NCAA Football News
The BCS bowls are just around the corner, but some contests are already forgone conclusions. Games like the national title game and the Rose Bowl are sure to drop a few jaws, but there are two that stand out with a clear winner already.
Let's take a look at these two matchups in depth and why two teams might as well celebrate right now.
Baylor in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
The Bears will be taking on No. 15 UCF, which is appearing in its first-ever BCS bowl game. The Knights have a stingy defense that only allows 19.6 points per game. That is sure to change after playing Baylor.
Bryce Petty and the Bears offense boast a nation-best 53.3 points per game and just blew out Texas 30-10 before bowl season. In fact, Baylor has scored at least 30 points in three of its last four contests.
UCF should be proud for making it to the Fiesta Bowl, but don't expect a nail-biting affair in this one. Quarterback Blake Bortles and running back Storm Johnson combined for 33 touchdowns on the year.
Petty has thrown for 30 on his own, while rusher Lache Seastrunk boasts 11 on the ground. The Bears offense might not throw up 53 points in this one, but 30 is a reasonable expectation. The same can't be said for the Knights.
UCF went 1-1 against ranked opponents during the season, defeating Louisville, but it couldn't edge out South Carolina. Expect the Knights to fall to 1-2 in that category after the Bears are through.
Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl
The Sugar Bowl will feature some historic programs in Alabama and Oklahoma, but Nick Saban's team would have to do a lot wrong to lose this one.
Alabama was a touchdown away from the national title game, and Oklahoma already lost to lesser opponents in Baylor and Texas. And that's no knock against either school, the Crimson Tide are just that good.
AJ McCarron and T.J. Yeldon are a deadly duo on offense, and the defense is only allowing a microscopic 11.3 points per contest. The win against Oklahoma State is encouraging for the Sooners, but even the Cowboys don't exactly measure up to Alabama.
Comparing Blake Bell and McCarron at quarterback is not even fair to the former. McCarron will likely become an early-round NFL draft pick. Bell is not exactly in that echelon of passers.
Bell will have fits moving the chains against this Crimson Tide defense that held LSU to 17 points and shut out Ole Miss earlier this year. The Sooners will put up a fight at least in the early goings, but Saban is going to leave the Sugar Bowl field with that signature grin on his face.
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Editor's note: This is the fifth installment in Bleacher Report's CFB 250 for the 2013 season. This signature series runs through December, with National College Football Lead Writer Michael Felder ranking the best players at every position. You can read more about the series in this introductory article. See the CFB 250 page for more rankings.
Interior linemen often go unnoticed compared to their outside counterparts, the cornerstone left tackles who get all the accolades for protecting the quarterback. This season is no different, as the guards and centers travel more under the radar than the high-profile tackles.
Guards and centers are integral to the efforts of a team in both the run and the pass. These are the guys who take care of the push from the defensive tackles and handle the defenders who attempt to penetrate between the center and guard. A quality interior lineman needs good pass protection and high level run-blocking skills.
We looked around the nation, viewing run-heavy and pass-heavy schemes in putting together this list. Looking at both pass- and run-blocking, we’ve put together the B/R CFB 250 list for the best collegiate interior linemen. And if there were any ties, the edge went to the player we would rather have.
Keep in mind, these interior linemen are being rated on their performance in college, not NFL potential. But to see where these players may go in the NFL draft (whether they are eligible in 2014 or later), check out Bleacher Report draft expert Matt Miller's projection at the end of each player slide.
Winston took part in the well-known "Top Ten" segment, and the topic was fittingly "unusual things to hear in a huddle."
As you might expect, the No. 1 spot on the list was Heisman-related. Winston, who was looking dapper in a tuxedo, exclaimed, "How many of you guys won the Heisman?"
That is something Winston already knows plenty about, and his smooth delivery suggests that he may have a future in television as well.
The college freshman looked comfortable on national television, and that certainly bodes well for him since he and the Seminoles will take on the Auburn Tigers in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 6.
Winston was the runaway Heisman Trophy winner this season, and he became the youngest recipient in the prestigious history of the award.
Congrats to Jameis Winston! The youngest player EVER to win the Heisman at age 19.— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) December 15, 2013
Winston looked like a star from the very first game of the season, and that continued to ring true throughout the year. The 6'4", 228-pound Bessemer, Ala., native ended the regular season with 4,013 total yards, 42 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.
Prior to his appearance on Letterman, Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel provided a statement from Winston discussing the importance of football in his life:
The football field is my sanctuary, man. I love all the things about New York, I love the big city. I'm honored that my family is down here with me. But when you're on the football field, it's just a whole different mindset. I've got a big smile on my face because I'm doing something I love.
Sonnone included a statement from 2012 Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel, who added insight for Winston on what life will be like after winning the award:
Life's going to change. This is an extremely big deal. Look around right now. There's a lot of cameras and a lot of mikes, there's a lot of flashes and a lot of fame coming from all this. So I mean, live it up, enjoy it, continue to be yourself and don't let anybody take you from that.
You're going to have to adapt to how life is going to be after this. … then you're going to get the questions next year about hey can you do it again.
Winston displayed a great deal of poise during the Seminoles' undefeated campaign, and he did the same on Letterman.
If his comfort level is any indication, then Florida State is in a very good place as it heads into the biggest clash of the year against Auburn.
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One thing Trojan fans knew they were getting when Steve Sarkisian was hired as the USC head coach was a guy who was a relentless recruiter, and Coach Sark has wasted no time proving that is the case.
Following on the heels of USC landing a pair of Scout.com 4-star prospects—Jonathan Lockett and Claude Pelon—last week, Sark is back this week with a couple more verbals from highly sought-after prospects.
On Sunday, Timberline High School (Boise, Idaho) defensive end Don Hill gave the Trojans his verbal pledge, and while Hill may not be a household name, getting his commitment was a huge coup for Sarkisian and USC.
At 6'4", 225 pounds, Hill is a Scout.com 3-star prospect who would probably be rated much higher if he wasn't coming off of an Achilles heel injury that has sidelined him for most of his senior prep season.
