NCAA Football News

Stands for Pac-12 Championship Game at Levi's Stadium Surprisingly Empty

The No. 2 Oregon Ducks and No. 7 Arizona Wildcats came to do battle at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, for the Pac-12 Championship on Friday, but just moments before the start of the game, thousands of seats were empty.'s Aaron J. Fentress noted the emptiness: 

Look at all the empty seats at Levi's Stadium.

— Aaron J. Fentress (@AaronJFentress) December 6, 2014

This matchup has it all: a Heisman favorite in Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, a defensive beast in Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III and a rivalry feel, as Arizona gave the Ducks their lone loss on October 2. 

Maybe the stands will fill in later in the night, but it's not a great showing at the start—that's for sure.


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SEC Championship 2014: Biggest Questions Surrounding Missouri vs. Alabama

Missouri can't possibly beat Alabama, can it?

That's perhaps the biggest question surrounding the 2014 SEC Championship Game, but it's far from the only one.

Few are surprised to see the Crimson Tide in this position, but the Tigers' second consecutive SEC East crown came as a bit of a shock. Despite both teams winning their respective divisions in a tough conference, you can see in the College Football Playoff rankings how their perceptions are vastly different.

Most expect Alabama to coast to the SEC title. With the way this season has unfolded, though, it's clear that no team is untouchable. The Crimson Tide have lost once, nearly lost to Arkansas and weren't exactly convincing against Auburn.

The Tigers are facing an uphill battle, but this isn't exactly a David vs. Goliath situation.

As the fans prepare for Saturday's clash in the Georgia Dome, the three topics below are among the most heavily discussed.


Does Missouri Slow Down the Alabama Passing Game?

It's almost impossible for any NCAA secondary to stop Amari Cooper for an entire game. The Alabama wideout is arguably the best offensive player in the country, and he's set a slew of Alabama records this year:

Grantland's Matt Hinton summed it up perfectly following Cooper's exploits:

Missouri can't afford to let the junior go crazy like he did against Auburn, Florida and West Virginia.

Of course, stopping Cooper is much easier said than done.

Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated believes that the best way the Tigers can at least mitigate Cooper is attack the source.

"Stopping, or at least limiting, Cooper starts up front with Missouri's pass rush," Ellis wrote. "Alabama's star receiver can’t exploit the Tigers defense if [Blake] Sims can't throw the ball comfortably. But if Sims has too much time in the pocket, Cooper can take advantage."

In the first half and up until early in the third quarter against Auburn, Sims really struggled. He was making silly mistakes, and things got to the point that Jacob Coker warmed up on the sidelines.

Sims eventually recovered and finished with 312 yards and four touchdowns. He also scored the go-ahead touchdown on an 11-yard scramble.

The Tigers' pass rush was largely nonexistent, which played a role in Sims finding his groove in the second half. With a stronger front seven, Auburn might've been able to keep Sims on his toes.

On paper, that shouldn't be an issue for Missouri. The team ranks fifth in the country in sacks per game (3.33) and also sits eighth in tackles for loss (7.6).

In Shane Ray and Markus Golden, the Tigers have two players who excel at getting after the quarterback. Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted their impressive stat lines:

By continuing to get consistent pressure on Sims, Missouri would force the senior quarterback out of his comfort zone. That could lead to turnovers, and at the very least would in part negate Cooper's presence.


Can Alabama Put the Onus on Maty Mauk to Win the Game?

Missouri isn't exactly a run-first team, but it's averaging 176 yards a game on the ground compared to 189.9 yards through the air. The success of the running game by and large decides whether the Tigers win or lose.

That often rings true because it determines how much the outcome rests on Maty Mauk's shoulders. While the sophomore quarterback has improved in recent weeks, it's still hard to look past his 9-of-21 passing for 97 yards and four interceptions against Georgia back on Oct. 11. Mizzou lost 34-0 at home.

Mizzou head coach Gary Pinkel did his best before the game to boost Mauk's confidence, per David Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune:

In an interview with's Mike Herndon, CBS announcer Gary Danielson stated his belief that Missouri can't afford for Mauk to simply be good; he must be exceptional:

Maty Mauk has to step up his game. You're not going to beat Alabama with average quarterback play. They have feasted on average quarterbacks under Nick Saban's era at Alabama. Ask Michigan what it's like to play them with inferior quarterbacking. Ask Florida this year what it's like to play them with an inferior quarterback. He has to have the game of his life, Maty Mauk.

Maybe Mauk can silence his critics on Sunday by throwing for 200-plus yards and rushing for another 50-75. If that is to happen, though, the Tigers must get a strong combined effort from Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough.


What Happens if Alabama Loses?

Alabama is considered the heavy favorite for this one. According to Odds Shark, the line opened up at -3 in favor of the Tide, and it's since jumped to -14.5.

Most fans outside of Missouri expect the SEC Championship Game to be little more than a coronation ceremony for Alabama as it heads into the CFP.

Everybody assumes that the Crimson Tide would be one of the top two seeds in the event if it beats the Tigers.

But what would the selection committee do if Missouri won?

Alabama would be out of the playoff discussion altogether, barring some crazy upsets this weekend. Even with so few teams climbing into that "great" category this year, there's no way the committee sends in a two-loss team that didn't even win its conference.

The tougher conundrum is whether Missouri would warrant Top Four consideration after winning the SEC. As you can see at the top of the article, the Tigers head into the weekend 16th in the playoff rankings. They'd have to jump ahead of a dozen teams just to crack the playoff.'s Edward Aschoff isn't optimistic about the Tigers' chances:

Mizzou hasn't been elite since the Georgia loss, but it's been winning better than anyone in the SEC other than Alabama. Six straight wins, three coming on the road, isn't easy in this league -- no matter which side you're on -- but the wins haven't been pretty and the playoff selection committee just isn't impressed. Say what you will about how great the defense has been in conference play -- the committee is likely stuck on the fact that the offense has been inconsistent this season.

As far as a playoff run goes, the Tigers just haven't passed the eye test. Mizzou proved it wasn't a one-hit wonder this year, but when it comes to a playoff spot, the early season is haunting it.

While winning the SEC title this year is unlikely to significantly improve Mizzou's playoff chances, it could pay major dividends in the future in terms of perception. The Tigers would be viewed as a major player in the SEC going forward. That would in turn help Mizzou pass the proverbial eye test in subsequent seasons.


Note: Stats are courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

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Pac-12 Championship 2014: Live Score, Highlights for Arizona vs Oregon

Keep it locked in here to follow Oregon vs. Arizona for the Pac-12 championship!

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Bowl Projections 2014: Updated Playoff Rankings and Ideal Matchups for Top Games

Sports fans are prone to hyperbole, but it's safe to say this is the biggest weekend of college football in years. There are six games that will have a direct impact on the College Football Playoff rankings, which will be released on Sunday. 

