NCAA Football

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

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

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

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

But Kareem Hunt made sure America took notice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Michigan Football: The Biggest Offseason Storylines for the Wolverines

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

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

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


Jim Harbaugh Returns to Ann Arbor

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

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

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

 

Who Will Be on His Staff?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Who Will Play Quarterback?

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

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

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

(Interim) Athletic Director

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


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

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

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

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

Time for change was a long time ago.

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

He’ll likely do the same at Michigan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Petersen sent along the now-recognizable confirmation tweet:

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

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

FieldGulls.com's Jared Stranger gave his thoughts:

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

 

Unless otherwise noted, recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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

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

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

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

ACC secondaries better start worrying about Dwayne Lawson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jeff Driskel Will Reportedly Transfer to Louisiana Tech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date: Sunday, January 4

Time: 9 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

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

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LSU Football: The Biggest Offseason Storylines for the Tigers

LSU did not end 2014 on a high note.

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

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

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

Here are the biggest offseason storylines in Baton Rouge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

College Football Championship Game

Matchup: Ohio State vs. Oregon

Date: Monday, Jan. 12

Time: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

 

Preview/Prediction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ultimately, this may be the story of the game.

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

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

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

Prediction: Ohio State 34, Oregon 31

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score Prediction: Oregon 42, Ohio State 31

 

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College Football National Championship 2015: Early Storylines to Watch

The inaugural College Football Playoff produced a disappointment of a duel between Heisman Trophy winners and a gritty cross-conference showdown with an unexpected winner, but it is hard to complain about the resulting title game matchup...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

College Football National Championship 2015: Early Storylines to Watch

The inaugural College Football Playoff produced a disappointment of a duel between Heisman Trophy winners and a gritty cross-conference showdown with an unexpected winner, but it is hard to complain about the resulting title game matchup. 

It is scary to think just how great Ohio State and Urban Meyer are now that the program is on its third quarterback and still outlasting an SEC powerhouse such as Alabama in the CFP semifinal.

Ditto for Marcus Mariota and Oregon. For the first time, these Ducks are yet to have wings clipped by injury or a shocker of a matchup. Instead, this year's Heisman winner sent Jameis Winston and Florida State home with their tails between their legs.

Oregon-Ohio State is not what most had in mind even a few weeks ago, but it would be a lie to suggest it is not a dream matchup only befitting of the very first CFP.

 

College Football Playoff National Championship Odds and Schedule

 

Storylines to Watch

Oregon's Ability to Stop the Run

Look, Oregon's defense will always come under fire. So it goes for an offensive-minded team.

Never mind those who believed the unit would be too small to play with the big boys. Observers who did their homework knew this was never the case, as Oregon's speed and size matches well with the best of the best.

The only problem going into the matchup with the Buckeyes is run defense. In the semifinal, Florida State's Dalvin Cook ran for 103 yards while the Seminoles as a whole rushed for 180 yards and a score on 4.6 yards per carry.

Now, it is important to understand that the Oregon defense in large part yields big numbers on the ground because it commits extra bodies to stopping the pass. Most teams find themselves down early against the Ducks and go with one-dimensional passing attacks.

With that said, Ohio State will not waver from its balanced attack and will control the game if Ezekiel Elliott gets going. Against the Seminoles, he ran for 230 yards and a pair of scores on just 20 carries.

Meyer will want to run to take pressure off inexperienced quarterback Cardale Jones. Should the Ducks give Elliott room early, the Buckeyes can control things.

 

Injuries Galore

The hits keep coming.

Oregon is already without top corner Ifo Ekpre-Olomu against an elite offense due to injury.

Now the team will be without star wideout Devon Allen, too, per Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports.

"Devon Allen, the fastest man in college football and the player Oregon coaches have called their most consistent wideout, is expected to miss the national title game, a source told FOX Sports after the Rose Bowl Thursday night," he wrote.

Allen, the owner of 41 catches for 684 yards and seven touchdowns this year, is also a key component on special teams as a returner.

Both facets of the Ducks' approach now change. The onus of production will continue to fall on the shoulders of freshman Darren Carrington as a result, although his seven grabs for 165 yards and two scores against Florida State suggest he is ready for the task.

 

The Mimic Game 

Meyer's ability to squeeze the absolute most out of whoever lines up at quarterback centers on a simple, familiar strategy.

Chip Kelly's, of course.

Meyer recently spoke about lessons learned from Kelly, the former Oregon coach who now holds the same position with the Philadelphia Eagles.

