NCAA Football News

Washington vs. Oklahoma State: Score and Twitter Reaction for 2015 Cactus Bowl

Washington mounted a ferocious second-half comeback, but it was too little, too late for the Huskies. They fell, 30-22, to the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the TicketCity Cactus Bowl Friday night at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona.

Washington quarterback Cyler Miles finished 25-of-38 for 268 yards, one touchdown and an interception. That turnover proved extremely costly, coming on the Huskies' final drive of the game as they attempted to tie it in the final seconds.

Miles' opposite number, Mason Rudolph, picked up his second career victory, throwing for 299 yards, two TDs and an interception on 17-of-26 passing. Desmond Roland provided the freshman with plenty of help, rushing for 123 yards on 32 carries.

Kyle Fredrickson of The Oklahoman singled out the Oklahoma State offensive line for opening up holes for Roland against a tough Washington front seven:

This is the ninth year in a row that Oklahoma State qualified for a bowl game. The Cowboys needed a victory over rival Oklahoma in their final game to get here, but they made it nonetheless.

It's an unparalleled streak of success for the school, and one that head coach Mike Gundy knows not only helps on the recruiting trail but also allows more inexperienced players to gain invaluable time on the practice field, per The Seattle Times' Adam Jude:

But the streak is important for us to have those practices, which we did over the last three weeks. Those 12 practices are very important for us to develop the younger players, the guys that we've talked about and you've talked about in the press, that are first year players. They were told two weeks ago that they’re now essentially second year players because they've got a season under their belt. But those practices are really important. I think it’s vital for us to continue to develop our program and work to get better.

Plenty of teams before have used victories in lesser bowls as a jumping-off point in the pursuit of greener pastures, Oklahoma State included. Just look at how the Cowboys parlayed their Alamo Bowl success in 2010 to a Fiesta Bowl victory the following year.

The school looks to have a bright future ahead.'s Jake Trotter thinks the rest of the Big 12 is on notice:

On Friday, the Cowboys helped carry the conference flag in a way that few Big 12 schools have so far. Entering the game, the Pac-12 and Big 12 conferences had differing fortunes throughout this year's bowl season, per ESPN Stats & Info:

Although Oklahoma State almost certainly didn't care about preserving the image of the Big 12, the Cowboys helped the conference regain some prestige.

Of course, some will likely wish that they finished the game with the same ferocity with which they started it. OSU dropped 24 points on Washington in the first half, dominating the Huskies on both sides of the ball.

Oklahoma State defensive tackle James Castleman picked up the seldom-seen fat-guy touchdown to give the Cowboys a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter. Castleman took the snap out of the Wildcat and ran it in from a yard out:

Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer joked that between that TD and Bryce Petty's 18-yard touchdown pass to 390-pound offensive guard LaQuan McGowan in the Cotton Bowl Classic, the Big 12 was establishing itself as the pre-eminent home of the fat-guy touchdown:

Wideout James Washington hauled in a 28-yard touchdown pass with one hand to double the Cowboys' lead, 14-0, with 16 seconds left in the first quarter.

Three of the Huskies' first four drives ended in three-and-outs. The other resulted in a Cameron Van Winkle missed field goal after Washington started with the ball on the OSU 28-yard line. They mustered no offense to speak of for almost the entirety of the first half.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys padded their lead with a 40-yard field goal from Ben Grogan to start the scoring in the second quarter. Then, 48 seconds from halftime, wide receiver Brandon Sheperd added another touchdown, putting on the brakes as Washington defensive back Kevin King blew by in pursuit, as illustrated by ESPN College Football:

Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman thought the junior might have taken pointers from Tom Cruise before the game:

Oklahoma State couldn't have asked for a better start. The Cowboys outgained Washington 293-113 heading into halftime and prevented the Huskies from converting on a single one of their six third downs.

Rudolph was a bit hit-or-miss. He threw for 198 yards and two touchdowns in the first half but had a fumble and an interception on consecutive drives. OSU was a bit lucky Washington didn't turn either of those turnovers into points.

In order to have any chance at a comeback, the Huskies needed to do something special on their opening drive of the second half. They did exactly that, with wideout Jaydon Mickens taking a reverse 31 yards to the house and trimming the deficit to 17 points, 24-7, with 11:48 left in the third quarter:

Grogan hit another field goal to give Oklahoma State a 27-7 lead, but the Huskies weren't done. On the ensuing kickoff, return man John Ross made a couple of moves and then turned on the afterburners to smoke OSU's coverage team for a 96-yard return touchdown.

Pac-12 Networks attempted to encapsulate Ross' emotions as he headed for paydirt:

That quick TD helped Washington regain some momentum, but the team couldn't break through.

Head coach Chris Petersen gambled on a 4th-and-6 on Oklahoma State's 37-yard line with roughly nine-and-a-half minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys stopped Miles two yards short of the first down.

On the next drive, Grogan split the uprights with his third field goal of the game with a little under six minutes left, putting a major dent in Washington's comeback hopes. Mickens got his second touchdown of the game, this time coming on a 16-yard pass from Miles, but the Huskies still needed another TD and a two-point conversion to tie the game.

Following a missed field goal from Grogan, Washington got the ball on its own 20-yard line with 43 seconds remaining. The odds were against the Huskies from the start of the drive, and Miles' interception resigned them to defeat.

This is Washington's third bowl loss in four seasons. Petersen's obviously a talented coach, though, working wonders with Boise State in the past. The infrastructure is there for the Huskies to climb up the Pac-12 totem pole. It's only a matter of time before they put it all together.

Trotter, meanwhile, penciled in Oklahoma State as a contender to rival Baylor and TCU atop the Big 12 next year:

The 2014 season was always viewed as a bit of a rebuilding year for the team given how many players the Cowboys lost from last season. Making and winning a postseason bowl is a nice accomplishment for this team and a great way to start 2015.

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Paul Perkins' Leadership Will Help UCLA Be Under-the-Radar Contender in 2015

Running back Paul Perkins’ crucial contributions in No. 14-ranked UCLA’s 2014 season finale—a 40-35 defeat of No. 11 Kansas State in Friday’s Alamo Bowl—set the tone for the Bruins’ 2015 campaign.

Behind its breakout star, UCLA will be a contender next season.

Perkins scored the Bruins’ final touchdown of the season on a 67-yard run, capping a career-high 194-yard performance.

Then, after a quick Kansas State score, Perkins was the first player to the ball on the Wildcats’ ensuing onside-kick attempt.

Ending the year on such a high note provided the perfect close to Perkins’ monster season, in which he became the first UCLA player to lead the conference in rushing since 1995. His 194 yards Friday gave him 1,575 for the year.

A host of returners for next season in addition to Perkins made significant impacts in Friday’s season finale. If momentum from the bowl season carries over into the next campaign, linebacker Deon Hollins should roll into 2015 with all the force he brought on three sacks of Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters.

With linebacker Myles Jack making plays in space and grabbing and interception, and wide receiver Jordan Payton finishing with a team-high four receptions, the Alamo Bowl proved UCLA has plenty to look forward to in the next year.

Just expect the Bruins to embark on the coming months with far less fanfare than a year ago around this time.

An offseason of hype surrounded UCLA throughout the 2014 offseason, thanks largely to the return of quarterback Brett Hundley, the only starter head coach Jim Mora's known in his three years at the helm.

Hundley delivered in his farewell game, rushing for 96 yards and two touchdowns to go with 136 yards passing and a third score.

Replacing his dual-threat playmaking is a tall order for head coach Jim Mora and his staff in the coming offseason. Having Perkins will help, as offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone told Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times.

