NCAA Football

College Football: Cassius Peat to Decide School on National Signing Day

Cassius Peat, a 4-star senior outside linebacker (6'3", 235 pounds) out of Corona del Sol High School (Tempe, Arizona), has decided to wait until national signing day to announce ...

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Toledo vs. Arkansas State: Score and Twitter Reaction for 2015 GoDaddy Bowl

With most of the football world either still fighting the New Year's Six hangover or focused on the NFL playoffs, the GoDaddy Bowl isn't exactly a marquee event.

But Kareem Hunt made sure America took notice.

The explosive sophomore running back racked up a GoDaddy Bowl-record 271 rushing yards and five scores against Arkansas State, leading the Rockets to an entertaining 63-44 victory on Sunday night.

One of the most productive backs in the nation, Hunt finishes the season with 1,631 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. CBS Sports' Dane Brugler foresees him as a major part of the draft conversation once eligible next season:

Hunt, who looked like he was operating against defenders stuck in molasses for most of the night, had his biggest run of the day in the first quarter. He took a carry to the left, put one foot into the ground, cut upfield and exploded 44 yards to pay dirt with ease:

While Hunt was the star, Toledo's defense came up with a number of big plays as well.

Junior linebacker Trent Voss recovered a fumble in the end zone on the first play from scrimmage, giving Toledo a lead just 10 seconds into the game.

Just before halftime, the defense did it again, as Allen Covington picked up another fumble and rumbled 67 yards for a touchdown, giving the audience the always-beloved "fat guy TD."

Of course, that's only by definition, as Covington weighs in at 275 pounds. It certainly didn't look like a typical "fat guy TD":

Arkansas State wasn't without its highlights. Fredi Knighten completed 23 of 31 passes for 403 yards and touchdown throws of three, 27, 44, 55 and 66 yards. Three of those went to Booker Mays, who finished with five receptions and 138 yards.

Probably most known as the fainting player in Arkansas State's now-famous fake punt attempt, Mays quadrupled his touchdown total on the season, per CBS Sports CFB:

The Red Wolves also had their own defensive score, as Money Hunter returned an interception 94 yards, cutting the deficit to 11 points late in the third quarter.

But every time Arkansas State got close, Toledo went right back to Hunt, moving the ball on the ground with little resistance. Even when Hunt went down in the fourth quarter with a cramping issue, Damion Jones-Moore came in and added 103 yards and two touchdowns of his own.

The loss ends a two-game winning streak in the GoDaddy Bowl for Arkansas State.

Nevertheless, after amazingly losing Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn and Bryan Harsin to head coaching jobs in the last three years, it's an incredible accomplishment by the program to simply keep churning out winning seasons.

As for Toledo, it has some rebuilding to do next season, as it loses all five of its senior starting offensive linemen.

With Hunt, though, it may not matter who's blocking for him. He should keep the Rockets firmly in contention atop the Mid-American Conference in 2015.

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Michigan Football: The Biggest Offseason Storylines for the Wolverines

Michigan’s offseason drama has centered on who would replace Brady Hoke after the team’s disappointing 5-7 finish. The regular season was a disaster both on and off the field and ultimately claimed Hoke’s job.

Michigan was in the news for all the wrong reasons, from shocking losses to Big Ten newcomers Rutgers and Maryland to quarterback Shane Morris’ concussion injury, which resulted in the resignation of athletic director David Brandon.

But all was not lost for the Maize and Blue. Fans were rewarded after an excruciating month-long wait with the coach everyone wanted.


Jim Harbaugh Returns to Ann Arbor

“I have no other words to really describe how that feels except to tell you I have great excitement about the challenge of serving the University of Michigan as your football coach,” said Jim Harbaugh during his introduction, and so launched the next era of Michigan football.

Harbaugh confounded practically every national expert by choosing to take the Michigan job over NFL opportunities. Harbaugh, who grew up in Ann Arbor and played for Michigan under Bo Schembechler, has a track record of quick turnarounds but will compete in a Big Ten East Division dominated by Ohio State and Michigan State.

He refused to issue a time frame for success or make any guarantees, but expectations are sky-high that he will soon have the Wolverines back in the national spotlight.

 

Who Will Be on His Staff?

After Harbaugh’s announcement, conjecture quickly turned to his coaching staff. During his press conference, he said that that he wanted “the best” coaches to work with him at Michigan.

