NCAA Football News

Bowl Projections 2014: Predictions for Most Dangerous Unranked Teams

The College Football Playoff selection committee's Top 25 may represent the best teams in America, but there are plenty of unranked squads that will make some noise come bowl season.

Knowing which teams those are and how confident you should be in predicting them to win will be critical if you hope to win your bowl pool. After all, you can only put so many confidence points on the Alabamas and Florida States of the world before you have to turn your attention to the pre-New Year’s Day bowls.

With that in mind, here is a look at bowl projections for some of the most dangerous unranked (in the CFP poll) teams in the country.

 

Bowl Projections for Dangerous Unranked Teams 

Arkansas: Liberty Bowl against West Virginia

East Carolina: Bitcoin Bowl against Miami

Memphis: Miami Beach Bowl against BYU

 

Teams 

Arkansas

It’s rare for an SEC team to fly under the radar in today’s college football world, but that is exactly what Arkansas did for the entire second half of the season.

The Razorbacks became bowl-eligible when they won three of their final five games. It's not just the wins that make Arkansas a dangerous squad heading into bowl season, though. Bret Bielema's squad nearly upset some of the top teams in the country this season and had plenty of close calls.

In fact, Arkansas lost to Alabama 14-13 after missing an extra point, Mississippi State 17-10 and Missouri 21-14 after leading for most of the first three quarters. Arkansas is the prototypical team that improves as the season progresses and nobody wants to play. The Razorbacks shorten the game with a powerful running attack and a physically bruising defense. 

That defense finished 16th in the country in points allowed per game and held the same Alabama team that put up 55 points against Auburn and 59 against Texas A&M to a measly 14 points. Clay Travis of Fox Sports and ESPN Stats & Info noted just how impressive the defense was down the stretch before losing in the fourth quarter to Missouri:

Offensively, the Razorbacks averaged 220.3 yards per game on the ground behind a massive offensive line and the Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins combination. Both running backs broke the 1,000-yard barrier on the year and will lead the offense into a bowl game. 

Prediction: Arkansas 27, West Virginia 20

 

East Carolina

While Arkansas impresses with its defense and its ability to grind out yards on the ground, East Carolina is an aerial assault waiting to happen come bowl season.

The Pirates are third in the nation in passing yards per game at 364.6, and quarterback Shane Carden has 3,912 passing yards and 25 touchdown passes on the season. All Carden and Co. did against the ACC's North Carolina earlier in the season was drop 70 points in a win.

The Pirates are 14th in the nation in points per game at 37.8.

East Carolina also beat Virginia Tech the week after the Hokies shocked Ohio State and gave South Carolina a real scare in Columbia before eventually falling by 10.

Early bowl games have a tendency to feature plenty of scoring, and the connection between Carden and wide receiver Justin Hardy (1,194 receiving yards and eight touchdown catches) in the passing game will put up some fireworks in late December.

As long as the Pirates continue to score at an incredible pace, they will win their bowl game this season. 

Prediction: East Carolina 34, Miami 24

 

Memphis

There are few reclamation projects in all of college football more impressive than Memphis' efforts this season. 

The Tigers destroyed Connecticut 41-10 on Saturday to earn a share of the American Athletic Conference regular-season title. It's the team's first conference championship of any kind since 1971, and it inspired the following from Spencer Hall of SB Nation:

Senior running back Brandon Hayes explained what the moment meant, via Craig Thomas of The Jackson Sun: "I was just going crazy, running around screaming at the top of my lungs. When I saw that confetti, I saw that trophy, I kind of got choked up a little bit."

Memphis finished 9-3 because of a balanced effort with multiple strengths. The offense averaged 230.8 passing yards per game and 191.8 rushing yards per game, but it was the defense that was particularly impressive this season.

The Tigers gave up only 17.1 points per game, which was seventh-best in the entire nation. It held Ole Miss to 24 points in a losing effort and a dangerous Cincinnati offense to 14 points in a win.

While the win over the Bearcats was critical for the conference race, the 42-35 loss at UCLA in September was probably Memphis' best effort on the season. It hung with one of the Pac-12's best teams on the road until the very end and put a major scare into what was then considered a national title contender.

Now, the Tigers get to put a scare into an opponent come bowl season. 

Prediction: Memphis 30, BYU 17

 

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SEC Football Q&A: What to Make of the Chip Kelly to Florida Rumor

Championship week is the most wonderful time of year.

Not only do we get to discuss the SEC Championship Game, which is one of the best sporting events you'll ever attend, we get to discuss coaching rumors for recently vacated head and assistant coaching jobs from around the SEC.

A high-profile job like Florida being open, combined with coordinator positions at Texas A&M and Auburn make this week highly intriguing.

What veteran college and NFL coach could be flirting with Florida? Can Missouri rattle Blake Sims? Will one coordinator switch make Auburn a contender?

Those questions are answered in this week's Q&A.

It's really simple, we take it as Chip Kelly trying to get paid, plain and simple.

Mark Farzetta of CBS in Philadelphia reported on Monday that Kelly, in his second year as the Eagles coach, is expected to be contacted by Florida about the opening. The fact that this it's being reported that Florida is contacting Kelly from a Philadelphia reporter and not someone with closer ties to Florida makes me think this is Kelly playing games.

His Eagles are 9-3, in first place in the NFC East and on the verge of their second playoff appearance in as many years. He is making $6.5 million per year and, as ProFootballTalk.com points out, has control of personnel.

Why on Earth would he leave when he's just getting started proving himself and his system at football's highest level with full control and a lucrative deal?

His show-cause from the NCAA's case against Oregon expires on Dec. 26, so, conceivably, he could return to college this year.

I could quit to train for the motocross career that I gave up after realizing that I wasn't good and that motocross injuries hurt. Just because I can do it doesn't make it a good idea.

 

They can, especially if offensive tackle Cam Robinson isn't 100 percent.

Robinson injured his shoulder in the Iron Bowl. In that game, Auburn—a team where pass rush was something out of the fiction section of the library—got Sims rattled and forced some mistakes.

Missouri defensive ends Markus Golden and Shane Ray are better than anybody Auburn had off the edge, and arguably better than anything Alabama's seen this season. Ray leads the SEC with 12 sacks and Golden isn't too far behind at 8.5. The duo certainly doesn't lack confidence.

