NCAA Football

DeVante Parker Passes Up 2014 NFL Draft to Return to Louisville

It's not all bad, Louisville fans. Although Teddy Bridgewater is off to the NFL, at least DeVante Parker will be a Cardinals player for one more season.

The junior receiver announced on Twitter that he's staying in school and passing up the 2014 NFL draft.

Parker isn't projected to be a top pick like Bridgewater, but after his fantastic Russell Athletic Bowl performance, some wondered if he'd be following his teammate to the pros.

Riding such a wave of momentum, you couldn't have faulted Parker if he wanted to strike while the iron is hot. But he has decided that another year in college will be more beneficial, and it's hard to argue with the choice.   

In his most recent mock draft, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller had Parker off the board with the next-to-last pick in the second round. It's a solid grade, but one that could be improved with more seasoning.

Adam Himmelsbach of the Louisville Courier-Journal reported in December that Parker was firm in his intention to only enter the draft under the right circumstances. “If they’re not projecting him near the first round,” Parker's grandfather Willie said, “he’s definitely going to be back for his senior year.”

Of course, this isn't all about Parker's draft stock, as Louisville is getting back one of its best vertical weapons.

Himmelsbach is already looking ahead to the 2014 season. With redshirt freshman Will Gardner in line to take over for Bridgewater next year, Himmelsbach posited that Parker will be the perfect target for a young QB.

Eric Crawford of WDRB in Louisville speculated that the junior wideout coming back is a good indication that Charlie Strong will be back as well.

Between Parker's decision to stay and Strong possibly doing the same, 2014 looks like it will be another big year for the Cardinals. 

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Speedy Noil to Texas A&M: Aggies Land 5-Star WR Prospect

Devante "Speedy" Noil has spent his high school career blowing by defenders. He will now take that skill to Texas A&M.

Noil made the announcement at the Under Armour All-American game:

The Class of 2014 standout spent most of his career at quarterback, where he was able to star at Edna Karr High School in New Orleans. In 2012, he totaled 2,235 passing yards and 1,345 rushing yards as he showed off his dual-threat ability.   

Most impressively, he scored 47 touchdowns in his junior year: 24 passing, 20 rushing and three receiving.

At the next level, the 5'10.5", 176-pound player will likely play wide receiver.

While he does not have elite size for the position, Noil more than makes up for it with his speed and elusiveness. When he is given room to run, he usually has the quickness and agility to take it all the way to the end zone.

His overall ability makes him the 11th-best overall prospect in 2014 and the No. 1 wideout recruit in the nation, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.

Noil was also named a Second-Team All-American by 247Sports after his impressive 2012 season.

Speedy will be very raw as a receiver in his first couple of years with his new school and will have to work out his route-running. However, he is the type of playmaker that can make things happen when the ball is in his hands.

In all likelihood, the Aggies will be aggressive in trying to find ways to get him involved in the offense or even special teams early in his career.

The New Orleans native had a chance to go almost anywhere in the country after receiving dozens of scholarship offers. However, he ended up making a lot of people happy by selecting Texas A&M as his school for the next few years.


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What No. 1 WR Speedy Noil Means to Texas A&M Aggies

Speedy Noil has committed to Texas A&M at the Under Armour All-America Game, according to's Derek Tyson. Noil is the No. 1 WR in the country and has the skills to make a huge impact on the Aggies offense. 

Watch Barrett Sallee break down what this commitment means to the Texas A&M Aggies. 


Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

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BCS Bowl Predictions: Picks Against the Spread for Each Remaining BCS Tilt

College football's bowl season is nearly over, but there are still a few huge games remaining. In fact, there are three BCS bowls left to be played, and all of them bring a great deal of intrigue for plenty of different reasons.

One group that is sure to be interested in the BCS bowls is the betting public. Betting on college football is huge throughout the year, but it is an even bigger deal when it comes to bowl games. Even if fans aren't enthralled by the remaining BCS matchups, the betting aspect can certainly make them interesting.

Here are predictions for each of the three remaining BCS bowl games against the spread as bettors look to close out the season on a strong note.

*Spreads courtesy of Bovada


Oklahoma vs. Alabama (-17) (Sugar Bowl)

In what could be one of the most lopsided bowl matchups in recent memory, Alabama will take on Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. The Sooners are normally a national power, and they have lost just twice this season, but they simply don't compare to the Crimson Tide from a talent perspective. Oklahoma has gotten to this point with grit and determination as well as a masterful coaching job by Bob Stoops, while 'Bama has outclassed its opponents with the notable exception of Auburn in the Iron Bowl.

It's certainly possible that motivation will come into play. Although it's an intangible factor, it may allow Oklahoma to hang with Alabama. This game is huge for the Sooners, since they scratched and clawed to get there, but it is basically a consolation prize for the Tide. With that said, Alabama has a long history of success in the Sugar Bowl, according to College GameDay, and it may be motivated to defend that.

As long as Alabama doesn't sleep walk into the game, it should roll. The Sooners can't decide between Blake Bell and Trevor Knight at quarterback, but the Tide's defense should hold either in check. Also, this will be Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron's final collegiate game, and the same can be said for linebacker C.J. Mosley. Players on both sides of the ball will want to learn for their respective leaders, and head coach Nick Saban won't let his team take a lax approach.

Prediction: Alabama 38, Oklahoma 10


Clemson vs. Ohio State (-3) (Orange Bowl)

Both Clemson and Ohio State disappointed in certain ways this season, but it can be argued that their clash in the Orange Bowl will be the most entertaining BCS showdown of all. The Tigers and Buckeyes are stacked with offensive talent, and each team tends to suffer from defensive breakdowns at times, which points toward a high-scoring affair. The Buckeyes boast the No. 3 scoring offense in college football thanks to quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde, while Clemson isn't far behind.

Inconsistency plagued the Tigers on both sides of the ball this season, but they dropped 38 or more points in a game eight times, so the points come in bunches. From Clemson's perspective, the focus will be on the combination of quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins. This game is particularly important for Boyd, since it is definitely his last game as a Tiger, and he needs a big showing to impress NFL scouts. According to Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated, pundits are so down on Boyd that he has become an underrated prospect.

Boyd was once considered to be a first-round lock, but that is no longer the case. Because of that, he should be motivated to have a big game. In the same vein, that pressure could adversely influence Clemson. Dabo Swinney's squad has a reputation for coming up small when expectations are highest, but that has never been said about an Urban Meyer-coached team. Because of that, look for the Buckeyes to come through with some offensive fireworks.

Prediction: Ohio State: 48, Clemson 31


Florida State (-8) vs. Auburn (National Championship)

Everything will be riding on the National Championship Game between Florida State and Auburn on Jan. 6, and that includes the fortunes of bettors everywhere. The Seminoles vs. Tigers contest figures to be one of the most bet-on sporting events in recent memory, and it should be quite interesting due to the controversial point spread that is currently in place. Florida State has undoubtedly been dominant, but giving eight points to the SEC champion may be a bit much.

