Remain as South Carolina Head Coach

South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier has found success with the program over the last 10 years, and he told Josh Kendall of TheState.com that he will be returning for another season to build on that success.    

Spurrier commented on the situation to Kendall:

I’m in. I’m in. We had some down times and some of this, that and the other, but we’ve got a lot of good players on the way.

I’m good to go. I just made about 21 recruiting calls. This is a good situation and I think we can turn it around quickly, I hope so.

Give me two or three more [years]. I used to say four or five, now I’m down to two or three. I mean, I could get in a car wreck, but I’m definitely planning on being back.

Barrett Sailee of Bleacher Report weighed in on Spurrier's decision to return:

In Spurrier’s decade with South Carolina, he has amassed an 83-45 record and is 4-4 in bowl game appearances. The Gamecocks had a tough season in 2014, finishing at 6-6 and tied for fourth in the SEC East.

Prior to the 2014 regular season, Spurrier had led South Carolina to three consecutive 11-2 seasons and has earned the right to stay with the Gamecocks for the foreseeable future.

Spurrier will be 70 years old in April and has been a football coach since 1978. Before leading South Carolina, he found success with the Florida Gators before eventually making the jump to the NFL with the Washington Redskins.

After his short time in the pros, Spurrier took over a struggling Gamecocks program and has brought the team into the upper echelon of the sport. He will likely have to show better results than 6-6 next season to remain coach in South Carolina, though.   

However, Spurrier has shown in the past his ability to build winning teams and he will look to do so in 2014. Time will tell if he will have enough talent to get past the tough competition in the SEC.

 

*Stats via ESPN.com.

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