NCAA Football

UAB Players in Tears, Fans Curse at President After Football Program Eliminated

It's a rough day to be a UAB football player or a Blazers fan.

On Tuesday, UAB President Ray L. Watts announced in a statement that the school would be eliminating its football program in order to put more funds toward other athletic programs. 

The news of the program being shut down left players and fans angered and upset. In fact, some players were brought to tears by the news.

Seeing college students go through something like this is incredibly heartbreaking.

As President Watts made his way through a crowd after the news broke, fans booed him and cursed at him. Warning: Video contains NSFW language.

The university's decision to eliminate the program was clearly tough for many in Birmingham to handle.

At 6-6, the Blazers are eligible for a bowl game. After devastating news like this, it would be great to see the players get the chance to play in one more game.

[Twitter, Instagram; h/t College Spun]

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Ohio State Needs Michigan to Replace Brady Hoke with a Winner

The Ohio State-Michigan rivalry is losing its intensity. 

It might not feel that way to those closest to the fire. For some, that heat is fueled by decades of animosity—passed down through generations like some prized family heirloom. 

For the uninvolved, though, it's hard to feel or even see that fire. It's so distant that it fails to register, especially as the Alabama-Auburn feud rages on with a frightening and captivating ferocity.

That's why Ohio State needs its archrival to find a winner. 

Michigan announced the end of the Brady Hoke era on Tuesday, officially terminating the head coach after four years of diminishing returns. The once proud program will ramp up a coaching search for the third time in seven years, desperately needing a leader who can pull Michigan back into relevance.

The Wolverines, who haven't claimed a Big Ten title since 2004, have struggled through years of mediocrity and frustration under coaches who couldn't maintain—and more importantly, enhance—Michigan's proud history and success. Rich Rodriguez and Hoke combined to turn one of the nation's strongest programs into a middle-of-the-pack team in a slumping conference.

Forty-six victories. Forty-two losses. That's what Michigan has produced since the start of the 2008 season.

The Wolverines deserve better. So do the Buckeyes.

 

The B1G Needs a Boost

Michigan hasn't been in the national title picture since 2006, when it surged to win its first 11 games by an average of 17.2 points. The Wolverines used one of the nation's strongest defenses and a balanced offense to climb all the way to No. 2 in the national rankings. 

That contributed to a banner year for the Big Ten. Ohio State entered the season as the country's top team and maintained that ranking all year, setting up a titanic regular-season showdown.

On November 18, 2006, all eyes were on Columbus as No. 1 Ohio State battled No. 2 Michigan. The Buckeyes came out on top of an instant 42-39 classic that lived up to a season's worth of hype.

But both teams slipped badly in the postseason. The Wolverines went on to face USC in the Rose Bowl, where they were blasted in a 32-18 beatdown. Ohio State advanced to the BCS title game for a matchup against the Florida Gators, who rolled to a laughable 41-14 blowout victory.

It was a devastating blow to the Big Ten's perception—a punch it's still trying to recover from eight years later. 

The Buckeyes have maintained a high level of play. Since falling in the title game to Florida, Ohio State has gone 85-18—a record that includes a vacated 12-win season in 2010, as well as a 6-7 campaign in 2011 under interim head coach Luke Fickell. 

But the rest of the Big Ten has deteriorated. The league has lost 35 of its 54 bowl games over the last seven years, and three of its 19 victories have since been vacated. 

The conference's poor reputation directly impacts Ohio State. In 2013, the league's overall lack of quality had voters openly challenging the Buckeyes' strength despite ripping off 24 consecutive victories. This year has been no different—the Big Ten is ranked fourth by ESPN among Power Five conferences, just barely ahead of the ACC. 

Michigan's woes have contributed to the Big Ten's recent downturn. A resurgence in Ann Arbor could trigger a much-needed recovery.

 

The Game Needs to Be The Game Again

Ohio State has absolutely dominated Michigan since 2001, winning 12 of the last 14 matchups. With Rodriguez and Hoke at the helm, the Wolverines have managed just one win over the Buckeyes while losing the other six games by an average of 16 points. 

But that's not hurting the rivalry's intensity as much as Michigan's general decline.

John Cooper put together a brilliant run for the Buckeyes during his 13-year tenure. From 1988-2000, he made Ohio State a consistent contender, going 111-43-4 while winning three Big Ten titles. But he struggled mightily against Michigan, claiming victories in just two of his 13 games with one tie. 

The rivalry thrived during that stretch, though, because both teams were elite. 

Beating up on bad Michigan teams may feel good for Ohio State fans, but it dilutes the significance of The Game in the long run. As Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News wrote last week, Ohio State doesn't benefit from feasting on a faltering Wolverines squad.

The truth is, the rivalry passion has seeped out, like chaw juice dribbling down a Buckeye's chin(s). Beating Michigan is neither the challenge nor the point anymore. Nobody wants to admit it, but this is the problem with Michigan's inexplicable de-emphasis of tackle football: A wobbly conference that desperately wants to be considered better than it is, no longer can count on the program renowned for inflated self-worth. 

Face it, folks. You want Michigan on that Blue Wall. You need Michigan on that Blue Wall.

How can the Wolverines claw their way back to prominence? It starts with the crucial first step of finding the right leader. Michigan needs someone who can coach—and win—at the highest level, because its last two hires flopped during their time in Ann Arbor.

Is that Jim Harbaugh or Les Miles? Could the Wolverines succeed with someone like Dan Mullen or Pat Narduzzi at the helm?

Whoever Michigan settles on, he has to be a winner. 

If he's not, the Big Ten will continue to suffer, and the fire fueling one of college football's greatest rivalries will continue to fade.

 

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412

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Texas A&M Football: Why the Aggies Should Pass on Hiring Brent Venables for DC

Texas A&M football head coach Kevin Sumlin is in the market for a new defensive coordinator after Mark Snyder was let go the day after the Aggies' 23-17 loss to LSU.

Sumlin will make a mistake if he hires Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables to take over the same position in Aggieland. 

The Aggies finished the 2014 regular season with a 7-5 record. The Aggies' biggest issue for the last two seasons has been a defense that has struggled to stop the opponent. The new Aggie defensive coordinator will need to build a defense that can consistently stop the run. 

