NCAA Football

Bleacher Report College Football Awards for 2014 Season

Unlike bowl games, no one ever says there are too many awards in college football. So what's one more?

We at Bleacher Report have had our eyes glued to each and every game this season, chronicling the highs and lows for you from late August until this past Saturday's conference championships. All that college football viewing could make us go bonkers, but it also qualifies our staff as experts in terms of who and what were the best of the best in 2014.

The Bleacher Report College Football Awards were voted on by 20 members of our college football team: writers Keith Arnold, Ben Axelrod, Phil Callihan, Michael Felder, Justin Ferguson, Andrew Hall, Kyle Kensing, David Kenyon, Ben Kercheval, Adam Kramer, Brian Leigh, Brian Pedersen, Barrett Sallee, Brad Shepard, Erin Sorensen,Marc Torrence and Greg Wallace, as well as editors Eric Bowman, Hunter Mandel and Max Rausch.

Each voter submitted his or her ballots based on observations made throughout the season. For each category, a first-place vote is worth the value of the number of candidates (for instance, if there are seven choices, a first-place vote is worth seven points), and each subsequent spot is worth one less. The top vote-getter wins our award, not to mention endless praise and recognition. 

Analysis is provided by the voters who singled out the winners and runners-up for their exploits this season.

Check out who won Bleacher Report's 2014 College Football Awards, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

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Should the College Football Playoff Expand to 8 Teams?

For many years, the collective public clamored for a College Football Playoff and finally got their wish. But after controversy swirled around which teams would be in and out, the public is now demanding the playoff be expanded to eight teams.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee, and Adam Kramer debate the format of the College Football Playoff.

Should the CFP be expanded to eight teams?

Check out the video and let us know!   

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

6 College Football Bowl Games with Biggest Recruiting Implications

The final weeks of the 2014 college football season begins with bowl season and will conclude with a push toward national signing day. 

With a bowl lineup that offers several juicy matchups between now and the national title game on Jan. 12, a handful of games will provide some intrigue on the recruiting trail. 

Both College Football Playoff semifinals feature teams who currently have top-20 recruiting classes, while a few others offer meetings between traditional recruiting powers.

Which bowl games in the 2014 postseason have the biggest recruiting implications?

 

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College Football Playoff Got 4 Teams Right, But 8 Teams Would Be So Much Better

Alabama. Oregon. Florida State. Ohio State. It's a final four any college football fan would dream of in the inaugural four-team playoff system. The College Football Playoff selection committee got it right, or they at least didn't get it wrong, and that decision between selecting Florida State, Ohio State, TCU and/or Baylor has made for some lively debate all across the country.

Four teams are better than two, sure, but is four better than…more?

The question the College Football Playoff committee is answering in the wake of its first football final four announcement is why they decided to include Ohio State over Big 12 competitors Baylor and TCU. The question they really should be answering today is: When do we get to eight, so we no longer have to have that debate and can, instead, see that decided on the field?

Four is good. Eight would be better. And look, I admit the system worked this season. The first year of the playoff system has given us the opportunity to see Nick Saban and Alabama go up against Urban Meyer and Ohio State in a game that will move the winner into a matchup against either Marcus Mariota and Oregon or Jameis Winston and Florida State.

This year's playoff is set up to be incredible drama, hand-picked by a committee of a dozen or so college football enthusiasts, coaches and current athletic directors as part of a new system that is horribly flawed despite giving us a reasonable and credible outcome.

The transparent process of weekly voting only served to confuse people and give teams a false sense of hope throughout the process. How is it possible that a Big Ten team didn't appear in the Top Four a single week until the final vote came in? Why did the resume matter more than the eye test some weeks and less others? What exactly is "game control?"

Yes, the process needs work, and no, the Big 12 teams cannot really complain about getting screwed out of a system their league was ill-equipped to process. Without a championship game—a 13th game for its playoff candidates to get a win over another top opponent—the league was relying on an overall body of work that, for TCU and Baylor, proved insufficient for inclusion.

In other words, TCU and Baylor didn't do enough to get into the tournament because their league doesn't have enough teams, and their collectively undefeated out-of-conference schedules are worse, somehow, than losing to Virginia Tech.

Wouldn't it just make more sense to let them all in and figure it out on the field?

