NCAA Football News

Frank Iheanacho to Texas A&M: Aggies Land 4-Star WR Prospect

Wide receiver Frank Iheanacho wasn't even on the college football radar entering the 2013 season, but after a fantastic campaign at Westside High School in Houston, Texas, interest heated up. It all culminated in him committing to play at Texas A&M Saturday, according to Brandon Huffman of Fox Sports:

Despite Iheanacho's obvious physical tools, he had to play his way into the conversation this past season. According to 247Sports.com, he didn't play football in 2012, instead concentrating solely on basketball. He returned to the gridiron in 2013, though, and managed to reel in 44 passes for 652 yards and 16 touchdowns.

That touchdown total is what had so many top schools salivating. At 6'7" and 220 pounds, it shouldn't take Iheanacho long to be a red-zone weapon at the very least. He still has to develop other areas of his game, but he has all the potential in the world.

When asked about his return to the sport of football, Iheanacho told Brian Perroni of 247Sports.com that his teammates convinced him to give it another try.

“My teammates, I would talk to them about it,” Iheanacho said of returning to the football team his senior year. “Those are like my brothers. I really just wanted to come out and have fun with them and get to play football again.”

Per 247Sports.com, Iheanacho is the No. 71 overall recruit and the No. 8 overall wide receiver, which is amazing when you consider how little experience he has. Even so, Oregon, Arkansas, LSU, Missouri and a host of other top programs were vying for his services.

Iheanacho clearly seemed to enjoy the recruitment process as well. As seen in this photo courtesy of his Instagram account, he was quite impressed with what the Razorbacks had to offer:

Westside head coach Frank Byrd has had nothing but good things to say about Iheanacho, per Perroni.

“He’s a big kid that moves so well,” Byrd said. “We saw flashes of it his sophomore year but we didn’t know quite what to expect when he came back. He was just a natural route-runner. He was so smooth, especially for being so big."

What Byrd sees in Iheanacho is likely right in line with what those who were trying to recruit him saw. Even though he's still somewhat raw as he tries to convert his natural talent into on-field excellence, it is blatantly obvious that he has the ability to be a very special player.

As seen in this video of Iheanacho's high school highlights, he often uses his size to take advantage of smaller defensive backs. That is something that he must continue to do since he'll have a height advantage no matter who he goes up against.

With that said, there is more to the collegiate game than that. Iheanacho will have to polish his route-running even more, especially in the short and intermediate areas. He is a big threat over the top due to his leaping ability already, but he can be even better once he rounds out his game.

Clearly, there is plenty of belief that Iheanacho can take that next step since so many high-profile programs wanted him. He has finally made his decision, but the work has only just begun in terms of fulfilling his immense promise.

 

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5-Star RB Joe Mixon Scores, Flashes Money Manziel Sign at Army All-American Bowl

Five-star running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif.) will be playing his college ball for Oklahoma, according to Justin Hopkins of 247Sports, but one famous Texas A&M Aggies player is clearly among his influences.

After scoring a touchdown in the 2014 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Mixon celebrated with the "show me the money" dance made famous by Johnny Manziel:

Manziel started doing the gesture as a redshirt freshman in 2012, celebrating scores all the way to a Heisman Trophy. But this year, after being investigated by the NCAA for allegedly selling autographs, he drew the ire of many by doing the same dance against Rice in the season opener.

Mixon is No. 10 in the all-purpose back 247Sports rankings for 2014. Earlier in the Army All-American game, he flashed another part of his skill set by taking a screen pass down the sideline for a long gain.

We'll let you know once he announces his commitment.

 

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How an Oklahoma Sugar Bowl Victory Brought Redemption for 2007 Fiesta Bowl Loss

It's safe to say that Oklahoma's triumph over Alabama in this year's Sugar Bowl was one of the greatest games ever played by the crimson-and-cream team. Quarterback Trevor Knight performed better than he had all year by throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns over the course of the game, while Bob Stoops became the only coach to win the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Orange Bowl since the beginning of the BCS era.

With this victory, the Sooners were able to bring some closure to one of their toughest losses in the history of their program: The 2007 Fiesta Bowl, where the Sooners took on Boise State.

For those who remember, the eighth-ranked Sooners emerged as the overwhelming favorite to win that evening, with many believing the Sooners would win with a seven-point deficit or higher. Meanwhile, the Boise State Broncos had plenty of momentum on their end thanks to the Western Athletic Conference championship triumph with an undefeated regular season. 

When the game started, Boise State took an early lead, and lead for most of the game before the Sooners fired back with 25 unanswered points to achieve their first lead of the game with 1:02 left on the clock, 35-28. 

With the game already looking to be a close one, fans on both sides were exhilarated when Jerard Rabb brought the ball down for a 35-yard touchdown run with seven seconds left in the game. The ensuing kick tied the game up 35-35. The game was sent into overtime.

Adrian Peterson gave the Sooners an edge with a 25-yard touchdown run, with the ensuing kick bringing the score to 42-35. Sooner fans knew that the game was going to go in Oklahoma's favor, but a six-yard touchdown followed by a Statue of Liberty trick play for a two-point conversion gave the Boise State Broncos the Fiesta Bowl win, 43-42.

