NCAA Football News

Miami vs. South Carolina: Biggest X-Factors in 2014 Independence Bowl

The Miami Hurricanes and South Carolina Gamecocks will battle for an Independence Bowl victory, and a few X-factors will help decide the postseason matchup.

Although two players are undoubtedly common suspects, the weaknesses of their respective opponents make them difficult to overlook.

Before those athletes are addressed, however, a collective effort will provide the difference between a win or loss for both teams.

 

Note: Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, Dec. 27, and ABC will broadcast the game.

 

Third-Down Conversions

The Hurricanes succeed when their defense gets off the field quickly. It sounds and is obvious, but it's still the truth.

Georgia Tech slammed the door on Miami by sustaining drives and tallying more than 40 minutes of possession. That kept the Canes' potentially explosive offense on the sideline.

In six wins, Miami scored 31 touchdowns and averaged 39.3 points per game, and its defense ceded just 16.2 points. During six losses, however, the team tallied just 14 touchdowns and 20.5 points and surrendered 32.5 per contest.

Conversely, South Carolina's attack maintained its explosiveness regardless of result, tallying 36.7 points in victories and 30.0 throughout its losses. The Gamecocks defense was the clear problem, considering it allowed 22.3 points compared to 40.0.

Time of possession is a negligible difference, since Steve Spurrier's team controls the ball for nearly 31 minutes per game, whereas Miami is a shade above 29.

But unless Brad Kaaya hits Phillip Dorsett downfield, the Canes don't have a quick-strike attack. If South Carolina can improve upon its already respectable 42.9 percent third-down conversion rate, the Gamecocks will control the ball, the clock and the Miami offense.

Otherwise, the Hurricanes will receive multiple chances to exploit a South Carolina defense that has been shredded on numerous occasions.

 

Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina

Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds should put together a solid performance on the ground, and the Gamecocks have the SEC's leading passer in Dylan Thompson.

The most important player, though, is sophomore wide receiver and all-around weapon Pharoh Cooper. He racked up 60 receptions for 966 yards and eight touchdowns this season, adding 24 carries for 198 yards and two scores.

Plus, Cooper has thrown a pass in five consecutive games—two of which resulted in touchdowns—and he also has returned punts.

"Pharoh can throw, run, catch. He's a ballplayer that can do a lot," Spurrier said, per Josh Kendall of The State. "We've used him a lot lately. Looking back, should have used him more in some games at certain times."

Cooper isn't simply a big-play threat—though he certainly provides that deep option. His longest reception during eight of South Carolina's 12 games was 30 yards or fewer.

Miami's secondary only allowed 10 passes of 30-plus yards, which ranked sixth-best in the nation, so Cooper will be limited in that regard.

However, the Canes employ a two-deep zone defense, which opens vacant areas at the intermediate level. As long as Thompson locates those soft spots, Cooper will shred the underneath coverage.

The Gamecocks consistently find ways to get their electric athlete the pigskin, so Cooper needs to take advantage of those opportunities.

 

Duke Johnson, RB, Miami

He's the unquestioned star, and South Carolina will be looking to contain the running back, but Miami needs another terrific performance from Duke Johnson.

After all, the Independence Bowl may be the final time Johnson—the school's newly minted career rushing leader—wears a Hurricanes jersey. The junior is expected to declare for the NFL draft.

Consequently, Johnson would surely love to end his Miami career on a dominant note, and South Carolina's run defense—or lack thereof—may afford him that chance. The Gamecocks surrendered 214.4 yards per game on the ground, which ranked 109th out of 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

Now granted, a running back relies heavily on his blockers, so the Miami offensive line must dominate the trenches, too.

The Ereck Flowers-led unit has done that before, evidenced by the 30-6 win over Virginia Tech in which the Hurricanes called 53 runs compared to 16 passes. Johnson finished the rivalry meeting with a career-best 249 yards.

But his offensive line carries additional responsibilities in the upcoming matchup. Clive Walford—Brad Kaaya's season-long security blanket—may be sidelined, as noted by Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post.

Beyond Walford, Johnson and Dorsett, the Miami offense hasn't had another legitimate threat to catch passes. In order to make up for the tight end's possible absence, the Canes must create manageable, short-yardage third-down situations.

And that all starts up front on the offensive line, opening running lanes for Johnson on initial snaps. Then, it's up to the school's best running back to attack the empty spaces.

 

Stats courtesy of CFBStats.com and HurricaneSports.com.

Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

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UCLA Faces Tough Challenge Replacing Butkus Award Winner Eric Kendricks

No. 14 UCLA's Alamo Bowl date with No. 11 Kansas State on Jan. 2 is the swan song for linebacker and 2014 Butkus Award winner Eric Kendricks' collegiate career.

After Kendricks dons the Bruins' blue and gold for the final time, head coach Jim Mora and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich won't just be left replacing a player recognized this week as the nation's top linebacker.

They aren't simply replacing the all-time leading tackler in UCLA football history, either.

When Kendricks leaves UCLA to embark on his NFL career, UCLA must replace what Ulbrich described as "the heart and soul of this team."

As its heart, it's appropriate Kendricks played prominently in the center of the Bruins defense. His work at inside linebacker in each of the three seasons since Mora and his staff arrived was integral to what Ulbrich called a "changed culture."

UCLA morphed from a team sometimes characterized as soft to one that Kendricks described as "scrappy."

And few exemplified the scrappy attitude more than Kendricks, both on game day and on the practice field.

His tenacity shows in a ball-hawking style against the run, which has produced 467 career tackles. His 135 this season are sixth-most in the nation.

But when Kendricks takes the next step, UCLA won't just lose a proven run-stopper. The Bruins won't just be replacing a game-changer who forced some truly pivotal turnovers in the 2014 campaign.

"He leads by example, by being that same guy every single day," Ulbrich said. "He's been a great example and he makes our job as defensive coaches easier...I've been honored to coach him."

That consistency to which Ulbrich alluded is an attitude fellow linebacker Myles Jack said resonates through the locker room.

"He's seen the ups and downs of the program," Jack said. "He just knows how to stay steady and keep his composure."

Kendricks made his first career start in UCLA's 50-0 loss to USC in 2011, which he said contributed to the "chip on [his] shoulder," a key motivator in the program's turnaround.

