NCAA Football News
CLEMSON, S.C. — You can count the number of on-campus practices left in Tajh Boyd’s collegiate career on one hand.
You can also count the number of games left in Boyd’s collegiate career on one finger.
Boyd’s time as Clemson’s starting quarterback, along with his collegiate career, is winding to a close. The No. 12 Tigers’ Jan. 3 Orange Bowl showdown against No. 7 Ohio State will be his final college game.
It seems the perfect time to ask: What is Boyd’s legacy at Clemson?
Is it defined by his 58 Clemson and ACC single-game, single-season and career records that take up an entire page in Clemson’s game notes? His Top-10 victories over Virginia Tech, LSU and Georgia?
Or is it his 1-5 record against chief rivals South Carolina and Florida State?
Regardless, Boyd has one final chance to burnish his legacy against the Buckeyes. He is well aware of what that entails, not only for him, but for his younger teammates who he’ll leave behind once the Sun Life Stadium clock hits triple-zeros.
“You always want to end your season on a high note,” Boyd said. “For the seniors, it’s a legacy thing, but for the guys coming back who’ll still be here, it’s a building thing, too. We looked at last season and that bowl game as a building block into this season.
“As much as you want to win this game for the last game, for all that, it’s much bigger than that. It’s for those guys coming back too and those guys having momentum heading into the offseason. I think it’s very important.”
When Boyd started the second half of the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium on New Year’s Eve 2010, Dabo Swinney’s Clemson tenure was at its nadir.
The Tigers trailed an average South Florida team before a half-empty stadium. The Bulls eventually built a 31-13 lead that a late Boyd-led rally couldn’t overcome in a 31-26 defeat.
Boyd’s first official half as a college starter was Billy Napier’s last as Clemson’s offensive coordinator. Napier was fired three days later, replaced by an unknown first-year college coach named Chad Morris.
With Boyd under center, Morris’ hurry-up, no-huddle offense brought Clemson to the kind of heights it hadn’t seen since the end of the Danny Ford era. The Tigers have won 10 games in each of the last three seasons for the first time that has happened since 1987-90.
They won the 2011 ACC championship (the program’s first league title since 1991) and also shared the ACC Atlantic Division title last season.
Boyd is the ACC career leader in touchdown passes (102), combined passing and rushing scores (127) and passing efficiency (154.2). He is second all-time in the ACC in passing yards (11,526) behind N.C. State’s Philip Rivers and is also Clemson’s career leader in total offense to go with his 17 300-yard passing games and numerous 400-yard games in total offense, among his other records.
He is a 2012 AFCA first-team All-American, the 2012 ACC Player of the Year and a two-time first-team All-ACC quarterback.
With a victory over Ohio State, Boyd can tie Rodney Williams as Clemson’s winningest quarterback ever with 32 victories as a starter.
This spring, Morris will watch over a three-way battle to replace Boyd between highly touted freshman DeShaun Williams, talented rising sophomore Chad Kelly and steadily rising senior Cole Stoudt.
No matter the winner, replacing Boyd won’t be an easy task in terms of talent and leadership at Clemson.
“The next guy that comes in, because there will be another guy, has got huge shoes to fill,” Morris said. “Not just how he handles his play on the field, but off the field. To me, that’s the sign of what Tajh has meant to this university and this program. He truly has been the face of this program and this university.
“And take all the records aside, out of the equation, the way he approaches people, the way he deals with everyone is really special and really unique, because that’s not the case everywhere. Not only are you going to have to perform on the field, but you’re going to have big shoes to fill off the field.”
However, Boyd’s performance against his key rivals has left something to be desired. After posting a 35-30 win over Florida State in September 2011, Clemson has gone 0-5 against the Seminoles and South Carolina with Boyd under center.
In 2011, Boyd completed just 11-of-29 passes for 83 yards with a touchdown and an interception in a 34-13 loss to South Carolina. Last fall, he completed 11-of-24 passes for 183 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in a 27-17 defeat. On Nov. 30, he completed 19-of-27 passes for 225 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions in a 31-17 loss to the Gamecocks.
Clemson has now lost five consecutive games to South Carolina, its longest-ever losing streak to its rival, a fact that doesn’t sit well with the Tigers’ fan base.
Last fall, Boyd completed 20-of-36 passes for 237 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, but still lost to Florida State, 49-37, in Tallahassee. With the Seminoles in town for the ACC’s biggest game in recent memory back in October, he was terrible. He completed just 17-of-37 passes for 156 yards and an interception in a 51-14 defeat, adding a key early fumble which was returned for a touchdown.
Following a stirring 25-24 Chick-fil-A Bowl win over LSU last season, in which Boyd threw for 350 yards and led a fourth-quarter comeback victory, he seriously considered declaring for the NFL draft as a likely second- to third-round selection.
Instead, he returned to chase a national title and a Heisman Trophy run.
Neither happened, although Clemson made its second BCS bowl game in three seasons, replacing the Seminoles as the ACC’s Orange Bowl representative.
Boyd says he has no regrets about how his final season unfolded.
“Maybe I did lose some money, maybe I didn’t,” he said. “Who knows, I could still go out there and maybe be the No. 1 pick. At this level, it’s like, as you go through life, one of the biggest things you don’t want to deal with is regret. I’ve never wondered what could have happened. That’s the biggest thing. I’ve answered questions that, if I’d have left, I’d have never figured out. I think I made the perfect decision.”
Beating Ohio State can’t change Boyd’s performances against his rivals, and a loss won’t erase his mark on Clemson’s program or the record books. However, it is a final chance to leave a great impression in the minds of Tiger fans, as well as NFL executives, who’ll be evaluating him for the 2014 NFL draft.
Ohio State is a marquee program coming off its first loss since 2011 and a near-miss of the BCS national title game, a team Boyd says “you don’t play often.”
“You want to play Southern Cal, Ohio State, Michigan, Oregon, Bama, those five schools are teams everyone wants to go out and compete against,” he said. “That’s going to be fun.”
And of course there is the not-small shadow cast by Clemson’s last trip to South Florida, a 70-33 loss to West Virginia in the 2012 Orange Bowl.
“It’s hard to forget it,” Boyd said. “Some guys (afterward) were like, writing on my Instagram, writing on my Twitter. About every week, I had to block a 70-33. You don’t forget it.
“A lot of players (now) were in that game and they’re still here. You know the type of mentality, and we’ve made improvements in all aspects, the players, the coaches, how we organize and get ready to structure things. I’m excited about it and I’m ready for the matchup.”
What does the Orange Bowl mean to Boyd? It’s the chance to leave a lasting impression. First and final impressions are never forgotten, and with the Buckeyes on the other sideline, Boyd has a shot at a very impressive last call at Clemson.
“I think it’s more so a chance for me to go out on a high,” he said. “Playing on a big stage, playing in a BCS bowl, two of the three years, it’s awesome in itself, but we need to come out here and win a BCS game.”
* Unless otherwise noted, all quotes in this article were obtained firsthand.
Connect with Greg on Twitter @gc_wallace
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The last year of this BCS system has to go out with a bang, and that is exactly what will happen.
Unlike last year's debacle of a national championship that came about when Alabama demolished Notre Dame, Auburn and Florida State will actually provide us with an entertaining game.
That matchup managed to crack my below list, and it is not alone. Check out three games I expect to provide memorable and close finishes.
Matchup: No. 4 Michigan State (12-1) vs. No. 5 Stanford (11-2)
This game will not be for all football fans. There aren't going to be a lot of highlights, flashy plays or points from this one.
There will be quality and hard-hitting football.
Both of these teams excel in the trenches. The key battle in this matchup will come when Stanford has the ball and goes to work with its physical rush attack.
The Cardinal's 23rd national ranking in rushing does not do them justice. They don't hit for a lot of big plays; it's just a steady diet of positive gains between the tackles.
That won't be easy in this game. The Spartans lead the nation having allowed just 80.8 rushing yards per game.
Both of these teams are in the top 11 in the nation in points allowed, and both will look to grind out the clock and control the ball, but only one team can win.
Stanford will edge out the Spartans in this one. Although their defense is not quite as stout, the Cardinal have a more balanced and effective offense.
Prediction: Stanford 17, Michigan State 15
Matchup: No. 12 Clemson (10-2) vs. No. 7 Ohio State (12-1)
This game is going to provide all the points that the Rose Bowl does not. Both of these offenses will be able to overwhelm the opposing defenses. That is thanks in large part to the quality play at quarterback both of these teams enjoy.