The playoff committee can say all it wants that Ohio State's victory over Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game provided all the tiebreaking needed to include them in the final four, but until this week, TCU was ranked third—ahead of Florida State—and the Horned Frogs went out and trounced a conference opponent by more than 50 points, yet dropped from third to sixth in the process.

Granted, beating Georgia Tech may have been undefeated FSU's best win of the year, and the Buckeyes' win over the Badgers was the signature moment of the weekend, but Baylor beat a top-10 team this weekend—a better opponent than either Florida State or Ohio State had to face, per the playoff rankings from last week—and all they did was leapfrog their amphibious conference foe and get left out in the cold in the process.

So I'll ask the question again: Isn't more better? Isn't including every team that has a legitimate claim to the Top Four into the conversation better than letting a group of voters with clear interests in mind decide which four teams get to fight for the title?

If we clamor for teams to schedule tougher opponents so we can decide who the best teams are on the field and not in the weekly rankings, why can't we manufacture a system where we force them to do exactly that?

If the beauty of college football is that every game matters, what would be the harm in creating four additional games that matter even more?

There wouldn't be a devaluation of the regular season if the playoff committee went from four teams to eight any less than there was going from two to four. In fact—and I hasten to use that word in anything as subjective as the college playoff system—going to four teams over the BCS model of picking the top two may have made this regular season matter more than any in recent memory.

Has anyone ever been this interested in the goings-on of two teams from Mississippi? The two-loss Arizona Wildcats had a stake in the college playoff system until losing to Oregon this week that the BCS system never would have provided, and other two-loss teams that ended up on the outside looking in had great chances to make their seasons count deep into November and December.

This year, six teams with one loss or fewer were vying for four spots, and we're left debating Baylor, TCU and Ohio State for the final spot.

Last year, we would have spent all day debating why in the world Oregon is being left out of the national-championship game while Florida State gets to play Alabama. So, yes, progress has been made.

Four is great. It's just not eight.

An eight-team playoff makes the most sense for a sport that has more than 120 teams—we're talking about the difference between the top three percent and the top six percent of the FBS teams getting a chance to play for the national title—especially considering the fact the Power Five conferences aren't guaranteed a seat at the table in the current model, and even more because the committee expressed just how hard it was (until miraculously this week when the decision needed to be finalized) to pick their top four teams at all.

Do eight teams deserve a chance to play for the national title this year? Probably not, no, but six legitimately do, so why isn't more better than less? Would it be that bad if, say, Michigan State was invited to the party and happened to win? We're talking about some incredible upsets if that were to happen, meaning the televised event of determining a college football champion would be even that much more memorable.

Remember, this is all about television revenue. Let's not think for one second that Ohio State didn't get in over two schools from Texas because they were named TCU and Baylor, not Texas and Texas A&M. The current television contract between the power brokers involved in the college football playoff and ESPN is a 12-year deal worth about $470 million. Per season

Do not tell me than an additional round of playoff games would not be good for the deep-pocketed television wizards, too.

Everybody wins with more teams. The networks win. The conferences win. The teams win. The fans win.

The only loser is the team that finishes ninth. And probably Notre Dame, and right now, nobody cares about either of them.

Imagine, if you will, a system that has the top four seeds hosting first-round games on December 20 against the four teams just on the outside of the current playoff system.

Alabama would host Michigan State, Oregon would face Mississippi State, Florida State would host TCU and Ohio State would invite Baylor into the Horseshoe to see, on the field, which team deserves to be in the final four.

Making the first round on campus would do two things: First, a distinct advantage would go to the teams hosting those games, and second, there would be no additional strain on the fans being asked to travel to multiple neutral-site games.

Then, after a round of eight on campus sites, the semifinals would be held in Pasadena and New Orleans, with the four teams that won those games on the field facing each other in a proper semifinal round.

Would Alabama beat Michigan State? Sure, especially in Tuscaloosa. Would Oregon take care of Mississippi State? In Eugene, almost certainly.

Would Florida State be able to thwart TCU? Would Ohio State be able to handle Baylor? Who has any idea? Nobody knows, and that's the fun of getting the chance to see it happen on the field.

Given the home-field advantage, one could only assume the four teams that got into this year's playoffs would advance in an eight-team tournament, but who can possibly suggest it wouldn't be more fun to see that happen than debate the notion in theory?

