NCAA Football News

College Football Final 2014 Rankings: B/R's Official Top 25

The SEC's BCS National Championship reign ended as the BCS era came to a close. The Florida State Seminoles closed out a perfect season with a pulse-pounding 34-31 win over the Auburn Tigers at the Rose Bowl. 

There's no debate about who is No. 1: It's the 'Noles.

But where did the Tigers land—and how far did the Alabama Crimson Tide fall after their Sugar Bowl defeat to Oklahoma?

Click on to see Bleacher Report's final Top 25 rankings for the 2013-14 season.

Poll voters: Chris Bello, Eric Bowman, Carter Bryant, Phil Callihan, Andrew Coppens, Bill Eichenberger, Michael Felder, Trenise Ferreira, Sean Frye, Kyle Kensing, Ben Kercheval, Sanjay KirpalaniAdam Kramer, David Luther, Max RauschDavid Regimbal, Barrett Sallee, Erin Sorensen, Marc Torrence, Greg Wallace.

Voting procedure: Each voter submitted his or her Top 25 poll and votes were totaled as such: 25 points for No. 1 vote, 24 points for No. 2 and so on.

Previous rankings from Bleacher Report's Week 16 Top 25.

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Arizona State Football: Biggest Concerns Heading into the Offseason

The Arizona State football team had a very successful 2013 season, winning the Pac-12 South title and coming within one win of the Rose Bowl.

By most accounts, the season was a great success—until the final two games.

The Sun Devils were 60 minutes away from playing in the Granddaddy of Them All before the Stanford Cardinal pummeled them. Even with the bad 38-14 loss in the Pac-12 Championship game, fans were still excited to see their Sun Devils in the Holiday Bowl.

That excitement quickly faded after kickoff, however, as the Texas Tech Red Raiders dominated ASU in the Holiday Bowl, and the Sun Devils ended up limping out of the season with two bad losses.

Those losses exposed some weaknesses for Arizona State and showed that there are a few major areas of concern for the Sun Devils heading into the offseason.

The Sun Devils need to prepare better for big games, help Taylor Kelly develop more as a passer and find out how to replace a lot of defensive playmakers this offseason if they want to repeat as Pac-12 South Champions.

 

Preparation for Big Games

Arizona State hasn't performed well when the lights are at their brightest recently.

The Sun Devils lost nationally televised games to Notre Dame, Stanford (twice) and Texas Tech this past season.

In three of those four games, analysts actually picked Arizona State to win.

Omitting the first meeting with the Stanford Cardinal, the Sun Devils should have won, or at least been competitive, in all of those games. Mental errors cost ASU against the Fighting Irish, but in the Pac-12 Championship game and Holiday Bowl the Sun Devils were just out coached.

Head coach Todd Graham and his staff didn't have their team prepared for those final two games, and it showed, as ASU lost by a combined score of 75-37.

SI.com writer Stewart Mandel also weighed in on ASU's inability to win the big one after the embarrassing loss to Texas Tech:

ASU did come up with a huge road win against UCLA at the end of the year to secure the Pac-12 South crown, but they almost choked that game away late.

This offseason, Graham and his staff need to work on getting their team prepared better for these big games. The Sun Devils came out flat on the road a lot in 2013, and when the spotlight was on the team it seemed to crumble.

For ASU to make the Rose Bowl next year, that can't happen.

 

Development of Quarterback Taylor Kelly

At the start of the season, Kelly looked like a young Jake Plummer.

He started the year throwing for 300 yards or more in the Sun Devils' first five games. After that, though, his numbers decreased significantly.

Kelly did not pass 200 yards four times in the Sun Devils' last six games.

Near the very end of the year when the pressure was on, Kelly really crumbled. He became gun-shy and didn't seem confident in his arm or decision-making.

This really showed in the Holiday Bowl, where the Sun Devils threw for a season low of 125 yards.

This offseason, Kelly needs to become confident in his game.

The Sun Devils will return some key playmakers on offense next year, and with Kelly in his senior season, they should put up big offensive numbers again.

