NCAA Football News

Army-Navy Game 2014: TV Info, Odds for Epic Rivalry

It wouldn't matter if the two teams were winless going into the final game of the year. When Army and Navy face each other, it's a big deal.

The two military academies look forward to this annual rivalry all season long as the only real game that matters. Navy has had some good performances this season and goes into the last week with a 6-5 record. Army has struggled a bit more, but it still managed to go 4-7.

Still, a win or loss Saturday will determine whether the season is a success for these two programs.

This is an exciting game to watch for all college football fans, so make sure not to miss a second of the action from Baltimore.

 

When: Saturday, Dec. 13

Time: 3 p.m. ET

Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland

TV: CBS

Spread (via OddsShark.com): Navy -15

Over/Under: 56

 

The most intriguing part of this game is the fact that it's almost like a time-traveling experience to football before the invention of the forward pass.

With both teams running the option offense, throwing the ball is extremely rare. Army ranks last in the nation with just 64.5 passing yards per game, while Navy is second-to-last with an average of 87.6.

Navy won last year's game 34-7 with quarterback Keenan Reynolds passing for just 10 yards on seven attempts.

With Reynolds back as one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the nation, it wouldn't be surprising to see more of the same this time around. The junior leads the team with 1,082 rushing yards, and his 20 touchdowns on the ground ranks seventh in the country.

Army has struggled defensively all season, and it is hard to imagine the squad finding ways to stop—or even slow down—a quarterback who can score on any play.

This doesn't seem like a year that is going to end the Midshipmen's run of recent success, as noted by ESPN Stats and Info:

The Black Knights will battle back with the one-two punch of Angel Santiago and Larry Dixon in the backfield. They will find a way to move the ball and keep the Navy offense off the field as long as possible.

However, Navy has more talent from top to bottom and should be able to pull out another win in its home state of Maryland.

Still, this game is about more than wins and losses. ESPN's College GameDay will make its way to M&T Bank Stadium to watch the action, as Kirk Herbstreit excitedly announced:

Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo sums up the rivalry well:

The thing that’s always cool is, as bad as we want to beat them and as bad as they want to beat us, there’s a great amount of respect between both schools. The sportsmanship after, by us singing each other’s alma mater, shows that. In a sport where everyone’s talking about who’s going to be in the top four, it’s cool to have two teams that just play a rivalry for the pure competition.

The simultaneous hatred and respect make this an incredible event that transcends sports. One of these teams will leave as a winner, but there will truly be no losers in this one.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

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College Football Playoff Championship 2015: Schedule, Dates for Inaugural Event

For the first time ever, the national champion in college football will be determined in a playoff format. The inaugural College Football Playoff is just a little over two weeks away.

While many of us would prefer a larger field, the four-team format is still an improvement from the BCS and prior systems.

The semifinals matchups will take place on New Year's Day. These two games will captivate the attention of the American sports world.

Here's a look at the matchups along with their respective times and locations:

 

No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State

Rose Bowl Stadium
Pasadena, California
January 1, 2015—5 p.m. ET

 

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State

Mercedes-Benz Superdome
New Orleans, Louisiana
January 1, 2015—8:30 p.m. ET

 

The winners of the semifinals will advance to the national championship final. That game will be played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Jan. 12 at 7:30 p.m. ET. Which teams will play in the inaugural CFP?

Here are my picks:

 

Alabama Crimson Tide

The Tide has drawn the Ohio State Buckeyes in their semifinal matchup. Without question, Bama has been the best team in the country over the last seven weeks.

In that span, Alabama has defeated five ranked teams.

In Amari Cooper, Alabama has a Heisman Trophy finalist and arguably the best player in the nation.

On defense, Nick Saban's team has allowed just 16.6 points per game. While Ohio State deserves credit for rallying behind third-string quarterback Cardale Jones, it doesn't have the overall team speed to contend with Bama.

 

Florida State Seminoles

The Noles will be fueled by disrespect and guided by the experience of a core that won a national championship last season.

The team hasn't really looked good in a big game all year, yet many forget that Florida State is the only undefeated team. The Seminoles simply know how to win.

That's something we don't know about the Oregon Ducks—especially not in bowl games. Sure, Oregon is guided by the likely Heisman Trophy winner in Marcus Mariota, but the Ducks defense is ranked just 50th in the nation against the run.

The Seminoles have leaned increasingly on the ground game late in the season, and it has taken pressure off of Jameis Winston. He had his best game of the season against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the ACC Championship game. For just the third time all season, Winston didn't throw an interception.

As the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Winston will be fired up to play against this year's probable recipient.

Florida State will produce its best performance of the season to beat the Ducks and advance to the final.

 

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Will Muschamp Named Defensive Coordinator at Auburn: Latest Details and Reaction

As has been suspected, former Florida head coach Will Muschamp will be named defensive coordinator at Auburn. 