Now, granted, inviting more teams could be a lot like inviting more guests to a wedding. Once you get to a certain part of the list, it's even harder to differentiate between the eighth guest and the 16th. There's a case to be made that even including eight would mean inviting all the conference champions, and what would have happened if Missouri had beaten Alabama this past weekend? What would the committee do about the Mountain West, and would that change in years Boise State doesn't win the title?

More is good, but too much is not. We certainly don't want to be left with every team making the tournament and SMU facing Georgia State because more teams is better! 

Eight teams is what's better. Any more than that becomes noticeably unwieldy. But don't get me wrong here. Four is good, but it comes down to this: Why rely on a boardroom full of voters to decide who is four and who is five, six, seven and eight when we could get four amazing games between the best teams in the sport, in December, with the season on the line?

How is more good football not better? Four is awesome. I just can't wait until it gets to eight.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bowl Game Schedule 2014-15: TV Coverage, Start Times and Live Stream Guide

The 2014-15 college football bowl schedule was released Sunday, and fans of the sport are ready to jump headfirst into the exciting slate of marquee matchups.

Add in the fact that this is the inaugural season for the College Football Playoff, and the postseason should be as exciting as the regular season. After one of the wildest years in recent memory, fans are ready for some football.

Here is all the vital viewing information for every bowl game of the season.

 

*All games can be live streamed via WatchESPN.com.

 

Quick Preview of an Underrated Matchup

While the College Football Playoff has stolen most of the headlines, there are several elite bowl games that will keep fans of the sport entertained over the next month.

Few games have as much potential to be as memorable as the Belk Bowl on Tuesday, December 30.

The Belk Bowl doesn’t typically garner much attention each year, but it also doesn’t usually feature the No. 13 ranked Georgia Bulldogs squaring off against the No. 21 Louisville Cardinals. With two elite programs unfamiliar with each other going to battle, the unpredictability of what will happen is genuinely intriguing.

Georgia has a tough SEC-style defense, allowing just 21.3 points per game, and it will be tough for Louisville to penetrate. The Bulldogs also boast a dangerous offensive unit that is ranked eighth in the nation with an average of 41.7 points per game.

When asked about the matchup and playing against former Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham (he holds the same position with Louisville), Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt told Chip Towers of The Atlanta Journal Constitution, “I think that it’s going to be a great challenge to compete with Louisville, period. Certainly Todd has done a very good job there and the rest of his defensive staff, too. So we’re looking forward to the game.”

The Cardinals will not go down without a fight, though. Louisville earned a hard-fought win over Notre Dame and almost pulled out a victory over the undefeated Florida State Seminoles in October.

While Louisville’s offense is ranked only 44th in the country, the balanced game plan has made the Cardinals a tough matchup for any team. Add in the fact that the team’s defense is ranked 18th in the nation, allowing 20.5 points per game, and Georgia is in for a fight against Louisville.

As much as the SEC has dominated the college football landscape recently, the Cardinals will bring home a Belk Bowl victory over the Bulldogs for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Predicted Final Score: Louisville 34, Georgia 30

 

*Stats via ESPN.com.

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College Football Rankings 2014: Playoff Bracket and Analysis After Poll Release

The final weekend of the college football season went mostly to script. Each of the top six teams coming into the weekend won to make their case for the playoff, but not all would make the field.

Ultimately, the final spot came down to placing a deserving conference champion in the bracket, with Ohio State making it in. That shut the door on both Baylor and TCU, who shared the Big 12 title without a championship game.

So much for "One True Champion." Instead, the Big 12 will have no shot at a national champion, while the other Power Five conferences all have representatives.

Following the final poll release, here's a look at the playoff bracket and analysis of the final standings.

 

Playoff Bracket Analysis

Prior to the season, no one would have been shocked by the final four rankings. However, Ohio State comes in as a huge surprise due to the adversity it has faced already this season.

Heading into the playoff, the Buckeyes are on their third-string quarterback in Cardale Jones after losing both Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett. Despite the loss of two signal-callers, OSU still rolled Wisconsin to the tune of a 59-0 blowout in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Playoff committee chairman Jeff Long discussed the move for the Buckeyes into the top four, per Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:

Urban Meyer's reward for an inspiring season in Columbus? Another showdown with Nick Saban on the national stage.

