NCAA Football

Rutgers vs. Notre Dame: Score, Grades and Analysis from 2013 Pinstripe Bowl

It's better to win ugly than lose beautifully.

That idea was reinforced after the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-4) grinded out a 29-16 victory over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-7, 3-5 American) in the 2013 Pinstripe Bowl.

It was a complete victory for Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish out-gained Rutgers 494-236, gaining 175 yards on the ground and adding 319 yards through the air courtesy of quarterback Tommy Rees.

Even more impressive was the fact that those 175 yards came without running back George Atkinson III, after he was suspended before the game for violating team rules, per ESPN.com's Matt Fortuna.

Despite missing their second-leading rusher, the Fighting Irish dominated the running game.

That was a major key, as the windy weather and ramshackle field were adversely affecting the game. Players were slipping when trying to make cuts, and the officials had a hard time maintaining their footing.

Establishing the ground game is vital in these conditions and Rutgers was unable to do so, mustering only 80 yards rushing on the day.

Rutgers quarterback Chas Dodd had a rough time without a run-game to back him up. In the first half, he was 5-of-14 for 99 yards and a touchdown, per ESPN College Football.

It was odd, though, that Dodd found himself the leading rusher through two quarters, per CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman.

Dodd finished 10-of-28 for 156 yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions.

The two teams exchanged field goals to begin the game, with kicker Kyle Brindza putting Notre Dame ahead 3-0 on the first drive. Rutgers kicker Kyle Federico answered with a field goal of his own to tie the game after a muffed punt by Notre Dame receiver TJ Jones gave the Scarlet Knights great field position following a would-be three-and-out.

The Fighting Irish wasted little time in taking a 10-3 lead. Head coach Brian Kelly used a nice combination of short throws and runs to move the ball 62 yards in 3:30. Jones redeemed himself, as he ran it in from eight yards out after motioning in from his usual wideout position.

It was a clever play call from Brian Kelly, as the game called for a little ingenuity in order to overcome the elements—just not too much, as would be established later.

Rutgers made it four drives in a row with a score, when Dodd hooked up with receiver Brandon Coleman for a 14-yard touchdown pass. The big play of the drive was Coleman's 51-yard reception that got the ball down to the Notre Dame 21-yard line.

Notre Dame capitalized on an interception from Dodd early in the second quarter. Brindza subsequently nailed a 38-yard field goal.

Despite taking a 13-10 lead, Kelly was likely disappointed that his team couldn't do more with great field position. The Fighting Irish started the drive on the Rutgers 22-yard line and managed to gain one yard before settling for three points.

The Irish weren't alone in leaving points on the board, as Rutgers had a 1st-and-goal on the 4-yard line. Two runs from halfback Justin Goodwin and an incomplete pass from Dodd failed to get the Scarlet Knights in the end zone, so they had to settle for a field goal.

On Rutgers' next drive, head coach Kyle Flood demonstrated that there is a right time and a wrong time to take risks. With the ball on the Notre Dame 20-yard line, he opted for a gadget play. Goodwin attempted a halfback pass, but his pass was intercepted by KeiVarae Russell on the 1-yard line.

Needless to say, Flood got his fair share of criticism on Twitter.

If only he would've listened to what this guy had to say before the game, per Mike Vorkunov of The Star-Ledger.

The first half would end with both teams tied 13-13, and it didn't come a moment too soon as the game was a plodding, largely subdued affair.

Unfortunately, the second half was more of the same.

Notre Dame had a major advantage when it came to the battle in the trenches. Their offensive line had an advantage over Rutgers' defensive line size-wise, so Kelly went about systematically wearing down the Scarlet Knights defense.

He let running backs Tarean Folston and McDaniel shoulder the majority of the offensive burden. Rees was there to move the ball through the air when the defense began creeping up a bit too much.

It was an unimaginative game plan, but it served Notre Dame well. As the game went on, the Fighting Irish exerted more and more influence and controlled the clock.

Two field goals from Brindza gave the Irish a 19-13 lead in the fourth quarter.

Federico halved the deficit, 19-16, with 47-yard field goal with a little under nine minutes to play.

Notre Dame iced the game away on its next drive as Folston punched it in from three yards out to give the Irish a 10-point lead, 26-16, with 3:38 to play.

Dodd threw his second interception of the game on Rutgers' next drive, effectively killing any chance of a comeback.

 

Key Grades

Tommy Rees, Notre Dame: A-

Rees wasn't prolific on Saturday, finishing 27-47 with 319 yards and no touchdowns.

What the senior QB did do well was manage the game. He avoided any costly interceptions and let the running game do the heavy lifting.

In addition to ending his Notre Dame career with a victory, Rees also moved to third on the school's all-time passing list, so it was a good day all around.

 

Cam McDaniel and Tarean Folston: A+

It's hard to single out either McDaniel or Folston, as their numbers were very similar. McDaniel was the game's leading rusher, with 80 yards on 17 carries. Folston also had 17 carries, getting 73 yards and a touchdown.

Both running backs set the tone for the Notre Dame offense. The more success they had, the easier it was for Rees to beat the secondary.

 

Kyle Flood, Rutgers: D-

This game was a less-than-favorable example of Flood's game-management skills.

When you've got a first down inside the red zone, you should probably keep the trick plays locked away and trust your offense enough to think it can move the football with more traditional play calls. That interception didn't decide the game, but it certainly didn't help.

 

What's Next?

