NCAA Football

Jim Harbaugh Is 'Absolutely' Worth $49M to the Michigan Wolverines

According to Arizona CBS affiliate reporter Joe Pequeno and NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, Jim Harbaugh was offered just under $50 million by the Michigan Wolverines to become their new head coach. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer debate how quickly Harbaugh could turn around the Michigan football program if he was hired. 

Is Harbaugh the right guy for Michigan?

Watch the video and let us know!

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College Football Playoff 2014-15: Stat Projections for Top Players in Semifinals

Heisman winner Marcus Mariota and a host of college football's top stars take center stage at the inaugural College Football Playoff this January.

One semifinal matchup features the last two Heisman winners, as the surging Oregon Ducks collide with the still-undefeated Florida State Seminoles and polarizing quarterback Jameis Winston.

The Sugar Bowl boasts the powerhouse Alabama Crimson Tide and Heisman finalist Amari Cooper. Nick Saban meets old foe Urban Meyer and an Ohio State Buckeyes team that has experienced arguably the most adversity of the four.

No bigger stage now exists for these players, many of whom are set to move on to other pastures, including the NFL. A peek into the past might reveal how each of the biggest names will rise to the occasion.

 

Rose Bowl

Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

There is little doubt Mariota will shine against the Seminoles.

Just how bright is the question in need of an answer.

Mariota threw for 3,783 yards and 38 touchdowns to two interceptions with another 669 yards and 14 scores on the ground. The result was one of the biggest Heisman victories in history, as ESPN Stats & Info captures:

It is hard to quantify just how great Mariota performed this season, which goes twofold for what he can do against the Seminoles.

The Honolulu native threw for at least three touchdowns seven times this season and stepped up in some of the biggest games of the year. He posted three total scores against Michigan State, four against Stanford, six against Oregon State and five against Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship.

Now add in the fact the Seminoles rank 30th in terms of points allowed per game. A strong rush will get Mariota out of the pocket, but he is comfortable on the run after his offensive line suffered plenty of injuries this season.

Translation—the Seminoles will be unable to slow Mariota.

Prediction: 360 Pass. Yds., 4 TD, 1 INT, 65 Rush Yds., 1 TD

 

Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

Little separates Winston and Mariota this year, but what does is crucial.

Winston is the owner of 3,559 yards and 24 scores, but his 17 interceptions stick out in a sore manner. The Bessemer, Alabama, native posted five multi-interception games this season, although the Seminoles never lost.

Late-game heroics took center stage for the Seminoles this year, the main instigator usually being the man under center. Up-and-down numbers or not, the Ducks seem to believe their experiences against the air-raid offenses of the Pac-12 have them in a good position against last year's Heisman winner.

"I think playing in the Pac-12 helps you playing against a guy like Jameis," cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu said, per Tyson Alger of OregonLive.com. "You have to go in and out through great quarterbacks that make great plays. They don't turn the ball over very much."

The problems are twofold, though.

One, few quarterbacks bring what Winston does on each snap. Two, Ekpre-Olomu—by far Oregon's best defender—was lost for the season after injuring his knee in practice, per ESPN.com's Chantel Jennings.

Winston will have a big game, win or lose. Just watch for the majority of the flashy numbers to come in the second half.

Prediction: 275 Pass. Yds., 3 TD, 2 INT

 

Sugar Bowl

Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

An Ohio State defense that allows 21.2 points per game on average will in no way slow Cooper.

Cooper not only led the Crimson Tide in receiving this year, but he also just about did it on his own. That is only a slight exaggeration, too. The Heisman finalist caught 115 passes for 1,656 yards and 14 touchdowns. Alabama as a whole caught 268 for 3,653 and 30, with the next closest receiver on the list being DeAndrew White—who caught 37 balls for 439 yards and four scores.

SEC Network puts things into perspective:

It should go without saying that the man shows up in big games.

He roasted Mississippi State with eight catches for 88 yards and a score. The Iron Bowl against Auburn was his Heisman moment with 13 grabs for 224 yards and three scores. Missouri never stood a chance in the SEC Championship, thanks in part to his 12 catches and 83 yards.

The point is, Cooper might just shine the brightest of all big names in the semifinals. Ohio State is physical in the secondary, but so is most of the SEC.

Prediction: 9 Rec., 145 Yds., 2 TD

 

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

With Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett out of the frame, there is just not a big enough sample size to throw Ohio State sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones to the fire.

Sure, Jones was strong in the Big Ten Championship against Wisconsin with 257 yards and three scores, but who wasn't? Wisconsin could have stayed on the buses and put up a better fight in the 59-0 loss.

Sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott makes the offense churn. Elliott ran away with the starting gig this year on his way to 1,402 yards and 12 touchdowns on a 6.5 yards-per-carry average. He not only ran for 220 yards and a pair of scores against Wisconsin, but he also breached the 100-yard mark seven times this year and scored in nine games.

Feel free to make that eight and 10, respectively.

Elliott is perhaps the most talented back the Crimson Tide will have faced this year, the lone exception being LSU's Leonard Fournette.

Observers cannot know if Elliott's effort will be enough to win, but they can at least bank on a major showing from one of the nation's best backs.

Prediction: 25 Rush, 145 Yds., 1 TD

 

Stats and information via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

 

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College Football Bowl Picks 2014: Game Predictions for Every Matchup of Season

The most exciting bowl games are not always the ones that have the biggest names attached to them.

Fans are heavily anticipating the first-ever College Football Playoff with matchups between Oregon and Florida State and Alabama versus Ohio State. However, each game has close to a double-digit spread, according to Odds Shark.

However, there are plenty of battles outside the two biggest that feature plenty of talent and a potentially close matchup. This makes it hard to predict, but the games will certainly be fun to watch. 

Here is a full breakdown of the bowl schedule with picks for every game. I also take a deeper look at some of the more underrated competitions to watch.

 

Top Bowls to Watch

Alamo Bowl: UCLA vs. Kansas State

The storyline of this game will be the battle between two talented quarterbacks making a final start at the collegiate level.

UCLA star Brett Hundley is preparing to enter the 2015 NFL draft, but he still has a lot to prove, as noted by Bryan Fischer of NFL.com:

He might be among the most divisive players scouts will look at over the coming months—some scouts see star potential, others see a potential bust. His last performance was a clunker against a good Stanford defense, costing his team a trip to the Pac-12 title game, so pressure is on to prove he's making the right decision to come out with a good game against a solid Kansas State team.

On the other side of the ball will be Kansas State senior Jake Waters, who is unlikely to have much of a pro career but can still make a major impact in this one. With the ability to make plays with his arm and his legs, he finished 12th in the nation with a Total QBR of 77.7, just ahead of Hundley.