Auburn announced Muschamp's return to the program:

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn Tweeted about the news:

According to Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated, Auburn is expected to make the move official at a press conference over the weekend:

Former Florida coach Will Muschamp will be Auburn’s new defensive coordinator per a source.

A press conference is expected this weekend, the source said. The move marks Muschamp’s return to the Tigers. He was Auburn’s defensive coordinator from 2006-07 and got his start in coaching at the school as a graduate assistant just over a decade before.

Ever since Auburn announced the firing of Ellis Johnson after the Tigers defense allowed 55 points against Alabama, Muschamp has been the favorite to get the job. 

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn talked about Muschamp's credentials during an appearance on ESPN television this week, via James Crepea of the TimesDaily.

“We’re going to go out and try and hire the best defensive coordinator around,” Malzahn said. “Obviously he’s one of the best—there’s no doubt about that—but we’ll see what happens. We’re working hard to try to get the right guy.”

Muschamp struggled as a head coach at Florida, compiling a 28-21 record in four years, but was one of the top defensive coordinators in the country with Auburn in 2006-07 and Texas in 2008-10. He had been named as the eventual successor to Mack Brown at Texas before taking the Gators job. 

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Hawaii Bowl Betting: Fresno State Bulldogs vs. Rice Owls Odds, Analysis & Pick

Fresno State is back in a bowl for the 13th time in the last 15 seasons, but the Bulldogs haven't had much luck bowling lately, losing their last five bowls both straight up and against the spread. Fresno State shoots for a little better luck when it goes up against the Rice Owls in the 13th edition of the Hawaii Bowl on December 24 at 8 p.m. ET at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.

 

Hawaii Bowl point spread: Bulldogs opened as two-point favorites; the total was 59.

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 26.1-23.5 Owls

 

Why the Bulldogs can cover the spread

The Bulldogs began this season 0-3, getting beat up by USC, Utah and Nebraska. Fresno State then won three in a row to get back to even but then lost three in a row, including an overtime decision to UNLV and a tough defeat at Boise State.

But the Dogs then won three in a row to both win the Mountain West's West Division and become bowl-eligible, before losing the conference championship game to Boise State. However, the Bulldogs covered the spread in both those losses to the Broncos, as underdogs of 17 and 22 points, respectively.

So Fresno State ended the season on a 3-1 SU and ATS run, and hopes to carry that over into the bowl.

 

Why the Owls can cover the spread

The Owls started 0-3 this year, but two of those losses came at Notre Dame and Texas A&M. Rice then won six games in a row both SU and ATS, hitting the 40-point mark in half those victories, before going 1-2 both SU and ATS to finish the season.

So the Owls are playing in a bowl for the third straight year. Statistically speaking, Rice doesn't impress much, but it did outrush seven of 12 opponents this season, scored at least 31 points seven times and held seven opponents to 23 points or less. If the Owls can put up 31 against the Bulldogs, they might be in good shape.

 

Smart pick

Fresno State owns the advantage on offense, but Rice (despite its performance in its season finale against Louisiana Tech) owns the edge on defense. And in close calls like this, it's better to go with the better defense. So the smart money here resides with the Owls.

 

Trends

  • Fresno State is 7-3 ATS in its last 10 games
  • Rice is 7-2 ATS in its last nine 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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Bahamas Bowl Betting: Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky Odds, Analysis, Pick

Western Kentucky went 8-4 last year but was snubbed when it came to bowl invitations. This season the Hilltoppers, with a 4-0 straight up, 3-1 against-the-spread finish, went 7-5 and received a bowl bid, and a nice one at that. Western Kentucky will take on 7-5 Central Michigan in the inaugural Bahamas Bowl Wednesday, December 24 at Thomas Robinson Stadium in Nassau.

 

Bahamas Bowl Point Spread: Hilltoppers opened as 1.5-point favorites; the total was 65.5. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark Computer Prediction: 34.8-32.3 Hilltoppers

 

Why the Chippewas Can Cover the Spread

The Chippewas started just 2-3 this season, although one of those victories came at a Big Ten school— Purdue. CMU then won five of its next six games, including an upset of eventual MAC champion Northern Illinois, before falling in its season finale to Western Michigan.

So the Chips are back in a bowl after a one-year absence. On the season they only rank 83rd in the country in total offense and 69th in rushing, but they have a quarterback who has completed 64 percent of his throws and owns a 20/12 touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio, and a 1,000-yard rusher.

The Chippewas defense ranks 16th overall and 18th against the run.

 

Why the Hilltoppers Can Cover the Spread

The Hilltoppers sat at just 3-5 one month ago, but won their last four games, including a 67-66 overtime upset of eventual AAC champion Marshall. That victory came as a 24.5-point underdog on the betting line. Western Kentucky racked up 738 yards of offense on the Herd, and only 25 of those came in the overtime period.

