NCAA Football

Clemson vs. Ohio State: Score, Grades and Analysis from 2014 Orange Bowl

Urban Meyer is going to need a lot of pizza.

In an up-and-down game that had both sides' fanbases on the edge of their seats throughout, the No. 7 Ohio State Buckeyes (12-2) fell, 40-35, to the No. 12 Clemson Tigers (11-2) in the 2014 Discover Orange Bowl.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney made sure to make a not-so-subtle dig at South Carolina after the game.

With the superb quality of both offenses and a plethora of deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball for Clemson and OSU, it was no surprise that this game turned into a shootout. The purists may not have liked it, but watching the Tigers and Buckeyes score one touchdown after another made for a thrilling affair.

It was a fitting end to the collegiate career of Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd. Boyd, who is graduating, accounted for six total touchdowns in the game, five coming the way of the pass. Boyd's favorite target on Friday and this season, Sammy Watkins, is also expected to leave Clemson by making himself eligible for the 2014 NFL draft.

Watkins, in particular, was fantastic all game. Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris did a great job of running a lot of screens that allowed Watkins to get the ball quickly and turn upfield.

Watkins had 16 receptions for 227 yards and two touchdowns. Even Larry Fitzgerald was compelled to praise the wideout's performance.

This win was even bigger for Boyd, who struggled in big games against Florida State and South Carolina earlier this season. Despite some poor decision-making at the end of the game, the senior quarterback managed to have a strong performance, finishing 31-of-40 passing for 378 yards and two interceptions. He also had 127 yards on the ground.

Boyd had the first score of the game with this 48-yard touchdown run, which set the tone for what was to come.

That run helped Clemson jump out to a 20-9 lead in the second quarter.

Then the Tigers were nearly undone by their porous defense.

For example, look at Jeff Heuerman's 57-yard touchdown reception that got the Buckeyes back into the game and cut the deficit to five points, 20-15.

There wasn't a Tigers defender within 10 yards of him when he caught the ball, and from there, it was a rather easy path to the end zone.

Matt Hinton of Football Outsiders saw where there could've been some miscommunication.

There would be a similar defensive breakdown on Carlos Hyde's 14-yard touchdown pass that put Ohio State back on top, 35-34 in the fourth quarter.

Ironically, it was a defensive play that would ultimately seal the game for the Tigers.

Clemson was clinging to a 40-35 lead with a little over three minutes left in the game, and the Buckeyes were in Tigers territory. Then OSU QB Braxton Miller fumbled, giving the Tigers offense a chance to ice the game away.

Unfortunately, Boyd threw an interception to hand Ohio State one more chance to find the go-ahead score.

Yet, the Clemson defense answered the call once again, with Stephone Anthony picking off Miller to put the final nail in Ohio State's coffin.

 

Key Player Grades

Sammy Watkins, Clemson: A+

Sammy Watkins is going to the NFL, right? After a performance like this, he can't possibly feel staying in school for another year is going to help his draft stock.

Bleacher Report's draft guru Matt Miller has Watkins as the No. 1 wide receiver on his board.

It's not hard to see why, as the junior wideout was the best player on the field on Friday night. He was a beast in the receiving game. Anytime Watkins touched the ball, it seemed like he had a chance to score.

And seriously, how do you defend this?

Tajh Boyd deserves plenty of credit, but it was Watkins who won the game for Clemson.

 

Tajh Boyd, Clemson: B+

Boyd very nearly threw this game away and cemented whatever negative narratives he's built during his time at Clemson. His interception in the fourth quarter could have been disastrous for the Tigers and his legacy at Clemson.

But the defense came through and saved Boyd's bacon.

 

Braxton Miller, Ohio State: B

Braxton Miller deserved better.

Time and again he was getting harassed in the pocket and hammered after the pass. By the end of the game, it was a shock he was able to walk.

Robert Flores of ESPN put it best.

Meyer praised his QB after the game, per Dieter Kurtenbach of the Sun Sentinel.

That interception at the end of the game was pretty bad, though. There was no excuse for making that pass.

But by that point in the game, though, Miller wasn't 100 percent, and it would be tough to lay blame for the entire game on him after he accounted for 269 total yards and combined for four touchdowns via the pass and on the ground.

 

What's Next?

Clemson is losing a lot of bodies to the NFL next season. It will be interesting to see how Swinney is able to rebound in 2014.

Miller is a junior and if he returns, expect the Buckeyes to be highly ranked entering the 2014 season as they look to rebound from this disappointing loss.

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Missouri Seals Cotton Bowl Win over Oklahoma State with Fumble Recovery TD

The Cotton Bowl ended with a wild finish, as the Missouri Tigers were able to come away with a huge win over the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Up 34-31 with just over a minute left, Mizzou lineman Michael Sam was able to sack Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf and knock the ball loose. Defensive lineman Shane Ray picked up the loose ball and returned it 73 yards to seal the victory for the Tigers.  