Extremely athletic and with a good frame which will easily pack on more weight, Hill is expected to play a hybrid position where he will alternate putting a hand on the ground and standing up at an outside linebacker position.
But if you look a bit closer, you will also see value in Hill that might not be readily apparent.
With four early enrollment scholarships available and only three players ready to accept them, Sarkisian was desperate to find a quality player to take that last early entrant "schollie," and in Hill, he found a good one.
Hill is expected to use his early time at USC to rehab his foot injury and should be ready to go by fall when things really heat up as the season draws near.
Now with those early enrollment scholarships claimed, Sark and staff can focus on the rest of the 2014 class, and when they do, they will be pleased to see that Scout.com 4-star offensive tackle Chris Brown is among those who have already pledged to the Trojans.
Brown is a huge (6'6", 290 lbs) offensive lineman who has really seen his stock rise over his senior season.
Possessing great feet and relentless in holding his blocks, Brown went from having only a couple of Division I offers to a prospect who had programs such as Texas A&M, Oregon, Nebraska and others vying for his services.
But the Brown verbal also brings up an interesting quandary for Sark and his staff.
Now in possession of five offensive lineman pledges, the recruiting staff may have a decision to make if Scout.com 5-star offensive tackle Damien Mama decides to don the Cardinal and Gold as well.
Mama is a special talent who has USC on his short list, and some might say that he has the Trojans at the very top.
So what does Sark do if Mama pulls the trigger for USC? Can he afford to take six offensive linemen with a small recruiting class and a roster that needs replenishing all around?
Or does he pull a scholarship from a guy like Jordan Poland, a Scout.com 3-star offensive guard who gave USC his verbal pledge but obviously isn't as highly regarded as Mama.
Regardless of what happens from here, Sark has now bolstered the offensive line—a unit that desperately needed help—with a group that should be solid for years to come.
Now he needs to work his magic elsewhere on a roster that needs a whole bunch of it.
But if the last two weeks are any indication, he will do just fine.
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An eye-popping nine Pac-12 teams will participate this year in postseason play.
A vast majority of the nine bowl games should provide the college football audience with a great show. However, a couple of the contests do stand out above the rest. The various placements will pit the Pac-12 up against conferences such as the ACC, the Big Ten and the Big 12, among others.
This list will speak about the five most intriguing games in which Pac-12 teams are participating. The placement of the slides will rank the contests from the least intriguing to the most intriguing.
Here are five Pac-12 bowl games every Pac-12 fan should watch.
*Here is a list of the entire bowl schedule.
The last time quarterback Devin Gardner was on the football field, he delivered an epic performance against Ohio State (32-of-45, for 451 yards and four touchdowns, one rushing touchdown)—marred only by a failed two-point conversion in the final minute that could have propelled Michigan to victory.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke went for broke on that last possession because his defense had been shredded all day by Ohio State, and his starting field-goal kicker Brendan Gibbons wasn't available because of injury. Hoke made the decision to try to end the game in regulation instead of risk extended overtime play. His decision made even more sense when Gardner showed up for the postgame press conference wearing a walking boot, the result of a turf toe injury experienced during the game.
Now over two weeks since the injury, Gardner still has not returned to the practice field. In a video posted on mgoblue.com, coach Brady Hoke said, “We held Devin out today, we want to make sure he’s rested enough…We want make sure he’s totally healthy.” He admitted that Gardner might not return to practice until later this week.
That timetable would leave Gardner less than a week to prepare for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl game versus Kansas State. His return is not a question of toughness—Gardner has taken a beating all season behind an offensive line that finally showed signs of jelling in Michigan’s final regular-season game—but rather practicality.
Can Gardner perform at a high level after missing three weeks of conditioning and most of the 15 bowl practices?
Michigan might better served by getting quarterback Shane Morris some significant game experience in the bowl game. Morris has already lost the opportunity to redshirt, having appeared in four games this season. It doesn’t matter that he played so little (5-9, 65 yards), according to the NCAA:
…It does not matter how long you were involved in a particular competition (for example, one play in a football game, one point in a volleyball match); you will be charged with one season of competition.
Now, there is the chance Morris may have some hidden injury (cough, cough) that allows him to be granted a medical redshirt for this season. Gardner himself is returning next season, having been granted a medical redshirt.
Considering Gardner’s lingering injury and Michigan playing in a second-tier bowl game, this is a great opportunity to see how Morris can perform under center. It’s also a chance to see how Morris fits into offensive Al Borges’ offensive game plan.
Another win will not lessen the sting of this disappointing season, but getting Morris some important repetitions would provide Michigan with insurance if Gardner gets injured next season.
A coach secure in his position probably would rest Gardner and use the game to groom Morris to be a viable backup next season.
Hoke says that team is playing this game “…for his seniors,” but after two consecutive disappointing seasons and increased criticism of his coaching staff, there’s a lot riding on this game.
And whoever starts at quarterback will tell us how much.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via Press Conference Source.
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Leading up to the Valero Alamo Bowl, the Oregon Ducks have a number of advantages over the Texas Longhorns.
The biggest news surrounding the game is obviously Mack Brown's resignation.
The Longhorns will be playing their last game under Brown when they take on the Ducks. The Ducks are looking to finish off their first season under head coach Mark Helfrich.
While the Longhorns will be trying to prepare for the Ducks, they will also have to deal with the emotion that comes with losing a coach.
One of Oregon's biggest strengths, coaching stability, is one of the biggest issues for the Longhorns. The Ducks have a new head coach, a new wide receivers coach and a new defensive line coach this season, but the continuity of the staff has been well documented.
What other strengths does this Oregon team have that will help it finish off the season with an 11th win? What weaknesses do the Ducks have that could help the Longhorns send their coach out with a huge win?
In recent years, the Ducks were a team that dominated with an elite rushing attack. The run game was strong again in 2013, but their biggest strength might be the versatility the offense possesses in comparison to recent Oregon teams.
Led by quarterback Marcus Mariota, running backs De'Anthony Thomas, Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner, the Ducks still make the run game the priority. The run game hasn't been as efficient as it has in recent years, but the Ducks have four players who can change a game with their work on the ground.