The two coaches have faced each other three times previously, with Saban winning the last two contests. Both of those victories came in blowout fashion, with Alabama ironically ranked No. 1 in the last matchup.

Both programs feature explosive offenses but offer completely different weapons. Amari Cooper set the SEC receptions record while Ezekiel Elliott rushed for a Big Ten record 220 yards in his conference title game. Needless to say, expect some offensive gymnastics from these two teams.

Over on the west coast, Oregon and Florida State will settle the battle for the best quarterback in the country. Defending Heisman winner Jameis Winston and current Heisman favorite Marcus Mariota will take center stage, but two freshmen might steal the show.

Sharing the backfield with those dynamic quarterbacks will be Royce Freeman for Oregon and Dalvin Cook for FSU. Freeman has been the lead back all season for the Ducks, while Cook has exploded onto the scene recently for the Seminoles.

Tim Brando of Fox Sports 1 offered his take on the less-publicized matchup:

Playing an integral role throughout the season, Freeman has led the Ducks with 1,299 rushing yards and 17 total touchdowns. Meanwhile, Cook has carried the Noles down the stretch with more than 100 total yards in four of the last six games and five touchdowns over that span.

Given the amount of potent playmakers in both the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl, fans can expect plenty of huge point totals. In the end, it will prove to be a great way to usher in the College Football Playoff era with four of the most distinguished programs in the sport's history.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Rose Bowl 2015: Updated Odds and Preview for Oregon vs. Florida State

It's hard to imagine the first-ever national semifinal in college football having a more exciting matchup than this one.

The Rose Bowl is one of two games in the College Football Playoff, along with the Sugar Bowl, and it will feature Oregon trying to knock off defending national champion Florida State.

Not only does this game pit together two of the most dominant programs in the sport over the past few seasons, but it also includes two household names at quarterback between Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston.

This would be an exciting battle to watch even without title implications, but throw in the fact that the winner will be one step away from a national championship, and this game becomes a must-watch.

Here is everything you need to know about the January bowl game.

 

What: Rose Bowl Presented by Northwestern Mutual

When: Thursday, Jan. 1

Time: 5 p.m. ET

Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California

Watch: ESPN

Live Stream:ESPN3

Spread (via Odds Shark): Oregon -8

Over/Under: 70.5

 

Preview

It's amazing the lack of respect Florida State has gotten throughout the season despite having an undefeated record. Besides winning every game this season, the Seminoles haven't lost in 29 games, dating back to 2012.

Oregon coach Mark Helfrich knows that this isn't easy, regardless of matchups.

"It's so difficult to have everybody focused for seven days in a row or 29 days in a row but when you get to 29 weeks, 29 games, that's extremely, extremely impressive," Helfrich recently explained. "That will certainly get our guys to sit up straight in their seats in the meetings."

Then again, the squad has been expected to win each of these games. According to Evan Abrams of ESPN, the Rose Bowl will be the first time Florida State is an underdog in a long time:

While different sites will have different lines, the general consensus is that Oregon should have no problem winning in this game.

On paper, this seems like it could be an easy victory for the Ducks. The Pac-12 champions have seemed unstoppable lately, with eight wins in a row, scoring at least 40 in every game. As Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated noted, the team was especially impressive against top competition:

Meanwhile, Florida State has struggled seemingly every week this season, only winning by less than a score in each of the last four weeks. It would be understandable to think that an upgrade in competition would lead to a blowout.

However, the Seminoles simply know how to win while being led by a quarterback who has never lost in his career. After posting a 94.1 Total QBR in the ACC Championship Game win over Georgia Tech, Winston might finally be ready to live up to his potential.

There is also a whole lot of talent on the roster from top to bottom, as noted by Bleacher Report's Matt Miller:

This is certain to create a true battle that will be much closer than many anticipate.

 

Early Prediction

Winston won last year's Heisman Trophy for a reason. He was the best player in college football last season and has the ability to reach that level again.

On the other hand, Mariota is the favorite to win the prestigious award this year thanks to his unstoppable combination of passing and rushing ability. After he torched Arizona, it is hard to imagine too many other teams in the nation having much more success.

Considering Florida State just allowed 465 total yards and 35 points to Georgia Tech—a team that doesn't know how to throw the ball—the Ducks should be just fine offensively in this one.