So the Hilltoppers are in a bowl for the second time in the last three seasons. Western Kentucky ranks sixth in the country in total offense, averaging 528 yards per game, as senior QB Brandon Doughty threw for 4,300 yards and 44 touchdowns, against just 10 interceptions.

Running back Leon Allen ran for almost 1,500 yards and 12 scores. If this game becomes a shootout, the Hilltoppers have the ability to simply outscore the Chippewas.

 

Smart Pick

Western Kentucky owns the edge on offense, while Central Michigan owns the advantage on defense. And in close calls like this the smart money usually resides with the better defense. So the choice here is with the Chippewas.

 

Trends

  • Central Michigan is 5-2 SU in its last seven games
  • The total has gone over in nine of Western Kentucky's last 13 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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Boca Raton Bowl Betting: Northern Illinois Huskies vs. Marshall Odds, Pick

The Marshall Thundering Herd almost went undefeated this season and won a conference championship, but they finished the campaign by going 0-3 against the spread over their last three games. Northern Illinois, meanwhile, also won a conference title and went 3-0 ATS over its last three games.

The champions of Conference USA take on the champions of the MAC when 12-1 Marshall and the 11-2 Huskies meet in the inaugural Boca Raton Bowl Tuesday, December 23 at FAU Stadium.

 

Boca Raton Bowl point spread: Thundering Herd opened as 11-point favorites; the total was 65. (Line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 50.6-36.0 Thundering Herd

 

Why the Huskies can cover the spread

The Huskies started 3-0 this season, including a win at Northwestern, followed by a loss at Arkansas and later got upset at home by Central Michigan. Then they won their last seven games in a row, including a 51-17 romp over Bowling Green in the MAC Championship Game for their third conference title in the last four seasons.

NIU let the Falcons stick around for about a quarter-and-a-half, then went on a 24-0 run to put the game away. So the Huskies have won at least 11 games five years in a row. On the season, the Huskies ranked 40th in the country in total offense and 14th in rushing, while their defense held eight of 13 opponents to 21 points or less.

 

Why the Thundering Herd can cover the spread

The Herd started this season with 11 consecutive victories, many in blowout fashion, before finally losing in the regular-season finale in overtime to Western Kentucky. Marshall then shook that off and rallied to beat Louisiana Tech in the C-USA Championship Game 26-23.

The Herd outgained the Bulldogs, 429 to 268 total yards, but made things hard on themselves by turning the ball over four times. Still, Marshall scored twice in the last eight minutes to secure the victory. For the season, the Herd ranked second in the country in total offense, seventh in rushing and 30th in total defense.

 

Smart Pick

Marshall has had a fine season, but it appears as if it's been slightly overrated on the betting lines lately, going 0-3 ATS in its last three games. And now it's favored by double digits over a conference champion. So while the Herd might well win this game outright, the smart money probably resides with the underdog Huskies.

 

Trends

  • Northern Illinois is 4-1 ATS in its last five games
  • Marshall is 13-1 straight up 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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Poinsettia Bowl Betting: Navy Midshipmen vs. San Diego State Aztecs Odds, Pick

Heading into its big rivalry game with Army, the Navy Midshipmen were on a nice run, winning four of their last five games and going 3-1 against the spread over their last four outings. San Diego State, meanwhile, has won five of its last seven games straight up, and is 3-0 ATS in its last three contests.

Two teams playing some good ball of late meet when the 6-5 Middies and the 7-5 Aztecs play in the Poinsettia Bowl Tuesday, December 23 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.

 

Poinsettia Bowl point spread: This game opened as a pick'em; the total was 54. (Line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 30.7-29.8 Aztecs

 

Why the Midshipmen can cover the spread

The Middies started this season 2-4, but all four of those losses came against teams that are headed to bowls. Navy then won four of its last five games to earn a third straight bowl bid. And the only loss during that late run came in a game against Notre Dame in which the Middies led through three quarters.

Also, over its last five games, Navy has averaged 45 points per outing. On the season, the Middies rank second in the nation in rushing at 358 yards per game, outrushing every opponent but one. And winning the ground battles is always a good start when trying to win games and cover spreads in college football.

 

Why the Aztecs can cover the spread

The Aztecs also started just 2-4 this season but won five of their last seven games to finish in a tie for first place in the Mountain West's West Division, earning a bowl bid for the fifth season in a row. In its penultimate game, San Diego State beat bowl-bound Air Force, 30-14, covering as a six-point favorite, and in its season finale ,it stuffed San Jose State 38-7, covering at minus-14.

On the season, the Aztecs averaged 219 yards per game rushing, while their 21st-ranked defense held opponents to 147 yards per game on the ground.