You can watch the the sideline celebrate at the end of the game below.

Perhaps the best part of the play was Gus Johnson's reaction, as it was the perfect ending to what was a great game.

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7 Teams Whose Schedules Have Them Set Up for a Title Run in 2014

As we are just days away from ending the 2013 college football season, it's time to take an early look at the upcoming season. A very, very early look. We're still waiting for key players to decide whether they will leave for the next level, coaching changes are taking place, and recruiting is still unfolding. But one way to determine success this early in the process is by glancing at the schedules. 

Even if a team isn't the most talented, it could still make a run if the schedule is easy enough. Getting tough opponents at home and having a favorable non-conference schedule are just some of the ways a team could find itself in the national title hunt at the end of the year.

Here are some of the top teams that not only have talent to make a run, but also have a schedule that favors their chances. 

Begin Slideshow

Charlie Strong Rumored to Be the Next Texas Football Head Coach

Talk about a quick coaching decision—the Texas Longhorns are rumored to have offered Charlie Strong the head coaching job of the prestigious football program, and he is rumored to accept the position. This coming way before the Jan. 15 deadline set by athletic director Steve Patterson.

Bobby Burton of 247Sports.com, a football recruiting website in partnership with CBSSports.com, first reported the news via Twitter:

Burton was the first to report, but is he right? Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com tweeted, shortly after Burton, that a source has told him Strong will be the next football coach:

Brown has been covering the coaching search since former head coach Mack Brown stepped down. Brown also followed up by tweeting that Strong has indicated he will accept the job, via Twitter:

Strong was a finalist for the job with Vanderbilt's James Franklin, per Brown on Twitter. However, Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports tweeted that Strong has not accepted the job:

Forde does not cover Texas athletics like Burton or Brown, but certainly has credibility as a verified Twitter user and sportswriter. If the rumors are true on the part of the Texas media, then Strong would be Patterson's first major hire as the athletic director.

Finally in the mix, Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated reported on the Strong deal. He tweeted that Strong agreed to terms to be the next Texas head coach:

It appears to be a nice hefty contract for Strong, if the rumors are confirmed. Per USA Today salaries database, the coach made $2.3 million in 2012.

Strong started his head coaching career at Louisville in 2010. While at Louisville he won three bowl games, including the 2012 BCS Sugar Bowl. His recruiting ties are strong to the state of Florida, and there were 15 players from Miami on the 2013 Louisville football roster.

Before taking over for the Cardinals, Strong was a defensive coordinator for the Florida Gators and won two BCS National Championships with the program.

The next step for Strong, if the rumors hold true, is to appoint a worthy coaching staff to assist him with future goals for the Longhorns. Expect the University of Texas and Patterson to make a comment on the reports and for Patterson to hold a press conference announcing Strong.

Again, if the reports hold true, things should be moving quickly for Strong and the Longhorns. Finally for 'Horns fans, the search appears to be over.

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Charlie Strong Reportedly Set to Become Head Football Coach at Texas

A new era of Texas Longhorns football may be near, as the university has reportedly reached an agreement that will make Louisville coach Charlie Strong the next head football coach, according to Bobby Burton of 247Sports.com:

BREAKING: Horns247 first to report that Texas will hire Louisville coach Charlie Strong.

— Bobby Burton (@BobbyBurton247) January 4, 2014

Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated provides details about the deal:

High ranking Texas official said Texas and Charlie Strong have agreed to terms. Five years, $5 mill per. http://t.co/He5hGAU3Em

— Pete Thamel (@SIPeteThamel) January 4, 2014

ESPN's Brett McMurphy contends a deal has not been formally agreed to yet:

Louisville coach Charlie Strong has not been formally offered the head coaching job at Texas but would accept it if he was, a source told ESPN's Brett McMurphy on Friday night.

Another source told McMurphy that Strong said he has not accepted the Texas job, but wants to talk to Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich and university president Jes Ramsey.

Jason Higdon of Fox Sports passes along another development:

Charlie Strong has called for a 9am staff metting.

— Jason Higdon (@Jason_Higdon) January 4, 2014

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller provides more details:

Louisville players have been told Coach Strong is meeting with AD and president right now.

— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 4, 2014

Strong would replace Mack Brown, who announced his resignation on Dec. 14 after 16 seasons at the helm. Brown lost four or more games in each of his last four seasons in Austin, but still leaves behind massive shoes to fill after bringing Texas its fourth national championship in 2005.

The Longhorns are coming off an 8-5 season that concluded in disappointing fashion with a 30-7 loss to Oregon in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 30. 