"No matter what, we're going to be able to get after the pass-rusher," Golden said on Tuesday. "We know he's fast, but we're fast enough to run him down."

It was clear that Alabama trusted its offensive line more against Auburn than it did earlier in the season, when tight ends and running backs spent more time in pass protection than they did running routes. That may have to change against Missouri. Golden and Ray have been making a living in opposing backfields, and they'll do it again against Alabama. 

It'll be up to Sims to stay composed, make smart decisions and don't force the issue. I think he'll do exactly that.

 

Considering the schedule which features Georgia and Alabama at home, a Thursday night game against Kentucky (which gives the Tigers a semi-second bye week) and the returning talent on both sides, I'll give them a 35 percent chance of doing both. That's actually a relatively high number considering the SEC West is typically a balanced division.

I touched on how scary it would be for the rest of the SEC if Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn teamed up with defensive guru Will Muschamp earlier in the week.

Muschamp would have an experienced defense to work with, and he would benefit from the return of defensive end Carl Lawson from his ACL injury. Lawson's absence made a huge impact on the 2014 Tigers. The pass defense was the punchline to a bad joke, but it was the inability to get pressure unless they brought five or six players that really did the defense in.

Combine Muschamp's ability to coordinate a defense with an offense that will include sophomore running back Roc Thomas,  junior college transfer running back Jovon Robinson, rising junior quarterback Jeremy Johnson and could include receivers Sammie Coates and Duke Williams if they don't jump to the NFL, and Auburn will be right back in the thick of the conference and national picture.

This was a down year for the Tigers, and a marriage between Malzahn and Muschamp would get them back into the mix.

 

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

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

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The Biggest Disappointments for the Georgia Bulldogs in 2014

The Georgia Bulldogs ended the regular season with a 9-3 mark, and while that is not bad by college football standards, it’s not where the Bulldogs wanted to be.

There was some adversity the Bulldogs had to overcome, and they became a better team because of it. But there were also some things that the Bulldogs could not overcome, which is why the Bulldogs are not playing in the SEC Championship Game and not part of the College Football Playoff picture.

Here are the biggest disappointments for the Bulldogs this season.

Begin Slideshow

College Football: Week 14 Recap, Pick Results and Bowl Projections

The inaugural College Football Playoff picture is beginning to take shape, but there is still a lot that can happen come championship weekend. The SEC had its fair share of important matchups this past week,  while Florida State avoided another upset to in-state rival Florida and the Pac-12 South, as well as the Big Ten West Division, finally crowned a champion.

On Friday, a wild start to the weekend began with No. 17 Missouri clinching its second consecutive SEC East Division title and critical matchups consisting of Pac-12 South teams. 

The Tigers had to battle back the entire game to take down an improving Arkansas team 21-14 late in the fourth quarter. A long 50-yard field goal by Andrew Baggett as time expired in the first half cut the Razorback lead to 14-6 and was then followed by 15 unanswered points in the second half. Marcus Murphy’s 12-yard rushing touchdown with 4:38 remaining in the fourth quarter was the go-ahead score for Missouri.

The eighth-ranked Bruins appeared to be a lock to win the Pac-12 South Division with a home game against a Stanford squad that had struggled the entire season, but UCLA was defeated for a seventh consecutive time by the Cardinal in a 31-10 loss. With a blowout loss to Stanford, the division title was decided by the outcome of the No. 13 Arizona State and No. 11 Arizona game.

It was a battle for the Territorial Cup that went down until the very end. Trailing 42-28 with 8:31 remaining in the fourth quarter, backup Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to De’Marieya Nelson with about five minutes left to cut the deficit to seven, but an incomplete Bercovici pass on 4th-and-12 with 1:07 left gave the Wildcats their first division title and a trip to the Pac-12 Championship Game on Friday where they'll face Oregon.

Arizona freshman running back Nick Wilson had 24 carries for 178 yards and three touchdowns.

If there wasn’t enough drama on Friday, there was more once Saturday rolled around. No. 6 Ohio State struggled early and then eventually took down hated rival Michigan 42-28 to keep itself in the playoff race. The question, though, is how the Buckeyes will fair against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game without quarterback J.T. Barrett, who fractured his right ankle and will miss the remainder of the season.

It has become an every-week thing, as the third-ranked Seminoles escaped with a 24-19 victory over Florida to stay in the hunt for their second consecutive national championship. The Egg Bowl ended up playing the biggest factor in the College Football Playoff picture, as a 19th-ranked Ole Miss squad, which had lost three of its last four games heading in, likely ruined No. 4 Mississippi State’s national title hopes by pulling off a 31-17 upset.

In the Big Ten, the West Division was decided in Madison when No. 14 Wisconsin knocked off No. 18 Minnesota 34-24 to take Paul Bunyan’s Axe for an 11th straight year. The Badgers outscored the Golden Gophers 21-7 in the second half, and running back Melvin Gordon racked up 151 rushing yards and scored two total touchdowns.

The game of the night featured No. 15 Auburn and No. 1 Alabama in an always-intense and heated Iron Bowl rivalry game. The Tigers had a 36-27 lead late in the third quarter, but the Crimson Tide found their way back into the game with a 75-yard touchdown pass from Blake Sims to Amari Cooper with 3:20 left in the third quarter and on an 11-yard touchdown run by Sims early in the fourth quarter.

Once Alabama took a 42-36 lead, it didn’t look back, as it scored 13 more unanswered points to take a convincing 55-36 lead. In a Crimson Tide 55-44 win, there was an astounding 1,167 total yards and five turnovers.

Alabama will now meet Missouri in Atlanta on Saturday in the SEC Championship Game.