The Seminoles will be able to keep up on the scoreboard for the most part thanks to Winston, a powerful rushing attack and Rashad Greene at receiver. However, it still will not be enough to come through with a win in a high-scoring matchup.

Prediction: Oregon 45, Florida State 38

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Heisman Race 2014: Analyzing Candidates and Predictions for Ceremony

Just give the 2014 Heisman to Marcus Mariota already.

Mariota has the Oregon Ducks in the College Football Playoff. Not only that, they won the Pac-12 championship on the back of his ridiculous statistical output in the face of an injured offensive line and other factors.

Others will have a say. Alabama wideout Amari Cooper will push for the award, if not the No. 1 overall spot in next year's NFL draft. Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon ran wild all season long. TCU's Trevone Boykin is the nation's most prolific dual-threat quarterback.

Those in charge of the decision have no easy task at hand, but the favorite seems obvious at this juncture.

 

Top Candidates

Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Little needs said about Mariota at this point. 

Want statistics? Mariota has thrown for 3,783 yards this season with a total of 53 total touchdowns—38 by air, 14 on the ground—and thrown just two interceptions.

Want character? Sports Illustrated's Seth Davis puts it best:

Adversity? Storyline? Mariota has overcome the odds this season despite the losses of starting linemen and surefire future pros such as Tyler Johnstone and Hroniss Grasu.

Not only that, the Stanford curse was crushed in 45-16 fashion. Michigan's State's elite defense was no problem in a 46-27 win. Utah wound up as a 51-27 shellacking. The Pac-12 Championship Game against the only team to upend Mariota's Ducks this season, Arizona, was a 51-13 blowout.

Mariota has it all on his Heisman resume at this point.

 

Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

It is not too difficult to see why Cooper is a serious contender for the Heisman. 

The man has 115 catches for 1,656 yards and 14 scores this season. Alabama as a whole has 268 receptions for 3,653 yards and 30 scores through the air. Or to make it more impressive, go ahead and peek at the next-highest name on the Crimson Tide's receiving list:

As ESPN Stats & Info points out, Cooper's gaudy numbers has him as the top name in the record books at a certain category:

There are plenty of examples that show Cooper steps up in the spotlight. In the 42-13 SEC Championship Game win over Missouri, he caught a title-game record 12 passes for 83 yards. He also does not fade in losses, considering he caught nine passes for 91 yards in a loss to Ole Miss.

While Cooper's position puts him at a serious disadvantage for the hardware, he seems to be the one wideout who can transcend the odds and take it home.

 

Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU

Boykin and his Horned Frogs may have missed out on the CFP for any number of reasons that range from politics to a lack of a Big 12 title game.

Boykin's play is certainly not a factor.

The Texas native turned heads this year by not only leading TCU to the cusp of the CFP, but by completing 60.5 percent of his passes for 3,714 yards and 30 touchdowns to seven interceptions. He also rushed for 642 yards and eight scores.

As far as Heisman moments go, Boykin dropped seven passing touchdowns on Texas Tech in an 82-27 rout. Just this past weekend, he finished his season in a strong manner with 460 yards and four scores though the air in a blowout win over Iowa State.

The fact that Boykin has such an impressive resume—with just one loss coming to Baylor by all of three points—and is so statistically pleasing may only be undermined by the same issues that kept his team from the CFP.

 

Prediction

The award is Mariota's, like it or not.

Cooper has arguably been the best player in the nation, but he plays the wrong position. Boykin has been impressive and a major reason for TCU's trip to the top of the nation, but it is hard to separate him from other dual-threat quarterbacks with similar numbers.

Melvin Gordon put on a jaw-dropping season with 2,336 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns, but the Wisconsin Badgers lost three games and 59-0 in the Big Ten Championship Game as he rushed for just 76 yards.

Speaking of Indiana running backs, there will certainly be whispers for Indiana's Tevin Coleman. He posted 2,036 yards and 15 scores, but the Hoosiers won just four games.

Mississippi State's Dak Prescott was a Heisman favorite for quite some time. His 2,996 yards and 24 scores with another 939 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground are gaudy, but not enough to erase the memory of a late-season collapse.

Many will make the case for Ohio State's J.T. Barrett. A whopping 2,834 yards and 34 scores with 938 and 11 more on the ground make it a viable thought, but the fact a third-string quarterback just posted gaudy numbers in Urban Meyer's system diminishes the freshman's stock.