Starting with the Pac-12 Championship Game between Arizona and Oregon on Friday, the first round of college football's new postseason format figures to become a jumbled mess by the time the last game ends on Saturday night. 

While the selection committee has generated its share of controversy, no one can say that what's happened has provided any less drama. If anything, what the committee has done only makes Championship Weekend more impactful, as teams are looking to make one final impression. 

Until that fateful moment arrives on Sunday, here's how the current playoff rankings look and the best possible matchups for the semifinal playoff games. 


Ideal Playoff Matchups

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Florida State

It's only fitting to start with a matchup that would take place if things stand pat this weekend. The selection committee came under fire for dropping Florida State, which is the defending national champion and is undefeated heading into the ACC Championship Game, down a spot. 

As George Schroeder of USA Today wrote, it seems the committee has gotten lost in all of the outside metrics and forgot the most basic principle of sports is winning:

The selection committee will determine 'best' teams using several criteria — you know, like 'game control' (which Florida State hasn't exactly exhibited) — but winning has to remain the most important factor. An undefeated Power Five conference champion isn't getting left out of the field unless there are at least five undefeated teams from Power Five conferences. Beat Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship — even in another tight squeeze — and the Seminoles should be in the field.

If you look at the actual performance, there's a case to be made that Florida State might not even deserve to be ranked ahead of teams like Baylor or Ohio State. But the Seminoles have won all their games, and if that continues, there's no way they will be left out of the playoff. 

Despite the uproar around Florida State's drop, the committee might have done the Seminoles a favor in a conspiracy theory from Andrea Adelson of

When Jeff Long talks about Florida State, it is almost like he is playing Lingo Bingo. Maybe all those fancy catchphrases like 'game control' and 'eye test' count against Florida State because the committee is trying to set up more appealing AND geographical semifinal matchups. 

Dropping Florida State to No. 4 means a semifinal in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans against No. 1 Alabama. That is the dream matchup everybody wanted to end last season, a delicious pairing between mentor Nick Saban and mentee Jimbo Fisher. 

While the committee certainly wouldn't admit to doing that, who cares if that's the reason? It provides fans with a matchup between college football's most high-profile quarterback (Jameis Winston) and its most high-profile school (Alabama). 

By the way, the Seminoles (2013) and Crimson Tide (2011-12) have combined to win the last three national championships. 

Given Florida State's erratic play this year, it seems unlikely the Seminoles would advance past the semifinals. Of course, their ability to walk that tightrope means it would be foolish to discount them. 

There's also the question of how Alabama quarterback Blake Sims will fare on the big stage. He finished the game against Auburn nicely, but the first-year starter looked awful early with three interceptions. 

Nick Saban said after Alabama's win over Auburn that Sims has a tendency to try doing too much when the spotlight is the brightest, via Alex Scarborough of

"Sometimes, it's a big game, and he starts putting a lot pressure on himself, and he gets a little anxious," Saban said. "I don't think he really processes and makes as good of decisions when he gets like that." 

A showdown against the defending national champions in the Sugar Bowl isn't exactly an under-the-radar stage where you can hide flaws. Sims can't afford another bad game like the one he had against Auburn if Alabama wants to win a championship. 

The ideal first step in that process would be a matchup with Florida State in Atlanta on January 1. 


Rose Bowl: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Baylor

Since no one wants to see chalk hold this weekend, it's only fair that we get a shakeup in the top four. Depending on your perspective, which really means anyone who isn't a TCU fan, Baylor already has a claim to be one of the top four teams. 

After all, the Bears defeated the Horned Frogs earlier this season. There might be an argument that TCU's overall body of work is better, but to ignore what Baylor did when the two teams met is illogical, which pretty much sums up committee chairman Jeff Long's rationale, via Jerry Hinnen of

We look at their losses. Baylor's loss is against a West Virginia team that's outside the top 25, and TCU's is against Baylor, who is No. 6 ... We look at many, many different things. Overall, the evaluation -- the human evaluation -- of this is what this committee is designed to do. And I think they've done that in this case with TCU and Baylor.

Hope isn't lost for Baylor, though. Based on the current playoff rankings, Baylor has the second-hardest matchup of the top playoff contenders, going up against No. 9 Kansas State. Only Oregon, which takes on No. 7 Arizona, has a more difficult task. 

With a win against another Top 10 team, as well as the head-to-head win over TCU, Baylor will have fulfilled its duty to get in the College Football Playoff. This also assumes that Ohio State loses to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game. 

For the record, TCU also plays this weekend, though, it's got the easiest task of all the contenders against 2-9 Iowa State. Barring a miracle, the Horned Frogs will end the year 11-1 in a tie with Baylor for the Big 12 championship. 

It then becomes an examination over the body of work. Don't be surprised if the selection committee listens to the feedback about the Baylor-TCU controversy and changes it if both teams get to 11-1. 

This leaves us with Oregon as Baylor's opponent. The Ducks have proven themselves to be one of the two best teams in the country, getting better as the season has gone on. The final test for Mark Helfrich's team will be against an Arizona team that's defeated it in each of the last two years. 

A win against the Wildcats in the Pac-12 Championship Game secures Oregon's spot in the playoff, though, it will wait to see if Alabama loses before knowing if it's as the No. 1 or 2 team. 

In addition to being the right matchup if everything plays out correctly this weekend, an Oregon vs. Baylor matchup would be one of the most exciting games imaginable. 

Everyone knows about the Ducks' high-powered offense, ranking fourth in the country with 45.9 points per game, but Baylor actually leads the nation in scoring (49.8). This is a game that could legitimately draw an over/under of 100 and exceed it. 


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

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Tennessee Football: Ranking the 5 Best Moments for the Volunteers in 2014

While the postseason-bound Tennessee Volunteers are waiting to hear where they'll play their bowl game, it's time to take a look back at some of the top moments for the team in 2014.

The Vols entered the season with a huge range of expectations. Final records ranging from 4-8 to 8-4 all seemed reasonable based on how well the freshman would play and the overall difficulty of the SEC.

For example, few could have expected the Ole Miss Rebels would be as strong as they were when Tennessee played them, but that loss was offset by playing a South Carolina team with one of its worst defenses in recent history.

Missouri also proved that its success in 2013 was no fluke, as it repeated as SEC East champions for the second year in a row.

Overall, Tennessee's season was a roller coaster for the coaches, players and fans. Just when it seemed the Vols were a lock to become bowl eligible, the team would get blown out in SEC play while an upcoming opponent would play extremely well. 

Despite the constant setbacks and porous offensive play, the Vols managed to make the best out of a difficult schedule and hit the .500 mark for the first time since 2010.

Here are five of the best moments from a statistically average but ultimately program-changing season for the Vols. 