The game was widely regarded as one of the greatest college football games ever played due to the dramatic fashion in which it ended. But while the Broncos received the fanfare which comes with being a victorious underdog, the Sooners were left with a crushed morale which, in some ways, they never recovered from. 

Sure, they've won more games than lost, and they have won multiple Big 12 titles since that fateful January day, but the fact of the matter is that they were ousted by what was supposed to be a lesser team. The 2007 Fiesta Bowl will always be remembered in college football history, and Oklahoma has to suffer the stigma of being the juggernaut that lost that night.

Fast forward seven years later to the 2014 Sugar Bowl between Alabama and Oklahoma. It was an odd reversal of roles as Oklahoma was touted as the underdog team led by Stoops, while the third-ranked, Nick Saban-led Alabama was the favorite to win. With three BCS National Championship wins in the last four years, including the last two, it looked like it was going to get ugly.

Yet Oklahoma played a better game against Alabama than they had all year long. Relying heavily on a passing game, the Sooners brought the fight to Alabama, who struggled uncharacteristically through the night. Their pro-style offense had faded and became more predictable to defend against. Through it all, it was Oklahoma who pulled off the upset with a 45-31 win over Alabama.

Although it wasn't a nail-biter like the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, Oklahoma's performance in the 2014 Sugar Bowl managed to become one of the biggest in the program's history. For one, it signals a possible resurgence for the program. Also, as opposed to any surprise last-minute plays, Oklahoma played almost flawlessly throughout the game. 

With that, the Sooners are the reigning Sugar Bowl champions. Knight's stock has risen greatly because of his performance. Look for the Sooners to bring the heat this fall when football season starts back up.

Follow Joseph on Twitter: @ThatSheltonGuy

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BCS Championship Game 2014: Don't Expect a Heisman Hangover from Jameis Winston

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- Winning a Heisman Trophy changes your life forever. When a player carries that stiff arm trophy home from New York City, he's no longer a college football player—he's a sports celebrity, which is a different world.

Just ask Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Dealing with fame can be tricky, especially when there's work to be done on the field. Say, like winning the BCS National Championship Game?

That's the position Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston finds himself in, after he threw for 3,820 yards, 38 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and rushed for another 193 yards and four touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in 2013, claiming college football's biggest prize in the process.

"My life hasn't changed at all because our goal as a team, it still isn't over yet," he said during his media appearance on Friday. "At Florida State, we began the season as everybody was looking at us as, like okay, they've got a freshman quarterback. Nobody is going to pay any attention, now we're in the National Championship."

Winston knows that his biggest step is in front of him.

"I still haven't reached my maximum goal," he said on media day on Saturday. "At the end of the day, I want to be the last person on that field and holding up that crystal ball. With all of the awards that an individual can receive, nothing is more important than hoisting up that crystal football with your team on that stage signing 'we are the champions'."

Besides, the Heisman hangover is more myth than reality these days.

Manziel set a Cotton Bowl record with 516 yards in a 41-13 win over Oklahoma last year, one month after hearing his name called in New York City. Baylor's Robert Griffin III accounted for 350 yards and two touchdowns in a 67-56 win over Washington in the Alamo Bowl following the 2011 season. Auburn's Cam Newton didn't exactly look stellar in the Tigers' 22-19 BCS National Championship Game win following the 2010 season, but that crystal football is all that matters.

Seminole head coach Jimbo Fisher has liked what he's seen from his star quarterback during the month-long layoff between the ACC and BCS Championship Games.

"He looks like the old Jameis right back when were about to play Pitt (in the season opener)," Fisher said. "He's excited, but you see a guy who grinds and puts the film work in, he's practiced well and affected his teammates well."

Don't expect a Heisman hangover for Winston when toe meets leather inside the Rose Bowl on Monday night. For the redshirt freshman, it's just another game.

 

*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.


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Erick Smith to Ohio State: Buckeyes Land 4-Star Safety Prospect

The crop of quality 2014 prospects available continued to dwindle as 4-star safety Erick Smith committed to play for Ohio State, according to Bill Rabinowitz of The Columbus Dispatch.

Per 247Sports.com, Smith is the No. 146 overall recruit in the nation and the No. 11 safety. The 6'1", 185-pound native of Cleveland, Ohio was a standout at Cleveland Glenville High School, and he will now take his talent to the collegiate ranks.

Smith was heavily recruited by a number of schools throughout the process, including Ohio State, Georgia Tech, Alabama, Cincinnati and Illinois. He truly seemed to have his pick of the litter, but camaraderie may have ultimately played a role in his decision.

Ari Wasserman of Northeast Ohio Media Group wrote about the recruiting journey of three Glenville players back in September, and that group included Smith.

According to Wasserman, Smith, Marshon Lattimore and Marcelys Jones all planned to potentially attend the same school.

"Just knowing that we have the same schools and that we can continue to play together, that's just an amazing feeling," Smith said. "It is really indescribable just knowing that I can play with them for the next three or four years after this year. It's important, we are always talking about playing together."

Jones committed to Ohio State in December of 2012, but he continued to take visits with both Smith and Lattimore, per Wasserman, so the trio always seemed to be a package deal of sorts.

While some outsiders may find it difficult to view Smith as an individual because of that, there is no question that he has the ability to stand out on his own at a high level of college football.