Based on Mariota's body of work and numerous factors surrounding other candidates such as position, team performance and quality of performances in critical scenarios, words from Oregon coach Mark Helfrich ring true.

"If this guy isn't what the Heisman Trophy is all about, then I'm in the wrong profession," Helfrich said, per ESPN.com.

Mariota came back to school for a lot of things. The Heisman may or may not have been one of them. Regardless, his awe-inspiring performance in the face of unfinished business gets him the hardware all the same.

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.  

 

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Sugar Bowl 2015: Updated Odds and Preview for Alabama vs. Ohio State

Even those clamoring for another team as the final member of the College Football Playoff can't be too disappointed with an Alabama vs. Ohio State matchup in the Sugar Bowl.

Two of the true blue bloods in college football will go at it after the Buckeyes trounced Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten Championship Game, a result convincing enough to jump both TCU and Baylor for the fourth and final spot. That gives Ohio State the chance to remedy its recent SEC woes, and stick it to the conference's top prize-fighter.

But with a spot in the national championship on the line, only one thing will be on both teams' minds—survive and advance to Jan. 12.

Let's break down the Sugar Bowl.

 

What: 2015 Allstate Sugar Bowl 

When: Thursday, January 1, 2015

Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans

Start Time (ET): 8:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Odds (via Odds Shark): Alabama -10.5

Over/Under: 58

 

2015 Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Ohio State

Even though things weren't as gloomy as they seemed early in the season, Alabama's turnaround from the beginning of 2014 until now can't be overlooked.

The Crimson Tide looked lethargic in their 33-23 win over West Virginia in Atlanta to start the season, and didn't wait long to drop a road contest to Ole Miss. They virtually faced eight must-win games from there on out in order to make the CFP.

When they wrapped up a 42-13 win over Missouri in Atlanta to close out 2014, however, it was obvious given their body of work that the strides made have been huge. Head coach Nick Saban agreed, per Tuscaloosa News' Cecil Hurt:

If you want to talk about turnaround projects in this game, however, the conversation really has to start with Ohio State.

The Buckeyes scoff at Alabama's early season problems. After all, they fell 35-21 to a then-unranked Virginia Tech team at home on just the second week of the season—a Hokies squad that finished a paltry 6-6 (3-5 ACC). 

The loss set them back quite a ways, but head coach Urban Meyer's Buckeyes ripped through their final 11 games—including wins over Michigan State, Minnesota and a drubbing of Wisconsin—despite now starting third-string quarterback Cardale Jones. And when Meyer (who has been around the block) lauds it as his most-improved team, you know it's real, per Big Ten Football:

But early season trends and late turnarounds won't matter all that much when the two teams go toe-to-toe on New Year's Day.

What will matter is the offensive revitalization of quarterback Blake Sims, who has gone from a scrutinized starter to the top single-season passer in Alabama history. Three of his seven picks on the season came in an uncharacteristic struggle against Auburn, and his short-passing game with Amari Cooper has been uncontainable. 

Lane Kiffin has been mixing up screen passes with deep balls down the field to Cooper and DeAndrew White that Sims is hitting. The Tide's newfound ability to throw it deep only opens things up more for backs like T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry, the latter of which Meyer lauded per Bleacher Report's Marc Torrence:

The Crimson Tide's defense could have its hands full as well, as Ohio State's Jones dazzled in his first-ever start against Wisconsin. He'll have to throw it more than 17 times against a relatively weak (for its standard) Alabama secondary, but he showed incredible efficiency against Wisconsin.

Ezekiel Elliott bursted out to break the Big Ten championship rushing record with 220 yards against a stout Wisconsin defensive front. But while the Badgers may be the most burly front in the Big Ten, Alabama has proven even more sound against the run.

Needless to say, both defenses have their hands more than full in a game featuring two prolific offenses.

 

Preview

When two high-powered offenses with weapons all around go to battle in a game with championship implications, the top defense typically finds a way to make the winning plays. 

That will undoubtedly be Alabama, which isn't the defensive dynamo it was a few years back but maintains all the speed and physicality to match whatever Ohio State throws out. You also can't deny the mastery of Saban when he has ample time to prepare, as Fox Sports' Clay Travis noted:

The Buckeyes won't keel over, however. A lack of tape on Jones will allow him to make some plays deep down the field as Alabama's secondary has been known to concede. 

