NCAA Football

Gator Bowl 2014 Nebraska vs. Georgia: Live Game Grades, Analysis for Cornhuskers

Nebraska 7, Georgia 3—Mid 2nd Quarter

The Nebraska Cornhuskers and Georgia Bulldogs are meeting in the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl, and the battle can be seen on ESPN2.

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Heart of Dallas Bowl 2014 UNLV vs. North Texas: Live Score and Highlights

UNLV 7, North Texas 7—Early 2nd Quarter

Caleb Herring and Devante Davis lead the UNLV Rebels against a North Texas Mean Green squad headlined by Brandin Byrd and Derek Thompson in today's Heart of Texas Bowl (ESPNU, 12 p.m. ET). This is the first bowl for UNLV since 2000, while North Texas hasn't been in one since 2004.

Keep it tuned here for all of the action as these two squads fight for their first bowl victory in legendary Cotton Bowl stadium. 

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Gator Bowl 2014 Nebraska vs. Georgia: Live Game Grades, Analysis for Bulldogs

The Georgia Bulldogs and Nebraska Cornhuskers are currently locked in a battle in the Gator Bowl.

2nd Quarter: Nebraska 7, Georgia 3

For full stats, check out NCAA.com.

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Capital One Bowl 2014: Live Game Grades, Analysis for South Carolina Gamecocks

South Carolina (10-2) makes its third straight New Year's Day bowl appearance—and seeks its third straight win—when it faces Wisconsin (9-3) in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando.

The Gamecocks are riding a five-game winning streak, having beat rival Clemson in their last outing on Nov. 30. They're looking for a third straight win over a Big Ten opponent, having overcome Michigan in last season's Outback Bowl and downing Nebraska in the 2012 Capital One Bowl.

Wisconsin, which played in the Rose Bowl the previous three seasons, last faced an SEC opponent in a bowl game in 2008 when it lost to Tennessee in the Outback Bowl.

This will be the first-ever meeting between the schools. 

The game is being shown live at 1 p.m. ET on ABC, but check back here at halftime to see our grades and analysis of South Carolina's first-half performance. Then, right after the game, come back for a complete look at how the Gamecocks fared in central Florida.

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Auburn's Biggest X-Factor in 2014 BCS National Championship Game

While the majority of the talk leading up to the BCS National Championship Game between No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Auburn centers around the Seminoles' ability or inability to slow down the Tigers' potent rushing attack, there are other factors in play that could determine the outcome.

One that could swing the result in favor of Auburn is tight end C.J. Uzomah.

The tight end from Suwanee, Ga., only has nine catches for 146 yards on the season, but three of those catches have gone for touchdowns—all of which were from 25 yards out or closer.

According to AL.com, Uzomah was nursing a sore shoulder versus Missouri in the SEC Championship Game and only saw the field for one play.

Now that he's healthy, the junior presents a matchup nightmare for opposing players and coaches. At 6'4", 258 pounds, he towers over defensive backs, but has the speed to get separation from linebackers. 

Take a look at his touchdown reception versus Alabama.

Uzomah makes a little hitch five yards into his route, takes off upfield and goes up over 5'10" defensive back Cyrus Jones for the touchdown shortly before safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix could get over to help out.

Auburn won't throw to him much, but down near the red zone, when opposing defenses have been battered by the run and expect more coming, that's when the Tigers will look Uzomah's way.

According to Brandon Marcello of AL.com, Uzomah knows that he's a bit of an untapped resource for quarterback Nick Marshall.

"We have a few more things," Uzomah said. "We haven't really showed it, so I really don't want to say too much."

He shouldn't have to say much. If the layoff allows Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt the time needed to figure out Auburn's running game or Auburn feels the need to mix things up in the red zone, expect head coach Gus Malzahn to dial up Uzomah versus the Seminoles.

Sure, Florida State has players that can matchup with Uzomah. SAM linebacker Christian Jones has a similar body style, and all three Seminole linebackers have the athleticism to keep up with him.

However, Auburn won't use him unless it gets the matchups it wants.

Cornerback Lamarcus Joyner is great, but at 5'8", he'd have his work cut out for him. Strong safety Jalen Ramsey, at 6'1," could win some 50/50 battles, but his 195-pound frame wouldn't hold up against Uzomah.

"I think passes where he [Marshall] can let me make a play or put it on my body is what we feel most comfortable with, because he knows I'm a big guy out there, and if he gives me a chance, I'll try my best to usually make a play," Uzomah told Marcello.

If he can make an impact early, it will keep Florida State's secondary honest in the red zone, which makes those holes just a bit bigger for Marshall and running backs Tre Mason and Corey Grant in the ground game.