Smith has made huge strides as a player over the past couple years, and he has garnered national attention. Josh Helmholdt of Rivals.com was particularly impressed when he watched Smith live back in November.

Per 247Sports.com's evaluation of the dreadlocked Smith, he is an all-around safety who excels in a number of different areas. He is rated a seven or eight on a 1-10 scale in every aspect, and he is especially adept at making plays on the ball and tackling.

It isn't always easy to project how a safety will translate from high school to college football since safeties have so many different responsibilities on the field. Smith looks the part of a leader, though, and that should help him make the jump in a fairly seamless manner.

In fact, Smith could very well be one of the biggest steals to come out of the class of 2014. He was a late bloomer of sorts, which means that many of the big programs were late to the party as well in terms of recruiting him.

He is still viewed as somewhat of an enigma, but such players often blossom into big-time superstars provided their upward trend continues.

All signs seem to suggest that Smith is getting better and better with each passing day, so he is certainly a player who is worth keeping track of the next few seasons.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Dwight Williams to UCLA: Bruins Land 4-Star LB Prospect

UCLA strengthened its defense on Saturday after Dwight Williams committed to the Bruins. The 4-star linebacker will be a great addition to Jim Mora's defense.

Williams announced his decision on Saturday, Jan. 3, during the 2014 Army All-American Game. 247 Sports' Justin Hopkins passes along the news:

Jeff Drummond of Fox Sports passes along this quote from Williams:

The decision is somewhat surprising, as Williams threw everyone off the scent by tweeting this photo with no UCLA hat present:

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Williams is 21st among outside linebackers and the 249th-best player in the country.

While not a freak athlete, the Junipero Serra High School senior is more than prepared to contribute at the collegiate level. He has great closing speed and reads the game in a way that allows him to be in the right position to make a play.

It's in the open field that you'll see Williams excel.

Along with his instincts comes a deftness in pass coverage. Williams can change directions very well and has enough speed to track down opposing players from behind.

Most of Williams' physical problems stem from his size. He's listed at 6'1", 205 pounds, so even if he adds a little more muscle when he gets on campus, he remain a tad undersized for the linebacker position.

That's not to say that Williams can't become a star in college, but his small stature will likely stunt some of his potential.

He's played inside linebacker in high school but will almost certainly be an outside linebacker in college because he's not equipped to handle the punishment in the middle of the defense.

Another problem area is his tackling. On the whole, Williams does well to get in front of the ball-carrier, square up and make the tackle. But there have been enough times where he's hit the opposing player and failed to wrap up.

It's only a minor issue and should be ironed out with the right coaching.

Williams should become a steady defender at the next level, and UCLA received a major boost on Saturday with his commitment.

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Jamil Kamara to Virginia: Cavaliers Land 4-Star ATH Prospect

Virginia made adding dynamic playmakers to their offense a priority during this recruiting cycle, and it's looking like the Cavaliers have landed one of the best.

According to the Washington Post, 4-star athlete prospect Jamil Kamara announced his decision to attend Virginia on Saturday:

Like all early commitments, Kamara is only entering a verbal agreement with Virginia. He cannot officially commit until the national signing period commences in February and can decommit without penalty during that time frame.

That being said, Cavs fans certainly have cause for rejoicing. A top-flight talent at Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School in Virginia, Kamara became one of the most highly sought-after skill position players in this class.

247 Sports' composite rankings bill Kamara as the sixth-best player in his home state and No. 8 "athlete" in the nation. He received offers from a bevy of schools, and his recruitment became something of an arms race in the ACC. 

By landing at Virginia, he gives Mike London's squad more than a little bragging room against his counterparts. Now it's just up to Kamara to make it worth the Cavs' while. 

Though he's listed as an athlete, most project Kamara as a wide receiver at the next level. At 6'2" and 211 pounds, Kamara is already built to withstand the punishment of playing every Saturday. He's a rangy wideout with great hands and can leap above his defenders to come down with big plays. Also unafraid to take a hit—likely due to his prodigious size—Kamara grabs a ton of balls other receivers would probably alligator-arm. 

Kamara's top-end speed is a bit of a concern, though. He is quick off the line and through his cuts, but there doesn't seem to be an extra gear after that initial step. That means he's probably more of a Michael Crabtree type of player in the long term—a guy who will make plays with his size and route-running strength rather than Tavon Austin-level speed. 

Nevertheless, if he continues developing a physicality at the line and hones his technique—particularly at his hips—Kamara could be a major contributor as early as his sophomore season.

With the Cavaliers looking for some help offensively in this class, they're off to a strong start after landing Kamara. 

 

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Brian Wallace to Arkansas: Razorbacks Land 4-Star OT Prospect

College football's top recruits continued to fly off the board today with four-star offensive lineman Brian Wallace of Christian Brothers College High School in St. Louis being the latest as he has decided to play for Arkansas, according to the Army All-American Bowl's official Twitter feed:

Wallace is the No. 13 offensive tackle in the nation, and the No. 119 player overall, according to 247Sports.com's composite ranking. Among the teams interested in securing Wallace were Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri. Ultimately, the tackle picked the Razorbacks:

At 6'6" and 305 lbs., Wallace already has the ideal size needed to excel at the next level. As seen in this video, though, he is still very mobile for a big man, which means he should be able to hold his own against speed rushers once he settles in:

It's hard not to like Wallace since he has all the tools necessary to be a stalwart tackle against elite competition. It may take some time to settle in since the level of competition will be much higher than Wallace is accustomed to, but the natural talent is definitely present.

