NCAA Football

UCLA QB Brett Hundley Busts out for 86-Yard TD Run vs. Virginia Tech

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley has NFL scouts drooling over his talent and big-play ability, which were both on display in the Hyundai Sun Bowl vs. Virginia Tech. 

In the middle of the second quarter with the game tied at seven, Hundley dropped back to pass and saw nothing but open space. Hundley then broke the pocket and got to the outside, courtesy of a few key blocks. It was all speed from there. 

Here is another angle of the play: 

 Hundley's 86-yard TD run was his second of the day, and it gave UCLA a 14-7 lead. 



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Army All-American Bowl 2014: Top 10 Uncommitted Playmakers to Watch

The 2014 Army All-American Bowl kicks off at 1 p.m. EST Saturday on NBC, showcasing an abundance of exciting playmakers. While the majority of players have already announced their collegiate intentions, several remain uncommitted.

We take a closer look at the prospects still searching for a perfect fit at the next level.

Here are the top 10 uncommitted recruits to keep an eye on in San Antonio.

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Logan Thomas Injury: Updates on Virginia Tech QB's Status and Return

Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas was injured in the first half of the Hokies' Dec. 31 Sun Bowl showdown with UCLA after taking a vicious hit, according to The Roanoke Times' Andy Bitter on Twitter:

Virginia Tech saying it's a stinger for QB Logan Thomas. Return is questionable. #Hokies

— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) December 31, 2013

Thomas is questionable to return but will end his college career on the sidelines if he's unable to come back vs. the Bruins.

The 6'6", 257-pound senior signal-caller has been extremely durable during his time in Blacksburg and has managed to avoid injury since taking over as the full-time starter under center as a sophomore in 2011.    

Although Thomas' injury will have no long-term impact for Virginia Tech, it could affect him moving forward as he prepares for the 2014 NFL draft next spring. Thomas completed 57.3 percent of his passes and threw for 2,861 yards, 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions through the Hokies' 12 regular-season games in 2013. 

While there are a handful of talented passers sure to have their names called before Thomas next May, there's no denying that his combination of size, durability and potential make him a top-10 quarterback prospect.  

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Rose Bowl 2014: Stanford Defensive Seniors in Historic Swan Song

Wednesday’s Rose Bowl is the grand finale for a senior class of Stanford defenders who leave a legacy as one of the top groups in Pac-12 history. A win over Michigan State would cement this defense’s place alongside such units as USC’s in the late 2000s and Arizona’s Desert Swarm teams in the 1990s.

Stanford won two consecutive Pac-12 Championships, adjusting misconceptions about West Coast football in the process.

The outgoing seniors—like linebackers Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy and 2012 Rose Bowl Most Valuable Player, defensive back Usua Amanam—were instrumental in that effort.

“It feels like we have the most fifth-year seniors in the country,” Skov said following the Cardinal’s 38-14 Pac-12 Championship Game win over Arizona State on Dec. 7, one of their gems on the 2013 season.

Six of Stanford’s nine fifth-year seniors are major contributors on defense. Another four fourth-year seniors are prominent Cardinal defenders. That's nearly 50 combined years of experience anchoring a group that deserves mention alongside the greatest ever.

Stanford's statistics are impressive, though not necessarily historic.

For a second consecutive season, Stanford ranks in the top 10 nationally for points allowed and comes into the Granddaddy of Them All as the No. 3-ranked rush defense. 

Compared to USC in 2008, which held opponents to an average of nine points per game, or the 1992 Arizona defense that only allowed 30 rushing yards per game, this Stanford group may not get the same kind of historic credit.  

“Numbers lie,” defensive coordinator Derek Mason said (subscription required) in his press conference Saturday. “We're one of the best run stop defenses in the country.”

Indeed, statistics don’t tell the whole story of just how dominant this Stanford defense has been. The Cardinal flourished in a conference built on offense—and not just offense, but uptempo offense predicated on disrupting defensive rhythm and creating personnel mismatches.

Programs around the Pac-12 retooled in recent years, following Oregon’s lead after the Ducks’ success with implementing a hyper-speed version of the spread in the late 2000s.

Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Washington and Washington State all joined Oregon to run versions of the hurry-up, no-huddle offense in 2013 and Stanford dominated them all—except Arizona, the only team of that group the Cardinal didn’t face.

A big and aggressive defensive front is the hallmark of Stanford's defense, and upperclassmen like Skov, Murphy and Henry Anderson are well-known for their exploits.