Bruins like Jack, who came to UCLA in the years thereafter, never experienced the same lows as Kendricks witnessed in 2011. With three straight nine-win seasons—a feat never before accomplished at UCLA—the crop returning for 2015 is accustomed to winning.

Adopting Kendricks' mindset is a must for the remaining linebacker corps to fill the cavernous void he'll leave next season. Jack said that's easier said than done.

"You'll never see a lull in his game. You'll never see him get tired. He's always running, he's always vocal and he's just the same guy every day," Jack said. "As a young guy, that's hard to do."

UCLA will need some youngsters to take on that responsibility next season, however.

The leading candidate is freshman Kenny Young, whose role grew down the stretch of the regular season. He recorded 11 of his 34 total tackles in the Bruins' final three games.

"He's an excellent football player," Mora said of Young last month.

"When we're in nickel," Mora continued, addressing a formation Ulbrich used heavily in 2014, "He's Eric Kendricks' backup, and it's pretty hard to take Eric Kendricks off the field. But when we go to our base stuff, and he plays, he plays well...It's just a matter of getting him the snaps."

Getting Young those snaps will be no issue next season. Among the Bruins' linebackers, he was third in tackles behind Kendricks and Jack.

Young was one of two high-profile linebacker recruits added last national signing day. The other was 4-star Houston product Zach Whitley, a highly touted prospect who never quite got going in a tumultuous first year.

Whitley was injured in preseason training camp, saw the field sparingly throughout the campaign and was rumored to have been dismissed from the program last week. As Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times noted, though, that does not appear to be the case:

He is still on the roster at UCLABruins.com, and should that be the case into next season, Whitley meeting his lofty potential should go a long way toward UCLA replacing at least some of what it loses from Kendricks.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Heisman Watch 2014: Previewing the Finalists' Bowl Matchups

They're Heisman finalists for a reason. No matter the obstacle (or opposing game plan), the trio of Amari Cooper, Melvin Gordon and Marcus Mariota have proved to be pretty much unstoppable during the 2014 season.

But now each faces one final hurdle, matching up against a defense that will have more than three weeks to prepare for these individual superstars.

Yes, football is a team game, but with players of this caliber, there's no doubt that extra practice time and drills are devoted to limiting what they are able to accomplish in the bowl games. The fact that two of the finalists are involved in playoff games adds to the intrigue of just what their opponents are going to do to try to slow them down.

Here's a breakdown of the matchups that each Heisman finalist faces in their upcoming bowl games:

 

Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama (Jan. 1 vs. Ohio State)

The junior has proved to be pretty much unguardable this season, leading FBS with 115 receptions and 1,656 yards along with 14 touchdowns. Take away Alabama's game against FCS Western Carolina and an anomalous effort against Arkansas, and Yeldon is averaging 10 catches and 144 yards per game.

"It's arguable that 6-1, 210-pound sure-fire NFL first round pick is the best individual talent Ohio State will face this year," wrote Bill Landis of Cleveland.com.

But Ohio State, Alabama's semifinal opponent in the Sugar Bowl, just showed that it can shut down a superstar, having keyed so heavily on Wisconsin's Gordon that the Badgers were forced to throw far more than they'd like. The Buckeyes are 17th in FBS in pass defense, allowing 188.2 yards per game with 13 touchdown passes against 21 interceptions.

Teams averaged only 5.8 yards per pass attempt against OSU this season, but the Buckeyes have had mixed results stopping top wideouts. They held Michigan State star Tony Lippett to just five catches for 64 yards, but Penn State's DaeSean Hamilton had 14 catches for 126 yards and in September they got torched by Cincinnati's Chris Moore for three touchdown catches of 60 or more yards.

 

Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin (Jan. 1 vs. Auburn)

Coming off his worst game of the season against an FBS opponent—76 yards on 26 carries in the 59-0 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game—Gordon has a chance for a huge bounce-back game when Wisconsin faces Auburn in the Outback Bowl in Tampa.

The Tigers ranked 46th in rushing defense this season, allowing 149.5 yards per game, but look at the game-by-game results, and you'll see that Auburn got run over by teams that like to rush the ball. Alabama was the most recent one, gaining 227 yards and four touchdowns in the Iron Bowl.

Other poor efforts by Auburn against the run this year include giving up 223 yards and four TDs to Mississippi State and 289 yards with three scores to Georgia. In its four losses, Auburn yielded 228.8 yards per game and 5.55 yards per carry.

Gordon has rushed for 2,336 yards and 26 touchdowns, with a high of 408 yards against Nebraska that stood for one week as the single-game FBS record. He needs 293 yards to become the single-game rushing record-holder, something that seems possible based on the matchup, but only if Wisconsin doesn't fall behind early and is forced to throw.

Against Ohio State, Gordon had 11 carries in the first 17 minutes but then ran it only twice more in the first half.

Since this will be Gordon's final college game, as he announced Tuesday he was forgoing his senior year to enter the NFL draft, he may just try to go out with a bang.

 

Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon (Jan. 1 vs. Florida State)

The junior has been as close to unstoppable as any player in the country this season, accounting for 53 touchdowns (38 passing, 14 rushing, one receiving) with 4,452 yards of total offense while tossing only two interceptions. That's what defending national champion Florida State has to deal with in the Rose Bowl semifinal game.

FSU's saving grace, according to coach Jimbo Fisher, might be that Mariota could be worn out from having to do so many public appearances in conjunction with the numerous awards he's expected to haul in this month.

"I think it definitely is [taxing] and sure [Oregon will] have a great plan for that and what goes on, but I don't know if you can ever prepare for it," Fisher told Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel. "Because it's the time away and you feel so obligated because so many people are giving you so many great outstanding awards."

Short of fatigue, what Mariota will have to most concern himself with is a Florida State defense that hasn't particularly shone against the pass this season but still has some playmakers that could cause problems. Sophomore defensive back Jalen Ramsey has developed a reputation of making big plays late in games, when FSU has either been trying to rally or hold off a last-ditch comeback.

Ramsey only has two interceptions, but the last one came as Miami (Florida) was driving for a potential go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter last month.