What makes this year's team even more dangerous on offense is that the passing attack is stronger than it has been in years. Wide receivers Josh Huff and Bralon Addison give the Ducks their best receiving combo in years.
On defense, the Longhorns have been much better against the pass than they have against the run. The Longhorns rank tied for the No. 47 defense against the pass, allowing 221.8 yards per game. By giving up 180.33 yards per game on the ground, the Longhorns rank No. 81 against the run.
Assuming the game goes the way of the numbers, the Ducks should be able to have their way with the Longhorns on the ground. That being said, Mariota and the Oregon receivers should be able to stretch the field with some big plays against the Longhorns secondary.
The Longhorns have been in search of the right quarterback since their current starter Case McCoy's older brother, Colt, graduated and moved on to the NFL.
The Ducks are in the opposite position as they have one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the program at the helm.
At the beginning of November, Mariota was the Heisman favorite. After the award was handed out on Saturday, the voting revealed that the former favorite didn't even finish among the top 10 in the Heisman voting.
In comparison to the first eight games of the season, he struggled down the stretch. The good thing for the Ducks is that Mariota's production in the last four games would be welcomed at many programs.
Mariota's experience and athletic ability give Oregon a huge advantage over Texas at quarterback. The redshirt sophomore has already made it clear that he will return for another year in Eugene.
With that issue no longer a distraction and his sprained knee feeling stronger each day, Mariota should be in for a big day against a strong Texas defense. The Longhorns held Baylor to 30 points, but a healthy Mariota gives the Longhorns another problem to solve.
Baylor's Bryce Petty can throw it all over the field, but outside of Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch, Mariota is unmatched as a dual-threat quarterback.
If he is at or close to 100 percent, Texas could be in for a long day. Mariota is all about the team and getting the win, but any competitor wants to prove his critics wrong.
After falling out of the running for the Heisman Trophy, expect Mariota to play better, showing everyone why he was so highly thought of earlier in the year.
The Ducks are known for having one of the best offenses in the nation, so calling the offensive line a weakness is probably unfair.
Over the past few games, however, the offensive line has been very average. The leader of the unit, center Hroniss Grasu, recently admitted as much when he said the line takes responsibility for some of the late-season struggles.
"I think we have to start just going out there and playing and stop thinking so much and just attacking identifying the attack, get to your man and drive him,” Grasu told Comcast Sports' Aaron Fentress.
There is talent all across the line, but the individual talent hasn't played like the type of unit it needs to be to help the Ducks play up to their potential on offense.
Oregon's secondary is among the best in the country. The numbers might not reflect as much, but considering the amount of pass attempts the Ducks have faced, they have been very good. The Ducks rank No. 11 in pass defense rating, with a rating of 108.73. They rank No. 5 in the nation with an average of 5.7 yards per attempt.
Texas QB Case McCoy leads the Longhorns in the passing game but has been inconsistent throughout his career. The Ducks should be able to force him into some mistakes and force some turnovers with their aggressive defense.
Stopping the Run
Under defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, Oregon has always set out to stop the run first. The Ducks have been good at limiting the opposition's run game in most years. 2013 has been a different story.
In their two losses, the Ducks allowed Stanford and Arizona to run it down their throat at an alarming rate. With a strong offensive line and a very good run game, Texas will play to its biggest strength and Oregon's biggest weakness.
This season, the Longhorns averaged 197.58 yards per game on the ground for a total of 2,371 yards. They rushed for 444 yards in their last two games of the season.
The Ducks rank No. 67 in rush defense, giving up an average of 164.33 yards per game on the ground.
Texas Running back Jonathan Gray is out for the season, but veteran Malcolm Brown has been very good in his absence. Brown is the more physical runner between the two, which bodes well for the Longhorns. Stanford showed everyone what having a powerful offensive line and a tough running back can do to the undersized Oregon defense.
Overall, the Ducks have many more strengths than they do weaknesses, but their level of focus during bowl preparation will be evident early in the game.
If the Ducks play physical and disciplined football on offense, defense and special teams, they should be able to win the game.
If they show a lack of focus and come out expecting to win, the Longhorns have the ability to use their talent and ride the wave of emotion to a big win.
Getting Off the Field
The Ducks have had plenty of issues in getting off the field and getting the ball back for the offense. It was never more evident than in the Stanford game, when the Cardinal converted on a startling number of third downs. For the game, the Cardinal went 14-of-21 on third-down attempts.
In fairness, the Ducks faced the third-most third downs in the country as a defense. According to cfbstats.com, the Ducks rank 123rd in the country after facing 213 third downs as a defense. Of those 213 attempts, the Ducks allowed the opponents to move the chains on 40.85 percent of them, good for No. 77 in the country.
The good news is that Texas is tied at No. 57 in the country, converting just 41.38 percent of their third-down attempts on offense.
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For three consecutive years, the postseason rumor mill has churned regarding potential destinations for Miami Hurricanes head coach Al Golden.
In 2011, UCLA had Golden on its radar a second time before hiring Jim L. Mora. By 2012, Tennessee was sizing up the second-year Miami coach for a lighter shade of orange.
With legendary coach Mack Brown stepping down at Texas, it's safe to assume Golden-to-Austin rumors will begin percolating in late 2013 when some pie-in-the-sky big names inevitably begin turning the Longhorns down. Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports has already suggested that Golden would "make sense" at Texas.
Before the sports media gets ahead of itself with another episode of As the Coaching World Turns, let's clear the air—Golden isn't leaving the Hurricanes until his rebuild is complete and ultimate success has been achieved.
The third-year Miami leader signed on for what he knew was a high-risk, high-reward opportunity and will buckle down until the job is done. Maybe even longer, should the Hurricanes go on another stellar run like they did a decade ago.
Golden arrived at Miami three Decembers back, replacing Randy Shannon, who lasted four years and went 28-22 over that span. The New Jersey native made his way to Coral Gables via Philadelphia, where he spent five seasons rebuilding a Temple program recently thrown out of the Big East Conference for being that awful.
Golden became a hot coaching commodity, making his way onto several short lists after the miraculous Temple turnaround. The Owls went 1-11 in his first season and 9-4 in his fourth season, resulting in the program's third bowl game ever and first in three decades.