The big concern as it relates to Auburn is its ability to come from behind. The Tigers are the No. 1 rushing team in the nation at nearly 336 yards per game, so they are built to play from ahead. The Seminoles have barely trailed this year, though, and they obviously don't intend to in the title game. Nevertheless, according to Brad Edwards of, Auburn may be able to take advantage of vulnerability on Florida State's defense.

Florida State is No. 1 in both points scored and points allowed, but Edwards believes it can be run on. The Seminoles' adjusted efficiency ranking against the run is No. 19 in the nation. That takes into account the quality of the rushing attacks they have faced. For comparison's sake, Alabama is No. 3, and it let Auburn run rampant.

On top of that, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn has been amazed by his team's continued improvement, per Joel A. Erickson of

"This group has really, each game, improved. It is hard to improve each game, especially in college football, but our guys have done it, and that's a tribute to them," Malzahn said.

Florida State's dominance can't be understated, especially with Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston under center. Thanks to the running of Tre Mason and Nick Marshall, Auburn will keep this one close enough to cover, but Florida State will still survive and complete an undefeated season.

Prediction: Florida State 31, Auburn 28


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Orange Bowl 2013: Key Players Who Will Carry Teams in Exciting Showdown

College football fans looking for another offensive showdown similar to the Fiesta Bowl between Baylor and UCF, look no further than the Orange Bowl. When the Ohio State Buckeyes and Clemson Tigers meet on Friday night at 8:30 p.m. EST, it will pit two of the best offensive teams this season against one another.

The Buckeyes and Tigers have made names for themselves but in completely different fashions.

For Ohio State, pounding the ball with the No. 3 rushing offense in the country had it one game away from the BCS National Championship.

Clemson, on the other hand, is averaging 329.3 passing yards per game and finished 11th in the country through the air along with averaging the ninth-most points on the year.

With both teams set to take the stage on Friday night, here are the players to watch in the Orange Bowl for both sides.


Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins, QB and WR, Clemson

One of the best tandems in college football, Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins have carried the Tigers all season during their third straight 10-win season. Simply put, when Boyd goes down field, Watkins is normally the one coming away with a memorable catch.

During his final practice in a Clemson uniform, Boyd spoke about his time and how he and Watkins have turned around the culture during their tenure:

Boyd's career at Clemson has been one thing, but the senior has enjoyed another great season this year. The senior needs just 27 yards passing for his third straight season with over 3,500 and needs one more touchdown for his third season with 30 passing touchdowns.

Though his last game against South Carolina was one of the worst of his career, the four games prior to that were outstanding. Boyd put together a four-game stretch in which he averaged 327.25 passing yards per game and had a total of 16 total touchdowns (13 passing, three rushing) and three interceptions.

One statistic to remember with Boyd: When he throws two interceptions in a game this season, his team has gone 1-2. During games in which he's thrown one interception or less, the Tigers have gone 9-0.

As for his favorite target, Watkins has certainly lived up to the hype he was given before the season started. The junior receiver finished the regular season with 85 receptions for 1,237 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The junior has also been outstanding after the catch. In yards after the catch, Watkins leads all other automatic qualifying schools with 836, according to ESPN's Sharon Katz. On the other side is an Ohio State defense that is allowing 144 yards after the catch per game.

Considering the fact that the two are facing off with an Ohio State defense that has been atrocious against the pass, this will definitely be a tandem to watch. The Buckeyes rank 103rd in the country in passing yards allowed (259.5) and just lost to the Michigan State Spartans after sophomore quarterback Connor Cook threw for 304 yards in the Big Ten Championship Game.

ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit, a former Buckeye football player, made things pretty clear when he was asked about who would contain Watkins and teammate Martavis Bryant:

Watkins has been one of the most dynamic receivers in college football this season and will look to finish off what could be his final season with Clemson with a huge game in the Orange Bowl.


Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde, QB and RB, Ohio State

When talking about tremendous tandems in college football this season, Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde are near the top of the list. While Nick Marshall and Tre Mason might be more in the spotlight currently, Miller and Hyde have carried—literally and figuratively—the Buckeyes to the Orange Bowl.

In fact, Bill Bender of Sporting News added the statistics of both tandems, and the two appear to be closer than many might think:

Miller, much like Boyd, can get the job done with both his arms and leg, but Miller is much more effective in the ground game while Boyd is better through the air.

The junior quarterback hasn't decided whether or not he'll be back for another season, according to SportsCenter's official Twitter account:

As for his pro prospects, Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that he will be watched by a certain executive that just so happens to own the No. 1 draft pick:

Miller has rushed for over 1,000 yards and passed for over 1,800 yards with a total of 32 touchdowns this season, but he fell well short of expectations early in the season to be a Heisman finalist. If it is his last game as a Buckeye, Miller will be looking to go out on top against a porous rushing defense.

This is where Carlos Hyde comes in. The senior tailback has burst onto the scene after being suspended for the first three games of the season. The senior got off to a slow start in his first two games back but has been the Buckeyes' catalyst over their last eight games.

The senior has not dropped below 110 yards in his final eight games and has 14 touchdowns during that stretch thanks to five multi-touchdown games.

With the Buckeyes' rushing tandem facing a Tigers defense that ranks 50th in the country with 152.6 yards allowed per game, there should be plenty of carries to go around for both Miller and Hyde. In a game with two explosive offenses, either defense's ability to stop the other team's offense will be crucial.

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Alabama vs. Oklahoma: Complete Sugar Bowl Gambling Guide

The 2014 Sugar Bowl showdown between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Oklahoma Sooners wasn’t the matchup many expected at the beginning of the season, but definitely one that fans and gamblers alike are now excited for.

While the Tide and their supporters had their sights set on a third-straight national title appearance, an Iron Bowl letdown against Auburn has dropped them into this lesser BCS matchup.

Oklahoma is just happy to be here after an up-and-down 2013 campaign saw the program lose against unranked Texas and suffer a 29-point blowout at the hands of Baylor. A shellacking of rival Oklahoma State in the Bedlam season finale helped the Sooners save face and make this prestigious bowl game.

Let’s take a closer look at the latest lines for this matchup, make some predictions against the spread and more.


When: Thursday, Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET

Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La. 

Watch: ESPN 


Betting Line: Alabama -17, as per on Jan. 2

This is a fair spread considering the disparity in talent between these two foes.

Alabama was a field goal away from being the favorite to three-peat in the BCS Championship, while OU is just fortunate to be here after faltering to two opponents in Big 12 play.

‘Bama’s head coach, Nick Saban, is a sterling 5-1 in postseason play during his tenure in Tuscaloosa, with the only blemish coming during the Sugar Bowl proceeding the 2008 campaign. He’s overseeing a roster that is disappointed and hungry for vengeance after failing to reach the SEC Championship and itching to obliterate one last opponent to cap off a dominant 2013 season.

During a press conference on Jan. 1, Saban was asked about the possibility of being upset. He told reporters that mindset is the most important thing to avoid it, as per

Well, I think the important thing about a Bowl game is all about mindset.  It's really hard to bring the season to the Bowl game because the amount of time in between opportunities to play. So how your team sort of resets their mindset is really important to how a team's going to prepare, how they're going to focus, how they're going to play in the game. And to me, sometimes if you're an underdog, you have a little bit more to prove.  So that mindset is a little better maybe than a team that doesn't have sort of the right motivation going into a game. Because I really do think when you play in a Bowl game it's all about mindset.