Although the high-profile program has been plagued by mediocrity in recent seasons, expectations will be high moving forward. Texas remains one of college football's premier programs and boasts a rabid fanbase that expects double-digit-wins year in and year out. 

Strong is coming off a four-year run at Louisville that saw him return the program to the same BCS glory it had experienced under Bobby Petrino in the mid-2000s. The 53-year-old Strong went 37-15 during his time with the Cardinals, going 23-3 over his past two seasons.

Prior to taking over at Louisville, Strong spent several seasons on Florida's coaching staff, making a name for himself as a brilliant defensive coordinator in college football's toughest conference. The Gators won two BCS titles during his time in Gainesville.

In Strong, Texas will have hired a tough-minded coach whose first priority would be to fix the Longhorns porous defense. Keep in mind that Texas ranked 69th nationally in total defense in 2013 (407.2 total yards allowed). Meanwhile, Strong's Louisville squad ranked tops in all of college football in that category last season, allowing just over 251 total yards per game.

While it remains to be seen whether Strong is the man capable of lifting Texas football back into the national championship discussion, his impressive track record at Louisville confirms that Texas is on the verge of bringing on a worthy candidate. 

For now, Longhorn fans can sleep soundly knowing the future is near.

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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Martavis Bryant Reels in Sick Bobbling Touchdown Catch in Sugar Bowl

In a game littered with terrific catches, Martavis Bryant stepped up big for the Clemson Tigers with a bobbling, go-ahead touchdown catch in the Sugar Bowl against Ohio State.

To add to the degree of difficulty, the defender on Bryant was called for pass interference.  You can get an even better look at the amazing concentration by Bryant to reel in the pass below.

The catch helped give the Tigers the lead for the first time in the second half, putting them up 34-29.

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Sammy Watkins Hauls in Crazy Touchdown Pass in Sugar Bowl

In case you haven't noticed, Clemson Tigers wide receiver Sammy Watkins is pretty good.

With the Tigers down 29-20, a muffed punt by Ohio State put Clemson in Buckeyes territory. Shortly after, Tajh Boyd found Watkins on a beautiful 30-yard touchdown on third down. Watkins simply snatched the ball out of the air, showing the country why he's considered one of the best receivers in college football.

The touchdown made it a one-possession game with the Buckeyes up 29-27.

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Michigan Football: 2014 Running Back Depth Chart Prediction

Michigan struggled to run the ball consistently during the 2013 campaign and will need to improve drastically to turn things around next season. Problems on the offensive line (nine players were rotated through the five starting positions) because of injuries and performance issues contributed to the problems in the running game. Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, returning from a catastrophic leg injury that ended his 2012 season, also failed to regain top form.

Offensive coordinator Al Borges prefers to have one primary back, and with Toussaint’s graduation the competition will be on among the returning backs.

Derrick Green (5-11, 240, 2014 Eligibility: Sophomore)
2013 Stats: (83 carries for 270 yards, 3.3 yards-per-carry, 2 touchdowns)

Green was injured in training camp and questions about his weight and conditioning dogged him until an injury sidelined Fitzgerald Toussaint for the Northwestern game.

Green then showed why he was such a highly touted recruit, running with authority and making holes with his bruising running style. Despite his late-season surge, Green was disappointed with his production and predicted that, “[He] and De'Veon are going to come back next year real strong and…get it done.”

2014 Outlook: Expect Green to Compete to be Primary Back

De’Veon Smith (5-11, 224, 2014 Eligibility: Sophomore)
2013 Stats: (26 carries 117 yards, 4.5 yards-per-carry)

Smith was mired on the depth chart but surged at the end of season to run with both power and elusiveness. Smith showed tantalizing glimpses of speed that could set him apart from the rest of the running backs next season.

2014 Outlook: Expect Smith and Green to Compete to be Primary Back

Justice Hayes (5-10, 192, 2014 Eligibility: Junior)
2013 Stats: (2 carries 6 yards, 3.0 yards-per-carry)

Hayes played in 11 games but wasn’t featured in the offense until the bowl game, where he earned playing time by shining in practice. Hayes seems to be back of choice when it comes to getting passes from the backfield.

2014 Outlook: Hayes will need to shine in spring and fall practice to move past Green and Smith. He’ll also need to work on his blocking.


Thomas Rawls (5-10, 217, 2014 Eligibility: Senior)
2013 Stats:
(3 carries 12 yards, 4.0 yards-per-carry, 1 touchdown)

Rawls has been missing in action. As a senior, he’ll get a look in spring practice and probably a chance in the early-season games next season.

