NCAA Football News

Jim Harbaugh Would Need Years to Turn Michigan into National Title Contender

Jim Harbaugh might be the best man for the job, but that doesn't mean the Michigan Wolverines would transform overnight upon his arrival.

Wolverines fans have long held out hope that Harbaugh would return to his alma mater and help it return to national prominence. As almost every Michigan fan now knows, the school reportedly offered him a six-year, $49 million deal, according to Joe Pequeno of CBS 5 in Phoenix:

ESPN's Adam Schefter posted on Facebook that "Jim Harbaugh’s family and friends have been encouraging him to take the Michigan HC job, but he is torn because his heart is in the NFL, per sources close to the situation."

NFL.com's Ian Rapoport added that Harbaugh hasn't had face-to-face contact with Michigan officials yet, so it's still way too early to definitively say that he's on his way to Ann Arbor:

With that said, the timing would be right for a move, and Harbaugh might have a hard time turning down potentially $8 million-plus a year.

This is one of those situations where anything he does won't come as a complete surprise, whether it's staying with the San Francisco 49ers, taking another NFL job or going to Michigan.

Let's just pretend he does in fact become the Wolverines' head coach. While he'd receive the full backing of the fanbase, expectations would also be sky high, especially after Urban Meyer helped Ohio State go unbeaten in his first season with the Buckeyes.

The only snag is that Michigan's problems go deeper than finding a new head coach.

One of the more pressing issues for 2015 is whom will be the team's starting quarterback. Shane Morris, Wilton Speight and Alex Malzone will be vying for the job, and all three are largely inexperienced at college level.

Harbaugh's had success molding young quarterbacks in the past, and there's no reason to expect things would be any different at Michigan. Still, though, Morris, Speight and Malzone aren't guaranteed to be immediate sensations. J.T. Barrett, Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston are the exceptions, not the rule.

In general, Brady Hoke did a good job on the recruiting trail, with Michigan's classes ranking sixth in 2012, fourth in 2013 and 20th in 2014, according to 247Sports. Hoke gave the Wolverines the talent, but he was unable to make the most of his personnel.

While the cupboard wouldn't be bare for Harbaugh, he'd need to overcome the same problem that hindered Meyer in his first couple of years in Columbus: the lack of explosive playmakers who can put the Wolverines on level pegging with the SEC's best.

On December 12, Bleacher Report's Ben Axelrod wrote an article titled "Is Ohio State 'SEC Enough' to Beat Alabama in the College Football Playoff?" in which he discussed how the Buckeyes needed to grow its recruiting base in order to keep up with the top teams in the country:

Ohio State will always possess plenty of players from its own talent-rich state, but one glance at the Buckeyes' roster shows that this is far from your father's Ohio State squad.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a key player on this year's Buckeyes team who wasn't wooed by a school from the SEC, as Meyer hasn't been afraid to go head-to-head with his former conference on the recruiting trail.

"We’re getting close," Meyer said of he and his staff's work on the recruiting trail. "We have to get our speed up with overall offensive skill, but where it was two years ago to where it is now is much different."

It's not enough for Harbaugh or any other Wolverines coach to dominate in-state recruiting. He also has to go out to California, Texas and Florida, among others, to find the best players in the country. That process takes time, especially with the team falling down the college football hierarchy.

Michigan is a big school in reputation only at the moment. The Wolverines are relying on past glories in order to lure in the best prep stars.

At least when Meyer arrived, Ohio State had won at least 10 games a season from 2005 to 2010. In comparison, the Wolverines have one 10-plus-win season since 2006.

Harbaugh would undoubtedly bring a lot of buzz to the program and elevate it in the eyes of potential recruits. But he'd still need to demonstrate that he can bring sustained success to Michigan. You can also bet that other schools would use Harbaugh's NFL history against him, planting that seed of doubt that he could bolt for the big leagues once again at a moment's notice.

To be clear, Harbaugh would be the dream hire for the Wolverines. Paying him $49 million would seem crazy, but The Daily Beast's Jesse Lawrence argued the investment could pay for itself in no time. It's a no-brainer.

Hiring the 49ers head coach would be the quickest way for Michigan to return to an elite level again, but the school would still be looking at a long, arduous climb back to the top.

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Western Michigan vs. Air Force: 2014 Idaho Potato Bowl Score, Twitter Reaction

On a rain-soaked field at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho, Air Force beat Western Michigan, 38-24, to win the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The victory gave the Falcons their third bowl win in the last six seasons, while the Broncos are still in search of their first postseason win.

CBS Sports CFB provided reaction to Air Force's victory:

The Falcons were led by Shayne Davern, who had a career day with 101 rushing yards and two touchdowns. 

Zach Terrell and Corey Davis also had a great day in the Broncos' losing effort. Terrell finished the game 19-of-38 for 297 passing yards, 61 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Each of those scores went to Davis, who capped off his season with 176 receiving yards.

Coming into the 2014 season, not many would have tabbed Western Michigan or Air Force as potential postseason teams. The Broncos and Falcons finished last season at 1-11 and 2-10, respectively. Both teams entered this game with seven more wins than they had the previous season. 

Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck spoke about the matchup Saturday, per Tim Booth of The Associated Press (via CBS Denver):

"How cool is it that two of the top turnarounds in college football get to play each other?" Fleck said. "I am very excited and very eager to strengthen my commitment to Western Michigan."

Bryan Fischer of NFL.com also noted how remarkable the turnaround was for Air Force:

While both teams followed similar paths to the Idaho Potato Bowl, it was Air Force that looked like the more dominant team early. The Falcons and Broncos traded off field goals in the first quarter, but two rushing touchdowns in the second quarter put Air Force out in front for good.

Shortly after a 47-yard touchdown connection between Terrell and Davis, Davern took the momentum back with a 55-yard TD run of his own. ESPN College Football provided a look at the massive run:

Air Force Football also noted how memorable the night was for Davern:

Devin Rushing followed that up with a one-yard rushing touchdown of his own after a 15-play, 80-yard drive for the Falcons. When the two huge drives were completed, Air Force took a 20-10 lead into halftime and had full control of the game.

In the third quarter, Terrell answered a field goal from Western Michigan with a 35-yard strike to Davis. WMU Football's official Twitter account pointed out where that puts Davis in the program's history books:

However, that touchdown would be essentially negated by a fumble on the following drive by Terrell that Dexter Walker returned 60 yards for a touchdown. ESPN College Football passed along the highlight from the pivotal score:

The Falcons cruised from there. 

Coming off two tremendous turnarounds, the future looks bright for both programs.

While Jarvion Franklin wasn't much of a factor on Saturday night, the rising freshman has the potential to be special in the MAC. Terrell and Davis are heading into their junior seasons, laying the foundation for what should be a special offense moving forward.

Meanwhile, the Falcons can get used to seeing Davern have more games like this in the future. The Falcons have reason for optimism after a 10-win season under Troy Calhoun.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Camellia Bowl 2014: Live Score, Highlights for South Alabama vs. Bowling Green

Bowling Green 17, South Alabama 7 Late 2nd Quarter

In its sixth season of football, the South Alabama Jaguars will make their postseason debut here in about an hour against Bowling Green on ESPN.