However, in his press conference Sunday, head coach David Shaw credited (subscription required) the progression of another unit—including some of the youngsters—for helping make this defense truly historic. 

The biggest difference in our team has been the athleticism of our secondary. We've been good up front for years, but Wayne Lyons is coming along, our two safeties, one of the best safety combinations in the nation, use with a coming in and playing nickel for us, those guys are making the difference between being a good defense and a great defense. 

Michigan State presents a different kind of challenge in the Rose Bowl—specifically, the kind that tripped up the Cardinal for their only two losses. 

The Spartans mirror Stanford with outstanding defense and a power-based offense, much like Utah and USC. 

But Murphy summed up Stanford's losses succinctly when addressing the media Sunday, saying the Cardinal simply didn't play their best football then. 

A performance more indicative of those that won Stanford the Pac-12 should bring the program a second Rose Bowl championship. Talk about making history. 

 

Unless otherwise noted, quotes were obtained firsthand.

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Rose Bowl 2014: Stanford Defensive Seniors in Historic Swan Song

Wednesday’s Rose Bowl is the grand finale for a senior class of Stanford defenders who leave a legacy as one of the top groups in Pac -12 history...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Bowl Game Predictions 2014: Analyzing Best Remaining Matchups

The new year brings an entirely new slate of bowl games unlike any of the previous ones played. While there have been a few good games thus far, the final days of the college football schedule promise to be some of the best.

Whether it's the BCS bowl games that float your boat or matchups like the Cotton Bowl and Capital One Bowl that tickle your fancy, the next six days pack 11 games that are sure to make any college football fan happy.

With less than a week remaining for both the 2013 college football season and the BCS as a whole, here is a breakdown of the best remaining matchups on the schedule.

 

Cotton Bowl: Missouri vs. Oklahoma State

Both Missouri and Oklahoma State barely missed out on representing their respective conferences in a BCS bowl because of losses to close out the season. But make no mistake about it, these are still two of the best offenses in the country.

Clint Chelf is a quarterback that has emerged for the Cowboys and has been one of their most explosive offensive weapons. Chelf didn't get serious playing time until the sixth game of the season for the Cowboys but has been carrying them since.

The senior has 12 touchdowns through the air and another five on the ground for Oklahoma State in his last six games and has a total of 21 touchdowns this season.

For Missouri, James Franklin and Henry Josey have carried the team. Franklin missed four games this season due to a shoulder injury but has still thrown for 2,225 yards, 19 touchdowns and five interceptions. 

Josey, on the other hand, has also been one of the best running backs in the stacked SEC this year with 1,074 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns and an average of 6.6 yards per carry.

With four straight games at 95 or more yards to close the season, Josey's 1,000-yard season was his second straight for the Tigers after recovering from a devastating injury and missing the 2012 season.

Not that he needed much motivation for this game, but David Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune reported that Josey is motivated for this game for one reason:

The last remaining playmaker for the Tigers might be the best one. Dorial Green-Beckham is a mammoth wide receiver for Missouri at 6'6", 225 pounds and has caught 55 passes for 830 yards and 12 touchdowns this season.

When asked about Green-Beckham, Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said he reminded him of a certain NFL superstar, according to Morrison:

That's pretty high praise considering Calvin Johnson is now viewed as the best wide receiver in the NFL.

 

Rose Bowl: Michigan State vs. Stanford

When we're talking about matchups, it doesn't get much better, considering both of these teams boast two of the best defenses in the country.

Stanford has the offensive weapons with Tyler Gaffney and Ty Montgomery to get the job done, but the erratic play of Kevin Hogan could cost the Cardinal a chance to win their second straight Rose Bowl going against a tough Michigan State defense.

But if anyone can run into a stout defense like the Spartans', it's Gaffney. The former baseball player has been carving up defenses all year and told Lindsay Schnell of Grantland.com that he actually enjoys contact: "I'm a little bit of an instigator, I'll admit that. I play within the rules, but I won't go out of the way to avoid a collision."

With Michigan State presenting a more complete offense that includes Connor Cook and Jeremy Langford, the Spartans are probably the more complete team. Cook has proven himself as a sophomore this season and likely had his best performance of the season in the Big Ten Championship Game.