But a defensive performance similar to that of Wisconsin won't be in the works against the Tide, who will mix it up and keep Meyer's defense on its heels.

Prediction: Alabama 31, Ohio State 24

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The Big 12's Great Blunder

So far, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby has managed to blame the College Football Playoff selection committee, the Big 12 athletic directors and Baylor coach Art Briles. That poses a problem for Bowlsby, as he has just 10 fingers, but 23 people he's trying to point them at.     

Meanwhile, Briles has blamed the committee for not having any members born in Texas and few in the South (seriously), and Bowlsby.

Of course, the two people pointing fingers are the ones responsible for the Big 12 being left out of the playoff on Sunday. As a result, the conference has suddenly fallen into a shambles. Critics are pointing to the fact that the Big 12 is the only major conference without its own championship game. Sure, but that's a blameless point, as rules prohibit a conference with only 10 members from splitting into two and holding a title game. 

The failure was Bowlsby's big gamble. And Briles? Well, it's hard to take his whining seriously as long as he has Incarnate Word on an upcoming schedule.

Incarnate Word. Really.

The truth is, for all the gripes about the committee—about bias and Condoleezza Rice and decisions coming from people who haven't had their hand in the dirt—it ended up getting it exactly right, picking Alabama (SEC), Florida State (ACC), Oregon (Pac-12) and Ohio State (Big Ten). An eight-team field would be better, but if it's going to be four, then those were the right four.

You could have made the case for Baylor over Ohio State. Baylor hired a PR firm to help. But the Big 12's top cheerleader, Bowlsby, wasn't making that case, wasn't even saying Baylor was the best team in the conference.

Baylor was the first one left out of the playoff, and the Big 12 is already acting with the fatal feelings of a political party the morning after losing the White House. When was the last time a championship presentation ended with the winning coach yelling at the commissioner?

That was actually the Big 12s second championship presentation of the day Saturday. Earlier, Bowlsby gave another trophy to TCU. And this is where Bowlsby blew it.

He needs to learn a little something about brand confusion. Bowlsby was trying to push both Baylor and TCU on the committee, and the problem is that you can barely tell those teams apart. Two Texas Big 12 teams playing big-scoring, hurry-up offense and no defense. Just a guess, but they likely split the committee's vote.

Baylor was the one brand Bowlsby should have pushed. They finished tied for first place, but Baylor beat TCU and that's how everyone breaks ties.

Still, Bowlsby's play wasn't as baffling as it looks. He was going for broke.

Look, in July at the Big 12 media days, Bowlsby said there wouldn't be an issue with ties because, "You're not going to have two teams with the same record that didn't play each other. So that part is self-resolvable." 

Makes perfect sense. Meanwhile the league paid PR people to come up with the slogan "One True Champion." Presumably, that was an effort to block the SEC, which has two divisions, from doing what it was trying to do: Sell its division champs as separate champions that should be in the playoff.

One True Champion. So that was part strategy, part philosophy. Bowlsby gambled it away. Just last week, with TCU and Baylor both in the running for the playoff, Bowlsby said the conference wouldn't name one champ if they finished tied. They would be co-champs.

The Big 12 was trying to muscle two teams into the playoff. Ohio State was down to its third quarterback, thanks to injuries, and what if the Buckeyes had lost to Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game? And then, what if Georgia Tech had beaten Florida State in the ACC title game? Or what if Arizona beat Oregon again in the Pac-12?

That could have left two spots for the Big 12's two champions. The selection committee had said all along that it would strongly value conference champions. By not declaring Baylor the champ, the Big 12 could say it had two.

But Alabama, Florida State and Oregon won their conference title games. They were obvious picks for the playoff. The last spot was for Ohio State or two Big 12 co-champion clones.

"If you're gonna slogan around and say there's 'one true champion,' and then all of the sudden you're gonna go out the back door instead of going out the front?" Briles told reporters. "I mean, don't say one thing and do another. That's my whole deal."

Feel sorry for Briles? Don't. He didn't need to play Buffalo, Northwestern State and SMU in non-conference games. There's a reason teams do that, and they learned it from Kansas State coach Bill Snyder. By playing nobodies, a team can all but ensure at least six overall wins, which makes it eligible for a bowl game.