The fact that they're getting to do it in what is essentially a home game is big for the Sun Belt program. The Camellia Bowl is played at Montgomery's Cramton Bowl, just a skip and a jump from the Mobile-based school. The Jags (6-6) are led by quarterback Brandon Bridge, and will be trying to break a streak of futility.

Meanwhile, though the Falcons (7-6) won the MAC East, they too are reeling, having lost three straight games, including a 51-17 blowout loss to Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship Game. USA has lost four of the season's final five games.

Keep this live blog open for the latest scoring updates, highlights and analysis.

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Division II Football Championship 2014: MSU-Mankato vs. CSU-Pueblo Score, Recap

Coming into the final matchup of the Division II season, both teams were looking to win the national championship for the first time in program history. After a 13-0 victory over Minnesota State-Mankato on Saturday, Colorado State-Pueblo became the fifth team in the last five years to claim the title.

CSU-Pueblo Athletics' official Twitter account provided the final score from Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas:

Chris Bonner wasn't perfect for the ThunderWolves but still led the way for the offense. Finishing 17-of-30 with 191 yards, one touchdown and one interception, Bonner found leading receiver Paul Browning for 84 receiving yards. Cameron McDondle also contributed 148 total yards on the afternoon to pace the offense on the ground.

NFL Draft Diamonds shared its thoughts on the ThunderWolves quarterback:

Overall, Bonner didn't take over the game or torch the Mavericks. But when he was asked to step up and take his team down the field, he did a much better job than Ricky Lloyd or Nick Pieruccini for MSU-Mankato.

Pueblo coach John Wristen spoke about his team's ability to win ugly games prior to the matchup, via Skylar Rolstad of NCAA.com:

Every playoff game is a game where you’ve just got to find a way to survive and advance. Our guys found a way on Saturday [against West Georgia]. Statistics weren’t always in our favor but you’re not judged by statistics, you’re judged by you wins and losses, so I think when you can win a ball game like that it’s a good step because you gain a little confidence when you go through.

Lloyd did provide a spark for the Mavericks at times with 99 passing yards and 67 rushing yards. That unfortunately was not enough to change the outcome, as Mankato was shut out in the national championship game.

From the start of the matchup, defense stole the show. Neither team was able to finish a drive in the end zone during the first quarter. Pueblo notched the only points of the half on a field goal and touchdown in the second quarter.

The ThunderWolves came on strong after a slow start with the field goal but really got rolling with Browning's touchdown. Bonner connected with Browning on an 18-yard completion to put CSU-Pueblo on top, 10-0, heading into the locker rooms.

The NCAA Division II official Twitter account offered a look at the reaction following the two scoring drives:

Adam Amin of ESPN offered his take on the early action in Kansas City:

It was much of the same in the second half from both teams, but CSU-Pueblo continued to find ways to score. A field goal in the third quarter would all but secure it for the stingy defense after limiting Mankato again in the second half.

Sporting Park noted just how dominant the performance was for Pueblo's defense:

Both programs came away with memorable seasons, but it's CSU-Pueblo who claimed its first championship. The ThunderWolves proved they are a program that can compete with anyone and will look to defend their crown next season.

Meanwhile, Mankato will seek to return to the big stage again in 2015. Coming up short is a sour end to the season, but making it this far and knocking off some of the best teams in the country along the way should translate to next season.

With a history of change at the top in the last several seasons, there's no telling what the future holds for either program. For now, the ThunderWolves hold the crown for the first time in school history.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Utah vs. Colorado State: Score and Twitter Reaction for 2014 Las Vegas Bowl

The 2014 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl was supposed to be a matchup of the Utah's potent pass rush against Colorado State's aerial assault. Instead, the Utes dominated on both sides of the ball en route to a 45-10 win.

Despite an 8-4 regular-season record, Utah put together several impressive performances against quality teams. The Utes upset UCLA and USC, and lost a close game to Arizona State. Kyle Whittingham did an excellent job getting this program back up following consecutive losing seasons. 

Colorado State entered the Las Vegas Bowl boasting the eighth-ranked passing offense in the country, averaging 326.3 yards per game. The Rams also scored 35.9 points per game in winning 10 games during the regular season, though they had no answer for a relentless Utah defense on Saturday. 

Despite those numbers, Whittingham tried to downplay the idea that a one-on-one battle would determine the outcome, via Dirk Facer of the Deseret News: “That’s one of the subplots. There’s a lot of things going on....But I guess the headliner would be the Colorado State offense against our defense.”

Of course, Colorado State was playing this game without the man who led the program to those wins. Jim McElwain didn't coach this game after taking over at the University of Florida. 

There was an odd moment in the telecast, per Dr. Saturday of Yahoo Sports, when ESPN had McElwain call in to provide analysis of the game:

Whether McElwain would have made a difference for Colorado State is debatable. Given the way Utah controlled the game, it seems unlikely the Rams would have found a way to win. 

Running back Devontae Booker was Utah's offensive hero with 162 rushing yards on 26 carries. His first big play of the game came late in the first quarter. Colorado State had just scored to cut the Utes' lead to 14-7. On the first play after a 25-yard kickoff, via CBS Sports College Football, Booker scored from 60 yards out:

Booker also helped in the passing game with four receptions for 24 yards. After he made an incredible one-handed circus catch out of the backfield, Kyle Goon of The Salt Lake Tribune noted that's nothing new for the junior:

Overall, the Utes rushed for 359 yards and were able to control the clock for nearly 34 minutes in the victory. 

While the offense for Utah was outstanding, the defense deserves credit as well. Nate Orchard ended his spectacular season in grand fashion by taking the overall lead in sacks with 18.5, per Mark Anderson of the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

One player who should become more of a household name as he develops is Lowell Lotulelei, brother of 2013 first-round pick Star Lotulelei. Jared Stanger of DraftBreakdown.com provided a quick scouting report of the freshman:

Utah finishes the season with nine wins and a bowl victory. Whittingham will look to build on his already strong defense next season.

Colorado State will be disappointed with the way this season ended. It lost a head coach and got embarrassed in its bowl game. But it won 10 games for the first time since 2002 and played in consecutive bowl games for the first time since going to five straight from 1999-2003. 

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Idaho Potato Bowl Mascot Needs Personal Umbrella Holder

The Western Michigan Broncos took on the Air Force Falcons on Saturday in the Idaho Potato Bowl, but it was the mascot who stole the show early on.

The two teams had to play in a rainstorm, but the official Potato Bowl mascot refused to be exposed to the elements. Indeed, he had his very own personal umbrella holder—just like P. Diddy. Sadly, the umbrella holder didn't get an umbrella of his own.

Here's a GIF of the mascot trying to celebrate without moving from underneath the umbrella.

[Twitter, h/t SB Nation]

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Utah State vs. UTEP: Score and Twitter Reaction for 2014 New Mexico Bowl

The Utah State Aggies continued their recent postseason success Saturday in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl by defeating the UTEP Miners 21-6 at University Stadium in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Utah State ended the season with an impressive 10-4 record, while UTEP fell to 7-6. Winning the New Mexico Bowl was an especially big accomplishment for the Aggies considering all the adversity they faced in 2014, according to NFL.com's Bryan Fischer:

As seen in this graphic from the Mountain West Conference's official Twitter account, both teams entered the game with a run-centric mindset:

That trend held true as Utah State and UTEP combined to rack up 428 yards on the ground compared to just 194 through the air.