He is also helped out by the play of senior receiver Tyler Lockett, who has amassed 44 catches for 669 receiving yards and four touchdowns in the last four games. That's a good season for a lot of people.

While UCLA has its own playmakers like Paul Perkins, Kansas State has a much more consistent defense and should be able to slow down the Bruins throughout the game.

Hundley will be the one auditioning for scouts, but Waters will end his career on a high note with a win in the Alamo Bowl. 

 

Peach Bowl: Ole Miss vs. TCU

TCU and its fans might be disappointed by the fact it is not competing for a national championship in either the Rose Bowl or Sugar Bowl, but there will be a serious test ahead in the Peach Bowl.

While the Horned Frogs have the No. 2 scoring offense in the nation behind talented quarterback Trevone Boykin, things will not be easy against an Ole Miss defense that has been dominating opponents all year long.

After shutting down Mississippi State in a win at the Egg Bowl, Rebels coach Hugh Freeze was proud of his team's effort.

They're pretty good. They are going to get some yards. They have all year, against everyone, and they've scored some points. But at the same time I'm not surprised because we are No. 1 in the country in scoring defense and been pretty stingy in giving up points in the redzone.

Ole Miss finished the year with the top defense in the country, allowing just 13.8 points per game.

Even if TCU is limited to well below its average of 46.8 points per game, the team will probably only need to score in the 20s to beat an offense that has struggled at times this year. Quarterback Bo Wallace has at least one interception in four of the last five games and often gets little help in the run game.

The Horned Frogs have a talented defense that is often overlooked, but it will be able to play a big role in this one as the surprise season ends on a high note.

 

Russell Athletic Bowl: Clemson vs. Oklahoma

This might be a bowl of disappointment because both teams were expecting more from this season, but there will still be a lot of action in this battle of talented opponents.

For Oklahoma, a lot of the success will depend on the health of the backfield. Starting quarterback Trevor Knight, who missed the last three games of the season, should be healthy for the bowl game. Bob Przybylo of Scout.com notes the team has seen a difference lately:

Running back Samaje Perine, who rushed for an NCAA-record 427 yards against Kansas, is also questionable after spraining his ankle in the final game of the year against Oklahoma State.

If these two players are healthy, the Sooners can do a lot of damage.

Of course, Clemson comes back strong with a defense that ranked seventh in the nation with just 17.6 points allowed per game. Star players like All-American Vic Beasley have the ability to affect the game on their own.

The problem is the Tigers are dealing with their own injuries at quarterback, as noted by ESPN:

Cole Stoudt will play better with some extra practice time, but Clemson will struggle overall offensively as Oklahoma earns the victory for the Big 12.

 

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

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Bowl Games 2014-15: Postseason Schedule, Predictions and More

College football fans are advised to spend time with their families now because starting Dec. 20, there are 38 (39 if you count the yet-to-be-determined national championship) bowl games on tap for a glorious few weeks of pigskin action.

Here is a look at the entire postseason schedule and predictions for every bowl game before digging into a preview of the contest to kick the whole thing off.

 

Bowl Season Opener: Nevada vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

New Orleans is home for Louisiana-Lafayette, and the New Orleans Bowl has become a place of comfort and familiarity. In fact, the Ragin' Cajuns have won the past three New Orleans Bowls and will look to make it four against the Wolf Pack.

Look for plenty of red in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in what should be a home game for Louisiana-Lafayette.

On the flip side, Nevada has lost six of its last seven bowl games although it hasn't played in the postseason since the 2012 campaign.

When Louisiana-Lafayette has the ball, the Wolf Pack need to be aware of the rushing attack. Running backs Elijah McGuire (1,165 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns) and Alonzo Harris (737 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns) spearhead the efforts on the ground, but quarterback Terrance Broadway (646 rushing yards) can get involved as well.

The Ragin' Cajuns were a disappointing 102nd in the nation in passing offense, though, so expect plenty of ball control and running attempts in this one, especially since Nevada's defense is 79th in points allowed per game and 81st against the run.

It is important to note that the Wolf Pack finished 11th in the country in turnover margin, so it wasn't all bad on the defensive side.

Nevada will counter with a strong rushing offense of its own, led by quarterback Cody Fajardo's 937 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Running backs Don Jackson (932 rushing yards and seven touchdowns) and James Butler (620 rushing yards and five touchdowns) are also critical contributors for an attack that ran for 223 or more yards in each of the final five games and finished 32nd in the country in rushing yards.

Chris Murray of the Reno Gazette-Journal noted just how effective the Wolf Pack have been in the running department:

Louisiana-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth also talked about Nevada's offense, according to STATS LLC, via ESPN.com:

"They're an outstanding team. They can run it, they can throw it and they play good defense. They are a very multiple team on offense and they spread the ball a lot of different ways to a lot of different people. (Fajardo) does a great job in distributing the football."

There may be some concern with Nevada's offensive attack because of its tendency to get too one-dimensional, just like Louisiana-Lafayette's. After all, the Wolf Pack only threw for 197.8 yards per game, which was a decidedly mediocre 94th in the country, and that could be a problem against a Louisiana-Lafayette defense that is much better against the run than the pass.

The Ragin' Cajuns finished 44th in the country against the run but a dreadful 120th against the pass. 

While the statistics may favor the running game for Nevada, Fajardo did throw for 2,374 yards and is capable of making plays through the air if needed. That should especially be the case against the Ragin' Cajuns' vulnerable secondary. Hudspeth discussed Fajardo in particular, via Tim Buckley of The Daily Advertiser:

There are plenty of similarities between these two teams that struggle on defense but run the ball effectively. This will likely be a close game to kick off bowl season, which makes it even more difficult to overlook the battle-tested factor when projecting the outcome.

Nevada knocked off Washington State from the Pac-12 and only lost to Pac-12 South Division champion Arizona by seven points. What's more, the Wolf Pack beat BYU and came within one score of both Boise State and 10-2 Colorado State.

Louisiana-Lafayette, on the other hand, was crushed by the three teams of note on its schedule in Ole Miss, Boise State and Louisiana Tech. It also had an ugly loss to an Appalachian State squad that is far removed from the one that stunned Michigan in 2007.

Nevada has played better against more formidable competition this season and will get big plays from Fajardo, who is responsible for 101 total touchdowns in his college career, down the stretch. Look for the Wolf Pack to edge out the Ragin' Cajuns in the fourth quarter of a high-scoring affair. 

Prediction: Nevada 35, Louisiana-Lafayette 31

 

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Texas Coaching Staff Will Face Tough Task Replacing Defensive Stars for 2015

The Texas Longhorns defense was one of the brighter spots on the team in 2014. One could make a reasonable argument that the reason Texas is bowl-eligible is because of its defense.