This win is a nice way for Notre Dame to end the season. The Fighting Irish built some momentum heading into 2014. For Rutgers, it's the complete opposite. The Scarlet Knights move to the Big Ten will only make things more difficult next year, and now Flood will have plenty of critics questioning his ability to lead the team going forward.

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Alabama Fans Name Their Daughter 'Krimson Tyde'

Parents in Andalusia, Ala. have chosen to show their devotion to their favorite football team by naming their newborn daughter "Krimson Tyde." 

From the Andalusia Star News

Summer and Steven Steele of Andalusia announce the birth of their daughter, Krimson Tyde Steele. She weighed 7 pounds, 5 ounces and was 20 inches long when she made her appearance at Andalusia Regional Hospital. Her maternal grandparents are Kimberly Musgrove and Randy Ainsworth. Her paternal grandparents are Ellie Mae Steele and the late David Randy Steele.

Hat tip to Darren Rovell for the find. 

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BCS Championship 2014: X-Factors That Will Decide Florida State vs. Auburn Clash

When Florida State and Auburn meet in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 6, it is no secret that much of the attention will be focused on the likes of Jameis Winston, Kelvin Benjamin, Nick Marshall, Tre Mason and a host of other stars, but that is simply the tip of the iceberg.

As important as all of those players will be, there are several others who will make a huge impact as well. It often seems as though under-the-radar players affect big games as much as anyone, and that should once again be the case when these two great teams battle for the Coaches' Trophy.

Here are the three biggest X-factors to watch when the Seminoles and Tigers meet in the season-ending BCS National Championship Game.

 

Nick O'Leary

Quarterback Jameis Winston was more than deserving of the Heisman Trophy, but he couldn't have won it without a strong supporting cast on offense. Winston has a triad of 900-plus-yard receivers at his disposal in Benjamin, Rashad Greene and Kenny Shaw, and they understandably garner much of the credit. One player who manages to consistently fly under the radar, though, is junior tight end Nick O'Leary.

The grandson of legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus isn't always heavily involved in the Florida State offense, but he makes the most of his opportunities. O'Leary is averaging nearly 17 yards per catch, and he has scored seven times on 33 receptions. O'Leary hasn't had more than three catches in a game since going off to the tune of five receptions for 161 yards against Clemson on Oct. 19, but it wouldn't be wise for the Auburn defense to write him off.

O'Leary tends to shine brightest on the big stage, and there is no stage bigger than the BCS National Championship Game. Florida State boasts so many weapons in the passing game that it is essentially impossible to account for all of them.

Auburn will have to pick its poison, and it is entirely possible that the Tigers will decide to force O'Leary to beat them. Auburn may very well get its wish as O'Leary has all the tools necessary to put the Seminoles' offense on his back.

 

Corey Grant

In order for a team to lead the nation in rushing with more than 335 yards per game, it must utilize a number of excellent ball carriers. That has been the case for Gus Malzahn's Auburn squad all year long.

Heisman Trophy finalist Tre Mason deservedly receives a lot of praise, as does quarterback Nick Marshall, but junior running back Corey Grant is often a forgotten man. Grant has carried the ball just 65 times this season; however, it can easily be argued that he is the Tigers' most explosive weapon.

Grant—an Alabama transfer—is averaging an incredible 10 yards per carry this season to go along with six touchdowns. He has been so good, in fact, that Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee has questioned whether or not Grant is used enough in the Tigers' offense, according to Brandon Marcello of AL.com. 

"It's huge," Lashlee said. "He's a big-play guy. He's averaging over 10 yards, or right at it, a carry, and you know, kind of makes you wonder, maybe we should give it to him more."

Whatever Auburn has been doing on offense has worked, so it hasn't had to force things with Grant. He has never carried the ball more than nine times in a single game, but he offers a great change of pace to Mason. Even if he is used sparingly once again in the national title game, he has the potential to go the distance from anywhere on the field, so Florida State will have to be well aware of when he is out there.

 

Roberto Aguayo

Both Florida State and Auburn have so much talent that it's easy to forget about special teams. When two teams are evenly matched, though, special teams often make all the difference in the world. If that is ultimately the case, then the Seminoles seemingly have an advantage.

Florida State is one of the most well-rounded college football teams in recent memory as even their kicking game is worth mentioning. With that in mind, freshman kicker Roberto Aguayo could play a huge role in this contest.

Aguayo has been nearly perfect this season, which is rare for any kicker, let alone a freshman. Not only has he converted all 90 of his extra point attempts, but Aguayo has also made 19 of the 20 field goals he has tried. That is an unbelievable statistic that has gotten buried among all of Florida State's other accomplishments. Aguayo was recognized with a year-end award, however, as he won the Lou Groza Award, according to Noles247.com.

Although Aguayo's precision hasn't necessarily made a huge difference this season due to Florida State's overall dominance, that may very well change in the BCS National Championship Game. The Seminoles haven't had to play in many tight games, however, the title game figures to be a tight affair. If it comes down to field goals, then Aguayo figures to be a dangerous, secret weapon for the 'Noles.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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Cold Hard Fact for Saturday, December 28, 2013

Fact: About 60 percent of bowl teams spend more to play in bowl games than they receive in payouts for their participation.

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

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

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Belk Bowl 2013 Cincinnati vs. North Carolina: Live Score and Highlights

North Carolina and Cincinnati will meet in the 2013 version of the Belk Bowl, a bowl game that has a lengthy history of producing close games. In fact, four of the last five games have been decided by one possession. When you combine these two teams' paths, we're likely due for an incredible ballgame.