His disciplined team should definitely have the right mindset to close out the 2013 campaign and start 2014 off on the right foot.

Remember, Oklahoma is employing a rotation of quarterbacks and suffers from inconsistent play at the most important position on the field. In the final game of the regular season, three different signal-callers entered the game and threw a pass.

While that questionable strategy worked against a flawed Pokes squad, it certainly won’t fly against an elite Tide defense that conceded just 11.3 points per game to the opposition—the second-best mark in the nation.

OU’s trio of quarterbacks, Trevor Knight, Blake Bell and Kendal Thompson, completed a mere 15-of-32 passes for 185 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Those middling numbers came against a much more lenient OSU defense that gave up an average of 20 points per game to lesser competition than Alabama faced in its SEC schedule.

Expect the Crimson Tide, who ranked No. 21 in the nation in yards allowed per pass and conceded just nine scores through the air compared to 10 interceptions in 2013, to decimate these inexperienced and unreliable quarterbacks.

While giving 17 points is a lot, bettors should feel safe backing ‘Bama in the Sugar Bowl. The Tide have proved capable of keeping quality opponents off the scoreboard completely and held all but three teams to less than 10 points in 2013.

With quarterback A.J. McCarron playing in his final collegiate game, Saban should open the playbook up and allow the signal-caller to show off his arm in this one.

McCarron was rock-solid in the Iron Bowl, connecting on 17-of-29 passes for 277 yards and three scores. He should be able easily reach 300-plus yards and four touchdowns against a Sooners defense that allowed 21.3 points per game this season.

Lay the points and back the chalk on Thursday night in order to cash your ticket.

Prediction: Alabama 38 – Oklahoma 10

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Mike Evans Officially Announces He Will Enter 2014 NFL Draft

Texas A&M standout wide receiver Mike Evans has decided to forgo his remaining collegiate eligibility and declare for the 2014 NFL draft.

The Aggies made the announcement on Twitter:

Texas A&M also passed along comments from Evans on its official athletics site:

After talking things over with Coach Sumlin and my family I have decided to enter the NFL draft. Thanks go to Texas A&M for giving me an opportunity to play college football. Thanks also to my coaches and teammates for helping me develop as a player and as a man. I made this decision based on what I thought was best for myself and my family.

The redshirt sophomore had a solid freshman campaign that saw him catch 82 passes for over 1,100 yards and five touchdowns. His ability to step right into a key role was a major reason fellow freshman Johnny Manziel had a Heisman Trophy season.

Evans and Manziel picked up right where they left off in 2013. The talented receiver backed up his freshman production with 69 grabs for nearly 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore, leaving him with little to prove at the collegiate level.    

While the draft class is still coming together, and will continue to do so until all of the underclassmen decide whether to declare for the draft or return to school, the early outlook suggests Evans will battle Sammy Watkins and Marqise Lee for draft position.

CBS Sports lists Watkins as the top wideout at No. 5 overall with Evans at No. 10 and Lee at No. 17.

Interestingly, back in October a scout told Chase Goodbread of that Evans, who is listed at 6'5'' and 225 pounds, would likely be better suited playing the role of tight end at the next level so he could take better advantage of matchups:

As good as Evans has been, one scout told College Football 24/7 that he may project better as a flex tight end in the NFL than as a receiver, which would allow him to more easily beat safeties and linebackers in coverage than pro cornerbacks.

Whether that will actually happen is unknown, but it's something to watch as teams start taking a closer look at the draft prospects in the coming months.  

Regardless of what position he's labeled with on the roster, Evans has all the tools to become a very good pass-catcher at the NFL level.


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Under Armour All-America Game 2014: Commitment Tracker and Recruit Highlights

The day for the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game has finally arrived, as the nation's best recruits will be looking to shine bright. Taking place at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, the fireworks will begin at 4 p.m. EST.

This will be a fantastic event, as it gives all recruiting fans the chance to see most of the elite prospects in one setting.

However, another key component to this game is that some of the best players in the country will be announcing where they are going to college. Several 5-star talents are set to pick a school tonight, according to Pat Tholey of 247Sports, so stay with this tracker to receive all of the news and analysis of each decision while you watch the game.

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

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Cotton Bowl 2014: Breaking Down Key Players for Oklahoma State and Missouri

Saturday, December 7 was a rough day for Oklahoma State and Missouri. The Cowboys lost to rival Oklahoma and lost any shot of a BCS berth in the process. Missouri lost to Auburn in the SEC Championship Game, ending its BCS title hopes. 

It's fair to say that both squads would like to erase that taste from their mouths and finish the season on a high note by winning the Cotton Bowl. 

But which players will they need to step up to do so? Who will have to win crucial battles to put their team over the top?

Let's break it down.


Caleb Lavey and Shaun Lewis, LB, Oklahoma State

The pair was instrumental in leading an Oklahoma State team that allowed just 20 points per game this season, which ranked 12th in the nation.

Lavey led Oklahoma State with 87 tackles and 13 tackles for loss while also adding four interceptions. Lewis chipped in with 68 tackles, eight tackles for loss and three picks.

They'll be tested against a Missouri team led by dual-threat quarterback James Franklin (474 rushing yards, 4 TDs) and running back Henry Josey (1,074 rushing yards, 13 TDs). Missouri's 236.5 rushing yards per game were good for 17th in the nation, so slowing down their running game is a major key.

Given how Lavey and Lewis have played this year, Oklahoma State might just have the antidote. 


Dorial Green-Beckham and L'Damian Washington, WR, Missouri

There aren't many, if any, wide receiver combinations better than Green-Beckham and Washington. The pair combined to catch 102 passes for 1,683 yards and 22 touchdowns this season. It'll be called upon to move the sticks against an Oklahoma State defense that has been tough against the run (132.9 yards allowed per game, 22nd in the nation).

Oklahoma State hasn't been nearly as stout against the pass, allowing 245.6 passing yards per game and 15 touchdowns on the season.

While Oklahoma State does have an incredibly talented corner—more on him below—either Green-Beckham or Washington should regularly have a winnable matchup out wide on every play.

If it continuously exposes that advantage, Missouri will be tough to stop.


Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Gilbert will likely be given the tough task of lining up quite frequently against Green-Beckham. The senior is one of the top corners in the country and proved it this season, picking off six passes and returning two for touchdowns. 

His combination of size and speed is perfect for his position, and his ability to lock down an opponent's top receiver has been a huge part of Oklahoma State's defense this year.

Not surprisingly, Green-Beckham and Washington had nothing but good things to say about him when speaking with David Ubben of Fox Sports:

Green-Beckham compared Gilbert to Loucheiz Purifoy at Florida and said Gilbert be the best corner he's has faced this season.

"He's so athletic," Missouri receiver L'Damian Washington said. "You beat him on the play, but he's got makeup speed like no other in the country."