The Longhorns offense has done little to assist its defense this season. Texas ranks No. 33 in the nation in scoring defense and has allowed an average 23.3 points per game in 2014. Meanwhile the Longhorns rank No. 101 in scoring offense and have averaged 22.6 points per game.

Some critics may say head coach Charlie Strong and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford inherited solid players, which is why the defense is so good. That's a fair assessment to a certain extent, but the team the coaches inherited ranked No. 73 in scoring defense in 2012 and No. 57 in 2013.

Nobody can overlook the changes Strong and his defensive staff made this season. The defense is more fundamentally sound and does not make many mental mistakes or miss many tackles compared to recent history.

But Strong and Bedford will face a tough test in finding a way to continue the unit's progress and replace the stars from 2014.

The Longhorns will likely lose six starters in 2015, all of whom have played since arriving in Austin. But the position group that will lose two impactful players is linebacker.

Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond led the Longhorns with 260 combined tackles in 2014, and the drop-off in experience next season is difficult to ignore. 

The Longhorns will have a handful of linebackers on campus, but only one has significant experience as a starter. Peter Jinkens has a lot of experience playing at Texas and will likely gain more in 2015. Who will be on the field with Jinkens is unknown.

The Longhorns received a verbal commitment from Rivals.com 4-star linebacker Cecil Cherry earlier this week. Cherry is a physical player who has the potential to be a difference-maker on the field. 

If Cherry continues his progress, the linebacker position could be stout. But it's going to take more than two players to keep the defense progressing.

The losses of defensive backs Mykkele Thompson and Quandre Diggs and defensive end Cedric Reed and the potential loss of defensive tackle Malcom Brown will be significant.

The positive news for the defensive line is the Longhorns will have Desmond Jackson and Hassan Ridgeway to help with any fall-off from departures. But defensive backs coach Chris Vaughn and Bedford will need to find reliable replacements for Diggs and Thompson.

Is the talent on campus? Possibly. But replacing two four-year starters is not an easy task. Also, the leadership Diggs provided may not be replaceable.

Diggs previously said he expects defensive back Duke Thomas to step up and take over as a leader. Thomas has a lot of playing experience from 2014 but will need to lead his team next year. 

Ultimately, the Longhorns have a variety of potential replacements for the departing stars, but it would be foolish to say Texas will automatically be as good or better on defense next season.

Although Bedford and Strong will have their work cut out for them in 2015, the positive news for Texas fans is the coaches have a lengthy track record of putting together and recruiting stout defenses.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

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Nebraska Football: Pelini's Last Act One of Selfishness and Childishness

Nebraska football fans thought the dismissal of Bo Pelini and the hiring of Mike Riley was the end of a tumultuous relationship between Pelini and the outside world. They thought wrong.

Nebraska football fans heard news of another surreptitious recording of Bo Pelini uttering profanities, this time during his half-hour meeting with the team on Dec. 2 after his firing. A transcript of the recording, obtained by the Omaha World-Herald and described in an article by Dirk Chatelain, said that for “the majority” of the recording, Pelini complained about Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst.

More accurately, he stood in front of a group of college kids and called Eichorst names.

“I didn't really have any relationship with the A.D.,” Pelini said. “The guy, you guys saw him (Sunday), the guy is a total p---y. I mean, he is. He's a total c--t.”

One of Pelini’s prime complaints about Eichorst was his lack of public support for Pelini: “I don't even really know what those guys do—and I said ‘Hey, you know what, if (Eichorst) ain't gonna do his job, if he doesn't have the balls to go out there and support me, to support these kids, support this program, then do me a favor and get rid of me.’"

This was, of course, the same Eichorst that didn’t fire Pelini after his infamous "Coach Chickenbleep" (note: language NSFW) press conference after the 2013 Iowa loss.

Of course, this wasn’t the first time Pelini has been stung by a leaked audio. Last year, Deadspin released an audio tape of Pelini angrily berating Nebraska’s “f-----g fair-weather" fanbase after a comeback win over Ohio State.

Perhaps a bit of advice may be in order. If people are referencing a recording of your embarrassing and profanity-laced tirade, and you have to ask which one they are referring to, you’re probably doing something wrong.

In all honesty, there was probably some merit to Pelini’s complaint about a lack of public support from the top brass at the university. (Former Nebraska player Scott Shanle did point out on Twitter how little that should probably matter to the players.) And with two separate releases of damaging and embarrassing audio tapes, the conspiracy theorists will have free reign to craft scenarios about Nebraska brass setting bugs to catch Pelini.

At the end of the day, though, that’s not the point.

Pelini is a 47-year-old man. He’s been one of the most influential leaders in the lives of the players on his team, players who were shell-shocked to learn that their coach had been fired. They’re looking to Pelini for leadership, for guidance on how to handle a traumatic event in their lives.

How does Pelini respond?

He spends “the majority” of the last meeting he will have with his players venting his spleen, airing his grievances, painting himself as the noble hero in the story dragged down by the “f-----g lawyer" and saying he would “rather f-----g work at McDonald’s than work with some of those guys.”

There is no introspection on what Pelini might have done differently. There is no advice to his players on how to handle the situation other than a perfunctory do-what-you-want suggestion and an admonition to call him.

Nope. Pelini’s team was a captive audience for the final act in this seven-year drama. As a result, perhaps we shouldn’t be so self-righteously stunned that one of those players recorded and leaked the audio of that final act.

Steven M. Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star called Pelini’s rant to his players “selfish,” which is the perfect adjective. Sipple went on to defend Pelini in a way, reflecting that the job consumed Pelini, making it impossible for him to continue.

The job consumed Pelini? Or Pelini allowed the job to consume him?

“I've been at LSU, I've been at Oklahoma, I've been to these other places. ... The scrutiny, the negativity, it ain’t like that everywhere,” Pelini said to his team.

With all due respect, that’s nonsense. LSU coach Les Miles is under unremitting pressure in Baton Rouge, and he’s won a conference title and a national title. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops feels the heat in Norman—again, with one more national title ring on his finger than Pelini has.

But, again, that’s beside the point. It doesn’t matter whether Pelini was justified in his complaints about Eichorst and the Nebraska brass. What matters is Pelini—after having more than enough time to marshal his emotions and compose his thoughts—chose to teach his players that the way to handle adversity is by dropping c-bombs about another adult in an ostensibly closed-door setting.

It was the same lesson he taught his players when he swung his hat at the referee during the Iowa loss in 2013. It was the same lesson he taught his players when he called out the “f-----g fair-weather" fans whose devotion paid for his salary and the palatial facilities in which the football team operated. When the going gets tough, Pelini should have taught in those moments rather than lashing out blindly.

Bo Pelini had many good qualities and characteristics. He did a lot of good things for a lot of people—there is little doubt about that.

But when push came to shove, Pelini was incapable of responding to pressure and adversity like an adult.