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Texas Football: Longhorns Most Impactful Players of 2014

Charlie Strong's first season in Austin did not end with the record Texas fans would have liked to see. But many of the Longhorns showed significant progress in 2014, especially the defense.

The Texas defense was the laughingstock of the Longhorns in 2012 and 2013. But the unit as a whole is part of the reason the Longhorns saw success in Strong's first year as head coach.

The statistical rankings show how much the defense has improved.

  InterceptionsPassing Yards AllowedRushing DefenseRed Zone DefenseScoring DefenseTotal Defense2012 No. 26 | 15 INT No. 36 | 212 YPG No. 88 | 192 YPG No. 115 | 91 PCT No. 73 | 29 PPG No. 67 | 404 YPG 2013 No. 82 | 10 INT No. 53 | 224 YPG No. 83 | 183 YPP No. 92 | 87 PCT No. 57 | 26 PPG No. 68 | 407 YPG 2014 No. 16 | 15 INT No. 13 | 186 YPG No. 65 | 162 YPG No. 29 | 77 PCT No. 32 | 23 PPG No. 26 | 348 YPG

The offense did not experience the same improvements as the defense in year one of the Strong regime, but anyone who expected to see increased numbers from the group was setting themselves up for failure.

It's very rare for an offense to be successful when the offensive line features first-year starters at every position, there is no depth or rotation on the line and a first-time starting quarterback—who admitted he never expected to start a game for his team—is under center.

But that's the hand that was dealt to the Texas offensive coaches.

With the regular season in the past, it's time to take a look at some of the most impactful players for the Longhorns in 2014, counting down from an honorable mention to the best overall player on the roster.

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Buckeyes Playing with House Money in the Big Ten Championship Game

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Despite all that Urban Meyer's been through in the past two weeks—really, the past three months—there the Ohio State head coach sat in the bowels of Lucas Oil Stadium, mere inches from where he was famously photographed embodying defeat a year ago. But as he fulfilled his media obligations on the eve of the Big Ten Championship Game, Meyer hardly appeared shaken, carrying the quiet confidence that took him to the top of the college football mountain.

"For me to say I didn't think about that when I walked in here—I did," Meyer said on Friday. "But then I moved on quickly."

The pressure of a 24-game winning streak became too much for the Buckeyes to overcome in the conference championship game a year ago, Ohio State falling 34-24 to Michigan State. But the Buckeyes' circumstances were certainly different back then, although in a way, they were the same.

The Buckeyes aren't favored this weekend as they were during their last trip to the Circle City, the season-ending broken ankle suffered by quarterback J.T. Barrett helping make Wisconsin a four-point favorite, per Odds Shark. For just the fourth time in the Meyer era, Ohio State finds itself as an underdog, despite spending the 2014 regular season as the class of the Big Ten.

"I didn't know that," Meyer insisted earlier this week of his team's underdog status.

But while the Buckeyes are expected to lose in the conference championship game—just as they did a season ago—they still have just as much on the line. A win over the Spartans last season would have clinched Ohio State the chance to play for the national championship, and a victory in Indy this year could very well land the Buckeyes in the first-ever College Football Playoff.

That, however, will be easier said than done, with Ohio State facing the Badgers' second-ranked defense with a quarterback who at one point was listed as third on the Buckeyes' depth chart in Cardale Jones. When star quarterback Braxton Miller went down two weeks prior to the start of the season with a torn labrum, the reins of the OSU offense were handed to Barrett, a redshirt freshman who hadn't played in an actual game in nearly two calendar years.

And even after the Buckeyes suffered a loss to Virginia Tech in the second week of the season, Barrett managed to lead Ohio State on an unlikely charge back into the national title picture. The Buckeyes' victory over Michigan last weekend moved their record to 11-1 on the season, their spot in the Big Ten title game clinched a week earlier.

But Barrett's season-ending injury has loomed over the Ohio State program, as has the tragic disappearance and death of walk-on defensive lineman Kosta Karageorge. Add defensive end Noah Spence's failed appeal for reinstatement, thus ending his college career, and it's been a whirlwind two weeks in Columbus, a microcosm of a Buckeyes season that hasn't been short on storylines.

"It's been a tough week," Meyer admitted. "I told our players, you add in the fact you lost your Heisman preseason candidate the beginning of the season, we didn't have our offensive captains play the first four or five games of the year. I said you shouldn't be in this situation.

"You have to really reflect upon how that happened. There is not good fortune, the ball didn't bounce your way. We don't believe in that. We believe in an extremely close team, an extremely close team that leans on each other in tough times."

And maybe Meyer's telling the truth, that he doesn't believe in bad luck and that he's just going to roll with the hand he was dealt. But that won't stop him from using it as a motivating factor, as the Buckeyes prepare for their biggest game of the season.

"Every red flag is up, every excuse is out there to not play well, to not win a game, to lose a game," Meyer said on Monday. "You have some really good built-in excuses. To overcome the incredible tragedy that happened last night, this is a real challenge. We're going to watch it very closely. I can tell you this: extremely close team that does a lot of things together and cares about each other."

On its third option at quarterback and with all Ohio State's been though this season, one gets the sense that the Buckeyes are playing with house money, and Meyer knows it. Ohio State has every reason to lose, but still so much is on the line, and despite all of the obstacles it's faced, Meyer likes where his team stands.

"There's been a high energy. There's a lot of energy with our team right now. Very positive," Meyer said. "This team's been through a lot. And they keep grinding. And they keep winning."


Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Big Ten Championship 2014: How Wisconsin Can Beat Ohio State

Talk surrounding the Big Ten Championship has started and ended with the starting quarterback for Ohio State, but for Wisconsin, the objective remains very much the same: finding a way to beat the Buckeyes and secure a Big Ten Championship.

How can the Badgers accomplish that feat? Well, the task looked a lot more difficult with Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett healthy, upright and on his way to a historic season with 34 touchdowns through the air and another 11 on the ground.

But to take a page straight out of the John Madden playbook, you win by scoring more points than the other team, and by that line of thinking, what the Badgers must do on offense hasn't changed.

The star player for Wisconsin is running back Melvin Gordon, a name that Big Ten country will be happy to soon see paired with an NFL team after what he's done to nearly every opponent over the past few seasons.

Gordon is averaging just a hair under eight yards per carry in 2014, and his worst game against a Big Ten opponent was rushing for 122 yards and three scores on Maryland. He has five games this season with over 200 yards on the ground, including three out of the last four games. Oh, and there's a 408-yard, four-score outing against Nebraska.

Needless to say, the Badgers can not only win by rushing the ball, it's the only way to secure a victory. Quarterbacks Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy have combined to throw for just 1,774 yards with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

The impressive aspect of Wisconsin's offense is that even without balance, the Badgers have maintained an identity en route to a 10-2 record. Smashmouth football isn't just being physical and running the football, it's trampling all over teams even when they know what's coming.