Uzomah isn't going to have the biggest impact on the stat sheet. In fact, he may only be targeted two or three times.

But those instances will be in key spots during the game and could make the difference between a win and loss for the Tigers.

 


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Orange Bowl 2014: Complete Game Preview for Clemson vs. Ohio State

Last week’s results

No. 12 Clemson (10-2, 7-1 ACC) lost to South Carolina 31-17.

No.7 Ohio State (11-1, 8-0 Big 10) lost to Michigan State 34-24 in the Big 10 title game.

 

Can Clemson finish 2013 on a high and erase the ugly memories from its last Orange Bowl trip?

There’s no avoiding what happened to Clemson the last time it stepped foot in Sun Life Stadium, and to their credit, the Tigers haven’t even tried.

Two years ago, a young Tiger team that featured 63 freshmen and sophomores was thoroughly embarrassed by West Virginia, which applied a 70-33 whipping in the 2012 Orange Bowl. The Mountaineers scored more points than anyone in college football bowl history and handed Clemson its second-worst bowl loss ever.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney knows his team is far more mature than it was two years ago. As is his nature, he accentuated the positive.

“I told the guys, we were in the locker room after the game a couple years ago, we were very disappointed with the outcome of the game,” he said. “But I said, ‘It’s not going to be 31 years before we’re back in the Orange Bowl. I promise you that. It’s good to have a chance to be back. We’ve got to get a better result. That’s our goal.”

Clemson trailed only 21-17 midway through the second quarter, but the tide turned after West Virginia stripped tailback Andre Ellington at its goal line and ran the fumble back 99-plus yards for a backbreaking score. The Mountaineers led 42-20 at the half.

“When they got that fumble and ran it (99) yards it was just, I looked up, it was 40-something and it isn’t even halftime yet,” junior defensive tackle DeShawn Williams said. “I was like, ‘Dang.’”

Williams says he and his teammates are more mature, but youth doesn’t explain the 2012 meltdown.

“People want to use that as an excuse,” he said. “With that type of atmosphere and the way we’d played that season, we should have known what was going to happen. We can’t use (the excuse) just because we were young.

“We had all the talent on the world on that field. We just didn’t execute. I don’t think it was a young thing. They executed their calls and when something bad happened all hell just broke loose. We couldn’t stop them.”

Clemson is coming off a 31-17 loss to rival South Carolina and a 51-14 loss to BCS title game participant Florida State still stings, too. Beating the Buckeyes, who had their 24-game win streak snapped against Michigan State, would be a meaningful win in a number of ways for Swinney and Co.

 

Can Clemson contain Braxton Miller?

Clemson’s struggles against mobile quarterbacks came back to the forefront following the South Carolina defeat. Senior Connor Shaw rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, converting multiple third downs with his feet.

That’s a problem since Miller, Ohio State’s star junior quarterback, is one of the best dual-threat signal callers in college football.

Miller has 1,033 rushing yards and 10 rushing scores as well as 1,880 passing yards with 22 touchdowns against five interceptions.

 “We have not faced one like this guy,” Swinney said of Miller. “He has great instincts.  He is not a quarterback running the ball, he is a legit runner. He can change direction.  He is fast and runs away from people. He turns broken plays into positive plays for them.  He can scramble and find the guys down the field.  He is one of the best players in the nation.”

Williams said he and his defensive teammates are prepared for the challenge Miller presents. They simply must be more patient and avoid the busts that Shaw exploited so ably in Columbia.

 

Which team will enter 2014 with momentum?

Between Clemson’s South Carolina defeat and Ohio State’s loss to Michigan State, neither team enters Friday with momentum on its side.

The Tigers lost their fifth consecutive game to their archrival, and the Buckeyes suffered their first defeat since 2011, watching a BCS title shot slip through their hands.

Following a 25-24 Chick-fil-A Bowl win over LSU, the 2012 offseason was far more pleasant than Clemson’s 2011 offseason. A win over Ohio State would give the Tigers their first back-to-back 11-win seasons in program history, and Swinney knows just how much an Orange victory would mean for his team.

“We’ve gotta get over that hump,” Swinney said of winning a BCS bowl game. “That’s one of those things we haven’t done. There’s not a lot of things we haven’t done, but that’s one of them. We want to win a BCS bowl. We want to have back to back 11-win seasons. We want to be a consistent top-10 team. It’s a huge opportunity. You’re playing Ohio State, who represents the best of the best. They’ve been unbelievable. Coach (Urban) Meyer has been great everywhere he’s been. This is a great challenge for us.”

 

Time: 8 p.m. Friday

Place: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.