The Aggies are allowing 223.5 yards per game rushing and 5.1 yards per rushing attempt. In 2013, the Aggies defense allowed 222.3 yards per game rushing and 5.4 yards per rushing attempt. It is impossible to consistently win games in the SEC when you cannot stop the running game. 

When a defense can consistently stop the run, it can force an offense to become one-dimensional, which makes its play-calling more predictable and easier to defend.

Ideally, the defense is the foundation of the team. The offense can have an poor day, or weather can limit what an offense can do during games. A strong defense should be the one consistent element that a team can rely on.  

Sumlin has the opportunity to make a splash hire that will get the attention of recruits and turn the defense around. That hire is not Venables for a couple of reasons.

 

Coaching Shows Up when Talent Is Similar 

You want your defense to show up every week and display the ability to shut the opponent down. Venables' Clemson defense was able to do this in 2014 against the weaker teams, but it struggled against the top teams on the schedule.

In losses to Georgia and Georgia Tech, the Clemson defense allowed an average of 289.5 yards rushing and 6.4 yards per rush attempt. In a 23-17 loss to Florida State, Clemson only allowed 13 yards rushing in the game, but it allowed the second-string quarterback to pass for 304 yards. 

Clemson's defense has obviously struggled to show up against teams who are able to match the Tigers in talent. 

In Venables' last season as the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma in 2011, his defenses were lit up by Baylor, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Venables' Sooners defense allowed an average of 43.3 points and 561 yards per game in those three losses. 

When the talent is similar, the difference between the teams will be the coaching, and Venables proved lacking in that area. 

Great coaches will find a way to put their players in a position to be successful. Average coaches can get elite results with elite talent. Great coaches find a way to coax elite results out of average talent. Venables has not proven he is capable of this. 

 

2014 Results May Be Fool's Gold

The 2014 Clemson Tigers defense currently leads the country in total defense. While that is impressive, that is an outlier on Venables' coaching record. 

In 2010, Venables' Oklahoma defense allowed 361.9 yards per game and 4.1 yards per rush attempt. In 2011, the Sooners allowed 376.2 yards per game and 3.7 yards per rush attempt.

In 2012, Venables went to Clemson, and the Tigers defense allowed 396.2 yards per game and 4.2 yards per rush attempts. 

In 2013, the Tigers allowed 357.1 yards per game and 3.7 yards per rush. In 2014, the Tigers are allowing 259.6 yards per game and 2.78 yards per rush attempt. It is pretty obvious that Venables has coached good, solid defenses at the major college level. 

The results he is getting in 2014 may be related more to a favorable schedule than coaching prowess. Because of conference scheduling and Jameis Winston's suspension, the Tigers only faced one of the top five passing quarterbacks in the ACC in 2014. 

The Clemson defense allowed 35 points and 478 total yards to North Carolina and their quarterback Marquise Williams in a 50-35 win for the Tigers. 

The Aggies need a defensive coordinator who is going to build a defense that is going to get the opponent off the field consistently. They do not need someone who will shut down the bad teams but let the good ones go up and down the field on them. 

Venables is a solid defensive coordinator who has done a very good job at Clemson in 2014. But he is not the right man to get the defense turned around in College Station. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pac-12 Football: The Conference All-Senior Team in 2014

With all but two Pac-12 teams having completed the regular season, it's time to honor the seniors who have made the biggest impact on the field in 2014.

Just a week ago, we took a look at projections for the All-Conference team with no regard for class or experience. The best of the best made the cut, plain and simple. This time around, we're giving a special nod to the seniors by redoing the All-Conference team to include those players who have left it all on the field for at least four years.

Some of the list will look the same, but you'll also see some new faces getting their due. The only requirement here is to have a senior standing on campus or in football, so we're including redshirt juniors as well who may either be declaring for the draft or returning for a final season in 2015.

Take a look at the All-Senior team from the Pac-12 as we get set to put a bow on another thrilling year in college football.

 

All Stats via cfbstats.com. * = Redshirt Junior

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Pac-12 Football: The Conference All-Senior Team in 2014

With all but two Pac -12 teams having completed the regular season, it's time to honor the seniors who have made the biggest impact on the field in 2014...

Begin Slideshow

UAB Ends Football Program: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

As a result of financial cutbacks and poor attendance, the University of Alabama at Birmingham is shutting down its football program. The school announced the decision in a press release on Tuesday:

As part of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s campus-wide strategic planning process, President Ray L. Watts, M.D., today announced the results of the Athletic Department’s comprehensive review.

Designed to identify areas of excellence and set priorities for investment and growth, UAB’s strategic process requires leaders across campus to identify priority programs for future investment. The Athletic Department engaged highly knowledgeable outside experts and advisors from CarrSports Consulting, a leader in program advancement in intercollegiate athletics, to assist in the in-depth review and inform analysis and planning.

In order to more effectively invest in the success of priority programs that are most likely to bring national prominence relative to the necessary investment, the Athletic Department has determined that the final seasons for UAB football, bowling and rifle will be in the 2014-2015 academic year.

Earlier in the day, Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News was the first to report news of UAB dissolving its football program.

Coach Bill Clark released a statement on today's news via John Talty of AL.com:

This is one of the most difficult days I have had to endure in my personal as well as coaching career. 

I am absolutely heartbroken for my players and assistant coaches. These coaches and players have done a tremendous job and worked extremely hard for this university, to achieve six wins and be bowl eligible. 

(...)

There is no doubt in my mind that we were in the process of building something special at UAB. This goes further than our football team, the athletics program, or the university as a whole. This team is Birmingham -- we represent Birmingham and this community. 

It is unfortunate that it has come to this. But again, it is a decision that has been reached and I must respect it and will move forward. 

Thank you Birmingham and the UAB Community for everything you have done for our players, this coaching staff and me personally. 

According to a report from ESPN.com, reasons for the program shutting down include playing in a crowded football market and not having a stadium on the campus in Birmingham: "Playing in the shadows of Alabama and Auburn and lacking an on-campus stadium, UAB has struggled to develop a fan base and consistent attendance in the nearly two decades since it joined the Football Bowl Subdivision."

Scarbinsky added another note about the player's scholarships and coaches contracts: 

Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated relays what the NCAA has decided regarding the future of current players looking to transfer: 

On Nov. 5, Scarbinsky wrote that a few former UAB players were fearful "that the results of a study that's part of a university-wide strategic plan could lead to the elimination of the school's football program."