Cincinnati won six of its last seven games and is searching for its third straight bowl victory, while North Carolina won five of its last six games to become bowl-eligible and is hoping to win its first bowl since 2010.

This Saturday matchup will kickoff at 3:20 p.m. ET on ESPN. 

Bleacher Report will provide live in-game analysis and scoring updates, so stay locked in here.

Want your voice to be heard? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

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Arizona State Football: 5 Best Moments of 2013

The Arizona State Sun Devils finished 2013 with a 10-3 record and were one win shy of playing in the Rose Bowl.

It was a very successful campaign by all accounts.

The season was filled with many memorable moments such as scoring 62 points against USC, the crazy Wisconsin ending and winning the Pac-12 South title.

The greatest moment of all though, has to be the Sun Devils' huge 58-21 win over Arizona to keep the Territorial Cup in Tempe. It's always great to beat your rival, but beating the Wildcats by 37 made every ASU fan smile.

It's remarkable what head coach Todd Graham has done with the Sun Devil program, taking them from mediocraty to the Pac-12 title game in just two years.

The Sun Devils are now set up to be a power in the Pac-12 for many years to come.

The 2013 season isn't quite over for ASU though, as the Sun Devils still have a Holiday Bowl meeting with Texas Tech on Dec. 30. Who knows, there still may be a few memorable moments to come. 

With that being said, here is a list of the best moments of Arizona State's 2013 season.

 

Stats and information from cfbstats.com unless otherwise indicated.

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Arizona State Football: 5 Best Moments of 2013

The Arizona State Sun Devils finished 2013 with a 10-3 record and were one win shy of playing in the Rose Bowl. It was a very successful campaign by all accounts...

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College Bowl Schedule 2013-14: Where to Watch Remaining Postseason Games

Counting the four games on tap for Saturday, there are still 24 postseason contests left in the 2013-14 college football bowl schedule. (Full breakdown below).

The earliest game on Saturday is the New Era Pinstripe Bowl from Yankee Stadium. It is a high profile clash with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish battling the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. The Irish are looking to finish off a mildly disappointing season with a win over a tough American Athletic Conference foe.

Later, the Cincinnati Bearcats are pitted against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Belk Bowl. The 'Heels were barely bowl eligible at 6-6, but Larry Fedora's team will have a distinct geographical advantage.

The game will be played at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. Expect a plethora of 'Heels fans to be in attendance to lend their support.

The third game of the day is the Russell Athletic Bowl, and it should be a real gem. The Miami Hurricanes take on the Louisville Cardinals in what could be Teddy Bridgewater's final college football game.

Many predict the Cardinals quarterback will bolt for the NFL draft and be selected in the top three picks. He'll get a significant test from a Hurricanes team that had national championship aspirations until a three-game losing streak sent them tumbling out of the Top 25.

Last but not least, the Michigan Wolverines battle the Kansas State Wildcats in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Wolverines fans are likely a little bummed heading into this one. Quarterback Devin Gardner will not play because of a broken foot.

He suffered the injury in the regular-season finale against the rival Ohio State Buckeyes, per Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports.

 

Freshman Shane Morris is set to start in his place against the Wildcats, but does he have enough experience to guide Brady Hoke's team to a bowl victory? Tune in on Saturday night to find out.

Need help locating each of the remaining bowl games for television viewing? Here's a breakdown of how to watch all 24.

 

Follow me for news, opinions and results in the world of sports.

 

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Washington TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins Declares for 2014 NFL Draft

Fittingly, the Washington Huskies last touchdown of 2013 came via tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

That’s because it was also the last touchdown of the junior’s extraordinary collegiate career. 

“I’m going to enter the 2014 draft,” Seferian-Jenkins said, via The Seattle Times’ Adam Jude. “The idea that I can provide for my mother and play at the highest level in the world for football and compete against the best guys in the world…I’m very excited for the next chapter in my life.”

Seferian-Jenkins finished with three catches for 37 yards and a touchdown in Washington’s Fight Hunger Bowl 31-16 victory over BYU on Friday. His score came on a 16-yard reception with 11:12 remaining in the third quarter to put the Huskies up 28-16.

This season’s John Mackey Award winner and second-team All-Pac-12 selection, Seferian-Jenkins was graded as a second-round draft choice in the NFL evaluation he requested earlier this month.

“I’ve done everything I can at the University of Washington. I know I’m ready for the NFL,” he said. “I need to take care of my mom and make sure she’s financially OK. She’s done so much for me, it’s the least thing I can do.”

The Fox Island, Wash., native concludes his 2013 campaign with 36 catches for 450 yards and eight touchdowns. In his three-year career with the Huskies, he’s recorded 146 catches for 1,840 yards and 21 scores—all three are school records among tight ends.

Needless to say, Washington will be hard-pressed to find a replacement for Seferian-Jenkins.

 

All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of CFBstats.com.

For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on Facebook, on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.

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Washington TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins Declares for 2014 NFL Draft

Fittingly, the Washington Huskies last touchdown of 2013 came via tight end Austin Seferian -Jenkins. That’s because it was also the last touchdown of the junior’s extraordinary collegiate career...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Pinstripe Bowl 2013 Rutgers vs. Notre Dame: Live Score and Highlights

Pinstripe Bowl

Notre Dame 0, Rutgers 0—Early First Quarter

Notre Dame and Rutgers have kicked off at Yankee Stadium.