Mariota has run for 669 yards and 14 TDs, scoring nine times on the ground in his last five games. FSU gives up 160.1 rushing yards per game, but in its last three outings it has fared well against mobile quarterbacks. Georgia Tech's Justin Thomas had 104 yards in the ACC Championship Game, but he was kept out of the end zone, as was Florida's Treon Harris, while Boston College's Tyler Murphy had a TD but his 48 rushing yards was the third-fewest for the season.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU Football: Tigers Who Will Benefit Most from Extra Bowl Practices

LSU needs work. 

The Tigers played one of their better games against Texas A&M to close the season. The 23-17 win helped propel them to a berth in the Music City Bowl against Notre Dame. 

But the victory over the Aggies was the only time they were victorious in November. LSU head coach Les Miles acknowledged on Sunday that bowl season is a critical time for his team to grow. 

"We need as many practices as we can. We’re a youthful team and we need to grow them up," said Miles via phone to a room of reporters on Sunday. "We look forward to a number of practices in preparation for this bowl. We’ll practice that second team extensively, not only to prepare them for this game, but to prepare them for the future."

Miles is right. These practices could serve as a crucial time for young players, particularly on offense, to jell together.

Here are four players who could benefit the most from the extra practices. 

 

Malachi Dupre

Malachi Dupre's freshman season was a success.

Dupre finished as the team's second-leading receiver in yards (318) and touchdowns (five). This is impressive considering he missed the season opener against Wisconsin with an injury.  

But Dupre's season could have been better. He failed to accumulate more than one reception in each of LSU's final seven games. 

Dupre was more effective when fellow freshman Brandon Harris was under center, which makes sense considering they worked out together during the summer. Harris has not played much since his lone start in early October against Auburn. 

The extra weeks of preparation before Notre Dame will allow Dupre to work more with sophomore Anthony Jennings. Their best connection of the season came via a corner route against the Aggies on a 41-yard dart

The future looks bright for the 5-star receiver out of New Orleans. The Tigers have had three 5-star pass-catchers under Miles all be productive college players, per Rivals. Terrence Toliver, Rueben Randle and Jarvis Landry all finished with fewer receptions, yards and touchdowns than Dupre as freshmen. 

Dupre has all the makings of a No. 1 receiver. The extra weeks of practice should give him time to take the next step to be an elite deep threat. 

Notre Dame could be a breakout game for Dupre. The Fighting Irish allows more than 239 yards per game through the air, which would rank higher than only Mississippi State if they were in the SEC. 

 

Brandon Harris

Now is the time for Harris to prove himself. He feels himself becoming a better football player. 

LSU's quarterback play has been painful to watch. Jennings' paltry numbers proves he is a game manager at best. 

Fans have clamored for Jennings to be benched. He began November with two games under 100 yards passing. But he was efficient against Texas A&M, combining for 226 yards and a touchdown. 

Miles would love to get Harris on the field. But for him to do that, the freshman must prove himself in practice first. 

Miles said after the shutout loss against Arkansas that Harris takes "50 percent" of the snaps in practice. With an extended period of preparation for Notre Dame, he should take the initiative to perform at a higher level.  

 

Jalen Collins

One of the pleasant surprises of LSU's season has been junior cornerback Jalen Collins.

Starting corner Rashard Robinson was suspended indefinitely in November by Miles, per The Advocate. Collins stepped up in the place of Robinson and has played at a high level.

Collins said on Sunday that he put his name up for evaluation by NFL scouts. He moved up to the No. 6 cornerback prospect in Bleacher Report's Matt Miller and Walter Football's big board.

A strong performance against Notre Dame could propel Collins to the pros. He held his own against Alabama's Amari Cooper, who Collins said was the best receiver he ever faced.  

Collins' wonderful work ethic will be adored by NFL scouts, but not nearly as much as his 6'2'' frame. As Greg Bedard of MMQB.com notes, taller corners are in high demand thanks to the success of the Seattle Seahawks secondary.

Collins will have his hands full with Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish's 6'1'' William Fuller and 6'5'' Corey Robinson are their best two receivers. How he performs against them could determine if he declares for the NFL draft. 

There is no other LSU player with as much at stake than Collins. Expect him to hit the practice field and weight room hard in the new few weeks. 

 

Colby Delahoussaye 

There is a kicking controversy at LSU. 

Miles yanked kicker Colby Delahoussaye after blowing a chip-shot field goal early against Texas A&M. He was replaced by Trent Domingue, who would then go 2-of-3. Miles then reinserted Delahoussaye late in the fourth quarter for a 43-yard attempt, which he barely made to give LSU a 23-17 lead. 

Delahoussaye missed two makable kicks in the previous game against Arkansas. He was once 10-of-11 on attempts, but his recent struggles have now made him 11-of-15. 

LSU has talented backups on the roster that can overtake Delahoussaye. Domingue and true freshman Cameron Gamble have stronger legs and are capable of being successful college kickers. 

Notre Dame has played in three games this year decided by three points or fewer. The Tigers could easily play a nail-biter against the Fighting Irish.

Delahoussaye must show in practice why he has been a reliable kicker in the past. If not, he could be benched again. 

 

Stats, rankings and additional information provided by cfbstats.comESPN.com and LSU Sports Information. Recruiting information provided by 247Sports.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower.     

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Tony Sanchez Is Inspired Choice to Be UNLV's Next Football Coach

In this era of college football head coaching, when so many of the men being hired are simply recycled from the current group already at the FBS level, UNLV is trying to do something new that will hopefully lead to a new breed of appointments. 

According to Mark Anderson of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Rebels are set to hire Tony Sanchez following the resignation of Bobby Hauck. 

If you are wondering who Sanchez is, Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated has a short answer:

Sanchez, 40, won his sixth consecutive Nevada Division I state championship and capped a 15-0 season at the Las Vegas powerhouse on Saturday. He also likely clinched the program’s first mythical national title, as Bishop Gorman is ranked No. 1 in the nation by MaxPreps.com and USA Today. Sanchez’s record is 85-5 at the affluent private Catholic school.

Sanchez isn't a household name who is going to get casual fans excited, but this is UNLV we are talking about. The Rebels have been irrelevant in the Mountain West Conference for years, finishing under .500 12 times since 2001 and winning two games in eight of those seasons. 