Per SportsCenter's official Twitter account, this will be the first time since 1995 that an FBS (Division I-A) program has shut down:

There's also the potential for larger ramifications as a result of this decision. Per the ESPN.com report, losing football does "jeopardize UAB's membership in Conference USA and associated programs including the school's marching band."

In addition to the school's membership in Conference USA, Matt Scalici of AL.com ponders what the end of UAB football will mean for the team's home at Legion Field:

UAB has played at Legion Field since its inception in 1991, and the stadium has hosted various sporting events over the years that include first-round soccer matches during the 1996 Summer Olympics, according to the UAB athletics website

Per John Talty of AL.com, the UAB football program was marginally profitable from October 2013 through September 2014:

UAB spent $8,956,079 on its football program and generated $8,980,301 in revenue during that time. The football program represented approximately 29 percent of the entire athletic department's revenue, per Equity in Athletics.

The athletic department posted a profit of $636,635 once all revenue and expenses were added up. 

However, as Talty also noted, a vast majority of money came to UAB's athletic department through $18.1 million in subsidies:

However, neither the football program nor the UAB athletic department is self-sufficient. Both benefitted greatly from $18.1 million in subsidies during the 2013 fiscal year, according to the school's NCAA financial report.

The subsidies represented 64 percent of revenue from 2012-13 and without them the athletic department would run at a nearly $17.5 million deficit. 

Talty did go on to say that subsidies of that size aren't unusual for smaller schools, and "without subsidies the University of Alabama would be the only profitable in-state athletic department." He goes on to note that Auburn "had a deficit of $3.7 million" before subsidies were factored in. 

According to Alan Collins of Fox 6 in Birmingham, members of the UAB football team planned a march on the campus to protest the decision:

CBS Sports' Jon Solomon and Kyle Burger of WVTM-TV provided photos of the players after they were told of the decision:

Despite the uncertainty around the football program, head coach Bill Clark was able to get the Blazers bowl eligible at 6-6 in his first season. It's not known if UAB will play in a bowl game, though the ESPN.com report states players will meet to decide if they want to participate should the university be invited to a postseason game. 

This is the first year UAB is bowl eligible since 2004 and just the fourth time finishing the regular season with at least a .500 record since becoming an FBS team in 1996. Its only bowl appearance to date was a 59-40 loss against Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl in 2004.

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 

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Notre Dame Football: Biggest Questions for Irish in Bowl Season

Following what Brian Kelly called a “red-letter day” for Notre Dame Football against USC on Saturday, when the Irish were “punched in the nose,” it’s time to start picking up the pieces off the bloody floor.

Notre Dame’s 49-14 loss to the Trojans was more than just a run-of-the-mill nosebleed. It was a hemorrhage on a big stage against a big rival. Naturally, Notre Dame has a slew of questions to answer heading into the bowl season.

We’ll take a look here at the biggest questions facing the 7-5 Irish as they embark on a few weeks of practice leading up to their 2014 finale.

 

What happens at quarterback?

The percolating swirl of discussion surrounding quarterbacks Everett Golson and Malik Zaire took a turn Saturday when Zaire—finally, for some Irish fans—replaced Golson late in the first half. Golson committed two first-half turnovers, his 21st and 22nd of the season, before his exit.

Upon his arrival, Zaire spearheaded an expedited three-play, 58-second scoring drive that ended with his 11-yard touchdown rush. He finished 9-of-20 for 170 yards.

“We tried to get a spark offensively, and I think Malik gave us that spark,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said to reporters after the game. “We had a couple of drops on one drive, could have kept the drive alive, [then] we missed the field goal. I really don’t think we punted when he was in the game."

“So he did some pretty good things. He missed some things in the red zone, which is to be anticipated with it really being his first significant time.”

The game was essentially over at that point, of course. The question is really what happens next.

“I really don’t have an answer for you,” Kelly said. “I really will need some time before I make any decisions on the quarterback.”

It’s certainly the highest-profile decision Kelly faces, and it’s likely to be the most important, too. Who will start in the bowl game? Will the other play? How do things stand heading into the offseason?

Kelly really hasn’t had any large degree of quarterback stability through five seasons in South Bend. The quarterback position is up in the air until further notice.

 

How healthy can the Irish get?

The injuries piled up throughout November, but those had the biggest impact (of course) on the regular-season games already in the books. Sure, there will be multiple weeks to heal up and recover before the bowl game, but just how healthy can Notre Dame get?

That question might not matter as much in the context of who trots out on the starting defense in the bowl game. The question has more to do with which young players will be healthy enough to get the necessary reps in bowl practices that are quite valuable.

Last year, Notre Dame was able to fit in 10 total practices before the Pinstripe Bowl in late December. Following the first day of bowl practices last season, Kelly highlighted some of the importance of the sessions—even though the Irish were sitting at 8-4 at the time.

“I was able to work in the 11-on-11 today, which is our ones and twos working,” Kelly said to reporters in early December last year. “I was able to get 20 reps of really good work with Malik today. The young guys get a lot of work. Torii Hunter and Malik work[ed] together today. Max Redfield played virtually all of seven-on-seven. Those kind[s] of guys [got] out there today.”

Redfield is one player in particular who could benefit from this bowl season. But the question comes back to health for the second-year safety, who suffered a broken rib against USC, per Kelly, and was set for an MRI to ensure there was no laceration to the liver or spleen.

Freshman defensive lineman Jay Hayes (high-ankle sprain), sophomore defensive lineman Jacob Matuska (stinger-like injury) and freshman linebacker Greer Martini (quad) were all banged up Saturday and would benefit from ample time on the practice field.

Outside of, say, Joe Schmidt, Notre Dame’s injury concerns relate more now to how much the youngsters can glean from the bowl season.

 

How does Notre Dame respond?

After the utter demolition at the hands of USC, Notre Dame has plenty of time to think…and think. In many ways, Notre Dame is at a crossroads—a team ripe with young talent but mired in a four-game losing streak that has raised countless questions.

What sort of response the Irish show in their bowl game could set the tone for the program heading into next season.

“We can’t lose sight of today,” Kelly said Saturday. “We have to remember where we are after today’s loss. It’s a red-letter day for our football players, coaches alike. Two years ago we were playing for a national championship. And today we got our butts beat. And it wasn’t as close as the score.”