The game marks the first matchup between the two schools since 2002, when Notre Dame defeated Rutgers, 42-0, at Notre Dame Stadium.

For all highlights and analysis, keep it here at Bleacher Report.

 

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Auburn Football Recruiting: Updates on 2014 Commits and Targets

Auburn has put together the best turnaround in college football history under first-year head coach Gus Malzahn, as the Tigers are headed for the BCS National Championship Game just a year removed from a 3-9 season.

With all of the success that the Tigers have had on the field, it's hard to believe that the Auburn coaching staff has had almost as much success off the field on the recruiting trail.

Auburn is set to reel in the No. 6 recruiting class in the nation this year, according to 247Sports.com, and that projection has only risen in recent weeks—just as the Tigers have climbed through the national rankings.

The Tigers have 21 commitments already set to come to the Plains as part of the 2014 signing class, including four junior college transfers who have already signed their Letters of Intent. That means there are only a few spots left for Auburn to fill between now and signing day on Feb. 5.

Stay tuned to this updating page over the next few weeks, as news breaks from the recruiting world on the Plains, and signing day inches closer and closer.

All recruiting information via 247Sports.com unless otherwise noted.

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Pinstripe Bowl 2013 Rutgers vs. Notre Dame: Live Game Grades, Analysis for Irish

What a difference a year makes. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish were playing for a national championship last go-around. One year later, things are a lot different.

This time, the Irish find themselves playing Rutgers in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl (noon ET, ESPN) at Yankee Stadium.

Both teams had higher expectations for 2013, but fell well short of those. However, a win by either team will help set the tone heading into next year.

So, who will come out on top?

For full stats, check out NCAA.com.

 

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Jameis Winston Far from a Lock for Another Heisman Trophy

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide this season, but even though he will clearly be the front-runner to take home the bronze again in 2014, history suggests that the redshirt freshman is not going to join Ohio State running back Archie Griffin as the only two-time recipients of the award.

Since Griffin pulled off the incredible feat in 1974-75, eight Heisman winners have returned to school after putting the most prestigious honor in the game on their mantle—not one of them has been able to repeat. Most were the odds-on favorite to do it a second time, but this slideshow highlights the myriad reasons why this is indeed the rarest of accomplishments in college football.

One of them, 2007 winner Tim Tebow, actually had two chances to team up with Griffin in the most exclusive of fraternities, but the Florida quarterback came up short in both '08 and '09.

Winston is as good a bet as any to break the mold and collect a second Stiff-Arm, as the 'Noles aren't going to lose much from their explosive offense due to graduation and/or early entry into the NFL draft. It's possible that the 6'4", 228-pounder can improve—he won't even turn 20 years old until Jan. 6—on the 3,820 passing yards and 38 touchdown passes he accounted for in 2013, plus there is a line of 4- and 5-star signees in Tallahassee waiting to take the reins from their soon-to-be-departed teammates.

Nevertheless, from Oklahoma running back Billy Sims in 1978 to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel just this past season, a Heisman Trophy-capturing campaign is a tough act to follow.

 

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2013 Valero Alamo Bowl: What the Loss of Suspended Players Means for Texas

Practices are wrapping up as kickoff nears for the 2013 Valero Alamo Bowl, and both the Texas Longhorns and Oregon Ducks have suspended players that won't be participating in this year's bowl game.

For the Ducks, tight end Pharaoh Brown is suspended for his involvement in a snowball fight, as reported by The Oregonian. And per Comcast SportsNet Northwest, the Ducks will be without cornerback Troy Hill. He was arrested in mid-December for assault.

As for the Longhorns, the team suspended three players for academic reasons. Running back Daje Johnson and offensive tackle Kennedy Etstelle are reported via Geoff Ketchum of Orangbloods on Twitter to miss the bowl game. Running back Jalen Overstreet will also miss the contest as confirmed by Chip Brown of Orangebloods via Twitter. Brown was also able to confirm that all three players will be missing the bowl game because of academic ineligibility.

So what does this mean for the Horns?

First for special teams, not having Johnson limits the opportunity for a game-changing kick or punt return. Johnson's speed matches that of Oregon's players, and Texas might hurt when they are looking for a breakout return. See the embedded GIF, via SB Nation, for more on Johnson's speed.

The loss of Overstreet and Johnson could potentially become an issue. The Longhorns will already be without running back Jonathan Gray who injured his Achilles earlier in the year.

Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron are looking to share time in the backfield come December 30. If either player suffers an injury, one or the other will have to take on all the duties in the backfield. Overstreet would have primarily provided depth for the Longhorns' run game at the Alamo Bowl.

And the loss of Johnson limits the offensive play-calling, as he's been known to get the ball on outside speed plays.

Yet, his absence could be a good thing for the Longhorns' rushing attack. Stanford beat Oregon 26-20 thanks to their ground and pound run game that helped them take control of the clock. The Cardinal held onto the ball for over 40 minutes while the Ducks had the ball for less than 20 minutes.

If Oregon doesn't have the ball, they can't score. Unless quarterback Case McCoy doesn't take care of the ball, but that won't be discussed.

Also in that Oregon-Stanford game, the Cardinal rushed for 274 yards behind the strength of senior running back Tyler Gaffney who accounted for 157 of those yards on an astonishing 45 carries. Gaffney, listed at 6'1", 226-pounds by GoStanford.com, is comparable to Longhorns running back Brown who is listed at 6'0", 225-pounds by TexasSports.com.