 

For a different look at Nebraska football, check out The Double Extra Point.

You can also use the Twitter machine to follow @DblExtraPoint.

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Marcus Peters Reportedly Choked Washington Assistant Coach During Argument

The Washington Huskies dismissed talented cornerback Marcus Peters from the team in November after multiple reported run-ins with the coaching staff, according to The Seattle Times' Adam Jude..

NFL.com insiders Daniel Jeremiah, Bucky Brooks, Charles Davis and Lance Zierlein published a treasure trove of inside information on Wednesday about some of the 2015 NFL draft's top prospects. One anecdote about Peters states that he choked a Washington assistant.

"The veteran scout said he witnessed one argument escalate into much more; Peters grabbed the assistant coach by the throat and started choking him, the scout reported," says the NFL.com report.

This corroborates a report from December 6 by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Bob McGinn, who shared a similar quote about an altercation Peters was allegedly part of.

"He tried to strangle a coach on the sidelines," said a scout. "Then they let him back on the team and he did it all over again. Try selling that to your head coach."

Peters, who reportedly declared for the draft on Tuesday, as noted by Yahoo Sports' Rand Getlin, was referred to in the NFL.com report by one NFC East scout as the top cover corner prospect in 14 years.

But a story such as Wednesday's account is insalubrious for Peters' already questionable public image, and it won't quiet the off-field concerns about him.

It will take some serious convincing on Peters' part to persuade an NFL franchise to draft him on Day 1, should the surfacing of his alleged physical altercation from multiple sources prove to be true. Falling in the draft may be the hard lesson Peters needs to learn.

Kyle Bonagura of ESPN.com (subscription required) notes how his colleague, draft expert Todd McShay, still has Peters chosen in the opening round in his first 2015 mock, though:

That Peters has so much raw ability and was still kicked off his college team is quite alarming, especially if he got violent with a coach, as has been reported. A stable, winning organization will be the environment Peters likely needs to thrive in the pros.

It's difficult to say how much Peters' stock will be harmed, though, because the NFL values cornerbacks as much as ever with how often teams pass in the modern era. Given Peters' skill set, he probably won't tumble past the second or third round unless he has another mishap away from the gridiron.

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New Mexico State's Pascal Siakam Fools Referee with Unbelievable Flop

This could go down as the best (or worst) flop we've ever seen. 

During the Baylor-New Mexico State game on Wednesday night, Bears forward Rico Gathers made an interior move, only to be met by the Aggies' Pascal Siakam. 

What happened next has to be seen to be believed. Siakam went to body up on Gathers, but he flopped so emphatically as he initiated contact that the officials called an offensive foul on Gathers. 

As you can see above, Gathers so much as brushed Siakam! However, the call remained, and Gathers was called for the charge. 

Basketball is a great game, but it's shameful when flops like this are rewarded.

[Twitter]

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Nebraska Football: How Bowl-Game Win or Loss Would Impact Huskers Moving Forward

A lot has changed for Nebraska in a short period of time. From the firing of one coach to the hiring of another, it's been a roller coaster for the Huskers.

The 2014 season isn't over for Nebraska either. The Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27 is quickly approaching. How will the Huskers fare? As reported by Hank Shaw of Reign of Troy, ESPN isn't feeling too confident about Nebraska defeating USC.

During its Bowl Mania Special, ESPN gave the Trojans 31 confidence points (with the most confident pick being 38). That made USC the eighth most confident team during the bowl season.

What does that mean for Nebraska? A lot is riding on the outcome of the Holiday Bowl, whether the Huskers want to admit it. Newly hired head coach Mike Riley won't be coaching in the bowl game, but the result could have an impact on the start of his tenure with Nebraska.

A win would obviously propel the Huskers forward in 2015. After a disappointing end to the 2014 season, with losses to Michigan State, Wisconsin and Minnesota, Nebraska's shot at a Big Ten title quickly vanished. For Riley, a win in San Diego could get the 2015 campaign for the Big Ten championship off on the right foot.

Plus, a win could help make the 2014 season feel less disappointing. USC head coach Steve Sarkisian realizes that.

“They’re 9-3, and they’re probably looking at two of those games thinking, geez, we could have won those two and we’re sitting at 11-1 playing for a Big Ten championship,” Sarkisian said, per the Orange County Register's Michael Lev. “I know they’re going to be hungry, ready to play.”

Defeating USC in the Holiday Bowl may not vindicate Nebraska's three losses and the failure to reach Indianapolis, but it definitely could help. That momentum and attitude gained from a victory could make preparation for the 2015 season stronger for Riley and his crew.

A loss, on the other hand, wouldn't necessarily ruin the offseason for Riley. As a new coach he has a fair amount of momentum going from that alone. On the other hand, for the players a loss could mean less playing time in 2015.

For Riley, the bowl-game practices have been his first opportunity to see his team in action. The bowl game itself will give him an even better understanding of what he has to work with. Will Tommy Armstrong be the starting quarterback again in 2015? How will the offense look under Riley? Even more importantly, what will Riley do with the offensive line?

The questions are endless. The performance against USC will likely shape Riley's plans for the offseason. As for the time being, Armstrong is focused on the task at hand and the staff who will be coaching, per the Omaha World-Herald:

We’re going to play our game; we’re going to do what we always do. We’re not trying to make a statement. We’re just trying to go out there and have fun, and we’re going to enjoy this last game with our coaching staff.

That's the right approach for now. However, Armstrong needs to be aware of the possibilities. A poor performance in the Holiday Bowl could have an impact on his future as the starter. That goes for plenty of players on Nebraska's team right now, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

Additionally, recruiting could be affected by the outcome of the Holiday Bowl. A win over the Trojans could definitely build some extra interest in the Huskers. As Riley works to complete his staff, the extra momentum from a win in the bowl game could give some recruits currently on the fence the extra nudge needed to say yes to Nebraska.

Ultimately, a win would get the Huskers off to a strong start with Riley. A loss would prove just how much work is ahead for the new staff.

The 2014 season could have been very different for Nebraska. The outcome was not what any Huskers wanted. Looking ahead, the Holiday Bowl result could be the beginning of a better outcome for Nebraska in 2015.

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Liberty Bowl Betting: West Virginia vs. Texas A&M Odds, Analysis, Pick

West Virginia, back in a bowl after missing out last season, is just 5-6 straight up and 3-8 against the spread over its last 11 bowl appearances. Texas A&M, playing in a bowl for the sixth consecutive season, is 3-0 SU and 2-1 ATS over its last three bowls.

The 7-5 Aggies take on the team that replaced them in the Big 12, the 7-5 Mountaineers, in the 56th edition of the Liberty Bowl Monday, December 29 in Memphis, Tennessee.