Here is the rundown of who might be headed to Ann Arbor:

247Sports reports that defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has told recruits he will be part of the staff in some capacity.

The Los Angeles Times has reported that USC offensive line coach Tim Drevno will be Harbaugh’s offensive coordinator.

The Austin American-Statesman reported that interim Florida coach D.J. Durkin was waiting for Harbaugh’s move to Michigan and is now expected to be his defensive coordinator.

Bruce Feldman has reported that Lance Anderson, currently Stanford's defensive coordinator, is also being pursued by Harbaugh.

The Sacramento Bee has reported 49ers wide receiver coach John Morton will also be joining the Michigan staff.

Sam Webb, WTKA's Michigan Insider, tweeted that Shannon Turley, who is currently with Stanford, will be Michigan’s new strength and conditioning coach.

Upheaval in Buffalo has led to speculation that running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley may be available, but there has been no confirmation that Harbaugh is pursuing him.

One coach who won't be joining Harbaugh is Vince Marrow (currently with Kentucky), according to Brian Eldridge.

There is no word on if longtime Michigan assistant coach Fred Jackson will be retained. Jackson has coached at Michigan since 1992. 


Who Will Play Quarterback?

After completing his staff, Harbaugh will need to use spring practice to evaluate his quarterbacks. Early enrollee Alex Malzone will battle with Shane Morris, Russell Bellomy and Wilton Speight for the chance to lead Michigan on the field next season.

With a few weeks left before signing day, there’s also the possibility that Harbaugh could woo another quarterback to Ann Arbor.

Whomever Harbaugh chooses to start will have the advantage of his years of experience playing quarterback at the pro and collegiate level.
 

(Interim) Athletic Director

After David Brandon's resignation, Michigan filled its void at athletic director with former corporate CEO Jim Hackett. Hackett is technically still the interim athletic director, but after landing Jim Harbaugh, he is the top candidate to fill the job permanently.


Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand

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Bold Predictions for Jim Harbaugh's 1st Season as Michigan Head Coach

The hiring of Jim Harbaugh was the perfect remedy for Michigan football. After a seven-year downward spiral, things are finally looking up for the Wolverines, who haven’t won an outright Big Ten title since 2003—they last shared a piece of a league title in 2004.

And on top of that, they haven’t been truly relevant on the national stage since 2006.

Time for change was a long time ago.

Widely regarded as one of the best in the game, collegiate or pro, the former coach of the San Francisco 49ers, Stanford Cardinal and San Diego Toreros is known for rebuilding and winning—he’s done so at every stop.

He’ll likely do the same at Michigan.

However, even "His Highness" needs some time to get things moving.

In 2007, Harbaugh took the wheel from Walt Harris and steered a one-win team to a record of 4-8. He followed that by going 5-7 in 2008 and 8-5 in 2009. In 2010, he went 12-1 against the No. 13-ranked schedule in the nation, per Sports-Reference.com, and pounded Virginia Tech 40-12 in the Orange Bowl.

Needless to say, he did a wonderful job of setting the table for David Shaw, who’s won at least 11 games thrice since taking over in 2011.

Expect better for Michigan in 2015. Harbaugh’s presence should immediately change the overall mood within the confines of The Big House.

But don’t expect miracles from Harbaugh, who, contrary to popular belief, won’t be able to right the ship with a snap of a finger and a few phone calls. He’s a great coach who is capable of dusting off Michigan, but he’s not the “messiah” or “savior,” a point he clearly made during his introduction on Dec. 30, 2014.

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Texas Football: Ranking the 5 Best Redshirt Freshmen for the Longhorns

The Texas Longhorns are getting younger in 2015, bringing in 27 recruits after redshirting much of last year's haul. Just like the true freshmen, several members of that group are going to have to play a major role next season.

Thanks to a big weekend that saw them add three recruits, Charlie Strong and the Horns now sport a top-10 recruiting class according to 247Sports. And that's with several highly rated players still there for the taking.

While that represents a major step forward for a program that could easily lose ground on the trail because of performance, it guarantees nothing, especially in the immediate future.

Several of these freshmen will contribute, and even start. But with only seven early enrollees, Strong can only count on what he's got, which means current players will have to step up.

There's talent waiting in the redshirt ranks to help out in that area, ranked here based on their potential to be reliable contributors.