The sophomore signal-caller was relied upon heavily against Ohio State and responded with 304 yards passing—his first-ever 300-yard game—and three touchdowns with one interception. Cook said he felt like his offense was seen as a weakness for the Spartans heading into the Big Ten Championship, according to CBSSports.com:

This wasn't the first week where we heard people say negative things about us as an offense. I think we were underdogs in the majority of the games we played this year. It really didn't affect us.

Hopefully for Michigan State fans, Cook thinks his offense is being overlooked again because a similar performance to the one he had against Ohio State could be the tipping point in the Rose Bowl for the Spartans.

 

BCS National Championship: Florida State vs. Auburn

Florida State has the No. 2 scoring offense in the country and the No. 1 scoring defense. Auburn finished No. 1 in rushing yards per game and has the 12th-best scoring offense. Needless to say, the BCS finally got it right with the national championship.

The Seminoles have scored less than 40 points in a game just once this season. Much of their offense relies heavily on the talents of Heisman winner Jameis Winston, but it's his top three receivers, who have each amassed over 900 yards receiving, that he gives the credit to.

The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner has been specifically targeting one wide receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, as of late. The sensational sophomore has 17 receptions for 392 yards and seven touchdowns over his last three games.

Winston told Garry Smits of Jacksonville.com that he has a lot of faith in Benjamin: "I told him, ‘You are an unstoppable force. If you go out and do what you have to do, you will be unstoppable and no one will be able to cover you.’"

On the Auburn side, Nick Marshall and Heisman finalist Tre Mason have been the catalysts for the offense. The two players finished with a combined 45 touchdowns with Mason averaging 5.7 YPC and Marshall finishing with 6.6 YPC.

While Mason was simply incredible down the stretch and finished his regular season with a trip to the Heisman Trophy presentation, he credits Marshall with being the leader on the team. Mason told ESPN the Magazine that Marshall's demeanor has helped the team remain confident:

With two great offenses squaring off to find out who the best team in the country is in the final year of the BCS, this one could come down to which defense can get huge stops.

 

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Rice Owls' Liberty Bowl Helmet Takes Style Cues from the Oregon Ducks

The Rice Owls will be facing off with Mississippi State in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, and they have some fresh new helmets for the game. 

Since Rice's mascot is the Owl, they seemingly copied the Oregon Ducks with the design of the wings across the helmet. 

Here is the Oregon helmet for comparison.

Don't they look the same?

 

Thanks to Jeff Weintraub of Diehard Sport for the find. 

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Penn State Football Recruiting: 4 Players to Watch in High School All-Star Games

With both the Under Armour All-American Game and the Army All-American Bowl approaching, Penn State will be well represented in the high school all star games of 2014.

Well, at least in one of them.

The Nittany Lions have four committed players appearing, on the same team, in the Under Armour version that airs on January 2nd.

Christian Hackenberg and Adam Breneman were selected to the Under Armour All-America Game in 2013.

 

3 #PennState commits hanging out. #UAAllAmerica pic.twitter.com/sfK6b1iIYs

— Derek Tyson (@DerekTysonESPN) December 30, 2013

 

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A Scout's Take on the Capital One Bowl Between Wisconsin and South Carolina

I had another opportunity last week to talk with scout Chris Landry about a couple of things on the Steve Duemig show. Chris is one of best in the business in terms of evaluating talent in both college football and the NFL.

I asked Chris about the matchup between the 9-3 Wisconsin Badgers and the 10-2 South Carolina Gamecocks in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Florida. The Badgers are ranked 19th in the BCS standings, while the Gamecocks are ranked ninth.

I specifically asked about the matchup between the big offensive line of the Badgers versus the very talented defensive line of the Gamecocks.

I think the Capital One Bowl will be very good. Certainly South Carolina's defensive line is very good and very quick. They've got an edge there from a quickness standpoint. Wisconsin wants to run the football right at South Carolina trying to wear them down and try to play the run, and try to slow down their pass rush so they can have an opportunity to hit (Jared) Abbrederis deep on some play passes.

Landry also talked about how physical the game will be and why the Badgers should not overlook Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks.

I think it ought to be a real good game. I think it will be physical. I do like the fact that Wisconsin and the Big Ten teams are coming in and playing with an edge a little bit, wanting to prove that their really good (versus the SEC). I don't think that South Carolina under Steve Spurrier is the type of team that typically overlooks or plays disinterested in bowl games like this. It's always an edge to him. Particularly with him and the quarterback Connor Shaw. I think they (Wisconsin) are going to get South Carlina's best effort here.

