NCAA Football News

Las Vegas Bowl Betting: Utah Utes vs. Colorado State Rams Odds, Analysis & Pick

After a two-year absence, Utah is back in a bowl, where it's had great success over recent seasons, winning 10 of its last 11 postseason bouts and going 8-3 against the spread. The Utes hope to continue their good bowl fortunes when they meet former conference rival Colorado State in the 23rd edition of the Las Vegas Bowl Saturday, December 20, at Sam Boyd Stadium.

 

Las Vegas Bowl point spread: Utes opened as four-point favorites; the total was 58. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 38.3-30.4 Rams

 

Why the Utes can cover the spread

The Utes went 8-4 both straight up and ATS this season, and they picked up some nice victories along the way. Back in September, they won at Michigan, and while the Wolverines were not exactly contenders this season, winning at the Big House is still a tough task.

Later, Utah won back-to-back Pac-12 road games at UCLA and at Oregon State, beat USC and won at Stanford. And its only conference road loss came in overtime at Arizona State. On the season, the Utes averaged 198 yards per game through the air and 176 on the ground, and they held foes to 158 yards per game rushing.

 

Why the Rams can cover the spread

The Rams went 10-2 SU and 8-4 ATS this season, making a bowl for the second straight year. CSU started 1-1, with a victory over rival Colorado and a loss to Boise State. Then it won nine games in a row, beating, among others, Boston College and Nevada, going 7-2 ATS during that run.

The Rams then lost their season finale to Air Force 27-24 on a field goal at the buzzer, even though they outgained the Falcons by 100 yards. Colorado State ranks 12th in the country in total offense, averaging 498 yards per game, and while the defense had its problems, it also held seven of 12 opponents to 22 points or less.

 

Smart pick

This is a tough one, because while Colorado State put up better numbers than Utah this season, the Utes played a much tougher schedule. And the Rams will be playing without head coach Jim McElwain, who left the team to take over the head job at Florida.

So the smart choice in this spot is with Utah, minus the points.

 

Trends

  • Utah is 5-0 SU in its last five games when playing Colorado State
  • The total has gone over in four of Colorado State's last five games

 

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

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New Mexico Bowl Betting: Texas El Paso Miners vs. Utah State Aggies Odds, Pick

The New Mexico Bowl is always one of the first bowls played each bowl season, which might be one of the reasons the last six New Mexico Bowls have all played over on the totals; perhaps offenses are still clicking, following the regular season, instead of getting stale during a long break.

So might we expect a high-scoring affair when 9-4 Utah State and 7-5 UTEP meet in the ninth edition of the New Mexico Bowl Saturday, December 20, in Albuquerque?

 

New Mexico Bowl point spread: Aggies opened as 11-point favorites; the total was 49. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 30.4-24.0 Aggies

 

Why the Miners can cover the spread

After eight straight losing seasons, the Miners went 7-5 this season, reaching a bowl for the first time since 2010. UTEP started 2-3 this year, then went 5-2 SU and 6-1 ATS from there, ending with a 24-21 victory over Middle Tennessee.

It also finished as one of the best teams in college football to bet on this season, going 9-3 ATS. The Miners averaged 215 yards per game on the ground, and their defense held four of their last six opponents to 21 points or less.

UTEP was dogged by nine or more points six times this season; it went 4-2 ATS in those six contests.

 

Why the Aggies can cover the spread

The Aggies had been on a run of 7-1 straight up and 6-2 against the spread until losing their season finale to Boise State 50-19, missing the cover as 10-point dogs. But before that, Utah State had won five in a row, by an average score of 32-13, even as it played through injuries to its top two quarterbacks.

On the season, the Aggies outrushed opponents by a 173-129 per-game margin, and the defense held 10 of 13 opponents to 21 points or less. In fact, going into the Boise State loss, USU had allowed just 45 points over its previous four games.

The Aggies are playing in a bowl for the fourth straight season; they're 2-1 both SU and ATS over their last three bowls.

 

Smart pick

Utah State put up better numbers on offense and on defense than UTEP this season, posted a better record and played a tougher schedule. So the smart money here resides with the Aggies, minus the points.

 

Trends

  • The total has gone under in five of Texas El Paso's last six games
  • Utah State is 5-1 SU in its last six games

 

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

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New Orleans Bowl Betting: Nevada vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Odds, Analysis, Pick

Louisiana-Lafayette is 3-0 both straight up and against the spread in the New Orleans Bowl the last three seasons. Meanwhile, Nevada is 1-6 straight up over its last seven bowl appearances but 2-0 against the spread in its last two bowls. The 8-4 Ragin' Cajuns and 7-5 Wolf Pack meet in the 14th edition of the New Orleans Bowl Saturday, December 20 at the Superdome.

 

New Orleans Bowl point spread: Wolf Pack opened as one-point favorites; the total was 60.5. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 30.2-29.8 Wolf Pack

 

Why the Wolf Pack can cover the spread

After going 4-8 in Brian Polian's first season as head coach last year, the Pack used a three-game second-half winning streak this season to become bowl-eligible. Nevada then lost two in a row—one in overtime to Air Force—but ended the season on a high note, beating UNLV 49-27 and covering as a seven-point road favorite.