For that to happen, Kelly needs to develop his ability to read defenses and have confidence in his game.

 

Replacing Key Defensive Starters

Two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton, Alden Darby, Osahon Irabor, Chris Young, Davon Coleman, Gannon Conway and Robert Nelson are just some of the defensive playmakers Arizona State will lose this offseason.

ASU's defense came on late in the year, led by this senior group, and helped the Sun Devils go to the Pac-12 title game.

Next year, not only will the Sun Devils have to replace all of this talent, they will also have to replace the leadership.

Sutton has been the poster boy of Sun Devil football the past two seasons and has become one of the biggest emotional leaders on the team. Darby and Irabor were the leaders of the secondary, and Young led the team with 112 total tackles last year.

This is one of those situations where really none of these guys can be replaced, so the Sun Devils will need next year's defense to play as a cohesive unit to make up for the loss of all this individual talent.

This offseason, Arizona State will need to figure out not only who will take over these starting roles, but who will become the leaders on the team.

While losing all this talent is tough, losing the leadership is even tougher.

 

Stats and information from cfbstats.com unless otherwise indicated.

Robby Baker is a B/R Featured Columnist. You can find his B/R archive here and follow him on Twitter @Robby__Baker.

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Auburn vs. FSU: Score, Grades and Analysis from 2014 BCS Championship

The BCS saved its best for last.

No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Auburn went back and forth with two lead changes in the final 1:20 of the last championship game of the BCS era, but it was Heisman winner Jameis Winston who scored in the end, as the Seminoles escaped Pasadena with a thrilling 34-31 victory.

Fellow Heisman finalist Tre Mason finished with 195 yards on 34 carries—his last a 37-yard touchdown to give the Tigers a 31-27 lead with 1:19 remaining—but Winston responded with a national championship-winning 80-yard drive, finding Kelvin Benjamin for the decisive score:

Winston, who helped FSU back from an early 18-point deficit, finished with 237 yards passing and two scores. He was named MVP of the game for his efforts. After a memorable performance, he gave an equally memorable interview, via Patrik Nohe of the Miami Herald and Bo Mattingly:

Following the game, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press noted an interesting fact:

The first 25 minutes belonged to Auburn. 

Florida State got an early stop and then went 59 yards to set up a field goal and a 3-0 lead, but its next four possessions gained just 28 total yards, with the last ending on a Winston fumble. 

As Auburn's defense continued to frustrate a seemingly overwhelmed Seminoles squad, its offense was equally successful. Head coach Gus Malzahn orchestrated the perfect gameplan to keep the 'Noles defense off balance, and seemingly every time FSU brought pressure, Nick Marshall and the Tigers burned them. 

Five of Auburn's first six drives went into FSU territory. One ended on a missed field goal, but three were capped by touchdowns, including this sprint to the outside by Marshall to make it 21-3 with five minutes to go in the half:

Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel summed up the start:

A fake punt on fourth-and-four on the next drive injected energy into Winston and the 'Noles, and they immediately went 66 yards on 11 plays to cut the lead to 21-10 heading into the locker room. 

According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Tigers, who entered the game as a double-digit underdog, were suddenly a massive favorite:

Both defenses continued to shine in the third quarter. Florida State's Timmy Jernigan and Auburn's Dee Ford took turns terrorizing opposing offensive linemen, and Seminoles kicker Robert Aguayo's 41-yard field goal served as the only scoring of the quarter.

After Marshall threw an interception early in the fourth, FSU once again fed off the big play, going 56 yards on five plays for the touchdown. Down by two, a questionable unsportsmanlike penalty call on Devonta Freeman forced the Seminoles to kick the extra point rather than attempt a 2-point conversion, and they remained behind, 21-20. 

CBS Sports' Will Brinson examined the call:

Auburn's offense, which had been quiet for most of the half, responded with a time-chewing possession, eventually getting a short field goal with just 4:42 remaining. 

The Tigers' four-point lead proved to be short-lived, as Levonte Whitfield took the ensuing kickoff and flew down the sideline, going end zone to end zone to give the Seminoles the lead:

The fireworks were hardly over, though. 