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Austin Joyner to Washington: Huskies Land 4-Star CB Prospect

Head coach Chris Petersen continued to add to his first real recruiting class at the University of Washington, securing the commitment of 4-star recruit Austin Joyner.

The Marysville Pilchuck (Marysville, WA) star announced his decision during Sunday night's Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl, via Scout.com's Chris Fetters

Petersen sent along the now-recognizable confirmation tweet:

Joyner is the sixth-ranked all-purpose back in America and No. 2 prospect out of the state of Washington. An exciting, athletic player, he is also a candidate to play cornerback at the next level.

A former Washington State recruit—surely there will be no bad blood there—Joyner gives Petersen the top two recruits in the state of Washington, as well as five of the top eight.

FieldGulls.com's Jared Stranger gave his thoughts:

While the Cactus Bowl marked a disappointing finish to Petersen's first season with the Dawgs, he is showing success in the recruiting circles. Washington's class is now ranked No. 26 nationally, and the arrow is pointing up in Montlake.

 

Unless otherwise noted, recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Austin Joyner to Washington: Huskies Land 4-Star CB Prospect

Head coach Chris Petersen continued to add to his first real recruiting class at the University of Washington, securing the commitment of 4-star recruit Austin Joyner...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Dwayne Lawson to Virginia Tech: Hokies Land 4-Star QB Prospect

ACC secondaries better start worrying about Dwayne Lawson.

The 4-star high school quarterback announced that he's headed to Virginia Tech during Sunday night's Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl.

Recruiting Insider Evan Watkins of 247Sports captured a quote from the newest Hokie, who said, "I decided to play ball at the University of Virgina Tech. All the players, they have the same thing in mind, they are hungry and they want to play young. We are on the rise."

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Lawson is the 10th-best pro-style QB in the 2015 recruiting class and ranks 254th overall.

Lawson originally committed to the Miami Hurricanes back in May. However, he revealed on Dec. 18 that he decided to spurn the 'Canes and look elsewhere:

Zach Abolverdi of The Gainesville Sun felt the Florida Gators had a chance to try to woo Lawson but that Virginia Tech sat in pole position:

While listed as a pro-style quarterback, Lawson gained 867 yards and scored 17 touchdowns on the ground in 2014, according to 247Sports. He's not a run-first QB by any measure, but he has the speed and athleticism to do some damage outside of the pocket.

On Nov. 10, ESPN's Recruiting Nation (ESPN Insider subscription required) highlighted one of Lawson's performances in which he gained 268 total yards and scored on passing, rushing and receiving touchdowns:

On Friday night, Lawson showed why he is one of the more athletic quarterback prospects in the country. The No. 6 dual-threat quarterback in the ESPN 300 showed the ability to keep plays alive when in the shotgun spread throwing and running outside the pocket. His live arm was evident on a few deep passes that were placed perfectly over the top of coverage, and he also took what the defense gave him on several underneath throws, including a 22-yard scoring strike. As a runner he kept the defense honest. Lawson scored on a 15-yard scramble early in the second quarter where he was able to get outside and get to pay dirt.

Lawson possesses seemingly limitless upside because he has a great arm and great mobility for a pocket passer. His accuracy is a bit questionable, especially on deeper throws. With the right coaching staff, those problems can be solved.

The prep star still has a lot of room to grow, so it's unlikely he'll make an immediate impact in Blacksburg. Lawson's one of those QBs best served with a year or two on the bench so he can refine his skills before being thrown into the starting role.

This is a player who, over time, could blossom into an All-American quarterback.

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Jeff Driskel Will Reportedly Transfer to Louisiana Tech

Former Florida Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel may have found his new home for 2015.

According to 247Sports' JC Shurburtt, the junior is headed to Louisiana Tech:

Former Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel, the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the 2011 recruiting cycle per 247Sports Composite rankings, has informed other potential schools that he intends to transfer to Louisiana Tech, sources confirmed on Sunday.

The Bulldogs have been considered the likely team of choice for the former five-star for the past 24 hours.

The move doesn't come as a surprise. ESPN.com's Greg Ostendorf reported Saturday that Florida released Driskel from his scholarship. FightinGators.com's Bob Redman added shortly after that the Bulldogs were in pole position for Driskel's services.

Since Driskel has already graduated from Florida, he can transfer schools without restriction and have one more year of eligibility, much like Russell Wilson did in 2011 and Greg Paulus in 2009, among others.