With that said, both defenses played an excellent game and were able to prevent the opposition from getting into a rhythm and putting too many points on the board.

While UTEP entered the game as a 10-point underdog, according to OddsShark, it had high hopes in terms of ending its 47-year bowl win drought. Miners head coach Sean Kugler explained what he believed a victory would mean for his team, per KVIA.com.

I think we would make history if we take the opportunity to win the bowl game. We're not done yet. We've got a lot of work to prepare. We are going to have to play our best to beat a great Utah State team. That would put a punctuation on this season. Regardless of the outcome of this game, I couldn't be more proud of these kids the way that they have fought all year.

The Miners got on the board first with just over three minutes remaining in the first quarter with a 32-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Jay Mattox.

UTEP drove 60 yards on seven plays with the big strike coming via a 53-yard pass from senior quarterback Jameill Showers to senior wide receiver Ian Hamilton. Although that got the Miners down to the Utah State 21, they couldn't capitalize with a touchdown.

Utah State made them pay on the ensuing drive as freshman signal-caller Kent Myers scored on a 48-yard run after dazzling the UTEP defense with a read option.

As pointed out by Wade Denniston of The Herald Journal, the blocking exploits of junior wide receiver Devonte Robinson downfield aided Myers significantly:

The Aggies very nearly added to their lead shortly after that as junior wide receiver JoJo Natson returned a punt 78 yards before being stopped just shy of the end zone.

That game-breaking play didn't hold up, however, as a penalty canceled it out, per Rick Wright of The Albuquerque Journal:

Utah State committed another miscue midway through the second quarter as UTEP senior defensive back Damian Payne intercepted Myers after the QB absorbed a big hit, as seen in this video courtesy of ESPN College Football:

The Miners offense stalled once again after that, but the defense then picked up for the second consecutive possession.

With Utah State at its own 32, UTEP senior defensive back Adrian James blasted Myers, which resulted in a fumble and Miners recovery deep in Aggies territory, according to Chris Jackson of Examiner.com:

To make matters worse for Utah State, Myers was shaken up on the play and had to be checked out on the sidelines, per Aggies Radio Sports:

Myers was taken to the locker room in the closing minutes of the half as UTEP attempted to convert the advantageous field position into points.

The Miners had to settle for a short field goal attempt, but even that went awry as the holder mishandled the snap, which gave Utah State the ball at its own 10.

With Myers still in the locker room, senior Ronald Butler was forced to take over at quarterback. Since only 43 seconds remained and the Aggies were pinned deep, most probably figured they would be content to enter the half up 7-3.

That changed, though, when Butler took a quarterback draw 61 yards to the UTEP 29 on his first play. To make matters even more shocking, Butler is a wide receiver by trade, according to Yahoo Sports' Dr. Saturday:

Butler is the Aggies' second-leading receiver with 478 yards, but he is also a capable passer with two scoring tosses. Utah State has been so decimated by injuries at quarterback this season that Butler became their fifth quarterback of the year, per Jeff Rhineer of Fox13Now.com:

Myers surprisingly returned to the game near the end of the drive, but the Aggies had to settle for a late field goal attempt.

Utah State senior kicker Nick Diaz appeared to extend the lead to 10-3 after a 28-yard make, but Kugler iced him.

The tactic worked as Diaz shanked his next kick well to the right, and the score remained 7-3 in favor of Utah State at halftime despite both teams having golden scoring opportunities late in the second.

Even though the first half ended in disappointment for the Aggies, it didn't seem to impact them at the start of the third quarter. After having a big play nullified earlier in the game, the speedy Natson made up for it with a 46-yard reception from Myers on Utah State's opening drive.

As pointed out by Lya Wodraska of The Salt Lake Tribune, Natson used his elusiveness to weave through the UTEP defense and get down to the Miners' 24:

Utah State then ran the ball down UTEP's throat, culminating in a three-yard touchdown run by sophomore linebacker and running back Nick Vigil to go up 14-3.

The Aggies once again put themselves in great position with less than six minutes remaining in the third as junior cornerback Tyler Floyd picked off Showers.

Although Floyd made a nice play on the ball, Showers wasn't helped by his receiver, according to Kurt Kragthorpe of The Salt Lake Tribune:

Utah State couldn't convert that turnover into points, and both offenses struggled for several drives.

The Aggies had a chance to make things difficult on the Miners with about 10 minutes left in the game as a 47-yard field goal would have put Utah State up by two touchdowns. Diaz couldn't atone for his earlier miss, though, as he was wayward once again, which gave UTEP some hope.

With just over three minutes remaining in the game, the Miners made a 34-yard field goal to cut the deficit to eight points.

Since UTEP had two timeouts remaining, it decided to kick the ball deep rather than opting for an onside attempt. That plan ultimately didn't pay off, though, as Utah State put the game away with a 32-yard run from Joe Hill followed by an 11-yard touchdown scamper by Hill to make it 21-6.

This win caps another strong season for the Aggies, and it extends their bowl winning streak to three straight. Also, Utah State has now won 10 or more games in two out of the past three seasons, which speaks to its progress as a program.

As for UTEP, it will continue to chase that elusive bowl win in the coming years. After winning just two games in 2013, though, going 7-6 in 2014 has to be considered a major accomplishment.

Utah State was a great measuring stick, and the Miners learned Saturday that they aren't quite at that level yet.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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Famous Idaho Potato Bowl 2014: Live Score, Highlights for WMU vs. Air Force

Air Force 13, Western Michigan 10—Mid 2nd Quarter

Air Force and Western Michigan are meeting for the first time ever in Saturday's Famous Idaho Potato Bowl—a destination few expected from either program after three combined wins a season ago.

Alas, Western Michigan bounced back from a 1-11 season a year ago and a 2-3 start to this season to finish by winning six of seven with a chance at the end of the season to win the MAC. Either way, it was the biggest turnaround in the conference's history.

Air Force had only two victories (to Colgate and Army) in 2013 before a seismic turnaround en route to a 9-3 season. The Falcons are back to where they're used to being during the holidays, marking their seventh bowl game in eight seasons. 

To say a bowl victory would be the icing on the cake for either team's impressive season would be a big understatement—especially for Western Michigan, who is 0-5 all time in bowl games.

Kickoff is at 5:45 p.m. ET on ESPN, but take a look below for live updates as they happen. Also, check NCAA.com for updated stats of the game. 

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College Football Playoff 2014: Full Bracket, Viewing Information for Semifinals

Welcome to the start of the bowl season. Instead of looking at the full slate on the first day of the bowl schedule, it's already time to look ahead at what college football fans have been waiting for all season.

On New Year's Day, the inaugural College Football Playoff will steal the show from the rest of the bowl games. Along with having four of the most notable programs in the sport, each team has been dominant throughout the season.

Between the Sugar Bowl and the Rose Bowl, football fans have everything they could ever want on the field. Prior to the kickoff in these two massive matchups, here's a look at the full bracket, schedule and analysis of the bowls.