Weeks before that historic 2009 postseason appearance, Cincinnati was in search of someone to replace Notre Dame-bound Brian Kelly. Golden declined, remaining in Philadelphia, as neither the timing nor the opportunity was in line with his long-term career path.
Two years prior, Golden turned down UCLA a first time—"flattered" to be a candidate, but staying put, telling the Los Angeles Times, "[W]e are on the brink of something truly special here at Temple." His second-year Owls squad was 5-19 with him in charge at the time.
The word "commitment" doesn't always mean much in the sports world. Coaches pledge to stay. Owners swear not to sell. Players give their word and then flip-flop.
Yet with Golden, the 44-year-old's character and word have proven stronger at each new sign of adversity.
With an NCAA investigation underway and Miami wrapping up a 6-6 season in 2011, Golden could've easily bailed. Instead, he pledged his allegiance and agreed to a four-year contract extension. His contract now goes through February 2020.
"My family loves it in South Florida, we have embraced the community and we could not be more excited about the future of the Miami Hurricanes football team," Golden said in a university-released statement days after Year 1 wrapped.
UCLA, Tennessee and Texas—all are big-time programs, all boast top-notch facilities, and all have mad money to throw around. That said, Los Angeles, Knoxville or Austin don't mesh with New Jersey like South Florida—home of countless transplants from the Northeast. Miami is a diverse city and UM is a unique place, always in search of that "special fit" coach.
Golden knows there are few opportunities across the nation that compare to the one he currently has, which is why he hit the ground running and has not looked back.
Win at "The U" and you're instantly one of the hottest commodities in the business. Fail and it can result in what amounts to coaching purgatory.
Look at Miami's coaching tree the past three decades for proof.
On one branch sit Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson and Butch Davis. All left for (seemingly) greener pastures, next-level opportunities and big time paydays, having succeeded at the University of Miami.
On the other side are Larry Coker and the aforementioned Shannon. The former now heads up the University of Texas-San Antonio's football program, while the latter is coaching up linebackers in Arkansas.
Timing is everything—as is location. When The U landed Golden, the program was in dire need of a makeover, and the then-Temple coach knew what he had under the hood. The restoration project was worth it, and he drove that point home during his initial press conference in December 2010:The most recognizable brand in college football. Again, I go back to the former players that are here, the five national championships, 20 national award winners, countless All-Americans, incredible tradition. It's a dream job. It's a tremendous opportunity for my family and I to build championships here.
At Miami, top-flight talent has always been the name of the game. It's been the key ingredient for decades of success and numerous title-game runs, especially for the 2001 squad Davis assembled.
The Hurricanes' fifth national championship squad is heralded as the best college football team in history. Seventeen players from the team were eventually taken in the first round of the NFL draft.
While that perfect storm of timing, talent, development, depth and player chemistry arguably won't happen again, the University of Miami—and its surrounding local talent—is one of the few places where that type of success could repeat itself.
Schnellenberger referred to it as "The State of Miami"—keeping the best players from Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties home, while taking the rest of Florida's best, as well as landing some national superstars.
Davis built a powerhouse with this approach, and Golden is attempting to following suit. Of Miami's current 28-player, third-ranked class for 2014, 20 are from the Sunshine State, and the majority of those come from Schnellenberger's coveted tri-county region.
Golden arrived at The U with a 300-page orange and green binder titled, "Deserve Victory"—his blueprint for revamping the Miami program.
Eight months later, he was blindsided by an NCAA investigation that took place over 26 of the 36 months he's been the Hurricanes' head coach. The result: negative recruiting tactics by rivals while top South Florida talent ran the other direction.
Miami also lost 36 players between 2010 and 2012 due to transfer or internal housecleaning, crippling the roster and creating depth woes that were felt up through this year's 9-3 campaign.
Better days that were once well down the road are close enough for this Miami program to taste. This coaching staff planted seeds, mended fences on the local recruiting front and has proven to be a determined, patient and resilient group.
The U took the NCAA's best punch and is ready to deliver some blows of its own these next few seasons.
Rebuild somewhere like Austin, or forge ahead unshackled in Coral Gables? It's not even up for debate.
After all Golden has endured, sticking around to reap the fruits of his labor at The U is the only logical option for the man with the long-term plan.
Follow Chris Bello on Twitter @allCanesBlog.
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Mack Brown’s resignation as Texas head coach hardly came as news to those who have monitored the story.
Rather, the story finally provided closure for what has long been considered a formality.
When Brown officially wrote the final pages of his chapter of Texas football, it set off rampant speculation. Namely, who will become the next head coach at Texas?
The position is widely acknowledged as one of the crown jewels in college football.
As such, the Texas administration and fans alike have set their sights high. Absurdly unrealistic names have surfaced—names like those of San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy to Alabama coach Nick Saban.
Naturally, Texas seeks the elusive “home run hire.” The reality is there have been two such hires since 2000—Saban at Alabama and Urban Meyer at Ohio State.
This is an up-close look at the—admittedly subjective—top 10 jobs in the country and who has been hired for them since the turn of the century.
Programs are listed alphabetically.
On the sixth day of January, college football's biggest stage will be in California. That is because Auburn will play Florida State for the BCS National Championship in Pasadena.
Both teams have good head coaches, as the Seminoles are run by Jimbo Fisher, while Gus Malzahn leads the Tigers. Aside from good coaching, a reason why both programs are in the title game is because of how well they've recruited in recent recruiting cycles.
This cycle is no different, as Auburn and Florida State both have great recruiting classes. However, which class is better between the two championship contenders needs to be decided.
With three BCS bowl berths, two Pac-12 championships and a 34-6 record after three seasons, it’s no wonder Stanford head coach David Shaw would be mentioned in association with brand-name coaching vacancies.
But with every rumor Shaw quickly shoots down, he’s making a resounding statement: When he pitches Stanford as a brand-name program, he believes it.
Houston isn’t the only spot in the Lone Star State with rumored interest in the two-time Pac-12 champion. Kevin Sherrington of The Dallas Morning News wrote, "Shaw should be at the top of [Texas athletic director Steve] Patterson’s list" of replacements for resigning head coach Mack Brown.