 

Liberty Bowl point spread: The Mountaineers opened as 3.5-point favorites; the total was 66.5. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 34.6-34.5 Aggies

 

Why the Mountaineers can cover the spread

The Mountaineers lost five games this season, but they gave Alabama a good battle and easily covered as three-touchdown underdogs. They also lost on a field goal at the buzzer to TCU and by a touchdown to a pretty good Kansas State team.

West Virginia also handed Baylor its only defeat of the season, a 41-27 upset in Morgantown in October—and the Bears had a good case to make the College Football Playoff. So the Mountaineers managed to pay out this season against some of the top teams in the entire country.

 

Why the Aggies can cover the spread

The Aggies bolted out of the gate this season, winning their first five games and putting up some huge offensive numbers in the process. They then lost their way a bit, suffering three straight defeats. Texas A&M then won two straight, including an upset at Auburn as a 23-point underdog, and while the Aggies lost their last two games, the first came by seven points against eventual SEC East champion Missouri, and the second came by six points against LSU.

Texas A&M ranks 33rd in the country in both total offense and scoring (34 points per game), and freshman quarterback Kyle Allen, who took over the starting spot from Kenny Hill, compiled an 8-3 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions in his last three games.

 

Smart Pick

West Virginia holds edges on both offense and defense, and even though starting quarterback Clint Trickett may not play as he recovers from a concussion, backup Skyler Howard showed what he's capable of when he threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns, without an interception, in the regular-season finale against Iowa State. So the smart choice here is with the Mountaineers.

 

Trends

  • West Virginia is 4-2 against the spread in its last six games.
  • Texas A&M is 2-5 straight up in its last seven games.

 

Note: All spread and odds data powered by Odds Shark. Follow us on Twitter for injury updates and line move updates.

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Texas Bowl Betting: Texas Longhorns vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Odds, Analysis

Arkansas may have needed a late rally this season just to become bowl eligible, but the Razorbacks were one of the best teams in college football to wager on, going 9-3 against the spread. Meanwhile Texas, despite some struggles this season, also managed to post a winning ATS record of 7-5.

Former Southwest Conference rivals renew acquaintances when the 6-6 Hogs and 6-6 'Horns hook up in the Texas Bowl Monday, December 29 in Houston.

 

Texas Bowl point spread: Razorbacks opened as five-point favorites; the total was 45.5. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 33.6-22.1 Razorbacks

 

Why the Longhorns can cover the spread

The Longhorns looked like they might miss a bowl in coach Charlie Strong's first season, sitting at 3-5 heading into November, but they won three of their last four games—going 3-1 ATS—to become bowl eligible.

First, Texas broke open a close game and beat Texas Tech 34-13, then it ran for 227 yards in a 33-16 victory over West Virginia, and finally it put up 430 yards of offense in a 28-7 win over Oklahoma State.

So maybe Coach Strong's systems are sinking in. The Longhorns rank 104th in total offense but 28th in total defense, and they held four of their last five opponents to 23 points or less.

 

Why the Razorbacks can cover the spread

The Hogs opened this season 3-1, with the only loss coming in a game that was tied at halftime against Auburn. Arkansas then lost three games in a row but covered as a nine-point underdog against both Texas A&M and eventual SEC champion Alabama.

The Hogs also later covered as 10-point dogs at then-unbeaten Mississippi State and then snapped their 17-game SEC losing streak with a 17-0 shutout of LSU. Arkansas followed that up with a 30-0 shutout of Ole Miss, before giving up a late lead and losing at Missouri 21-14 in the season finale.

On the season the Hogs rank 28th in the country in rushing at 220 yards per game and 22nd against the run, holding foes to 124 yards per game.

 

Smart Pick

Both teams, going through rebuilding projects, improved as the season progressed, but Arkansas is a little ahead of schedule compared to Texas. The Hogs run the ball better than the 'Horns and play better defense. So the smart choice in this spot is with Arkansas, minus the points.

 

Trends

  • The total has gone under in four of Texas' last five games.
  • Arkansas is 9-2 against the spread in its last 11 games.

 

Note: All spread and odds data powered by Odds Shark. Follow us on Twitter for injury updates and line move updates.

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Kynon's Korner: Fresno St. Snags Ex-SEC QB Commit, Miami Lands 2017 QB

Fresno State Nabs Texas Signal-Caller

Keeping up with the quarterback commitment theme of Tuesday night, it was Chason Virgil's turn as he made his pledge to Fresno State.

The 3-star pro-style quarterback committed to Mississippi State in May and shut down his recruitment. However, in late November, Hail State head coach Dan Mullen pulled Virgil's offer and set off a media firestorm about the tricky but not-so-loyal world of college football recruiting. 

Virgil regrouped following Mississippi State's last-second change of heart. The 6'2", 170-pounder took official visits to Louisville, Oklahoma and Fresno State over the last three weeks. It was his last visit to California that sold him. 

Why Fresno, and why now?

"I really loved Fresno and had a good vibe (on my trip)," Virgil replied. "The reason I committed now was because it needed to happen soon (graduation)."

The Bulldogs have produced NFL-caliber quarterbacks, including 2014 second-round pick Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders. Current ESPN NFL analyst Trent Dilfer had a successful career at Fresno State and later won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens. 

"Playing time and quarterback tradition were things that sold me," Virgil stated. "I feel as though I can play early along with everything else."

When asked if his parents were comfortable with him heading out West, he simply answered, "Yes. My family is fine with that."

As a senior, Virgil threw for over 2,700 yards with 41 touchdowns and added eight rushing scores.

 

Miami Snares Athletic Sophomore Quarterback 

Last Saturday, the nation's top dual-threat quarterback—Marcus Mariota of Oregon—won the Heisman Trophy.

On Tuesday night, the Miami Hurricanes landed a verbal pledge from run/pass signal-caller Todd Centeio out of West Palm Beach, Florida. Miami offensive coordinator James Coley is hoping Centeio can be the next Mariota at The U.

What are the 'Canes getting in Centeio? I caught up with Centeio's private quarterback instructor Ken Mastrole of Mastrole Passing to break down the sophomore from Miami's backyard.

"I've had the opportunity to work with him the last year, and I've seen significant improvements in not only the fine-tuning of mechanics and fundamentals, but how he has approached the game from the mental side," Mastrole explained. 

Coley has groomed freshman starter Brad Kaaya into an ESPN.com true freshman All-American, and Mastrole feels Centeio has similar characteristics. 

"He has done an excellent job in our film study. He can diagnose coverages and concepts on both sides of the ball at a college level," Mastrole noted. "Miami will be getting a very competitive and focused quarterback who has plenty of room to grow. Plus playing at one of the highest classifications of football has benefited him since his freshman year."