Gilbert will spend plenty of time on Green-Beckham, but Washington, who led Mizozu in receiving yards with 853 yards and 10 touchdowns, will see Gilbert line up across from him as well. The Tigers like to move Green-Beckham from the strong and weak sides and play him some as a slot receiver. If that happens, Gilbert is unlikely to move with him, Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said.

It's no secret that Missouri will want to throw the ball around in this contest. If Gilbert can take away one side of the field, Oklahoma State's chances of slowing down the Tigers' explosive offense will increase exponentially. 


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Penn State Football: Greg Schiano Would Be a Good Hire for Nittany Lions

As Penn State looks to replace head coach Bill O'Brien, who recently departed Happy Valley to lead the Houston Texans, debate will wage about which coach is the right man for the tricky job.

Before O'Brien even departed,'s Ian Rapoport reported that Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner is seriously considering making a pass at former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano:

The response among the Nittany Lions fanbase wasn't ideal, as detailed by A.J. Perez of the Star-LedgerHowever, despite what the PSU faithful think, Schiano would be an excellent hire.

Rather than voicing support for Schiano, the fanbase seems to favor Vanderbilt's James Franklin, as shown on a poll on where Dustin Hockensmith broke down the top candidates for the opening.

Franklin would also be a smart hire, but the Vandy boss is one of the hottest commodities still on the job market and he could be up for a move to the NFL or to lead college football's most valuable program: Texas.

The attraction to Franklin and disinterest in Schiano isn't all that puzzling. Likely, it's just a result of a short-term memory.

Franklin has been excelling at Vanderbilt—a situation where success doesn't come easily. The Commodores have been to three straight bowls, navigating the tough Southeastern Conference with gusto under Franklin.

Meanwhile, Schiano was fired from Tampa Bay after a dismal 4-12 season that was lowlighted by drama between he and quarterback Josh Freeman. However, Schiano's struggles with the Bucs seem to just be a disconnect between his philosophy and the nature of the NFL. In short, he's just another coach who is better suited for the collegiate level.

His undoings in Tampa Bay also overshadow his excellent tenure at Rutgers. Like Franklin at Vanderbilt, Schiano took a program that was starving for success and gave it sustenance.

Before he arrived in Piscataway, the Scarlet Knights hadn't been to a bowl game since 1978. Before he left for the pros, he took them to six bowl games in his final seven seasons.

He would also bring PSU ties to the head job in Happy Valley. Schiano was an assistant under Joe Paterno in the early 1990s during some of the program's most successful seasons.

He knows the culture of the Penn State program and he knows how to recruit the East Coast region from his time at Rutgers.

As reported by Pete Roussel of, Schiano was unsure of his future as of his firing in Tampa Bay:

Like I said, I woke up this morning planning on being the head coach of the Bucs, so I haven’t had a lot of time to think about what I want to do.  Literally, as I just mentioned, we were meeting with players and taking care of exit interviews and then WHAM, so I’m ... kind of getting through today and then I’ll take some time. I know that I’ll lean on my wife, kids, family, and faith; we’ll kind of figure out what the next stop is for us.

As Schiano looks to make his transition, PSU is also in a crucial time of its own. O'Brien did an excellent job at leading the Nittany Lions through a tumultuous time fresh off their ugly scandal.

But now, as Penn State enters its next chapter, it needs a coach that can return the focus to the field and rebuild it into a program that competes for Big Ten titles.

The storied program will attract many coaches—and it just might pull in the fan favorite, Franklin. However, even though he isn't the top choice among the Nittany Lion faithful, Schiano knows how to win at the collegiate level.

While Franklin might be the coach PSU wants, Schiano could be just the coach it needs.

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Outback Bowl: Best Tweets from LSU's Win over Iowa

The LSU Tigers have historically enjoyed success in the postseason, as the program had won 11 of its past 16 bowl games, but the Iowa Hawkeyes were looking to buck that trend in their matchup in the 2014 Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida. 

Coming into the game, both teams were certainly well-nourished given the amount of food they consumed at the Outback Bowl dinner: 

Hungry? LSU & Iowa combined to eat 5,000 POUNDS of food at Outback Bowl dinner - including 750 lbs. of steak and 80 gallons of BBQ sauce.

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 28, 2013


LSU Freshman quarterback Anthony Jennings was making his first career start with Zach Mettenberger sidelined with a torn ACL. That didn't keep him from causing a stir with his nose-picking controversy: 

If you're a QB for LSU...don't pick your nose & eat the boogers on the sideline. You will be seen on national TV.

— SportsNation (@SportsNation) January 2, 2014


Jennings didn't do too well throwing against a stout Hawkeyes defense, but he did score the game's first touchdown on the first drive of the game as seen in this photo:


LSU leads Iowa 14-7 at the end of the 3rd quarter. #LSUWIN

LSU Football (@LSUfball) January 1, 2014


He and running back Jeremy Hill helped establish a dominant ground game that the Hawkeyes were unable to contain, and Hill carried the Tigers to a 21-7 lead into the final two minutes of the game: 

Ground & Pound. #LSU's Jeremy Hill puts the Tigers up 21-7 with authority:

— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) January 1, 2014


But the Hawkeyes made things interesting thanks to a big kickoff return by Jordan Cotton, which led to a quick Iowa score to keep the game interesting:

Not over. Cotton's 96yd kickoff return sets up #Iowa. Kevonte Martin-Manley grabs CJ Beathard's TD pass. 21-14 #LSU, onside kick coming

— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) January 1, 2014


But after LSU recovered the onside kick, they ran the clock out and hoisted the Outback Bowl trophy:  

@LSUfball coach Les Miles accepts the @outbackbowl Championship Trophy

— Outback Bowl (@outbackbowl) January 1, 2014


And Hill was named the game MVP in what may have been his last game as a Tiger as he mulls over a chance to go to the NFL:

Our @outbackbowl MVP Jeremy Hill. 28 carries for 216 yes, 2 TDs. 7.2 avg. #OutbackBowl #TeamBloominOnion

— Outback Bowl (@outbackbowl) January 1, 2014


Expect LSU's Jeremy Hill to announce he is coming out early for 2014 NFL draft. 3rd round pick, if he stays clear of trouble before draft.

— Michael Detillier (@MikeDetillier) January 1, 2014


Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz was very impressed with LSU: 

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz says #LSU looks like an NFL team and "they're not a finesse outfit."

— Steve Schneider (@9SportsDirector) January 1, 2014


The real winners of the Outback Bowl were the fans though, as they get  a nice discount at Outback Steakhouse:   

FACT: You get a FREE Bloomin' Onion with any purchase today thanks to LSU's victory! Just say Outback Bowl to redeem

— Outback Steakhouse (@Outback) January 2, 2014 


Now that LSU's season is over, they'll await the decisions of several underclassmen on whether they'll return to school or declare for the 2014 NFL Draft, but none of them have made that decision just yet: 

Miles said he never said Odell Beckham Jr. And Jarvis Landry are declaring for the #NFL Draft. Said it is definitely a possibility. #LSU

— Spencer Hutchinson (@Hutch_TDR) January 1, 2014




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Michigan Football: Is 2014 a Make or Break Year for Brady Hoke?