Looking beyond the quarterback and injury questions, there are plenty of uncertainties with the rest of the squad. Will the receivers bounce back after what Kelly called a disappointing performance littered with drops? Will the offensive line show a nasty streak after forcing another shift along the unit? Will the safeties, if healthy, earn the trust of the coaches?

“They got punched in the nose today,” Kelly said. “You want to see a response too. They’re young, but I want to see some bite too. I want to see some bite. The bowl preparation, we’re gonna have to see a response. All jobs are available, and we’re gonna have to see something from this group.”

“We have a lot of young players, and I’m very confident as to where they want to go,” Kelly added. “And they want to get better. We expect to be back in the spot we were a couple years ago.”

We’ll see.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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Brady Hoke Fired by Michigan: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

After much speculation, the University of Michigan has reportedly decided to fire head football coach Brady Hoke

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports provided news Tuesday of the team's decision:

Nicole Auerbach of USA Today confirmed the report via a press conference announcement:

The Wolverines have struggled mightily this season, falling to 5-7 following Saturday's loss to Ohio State. Michigan righted the ship a bit after starting the season 2-4, but it has settled for a malaise of mediocrity under Hoke. 

Losing wasn't the only issue plaguing the Michigan program under Hoke. After a Sept. 27 matchup against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, he came under fire for allowing quarterback Shane Morris to remain in the game after sustaining an apparent concussion. The coach received plenty of criticism in the ensuing days, forcing him to release a statement, via Auerbach:

Still, it was almost surprising at the time for the coach to keep his job, as Paul Finebaum of ESPN argued:

Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com and Jon Solomon of CBS Sports provided comments from Hoke regarding his decision to let Morris continue playing. The coach insisted he wouldn't have kept Morris on the field had he felt the player's health was at risk.

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon released a statement and cited a "serious lack of communication" for how the situation was handled, via MGoBlue.com.

Hoke, 56, got off to a great start at Michigan after coming over from San Diego State in 2011. The Wolverines went 11-2 in his first year at the helm, including a win over Virginia Tech at the Sugar Bowl. Since then, however, things have gotten progressively worse, with an 8-5 record the following season and then a 7-6 mark in 2013.

Fans started to shower him with boos during the poor start to the 2014 season, although he refused to acknowledge it.

"I didn't hear it. When you're in the moment, you really don't," he said after the loss to Minnesota. "This is a big-boy business."

Unfortunately for Hoke, the school agreed with the rest of the fanbase and removed him from his position. Beating the Buckeyes almost certainly wouldn't have saved his job, but losing to OSU by 14 points only served to make his departure even more of an inevitability.

The defeat also meant Hoke wouldn't have the satisfaction of finishing his Michigan career with a bowl game. 

After going almost 40 years without a losing season under Bo Schembechler, Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr, Michigan has dealt with plenty of mediocrity under Rich Rodriguez and Hoke. It is clear the program would like to hire someone capable of turning things around in a hurry.

With this being the case, do not be surprised to see the school go all out in an effort to bring in a high-profile hire who can help both the team and Michigan's image. 

 

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

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Who Should Replace Brady Hoke as the Michigan Wolverines' Next Head Coach?

Brady Hoke is officially out as head coach of the Michigan Wolverines, per ESPN.com. During his time in Ann Arbor, Hoke accumulated a 31-20 record, including a 2011 Sugar Bowl victory.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder debate who should be the next coach at Michigan.

Who do you think should fill the role of head coach at Michigan? Check out the video and let us know! 

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USC's Stacked 2014 Signing Class Proved Trojans Have Championship Foundation

At this time last year, many of the players in USC's 2014 signing class were ending their prep football tenures playing for city championships. 

It was no different on Nov. 22. 

"I looked up last Saturday," USC head coach Steve Sarkisian said. "We’re playing UCLA and we had three true freshman [offensive] linemen [Toa Lobendahn, Damien Mama and Viane Talamaivao], a true freshman tight end [Bryce Dixon] and a true freshman wide receiver [John "JuJu" Smith] on the field all at the same time...then you throw in [cornerback] Adoree’ [Jackson] on offense." 

OK, so maybe this particular city championship had some higher stakes than the high school contests in which USC's freshman class was playing a season ago.

The winner gained the inside track on the Pac-12 South's berth in the conference championship game as well as bragging rights in one of the nation's most heated rivalries. 

UCLA came out on top and eliminated USC from Pac-12 title contention, but for the freshman Trojans, experience gained in 2014 is a crucial building block for something greater—much greater, as Mama described. 

"National championships," he said. "Just like every other year."

For the Trojans of the 2014 signing class, the future is about the past. 

"We look at the past teams, past players and past coaches of USC and we live up to that," Mama said. "[Offensive coordinator Clay] Helton really emphasizes that we're not just competing against a team. We're competing with the past." 

This group is rife with the kind of talent necessary to replicate the championship play of Trojans teams past.

Take Smith, who emerged as one of quarterback Cody Kessler's top targets this season. He put together one of the best debut seasons for a USC wide receiver and looks like the program's next star at the position. 

A true jack-of-all-trades, Jackson added seven receptions with two touchdowns and a kickoff returned for a touchdown to his duties as lockdown cornerback. 

Jackson broke up nine passes, forced a fumble and recorded 42 tackles. 

Meanwhile, Kessler has credited the offensive line of Mama, Lobendahn and Talamaivao for doing its part in the quarterback's 36-touchdown season.  

The offensive front paved the way for Kessler's six-touchdown performance last week in a 49-14 rout of Notre Dame, USC's big rebound from losing the city championship. 

Sarkisian said the line accepted his challenge to step up after a rough outing at UCLA, and the youngsters delivered. 

"People don't talk about it, but we're starting three true freshmen up front. I don't know of any other team in the country that's doing that," he said. 

The fact that freshmen played starring roles in the 2014 season may not be all that surprising. Sarkisian landed the Pac-12's top-rated signing class despite having just 15 scholarships available—the result of NCAA-imposed sanctions.

Pushing the Trojans to that conference-leading ranking was Sarkisian's final flourish just before national signing day, when he gained commitments from 4-star Mama and 5-star prospects Jackson and Smith.

But this talented corps was not content relying on its prep accolades or potential to succeed in the college game. 