Pick Results

Overall Record: 45-25

Week 14 Record: 3-2

Note: Team in bold indicates author’s pick


Prediction: Missouri 24, Arkansas 21

Result: Missouri 21, Arkansas 14


Prediction: Arizona State 35, Arizona 27

Result: Arizona 42, Arizona State 35


Prediction:Georgia 38, Georgia Tech 30

Result: Georgia Tech 30, Georgia 24 (OT)


Prediction: Wisconsin 38, Minnesota 24

Result: Wisconsin 34, Minnesota 24


Prediction: Alabama 31, Auburn 20

Result: Alabama 55, Auburn 44

 

Bowl Projections

College Football Playoff

Rose Bowl Jan. 1 Pasadena, Calif Semifinal No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Baylor Sugar Bowl Jan. 1 New Orleans, LA Semifinal No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 TCU

 

Selection Committee Bowls

Peach Bowl Dec. 31 Atlanta, GA Florida State vs. Michigan State Fiesta Bowl Dec. 31 Glendale, Ariz Wisconsin vs. Boise State Orange Bowl Dec. 31 Miami, Fla Georgia Tech vs. Mississippi State Cotton Bowl Jan. 1 Arlington, Tex Ohio State vs. Arizona

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Todd Gurley to Declare for 2015 NFL Draft: Latest Details and Reaction

Georgia Bulldogs star running back Todd Gurley has endured a turbulent junior season in Athens. Instead of gearing up for one more year of college ball, Georgia coach Mark Richt announced Monday that Gurley will declare for the 2015 NFL draft.

UGASports.com's Anthony Dasher reported the news (h/t SaturdayDownSouth.com's Drew Laing):

Mark Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald added more of what Richt had to say about his gifted tailback:

Gurley was suspended four games by the NCAA this year for accepting autographed memorabilia totaling more than $3,000 over the span of two years. Prior to then, he was gaining steam as a potential first-round draft pick, and would have been the first at his position to be chosen so early since the 2012 draft.

Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman emphasized how special Gurley was in abbreviated action:

In his first game back from suspension in a 34-7 win over Auburn on November 15, Gurley tore the ACL in his left knee the fourth quarter. That ended his junior campaign, jeopardizing his NFL prospects.

Former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, who played with Gurley and tore his ACL before being drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs, has kept in touch with Gurley and offered his advice, per OnlineAthens.com's Fletcher Page:

I just feel awful for Todd. It's tough, especially with everything he's gone through this year, the suspension and all that craziness and to come back and be having such a special game for that to happen it's definitely tough on him.

[...] There's plenty of times, maybe five, six, seven weeks into it where you're going to feel great. You want to go run, go cut, but you have to trust the doctors. You have to wait 12 weeks to run, wait 15 weeks before you can cut. There is a time where you can’t trust how good you think you might feel. You have to trust the doctors.

Coming off such a major injury will hurt Gurley's draft stock, and there is a chance that he will never be quite the same, dominant player he was in college. It just goes to show how even someone as talented as Gurley may be an afterthought in a few years' time, which has been the nature of running backs in recent years.

So there is considerable risk for Gurley to go this route. Had he opted to return to school and show his knee was fully healed with a strong senior year, he may have enhanced his odds to be drafted higher. What is encouraging is that Richt feels rather confident Gurley will still be chosen early.

Gurley had 911 yards and seven rushing touchdowns on 7.4 yards per carry in 2014, but a full recovery isn't guaranteed.

Nevertheless, some NFL team will take a shot on Gurley because of his immense skills. It's even feasible that he could still warrant a look in the first round or early on Day 2 of the draft. Such a risk may pay off—perhaps just not right away.

The hope is that Gurley is someday able to show what he can do at the NFL level to his full ability, because he has the upside to be one of the league's premier backs if he can stay healthy.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: 5 Most Likely Bowl Scenarios for the Irish

One of the many reasons Notre Dame decided to join the ACC was for access to the conference's postseason bowl games. With the Irish limping back to South Bend after an embarrassing defeat at the hands of USC, we now get to see Jack Swarbrick's work get put into action.

Notre Dame finished its regular season on a four-game losing streak, stumbling into bowl season with a 7-5 record. With lofty aspirations for this team now a distant memory, the Irish now enter a hazy bowl outlook that still needs quite a bit to shake out. 

Just where might Notre Dame end up for the holidays? Pick a name out of a hat. Literally. 

According to a report in the News & Observer (subscription required), the grouping of teams vying for the ACC's allotment of games has just about the entire conference waiting to see what happens this weekend, as the College Football Playoff finally sorts itself out on the field.

If Florida State beats Georgia Tech, its inclusion in the playoff seems secure. If that happens, it likely means Georgia Tech will end up in the Orange Bowl. With the Citrus Bowl and Russell Athletic Bowl likely choosing between nine-win Clemson, Louisville or Duke, from there it'll get interesting. 

Here's more from the News & Observer's report:

The bowl fates of N.C. State and Duke could be determined by a drawing.

The source of confusion for the Wolfpack and Blue Devils? Notre Dame.

Under Notre Dame’s complex agreement with the ACC, either Triangle school could get jumped in the order by the Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame’s inclusion also could send one ACC team, possibly North Carolina, outside the conference’s bowl lineup to find a postseason home.

As Brian Kelly's battered and bruised team waits to see where it ends up, let's look at a few of the likely scenarios for Notre Dame this postseason.  

 

Begin Slideshow

Texas Football: Best Bowl Options for the Longhorns

Texas head coach Charlie Strong's first regular season in Austin ended on Thanksgiving, but the Longhorns did not have much for which to be thankful.

Texas had a three-game winning streak and all of the momentum when No. 5 TCU came to town. The Longhorns also had the chance to shake up the College Football Playoff if they could find a way to upset the Horned Frogs.

But those chances quickly dwindled.

TCU handed Texas the worst home loss since 1997 in a 48-10 demolition over the Longhorns. The team's morale was low following the game, especially the seniors who ended their career with an embarrassing defeat at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

But the positive news for Texas is it already achieved the season goal: winning six or more games to make a bowl game.

When it was clear the Longhorns would not be in the mix for the College Football Playoff and were fighting to finish the season with more than three wins, Strong said the goal of the team was to become bowl eligible. The Longhorns secured the goal roughly two weeks prior to the Thanksgiving night massacre.

Now 6-6 Texas awaits its postseason bowl fate following the final games of the regular season this Saturday.

It's almost certain Texas will land in an in-state bowl game, but the outcome of Saturday's "Power 5" conference games could boost the Longhorns in the selection order.

The Horned Frogs' win over Texas finally caught the attention of the AP voters, who have ranked TCU at No. 4 for the first time this season. Speculation suggests the college football playoff committee will have a similar ranking for the Horned Frogs, but the fate of the Baylor Bears remains up in the air.