Checking in with the Ohio State defense, you'll see a unit that ranks 40th against the run, allowing a modest 145 yards per game. However, the Buckeyes allowed over 200 yards on the ground to both Minnesota and Indiana. The Golden Gopher's David Cobb had 145 yards and three scores against Ohio State, and Tevin Coleman piled up 228 yards and three touchdowns.

Even in a win over Michigan State, the Buckeyes allowed Jeremy Langford to rush for 137 yards and three touchdowns. While Urban Meyer would love to see balance from his defense, he knows where the focus should be against the Badgers, via Austin Ward of

When you do devote so much time to pass defense and actually think from the back end first, at times you’ll give up some rush yards. What we want to do is be flexible enough to do both. But this is as good of a rushing team as there is in the country, so we have to devote some more personnel to stopping the run.

It doesn't take a genius to work out the equation of what could happen when Ohio State faces the best running back in college football, so as we've become accustomed to seeing, the Badgers will run the ball early and often and see where it gets them on the scoreboard.

Moving to the other side of the ball is where things can get tricky. Barrett was a Heisman Trophy-caliber quarterback for the Buckeyes, and what we know of new starter Cardale Jones comes from high school game tape and stats (mostly) accumulated in garbage time.

On the season, Jones is 10-of-17 for 118 yards and a pair of scores, but he's also rushed for 206 yards on just 26 carries. He's 6'5", 250 pounds, so a way-too-early comparison to Cam Newton might be appropriate.

But as is the case with any new player under the spotlight for the first time, you've got to make him uncomfortable and keep him from doing what normally comes easiest, which is running ball.

Regardless of a player's passing ability at the high school level, college football is completely different in every way imaginable, so while Jones has been able to get his feet wet, he hasn't faced a defense that will get a week to game-plan for his strengths and weaknesses.

In short, Wisconsin needs to test his arm and force him to throw the ball down the field. Ohio State isn't likely to come out and throw the entire playbook out there, and the safe idea is to attempt to establish the run between Jones and Ezekiel Elliott with short passes mixed in.

If you ever wonder why coaches appear to be conservative earlier in games, it's because they're looking for the easiest possible route to victory. If running the football is working and you can score points without risking throwing the ball behind a new signal-caller, why would you try anything else?

The danger for the Badgers is that if the Buckeyes are indeed able to run the ball early on, it could spell major trouble. Barrett had some advice for Jones on how to approach the biggest game of his young career, via Austin Ward of

Don't try to do it all yourself. We've got a great offensive line; they've gotten better since Week 2. The offense as a whole, we've just gotten better offensively from Week 2. He doesn't have to do it all by himself. We've got a great group of receivers ... and we can hand it off to the running backs, so you don't have to win the game.

The best-case scenario is stopping Jones and Elliott early, forcing Urban Meyer to look farther down on his call sheet and take some chances.

Taking chances is something you'd hope to avoid with a player who hasn't earned trust, and that's when the Badgers should have opportunities to force turnovers and create game-changing plays on defense.

Anyone pretending to have an elegant solution for how the Badgers can score on offense is lying: The answer has been and will continue to be Melvin Gordon running the football. He's the very best at what he does, and the style works well behind a dominant offensive line.

Coaches don't ask for advantages, but facing Jones at quarterback should be one of them if Wisconsin can crowd the line of scrimmage, make him uncomfortable and keep him confused about why guys aren't wide open like they were in high school.

The Buckeyes will have a similar game plan on defense, but the Badgers have proven they can beat opponents even when they gear up to stop the run. Ohio State hasn't had to face a defense without a tested signal-caller to keep it in check, and therein lies the key to a Wisconsin victory on Saturday night.

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Nebraska Chancellor Defends Hiring Mike Riley over Bret Bielema with YOLO Tweet

When Nebraska hired Mike Riley as head coach, many Cornhuskers fans questioned why Arkansas' Bret Bielema wasn't lured to Lincoln.

Well, Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman put those thoughts to bed with this amazing YOLO tweet:

Chancellor Perlman nailed it—you don't want a coach who might bolt at the next opportunity.

We already know though, Chancellor Perlman knows that's the motto. YOLO.


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SEC Championship Game 2014: Missouri's Defensive Front a Problem for Alabama?

ATLANTA — One thing became abundantly clear during Alabama's 55-44 win over Auburn last weekend in Tuscaloosa: Quarterback Blake Sims can be rattled.

Sims threw three interceptions and Auburn built a 33-21 lead early in the third quarter before he got it together, hooked up with wide receiver Amari Cooper two more times and led the Tide to the big win.

If Missouri has a chance to spring the upset at the SEC Championship Game on Saturday, it's going to have to rattle Sims again.

The good news for the Tigers is that they have the personnel to do just that.

Defensive end Shane Ray has an SEC-best 12 sacks this season, while fellow defensive end Markus Golden has 8.5. The duo is better than anything Auburn had in terms of getting after the quarterback, and Alabama head coach Nick Saban knows the kind of challenge Ray and Golden present.

"The challenge is, can you keep a hat on a hat with these guys and not let them get the kind of penetration to create the negative plays and the disruptions to your offense?" he said on Friday. "The way they play defense, when they get you behind on down and distance, that plays right into their hands. It's going to be really important to be able to control the line of scrimmage and not allow these guys to get a lot of penetration with their movement and their quickness."

The Crimson Tide have given up 11 sacks all year—the fewest in the SEC. It'll be strength vs. strength in the trenches when Alabama has the ball in passing situations.

One man in charge of keeping them at bay is freshman offensive tackle Cam Robinson. Robinson banged up his shoulder last week against Auburn but has practiced this week and should be good to go Saturday vs. the Tigers.

"I don't think anybody is really 100 percent at this time of year," Saban said. "He has practiced all week and we do expect him to play in the game."

Missouri's been able to get after the quarterback, but don't tell head coach Gary Pinkel that it matters, because he downplayed his team's ability to get pressure on the quarterback on Friday.

"It sounds good that we get to the quarterback a lot." he said. "We have. But they've done a great job protecting. It's going to be interesting to see who wins that battle as the game goes on."

This is where the game will be won and lost, and Missouri absolutely has the horses to get after Sims. When that happens, the ball will be in Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin's court to make an adjustment.

As D.C. Reeves of noted earlier this week, the protection schemes in the Alabama offense have evolved over the season to a point where the role of running backs and tight ends in pass-blocking is almost nonexistent:

How much will Alabama's offense change if five isn't enough?

That will be the key to the game.

Missouri will force Sims to scramble and make quick decisions on the run, as he has done so many times throughout the season—15-minute stretch in the Iron Bowl notwithstanding.

If he can not only find Cooper, but tight end O.J. Howard, a running back out of the backfield if he's not blocking and other safety valves, he should find success.