Ohio State's Braxton Miller and Clemson's Tajh Boyd give this game what is arguably the best quarterback matchup of all the bowls.
Miller combines with running back Carlos Hyde to give the Buckeyes the nation's fourth-most prolific rushing attack. Boyd and Clemson get their yards in a more vertical fashion.
Along with wide receiver Sammy Watkins, Boyd led the Tigers to the 12th-best passing attack in the nation.
These defenses are not terrible, and both are in the top 21 in points allowed. They are certainly vulnerable, however. That much was evident as Michigan toasted the Buckeyes for 41 points, and Clemson allowed Florida State to score 51.
I'm siding with the Buckeyes in a game where the last team to have the ball wins. With Ohio State's running game, they will have more control of time of possession, and that will pay off in the closing quarter.
Prediction: Ohio State 45, Clemson 42
BCS Title Game
Matchup: Florida State (13-0) vs. Auburn (12-1)
Florida State had a dominant season. Led by the nearly flawless play of freshman Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, the Seminoles scored the second-most points in the nation. That is not as good as their defense. Florida State led the nation in points allowed.
I don't think Auburn is going to lose any sleep over the Seminoles' imposing stats. The Tigers' accomplishments come in the form of big wins over excellent teams. With wins over Alabama and Missouri in their last two contests, playing this game will just feel like the natural progression of their season.
For Florida State, it is a sudden escalation in competition.
Auburn is not going to be able to stop the Florida State offense. The Seminoles have too many athletes, and Auburn is not winning with its defense.
It is winning behind the nation's most prolific rushing attack.
Running back Tre Mason and quarterback Nick Marshall will be tasked with wearing down a Florida State defense that allowed just 3.14 yards per carry this season.
Still, Auburn has rushed all over quality defenses. The Tigers almost hit 300 yards rushing against Alabama.
I expect Auburn's strong offensive line to leave the Seminoles overwhelmed. Although Florida State will have plenty of success on offense, that won't do the 'Noles any good as Auburn controls the ball in the fourth quarter and pulls out a close win.
Prediction: Auburn 38, Florida State 34
Stats via CFBStats.com.
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Editor's note: This is the sixth installment in Bleacher Report's CFB 250 for the 2013 season. This signature series runs through December, with National College Football Lead Writer Michael Felder ranking the best players at every position. You can read more about the series in this introductory article. See the CFB 250 page for more rankings.
This season began with Jadeveon Clowney as the clear-cut No. 1 at the 4-3 defensive end position, but is that where he finished on this list?
In a world where quarterbacks dominate the landscape, there is a premium placed on being able to make his life difficult. For most teams, that means using defensive ends to apply pressure off the edge in hopes of disrupting the quarterback’s timing and creating sack opportunities.
For the B/R CFB 250, we looked at the pass-rushing ability of defensive ends, as well as their play against the run. The goal, of course, was to put together a comprehensive list of players who could not only get to the quarterback but were also capable against the run. If there were any ties, the edge went to the player we would rather have.
Keep in mind, these 4-3 defensive ends are being rated on their performance in college, not NFL potential. But to see where they may go in the NFL draft (whether they are eligible in 2014 or later), check out Bleacher Report draft expert Matt Miller's projections at the end of each player slide.
Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien has already constructed a solid 2014 recruiting class. Yet with less than two months remaining until National Signing Day, there are still some needs that have to be addressed.
Still, there's work to be done. Here's a look at the three biggest questions Penn State needs to answer before February 5.
Will Penn State add another offensive lineman?
Penn State needs to replace four contributors on the offensive line from 2013.
John Urschel, Adam Gress, Ty Howle and Garry Gilliam have all graduated. Urschel and Howle started consistently, while Gress and Gilliam rotated at both tackle spots.
With having to replace all those players, the Nittany Lions would ideally like to get someone who can contribute immediately. That someone could be junior college offensive tackle Kareem Are.
At 6'6" and 320 pounds, Are has the size needed to play the tackle position. He's scheduled to announce his choice on Wednesday, according to Tom VanHaaren of ESPN.com.
If Are doesn't pick the Nittany Lions, they'll have to push harder for local product Alex Bookser. A 4-star recruit according to Scout.com, the offensive tackle has already taken official visits to Penn State, Ohio State and Tennessee. He'll visit Pittsburgh in January.
Bookser might not be a candidate to play right away like Are, but he has the upside to be a multi-year starter wherever he goes.
Right now, Are appears to be Penn State's best shot at adding an additional offensive lineman for 2014.
Can the Nittany Lions get another defensive player?
Penn State could possibly add not one, but two defensive players before National Signing Day.
One of the bigger areas of concern for O'Brien and defensive coordinator John Butler is the secondary. The unit is scarce on both numbers and talent. Penn State already has two cornerbacks and a safety committed to its 2014 class. Safety Shawn Boone could be another addition.
The Florida native is a 3-star recruit as ranked by Scout.com. According to Dieter Kurtenbach of the Sun-Sentinel, Boone is ready to make his college decision next month. Penn State is one of his two finalists.
Boone holds offers from the likes of Florida State, Ohio State and Tennessee. Top schools see potential in him, despite being Scout.com's 119th-ranked safety in the class.
Another player who has Penn State high on his list is linebacker Melvin Keihn. He took an official visit to State College back in November. Per Mike Farrell of Rivals.com, he's inching closer to a decision, and the Nittany Lions are in the mix.
Landing either Boone or Keihn—or both—would add needed depth at two key positions. With the slight increase in scholarships, Penn State has the flexibility to do so.
Defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi is likely out of the picture at this point. After Holley's commitment on Tuesday, Penn State now has three defensive tackles in its 2014 class.
Can O'Brien afford to redshirt Michael O'Connor?
A month ago, the answer was yes. However, that was before quarterback Tyler Ferguson announced that he's transferring, as reported by CBSSports.com. Now, the decision on whether or not to redshirt incoming quarterback Michael O'Connor is a difficult one.
O'Connor committed to Penn State back in June, even though Christian Hackenberg had just arrived on campus. With Hackenberg cemented as the starter, it appeared O'Connor would redshirt in 2014. This would give him two years of playing time once Hackenberg graduated.
Injuries can happen at any moment, so Penn State needs a suitable replacement to step in if Hackenberg goes down. If O'Connor is redshirted, O'Brien might not have that luxury.
Last week, Penn State extended an offer to signal caller John Wolford. He recently flipped his verbal commitment from East Carolina to Wake Forest, according to a report from Florida Times-Union writer Justin Barney, yet will still take an official visit to State College.
Adding Wolford would give Penn State three scholarship quarterbacks for 2014. This would make the decision to redshirt O'Connor a bit simpler.
If the Nittany Lions can't add another quarterback, they might have to burn O'Connor's redshirt. If they don't, the backup would either be D.J. Crook or Jack Seymour. Both players were run-ons in 2013.
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After the 1963 Sun Bowl, it took the Oregon Ducks 26 years to get back to another bowl game. After finally making a return to the postseason, the once dormant program has become one of college football's best.
Starting with a 1989 Independence Bowl win over Tulsa, the Ducks have enjoyed a quarter century of success. A date with the Texas Longhorns awaits in the upcoming Valero Alamo Bowl, meaning the Ducks will have been to 21 Bowl games in the past 25 seasons.
After appearing in back-to-back January bowl games following the 1994 and 1995 seasons, Oregon was left out of the postseason in favor of Cal in 1996, despite a head-to-head win over the Golden Bears. In the 16 seasons since being passed over by the Aloha Bowl, the Ducks have missed the postseason just once, which came after a 5-6 season in 2004.
While the Ducks have gone bowling with regularity, they haven't always been at their best in the postseason. Through last season's Fiesta Bowl, the Ducks have gone just 9-11 in their past 20 bowl games.
Things have gotten better over the past six seasons, as the Ducks have gone 4-2 in the postseason since 2007. Regardless of how many bowl wins and losses they had, the past four seasons made up the best four-year run in program history, as the Ducks ended each season by playing in a BCS bowl game.
After losing to Ohio State in the 2010 Rose Bowl and Auburn in the 2011 BCS National Championship Game, Oregon won back-to-back BCS games. Wins in the 2012 Rose Bowl and the 2013 Fiesta Bowl helped improve Oregon's record in BCS bowls to 3-2.
The Ducks have had some great bowl wins in the past quarter century but have also suffered some bad postseason losses. Here is a quick look at some of the postseason highs and lows of the past 25 years.
1989 Independence Bowl
In the current state of Oregon football, a win like this wouldn't even be on the radar. In 1989, just making the postseason was an accomplishment of epic proportion.