According to Greg Powers of Scout.com, Wallace projects as a right tackle currently, although that isn't set in stone.

Has very good upper and lower body playing strength. Has a very strong punch that stops defenders in their tracks. Strong enough to finish once he locks on. Seems to be a prototype RT with potential to be a LT.

Powers also understands why Wallace was so highly sought after throughout the recruitment process.

A big prospect who has a ton of potential and moves very well for his size. It is no surprise that he is heavily recruited by BCS programs. He is tall and long, but has good weight in the lower body and a strong, balanced base.

Wallace's already-impressive resume was also bolstered by an invite to the 2014 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Playing in that game allowed him to showcase his skill set on the national stage, and deputy assistant secretary of the Army for marketing Mark Davis was happy to have him, per Powers.

“Wallace is a talented athlete whose leadership and teamwork qualities have made him a standout at Christian Brothers College High School,” Davis said. “Only the strongest wear the Army colors, and we are proud to welcome all of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl players and commend each of them on their selection.”

As good as Wallace looks on paper as well as on tape, it's always difficult to project how an offensive tackle will translate. He hasn't yet been tested by a level of competition comparable to what he'll see next season and beyond, so it will definitely be an adjustment period for him.

What happens over the next year or so will say a lot about his progress even if he red shirts or doesn't play with great regularity. Wallace simply has to get his feet wet when it comes to competing collegiately, and then he'll be better prepared to take on a starting role when need be.

Until then, it will be very interesting to track Wallace's transition to major college football.

 

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Cold Hard Fact for Saturday, January 4, 2014

Fact: During Charlie Strong's four seasons as Louisville's head coach, the Cardinals' defense were in the top 10 in the FBS in points per game, yards per game, yards per play and sack percentage.

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

Source: ESPN 

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BBVA Compass Bowl Goes Black After Vanderbilt-Houston Game Begins

Fans tuning into the BBVA Compass Bowl to see the Vanderbilt Commodores take on the Houston Cougars got an unpleasant surprise shortly after the opening kickoff: a loss of coverage.

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Cold Hard Fact for Saturday, January 4, 2014

Fact: Notre Dame has zero BCS Bowl wins all time. The Irish lost the 2001 Fiesta, the 2006 Fiesta, the 2007 Sugar and the 2013 BCS title game.

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

Source: Bleacher Report

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US Army All-American Bowl 2014: Commitment Tracker and Recruit Highlights

The 2014 U.S. Army All-American Bowl is taking place today in San Antonio at the Alamodome. This is another outstanding high school all-star game that features many of the country's best recruits.

While watching the top prospects in these settings play is always great, hearing where they are finally going to college is even greater. Today, several recruits will be announcing where they will sign in February, according to 247Sports, and this tracker will have reactions and analysis on each announcement.

Keep it here on your computer while you watch the game!

Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports.

 

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Cold Hard Fact for January 4, 2014

Fact: On January 4, 2012, West Virginia scored an Orange Bowl-record 70 points to defeat Clemson 70-33. Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith had six touchdown passes in the game.

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

Source: OrangeBowl.org

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Alabama Football Recruiting: Top Prospects Capable of Boosting 2014 Class

Alabama ended the season on a low note with two straight losses to Auburn and Oklahoma. The good news for the Crimson Tide and their supporters is that the recruiting class for 2014 points to continued success despite the frustrating end to another promising campaign.

With national signing day just a month away, Alabama is already in good shape. 247Sports' team rankings have the Tide ranked first, with Ohio State, Texas A&M, Florida State and LSU the closest competitors, although that could change after the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Knowing that, let's check out three players on the Alabama radar that could provide a major boost to an already strong recruiting class. A successful month through signing day could quickly erase the memories of the end of the season.

 

Marlon Humphrey, DB

Humphrey is one of the top prospects in the 2014 class. What's so intriguing about him is that he's been able to pair terrific athletic ability with a firm understanding of how to play cornerback before appearing in a single collegiate practice.

Most recruits, especially defensive backs, which aren't tested as much at the high school level, arrive with supreme athleticism but a lesser understanding of the basics. Humphrey has moved beyond that initial stage of development and should be able to hit the ground running.

Of course, Alabama isn't the only interested team. Mike Farrell of Rivals passed along an interesting note on the defensive back, whom 247Sports' composite rankings rates as the No. 5 recruit in the class:

The Crimson Tide are built on a foundation of defense. Humphrey has all the tools to become a shutdown corner within a couple seasons and is already prepared to make an impact at the college level if called upon.

 

Matt Elam, DL

Elam is a very interesting case. Based on 247Sports' composite rankings, the defensive tackle doesn't even rate inside the top 150 nationally. Yet the outlet's own ratings see him check in at No. 9 overall and at No. 2 at the position.

His size and strength have allowed him to simply overpower defenders in high school. How his skill will translate to the next level is the source of disagreement. But his combination of size and short-area quickness is enticing to say the least.