TV: ESPN

Radio: Clemson and Ohio State radio networks (regional); ESPN Radio (national)

Spread: Ohio State -5 via VegasInsider.com

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Why Vanderbilt Head Coach James Franklin Should Be Penn State's First Call

The coaching carousel kept spinning on Tuesday night, when Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien left the school after two years to take the same job with the NFL's Houston Texans according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, via HoustonTexans.com.

O'Brien's two seasons in Happy Valley have been nothing short of phenomenal. He took over a program in turmoil and provided as much stability as possible, posting a 15-9 record and a 10-6 record within the Big Ten.

Who will take control and continue steering the ship in the right direction?

If Penn State is smart, its first call will be to Vanderbilt James Franklin. In fact, its first, second and third call should be to the third-year Commodore head coach.

He has emerged as a top contender for the job according to David Jones of PennLive.com. But he isn't the only contender. 

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano could also be a target for Penn State, according to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport.

From #NFLGameDay: Penn State is preparing to lose Bill O’Brien. Their AD is ready to make a strong push for #Bucs coach Greg Schiano.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 29, 2013

If it's between Franklin and Schiano, Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner should probably just keep calling Franklin and lose Schiano's number altogether.

What Franklin has done with Vanderbilt is nothing short of remarkable. He's led the program to three straight bowl games for the first time in program history and has also guided the Commodores to back-to-back eight-win regular seasons.

This, at Vanderbilt, in the midst of the SEC's most prosperous time.

Plus, he knows what it takes to compete at a high level coming without the advantages of his competitors.

Vanderbilt's academic prowess combined with its reputation as an SEC doormat makes it difficult to recruit top-tier talent to the program. Franklin changed that.

The program finished outside of the national top 50 in the 247Sports.com recruiting rankings prior to Franklin's arrival. Since his arrival, the Commodores have been inside the to 50 twice, finishing 26th last year. The program is dancing around the top 30 in 2014.

He wouldn't face the exact situation at Penn State, but NCAA sanctions stemming from the Jerry Sandusky scandal would create a similar personnel battle for the Nittany Lions.

Initial scholarship restrictions were eased from 70 to 75 for the 2014-15 school year and will increase by five until the full 85 are restored for the 2016-17 year according to CBSSports.com. But those restrictions will still have an impact and will likely become more pronounced as the program navigates through probation.

James Franklin is exactly who Penn State needs. The only remaining question is whether he wants the job or will hold out for something even bigger. 

Penn State shouldn't allow that to be an option.

 

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LSU Football Recruiting: 5-Star Players to Watch in High School All-Star Games

LSU has a bowl game this week, but fans are more excited about high school practices and exhibitions. 

This week's Under Armour High School All-American Game and U.S. Army All-American Game will be loaded with the future stars of college football. A majority of the nation's top uncommitted seniors will be making their announcements on where they currently want to play next season. 

It is important to remember these are teenagers. Most of these high school prospects can still change their minds before national signing day in early February. Also, a player's recruiting rating means nothing once he steps on the gridiron in college. There will be plenty of booms and busts.

Nevertheless, 5-star recruits are given their rating for a reason. They are viewed as immediate contributors. LSU has eight 5-star uncommitted targets, four of whom are from the state of Louisiana. 

If New Orleans legend Leonard Fournette chooses to play his football anywhere but LSU, fans will melt down as if the Tigers had just lost to Alabama. Middle-aged men in Louisiana have never been so nervous over teenagers who have beards. 

The Tigers could finish with the nation's No. 1 class if they land some of these prospects. Let's take a look at their current status during all-star week.

Note: All rankings via 247Sports Composite unless otherwise noted. 

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Gator Bowl 2014 Nebraska vs. Georgia: Live Score and Highlights

The 2014 Gator Bowl will host a rematch between Nebraska and Georgia. The teams played each other last year in the 2013 Capital One Bowl, which saw the Bulldogs come out on top as 45-31 winners.

The Cornhuskers come into this game with an 8-4 record. They are one of the best running teams in the country, averaging 221 yards per game. Ameer Abdullah is the reason why they have been running the ball so well, tallying 1,568 yards and eight touchdowns in the regular season.

The Bulldogs also come into the game with an 8-4 record. Their strength is throwing the ball, averaging 313 yards per game. Aaron Murray was the reason why the Bulldogs were strong through the air, but he will not play in today's game because of a torn ACL.

Hutson Mason will take his place.

Mason is coming off a performance against Georgia Tech in which he threw for 299 yards and two scores to complete a comeback win in November. 

Be sure to keep this blog open for the latest scoring updates and highlights. 