Brown’s announced departure after 16 years leading the Longhorns drops a giant domino in the college football landscape. While there may be a seismic shift as a result, the Tree should be left standing.
Texas is as celebrated a brand name as there is in college football. However, through the efforts of Shaw, both as head coach and as an assistant coach under predecessor Jim Harbaugh, Stanford is establishing itself as a brand name.
And what some may see as a recruiting speed bump—Stanford's rigorous academic standards—Shaw incorporates as a selling point.
"I will never understand having the ability to go to Stanford and not," he said at Pac-12 media day in July. "Stanford University, every year—forget about athletics—is at the top of student satisfaction."
Indeed, Stanford ranked No. 1 in a Forbes ranking of top American universities published two days prior to Pac-12 media day. Student satisfaction accounted for 22.5 percent of the equation.
As an alumnus, it’s no wonder Shaw believes so firmly in the program’s potential. But perhaps more significant than his background as a student-athlete there in the 1990s is the investment he made in reviving Stanford a decade later.
The program's woes before Shaw arrived as a member of Harbaugh's staff are well documented, and the coach knows it.
"You talk about how many years ago being 1-11, and everybody should say we should drop down a level in football. It says a lot about those guys [responsible for turning around the program]," Shaw said after the Cardinal beat Arizona State on Dec. 7 to win their second straight Pac-12 Championship.
The growth of which Shaw was so integral is an interesting juxtaposition to coaching at Texas. The next Longhorns coach is inheriting a brand name, which Brown, Dana X. Bible and Darrell K. Royal established.
Stanford is the brand name Shaw helped build. And in turn, the university athletic department has reciprocated.
Stanford doesn't publicize coaching salaries, but Shaw alluded to competitive wages keeping elite assistants there.
"It says a lot about what Stanford University has done, financially making it better for the coaches so we can have continuity," he said following the Pac-12 Championship game.
A commitment from the university begets the same from Shaw. And in turn, the Cardinal have the commitments from high-level recruits rolling in.
When Shaw gives recruits his pitch for the long-term vision of Stanford football, it's not empty rhetoric. It's a future in which he's repeatedly proven to be invested.
Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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You're never going to hear a program complain about making it to a bowl game, especially when it allows for several more weeks of practice. But let's face it, some schools get a serious advantage by playing their season finale close to home, while others are traveling far enough away to call their trips "extended vacations."
In any case, visiting new places and interacting with fans from a different part of the country can be fun and beneficial to programs attempting to grow their brand.
This bowl season, we'll see a pair of teams traveling far across the ocean, several others making cross-country trips and finally, a national championship game featuring two schools playing farther away from home than at any point during the regular season.
Of course, there are also some teams who may choose to walk down the street to their respective bowl games.
Let's take a look at the five teams traveling the farthest during bowl season as well as the five that are staying closest to home.
Joe Mixon is a 5-star running back from California with a good skill set. The 6'2", 195-pounder has good strength to run between the tackles, while showing enough quickness to get to the edges.
Mixon has good speed and athleticism, which he also uses after catching passes. His great talent has made him a coveted player on the recruiting trail, but Mixon has narrowed his list. Oklahoma, Wisconsin and UCLA all have a solid shot at signing him, says 247Sports.
However, Mixon will spurn the Sooners, Badgers and Bruins for California for seven reasons.
Although a dead period has hit recruiting, it's still getting close to crunch time.
That also means it's about that time for the remaining uncommitted 5-star prospects to start getting an idea of what they're going to do. A ton of big decisions have yet to be made, but you'll get a chance to see into the future by reading this.
Predictions are always fun to do, so this will be a rundown of them regarding where the available 5-star recruits will go.
Note: 5-star recruits on this list are from the 247Sports composite rankings.
When a college football head coaching job opens up, there are usually three different routes that schools take to fill that position: poach someone else's head coach, find someone that's been out of the game or scoop up a "hot" assistant or coordinator who's made a name for himself.
So far, though, most FBS teams that have hired new coaches this offseason have gone the poaching route, with six of the nine hires (as of Sunday) going to existing head coaches at other schools.
There are four vacancies still left to be filled in FBS: Texas, Arkansas State, Bowling Green and Army, which reportedly fired Rich Ellerson on Sunday, according to Sports Illustrated. Countless more will no doubt open up as the bowl games are played out over the next three weeks, with coaches shifting all around the country.
Head coaches are mostly known quantities in college football circles.
But what about those assistants and coordinators, the ones who often do most of the behind-the-scenes (and during-the-game) work to lead a team to success? Which of them are most likely to grab a head coaching gig this offseason, or at least jump to a better job somewhere else?
COLUMBIA, S.C. — The "Help Wanted" sign is out at South Carolina, where the Gamecocks will have to replace arguably the best defensive end in school history, as well as two other starters on a four-man defensive front that is arguably the best in school history.
Heralded defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, projected to be the No. 1 choice in next year's NFL draft, will play his last game for South Carolina in the Jan. 1 Capitol One Bowl against Wisconsin, as will defensive end Chaz Sutton and first-team All-SEC and Sporting News All-American tackle Kelcy Quarles.
That puts signing defensive linemen as one of the top priorities in the upcoming recruiting class, and it appears the Gamecock coaching staff has put in the work to do just that.
Among South Carolina's current commitments are a pair of junior college defensive linemen the Gamecocks hope can provide immediate help.
Abu Lamin is a 6'3", 300-pound defensive tackle from Fort Scott Community College in Fort Scott, Kan., who has committed to the Gamecocks, as has Jhaustin Thomas, a 6'6" 255-pound defensive end from Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas.
The Gamecocks also have a commitment from Taylor Stallworth, a 6'2", 285-pound defensive tackle out of Murphy High School in Mobile, Ala.
That's a good start, but far from complete as the Gamecocks try to shore up an area that has been a team strength for at least the last four seasons.
South Carolina could hear as early as Dec. 17 on a decision from Dante Sawyer, a 6'3", 240-pound defensive end out of North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Ga. Sawyer is also considering Missouri and Tennessee.