Michigan fans aren't the most patient bunch in college football. How could they be? 

Great coaches who've preceded Brady Hoke have set a remarkably high precedent, and whether or not that's fair to Hoke is a moot point. When people become accustomed to a program winning Big Ten championships and being nationally relevant year in and year out, anything less simply doesn't cut it. Like so many things in life, it's all relative. 

So after a disappointing 7-6 record in 2013, the second consecutive season that Hoke's teams have regressed in the win column, is 2014 a make-or-break year for Brady Hoke? 

I think it is, to an extent.

The talent is certainly there, as Hoke and his staff have done an outstanding job from a recruiting standpoint. Come National Signing Day on Feb. 5 he'll likely wrap up his third consecutive top 10 class, according to's RecruitingNation.

Hoke, who will be entering his fourth season as the head coach, will have the luxury of coaching his own recruits next season with the exception of a few fifth-year seniors. He'll also have a talented senior quarterback in Devin Gardner running the offense and a fairly friendly schedule, not to mention an entire offseason to fortify the team's weak spots. 

Expectations will be particularly high for next year's team, and despite their struggles in 2013, the Wolverines really have no excuse for not performing at a high level in 2014. 

If the Wolverines regress yet again, it wouldn't be surprising to see Michigan "move in a different direction," as the euphemism goes. It sounds harsh, but it's the reality of the position that he enthusiastically accepted. 

In that sense, it is a make or break year for him. 

Another regression would mean that Michigan would have suffered a losing season, which would be seen as unacceptable to alumni, the general fan base and, most importantly, athletic director Dave Brandon. Brandon confidently stood behind Hoke when he penned a widely-read blog post via MGoBlue on Nov. 27, saying that "Hoke is the right leader for Michigan football." He's under contract through 2017, earning an average of $3.25 million per year. 

But things can change quickly in the crazy world of college football, and while there's little doubt that Brandon will stay in Hoke's corner for as long as he can, a major decision like firing a football coach is larger than one man's opinion. 

What people need to see in Hoke's fourth year is genuine progress. 

That progress certainly has to manifest itself in the form of wins, but it also has to be evident in the effort and preparation displayed by the players on the field. The 2013 season ended on a major down note when the Wolverines were drubbed by Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. They looked lifeless, almost apathetic in their final game as they failed to establish a rhythm on offense and gave up big play after big play on defense. 

Sophomore linebacker James Ross III didn't shy away from offering a brutally honest assessment of the defensive effort in the game. As per MLive, "It was our mindset from the jump, we weren't totally into it I would say," Ross said. "We didn't come out with a lot of energy."  

This is a baffling quote to hear from a player, particularly an impressionable underclassmen. While exclusively blaming Hoke for this lack of effort isn't fair, it does raise red flags around his ability to adequately prepare his team. We saw similar listless performances from the Wolverines against Akron, Connecticut, Michigan State and in the second half of the Iowa game.

This most recent bowl game was hardly an outlier. 

Next season is a make-or-break year for Hoke, but he doesn't have to lead Team 135 to a Rose Bowl berth or a spot in the inaugural four-team playoff. What he does have to do is prove that he's moving the program in a positive direction, and that he's capable of turning highly rated recruits into great college football players. 

Sounds easy enough, right? 



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College Bowl Schedule 2014: When and Where to Watch Remaining Games

After spending New Year’s Day recovering from the madness that was the celebration of the annual holiday, the focus for college football fans has turned to the remainder of the 2014 bowl schedule.

With the BCS National Championship yet to be decided and several other marquee games left on the schedule, college football fans are ready to witness all of the action that will close the 2013-14 season.

Here is the remaining bowl schedule and a quick preview of the most interesting remaining matchups.



BCS National Championship: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Auburn

The most interesting game left on the schedule is the BCS National Championship between the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles (13-0, 8-0 ACC) and the No. 2 Auburn Tigers (12-1, 7-1 SEC).

With a playoff system implemented for the 2014-15 season, this will be the final title game as we have to come to know them over the years. While few fans are sad to see the outdated system go, the matchup it has produced this season will be amazing.

Auburn comes into this national title game with a victory in the SEC Championship, a last-second upset over Alabama and nine consecutive wins since losing to LSU on Sept. 21. Led by the elite combination of running back Tre Mason and dual-threat quarterback Nick Marshall, the Tigers have amassed the third-best rushing attack in the country.

As well as Auburn has played this season, the program is running into a buzz saw against FSU.

The Tigers have faced tough SEC competition all season. While Florida State is a member of the ACC, the program is built like the defensive powerhouses college football fans would find in Auburn’s conference.

As Nevada head coach Brian Polian told Paul Myerberg of USA Today, the Seminoles are an SEC-style team in every facet of the game:

They physically look like an SEC football team. The one thing that struck me was that in today's world of spread-out, basketball-on-grass, they were physical in all three phases of the football game. They were physical in the kicking game, they were physical on offense and they were physical on defense.

They play SEC-type football, for what it's worth, whatever people think that means. They can line up with a fullback and come downhill and knock you backwards. In the ACC, where you see so much spread and people want to turn it into a space game, this team has the ability to line up and be physical with you on both sides of the ball.

Florida State has been one of the most dangerous programs in the nation offensively, led by Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, and the balanced offense has averaged an astounding 53 points per game this season.

As strong as FSU’s offense has been, the defensive unit has been just as impressive.

Despite the ACC being known for its high-powered offenses, the Seminoles have allowed just 10.7 points per game this season and have allowed 17 or fewer points in 12 of 13 matchups during the undefeated campaign.

As well as Mason and the Auburn offense have played in 2013, the new year will bring a monumental victory for the Florida State program after a tumultuous season.

Predicted Final Score: Florida State 38, Auburn 24


Orange Bowl: No. 7 Ohio State vs. No. 12 Clemson

The Ohio State Buckeyes (12-1, 8-0 Big Ten) were serious BCS National Championship contenders all season, but a devastating loss in the Big Ten Championship Game against Michigan State has halted the team’s momentum and confidence.

Ohio State will now play a Clemson Tigers (10-2, 7-1 ACC) team coming off a loss to South Carolina in the last week of the regular season. With neither team playing its best football right now, how each program handles the pressure will determine the eventual outcome of this game.

While predicting a winner will be tough, there is no question that this game will be a high-scoring affair.

The Buckeyes are dealing with several issues on the defensive side of the ball, though. Star defensive end Noah Spence will be suspended for the game, per Jeremy Fowler of CBS Sports, and cornerback Bradley Roby could miss the game as well with a knee injury, according to Eric Seger of

For the ninth-ranked Clemson offense—averaging 40.2 points per game—this will be an ideal matchup.

There is no questioning the power and scoring prowess of quarterback Braxton Miller and the entire Ohio State offensive unit—averaging 46.3 points—but the Tigers boast a defense that only allows just 21.1 points per game.

The Buckeyes had a defense of their own that could stifle Clemson’s high-paced offense, but the lack of Spence and possibly Roby will be a blow that the program will not be able to recover from.

The Tigers will find a way to steal the win.