"Knowing we came in as a great class, we didn’t let it get to our [heads]," Mama said. "We just wanted to come in, compete and contribute to the team in any way we could."  

Mama said that mindset is reflected throughout the freshman class, including among those in less prominent roles.

"As you can see, we have Uchenna [Nwosu] and Buddha [Olajuwon Tucker], who don't get much playing time on defense but contribute on special teams," he said. "[That] is a big factor for all us, just to be able to help the team." 

USC also had defensive backs John Plattenburg, who stepped into the starting rotation midway through the season, and Jonathan Lockett provide depth down the stretch. 

With Jackson and redshirt freshman Chris Hawkins, the Trojans secondary was the youngest in the Pac-12. But next year, it will be among the most experienced. 

And as Smith noted, it's the same across much of the roster. 

"A lot of young guys and we're not very experienced," he said. "We got our first season out of the way, and next season we're going to be even stronger." 

And as the 2014 class grows stronger, so too will the Trojans. And it won't just be city championships they're after.  

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC's Stacked 2014 Signing Class Proved Trojans Have Championship Foundation

At this time last year, many of the players in USC's 2014 signing class were ending their prep football tenures playing for city championships. It was no different on Nov. 22. "I looked up last Saturday," USC head coach Steve Sarkisian said...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

2015 Recruits Who Could Be Affected by Bo Pelini's Firing at Nebraska

Nebraska dismissed head coach Bo Pelini on Sunday, ending a seven-year tenure that featured consistent victory totals but few signature wins.

"We weren't good enough in the games that mattered," athletic director Shawn Eichorst stated during his press conference with the media (h/t 247Sports).

The move raised expectations at Nebraska and created a high-profile vacancy in Lincoln:

While fans and players provided a variety of reactions that ranged from supportive to outraged, it's always important to keep an eye on how potential prospects view coaching changes in college.

Members of the team's 2015 class have dealt strictly with Pelini and his staff throughout their relationship with the university. Now they must determine whether to remain on board with an incoming regime.

The same questions also face uncommitted recruiting targets, who've maintained conversations with a group of Nebraska coaches headed toward the exit door. Stable situations elsewhere may sway many of them away from the Cornhuskers, as Nebraska defensive back Josh Mitchell expressed:

With that in mind, let's look at how the firing could influence key Nebraska prospects and the fate of a 2015 class that currently rates 47th nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings.

 

Running back Kendall Bussey (New Orleans, Louisiana)

The Newman High School speedster initially committed to the Cornhuskers in February, becoming a foundational member of the class. However, he didn't hesitate to shake things up following the news.

Bussey, the latest addition in a respectable pipeline between Lincoln and Louisiana, tweeted a message detailing his decision to explore other collegiate options:

Coach Pelini is a great man and a big reason why I found Lincoln to be a good home for me. While I have not entirely closed (the) door on Nebraska, I feel that it is in my best interest to reopen my recruitment.

The 5'8", 192-pound playmaker was viewed as an eventual game-changer at running back, drawing comparisons to current Nebraska star Ameer Abdullah. His presence seemed to stabilize depth at the position in upcoming years.

"They told me I’m the first running back on their board,” Bussey told Sam McKewon of Omaha.com after his commitment.

Bussey had more than 1,000 rushing yards and 30 total touchdowns before November, per Garrett Galuszka of NOLA.com. Though Nebraska remains in the mix, a recent visit to Tennessee has him trending toward the Volunteers in 247Sports' Crystal Ball.

It's imperative for Nebraska's new coaching staff to identify a replacement at running back if Bussey turns his back on the team. Other rushers remain available, but that list will continue to dwindle as signing day approaches.

 

Defensive end Reuben Jones (Lakeland, Florida)

The 6'3", 223-pound defender is a recent addition to the class, so this news comes at a particularly frustrating time for the promising pass-rusher. Jones pledged to the Cornhuskers just two weeks prior to Pelini's dismissal.

He expressed confidence in that commitment on Twitter but wouldn't rule out alternative possibilities:

Jones possesses the athleticism and physical frame to play multiple positions in college. He was viewed as one of the program's premier defensive targets during the final stretch of this cycle.

Nebraska hosted him for an official visit in September and battled with the likes of Central Florida and West Virginia for his services. Jones could now choose to revisit the idea of playing for one of those programs, though his most recent official visit took place at Big Ten foe Michigan State.

Jones told Alex Lantz of the Lincoln Journal Star:

I want to go to Nebraska and I like the school; I just need to make sure I have a connection with the new coaches. They might not even like me, so I might be forced to look somewhere else.

If they want me to take (defensive end) Randy Gregory's place, I need a coach who I know is going to help me do that.

He tallied 71 tackles, including 14 for loss, and a team-high 10 sacks this season, per MaxPreps. Jones has nearly 200 tackles and 25 sacks since 2012.

 

Wide receiver Stanley Morgan (New Orleans, Louisiana)

Much like Bussey, he distanced himself from his Nebraska commitment but didn't slam the door on a possible reconciliation. Regardless, the St. Augustine High School star is officially open to other programs just weeks after he looked like a major component of the Cornhuskers class.

That doesn't bode well for a Nebraska team that could use a productive pass-catcher of his stature. The 6'0", 185-pound playmaker spent much of his high school career serving as an explosive secondary weapon in an offensive attack that featured top overall 2014 prospect Leonard Fournette.

While defensive game plans focused on slowing the prolific running back, Morgan did plenty of damage. He caught 127 passes as a sophomore and junior, racking up 1,883 yards and 26 scores.

Though he dealt with a shoulder injury this season, Morgan compiled 46 receptions for 891 yards and eight touchdowns through October, per Andrew Lopez of NOLA.com.

Pelini secured his commitment last month. If he rules out Nebraska, expect Tulane and Florida to emerge as possible destinations.

 

Recruit ratings and information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Jim McElwain Wouldn't Be a Sexy Hire, but He'd Do Great at Florida

Florida is undoubtedly one of the top programs in the country, and its coaching vacancy will certainly cause even the stablest candidates to at least listen to what athletic director Jeremy Foley has to offer.

Is that why Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze got his raise and extension to stay at Ole Miss? Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun reported on Monday night that the two sides never met and an offer was never extended.

Fair enough. But just because you don't propose doesn't mean you haven't flirted.