"[Perkins] takes the pressure off the quarterback and having him have to try to make every play," Mazzone said.  

Still, in a sport wherein pundits heap credit or blame one position, depending on the situation, uncertainty at that spot means the Bruins can likely forget being a top-10 team to open 2015.

Less attention might be a good thing from UCLA’s perspective. Following the Bruins’ 31-10 loss to Stanford on Nov. 28, which denied them a berth in the Pac-12 Championship Game, Jack said getting away from the pressure of outside expectations buoyed the Bruins during their five-game winning streak in the second half of the regular season.

A quiet offseason matches the disposition of its new offensive star, Perkins. Soft spoken off the field, his play speaks loud and clear.

Around Perkins, the UCLA offense also returns every player in its receiving corps who made an impact this season, and the line will be among the most veteran in the Pac-12 after two years as one of the league’s younger units.

Mora and his staff have other issues to iron out in the coming season that emerged during the Alamo Bowl, and kept UCLA from matching its lofty expectations in 2014. The Bruins nearly had a 25-point halftime lead evaporate, which made Perkins' late heroics necessary.

UCLA was also flagged 15 times for a staggering 128 yards. The team came into Friday's game ranked No. 117 in the nation at 70.9 penalty yards per game.

Certainly the Bruins have their question marks. But with Perkins part of an experienced lineup, UCLA can fly under the radar as contenders next season.


 Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Season statistics via Game statistics via  

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UCLA vs. Kansas State: Postgame Grades for Bruins, Wildcats

In a game that looked like a blowout for UCLA, the Kansas State Wildcats stormed back in the second half only to be denied right at the death, as the Bruins won the Alamo Bowl, 40-35, despite leading 31-6 at one point. 

Brett Hundley and Paul Perkins both had great days, as did Jake Waters and Tyler Lockett. 

With that, let's check out the game grades for both teams, starting with the Bruins. 

UCLA Bruins

Rush Offense: Behind Brett Hundley and Paul Perkins, who rushed for 96 and 194 yard, respectively, the Bruins racked up 331 yards on the ground and exposed K-State's front line. It was a 67-yard run in the fourth quarter that ultimately buried K-State. 

Pass Offense: Obviously since UCLA racked up over 300 yards on the ground, Hundley didn't have to pass that much. He finished with just 136 yards but did have a touchdown through the air. 

Rush Defense: Despite K-State being a traditional running team, UCLA gave up just 31 rushing yards and didn't let K-State establish a tempo in the run game all night. 

Pass Defense: Tyler Lockett could yell out to his defender "they're going to pass the ball to me on this play," and it wouldn't have mattered to UCLA, apparently. The Bruins got toasted by Lockett, who had 13 catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns. As a whole, the Bruins gave up 338 yards through the air. 

Special Teams: The Bruins special teams didn't play a major role in the game, which is always good. It means there weren't any mishaps. 

Coaching: Even though Jim Mora won the game, the Bruins committed 15 penalties and nearly coughed up a 25-point lead. That's all on the coach. 


Kansas State Wildcats

Rush Offense: K-State was limited to just 31 yards on the ground on 32 carries—meaning they averaged less than a yard per carry. If the Wildcats could've established a ground tempo early, they may not have fallen behind the way they did. 

Pass Offense: It seemed as though Tyler Lockett and Jake Waters were going to bring K-State back all by themselves, and they nearly did. Waters finished with 338 yards, and Lockett ended his career as a Wildcat with 164 yards and two touchdowns. 

Rush Defense: The Bruins toasted the Wildcats on the ground to the tune of 331 yards, and it was a big run by Perkins late in the fourth quarter that finally buried Bill Snyder's squad. 

Pass Defense: Brett Hundley didn't exactly rely on his arm in the game, but that's partly because the Wildcats weren't letting themselves get beat over the top. Despite a battered secondary, the Wildcats gave up just 136 yards through the air. 

Special Teams: There was a penalty that negated a Tyler Lockett touchdown return, and that could've played a bigger role than we'll ever know. But despite that, no significant shakeups in the special teams department. 

Coaching: In the first half, it appeared Mora was completely outworking Snyder. In the second half, it was Snyder and his staff's play-calling that nearly brought K-State back from 25 points down. It's always tough to beat Snyder, and it took a 25-point cushion to ultimately do it.  

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FSU Player Says Cars Keyed and Tires Slashed in Tallahassee After Rose Bowl Loss

Apparently some Florida State fans don't take losing well.

The Seminoles had ripped off 29 straight wins before suffering a 59-20 defeat in the 2015 Rose Bowl on Thursday. They had not lost since Nov. 24, 2012, and they had won a national championship during that incredible run.

However, some fans only care what their favorite team has done for them lately. That has never been more apparent than it was when the Seminoles returned to Tallahassee after losing in the Rose Bowl.

Florida State linebacker Anthony Valdes tweeted out some unfortunate news after returning to campus:

Valdes understood that it wasn't the entire fanbase that committed this act of vandalism:

The Seminoles are now 29-1 in their last 30 games, but some fans only care about that one loss. What a shame.

[Twitter, h/t Deadspin]

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Kansas State vs. UCLA: Score and Twitter Reaction for 2015 Valero Alamo Bowl

The No. 14 UCLA Bruins almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory before downing the No. 11 Kansas State Wildcats, 40-35, in the Valero Alamo Bowl Friday night inside the Alamodome in San Antonio.

The overarching theme of UCLA's season—and arguably the Bruins' past few seasons—was that it could look dominant one week and utterly hopeless the next. The Bruins beat Arizona State on the road by 35 points on Sept. 25 and then lost to Utah at home a little over a week later. Later in the year, they also followed up a nice victory over USC with a defeat to Stanford.

CBS Sports' Tom Fornelli made the point that UCLA was one of the most maddening teams to watch all season:

The Bruins provided the full UCLA 2014 spectrum in the Alamo Bowl, at some points looking unstoppable and appearing helpless at others. They nearly squandered a 25-point halftime lead before running back Paul Perkins found an opening and burst through the Kansas State defense for a 67-yard touchdown run to make it 40-28 with a little over two minutes left in the game.

Prior to the run, Kansas State had outscored the Bruins 21-7 and dominated possession in the second half. UCLA had run 15 plays for 62 yards in the third and fourth quarters before the scoring drive, compared to 43 and 208, respectively, for the Wildcats.

K-State wideout Tyler Lockett made it interesting with a 29-yard touchdown reception, but Perkins recovered the ensuing onside kick to extinguish the Wildcats' comeback attempt.

The Bruins averted a potential disaster, and it was fitting that Perkins saved the day since he was arguably their best player. He rushed for 194 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. The Wildcats simply had no answer for the sophomore's speed when he got into the open field.

As a team, UCLA rushed for 331 yards, compared to 31 for Kansas State. With that kind of disparity, it's surprising that the Wildcats were even within striking distance in the second half.

Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters attempted 48 passes, the highest total of his career. Although Waters had 338 yards and two TDs through the air, Grantland's Matt Hinton found his team's reliance on the passing game a bit concerning:

In what is almost certainly his final college game, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley didn't exactly go out with a bang, throwing for 136 yards and a touchdown on 12-of-24 passing. He did add 96 yards and two TDs on the ground.

UCLA head coach Jim Mora revealed on Dec. 11 that Hundley would forgo his final season and head to the NFL, per Ryan Kartje of the Orange County Register:

Hundley's UCLA career might not have gone exactly to plan, considering he was labeled a Heisman Trophy contender before the season. Still, the junior quarterback helped the Bruins win a total of 29 games during his three seasons, and beating a Top 15 team like Kansas State is a good way to go out.