In its long-awaited return to the postseason, head coach Rich Brooks guided Oregon to a 27-24 win over Tulsa in the Independence Bowl. The win was the second bowl win in a row for the Ducks, but there were 26 long years between the two wins.
It was just the third bowl win in program history, but it put Oregon football on the right path by renewing interest in the program and making people take notice.
1995 Rose Bowl
The Independence Bowl put eyes back on the program, but the Rose Bowl berth took it to a whole new level. Winning the Pac-10 was huge for the program, but more importantly, the success of the 1994 season kicked off what is considered to be the modern era of Oregon football.
The Ducks were overwhelmed by No. 2 Penn State, 38-20. Clearly, the loss wasn't the ideal outcome, but the foundation for the future of Oregon football had been set before the game was even played.
The Ducks have missed the postseason just twice since the 1995 Rose Bowl and have become a fixture in the rankings.
2002 Fiesta Bowl
Not only were the Ducks left out of the BCS National Championship Game in favor of Nebraska, but they were passed in the BCS standings by two-loss Colorado after the end of the regular season.
The Ducks took offense to the BCS snub and pounded the No. 3 Buffaloes, 38-16, in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated.
The way it worked out was probably the ideal situation. Instead of ending the season with a probable loss to a legendary Miami (Fla.) team, the Ducks walked away with the program's first January bowl win in 85 years.
The win gave the Ducks national respect and left people wishing the Ducks would have been the team to get a shot at Miami. It also made the need for changes to the BCS system impossible to ignore.
2012 Rose Bowl
After winning the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game, the Ducks advanced to the program's sixth Rose Bowl. After losing its previous two Rose Bowl appearances and its last two BCS games, Oregon put those streaks to bed with a thrilling 45-38 win over Wisconsin in a record-breaking Rose Bowl.
Prior to the 2012 game, it had been 95 years since the Ducks were able to call themselves Rose Bowl champions. After finally claiming a victory in "The Granddaddy of Them All," Oregon's critics could no longer point to the fact that the Ducks had a trophy case void of a Rose Bowl trophy less than nine decades old.
It also evened Oregon's overall record in BCS games to 2-2 and gave the Ducks more credibility as they continued their run towards the top of the college football world.
Bad Bowl Losses
2002 Seattle Bowl
In 30 games from the midway point of the 1999 season, through the first six games in 2002, the Ducks went 27-3. After starting 6-0 in 2002, the Ducks lost five of their last six games to end the regular season.
Despite having a very winnable game and a huge geographic advantage over a 6-6 Wake Forest team, Oregon barely showed up in the Seattle Bowl.
The Ducks allowed 497 total yards and gained just 290 yards of their own en route to an embarrassing 38-17 loss.
The loss ended Oregon's win streak in postseason games at three and was the first of what became four consecutive postseason losses between 2002-2006.
2006 Las Vegas Bowl
Oregon started the year 4-0 and moved to 7-2 after a home win over Washington. Then, the wheels of the season started to wobble, and the Ducks lost their last three Pac-10 games.
The wheels completely fell off against BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Ducks failed to score until the fourth quarter and ultimately lost the game, 38-8. BYU dominated Oregon by gaining 548 total yards compared to just 260 for the Ducks.
The Cougars finished 11-2 and were a very good team, but Oregon had the talent to win the game going away. They played like they didn't care about being there, and it showed, as they played undisciplined and sloppy football in their worst bowl performance of the past 25 years.
Oregon has been matched up with Big 12 opponents more than any other conference in the past 25 years. They have a winning record against the league in seven matchups, highlighted by wins over Colorado and Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl and victories over Texas and Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl.
The Ducks have faced Big 10 opponents in bowl games on five occasions in the past two decades. They split a pair of Sun Bowls with Minnesota, lost Rose Bowls to Penn State and Ohio State and beat Wisconsin in the 2012 Rose Bowl.
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When Brian Kelly looks back at the issues that plagued his football team in 2013, he'd be wise to focus some of his attention on the running game. A season after riding Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood to Notre Dame's most efficient season running the football since the Holtz era, the Irish ground game all but disappeared.
Bouncing between George Atkinson, Cam McDaniel, Amir Carlisle and Tarean Folston, the running game showed flashes of brilliance but failed to take hold this season. And while the entire depth chart at running back is set to return unchanged (both Will Mahone and Greg Bryant will be healthy heading into spring practice), the ground game's renaissance will be sparked by a player not even at the position.
Everett Golson's return brings back the perfect triggerman for Brian Kelly's spread offense. After losing its balance with Tommy Rees at the helm, Golson is the perfect welcome present to a new offensive coordinator that'll be named sometime after the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
The offensive numbers from the last two regular seasons give us the first clue as to how Golson will revive the ground game. While points are up slightly this season, the Irish are far more reliant on the big play in the passing game. Notre Dame has managed to more than double its touchdown passes (27 up from 13), but interceptions have done nearly the same (13 up from 7). Moreover, the Irish have lost almost 50 yards a game on the ground, and rushing touchdowns have plummeted (Only 10 after scoring 22 last season).
Let's take a closer look at three key areas where Golson's return will change Notre Dame's running game for the better.
If there's one area where the Irish will improve almost immediately, it's third-down conversions. At first glance, it doesn't appear that Notre Dame took that large of a step backwards, with the Irish converting 42 percent this year, down just four percentage points from last season. But for all the clamoring for the Irish to find a big back who can pick up the key third-down conversions, Golson rejoins the team and immediately becomes their best option.
- Golson (2012): 30 rushing attempts on third down. Converted 15 for 1st down (50 percent).
- Team (2013): 50 rushing attempts on third down. Converted 18 for 1st down (36 percent).
- Golson (2012): On 3rd-and-short (1-3 yards), converted 10 of 14 attempts (71 percent).
- Team (2013): On 3rd-and-short (1-3 yards), converted 17 of 34 attempts (50 percent).
Of course, Golson's rushing statistics included sacks. When you look at Tommy Rees' third-down stats, you get a better idea of just how good Golson was. Rees rushed four times for -29 yards, with three of those attempts being sacks.
One formation that killed the Irish offense early this season was the no-back, empty-set grouping. According to Bill Connelly's Football Study Hall, it's a formation the Irish used better and more efficiently than just about any other program in the country with Golson at the helm.
The team that combined no-back frequency with effectiveness the best might have been Notre Dame. The Irish were known mostly for their defense, but even against the strong defenses listed in the above sample (Michigan State, Stanford and Alabama), they were tremendously effective from the no-back set. Quarterback Everett Golson was just 14-of-32 passing for 178 yards overall versus Michigan State, but from the no-back, he was 9-of-14 for 122 yards. (That means he was 5-of-18 for 56 otherwise.) In the first half versus USC, Golson was 7-of-13 for 115 yards from this look. Hell, even against Alabama, he was more successful in the no-back (5-of-8 for 71) than he was in other formations (16-of-28 for 199).
Compare those numbers with Connelly's analysis of Rees' performance in the no-back formation, with rock bottom coming against Oklahoma.
The Irish went to an empty backfield 60 percent of the time on passing downs with almost no payoff whatsoever. Rees is the polar opposite of "run threat," so all 15 snaps from an empty backfield were passes. Oklahoma sent five pass rushers at Rees 10 of 15 times and had reasonable success: Rees was 4-of-10 for 64 yards and was picked twice, once for a touchdown. A third incompletion was broken up by a defensive back, another was tipped at the line and another was overthrown by a pressured Rees. Unable to scramble effectively to buy time, Rees found his options limited and his accuracy wanting.
And on top of that, the five times where Notre Dame went to a no-back formation and Oklahoma didn't blitz, Rees went 0-of-5, throwing passes well downfield (average length: 15 yards) with tiny to nonexistent windows for success.
You can't expect the Irish to stop running empty sets as long as Brian Kelly is coaching the Irish. But you can expect to see some diversity with Golson back in charge. Not to mention some competency.
Running at Tempo
After four seasons of talking about it, Golson's return finally allows Brian Kelly to move the offense at tempo. With Golson providing a more than capable zone-read quarterback, the playbook's natural run checks can be utilized, letting the Irish attack opponents quickly.
That will open up running lanes that didn't exist this season. That means more opportunities for George Atkinson to show his elite speed and Tarean Folston to run against a defense that'll need to read first and then react.
The Irish offense did move up tempo this season a few times, but Kelly let us in on the difficulties that come with the "Call it and Haul it" system that's just not able to mask some of Tommy Rees' deficiencies.