As for his decision, it won't come as early as originally expected. Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio passed along comments Elam made on KSR in which he stated he didn't feel comfortable enough to make a final choice quite yet:

I just didn't feel comfortable doing it and I chose this because I thought it would be enough time, but it's not. And like I could commit and be not 100 percent but that's not how I am. I want to be all into and right now I am not. So I talked it over with my mom and coach and they think that's best. So that is what I'm going to do. I hope everyone understands.

It's a mature decision. The last thing a prospect should do is rush into a college choice and figure out a couple weeks or months later that he made the wrong one. From Alabama's standpoint, the delay gives the coaching staff another chance to convince him the Tide are his best option.

 

Brian Wallace, OL

Wallace is among the most well-rounded offensive tackles in the class, coming in at No. 5, according to 247Sports. He's not an explosive run-blocker or dominant pass-blocker, at least not yet anyway, but there are no major flaws in his game, which is exactly what coaching staffs like to see.

He can be taught how to become a top tackle because he's got the strong base. It's better than excelling in one area, like run-blocking, but struggling in pass protection, which forces the staff to start from scratch with technique, and it's a long road to becoming a reliable option at that point.

Wallace is as solid as they come in terms of having all the basics down. And with Alabama leaning heavily on its offensive line on a yearly basis, joining the Tide would give him a great chance to transform from a promising recruit into an elite tackle.

 

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Army All-American Bowl Game 2014: Live Score, Updates and Reaction

The 14th annual U.S. Army All-American Bowl will kick off Saturday at 1 p.m. EST on NBC from the Alamodome in San Antonio.

And while the actual game itself is pretty much irrelevant, this matchup is pretty important to college football fans everywhere. It not only gives fans a chance to see some of the top high school players in the country go at it, but it's also an event where some kids will announce their commitments. 

Bleacher Report will provide live in-game analysis and scoring updates and keep track of all of the commitments throughout the game. 

Want your voice to be heard? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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BCS Championship 2014: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

The 2014 BCS National Championship Game features the two best teams in the country, as the No. 2 Auburn Tigers (12-1) and the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles (13-0) will clash on Monday in the final BCS title game before a playoff system is implemented.

Auburn is looking to become the SEC’s eighth straight national champion, completing a conference sweep of the BCS Championship since the format changed to a separate game in 2006.

The Tigers are considered by many to be a “team of destiny," after they lost an early-season game to LSU but recovered to rip off nine wins in a row. That stretch included victories over Alabama in the Iron Bowl and Missouri in the SEC Championship Game.

However, they will have their hands full against FSU, which remained undefeated from an automatic qualifying conference. The ACC champions boast a Heisman Award winner at quarterback in Jameis Winston, an electrifying offense and one of the most tenacious defenses in the country.

It’s going to be a showdown for the ages that you won't want to miss. Keep reading to find out where to catch all the action, plus betting information, a prediction on the final score and much more.

 

When: Monday, Jan. 6, at 8:30 p.m. ET

Where: Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Calif.)

Watch: ESPN

Live Stream: Watch ESPN

Betting Lines (via ScoresAndOdds.com)

  • Over/under: 67.5 points
  • Spread: Florida State -9

 

Can Auburn Contain Jameis Winston?

Auburn’s defense is going to have a tough time stopping Winston, as the freshman signal-caller is an elite talent who also has plenty of top-tier weapons surrounding him.

He captured the 2013 Heisman Award by completing 237-of-349 passes for 3,820 yards and 38 touchdowns. He tossed just 10 interceptions while also running 77 times for 193 yards and four additional scores.

He has been running one of the most devastating offenses in the nation, which finished the 2013 campaign with an average margin of victory of more than 42 points.

FSU’s offense was the sixth most effective per play, as it put up 322.0 yards per game through the air and 207.4 yards on the ground. The 53.0 points per game that the ‘Noles scored made them the top-scoring program in the FBS.

Auburn’s defense isn’t equipped to handle this kind of firepower. The Tigers ranked No. 95 in the country in terms of yards allowed per play. The defense conceded more than 1,000 total yards in the final two contests of the season and has to be more efficient if it is going to have any hope of containing Winston.

Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson spoke with ESPN’s Heather Dinich about his team’s strategy to limit Winston with the crystal trophy on the line. When asked if the difference in the game would be forcing the FSU signal-caller into committing uncharacteristic mistakes and turnovers, Johnson said:

It's going to be a big factor. The play in the box, they have tremendous skill out on the edges, but the pressure in the box is going to be one of the biggest keys to any defensive success that we have. There will be some other things in the game we can't control, kicking game, offense, all are going to contribute. But as far as us performing defensively and giving our football team a chance to win, there's got to be pressure on the quarterback.

Dee Ford, a defensive end for the Tigers, is confident that he will bring Winston to the turf. As per CBS Sports’ Bruce Feldman, the senior pass-rusher had this to say:

The young quarterback should have a bit of extra motivation to avoid that rush and make some plays down the field, as he recently had a chance to check out The Coaches’ Trophy ahead of the title game:

It’s going to be an excellent matchup, and Winston’s performance will be the difference in the outcome. If he has a good game, Florida State will be crowned the national champion. If he has a disappointing outing—a rare occurrence in 2013—it could spell doom for the Seminoles.

 

Prediction

Auburn has been a special program in 2013, but it has also been lucky.