Mastrole added, "Today the quarterback has to have the ability to diagnose, avoid pressure and execute with more consistency as the passing game evolves. He displays many of the must-have traits for a quarterback that college coaches are looking for when recruiting this position."

This fall, Centeio finished with over 1,000 yards passing and 18 scores while adding 500 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns. 

According to his 247Sports player profile, he picked Miami over offers from Cincinnati, Nebraska and North Carolina State, among others. 

 

Javarius Davis Recaps Miami Trip

Javarius Davis took his official visit to Miami over the weekend, and he came away impressed with the 'Canes. 

"It was a great overall visit," Davis told Bleacher Report. "I went alone. My family didn't come (with me)."

Davis wanted to bond with the coaches and players, and according to him, he was able to do that. He was able to talk to the coaches about his future position at the next level. 

"The coaches said they want me to replace (wide receiver) Phillip Dorsett," Davis explained. "I'm fine with that."

Originally, Miami had talked to him about cornerback, too. When asked if Miami was his leader following the trip, Davis said, "No. Miami isn't my leader. I don't have a leader." 

As the NCAA dead period has arrived, expect college coaches to turn up the heat when the contact period continues as we head into the final full month of recruiting before national signing day.

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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Music City Bowl Betting: Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. LSU Tigers Odds, Pick

Perennial bowl participant Notre Dame is playing in a bowl again this season, but bettors might be wise to be wary of the Irish, who are just 3-11 both straight up and against the spread in their last 14 bowl appearances. Notre Dame will try to put those trends in reverse when it meets up with LSU in the 17th edition of the Music City Bowl on Tuesday, December 30 at LP Field in Nashville.

 

Music City Bowl point spread: Tigers opened as 7.5-point favorites; the total was 52 (line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 34.9-28.0 Tigers

 

Why the Fighting Irish can cover the spread

The Irish started 6-0 this season with a win over Stanford, but then they lost that game at Florida State on an iffy offensive pass-interference call in the final seconds. Notre Dame lost its last four contests, but it basically gifted a game to Arizona State then lost by a field goal to both Northwestern and Louisville.

And it basically botched that game against the Wildcats too. Eliminate a few turnovers, and the Irish might be 9-3. Finally, with the cover as a nine-point dog against the Seminoles, Notre Dame is now 5-1 ATS the last six times it has been lined as a dog of six points or more.

 

Why the Tigers can cover the spread

The Bayou Bengals disappointed this season, coming up short in their quest for an SEC title, but still went 8-4 ATS. Louisiana State suffered four losses this year—to Mississippi State, Auburn, Alabama (in overtime) and Arkansas, four teams that are a combined 36-13 and all headed to bowls.

The Tigers also ended the regular season on a good note, winning at Texas A&M 23-17, outgaining the Aggies 491-228. LSU ranks 29th in the country in rushing at 220 yards per game, eighth in total defense and 38th against the run, holding foes to 144 yards per game.

It also allowed just 64 points total over its last five contests and held the high-powered Tide, who averaged 37 points per game, to just one offensive touchdown through regulation.

 

Smart Pick

Notre Dame faded hard at the end of this season, losing four games in a row SU, five in a row ATS. Quarterback Everett Golson seemed to regress as the season progressed, and the Irish got outrushed each of their last five games by an average of more than 100 yards per game.

LSU, meanwhile, has outrushed five of its last six foes, as freshman running back Leonard Fournette began to find his footing. The team most likely to win this game and cover this spread is likely the team that wins the ground battle, and that team is most likely to be the Tigers.

 

Trends

  • Notre Dame is 15-8 SU in its last 23 games.
  • The total has gone under in five of LSU's last five games.

 

Note: All spread and odds data powered by Odds Shark—follow us on Twitter for injury updates and line-move updates.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Russell Athletic Bowl Betting: Clemson vs. Oklahoma Odds, Analysis, Pick

The Clemson Tigers have gone into their last two bowls as underdogs on the betting lines and won both games outright, including that upset of Ohio State in the Orange Bowl last year. The 9-3 Tigers will be bowl dogs again when they hit the field at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando to challenge 8-4 Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl Monday, December 29.

 

Russell Athletic Bowl point spread: This game opened as a pick 'em; the total was off the board. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 38.9-37.3 Sooners

 

Why the Tigers can cover the spread

The Tigers started 1-2 this season, including that overtime loss at eventual ACC champion Florida State but then won six games in a row. Clemson then lost at eventual Coastal Division champion Georgia Tech but won its last two games, including a 35-17 victory over South Carolina in the Palmetto Bowl that snapped a five-game losing streak in that rivalry.

For the season, the Tigers only rank 62nd in total offense and 80th in rushing but No. 1 in total defense, limiting opponents to just 260 yards per game, and seventh against the run, giving up just 98 yards per game on the ground. They also held seven foes to 17 points or less.

 

Why the Sooners can cover the spread

The Sooners started 4-0 this year, then went 4-4 over their last eight games to finish at 8-4. But they could have easily gone 10-2 or 11-1. Oklahoma gave up two defensive touchdowns in a 37-33 loss to TCU; allowed another defensive score and missed seven points on kicks in a 31-30 loss to Kansas State; and gave up a 92-yard punt return with less than a minute to go that forced overtime in the Bedlam game against Oklahoma State and lost by a field goal.

On the season, the Sooners rank ninth in the country in rushing at 269 yards per game and 10th against the run, holding foes to 110 yards per game, and numbers like that are usually conducive to winning games and covering spreads.

 

Smart pick

Clemson will be without quarterback Deshaun Watson, who accounted for 19 touchdowns this season, before going down with a knee injury. The Tigers went 6-2 straight up this season in games in which backup quarterback Cole Stoudt took the majority of the snaps but just 2-6 against the spread, as the offense struggled without Watson.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma might be without record-setting running back Samaje Perine, but it looks like Trevor Knight will return at quarterback. The Sooners hold the edge on offense, while Clemson holds the edge on defense, and usually the better defense is the better bet. But not in this case; the smart money here resides with Oklahoma.

 

Trends

  • Clemson is 1-6 ATS in its last seven games
  • The total has gone over in seven of Oklahoma's last nine games

 

Note: All spread and odds data powered by Odds Shark. Follow us on Twitter for injury updates and line move updates.

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5-Year-Old Sends UAB His $1 Allowance in Hopes of Keeping Football Program Alive

The UAB football program was shut down earlier this month, which upset many people throughout the country. One five-year-old boy in Ohio was particularly upset and wanted to do whatever he could to try to help keep the program alive.

UAB shut down its football program due to budget problems. When five-year-old Bennett Williams heard about what happened, he wanted to send his allowance (one dollar) to try to help out.

A few days after Bennett's father, Brad, posted the picture of the letter and the dollar on Twitter, the Blazers responded by hooking up the young boy with some free swag.