In the first quarter, UCLA demonstrated how deadly it could be, scoring on its first three drives of the game, with a 27-yard field goal by Ka'imi Fairbairn sandwiched by two rushing touchdowns from Hundley.

Hundley put the Bruins ahead a little over two minutes into the game with a 10-yard TD run and then made it a 17-point game with a minute and 25 seconds left in the first quarter, following a 28-yard TD scamper.

Pac-12 Networks provided a nice visual for how much the field opened for the signal-caller:

Kansas State answered with two field goals from Matthew McCrane to cut the deficit to 11 points, 17-6, in the second quarter. The Wildcats missed a major opportunity, though, before McCrane's second and left points on the board.

Lockett, a second-team All-American return man, took a Matt Mengel punt 41 yards to the UCLA 15-yard line. Despite that great field position, K-State went three-and-out, with Lockett dropping an easy pass in the end zone on third down. Mike Hammett of 1150 KSAL in Salina, Kansas, felt that play was a microcosm of Kansas State's game to that point:

Perkins compounded the Wildcats' misery 7:29 from halftime, breaking free for a 32-yard touchdown run to give the Bruins a 24-6 advantage, a play Pac-12 Networks highlighted:

Hundley picked up his first passing touchdown in the game with 19 seconds left in the half, finding a wide-open Devin Lucien from seven yards out to grab a 31-6 lead.

As Kartje noted, UCLA was thoroughly dominating the Wildcats heading into halftime:

Fox Sports' Tim Brando felt that UCLA's performance was all the more impressive given how few times this season Kansas State was decidedly outplayed:

The Wildcats received the ball to start the second half and embarked on an impressive 17-play, 75-yard drive that ate 7:37 off the clock. Waters capped it off with a three-yard touchdown pass to Lockett. The two connected for the two-point conversion to trim UCLA's lead to 17 points, 31-14.

Then, a mere two plays after Lockett's TD, Perkins fumbled on his own 30-yard line. Linebacker Dakorey Johnson recovered to give the Wildcats possession on the UCLA 21-yard line.

Kansas State nearly wasted another red-zone possession, but Waters converted on a 4th-and-1 on the 12 to keep the drive alive. A personal-foul penalty from Myles Jack on the next play put the Wildcats at the 2 with a 1st-and-goal. Running back DeMarcus Robinson then punched it in to make it a 10-point game, 31-21, with 3:25 left in the third quarter.

Kellis Robinett of The Kansas City Star and The Wichita Eagle felt that that TD helped breathe life into the Wildcats faithful seated inside the Alamodome:

A 44-yard field goal from Fairbairn stopped the bleeding for the Bruins.

The problem for the Wildcats was that they were not only fighting against UCLA; they also had the clock with which to battle. After Fairbairn's field goal, Kansas State had 15:33 to make up 13 points. While that might seem like a lot of time, the Wildcats offense isn't built to score a lot of points in a short period.

Waters made it a one-score game in the fourth quarter, 34-28, but the scoring drive took a little over six minutes, leaving the team with 4:54 to stop UCLA and then march down for the potential game-winning TD.

Hinton joked that they knew no other way than eating up every single second of a game:

Perkins' run likely hastened the inevitable, effectively putting the contest out of reach for Kansas State. Too many things needed to go right for the Wildcats even after Lockett's late TD in order for them to win.

Following the win, Mora and Snyder exchanged a curiously brief handshake, though it's unclear what caused Mora to pull away so promptly. Chris B. Brown of Smart Football provides footage of the exchange:

A bowl victory is a nice way for UCLA to end the season, but there's no question that until the Bruins become a more consistent team, they'll continue to be on the outside looking in on the Pac-12 Championship race.

Finding an adequate replacement for Hundley will be Mora's top task of the offseason.

Coming up short after such a ferocious second-half comeback is a disappointing conclusion to the Wildcats' 2014 campaign, but they arguably played above expectations overall. Most expected Baylor or Oklahoma to run away with the Big 12, but K-State finished one game behind the co-champion Bears and TCU Horned Frogs.

As long as Snyder's prowling the sidelines, Kansas State will continue to be in the conference-title discussion.

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Power Ranking the Top 25 Recruiting Classes Post High School All-America Games

The 2015 recruiting cycle has officially hit crunch time, as coaching staffs across the country look to lock up key commitments just a month shy of national signing day. All-American events often accelerate the process since premier prospects annually take advantage of the spotlight to declare their collegiate intentions.

This flurry of activity swiftly alters the recruiting landscape, improving potential for some programs and crippling the hopes of others. Here's our latest look at college football's top classes, giving an edge to teams that have addressed needs and accumulated top-to-bottom quality. 


Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

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Under Armour All-America Game 2015: 5 Lessons We Learned

More than 100 of the nation's top high school football prospects took to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Friday for the eighth annual Under Armour All-America Game. It was our first chance to see some of college football's next crop of superstars square off against similar top-tier competition, close to what they'll face in 2015 and beyond.

The final score—Team Highlight romped to a 46-6 win over Team Armour—and the individual and team statistics don't matter much; how certain players looked will make a lasting impact. For players who have already committed to a school, this gave those teams' fans an opportunity to salivate over upcoming standouts, while the uncommitted had an opportunity to give a huge boost to their recruiting stock.

We saw a lot of both and learned a heck of a lot more about the class of 2015's best and brightest. Click through to see the five biggest lessons learned from the Under Armour All-America Game.

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Alabama, Florida State Recruits Steal Spotlight in 2015 Under Armour Game

While both Alabama and Florida State crashed and burned in the semifinals of the inaugural College Football Playoff, Friday's 2015 Under Armour All-America Game proved the future is extremely bright in Tuscaloosa and Tallahassee.

Even though the start of the new year brought disappointment for both Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher, their pain was likely temporarily numbed after witnessing the display put on by their recruits.

The Crimson Tide and the Seminoles combined to have 21 total commitments represented during Friday’s game—in which Team Highlight defeated Team Armour by a score of 46-6.

Overall, it was a showcase for the two clubs who have the nation’s top two recruiting classes in the 2015 cycle and have combined to win the last three national titles.

Multiple standouts from Florida State's No. 2-ranked class flashed their talents during Friday's game.

Fisher's acumen at evaluating quarterbacks was once again on display—even though his latest proteges were the lowest-ranked passers coming into the game.

Deondre Francois—one of three quarterback pledges the 'Noles had in the game—was the most consistent passer on either team. The 4-star prospect hit all four of his passes for 103 yards and a 24-yard touchdown pass for Team Highlight.

De’Andre Johnson—a 3-star FSU pledge who led Team Armour with 72 yards of total offense—accounted for his squad's longest play from scrimmage and was the lone passer on his team who didn't throw an interception.

Even Kai Locksley—who is committed to Florida State as a quarterback but played receiver during this week’s game—wowed onlookers during practices and with a 36-yard reception in the game.

Locksley was Team Highlight’s third-leading receiver in the game, behind future teammates 5-star George Campbell (two catches for 68 yards) and 4-star Da’Vante Phillips (three catches for 32 yards and a touchdown).

Phillips was on the receiving end of a scoring strike from 5-star quarterback and Alabama commitment Blake Barnett.

The 6’5”, 200-pound California native turned in an efficient performance by completing five of his 10 passes for 66 yards with the one touchdown toss.

While future Tide studs such as Barnett and 5-star receiver Calvin Ridley were making noise on the field, the Tide were also the biggest winner on the sidelines as 5-star corner Kendall Sheffield and 4-star defensive tackle Daron Payne announced their commitments to Alabama.