No. 4 TCU and No. 5 Baylor have one more regular season game on their schedules—TCU will face Iowa State and Baylor will host No. 9 Kansas State this upcoming Saturday. The outcome of these games could directly impact the Longhorns.

If both Baylor and TCU win and one of the remaining teams in the college football playoff race loses, the Longhorns could be placed as high as the Russell Athletic Bowl, which would be against an ACC opponent.

But the chance of this scenario coming to fruition is not very likely.

No. 6 Ohio State is the only team in a "Power 5" conference championship game that is ranked higher than its opponent yet is still an underdog, according to OddsShark.com. The Buckeyes are currently ranked behind Baylor and would need a significant upset win in order to jump the Bears.

However, one could assume a Baylor win over No. 9 Kansas State would be more impressive than an Ohio State victory over No. 11 Wisconsin.

Long story short, the best-case scenario for Texas will probably not happen.

The most likely bowl projection is for the Longhorns to secure a spot in the AdvoCare Texas Bowl in Houston.

Sporting News' most recent bowl projections lists West Virginia in the AdvoCare Texas Bowl and Texas in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Both teams finished 5-4 in conference play, but the Mountaineers have a better overall record than the Longhorns.

The AdvoCare Texas Bowl picks one spot ahead of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. If it was picking specifically based off overall record, West Virginia would get the Texas Bowl's pick.

But when one considers the ticket sales aspect of the pick, it would be shocking if the Texas Bowl didn't choose Texas if it was still on the table.

Picking a team in the state of Texas would almost certainly increase ticket sales for the AdvoCare Texas Bowl compared to picking unranked West Virginia. Choosing two Texas teams—such as Texas and Texas A&M—would likely be the most profitable situation for the Texas Bowl, but let's not expect a revival of one of the greatest college football rivalries occurring this season. 

Of the two possible scenarios listed above, the Longhorns will more than likely face an SEC opponent in the AdvoCare Texas Bowl.

Could a possible Texas vs. Texas A&M bowl game be in the works? College football fans will find out on Sunday, Dec. 7.

 

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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Arizona Wildcats vs. Oregon Ducks Complete Pac-12 Title Game Preview

Muhammad Ali once said, “If you lose a big fight, it will worry you all of your life. It will plague you—until you get your revenge.”

The second-ranked Oregon Ducks (11-1, 8-1) have lost two consecutive battles to the Arizona Wildcats (10-2, 7-2). Now, with the Pac-12 title and more on the line, the Ducks have a chance at revenge.

Not only will the Ducks and Wildcats be meeting for the third time in the last 13 months, they’ll be playing in a third state. The Ducks are hoping that California brings them a little bit of luck and that the third time is a charm against Arizona.

There are a multitude of reasons why Oregon has been unable to overcome Arizona over the past two seasons.

Yes, injuries to quarterback Marcus Mariota in 2013 and to left tackle Jake Fisher in 2014 played a part in each loss. However, Rich Rodriguez and his coaching staff deserve a ton of credit for out-coaching Mark Helfrich and company.

Helfrich has been the head coach at Oregon for 25 games. His overall record of 22-3 is absolutely spectacular. However, Helfrich is 22-1 against teams not coached by Rodriguez. He’s 0-2 against the former Michigan and West Virginia head coach.

There’s no doubt that the Oregon players and coaches want to score a huge win over the team that has handed them their past two losses.

Those losses obviously still sting. However, the Ducks are playing for something bigger: a Heisman Trophy, a birth in the College Football Playoff and a shot at a national title.

With a win over the Wildcats, by any score, the Ducks will likely secure a spot in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, and Mariota will have clinched the first Heisman Trophy in school history.

Everything is at stake come Friday night in Santa Clara. All of the chips are on the table. There’s no going back.

Here’s what you need to know:

Date: Friday, Dec. 5

Time: 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET

Place: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA

TV: FOX

Line: Oregon (-14), according to Odds Shark

Begin Slideshow

Florida State's Upset Antidote in ACC Title Game

ATLANTA — Florida State, winner of 28 straight, will get all kinds of advice this week before the ACC Championship Game against Georgia Tech.   

Hey 'Noles don't mess around and fall behind these guys. You can fall behind Louisville and N.C. State, but not these guys. The Yellow Jackets play Monopoly with the football. You might not get the ball back.

Hey 'Noles, don't underestimate that offense Tech runs. It might look like a high school offense, but it will grind you up.

To respond to that advice, those warnings of potential doom, FSU will look to its defensive coordinator, Charles Kelly. FSU may downplay his significance. Here is why you shouldn't.

Kelly was an assistant coach under head coach Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech from 2008 to 2012. He was well-liked, trusted. He still has close friends at Tech. In 2012, after Al Groh was fired six games into the season, Kelly took over the defense and, by all accounts, Tech got much better on defense, eventually beating Southern Cal in the Sun Bowl. He likely would have been the Jackets defensive coordinator full-time in 2013 had he not left for Florida State.

Kelly was the defensive backs coach before the short temp stint as Tech's defensive coordinator. He was in on those practices where Tech 1's on defense lined up against Johnson's 1's on offense. Kelly saw the triple-option up close. And this week, he will scold any FSU defensive player who utters one word of contempt about Tech's option scheme.

That's where you start when trying to defend Georgia Tech's offense. Have some respect. Don't be magisterial because you think that offense is something the high school down the block still runs.

Kelly understands Johnson's offense can be wicked. The Jackets block and block and block.

There is nothing rational about the way Tech does business on offense in the digital age. The Jackets have four running backs while most teams have four wide receivers. After losing in overtime to Tech last Saturday, Georgia's defensive players still had a hard time believing they lost to an option offense. The Bulldogs watched their words and wouldn't say it out loud, but you could tell there was scorn.

One week is not a lot of time to prepare for that offense, especially since the Seminoles have not seen Tech since 2012. But Kelly's insight can close the gap and get the freshmen and sophomores up to speed.

Kelly can also remind the Seminoles that Johnson's Georgia Tech teams do not go away easily. In that 2012 game, with first-round pick E.J. Manuel as quarterback, FSU won by just 21-15. Kelly was the defensive backs coach for Tech.

The Yellow Jackets won the two other meetings in the Paul Johnson era, 31-28 in 2008 and 49-44 in 2009 in Tallahassee.