 

Smart Pick

Navy holds an edge on offense with its running game, but San Diego State holds an advantage on defense. And in close calls like this, the smarter money resides with the better defense. So the smart choice in this spot is with the Aztecs.

 

Trends

  • Navy is 4-1-1 SU in its last six games
  • San Diego State is 5-2 SU in its last seven 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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Miami Beach Bowl Betting: BYU Cougars vs. Memphis Tigers Odds, Analysis and Pick

The BYU Cougars are just 5-11-1 against the spread over their last 17 games, but they're also 4-1 both straight up and ATS in their last five bowl games. Meanwhile, the Tigers of Memphis haven't even played in a bowl since 2008. In an intriguing matchup, the 8-4 Cougars and 9-3 Tigers meet in the inaugural Miami Beach Bowl Monday, December 22 at Marlins Park.

 

Miami Beach Bowl point spread: Tigers opened as one-point favorites; the total was 57.5. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 42.4-36.3 Tigers

 

Why the Cougars can cover the spread

The Cougars started 4-0 this season, then lost talented quarterback Taysom Hill for the season to a nasty knee injury and lost four in a row. But BYU got hot again at the end, as backup quarterback Christian Stewart improved his play, and it won its last four games in a row, finishing with a 42-35 victory over Cal in which Stewart tossed five touchdown passes.

So the Cougars are playing in a bowl for the 10th year in a row. On the season, BYU averaged 272 yards per game passing, 191 yards per game rushing, and its defense, while a little vulnerable through the air, held foes to 118 yards per game on the ground.

 

Why the Tigers can cover the spread

The Tigers started 3-3 this season, with tough losses at UCLA and at Ole Miss, but then they finished with a flourish, winning their last six games by an average score of 36-13 to claim a share of the American Athletic Conference championship.

And the nine victories equaled this team's total of the last three seasons combined. So Memphis is playing in its first bowl in six seasons. On the year, the Tigers averaged 231 yards per game through the air and 192 yards per game on the ground, and their defense ranked 22nd in the country, holding foes to 343 yards per game.

 

Smart Pick

As the spread indicates, this looks like a good, even matchup. Both teams are balanced on offense, and both can play defense. But sometimes bowl games come down to the team that wants it more, and in this spot, that might be Memphis, whose players will be participating in their first bowl.

So the smarter choice here is with the Tigers.

 

Trends

  • BYU is 5-11-1 ATS in its last 17 games
  • The total has gone over in five of Memphis's last seven 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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Idaho Potato Bowl Betting: Western Michigan vs. Air Force Odds, Analysis, Pick

Western Michigan came out of almost nowhere this season to become one of the two best teams in college football on which to wager, going 10-2 against the spread and earning a bowl bid. Air Force also bounced back after a down season last year to get back to a bowl. The 8-4 Broncos and the 9-3 Falcons hook up in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Saturday, December 20 in Boise.

 

Idaho Potato Bowl Point Spread: Broncos opened as three-point favorites; the total was 56.  (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark Computer Prediction: 36.2-32.5 Broncos

 

Why the Broncos Can Cover the Spread

After going 1-11 last year the Broncos went 8-4 this year to make a bowl for the first time since 2011. They opened this season 2-3, with losses to Purdue, Virginia Tech and in overtime to Toledo, but then won six games in a row before getting upset in their season finale by eventual MAC champion Northern Illinois.

Along the way the Broncos covered 10 spreads in a row, making them (along with TCU) the best moneymaker in college football this season. Western Michigan averaged 265 yards per game through the air this year, 179 yards per game on the ground and held seven of 12 opponents to 21 points or fewer.

 

Why the Falcons Can Cover the Spread

After going 2-10 last year the Falcons finished this regular season with a flurry, winning five of their last six games straight up and going 4-1 against the spread over their last five contests to return to a bowl. Air Force started 4-1, with wins over Boise State and Navy, then lost to Utah State.

The Falcons then won four in a row and beat Army to claim the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy for the third time in the last five seasons. Air Force then beat Colorado State in the season finale 27-24, winning outright as a touchdown underdog without starting quarterback Kale Pearson.

On the season, the Falcons ranked eighth in the country in rushing at 272 yards per game while holding foes to 142 yards per game on the ground.

 

Smart Pick

Western Michigan is more balanced on offense and owns an edge on defense. Meanwhile, Air Force might be without its starting quarterback. So the smart money in this spot resides with the Broncos.

 

Trends

  • Western Michigan is 10-1 ATS in its last 11 games
  • Air Force is 4-1 ATS 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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Camellia Bowl Betting: South Alabama vs. Bowling Green Odds, Pick

South Alabama won six games to earn its first-ever bowl berth but struggled down the stretch, winning just one of its last five games straight up, going 1-6 against the spread over its last seven outings. Bowling Green, meanwhile, won seven games to earn a third straight bowl bid but also finished poorly, losing its last three games SU, going 0-3-1 ATS over its last four contests.