Even a former Tide pledge—4-star receiver Daylon Charlot—ignited Team Highlight’s rout by scoring on a 53-yard punt return in the second quarter.

Per Sonny Shipp of Geaux247 (subscription required), in spite of his recent decommitment, Charlot still could end up back in the Tide’s 2015 class.

"Alabama is still my favorite," Charlot told Shipp. "The receivers that they are losing and with LSU getting more receivers. Alabama’s only offered like three receivers so that gives me a little better opportunity."

The performance from each team's group of commitments was a reminder that neither Florida State nor Alabama are ready to fade from the national spotlight anytime soon.

Considering the wealth of talent Saban and Fisher are bringing in, fans of the Tide and the 'Noles can take solace in that their programs will be well equipped to compete for national titles in the years to come.


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

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Cactus Bowl 2015: Live Score, Highlights for Washington vs. Oklahoma State

Washington 7, Oklahoma State 24 ; Mid 3rd Quarter

We should be in for an explosive game Friday night as the Oklahoma State Cowboys take on the Washington Huskies in the 2015 TicketCity Cactus Bowl. 

The contest will begin at 10:25 p.m. ET. It can be seen on ESPN, following the UCLA-Kansas State game. 

Odds Shark has Washington as a seven-point favorite. A full box score can be found here, courtesy of 

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Tennessee's Offensive Firepower Will Have Vols Firmly in SEC East Race in 2015

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.— Hope is something the Tennessee Volunteers football team has had an abundance of during the past several bleak years, but thanks to an arsenal of offensive weapons, there's a new feeling on Rocky Top entering the offseason:


Many of those playmakers coach Butch Jones assembled in Knoxville were on full display during Friday's 45-28 blowout TaxSlayer Bowl victory over Iowa that gave the Vols their first winning season since 2009. The game was nowhere near as close as the final score indicated.

When UT raced out to a 28-0 lead on the Hawkeyes, it felt like a catalyst to bigger and better things in 2015. Now with confidence to go along with all that talent, there's no reason to think the Vols shouldn't challenge Georgia and Missouri for the SEC East next year.

Despite all the future offensive stars, it took the team's best freshman performer—defensive end Derek Barnett—to sum up the prevailing theme of UT's bowl performance simply and succinctly: 

The maestro for the bowl breakout again was sophomore quarterback Joshua Dobbs, whose able arm and legs made him look like the budding superstar who burst onto the scene with huge games against Alabama, South Carolina and Kentucky.

Though he sputtered somewhat against Missouri and Vanderbilt, he was able to put those games in the rear view.

Dobbs dominated the Hawkeyes, accumulating 129 passing yards, 84 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Multiple times, plays would break down, and Dobbs would be pursued by an Iowa defender, only to make him look silly.

Early in the second quarter, the dual-threat future star sprinted around the right end, and when he looked as if he'd be run down by Iowa linebacker Bo Bower, he side-stepped him and surged eight yards for a touchdown.

When UT needed yards to sustain drives, Dobbs kept the ball, turned on another gear and beat Hawkeyes to the edge.

Then there was freshman running back Jalen Hurd, who was healthy and fresh-legged. He proved once again that he belongs in the conversation with other star first-year runners such as Nick Chubb, Leonard Fournette, Royce Freeman, Samaje Perine and Nick Wilson.

The jumbo freshman from Hendersonville racked up 122 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns, and in a first quarter that saw UT set the tone, Hurd put the team on his shoulders and started a dominant performance.

After showing he could get the tough yards with a three-yard run to start off the scoring, Hurd burst up the middle, broke a pair of tackles and went 30 yards on his next score. Iowa had to answer for his size-speed combo.

It has been a long time since the Vols have had so many young players with this much talent, but their competitiveness is the X-factor that could lead the program back to its former place right in the mix for SEC championships. 

Despite injuries, a killer schedule and playing 24 freshmen, Tennessee fought to bowl eligibility. Then, once it got there, UT treated Iowa to a whipping that took most everybody by surprise.

Instead of a close game predicted by most, the Vols went for the jugular early, and it was never close.

That lead swelled to 45-14 before the Hawkeyes tacked on two late touchdowns against the backups. Iowa was simply out-manned, and while the SEC competition will be much tougher than this next season, the Vols will be a year stronger, faster and better.

According to the 247Sports composite rankings, they'll also have the aid of a recruiting class that currently ranks fifth in the nation, a recruiting haul that includes such promising playmakers as 4-star running back Alvin Kamara and 5-star receiver Preston Williams, among others.

In an extremely impressive performance, one of the most eye-opening things for UT was the Vols did this without three of their top receivers. Marquez North, Josh Smith and Jason Croom all suffered season-ending injuries earlier this year.

That didn't matter a bit Friday. Little-used freshman Vic Wharton caught a deep touchdown pass from running back Marlin Lane. Finally healthy, jitterbug junior college transfer Von Pearson had seven catches for 71 yards and a touchdown. And junior leading receiver Pig Howard hauled in two more catches.

All those guys are back next year. It's truly an embarrassment of riches for Tennessee talent-wise, and the way Jones is recruiting, it's only going to get deeper.

The Hawkeyes had no answer for all that talent, which led to a simple conclusion: TaxSlayer Bowl champions.

That's only the start of the hardware the young Vols want to add to the trophy case. The next step is breaking through in the SEC East, where they lost three games (to Florida, Georgia and Missouri) by a total of 12 points.

With all the young potential stars UT is returning, it's not a stretch to believe the Vols take a huge step forward next year. Georgia returns stud running backs Chubb and Sony Michel but will be breaking in a new quarterback.

Mizzou has won the past two East titles, and the Tigers have Maty Mauk coming back, but they again will have to find replacements for several defensive stars.

Florida and South Carolina have tons of questions. Kentucky and Vanderbilt are steps behind Tennessee already.

The East is wide open. The way the Vols played Friday night—with hunger, a sense of urgency the program hasn't seen in a long time and dripping with talent—they appear poised to jump at the opportunity.

Iowa would probably vouch for that.


All statistics gathered from, unless otherwise noted.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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Oregon Exposes FSU's Major Flaws in Rose Bowl Romp

It had been over two years since Florida State lost a football game, dating back to November of 2012.  The Seminoles had won 29 games in a row, 26 of them with Jameis Winston starting at quarterback.  That streak came to a screeching halt in Thursday’s Rose Bowl at the hands of Oregon, as the ‘Noles turned the ball over five times en route to a 59-20 drubbing.

It was a fitting end to the Winston era, who likely played his final collegiate game.  Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported back in October that Winston would declare for the NFL draft after the season, but nothing official has been announced yet.

After everything that the Seminoles have been through, all of the late game comebacks, the Winston lawsuit and the various run-ins with the police, it was only right that the streak came to an end in dramatic fashion.

Jimbo Fisher’s squad finally met an opponent that was too good to allow a late-game comeback.  The Rose Bowl started off as a close game, only an 18-13 Oregon lead at halftime, but the Ducks imposed their will in the second half.  The Seminoles were a turnover machine in the third quarter, as their four turnovers in that period led to 28 Oregon points.

The ‘Noles have faced adversity all season, but this time around, the wheels started to come off early.  It has become a common sight over that time to see Winston and Fisher yelling at each other, but it reached new heights on Thursday evening.  There was a sense of desperation on the FSU sideline as Winston repeatedly walked back there without putting points on the board.