Nevada trailed in that game 17-7 and then went on a 42-3 run. And by the end the Wolf Pack had run the ball for 408 yards. Earlier in the season Nevada upset Washington State out of the Pac-12, lost by just a touchdown at eventual Pac-12 South champion Arizona, fell to Boise State by just five points and won at BYU.

So the Pack have put on some good performances against some decent teams this season.

 

Why the Ragin' Cajuns can cover the spread

After a 1-3 start to this season, the Cajuns won seven of their last eight games and went 5-1-1 against the spread over their last seven to make a bowl for the fourth straight season. UL-Lafayette finished its season with a 42-23 victory over Troy, covering as 10-point favorites.

The Cajuns trailed that game at halftime and then won the second half 21-0. On the season UL-Lafayette outrushed opponents by a 229-147 per-game average, as three Cajuns, led by running back Elijah McGuire, ran for more than 600 yards. And the UL-Lafayette defense, which had some problems earlier in the season, held three of its last five foes to 23 points or less.

 

Smart Pick

Nevada went 7-5 against the spread this season against a much tougher schedule than the one UL-Lafayette faced. And while the Pack gave Boise State a tough game, falling just 51-46, the Cajuns did not, losing to the Broncos 34-9. So despite UL-Lafayette's home-crowd advantage, the smart choice in this spot is Nevada.

 

Trends

  • The total has gone under in 14 of Nevada's last 18 games.
  • Louisiana-Lafayette is 7-1 straight up in its last eight games.

 

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

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Chick-fIl-A Peach Bowl Betting: Mississippi Rebels vs. TCU Horned Frogs Odds

Two teams with much bigger goals heading into the final month of the season are relegated to the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta as the TCU Horned Frogs meet the Ole Miss Rebels.

The Horned Frogs did just about everything they could to make the four-team College Football Playoff field but dropped out of the No. 3 spot when the Florida State Seminoles and Ohio State Buckeyes both won their conference title games.

TCU is 7-0 straight up and 6-1 against the spread as a favorite this year.

 

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl point spread: Horned Frogs opened as three-point favorites; the total was 56.5. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 50.3-41.1 Horned Frogs

 

Why the Rebels can cover the spread

The Rebels have gone 9-1 SU and 8-1-1 ATS in their past 10 bowl games and faced arguably better competition throughout the year in the SEC than TCU played in the Big 12. Of course, their season was highlighted by a 23-17 home victory against the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide as 4.5-point underdogs, as they remain the only team to defeat the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff field.

Ole Miss also finished out the campaign with a 31-17 win over the Mississippi State Bulldogs as 2.5-point dogs in the Egg Bowl, proving that this team still has some gas left in the tank and can play well when motivated despite losing three of four games in conference play before that.

 

Why the Horned Frogs can cover the spread

The Horned Frogs can approach this game in one of two ways obviously: as a highly motivated team looking to prove it should have been in the College Football Playoff or as a disappointed squad simply looking to ride out the year and put in minimal effort against the Rebels.

The former is much more likely than the latter due to head coach Gary Patterson, who has prepared his players as well as anybody in the country. TCU has won six of its last eight bowl games and went 10-2 ATS in winning 11 of 12 games this season, with the lone loss this season coming on the road against the Baylor Bears.

The Horned Frogs fell to the Bears 61-58 but still covered as seven-point underdogs.

 

Smart pick

This is a classic matchup of a team that got snubbed in TCU playing against another from a superior conference. The problem is, Ole Miss sputtered down the stretch in SEC play and probably will not be able to keep up with the offensively gifted Horned Frogs, who have scored 30 points or more in every game this season.

The Rebels were able to get up for a matchup with rival Mississippi State in their last game, but trying to trade points with TCU could be the team’s most difficult challenge of the year. The Horned Frogs have proved that they can rack up points and cover against almost everybody on their schedule, and it would have been interesting to see how they fared in the College Football Playoff.

Instead, look for TCU to make one final statement here.

 

Trends

  • Mississippi is 10-3 SU in its last 13 games
  • TCU is 12-2 ATS in its last 14 games

 

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

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Orange Bowl Betting: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs Mississippi State Odds, Pick

Two teams that fell just short of beating the champions in their respective conferences will play each other in the Orange Bowl, as the SEC’s Mississippi State Bulldogs take on the ACC’s Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

Mississippi State dropped a 25-20 decision on the road against the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide but covered the spread as a nine-point underdog while Georgia Tech lost the ACC Championship Game to the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles 37-35 as a 3.5-point dog.

 

Orange Bowl point spread: Bulldogs opened as seven-point favorites; the total was 61.5. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 43.9-38.5 Bulldogs

 

Why the Yellow Jackets can cover the spread

Unlike Ole Miss, the Yellow Jackets finished the year strong outside of the narrow loss to Florida State. Before that, Georgia Tech had won five games in a row, and the team has still covered six straight heading into the Orange Bowl.

The Yellow Jackets even defeated another SEC team in the Georgia Bulldogs 30-24 in overtime as 10.5-point underdogs in their annual rivalry game before they played the Seminoles. It’s worth noting that the Orange Bowl has been a bit of a consolation when not hosting the national championship, resulting in underdogs going 8-3 against the spread in the past 11.

Georgia Tech is 4-0 ATS in its last four games as a dog, winning three of them.