"We had been trying to settle on a few plays that we really felt like Tommy could handle well without putting us in a position where we had to check anything," Kelly said after the USC game.
"I didn’t want to check anything with him, and I didn’t want to be in a position where he had to pull it. And that’s not easy. So we settled on some plays, a cluster of plays that we felt were going to be good for us. I thought the tempo worked well, and I thought he played well."
Golson still needs to show a complete grasp of the system after spending the past season in academic exile. But if he's able to get this offense playing closer to the warp speed that exists at Oregon or Auburn, it'll be a huge breakthrough for the running game.
*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. Follow @KeithArnold on Twitter.
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When No. 1 Florida State takes on No. 2 Auburn on Jan. 6 in Pasadena, it will be a battle of two prolific offenses, each anchored by a Heisman Trophy finalist. The defenses of the two schools are noteworthy as well, but in this piece, it'll be a comparison of the offensive attacks between the two schools; how they match up, how they're different and who holds the edge in each.
Who is the biggest threat to score points?
Florida State enters this game as the No. 2 scoring team in the country, averaging 53 points per game, right behind Baylor, who scores 53.3 a game. They've earned 90 touchdowns, the most in the country, and have failed to score over 40 points only one time this season, when they were held to 37 by their rival Florida Gators.
"When you turn on the film on both sides of the ball, the thing that jumped out to me is speed, super fast," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said to al.com. "They've done a great job recruiting. They've got a whole lot of good players. It's not a coincidence they're the No. 1 team in the country and undefeated. Nobody has even come close to them."
Auburn comes in as the 12th-ranked scoring offense, averaging 40.2 points per matchup. They've gone over 40 three times this season, scoring 62 against Western Carolina, 55 against Tennessee and 59 against Missouri in the SEC Championship.
Though FSU may have a weaker schedule, nobody in the country has put up more points than the Seminoles as easily as they have. They're 28 points from setting the NCAA record for points scored in the season, and that can't be overlooked.
Edge: Florida State
Who has the deadlier rushing attack?
Florida State has benefited from three talented running backs this season, getting huge contributions from juniors Devonta Freeman, James Wilder Jr. and Karlos Williams who have combined for 32 touchdowns this season. Freeman is 57 yards away from becoming the 'Noles' first 1000-yard rusher since Warrick Dunn in 1996.
Auburn, on the other hand, has the nation's top-ranked rushing attack spearheaded by Heisman Trophy finalist Tre Mason, who with 2,137 yards has already broken Bo Jackson's all-purpose yard record of 1,859. The Tigers average 335.7 yards per game on the ground, and have accumulated 46 touchdowns.
"Gus does a tremendous job," FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said in a teleconference, "because like I say they can handle on the speed sweep, they outflank you, they have great receivers and motion guys that way, they can run the ball inside with great power and the quarterback can run it and play action off of it, which is like a four‑headed monster ‑‑ you talk about a three‑headed monster, they have a four‑headed monster and they have an excellent offensive line."
Who has the better pass game?
Led by Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, Florida State has the 14th-most passing yards per game in the country with 322 along with the 4th-most by completion, averaging 15.62. They've scored 40 through the air, with 38 of those coming from Winston. In terms of passing efficiency, they're the top-ranked team in the country, with a score of 178.29.
Auburn's passing attack is led by Nick Marshall, who is noteworthy for converting to running back from corner. With 169.9 yards per game, they sit at 107 in terms of passing yard rankings, though they're No. 18 in terms of yards per completion with 13.87. As for passing efficiency, they're No. 25, with a score of 151.02.
Edge: Florida State
According to vegasinsider, the over/under for FSU-Auburn currently sits at 65.5, so Vegas anticipates a high scoring matchup, and with two offenses that are deadly in their own way, it's not hard to see why.
In the end, it's easy to see that the stats tip in favor of Florida State, who has both threats in the rushing and passing aspects of the game, rather than Auburn who mainly relies on the run game.
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Part 3 of a series: Over the next few weeks, I will be reviewing each of the 16 seasons since the Bowl Championship Series came into existence in 1998. Here is a look back at who got lucky, who got robbed, what could've been, what should've been and other controversies of the day. The series will appear throughout December and January.
After two years of relative calm, controversy exploded on the BCS in Year 3. For the first time, a team's presence in the BCS title game was called into question, and the criticism went unabated even after an undefeated champion was crowned.
But if anything, this was a self-inflicted wound.
Bowing more to an ignorant media than any real pressure from public opinion, the BCS drastically changed its formula to retroactively make amends for an outcome it was powerless to change. Instead of defending its method and holding its ground, the BCS capitulated. This knee-jerk reaction would bring far more serious consequences in the years to come and compromise its claim to legitimacy in the system's formative years.
Oklahoma finished the 2000 regular season as the nation's only undefeated Division I-A team and its No. 1 ranking was undisputed. But Florida State, despite ranking No. 3 in both the AP and coaches polls, leapfrogged No. 2 Miami in the final BCS standings to earn a date with the Sooners in the Orange Bowl.
The media went berserk, more so than even Miami coach Butch Davis. The credibility of BCS computers was called into question because it was the computers' preference for the Seminoles that carried the day. The main argument was this: Since both Miami and Florida State each had one loss, and the Hurricanes beat the Seminoles on the field, how could Florida State be ranked ahead of Miami?
The powers-that-be of the BCS panicked, big time. Changes were promised and then carried out in the offseason. The computer lineup was reshuffled to de-emphasize margin of victory. And a dubious "quality win" criteria was added to the formula—as if the existing arrangement wasn't convoluted enough.
But the BCS really should've responded with: "What's the problem?" and vigorously defended the system.
Florida State was a worthy No. 2 team. If you lined up FSU and Miami side by side, plenty could've been said in the Seminoles' favor.
1. Strength of Schedule: Florida State and Miami ranked second and third, respectively, in the strength-of-schedule component in the BCS standings. But upon further examination, that was laughable. (The SoS, parroted from the RPI that the NCAA uses for its basketball selections, would prove to be the most destructive part of the formula—but more on that later in this series.)
Florida State played in a tougher conference (ACC) than Miami (Big East). Its non-conference games consisted of Louisville, Brigham Young, Florida and Miami. The 'Canes played I-AA McNeese State, Louisiana Tech, Washington and FSU, plus Big East cupcakes such as Rutgers and Temple.
2. Losses: Florida State's lone loss was to Miami, 27-24, at the Orange Bowl on Oct. 7. The Seminoles rallied from a 17-0 halftime deficit to take a 24-20 lead late in the game, only to lose on a Ken Dorsey-to-Jeremy Shockey pass with 46 seconds left. The 'Canes' only defeat was a 34-29 loss at Washington on Sept. 9.
3. The Washington Factor: If head-to-head results were so paramount, then maybe Washington should've been ranked ahead of Miami. After all, the Huskies beat Miami and also only lost once—a 23-16 defeat at two-loss Oregon.
4. Margin of Victory: If Washington was discounted because it won lots of close games—eight of its 11 games were decided by seven or fewer points—then the fact that Florida State won its games against a considerably tougher schedule by a wider margin than Miami (38.9 vs. 30.4) should not have been overlooked—and the computers didn't.
5. Historic Precedent: Even before the birth of the BCS, there had been several instances where a team was ranked ahead of another team despite losing head-to-head matchups and possessing the same record. In 1993, Florida State finished ahead of Notre Dame in both polls even though the Irish beat the Seminoles, 31-24, at South Bend. In 1978, USC finished second to Alabama (11-1) in the AP poll even though the Trojans (12-1) beat the Tide, 24-14, in Birmingham, Ala.
The body of evidence is pretty strong in the Seminoles' favor. Their presence in the BCS championship game was easily defensible. The fact that they laid an egg in an ugly 13-2 loss to Oklahoma was immaterial. Miami's win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl—a Gators team that the 'Noles had walloped—was also irrelevant.
One more thing: Even if today's BCS formula, which gives two-thirds of its weight to the human polls, were applied to the 2000 season, you'd still end up with the same result—Florida State would've finished second ahead of Miami (.9493 vs. .9459).
Final BCS Standings: 1. Oklahoma, 2. Florida State, 3. Miami (Fla.), 4. Washington.
Using post-2003 BCS formula: 1. Oklahoma, 2. Florida State.
Likely four-team playoff: Oklahoma vs. Washington; Florida State vs. Miami (Fla.).
A four-team playoff really would've been useful this year, as four teams—all conference champions—clearly stood above the rest.