With Freeze off the table, all eyes shift toward Fort Collins, Colorado, where third-year head coach Jim McElwain has his Colorado State Rams at 10-2. Until last week's loss at Air Force, they were in the mix to earn the "Group of Five" conferences automatic bid into one of the "New Year's Six" bowls.

A two-time national champion as offensive coordinator at Alabama from 2008-2011, McElwain was mentioned by Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde as "a leading candidate" for Florida on Sunday.

ESPN's Brett McMurphy took the talk to the next level on Tuesday, when he reported that McElwain is Florida's top candidate:

With names like Freeze, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly and others being thrown around, McElwain landing the job would probably be like ordering a filet mignon at a 5-star steakhouse and getting a half-eaten veggie burger instead.

It shouldn't happen.

McElwain would be a tremendous hire for Foley and checks off all the boxes Florida needs from its new head coach, as Bleacher Report national college football columnist Ray Glier points out:

Offensive-minded?

No doubt.

McElwain's Colorado State offense moved from ninth in the Mountain West in total yards in 2012 (339.0 yards per game) to fifth in 2013 (471.6) to second this year (497.8). When he was the offensive coordinator at Alabama, he produced an offense that finished in the top four in the conference in passing efficiency in each of his four seasons.

A consistent, effective passing game? Seeing one of those from the orange and blue in "The Swamp" would be like seeing the college football version of Sasquatch.

A proven head coach?

Yep, McElwain checks off that box too.

No, it's not at a traditional football power like Oklahoma or even an up-and-coming program in a tough conference like Ole Miss. But McElwain took a team that was 3-9 and 1-6 in the Mountain West in the year prior to his arrival, and built the Rams into a power.

They've won 18 games over the last two seasons, finished above .500 in the Mountain West and have played a big part in the effort to build a new on-campus stadium.

A proven head coach who wins on the field and off it? What's not to like?

SEC experience?

Two national titles at Alabama operating under the Nick Saban—the unquestioned best coach in the country—will do nicely for both program and recruiting prestige.

McElwain is credited for recruiting several Alabama stars over the years, including former safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and former running back (and current Colorado State running back) Dee Hart—both of whom hail from Orlando, Florida.

He has experience coaching and recruiting in the SEC, and specifically recruiting in the state of Florida. 

Jackpot.

The $7.5 million buyout that Forde mentioned might be a bit of an obstacle, but there's always room to negotiate or find creative ways to work around that if McElwain is the guy for Foley and Florida.

He would not the sexy hire, but he would be the right hire.

The latter, of course, is much more important.

 

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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Odds on Where Martez Ivey, the New No. 1 Recruit in 2015 Class, Will Land

Martez Ivey is the new No. 1 recruit in the class of 2015, per 247Sports, but he is still undecided on where he will play his college ball.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder gives his odds on where the talented offensive lineman will land. 

Where will Ivey play his college ball?

Check out the video, and let us know! 

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Is the SEC's Reign of Terror Really Over?

The SEC has been the most dominant conference in football for some time, but is it in danger of losing that stranglehold on the college football world? 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee discuss whether the SEC's time at the top is over. 

Is the SEC in danger of missing the College Football Playoff?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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Todd Gurley's Memorabilia Dealer Talks Suspension, More in ESPN, SI Interview

Bryan Allen, the man who paid Georgia star running back Todd Gurley money for signing memorabilia and later emailed the media and the school about the transaction because he feared he was being set up, has told his side of the story to ESPN and Sports Illustrated.    

"I never wanted to screw over Gurley," Allen told Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com in a story published Tuesday. "I never wanted to screw over their fans or anything like that. That was never my intention. I wish I had never even gone down there. It's not worth it."

Per McMurphy's report, Allen paid Gurley $400 for signing about 80 items earlier this year. He provided the two media outlets that conducted the interview with memorabilia Gurley signed and a video of him signing it. Shane Smith, a man Allen had met at the memorabilia store Players in Rome, Georgia, was also in the car at the time.

Allen was prompted to contact media outlets and the university, however, when he felt he was being set up over the transactions and decided to try to get his side of the story out first. According to McMurphy's report, Allen claimed he contacted two media members with "ties to the University of Florida," along with Spencer Hall, a reporter for SB Nation, and eventually even Deadspin.

Allen claimed in the interview with ESPN and SI that he never sought compensation for passing along the information to members of the press, though in emails to Deadspin obtained by McMurphy, Allen did request compensation.

He then contacted members of Georgia's compliance office. The NCAA eventually suspended Gurley four games for accepting money for signing memorabilia.

Allen—who claimed he has since lost his job, dealt with an attempted break-in at his house and is considering leaving the state of Georgia altogether—felt compelled to share his side of the story:

People think it was just me [involved with Gurley], but it wasn't. All the parties were guilty. And I regret it. This [article] could come out and this could infuriate people. They could say this stupid guy is trying to get famous off this.

I want everyone to know that I did not try to make money. Last thing I want is to be in the public eye. I can't go find a job right here. Perception of me is I was an autograph dealer that got wronged and I turned my back on one of the players and screwed him over. That's not what happened. That's not what I did.

I'm not some secret Florida fan that is trying to sabotage Georgia's football program. I made the mistake of going down there. 

There are certainly other sides of this story, including that of Gurley and Smith.

Gurley, a junior, posted 911 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 123 carries this season before tearing his ACL on Nov. 15. Georgia coach Mark Richt said on his weekly radio show (h/t Anthony Dasher of UGASports.com) Gurley is planning to enter the 2015 NFL draft.

 

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Why Who Is Playing QB for Ohio State Doesn't Really Matter

If Ohio State beats Wisconsin in Saturday's Big Ten Championship Game, the Buckeyes will have won 12 games this season with, basically, two backup quarterbacks. 

Some might take that to mean the Buckeyes have a group of "system quarterbacks." Call it what you will, but Ohio State calls it an identity. So far, that identity has worked despite two key injuries. 

As you'll recall, starting quarterback Braxton Miller was ruled out for the year in the preseason after he reinjured his right shoulder. That propelled backup J.T. Barrett into the starting role. Despite a slow start, Barrett has flourished in an offense that has dramatically improved over the course of the season.

Statistically, Barrett was having a better season than Miller did a year ago before sustaining his own season-ending injury, a fractured ankle, last week against Michigan. That means reserve quarterback Cardale Jones, who is 10-of-17 passing for 118 yards and two touchdowns on the season, will start against the Badgers. 