Here is another thing about Tech's unique style and how Kelly can help. Look at Johnson on the sidelines. Notice anything? He's not holding one of those creamsicle-colored, laminated play-call sheets that all the whiz-bang offensive guys have. He takes some cues from the coach's box upstairs about which way defensive linemen are slanting on certain downs, but he is calling the game on feel, down and distance, instinct. Johnson does not leave a paper trail. There is no call sheet laying around.

Try and pick his tendencies at your peril.

A wiseguy would say, "There is no call sheet because PJ only has three plays: dive, keeper, pitch." Go back and look at the film and think again. Look at the counters, look at the sprint outs, the end zone toss to the big split end, 6'5" Darren Waller. The Yellow Jackets' best receiver, DeAndre Smelter, won't play Saturday—he's out for the year with an ACL tear, via the Journal-Constitution's Ken Sugiura—but Tech still has enough offense to win.

Johnson puts a pea under a cup and moves it around. The defense says, "Don't look for the ball, play your responsibility." That's exactly what Tech wants you to do. Sit there. Suddenly, you are giving up four yards on first down, four yards on second down, and it is 3rd-and-2. You're so busy playing your responsibility, you don't get off blocks and linebackers can't get to the ball.

I watched from the end zone as fullback Zach Laskey, with his eyes up, would see a middle linebacker fill the A gap. Laskey told me he would just bounce to the B gap and find air. It happened over and over, and he had a career-high 140 yards and three touchdowns. Against Georgia, the Yellow Jackets average third-down play was 3rd-and-5 after the first two series of the game. On first down, Tech averaged 5.9 yards.

Justin Thomas, the sneaky pipsqueak at quarterback, will have his team in so many 3rd-and-2s you swear he's spotting the ball himself. Third down is key in so many football games, but not in football games involving Georgia Tech.

"You got to stop them first down," said Georgia linebacker Ramik Wilson. "First down is bigger than third down against those guys."

Third-and-short meant Georgia Tech had 32 first downs to 21 for Georgia. It meant Tech led time of possession 36 minutes, 23 seconds to Georgia's 23 minutes, 37 seconds. That's standard operating procedure. You can't get off the field. Tech is 11th nationally in turnover margin. You have to take it. They won't give it to you.

That's important Saturday. Florida State has been playing with a light switch, turning it on and off, and falling behind with turnovers. Most games you might get 12, 13, 14 turns with the ball. You get nine possessions in a game with Tech, which averages 333 yards rushing per game.

Say what you will about Jameis Winston, but he is to be admired for his play under pressure. In the three games this season in which FSU trailed by 15 points or more, his quarterback rating is 194.26. When he has the ball and his team is behind, look out.

But he needs the ball. Tech does not give the ball up easily. If FSU is down two scores in the second half Saturday, it's doom. The 'Noles will need takeaways, or stops.

Georgia Tech can beat Florida State on Saturday. It can also get blown off the face of the earth. The Yellow Jackets believe they can win because they just beat Georgia of the SEC and the Seminoles have SEC-caliber talent.

"We definitely might be putting some doubts into people's heads," said tackle Shaq Mason, on whether Florida State is a shoo-in for a spot in the College Football Playoff. "We have some good players, too."

Charles Kelly will sound that alarm this week. FSU may have more first-round picks on its defense than Georgia Tech has on its offense, but the schemer on the Tech sideline, Paul Johnson, could care less about all that with his offense and Kelly knows it.

 

Ray Glier covers college football for Bleacher Report. He has covered college football and various other sports for 20 years. His work has appeared in USA TodayThe New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post and Al Jazeera America. He is the author of How the SEC Became Goliath (Howard/Simon & Schuster, 2013).

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Florida State vs. Georgia Tech Complete ACC Title Game Preview

Florida State had played The Citadel in September, a game that may have been nearly three months ago but could be the perfect preparation for Saturday's ACC Championship Game against Georgia Tech.

The Citadel plays a triple-option offense, which means one of three things will happen: The quarterback will keep the ball and run, he will hand it off to the fullback on the dive play or he will pitch to a running back. Yes, Georgia Tech does pass the ball—but it's happened just 91 times in 12 games.

So FSU knows what is coming on Saturday.

"Citadel ran it pretty good," FSU linebacker Terrance Smith said. "We had a good chance to face it this year. I think we're a little more prepared than other teams are facing it."

Georgia Tech (10-2) runs the ball extremely well, racking up 333 yards on the ground each game. It will be a tough challenge for FSU (12-0), which is looking to win its third straight ACC title and earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Here's a look at Saturday's ACC Championship Game (8 p.m., ABC).

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Clemson Football: Best Bowl Options for the Tigers

It’s bowl season for the college football world, but it’s still unclear where the Clemson Tigers will wrap up their season.

Last season at this time, the Orange Bowl was looking pretty good for head coach Dabo Swinney and company, but that's not the case this year.

Georgia Tech’s victory over Georgia could likely give the Yellow Jackets the edge for the Orange Bowl if Florida State wins the ACC Championship Game this Saturday.

The Tigers still have a shot at the ACC-affiliated BCS bowl game, but other options appear to be more realistic at this point.

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Bowl Projections 2014: Predictions for Best Potential Non-Playoff Matchups

When the College Football Playoff selection committee decides on its final four to include in the postseason picture, all contending teams but those in the nation's elite quartet will be disappointed. But that doesn't exclude them from postseason action.

There are plenty of potential bowl-game matchups to ponder, what with three of the four other marquee contests to be decided by at-large representatives at the committee's discretion.

Championship weekend still leaves a lot to be decided, as teams in the current Top Four could find themselves out of the mix if they stumble.

Provided the weekend doesn't bring too big of a shake-up, though, it's becoming clearer which programs may meet to entertain fans outside of the new playoff format.

Below is an overview of some of the better showdowns that could be on tap once conference championships are decided, along with predictions as to how they'd unfold.

Note: Statistics are courtesy of NCAA.com unless otherwise indicated.

 

Arizona vs. Ole Miss

Imagine this: The two teams to beat the top two College Football Playoff seeds squaring off against each other. The Wildcats defeated Oregon on the road, while the Rebels knocked off Alabama in Oxford.

This scenario implies that the Ducks will avenge their only defeat of the year and knock off Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship Game. That will only fuel the fire for a program gaining momentum under coach Rich Rodriguez.

ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg praised the job Rodriguez has done in his short stint in Tucson:

Ole Miss ought to be pumped for the challenge of containing the Wildcats' spread attack with its defense that allows just 4.63 yards per play.

The Rebels just capped off a regular season to be proud of with some encouraging trends in booting Mississippi State from the playoff picture, per ESPN Stats & Info:

Hugh Freeze has done a comparable job in limited time to Rodriguez, building Ole Miss into a formidable force, and the core of the team will have plenty of returning members. This prospective bowl game would be a tone-setter moving forward for both Arizona and the Rebels.

Freshman Wildcats quarterback Anu Solomon would be the X-factor in this one, because the Rebels would be keyed in on stopping first-year star rusher Nick Wilson, who's already had 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground.

The disparity in defenses would likely give Ole Miss the edge, but it would be close, given Rebels QB Bo Wallace's tendency to turn the ball over, what with five interceptions in as many recent starts.

Prediction: Ole Miss 28, Arizona 24

 

Ohio State vs. Mississippi State

Even if the Buckeyes win the Big Ten title, they still may be on the outside looking in at the Top Four. Part of the reason is that OSU is down to its third QB in Cardale Jones.

Jones' play will determine how formidable the Bucks look in the committee's eyes should they emerge with the conference championship versus Wisconsin. ESPN.com reporter Brian Bennett doesn't believe it's feasible for OSU to sneak in at this point:

Matching up with the new system's inaugural No. 1 team in Mississippi State isn't a bad consolation prize for the Buckeyes, though.

The SEC has given Ohio State fits, highlighted in an embarrassing 41-14 national championship loss to Florida following the 2005 campaign. Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer happened to be at the helm of that loaded Gators team.

Although OSU boasts a stout front seven and is 19th in the country in total defense (h/t NCAA.com), containing the Bulldogs' dual-threat signal-caller Dak Prescott would be a tall order. That's what would make this game such a compelling test.

Despite two losses down the stretch, there's no denying Prescott has helped put Mississippi State on the map in 2014 with his brilliant play:

Under Jones' direction, Ohio State would likely have to pound the rock from the spread with sophomore tailback Ezekiel Elliott and hope Jones can also be a threat on read-option keepers.

Imposing physical will on an SEC defense that yields 3.7 yards per carry and is headlined by star linebacker Benardrick McKinney will be tough for the Buckeyes to do.

However, they could gain national clout and establish a springboard for 2015 national contention by defeating a quality opponent from what's widely perceived as the best conference.

It would probably come down to which QB could make a big play when it mattered most, and for that reason, Prescott and Mississippi State get the nod in what would be a thrilling contest.

Prediction: Mississippi State 27, Ohio State 20

 

Georgia Tech vs. Michigan State

Two of the nation's top 10 teams in turnover margin would battle it out for bragging rights in what might be a game filled with explosive plays and quick scores.

Both offensive lines like to get physical and run the ball, yet Connor Cook offers Sparty a big edge under center. Michigan State's defense is also far superior.

Cornerback Trae Waynes can lock down anyone in the Yellow Jackets' receiving corps, and the Spartans have the personnel on the defensive line to make Georgia Tech's one-dimensional, triple-option rushing attack wilt.

A devastating loss in DeAndre Smelter, the Yellow Jackets' leading receiver with 715 yards on 35 receptions and seven touchdowns, added a Pyrrhic victory element to the team's triumph over Georgia last week. Per Kelly Quinlan of Rivals.com:

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson weighed in on Smelter's absence on Sunday before he was ruled out for the rest of the year, via ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson:

He's been a really good player for us all year. He's been a go-to guy, not only receiving but he's a really good blocker and a really good football player. If he doesn't play, he's a guy we'll really miss. But our feel has been it's gotta be the next guy up. We play a lot of guys at that position. Micheal Summers, Ricky Jeune, Corey Dennis will have to step it up.

One constant positive, though, is that prospective ACC runners-up—provided Georgia Tech falls to Florida State in the conference championship—keep drives alive better than anyone in the country.

The Justin Thomas-led offense converts third downs at a 57.4 percent clip—ahead of both Auburn and Alabama, respectively.

But thanks to its excellent balance between Cook's savvy and Jeremy Langford's ball-carrying faculties, Sparty is 12th with a success rate of 48.3 percent on third down. Coach Mark Dantonio's defense also only concedes 30.5 percent of conversions to opponents.

In arguably the most critical areas of the game—third downs and turnovers—Michigan State is just a little bit better.

This clash of iron wills would go Sparty's way. Thomas' unique play at quarterback—he has a 16-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio and leads Georgia Tech in rushing—would make it closer than many would expect for three quarters until passing becomes necessary.

Prediction: Michigan State 31, Georgia Tech 21

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Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Missouri Tigers Complete SEC Championship Game Preview

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Georgia Dome might be starting to feel like home for Alabama.

The Crimson Tide opened up the season in Atlanta and have played there once in each of the last two seasons. They’ll be back again on Saturday.

Alabama has overcome its one loss of the season to win the SEC West (in thrilling fashion) and earned another berth in the College Football Playoff.

This game is essentially a quarterfinal game for the playoff. Alabama is all but guaranteed the No. 1 seed if it wins. Missouri could sneak into the top four with a resume-boosting win and a couple of results going its way around the country.

It’s one more big game for Alabama in a season full of them.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Date: December 6

Time: 3 p.m. CT

Place: Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia

TV: CBS

Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, Mizzou Radio Network

Spread: Alabama by 14, according to OddsShark.

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Albert Huggins Sets Decision Date: Which Program Is Best Fit for 4-Star?

Elite defensive lineman Albert Huggins is nearly ready to determine his collegiate future. Georgia and Clemson are expected to vie for a commitment from the Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School standout when he announces those intentions Dec. 12, per Ryan Bartow of 247Sports.

The 6'3", 279-pound South Carolina prospect holds more than 20 scholarship offers, creating a list that includes Alabama, Miami, Auburn, LSU and Notre Dame. Despite an array of potential suitors, this pursuit appears to come down to two teams within nearby proximity to his hometown.