Another potentially huge signee for the Gamecocks looms in Dexter Wideman, a 6'4", 255-pound defensive end out of Saluda (S.C.) High School, with 247Sports claiming he will sign with either Florida State or the Gamecocks.
As for returning talent, the cupboard isn't necessarily bare.
J.T. Surratt is a returning starter at defensive tackle.
Brothers Gerald Dixon Jr. and Gerald Dixon got considerable playing time at tackle and end, respectively.
Tackle Phillip Dukes also played valuable minutes, as did Darius English, who filled in at end when Clowney was out of the lineup.
South Carolina redshirted several other players this season who will be given a chance over the spring and fall to make their presence felt.
Rest assured, South Carolina will field a defensive line in 2015.
It's just the Gamecocks may be going from a line comprised of "who's who" players to a line made up of "who's that?"
Verbal commitments reported by 247Sports.
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For a program playing for its 31st win in three seasons on January 1st, the Georgia Bulldogs coaching staff sure does draw a uniquely ubiquitous degree of criticism.
Todd Grantham, the Dawgs’ defensive coordinator since 2010, has produced mixed results on the field despite a consistently high level of talent. A large sect of Bulldog Nation was disgusted to learn that he would be welcomed back in Athens for the 2014 season.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo is not above reproach either, at least not as far as fans are concerned. His play calling is consistently labeled as either too aggressive or too passive. Any drive resulting in anything other than a touchdown is not only a failure in the eyes of Bulldog fans, but also an indictment of Bobo’s deficiencies.
And yet, Bobo has quietly blossomed into one of the best coordinators in the country.
What have you done for me lately?
Last year, as a veteran-laden defense struggled out of the gate, Bobo’s offense came out firing, opening the season with a five-game streak of 40 or more points scored. The Bulldog offense didn’t look back en route to averaging an impressive 37.8 points per game to go with a school record in offensive production (467.6 yards per game).
Bobo was masterful in integrating the already established passing game, led by Aaron Murray, with a newfound ground attack spearheaded by freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. The results in 2012 were staggering.
Unfortunately, in 2013 the injury bug led to seven skill position starters missing significant playing time and, in the process, derailed Bobo’s prolific offensive attack. Or did it?
Surely an offense that lost wide receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley, running back Keith Marshall and quarterback Aaron Murray to torn ACLs would struggle to regain its composure.
Undoubtedly that very offense would take significant steps back and away from its record-setting pace if star running back Todd Gurley and the team’s two leading receivers (Chris Conley and Michael Bennett) also missed playing time with injuries.
A pedestrian playcaller like Mike Bobo would have no chance at resuscitating such a depleted offensive unit.
Au contraire! This year’s Georgia offense actually scored at a higher clip, accounted for more yards per game and racked up more first downs than last year's squad.
Unfortunately for Bobo’s detractors, this season negates the excuse that has propped up “Fire Bobo” arguments for years. Certainly, Bobo has been blessed with a tremendous amount of talent—a concession that critics willingly make. But, Bobo’s offense didn’t merely succeed on the heels of elite playmakers like Gurley and Murray this year, as critics so often allege. Bobo’s offense found productivity and survival in the form of depth.
With Gurley and Marshall out, Georgia leaned on unheralded freshmen J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas. Green was initially slated to play either receiver or cornerback for the Bulldogs while Douglas was expected to contribute as a blocker from the fullback position. The duo combined for 947 yards of offense and seven touchdowns this season.
As receivers went down left and right with injuries, the passing game continued its efficiency with little long-term decline. Eleven players caught touchdown passes, eleven hauled in passes in excess of 30 yards and eight had games of 75 or more receiving yards. The receiving corps under Bobo’s guidance found strength not in stars, but in numbers.
Perhaps the largest contributor to Bobo’s success has been his ability to develop quarterbacks. The Bulldogs’ quarterbacks coach since 2001, Bobo has coached (then) the nation’s winningest starter at the quarterback position (David Greene), a number one draft selection (Matthew Stafford) and the Southeastern Conference’s all-time leading passer (Aaron Murray).
All three of the aforementioned players were great in their own respective ways, but new starter Hutson Mason may be the greatest testament to Bobo’s acumen in developing passers. Mason, who waited patiently in the wings behind Murray for nearly four full years, has performed masterfully under center in 2013.
This year, Mason matched Murray’s completion percentage (both players connected on 64.8 percent of all attempts) while posting a higher yards-per-attempt figure (9.13 for Mason, 8.86 for Murray) and rivaling Murray’s overall passer rating (Mason is just four points shy).
Georgia’s offense returns a host of weapons in 2014 and the safe assumption is that Bobo’s unit will continue to put out more of the same high-level production.
But those days may be numbered, and not for a reason that many Georgia fans even recognize.
I think we’ve got a great staff, and we want to keep them. But it’s a very competitive league in a lot of areas. There’s the competition on the field, there’s the competition in recruiting and then sometimes there’s competition to hang on to your assistant coaches.
Richt offered that insight shortly after Bobo received a new contract and what Richt called a “deserved” pay increase from $335,000 to $575,000 per season.
Bobo’s value as a coach has not diminished. His ability to coach in-game, develop talent and coach the most important position on the field was on full display in 2013—but he may not be a viable candidate for assistant coaching positions much longer. His next job may be an opportunity as a head coach.
But don’t tell Georgia fans that.
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For Notre Dame, jumping from Everett Golson back to Tommy Rees is like discovering Popeyes fried chicken, only to have to go back to Kentucky Fried Chicken because Popeyes burnt down.
At first the thought was, "Well, it won't be that bad. We've had KFC for years."
Then, covered in grease and stomach bloated, Fighting Irish fans leaned back in pain, longing for the superior taste and side dish choices lost in the Popeyes blaze.
However, that pile of smoldering rubble and cajun spice has been cleared away and a new Popeyes has been built. It will open this coming spring.
As reported by the Associated Press (h/t USA Today), Golson has been readmitted to Notre Dame after missing the fall semester for what he said was "poor judgement on a test."
The Irish were led to the national title game and a 12-1 record under Golson, but he left ND for the fall semester.
So cheer up Irish fans—Popeyes is coming back.