Missouri has the talent, and whether Robinson is healthy or not, there will be times when Golden and Ray get into the backfield and force Sims to make quick decisions. It'll be up to Sims to make sure the events that allowed Auburn to build a lead in the Iron Bowl don't repeat themselves.

If they do, that'll be Missouri's best shot to spring the upset and create more college football chaos during the final week of the season.


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

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

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Meet Mike Riley, the New Head Coach of Nebraska Football

Say hello to your new head coach, Nebraska fans. Mike Riley is officially in charge.

Riley is an Idaho native and a graduate of the University of Alabama. He played for Paul “Bear” Bryant and won three SEC titles and one national championship, per Despite earning a bachelor’s degree in Social Science, Riley said he was born to coach football.

"For me personally, I never knew what else there was to be besides a football coach," he said during his introductory press conference. "I went to college and got my history degree, and I have never taught history."

Riley was signed to a five-year contract and will earn $2.7 million per year. He will have an automatic $100,000 increase every year of his contract, as Eric Olson of the Associated Press reported.

That's not all you need to know about Nebraska's new head coach, though. From his experience to his ability to develop talent, fans have a lot to learn about the man from Corvallis, Oregon.

Here's what you need to know about Riley.


He's Well Liked

This is important. While winning championships are too, Shawn Eichorst was clear that it means nothing if it's not done the right way.

"I want us to compete for Big Ten championships and national championships," Eichorst said. "But those pursuits are meaningless unless we do it the right way: with class, sportsmanship and integrity."

Riley embodies those traits. Looking at the national media's reaction to Nebraska hiring Riley shows that.

Unfortunately, Bo Pelini never was able to really create that relationship with the public. While @FauxPelini and the famous cat helped, it wasn't enough in the end.

As for Riley, he has a slew of fans from all across the country. Nebraska fans may be getting used to the new coach, but one thing everyone can rest easy with: Riley is well liked.


He Can Recruit, but More Importantly: He Can Develop Talent

Riley knows how to recruit. However, looking at his recruiting class rankings while at Oregon State may not give the most confidence to fans. The Omaha World-Herald, using, put together those rankings for reference:

The Omaha World-Herald didn't stop there, though. The newspaper also highlighted AP All-Americans Oregon State produced in those same years.

It's interesting to look at, isn't it? What it shows is that Riley may not recruit the flashiest, highest-rated players, but what he does instead is find the raw talent and develop it.

Many have said Nebraska has better resources than Oregon State. The question was even brought up in Riley's introductory press conference.

"You know, I think that resource-wise I tend to be one of those guys that looks at the bright side," he said. "So what you have you enhance, and what you don’t have you try to make better."

It also doesn't hurt that Riley has recruiting ties in Texas—a state Nebraska focused on heavily while a member of the Big 12, although a slight shift in recruits from the Longhorn state has happened as a result of the conference change. Husker fans would like to see more attention put back in Texas, which is something Riley can do.

So take heart, Nebraska fans. Riley's recruiting rankings may not look impressive at first, but they don't tell the whole story.


He Has Experience

There's no denying the experience Riley brings to the table. In fact, it may be the most impressive aspect of his resume if you had to pick one.

The experience was enough to impress junior offensive lineman Givens Price. After Riley was introduced, a few players had a chance to speak with the media.

“I really wasn’t sure who he was but I did a little research myself, and I was impressed with the things that I’ve read," Price said. "I know he was in the NFL, and he’s been coaching for a while. When you have that much experience, you’ve been bouncing around; you’re going to be good at what you do. So I’ve been reading he’s an incredible teacher so I’m looking forward to that.”

Price is right. Riley has been coaching for some time, not only in the United States.

As a coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League, Riley won two Grey Cup championships, which brings intrigue to those in the college football realm.

Nebraska fans obviously want Riley to win championships. Eichorst believes the experience the 61-year-old coach has will pay off in the long run.

"Simply, we will win with Mike," Eichorst said.


He Appreciates Nebraska's History

At the podium during his press conference, Riley couldn't say enough about the history and tradition of Nebraska football.

“My knowledge of football about Nebraska goes back to what everybody knows of Nebraska football nationally," he said. "That was me, except I was a freshman on that team that Johnny Rogers ran all over in the Orange Bowl against Alabama. So I am deeply respectful of history and tradition in our world of college sports. Nebraska has it."

He also referenced one of former Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne's books and how he has used it to draw inspiration from prior to team meetings.

Additionally, Riley respects Nebraska's storied tradition of the walk-on program. As a result, he fully intends to keep it in place.

"I think, historically, it’s been one of the neat things about Nebraska football," he said. "The tradition of so many walk-on players and contributions they’ve made to the program. Believe me, I am all for it. "

If Nebraska fans feel good about nothing else, Riley's understanding of what Nebraska has been and what it can be again has to be bright spot.


All quotes obtained firsthand via the Huskers' introductory press conference, unless otherwise noted.

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The 3 Biggest X-Factors for Florida State vs. Georgia Tech

It all comes down to this. Despite being the lone undefeated team in the nation and the reigning national champions, No. 4 Florida State is clinging to its spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

A win Saturday night against No. 11 Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship will almost certainly send the Seminoles into the playoffs—but a loss halts a 28-game winning streak and crushes those championship dreams.

So, who are the three biggest X-factors for Florida State in this game? Let’s take a look.

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Notre Dame Football: Steadiest Positions for Irish After Regular Season

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — So much attention in the past week has centered around Notre Dame football’s widespread problems after a 49-14 whipping at the hands of USC on Saturday.

Earlier this week, we investigated the biggest questions for the Irish during the bowl season. Now we’ll examine Notre Dame’s positions of strength, an exercise that reveals the strong points of the Irish squad while also showing how uncertain many positions are moving forward.

Let’s have at it.


Running Back

Sophomore running back Tarean Folston emerged as the top back as the season sped along, and his development alone would have positioned running back as one of Notre Dame’s steadiest positions.

But fellow sophomore back Greg Bryant also flashed against USC—tallying a career-high 79 yards on the ground. We’ll need to see more from Bryant before his role in the backfield becomes a certainty, but the Irish certainly have the pieces in place.

Folston racked up 816 rushing yards and averaged 5.3 yards per rush, while Bryant has notched 287 yards on 52 carries (5.5 yards per carry).

Irish head coach Brian Kelly has praised Folston’s recent improvement in pass protection—the one key area that had been holding him back, in the estimation of Kelly—and Bryant surged back onto the radar against the Trojans, especially in the second half. Can he carry that momentum forward?

The Irish should feel confident in their backs heading into the bowl game and 2015.


Wide Receiver

Let’s call the drop-ridden USC game an aberration for a receiving corps that eclipsed expectations this season. With no proven pass-catcher on the roster for the season opener against Rice in August, the group of youngsters stepped up and delivered.