 

Analysis of College Football Playoff

Storylines are abundant in the Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl, but the biggest ones are under center and on the sidelines.

In the case of the Rose Bowl, the two quarterbacks both hold Heisman trophies after two outstanding seasons. Marcus Mariota, the Oregon signal-caller, has been nearly perfect all season, with 52 total touchdowns and only two interceptions.

Meanwhile, Jameis Winston has not been as great, with 27 total touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Kevin Gemmell of ESPN.com points out why the turnover margin will likely be the difference in the Rose Bowl:

Oregon's 120 points off of turnovers ranks sixth nationally, and their points margin of 107 (120 points scored, 13 allowed after a turnover) is second best in the country behind TCU. Again, in this category, Florida State isn't so good. The Seminoles are actually in the negative in points margin at minus-10. They've scored 83 points off of turnovers, but allowed 93. That ranks in the bottom 20 of all Power 5 schools.

Along with the two signal-callers, a duo of young running backs in Royce Freeman and Dalvin Cook will also make a huge difference. Both have come on strong and finished the season with authority to help lead their programs to the promised land.

Back on the East Coast, Alabama and Ohio State will do battle. Or, as most fans of both teams will refer to it, Nick Saban vs. Urban Meyer: Part IV.

Two of the most well-known coaches in college football, Saban and Meyer have a combined five national championships. They also happen to be coaching two of the best programs in the country this season.

Looking to move to 2-2 against Saban, Meyer pointed out what is different about the Crimson Tide this year, via Cecil Hurt of TheTuscaloosa News:

Ranking fourth in the country in points allowed (16.6) and 17th in points scored (37.1) per game, the Tide are rolling heading into the showdown.

But they face a potent Buckeyes rushing attack that features Ezekiel Elliott and Cardale Jones. Elliott crushed Wisconsin his last time out for 220 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the Big Ten Championship Game.

The sophomore spoke about having to face that stingy 'Bama defense, via OSU's official account:

Needless to say, both games feature some of the best athletes from around the country looking to accomplish one thing—reaching the College Football Playoff National Championship. New Year's Day will mark one of the biggest days in the history of the sport, but the ultimate goal is to play in the final game of the season.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Las Vegas Bowl 2014: Utah vs. Colorado State

Utah 0, Colorado State 0 ; Early 1st Quarter

Today features a classic matchup of old Mountain West foes, as the No. 22 Utah Utes (8-4) take on the Colorado State Rams (10-2) in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl.  

The game begins at 3:30 p.m. ET. It can be seen on ABC. 

Odds Shark has Utah as a 2.5-point favorite. A full box score can be found here, courtesy of NCAA.com.

 

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Nevada vs. LA-Lafayette: Score and Twitter Reaction for 2014 New Orleans Bowl

Louisiana-Lafayette kicked off college football bowl season with a 16-3 win over Nevada in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl on Saturday. In the process, it became the first school to win the same bowl game four straight years.

Yes, the Ragin' Cajuns were making their fourth consecutive appearance in the same bowl. They won each of the previous three with triumphs over Tulane, East Carolina and San Diego State. It's made the Mercedes-Benz Superdome almost like a second home for the Sun Belt squad.

Here's how their latest trip to the New Orleans Bowl played out:

The Wolf Pack knew the contest presented a unique challenge. Going into a road atmosphere against a team with recent success in the game isn't too common during bowl season.

Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo told Trey Iles of The Times-Picayune they were looking at it as a typical away game rather than a neutral-site encounter.

"They have a great history in this game," he said. "This is their fourth consecutive year here. They're pretty much the home team, and that's the way we're approaching it. It'll be a fun atmosphere."

Given those factors—along with the fact the game kicked off at 8 a.m. Reno time, where the Nevada program is based—perhaps the way the game started shouldn't have been much of a surprise.

Louisiana-Lafayette took the ball after the opening kickoff and proceeded to put together an eight-play, 77-yard drive to get on the scoreboard first. Terrance Broadway found C.J. Bates for a 17-yard touchdown strike to grab a quick 7-0 edge.

As CBS Sports College Football pointed out, it was quite a start to bowl season:

After forcing a three-and-out on defense, the Ragin' Cajuns embarked on another long drive that resulted in points.

This one covered 60 yards on 13 plays and ate up nearly seven minutes of the clock. The drive stalled out just inside the Nevada 30, however. Hunter Stover made sure they still salvaged something out of the drive by connecting on a 46-yard field-goal attempt. 

Nick Krueger from House of Sparky noted it was a career long for the senior kicker:

The Wolf Pack, probably just emerging from their morning daze, were finally able to stabilize the game after that score. The offense started moving the ball, and the defense made a couple stops.

Nevada got on the scoreboard about midway through the second quarter. A brutal nine-yard punt by Daniel Cadona gave it terrific field position. The offense drove all the way down to the 1-yard line, but a false start penalty pushed it back, and from there, the group couldn't find the end zone.

Brent Zuzo made sure the Mountain West side got something out of the drive by splitting the uprights from 21 yards out to make it 10-3.

Scott Prather of ESPN 1420 noted the lack of big plays from either side in the first half:

Louisiana-Lafayette tried to change that on the final drive of the half by throwing up a Hail Mary as the clock ticked down to zero. But Broadway, who completed his first 14 attempts in the game, watched the long toss get knocked down in the end zone.

Still, the Ragin' Cajuns entered the locker room up by a touchdown. On Twitter, the program noted its success in that situation both this season and during the tenure of head coach Mark Hudspeth:

Although there were no points scored in the third quarter, a key stretch occurred about midway through the period.

Matthew Leach of MLB.com probably summed up the thoughts of many college football fans:

Louisiana-Lafayette was inside the Nevada 25-yard line when Lenny Jones came through for the Wolf Pack defense. He delivered a huge hit on Broadway for the strip-sack and also recovered the fumble.

It felt like a perfect opportunity for the Wolf Pack to take the sudden change of fortune to start building some positive vibes on the offensive side of the ball.

Instead, they could only muster one first down before punting. That allowed the Ragin' Cajuns to get the ball back and go on another extended drive. Fifteen plays later, they stretched the lead back to a pair of scores with Stover's second field goal of the afternoon.

Chad Washington of The Daily World noted it put a lot of pressure on the Nevada offense against a defense that was playing perhaps its best game of the season:

The Wolf Pack attempted to respond quickly. They started advancing down the field with ease against a less aggressive Cajuns defense, but four straight incompletions from Fajardo brought the drive to an abrupt halt after they had moved into opposing territory.

Louisiana-Lafayette went back to the ground-and-pound approach once again. It milked four more minutes off the clock, and Stover delivered, this time from 35, to make it 16-3.

ESPN Stats & Info pointed out the lack of success on the ground held Nevada back, especially with the Cajuns utilizing that facet of the game to control the clock:

There was no miracle comeback to be found in the final minutes. Louisiana-Lafayette finished the job to become the first winner of bowl season.

Dr. Saturday highlighted the result:

SI College Football gave props to the winning squad:

Nevada finishes the season with a 7-6 record. It deserves credit for bouncing back from a mediocre beginning to the campaign to secure bowl eligibility. The Wolf Pack just got off to a sluggish start and didn't have enough offense to mount a comeback.