Notre Dame windfall
The Fiesta Bowl passed on four teams ahead of Notre Dame in the final BCS standings to take the two-loss No. 11 Irish. Virginia Tech, ranked No. 5 with its only loss to Miami, fell just outside of the "Kansas State-mandate" and was ignored. Three other two-loss teams were also swept aside—No. 10 Oregon (because two other Pac-10 teams were already taken), No. 9 Kansas State (they're pretty used to this by now) and No. 8 Nebraska.
The Huskers especially had a beef because they had defeated Notre Dame in South Bend, 27-24, earlier in the season. This occurred at a time when the Irish received a windfall of $13 million per BCS bowl appearance—as opposed to the more balanced payouts in the latter days of the BCS. Notre Dame was promptly exposed as a fraud, as it was annihilated by Dennis Erickson's Oregon State Beavers, 41-9.
BCS formula review: No change to the formula was made between the 1999 and 2000 seasons, but that changed in 2001, as the formula was tweaked or overhauled in four of the next five years.
Final analysis: The changes to the BCS formula prior to the 2001 season would prove to be simply reactionary and solved nothing. While an argument may be made on Miami's behalf, the results of the bowl games really made a case for Washington.
The Huskies went 7-1 in what was easily the toughest conference in 2000 and they beat Purdue in the Rose Bowl. Bowl wins by Oregon State and Oregon gave the Pac-10 three teams in the top seven in the final AP poll. The BCS was rocked by its first real crisis, and another one would erupt the following season.
Follow on Twitter @BCSGuru
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Win the last game.
It's a common goal for most college football teams, particularly those that get to play in a bowl to end their seasons. Whether it's for a national title or just to get a fancy trophy and some bragging rights, being able to win the final game of a season always provides a certain level of satisfaction.
Not to mention, a final win is a great accomplishment to springboard off of for the next season.
Winning the AdvoCare V100 Bowl might not seem like the biggest thing in the world, but it's the top priority for Arizona right now. And in order for the Wildcats to beat Boston College on Dec. 31 in Shreveport, La., certain things need to happen.
In his two weeks as the head coach of USC Football, Steve Sarkisian has already been hard at work loading up on new talent. Just last week, USC locked down the commitments of Jonathan Lockett, a 4-star (according to Rivals.com) cornerback out of Mater Dei High School and 4-star defensive tackle Claudeson Pelon from Mesa Community College in Arizona.
Both of these guys were huge gets for USC, especially Lockett, who will join a secondary in desperate need of more talent.
Pelon—who goes by Claude—looks forward to joining the ranks of Troy, where he stands a chance of excelling immediately.
"It’s a great place. It’s a place where I can graduate and the coaching staff is great," Pelon said of USC. "I was going to commit to U-Dub anyway, so it was an easy pick for me to choose USC [after the coaching change]. There's a great environment there, so it was the best fit for me."
And speaking of the coaching staff, Pelon isn't the only one high on Sarkisian and his crew.
USC commit Viane Talamaivao—whom the Trojans flipped from Alabama earlier this fall—has spoken favorably of USC's hire as well:
The 6'4", 275-pound defensive lineman is originally from Orange County, Fla. but has spent the past couple years out West in Arizona. Despite being so far from home, Pelon says staying on the West Coast is the best choice for him.
"I was ready to see some new places and do new things. I just ended up deciding to do something and leave. It's not that I didn’t want to stay [in Florida], but why not Cali?" he said.
The Trojan coaching staff has been known over the years to lure top talent out of the South, with current players like defensive lineman Leonard Williams, wide receiver Nelson Agholor and defensive back Josh Shaw electing to suit up in cardinal and gold.
That fact had an influence on Pelon's decision, as did his preexisting friendships with current players.
"Knowing Leonard and having a relationship with him made it even easier, honestly," Pelon said of USC's All-American defensive end. "Getting his perspective really helped me make the choice."
He can also look to the talented hybrid outside linebacker Morgan Breslin, who also came from the junior college system and has flourished while at USC. He's been injured for most of 2013, but in 2012 he had 62 tackles (19.5 for loss) and a team-high 13 sacks.
Pelon is expected to arrive at USC on Jan. 13. He will be one of the Trojans' four early enrollees. Aside from the athletic prowess he brings, his status as an early enrollee is important because if USC doesn't fill those slots, it loses out on those scholarships going forward.
Like Sarkisian, Pelon will begin his career with Troy in the spring and will have the opportunity to make himself a major player from the outset. Pelon greatly admires the existing defensive line and is poised to contribute to its explosive pass rush.
"Leonard Williams, George Uko and those guys are pretty good," Pelon said. "So why not join an NFL-caliber defensive line with NFL-caliber talent? For opposing lines, they're gonna have to pick their poison of who[m] they want to guard."
That's a pretty accurate assessment from Pelon, who brings to the table a big frame with room for growth and first-step quickness that allows him to get leverage and disrupt when need be. Besides, USC's defensive line is pretty thin as far as depth is concerned, so bringing in Pelon was definitely of crucial importance.
Between now and Jan. 13, Pelon will be going back and forth between Arizona and Southern California, moving his things and getting a feel for his new teammates and new school. He also said that he followed USC a bit this season and admires the way the Trojans handled all the adversity they faced.
The drive and determination USC showed in the latter half of the season makes Pelon feel he will be going to a place where he can contribute to success.
"I have a chance to [do well] and I felt like the opportunity I have been presented with has just been great, honestly," he said. "I’m just happy to be going to Cali. It’s a place where I’ve never been; I’m excited about everything."
All quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise stated.
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LSU snagged a commitment from four-star linebacker Clifton Garrett, of Joliet, Ill., earlier today. The Tigers desperately need a player like him, but it's not necessarily because he has sublime ability.
The LSU linebackers were not good this year.
To be fair, the entire Tigers defense was substandard. The linebackers were certainly not aided by the defensive line or secondary. However, that does not excuse their poor play.
The Tigers' primary linebackers were Kwon Alexander, D.J. Welter and Lamin Barrow. Backups Lamar Louis, Tahj Jones and Deion Jones also played.
The results were mixed. The unit, like the rest of the defense, played exponentially better at home than on the road. But overall, the play was mostly uninspiring.
Welter was expected by many to struggle at middle linebacker. He lived up to those expectations, lacking the athleticism to make plays in space.
Barrow was expected to take his game to another level after having a phenomenal junior season alongside Kevin Minter. Barrow looked sluggish, but his play improved as the season went along.
Alexander is the most talented of the three but did not make the impact like he should have.
Barrow is a senior this season, which opens up snaps for the taking in 2014. This likely helped LSU lure in Garrett.
Garrett could not come at a better time for LSU. The Tigers need defensive playmakers badly. He should add the kind of explosiveness that defensive coordinator and linebacker coach John Chavis salivates over.
Garrett's high school reel shows his ability to diagnose runs quickly. He does not shy away from contact when attacking running plays downhill. He has rare sideline-to-sideline speed, something only Alexander and Jones truly have.
The most difficult adjustment linebackers have to make to the college game is defending the pass. The growth of 7-on-7 tournaments has helped, but spread offenses, in particular, take time for linebackers to defend effectively.
There is not much tape of Garrett defending the pass, so expect there to be a learning curve for him. Spread offenses are tough to grasp for young defenders. He also loves to attack plays aggressively downhill, which is a good thing. But that will change some when he plays dangerous zone read teams like Auburn.
It will take Garrett some time to adjust to the gap in speed of play as he transitions from high school to the SEC. He played his prep football in Illinois, which is not necessarily known as a talent-rich state. But he still should be able to compete for snaps once SEC play gets started.
Next season, Alexander will certainly play a high volume of snaps. But the rest will be up for grabs. Garrett has a chance to do something Alexander did as a freshman—earn a start.
Chavis landed a special prospect in Garrett. Not only does LSU have an elite athlete, all signs and reports point to him being a high-character guy. If that is true, that should certainly help his maturation process.
LSU fans need to remember National Signing Day is still far away. There is still plenty of time for a recruit to change his mind before putting pen to paper. Nevertheless, the Tigers are starting to make major strides in recruiting.
The media always throws the word "good get" or "huge get" when a recruit commits to any school. It gets thrown around too often. Not every prospect is of such significant magnitude. But LSU nabbing Garrett is monumental for a program that needs to replenish elite talent.
Garrett's commitment, LSU's most highly touted 2014 commitment thus far, is step one of a critical cycle. Les Miles desperately needs fresh, top-end talent in order to get back to the SEC Championship Game.
Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower.
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Since losing to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game, Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes have done nothing but win off the field.
In a 27-hour span, Ohio State landed commitments from two of its top remaining targets in 5-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan and 4-star wide receiver Johnnie Dixon. Those two pledges could spark a huge recruiting finish for the Buckeyes.
Of course, that wouldn't be new for Ohio State with Meyer at the helm.
When Meyer was hired in November of 2011, his recruiting surge lifted a spiraling program coming off its first losing season since 1988. The Buckeyes secured commitments from 10 prospects between December of 2011 and signing day two months later, two of which were rated 5-star recruits with the other eight ranked as 4-stars.
A year later, after guiding the Buckeyes to a perfect 12-0 season, Meyer earned commitments from eight highly ranked recruits (seven 4-stars and one 5-star) in the two months leading up to signing day.
Needless to say, this is the time of year when Meyer thrives.
McMillan and Dixon's commitments pushed Ohio State's 2014 recruiting class to 19 members, which includes three 5-star and 13 4-star prospects. Dixon's pledge solidified the Buckeyes at No. 2 in 247 Sports' class rankings, but a number of top recruits are still high on Ohio State.
With departing seniors and early departures for the NFL, the Buckeyes have room for four or five more prospects in this year's class.
Meyer is making a late surge for two 5-star defensive backs in Tony Brown and John "JuJu" Smith. Brown, a 6'0", 188-pound cornerback out of Beaumont, Texas, is considered a heavy LSU lean, but Meyer has been recruiting him hard. Smith is a standout safety from Long Beach, Calif., but many expect him to sign with the home-state USC Trojans.
Solomon Thomas, a 5-star defensive end out of Coppell, Texas, is another prospect Meyer is trying to land. Thomas has offers from schools such as Alabama, Clemson, LSU, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Oregon, but Stanford has a lot of momentum. He will visit Ohio State on January 31, so Meyer will have a chance to make a great impression right before signing day.
Two prospects very high on Ohio State's radar—Marshon Lattimore and Erick Smith—hail from Cleveland Glenville High School, which is the Buckeyes' biggest in-state pipeline. Ohio State has been favored to land both 4-star defensive backs for much of the recruiting process.
Meyer is also looking to add to his already-impressive offensive line haul. The Buckeyes have secured commitments from 4-star tackles Jamarco Jones and Kyle Trout and 4-star guards Demetrius Knox and Marcelys Jones, but Meyer is still working to land Frank Ragnow and/or Alex Bookser.
With that list of targets, it's clear that Meyer and the Buckeyes are aiming high to close out their 2014 recruiting class. Judging from recent history, though, that shouldn't surprise anyone.
All recruit rankings via 247sports.com.
David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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Bowl games are fun to watch for many reasons. For one, fans get to see their team play one last game in the season before they're stuck waiting the many months until fall football kicks off again.
It's also a chance to see some of your favorite stud players lace up their cleats for their final college game before graduating or pursuing NFL dreams.
However, possibly the most interesting and exciting thing to watch bowl games for is the opportunity for young guys to make a big impression and generate positive momentum as they move towards spring practice.
Which Oklahoma State young guns should you pay attention to when the Cowboys play the Missouri Tigers in the Cotton Bowl? Read on to find out.
Nebraska football fans got a shocker when buzz roared through the internet that the NU athletic department had reached out to soon-to-be-former Texas head coach Mack Brown to determine his interest in replacing Bo Pelini. Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst quickly denied the rumor, according to the Omaha World-Herald, and Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman tweeted that Joe Jamail, Brown’s attorney clearly said that Nebraska was not an option:
Joe Jamail said he got a call from someone saying he represented Nebraska seeking Mack's interest. "He's not going to Nebraska," JJ said.— kbohls (@kbohls) December 15, 2013
So it's probably safe to assign this particular rumor to the scrapbook. But while it is always good to take out-of-the-blue stories like this with a grain of salt in the age of Twitter, there are particular reasons why this story never made a lot of sense.
Nebraska already has a head coach
In the days following Nebraska’s loss to Iowa, and the ensuing "Coach Chickenbleep" postgame press conference, speculation ran rampant about whether Eichorst would fire Pelini. On Saturday, Eichorst put out a statement that Pelini would "lead the program" going forward, with the idea of silencing the speculation surrounding Pelini's future in Lincoln.
Eichorst received a lot of criticism, including from Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star, for not coming out sooner with a statement and allowing the speculation about Pelini to grow. But if the criticism about Eichorst was loud for the timing of his statement, can you imagine the firestorm that would be sparked if he actually made contact with Brown just weeks after publicly backing Pelini?
And that firestorm would be totally justified. Whether or not you think Brown would be an upgrade from Pelini (a debatable prospect, at best), no coach worth his salt would be interested in a program that would offer a job while the ink was still drying on the statement of support for the guy who currently has the job. Big-time college athletics may be a cut-throat business, but there are limits.
Nebraska fans would never accept Brown
So let's say for the sake of argument that Eichorst had fired Pelini after the Iowa game, opening the position. Would Brown be the right man for the top job in Lincoln?
Purely on resume, there would be a lot of reasons to question the hire. In the last four years, Brown's Longhorns have gone 30-20. Texas has been 4-14 since 2010 against teams ranked in the AP Top 25. In 16 years, Brown has won two conference championships (2005 and 2009) and one national championship (2005) on the legs of a once-in-a-lifetime college football talent like Vince Young.
Is that good enough? Did Brown underachieve in Austin, given the enormous advantages in money, exposure, and access to recruiting talent? If Brown struggled to get the right talent to Texas, would he be able to get that talent to come to Nebraska?
Those questions are legitimate, but at the end of the day they are likely moot. The Nebraska fanbase, as a whole, simply would not accept Brown based on his ties with Texas.
Nebraska has had a number of rivalries over the years. Nebraska fans loved their "Bury Switzer" bumper stickers during the halcyon days of the Nebraska-Oklahoma series. Bill McCartney and Woody Paige did their best to make Nebraska fans dislike Colorado. Kansas State, with its "losers exit here" sticker on the interstate signs, had its moments with the Nebraska fanbase. Rivalries with Iowa and Wisconsin are on a slow boil waiting for more heat to be added in coming years.
But there is nothing in Nebraska's history to quite match the feelings of the fanbase about Texas. When the Southwest Conference broke up, and the Big 8 took in Texas and the other three members to form the Big 12, things began to change for Nebraska. Eligibility rules changed, making it harder for Nebraska to bring in the players it once did. The center of power shifted south, as former Big 8 members more and more sided with Texas over Nebraska in decisions about the conference.
And then, conference Armageddon happened. Missouri started making noises that it wanted to leave the Big 12 and join the Big Ten, coupling with Colorado's long-standing. The winds of realignment began swirling, leading to an ultimatum, as reported by Nebraska StatePaper, delivered by Texas to Nebraska—declare your allegiance to the Big 12 (in a manner that Texas was not willing to do), or Texas would take five other schools and bolt for the Pac-12, leaving Nebraska holding the bag.
We know how that story ended. Nebraska called Texas' bluff and went to the Big Ten. Texas folded, remaining in the Big 12 even after Missouri and Texas A&M departed to the SEC, presiding over a newly constituted ten-team Big 12.
But the animosity remains, fueled in part by Nebraska’s chafing at how Texas handled its business during their time as conference-mates. In part, of course, Nebraska fans' dislike of Texas also comes from Texas frequently breaking Nebraska's heart on the field.
It was Texas that denied Nebraska a three-peat in 1996 with an upset win in the Big 12 championship. It was Texas who got an extra second in 2009 to kick a game-winning field goal and win another Big 12 championship over Nebraska. Since 1996, Nebraska is 1-9 against Texas, with the Longhorns winning seven of those games by a touchdown or less.
So, yes, part of Nebraskan's antipathy towards burnt orange comes from (put charitably) a cultural difference. But part of it comes from a long history of frustrating failure on the football field.
The source of the animosity, though, doesn't really matter. The fact remains that even if everything else made sense, Nebraska fans simply would not accept the former Longhorn head coach to take over as Head Husker in Lincoln.
Or, you could always use the Twitter machine to follow @patrickrunge
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Alabama has a talented recruiting class that features many studs. Among the group's top players is 4-star receiver Cameron Sims.
'Bama isn't known for breeding elite receivers, but things have changed in recent years. Sims could be another driving force in the renaissance in Tuscaloosa, as he is not coming to block every play for the Crimson Tide.
This is a prospect who warrants a thorough examination.