Louisiana Tech will have an opening at quarterback in 2015 following the graduation of senior Cody Sokol. Driskel shouldn't have to worry about much of a quarterback competition leading up to the first game of the year.

Given his struggles at Florida, there are still questions as to how much Driskel's addition will help the team. However, Sean Isabella of The News-Star in Monroe, Louisiana, argued that head coach Skip Holtz has had success with transfers in the past and that Driskel gives the Bulldogs a great chance to win immediately next year:

Driskel is essentially damaged goods, but Holtz has proved in the past he can turn transfers into impact players. Aside from Sokol, UL Lafayette transfer offensive lineman Joseph Brunson, Illinois transfer defensive end Houston Bates and LSU transfer wide receiver Paul Turner all played key roles in the Bulldogs' 2014 season.

Holtz is in win-now mode, and the 2015 roster backs that up. Although the Bulldogs lose 10 starters, the defense should be strong again, and the offense features running back Kenneth Dixon and an improving wide receiver corps. The missing link is a quarterback.

Sokol leaves big shoes to fill after throwing for 3,436 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2014 and helping Louisiana Tech beat Illinois in the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl.

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GoDaddy Bowl Toledo vs. Arkansas State: Live Score and Highlights

Date: Sunday, January 4

Time: 9 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

For the fourth season in a row, the Arkansas State Red Wolves (7-5) of the Sun Belt Conference are taking part in the GoDaddy Bowl. This year, they take on the Toledo Rockets (8-4) of the Mid-American Conference. 

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LSU Football: The Biggest Offseason Storylines for the Tigers

LSU did not end 2014 on a high note.

The Tigers were defeated 31-28 in the Music City Bowl by Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish, a team that had lost their previous four games, raked in 449 yards of total offense led mostly by new starting quarterback Malik Zaire. 

In the same week, LSU also saw defensive coordinator John Chavis bolt to Texas A&M for the same position. The Tigers had never finished lower than fourth in the SEC in scoring defense since Chavis took over in 2009.

Head coach Les Miles has a full plate this offseason. Miles led his young Tigers to a mediocre 8-5 record in 2014, which was the first time he had not won 10 games since 2009. The pressure will only build for him to return to the SEC Championship Game, something he hasn't done since 2011.

Here are the biggest offseason storylines in Baton Rouge.

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Texas A&M Football: The Biggest Offseason Storylines for the Aggies

The Texas A&M football team will enter an offseason of change after the 2014 season. There will be multiple storylines which should keep Aggie fans enthralled with the team between now and the opening game in Houston against Arizona State. 

The Aggies had a very young team in 2014 and finished the season with a 8-5 record and a Liberty Bowl win over West Virginia. The 2015 offseason should be a time for the team to mature and get ready to take that next step to compete for the SEC title.

There have been multiple coaching changes since the end of the 2014 regular season as head coach Kevin Sumlin has looked for the right mixture on his staff. Sumlin has shown in the past that he will not hesitate to make changes in order to improve the performance of the team.  

This is a look at the biggest storylines facing the Aggies as they enter the offseason. 

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College Football Championship 2015: TV Info, Predictions for Title Showdown

As the television commercial for the inaugural College Football Playoff consistently mentions—this is what we asked for all those years. No longer do we have the BCS and all of its problems.

Instead of automatically putting the SEC winner in the title game against whichever power conference team was undefeated that given year (Florida State in 2014), college football set up a small four-team bracket. The result is an impending championship game showdown between Ohio State and Oregon in a game that is rife with storylines and intriguing matchups. 

It is the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback in Marcus Mariota against the third-stringer in Cardale Jones. It is one of the most dominant programs in college football history in Ohio State against a resurgent Oregon program that has become one of the best teams in the last 10 years. It is coaching stalwart Urban Meyer against Oregon’s underrated and unheralded Mark Helfrich.

Here is a look at the preview and essential information for the national title clash.

 

College Football Championship Game

Matchup: Ohio State vs. Oregon

Date: Monday, Jan. 12

Time: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

 

Preview/Prediction

Any game that involves Oregon will likely feature some scoring with its offense. Mariota is the Heisman quarterback, but it is the rushing attack that should have Ohio State most concerned.