2014 Outlook: He’ll need to produce big time to move up the depth chart.

Drake Johnson (6-0, 213, 2014 Eligibility: Sophomore)
2013 Stats: (2 carries 9 yards, 4.5 yards-per-carry)

Johnson was injured in the third quarter of Michigan’s first game of the season with an ACL injury. He may be eligible for a medical redshirt since he was injured so early in the season. He had moved up the depth chart before his injury and was listed as Toussaint’s backup.

2014 Outlook: Johnson’s status will depend on when he returns injury.

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via Press Conferences or in person.

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Blake Bortles' Updated 2014 NFL Draft Stock After Fiesta Bowl Win

Blake Bortles very likely threw himself into the first round of the 2014 NFL draft with a strong performance in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl.

Since he plays at Central Florida, Bortles didn't get too many chances for national exposure this season. For many fans, it was a first look at this hot new quarterback who's shooting up experts' draft boards.

Those who tuned in to the Fiesta Bowl weren't disappointed.

The junior quarterback helped spark the Knights' 52-42 upset of the Baylor Bears. Bortles finished 20-of-31 for 301 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He ran for another 93 yards and a touchdown.

It was a great showcase of his ability, and, in terms of his NFL draft stock, it couldn't have come at a better time.

Plenty of scouts were likely wowed by Bortles' performance against Baylor. Keep in mind that despite their high-powered, fast-paced offense, the Bears rank 12th in passing efficiency defense. Shredding them for 300-plus yards and three touchdowns wasn't easy.

Since Bortles has another year of eligibility, he's in a position where he can wait if he doesn't feel he's rated highly enough. According to Gil Brandt of NFL.com, he wants to wait to see what kind of grade he'd get from the league before declaring for the 2014 draft.

Former Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage illustrated the possible dilemma for Bortles.

However, it's a problem he may not have to worry about, as Jeremy Fowler of CBS Sports reported the UCF QB received a majority of first-round grades from the draft advisory board.

Bleacher Report's draft guru Matt Miller sees Bortles as a top-five pick and compared him to Andrew Luck.

Between now and May, much can change, but it looks as though Bortles would be battling with Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel to be the first QB off the board.

Bridgewater is regarded as the No. 1 guy on many experts' boards, so you feel comfortable in saying that he's going to be a top-five pick. If he doesn't go with the first overall pick, he won't fall far.

Manziel is the wild card.

Johnny Football's draft stock is about as unpredictable as his game. He's a tremendous athlete and has improved as a passer in 2013, but with the read-option offense decreasing in popularity this year, a team may not be as seduced by Manziel as it would've been last year.

Or, maybe he goes No. 1. Who knows?

A lot will depend upon who picks where and whether or not any teams decide to trade up.

ESPN.com's Tania Ganguli reported the Houston Texans would be open to parting with the No. 1 overall pick. Owner Bob McNair said, "Maybe we'll trade down and still get a quarterback that can do the job and get an outstanding defensive player. It's an exciting time. Everything's a moving target. Lot of different pieces."

In the event  that the Texans don't trade the pick, they'll almost certainly go with a quarterback. Should Bridgewater be the guy, Bortles would have no shortage of potential suitors from No. 2 and beyond.

The St. Louis Rams don't need a quarterback, nor will Jadeveon Clowney help, so they may try and trade down a few picks.

Beyond the Rams, the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 3, the Cleveland Browns at No. 4, Oakland Raiders at No. 5 and Minnesota Vikings at No. 8 all need a QB. It's hard to see how Bortles falls out of the top 10 riding the wave of momentum that he has.

The issue for Bortles is that should he fall past the Tennessee Titans at No. 11, it could be an Aaron Rodgers-like drop. The next team that is looking for a signal-caller would be the Browns at No. 26. If he's still on the board there, Cleveland will take him, barring it takes Manziel fourth overall.

So it would seem all roads lead to Bortles declaring for the 2014 NFL draft and being a first-round prospect. The only question is where he'll be selected.

Final Projection: No. 3 to the Jacksonville Jaguars

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USC Football: How Marqise Lee Declaring for NFL Draft Impacts Trojan Offense


Late Friday night, USC wide receiver Marqise Lee announced that he will forgo his senior year and enter the 2014 NFL draft. 

The junior wide receiver leaves USC with 248 receptions for 3,655 yards and 29 touchdowns in his career. He owns or shares 22 USC records and leaves college as the only Biletnikoff Award winner in school history. 

Though hampered by injury for most of 2013, he still remained one of the Trojans' most exciting and prolific playmakers. This season, he had just 57 receptions for 791 yards and four touchdowns (the lowest marks of his college career). In the Trojans' Las Vegas Bowl, however, he really put on a show and gave NFL scouts a taste of what they can expect from him at the next level. 

His early departure from USC comes as no surprise, as CBSSports.com projects him to be a first-round pick. 