Landry is spot on with Shaw, who threw 21 touchdown passes in 2013 for the Gamecocks, compared to just one pick. Shaw has an edge on his counterpart at Wisconsin, Joel Stave, who has been inconsistent this season, especially on his deep throws.

Stave did throw 20 touchdown passes this season for the Badgers, but also threw 12 picks.

As Chris said, the Badgers are a running football team, and there is ample evidence for that. Both Melvin Gordon (1,466 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns) and James White (1,337 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns) have been terrific running the ball for Wisconsin.

Stave has some nice weapons when he passes the ball, namely wide receiver Jared Abbrederis (73 receptions for 1,051 yards and seven touchdowns) and tight end Jacob Pedersen (36 catches for 503 yards and three touchdowns). White is also used a lot as a receiver, as he has 37 receptions for 292 yards and two touchdowns.

The whole offense is predicated by the excellent play by the big offensive line of the Badgers.

Overall the Badgers are ranked 19th in total offense in the country, including eighth in the nation in running the football.

The 18th-ranked South Carolina defense is led by their talented defensive line led by Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles.

Stave needs to be careful throwing the ball, as both Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree have three picks apiece at cornerback.

The South Carolina offense is ranked is ranked 34th, which is led by Shaw on the passing game. Shaw likes to utilize wide receiver's Bruce Ellington and Damiere Byrd in the passing game, and the two have combined for 76 receptions for 1,210 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The running game is led by running back Mike Davis, who has rushed for 1,134 yards and 11 touchdowns. Shaw has also run for 511 yards and five scores.

The Gamecocks will be facing the sixth-ranked (nationally) Wisconsin defense, led by linebacker Chris Borland.

The Badgers are ranked fifth in the nation in stopping the run, while they are ranked 12th in the country in stopping the pass.

The edge in the kicking game has to go to the Gamecocks, as kicker Elliot Fry has made 15-of-18 field goals this year.

The Badgers meanwhile, have Jack Russell as their kicker—he is five-of-eight on field goals after taking over for Kyle French earlier in the year.

Bottom line, this should be a great game as the Badgers will try and win their third Capital One Bowl in three tries, this time under first-year head coach Gary Andersen.

The Badgers won the 2006 Capital One Bowl under Barry Alvarez, when they defeated Auburn 24-10, and also won the 2007 Capital One Bowl under Bret Bielema, when they beat Arkansas 17-14.

 

 

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Liberty Bowl 2013 Rice vs. Mississippi State: Live Score and Highlights

The 6-6 Mississippi State Bulldogs meet the 10-3 and Conference USA champion Rice Owls in the 2013 AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

Led by senior running back Charles Ross, Rice is seeking a program-best 11th season victory and its first win over an SEC school since 1980.

After missing two games and struggling in Mississippi State’s win over rival Ole Miss, dual-threat quarterback Dak Prescott will attempt to get back on track against Rice.

ESPN will carry the game, which is scheduled for a 4 p.m. ET kickoff. Bleacher Report will provide live scoring updates and in-game analysis.

As always, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Auburn Football: Tigers' Top 5 Plays of 2013

The title of this piece might be putting it lightly. Auburn's 2013 season has been so awesome—so magical, so oozing with drama—that its top five plays aren't just its own. They might be the five best plays of the entire college football season.

Alright. Maybe that's a slight exaggeration. But it's not a huge exaggeration, which says all you need to know about this spellbinding year on the Plains. Gus Malzahn has taken this team, which went 3-9 overall (and winless against SEC foes) last season, and spurred it to the BCS National Championship Game.

More often than they probably should be, teams nowadays are billed ones "of destiny." It's a catch-all term that is used to describe good luck, especially when it occurs in repeated bunches. Quite frequently, the term is cliche and grossly misused, but with Auburn in 2013, it's more of an understatement than anything.

Let's relive the five best moments of the year.

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Florida State Football: Seminoles' Top 5 Plays of 2013

It’s been an incredible 2013 season for the Florida State Seminoles.

The team has maneuvered through every obstacle in its way, posting a flawless 13-0 record. A date in the BCS Championship Game with Auburn on Monday awaits.

Before we close the book on 2013, though, why not take a look back at some of the memorable moments of Florida State’s season?

More specifically, let’s delve into some of the most spectacular plays that happened along the way.

Join B/R as we take a look at the top five plays of the Seminoles' 2013 campaign.