Huggins, who landed on the national radar with 135 total tackles and 18 sacks as a sophomore and junior, is rated 12th among defensive tackles in 247Sports' composite rankings. His efforts earned him an invitation to compete in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Orangeburg-Wilkinson head coach Tommy Brown believes the best is yet to come due to Huggins' drive, he explained to Michael Burns of The Greenville News.

Along with his athleticism, he has an intense work ethic. Most kids that size don't work as he does. I've been around a lot of big kids. This kid is so intent on getting better every time he steps in the weight room, and you can't teach that. Most big kids don't have that; they're naturally strong. But this kid loves to work out, and he loves to get better. That's something that I've never seen in my years of coaching with a guy his size. With that type of attitude, your upside is unlimited.

College coaches took notice of his upside early, and now it seems just two are still in play to land a pledge from the persistent big man.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and Georgia coach Mark Richt will each spend personal time with Huggins during in-home visits before his decision, per Bartow. Both programs currently hold top-10 2015 recruiting classes and could vault further up national rankings with Huggins on board.

 

Georgia

No team has greater potential to put together a "dream" defensive front during this cycle than the Bulldogs. Richt already holds a coveted commitment from top-rated tackle Trent Thompson and four 4-star defensive ends, including former Alabama pledge Jonathan Ledbetter.

Ledbetter and South Carolina product Michael Barnett are both capable of sliding inside to play defensive tackle given their physical stature. Meanwhile, Georgia remains among the favorites for Virginia defensive end Josh Sweat, who is considered the consensus No. 1 overall 2015 prospect.

A commitment from Huggins would certainly be a case of the rich getting richer, though it would be difficult for the Bulldogs to promise him early playing time. Despite depth at the position, Huggins has remained a key priority for Richt and his staff throughout the process.

The team welcomed him to campus in November for an official visit and created a positive impression.

"I like it there," Huggins told Bartow (subscription required). "Just know that. I can see myself there in the next couple of months. They treated us like family."

 

Clemson

The Tigers' recent rise to prominence is predominately credited to an explosive offensive attack that has featured current NFL standouts like Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Ellington. These days, with young, developing talent taking the reins on offense, it's become more of a balanced effort.

Clemson is among national leaders in yards allowed this season and features three first-team All-ACC defenders. With standouts like Grady Jarrett and Vic Beasley leading the charge, the Tigers' identity has advanced beyond just an offensive juggernaut.

Huggins used an official visit at Clemson during Thanksgiving weekend. It provided another glimpse at game day on campus.

"I've already seen the coaches, the fans and how they act like a family," he told Phil Kornblut of PalmettoSports.com prior to the trip. "I want to see more of it. That's why I'm going up there. I know how (Clemson co-defensive coordinator Marion) Hobby is and how the defensive lineman are, I just want to go there and see them ball out."

Huggins witnessed Clemson snap a five-game losing streak against South Carolina and outgain the Gamecocks by nearly 160 yards.

The Tigers hold commitments from 4-star defensive ends Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant, along with quality North Carolina tackle Sterling Johnson. However, none of these players appear to present the immediate impact capabilities of Huggins.

Clemson remains in need of beef along the interior, and he could become a mainstay up front for the Tigers as a freshman. The potential to play early for a program putting together the pieces of a well-balanced title contender makes the Tigers his preferred fit at the conclusion of a frenzied recruiting race.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Recruits Who May Be Impacted by Auburn Firing DC Ellis Johnson

With Gus Malzahn announcing the firing of defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson over the weekend, the immediate impact from that choice will affect Auburn’s efforts with its 2015 recruiting class.

Seven of the Tigers' 19 current commitments are slated to play defense on the Plains.

Additionally, there are a number of top defensive players that the Tigers are active with two months prior to signing day.

Which top recruits might be impacted by the change to the Tigers coaching staff?

 

Byron Cowart

The early speculation on Johnson’s potential replacement has centered on former Florida head coach Will Muschamp, as noted by Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports.

If that scenario comes to fruition, expect some new names to pop up on Auburn’s radar—with the biggest potential prize being 5-star defensive end Byron Cowart.

Josh Newberg of Noles247 (subscription required) reports that the Tigers could emerge as the favorite in the Cowart sweepstakes should Muschamp end up in Auburn.

Cowart has tentatively scheduled a visit to Auburn on Jan. 16, and he told Keith Niebuhr of AuburnUndercover (subscription required) that the Tigers could move up on his list depending on who they hire.

"That would be crazy if they got Will Muschamp," Cowart told Niebuhr. "It would help them."

 

Richard McBryde

Another pressing question for the Tigers’ commits is which scheme the new defensive coordinator will install, and if it will have any similarities to Johnson’s base 4-2-5 look. 

Richard McBryde, a 4-star linebacker pledge, is one of the players who was a perfect addition for Johnson’s scheme, as noted by Niebuhr (subscription required).

However, as Niebuhr reports, McBryde has indicated that he’s “pretty sure” that he’s sticking with Auburn.

It will be interesting to see whether the new hire wants to make wholesale changes to the defense or adapt to the personnel currently on hand and in the recruiting class.

 

Daron Payne

One of the Tigers' top remaining targets in the 2015 class is 5-star defensive tackle Daron Payne.

The 6’2”, 325-pounder—who checks in as the top prospect in the state of Alabama—visited Auburn two weeks ago for its home finale against Samford, and he was in attendance for last weekend’s Iron Bowl.

It’s no secret that one of Auburn’s biggest needs in the 2015 cycle is at defensive tackle, and that’s been a huge part of Malzahn’s pitch to Payne, as noted by Niebuhr (subscription required).

The Tigers are in a tight battle with Alabama for Payne—who is scheduled to announce his commitment at the Under Armour All-America Game next month.

Considering the timing of Johnson’s departure, the Tide would figure to be in the pole position for Payne at the moment.

However, Payne figures to be a top priority whenever the new defensive coordinator is announced.

 

D’Andre Walker

Another hotly contested race in the 2015 cycle has been the tug-of-war between Auburn and Georgia for 4-star defensive end D’Andre Walker.

Walker visited both the Tigers and the Bulldogs last month, and this news may be enough for the home-standing 'Dawgs to make a surge with the 6’2”, 218-pounder.

Walker told Niebuhr (subscription required) that the Tigers’ depth chart is one of the biggest reasons that he is heavily interested in Auburn.