Plays like “The Miracle on the Plains” catch against Georgia and a rare missed-field-goal return against ‘Bama have made the difference between this upstart program making a run-of-the-mill bowl and the BCS Championship Game.

While head coach Gus Malzahn, quarterback Nick Marshall and running back Tre Mason all deserve credit for installing and executing one of the most flawless triple-option attacks that college football has seen in a long time, the Tigers offense is rather one-dimensional.

With more than a month to prepare for this contest, the Seminoles should be ready to limit the effectiveness of Auburn’s rushing attack.

Expect these two potent offenses to trade blows out of the gate, but eventually the ineffectiveness of the Tigers defense will start to show. Florida State may not even punt in this game, while Auburn will be stymied at least a handful of times by an elite unit that conceded just 10.7 points per game in 2013.

 

Final Score

Florida State wins, 45-35.

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Cotton Bowl 2014: Henry Josey's Incredible Road Back to Superstardom

Rex Sharp, Missouri’s head athletic trainer, called it the most devastating knee injury he had seen in athletics. 

The moment Missouri running back Henry Josey curled up in a ball of pain back in the fall of 2011, he was leading the conference in rushing and was fifth in the nation. In an instant, however, the concern turned from rushing yards and the NFL to the notion of simply being able to walk.

On Friday in the Cotton Bowl, Josey walked into the end zone three times, capping off a magnificent season with a 41-31 victory over Oklahoma State. His touchdown with three minutes left in the fourth quarter was the go-ahead score.

From that point on, the Tigers didn't look back.

In doing so, he helped Missouri close out an unexpected campaign in thrilling fashion, and he also gave the NFL scouts something to think about.

Josey’s return to the football field took 659 days, three surgeries and an unfathomable amount of rehab to rebuild his left knee. 

The injury came on an unassuming play, a fall backward after an awkward tackle down the sideline. A helmet didn't smash into his lower body, and it wasn't a juke gone horribly wrong. This was a matter of timing and body positioning, and his knee immediately gave in.

By his reaction, you knew immediately it was serious.

After missing much of 2011 and sitting out the entire 2012 season, Josey returned in 2013 after rehabbing. He wasted little time returning to form. 

In Missouri’s first game against Murray State this year, Josey finished with 113 yards rushing, 68 of which came on one delightful touchdown scamper. With that, he was officially back, and his return was celebrated by head coach Gary Pinkel in the locker room.

It was a moment that will (and should) be played on season-ending montages, and it will be remembered by the Mizzou faithful for years to come. It's the only individual game ball Pinkel has ever given.

Fast-forward four months. Josey is still a good story—a great story, in fact—but he’s more than that. The initial return was touching and fun, but this all gave way for production on one of the SEC’s best teams.

On Friday night, Josey padded his touchdown total, upping his season mark to 17. He also finished with 1,166 rushing yards on 174 carries, good for a 6.7 average. Along the way, the season had its scares. 

Against Florida this year, he went down and grabbed his knee in pain to the panic of the Missouri sideline and football fans everywhere. He got up, though, and even returned to the game. And then, of course, there was the SEC Championship against Auburn. After a long run, Josey was tossed violently out of bounds and into a cart in the worst possible place on the sidelines.

Again, after a scary scene, he got up. He kept getting up and the team kept producing. His comeback paralleled that of his team’s, a long joyful ride that didn’t require substance.

Now, Josey has a decision to make. He was one more year of eligibility remaining at his school, although NFL teams will be interested in No. 20. Yes, there are concerns over the rebuilt left knee, but it looked fine over the course of the regular season.

Josey talked about the decision to stay at school—a place he clearly loves—or take his talents to the next level with David Morrison of the Columbia Tribune:

It’s always a dream as a kid. You want to be able to get to the next level and further your career as a football player. I’ve probably thought about it a whole lot. But I can’t just sit here and say, ‘Yes, I’m leaving’ or ‘I’m staying.’ I haven’t made a decision about any of that. My main focus is on playing and having fun with my teammates. 

Yes, I want to come back and yes, I want to graduate. That’s something I’ve made a promise to my grandma and a couple other people in my life. It’s a big decision. But I’m just staying in the moment right now and focusing on the football game. 

Following the bowl victory, Josey was asked about the NFL draft by Morrison. At this point, at least publicly, he's unclear of his next move.

Henry Josey says "it's still a process" thinking about the NFL Draft. Going to talk about it with his grandmother and Pinkel, go from there.

— David Morrison (@DavidCMorrison) January 4, 2014

Regardless of what decision he makes, he’s made it.

He completed his first season, and the long road back to health—and in turn to stardom—has been traveled.

College football would love to have him back if he decides it’s the route he wants to take. Josey, quarterback Maty Mauk and wideout Dorial Green-Beckham would give the Tigers one of the most dynamic trios in the country next season.

He’d have a chance to improve his draft stock and only add to his legacy at the school, one that is approaching rock star levels whether this was the end or not. And quite simply, and somewhat selfishly, it’d be a joy to watch him run at this level a little longer.

But if he hears enough positive things from those involved in the draft process and his family and head coach believe it's time, then he should go. That is, if he wants to. This is all on Josey, of course, and he’s put himself in a position to have a decision over the NFL.

That’s the most important and impressive thing, and it all culminated in one last thrilling performance in the Cotton Bowl. If this was the end, it was quite an ending.