Disregard for a moment whether Ohio State should even be in a position to make the four-team playoff. Don't worry how Barrett's injury alters the selection committee's view of the Buckeyes. Just look at this for what it is:

The fact that Ohio State is even in this position is nothing short of impressive. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has his critics, but the job he and offensive coordinator Tom Herman have done recruiting and developing quarterbacks is noteworthy. 

Unless an offense in the Wildcat formation, the quarterback touches the ball on every snap. And unless you run an offense like Wisconsin's, in which running back Melvin Gordon is the cornerstone, the quarterback is the key component that makes the engine turn.

That's especially true in Meyer's offenses, where the quarterback is asked to be a running and passing threat more often than not. The upside to that is Meyer's quarterbacks are often difference-makers. The downside is that they open themselves up to injuries, which has obviously been the case this year.  

The question now is whether Jones will be asked to be a difference-maker or a game manager. How Meyer handled Barrett's development suggests it will be the former, not the latter. 

Meyer and Herman already showed that they didn't feel the need to hold Barrett back. The redshirt freshman hasn't been the traditional "game manager," simply handing the ball off and making short, easy throws. Quite the contrary, he's been a pleasantly surprising runner while equally capable of making difficult throws down the field. 

Based on recent comments, Meyer clearly has confidence in Jones as a playmaker as well, via Austin Ward of ESPN.com

Obviously it's going to be a really good environment against a very tough defense. But it's not like he's not taking snaps with the one offense or understands the concepts. He has a very good understanding. We expect our quarterbacks here to prepare a certain way. He hasn't been in this situation [in a game] yet. But he did it in spring [practice], and he did a good job. Remember, he was our backup.

One of the concerns about losing Barrett is whether Ohio State can win with enough "style points" to impress the selection committee—if it can win at all. In other words, will Jones come out and play with the same "wow factor" that Barrett has been delivering for the past couple of months? After all, there could be as many as three or four teams vying for one final playoff spot. 

Here's the thing, though: Winning with a third-string quarterback carries its own set of style points. Does it matter if Jones throws for 300 yards? Does it make a difference if he's the team's leading rusher? Winning with a reserve quarterback shows tremendous depth—not to mention that it's a reflection of the coaching staff. 

As Tony Gerdeman of The Ozone points out, Jones has moved the ball well when he sees the field, albeit in garbage time:

Ohio State won't ask Jones to do anything he's not capable of doing, but to suggest Meyer and Herman will throw out the playbook and crawl into a shell seems unlike them. The Buckeyes have gotten this far by refusing to play it safe. What's one more game?

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. 

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Young Cancer Survivor Tells Ohio State QB Cardale Jones to 'Be Brave'

"If I can beat cancer, you can beat Wisconsin. Go Bucks."

No matter how many people are doubting Ohio State right now, one young cancer survivor still has faith in Cardale Jones and the Buckeyes. 

Jones—Ohio State's third-string quarterback—will be making his first career start against the Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday. Injuries to Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett have forced Jones into action.

A lot of people have jumped off the Ohio State bandwagon since Barrett suffered a broken ankle this past weekend, but this kid doesn't see any reason as to why Jones can't lead the Buckeyes to a victory—and possibly a playoff berth.

[YouTube, h/t reader Derek]

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College Football Rankings 2014: Playoff Predictions for Top Contenders

There are many teams across the nation worthy of a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff; however, there is only room for four.

Before a pivotal Week 14, the Top Four consisted of Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Mississippi State in the eyes of the College Football Playoff selection committee. The new rankings have yet to be released, but following the Bulldogs' loss to the Ole Miss Rebels, we can rest assured there will be some significant changes.

With just under one week remaining until Selection Sunday, one burning question remains: Which four contenders will comprise the nation's best four teams once the dust settles after conference championship games? Some predictions are in order.

Although, let's take these predictions just one step further and project just how far each Top Four team will go, concluding with our expected national champion. Before we delve into those predictions, here's a look at the AP Top 25 to help get an idea of which teams are still in contention.

 

Top Four Predictions

1. Alabama

The Crimson Tide won the Iron Bowl in dramatic fashion, lighting up the scoreboard to obtain a 55-44 victory over Auburn. The team's second-half efficiency certainly helped matters, via ESPN College Football:

Alabama will be facing Missouri in the SEC title game, and while the Tigers are talented, they will have trouble putting up necessary points against the Crimson Tide's sixth-ranked scoring defense. Alabama takes the SEC and remains No. 1 overall.

 

2. Oregon

The Ducks aren't a lock for the No. 2 seed with a game against the Arizona Wildcats on the horizon. Arizona has defeated Oregon in their last two meetings; however, Heisman-hopeful quarterback Marcus Mariota is in excellent form coming off his first six-touchdown performance of the season in the Civil War. In fact, he's been in excellent form his entire career, via ESPN Stats & Info:

Expect the Ducks to ride that momentum to a Pac-12 title and the No. 2 seed.

 

3. TCU

The Horned Frogs visited Texas and handed the Longhorns a blowout loss. While Texas didn't exactly play a spectacular game, TCU reaffirmed why it is one of the nation's most dangerous teams. ESPN's Chris Fowler tweeted his take:

This team will deliver an even larger victory over Iowa State on Saturday, further solidifying its spot in the College Football Playoff at No. 3 overall.

 

4. Florida State

The Seminoles may be undefeated, but they have only won by margins of five points or fewer in their last three games against unranked opponents. That keeps Florida State in the hunt, but it's not winning it any style points in the eyes of the selection committee. Quarterback Jameis Winston needs to buck this trend quickly, via ESPN Stats & Info:

The Seminoles will be heavily tested against Georgia Tech, but another close victory will see them squeeze into the College Football Playoff at No. 4.

 

College Football Playoff Bowl Game Predictions

 

Sugar Bowl

Florida State hasn't seen a team quite like Alabama this season, and that will be the Seminoles' undoing. Winston has been extremely sluggish in the first half of games this season, and ESPN Stats & Info summed up his struggles with this tweet:

Meanwhile, Alabama's potent offense may have been one reason why Auburn fired defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson just one day after the Iron Bowl. Blake Sims may have struggled early in the game, but he was bailed out in a big way by Amari Cooper, who went for 224 yards and three touchdowns.