Things got so heated that if one were to read Fisher’s lips, it looked as if he threatened to bench his starting quarterback.  Fisher downplayed the conversation after the game to reporters, but that instance showed that the Seminoles were overmatched.

“He gets animated, but it wasn’t words,” Fisher said via  “One of the receivers on the play…the guy fell down on the route.  It would have been wide open.  I couldn’t see it from there.  I asked him what happened and that was it.  He always gets animated like that when he talks.”

Whatever the case, the shot of them arguing exemplified the Seminoles’ Rose Bowl experience.  They found themselves matched up against a superior opponent, and they didn’t know how to react.

However, it didn’t take a genius to see that this was going to happen.

Florida State repeatedly needed big comebacks and plenty of good fortune throughout the year to beat the mediocre opponents on its schedule.  Oklahoma State, NC State, Notre Dame, Louisville, Miami, Boston College and Florida all took the ‘Noles down to the wire, so it was inevitable that the streak was eventually going to end.

And the way it ended, and how the Seminoles handled defeat, showed the nation what kind of program they have down in Tallahassee.

As the Ducks continued to chew up yards and widen the lead, the ‘Noles started to show their true colors.  Kirk Herbstreit, who was announcing the game on ESPN, said that it looked like the Florida State defense had "quit" as Oregon went on yet another long scoring drive.

Herbstreit was right.  On one particular touchdown run, half of the defense didn’t even get in a stance before Thomas Tyner bullied his way into the end zone.  How can a team that has won 29 games in a row not have the pride to play a full 60 minutes of football?

The final score was 59-20, but it could have been much, much worse.  Oregon coach Mark Helfrich mercifully took his foot off the gas pedal in the fourth quarter, as the Ducks slowed down their pace with about 11 minutes left in the game.  Marcus Mariota and Co. could have scored at least 70, especially since the FSU defense was dog-tired.

Then, when the clock hit zero and the final buzzer sounded, the Seminoles went straight to the locker room without shaking hands with the opposition.  Instead of congratulating the Ducks for the great game they played, as most teams usually do, they showed their lack of character by sprinting to the confines of their lockers.

Herbstreit even scolded them on the air, which was a surprise considering he seemed to become more and more infatuated with the Seminoles as the season progressed.

In Fisher’s press conference the day before the game, he had an interesting quote regarding his team’s character.

“We’re going to continue to do things the right way,” Fisher said, via USA Today's Christine Brennan.  “The Florida State way, and we believe that’s definitely the right way and be good people, and in time we’ll see.”

Well, it didn’t take too long to see what the "Florida State way" entails.  It’s a culture that is fueled by winning, but when failure is on the horizon, the players don’t know how to react. 

The Seminoles have a roster that is loaded with speed and athleticism, but until Fisher changes the culture in a positive manner, they will not be able to utilize that talent to its fullest extent and won’t win the College Football Playoff.

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Under Armour All-America Game 2015: Complete Box Score and Recruit Analysis

For the few people actually keeping score, Team Highlight posted a dominant 46-6 win over Team Armour on Friday afternoon in the 2015 Under Armour All-America Game.

But the scoreboard was probably the least important part of what went on at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. Of far more interest to the record crowd of 25,461 fans, the participants and their future teams were the individual performances of some of the next wave of college football stars.

On a day that gave us a mix of commitments and contributions, one guy was able to make a splash in both areas. Running back Ronald Jones II, a 4-star prospect from McKinney, Texas, committed to USC before kickoff and then showed Trojans fans what to expect a few minutes later with a 58-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.

Jones was one of six players to pledge their college choices during ESPN2's broadcast, while dozens who are already committed chipped in with big plays of their own.

Here's how things shook out, using the box score and final statistics as a guide to the performance of the Class of 2015's top prospects.


Line Score

Unlike last year's game, which didn't pick up in terms of scoring until the second half and was in doubt until late, Friday's clash was pretty much over by the middle of the second quarter. That's because Team Highlight scored on its first five possessions, then turned to its defense and special teams to carry the load the rest of the way.

With Highlight leading 32-6 at halftime, the game used a running clock in the second half, but that didn't stop the victors from extending their lead. With both teams cycling in fresh players throughout, the final quarter didn't play like a blowout as much as one where each side continued to play hard until the final whistle.


Scoring Summary

As the summary shows, special teams were a huge part of how the game played out. Both teams scored on punt returns, with Daylon Charlot's 53-yard score for Team Highlight particularly exciting because the uncommitted 4-star wide receiver from Louisiana initially muffed the kick before regrouping and turning on the jets.

Eric Glover-Williams, a 4-star cornerback who has been pledged to Ohio State since August 2013, gave Team Armour its only score of the game just before halftime with a 47-yard punt return. However, any momentum Armour might have gained there was squelched when the point-after attempt was blocked by Christian Wilkins, who then picked up the live ball and scampered down the field, high-stepping at the end for two points.

Wilkins, an uncommitted 4-star defensive tackle from Connecticut, also had a sack on defense, showing off his skills in multiple areas.

Another unsuspecting star for Team Highlight was its kicker, Justin Yoon, a 3-star prospect from Massachusetts who is committed to Notre Dame. He was perfect on all of his kicks, including a 47-yard field goal in the final minute of the first half to set a record for longest kick in game history.


Rushing Stats

Jones' 58-yard TD run midway through the first quarter came on his first carry and was as much due to blocking as to a great move he made to juke out a Team Armour defender just beyond the line of scrimmage. His speed and athleticism will be fun to watch the next few years in Los Angeles, where USC could have a big hole to fill if junior Javorius Allen decides to turn pro early.

Most of the offensive highlights came on pass plays, but the game's final score was provided by one of the top remaining uncommitted skill players left in the 2015 class. Damien Harris, a 5-star prospect from Kentucky, went nearly untouched for a 36-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.

Harris was the game's workhorse, so it was nice to see him get a late payoff. He'd be a huge in-state get for Kentucky, which is fighting Alabama and Ohio State for his services and where he's apt to get the most work early on.


Passing Stats

With so many quarterbacks getting a chance to show their stuff, none had the ability to put up huge numbers. But that didn't stop a few from making some big plays.

Florida State commit Deondre Francois—one of three 2015 quarterbacks the Seminoles have coming in who played in this game—had one of the game's two TD passes when he found Garrett Williams on a nice touch pass for 24 yards, which came one play after connecting with future teammate George Campbell on a long reception.

That was one of a handful of times when future college pass-catching combos got involved on a play. Alabama quarterback commit Blake Barnett regularly tried to connect with Calvin Ridley, someone he'll get a chance to throw to in Tuscaloosa the next few years.

But Francois also showed some jitters in the red zone, losing a fumble on a botched shotgun snap.

Texas A&M pledge Kyler Murray and Florida State commit De'Andre Johnson both threw picks—each intercepted by Auburn linebacker prospect Darrell Williams—but both were tipped before Williams grabbed them. 


Receiving Stats

In a game that was loaded with big-name receiving prospects, it was an offensive player who's grabbed most of his attention on the recruiting trail for great blocking techniques who hauled in the first TD pass. Garrett Williams, a 4-star Clemson pledge, showed great speed in beating his man after falling off the line and making a beeline for the end zone to haul in an over-the-shoulder catch.

Clemson only had two TDs from its tight ends this season, so Williams has a shot to make an impact in that area.

Florida State commit Da'Vante Phillips had a four-yard TD catch, outleaping his defender in the front of the end zone on a back-shoulder throw that he tracked perfectly.

While 5-star Tyron Johnson committed to LSU during the game to take his name off the board, the top remaining wide receiver recruit didn't do himself any favors in the game. Damarkus Lodge, a 4-star prospect from Texas, finished with four catches for 42 yards but dropped a couple balls he should have been able to bring in.