Brown and Bergeron rushed for a combined 240 yards against Texas Tech when speed tailback Johnson sat out because of a violation of team rules, as reported by Randy Riggs of The Austin American-Statesman. So Johnson's suspension allows the Longhorns to focus on running in between the tackles with Brown and Bergeron.

And speaking of tackles, the loss of Estelle could actually limit the run game.

The sophomore from Pearland, Texas has had a fine year filling in for an injured Josh Cochran. But his suspension limits the depth at the offensive front and could force the Longhorns to expand playing time for a freshman.

Richard Tijerina of the The Austin American-Statesman reported on the situation in a December article.

Estelle took over at right tackle when former starter Josh Cochran was injured in September. He has started eight games. Cochran returned for the Texas Tech and Baylor games, but only in short yardage situations. If he doesn't return to the starting lineup, the Longhorns may look to freshman Kent Perkins, who has one start this season.

At the end of the day, the Longhorns will need perfect play-calling and no turnovers to control the ball and have a shot at victory. How much will the loss of Estelle, Johnson and Overstreet hurt, or maybe help, the Longhorns chance at winning?

Feel free to give your opinion in the comment section below.

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B/R CFB 250: Top 10 Hybrid Linebackers in College Football

Editor's note: This is the 14th installment in Bleacher Report's CFB 250 for the 2013 season. This signature series runs through December, with National College Football Lead Writer Michael Felder ranking the best players at every position. You can read more about the series in this introductory article. See the CFB 250 page for more rankings.

Who is the best hybrid linebacker of 2013?

The position has risen to prominence in recent seasons, with quality players showcased there every year. This year is no different, with an abundance of teams allowing athletes to play in space and both get after the quarterback and sink into coverage.

The criteria for this list take that ability to play with a hand in the dirt or standing up into account, while also putting a premium on a player’s ability to rush the passer. Through watching these athletes and grading them based upon their pass rush, run defense, ability in coverage and tackling, we’ve put together the top 10 hybrid players.

If there were any ties, the edge went to the player we would rather have.

Keep in mind, these hybrid linebackers are being rated on their performance in college, not NFL potential. But to see where these players may go in the NFL draft (whether they are eligible in 2014 or later), check out Bleacher Report draft expert Matt Miller's projections at the end of each player slide.

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Bowl Schedule 2013-14: Highlighting Best Clashes of the New Year

If some of the results from early bowl games are any indication of what's to come, then college football fans better get ready for the upcoming matchups.

The bowl season started off right on Dec. 21, when Colorado State won a thrilling matchup against Washington State, 48-45, and the excitement has continued through the most recent clash of Utah State and Northern Illinois. Utah was victorious, 21-14, and Jordan Lynch showed that he may not be ready for the big show after all.

The biggest matchups of the bowl season are still to come, and the slate of January affairs will help college football fans to start the new year and finish their season on a high note.

 

The Remaining Schedule

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman Marshall vs. Maryland Dec. 27 @ 2:30 p.m. ESPN Texas Syracuse vs. Minnesota Dec. 27 @ 6 p.m. ESPN Fight Hunger BYU vs. Washington Dec. 27 @ 9:30 p.m. ESPN New Era Pinstripe Rutgers vs. Notre Dame Dec. 28 @ Noon ESPN Belk Cincinnati vs. North Carolina Dec. 28 @ 3:20 p.m. ESPN Russell Athletic Louisville vs. Miami Dec. 28 @ 6:45 p.m. ESPN Buffalo Wild Wings Kansas St. vs. Michigan Dec. 28 @ 10:15 p.m. ESPN Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Middle Tennessee vs. Navy Dec. 30 @ 11:45 a.m. ESPN Franklin American Mortgage Music City Ole Miss vs. Georgia Tech Dec. 30 @ 3:15 p.m. ESPN Valero Alamo Texas vs. Oregon Dec. 30 @ 6:45 p.m. ESPN National University Holiday Texas Tech vs. Arizona St. Dec. 30 @ 10:15 p.m. ESPN AdvoCare V100 Boston College vs. Arizona Dec. 31 @ 12:30 p.m. ESPN Hyundai Sun Virginia Tech vs. UCLA Dec. 31 @ 2 p.m. CBS AutoZone Liberty Rice vs. Mississippi St. Dec. 31 @ 4 p.m. ESPN Chick-fil-A Duke vs. Texas A&M Dec. 31 @ 8 p.m. ESPN TaxSlayer.com Gator Georgia vs. Nebraska Jan. 1 @ Noon ESPN2 Heart of Dallas North Texas vs. UNLV Jan. 1 @ Noon ESPNU Capital One Wisconsin vs. South Carolina Jan. 1 @ 1 p.m. ABC Outback LSU vs. Iowa Jan. 1 @ 1 p.m. ESPN Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO Michigan St. vs. Stanford Jan. 1 @ 5 p.m. ESPN Tostitos Fiesta Baylor vs. UCF Jan. 1 @ 8:30 p.m. ESPN Allstate Sugar Alabama vs. Oklahoma Jan. 2 @ 8:30 p.m. ESPN Discover Orange Clemson vs. Ohio St. Jan. 3 @ TBD ESPN AT&T Cotton Missouri vs. Oklahoma St. Jan. 3 @ 7:30 p.m. FOX BBA Compass Houston vs. Vanderbilt Jan. 4 @ 1 p.m. ESPN GoDaddy Arkansas St. vs. Ball St. Jan. 5 @ 9 p.m. ESPN VIZIO BCS National Championship Florida St. vs. Auburn Jan. 6 @ 8:30 p.m. ESPN

 

Capital One Bowl

Wisconsin and South Carolina figure to compete in one of the more competitive games of the bowl season, but the Capital One Bowl should be won by the Badgers.