Predicted Final Score: Clemson 42, Ohio State 30


*All stats via

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Orange Bowl 2014: Top Playmakers to Watch in Clemson vs. Ohio State

The 2014 Orange Bowl will pit  Clemson's pass-happy offense against Ohio State's gritty defense in what could prove to be the most entertaining bowl game of the season. This game will also feature some of the best draft prospects in the country, but none more notable than Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins.

Watkins' ability to gain yards after the catch and his overall athleticism are what made him one of the hottest receivers in the country, and he will be an integral part of Clemson's game plan versus the Buckeyes.

The Buckeyes, who narrowly missed out on a trip to the BCS National Championship, will attempt to wrap up their impressive 2013 campaign with a victory but could run into some problems against Watkins and co.  


Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

As one of the most highly touted receivers in this upcoming draft, Sammy Watkins has played lights out for Clemson all season long. He's totaled 85 receptions for 1,237 yards along with 10 touchdowns.

Watkins has been Tajh Boyd's favorite target this season and has been the Tigers' leading receiver by a lot; he has at least twice as many catches as anyone else on the team. In fact, the difference between Watkins' season stats and Martavis Bryant's (Clemson's second leading receiver) is greater than Bryant's season totals.

The Buckeyes defense will be down three defensive starters in this game, including star corner Bradley Roby. This sets Watkins up for a huge day, and it could give more nightmares to Ohio State players.


Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

Although Watkins is the brightest star on Clemson's roster, Boyd isn't far behind. His compact build along with his athleticism is what makes him so effective in the Tigers offense, and his skills will be on display in the school's 13th straight bowl game.

Boyd's thrown for 3,473 yards with 29 touchdowns and just nine interceptions this season. His 102 career passing touchdowns is the most of any ACC quarterback ever.

Boyd will also be benefiting from the absence of Roby in the lineup and could be in for a bigger day than most expect. This will be one of his final chances to prove himself as a top quarterback in this coming draft, and things are set up for him to have a nice game.


Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State

As the Buckeyes' best tackler, Ryan Shazier will be leading the defensive charge come Friday night. Especially with pass-rusher Noah Spence out, his presence will be especially needed against Clemson's offense.

Teams have had the most success against Boyd and the Tigers when they heavily rush the passer to disrupt his connection with Watkins, and Shazier will be a key in that game plan should OSU go that route.

As a first-team All-American, Shazier has tallied 123 tackles (22 of which were for a loss) and seven sacks. His impact will be felt when the Buckeyes take the field, and this game's outcome could fall squarely on his and the defense's shoulders.


Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State

Carlos Hyde has been one of the most impressive runners in the country this season, totaling 1,408 yards and 14 touchdowns. He's been a consistent battering ram for the Buckeyes, and his 7.7 yards-per-carry average is fifth best in the NCAA.

Hyde's power running style will be key in breaking down Clemson's defense and opening things up for Braxton Miller and OSU's passing attack.

Clemson's defense has allowed an average of 159 rushing yards per game this season, foreshadowing a big dose of Hyde, courtesy of Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes.

This game will mean a lot for both teams heading into next season, with the winner carrying much momentum in 2014. It'll be a close game, but Ohio State's running game and resiliency on defense should carry the Buckeyes to victory over the Tigers.

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LSU Football: Tigers Shouldn't Sweat Anthony Jennings' Outback Bowl Performance

Don't give up on Anthony Jennings after one sour outing as a true freshman in the 2014 Outback Bowl.

Oh my, who could have predicted LSU fans throwing an abundance of grievances regarding Jennings' performance 48 hours ago? On second thought, we should have all seen that coming.

So maybe the true freshman didn't shine brightly against one of the best defenses in the nation. That doesn't mean Tigers fans should throw in the towel on what still should be a bright future for Jennings. Fans set the bar too high after his performance against Arkansas, though, and they were destined to be let down.

This is why I stated one month ago that Jennings isn't the second coming of Johnny Football after his heroics against Arkansas. Because people jump to conclusions so quickly, Jennings fell a great distance from his pedestal Wednesday afternoon.

A common theme on Twitter and in the comment section of my live blog following the 21-14 LSU victory was how Jennings was not the answer at quarterback. It became so overwhelming that instead of addressing everyone individually, I decided to call a "town meeting," if you will, with this article.

Before we go any further, here are the facts:

  • Jennings is a true freshman, who saw fewer than 12 game-time minutes on the field before starting against Iowa.
  • The true freshman completed 37 percent of his passes for 82 yards and an interception in the Outback Bowl.
  • Following Jennings' interception, he lost confidence, overthrowing wide receivers and never looking comfortable in the pocket, with Iowa linebacker James Morris wrecking havoc consistently.

Now, before we exterminate Jennings as the starting quarterback, let's look at a few reasons why the Tigers' fans are going overboard with criticism of this young star.


Iowa's Defense One of the Best Tigers Fans Have Seen This Season

First things first, Jennings is not Zach Mettenberger, so don't expect him to be.

While I've been told by Mettenberger and others that Jennings is excellent at progressing through his reads, I see him as a dual-threat quarterback before I see him as a pocket passer. He needs to gain experience before he can sit back in the pocket and pick defenses apart.

He couldn't do that against Iowa, and you know, not many teams could do it against the Hawkeyes this season. Iowa was 10th in the nation in passing defense, giving up just 175 passing yards per game.

So when a veteran linebacker corps and stout secondary faced off against a true freshman quarterback, who did you think would win?

Jennings' performance was underwhelming, but having to play against one of the best defenses in the nation in your first collegiate start is a massive task for any true freshman.


Cam Cameron Capable of Developing

Here's where the good news comes into play. Cam Cameron, the man who helped transform Mettenberger into a better quarterback (473 more passing yards, 6.1 better completion percentage and 10 more touchdown passes under Cameron's tutelage), can focus more of his time on Jennings.

And Cameron should have Jennings' full attention after his struggles in the bowl. Not that Jennings is that type of young man, but what if he would have dominated the game and relaxed a bit as a result in the offseason?

Instead of blaming his failures on a teammate or his youth, Jennings accepted his performance on Twitter and challenged himself for improvement. 

Even though Jennings' showing was far from what Tigers fans anticipated, it should serve as a nice teaching tool for Cameron to sharpen his quarterback's skills.


Brandon Harris Will Challenge Him

Speaking of sharpening...

Judging by the way the reporters on site have talked about Brandon Harris at the Under Armour All-America High School Game, Harris has the tools to push for the Tigers' starting job.

Jennings will have a leg up in competition with his knowledge of Cameron's system, though, and the more time he spends with Cameron, the better he'll be for it.

Jennings, an intelligent young man, understands this.

Moving forward, I think LSU fans should take a smarter approach about jumping to conclusions. Don't crown a player after one drive, and surely don't doom a freshman's future after one bad game.

One bad performance is simply one bad performance. I can remember quite a few from Mettenberger in 2012. Look at what 2013 brought us.

With Cameron instructing Jennings and Harris providing depth to the position,  let's learn from recent history and be patient with Jennings' development.