I can’t wait to see what he does next.

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Auburn vs. FSU: Keys to Victory in BCS National Championship Game

The final BCS National Championship Game represents a fascinating matchup between the Auburn Tigers and Florida State Seminoles, and the final result will likely come down to just the slimmest of margins.

Each team boasts an imposing offense, but neither one lacks for talent on defense either. 

It’ll be a real test for the Seminoles to go up against an SEC defense, while the Tigers will be struggling to prove that their last-second wins against Alabama and Georgia weren’t flukes.

While Florida State is favored, either team could easily come away with a win in this one. It all just depends on a few key elements.

 

Auburn’s Offensive Line

Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall and running back Tre Mason have been dominant when running the ball, and Auburn’s dominant offensive line has been a huge part of its success.

Marshall and Mason have each amassed more than 1,000 yards this season behind this deep offensive line. How the unit matches up with Florida State’s imposing defensive line will be absolutely critical to the outcome of this game. 

The unit is led by center Reese Dismukes, a vocal, physical player that anchors the line.

But the rest of the line isn’t too shabby either, as ESPN’s Greg Ostendorf and David M. Hale explain

Dismukes, a three-year starter, is the anchor of the group. He was a finalist for the Rimington Trophy, awarded to the top center in college football, and although it’s not an official stat, he leads the team in knockdowns. The matchup between he and Florida State nose tackle Timmy Jernigan won’t just be a battle in the trenches -- it will be a war.

From a pure talent standpoint, sophomore left tackle Greg Robinson has emerged as the best player on this Auburn offensive line. He started last year but was still relatively unknown heading into this season. He’s quickly become a star in the SEC, and he continues to improve his draft stock with every game. 

Junior Chad Slade doesn’t get the notoriety, but he’s been as solid as it gets for the Tigers. He moved from right tackle to right guard and hasn’t missed a beat. The other two spots are taken by a pair of redshirt freshman, Alex Kozan and Avery Young. Kozan was named to the freshmen All-SEC team for his play at left guard.

If Auburn wants to knock off No. 1 Florida State, this is the matchup it has to win. The Tigers have rushed for an average of 402 yards over the last four games, and it’s in no small part due to the play of the offensive line.

As good as this group is, however, the Seminoles might be able to get the better of them.

Jernigan is a monster on the inside, while defensive ends Mario Edwards Jr. and Eddie Goldman are also dominant. 

But it’s Jernigan in particular who should worry the Tigers. He leads the Seminoles with 4.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss, and he’ll be battling with Dismukes all night.

“(Jernigan) doesn’t have any weaknesses – he plays the run and the pass very well ... it should be fun,” Dismukes told The Montgomery Advertiser.

If the offensive line can pave the way for Mason and Marshall, the Tigers will be able to set the pace of the game. However, if they can’t, they might find it hard to keep up with Florida State.

 

Florida State’s Passing Game 

Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston gets a lot of hype, and deservedly so, but he’s not the only part of the Seminoles’ passing game that deserves to be feared.

The Seminoles have one of the best receiving groups in the nation, with receivers Rashad Greene, Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin each recording at least 50 catches and 900 receiving yards this season. 

Winston’s ability to move in the pocket and make insane throws are well documented, but he’s greatly helped out by his receivers making spectacular catches on those throws, like this one. 

All of that makes for a passing game that’s incredibly difficult to defend, as SB Nation’s Ian Boyd explains.

Florida State's greatest strength is its passing game, which likewise finished second in S&P's rankings.

That tall FSU offensive line is a difficult group to beat with a pass rush. The receiving group is arguably the best in the nation. Rashad Greene, 6'5 Kelvin Benjamin, and Kenny Shaw are all over 900 receiving yards and are joined by dual-threat tight end (Nick) O'Leary.

Winston's comfort with the Noles' passing game and tremendous accuracy to all areas of the field, when paired with phenomenal wideouts who are dangerous as acrobatic receivers and runners after the catch, makes their passing game nearly impossible to scheme against. Defenses have been proving this all year long. Winston's only game so far with a passer rating below 152.8 came in a 56-point win at Wake Forest, whose defense is keyed around a 250-pound nose tackle, so there's not a whole lot we can glean about what teams have tried against him so far.

It certainly doesn’t help Auburn’s case that the secondary is allowing 259.3 passing yards per game, the 103rd-worst rate in the nation.

The Tigers’ best hope is to pressure Winston, something they’ve been considerably more successful at this season. They’re 46th in the country with 28 sacks this year.

However, Winston has had little trouble warding off pressure over the course of the season. He might be the best at taking off and running, but his elusiveness in the pocket combined with his size make him truly tough to bring down, as he’s only been sacked 29 times all year.

If the Tigers let Winston sit back and throw, he’ll be able to pick apart the Tigers and force them to throw to keep up.

However, if Auburn’s dominant offensive line can dictate the pace with the running game and the defense picks up some stops, the Tigers can pull off the upset.

No matter what, there’s little doubt that the title game will be a thrilling one to watch.

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Army All-American Bowl Roster 2014: Highlighting Top Must-See Talents

Just as it has for the past decade-plus, the 2014 Army All-American Bowl will feature some of the nation's top high school football prospects. 