Only one subpar meal at KFC remains—the New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Rutgers.
After Rees' final regular season game against Stanford, head coach Brian Kelly took a stab at defining the legacy of Rees, who saw action in all four of his years in South Bend, via UND.com:
'Legacy' is such a big word for me. I just love the way the kid competes out there. He's not going to go in the College Football Hall of Fame. You know what I mean? He doesn't have those incredible skills. But he just puts his heart and soul into what he does. As a coach, what you appreciate is when somebody gives you all he has...He gives you everything he has. I don't know if that's a legacy answer. He just gives you all he has. That's all you can ask for.
While it might be all a coach can ask for, Notre Dame fans were left asking for more.
That final game was an excellent encapsulation of Rees' career. The senior from Lake Forest, Ill., was good—but it wasn't quite enough.
The good: Rees helped to lead a late rally against then-No. 8 Stanford. He tossed two touchdowns in the third quarter to send ND into the final frame trailing by just four points. Stanford started the fourth with a field goal and from there the Irish had three drives to answer and tie the game.
However, the not-good-enough came, as two of those series ended in interceptions thrown by Rees and Notre Dame came up short, falling 27-20.
An 8-4 record and a bowl berth is a desirable result for many programs, but not for the Irish, which Rees himself acknowledged afterward:
Not good enough, obviously. Proud of the guys. Proud of my teammates, how they fought all year. But you don't come to Notre Dame to be 8-4. Everybody understands that. We're not going to make excuses. We're going to look for solutions going ahead. We only have one game left, we want to leave a good legacy.
Even if Rees leads Notre Dame to a Pinstripe Bowl win over Rutgers, it won't change his legacy. He'll be remembered as a good quarterback, but not a great one.
Next year, the Irish will welcome back the one that was great in 2012, the one that beat Rees out for his starting job in the same year.
As Golson comes back, the Irish look to improve immediately. They'll still have to shore up their rush defense, but with an upgrade at quarterback, 8-4 should be improved upon.
Golson threw for just 2,405 yards with 12 touchdowns last season, but he only threw six interceptions. Rees has thrown 13 this year, many of which hamstrung the Irish in close games.
It might feel like Rees has been throwing picks in South Bend for decades, but his on-again off-again era is now coming to its end.
So when the Irish faithful are watching it close in a cold Yankee Stadium, they can just close their eyes and think of some warm buttermilk biscuits from a newly re-opened Popeyes.
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Obviously the biggest bowl game on the college football postseason schedule is the BCS National Championship Game between Florida State and Auburn. It gets a ton of hype with the likes of Heisman winner Jameis Winston and company taking the field. However, one could argue that the Sugar Bowl matchup between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Oklahoma Sooners is not far behind it.
The Allstate Sugar Bowl is by far the second-biggest game on the 2013 postseason schedule. No other bowl game, even including the title game, can match the prowess and epic historical battle the Sugar Bowl presents; Alabama and Oklahoma are two of the most storied college football programs of all time.
There are intriguing storylines all over the place in this game. There’s the question of how Alabama will play after their heartbreaking loss to Auburn, whom deprived them of another national championship appearance. There’s the battle of strength vs. strength—Oklahoma’s rush attack vs. Alabama’s rush defense. Lastly, there’s the inevitable last collegiate game for AJ McCarron, and this question: will he go down as the greatest quarterback in Alabama history?
A Battle of Traditional Powers
If you were to rank the bowl games by total all-time wins between the teams, the 2014 Sugar Bowl would win hands down. Alabama is sixth all time in wins with 861 and Oklahoma is eighth all time with 836 wins. Both teams are two of the most recognized brands in all of college football, making the matchup intriguing to fans all across the country.
As far as recent domination goes, well, these teams know a thing or two about how that works. In the last seven years since Nick Saban has taken over, Alabama is an astounding 79-14 with three national championships. For Oklahoma, since coach Bob Stoops took over in 1999, the Sooners are an incredibly impressive 159-39 with now nine BCS bowl appearances.
For all the history these programs have, they’ve only faced each other four times; the last time being in 2003 when Oklahoma came out victorious 20-13. Oklahoma leads the all-time series 2-1-1.
Will Alabama Be Able to Recover from Iron Bowl Loss?
Just two weeks ago, Alabama thought the only bowl they would be participating in would be the BCS National Championship Game. I mean lets face it, if it weren't for several missed field goals, Alabama would be there right now. However, all of their hopes died after the shock that came from what some people are calling the greatest finish in college football history.
All the hopes and dreams of another title they’d been conjuring up the whole season all went down the drain on that one heartbreaking play. So how will they react? Well, sadly for 'Bama—and their fans know this all too well—they’ve been in similar situations twice in the last several years.
Back during the 2008 season, Alabama finished the regular season a perfect 12-0, then fell to Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators in the SEC championship game, killing their shot at the national championship. They received an invitation to the Sugar Bowl that year against the Utah Utes. Obviously crushed and dejected, Alabama came out and laid a gigantic egg; ending in an embarrassing 31-17 defeat at the hands of an underwhelming Utah team.
Two years after that during the 2010 season, Alabama went into the Iron Bowl week at a record of 9-2 and poised to earn another BCS bowl bid. After blowing a 24-point lead, the Tide ended up getting beat in heartbreaking fashion, once again at the hands of the Auburn Tigers with Cam Newton at the helm. 'Bama ended up playing in the Capital One Bowl against Big 10 co-champs Michigan State. However, this time instead of coming out lethargic and not motivated, the Tide were furious and firing on all cylinders, finishing with an absolute throttling of the Spartans, 49-7.
We have seen Alabama in this situation before, and we’ve seen two completely opposite reactions. Will the 2013 Alabama team come out pissed off and show they are still the best team in the land? Or will they come out down and defeated and let the Sooners run all over them? It's all part of the intrigue of this matchup.
Strength vs. Strength
Both teams’ biggest strengths directly correlate against each other—Oklahoma’s rushing attack vs. Alabama’s rush defense. The winner of this battle of strengths will most likely take home the trophy.