The New Year's Day matchup features one of the premier rushing teams in the country in Wisconsin and one of the more clutch teams in South Carolina. Sure, a loss to Georgia early in the season wasn't good for the perception of the team, but a double-overtime win against Missouri and a convincing win against Clemson on Nov. 30 have put the Gamecocks in good position entering their Jan. 1 contest.

That being said, Wisconsin has too much firepower in the run game to be taken down by South Carolina's No. 14-ranked defense.

Melvin Gordon and James White headline the attack. Both have run for at least 1,300 yards and combine for 25 touchdowns. Corey Clement and Jared Abbrederis combine for over 600 more yards and nine more touchdowns.

The Gamecocks will try to force Joel Stave to become the offensive leader. If they can do that, then they stand a good chance of winning. If not, then Wisconsin will rack up yards on the ground and win.

 

Discover Orange Bowl

Braxton Miller can't be a one-dimensional quarterback against Clemson; otherwise Ohio State will come up short in this year's Discover Orange Bowl.

Primarily a threat on the ground, Miller showed off his legs against Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship game. He rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns, but the Spartans held him to just eight completions and 101 yards through the air. He completed just 38.1 percent of his passes and averaged 4.8 yards per completion.

That type of production won't get it done against a top-notch Clemson defense.

Brandon Rink of TheState.com provides interesting statistics in regards to Clemson's defensive pressure:

Clemson makes no bones about its pressure prowess: No. 1 in tackles for loss (113) and No. 22 in sacks (33). But facing this kind of attack throws a wrench into the typical plan.

The attack Rink is referring to is the dual-threat ability of Miller. If Clemson can contain his run game and force him to be a pocket passer, then its chances of success in the Orange Bowl go up—way up. Watching their game plan unfold on the gridiron will be exciting to watch.

 

VIZIO BCS National Championship Game

No breakdown of compelling January matchups would be complete without the BCS title game, pitting undefeated Florida State against Cinderella-story Auburn.

Via Daniel Uthman of USA TODAY Sports:

"We've gotten the matchup everybody wants to see," said Bill Hancock, the BCS executive director. "We felt we'd get the two best teams, and we did."

It took the Tigers two spectacular victories against Alabama and Missouri to make it to the final BCS title game in college football history, and they appear to be the team of destiny. Heisman finalist Tre Mason has carried them over the past several games, and his performance on the ground against an aggressive Seminoles defense will dictate how well the offense performs.

The Seminoles' offensive game plan begins and ends with Heisman winner Jameis Winston. If he can pick apart the Tigers defense, then Florida State should win. He's simply too good and too consistent to pick against.

Then again, teams of destiny often overcome a ton of obstacles on their way to titles. Auburn started that journey with a game-ending miracle against the Crimson Tide in the Iron Bowl, so maybe we'll see more of the same in this one.

This game has too much potential to pass over.

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College Football Bowl Picks 2013: Picking Bowl Season's Most Intriguing Games

It's the most wonderful time of the year. No, not because of the holiday season. It's college football bowl season!

There is truly nothing more exciting than curling up on the couch with your favorite beverage and some nachos and just binging on football.

The games so far have been fantastic—see Colorado State's last-minute comeback against Washington State. But the games are only going to get better from here. Below, we'll pick every remaining bowl game before focusing on three of the most intriguing games of the bowl season.

 

Valero Alamo Bowl: Texas vs. Oregon

It's Mack Brown's final game, leaving him with one last chance to cement his legacy. He already is a Texas legend, as evidenced by this billboard that fans created (via BuzzFeed Sports):

While Longhorn players will undoubtedly feel motivated to win one for Brown, Oregon is the much better team. Even though the Ducks faltered down the stretch, losing two of their last four, they still averaged 46.8 points per game, which is third in the nation. Texas, meanwhile, gives up 25.5 points per game, which is 56th in the nation. 

Furthermore, Texas has a porous run defense, giving up 180.3 yards per game. That means that De'Anthony Thomas, Byron Marshall and Tyler Tyner will go off.

Remember, this is a Texas team that has lost two of its last three and only has one win against a Top-25 team. 

So while it will be closer due to the extra motivation of sending Brown off properly, Oregon is just too talented and Texas' run defense is not good enough.

Final Score: Oregon 31, Texas 21

 

AdvoCare V100 Bowl: Arizona vs. Boston College

If anyone loves old-fashioned, ground-and-pound football, then look no further.

This game features two of the best running backs in the game—Arizona's Kadeem Carey and Boston College's Andre Williams.

Here's how the two stack up:

Williams got the Heisman nod, but voters really did overlook Carey, who is a fantastic player and probably the better pro prospect.

Both teams are going to stick to the run and for good reason, since both run defenses aren't that great. BC gives up 154.2 yards per game, while the Wildcats give up 169.6 per game.

To me, this game comes down to which team has the better overall offense, and that's Arizona. The Wildcats average 32.8 points per game, while the Eagles average 28.4. 

I think both of these sterling running backs will have huge games, but Arizona has enough other weapons to pull out the victory.