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Notre Dame Football: 5 Best Moments of 2013

Notre Dame's 2013 season didn't live up to the program's lofty expectations, but there were a slew of positive moments throughout the Fighting Irish's 9-4 campaign.

Drama and tension are two constant themes of any Notre Dame football season, regardless of the program's final outcome.

2013 was no different for fourth-year head coach Brian Kelly and company.

Let's take a look at the best moments of Notre Dame's 2013. 

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Michigan Football Recruiting: 8 Players to Watch in High School All-Star Games

Michigan has eight commitments participating in high school All-Star games this week, but none excites fans more than defensive back Jabrill Peppers.  

Game: Under Armour All-America Game

Date: Thursday, January 2, 2014

Time: 4pm ET

Place: Tropicana Field (St. Petersburg, Florida)

Television: ESPN

 

Game: US Army All-American Bowl 

Date: Saturday, January 4, 2014

Time: 1pm ET

Place: Alamodome (San Antonio, Texas)

Television: NBC

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Texas Coaching Search: Waiting Until Jan. 15 Deadline Only Adds to the Issue

Texas' new athletic director has a tall task on his hands, trying to find a suitable replacement for Mack Brown as the eyes of the collective college football nation are on Steve Patterson. Patterson, along with the search committee, has to hit a home run on multiple levels, and the longer the administration waits to get its guy, the worse the situation becomes for Texas.

The Dallas Morning News reported that Patterson has set a January 15 deadline for getting the Longhorns a new coach, a drop-dead date that's far later than anyone in burnt orange is comfortable with. The middle of January date would cut short the new coaches recruiting chances in a cycle that Texas can ill afford to lose.

With National Signing Day coming on February 5, just 20 days to contact, convincing commitments to stay and adding to the list is certainly a detriment to the new leader. It is also tough for the kids, players who committed to play for Brown and are now looking to see the new style Texas is moving to and how, or if, they fit the next coach's plans.

More importantly, for Patterson and the Texas family, the longer the wait means the more Texas is having to do to pull a coach into the fold. It means ceding more ground, giving more money and doing something most Texas folks did not expect the school needed to do, really asking someone to take the job.

Before the Texas gig opened, the job in Austin was the creme de la creme. The job that coaches, even men at top-tier schools, would drop everything to grab. The job with all of the assets, the biggest plus, the best job in the game. The job that everyone wanted.

Yet, as the clock ticks, with no one in place, possibly ticking all the way until Jan. 15, the allure of the job seems to be called into question. Thus far in the process, Texas has become more of a bargaining chip than a destination. First, it was Nick Saban, as Tide Sports reported, getting a new deal done while the Texas contingent thought he would be their guy.

Auburn's Gus Malzahn, according to AL.com, inked a new deal on the strength of his big season, all while Texas rumors swirled. The other BCS National Championship Game coach, Jimbo Fisher at Florida State, not only agreed to a raise early in December, but also inked the deal to close out 2013, as reported by Warchant.

Three men Texas had eyeballs on all getting raises, all getting extensions and all not being Texas' head coach.

Texas is a premier job with plenty of positives for whoever gets the gig. But right now, the Longhorns are sitting, waiting, hoping that whoever the power-that-be deem worthy of hiring also wants them back. A tough situation to be in, and as the school waits for a yes, the net cast for candidates becomes a bit wider.

The Longhorns are going to hear a yes. There are plenty of coaches out there who would love the job. The issue becomes whether or not Texas wants those coaches at the helm. There are still good names on the list of possible candidates, but together by the Austin American Statesman. In the Big 12, Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State and Art Briles are both sitting as options. Across the collegiate landscape, Louisville's Charlie Strong, Stanford's David Shaw and Vanderbilt's James Franklin are still hanging out there for the Longhorns.

However, as time passes and the deadline approaches, those names could turn into UCLA's Jim Mora, Arizona State's Todd Graham and North Carolina's Larry Fedora, among others. The longer the Longhorns wait, the less likely Patterson and the Committee are to knock this hire out of the park.

And at Texas, a place not only ruled by wins, but by politics and egos, waiting until January 15, and not sating the masses with a name hire, is a bad place for Steve Patterson to start his career. 

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Sun Bowl 2013 Virginia Tech vs. UCLA: Live Score and Highlights

UCLA 14, Virginia Tech 7—Halftime

We are underway in the 2013 Hyundai Sun Bowl.

Keep it locked here at Bleacher Report for live scoring updates, detailed analysis and the best postgame coverage around. 