Here's what Brad told AL.com's Kevin Scarbinsky his son received from the Blazers:

Bennett got a care package with an official game ball, two shirts, a hat, bumper sticker, some tattoos, buttons, and a signed picture of the mascot, BLAZE. The best thing he got was a letter written to him from the contact in the athletic department. It thanked Bennett and said he made some people happy down there.

Brad also said that he received a follow-up email that said his son would be receiving a note from UAB's interim athletic director and perhaps another "surprise."

Obviously Bennett understood that it was going to take more than his allowance to save the program. However, he wanted to do his part in donating to the cause.

Bennett's dollar won't be able to save the football program, but it does create a fantastic story.

[Twitter, h/t Fox Sports]

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Paul Chryst to Wisconsin: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

The Wisconsin Badgers have already landed their next head football coach, agreeing to terms with Pittsburgh's Paul Chryst to take over his hometown team in Madison.

The Wisconsin football Twitter account broke the news:

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez commented on the news via the Big Ten Network:

Jeff Potrykus of jsoline.com reports on the contract details:

Potrykus also reports the deal is for five years. 

Chryst's predecessor, Gary Andersen, staged a sudden, shocking departure to coach Oregon State not long after the Badgers lost the Big Ten title game 59-0 to Ohio State.

A source told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Jeff Potrykus on Dec. 11 that Alvarez promptly went after Chryst to fill the Badgers' coaching vacancy.

"I thought this would be the scenario from Day 1," said the source. "[Chryst] will put together a good staff."

ESPN's Phil Savage praised Alvarez for his swift hiring of Chryst, who was born in Madison and played quarterback at Wisconsin in college:

In an interesting coaching-carousel phenomenon, Chryst served as offensive coordinator in two stints at Oregon State. His last stop preceded a role as Wisconsin's play-caller on offense from 2005 to 2011.

It therefore comes as no surprise that Chryst emerged as the clear front-runner for the Badgers' coaching position based on his long-running ties to the city, school and program.

Chryst, 49, managed a meager 19-19 record as he attempted to rebuild at Pitt over the past three years. However, he will experience a significant talent upgrade by taking over at Wisconsin, diving into a perennial Top 25 program with the chance for greater success far sooner.

A recent history of strong ball-carriers, big offensive linemen and strong defenses suits the Badgers in conference play. Despite losing an extremely talented running back in Melvin Gordon to the 2015 NFL draft, Wisconsin should be in contention for another Big Ten title with Chryst at the helm.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why Wisconsin Should Expect 'Great Things' from New Head Coach Paul Chryst

It is finally official, former Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst is the new Wisconsin Badgers head coach, per The Associated Press (via ESPN.com).

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer break down Chryst at Wisconsin and what it will mean for the Badgers.

Is this the right move for Wisconsin?

Check out the video and let us know!

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Can New Wave of Coaches Bring Big Ten's Beleaguered Blue Bloods into the Future?

Identity isn't just about self but also about time and place. You want to stay true to who you are but also need to keep up when the world changes.

That's what's making things so hard on the Big Ten, as it has a rare opportunity right now to refresh its image, to shed the perception that it's a relic. It is no coincidence that three of the top coaching jobs to open at the end of the season have been at traditional Midwestern powers, known for their old-fashioned, smashmouth styles: Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska.

The trick now is in bringing college football's beleaguered blue bloods into the future.

On Wednesday, Wisconsin named Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst as its new coach. Chryst grew up in Madison, played quarterback for the Badgers and was their offensive coordinator. His dad was a former Wisconsin player, too. So the hire keeps things in the family, which isn't automatically a good thing if a program needs to change its style to modernize.

Chryst figures to add some pro-set formations into Wisconsin's typical pounding game. But two coaches have now quit Wisconsin in the past three years. The job opened this time when Gary Andersen left following a 10-win season, opting for Oregon State and the Pac-12's brand of football. Previously, it was Bret Bielema fleeing to Arkansas and the SEC.

Nebraska, which fired Bo Pelini after winning nine games this year and 67 in his seven seasons, doesn't seem to realize these aren't the days when it can regularly win national titles anymore. It hired Oregon State's Mike Riley, who is a nice guy—Pelini rubbed fans the wrong way—and a good coach but doesn't have the star power. It's going to be a tough sell for him to get top recruits to come to Lincoln, Nebraska.

That leaves Michigan out in the cold, and it seems to be trying to get that star-power coach. But that isn't going well.

"I want to get rid of the name 'Michigan Man,'" Michigan interim athletic director Jim Hackett told reporters when asked about who he might hire.

And that was the best thing anyone has said. The term has come to mean a style centered on toughness at Michigan, which just fired Brady Hoke, the ultimate Michigan Man.

The title itself draws up images of long ago. The Big Ten has been playing in black and white, and Michigan still has a cold reality to face. So many of the top names in coaching have been linked to the search, and they all apparently have said no. Jim Harbaugh might change his mind, though, after Michigan's latest massive offer, per NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, that would make him the highest-paid coach in college football.

While college fans trade on emotion and tradition, it has been 17 years since Michigan won a Rose Bowl. High school kids don't know Michigan as a destination-place anymore, and it can't just live on its name.

Everyone gets exposure on TV now. Everyone has big TV money to pay coaches, build stadiums. The rest of the nation has moved to the modern, hurry-up, spread-in-the-sun offenses, like in the Pac-12, Texas and big parts of the SEC. And speedy kids don't want to go plod in Michigan in the cold.

So there is no reason for, say, Patterson to leave TCU for Michigan.

Said again: There is no reason for a coach to leave TCU for Michigan. Ohio State is still a national program, Michigan State borderline. But Nebraska and Wisconsin aren't national top-tier destinations anymore either. In fact, they have dropped even more than Michigan has.

And it is no guarantee the right coaching hires could bring Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska back to that level, change the conference's dinosaur image. The answer might not just be in the coach. It might take commitment at higher levels.

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, the former longtime coach, might be part of the problem, hovering over the program and insisting that coaches follow what he did.

At Michigan, they gave up on Rich Rodriguez's attempt to modernize the system roughly 10 minutes after he started. He now is turning Arizona into a Pac-12 power, while Michigan got progressively worse under Michigan Man Hoke.

Big change isn't easy.

The Big Ten—other than Ohio State—simply isn't going to appeal to, say, the top quarterback prospect out of Florida. Look at Wisconsin: Can it really expect to suddenly start playing like, say, Baylor and to get the athletes who can keep up that kind of speed?

Wisconsin, like Nebraska, still stocks its teams with beefy Midwestern kids who can block. Both teams had great tailbacks this year. Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah was considered a Heisman Trophy candidate most of the season, while Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon was one of three finalists.