Defensive Stats

Some of the biggest stars in the games weren't the ones throwing or catching the ball but rather the ones working hard to stop such advancement. Most notably, a pair of uncommitted 5-star defenders did wonders for their future stock.

Defensive tackle Daylon Mack was named the player of the game after he finished with seven tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery. Another 5-star defensive lineman, end Byron Cowart, got himself into the backfield on numerous occasions and had one of his team's three sacks.

Note: All statistics courtesy of the official box score (provided by Intersport) 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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Under Armour All America Game 2015: Grading the Top 10 Recruits

The 2015 Under Armour All-America Game showcased a number of the most talented prospects from the 2015 class.

Ten players ranked among the nation’s top 20 prospects overall were in action during Friday’s contest—in which Team Highlight defeated Team Armour by a score of 46-6.

The lone bright spot for Team Armour was 5-star defensive tackle Daylon Mack—who was perhaps the most dominating player on the field.

How did the rest of the top prospects competing in the Under Armour All-America Game fare?

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Winners and Losers of the 2015 Under Armour All-America Game

The 2015 Under Armour All-America Game featured the top recruits in the country, lots of points and even a few live commitments. Who shined the most?

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee goes through his winners and losers from the big game.

Which school had the best Under Armour All-American Game?

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Why Iowa Should Rid Itself from Kirk Ferentz and His $13M Buyout

Let’s make this clear: Kirk Ferentz has done plenty of tremendous things in 16 years as Iowa’s head coach. After taking over a program that had fallen into disrepair in legend Hayden Fry’s final seasons, Ferentz restored the Hawkeyes to national prominence with 115 wins, four 10-win seasons and a pair of Big Ten championships.

He has been an outstanding leader and ambassador for Iowa as a program and a university as a whole. But for nearly every coach, there comes a time when their tenure grows stale. When it becomes plainly obvious that a change is necessary for both sides to move on and rejuvenate themselves, make a clean break.

For Kirk Ferentz and the University of Iowa football program, that time should be now. Friday’s 45-28 Taxslayer Bowl loss to Tennessee, which wrapped up Iowa’s 2014 season at 7-6, is not a cause or a final straw. It is merely a symptom of a larger problem—one that must be addressed sooner rather than later, despite the large buyout due Ferentz that change would require.

Since 2009’s unexpected 11-2 season, capped with an Orange Bowl win over Georgia Tech, Iowa has sunk into mediocrity. In the last five seasons, the Hawkeyes are 32-30 with two eight-win seasons and one bowl win, a 2010 Insight Bowl victory over Missouri.

That’s a terrible return on UI's investment. Per a recent USA Today survey of college football coaches’ salaries, Ferentz will make $4.075 million this season, which ranks as the ninth-highest salary among FBS coaches.

Per a recent article from Forbes’ Chris Smith, Ferentz’s base salary is $3.55 million annually. His contract runs through 2020, and his buyout equals 75 percent of the total salary remaining on his deal. If Iowa were to fire him tomorrow, its buyout would equal $13.3 million, a staggering figure.

However, Smith argues that Iowa would save $7.7 million over the life of the contract by eating Ferentz’s contract now, although the department would spend significant salary on a new coach.

Is it worth it to arrest Iowa’s decline? Absolutely. With Ohio State’s return to the national elite, Michigan’s hiring of Jim Harbaugh and Michigan State’s continued success (not to mention James Franklin’s presence at Penn State), the Big Ten is not getting any easier.

Fortunately for Iowa, all four programs reside in the Big Ten East Division. Iowa is in the West with Wisconsin and Nebraska, both of whom have endured their own coaching changes this season.

The Hawkeyes are showing no signs of making a move in the West. This season set up as Iowa’s easiest schedule in recent memory: rival Iowa State, Wisconsin and Nebraska at home, with no Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State or Penn State on the schedule. The Hawkeyes? They gave ISU one of its two wins on the season and lost to both the Badgers and Cornhuskers.

Next fall, Iowa again avoids the East powers but must travel to Iowa State, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

It’s more than the schedule, though. Too often this fall, the Hawkeyes have looked unmotivated and uninspired. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis’ system was bland, entering the Taxslayer Bowl averaging 28.2 points per game, No. 71 nationally. Neither Jake Rudock nor C.J. Beathard were truly effective at quarterback, and the defense often struggled to stop people and tackle well (a major concern Friday).

Tennessee led 35-7 following a lifeless first half and held a 45-14 lead before Iowa narrowed the gap with a pair of garbage-time touchdowns. The Vols' Jalen Hurd rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries, and UT was never threatened.

And this isn't a young team: Iowa will lose 10 starters, including senior left tackle and Outland Trophy winner Brandon Scherff and all-time receptions leader Kevonte Martin-Manley. 

The team’s performances epitomized a program that has gone stale, and Ferentz himself did little to combat that narrative. Asked repeatedly about the Hawkeyes’ mistakes following the Nebraska loss, he repeatedly answered, “That’s football,” which doesn’t sit well with fans seeking answers.

Ferentz still has the support of his boss, as Iowa athletic director Gary Barta made clear to Rick Brown of the Des Moines Register during a recent interview.

Without question he will be our coach next season. That being said, (myself), Kirk and others surrounding the program have very high expectations for Iowa football. My expectations are for us to compete for and win championships. Maybe that's a bowl championship. A Big Ten Championship. Maybe, someday, even beyond that. And because they are so high, in 2014 we didn't meet those expectations.

Money, Barta told Brown, isn’t a factor in Ferentz’s tenure.

The money is not what I'm basing my decision on. If he was making half of what he's making, or he was making two times what he's making, I would be going through the exact same process. I'm trying to evaluate where we're at, and then trying to decide if the foundation is strong enough to go forward with the current coach. And I absolutely believe that it is.

Iowa might not be able to compete consistently with the Big Ten East, but it can certainly challenge for Big Ten West titles. And now is the time to ensure the Hawkeyes can do so consistently.

If money truly isn’t a factor, then Barta and Iowa officials should act now to change the program’s direction. Thanking Ferentz for his contributions and moving on would be the best tonic for a program that is obviously in need of a major shake-up.

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Under Armour All-America Game 2015: Score, Recruit Commitments and Reaction

The Under Armour All-America Game is one of the most important high school football showcases on the calendar. The 2015 game, which Team Highlight won 46-6 over Team Armour 46-6 on Friday, served as a display for some of the nation's best prospects and a commitment stage. 

It's also a good learning opportunity for the players, who got to work with former NFL head coaches Herm Edwards (Highlight) and Steve Mariucci (Armour). Getting insight from two men with such extensive football resumes is only going to make them better. 

Even though Mariucci's squad was blown out, there were plenty of positives to take away from a recruiting standpoint. Daylon Mack, who was in the opposing backfield all day, was one of those positives, via Sam Khan Jr. of

Further illustrating Mack's dominance was ESPN's Derek Tyson, who provided the first-half numbers for the big defensive lineman:

Mack was joined by Byron Cowart in being named MVPs of the game, via Tyson:

Wide receiver Brandon Martin was another standout, making one of the best catches of the day late in the third quarter between two defenders. It was also notable because arguably the top cornerback in the country was in on the coverage, via Shotgun Spratling of the Los Angeles Times:

One school that had a very good day, on the winning side, was Florida State. The Seminoles might still be reeling from their embarrassing loss in the Rose Bowl, but the future looks bright, thanks to the quarterback-wide receiver duo of Deondre Francois and George Campbell, via Tyson:

Francois did put a scare into Seminoles fans when word got out that he took an official visit to the University of Florida, though he told Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel that it was just a matter of doing due diligence:

I'm just taking an official to see if anything has changed, to see if it's a different atmosphere now that (Jim McElwain) is there. Just to make sure I made the right decision.