You can follow today's box score live at NCAA.com.

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Outback Bowl 2014: Does Iowa Have Enough on D to Handle LSU's Anthony Jennings?

Iowa faces an interesting challenge heading into the Outback Bowl against LSU. It really doesn't know what the Tigers are going to come out with on offense and that means a tricky prep for the New Year's Day clash. 

Thanks to a season-ending injury to LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger, Cam Cameron must now turn to freshman Anthony Jennings. 

Jennings led a miraculous comeback against Arkansas, but what was put on film in that game may look nothing like the version of the LSU offense that is seen in Tampa Bay on Wednesday.

That's because Jennings isn't a statuesque quarterback like Mettenberger. 

With a full set of practices to concentrate the offense around the skill set of Jennings, could we see a more run-orientated, spread attack from the Tigers?

Or will LSU turn to its star running back, Jeremy Hill, who ran for over 1,200 yards and earned first-team All-SEC honors?

The lack of knowledge about exactly what LSU will look like on offense is something Kirk Ferentz readily acknowledged earlier this month to the Hawkeyes' official website.

The only wild card for us is we don't have much tape on him. The job of any quarterback, regardless of his style or of his age, is to move the team, and he moved them in about as extreme circumstances as you could dream up. For him to move from an incoming freshman to the No. 2 guy the way he did says a lot about the people who have seen him on a day-to-day basis. We can count on a really good player being back there.

There's no doubt that Jennings poses an interesting mix of arm and athleticism—completing 6-of-10 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing 14 times for 49 yards and a touchdown in the win over Arkansas. 

However, LSU will be facing one of the Big Ten's best defenses. The Hawkeyes had one member of the first- and second-team All-Big Ten (media) and three players make second-team All-Big Ten (coaches) at the end of the year.

Statistically speaking, the Iowa defense could be up to the task against anything LSU throws or runs at them: 

The highlight of the Hawkeyes defense is the senior trio at linebacker—Anthony Hitchens, Christian Kirksey and James Morris. 

LSU head coach Les Miles came away impressed by the group, according to Andrew Logue of the Des Moines Register

I think they play the scheme as well as I’ve seen it played. It’s a traditional scheme, but there’s nothing traditional about the way they play it. Their technique is excellent. They’re always in position. They’re physical and fast and they know how to take on blocks.

Combined, the trio tallied 297 tackles this season, with Hitchens' 102 tackles leading the way. They also combined for 31.5 tackles for loss.

However talented this group is, a peak behind the really good numbers provides a glimpse as to why Hawkeyes fans should be apprehensive about its defense against LSU. 

In all four losses this season, there was a common denominator—Iowa struggled against the run.

The Hawkeyes gave up an average of 197.3 yards per game to Northern Illinois, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Three of those teams (Northern Illinois, OSU and Wisconsin) rank in the top 10 nationally in rushing. 

Furthermore, the top two Big Ten rushing teams, Ohio State and Wisconsin, ran over the Hawkeyes to the tune of 273 and 218 yards respectively.

That's not good news for the Hawkeyes, who are going up against an LSU offense that comes into the game averaging just over 200 yards per game as a team, ranking 32nd nationally themselves. 

Iowa's best way to counteract LSU's potent rushing attack and freshman quarterback could be in forcing Jennings into quick decisions that end badly—a.k.a. turnovers. 

LSU has coughed up the ball 18 times, putting the Tigers in a tie for 11th in turnover margin in the SEC. On the other hand, Iowa has forced opponents into 20 turnovers—including 12 interceptions. 

That leads to the front seven needing to get major pressure on Jennings, and that means a big role for Morris on Wednesday.

Morris has been the heart and soul of the Hawkeyes defense, not just from a leadership perspective, but also statistically speaking, too—he's second on the team in tackles with 97, but he leads the Hawkeyes in tackles for loss (14.5), sacks (5) and interceptions (4). 

In order for the Hawkeyes to take down the Tigers in the Outback Bowl, Morris and the rest of the senior-laden front seven need to play better than they have in the first four games against good opposition. 

Without knowing exactly what LSU will look like on offense with Jennings at quarterback, it's up to the experience of Iowa's defense to make up for what is currently unknown.

As long as the group continues to play within its roles, the defense will give Iowa a chance to pull off the upset. 

 

Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.