Of note, athletic director Pat Haden cited "continuity" as a reason for hiring Steve Sarkisian back in December. Since then, four of USC's juniors (Lee, safety Dion Bailey, defensive tackle George Uko and offensive lineman Marcus Martin) have all chosen to declare for the NFL.

With Lee now officially out of the mix, the USC wide receiver corps will undoubtedly be led by Nelson Agholor, the sophomore phenom who has shown he is ready to be the next big thing for the Trojans. He led USC in receptions and touchdowns in 2013, and we can expect him to do the same next year. 

Aside from Agholor, though, things are a little less clear.

Darreus Rogers looked like a stud at times, but injuries have hampered his progression in 2013. 2014 could be a breakout year for him, as depth issues will give way to lots of time for the young receiver. Then there's the oft-injured George Farmer, Steven Mitchellwho missed this year due to an ACL injuryand Victor Blackwell, the only other scholarship receiver to catch a pass during the 2013 campaign. 

These three should all be healthy and ready to compete during spring ball, and current Trojan commit Shay Fields Jr. could also be in the mix, bringing more depth to the position.

But the loss of Lee, though expected, surely has to impact Sarkisian's 2014 strategy just a bit. 

Beyond just the wide receiver corps, the departure of Lee could mean more receptions for the tight ends. Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer have often been neglected as ball-catchers, though their big frames and sticky hands make them excellent targets. 

At Washington, we saw Sarkisian utilize Austin Seferian-Jenkins almost as much as his wide receivers, making him a staple playmaker of the Huskies offense. Grimble and Telfer are perhaps the most talented tight end tandem in the Pac-12; now is the time for Sarkisian to really let them put their talents on full display. 

They weren't used a ton as pass-catchers in the 2013 offense but will be in good position to see more balls come their way in 2014.

Because USC won't have Lee as a deep threat anymore, the Trojans running backs will have to step their game up. Agholor has the potential to become that for USC, but in the meantime, the stable is really going to have to get better, due to the fact that opposing defenses will be able to key on the run. We know that breakout star Javorius "Buck" Allen is capable, but it will be important that Tre Madden and the rest of the running backs stiffen up during the offseason as well. 

Though he will be sorely missed in the Trojans offense, Sarkisian is now in a position where he can really change up the way the Trojans move the ball, now that relying on Lee is not an option.

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USC Football: How Marqise Lee Declaring for NFL Draft Impacts Trojan Offense

Late Friday night, USC wide receiver Marqise Lee announced that he will forgo his senior year and enter the 2014 NFL draft. The junior wide receiver leaves USC with 248 receptions for 3,655 yards and 29 touchdowns in his career...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Breaking Down Jameis Winston's Biggest Obstacles to Becoming an MLB Star

Jameis Winston wants the best of both worlds, but can he actually be a star quarterback in the National Football League and a Major League Baseball player at the same time?

The vast majority of the sports world knows Winston as the playmaking, Heisman Trophy-winning QB for Florida State, but the freak athlete is also a member of the Seminoles baseball team as a right-handed pitcher and outfielder.

Before his award-winning campaign in football this fall, Winston, who turns 20 on Jan. 6, spent last spring splitting his time on the mound and in the outfield. In 17 appearances as a pitcher—all in relief—he threw 27 innings, allowing only nine earned runs (3.00 ERA) and just 18 hits (.176 BAA) with a 21-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Meanwhile, in 41 games as a position player, the switch-hitting Winston went 28-for-119 (.235 BA) at the plate with 10 extra-base hits (no homers), 22 walks and 33 strikeouts.

Given his pedigree, profile, athleticism and specs—he's listed at 6'4" and 220 pounds on his official Seminoles bio page—Winston's best path for baseball is to make use of his electric right arm, the one that throws touchdown passes by the bushel as well as mid-90s heat and frozen ropes from right field.

Winston recently indicated that he's of the mind to continue his dream of playing both football and baseball professionally. Winston, who will play in the BCS Championship Game against Auburn on Jan. 6, said the following, per Jon Solomon of AL.com:

You can do anything you put your mind to. A lot of people are going to say, no way, he's a quarterback, Bo Jackson was a running back. But if I put my mind to it -- and the one thing I always seem to do is gain the trust of my teammates -- if I can convince those guys I can be your quarterback and still go play baseball for the Atlanta Braves or New York Yankees ...

That echoes what Winston told Matthew Muench of ESPN two years ago, when he was a highly sought after recruit in both sports: "A lot of people ask me which sport I will choose. I want to play both. I want to be the next two-sport pro athlete."

Considered a good prospect on the diamond coming out of high school, Winston was actually drafted in 2012 by the Texas Rangers in the 15th round—and likely would have gone higher if not for his commitment to play football at FSU. Still, if he's serious about playing in the NFL and MLB, Winston has a long way to go and a number of obstacles to overcome, like these.