While some have already announced where they will begin their college careers, others are still up in the air ahead of Saturday, Jan. 4's East vs. West showcase (1 p.m. ET, NBC). 

Below we'll breakdown the rosters for both sides and highlight a trio of must-see talents that will be on display on Saturday afternoon.

*Roster information courtesy of USArmyAllAmericanBowl.com.

 

Jacob Park, QB, East

East quarterback Jacob Park is rated as the second-best prospect from the state of South Carolina among the Class of 2014 and committed to Georgia in June 2013, according to 247Sports.com.

The 6'3", 200-pound signal-caller had also received offers from other SEC powerhouses like Alabama and Auburn. As ESPN recruiting reporter Damon Sayles points out, Park will be a player to keep an eye out for on Saturday afternoon as he looks to lead the East to a second consecutive victory. 

In addition to boasting a strong and accurate arm, the Goose Creek, S.C. native is mobile and a very tough runner with the potential to develop into a dual-threat quarterback down the road. 

For now, though, pay close attention to Park's accuracy. Although he has room for improvement, he possesses the rare ability to hit receivers in stride despite being off balance or under duress. 

 

Jamil Kamara, WR/ATH, East

Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School star Jamil Kamara is listed as an athlete heading into Saturday's Army All-American Bowl, but he will likely star as a dynamic wide receiver for the East squad. 

After all, the 4-star recruit has caught more than 100 passes over the past two seasons in high school, racking up more than 2,100 yards and 33 touchdowns, according to 247Sports.com.

Kamara will likely be catching passes from Park on Saturday. And what will stand out above all else when watching the Virginia Beach, Va. native is his physicality. Kamara isn't a speedster who's going to break away from many defenders, but his combination of size and strength make him a special player. 

The coveted athlete, who is expected to commit to either Virginia, Wisconsin or Pittsburgh this weekend, also possesses an exceptional pair of hands that allow him to bring down nearly every ball in his vicinity. 

 

Nyles Morgan, ILB, West

If you're not familiar with West linebacker Nyles Morgan, you'll want to tune into Saturday's Army All-American Bowl. Arguably one of the top inside linebackers nationally among the Class of 2014, the Crete, Ill. native is a stud defender with virtually endless potential at the next level.

At 6'1", 225 pounds, Morgan can play sideline to sideline as well as hold his own in coverage.

Morgan also displays excellent instincts and does a tremendous job of recognizing the play, wrapping up ball-carriers and bringing them down quickly.

Morgan is still uncommitted ahead of Saturday's showcase, but he has narrowed his list and is expected to choose between Vanderbilt and Notre Dame this weekend.  

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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Army All-American Game 2014: Top Undeclared Prospects to Watch in Showcase

The U.S. Army All-American Bowl comes at a perfect time. Just as the college football season winds toward its conclusion and fans around the country start looking toward next season, the showcase puts some of the top prospects on display.

Furthermore, the game gives players one last chance to shine while they are still considered high school players before making the leap to the collegiate level. Some will even announce which schools they have chosen during the game.

Let's check out some of the top undeclared prospects to watch before they start the next phase of their football careers.

 

Joe Mixon — RB

Mixon is exactly the type of running back that's taking over football. The days of one-dimensional power backs are slowly fading away. Instead, teams are looking for playmakers who are just as capable helping the passing game as they are on the ground.

The California product certainly fits the bill. 247Sports' composite rankings list him as the No. 1 all-purpose running back and inside the top 20 players overall. The site also lists Oklahoma and UCLA among the front-runners for him, with Wisconsin also in the mix.

These type of All-Star games tend to have a much more open, free-flowing style of play, which will benefit Mixon. When he gets out in open space he's as dangerous as any player who will be on the field in the game for either side.

 

Marshon Lattimore — CB

Above all else, Lattimore is a tremendous athlete. There are players who excel in one area but if asked to step outside their comfort zone struggle mightily. That's why versatility is such a great asset, and the Ohio native has shown it on both sides of the ball.

He'll eventually settle at cornerback, at least at the outset. 247Sports' composite rankings rate him as the No. 5 player at the position and a 4-star prospect overall. Ohio State is listed as the favorite to land him ahead of his decision.

A combination of quickness and ball skills should allow him to make a pretty quick impact at the collegiate level. And if for whatever reason things don't end up working out as a defensive back, he can always switch back to offense and try to fill a void there.

 

Bryce Dixon — TE

Dixon is one of the most intriguing players in the class. He ranks outside the top 100 overall, according to 247Sports' composite rankings, and still has to fill out his frame to stand out as a tight end, but there's a reason he's generated so much interest, with UCLA listed as the leaders.

That's because he has all the tools to succeed. He has speed, size and playmaking ability, which are increasingly important traits for modern players at the position. Eric Sondheimer of the Los Angeles Times passed along comments in August from Dixon and a former coach that highlight that talent:

"It's mismatch everywhere," a giddy Dixon says.

Taller, bigger and faster than most of those trying to contain him, Dixon is an offensive weapon waiting to be unleashed.

"Athletically, he's a freak," former St. Bonaventure coach Todd Therrien said during the summer.

Yes, there's work to do before he becomes a star. Right now, he's a raw talent with sky-high potential and no guarantee he'll realize all of it. But starting in the Army All-American Bowl and moving forward, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him steadily develop into a major weapon.

 

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