Sophomore Will Fuller has headlined the contingent with his 14 touchdown grabs, tied with Alabama star receiver Amari Cooper for the second most in the country. Fellow sophomore Corey Robinson has impressed as both a possession receiver, especially on underneath routes, and as a red-zone target, where he utilizes his lanky 6’4.5” frame.

Meanwhile, senior Amir Carlisle and junior C.J. Prosise held down the slot, while junior Chris Brown was actually third on the team in receptions and yards.

“He’s played well the last three weeks,” Kelly said of Brown before the USC game. “Really have seen a different guy after the Arizona State game, just seen a look in his eye that has the makings for me of what I’ve wanted to see from him all year. Just he wants it bad.”

The Irish boasted depth at the position entering the season. Now, the deep position has added experience and production, a combination that bodes well for 2015 to catch plenty of passes from Notre Dame’s quarterback—whomever that may be.



Saturday’s performance against Cody Kessler and the Trojans doesn’t accurately justify the strength of this position moving forward. Notre Dame left its cornerbacks in man-to-man coverage, and Kessler tossed six touchdowns.

But sophomore Cole Luke has emerged as a strong cornerback for the Irish. Before the USC game, Kelly said Luke “is turning into an ‘A’ player.” Kelly said the second-year defensive back was probably a ‘C’ player entering the season and is currently a ‘B+’ based on his impressive season.

Fellow sophomore Devin Butler has earned increased playing time in recent weeks with graduate student Cody Riggs battling a stress reaction in his foot. Though Butler has been burned for a few touchdowns, his extra experience this season should pay off moving forward.

Notre Dame is also scheduled to receive a big boost from cornerback KeiVarae Russell, who has announced his intention to return to the program in the summer in preparation for the 2015 season. Should nickelback Matthias Farley come back for a fifth year—as is expected—Notre Dame will have a solid lineup of corners to man the perimeter.


All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco on Twitter.

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ACC Championship 2014: How RB Karlos Williams' Injury Will Impact Florida State

Facing their toughest challenge of the season in Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game, the Florida State Seminoles will be without running back Karlos Williams as they look to polish off a second straight undefeated regular season, per

Just like every first-half deficit, Jameis Winston pick, off-field controversy and on-field blunder, it isn't going to affect the Seminoles one bit.

This is a team that has been through the gauntlet both on and off the field—soft schedule be darned—and losing a key leader shouldn't leave head coach Jimbo Fisher and company worse for the wear as they approach Saturday's matchup with the Yellow Jackets.

There are two main reasons why Williams' absence won't affect Florida State, and it starts with the fact that the Seminoles' rushing attack isn't very good to begin with.

In other words, it hasn't played a huge role in the victories in 2014, so why should it be a big deal now?

In 2013, Florida State finished with the 28th-best rushing offense at just over 200 yards per game. The Seminoles' backs averaged 5.63 yards per carry collectively.

In 2014, Florida State is 105th in country in the same category with just 131 yards on the ground per game and its backs are barely notching four yards per carry.

You could look at those numbers and determine that by losing one of their top two backs, the Seminoles are in even more trouble than usual.

But the point is that the rushing attack hasn't produced even with Williams on the field. There's no doubt his leadership in crunch time will be missed, and the 10 touchdowns Williams has on the ground are nothing to scoff at.

At best, however, Williams has been a player tasked with keeping defenses honest. He isn't the focal point of either side's game plan and has just one 100-yard outing on the season.

All of this wouldn't hold much weight if it weren't for the second and more important reason Florida State will be fine without Williams: freshman freak Dalvin Cook.

As the lightning to Williams' thunder, Cook has burst onto the scene in his first year in Tallahassee and rushed for 728 yards and seven touchdowns. Against Miami, Cook had 92 yards on just seven carries, two of which went for scores.

There are certain backs who look like they're moving at a different speed with the football in hand, and Cook is one of them. He cuts without slowing down, accelerates like he's on a drag strip and outruns anyone and everyone in the open field.

Cook didn't play in the season opener against Oklahoma State, and through the team's first five games, he had just 128 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries.

He's since posted three 100-yard rushing efforts, and while he still lacks the bruising, between-the-tackles ability of Williams—not to mention experience in the system—he's become the Seminoles' best option on the ground.

Cook isn't some freshman racking up yards in garbage time, either. Florida State's struggles have been well-documented, with four out of the last six wins coming by five or fewer points.

In the 2013 regular season, there wasn't a single game in doubt heading into the fourth quarter.

What it means is Cook shouldn't be intimidated by the opponent or the stage, even if the game is close in crunch time. When he does tote the rock, he won't be up against the 1985 Chicago Bears either. The Yellow Jackets are 72nd in the country in rush defense, allowing nearly 170 yards per game.

His teammates have plenty of confidence that he can get the job done, too. "There's not enough positive things you can say about Dalvin. He's been very, very vital to our success," senior center Cameron Erving told

Fisher explained to reporters how bringing Cook along at the right pace has been important for his development:

Sometimes when young backs are in the game, you have to call when they get the ball or a couple pass protections that they understand.If you don't, they can be in trouble because your star quarterback can get killed. ... Now his knowledge and learning of the whole offense, I think, is what's growing and you feel confident with him in there and he's running the football really well.

The key to victory has been and will continue to be limiting mistakes early so the stage isn't set for a comeback late. If the Winston from 2013 decides to show up, it won't matter who's in the backfield because Florida State can build a lead and coast to a win.

What's likelier to happen is what we've seen in recent weeks: the 'Noles feeling out their opponent and finding a way to win no matter how it looks.

Even if Winston goes off, Georgia Tech has earned enough respect that folks won't assume it'll roll over and die.

Williams has never been the key cog in the offense, and his backup is playing at a higher level. Cook's ability to break off long runs should force the Yellow Jackets to creep in toward the box, at which point Winston will have numerous opportunities to showcase his skills throwing the ball downfield.

Is Williams being ruled out a tough break for the kid and the team? Absolutely, but when you're Florida State, there aren't many problems you can't find answers to.

Losing Williams for the biggest game of the season is a problem, and the answer lies in the arm of Winston and the freshman freak.


Statistics courtesy of

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Coaches Jim McElwain Should Target to Fill out Florida Staff

Former Colorado State coach Jim McElwain may not be a "wow" hire for Florida, but the response he has received has generally been positive. 

"Everyone in Gainesville should rejoice for the type of coach he can be," SEC Network analyst Greg McElroy said. McElroy played quarterback for McElwain from 2008-10 at Alabama. 

Will McElwain be a good head coach for Florida? The only time that can be evaluated is four or five years in the future. But here's what McElwain can do right now to get off to a good start: Hire an excellent staff. 