 

Why the Bulldogs can cover the spread

The Bulldogs obviously did not finish the regular season like they started, dropping two of their last three games after winning their first nine and jumping to the top of the polls. But they suffered a major letdown following the loss to Alabama and knew it would be very difficult to overcome that setback and make the College Football Playoff field without the Crimson Tide losing again.

The 31-17 loss to Ole Miss as a 2.5-point favorite in the Egg Bowl may have been an extended part of that hangover for Mississippi State, but now this team has had plenty of time off to forget about it and move on. The Bulldogs have played tougher opponents all season and should be ready.

 

Smart pick

Mississippi State is definitely the more talented of the two teams and has played a lot better competition leading up to this game. The Bulldogs are also 6-3 straight up and versus the line in their past nine bowl games while the Yellow Jackets are just 2-8 SU in their last 10.

Georgia Tech is a well-coached team that was able to hang around against a Florida State squad that has struggled to stay motivated in trying to repeat as the national champion. But Mississippi State is also well-coached and was able to cover against a much better Alabama team that is the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff.

All of those factors point to the Bulldogs winning here and beating the spread.

 

Trends

  • Georgia Tech is 5-1 SU in its last six games
  • Mississippi State is 13-2 SU in its last 15 games

 

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

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Mississippi State's Dak Prescott Suing Designer over 'Dak Dynasty' T-Shirts

Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott has had a great season, and with how popular he's become, people might start to take advantage of his fame without his permission.

According to Michael Bonner of The Clarion-LedgerPrescott is involved in a lawsuit against a clothing designer who illegally used Prescott's likeness for profit without consent. Bonner also explained the eligibility concerns for Prescott:

With the knowledge of the clothing's existence, Prescott had to file suit after the vendor refused to stop. If the quarterback ignored the products, it would result in an NCAA violation and could affect his eligibility. It could also be a sign Prescott will return for his senior season at Mississippi State. His eligibility would only be potentially affected for next season.

Prescott said earlier this year he would consider leaving for the NFL if he was slotted to go in the first three rounds.

The vendor was selling these "Dak Attack" and "Dak Dynasty" t-shirts.

Prescott will try to deal with this, but for now, he'll be more focused on leading the Bulldogs to a win over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on New Year's Eve.

[The Clarion-Ledger, h/t Twitter]

 

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Fiesta Bowl Betting: Boise State Broncos vs. Arizona Wildcats Odds, Analysis, P

The Boise State Broncos will be playing in the Fiesta Bowl for the third time and hope to repeat wins in their previous two appearances when they square off against the Arizona Wildcats. The Broncos stunned the Oklahoma Sooners 43-42 in overtime as seven-point underdogs in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl and beat the TCU Horned Frogs 17-10 as seven-point dogs there again three years later.

 

Fiesta Bowl point spread: Wildcats opened as four-point favorites; the total was 69 (line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 42.1-36.6 Broncos

 

Why the Broncos can cover the spread

Boise State has proved it can compete against bigger schools in bigger bowl games and will get another great opportunity to do just that here. The Broncos are riding an eight-game winning streak into the Fiesta Bowl and have seen seven of those games go over the total.

The exception was a 28-14 victory against the Fresno State Bulldogs in the Mountain West Championship Game, which Boise failed to cover as a 22.5-point favorite.

Even though the Broncos have covered just four of their last eight games, they were double-digit chalk in six of them and beat the number in the two they were not.

 

Why the Wildcats can cover the spread

The Wildcats captured the Pac-12 South Division and won four straight games before they were overwhelmed 51-13 by the Oregon Ducks in the conference championship game. However, they did win 31-24 at Oregon earlier in the season, handing the Ducks their only loss this year as 21.5-point underdogs.

Arizona is a young team led offensively by a pair of freshmen in quarterback Anu Solomon (3,458 passing yards with 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions) and running back Nick Wilson (1,289 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns).

That duo along with sophomore wide receiver Cayleb Jones (902 receiving yards and nine touchdowns) will be difficult for Boise to stop.

 

Smart Pick

The Broncos have played well in these situations in the past, but they no longer have former head coach Chris Petersen roaming the sidelines. Petersen was the guy who really put them on the map from a national perspective, and he remains one of the most respected coaches in the country now with the Washington Huskies.

While new head coach Bryan Harsin has done a good job in his first year, there’s obviously a difference between good and great. For the Wildcats, head coach Rich Rodriguez did a great job this season to the point that his name has often been mentioned in rumors now that there are openings at other schools.

In a game like this with a point spread sitting around a field goal, the best bet is to side with the team that has the better coach who has more experience, and that would be Arizona with Rodriguez.

 

Trends

  • Boise State is 5-0 SU in its last five games
  • Arizona is 4-1 SU in its last five games

 

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

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Marcus Mariota Wins 2014 Davey O'Brien Award

The Oregon Ducks' Marcus Mariota has been by far the best quarterback in college football in 2014. Now he has the hardware to back it up.

Mariota was named the 2014 Davey O'Brien Award winner Thursday night, besting Mississippi State's Dak Prescott and TCU's Trevone Boykin. 

SportsCenter had the report:

Mike Huguenin of NFL.com weighs in on the decision:

For much of the early season, Prescott looked as if he'd run away with most major awards. He spearheaded a surprise 9-0 start from a Mississippi State team that began the year unranked. Struggles with passing accuracy and losses to Alabama and rival Ole Miss took him out of the running, as he was not invited to Saturday's Heisman presentation.