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Sugar Bowl 2014: Biggest Storylines to Watch in Oklahoma vs. Alabama Clash

Although the national championship won't be on the line when Oklahoma and Alabama meet in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2, there is no question that college football fans will have their eyes glued to the television as two of the most storied programs in college football history attempt to end the season on a positive note.

The Sooners and Crimson Tide took very different routes to get to this point, as Oklahoma defeated rival Oklahoma State to position itself for a BCS berth, while Alabama suffered an agonizing defeat against rival Auburn, which prevented it from competing for the national title.

With so many intriguing factors at play, here is a closer look at the biggest storylines to keep tabs on while watching the 2014 Sugar Bowl.

 

A.J. McCarron's Final Collegiate Game

Although Alabama's defense and head coach Nick Saban have received much of the credit for the Tide's success over the past few seasons, quarterback A.J. McCarron has unquestionably been a big part of it as well. McCarron hasn't put up gaudy statistics like some of his counterparts, as he has submitted himself to a team-focused game over personal production.

With that said, though, the Sugar Bowl will be McCarron's final official collegiate game, which means plenty of NFL scouts will be on hand for McCarron to impress.

McCarron's winning mentality has been enough to garner him praise while with Alabama, but it won't mean much at the NFL level. Becoming a top NFL prospect has everything to do with having great tools, and while McCarron may not be elite in that regard, he's likely better than he has had the opportunity to showcase. One person who fully realizes that is Oklahoma safety Gabe Lynn, according to Mike Herndon of AL.com.

"He's like a coach on the field," Lynn said. "He's a sharp guy, doesn't make a lot of mistakes and then his arm is great too. He puts the ball in a lot of places where only the receiver can get the ball. He's real good at that."

McCarron's decision-making has been great as Alabama's starter, as evidenced by the fact that he has completed 67 percent of his passes and thrown no more than five interceptions in a single season over the past three years. He'll need to be more than a game manager to succeed at the next level, though. If Saban loosens the reins and allows McCarron to air it out a bit against the Sooners, it could potentially be huge for McCarron's stock.

 

Handicapping Oklahoma's QB Situation

While Oklahoma has had better seasons during head coach Bob Stoops' tenure, it can certainly be argued that his most impressive work has been done in 2013. The Sooners managed to finish the season with a 10-2 record despite the fact that a surefire starter never materialized at the quarterback position. Stoops waffled between Blake Bell and Trevor Knight all season long, and that remains true ahead of the Sugar Bowl, according to Eric Bailey of the Tulsa World.

Using two quarterbacks is something that can be effective to a certain extent at the collegiate level, but it is unquestionably always better to have a defined starter. As much as it can keep opponents off balance, switching between signal-callers can also prevent the offense from settling into a rhythm. Luckily for Oklahoma, though, the running game has been effective with Brennan Clay, Damien Williams, Knight and Bell all contributing, while the defense has been stout as well.

Even so, all eyes will be on the quarterback position in the Sugar Bowl. Bell is likely the favorite since he is a junior while Knight is a freshman. It isn't easy for anyone to contend with Alabama's defense, but Bell might be able to contend with it a bit better. Also, Bell is big and physical at 6'6" and 252 pounds, so he can handle the physical punishment that the Tide will look to dish out.

Stoops is trying to give his team the advantage by concealing the identity of the starting quarterback leading up to the Sugar Bowl, but it remains to be seen if either of them will play well enough to upset 'Bama.

 

Will Nick Saban's Team Be Motivated?

There is no question that you would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't believe that Alabama has the advantage over Oklahoma in terms of overall talent. The Tide looked like a national title team all season long, and while the Sooners had a great year in their own right, they were never quite at that level. With that said, there are several factors that need to be taken into account prior to the Sugar Bowl. Among them is the varying feeling of motivation that each team figures to have.

One has to assume that Oklahoma will be fired up and ready to go in this game because of the quality of its opponent. Alabama, on the other hand, may struggle to get excited. The Sugar Bowl is a game that many teams would love to be a part of, but the Tide's mentality entering the season was essentially national title or bust. Even Saban admitted that the team is still dwelling on the loss to Auburn to a certain degree, according to Michael Casagrande of AL.com.

"We're all a little disappointed with the way the season ended," Saban said.

Based upon how close Alabama came to playing for another championship, it's important for the players to not be disappointed. If that manifests itself against Oklahoma, though, the Tide will be ripe for an upset. It happened back in 2009 when Alabama was shocked by Utah in the Sugar Bowl, and it could very well happen again. Saban is the best coach in college football, so he should have ability to rally the troops, but there certainly aren't any guarantees.

 

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