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BCS Championship 2014: Blueprint to Florida State Victory

It has been 14 years since Florida State last won a national championship and 13 since it last played in a title game. In those years, the Seminoles have experienced heartbreak, disappointment, letdowns and oh-so-closes. 

Now, they're 60 minutes away from finally bringing a crystal ball trophy back to Tallahassee. 

It won't be simple, however. They'll face an Auburn team that runs on opponents at will, that has pulled off miracle after miracle to keep its unbelievable season going. Tre Mason, the junior Heisman finalist, is one of the best running backs in the nation and is the spearhead of a rushing attack that ranks first in the country, as the Tigers are averaging 335.7 yards per game. 

FSU must be able to put points on the board in the same manner it has this season as the No. 2 scoring offense in the country. Auburn will inevitably score points, and to put it plain and simple, whoever scores the most points is going to win the football game. Hard-hitting stuff there. 


Exploit Auburn's defensive weakness

Where the Seminoles need to attack the most is through the air, which is Auburn's biggest weakness on defense. The Tigers give up 260.2 passing yards per game, which is the 104th-worst mark in FBS football. Against two teams that have a similar level of talent at wide receiver as FSU, Texas A&M and Missouri, Auburn gave up 454 and 303 passing yards, respectively.

Here is Bleacher Report's Michael Felder showing how Auburn struggles on pass coverage, from his piece on Florida State's biggest X-factor for the big game.

"Auburn is no stranger to coverage issues," Felder writes. "Here, against Georgia, Chris Davis is lined up over tight end Arthur Lynch and the Tigers are going to play man coverage with one-high safety in the back-end."

"Davis bites on the play action and instead of doing his job on Lynch, flows toward the line of scrimmage allowing the tight end to get a free run on the corner route. The result is a touchdown for the Bulldogs."

Jameis Winston will look to exploit that by way of FSU's dynamic trio of receivers—Kelvin Benjamin, Kenny Shaw and Rashad Greene—in addition to tight end receiving threat Nick O'Leary, who is one of Winston's favorite targets. A&M's Mike Evans, who is similar to Benjamin in stature and playing style, had 287 yards and four touchdowns against Auburn, so if Winston can get going, it'll be a long day for the Tiger defense. 

Here is Evans against Auburn:

The counterpoint to Auburn's weakness in the secondary is that despite giving up all those yards through the air, it still managed to pull off wins against the Aggies and Tigers, due mostly to Auburn's amazing presence on the ground. 


Eliminate the rushing attack

For Florida State, the biggest step in securing a victory is stopping Auburn's run game, which serves as the lifeblood of Tiger football. The 'Noles have the 14th-best rush defense in the country, as opponents have rushed for only 116.5 yards against them. Interestingly, the first-string Florida State defense hasn't allowed a single rushing touchdown this year, which is a feat considering they played against top backs in Boston College's Andre Williams and Miami's Duke Johnson. 

Bleacher Report's college football staff breaks down Florida State's defense versus Auburn's offense in the video below.

The key to stopping Auburn's running game is staying at home and being disciplined, something that the Tigers' opponents haven't been able to do consistently. Defensive ends Mario Edwards Jr. and Christian Jones will be essential in stopping the run, since they'll have to be able to combat the read option, something that Auburn is quite skilled in doing. 

Throw out the "Team of Destiny" narrative, the SEC vs. ACC plot line and even the strength of schedule argument. If Florida State can exploit Auburn's weakness in the secondary and play disciplined run defense, the Seminoles will be national champions. 

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Connor Cook Came Through for Spartans in Rose Bowl When It Mattered Most

When Michigan State sophomore quarterback Connor Cook tossed an ill-advised second-quarter pass that was returned 40 yards for a touchdown by Stanford linebacker Kevin Anderson, it could have all unraveled for the fourth-ranked Spartans in their first Rose Bowl trip since 1988.

The pick-six and ensuing extra point put MSU down 17-7 with just 2:51 remaining before halftime. Cook had been lucky enough to have Anderson drop what could have been an interception in the first quarter, but wasn’t so lucky the second time.

To top it off, the Spartans were also having trouble running the ball against the Cardinal defense—and Cook was going to need to connect through the air if MSU was going to make up its first double-digit deficit of the campaign before 95,173 onlookers in Pasadena, many of them wearing green and white.

So what did Cook do?

The Hinckley, Ohio, native marched MSU 75 yards down the field in seven plays for seven points, connecting with fullback Trevon Pendleton from two yards out with just 28 ticks left in the half to put the green and white down by three after 30 minutes.

And he was just getting started in Big Ten champion MSU’s 24-20 win over No. 5 Stanford in the 100th Rose Bowl game.

"It's a special time for all Spartans, and we came here in force," MSU head coach Mark Dantonio told the Associated Press (via "I'm very happy for our football team, the resilience we showed all season long."

No. 18 showed perhaps the most resilience of all, less than a month after guiding MSU (13-1) to a 34-24 victory over then-No. 2 Ohio State in the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis.

Cook got the Spartans in position for a tying field goal early in the third quarter against Stanford, while also getting some more luck a couple more times in the second half. Another Stanford player dropped what again seemed to be a sure interception, and another Cardinal pick was wiped out by a penalty.

Early in the final frame, after the Spartans shook off a fumble by halfback Jeremy Langford deep in Stanford territory, Cook gave MSU its first and only lead of the afternoon.

And the only one it would need.

After a 19-yard punt return by Macgarrett Kings Jr., Cook drove MSU 27 yards in three plays, finishing things off with a 25-yard scoring toss down the middle to wide receiver Tony Lippett to put State up 24-17.

Langford (23 rushes, 84 yards, TD) and the Spartan defense then ground down the Cardinal (11-3), who managed a field goal with 4:15 remaining to pull within four points—but it was as close as Stanford would get.

After the Cardinal was stopped on a last-ditch 4th-and-one try with more than a minute remaining, on a tremendous play by linebackers Kyler Elsworth and Darien Harris, Cook took two knees and then senior replacement Andrew Maxwell took one to close out MSU’s first Rose Bowl win in 26 years, and the Big Ten’s first triumph in the Granddaddy of Them All since 2000.

Yet in time-honored sports tradition, Cook gave kudos to his teammates rather than talk specifically about anything he accomplished Wednesday.

“Our defense, they have been doing their thing the entire year," he told the Detroit News. "They’ve been shutting out our opponents and then our offense has really stepped up and become a lot more balanced in the pass game and run game. That’s allowed for success.”

That offensive balance began and ended with State's sophomore signal-caller. Cook completed 22 of 36 passes for a career-high 322 yards, along with two scores and one interception, and completed passes to nine different teammates.

That was after he earned Big Ten MVP accolades after finishing 24-of-40 for 304 yards for three scores and one pick against the Buckeyes last month, a game in which MSU led 17-0 before OSU came back to take a lead that Cook and company short-circuited with another 17-point run.

“It’s awesome to watch Connor Cook,” MSU defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said afterward to the Lansing State Journal. “He’s got a short memory. He threw that pick-six, gave up seven points there and I said, ‘The great thing about Connor, is he’ll just wipe it right off.’ ”

He still got the job done on Jan. 1 after making a couple of mistakes and getting a little bit of luck in the process.