Defending against the pass has been a big weakness of the Seminoles this season, ranking 62nd in the nation. They don't have the personnel to contain Cooper, and that could lead to the Crimson Tide building an early lead. If that happens, don't expect any kind of miracle comeback against Alabama's sixth-ranked scoring defense.

Prediction: Alabama 38, Florida State 24

 

Rose Bowl

This matchup could easily be a tremendous shootout. Trevone Boykin and the Horned Frogs have the nation's third-ranked offense, scoring an average of 46.1 points per game. This team hasn't been held to fewer than 30 points in any single game this season.

On the flip side, Mariota leads Oregon's fourth-ranked offense, averaging 45.9 points per game. He's been incredibly efficient this season, and Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports tweeted the impressive numbers:

Boykin has tallied 34 total touchdowns this season, but he's accompanied them with six interceptions and a completion percentage of 59.3. While those are some gaudy numbers, he simply isn't nearly as efficient as Mariota, and that will be the reason Oregon takes the Rose Bowl.

Expect plenty of points scored between these two teams, but the Ducks will pull away late due to steady quarterbacking and a wide array of versatile offensive weapons.

Prediction: Oregon 49, TCU 38

 

National Championship

With wins by Alabama and Oregon, we have a showdown of the nation's Top Two teams in the national championship game. This would certainly be a case of the irresistible force meeting an immovable object, as Alabama's defense will be a challenge for Oregon's offense and vice versa.

ESPN College Football tweeted one ominous omen that the Ducks must overcome in this instance:

Mariota has been one of the nation's most exiting players to watch this season, and he's certainly the clear-cut favorite for the Heisman Trophy. He fared well against a good Michigan State defense early in the season; however, the Crimson Tide have been much better, and this game will be taking place at a neutral location—not in Eugene.

While Alabama gets plenty of credit for its defense, its offense may be slightly underrated. This team is still putting up an average of 36.7 points per game, good enough for 20th in the nation. A balanced attack with Sims at quarterback and T.J. Yeldon in the backfield allows Alabama to keep opposing defenses off balance.

Oregon's defense is allowing an average of 23.3 points per game, ranking 32nd in the nation. However, that hasn't been due to limiting yards accumulated by opposing offenses. The Ducks are ranked 54th against the run, allowing 157.8 yards per game, and 111th against the pass, allowing 271.8 yards per game.

Alabama will be able to put up some significant points on this defense, and while Mariota is very capable of lighting up scoreboards, it will be extremely difficult for him to find Heisman-like success against the Crimson Tide.

This will be a highly entertaining game, but Alabama will earn yet another national title.

Prediction: Alabama 38, Oregon 30

 

All team statistics and rankings courtesy of NCAA.com and current as of December 1.

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SEC Championship 2014: Alabama vs. Missouri Live Stream, TV Info and Schedule

The mission is clear for the Alabama Crimson Tide—beat the Missouri Tigers in Saturday’s SEC Championship, and they get to participate in the first-ever College Football Playoff. Alabama will probably even be the No. 1 seed.

Missouri gets to play the role of spoiler, but an SEC title in a year that looked doomed early on after a stunning home loss to Indiana would mark an incredible turnaround. A win would also position the Tigers as dark-horse contenders for a playoff spot if there were a handful of other upsets across the college football landscape.

Here is a look at the essential information for the game.

 

Alabama vs. Missouri

Date: Saturday, Dec. 6

Time: 4 p.m. ET

Place: Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia

TV: CBS 

Live Stream: CBS Sports Live

 

Preview

If Missouri has a chance Saturday, it will have to start up front with the pass rush.

Shane Ray leads the SEC with 14 sacks on the season, while his partner in crime, Markus Golden, has nine sacks of his own. The Alabama offensive line, in particular left tackle Cam Robinson, will be tasked with slowing the Ray and Golden combination down to give Blake Sims time to throw to Amari Cooper.

If Sims gets that time, he will certainly find his superstar wide receiver, so that is plenty of responsibility for the star pass-rushers.

Pressuring Sims won’t even be an issue for Missouri, though, if it can’t stop the run. The Tigers defense was gutted on the ground in losses to Indiana (241 rushing yards allowed) and Georgia (210 rushing yards allowed) and now has to deal with T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry. 

If the Crimson Tide force the Tigers to worry about the run early, it will neutralize the pass rush and free up Cooper for some big plays over the top in one-on-one situations. There may not be a better receiver in all of college football, and the SEC Network passed along the numbers to prove it:

Missouri has nobody to counter Cooper, although you cannot hold that against the Tigers because nobody can really stop him.

On the other side, Alabama’s defense is licking its wounds a bit after allowing an astounding 628 total yards to Auburn in the Iron Bowl. However, Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk and the rest of the Tigers’ pass offense only averages 189.9 yards per game through the air, so this is an ideal offense for Alabama to get some of its defensive momentum back against.

To make matters worse for Missouri, Mauk is less than 100 percent, as head coach Gary Pinkel said, via Tod Palmer of The Kansas City Star: “He tweaked his shoulder a little bit. Nothing really bad, but obviously, if you’re a quarterback and your shoulder’s hurt a little bit, especially your throwing shoulder, it certainly affects you.”

Missouri simply doesn’t have the offensive firepower of an Auburn to put up numbers like fans saw in the Iron Bowl against Alabama’s defense. If nothing else, that recent performance will serve to motivate the Crimson Tide on that side of the ball, which is trouble for the Tigers.

Don’t be fooled by Missouri’s overall 10-2 record, either.

It somehow avoided Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State and Ole Miss from the SEC West. If it is possible to have an easy schedule in the SEC, the Tigers found a way to do just that. In the team’s one game against a marquee opponent this year, it was eviscerated by Georgia to the tune of 34-0. The Tigers couldn’t stop the Bulldogs or muster up anything of note on offense.

Of course, the Tigers also have the inexplicable loss to Indiana on the resume. The Crimson Tide have gotten past much stiffer tests than this already this season and should have no trouble Saturday.

Nick Saban has a motivated defense looking to correct its errors from a week ago and offensive weapons in Cooper and the running backs that Missouri simply won’t be able to stop. This one will get out of hand quickly. 

Prediction: Alabama 41, Missouri 17

 

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