 

History Hurts

The number of athletes who have played in the NFL and MLB at the same time in the past few decades can be counted on one hand.

There's Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders and Brian Jordan, who was the last to pull off this incredible feat—and Jordan's playing days ended in 2006.

It's not like others haven't tried or at least been considered candidates to do both, either. In fact, there's a rather extensive list of players drafted in both baseball and football.

Sticking within just the past handful of years, two-sport stars like Jeff Samardzija of the Chicago Cubs, Colorado Rockies prospect Kyle Parker and Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Zach Lee—to name just a few notables—were successful in both football and baseball at the high school and/or college levels. All three wound up choosing baseball over football, foregoing the idea of attempting both.

On the other side, Russell Wilson was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 2010, but after two seasons in the low minors, he went the opposite direction and is now the star quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks.

Those who managed to make it to the NFL and MLB, well, that is simply a very, very special—and small—batch of athletes.

 

The Quarterback Challenge

It's no secret that quarterback is the most difficult position to master in the NFL. They're not called "field generals" for nothing. Among all positions, the quarterback has the most to learn, prepare for and grow into.

"I guess the main concern was the physical end of it," said Rick Patterson, Winston's baseball coach at Hueytown High School, per Solomon, "especially being quarterback in football and learning the game."

That brings us back to those three names again—Jackson, Sanders and Jordan. You'll remember that none of those three were quarterbacks: Jackson was a running back, while Sanders and Jordan played in the defensive backfield.

That puts even more on Winston's shoulders, since he'll be expected to be the franchise player for an NFL team at the most important position in the sport.

 

Football Fame and Riches

Coming off his star-making turn as the Heisman winner as a redshirt freshman, Winston has taken the football world by storm. Much as he may want to play baseball, this has to have him picturing a career filled with the fame and riches that come along with being a high-profile quarterback in the NFL.

Sure, there are all sorts of dangers—including life-altering kinds—in playing professional football, but it's tough to imagine that Winston would be tempted to potentially hinder his burgeoning football career for the chance at, what, being a hard-throwing pitcher whose best outcome in baseball might be as a late-inning reliever?

In terms of career path, prestige and salary, that's not really a comparison that makes it worth compromising the former to also be the latter.

 

Baseball Development

Similar to the way quarterback is the most challenging position in football, baseball is, in many ways, typically the more challenging sport to break into as a rookie.

At this stage of his career, Winston is clearly more advanced in football than in baseball. That's unfortunate because baseball usually requires more in terms of time, effort and development in order to reach the highest level.

As proven every year, football players can step off a college campus and have immediate success in the NFL. By comparison, though, even the most big league-ready collegiate baseball players spend at least a season or two in the minor leagues.

That's the sort of thing that might try Winston's patience, especially if he breaks into the NFL in a big way.

Besides, whereas Winston is a quarterback in football, he would have that whole hitter-or-pitcher decision to make on the diamond.

Sure, Winston did manage last year to get three hits off Carlos Rodon—presumed to be the No. 1 overall pick in next June's MLB draft—as fellow Bleacher Report MLB lead writer Joe Giglio pointed out for the News Observer. But as mentioned above, given his arm, his best baseball path is on the mound.

Except that would only serve to make Winston even more rare, since there isn't exactly a lengthy history of NFL players who have made it to the majors as a pitcher. In case your memory needs to be jogged, Jackson, Sanders and Jordan were all outfielders.

 

Contract Clauses

There's also the strong likelihood that whichever NFL team drafts Winston once he declares is going to force him to give up baseball and focus solely on pigskin.

Winston will have some leverage in that matter—he could ask for more money, for instance—but it's tough to imagine any NFL franchise being just fine with the potential No. 1 overall pick spending some of his time on the baseball field.

Certainly, it would behoove Winston's football team to work a clause into his contract that prevents him from continuing his baseball career as long as he's in the NFL. That might come across as the team restricting or limiting a player's options or rights, but it's simply a matter of the team protecting itself.

 

Injury Issues

Continuing that thought, can you imagine the controversy were Winston to become a star QB, only to blow out his arm while pitching, and thus interrupting or ending his quarterbacking career?

Or how about the inverse: What if Winston becomes a star closer for an MLB team but has his shoulder wrecked while being tackled on the football field?

Teams in both sports pay players way too much money today to allow them to risk their future by playing in two physically demanding professional leagues.

Double dipping on sports at the professional level is only going to increase the chances that Winston suffers a serious injury or three along the way, which could ruin his career in not one, but two sports at the same time.

Just ask Jackson.

None of this is to say that Winston won't be able to go pro in both the NFL and MLB. In fact, odds are that he will be drafted in both in the coming years, so he very well could have the option and opportunity. Whether he can make it, though—or rather, whether he's allowed to make it—is another question.