The Ducks put up 301 yards on the ground and a ridiculous five rushing touchdowns against Florida State in the Rose Bowl thanks to the combined efforts of Mariota, Freeman and Thomas Tyner. The often-overlooked Tyner posted the breakout performance of the game with 124 rushing yards and two touchdowns after dealing with injuries for a portion of the year.

The Ducks are 18th in the country in rushing yards per game and often use the ground game to set up passes down the seam on read-option fakes.

Ohio State counters with a potentially dominant defensive line that features superstars Joey Bosa and Michael Bennett. The Buckeyes had 40 sacks entering the College Football Playoff, and Bosa earned first-team Associated Press All-American status with a Big Ten-best 13.5 sacks.

Oregon’s offense is predicated on reading the defense and dominating along the line so it can establish the run first and give Mariota time to throw later. If Bosa and Bennett, who was a third-team All-American himself, can both push their way into the backfield and occupy blockers, it will open up the linebackers to make plays in space.

Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated discussed this matchup within the matchup:

Ohio State's defensive front boasts an embarrassment of riches, and defensive end Joey Bosa, the program’s first unanimous All-America selection since linebacker James Laurinaitis in 2007, is just the tip of the iceberg. Tackle Michael Bennett tallied a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss against Alabama. Linebacker Darren Lee had three tackles for loss and two sacks. Can Oregon’s offensive line, which has struggled with injuries this year, protect Mariota from the Buckeyes' defensive talent?

If there is one player in America who can deal with that defensive front, it is Mariota. He torched Florida State for 400 total yards of offense and three touchdowns and will look to cement his legacy as one of the all-time greats in college football with a national title.

On the other side is Jones, who will be making just his third career start. Still, he destroyed Wisconsin to the tune of 59-0 in the Big Ten Championship Game and then knocked off mighty Alabama in the Sugar Bowl in those two starts. The moment has not been too big for him yet.

The Ohio State offense converted 10 of 18 third downs against the Crimson Tide, and the vast majority of those were Jones using either his legs or his arm. He is certainly not as fast as Braxton Miller or even J.T. Barrett, but he is a wrecking ball in the open field, which gives Oregon another thing to worry about.

However, Elliott is the key to the Buckeyes’ attack, as he proved in the Sugar Bowl with 230 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He was the best player on the field in a game that featured a number of future pros and will be a problem for the Ducks defense that is 51st in the country against the run.

Meyer discussed his running back, according to The Associated Press, via ESPN.com: "He's probably the most underrated back in the United States.”

If Oregon has to devote extra defenders to the box to deal with Elliott, that will open up the passing game for Jones and company. The Ducks are 111th in the country against the pass and give up large chunks of yardage between the 20s. Look for Devin Smith, who burned Alabama and Wisconsin deep on a number of occasions, to make a couple of big plays in this one.

What’s more, Oregon’s top corner Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is still out, so Smith, Michael Thomas and Jalin Marshall should find some holes in the secondary.

Ultimately, this may be the story of the game.

Yes, the Ohio State defense will pose a threat to Mariota and the Ducks, but Oregon is second in the country in scoring offense. It is going to score some points in this game, and the question is whether the Buckeyes can respond against a potentially vulnerable Ducks defense.

Jones may be a third-stringer, but he has proven his mettle. Florida State had plenty of success moving the ball against Oregon but failed to convert on a number of chances because of devastating turnovers and poor play-calling. Ohio State and the nation’s fifth-best scoring offense will find the end zone on more of those chances, which is trouble for the Ducks.

The Buckeyes will take care of the ball and take advantage of Oregon with the same deep balls that they used against Wisconsin and Alabama. Look for Smith to haul in a late touchdown catch to win the game and title for Ohio State. 

Prediction: Ohio State 34, Oregon 31

 

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CFP Championship 2015: Preview, Prediction for Ohio State vs. Oregon

The quarterbacks on opposing sidelines couldn't be more different. One is among the greatest signal-callers in college football history. The other will be making his third start. 

The head coaches on opposing sidelines couldn't be more different. One is among the most decorated of his generation, on the verge of becoming the second head coach in the sport's history to win national titles at two different schools. The other is anonymous on the national stage, believed by some to have merely inherited a title roster from his predecessor.

So when the proven Urban Meyer takes unproven quarterback Cardale Jones and the proven Marcus Mariota takes unproven coach Mark Helfrich into next Monday's national championship game, expect all eyes to be fixated on those two relationships.