Boykin may have been the nation's most underrated playmaker. Like Prescott, Boykin spurred a surprise run to national championship contention from a team few expected to compete. The junior threw for 3,714 yards and 30 touchdowns against seven interceptions, adding 642 yards and eight scores on the ground. There are a number of reasons the committee held TCU out of the College Football Playoff, but the Boykin-led offense was not one of them.

Stellar seasons from Prescott and Boykin aside, Mariota winning the Davey O'Brien Award was perhaps the night's biggest inevitability.

Whereas his competitors had historic seasons for their respective schools, Mariota had one of the single best campaigns in NCAA history. He threw for 3,783 yards and 38 touchdowns, with another 669 yards and 14 scores coming on the ground.

Those 52 touchdowns would be enough to guarantee Mariota his inevitable postseason awards sweep in most years. His historic efficiency, though, is what makes him so unique. Mariota threw just two interceptions in 372 attempts and lost three fumbles. For his career, Mariota has accounted for 129 total touchdowns and a paltry 23 turnovers.

"He’s so good. Somebody was talking to me the other day about how easy he makes it look sometimes. What he’s doing is really difficult. His decision-making, competitiveness, his command of the team is so outstanding," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich told Anne M. Peterson of The Associated Press, via The Salt Lake Tribune.

Widely expected to win the Heisman Trophy this weekend, Mariota would be the fifth straight Davey O'Brien Award winner to take home college football's top honor. The last Davey O'Brien winner to not take the Heisman was Colt McCoy in 2009. Seven of the last 10 Heismans have matched with the Davey O'Brien.

Mariota is the first quarterback in Oregon history to win the award. Assuming he takes home the bronze statue, he'll be the first to do that as well. And with a Jan. 1 playoff matchup against Florida State upcoming, it's very possible he'll leave Eugene with another first: a national championship.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Wisconsin Badgers Tweet Picture of Jon Gruden, Causing Coaching Rumors

The Wisconsin Badgers are trying to find a new head coach after Gary Anderson announced that he would be leaving to coach Oregon State. 

There are a number of potential candidates for the open position, but this one doesn't seem likely.

The Badgers tweeted a photo of ESPN's Jon Gruden talking with Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez. As expected, the picture caused a flurry of coaching speculation.

[Twitter, h/t Next Impulse Sports]

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Marcus Mariota Wins 2014 Walter Camp Player of the Year Award

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is the 2014 recipient of the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award as the top player in college football.

The Walter Camp Football Foundation announced the award on its website:

University of Oregon redshirt junior quarterback Marcus Mariota (Honolulu, HIhas been selected as the 2014 Walter Camp Player of the Year. The 48th recipient of the Walter Camp Player of the Year award, Mariota is the first Oregon player to earn the award. He is also the eighth player from a Pac-12 school to win.

“Marcus Mariota’s consistency and overall performance for the high-scoring Ducks has been spectacular,” Foundation president James Monico said. “We are pleased to recognize him and join an impressive list of past Player of the Year recipients.”

Mariota beat out fellow finalists Amari Cooper (Alabama), Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin), Trevone Boykin (TCU) and Scooby Wright III (Arizona) for the honor. He joins a list of winners that includes Archie Griffin, Barry Sanders, Desmond Howard and Larry Fitzgerald, among others.

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston won the award in 2013.

Mariota is the driving force behind the Ducks' 12-1 record, which was good enough to earn them a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff. They enter the four-team tournament as the No. 2 seed and will take on Winston and the Seminoles in the semifinals.

The redshirt junior has posted truly eye-popping numbers in his third season as the starter in Eugene. He's thrown for more than 3,700 yards with 38 passing touchdowns and just two interceptions. He's also added over 650 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. He even has a receiving touchdown.

At least some of that success can be contributed to the high-flying Oregon offensive approach, of course. Bob Glauber of Newsday doesn't think it's fair to call him a system quarterback, though:

Being placed in a promising position helps, but Mariota deserves a boatload of credit for reaching an incredible level of efficiency running the offense. His decision-making skills and reads have been close to flawless for most of the campaign.

That's why the Walter Camp Award is one of several individual honors he's likely to receive. Most notably, he's the widely assumed front-runner to take home the Heisman Trophy, which will be handed out on Saturday night.

Mariota isn't sure how to react to the huge increase in the level of attention. He summed it up quite succinctly for Andrew Greif of The Oregonian.

"Everything that's going on right now," Mariota said, "is surreal."

Things are only going to get more intense in the weeks and months ahead. First, the other awards followed by likely assuming the role as the most coveted prospect in the 2015 NFL draft.

But first, there's still work to do with the Ducks. After collecting the hardware, Mariota and his teammates will begin preparing to face the unbeaten, reigning champion Seminoles. A clash with either Alabama or Ohio State would then await in the title game should they advance.

For Oregon to emerge as the champion, Mariota must continue to perform on the level that allowed him to walk away with the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pac-12 Football: Ranking the Best Conference Games of 2014

With bowl season rapidly approaching, it's time to take a look back at the best Pac-12 games of the 2014 season.