I'm fully committed to Florida State. I'm not really thinking about what can they do to make me change my mind. I'm just going on an official to see what they got to offer.

While that doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement, Francois said Florida State is still firmly in control. Florida State can't afford to suffer a big loss, knowing that the wide receiver and quarterback positions are vulnerable next year because Rashad Greene is a senior and Jameis Winston could take his talents to the NFL. 



As much fun as it is to watch these players on the field, the real story coming from the Under Armour All-America Game was the commitments. Several of this year's top recruits gave verbal pledges during the game. 

Defensive tackle Tim Settle, a 4-star prospect out of Virginia, announced on Twitter that he's staying close to home:

Frank Beamer's program was down in 2014, but landing one of the top run-stoppers in this year's class is a good start to build upon for 2015. 

Staying with the defensive tackle theme, 4-star recruit Daron Payne apparently wasn't dissuaded by Alabama's loss to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, via ESPN Recruiting Nation:

Nick Saban just watched Ezekiel Elliott gash his defense to the tune of 230 yards and two touchdowns, so adding a 325-pound monster in the middle will be a welcome sight in Tuscaloosa. 

Another area that Saban needed to upgrade was the secondary, and he did it in a big way. Kendall Sheffield, a 5-star recruit from Texas, will join Payne in Tuscaloosa, via Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:

In one of the most anticipated moments of the Under Armour All-America Game, star wide receiver Tyron Johnson, a 5-star recruit, announced that he was going to attend LSU next season, via ESPN College GameDay:

James Smith of The Times-Picayune (New Orleans) noted what Johnson's commitment says about the job Les Miles and his staff have done keeping Louisiana talent at home:

LSU continues to retain nearly every top-ranked prospect in the state of Louisiana and landing a talent like Johnson has a lasting effect.

Recruiting has become extremely popular among LSU football fans over the years, and as a result, these guys are instant celebrities the moment they walk on campus. It's starting to feed itself and the Tigers are reaping the benefits.

Speaking of keeping players home, that's one area Texas has struggled with in the last few years and why the program has been down. Head coach Charlie Strong endured his share of trials and tribulations in 2014, but he is off to a solid start in recruiting this season. 

A perfect case in point is linebacker Anthony Wheeler, a 4-star recruit, who announced on Twitter that he is committing to Texas:

Texas is always a recruiting hotbed, and there is no reason the Longhorns shouldn't dominate the efforts in the state every year. Strong might have to win over a lot of fans in Austin, but few coaches are capable of handling the scrutiny better. 

Young running backs were all the rage in college football this year with players such as Leonard Fournette and Nick Chubb making an instant impact. USC hopes it has found someone who can continue that trend with 4-star recruit Ronald Jones committing to the Trojans, via Jones' Twitter:

Plenty of top recruits are waiting to make their decision on national signing day, which is on February 4, but Friday was a huge day for teams that didn't exactly need a boost (Alabama) and others that were looking to make an impact on the recruiting trail (Texas). 

With four weeks to go before players can officially sign their letter of intent, expect things to pick up in a big way. Plenty of schools, such as Michigan under new head coach Jim Harbaugh, need to get in the mix quickly. 

Even though the final score didn't mean much, it was important to see how these high school standouts fared under the bright lights. Playing on national television in front of fans and scouts can make or break a player. 

Most of the big names showed up to play, which suggests the future of college football is as strong as it has ever been.

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TaxSlayer Bowl 2015: Game Grades, Analysis for Iowa vs. Tennessee

The Tennessee Volunteers pounded the Iowa Hawkeyes, 45-28, during the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida.

Tennessee (7-6) controlled the game and earned a 42-7 advantage, winning its first postseason outing since 2007. Iowa (7-6) dropped its third consecutive bowl matchup.


Pass Offense: The two-quarterback system was a failure, and the Hawkeyes failed to establish any offensive rhythm as they alternated shot-callers. C.J. Beathard was clearly the better option, completing 13 of 23 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns compared to Jake Rudock's 2-of-8 mark.

Run Offense: During the first quarter, Iowa couldn't run outside the tackles with Mark Weisman. Once the Hawkeyes let Jordan Canzeri take stretch handoffs, the running lanes opened up. Canzeri finished with 120 yards, but Weisman was ineffective other than his two short touchdowns.

Pass Defense: Josh Dobbs shredded coverages at every level, and the secondary lost track of Vic Wharton on a double pass. Though the Vols completed just 17 attempts, a staggering 10 resulted in a first down.

Run Defense: Iowa simply could not stop Tennessee's rushing attack, especially near the sideline. The 284 yards allowed was the third-most by a Hawkeyes opponent this year, but four touchdowns was a season-high.

Special Teams: Three Hawkeyes compiled a pitiful 12.7-yard average on six kick returns, which consistently cost Iowa field position. Marshall Koehn nailed four extra points, while Dillon Kidd and Connor Kornbrath managed 35.8 yards per punt combined.

Coaching: Offensive coordinator Greg Davis adjusted well to a sluggish opening, but his quarterbacks continued to miss open receivers until the game was decided. Defensive coordinator Phil Parker couldn't stop Tennessee's versatile—yet not elite—offensive attack.


Pass Offense: Josh Dobbs didn't overpower the Vols with his throwing arm, but he efficiently moved Tennessee down the field through the air. He finished the day 16-of-21 for 129 yards and one touchdown, with his one interception being a catchable pass. Marlin Lane added a 49-yard score on a trick play.

Run Offense: Hurd tallied 122 yards and two touchdowns, doing most of his damage during the team's explosive first quarter. Dobbs scrambled away from pressure on multiple occasions and properly executed zone-read calls, managing 76 yards and two scores.

Pass Defense: Though the defensive linemen didn't sack an Iowa quarterback, they constantly disrupted the backfield and forced a few errant throws. Plus, Desmond King intercepted a pass in the end zone. The secondary surrendered two late touchdowns, but Tennessee wasn't hurt by those 14 points.

Run Defense: Canzeri and Beathard raced to 202 yards but did a strong majority of their damage following the Vols taking a 35-point lead. During the first half, the Vols surrendered just 3.6 yards per carry and stuffed a 4th-and-1 attempt. Still, 244 yards is a big number to allow.

Special Teams: Aaron Medley connected on a 28-yard field goal and drilled six extra points. Matt Darr contributed 37.2 yards per punt, and Todd Kelly recovered three onside kicks. The kick coverage unit was stellar, as mentioned previously.

Coaching: Coordinators Mike Bajakian and John Jancek attacked Iowa's weaknesses and stayed aggressive until the fourth quarter. Butch Jones has this team trending in the right direction, especially with the backfield combination of Dobbs and Hurd.


Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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Iowa vs. Tennessee: Score and Twitter Reaction for 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl

While the SEC West has had a bowl season to forget, the Eastern Division has been rolling against Big Ten competition. Tennessee picked apart Iowa early and often in the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl, cruising to a 45-28 win on Friday that looks closer than it was because of two garbage-time scores for the Hawkeyes. 

Volunteers head coach Butch Jones isn't going to run through Knoxville screaming about finishing with a 7-6 record, but the win is a positive step for the program. Tennessee hadn't played in a bowl game since 2010 and hadn't won a bowl game since the Outback Bowl seven years ago. 