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Sun Bowl: Pros and Cons of UCLA QB Brett Hundley Declaring for the NFL Draft

Quarterback Brett Hundley and his UCLA Bruins will play Virginia Tech in the Sun Bowl on Tuesday. Nothing has been made official, but in some minds, this could be the last game of Hundley's career, even though he's just a redshirt sophomore.

Hundley is a highly sought-after NFL prospect, and he could stand to make a lot of money by declaring for April's draft. But head coach Jim Mora Jr. is hopeful that he won't, telling reporters at a Sun Bowl press conference that he doesn't think Hundley will declare, according to Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times.

Despite Mora's hopes, however, there is still a very real chance that Hundley leaves. There are several distinct reasons imploring him each direction, arguing for both sides. Whether he stays or he goes, it would be understandable from his point of view.

Here are the reasons why. 

 

PROS

The pros of joining the pros are obvious. Hundley is in a position where he could make a lot of money—and soon. Pick apart his game all you like: Someone is willing to pay him next season.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, at least two teams would have Hundley as the No. 1 quarterback on their board, ahead of presumed favorite Teddy Bridgewater:

Schefter's report sparked a little bit of backlash from the draftnik community, which has come to a general consensus on Bridgewater as QB No. 1. Rotoworld's Josh Norris thinks the tape speaks for itself:

Still, it only takes one team falling in love with you to become a top-10 pick. If there are personnel men out there who value Hundley as the top QB, this would seem a good time for him to declare. Otherwise, there's nowhere for his stock to go but down.

[Matt Barkley nods head in agreement]

The NFL rookie pay scale has been dropped in a big way, so Hundley doesn't stand to make Sam Bradford money. But there are still millions of dollars staring him down.

Unless he thinks he would fall out of the first round—which is doubtful for a quarterback with his ceiling and (relative) track record—returning to school would represent a major financial risk. He'd be one hit away from mortgaging his future.

Can anyone be rightfully expected to do that?

There's also the "trial by fire" theory. Hundley is a rare physical specimen, possessed of a rocket arm, good size and plus athleticism. But he's yet to master the mental part of the game (at least on a consistent basis). He still forces too many throws, and he's not always consistent from week to week.

Some might argue that, because of these flaws, he actually needs another year of college experience, but others might argue the opposite. What better way to learn the game than playing it at the highest level? His learning curve might plateau against Pac-12 defenders. If he truly wants to learn how to play quarterback at an NFL level, he needs to start practicing against NFL competition.

Joining the league right now would give Hundley an immediate paycheck and a better chance—arguably—to work toward reaching his potential. Those are reasonable causes for declaring early and leaving Westwood.

 

CONS

The cons of Hundley leaving start with the argument issued above. Some think that playing against NFL competition can help a young quarterback's development, but there are numerous cases of the opposite effect.

Look at someone like Blaine Gabbert, who was drafted No. 10 overall in 2011—roughly where Hundley might go—on the basis of potential. Gabbert was productive in college, sure, but he was billed as a guy just scratching the surface of his skill. With tools like his, there was no way a good NFL coach wouldn't be able to make him into a weapon.

Guess what happened? He hasn't become a weapon. Thus far, Gabbert's NFL career has been little more than a punchline, a tale of foreboding told by general managers during the pre-draft process. He was thrown into the dark, deep waters of the league before he was ready, and he's been worse off because of it.

Instead of learning to swim, he flailed for a while, then sunk.

The same thing could (potentially) happen to Hundley if he declares before his time, especially given his sophomore tape. Though he can make a wide array of difficult throws, Hundley doesn't jump off the film as a guy who is ready to make the leap, according to B/R's Matt Miller:

This is also a very deep year for quarterbacks, which could make it a bad time for Hundley to declare. The rookie pay scale is married to where a player gets selected, so Hundley could stand to make a lot more money in a weaker quarterback class.

Last year, for example, Hundley might have been the first quarterback off the board, ahead of Florida State's E.J. Manuel, who wasn't a can't-miss prospect. But this year, he'd have to contend with Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, Derek Carr, Blake Bortles, AJ McCarron, Zach Mettenberger and even deep sleepers like David Fales.

In a vacuum, Hundley's stock has nowhere to go but down next year. Relative to those around him, however, that isn't quite the case. Hundley could plateau as a prospect and still go higher in 2015 than he could in 2014. It all depends on how the rest of these quarterbacks perform in the pre-draft process.

Is Hundley willing to take that risk?