Hiring a solid staff is as important as anything McElwain will do on the recruiting trail or the field, if not more so. It lays the foundation for everything else he will do going forward. 

As Scott Roussel of tweeted earlier this week, McElwain's staff at Colorado State was better equipped to recruit Colorado and Mountain West Conference area as opposed to Florida and SEC territory. In essence, he'd have to start largely, if not completely, from scratch. 

That means evaluating the assistants left behind from the Will Muschamp staff and likely bringing in some new faces. Which direction will McElwain look? Here's a short list of some possibilities:


Offensive Coordinator

Names to Watch: Billy Napier, Doug Nussmeier 

McElwain is an offensive coach with a background in coaching up quarterbacks. Because of that, he'll always have a hand in the offense. But expect Florida's new offensive coordinator to have a similar background. 

The two names who have emerged at and are Alabama receivers coach Billy Napier and Michigan offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. Napier and McElwain previously worked together at Alabama and Colorado State, and Nussmeier actually succeeded McElwain as the Tide's offensive coordinator in 2012. 

McElwain is clearly fond of Napier, hiring him as the assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach at Colorado State in 2012. The chance for a promotion would probably be enough to lure Napier to Gainesville.

However, Nussmeier is also an excellent option. He's had success as the OC at Fresno State, Washington and Alabama, but the situation at Michigan was too dire from him to make an impact in year one. The experiment in Ann Arbor didn't work out, so it wouldn't be surprising for Nussmeier to try his luck elsewhere. 


Defensive Coordinator

Name to Watch: D.J. Durkin

While McElwain may look elsewhere for an offensive coordinator, his defensive coordinator may already be on Florida's coaching staff.

D.J. Durkin just finished his first year as the Gators' DC but has been on the coaching staff since 2010. Florida may have been a disappointment in 2014, but that was hardly Durkin's fault. The Gators gave up just 21 points per game, finished second in the SEC in yards per rush allowed (3.16) and third in yards per pass attempt (5.9). 

There's an argument to be made that those numbers could be even better if Florida's offense was able to stay on the field longer instead of converting just 35 percent of its third downs. 


Other Positions

Name to Watch: Travaris Robinson, Chris Leak 

Robinson, better known as T-Rob, has been Florida's defensive backs coach since 2011 and is the team's recruiting coordinator. He's coached secondary players like Matt Elam and Vernon Hargreaves III, but he may be better known as an ace recruiter.

In fact, ESPN graded Robinson as the No. 1 recruiter in college football in October of last year. Florida has finished with a top-10 recruiting class nationally in each of the last three years, according to

Since Robinson joined the Gators' staff, three defensive backs—Elam, Jaylen Watkins and Josh Evans—have been drafted into the NFL

Leak is an interesting option to keep on the staff. The former Gators quarterback has been on Muschamp's staff for two years, first as graduate assistant and then wide receivers coach. Florida's wide receivers have been an inconsistent group, but Demarcus Robinson has emerged this season with 47 catches for 774 yards and seven touchdowns. Additionally, Leak is also a good recruiter. 


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of

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LSU Football: Ranking Best Tigers from 2014 Regular Season

LSU did not have the season it wanted. 

The Tigers finished 8-4, which is their worst mark since 2008. But it could have been even worse. 

Credit must be given to LSU for salvaging a season that was met with an 0-2 conference start. The Tigers would win four of their remaining six conference games, finishing with an impressive 23-17 win on the road against Texas A&M.

LSU head coach Les Miles and the rest of the coaching staff deserve credit for making some changes after the slow start. The players responded with a three-game winning streak and a valiant effort against Alabama. 

Here are the six Tigers that stuck out above the rest this season.

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Thomas Tyner Injury: Updates on Oregon RB's Shoulder and Return

The Oregon Ducks won't get running back Thomas Tyner back in time for the Pac-12 Championship Game. He reportedly didn't travel with the team to face the Arizona Wildcats at Levi's Stadium on Friday night.

Aaron Fentress of Comcast SportsNet reports it will be the third straight game he's missed: "Oregon running back Thomas Tyner will miss his third consecutive game when the Ducks face Arizona in tonight's Pac-12 Championship Game in Santa Clara, Calif., according to a team source. Tyner did not travel with the team."

Tyner ranks third on the team in rushing behind Royce Freeman and quarterback Marcus Mariota. Freeman figures to continue playing a more extensive role within the high-powered offense. Byron Marshall will likely pick up the remaining slack.


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Notre Dame Football: Ranking Irish's Top Performers from 2014 Regular Season

While Notre Dame awaits its postseason destination, the stench coming from the Irish's November performance still hangs in the air. A 7-5 record came after the Irish started 6-0, a young and injury-depleted roster crashing. That collapse has done its best to shake the foundation of a program that appeared on solid footing. 

That's still likely the case. But a four-game losing streak and a blowout loss to USC—the worst of the Brian Kelly era—has Irish fans questioning everything, including their head coach. 

But the season wasn't all disappointment. We saw numerous young players emerge, including a sophomore class that looks like it has what it takes to lead Notre Dame into the College Football Playoff.

The offense scored more points than any Irish offense since Charlie Weis' 2005 team, doing so with mostly underclassmen at skill positions and all but Ben Koyack and Christian Lombard returning.

While defensive struggles in first-year coordinator Brian VanGorder's system saw the Irish give up more than 30 points in seven straight games to end the season, when the unit was healthy it performed well. 

Let's take a look back and rank the regular-season's top performers.

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Wisconsin vs. Ohio State: TV, Live Stream Info, Preview for Big Ten Championship

With two Heisman contenders under center lost for the year, Urban Meyer's Ohio State Buckeyes have never been more vulnerable as they head into the Big Ten Championship Game against the Wisconsin Badgers. 

Outside of an early-September loss, the Buckeyes have run the table this season and stand a legitimate chance at making the College Football Playoff. But the task is more difficult than ever now that the staff is forced to turn to sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones at the worst possible time.

Wisconsin has no CFP aspirations at this point thanks to a season-opening loss to LSU and a horrific loss to Northwestern on the resume. What Gary Andersen's team does have is lofty bowl expectations and a Heisman contender in the backfield by the name of Melvin Gordon.

These two put on a show last season and are sure to do so once again with so much on the line. Anything less will be a resounding disappointment. 


When: Saturday, Dec. 6, 8:17 p.m. ET

Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana

Television: Fox 

Live Stream:FoxSportsGo



The weight of the world falls on Jones, who has attempted all of 17 passes this season.

The cleats to fill are quite large. J.T. Barrett replaced Braxton Miller and threw for 2,834 yards and 34 touchdowns to become a Heisman contender himself while allowing the Buckeyes to rank fifth nationally in scoring.