Normally, this time of year would be cause for concern with no more Saturdays full of football to look forward to. But there's a plethora of bowl games along with the College Football Playoff, recruiting season, spring practice and before you know it, previews ramping up for 2015. When all else fails, however, we can reflect on the joy brought by yet another thrilling autumn of college football.

Late-night Pac-12 contests became must-see television, and Hail Mary odds were less wisps of a prayer and more like the flip of a coin as the league saw two at the tail end of games. Records were broken, individual players had all-time seasons and the Pac-12 as a whole continued to rise in status.

With several great games being played every weekend, it's impossible to include every game that made you text your friends to make sure they were watching. But we've whittled the list down to eight.

Click ahead to check out the very best football games from the Pac-12 conference in 2014.

All stats via cfbstats.com

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Tony Sanchez Named UNLV Football Coach: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

UNLV's football program planned to look far and wide for its next head coach. It wound up finding the perfect candidate right at home.     

The Rebels officially announced Tony Sanchez, the head coach at national power Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, will fill their vacant position on Thursday. 

"Tony Sanchez may be a new face to the college game but he is a dynamic leader, a proven winner and an outstanding coach," UNLV President Donald Snyder said in a statement. "He also understands the importance of academics. He has the passion and dedication to elevate UNLV football and provides a strong connection to the Las Vegas community."

Sanchez, 40, has led Bishop Gorman to an 85-5 record and state championships each of the last six seasons. Bishop Gorman went 15-0 in 2014, and the UNLV release indicates the program is expected to win the high school national championship.

Sanchez will take over for the departed Bobby Hauck, who went 15–49 in five seasons in Las Vegas. Hauck resigned last month after the Rebels dropped from a surprising 7-6 in 2013 to 2-11 the following season. He had two years remaining on his contract.

"Athletics are part of the overall student experience at a major university and we need to be competitive," Snyder said. "Given the state of our football program, it was time for a completely new approach. We have tried the traditional route in the past and it has not worked. This begins a new era of UNLV football. We want to generate excitement and energy for the fans, the alumni and all of Southern Nevada."

While certainly a step up from the high school ranks, Sanchez will have his work cut out building a winner at UNLV. The program has appeared in four bowl games since its inception, only two of which have come outside Las Vegas. Hauck's 2013 team was the program's first winning season since 2000. UNLV has 10 winning seasons total since becoming a Division I program in 1978.

Sanchez says he'll look to build the program from within the Las Vegas community.

“You’ve got to find the local homegrown kids and give them an opportunity and a reason to stay home,” Sanchez told Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated. “That is huge. You talk about putting more people in the stands, getting more community support and people rallying around the program, I think it always starts in your backyard. Home is always home, but you’ve got to give them a reason to want to stay home.”

The program he's taking over will prove a stark contrast Sanchez's time at Bishop Gorman, where he never finished with fewer than 13 wins.

It'll be interesting to see whether Sanchez can work magic at Las Vegas' premier collegiate institution after doing the same at the high school level.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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What LSU Must Do in 2015 to Return to National Prominence

The LSU Tigers had an up-and-down 2014 campaign, at times looking like an elite team and other times struggling on both sides of the ball. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee discuss where the Tigers will be in 2015.

Will LSU compete for a spot in the College Football Playoff in 2015?

Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Best Bowl Team That Never Was

Louisiana-Lafayette, Arkansas State and South Alabama will all wear the Sun Belt patch on their jerseys this bowl season, but there's one thing that Georgia Southern has over the trio that can never be taken away.

The Sun Belt title.

In their first season in FBS, the Eagles cruised through the conference, finishing the season 9-3 overall and 8-0 against Sun Belt foes, claiming the outright conference title.

First-year head coach Willie Fritz took a program that had become synonymous with the triple-option and turned it into a more run-based, zone-read team.

It looked a little different than Georgia Southern teams of the past, but the result was the same. The Eagles led the FBS is rushing with 379.92 yards per game and 7.11 yards per attempt, and did it against competition that was tougher than what it used to face in the Southern Conference.

"We knew it would be tougher competition," quarterback Kevin Ellison told Bleacher Report. "But we look forward to that competition every single Saturday. We are thankful that we were able to go into FBS and the Sun Belt, be able to compete and come out with the Sun Belt championship."

Ellison rushed for 1,082 yards and 12 touchdowns, running back Matt Breida rushed for 1,485 and 17 scores and fellow running back Alfred Ramsby rushed for 691 and 12 touchdowns, as the program took a step away from the old-school, triple-option days and into a new era of Eagle football.

"We want to build a powerhouse here," Fritz said. "I've said this from Day 1, we want to have the same kind of success here at Georgia Southern at the FBS that they're used to having at the FCS level. It's the all-time winningest FCS program in the history of the NCAA with six national championships. Everybody has heard of Boise State, and the reason everybody has heard of them is because of their football program. We feel like we can do that here."

That new era, though, requires baby steps.

Since they are in their first year in the FBS and still considered a transitional program by the NCAA's rules, the Eagles were not eligible to compete in a bowl game unless a waiver was granted by the NCAA.

When Appalachian Sate beat Louisiana-Lafayette on Nov. 22, it gave Georgia Southern at least a share of the Sun Belt title. At that time, athletic director Tom Kleinlein began the process of petitioning the NCAA for a waiver that would allow the Eagles to play in a bowl game, despite their transitional status.