The Tigers will still have a need for athletic edge-rushers such as Walker regardless of which direction Malzahn turns to in his search to replace Johnson.

 

Other Recruits of Interest

Before Johnson’s departure, the Tigers were making inroads with other talented prospects, such as 5-star defensive end Terry Beckner Jr., 4-star defensive tackle Neville Gallimore and 4-star linebacker Jeffery Holland.

It will be interesting to see how the new defensive coordinator prioritizes these players and whether they are as receptive to the new staff.

Regardless, this vacancy will have a ripple effect on some of the biggest names in the 2015 cycle.

If Malzahn can lure a top defensive mind to the Plains, expect Auburn’s class to finish on a high note come national signing day.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Should Brian Kelly Stay at Notre Dame?

Notre Dame has not been the same team since its loss to the Florida State Seminoles. The Irish went 1-5 in their last six games of the season, and head coach Brian Kelly is left looking for answers.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer debate whether Kelly should move on or stay at Notre Dame in 2015.

What should Kelly do? Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Wisconsin Badgers Complete Big Ten Championship Preview

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Facing the most uncertainty that it has all season, the Ohio State football team will head to Indianapolis for its second consecutive appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game. It is there that the Buckeyes will meet up with Wisconsin, who at 10-2 finds itself favored over 11-1 OSU.

That's because despite the Buckeyes' ascent in the College Football Playoff rankings, they'll be playing with their third-string quarterback in Cardale Jones following a season-ending injury suffered by J.T. Barrett against Michigan. Wisconsin, meanwhile, possesses the nation's second-ranked defense and will head to the Circle City riding a seven-game winning streak.

Will Ohio State be able to overcome the loss of his its second Heisman Trophy candidate this season, or will the Badgers end the Buckeyes' chances of landing in the first-ever College Football Playoff? We'll find out on Saturday. But until then, here's everything you need to know about this weekend's Big Ten Championship Game:

Date: Saturday, Dec. 6

Time: 8:17 p.m. ET

Place: Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana

TV: FOX

Radio:Ohio State Football Radio Network, Wisconsin Badgers Sports Network

Spread: Wisconsin (-3), via Odds Shark

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Matt Jones Reportedly Declares for 2015 NFL Draft: Latest Details and Reaction

Matt Jones ran over SEC opposition all season long. Now, Florida's junior running back will reportedly be running to the NFL next season.     

Nick de la Torre first reported the story:

De la Torre added more details about why Jones might be making the decision in his report:

First, he has a young daughter and the opportunity to start making money and being able to financially provide for her was a big factor that played into his decision. Second, Jones has already had two knee surgeries (one in high school) and has battled injures throughout his career at Florida. He is mostly healthy now after splitting reps with Kelvin Taylor and being on a 'pitch count' for reps in practice.

It's also possible that Jones doesn't want to be a part of the overhaul of Florida's program, as head coach Will Muschamp was fired midseason, though he finished the season as coach.

Jones was excellent for Florida this season, rushing for 817 yards, six touchdowns and a solid 4.9 yards per carry. He also caught 11 passes for 65 yards and a score.

He's likely to be a mid-round pick if he comes out in the draft, especially in a year when the position could be fairly deep with players like Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon hitting the league.

 

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Should Georgia Bulldogs Head Coach Mark Richt Be on the Hot Seat?

Despite several key injuries and suspensions, the Georgia Bulldogs finished the regular season with a respectable record of 9-3. But that's not enough in Athens, where expectations are always great.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss Mark Richt's status at Georgia.

Should the Bulldogs make a change at head coach?

Check out the video and let us know!  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Of Course Steve Spurrier Is Coming Back for 2015

What should have been an inevitability became a reality on Monday.

According to Josh Kendall of The State, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier will return to the program following a 6-6 season and the first loss to Clemson since 2008.

"Give me two or three more [years]," he told Kendall. "I used to say four or five, now I’m down to two or three. I mean, I could get in a car wreck, but I’m definitely planning on being back."

Of course he is. The return of the Head Ball Coach should never even have been in doubt, as Scott Hood of GamecockCountry.com notes:

This is South Carolina, not Alabama.

That's not a slight against the program Spurrier has built in Columbia, it's just the reality of the current state of the program.

When the best player in program history, the winningest quarterback in program history and the majority of the front four and secondary moves on, there are speed bumps. That's exactly where South Carolina found itself after star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, quarterback Connor Shaw, defensive end Chaz Sutton and corner back Vic Hampton, among others, moved on after the 2013 season.

For a program like Alabama, those rebuilding years are still 10-win seasons, as was the case in 2010. For South Carolina, though, they result in seasons like this. Inconsistency, uncertainty and frustration are inevitable, and something from which the Head Ball Coach couldn't escape.

That's OK, though.

The program is still on stable footing. Spurrier told Kendall that the staff will largely remain intact.

"All our coaches are out recruiting. All of coaches are under contract," he said. "Some of them may get a job somewhere else, you never know, and we’ll go from there. We are probably pretty flexible right now a little bit on the staff, but I believe that almost all of our guys will be back."

To put it more simply, coaches that are perceived to be part of the problem and not the solution (i.e.: defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward) are likely being told "hey, you might want to look somewhere else."

As Hood mentioned in the tweet above, the future is very bright. 

Running back Marcus Lattimore, who just retired from the NFL after attempting a comeback from knee injuries suffered at South Carolina, will be back on campus earning his degree this spring. Spurrier has already stated, according to Yahoo! Sports, that he would find Lattimore a job if he wants one.

The Gamecocks currently have the eighth-ranked recruiting class in the country, according to 247Sports.com. Five of those commitments are from defensive backs or defensive linemen—two glaring positions of weakness on this year's squad—who are rated with four or more stars.

Why walk away now?

He's made it known that he wants to build South Carolina into an SEC championship-caliber team, and in the SEC East, the door is about as open as it possibly could be. Florida is undergoing a coaching change, Georgia is breaking in a new quarterback, Tennessee is still building and Missouri has won the division twice with a grand total of one conference win over a team that finished with a .500 record (Georgia in 2013). 

Even for a 6-6 program that didn't live up to expectations, an immediate turnaround isn't out of the question.

Spurrier will be back, but he really didn't need to say it publicly.

It was a "gimmie."

 

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

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

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