Final Score: Arizona 34, Boston College 24

 

Rose Bowl Game Presented by VIZIO: Michigan State vs. Stanford

This is another old-fashioned football game, featuring two teams that love to run the ball and stop the run.

However, Michigan State is at a distinct disadvantage, since star linebacker Max Bullough is suspended for the contest, according to ESPN:

In a statement to reporters, coach Mark Dantonio was evasive as to why Bullough was suspended (via Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free-Press):

Max Bullough has been suspended for the remainder of the season for a violation of team rules. It is extremely disappointing for all parties involved. We will stay focused and close ranks as we prepare for Stanford on January 1 in the Rose Bowl. Max will forever remain a Spartan and valued member in this team’s achievements. We will have no further comment on this issue.

Bullough, the third team All-American, had 76 tackles and 9.5 for loss this season. He is the cornerstone of this fantastic defense, the heart and soul, and the second-best player, behind stud corner Darqueze Dennard.

This absolutely affects the Michigan State defense, a unit that only gives up 12.7 points per game and only 80.8 rushing yards per game, which is best in the nation.

That should mean that Tyler Gaffney will have a monster game. The senior has 1,618 yards and 20 touchdowns this season. He may tear off a few runs like this one:

Stanford coach David Shaw told Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle that Bullough is a "great player. I'm sad for him. As a senior, he's going to miss out on this opportunity."

Shaw, however, must be happy that Gaffney will have bigger holes to run through. I think Gaffney could run for 150-plus yards.

Michigan State will keep it close, but Stanford has just enough firepower to pull it off. 

Final Score: Stanford 21, Michigan State 10

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Pinstripe Bowl 2013: Full Preview for Rutgers vs. Notre Dame

Yankee Stadium will host the 2013 Pinstripe Bowl between the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Dec. 28, providing one of the most interesting games before the BCS matchups are underway.

"Interesting" doesn't necessarily mean this is the juiciest upcoming clash, because the Irish (8-4) have had a severe letdown this season coming off a trip to last season's BCS national title game.

Rutgers will be partaking in this bowl for the second time in three years, having won 2011's edition 27-13 over Iowa State, which was the last game coached by Greg Schiano before his move to the NFL.

In Kyle Flood's second year as Schiano's successor, he saw his team's regular-season record fall from 8-4 to a meager 6-6. If not for a 31-6 triumph over South Florida in the final game, the Scarlet Knights would not have been eligible for a bowl bid.

The winner of this showdown at the historic venue in the Bronx will end the year on a high note and set the tone for the future.

Flood weighed in on what a victory would mean after practice on Thursday, Dec. 26, per MyCentralJersey.com's Josh Newman:

I think winning always helps recruiting. I think once you turn the page on the season, you’ve turned the page. The team will be different and the offseason will be different because the team is different. Winning, whether it’s in the the regular season or the bowl season, winning never hurts your program and winning always helps recruiting.

Plenty is at stake here despite the diminished 2013 status of these programs, so let's take a look at when and where to catch the game along with a preview as to how it will play out.

Note: Team statistics are courtesy of NCAA.com. Individual defensive stats were obtained via CFBStats.com.

 

 

Blueprint for Rutgers Victory

One thing the Scarlet Knights can hang their hats on is the ability to swarm to the football and stop opponents from running the football.

Given how suspect and turnover-prone Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees is at times, the success Rutgers has will depend heavily on continuing to build on its biggest strength, which has yielded the nation's No. 4 rush defense.

Opponents have gained less than three yards per carry on the Scarlet Knights, but only three teams have allowed more yards through the air than Rutgers (311.4 yards per game).

Rutgers is tied for 24th in sacks with 32 as a team, though, which somewhat makes up for a vulnerable secondary.

There is clear talent on that side of the ball within the front seven, particularly between linebackers Steve Longa and Kevin Snyder, along with stout defensive tackle Darius Hamilton (10 tackles for loss).

Having said that, the tone must be set on offense. The running back tandem of Paul James and Justin Goodwin (combined 14 rushing TDs) has to get going early to alleviate the burden for senior signal-caller Chas Dodd to shoulder the load.

If all of that can happen, the Scarlet Knights have a decent chance at pulling off the upset at a favorable location with regard to proximity from Piscataway.

 

Blueprint for Notre Dame Victory

Anything involving Rees putting the ball in the air isn't usually a promising proposition. The Scarlet Knights can get after the quarterback, but Rees is facing a very favorable matchup and has the weapons to exploit Rutgers on the back end.

Tight end Troy Niklas is a matchup nightmare at 6'7" and 270 pounds. Savvy receivers TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels have made plays all season, helping Rees to a career-best 8.01 yards per attempt.

The Irish also have a backfield stocked with talent between freshman phenom Tarean Folston, gritty junior Cam McDaniel and the electrifying big-play threat George Atkinson III.

With that superior depth, they should get Rees going early and often and then wear down the Scarlet Knights late in the game by pounding the rock.

Asked how he'd call the game, head coach Brian Kelly sprinkled in some humor in poking fun at passing game coordinator Mike Denbrock:

Chances are, Kelly's previous offensive genius will shine through and allow the Irish to put enough points on the board to secure a win. As long as Notre Dame's 76th-ranked rush defense isn't gashed too severely, its outlook to win is promising.

 

Prediction: Notre Dame 27, Rutgers 17

The Irish should have some trouble defending the run, but eventually Rutgers' shortcomings will shine through.