Established college coaches at the FBS level weren't going to be beating down the door to take the UNLV job, so the school had to find another person to help it escape this decade-plus drought. Sanchez may not be the biggest name, but he's the right choice for UNLV. 

Tomm Looney of The JT The Brick Show on Fox Sports Radio noted on Twitter that Sanchez was a strong fit for what UNLV needs:

Sanchez should have no problems recruiting in the area. He knows the high school scene very well, based on his success at Bishop Gorman and his long tenure at the school. 

When a school hits rock bottom, as UNLV obviously has, risks have to be taken. There's more to the Rebels' problems than just who is coaching the team. 

In Anderson's report on the hiring of Sanchez, being able to upgrade the facilities is crucial for UNLV to compete in the Mountain West:

UNLV’s football program needs all the financial help it can get. (Athletic director Tina) Kunzer-Murphy and (interim President) Snyder have talked about how the school needs to upgrade its facilities in an effort to compete for recruits. The Rebels lag behind most of the other Mountain West schools in facilities, and Colorado State received approval on Friday to build an on-campus stadium.

A separate report from Anderson on December 1 noted that Lorenzo Fertitta, who is CEO of UFC and resides in Las Vegas, could offer financial support to the football program:

Lorenzo Fertitta, CEO of Ultimate Fighting Championship and vice chairman of Station Casinos, said he has not spoken to anyone at UNLV regarding a financial commitment to the school’s football program.

Rumors have swirled the Rebels would hire Bishop Gorman High School coach Tony Sanchez to be their head coach with the financial backing from the Fertitta family.

While that doesn't sound like anything is imminent, any discussion of additional money to upgrade a compound would be a huge help to this program. 

Former head coach Mike Sanford, who was at UNLV from 2005-09 before being fired, said at his exit press conference five years ago that there is a bigger issue than just the head coach, via Ryan Greene of the Las Vegas Sun:

In the last 20 years that UNLV has played close to or at BCS-level competition, no football coach has left this program with a winning record, which includes a man — John Robinson — who is being inducted into the college football Hall of Fame next month. In my opinion, this must be a systemic, infrastructure and commitment issue, and not a coach issue.

There's a mentality (within the community) of 'Well, let's see if they win, then we'll jump on the bandwagon and help them.' And that's not going to work. It hasn't worked, like I said, for 20 years. UNLV keeps changing coaches, and that's not the answer.

Here we are five years later: UNLV has had one winning season since Sanford left, and things aren't any better. Finding the right head coach is a crucial step in the process, and Sanchez has the makings of a star at the college level. 

Rebuilding a college program does take money and facilities as well, but there are coaches who can make an impact right away. It's going to be a learning process, as with any new job, though the best parallel might be with Gerry Faust. 

Notre Dame memorably hired Faust away from Archbishop Moeller prior to the 1981 season. He struggled in five years with the program, posting a record of 30-26-1 before resigning.

There won't be nearly as much pressure on Sanchez at UNLV, which is good, as it allows him the chance to develop in ways that Faust really wasn't going to get with Notre Dame at the peak of its popularity in the sport. 

Thinking outside the box is what makes sports great. Sanchez is a local product who undoubtedly understands where UNLV is and where it can go. He will need help to get it there, but given the time and resources, he should turn the Rebels into a consistent bowl contender. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter.

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Auburn Recruiting 2014-15: Latest News, Rumors and Commit Updates

Auburn is searching for its second straight top-10 recruiting class—with Gus Malzahn and his staff already having put together a solid group of commitments heading into the final stretch before national signing day.

The Tigers currently have 19 commitments in their 2015 class, per 247Sports.

Here's a look at the latest news, top targets and commits for the Tigers.

 

Latest News

Wed. Dec. 10

It will be an old-fashioned battle between Alabama and Auburn for 5-star defensive tackle Daron Payne.

The 6'2", 325-pounder—who is scheduled to announce his commitment on Jan. 2 at the Under Armour All-American Game—told Keith Niebuhr of AuburnUndercover that the Tide and the Tigers are running "even" for his services.

Considering that defensive tackle is one of the Tigers biggest needs in this cycle, Payne is almost a "must-have" type of recruit. 

 

Top Targets and Commitments

 

Recruit ratings and information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.  

 

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Auburn Football: 5 Positions Tigers Must Re-Evaluate in the Offseason

AUBURN, Ala. — Turnover is inevitable on the Plains this winter.

The Tigers will have to replace star seniors at several key positions—quarterback Nick Marshall, running back Cameron Artis-Payne, center Reese Dismukes, defensive tackle Gabe Wright and safety Jermaine Whitehead, to name a few.

But for a lot of those spots, Gus Malzahn and staff already has an established backup system, from sophomore quarterback Jeremy Johnson to the still-abundant crop of running backs that will be at Auburn for years to come.

Some positions aren't as easy thanks to possible early NFL draftees, a growing number of starter-quality players and untested underclassmen filling in the gaps.

After an 8-4 season that started with national-championship dreams, change is definitely coming. Here are five positions that might feel the impact first this offseason.

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Cardale Jones Has the Skill Set to Succeed Against Alabama

Just two short weeks ago, Cardale Jones was a second-string quarterback who was known more for his social-media blunders than his play on the football field. 

But when J.T. Barrett's season-ending ankle injury thrust him into the spotlight, the backup proved that he had more to offer with an all-time performance in the Big Ten title game.

Jones was brilliant in Ohio State's 59-0 thrashing of Wisconsin last Saturday, completing 12 of 17 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns (with no interceptions). Despite making his first career start, he helped the Buckeyes pile up 558 total yards against the Badgers' second-ranked defense—earning title-game MVP honors along the way.  

He also showcased a skill set that could give Alabama problems when the two teams meet on New Year's Day.

The Tide are strong defensively (they rank 11th in total defense), but they've been mediocre against the pass, allowing opposing teams to throw for an average of 223.7 yards per game. That ranks 58th nationally—behind eight teams Ohio State has already faced this season.

Those are surprising numbers. With Nick Saban at the helm, Alabama's pass defense has been consistently great, but it's cracking this season. The Tide have struggled in their last three SEC matchups, surrendering an average of 339.3 passing yards to Mississippi State, Auburn and Missouri. 