And another obstacle.

 

To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11

 

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Tajh Boyd Intercepted on Impressive Grab from Vonn Bell in Sugar Bowl

Tajh Boyd got a little too cute in the second quarter of the Sugar Bowl against Ohio State, as Matt Millen was saying on the broadcast.

Rolling out to the right with the Clemson Tigers up 14-9 on the Buckeyes, Boyd decided to try to flip a pass to his intended receiver in the end zone.  Vonn Bell had different ideas, coming up with an impressive interception on a one-handed grab to keep the Tigers from scoring.

The defense for Clemson was able to hold up, however, forcing a three-and-out against the Buckeyes on the ensuing drive.

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Marqise Lee Officially Announces He Will Enter 2014 NFL Draft

After a disappointing junior season in which he missed several games due to injury and saw his production wane significantly, USC wide receiver Marqise Lee has decided to forego his senior season and enter the NFL draft.

Lee announced the decision on Twitter:

Lee finished the 2013 season with 57 receptions for 791 yards and four touchdowns, a far cry from the pristine numbers he posted in his freshman and sophomore campaigns. However, he made a strong statement in USC's 45-20 trouncing of Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl, ending his career on a high note with seven catches for 118 yards while finding the end zone twice.

In 2011, he caught 73 passes for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns. The 6'0", 195-pound wideout then exceeded those numbers with a whopping 118 catches for 1,721 yards and 14 scores in 2012.

He finished fourth in the 2012 Heisman Trophy balloting and seemed assured to be in the running for the award again this season. He also won the Fred Biletnikoff Award, which he was the heavy favorite to replicate in 2013. Unfortunately, he never quite got going in his junior year.

Still, it's no surprise that Lee is tossing his name into the NFL hat. He's a surefire first-rounder and likely will be off the board within the first 15 picks. Rich Hammond of the Orange County Register weighed in on Lee's decision:

It's doubtful most scouts or coaches will hold a lost season against him in which he battled through some injuries and was stuck on a Trojans team that underwent a midseason coaching change.

While Clemson's Sammy Watkins will likely be the first receiver off the board, either Lee or perhaps Mike Evans of Texas A&M will likely be the next one taken. And after aches and pains hampered him in his third season, Lee probably has decided that another year of college football isn't worth the risk with a big paycheck in his future.

In the NFL, his ability to separate from defenders, run crisp routes and make plays after the catch will make him a dangerous weapon for whichever team drafts him.

His junior season may have been a disappointment, but expect nothing but big things from Lee at the next level.

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Cotton Bowl 2014: Live Game Grades, Analysis for Missouri Tigers

Both Oklahoma State and Missouri are looking to finish off very successful seasons with a win in the 2014 Cotton Bowl. The Tigers came up short in the SEC Championship Game against Auburn, but a trip to the Cotton Bowl is much more then what Tigers fans expected after a 5-7 record last year.

The Tigers are looking to cap off an incredible surprise season Friday night with a 12th victory and a Cotton Bowl title.

Stay tuned for live game grades and analysis throughout.

For full stats, check out NCAA.com.

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Army All-America Bowl 2014: Ranking the Top 10 Defensive Recruits

The Army All-American Bowl caps off an incredible journey for dozens of standout high school seniors. The action takes center stage at 1 p.m. ET Saturday afternoon on NBC, broadcast live from the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

The nation's premier offensive playmakers aim to steal the spotlight, but they must contend with elite defenders at every position. We rank the top 10 defensive stars to watch during a highly anticipated matchup.

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Orange Bowl 2014 Clemson vs. Ohio State: Live Game Grades, Analysis for Buckeyes

Ohio State 22, Clemson 20 - Third Quarter

No. 7 Ohio State is battling No. 12 Clemson in the highly anticipated Discover Orange Bowl. 

Stay tuned for live game grades and analysis of the heated matchup.

For complete stats, check out NCAA.com.

First-half analysis for the Ohio State Buckeyes

Pass Offense: Braxton Miller spent the majority of the first half running for his life. The Buckeyes quarterback was sacked three times and completed just three passes midway through the second quarter, but a fast finish to the half gave Ohio State a huge lift.

Run Offense: Ohio State’s third-ranked rushing offense was shut down by Clemson’s active defensive front. Outside of a 33-yard touchdown run from Miller, the Buckeyes had no explosive plays on the ground and rushed for just 85 yards.

Run Defense: Ohio State has been good against the run this season, but Clemson found a lot of success against the Buckeyes. Tajh Boyd cut right through Ohio State’s defense on a 48-yard touchdown run to open the game, as Clemson piled up 139 rushing yards on just 18 carries.