So you can schedule for a low-level bowl, or for the mountaintop. But don't schedule low and cry about lack of respect.

Meanwhile, Bowlsby said he warned the Big 12 coaches to toughen up their schedules. He said the ADs voted on the co-champ move. He said he wished he'd have known the committee valued a championship game so much.

It's called passing the buck.

And while the country looks ahead to its first football final four, the Big 12 ADs will meet in New York this week at the Football Foundation meetings, where they will try to pick up the pieces. Bowlsby's job security and finger-pointing might come up, too.

After all, he was the one sloganning around.

 

Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report. He also writes for The New York Times and was formerly a scribe for FoxSports.com and the Chicago Sun-Times. Follow him on Twitter @gregcouch.

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College Football Picks: Navy Midshipmen vs. Army Black Knights Odds

One of the greatest rivalries in college football will be renewed this Saturday afternoon at M&T Bank Field in Baltimore when the Navy Midshipmen battle it out against the Army Black Knights. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. (ET), and the game will be broadcast nationally on CBS.

Navy was able to notch that key sixth victory of the season with a thrilling 42-40 win against South Alabama on Nov. 28 as a 7.5-point road favorite. This team appears to be peaking at just the right time after a slow 2-5 start with four straight-up wins in its last five games. The Midshipmen are 3-1 against the spread in their last four outings, and each time the total went “over” the closing line.

It has been another tough campaign for the Black Knights with a 4-7 record both SU and ATS heading into this storied showdown. The one positive has been a 2-1 mark both SU and ATS in their last three games, with solid victories over Connecticut and Fordham sandwiched around a lopsided 52-24 loss to Western Kentucky as 7.5-point road underdogs. The total has gone over in all three games.

 

Navy vs. Army Betting Storylines

The Midshipmen remain a team built around a powerful rushing attack that has averaged 357.8 yards a game. Keenan Reynolds has led the way at the quarterback position with 1,082 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns on 205 carries. He has also put the ball up 96 times for 749 yards and five scores on 43 completions. Noah Copeland has actually been the most productive runner with 8.2 yards a carry. This has added up to 859 yards and five more touchdowns.

Navy’s offense is ranked 33rd in the nation in scoring with 34.5 points a game, and it has been able to exceed this total in its last five games. Defensively, the Midshipmen have had their issues this year by allowing an average of 29.9 points. Even in its recent run, this unit allowed 31 points in a win over San Jose State, and it was torched for 49 points in a loss to Notre Dame.

The Black Knights are another team driven by the ground game with an average of 305.5 yards a game. Larry Dixon is the team’s leading rusher with 1,012 yards on 176 attempts for an average of 5.8 yards a carry, but the most versatile player could be Angel Santiago. While some of the top quarterbacks in the nation have thrown for more yards in a game than he has thrown all season long (488), he has also been an integral part of the running game with 793 yards and a team-high 10 touchdowns on the ground.

Army’s offense has not always been that productive putting points on the board, and overall it is averaging 26.3 points a game. However, this unit combined for 77 points in those final two wins against the Huskies and the Rams. Defense has not been this team’s strong suit in any of the Black Knights’ first 11 games. They have allowed 34.4 points a game this season, including an average of 28.9 points in their four wins.

 

Navy vs. Army Betting Odds and Trends by Doc’s Sports

Point Spread: Navy -15

Total Line: OFF

The betting trends on Doc’s Sports have Navy coming into this game with a 3-1 record ATS in its last four games played at a neutral site, but the Midshipmen are just 2-4 ATS in their last six games as favorites. The total has gone over in their last four games.

The Black Knights have gone 2-6 ATS in their last eight games, and they are 1-5 ATS in their last six games as underdogs. The total has gone over in five of their last six games.

Navy brings a five-game SU winning streak into this year’s matchup, and it holds an 8-4 edge ATS in the last 12 meetings. The total has stayed “under” in the last five games.

 

College Football Picks: Navy vs. Army Betting Predictions

These two bitter rivals gear up all season for this one single game, so you know that emotions will be running high from the opening kickoff to the final gun. It would be hard to see Navy losing this game SU, but I am taking Army and the 15 points to keep things close enough to cover.

 

Take: Army (+15) over Navy; 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13

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