In the first edition of the Camellia Bowl the 6-6 Jaguars take on the 7-6 Falcons Saturday, December 20 at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery.

 

Camellia Bowl point spread: Falcons opened as 1.5-point favorites; the total was 54 (Line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 22.3-22.0 Jaguars

 

Why the Jaguars can cover the spread

The Jags started 5-2 this season, with wins at Kent State, at Idaho and at Appalachian State. They then lost four of their last five games but gave UL-Lafayette a tough contest, playing the Cajuns to a 9-9 tie through three quarters, beat a decent Texas State team, had the spread covered at South Carolina into the fourth quarter and lost by just two points to bowl-bound Navy.

So USA has given some good performances against some quality foes.

 

Why the Falcons can cover the spread

The Falcons started 7-3 this season, with a win over Indiana out of the Big Ten, and later won five of their first six MAC games, propelling themselves to the MAC East title. BGU then only trailed favored Northern Illinois 13-7 late into the second quarter of the MAC Championship Game before letting that one get away.

On the season the Falcons averaged 252 yards per game passing, 177 yards per game rushing and hit the 30-point mark seven times. So while the Bowling Green defense might leave something to be desired the Falcons can generate enough on offense to stay in most games.

 

Smart Pick

As the spread indicates this should be a close one. Bowling Green owns the edge on offense, but South Alabama holds the edge on defense. And the Jaguars should have a home-crowd advantage, playing just about four hours up the road from their home in Mobile. So the smart money in this spot probably resides with USA.

 

Trends

  • South Alabama is 1-4 SU in its last five games
  • Bowling Green is 2-4 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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Sugar Bowl Betting: Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Odds, Analysis

The Ohio State Buckeyes are hoping their third quarterback this season will be the lucky charm that leads them to an upset win over the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl and a berth in this year’s national championship game.

The Buckeyes rode third-string QB Cardale Jones to a 59-0 rout of the Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten Championship Game, earning them the final spot in the College Football Playoff field. But they will face a tough task against the SEC champion, the Crimson Tide, who have gone 4-0 straight up and against the spread in their last four games versus Big Ten schools.

 

Sugar Bowl point spread: Crimson Tide opened as nine-point favorites; the total was 58.5. (Line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 50.0-46.7 Buckeyes

 

Why the Buckeyes can cover the spread

Ohio State’s offensive system produces results, period. Led by head coach Urban Meyer, a well-known quarterback whisperer who has enabled Alex Smith and Tim Tebow to become first-round NFL draft picks, the Buckeyes managed to roll through the Big Ten undefeated at 8-0.

Keep in mind, this is also a team that was 12-0 heading into last year’s Big Ten Championship Game and went 12-0 in 2012 as well. Meyer has lost just three games in three years at the school, and he knows the SEC very well from his days as head coach of the Florida Gators.

Ohio State would not be in this spot without Meyer, and he is the only reason this team has any shot at a national title.

 

Why the Crimson Tide can cover the spread

If there is any coach in the country who can win a strategic matchup with Meyer, it’s Alabama’s Nick Saban, who has won two of the three career meetings between them. That makes this an intriguing battle of X’s and O’s.

There’s no doubt the Crimson Tide will be ready for the Buckeyes offense with Jones under center. Their defense was stifling in a 42-13 rout of the Missouri Tigers in the SEC Championship Game and will not be like anything Ohio State has seen this season. Alabama is the top seed in the field for a reason and will flex its muscles again here.

 

Smart Pick

Meyer’s 2006 Florida squad crushed the Buckeyes, 41-14, in a high-profile matchup between SEC and Big Ten schools in the 2007 BCS Championship Game that started a run of seven straight national titles for the conference. Ohio State also lost to the LSU Tigers the following year for the national championship, and the SEC has still had at least one team in the title game each of the past eight years.

That streak is on the line for the Crimson Tide, who are looking for their fourth national championship in six years. In order to get to the title game, Alabama must hold the Buckeyes in check offensively. If the Virginia Tech Hokies were able to do that in a 35-21 victory at Ohio State on Sept. 6, the Crimson Tide can certainly win by a similar margin.

 

Trends

  • Ohio State is 5-0 SU in its last five games
  • Alabama is 4-10-1 ATS 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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Cotton Bowl Classic Betting: Michigan State Spartans vs. Baylor Bears Odds, Pick

The Baylor Bears get a consolation game of sorts after getting snubbed by the College Football Playoff selection committee as they square off against the Michigan State Spartans in the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium.

The Bears are riding a five-game winning streak—going 3-2 against the spread—since suffering their lone loss of the season while the Spartans lost twice this year to two schools that are in the four-team College Football Playoff field in the Oregon Ducks and Ohio State Buckeyes.