A big kicker in this game will be the Scarlet Knights' lack of discipline that has resulted in a -9 turnover margin for the season and an average of 6.75 penalties per game. Those are primary culprits behind their mediocre record.

Rees will want to end his polarizing Notre Dame career on a high note, and Kelly will ensure that happens.

Although the spread won't be covered and the game should be close through the first half, the Irish will find a way to prevail thanks to better talent, depth and a huge edge Rees has at the quarterback position over his counterpart in Dodd.

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Bowl Games 2013-14: College Football Showcases That Will Come Down to the Wire

It's officially bowl season with college football teams around the country locking up in showcases to wrap up their respective campaigns. But once the calendar turns to January, the competition really heats up with the top teams taking the field in college football's marquee matchups.

While there are certainly some blowouts in the making, there are also a host of games that figure to be decided in the final stages of the game. Here's a look at the remaining bowl schedule and analysis of three contests with evenly matched teams.

 

Capital One: No. 9 South Carolina (10-2) vs. No. 19 Wisconsin (9-3)

Both of these teams fell short of their big expectations, but it leaves us with a explosive non-BCS matchup that will pit two powerful teams against each other.

South Carolina has won five straight contests, but a 23-21 loss to Tennessee earlier in the year kept the the team on the outside of the BCS picture. Meanwhile, Wisconsin's regular season ended with a 31-24 loss to Penn State in the first year with coach Gary Andersen.

The main focus of this matchup will be on the impressive Wisconsin running game clashing with South Carolina's stout defensive front.

Behind another batch of big, athletic linemen, the Badgers ranked second in the nation with a 6.6 yards-per-carry average. Melvin Gordon (1,466 yards, 12 TDs) and James White (1,337 yards, 13 TDs) create the best backfield duo in the nation, but they will face a stiff test against South Carolina.

The Gamecocks are led by possible 2014 NFL No. 1 pick Jadeveon Clowney and All-American tackle Kelcy Quarles. Clowney became an instant phenomenon on New Year's Day 2013 with his crushing hit, and you can assume his motor will be turned up for this one.

In its three losses this year, Wisconsin has faced tough rushing defenses like Ohio State, Arizona State and Penn State. While South Carolina doesn't stack up with OSU, it compares favorably to ASU and Penn State, and it should be able to slow down Wisconsin. Badgers receiver Jared Abbrederis (73 catches, 1,051 yards, seven TDs) is a threat, but Wisconsin isn't built to win through the air.

On the other side of the ball, efficient quarterback Connor Shaw (2,135 yards, 21 TDs, one INT) and tailback Mike Davis (1,134 yards, 11 TDs) have enough firepower to get the job done for a Gamecocks victory.

Prediction: South Carolina wins 27-24

 

Cotton: No. 8 Missouri (11-2) vs. No. 13 Oklahoma State (10-2)

The selection committee for the Cotton Bowl picked two longtime rivals that have history dating back to 1915. The two schools were also conference foes in the Big Eight and Big 12 Conferences before Missouri joined the SEC in 2012.

Both of these teams suffered heartbreaking losses late in the season, with Oklahoma State losing its chance to win the Big 12 title by virtue of a 33-24 defeat to Oklahoma in the Bedlam rivalry game. Missouri missed out on a BCS bowl when it was walloped 59-42 by Auburn in the SEC Championship.

Still, coach Gary Pinkel deserves a lot of credit for the job he's done with Mizzou this year.

Quarterback James Franklin (2,255 yards, 19 TDs, five INTs) leads a balanced Tigers offense that also features tailback Henry Josey (1,074 yards, 13 TDs) and a trio of big wideouts in L'Damian Washington (47 catches, 853 yards, 10 TDs), Dorial Green-Beckham (55 catches, 830 yards, 12 TDs) and Marcus Lucas (55 catches, 646 yards, two TDs).

Think Missouri is pumped up for this game? Check out how excited the players were to receive their Cotton Bowl swag:

Oklahoma State also has a well-rounded offense, but I suspect Franklin will outplay inconsistent Cowboys QB Clint Chelf (1,792 yards, 15 TDs, six INTs), who will have a long day against Missouri defensive end stars like Michael Sams and Kony Ealy.

Prediction: Missouri wins 31-27

 

Orange: No. 7 Ohio State (12-1) vs. No. 12 Clemson (10-2)

This much-anticipated BCS matchup is expected to be a shootout, as these two schools possess some of the most potent offenses in the country.

Leading the way for both teams are a couple of talented quarterbacks in Clemson's Tajh Boyd (3,473 passing yards, 29 passing TDs, nine rushing TDs, nine INTs) and OSU's Braxton Miller (1,860 passing yards, 22 TDs, five INTs, 1,033 rushing yards, 10 TDs).

These two teams are also very similar on the defensive end in terms of points allowed per game, as Clemson (21.1) holds a slight edge over OSU (21.3). But Ohio State has a more complete attack with elite running back Carlos Hyde (1,408 yards, 14 TDs), who I suspect will run rampant against a Clemson defense that ranks 51st against the run (152.6 yards allowed per game).

Boyd and the Clemson offense will certainly put up some points, but Miller, Hyde and Buckeyes should be able to squeak by in a shootout. In the end, Ohio State is a more complete team than Clemson and should win this BCS bowl, which is something of a consolation after the Buckeyes lost out on a chance to play in the national championship.

Prediction: Ohio State wins 42-38

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