It was Nick Marshall and the Tigers, though, that did the most damage. In the highly anticipated Iron Bowl, Auburn torched Alabama for a school-record 456 passing yards. Receiver Sammie Coates consistently got behind the the Tide secondary, hauling in five catches for an incredible 205 yards and two touchdowns—averaging 41.2 yards per reception.

The Tide went on to win that game 55-44, but Saban credited the poor secondary play to technical issues—vowing to fix it before their matchup against Missouri in the SEC title game, according to Duane Rankin of The Montgomery Advertiser.

Whether it was eye control, not maintaining position on the receiver, not keeping a guy cut off, not playing the right leverage on the guy when you have help. I think these things are technical in nature, and obviously we want to execute a little better than that. That's how we correct things in the film, and that's what we'll do.

But they didn't correct the issue. Alabama routed Missouri 42-13, but Tigers receiver Jimmie Hunt torched the Tide for 169 yards on six receptions. 

The Tide's defensive woes are the result of uneven cornerback play. Rotating in and out all season, Bradley Sylve and Tony Brown have failed to settle in, and the Alabama defense has suffered because of it. 

That's the weakness Jones and the Buckeyes could exploit. 

Against Wisconsin last Saturday, Jones showed the arm strength and the accuracy to burn a defense deep. All three of his touchdown passes went for 39 yards or longer, complementing Ohio State's quick-strike offense perfectly. 

The Buckeyes would be smart to attack Alabama's defense the same way. With a quarterback who can throw the ball 75 yards with a flick of his wrist and a deep-threat receiver like Devin Smith—who has averaged 39.1 yards on his 29 career touchdown receptions—Ohio State is strong where Alabama is weak. 

Jones' mobility will also be a huge benefit. While no one will confuse the 6'5", 250-pound signal-caller for Braxton Miller or even Barrett, Jones has the athleticism to extend a play and either get the ball upfield or roll out to find a receiver. 

Quarterbacks with that skill set, along with teams that run an uptempo offense, have given the Tide fits over the years. Oklahoma and Auburn out-paced the Tide in victories a season ago. Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M did the same in 2012.

Can the Buckeyes repeat that success in their semifinal matchup against Alabama? That possibility certainly exists, especially if Saban and the Tide secondary fail to correct their past mistakes.

 

All stats via NCAA.com and B/R research.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Why Nobody Wants the Michigan Head Coaching Job

One of the most prestigious coaching positions in all of sports remains open, as the Michigan Wolverines have yet to name a new head coach for their football program. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer debate why the vacancy has yet to be filled. 

Who should be the next head coach at Michigan?

Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why Notre Dame Will Be a Playoff Contender in 2015

Notre Dame has quite a bit of quality talent coming back next season. The expectations will be high, but that is something that goes along with playing for the Fighting Irish.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer discuss what Notre Dame can accomplish next season. 

How will the Fighting Irish fare next year?

Watch the video, and let us know! 

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Best Bets for 2014-15 College Football Bowl Season

Bowl season is Handicapping Christmas.

According to Mike Pickett of of Odds Shark, it is right up there with the Super Bowl and the Kentucky Derby in terms of becoming a "must-bet" event each year.

Last year I swung and missed with my 10 Best Bets of bowl season, giving out three winners and seven losers. And I have spent the past 12 months with my tail between my legs. It was ugly. I know.

I'm sorry.

Fortunately, I come into this bowl season on a hot streak, ready to atone for my mistakes. I went 31-13 against the spread in the last three weeks of the season, as documented here, here and here. And that was when I was forced to pick every Top 25 game.

During bowl season, I am allowed to parse the board for value wherever I can find it. Big game, small game—it doesn't matter. And while I can't guarantee the 70-percent clip I have been on the past three weeks, I can call my shot and hope for at least going 6-4.

Anything over 57 percent would be a Handicapping Christmas miracle!

 

All odds courtesy of Odds Shark unless otherwise noted.

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Wisconsin Football: How Badgers Will Replace Melvin Gordon in 2015

After a season that could end up being the most productive in FBS history, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon officially put his name into the 2015 NFL Draft on Tuesday.

This seemed like a foregone conclusion for the 6'1", 213-pound Heisman Trophy finalist. He's rushed for 2,336 yards and 26 touchdowns in his junior season and (briefly) held the FBS single-game rushing record when he ran for 408 yards against Nebraska on Nov. 15.

He needs 293 yards in Wisconsin's bowl game, which takes place Jan. 1 against Auburn in the Outback Bowl, to surpass Barry Sanders' record of 2,628 yards.

Now that the Badgers know for certain they won't have Gordon in the backfield in 2015, it's time to look at exactly how they'll manage without such a prolific rusher. Look at Wisconsin's overall rushing numbers, though, and it won't be as difficult as you'd think.

Wisconsin ranks fourth in the FBS in rushing offense, with 314 yards per game. Gordon was responsible for 179.7 of those, or 57.2 percent of the overall output, but he was by far the only rushing option.

Sophomore Corey Clement looks to be the main beneficiary of Gordon's departure, and his production over his first two years bodes well for the 5'11", 210-pound running back to be able to step nicely into the featured role.

He ran for 844 yards and nine touchdowns on just 132 carries this season—an average of 6.4 yards per carry.

Gordon commented on Clement back in August, per Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

He can do it all. ... He is really, really, really aggressive. When he hits the hole, he is so low that you can barely tackle him. You really have to get your pads low when you play against him. He is fast, too. He has a burst, quick feet. He definitely brings a different element to the game.

Clement had three 100-yard rushing games this season, despite being the backup. That comes after a freshman campaign in 2013 in which he averaged 8.2 yards per carry and scored seven rushing TDs despite only running it 67 times.

Wisconsin also has a pair of freshman runners, Taiwan Deal and Caleb Kinlaw, who redshirted this season. Both were rated as 3-star prospects in the 2014 recruiting class by 247Sports.

Whoever is carrying the ball will be working behind a revamped offensive line, as Wisconsin is set to graduate three starters with a combined 95 starts.

Junior guard Ray Ball, who has appeared in 30 games over his career, figures to slide into openings in either the left or right spot. The other guard spot and right tackle Rob Havenstein figure to be replaced by young backups Trent Denlinger and Hayden Biegel.