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Sun Bowl: Pros and Cons of UCLA QB Brett Hundley Declaring for the NFL Draft

Quarterback Brett Hundley and his UCLA Bruins will play Virginia Tech in the Sun Bowl on Tuesday. Nothing has been made official, but in some minds, this could be the last game of Hundley 's career, even though he's just a redshirt sophomore...

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Jimbo Fisher's New Contract at Florida State Shows Coaches Are in Charge

How big is the Texas job? A fourth head coach just agreed to a new contract, basically, in response to being connected to it. 

Warchant.com reported Monday night that Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher has signed a new contract to be Florida State's head coach for the next five years. Word first broke just before the ACC championship game in early December that Fisher had agreed in principle to a new deal

Fisher is reportedly set to make $4.1 million a year, though no buyout figure was given. Briles, Alabama coach Nick Saban and Auburn's Gus Malzahn have also agreed to new contracts recently in light of their name being floated out there with Texas. 

Fisher's contract may temper rumors connecting him to Texas, but they won't outright kill them. Over the weekend, The Dallas Morning News named Fisher as one of four coaches Texas athletic director Steve Patterson is focusing on to succeed Mack Brown. The other three were Baylor’s Art Briles. Vanderbilt’s James Franklin and Louisville’s Charlie Strong. 

Including Fisher's name in the conversation makes sense; he has the Seminoles playing for a BCS National Championship against Auburn next month. 

Fisher's new contract doesn't change the fact that it would behoove Texas to call him and gauge his interest. Aiming high should be encouraged when making an investment as big as finding a new coach. And if Texas has to pay an enormous buyout along the way, it will. As Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman tweets, the process isn't really over until it's over:

Does that mean Fisher is Austin-bound? Not in the slightest. With the roster he has now and the recruiting efforts being put in, he has what looks like a machine in Tallahassee capable of competing for championships for years to come. 

That's going to make Fisher a target of coaching searches. While Seminole fans may never fully breathe easy because of it, having a spotlight on your head coach is the biggest compliment a program can get. 

The best Florida State can do—the best any program can do—is try to make its in-demand coach happy. Fisher's new deal is reportedly "incentive laden," and Bud Elliot of Tomahawk Nation reports that Fisher's assistants will receive more money:

Ponying up for assistants is crucial, especially considering Fisher had to replace seven of them last offseason. A new coaching staff could have meant a dropoff for Florida State. Instead, the Seminoles had their best season since 1999 when they beat Virginia Tech for the BCS title. 

Also consider Bret Bielema's move from Wisconsin to Arkansas a year ago, one that could have appeared lateral from the outside in. Yet, Bielema was losing assistants more often than he would have liked in Madison. In a longform feature from Grantland, Bielema explained that the inability to properly pay those assistants was the reason behind the turnover: 

Typically, they also offered promotions. Position coaches became coordinators. Coordinators became head coaches. Some jumped to the NFL. "You want your assistants to move up," Bielema says. "But you want it to be a hard decision. You want them to only be willing to leave if they're walking into a dream situation. You don't want money to ever be a factor." In his last three years in Madison, Bielema lost 12 assistants. Every winter, he spun it to the media as a positive. But every spring, he wondered how his new staff would jell.

While it's impossible to determine what motivates Fisher, what is known is that Florida State is paying him and his staff for results—with a little bit of fear of losing them mixed in. Fisher, Briles, Saban and Malzahn are coaches with different styles, but they have one thing in common: They're getting the resources and institutional support to win. 

In-demand coaches like Fisher can leverage for more money any way they want, whether it's for them, assistants or facilities—and it doesn't even mean they'll stay at their current job.

Hypothetically, say Fisher goes to Texas and fails miserably. It's Texas that will have footed the gigantic bill for that experiment. The same thing goes if Fisher suddenly, and inexplicably, stumbles at Florida State. 

The best example of coaches benefiting from the frenzy of the moment is Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, who signed a lucrative $39 million deal after the 2009 season when he took the Hawkeyes to the Orange Bowl. The real kicker is Ferentz's buyout, which is 75 percent of his remaining salary.

If Iowa is ever unsatisfied with Ferentz, and his 27-23 record since '09 would certainly warrant that sentiment, it's basically stuck with him. 

Not that Fisher's situation is like Ferentz's, but it's a cautionary tale nonetheless. 

There are examples of both success and failure, but if a coach is sought after, he possesses the power to get what he wants. Fisher is only the latest example. 

 

Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. You can follow him on Twitter @BenKercheval

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