"I just like their approach," Meyer said, per George Schroeder of USA Today. "When I went out there, I brought back with me that there's an unbelievable culture. This is the way they do their business. Everyone is aligned. I brought that back to our place."

Thanks to sheer talent, groomed by Meyer's infatuation with speed, tempo control and balance, Ohio State boasts an offense that can play from behind or jump out in front of the Ducks and never look back.

Look at the game against Alabama. Elliott put on a show with his 20 totes, but Jones still attempted 35 passes and ran another 17 times against the nation's sixth-ranked defense. Meyer's offense even turned the ball over three times and posted 42 points.

It should not come as a surprise considering Meyer's offense ranks fifth nationally in scoring (45.0 points per game), just three spots behind Oregon (47.2 PPG).

The inspiration behind the attack is noteworthy, though. Any notion that Oregon is the only offensive powerhouse in the title game needs to go out the window in a hurry.

 

Betting information courtesy of Odds Shark. Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

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Army All-American Bowl 2015: Analyzing Top Commitments from All-Star Game

One of the biggest weekends in college football recruiting has come and gone with two games featuring some of the top prospects in the country. The latter was Saturday's Army All-American Bowl, which saw several programs strike gold weeks before national signing day. 

There is obviously a lot of time left for schools to make an impression on their recruits, but being able to get a commitment early certainly takes some of the anxiety away. The Army All-American Bowl also let the prospects show off their skills to those programs on the fence about how hard to keep pursuing a player. 

Given all the high school talent that's been on display in the last 48 hours, it's no wonder college football is in such a strong state. These are the commitments from the Army All-American Bowl that had a profound impact on this year's recruiting. 

 

Marvell Tell, DB (4-Star Recruit Commits to USC)

Saturday was a good day for USC, which got two strong commitments from 4-star defensive backs. Marvell Tell is the standout, while also taking a bite out of Pac-12 rivals like Oregon and Arizona State, who were also in on the California native. 

As you can see in the tweet from Scott Schrader of 247Sports.com, Tell and his family left no doubt about where his heart lies moving forward:

In an article by Gerard Martinez of Scout.com, Tell said that it was an unofficial visit to USC in June that wound up making the difference:

It was just as I started coming around more often, I kind of got a feel for the school and everyone around it. I was attracted to it basically and I just kind of fell in love with it almost. (Defensive backs) coach Keith Heyward really gave me a vision for where I would play and how I would contribute too. We have a good relationship and that was when we really started to get to know each other more.

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian is still adding his own personal touch to the roster that was built by Lane Kiffin. Tell isn't the game-changing piece to reshape the defense, but along with Ykili Ross, Coach Sark is keeping more California talent at home. 

Adding depth in the secondary is essential for the Trojans, who were burned for 381 yards and three touchdowns against Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. They also allowed 265.7 passing yards per game in 2014. per Yahoo! Sports

Tell is an imposing figure at 6'2", though he's slight right now at 185 pounds. His biggest strength is reading the quarterback and finding the ball. He's a heavy hitter who understands how to tackle and will get better with more muscle. 

Even though his aggressiveness makes him stand out, Tell can commit too early and get beat. It's not a huge knock right now, just an area that needs time to improve. 

 

Devonaire Clarington, TE (4-Star Recruit Commits to Texas)

To say that Charlie Strong had a tumultuous first year in Texas would be an understatement. His method of coaching and personality seemed to be directly at odds with what Longhorns fans wanted, or at least what they were accustomed to. 

The good news for fans in Austin is that Strong is making his mark this recruiting season and has the Longhorns headed in the right direction. His first major commitment on Saturday was 6'5", 222-pound tight end Devonaire Clarington, via Jeff Howe of 247Sports.com: 

A 4-star recruit out of Florida, Clarington instantly improves Texas' passing game. He's not a great all-around tight end yet, but there may not be a better receiving player at the position in the 2015 class. 

TJ Gaynor of SportingNews.com raved about Clarington's ability to make catches in any situation because his hands are so strong:

Clarington owns the ball in the air so consistently the referees might as well go ahead and affix his name on the title prior to the opening kick. Superior hand-eye coordination and tremendous hand and forearm tensile strength are his calling cards. Perhaps the greatest "hands" catcher or ball snatcher in this year's class, Clarington isn't going to lose many jumpballs regardless of the caliber of defender matched up against him. 

Texas needs all sorts of help on offense after ranking 90th or worse in passing yards, rushing yards and scoring in 2014. If the Longhorns had any kind of production on that side of the ball, they would have won at least nine games because the defense finished 32nd with 23.8 points allowed per game. 