Louisiana-Lafayette ends its year with a win in the New Orleans Bowl for the fourth consecutive year. For a program that waited a long time for success after its move to Division I, it's a nice accomplishment. The Ragin' Cajuns will aim even higher in 2015.

 

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5-Star DT Daylon Mack Names His Top 2: Which Team Is Best Fit?

Daylon Mack sent a shock wave through the recruiting spectrum Friday, ending a 14-month commitment to Texas A&M. The 5-star defensive tackle took another step forward Saturday, declaring LSU and TCU as his leaders:

Mack, a 6'1", 330-pound senior at Gladewater High School in Texas, is arguably the top uncommitted defender on the market. Friday brought an abrupt change to his recruitment process, which seemed to be a done deal throughout much of this cycle.

Rated fourth nationally among players at his position in 247Sports' composite rankings, Mack provides a highly productive interior presence. He tallied 241 tackles, including 89 tackles for loss, and 20 sacks during the past three seasons, per Gerry Hamilton of ESPN.com.

Mack also made an impact on offense in 2014, accounting for 260 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.

The Aggies' major loss will eventually become another program's gain. Less than seven weeks shy of national signing day, it appears to be a two-team battle.

The Horned Frogs would love to double-up the despair of Texas A&M fans by bringing him on board.

Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin and company missed out on a pair of prized in-state defensive prospects Friday morning, as Poteet High School stars  Malik Jefferson and DeAndre McNeal pledged to Texas. Both prospects were projected to sign with Texas A&M by a majority of expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball

Now it seems another in-state foe has fought its way into the discussion. Many expected Texas to enter the equation for Mack, but it's TCU that makes a big move up on his list.

The Horned Frogs remained in the mix for 5-star defensive end Myles Garrett last year throughout his recruitment, though he ultimately signed with Texas A&M and set an SEC freshman record for sacks this season. TCU will aim to seal the deal with Mack, who visited campus in October for an official visit. 

Head coach Gary Patterson presently holds the No. 30 class in 247Sports' national composite rankings. The group includes just two players rated higher than 3-star caliber. 

Joseph Broadnax and Jozie Milton are both big-bodied defensive tackles who've committed to TCU. The Horned Frogs have consistently assembled strong defensive attacks despite a lack of top-level recruits. 

With Mack entrenched as the centerpiece up front, TCU could take its stinginess to another level. He would certainly compete for substantial playing time as a true freshman and be given ample amounts of opportunities to shine as an underclassman.

LSU, on the other hand, implements a defensive group loaded with former standout recruits. The Tigers' current class includes 5-star cornerback Kevin Toliver II and should improve during the final stretch toward signing day as top targets determine their collegiate intentions.

Mack traveled to Baton Rouge earlier this season and is expected to return to campus next month for an official visit. Les Miles stockpiled talent along the defensive line in his last class but could use further reinforcements.

The Tigers hold just one commitment up front, though Isaiah Washington fills an edge role. Mack would fill a need inside, but he may need to bide his time as established players take reps ahead of him.

Mack would be yet another outstanding addition at LSU. However, he could become a program-changer at TCU.

The Horned Frogs nearly made the inaugural College Football Playoff and are attempting to translate that success onto the recruiting trail. Mack fits the bill as an elite in-state talent who can buck the trend by spurning Texas and Texas A&M in favor of the Horned Frogs.

We'll give a nod to the Big 12 Conference co-champions, though the remaining weeks of this recruiting cycle could provide a few more surprises. 

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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New Mexico Bowl 2014: Live Score, Highlights for Utah State vs. UTEP

Utah State 7, UTEP 3—Middle of the 2nd Quarter

The 2014-15 bowl season gets underway today, and the second bowl kickoff of the season belongs to the New Mexico Bowl between Utah State and Texas-El Paso.

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Notre Dame Football: Why Irish Must Establish the Running Game vs. LSU

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — University of Notre Dame quarterbacks have drawn the bulk of the attention since the end of the regular season—and rightly so. But the running backs standing next to Everett Golson and Malik Zaire in the backfield could have an equally large impact for the Irish against LSU in the Music City Bowl.

As Irish head coach Brian Kelly has said at various points throughout the season, Notre Dame must protect its defense, which is a notion all the more appropriate with a full injury report on the defensive side heading into the bowl game against the Tigers.

LSU will haul a run-happy approach into Nashville on Dec. 30, and the undermanned Irish figure to have their hands full trying to slow down Tigers star freshman running back Leonard Fournette.

Fournette has headlined a rushing attack with multiple weapons for offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. The bruising rookie has piled up 891 yards and eight touchdowns on 176 carries. Against Texas A&M on Thanksgiving weekend, Fournette rumbled to a career-high 146 yards, including this ridiculous display of the skill set that made him the No. 1 player in the country as a high school senior, according to 247Sports’ Composite Rankings.

So how can the Irish help protect a banged-up defensive front tasked with slowing the potent Tigers ground game? After all, LSU ranks 11th in the country in rushes per game with 48.58, per CFBStats.com, behind option offenses like Air Force, Georgia Tech, Navy, Army and Georgia Southern. The Tigers are also slotted 29th in the nation with 219.50 rushing yards per game, per CFBStats.com—an average buoyed by the massive 384-yard outburst LSU put together against the Aggies to close out the regular season.

“We have to do a really good job offensively of controlling the flow of the game,” Kelly said Monday. “A lot of it will be our offensive game plan and keeping their offense off the field.”

Leaning on the running game could be a good start. Irish sophomore running back Tarean Folston emerged as the lead back throughout the season, and fellow sophomore Greg Bryant was one of the few bright spots for Notre Dame in its destruction at the hands of USC. Bryant sprinted to a career-high 79 yards on seven carries and notched his first touchdown since early-October.

“Greg’s getting a lot of work,” Kelly said Monday. “We like what he did in the game. He still wasn’t 100 percent with his ankle. … He’s got a good sense of what we’re trying to accomplish at the position in going north and south and playing physical.”

LSU has the ability to grind out yards and chew up clock on the ground. That spells trouble for a thinned Notre Dame defense, especially in the front seven.

But if Folston and Bryant can help slow the pace and aid the defense, the Irish can begin to dictate the terms of the game.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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ESPN to Release 5-Part 'Snoop & Son' Series About Rapper & His CFB Prospect Son

2015 wide receiver prospect Cordell Broadus is a 4-star recruit, per 247Sports, and has offers from over a dozen Division I programs, including USC, Notre Dame, UCLA and Nebraska.

He's also the son of Snoop Dogg.

ESPN has released the trailer seen above, revealing an upcoming five-part series that will focus on the relationship between the recruit and his famous father. 

Snoop & Son: A Dad's Dream premieres Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. ET.

[ESPN]


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Bold Predictions for Big Ten Football's Bowl Season

The Big Ten started the season rough—so rough that eulogies were written after Week 2—but finished with Ohio State University in the College Football Playoff and nine other teams in bowl games.

The league is still regarded as the worst of the Power Five conferences—and, to be honest, it probably is—but it has a chance to win some fans and reform some critics with a solid postseason.