Mark Richt has been at UGA for 13 years, making him the longest tenured coach in the SEC. It doesn’t look like he is going anywhere soon, either, as he signed an extension last year to keep him with the Bulldogs for the next three seasons.
However, for the sake of argument, let’s say Richt has a bad season next year and the year after that. In that scenario, there's a good chance he'd be let go. If not, UGA officials could simply decide not to renew his contract if the Bulldogs are mediocre for the next three years.
It's also possible Richt could decide to resign as head coach before his contract is up. All these things are possible.
In any case, if any of these things were to happen, who would replace Richt as the head coach? Here’s a look at a few candidates.
COLUMBIA, S.C.—Gerald Dixon.
It's a name Gamecock fans are likely to hear a lot next season if for no other reason than there are two Gerald Dixons playing at South Carolina.
There's Gerald Dixon Jr., a 6'3'', 318-pound defensive tackle, and his brother Gerald Dixon, a 6'2'', 268-pound defensive end who goes by "Little G" to avoid confusion.
The Dixons have thus far labored primarily as backups in the shadows of more famous teammates on the defensive line, like Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles.
With three-fourths of the starters not returning for the Gamecocks, the Dixons have a chance to start together, possibly side-by-side, on the defensive line next season.
"It's what we've been waiting for," said Dixon Jr. after a recent practice, as the Gamecocks get ready for their Jan. 1 showdown with Wisconsin in the Capitol One Bowl.
The brothers are from Rock Hill, S.C., the same hometown as Jadeveon Clowney. Dixon Jr. went to Northwestern High School, while Little G was a classmate of Clowney's at Southpointe High School.
The Dixons' father, Gerald Sr., played linebacker at South Carolina from 1990-91 before going on to a 10-year career in the NFL.
Here's his explanation for the duplicity in the names of his sons, who were born three months apart.
"Gerald Jr. was born first, and when Gerald came along, his mother just couldn't seem to come up with another name," said Dixon Sr. "Everyone's OK with it. It has never been a problem."
Both of the Dixon brothers have paid their dues at South Carolina.
They redshirted in 2011. Dixon Jr. played in all 12 games as a redshirt freshman in 2012, while Dixon played in four games.
This year, Dixon has played in all 12 games with one start and has been in on 18 tackles. Dixon Jr. has played in 11 games with one start and has 15 tackles.
Bigger and better days are undoubtedly ahead for the Dixons, as they seek to continue a defensive line legacy at South Carolina, which has produced current NFL players like tackle Travian Robertson and defensive ends Clifton Geathers, Melvin Ingram, Cliff Matthews and Devin Taylor.
Thus far, South Carolina has't exactly marketed the Dixons, but imagine the possibilities if one or both have a big year?
"Got Dixon?" with the Gamecock logo would look pretty good on a bumper sticker.
South Carolina sports information director Steve Fink, who gets paid to think of such things, is optimistic that reserve defensive end Mason Harris can somehow crack a starting lineup that includes one or more of the Dixon brothers.
Then, the Gamecocks would have the "Mason-Dixon line."
If nothing else, the Gerald Dixons stand to cause some confusion among opponents.
Just wait until some poor offensive lineman whiffs his block on one of the Geralds and has a coach in his face on the sideline: "Idiot! You were trying to block the wrong Dixon."
It's bound to happen.
All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated.
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The notion of Al Borges leaving Michigan is music to Wolverines fans' ears.
Well, for most anyway.
Borges, who's wrapping up his third year in Ann Arbor, is by and large Public Enemy No. 1 according to the legions of disgruntled Team 134 supporters who watched their heroes of Saturday hobble to a second consecutive five-loss season.
Points shouldn't have been so difficult to come by for an offense supposedly as powerful as Michigan's.
With Devin Gardner at quarterback, a handful of readily available backs, a corps of wideouts brimming with size and speed, along with a couple of senior tackles to make room, the Wolverines should have broken scoreboards around the Big Ten.
At times, they did. But during other moments, the extraordinarily painful ones, the offense couldn't overcome its self-inflicted, anti-point syndrome.
The Wolverines scored only nine points through four quarters versus Northwestern?!
They only got two field goals against Michigan State?!
Yes—two lucky kicks, actually. The Wolverines scurried to come up with 168 yards of total offense and 12 first downs. They went 2-for-14 on third down.
And don't forget Michigan's snail-mail pace during its 17-13 loss to Nebraska. That performance at The Big House—the Wolverines' first home loss under Brady Hoke—was agonizingly frustrating to endure for everyone involved, fans included.
Borges' offense averaged 29.8 points per game. It goes without saying that he didn't sniff the top 50 (No. 83, per NCAA Football.com), let alone emerge as threatening producer in his own league.
Should his game plan fall to floor and get plowed into oblivion Dec. 28 by Kansas State during the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, the former Auburn maestro could be singing a sad tune while looking for future paychecks.
However, Dave Brandon, Michigan's athletic director, has already confirmed the worst fears of some loyal supporters: The entire staff, along with Borges, will return in 2014.
It's unlikely that Borges will lose his job based on his unit's showing against the Wildcats. But should the worst-case scenario come to fruition, it certainly wouldn't hurt for Brandon to look for a successor.
Who could that be? That's debatable.
Who should it be? Well, that's also debatable.
But there's a clear-cut, top-tier option who just so happens to be looking for gainful employment: Former Miami (Ohio) head coach Don Treadwell, who, as many remember, once called the shots as Michigan State's offensive coordinator.
Simply put, he's a guy who understands the Michigan-Michigan State dynamic and the demands of the Big Ten. The Wolverines aren't conference leaders, and they've scored a combined 18 points during their past two duels with the Spartans.
Treadwell can recruit and has take-charge abilities, evidenced by his hiring. Although he didn't work out as a head coach for Miami, he would be an incredible asset to the Wolverines offense—or to whichever program decides to offer him a contract.
He's Versatile, Understands Strengths
While in East Lansing, Treadwell helped Mark Dantonio craft a one-time doormat of a scoring attack into a juggernaut that routinely scored 30-plus points. Treadwell used what he had and received quite the return.
Pro-style, spread elements—Treadwell dealt with each, and he dealt with each at the Big Ten level, which helps.
Kirk Cousins, a traditional pocket passer, eventually won the full-time No. 1 job. But there was a time in which Treadwell effectively used Keith Nichol, a dual-threat with similar athletic qualities as Devin Gardner; both played receiver and quarterback at some point in college.
In 2014, Shane Morris and Wilton Speight, an incoming freshman, could challenge Gardner for top honors. Regardless of who wins, Treadwell would have a clear path to success with two former 5-stars and a hot-shot freshman.
He helped mold an offense that transformed a passed-over Cousins—a former 3-star, per Rivals—into Michigan State's greatest signal-caller.
During that same time, Nichol earned legendary status with a Hail Mary grab against Wisconsin. A passer by trade, Nichol found great success as a chain-moving option for Cousins. That combination was made possible by Treadwell's expertise—and a little luck.
Treadwell's son, Blake, is a senior offensive guard at Michigan State. It's fair to assume that Treadwell has knowledge when it comes to constructing an offensive line, although he's never held the position of O-Line coach.
Blake's been coached up, sure. But he more than likely picked up something from dear old dad along the way.
At the very least, Treadwell could assist Darrell Funk, Michigan's O-Line coach. Funk's line stunk this past fall.
Patch the Run Game
Treadwell didn't have the No. 1 back to work with. Most of his runners weren't national prep stars, just sturdy, hard-nosed ball-carriers. Since Borges joined Michigan, Fitz Toussaint has been the only running back to eclipse 1,000 yards.
Of course, much of that had to do with Denard Robinson, who ran enough for a backfield of three. However, the Wolverines didn't have a dominant force coming from the backfield in 2013, and that's an issue.
Derrick Green was the No. 1-ranked running back of 2013, per Rivals. Due to a hoard of guys who couldn't block and poor play-calling from Borges' end, Green didn't contribute as much as anticipated.
If anything, he should have backed Toussaint with about 500 yards.
Head-to-head comparisons of lines aside, the following table compares Treadwell's elite to Borges' finest.
In 1986, Treadwell began his career as Youngstown State's offensive coordinator. He then coached running backs and receivers at Miami (Ohio) and Cincinnati until 1994.
Bouncing around from Stanford, Boston College, and Michigan State, Treadwell eventually found his way back to Cincinnati, where he ran the offense from 2004 to 2006.