You have to be good to win, and you also have to be lucky. Once again, Connor Cook was both for the Spartans.

And now, they're both Rose Bowl champions.

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Art Briles Would Be Perfect Coach to Fill Mack Brown Void at Texas

Change was necessary at Texas. Mack Brown did a lot of great things during his extended tenure with the Longhorns, but the program had become stagnant in recent years. Bringing in a coach like Art Briles would be the first step to getting back on a championship level.

In today's college football world, the teams challenging for national titles are the ones that sport a clear identity. Auburn owns the nation's best rushing attack. Florida State has the best scoring defense, which finally got the offensive support it needed thanks to the arrival of Jameis Winston.

Last season, the championship game featured Alabama and Notre Dame, both extremely strong defensive teams. Also in the mix was Oregon, an outstanding offensive team.

While Texas has been solid in many areas, it hasn't had that overarching identity. Those top teams always have something to lean on to get through big regular-season games. The Longhorns need to find that to get back on top.

That's why Briles is such an intriguing option. He took a Baylor program that was struggling mightily, created an offensive haven that would attract prospects and turned the Bears around without the resources or recruiting clout of the Longhorns.

He's seemingly a realistic option, too. Kirk Bohls and Brian Davis of the American-Statesman cite sources which go as far as stating Briles would accept the Texas job if it was offered to him:

The Baylor source said that Briles has no plans to remain in Arizona and is scheduled to return to Waco on Wednesday with the rest of the Baylor team. Two sources, including one close to Briles, has told the Statesman that Briles would accept the Texas job if offered.

Exactly how interested the Longhorns are and where he would fall on their wish list is unclear, but if he's as intrigued by the job as those sources suggest, he's a great target.

It's important to remember how far out of the picture Baylor was before Briles arrived. It hadn't secured a winning season in more than a decade and had four winless Big 12 campaigns over that span. The Bears were a complete non-factor.

The turnaround took a couple years, as Briles recruited the type of players he needed to make his system work and to change the program's identity on a national basis for recruiting, but the Bears cracked the .500 mark three years later, and the non-factor label is gone.

Similarly, it would take some time for Briles to get the Texas program where he would want it. In other words, pushing the Longhorns into immediate title contention wouldn't be a realistic expectation, but signs of clear progress would be.

Mark Schlabach of ESPN passed along comments from Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury, who made it crystal clear what he thought of the job Briles had done:

Earlier this season, Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury called Briles' rebuilding job one of the "greatest feats in college football history."

"I still don't think he gets the credit he deserves for the job he's done at Baylor," Kingsbury said. "I don't think people nationally understand how down the program was when he took the job."

If you give a head coach with that type of ability to rebuild a program the backing of Texas' resources and national recognition, great things are once again possible. It may take some time, but the future would once again be bright instead of remaining on the current course.

Texas needs a team identity. Briles is the coach that can build it, getting one of the nation's top programs back on the right path.


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Sugar Bowl 2014: Top NFL Prospects to Watch in Oklahoma vs. Alabama Contest

Although the 2014 Sugar Bowl matchup between Oklahoma and Alabama may not be ideal in the eyes of some college football fans, there are plenty of reasons to tune in. Chief among them is the fact that several players will have their final chance to impress NFL scouts in a game situation before entering the draft.

The Sooners have thrived despite a surprising lack of NFL-ready prospects. That isn't the case for the Crimson Tide, however, as several 'Bama players figure to be taken in the draft's first few rounds should they decide to declare.

For those who aren't necessarily worried about who wins and who loses the Sugar Bowl, here are three NFL prospects that you should keep tabs on as draft banter starts to heat up.


Cyrus Kouandjio

Alabama's defense gets a ton of credit for the team's success, but the offense was excellent in 2013 as well. Quarterback A.J. McCarron was barely touched, and running back T.J. Yeldon ran wild. The offensive line had a lot to do with that, and offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio was the anchor. Kouandjio would almost certainly be a first-round pick in the 2014 draft, but he is still torn when it comes to whether or not he wants to declare, according to Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News.

As things currently stand, Kouandjio is definitely behind Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews in the rankings, but he is in the mix with Greg Robinson of Auburn and Cameron Erving of Florida State. If Kouandjio can stifle a solid Oklahoma defense in the Sugar Bowl, it is entirely possible that he can solidify himself both as the No. 2 offensive tackle prospect as well as a prospective top-10 pick in the draft.

The decision ultimately lands on Kouandjio's shoulders, and it would be tough to blame him for returning to 'Bama in hopes of winning another national title next year. However, he also has a great opportunity in the NFL. Provided Kouandjio doesn't have an uncharacteristically awful performance against the Sooners, look for him to throw his name into the hat for the 2014 draft.


Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

There is no question that the 2013 season was a trying one for Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, but he managed to persevere and have a productive campaign. Clinton-Dix was a force on the field with 45 tackles and two interceptions in nine games, but he faced trials and tribulations as well. They included a two-game suspension for receiving improper benefits, per Andrew Gribble of

'I think I handled it very well, but it was my teammates, coaches and family members that kept me motivated and kept me calmed down and humble about the whole situation,' Clinton-Dix said. 'I really give them a big thanks to my coaches and teammates and family for doing that.'

Since Clinton-Dix has seemingly put that incident behind him, he can now focus on preparing for the NFL. Clinton-Dix is a junior like Kouandjio, so the Sugar Bowl doesn't necessarily have to be his final collegiate game, but it's difficult to imagine him improving his draft stock much by returning to Alabama for another season.

Returning would put another year between him and the improper benefits scandal, but it's likely that NFL teams will be understanding and will instead focus on his production instead. Clinton-Dix is easily the best draft-eligible safety, and he is a likely first-round pick. He can sew up that distinction by having a strong Sugar Bowl.


C.J. Mosley 

Although inside linebackers don't often receive much respect heading into the NFL draft, they tend to become impact players at the next level. Buffalo Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso is the perfect example, as he fell to the second round of the 2013 draft despite having first-round ability. He went on to have a spectacular season and is now the favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.

This is relevant because Alabama happens to have an elite inside linebacker in the form of C.J. Mosley. He is a senior who has led the defense for the past few seasons, and it can be argued that he is the heart and soul of the team. Mosley led the Tide with 88 tackles and nine tackles for loss this season. He has been so good that he has drawn comparisons to a future NFL Hall-of-Famer, according to Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman.

While it's way too early to compare Mosley to Ray Lewis, the comparison is certainly well taken. Mosley is a playmaker and a leader, and any NFL team would be lucky to have him. It isn't easy for inside linebackers to crack the first round of the NFL draft, but it shouldn't be a problem for Mosley. Since the Sugar Bowl will be Mosley's swan song at Alabama, expect all-out effort and perhaps one of the best games of his collegiate career.


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Cold Hard Fact for Thursday, January 2, 2013

Fact: Oklahoma and Alabama are the two winningest programs in bowl history. Their combined 61 bowl wins make the most bowl wins by any teams to meet in a bowl game. 

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Fact of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: ESPN 


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