Jones is, of course, taking the task at hand in a serious manner, as illustrated by Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch:

Inexperience under center is just that, though, which means one of the nation's top defenses can sell out to stop the Ohio State ground game if Jones does not prove early and often that he can go over the top.

The showdown on paper is one between a top defense and offense:

Much of that hinges on Jones, as it does Ohio State lead back Ezekiel Elliott. The sophomore has rushed for 1,182 yards and 10 scores this season on a 6.0 yard-per-carry average but faces the toughest challenge of his season with Wisconsin so focused on stopping him.

In turn, the focal point for Ohio State suddenly comes on the defensive side of the ball.

The Buckeyes may rank 29th defensively, but just last season the unit did the unthinkable and held Gordon in check. Wisconsin rushed for just 104 yards, its lowest total in any game over the course of the past two seasons.

For Buckeyes defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, the task at hand boils down to the fundamentals.

"In order to stop a running game, you've got to have great team defense, you've got to surround the ball, you've got to build a wall at the line of scrimmage, you've got to swarm tackles," Fickell said, per The Associated Press (via

Not only does it sound simple, the Buckeyes have already proved they can do it. 

Except it is never that easy with Gordon this year.

Gordon has rushed for 200 or more yards in five games this season and has 31 rushes of 20 yards or more, good for a higher total than 118 of 124 teams. As ESPN's Joe Schad points out, the Heisman contender turns up his play against strong competition, too:

Joey Bosa and the Ohio State defense have a lot of work to do, to say the least. It at least helps, though, that the unit will not need to worry about Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave (1,042 yards, eight touchdowns, four interceptions) all that much.

When they do, the Buckeyes just so happen to rank 11th in the nation with 37 sacks on the season.

That said, the unit is in its worst stretch of the season at the moment considering its last four opponents have scored 37, 24, 27 and 28 points, respectively. Going into a matchup with a player as talented as Gordon, that places a shadow of doubt over whether or not the Buckeyes can beat the Badgers at their own game.

If Saturday was Jones' second or third start, perhaps it would be easier to roll with the Buckeyes. But his first start comes in a conference title game against a Top 15 team that can control the pace of the game with a Heisman contender on the ground.

This time Gordon will have his revenge. The collective stress level of the CFP committee will be in great debt to the man, too.

Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Ohio State 24


Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.


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Tyron Johnson Tweets Top 5: Which Program Is Best Fit for 5-Star WR?

Top Louisiana prospect Tyron Johnson is among the most heavily pursued offensive playmakers leading up to national signing day. The 5-star receiver provided some insight on where he currently stands in the process Friday morning, tweeting his top-five list:

Johnson, a 6'1", 191-pound playmaker from Warren Easton High School in New Orleans, included in-state powerhouse LSU. The Tigers must contend with SEC opponents Auburn and Georgia, along with Big 12 teams Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.

Rated second nationally among receivers and 21st overall in 247Sports' composite rankings, Johnson could provide immediate big-play ability at the university of his choice. The Under Armour All-American has tallied more than 1,500 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns while leading Warren Easton to a state title game appearance, per James Smith of

He is also a top kick returner in the 2015 class.

Now that we know which teams are vying for his commitment, let's take a closer look at each option.



Johnson labeled Auburn his "leader" in early November and spent time on campus this summer. However, he was unable to follow through with a scheduled official visit last month due to high school playoff commitments.

It remains to be seen whether Gus Malzahn will successfully schedule a makeup date with Johnson. Auburn holds a commitment from top-ranked junior college running back Jovon Robinson and is looking to also secure a standout downfield target in this class.

Along with Johnson, the team remains in the mix for fellow 5-star receiver Chrsitian Kirk. The Tigers may need to replace a significant portion of production in the passing game, as top targets D'haquille Williams and Sammie Coates could both consider leaving early for the NFL.

Senior Quan Bray ranks second on the team in receptions.

If Williams and Coates remain on campus, Johnson wouldn't necessarily need to step up until 2016. Several offensive recruits are enamored with Malzahn's attack, and Johnson is at least very interested.



Mark Richt and his staff have made receiver a priority position during this recruiting cycle. The Bulldogs landed 4-star pass-catcher Darius Slayton earlier this week, giving the team five prospects who are expected to end up at receiver next year.

Georgia has received underwhelming returns from recent signees at the position. Throw in the fact that leading receivers Michael Bennett and Chris Conley are seniors and it becomes apparent that additional depth is needed.

The Bulldogs have a young stockpile of talent in the offensive backfield and already hold a commitment from heralded 2016 quarterback Jacob Eason. Johnson would further enhance the future potential for an abundance of points, but Georgia has done an excellent job addressing its issues at receiver to this point.



Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron aims to add to his impressive collection of in-state receivers and Johnson is the latest prize up for grabs. Last signing day, the Tigers landed Louisiana targets in 5-star prospect Malachi Dupre and all-time high school receptions leader Trey Quinn.

The duo have made a modest impact this season as LSU's passing game has largely sputtered due to inconsistent quarterback play. Sophomore Travin Dural is the only player who caught more than 20 passes during the regular season, a far cry from past LSU attacks that featured an abundances of NFL prospects.

That statistic may scare off receiver targets, but Johnson is comfortable with the Tigers staff. He's been on LSU's radar for a long time and holds substantial relationships with coaches and players alike.

However, we saw 5-star New Orleans receiver Speedy Noil spurn the team for Texas A&M last signing day and he's enjoyed immense success beyond state borders. Odds are in favor of Johnson taking a similar route.


Oklahoma State

The Cowboys have been known as a prolific passing team in recent years, highlighted by the success of eventual first-round NFL picks Dez Bryant and Justin Blackmon. The downfield attack isn't operating with nearly as much efficiency this season, but a weapon like Johnson could reinvigorate things.

Oklahoma State is still searching for an elite receiver in this cycle and coaches are likely doing all they can to line up an official visit with the New Orleans star. If the team can get him on campus for a weekend, its chances of actually pulling in his signature improve exponentially.

However, as along as he remains a stranger, there probably isn't a bigger long shot on this list than the Cowboys.


Texas Tech

The Red Raiders were an early leader in this race and remain a strong contender despite the program's disappointing season. Texas Tech fans are still largely fired up about the team's future with former quarterback Kliff Kingsbury leading the way, and that excitement extends into recruiting.

Texas Tech is on the verge of landing one of its strongest classes, headlined by Jarrett Stidham. The 5-star quarterback threw for more than 60 touchdowns throughout his past two seasons at Stephenville High School in Texas, surpassing 900 rushing yards during each campaign.

Johnson and Stidham could form a prolific duo for years to come in Lubbock. Aside from Oklahoma State, the Red Raiders presents his best option for emerging as a No. 1 target in 2015.

With Stidham on board, give the team a slight edge. Texas Tech is the top choice and best fit for Johnson two months shy of signing day.


Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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