 

Cotton Bowl Classic point spread: Bears opened as 1.5-point favorites; the total was 71.5 (Line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 54.3-52.9 Bears

 

Why the Spartans can cover the spread

Michigan State has arguably faced stiffer competition on its way to the Cotton Bowl, and the College Football Playoff selection committee would likely agree with that statement. The Spartans may have lost both of their toughest games this year to the Ducks and Buckeyes, but they bounced back from each of those setbacks to cover the spread in multiple games afterwards.

After losing to Oregon, they beat the line in consecutive games and won six in a row before falling to Ohio State. Since dropping a 49-37 matchup against the Buckeyes, Michigan State has won and covered three straight.

 

Why the Bears can cover the spread

Baylor will be playing close to home and should have thousands of fans there cheering them on. The Bears went unbeaten at home this season, going 4-2 against the spread, and they have averaged 48.4 points in winning their past five games overall since losing 41-27 on the road to the West Virginia Mountaineers as eight-point favorites.

Baylor’s motivation will be the key, as head coach Art Briles needs to tell his players that the only way to prove they belong among the top-four teams in the country is to go out and prove it on the football field. Beating Michigan State worse than Ohio State did would help.

 

Smart Pick

The Big Ten has taken plenty of criticism this year, and rightfully so. However, it’s games like this that can earn the conference some respect. While the Bears certainly have the right to be upset about not playing in the College Football Playoff, that disappointment can work against them here.

The Spartans have won and covered their past three bowl games, and they have also gone 8-1-1 ATS in their previous 10 overall as underdogs. Even though Baylor may have enjoyed a better regular season, Michigan State is the better team and just happened to lose to two of the top four teams in the nation.

For that reason, the Spartans are the play as underdogs in the Cotton Bowl.

 

Trends

  • The total has gone OVER in 11 of Michigan State's last 14 games
  • Baylor is 17-8 ATS in its last 25 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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Every SEC Team's Most Underrated 2015 Committed Recruit

For all of the chatter emanating about the potential loosening of the SEC’s grip over college football, a quick glance at the recruiting rankings for 2015 would show that top talent is still flocking toward the SEC more than any other conference in the country.

Eleven of the league’s 14 members have classes ranked among the Top 25 in the 247Sports team rankings

However, even with a number of top prospects slated to head to the SEC, there are still a number of players who have committed to SEC schools who are still flying under the radar. 

Which recruits are among the most underrated crop of prep stars who will line up in the SEC?

 

*Schools listed in alphabetical order.

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Rose Bowl: Florida State Seminoles vs. Oregon Ducks Odds, Analysis and Pick

The Pac-12 champion Oregon Ducks will try to hand the ACC champion Florida State Seminoles their first loss of the season and advance to the national championship game with a victory in the Rose Bowl. The Ducks have won their last eight games both straight up and against the spread since losing at home to the Arizona Wildcats 31-24 as 21.5-point favorites.

Meanwhile, the defending national champion Seminoles have won 29 games in a row, but they have failed to cover 11 of their past 14 games dating back to last year’s BCS Championship Game victory against the Auburn Tigers.

 

Rose Bowl point spread: Ducks opened as 8.5-point favorites; the total was 71.

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 51.3-40.1 Ducks

 

Why the Seminoles can cover the spread

Florida State has not been an underdog since losing to the Clemson Tigers back in 2011 and remains undefeated this year despite failing to beat the spread a lot more often than not. Regardless, the Seminoles are still the defending national champs with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in Jameis Winston.

No matter what you think of Winston, he has yet to lose a game as a college quarterback—going 27-0 in his starts—and he remains one of the most clutch players in the game. Another thing potentially working in Florida State’s favor is the layoff between games.

The time off cooled the hot Seminoles before last year’s national title game and could do the same thing to Oregon.

 

Why the Ducks can cover the spread

The Ducks have been the best team in the country since falling to Arizona, and all bettors need to do is look at their ATS record to see why. They have been absolutely relentless against their opponents, including the Wildcats during a 51-13 rout in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Oregon easily covered the spread in the rematch with Arizona and proved to all of its doubters that this team truly belongs in the national semifinals. The Ducks are playing like Florida State did last year, led by likely Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.

The junior quarterback made a wise decision coming back to school this year after entertaining the idea of leaving early for the NFL draft. Mariota has a great opportunity to improve his stock here by going head-to-head with Winston.

 

Smart pick

Oregon’s offense is simply too much to handle for the Seminoles in this spot, which is why the Ducks are favored by nearly double digits. Florida State has made a bad habit of keeping its opponents in the game way too long before doing just enough to win at the end.