Meyer has proven an unbelievable cultivator of talent under center. Dating back to his run at Utah, where he turned Alex Smith into a No. 1 overall pick, Meyer has coaxed the maximum possible performance of his quarterbacks.

Nowhere has that been more evident than this Ohio State team. Heading into the preseason, Meyer seemed to have his best situation since the Tim Tebow era at Florida. Braxton Miller was a returning senior whom many viewed as the Heisman favorite, even over reigning champion Jameis Winston and eventual winner Mariota. Miller, of course, never took a regular-season snap after suffering a shoulder injury during camp.

Up next was J.T. Barrett, a redshirt freshman who hadn't yet taken a collegiate snap. At first, he looked it. Ohio State's home loss to Virginia Tech in September looked like a terrible omen and nearly kept it out of the College Football Playoffs. Ten wins later, Barrett was a Heisman candidate in his own right before going down with a season-ending injury against rival Michigan.

And, yet again, Meyer reached into the well and pulled a guy who could've started for the Arizona Cardinals this weekend. Jones has been mostly excellent in wins over Wisconsin and Alabama, compiling 500 passing yards with four touchdowns against one interception. While he doesn't bring the burst outside on the ground, the sophomore has been a willing ball-carrier in short-yardage situations, throwing his 6'5", 250-pound frame into defenders to keep the chains moving.

Alabama coach Nick Saban even went so far as to insinuate Ohio State is actually better with Jones—a more naturally gifted passer—taking snaps than Barrett. 

“The one thing that the new quarterback does is he has a tremendous arm,” Saban told reporters. “And they have some very talented receivers. And the two things that were very apparent is those things became very apparent in the last two games because of the quarterback."

Jones has no doubt been helped immensely by running back Ezekiel Elliott, who chose the perfect time to emerge as a superstar. Elliott rushed for 450 yards and four touchdowns over the last two games, breaking off runs of 80 yards or longer in both contests and making life far easier on Jones. It'll be interesting to see if Elliott can keep his hot streak going against a Ducks front seven that has struggled all season to get penetration against the run.

When and if Elliott struggles is when we'll likely get any real questions answered about Jones' acumen. 

On the other sideline, there are few (if any) questions of what the quarterback can do. Mariota continued one of the single best seasons for a quarterback in college football history Thursday, throwing 338 yards and two touchdowns while adding 62 and a score in Oregon's 59-20 thumping of Florida State. An uncharacteristic interception brought his touchdown-to-interception ratio to 40:3 for the season, but his struggles were minor.

The Ducks outscored the Seminoles 41-7 in the second half, the type of performance that makes the current seven-point spread (per Oddsshark) not seem surprising. Monday could be something of a full-circle moment for Mariota, who had been held out of the title picture two straight seasons due to disappointing upsets.

As for Helfrich, January could prove to be his national coming-out party. For someone with a combined three losses over his two seasons as a head coach, Helfrich remains nationally anonymous. Many view him as the Barry Switzer to Chip Kelly's Jimmy Johnson, taking over a ready-built program because of the comfort he provides rather than his own skills. May media members and fans came into 2014 talking of the "pressure" on Helfrich to continue Kelly's legacy.

But to those in the locker room, Helfrich has never been a placeholder. Players on both sides of the ball speak about the 41-year-old Medford native in reverential terms, almost to the point you wonder if they're happier with Helfrich than they were under the more controlling Kelly.

“You know, coach Kelly, I think he was very…I wouldn't say stubborn, but he was always finding ways to manipulate our offense into running the same plays over and over again,” Mariota told Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News. "I think coach Helfrich really uses different concepts and allows us to get in different situations.”

Linebacker Tony Washington saying Helfrich "treats us like men" could also be construed as a subtle jab—or at the very least a contrast—against Kelly, who recently had his own bout with control issues with the Eagles.

With a win, Helfrich can do the only thing Kelly didn't at Oregon: give the school its first national championship. Oregon has become a national power not just because of the change Kelly brought to the school but also by the big backing of high-profile donors, most notably Nike's Phil Knight. A Ducks national championship would affirm Helfrich's place among the nation's best coaches and continue to prove the real strength in college football remains in the bank account.

At the very least, it should be fun to watch.

Score Prediction: Oregon 42, Ohio State 31

 

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