"As a conference champion who, at the time, has the potential of going undefeated, I'm going to ask the NCAA why they wouldn't consider [the waiver process] for a team that was undefeated and a conference champion, when they would make an exception for a team that didn't win six games and would make an exception when there aren't enough bowl-eligible teams," Kleinlein said.

Georgia Southern was denied a waiver request by the NCAA late in the season, appealed that decision and had that appeal denied shortly after beating Louisiana-Lafayette 22-16 on Nov. 29 to claim the conference title outright and finish off an unblemished conference season.

The late-season fight for a bowl game played out in media reports in late November, but it didn't have any impact on the players, who had one goal in mind.

"Our coaches really tried to tell us to not think about the bowl game," senior linebacker Edwin Jackson said. "Let's go on, finish the regular season and leave with a mark and leave with something that nobody can take away from us. We crossed our fingers [for a bowl], and people really believed in us. That's what I got from Eagle Nation."

The reason for the denial was simple. Georgia Southern isn't technically a member of the FBS yet and would take a spot away from a more deserving team.

"Deserving team? Who's more deserving than an undefeated conference champion from the Sun Belt?" Kleinlein said. "We did not take one of those bowl spots away, us being undefeated took one of those bowl spots away."

It was in college football no man's land, and the only way out is patience.

"It became very clear [during the appeal process] that this was a membership deal," Kleinlein said. "Us being part of the club, so to speak. When you talk to the NCAA in terms of membership, in their world, that's a very black and white, non-negotiable world."

That world's existence really shouldn't apply to Georgia Southern, though. 

Part of the reason the two-year transition rule exists is to prevent teams from loading up on transfers from the higher classification before making the leap themselves, because those players would circumvent the rule that prevents players from being eligible when they transfer within FBS institutions.

Georgia Southern had a few transfers, but none that moved for the purpose of skirting the rules and playing FBS football without sitting out a year.

"We didn't have a bunch of players transfer in and build our roster up and then make an announcement," Kleinlein said. "We didn't do any of that, so we didn't have a competitive advantage when it comes to the transfer rules."

In fact one Georgia Southern player—reserve quarterback Favian Upshaw—had to sit out a year because of the FBS transfer rule, even though he chose to transfer to the program from Florida International before Georgia Southern even announced it was moving to the FBS.

On top of the rule existing in part for a reason that wasn't really applicable to Georgia Southern, the final element of the appeal process couldn't be pursued due to ongoing changes in the NCAA's governance structure.

"Under the new structure, the next level of appeal was to the administrative cabinet," Kleinlein said. "But that doesn't exist anymore."

As a result, Kleinlein was unable to get in front of a real live group of people and state his case.

"There was no mechanism to get in front of that group of people and talk it out," he said. "You can write it and you can submit it and you can do that stuff, but when you want to make an appeal, you want to talk to people."

Instead of showing off just how good the program is in front of a national audience against a big-time opponent in a bowl game, the Eagles' resume will have to stand as is.

That's just fine, though. The lack of a bowl game doesn't take the shine off what was a tremendous season for Georgia Southern.

"Being here for five years, the biggest thing I've taken away from this journey is patience," Jackson said. "My senior class last year, they weren't able to go. They passed it to the next generation. We're undefeated in the Sun Belt, but we can't go to a bowl game. Next year, we can, and I'm passing it on to the next generation. We beat the Sun Belt in our first year. You're going to beat it next year and you're going to a bowl. It's all about patience."

Georgia Southern announced its FBS presence with authority. On top of their run to the Sun Belt title, the Eagles had tight losses on the road against N.C. State and eventual ACC coastal champion Georgia Tech.

"Being undefeated conference champs, we were hoping they'd look at that and grant us our waiver," Fritz said. "Unfortunately they didn't, and we have to move on from there. That's just part of it. They can't take away that undefeated conference championship."

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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2014 College Football Headlines You Never Would've Believed 5 Years Ago

Every college football season brings headlines that are hard to comprehend in the moment.

Imagine how harder they would have been five years ago.

Five years doesn't sound like an eternity on paper, but a lot has changed in the interim between 2009 and 2014. Coaches have moved across the country. Programs have risen and decayed. 

But a lot of this change has taken place with a creeping normality that makes it difficult to notice as it's happening. Like a frog in a boiling pot of water, we can't always tell the climate is changing until it's unrecognizably different.

Here are a few headlines that were hard to comprehend in 2014 but would have been impossible to comprehend five years ago.

Sound off below if you can think of anything else.

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Why Army vs. Navy Rivalry Is the Best in College Football

The final regular season college football game of 2014 has no bearing on the playoffs, doesn't have a bowl berth hanging in the balance and isn't going to get the losing team's coach fired. Yet when Army and Navy meet in Baltimore on Saturday, it will be the most noteworthy game of the year.

And not just because it's the only one on the schedule. Army-Navy has everything we want in a rivalry game, but with so much more.

"By game's end, no matter what the score, America wins," wrote Braden Gall of Athlon Sports, one of many publications to list Army-Navy as college football's best rivalry.

Football is an American sport, and nothing brings out love of country like pitting members of the United States Military Academy and the Naval Academy on the gridiron.