While that may work in the ACC, Oregon is a team full of firepower that can jump out to a double-digit lead in a heartbeat. The Seminoles will not know how to react to that situation because they have grown used to needing only one score to win.

This is clearly not the same team that won it all last year, and playing with fire will finally burn them. Watch for the Ducks to quack their way to a victory by at least two touchdowns.

 

Trends

  • Florida State is 5-0 SU in its last five games
  • Oregon is 5-0 ATS 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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Oregon Football: Who Are the Ducks' Most Important Players vs. Florida State?

Is it possible to overlook the defending national champions who are riding a 29-game win streak?

While the second-ranked Oregon Ducks are heavily favored by Odds Shark to take down the Florida State Seminoles in the Rose Bowl, there is no way that the Ducks should consider themselves better than the Noles.

Not only do the Seminoles have the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Jameis Winston, but also their roster is stock full of players who know how to win and have come up big in clutch situations.

Yes, the Ducks are the better team on paper this season and lead the Seminoles in a host of statistical categories. However, if the Ducks are to win the Rose Bowl and advance to the College Football Playoff National Championship, they’re going to need to play their best game of the season.

Florida State is a team that is built to come back late in games. They’ve done it numerous times this season and did it in the BCS National Championship last year against Auburn.

Meanwhile, the Ducks are the best front-runners in the country and play their best football when they’re trying to close the door on an opponent. This will make for an interesting matchup come Jan. 1.

Let’s take a look at the five players who must be at their best in order for the Ducks to beat the defending national champs.

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Heisman Finalist Melvin Gordon on His Rushing Record Being Broken: 'It Sucks'

Heisman finalist Melvin Gordon rushed for 408 yards versus Nebraska to break LaDainian Tomlinson's record for rushing yards in a game, which had stood for 15 years.

But Gordon's record lasted far shorter than 15 years. Just one week later, Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine broke it when he ran for 427 yards against Kansas. 

Bleacher Report caught up with Gordon to get his thoughts on losing the single-game rushing record, which you can hear in the video above.

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Is Paul Chryst the Right Choice for the Wisconsin Head Coaching Position?

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Pittsburgh head coach Paul Chryst is the leader for the Wisconsin head coaching position. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder and Adam Kramer breaks down Chryst at Wisconsin and what it would mean for the Badgers.

Is this the right move for Wisconsin?

Check out the video and let us know!  

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Which League's All-Conference Team Would Win in a Playoff?

We are in the thick of superlative season: the time between the conference championship games and the bowl games, during which all major national- and conference-specific honors are presented.

Among these honors are the all-conference teams, which cobble together the best players at each position for a hypothetical depth chart in each of the 10 FBS leagues.

But what if they weren't hypothetical? Which league's all-conference team would win on the field?

For the sake of simplicity, the only leagues we looked at are the Power Five: the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC. If you think one of the other conferences could compete — that's your prerogative, I guess. But the depth of talent in the major leagues suggests otherwise.

Sound off below to let us know which team you think is the best.

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D'Andre Walker Names Top 3: Which Program Is Best Fit for 4-Star DE?

D'Andre Walker set the stage for the final portion of his recruitment process Thursday by announcing a top-three list of Tennessee, Auburn and Georgia. The 4-star standout revealed the favorites in style, offering up some holiday spirit by using the "Elf Yourself" app to insert each team's logo in dancing elves' faces.

No, seriously. Take a look for yourself:

However you feel about his method of declaration—it gets a high grade from us for creativity—the details provide compelling insight regarding Walker's current collegiate outlook. The 6'2", 218-pound player is a crucial uncommitted prospect in SEC territory and presents elite pass-rushing prowess.

Walker, rated 11th nationally among weak-side defensive ends in 247Sports' composite rankings, spent his upperclassman career destroying offensive game plans at Langston Hughes High School in Georgia.

He holds a list of scholarship offers that includes Clemson, Alabama, Florida State and USC. Now that Walker has trimmed things down to three preferred destinations, let's take a look at which program appears to be the best fit.

 

Auburn

Head coach Gus Malzahn has assembled another impressive class built predominately on premier prospects at skill positions. Auburn could upgrade this group in the trenches, particularly along the defensive front.

The Tigers lack a top lineman on that side of the ball in this class, though this offensive line haul features three Peach State products. If Auburn can pull another key target out of Georgia, it would greatly enhance the overall balance of this class. 

Walker is capable of growing into a role similar to the one Dee Ford filled. He would also arrive on campus with familiarity within the Tigers' defensive unit.

High school teammate and inside linebacker Montavious Atkinson committed to Auburn in March. The duo traveled to campus together earlier this year:

 

Georgia

The Bulldogs are tremendously loaded with 2015 defensive linemen, including a pair of players who fit a similar mold as Walker. Natrez Patrick and Chauncey Rivers are capable of playing with their hands in the dirt along the perimeter or attacking from a stand-up position at linebacker.