The 53-year-old is a born-and-bred Ohioan. And Michigan football has long owed a thanks to its southern neighbor for providing countless stars. Do the names Charles Woodson and Desmond Howard ring a bell?
Cleaning up on Ohio recruiting trails isn't only a way to keep up with the Buckeyes, but it's a necessary component of competing for conference titles. Ohio, by and far, is one of the nation's top producers of high school football talent.
Having a native of the area helps. But Treadwell isn't just a local, he's actually one of them—he played quarterback at Oberlin High, so he can relate to the young men he's recruiting. From Dayton to Youngstown, Cleveland to Cincinnati (queue Cam'Ron), Treadwell has connections in all corners (and in all of the round parts) of Ohio.
Having the Michigan name behind him would only strengthen his efforts.
Dissect it, like it or dislike it—a former Spartans coach would be the logical choice as Borges' heir. Get it while it's available, Michigan, or Treadwell's knowledge could come in handy for another Big Ten school.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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The Miami Hurricanes are closing in on a 10-win season for the first time in a decade, but the 'Canes will be looking to improve even more in 2014.
Al Golden's offense hit some rough patches, but the defense was the biggest problem when Miami lost three of its final five games.
In 2012, youth was both a common and logical excuse, but two years later, the Hurricanes have no reason to continue allowing more than 500 yards in nearly five straight games.
Miami has the talent on defense, and the unit will improve because of a few factors.
Of course, if the 'Canes do not progress defensively, another second-place finish in the Coastal Division will be on its way. And defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio would be on his way out.
Better Pass Rush
Early games appeared to show a marked improvement, including 16 sacks during the first five games, surpassing the 2012 mark of only 13 such tackles.
But as the season progressed, the Miami defense failed to consistently pressure quarterbacks when it was just a four-man rush. Therefore, the need for blitzing linebackers increased, but it left the secondary exposed.
When Virginia Tech traveled to Sun Life Stadium, Logan Thomas looked like the ACC's best quarterback, which is far from the truth. Thomas completed 25-of-31 passes for 366 yards and two touchdowns, including a bizarre score by Demitri Knowles.
Since the 'Canes needed to bring extra men to even disrupt the quarterback, six Miami defenders were left to guard five receivers. Add in the fact that Tyrone Cornelius was lost in the middle, and Thomas had an easy third-down conversion.
He hit Willie Byrn on a crossing route, and the simple toss resulted in a lengthy gain. Considering Miami's defense allowed the 101st-most 10-plus-yard passing plays, this was a recurring theme for the Hurricanes.
Note: Opponents gained 119 10-plus-yard plays against Miami, which is nearly 10 per game—or, in other words, not good.
Shayon Green, Curtis Porter, Justin Renfrow, David Gilbert and Luther Robinson will all have their eligibility expire. Consequently, Anthony Chickillo and Olsen Pierre are the only returning linemen with more than 10 tackles.
Al-Quadin Muhammad has been groomed to replace Green, while Earl Moore is the leading candidate for a defensive tackle spot. With that being said, Golden has received commitments from a pair of 4-star tackles in Travonte Valentine and Anthony Moten plus 3-stars Michael Wyche and Courtel Jenkins.
Chad Thomas certainly has the physical tools to immediately contribute, so the local product will attempt to prove himself in practice. And if Thomas can do just that, the early-down Miami line could be made of Muhammad, Pierre, Chickillo and the freshman.
Then, as the 'Canes force third downs, Tyriq McCord can once again be utilized as a speed rusher—something at which he excelled as a sophomore.
And that unit is certainly more promising than what the Hurricanes fielded in 2013.
Allow Fewer Third-Down Conversions
As highlighted previously (possibly ad nauseam), opponents were not experiencing much difficulty gaining the necessary yards on third down.
Overall, Miami allowed 41.3 percent of third downs to be converted (81st in FBS), and 49-of-92 attempts were converted during the latter half of the season.
The problem, though, was not necessarily the high percentage; instead, it was that the 'Canes were not forcing long-yardage situations. Florida State, Virginia Tech and Duke would run their way into short third downs and sustain drives down the field.
About 500 yards, 25 first downs and 38 points per game later, Miami's defense was doing absolutely zero favors for the offense over the final six outings. Florida State, Virginia Tech and Duke each scored at least 40 points to beat the 'Canes.
Due to the lack of timely stops—or any stops for that matter—the Hurricanes needed to outscore opponents to win. But quarterback Stephen Morris' senior campaign was like a roller coaster, and losing Duke Johnson to an ankle injury meant Miami could not score enough touchdowns to win.
Stopping opponents on third down and forcing a couple more punts will translate into a better chance to win but most importantly, an improved defense.
Healthy, More Experienced Secondary
Deon Bush showed lots of potential as a freshman, but offseason surgery limited his early-season action. Bush never really hit his stride, struggling to make a large impact—as was expected by many, including myself—in his scattered appearances throughout the year.
Seniors AJ Highsmith and Kacy Rodgers were decent for a few games during Bush's rehab, but Highsmith turned into a liability, and Rodgers was nothing special.
North Carolina's Eric Ebron scored a 71-yard touchdown, but the long gainer could have been avoided if Highsmith had not taken an atrocious angle and Bush shed his blocker sooner.
Rayshawn Jenkins was a pleasant surprise, starting 11 games, tallying 44 tackles, eight pass-defenses, five breakups and three interceptions. If Jenkins had not stepped up as much as he did, the Miami secondary would have been an absolute wreck beyond its corners.
Tracy Howard was undoubtedly the unit's star, picking off four passes and rarely allowing receptions. It would not be surprising to see Howard become one of the nation's top cornerbacks by the end of 2014.
Ladarius Gunter will be a senior, and he was thrown at more often than Howard, too. He defended nine passes, broke up six more and intercepted another three.
Throw in Antonio Crawford, Artie Burns and Jamal Carter with a year under their respective belts, and Miami can go three- or four-deep at will.
It's time for potential to be fulfilled in the secondary, but there is much more experienced depth at the position, too. Essentially, one injury is less likely to doom the 'Canes next season.
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama returned to practice on Tuesday ahead of the team’s January 2 matchup with Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.
It was the first team press conference since the Auburn game, when Alabama lost in stunning fashion 34-28 to the Tigers.
Saban moving on from Texas talk
Saban wouldn’t offer up any more comment on him signing an extension to stay at Alabama.
“I think I've already made a reaction to that,” he said. “Don't you watch ESPN? Don't you see what they put down across the bottom line? That's my reaction to it. I don't have any more reactions to it. I think it's kind of over, so why do we want to talk about that? Can we look forward? I'm looking forward. I made a commitment to the players that are here, and I'm happy to be committed to them. And I want them to make the same kind of commitment to the program and their future success.”
Senior wide receiver Kevin Norwood said he heard the talk but didn’t think much of it.
“I went home for the break or whatever, and everybody was basically talking about it,” Norwood said. “And I was like, 'Coach Saban is not going anywhere.' And whatever social media was saying, whatever was happening after that, I pretty much ignored it.”
When asked how far the discussions went with Texas, Saban said, “There were no talks.”
Anthony Steen to miss Sugar Bowl
Saban confirmed reports that senior right guard Anthony Steen had shoulder surgery and will miss the final game of his college career.
“He's played probably the second half of the season with some shoulder problems,” he said. “They got progressively worse. We decided to have doc MRI it. He thought that it would not be good that Anthony continue to play so we went ahead and got it fixed.”
Saban said a number of players from true freshman Grant Hill to senior Kellen Williams are candidates to replace the injured Steen.
Saban recently became a grandfather when his son Nicholas and his wife Kelsey had a baby girl.
“It's really wonderful and you've really got to count your blessings to have a healthy baby and a healthy mother and someone that beautiful come into your family is really something that you have to count your blessings on,” he said. “So many things may not always go right in those circumstances. We certainly feel like we're blessed to have a healthy baby and someone in our family. They actually had a rocking chair over there so I was kind of happy rocking that baby a little bit. Since then, I haven't been able to go back and Kelsey can't come until Wednesday. I kind of miss the little bugger if you want to know the truth about it.”
Kiffin in town to “exchange ideas”
Lane Kiffin has been in Tuscaloosa, meeting with Saban and his staff. Saban said he was surprised at the reaction to Kiffin being in town, given that this type of situation is a common occurrence.
“Lane is a really good offensive coach, and I've always had a tremendous amount of respect for him,” Saban said. “Just to come in and brainstorm a little bit just some professional ideas with our guys, I think, is a real positive thing. And I don't know why there's any reaction to it. I'm really quite surprised.”
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