The following bold predictions were made with an effort to avoid shock value. They are all things that could realistically happen, even though the odds are not strong. They aren't wild predictions.

Just bold ones.

Sound off below with your own bold predictions for the B1G.

 

All lines courtesy of Odds Shark, unless cited otherwise.

Begin Slideshow

A Scout's Take on New Wisconsin Badgers Head Football Coach Paul Chryst

This past Wednesday, athletic director Barry Alvarez welcomed former Pitt head coach Paul Chryst home and introduced him as the new head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers.

Chryst was indeed coming home, as he said in his press conference.

"I remember being a paperboy and delivering six papers to the stadium," Chryst said. "I had one of my worst wipeouts on my bike on the railroad tracks. I went down and went to heal myself at the doughnut shop right down the road.

"I remember as a kid sneaking in and playing on the field.

"This is a pretty special day."

Before Chryst became the head coach at Pitt for three years and had gotten the football program back on track (19-19 record), the Madison native had lettered for the Badgers for three years at quarterback and had been an assistant coach for seven years, including six as offensive coordinator from 2005-2011.

I believed that Chryst was a natural fit for the Badgers as their new head coach and wrote about that last week when there was rampant speculation about him coming back to the Badgers.

On Friday, I had an opportunity to talk with scout Chris Landry on 620 WDAE's Steve Duemig Show.

I wanted to get Landry's take on Chryst coming back to Wisconsin to be their new head coach. He said:

"Paul Chryst was the worst-kept secret around. He was the guy that Barry [Alvarez] strongly considered, if you remember, when Bret [Bielema] left. But he had only one year at Pitt, and Paul wasn't going to do that if after just getting there at Pitt.

"Timing is everything. But there is no doubt that is a dream job for him. As you mentioned, he played at Wisconsin and he understands the landscape there. I think it's not only a good fit, but a really good coach who did a good job trying to turn around the problems that they have at Pitt."

Landry then talked about some of the obstacles that head football coaches at Wisconsin face when they take on that job.

"Overall, just a thought, it's been an issue, and we addressed it when Bret left. Here's the thing about Wisconsin, it's a great job and it's a great program. A couple of things that people ought to know that maybe they do not know, and I'm sure Bob is aware of this," he continued.

"Illinois, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Purdue are a little bit different in terms of recruiting. They have some restrictions academically that go above and beyond the NCAA. It's very difficult to compete in that area. And it's very difficult when you are not getting paid from an assistant [coach] standpoint at a competitive level.

"Barry will tell you that they pay competitively, but Wisconsin is in the bottom 10 percent of the Big Five schools in terms of their pay to the assistants. That's a fact. I would submit to you that Wisconsin is much better than a bottom 10 percent Big Five school.

"So, I think a lot of it has been we are going to try and do it our way, and we're going to be cost-cutting, and that's fine, that's their business. But I think the program has produced a great deal. Gary [Andersen] was very classy when he said he wanted to get back to the West Coast, but the realities are that those two things had a huge factor.

"Yes, Oregon State, Corvallis, is part of the country where Gary is from, and that's convenient, but trust me when I tell you, even though it's not admitted, that the salaries for assistants and the academic requirements are two stumbling blocks, hurdles, that you have to overcome.

"Paul is willing to embrace that. I think the last two coaches got frustrated with it, Gary in a big hurry got frustrated with it."

Time will tell if Wisconsin will pay their assistant football coaches at a higher level in the future. It's difficult to see the academic standards getting lowered.

Still, if one looks at the football program over the past 20-plus years, the success has been outstanding.

From 1990-2005, Alvarez was 118-73-4 and won three Big Ten championships and also three Rose Bowls. Overall, Barry was 8-4 in bowls, including the Rose Bowl he coached in after Bielema left for Arkansas shortly after the Badgers won the 2012 Big Ten title.

Bielema was 68-24 in seven years and the Badgers won three more Big Ten titles under him. Bielema was just 2-4 in bowl games, however.

Andersen was 19-7 in two years with the Badgers and won the Big Ten West Division this year. Andersen and the Badgers lost in the one and only bowl game he coached in. 

After Andersen left for Oregon State, it means that Alvarez will once again handle the head-coaching duties for the team as they face Auburn in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day.

Bottom line, even with the obstacles that the football program at Wisconsin faces, the success overall in the past 20-plus years has been very good. As Landry said, Chryst is embracing those impediments.

And Paul should know, having been both a player and a coach at Wisconsin previously. I see Chryst getting similar, if not better results than his two predecessors as a head coach of the Badgers over the next several years.

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College Football Playoff 2014-15: Odds, Schedule and Predictions for Semifinals

The anticipation of bowl season never fails, but it might be at an all-time high with the inaugural College Football Playoff on the horizon.

And what a first year for college football's new system. There were neck-and-neck battles for final spots, and what felt like endless controversy has been washed away by the prospect of two mouth-watering semifinals.

You'd have a tough time hand-picking a more prestigious group of four programs, especially in terms of where each program stands today. But a loss can be the beginning to the end of said prestige, and that won't be lost along with the obvious immediate implications for these teams.

Now that we've set the table, let's sit down and take a closer look at what's to come in the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl.

Note: Game odds courtesy of Odds Shark, last updated December 19.

 

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State

It's only fitting that in the first year of the CFP, Nick Saban and Urban Meyer rekindle a familiar pastime for both—competing against one another in games that decide who will play for a national championship.

Alas, it's not Florida that Meyer represents but Ohio State, and instead of facing off in an SEC title game, this one is an official game for a ticket to Arlington, Texas, and the national championship.

The first thing that jumps off the page is the simple name recognition and branding of the matchup, pegging two of college football's biggest programs against one another. SEC Network compared the two programs' prestige:

But it's not about the past; rather, this matchup is about the present, and both teams are well taken care of there. 

Alabama's defense isn't the unstoppable force it has been in recent years, but the unit is still impossible to run through up front. A revitalized offense behind Blake Sims has seen him break an Alabama single-season passing record, largely due to wide receiver Amari Cooper's dominance as a Heisman Trophy finalist.

That susceptible Crimson Tide secondary could be tested, however, by third-string quarterback Cardale Jones. He has a big arm that could take the top off Alabama's secondary like Auburn and Missouri have done in recent outings. And he'll need to with the Tide likely to bottle up star rusher Ezekiel Elliott.

It's hard to imagine the Buckeyes defense holding up, even if Jones can carry the offense. Even with a dangerous passing attack, Alabama can still run over opponents with T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and an improving offense line.

Ohio State will keep it closer than the oddsmakers expect, but it won't keep the Buckeyes' title hopes alive.

Prediction: Alabama 31, Ohio State 24

 

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 FSU

Jimbo Fisher's Florida State Seminoles enter the first CFP having not lost a game in more than two seasons, and yet they have to travel across the country to face Oregon in the Rose Bowl.

There won't be much to gripe about for the defending champs, however. Not only should they be gracious to even be here after so many close calls this season, but they'll be returning to the same stage upon which they won a national championship a little more than 11 month ago.