Pass Defense: As expected, Boyd and the Clemson receivers took what they wanted against Ohio State’s beleaguered secondary. Ohio State gave up 224 yards and two touchdowns through the air, although Vonn Bell did snag a pivotal interception inside Ohio State's 5-yard line.

Special Teams: Two huge special teams plays lifted the Buckeyes early. On Ohio State’s first drive, Meyer called for a fake punt that tight end Jeff Heuerman executed perfectly. Later, punter Cameron Johnston pinned Clemson’s offense at the 1-yard line, which led to a safety for the Ohio State defense.

Coaching: Without that fake punt call and the final two offensive drives, the first half would have been a complete disaster for Urban Meyer and the coaching staff. Ohio State consistently tried to pound the ball inside despite Clemson stuffing the run, but the Buckeyes adjusted and went to the air to close out the half. 

 

 

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Penn State Recruiting: Michael O'Connor Waiting Patiently for Coaching Hire

Florida 4-star quarterback Michael O'Connor has spent the past several days in St. Petersburg, Florida preparing for and playing in the Under Armour All-America Game on Thursday.

It was a great experience that I'll remember for the rest of my life. Being around the best players from all over the country—big time college players—was really helpful. Getting to see where you stand against the best players was a really beneficial experience before going to college.

 

O'Connor got to spend time getting to know future teammates Chris Godwin and DeAndre Thompkins, both of whom have committed to play receiver for the Nittany Lions.

But the week wasn't all roses for the young signal-caller.

Having lost his future QB coach in Charlie Fisher in early December and future head coach in Bill O'Brien this week, O'Connor's future is unclear:

It was nice having all of us (Thompkins, Godwin, Thomas Holley) together through it all to get each other's perspective. It was tough for all of us but we're all going through the same thing and we bonded from it. Those guys are really cool.

 

Despite reports that the quarterback had decided not to enroll early, O'Connor told me that he "wasn't sure yet," adding "if there is a new coach in place soon enough, and everything works out, that's still a possibility."

Since O'Brien's move to the NFL, O'Connor has been contacted by Rutgers, Michigan, UCLA and Michigan State, with the Spartans among his final two choices with Penn State. Despite his situation and interest from other programs, O'Connor emphatically replied "No" when asked if he had intentions of visiting any other schools.

As far as the rumors surrounding the Penn State coaching search, O'Connor has a previous relationship with James Franklin. He camped at Vanderbilt before being offered by the Commodore's head coach.

I got to sit down and meet with Coach Franklin in his office. He's a great coach and I have a lot of respect for him. We'll see where it goes but he'd be a great hire for Penn State and it was an honor to be recruited by him.

 

As far as Al Golden goes, O'Connor admitted to having been recruited by Miami but said he never got to speak with the head coach and "doesn't know much about Coach Golden."

Interim head coach Larry Johnson told the media on Friday that he is trying to organize a mass visit from the committed players on the weekend of Jan. 17. 

O'Connor has heard about the weekend but said, "I took my official visit the weekend of the Nebraska game, so I wouldn't be able to go on that weekend...but, I mean, I might already be enrolled by then."

 

 

 

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Army All-American Bowl 2014: Top Combine Stars and Fastest 40 Times

With the 2014 U.S. Army All-American Bowl set for Saturday, another round of elite senior recruits will be showcasing their talent on a national stage. 

However, many 2015 prospects are also in San Antonio to show what they can do at the U.S. Army National Combine. This is a great event for juniors and sophomores to attend, as it allows them to test and compete with other underclassmen with college-level talent.

Among the many participants, a few stars have emerged at the event via their testing results.

NOTE: 40-yard dash times are hand-held times, as electronic/FAT results were not available to the public at time of publish. 

Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports.

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Orange Bowl 2014: Live Score and Highlights for Clemson vs. Ohio State

Stars.

Lots and lots of stars.

The 2014 Orange Bowl certainly won't lack in name value, either individually or by team, as 12-1 Ohio State takes on 10-2 Clemson in Miami—reason enough to tune in to what many believe will be a wild shootout, given the respective offenses.

Ohio State has dynamic quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde, as formidable a 1-2 backfield punch as any team in the country. Clemson has quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant, as good a pass-and-catch combo as there is.

Both teams will be nursing hangovers coming in. Clemson—who had already lost badly at home to Florida State earlier in the season—comes in after losing the state championship to South Carolina in the regular-season finale (something Steve Spurrier was quick to mention, after winning the Capital One Bowl). Ohio State, of course, was so close to being in the national title game before losing to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship.

Interestingly enough, this is only the second time these two teams have met. But the first time was memorable: the 1978 Gator Bowl, won by Clemson, but best remembered for being Ohio State coach Woody Hayes' last game—after he punched a Clemson linebacker, following a late-game interception. 

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