As it has been for more than a decade, this year's game figures to end up in a Navy victory. The Midshipmen (6-5) have won 12 straight meetings, 10 by double digits, as Army (4-7) is headed for a fourth straight losing season and 17th in the past 18 years.

Saying the records don't matter is a sports rivalry cliche, but here's where it fits more than feels forced.

This is a game where, from the opening kickoff to the final whistle the two sides are consumed with the desire to dominate the other, much like any other rivalry game. But once the clock hits zero, and a winner is declared, that rivalry is immediately replaced by camaraderie.

The postgame hugs and handshakes following other such games seem part of an expected routine, an opportunity for opposing sides to show their respect for each other on the outside while still teeming with hatred on the inside. With Army and Navy, it's a way of embracing their shared role as soldiers.

The players aren't in this game hoping to draw the attention of pro scouts, not when their future is already pledged to military service. It's not that there aren't quality athletes on the field—Navy junior Keenan Reynolds set an FBS record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback last season, and would start for other option-run teams—but how big, fast and strong they are ranks far behind the off-field sacrifices they're prepared to make.

Played since 1890 (and continuously since 1930), Army-Navy is a tradition that has no end in sight. It's even proving to be realignment-proof, as Navy's move to the American Athletic Conference next season won't affect the long-running series. The next three games are scheduled to be played on the second Saturday of December, as has been the case the past five years, which would be one week after an AAC title game.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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5 Most Important College Football Recruiting Visits of Week

Less than two months separates us from national signing day, making every piece of the recruiting process impactful at this point. Many of America's premier prospects remain uncommitted and could leave their collegiate fate undetermined into February.

Aside from a small selection of states still competing for titles, the final high school season has ended for 2015 recruits. As their full focus shifts toward finding the right college fit, here's our latest look at key campus visits to watch this weekend.

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2015 College Football Recruits Most Likely to Commit During Bowl Season

With bowl season upon us, and a recruiting dead period slated to take effect on December 22, most schools across the country will take a break from the recruiting trail in an effort to focus on bowl preparations.

However, there is a handful of recruits who are candidates to make a decision in the period between now and when bowl season ends.

A few candidates are early enrollees, while others are simply close to ending the process. 

Which recruits are most likely to make a pledge during bowl season?

 

*All players are listed in alphabetical order.

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Meet Melvin Gordon, the Most Snakebitten Heisman Trophy Candidate Ever

To truly appreciate Melvin Gordon’s season—one of the most historic and unfortunately timed stretches of brilliance the sport has ever seen—you must quantify it with something more.

How about total football fields? Let’s begin our journey there. In 13 games, the 213-pound back who hails from Kenosha, Wisconsin rushed for the equivalent of nearly 24 football fields length- to-length, a feat only three players have ever achieved. To put this in perspective, only 40 teams—yes, full rosters made up of multiple running backs—can say the same this season.

Oh, full-length fields don’t suffice as running back currency? Well, then how about miles? That’s not a method by which we typically calculate a running back’s rushing output, although it’s appropriate on this occasion. Gordon, despite matching up against defenses that clearly knew when and where he would get the football, totaled more than 1.3 miles on the ground this season.

Next time you’re about to hit your cruising speed on the treadmill, think about that.

We could keep going, diving deeper into the endless rabbit hole of statistical absurdity, although it won’t change the outcome come Saturday. Despite delivering a resume seemingly constructed with the Heisman in mind, Wisconsin’s celebrated workhorse will likely finish a distant second to Oregon’s Marcus Mariota when the winner is announced.

Gordon’s spectacular effort couldn’t have come at a worse time, stacked side-by-side with one of the more dominant, stat-crazed seasons a college quarterback has ever had. His finest single-game performance—one of the best days a running back has ever had—was overshadowed, astonishingly, just one week later.

More important to those hoping to become the next Melvin Gordon, this all came during a time when the running back has been deemed replaceable.

Gordon wasn’t just going up against Big Ten defenses; the obstacles were far greater.

“You’re not looking at running backs anymore,” former Wisconsin running back and Heisman winner Ron Dayne told Bleacher Report. “Everyone’s looking at different positions. It didn’t circle back around yet for him to get the attention that he needed.”

Dayne won his Heisman in 1999, which might as well be 1899 when it comes to league appreciation for the position. Operating with a much larger frame and drastically different running style, his 2,034-yard, 20-touchdown year was deemed Heisman worthy at a time when the position was viewed differently. It was appreciated.

Now back at Wisconsin as a student, university employee and a valuable asset to the Badgers’ recruiting efforts, Dayne has passed along pieces of his Heisman experience to Gordon as he braces for New York City, sharing stories of the moment, his first encounter with Jay-Z and more.

“You’re going to see so many people you’ve seen on TV,” Dayne told his latest protégé.

Before sharing red-carpet stories, Dayne provided feedback to Gordon along the way as he raced toward the award. He didn’t stress running styles, blocking schemes or areas in which he could improve. In fact, Dayne’s approach was much simpler in nature while speaking to one of the sport's brightest stars.

“The biggest thing I told him when I got to talk with him is to have fun. Laugh,” Dayne said. Go out there and have fun no matter what. Don’t worry about stats.”

Whether he worried about them or not, the stats came. And like the rest of us football mortals without a Heisman resting comfortably in our trophy case, Dayne marveled over what Gordon accomplished week to week.