Auburn immediately went 75 yards and Mason appeared to give the Tigers their final miracle of the destiny-dubbed 2013 season, but the freshman Winston responded with a game-winning drive that will never be forgotten. 

 

Player Grades

Nick Marshall, Auburn: B+

Seeing coverage like this from the secondary tends to make things a little bit easier:

Other than that 50-yard touchdown toss, Marshall was fairly up-and-down as a thrower. He made some really nice, accurate throws early but he struggled a bit once Florida State's defense started to bare down. He also threw a costly fourth-quarter interception. 

In the run game, though, Marshall proved to be dangerous, getting to the edge several times and eating up chunks of yardage. When he was running the ball, FSU was kept at bay and Auburn's offense moved much better. 

 

Jameis Winston, Florida State: A

CBS Sports' Dane Brugler summed up Winston's start:

The Heisman winner seemed discombobulated early on, making inaccurate throws and not showing great pocket presence—either taking sacks or tucking the ball too early, as he did on his fumble. 

Things eventually slowed down for Winston, however, as he got into a better rhythm and was able to start connecting on throws and move the ball with consistency, eventually orchestrating the game-winning touchdown drive.

It was an uneven start for Winston, but no one will remember that. What a way to cap a perfect season. 

 

Tre Mason, Auburn: A

The Seminoles had no answers for Mason. Part of his success was a product of Malzahn's playcalling that opened him up in space, but part of it was also the result of his quickness and agility that got him into that space. 

Mason slalomed through the Seminoles defense with video-game-like cuts on several different occasions, including this one on a 12-yard touchdown reception:

He showed a little bit of power, too, as evidenced on his bone-crushing touchdown run in the final minutes. There was nothing more that Mason could have done. 

 

Timmy Jernigan, Florida State: A

The junior defensive tackle unequivocally saw his draft stock rise on Monday night, as he shed blocks and stuffed running lanes whenever Auburn tried to run inside. He also created penetration when Marshall dropped back to pass.

His ability to cause trouble in both the running and passing game was impressive, and both Bleacher Report's Matt Miller and NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah offered their praises of the big man:

Auburn just couldn't handle the dynamic and talented Jernigan. If he starts putting everything together for long stretches like he did on Monday, he's going to be a high-impact player in the NFL.

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Jameis Winston Throws Game-Winning TD with 13 Seconds Left to Win BCS Title

With 79 seconds remaining in the BCS National Championship Game, Auburn took a 31-27 lead over Florida State. The Seminoles needed a touchdown, and they got one.

Quarterback Jameis Winston led an 80-yard drive, which was capped off by a two-yard touchdown catch by Kelvin Benjamin. 

The 6'5" receiver was able to use his size to go up and get Winston's pass for the lead.

The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner was clutch on the final drive, via ESPN's SportsCenter:

Jameis Winston was 6-7 for 77 yards on the go-ahead drive. #Clutch

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 7, 2014

Winston's game-winning touchdown pass gave the Seminoles a 34-31 lead over the Tigers with only 13 seconds to play. Florida State outscored Auburn 21-10 in the fourth quarter.

Auburn was unable to pull off one more miracle. Florida State's defense held on the ensuing drive to give the Seminoles their first national championship since 1999.

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Cold Hard Fact for Monday, January 6, 2014

Fact: Florida State's 18-point comeback is the largest ever in a BCS title game. The previous record was 12 by Texas in 2006. Final score: Florida State 34, Auburn 31. 

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Fact of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: ESPN Stats & Info

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7 Teams Who Will Ride Bowl Season Momentum into Huge 2014 Campaigns

Though all but one of this season’s bowls were meaningless, the 17 teams that came out on top in the non-title contests have eight months to bask in the glory of a win.

And that’s a better fate than 240 days with the bitter taste of defeat in your mouth. In other words, it’s something to build on rather than something to try and forget.

Of this year’s postseason winners, a handful are in position to parlay their strong finish in 2013 into a historic 2014.