That duo is joined by more traditional defensive ends in Michael Barnett and Jonathan Ledbetter, who flipped his commitment from Alabama to Georgia this summer. Trent Thompson, the nation's top-ranked defensive tackle, serves as the anchor of a loaded class.

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

Walker could add to that collection, but he would risk being buried on a stocked depth chart.

 

Tennessee

Walker traveled to Knoxville last weekend for an official visit with the Volunteers. The program has a need for edge-rushers who can consistently harass the quarterback and are capable of contributing at the second level.

Tennessee holds a pledge from 4-star defensive ends Andrew Butcher and Darrell Taylor, while tackles Kahlil McKenzie and Shy Tuttle provide substantial promise in interior roles. Walker would complement the group well and give Butch Jones another quality defender to implement in his scheme.

The Georgia star has visited Knoxville three times since June, establishing a solid rapport with the Volunteers' coaching staff. He should fully understand the team's expectations for him at this point and would continue positive momentum for a program on the upswing.

 

Verdict

Longstanding relationships with Georgia and Tennessee make this an extremely close call, but Walker's best fit is found at Auburn. He could join forces with his high school teammate in a class that currently needs more help throughout the defensive front seven than the other finalists.

His road to early playing time would be less crowded at Auburn, where he would be counted on to bulk up and patrol the perimeter with authority. Walker looks destined to land in the SEC, and the Tigers are an appropriate match.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Texas Football: Players Who Could Have a Breakout Performance in the Texas Bowl

The Texas Longhorns will have the chance to bounce back from the embarrassing regular-season finale loss to TCU with an upset win over Arkansas in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl.

A win over the Razorbacks could be exactly what Charlie Strong needs for added momentum heading into the offseason. But Strong will need a complete performance from his Longhorns in order to leave Houston with a win.

One of the most important players who needs a breakout game is quarterback Tyrone Swoopes.

Swoopes' performance in the Longhorns' Thanksgiving loss to the Horned Frogs was his worst game as a first-year starter. The quarterback had five turnovers that ultimately led to 24-points for TCU.

Strong made it clear the coaches have not given up on Swoopes but need to recruit better to bring more competition to the quarterback position.

A solid performance could not only help eliminate the criticism from his five-turnover game, but it could help him make a case as the starting quarterback for 2015.

In addition to making a case for his future, Swoopes will need to bring his best game to NRG Stadium against the Arkansas defense. The Razorbacks have struggled to come from behind in games this season.

The quarterback needs to get his offense off to a fast start and put up points early to force the Razorbacks to keep up with the Longhorns.

Swoopes has proven he can play at a high level and has a chance to continue to prove it against the Razorbacks.

But Swoopes will also need the help of his offensive weapons against Arkansas.

The quarterback's go-to guy this season has been fifth-year wide receiver John Harris.

Harris leads the Longhorns with 1,015 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. His breakout senior season could be even more special with a standout performance against a SEC defensive unit.

The Razorbacks have allowed an average 221 passing yards per game and 19 passing touchdowns. If Swoopes can play on point against Arkansas, Harris has a chance to increase his final season numbers in the Texas Bowl.

A lot of attention will be placed on the Texas offense in the bowl game, but one could argue this game will come down to the team with the best defense.

The Razorbacks offense consists of two 1,000-yard rushers in Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. The duo has combined for a total of 2,109 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Collins and Williams run behind a massive offensive line, which has helped open up the holes in the run game. Containing the backs will be an arduous task for the Texas run defense, which has allowed an average of 162 rushing yards per game and 16 rushing touchdowns.

The Longhorns' ability to stop the run could be the determining factor in the outcome of the game.

The entire defense will be tasked with containing the duo, but defensive tackle Malcom Brown and linebacker Jordan Hicks will be must-watch players for Texas.

Brown has been one of the biggest difference-makers for the Texas defense in his junior season. The 6'2", 320-pound tackle leads the Longhorns with 6.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss.

He has been a force to be reckoned with all season and has the chance of finishing off his junior year on a high note with a standout performance against the Razorbacks.

Fifth-year senior linebacker Hicks is arguably one of the most important players on the Texas defense. The 6'1", 234-pound linebacker racked up 138 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and two interceptions in his fifth year at Texas.

His ability to make one-on-one tackles is one of the biggest upsides of the linebacker and he will need to bring that talent to the Texas Bowl.

In the end, the Longhorns will have their hands full in facing 6-6 Arkansas, but all hope is not lost for Texas.

If Swoopes can play consistently well and not turn over the football while the defense can find a way to stop Arkansas' run game, Texas will leave Houston with a win. But if either of those groups fails to perform to its ability, it could be a negative end of the season for the Longhorns.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter @Taylor_Gaspar.

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