The Longhorns need to find playmakers capable of stretching the field and making plays in traffic. Clarington solves both problems with his size, hands and awareness. He's got to get better in the running game to be an every-down player, but right now Texas has to be very happy with its future at tight end. 

 

Stanley Norman, Athlete (4-Star Recruit Commits to Arizona State)

In three years as head coach at Arizona State, Todd Graham has transformed the Sun Devils from a borderline bowl team into one of the Pac-12's best programs. They have won 10 games each of the last two years and 28 since 2012. 

The only Pac-12 schools with more wins over the last three years are Oregon (36), Stanford (31) and UCLA (29). In order for Arizona State to keep pace with those schools, it has to get elite athletes. 

Stanley Norman is the jewel of Graham's 2015 recruiting class so far, via Doug Haller of AZCentral.com:

Norman has the ability to play cornerback in college but expects to line up on offense at wide receiver. He's 6'0" and 180 pounds with good speed, likely playing more in the slot, where he can catch short passes and create yards in space. 

When you play in the Pac-12, you have to play fast on offense and stop the pass on defense. The Sun Devils struggled down the stretch with two losses in the final three weeks of the regular season to because the defense allowed 77 total points to Oregon State and Arizona. 

Pass defense was average, at best, allowing 19 touchdowns and 261.8 yards per game, per Yahoo! Sports. Norman doesn't directly solve that issue, but he does give Graham versatility. The California native can start in the slot as a freshman and get acclimated to the system before possibly moving into a more versatile role later in his career. 

Norman does have a gigantic red flag, tearing his ACL during the high school season and being unable to play on Saturday, but his burst when healthy is electric and he's a tremendous athlete who should have no problems regaining that explosiveness in 2015. 

 

Note:  Recruiting information via 247Sports.com 

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Oregon vs. Ohio State: TV Info, Key Players in College Football Championship

Just when it seemed the games couldn't get any more exciting than the Sugar Bowl, the College Football Playoff now comes to a close with the national championship game.

Oregon routed Florida State in the Rose Bowl prior to Ohio State's comeback win over Alabama. Both games were intriguing going in, but Oregon came away looking like the stronger team for the national championship.

The deciding factor, of course, will be which players show up on the big stage. There is no shortage of star power between a Heisman winner and a breakout running back that has carried the Buckeyes late in the season.

Before the final game of the season kicks off, here's a look at the viewing info and players to watch on Jan. 12.

 

Game Information

Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

When: Monday, January 12 at 8:30 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

 

Players to Watch

Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

All season long, Marcus Mariota has done it all for the Ducks. Whether it's been with his arm or legs, the Heisman winner has throttled nearly every opponent this season en route to the title game.

After replacing Jameis Winston as the reigning Heisman winner, he promptly dismantled Florida State. It was just another huge accomplishment for Mariota on what has already been a special season, as SportsCenter notes:

Heading into the title matchup, Mariota has contributed 56 total touchdowns with just six turnovers (three fumbles, three interceptions). He threw one during a slightly shaky start to the FSU game but bounced back after his running game started rolling.

Expect Mariota to once again have a huge role in the championship game to lead the way for the Ducks. Depending on how well he plays under pressure, Oregon might be hoisting its first-ever national championship trophy in the same year Mariota won the first Heisman for the program.

 

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

Over the course of the last several games, many have heralded Cardale Jones as the catalyst for the Ohio State offense. While he's been a solid signal-caller for the Buckeyes, it has been Ezekiel Elliott that has paced the team.

In his last two games, Elliott has recorded over 200 rushing yards and four total touchdowns. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports put the two phenomenal performances in perspective:

Even against two Heisman finalists in the Big Ten Championship and Sugar Bowl, Elliott was able to steal the show. In fact, he was named the MVP in the semifinal, via Ohio State's official account:

Having Jones and Devin Smith in the passing game, the Buckeyes have the weapons on offense to compete. If the Buckeyes plan to take home a crystal football, however, they will need a certain crop top-wearing tailback streaking down the field for several huge gains.

 

Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon

Even when held in check at times during the Rose Bowl, Royce Freeman still showed out despite receiving only 14 touches. The freshman finished with 63 total yards and two touchdowns, including one that saw him go through one of Florida State's biggest defensive players at the goal line.

His relentless approach in the Oregon running game has been evident throughout the season with eight straight 100-yard games prior to the semifinal. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com actually made a comparison to a current NFL running back: 

On the other side is an Ohio State rush defense that allowed 170 yards and three touchdowns on the ground against Alabama. If Freeman and Thomas Tyner can find success against OSU, the Ducks will run away in the national championship game—literally.

 

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