Oklahoma averages 235 yards rushing per game, while Alabama only allows an average of 108 yards per game, ranking 11th in the country. In Oklahoma’s only two losses this season to Texas and Baylor, they have rushed for over 100 yards less than their season average. In Alabama’s only loss this season to Auburn, they allowed a season-high 296 rushing yards.
It is absolutely key for Oklahoma to be able to run the ball if they want to have a chance to win. Based on the Sooners’ ever-revolving door of quarterbacks between Blake Bell and Trevor Knight, it is clear that they can’t rely on one of the two to win against Alabama. Each QB showed moments of promise throughout the season, but outweighing those were moments of inexperience and frustration. They’re going to need a big game from the offensive line, and running backs Brennan Clay and Roy Finch to have any chance in this game.
For Alabama, it is all about stopping that Oklahoma rushing attack, whom as a team, have rushed for close to 3,000 yards this season. The Tide cannot allow their performance against Auburn to hinder them from winning the Sugar Bowl.
There was a time not too long ago, where Alabama’s defense was even thought to be “invincible.” Just take a look at the national championship game two years ago and how dominant the Alabama defense was.
In the 2013 Iron Bowl, Auburn exposed Nick Saban’s vaunted defense, and showed the world that there is a way to beat it; that was through a great rushing attack and having a mobile quarterback. Oklahoma happens to have both of those, although not at the level of Auburn’s, but still very capable of handing Alabama another disappointing loss in the Sugar Bowl, just like Utah did four years ago.
Finishing the Legend that is AJ McCarron
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron probably doesn’t need anything else in his life; I mean he’s already got Katherine Webb, right? Well, gentleman, sometimes life just isn’t fair.
McCarron will go down as one of the best, if not THE best, quarterbacks in Alabama history. He has a ridiculous career record of 36-3, making him the winningest quarterback of all time at Alabama. He also owns Alabama’s records for passing yards, touchdowns and career completions.
McCarron compares quite favorably to three of the great current NFL quarterbacks—Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning—back when they were in college. On November 9th, SportsCenter showed the collegiate career stats of these four quarterbacks side by side of each other.
November 17, 2013
You will see McCarron has a higher winning percentage than all of them, higher completion percentage, better touchdown-to-interception ratio, and only one less top-10 team win by himself (seven) than the three have combined (eight). Clearly McCarron’s stats place him as one of the most successful quarterbacks of all time.
Along with the stats, McCarron has an unprecedented three total national championship rings (two as a starter, and one from his 2009 redshirt freshman year), and he could’ve had his shot at a fourth if it wasn’t for the heartbreaking Iron Bowl loss.
As far as this year’s Sugar Bowl goes, Oklahoma’s coaching staff is not taking him lightly. Head coach Bob Stoops was quoted saying, “I think AJ McCarron’s the best player in the country. I really do. If I had a (Heisman) vote, that’s who I’d vote for.” Clearly, McCarron has earned the respect he deserves based on his truly outstanding collegiate career.
The 2014 Allstate Sugar Bowl is easily the second-biggest bowl game on the postseason schedule. There's so much intrigue for both of these historical programs matching up at a time when both are at somewhat of a crossroads.
Alabama is trying to recover and get their college football dynasty back on the right track. Where Oklahoma is on the upswing after upsetting rival Oklahoma State to get to this game, making it their first BCS appearance since 2010.
Lastly, the Crimson Tide will obviously want to send AJ McCarron and his record-breaking career out with a bang, however, we will see if good ol’ Boomer Sooner has anything to say about it.
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The top of next year’s NFL Draft is jam-packed with quarterback-needy teams. With news of Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater considering a return to college, a once deep pool of draft-bound signal callers could now be considered an uncertainty.
Bridgewater, arguably the top-rated quarterback in next year’s draft, has thrown for 3523 yards and 28 touchdowns this season. Aside from his statistical excellence, Bridgewater has the rocket-arm and running ability that scouts at the professional level drool over.
If Bridgewater decides to keep his NFL future on hold for another season, teams will be forced to take a chance on a second-tier quarterback early on in the first round—a decision that could not only cost a team financially, but hamper a team’s development in the long run.
One player that could benefit from Bridgewater returning to Louisville is Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. With the NFL trending towards pass-first spread offenses, teams need a quarterback who can escape the pocket and make plays on the run—Manziel fits the bill.
A gunslinger by nature, Manziel’s decision making on the field is questionable to say the least. However, this same mentality and his urge to take chances, is why he’s one of the top playmakers in the college ranks. Manziel has thrown for 33 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in his redshirt sophomore season.
While still an underclassman, Manziel seems ready to test his skills at the highest level.
In an interview with Jimmy Burch of the Star Telegram, Manziel said that he feels ready to make the jump to the NFL.
“In my mind, I think I am,” Manziel said about being ready for the Draft. “I feel like I’m playing, for the most part, at a really high level of football.”
Another underclassmen turning heads is Central Florida’s Blake Bortles. As of late, Bortles has been rising up the draft boards. According to Paul Tenorio of the Orlando Sentinel, Sports Illustraded senior writer Peter King said on NBC's Football Night in America that he's spoken to a team that lists Bortles as the top quarterback on their draft board.
Still, neither Bortles or Manziel appear to have an edge over Bridgewater if he decides to enter the draft. Bridgewater has been mentioned, throughout the year, as a potential top-pick candidate. The current holders of that selection, the Houston Texans, are a talented team with a question mark at the quarterback spot.
Bridgewater's eminent decision could play a factor in the Texans' and general manager Rick Smith's decision if the current draft order holds true.
Through the duration of their current 12 game losing streak, Houston has seen former starter Matt Schaub relegated to backup duty and former undrafted free-agent Case Keenum take over. While Keenum has flashed potential, he's not the long-term answer at quarterback. With a new regime taking over next season, the incoming head coach might look to the draft to find a new quarterback.
With the insertion of an offensive minded head coach, Houston could be a young quarterback's paradise.
A quality running game is a young quarterback's best friend, and the combo of Ben Tate and Arian Foster provide just that. The receiving duo of Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins doesn't hurt either.
When Bridgewater decides on his future, NFL teams will be all ears—especially the Houston Texans.
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