If Wisconsin isn't going to be able to spread out and keep up with, say, Arizona, then maybe it could make a pitch to every top high school running back in the country: Come here and you'll get a lot of carries behind a big line and will be ready for the NFL when you're done.

That is Wisconsin's identity. Nebraska's, too. It's what makes them teams that won 10 and nine games this year, respectively. Attempting to change that is difficult and risky.

But for many Midwestern teams, even their bases are starting to wobble.

"I mean, just take a look at Pennsylvania, the great high school teams that used to be in that area," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly told me earlier this season. "Now, because of the steel town, the exodus of so many jobs in that area, that high school football is not what it once was. I think that's happened in a lot of these industrial cities throughout the Midwest as well."

Typically, when a once powerful team starts to drop off, fans scream that it's because the team has strayed too far from its roots. With the Big Ten blue bloods, those roots are actually tying them down.

 

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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Predicting MVPs for Every 2014-15 College Football Bowl Game

Picking who will win each bowl game is one thing, but predicting who will be responsible for those wins is a guess of a different color.

It's the last chance to shine for college football's best, as bowl season is only days away. From Dec. 20 through Jan. 4 we'll have 38 games in all corners of the country (and on some islands off both coasts) pitting teams hoping for one final victory to cap the 2014 season.

Football is a team game, but there's going to be that one player in each contest who rises above all others to make the biggest impact. Who will those MVPs be? Check out our predictions, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

Begin Slideshow

Meet Paul Chryst, the Wisconsin Badgers' New Head Coach

Wisconsin's unexpected football vacancy was among the most shocking stories of the college football coaching carousel, but how the Badgers filled that opening was far less surprising.

The school quickly hired one of its own, officially introducing Paul Chryst as head coach Wednesday.

The former Wisconsin player and assistant comes to Madison after spending three seasons in charge of Pittsburgh, where he went 19-19 but led the Panthers to a bowl game each year. He replaces Gary Andersen, who left Dec. 11 to take the Oregon State job.

Here are some more things you should know about the new man in charge at Camp Randall Stadium.

 

He's as Wisconsin as It Comes

The 49-year-old Chryst has roots in Madison that not only date back to his birth but also include his playing and coaching career.

Chryst lived not far from the Wisconsin campus for 13 years before moving away when his father, George, became coach of Division III Wisconsin-Platteville. He returned to Madison to play for the Badgers, seeing time at quarterback, tight end and as a kick returner from 1986-88.

He then returned in 2002 for the first of two stints on Wisconsin's coaching staff. The second, from 2005-2011, was as the Badgers' offensive coordinator under both Barry Alvarez and Bret Bielema—a gig that helped him land the Pittsburgh job.

 

Stability After Turmoil

Chryst's three years at Pittsburgh weren't particularly flashy—he went 6-6 in the regular season each time—but after the chaos the program experienced from late 2010 until his arrival in December 2011, his tenure was far better than expected.

He was technically the sixth coach (including interim ones) for the Panthers in just over a year when hired, coming in when Todd Graham left after less than one season to go to Arizona State. Graham came to the school in January 2011, days after interim coach Phil Bennett led Pitt to a bowl victory, but then bolted in December 2011, leaving assistant Keith Patterson as interim coach in the Panthers' bowl game.

Dave Wannstedt coached Pitt from 2005-2010, resigning in December 2010 and handing the team over to Bennett in the interim. The school hired Miami (Ohio) coach Mike Haywood as Wannstedt's replacement but fired him just weeks later after he was arrested on domestic-violence charges on New Year's Eve.

Chryst's time at Pitt involved overseeing the program's move from the Big East to the ACC, where his team finished sixth in the Coastal Division in 2013 but tied for third this year. The Panthers won their final two games this season to become bowl-eligible and earn a berth in the Armed Forces Bowl against Houston on Jan. 2.

"He's changing the program around for the best, and I'm with Paul Chryst 100 percent," former Panthers star Aaron Donald, now a rookie with the St. Louis Rams, told Pittsburgh radio's Starkey and Mueller Show on Nov. 27.

 

A Circuitous Coaching Journey

Chryst is in his 26th season of a coaching career that has taken him all across the country (and out of it) for various jobs at the college and professional level.

He's worked at six colleges, including schools at the FCS and Division III level, while also holding positions with two teams in the Canadian Football League and one from the World League of American Football (which became NFL Europe). He also spent three seasons in the NFL, coaching tight ends for the San Diego Chargers from 1999-2001.

 

 

Ties to the Carousel Chaos

The coaching carousel can sometimes resemble a college football version of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," and Chryst's role in the craziness fits in perfectly with this notion. He has ended up at Wisconsin because previous coach Andersen went to Oregon State, which had an opening after Mike Riley went to Nebraska.

Chryst and Riley have a longstanding coaching relationship dating back to the early 1990s, when Riley was head coach of the short-lived San Antonio Riders of the WLAF and Chryst was his running backs and tight ends coach. When Riley landed the Oregon State job in 1997, he brought along Chryst as his offensive coordinator, and he also had Chryst join his staff with the NFL's San Diego Chargers as tight ends coach from 1999-2001.

Riley went back to OSU in 2003, and Chryst was again on staff as the Beavers' offensive coordinator for those first two seasons.

The relationship will come full circle on Oct. 10, 2015, when Wisconsin visits Nebraska.

 

Award-Winner Mentor

Chryst's long and winding coaching career has enabled him to work with and develop a lot of star players.

At Oregon State, he coached the school's career rushing leader, Ken Simonton, during his freshman season in 1998. Then in 2003-04, he pulled the strings on a Beavers offense led by eventual NFL veterans Derek Anderson at quarterback and Steven Jackson at running back. 

The list of Wisconsin offensive standouts he coached is endless, but among the most notable were running backs Montee Ball and John Clay, tight end Lance Kendricks, offensive tackle Joe Thomas and quarterback Russell Wilson.

And in his short time at Pittsburgh, Chryst's standouts have included defensive tackle Aaron Donald (who won both the Bednarik and Nagurski awards in 2013), sophomore wide receiver Tyler Boyd and sophomore running back James Conner, who broke Tony Dorsett's single-season school rushing record this year. 

 

A Sports Family

The Chryst family has football in its bloodline, starting with Paul's father, George. George Chryst won 79 games in 14 seasons at Division III Wisconsin-Platteville from 1979-1992, a period that also included 10 years as the school's athletic director (during which time he hired a basketball coach, Bo Ryan, who would go on to lead Wisconsin to the Final Four this past season).

Chryst's brother, George "Geep" Chryst, played linebacker for three seasons at Princeton and has been a coach since the late 1980s. He's in his fourth season as quarterbacks coach for the San Francisco 49ers. And Geep Chryst's son, Keller Chryst, was a 4-star quarterback recruit who is redshirted this season at Stanford.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter @realBJP.

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