Left tackle Tyler Marz should be back for his senior year, bringing with him 37 starts, along with center Dan Voltz, who has started 24 games over the past two seasons.

The key to replacing Gordon's production, though, lies in the direction Wisconsin goes at quarterback.

Juniors Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy split time at the position this season, with the pro-style Stave missing the first four games with an injury before taking the bulk of the snaps over the final nine games.

He struggled, though, completing only 53.6 percent of his passes for eight touchdowns and seven interceptions.

McEvoy, a run-first quarterback, was third on the team in rushing with 574 yards and six TDs and an 8.8 yards-per-carry average.

Also expected to be in the mix: redshirting freshman D.J. Gillins, a 4-star recruit who was rated as the seventh-best dual-threat passer in the country last year.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5 Bold Predictions on How College Football Playoff Will Impact Recruiting

The much-anticipated first edition of the College Football Playoff is finally a reality, and its impact is bound to spread to the recruiting trail between now and national signing day.

Alabama and Florida State—two perennial recruiting powers—made the playoff, and the schools occupy the top two spots in 247Sports' team rankings.

Meanwhile, Oregon and Ohio State are hoping to break through and end the streak of the last five national titles coming from either the state of Alabama or Florida.

What are some potential ripple effects of the upcoming College Football Playoff on the recruiting trail?

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Watch Young Baller Escape an Entire Herd of Defenders on Crazy Touchdown

The term "carrying a team on your shoulders" is a cliche often used in sports. Huntington High School player Sam Bergman took that term literally when he carried an entire defense on his shoulders en route to a wild touchdown. 

Was this the best run of the 2014 season? 

Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nick Saban vs. Urban Meyer: Who's the Better 'Big-Game' Coach?

Nick Saban and Urban Meyer are two of the most successful coaches in the last 10 years. The two coaches have five national championships between them, and they'll square off one more time in the Sugar Bowl.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee debate who they would rather have in big games. 

Who would you rather have coaching your team?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Melvin Gordon to Declare for 2015 NFL Draft: Latest Details and Reaction

Melvin Gordon is going to capitalize on his incredible junior season.

The Wisconsin Badgers running back confirmed Wednesday on The Dan Patrick Show he will declare for the 2015 NFL draft following the season.    

The show's producer, Paul Pabst, shared the exchange on Twitter:

Gordon leads the nation this season in both rushing yards (2,336) and rushing touchdowns (26). He broke Larry Johnson's record for fewest carries before hitting 2,000, per ESPN Stats & Info:

Gordon also set the FBS record for rushing yards in a game, going for 408 against Nebraska on Nov. 15 in only three quarters. His mark lasted all of a week, with Oklahoma's Samaje Perine running for 427 yards against Kansas.

The numbers are even more impressive when you consider how ineffective Wisconsin's passing game was all season. Despite teams loading the box to try to stop him, Gordon still managed to be arguably the best running back in college football.

Being the best college ball-carrier isn't necessarily a guarantee of success in the NFL, however. For every Adrian Peterson, Ricky Williams and Mark Ingram, there's a Trent Richardson, Ron Dayne and Darren McFadden.

CBSSports.com and ESPN.com (subscription required) both list Gordon as the top running back in the 2015 draft class. Bleacher Report's NFL draft analyst Matt Miller was a little more hesitant to put Gordon at the top of the draft board.

Miller provided a more detailed analysis of Gordon following the player's historic night against Nebraska. He praised Gordon's vision and ability to break through the first wave of attackers but believes Gordon lacks the acceleration to break away from defenders and could be propped up by a historically strong program when it comes to running the football.

NFL general managers are coming to value running backs less and less when it comes to the draft. LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Andre Ellington and DeMarco Murray all went in the second round or later.

Even if Gordon is viewed as the top running back in 2015, he may not come off the board until at least the second round.

But the Wisconsin star will have plenty of time in the coming months to prove that he's worth a first-round selection. His next stop is the Outback Bowl against Auburn on New Year's Day.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Marian Knights, the College Football Powerhouse You've Never Heard of

The stakes had never been higher for Mike Josifovski in December of 2012. After forcing overtime with a 35-yard field goal, all Josifovski had to do in overtime was kick a 26-yard field goal to give the Marian Knights their first NAIA national championship in just the sixth year of existence for the program.

Josifovski drilled the game-winning field goal, causing an eruption of celebration from the Marian sideline. Now, in 2014, the Knights have a chance to bring glory to Marian once again.

Located just west of Indianapolis, Indiana, Marian University’s football program is currently in only its eighth season, beginning in 2007 with a group of players that had never played together. Since then, the team has continued to grow into one of the NAIA’s most successful programs, winning the 2012 national championship along with multiple MSFA Mideast League titles.

Since winning the national title, more and more local players have begun to flock to Marian, while players who have been with the team since 2012 have consistently been motivated to bring their school a second one.

“It took a lot of hard work and a whole season of preparation [in 2012], but that’s really what brings people to Marian,” said Alex Wetmore, a junior defensive lineman who was on the national championship team as a freshman.

“We like to consider ourselves a small school with big-time football, and it’s really a process-over-product mentality. If we continue to buy into the process, we know we can get there again.”

Ted Karras Jr. initially took over as head coach for the Knights, and it didn’t take long for the program to start making some noise in the NAIA. In six seasons, Karras led the Knights to a 48-23 record along with the 2012 national title and three straight NAIA Football Championship Series appearances before leaving after the 2012 season.

Now head coach Mark Henninger has taken over and preached for his players to buy into the process since joining the team before the 2013-14 season, and it’s finally starting to show. After just a 6-5 season under Henninger last year and a 2-2 start this season, the Knights have hit their stride, putting together nine straight wins to take them to their second NAIA National Championship appearance in just three seasons.

“It was frustrating early on because you could see the talent and drive to be successful, but mentally we weren’t there yet,” Henninger said. “I think we still have a long way to go, but we’ve made strides this season where we’re playing smarter football and letting the talent reach its full potential.”

Defense has been one of the main reasons for Marian’s success this season, leading the nation with just 66.3 rushing yards allowed per game. Led by a stingy front seven, the defense has made scoring on it an almost impossible task every week, ranking No. 6 in the nation with just 17.6 points allowed per game.