Unlike that game, though, the best quarterback on the field might not be on their sidelines. And considering how dominant Marcus Mariota's Heisman voting was in the annals of the trophy's history, he'll be a handful, per ESPN Stats and Information:

Mariota will frustrate Florida State's opportunistic but susceptible defense with his mixture of run and pass, but it's his security more than anything that stands out. He's thrown 38 touchdowns to just two interceptions on the season, while Winston has less scoring tosses and 15 (15!) more interceptions just this year.

Florida State has been able to roll with some considerable punches and pull out victories in 2014, but that will be impossible to re-enact against the Ducks. Once Mariota gets Oregon up a few scores early, the Seminoles run game will be abandoned and Winston will be pushed to force throws.

The Seminoles defense has been masterful at bending but not breaking. The problem? These Ducks might as well have a master's degree in breaking defenses, and the best professor the program has ever had is ready to lay out some knowledge.

Prediction: Oregon 41, Florida State 31

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Bowl Games 2014-15: TV Schedule and Predictions for Every Postseason Battle

The long, two-week break without college football couldn't end soon enough, as Saturday marks the start of bowl season with a handful of early matchups.

Games like the Miami Beach Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl may only be appetizers for what's to come on New Year's, but nothing beats postseason action in the bowl subdivision. Having one last chance to leave a mark for their team on national television often amps up the action, especially when teams used to winning most of their games are invited. 

Every couple of days brings a different spectacle to watch this time of year, and they often increase in entertainment value by the day—with some obvious exceptions. If you don't end up catching the first couple of bowl games on the slate, it's imperative to catch up before the big boys do battle.

Let's take a look at every game in order, breaking down how to catch the action and make a prediction for each one.

Note: Predicted winners marked by (*). Bowl TV schedule courtesy ESPN.com.

 

Biggest Games to Watch

Cotton Bowl: Michigan State vs. Baylor

While one team looks toward building momentum for a 2015 run and another is simply looking to put a fitting ending on this year's campaign, the spotlight and stakes of the Cotton Bowl will bring plenty to play for as far as Michigan State and Baylor are concerned.

Next season's biggest question mark was answered for the Spartans when quarterback Connor Cook announced his intention to stay for his senior season. Behind a nasty defense and an offensive line that will return three of five pieces, Mark Dantonio's squad will be among the biggest College Football Playoff contenders in 2015.

Before that comes, the Spartans will face a team that is intent on writing another chapter to this season's book. After just barely missing out on the CFP in controversial fashion, the Bears—behind star quarterback Bryce Petty, playing in his last game—would like nothing more than to help silence their doubters.

Beating a proven commodity in Michigan State would certainly do that. The Spartans' only losses this year were to Oregon and Ohio State—not too shabby. 

Baylor will have to deal with some coaching turnover, though. After offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery bolted for the Tulsa head job, Waco Tribune-Herald's John Werner noted a change in play-calling:

It shouldn't matter much. Petty has been consistently one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the nation, and that won't change against a Michigan State team that has struggled to contain elite quarterbacks. 

You won't find many bowl matchups with two better offenses, but Baylor's is more accustomed to shootouts—which is what this game will inevitably become. The Bears' underrated front seven will keep running back Jeremy Langford bottled up, and Cook won't be able to match Petty's aerial dominance.

Prediction: Baylor 34, Michigan State 26

 

Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. Florida State

Two teams that many expected to be here will face off in the Rose Bowl for a spot in the national championship game, but it's safe to say each took unfamiliar roads to make it.

If I told you back in September that Florida State barreled through almost all of its competition convincingly and Oregon just barely got by in most of its games, that would fit the narrative for what both programs accomplished a year ago. But instead, it's been the exact opposite—the Ducks are rolling over opponents (albeit with one slip-up), and the Seminoles can't beat anybody by more than a few points.

Of course, recent trends matter little come kickoff on New Year's Day in the Rose Bowl. What will matter is the security that fellow Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota show with the football.

In his encore performance from last year's Heisman, Winston has been far from careful with the ball while Mariota has been magnificent, as ESPN SportsCenter showed:

Winston may try to take advantage of Oregon's loss of cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, but the Ducks will be ready to swarm on anything the redshirt sophomore hangs up there. As for Mariota, he's shown no willingness to give opposing defenses that sort of chance—and Oregon's offensive system rarely puts him in position to do so.

Neither defense has been spectacular this season, but if there's one unit that has shown its grit in big-time games, it's Oregon—which has allowed more than 19 points just once since November. The Seminoles have made the plays when it counts, but that won't continue with Mariota executing the offense to perfection.

Prediction: Oregon 41, Florida State 30

 

Peach Bowl: Ole Miss vs. TCU

The TCU Horned Frogs didn't get their chance to prove themselves in the CFP. But for a team that finished 4-8 a season ago, facing the SEC's second-best team in a statement game isn't all that bad.

Gary Patterson's TCU squad will face No. 9 Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl on New Year's Eve, and a win would serve as the biggest bragging rights a Big 12 supporter tired of the SEC's reign could possibly imagine.

The opportunity at stake isn't lost on the Rebels, either, who are in somewhat of unchartered territory at 9-3 and in the national spotlight. With a still-youthful roster and head coach Hugh Freeze around for the long term, Ole Miss will want nothing more than a resounding win to assert its status as a contender in 2015 and beyond.

ESPN's Tim Tebow summed up perfectly what's at stake, per SEC Network:

Picking a winner almost feels disrespectful to the potential of this bowl game, which should be one of the best of the year. With an elite TCU offense against a top-of-the-line Rebel defense and such huge implications in the lasting outlook of this season altogether, it should be a back-and-forth thriller that goes down to the wire.

Both teams will come ready to play, but Ole Miss will find it much easier to execute its biggest keys to success. The Rebels are much more complete as an overall team, boasting a formidable offense behind quarterback Bo Wallace and running back Jaylen Walton that should counter TCU's biggest punches.

It will go down to the last possession, but expect the Rebels to pull through.

Prediction: Ole Miss 34, TCU 30

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Bowl Games 2014-15: Schedule and Predictions for Top Matchups on Slate

The college football bowl season is set to begin with five games on Saturday. The biggest games won't occur until closer to New Year's Day, but college football fans will simply be thrilled to see the sport return after an almost month-long break from a full schedule.

Things will get underway early with an 11 a.m. start for the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. The Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns will have a substantial home-field advantage at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome against the Nevada Wolf Pack.

Here's a look at the full slate of bowl games. Just below the table is a closer look at the two national semifinals in the College Football Playoff.