It was a different kind of dominance, a style unique from Montee Ball—another Wisconsin back who ended up in NYC not long ago after his dream season.  It was different from James White, Brian Calhoun and Anthony Davis, other Badger backs who delivered tremendous results during their Madison tenures.

“He’s a different style running back. I can’t compare him to any running back now or any old-school running back either,” Dayne said. “I tell him he looks like Jamal Charles because he’s got the long hair, he’s fast and he can truck guys. He certainly doesn’t run like I did.”

Dayne’s style was built on power and vision; Gordon’s most diabolical traits are unquestionably his speed parlayed with his own knack for finding small openings and making the most of it.

What Gordon hasn’t received ample credit for is the way he has adapted over the course of his college career, a career that will end following the team’s bowl game against Auburn.

“They said all he could was run outside, then the next year he was running inside on all of his plays,” Dayne said. “Then it was he couldn’t catch, and he got multiple touchdowns this year catching the ball. He’s a monster, and he changed every year.”

Playing in an offense deprived of any reasonable threat to pass, No. 25 has managed to accumulate rushing yards in bulk. Gordon finished with 2,336 rushing yards, 151 receiving yards and 29 total touchdowns, three of which came by way of pass. He averaged nearly 180 yards per game.

 “I always have high expectations for myself and always expected to be good,” Gordon said. “But I never thought it would be this crazy.”

Gordon totaled 33 plays of 20 yards or more, which was tops in the nation. He eclipsed 200 total rushing yards in five different games this season and ran for 100 yards or more in all but two outings.

My goodness, we fell down the Gordon stat rabbit hole, didn't we?

He carried the ball 100 more times than he had previously and averaged 7.6 yards per carry, just slightly under his robust career average. In the third quarter of games—a time when most backs wear down—Gordon averaged more than 10.5 yards per rush.

His 408-yard effort against Nebraska broke LaDainian Tomlinson's single-game FBS record for rushing yards in a single game—a record that was set the same year Dayne took home the Heisman.

The very next week, Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine overtook Gordon’s record. A historic milestone that had stood for more than a decade fell in seven days.

This, in many ways, sums up Gordon’s season: remarkable dominance that somehow—through a strange sequence of events—never quite received the appreciation it deserved thanks to dream seasons and dream Saturdays from other magnificent players.

At the same time, Perine’s effort added further ammunition to a battle Gordon fought for this season. Even though it took a little shine off the performance, Gordon reached out to Perine to congratulate him shortly after.

“All of us running backs around the country are trying to make a statement that we are important,” Gordon said. “We’re trying to do the best we can to help out our teams and show that running backs are just as important as any of our positions. We’re trying to show that as much as we can, and that’s not just me.”

It wasn’t just him. The 2014 season was indeed the year of the running back, although it was Gordon’s magical campaign that led the charge.

It didn’t end with a bang against Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship—with Gordon totaling just 76 yards on the ground in the loss—but his overall performance stacks up valiantly compared to some of the greatest running back seasons ever.

The name on the list you can’t avert your eyes from is none other than the great Barry Sanders, the player Gordon grew up watching along with the late, great Walter Payton.

“Those were the first two guys my dad showed me,” Gordon said.

Arguably the greatest college football player of all time, Sanders’ 1988 season at Oklahoma State is the one all running backs are chasing. As Gordon’s production increased, the comparisons to Sanders’ year started to become more prominent for Gordon as he navigated expectations.

While he embraced the attention and managed the madness, he also didn’t have any interest in stacking resumes or running styles side by side.

“Barry Sanders? No. I don’t think you can emulate or be anything like Barry Sanders,” Gordon said. “He’s just one of a kind. There’s only one Barry Sanders and you can’t be like him. You can try, but you won’t be too successful.”

The record is still within reach, although it will take a monumental effort to get there. For the first time all year, however, Gordon isn’t moving toward history. He’s not running from defenses; he’s not running to keep an entire position relevant.

Gordon has finally stopped moving, and he will be able to celebrate his season and his accomplishments in the spotlight, even if he doesn't hear his name called as the Heisman ceremony winds down.

“It’s been a goal of mine and it just shows what type of year I had and how hard I worked,” Gordon said. “I came back to help my team and do some things to become a better player, as well, and I think this is showing that.”

Although Gordon won’t win the sport's most prestigious award, history is not out of the picture just yet. His work is nowhere near complete.

“I’m trying to do my best to be remembered, and hopefully this is a step to that direction, he added.”

Gordon needs 292 rushing yards against Auburn in the Outback Bowl on January 1 to hit Sanders’ historic mark before departing for the NFL. For any other running back managing realistic expectations, such gaps would seem unrealistic and unreasonable. For Gordon, it seems oddly attainable.

After all, it’s not even three full football fields and less than a quarter mile.

 

Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All stats courtesy of CFBstats.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Updated Odds on Who Will Be the Next Michigan Wolverines Head Coach

After the firing of Brady Hoke, the Michigan Wolverines are looking to fill their vacant head coaching position. Naturally, the rumor mill is buzzing, with all the big names being thrown into the mix.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer dishes out his updated odds on who will be the next head coach of the Wolverines.

Who will coach Michigan next season? Check out the video and let us know! 

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