Everything Tennessee was doing worked against Iowa. The Volunteers had a 21-0 lead after the first quarter and were ahead 35-7 at the end of the first half. Sophomore quarterback Joshua Dobbs finished 16-of-21 for 129 yards and added 76 yards on 13 carries with three total touchdowns (two rushing) and one interception. 

Dobbs has been tremendous for Jones' offense since taking over the starting duties on October 25. He had at least two touchdown passes in each of his first three starts and entered the game with a completion percentage of 61.5. His ability to run added a wrinkle that was lacking with Justin Worley. 

Freshman running back Jalen Hurd was also instrumental in Tennessee's offensive dominance, running for 122 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. His performance in the first quarter was better than most running backs have had in entire games this bowl season, via Rocky Top Insider:

Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated noted that Hurd's future with the Vols is looking exceptionally bright, while Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee seconded that opinion with one caveat:

The much-maligned Tennessee offensive line had no such issues on Friday, which is a step in the right direction for this program. That has to carry over into 2015 for the Volunteers to become serious players in the SEC East. 

On the losing side, Iowa's season ends with a whimper for the fourth straight season. The Hawkeyes (7-6) have lost their last three bowl appearances and had a 4-8 season in 2012. This also marks the fifth consecutive year they have won fewer than 10 games,

Kirk Ferentz has been the head coach at Iowa for 16 years now and is on the verge of a big bonus at the end of January, per ESPN's Darren Rovell:

Even though Ferentz has been a popular figure in Iowa, it's hard to justify what he's getting paid given the mediocre results in recent years. The Hawkeyes had two wins against bowl-eligible teams this season— Pittsburgh and Illinois, both of which finished 6-7 following losses in their bowl games. 

Despite the struggles in games, Ferentz said prior to the TaxSlayer Bowl that his program is built on a foundation of loyalty and commitment, via Chad Leistikow of The Des Moines Register:

To me, that's the beauty of college football. That's the beauty of sports, I think, when they're done right.  We have 16 seniors on our team. Every year I say this, but I have such respect for guys that run the whole race, stay their entire four or five years of their career, earn their degrees. Our guys have done a great job of that, first and foremost.

I don't care how good a player they may be, none of them are going to be playing when they're 40.

No one denies that Ferentz does things the right way, but at some point the results have to start showing up. They haven't been there for a long time, as illustrated by quarterback C.J. Beathard. The sophomore played decent in limited action during the regular season, but he was a mess on Friday. 

Even when the game was out of hand in the third quarter, Beathard couldn't get out of his own way, via Sports Illustrated's College Football:

It was that kind of day for Iowa from the opening kickoff. Beathard finished with 145 yards and two touchdowns on 13-of-23 passing with 82 rushing yards on eight attempts, though a lot of those yards came on the final two drives when Tennessee was playing prevent defense. 

Iowa's future continues to look murky. Ferentz keeps taking backward steps with the program, and the result is like what happened against Tennessee. The offense has been flat all year, and the defense gets exhausted because it's asked to compensate. 

There's still work to be done for the Volunteers, but Jones has them heading in the right direction. They won their seventh game for the first time since 2009 and appear to have found a capable quarterback-tailback combination in Dobbs and Hurd.

Tennessee will still experience some growing pains in 2015, but some of those close losses against teams like Georgia, Florida and Missouri will start turning into victories. The Volunteers are on their way back in the SEC. 


If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 

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Kendall Sheffield to Alabama: Crimson Tide Land 5-Star CB Prospect

Defense wins championships, and it's difficult to have an outstanding defensive corps without a lockdown cornerback.

Alabama took a huge step in the right direction as Kendall Sheffield, a 5-star corner by and one of the top prospects in the class of 2015, committed to the program. JC Shurburtt of 247Sports reported the news on the standout defensive back:

Sheffield, who stands 6'0" and 181 pounds, is the No. 3 cornerback in the country, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. His 4.40 40-yard dash time proves he has the speed necessary to run with anyone.

Along with his talents on the football field, Sheffield is also an elite track athlete. As a hurdler, the 18-year-old posted an impressive time of 13.85 in the 110-meter hurdles, according to 247Sports. Sheffield also competes in the 300-meter hurdles.

His straight speed and recovery speed are both strengths, along with his change-of-direction skills. As for his weaknesses, he scored just a seven out of 10 on both tackling and instincts, according to 247Sports, but those are still above-average marks and areas he's sure to improve in time.

Brian Perroni of 247Sports notes that Sheffield had a good showing at the Nike camp in February:

Moving forward, the Crimson Tide now have an elite corner to continue to grow in the upcoming seasons. With the loss of several top players, adding Sheffield to the roster should bolster what has already been a successful run for the school.

With his elite athleticism and outstanding speed, Sheffield will fit in perfectly with Alabama. Expect him to make a huge impact when he finally gets his chance to shine on the college football stage.


Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter:

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Anthony Wheeler to Texas: Longhorns Land 4-Star LB Prospect

Versatile 4-star linebacker Anthony Wheeler has taken himself off the market by committing to Texas, according to Jeff Howe of 247Sports:

During the Under Armour All-America Game on ESPN2 the four-star linebacker from Dallas Skyline chose Texas over Oklahoma. Baylor and LSU were also among the finalists, but it came down to a decision between the Longhorns and the Sooners.

“I sat down with my family and talked about how comfortable I felt with the coaches and how comfortable I felt with the school,” Wheeler said. “I felt like that's where I needed to be.”

The relationship that has Wheeler headed to the Forty Acres is the one he developed with Brian Jean-Mary. The Texas linebackers coach and Wheeler started speaking weekly during the fall and with the additions of Malik Jefferson and now Wheeler within a two-week stretch Jean-Mary has gone a long way towards retooling the Texas depth chart at linebacker.

“He's a real cool dude,” Wheeler said of Jean-Mary. “I've just gotten more comfortable with him. He's laid back and you can talk to him about anything. He's a good coach.”

A native Texan, Wheeler's two favorites were the two Big 12 schools that battle in the Red River Rivalry, Texas and Oklahoma. To the chagrin of his home state, during an interview with Adam Gorney of (subscription required), the linebacker said he "would put them over Texas in my top."

Wheeler also tweeted a photo from his visit to Norman, Oklahoma, with Sooners head coach Bob Stoops:

Wheeler did visit Texas, in April, after Charlie Strong was named head coach, and told Jason Higdon of that he liked what he saw from the team and that coaches tried to tell him about the outgoing crop of linebackers:

I talked to every coach mostly. They all said they could see me playing for them and that a lot of seniors are leaving after this year so they are going to need some new tough and good linebackers. The best part was just watching the game and seeing where I could fit in to play and they still stand in my tops.

In addition to the battle between Texas and Oklahoma, 247Sports also noted that Wheeler had at least a dozen total offers from schools like Alabama, Baylor, Michigan and Ohio State. The Big Ten schools were always a long shot.

A coveted prospect, Wheeler now provides Charlie Strong with a talented building block for the defense.

Wheeler is ranked as the 10th-best outside linebacker recruit in the country, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. Listed at 6'2", 225 pounds with a 4.55-second 40-yard dash, there's a lot to like about him at the position.

Already possessing the frame to fill out as he develops, Wheeler also has polished instincts for a player his age. He's a good tackler who pursues the ball well and understands how plays develop. Those fundamentals are crucial for young prospects.

The linebacker finally made his choice and will be a critical addition to Texas' recruiting class for 2015.  While he may not make an immediate impact, he has a bright outlook and should develop into an anchor off the edge.


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