Defensive line coach Brock Caraboa has been with the Knights since their first game, registering the first ever tackle in Marian football history. Caraboa is considered one of the best linebackers in school history, earning NAIA All-American honors in 2010, and he’s brought a winning mentality to the defense.

“I don’t want anybody rushing on us, because that’s our team philosophy,” Caraboa said. “I think we’ve been so successful as a defense because everyone is doing their job and playing unselfish. When teams don’t stay in their gaps, that’s when you’ll see teams giving up 100 or 150 yards on the ground.”

Caraboa and the rest of the defensive coaching staff provide an excellent learning environment whenever their players are studying film. Rather than lecture the defensive linemen for an hour, Caraboa encourages players to be involved in the discussion, opening the floor to any questions throughout the session.

But that doesn’t mean that Caraboa is soft on his players. One of his biggest fears is that his players are content with being average, telling them what they aren’t doing well enough and encouraging them to be dominant. Each film session, Caraboa names a “shark” and a “seal,” praising one player for his effort while letting another know that he must do better.

“You never want to be a seal,” Wetmore said. “Players will do whatever it takes to be sharks, because they’ll dominate seals once they smell blood in the water.”

On offense, the Knights are led by senior running back Tevin Lake, the 2014 MSFA Mideast League Player of the Year. Lake has been the team’s workhorse running back since he was a freshman, running for over 5,000 yards and 60 touchdowns over his career, holding school records in both categories.

Lake’s best season came in 2012, running for 1,594 yards and 18 touchdowns on just 307 carries. While players out of the NAIA very rarely get chances to play in the NFL, Lake has started to attract at least some attention from pro scouts.

Still, like every player on the team, Lake isn’t focused on the future.

“I feel there’s a possible chance, but that’s not my priority right now,” Lake said about possibly getting a chance at the NFL. “I’m more focused on getting my degree and leading my team to Daytona and winning the national championship.”

Players at Marian are unlike most you’ll find in Division I football. Individual aspirations are replaced with team goals, while players who aren’t getting playing time are more concerned with their team winning than getting on the field.

The Knights are an example of football in its purest form. Off-field investigations and national spotlights are replaced by young men who want nothing more than to play the game they love and bring their school a second national title.

“This season has definitely been one I’ll never forget,” Lake said. “The chemistry and mentality of this team reminds me so much of 2012 because it feels like a family again, and collectively we are a stronger and more mentally tough team than a year ago.”

At Marian, players aren’t just teammates, they’re family. Players coach each other just as much as the coaches do, understanding that a team is only as strong as its weakest player.

You won’t normally see the Knights on ESPN, although they’ll be playing on ESPNU against Southern Oregon on Friday, December 19 at 3 p.m. ET. But if you’re looking for a college powerhouse that plays football the right way, you’ll have a hard time finding a place better than Marian.

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Where OSU, UGA, Virginia Tech and Oregon Turn After Missing on 5-Star Josh Sweat

Judgement day arrived Wednesday for coveted 2015 recruit Josh Sweat. After considering five finalists, the 5-star defensive end decided his ideal destination is defending national champion Florida State:

Sweat, a 6'5", 240-pound senior at Oscar Smith High School in Virginia, rose to the No. 1 overall spot in 247Sports' composite rankings this summer. A season-ending knee injury derailed his senior campaign in September and dropped him to No. 6 overall on that list, though he remains the top-rated prospect at his position.

The Seminoles land a freakish talent who rivals any athlete in this recruiting cycle. Sweat secured 22 sacks in 2013, sprinted the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds in July at The Opening and also served as a dangerous downfield weapon in the Oscar Smith offense.

He chose Florida State over fellow finalists Oregon, Georgia, Ohio State and Virginia Tech.

"As far as all of them go, I love all of the coaching staffs and I feel comfortable with them, some more than others," Sweat told Evan Watkins of 247Sports before his announcement. "The biggest thing for me is being comfortable. I am going to be living there for the next three or four years so that is the biggest factor."

Apparently, Tallahassee offered more comfort than the other potential landing spots.

Now that we know where the dominant defender is headed, let's examine how his decision affects the programs that came up short in the pursuit of Sweat.

 

Georgia

The Bulldogs are in better shape than any other team on this list in terms of incoming talent along the defensive front. Mark Richt has already secured commitments from 4-star defensive ends Chauncey Rivers, Michael Barnett, Natrez Patrick and Jonathan Ledbetter, who flipped from Alabama this summer.

Trent Thompson, the country's top-rated defensive tackle, anchors a Georgia class jockeying for position with Florida State behind Alabama in the national rankings. He understood the kind of difference Sweat could have made.

"If we both become great players in college, teams would always be trying to figure out how to handle us in the trenches," he told Bleacher Report earlier this week. "But when we're lined up together, they can't double-team both of us. They can't block both of us."

However, he also understood the depth already in place in Athens.

"Between the veterans we have returning next year and the young guys like me coming in, we're going to have a lot of great players to work with," Thompson said. "Our defensive line should be special with people filling different roles. We can be an important part of a championship team."

Bulldogs fans can take solace in that sentiment. Plus, 4-star South Carolina defensive lineman Albert Huggins is expected to decide between Clemson and Georgia this Friday.

 

Ohio State

It would have been thrilling to see Sweat pair up with Joey Bosa, the 2014 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, but Urban Meyer isn't exactly lacking talent at defensive end in this class. He landed 4-star Minnesota product Jashon Cornell in July.

Running back appears to be the position of most importance for the Buckeyes at this point, but targets remain on the defensive line.

The team has kept tabs on 5-star Illinois standout Terry Beckner, and versatile Utah phenom Porter Gustin told Bleacher Report earlier this week that he plans to visit Columbus before signing day.

"Ohio State is a place I'd really like to check out," said Gustin, one of six finalists for the U.S. Army All-American Player of the Year Award. "It's a program and school that has a lot to offer."

 

Oregon

"Moral victories" are typically reserved for on-field action in football, but it may be appropriate to apply that term to how things progressed for Oregon in the Sweat sweepstakes.

The Ducks secured a last-second official visit, which put the program in position to deliver an on-campus sales pitch. That opportunity seemed improbable earlier this season, especially after knee surgery limited Sweat's ability to travel comfortably.