 

Statistics courtesy of College Football Statistics, College Football Data Warehouse, Phil Steele and Sports Reference/College Football.  Recruiting data courtesy of Rivals.

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Odds on Who Will Win National Championship Next Year

Florida State beat Auburn to win the 2014 BCS National Championship. Let's take a look at the odds on who will win the first College Football Playoff next year. 

Jameis Winston led Florida State to a national title and won the Heisman this season. Does Winston's return make the Seminoles favorites to repeat next season? Alabama was the preseason favorite to win this year's championship. Where does the Crimson Tide fall in this year's list of favorites?

Watch Adam Kramer give the odds on who will win the national championship next season. 

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital

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Cold Hard Fact for Monday, January 6, 2014

Fact: Florida State receiver Levonte Whitfield's 100-yard kick return was the third in BCS Bowl history. Andre Debose's 2012 Sugar Bowl return and C.J. Jones' in the 2003 Orange Bowl are the others. 

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Fact of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: ESPN Stats & Info

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Kermit Whitfield's 100-Yard Kickoff Return Gives Florida State Late Lead

The Florida State Seminoles are using special teams to their advantage in the BCS National Championship Game against Auburn.

A 100-yard kickoff return by Levonte "Kermit" Whitfield gave Florida State its first lead since it was a 3-0 game in the first quarter.

Coach Jimbo Fisher ran down the sideline to follow the kickoff return:

The touchdown gave the Seminoles a 27-24 lead with just over four minutes remaining in the title game, but Auburn would answer back to take the lead with just over a minute to play.

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Cold Hard Fact for Monday, January 6, 2014

Fact: Auburn is 9-0 this season when leading after three quarters. The Tigers are up 21-13 on Florida State heading into the fourth quarter during the BCS National Championship Game. 

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Fact of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: @RoseBowlGame

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Texas Football: Texas Can't Expect Charlie Strong to Be the Next Mack Brown

Charlie Strong took to the microphone on Monday for his first press conference as head coach of the Texas Longhorns.

The former Louisville head coach discussed his goals for the program and how he plans to build it back up to the national stage. He even touched on what it was like to take over for Mack Brown. Strong was genuine, affable and firm in his commitment to the 'Horns.

Whether you watched all 41 minutes of Strong's morning with the media or Burnt Orange Nation's highlight video, one thing is obvious.

Charlie Strong is no Mack Brown.

Even though he says all the right things, Strong is clearly out of his comfort zone. He stumbles through his first public appearance, seemingly counting the seconds until he can get out of there. He even admitted to the crowd, "I was just hoping that I brought this cold weather with me and that it would have blocked some of these media coming here today."

Now contrast that to the man who coined, "Come early, be loud, stay late, wear orange." Brown comes off as an old friend shootin' the breeze with you in his living room. That was his world, and he owned it even through the dark times.

And Texas has to be OK with that.

Because Strong's value will go way beyond how he presents himself and the program to the world. Expecting him to be the next Brown just isn't reasonable.

First of all, Strong truly wants to be at Texas. Faced with a question about not being Texas' first choice, he simply replied, "I could have been the 15th choice and would still be so happy to be the head football coach here."

Good luck getting an answer like that out of Nick Saban or Jon Gruden.

Billionaire donor Red McCombs may abhor the fact that Strong isn't a marquee name. The boosters, who have rewarded Brown's friendship with the utmost support, will have a lot to get used to. The Longhorn Network has to adjust its programming schedule.

But the move to a coach like Strong is exactly what Texas needs. He is all about the game, stating early in his press conference, "I was told I'm a football coach first." Later, he delved into his recruiting plan: "We will close the borders and make sure Austin is the state capital of college football."

This is talk that the two-time national champion can back up. He coached eight All-Americans as a defensive coordinator at Florida, and he turned former quarterback Marcus Smith into a first-team All-American defensive end at Louisville. Not to mention the Cardinals' 23-3 record over the past two years.