Bowl Location Date/Time Network R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Nevada vs. Louisiana-Lafayette New Orleans
Mercedes-Benz Superdome Dec. 20
11 a.m. ESPN Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Utah State vs. UTEP Albuquerque, N.M.
University Stadium Dec. 20
2:20 p.m. ESPN Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
Utah vs. Colorado State Las Vegas
Sam Boyd Stadium Dec. 20
3:30 p.m. ABC Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Western Michigan vs. Air Force Boise, Idaho
Albertsons Stadium Dec. 20
5:45 p.m. ESPN Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
South Alabama vs. Bowling Green Montgomery, Ala.
Cramton Bowl Dec. 20
9:15 p.m. ESPN Miami Beach Bowl
BYU vs. Memphis Miami
Marlins Park Dec. 22
2 p.m. ESPN Boca Raton Bowl
Marshall vs. Northern Illinois Boca Raton, Fla.
FAU Stadium Dec. 23
6 p.m. ESPN San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Navy vs. San Diego State San Diego
Qualcomm Stadium Dec. 23
9:30 p.m. ESPN Popeyes Bahamas Bowl
Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky Nassau, Bahamas
Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium Dec. 24
Noon ESPN Hawai'i Bowl
Fresno State vs. Rice Honolulu
Aloha Stadium Dec. 24
8 p.m. ESPN Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl
Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech Dallas
Cotton Bowl Dec. 26
1 p.m. ESPN Quick Lane Bowl
Rutgers vs. North Carolina Detroit
Ford Field Dec. 26
4:30 p.m. ESPN Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl
NC State vs. UCF St. Petersburg, Fla.
Tropicana Field Dec. 26
8 p.m. ESPN Military Bowl presented By Northrop Grumman
Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech Annapolis, Md.
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium Dec. 27
1 p.m. ESPN Hyundai Sun Bowl
Arizona State vs. Duke El Paso, Texas
Sun Bowl Dec. 27
2 p.m. CBS Duck Commander Independence Bowl
Miami vs. South Carolina Shreveport, La.
Independence Stadium Dec. 27
3:30 p.m. ABC New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Boston College vs. Penn State Bronx, N.Y.
Yankee Stadium Dec. 27
4:30 p.m. ESPN National University Holiday Bowl
Nebraska vs. USC San Diego
Qualcomm Stadium Dec. 27
8 p.m. ESPN AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Texas A&M vs. West Virginia Memphis, Tenn.
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium Dec. 29
2 p.m. ESPN Russell Athletic Bowl
Oklahoma vs. Clemson Orlando, Fla.
Florida Citrus Bowl Dec. 29
5:30 p.m. ESPN AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl
Arkansas vs. Texas Houston
NRG Stadium Dec. 29
9 p.m. ESPN Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Notre Dame vs. LSU Nashville, Tenn.
LP Field Dec. 30
3 p.m. ESPN Belk Bowl
Georgia vs. Louisville Charlotte, N.C.
Bank of America Stadium Dec. 30
6:30 p.m. ESPN Foster Farms Bowl
Maryland vs. Stanford Santa Clara, Calif.
Levi's Stadium Dec. 30
10 p.m. ESPN Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
No. 9 Ole Miss vs. No. 6 TCU Atlanta
Georgia Dome Dec. 31
12:30 p.m. ESPN VIZIO Fiesta Bowl
No. 20 Boise State vs. No. 10 Arizona Glendale, Ariz.
University of Phoenix Stadium Dec. 31
4 p.m. ESPN Capital One Orange Bowl
No. 7 Mississippi State vs. No. 12 Georgia Tech Miami Gardens, Fla.
Sun Life Stadium Dec. 31
8 p.m. ESPN Outback Bowl
Auburn vs. Wisconsin Tampa, Fla.
Raymond James Stadium Jan. 1
Noon ESPN2 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
No. 8 Michigan State vs. No. 5 Baylor Arlington, Texas
AT&T Stadium Jan. 1
12:30 p.m. ESPN Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
Missouri vs. Minnesota Orlando, Fla.
Florida Citrus Bowl Jan. 1
1 p.m. ABC Rose Bowl Game Presented By Northwestern Mutual
College Football Playoff Semifinal

No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State Pasadena, Calif.
Rose Bowl Jan. 1
5 p.m. ESPN Allstate Sugar Bowl
College Football Playoff Semifinal

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State New Orleans
Mercedes-Benz Superdome Jan. 1
8:30 p.m. ESPN Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Houston vs. Pittsburgh Fort Worth, Texas
Amon G. Carter Stadium Jan. 2
Noon ESPN TaxSlayer Bowl
Iowa vs. Tennessee Jacksonville, Fla.
EverBank Field Jan. 2
3:20 p.m. ESPN Valero Alamo Bowl
Kansas State vs. UCLA San Antonio
Alamodome Jan. 2
6:45 p.m. ESPN TicketCity Cactus Bowl
Washington vs. Oklahoma State Tempe, Ariz.
Sun Devil Stadium Jan. 2
10:15 p.m. ESPN Birmingham Bowl
East Carolina vs. Florida Birmingham, Ala.
Legion Field Jan. 3
Noon ESPN GoDaddy Bowl
Toledo vs. Arkansas State Mobile, Ala.
Ladd-Peebles Stadium Jan. 4
9 p.m. ESPN College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T
TBD vs. TBD Arlington, Texas
AT&T Stadium Jan. 12
8:30 p.m. ESPN

 

Florida State Will Outlast Oregon

All year long, the defending champions have been finding ways to win close games. It's hard to find a game in which you could say Jameis Winston and Co. have actually played well as a team.

For some reason, it feels as if this is the game the Noles play like defending champions for close to—or a full—60 minutes. Winston won the 2013 Heisman Trophy, and he is going up against this year's winner in the Oregon Ducks' Marcus Mariota.

There's no disputing Mariota's worthiness of the sport's top individual honor, but Winston wouldn't be a competitor if he didn't want to outperform this year's winner. College Football 24/7 calls Mariota vs. Winston the best matchup of bowl season.

Because of the way Winston's teammates respect him, there's no question they want to help him get the best of the matchup—not to mention defend the school's national championship.

The key here is Florida State's ability to run the ball against the Oregon defense. Dalvin Cook has been a constant for Florida State all season. Even when Winston has struggled, Cook has given the Noles a stabilizing presence.

The freshman leads the Noles in rushing and undoubtedly has a bright future in Tallahassee. Oregon's run defense has been far from stout this season.

The Ducks rank just 50th in rushing yards allowed per game. Look for Florida State to pound the ball on the ground and set up play-action opportunities for Winston. The Noles' defense represents the most athletic and explosive defense Mariota has seen all season.

The result will be a surprisingly easy win for Florida State.

 

Alabama is Too Fast For Ohio State

Ohio State Buckeyes fans will hate to hear this, but it's still true. The Alabama Crimson Tide are too fast as a team.

From the linebackers to secondary and pass-rushers, the Tide can get after the Bucks' receivers and quarterback Cardale Jones like no team Ohio State has faced.

The only prayer Ohio State has is to establish a strong run game early and somehow force Alabama into turnovers. The first is obviously easier said than done.

Bama's run defense is ranked No. 2 in the nation. Led by linebacker Trey DePriest, Alabama fills its gaps and swarms to the ball. If the Bucks can't run the ball, too much pressure will fall on the shoulders of Jones to lead his team to victory.

Jones played great—as did the Bucks defense—in the Big Ten title game against the Wisconsin Badgers; he didn't turn the ball over and Ohio State restricted the nation's leading rusher, Melvin Gordon, to under 80 yards in the 59-0 rout.

Wisconsin definitely isn't on Alabama's level on either side of the ball. 

Heisman finalist Amari Cooper changes the way teams have to defend Alabama. He stretches defenses, which opens up the Bama running game. Ohio State doesn't have one cornerback capable of handling Cooper, and that means safety help will be required constantly.

Bama will win the battle at the line of scrimmage and maul Ohio State in a rout.

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