Oregon continues to assert itself on the national stage after the successful Chip Kelly era and can further prove its prowess in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

The Ducks showed that their on-field success is seeping into their recruiting efforts by staying in this chase until the end. Oregon already holds a commitment from 4-star Hawaii defensive end Canton Kaumatule, a 6'7", 290-pound stud, and is in the mix for 5-star defensive linemen Terry Beckner and Rasheem Green.

 

Virginia Tech

Sweat's decision to become a Seminole stings in Blacksburg more than anywhere else. The Hokies, just 21-17 since 2012, viewed the Virginia native as a crown jewel for in-state recruiting purposes.

Last February, Virginia Tech failed to sign 5-star in-state defenders Quin Blanding and Andrew Brown, who played alongside Sweat at Oscar Smith. Both players landed at ACC rival Virginia.

Now, the Hokies must face the reality that Sweat's next trip to Lane Stadium will take place on the visitor sidelines. Instead of rejuvenating Virginia Tech, he'll make the team's road back to conference glory more difficult.

The team still hasn't signed a top-10 in-state recruit during this cycle. Virginia Tech can change momentum by signing Ricky DeBerry (linebacker) or Tim Settle (defensive tackle), but the dream of landing Sweat is over.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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5 Florida Players Who Must Impress Jim McElwain This Bowl Season

New Florida head coach Jim McElwain won't coach the bowl game, but he will be watching closely at which players step up against East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl.

A new head coach means a clean slate for Gators players who have struggled or been buried on the depth chart this season.

Which Florida players need to make a statement against the Pirates and impress their new head coach?

Our top five are in this slideshow.

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Michigan Football: What Do Wolverines Need in Their Next Head Coach?

In the week since Brady Hoke was fired, both Florida and Nebraska have filled coaching vacancies. Meanwhile, in Ann Arbor the top football job remains vacant as Michigan conducts its third coaching search since the 2007 retirement of Lloyd Carr.

It’s not yet evident that Michigan has learned anything from its previous searches. History seems to be repeating itself.

Once again an athletic director from the commercial sector is conducting a search that’s moving at an orderly, unhurried pace oblivious to damage caused by leaving the position empty.

”The interest has blown me away,” interim athletic director Jim Hackett told Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press on the search's procession.

Fans hope that the search is completed soon and that Hackett finds a coach who doesn't repeat the mistakes of the last two.

Here are factors he can consider when evaluating candidates.

 

Recruiting and Player Development

The lifeblood of any college football program is the ability to bring in new players. College teams fight a constant battle of attrition with graduation and injuries since position depth is a perpetual concern. The best coaches have a talent for identifying players who haven’t yet reached their full potential.

An incoming coach either needs a robust recruiting network and familiarity with high school coaches in talent-rich areas or a big enough reputation to have instant credibility.

Hoke and his staff were fairly skilled at attracting top recruits but failed at developing that talent. The quarterback position is the most obvious example of this failure. Not only did Devin Gardner regress during his career, but backups at the position (Shane Morris and Russell Bellomy) were unprepared to take over when presented with the opportunity.

Contrast this with an Ohio State team that lost quarterback Braxton Miller prior to the season, reloaded with J.T. Barrett and then hardly missed a beat with Cardale Jones against Wisconsin.

 

Coaching Network

The ideal candidate will have a history of hiring and developing assistant coaches. Players spend most of their time working with their position coaches and strength staff. These coaches have a major impact on the success or failure of a coaching regime.

The top college coaches have the ability to identify and hire talented assistants who constantly push the program to improve. These assistants also need to be skilled at developing and motivating players.

Hoke seemed to strike gold at first, luring Greg Mattison from the NFL to be his defensive coordinator, but problems later emerged on the offensive side of the ball. Offensive coordinators Al Borges and Doug Nussmeier were unable to establish a consistent identity for the team’s attack.

A potential coach from the NFL ranks will need to evaluate if his assistants can be successful at the college level, where players need more direct development.

 

Game Management

This should be a given, but unfortunately it wasn't under Brady Hoke. Michigan struggled with mismanaged timeouts and questionable play-calling.

The focal point of this criticism was his decision to not wear a headset during games. When Michigan went 11-2 in Hoke’s first season, his stance on headsets was quirky. But as the team began spiraling down, his stubbornness became an issue.

In the 2013 season opener, Michigan came out in its hurry-up or “NASCAR” offense against lowly Central Michigan. Hoke was genuinely surprised by the tactic but wouldn’t have been if he had been on the headset.

Another example was the 2014 concussion injury to quarterback Shane Morris. Morris was obviously staggering after the play. His distress was evident to observers in the press box and to broadcasters. Hoke could have been notified of the problem if he had been wearing a headset.

Michigan’s next head coach needs to be responsible and involved in monitoring every aspect of the team’s play.

 

Public Relations

Michigan is a major football program that garners a huge amount of national attention. Every word the head coach utters is reported and parsed by fans and media alike. Both Hoke and Rich Rodriguez before him failed on this count.

Rodriguez failed to court Michigan fans by acknowledging the program's rich history, while Hoke relied on it too much. Both frustrated fans by not showing enough fire after losses. Rodriguez appeared distraught, while Hoke spoke in a flat monotone, relying on the same cliches as the losses piled up.

The next coach would do well to show some emotion after both wins and losses.

 

Other Considerations

Interested candidates are great, but the longer the search goes on the perception grows that the effort is foundering.

How does Jim Hackett’s interim status impact the search? Any top coaching candidate will want to know who his boss will be. If Hackett wants the job full-time, he could help matters by declaring his interest.

What about being a “Michigan Man”? Any organization would prefer a candidate who is familiar with its own particular culture.

Rodriguez was oblivious to the toes he was stepping on, but his ultimate undoing was not fielding a competent defense. Hoke was steeped in Michigan culture but was undone by a complete systems failure on offense.

In both cases the “Michigan Man” myth was a sideshow to problems on the field.

Any coaching candidate would be wise to tip his hat to Michigan tradition, but previous ties to the program shouldn’t be a determining factor for the next hire.

If the next coach can get the program back on track, he'll make himself part of the tradition. Lose, and quoting Bo Schembechler will not save you.

Brady Hoke is proof of that.



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

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All season statistics from mgoblue.com, official University of Michigan athletic department web site

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