Once Strong begins to put his stamp on the program, the higher-ups will overlook the skipped promotional shoots and see the behind-the-scenes coach as the worker he is. Moreover, they will see him as the cure for what has ailed the program over the past four years.

Charlie Strong is just not the next Mack Brown. He's not the president of the American Football Coaches Association, and he probably won't be offered a job as a TV personality.

Strong will, however, be the man behind the turnaround at Texas.

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Cold Hard Fact for Monday, January 6, 2014

Fact: With a 21-10 halftime lead over Florida State, Auburn's win probability is 82 percent. 

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Fact of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: ESPN Stats & Info

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Florida State's 'Red Lightning' Goes Hard at BCS National Championship Game

Florida State ball boy Frankie Grizzle-Malgrat, aka "Red Lightning," caught the nation's attention earlier this season. During the BCS National Championship Game, Red Lightning was back in action.

Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston took off with the football, and Red Lightning was right behind him hustling down the sideline. Red Lightning was there to help Winston up and get the ball to the ref quickly:

 

Hat tip to Nick Novak and Will Frasure for the find.

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Cold Hard Fact for Monday, January 6, 2014

Fact: Florida State, down 21-10 to Auburn, trails at halftime for the first time this season. 

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Fact of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: NBC Sports

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Gutsy Fake Punt Leads to Florida State's First TD Against Auburn

For most of the first two quarters of the BCS National Championship Game against Auburn, nothing went Florida State's way. A gutsy fake punt in their own territory led to the Seminoles' first touchdown of the game.

Down 21-3 late in the second quarter, Florida State faced a 4th-and-4 from its own 40-yard line. The Seminoles took a chance and were rewarded. Karlos Williams picked up seven yards on the fake punt to keep the drive alive.

Devonta Freeman finished the 11-play drive with a three-yard touchdown:

The touchdown made it a 21-10 game.

Oddly enough, some people called the fake punt. Coaches—Boston College's Steve Addazio, Pittsburgh's Paul Chryst and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin—in ESPN's BCS Film Room thought something was up:

Hat tip to The Big Lead's Stephen Douglas for the video.

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Nebraska's Bo Pelini Tweets at Fake Account

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini has a pretty good sense of humor, as a recent tweet shows. 

ESPN's Darren Rovell provided an awesome tweet, which also shows what Pelini is talking about, on Sunday:

Parody account @FauxPelini now has more followers than @BoPelini pic.twitter.com/EwKY1VL4rw (H/T @turyasz, @HeyDaveA)

— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) January 6, 2014

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Auburn Uses Beyonce, Jay-Z, Kim Kardashian and Ron Burgundy to Call Plays

Play cards are always fun to look at. Auburn's play cards for the BCS National Championship Game against Florida State are filled with stars.

The play card above features Jay-Z, Beyonce and Kim Kardashian.

But wait, there's more!

Another play card adds Ron Burgundy to the mix:

 

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5 Teams Still in the Hunt for the No. 1 2014 College Football Recruiting Class

Many college coaches claim they do not pay attention to recruiting rankings. While that may be true for some of them, recruiting rankings are still a big deal to fans and analysts.

With the 2014 recruiting cycle almost over, the race to finish first in recruiting is starting to take a more permanent shape. Some schools are just about done with recruiting, while other programs can still move up the rankings since they are still waiting on elite uncommitted recruits.

A trio of SEC teams have their eyes on the No. 1 slot, while a school in the Big Ten will not go down without a fight. Plus, an ACC school is also in the mix.

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Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel Spotted Together at BCS National Championship Game

ESPN's Tim Tebow and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel were spotted next to each other at the BCS National Championship Game on Monday.

We can only hope that Tebow and Manziel will go out partying together after the game.

It looks like the two quarterbacks eventually became buddies, via @SBNation:

ESPN's Keri Potts was kind enough to tweet out a picture of the two high-profile icons.

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Cold Hard Fact for Monday, January 6, 2014

Fact: With Auburn taking a 7-3 lead with 3:07 left in the first quarter, Florida State trailed in a game for the first time since September 28 vs. Boston College. 

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Fact of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: Ralph D. Russo

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