NCAA Football News

Cold Hard Fact for Saturday, January 4, 2014

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

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

Source: Bleacher Report

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

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

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

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

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


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Cold Hard Fact for January 4, 2014

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

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


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Alabama Football Recruiting: Top Prospects Capable of Boosting 2014 Class

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

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

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


Marlon Humphrey, DB

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

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

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

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


Matt Elam, DL

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

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

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

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

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


Brian Wallace, OL

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


When: Monday, Jan. 6, at 8:30 p.m. ET

Where: Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Calif.)

Watch: ESPN

Live Stream: Watch ESPN

Betting Lines (via

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


Can Auburn Contain Jameis Winston?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


Final Score

Florida State wins, 45-35.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By his reaction, you knew immediately it was serious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— David Morrison (@DavidCMorrison) January 4, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Auburn’s Offensive Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Florida State’s Passing Game 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Roster information courtesy of


Jacob Park, QB, East

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

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

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

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


Jamil Kamara, WR/ATH, East

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

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

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

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


Nyles Morgan, ILB, West

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

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

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

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


Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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

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

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

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


Joe Mixon — RB

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

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

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


Marshon Lattimore — CB

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

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

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


Bryce Dixon — TE

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Penn State Football: Why James Franklin Is the Perfect Fit to Replace O'Brien

Bill O'Brien has taken his talents to Houston and has left behind a solid foundation at Penn State for the next head coach in Happy Valley.

The obvious question is: "Who will that be?"

A list of candidates has leaked out, including former Penn Staters Al Golden and Mike Munchak, according to a tweet from ESPN's Brett McMurphy. Friday evening, there were even some rumblings that Golden had been offered the job, but that appears to have been a false alarm, according to David Jones of PennLive.

Truth is, the best candidate has no ties to Dear Old State.

Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin is reportedly on the list of candidates, and according to Pete Roussel of, Franklin is scheduled to interview with Penn State on Sunday, following Vandy's bowl game.

Franklin has a strong mix of offensive coaching experience in the college ranks and spent a year coaching wide receivers in the NFL with the Packers. He has spent time in the Pac 12, the ACC, the SEC and the Big 12, giving him a wide array of recruiting experience across the country.

That array of experience, combined with the success he has had at Vanderbilt, makes him an ideal candidate to coach football at a big-time program with big-time facilities.

A program like Penn State.

It's not that he has necessarily set the world on fire at Vandy, winning conference championships and the like, but he has turned around a program that was a perennial bottom-feeder country-wide.

In his three years a head coach, Vanderbilt has won 23 games—more than it won in the previous five years before his hire. His SEC win total of 11 matches the total conference wins from the six years prior to his arrival in Nashville, according to Wikipedia.

In a conference where there's a need to pony up big (see: huge) bucks for recruiting budgets, Vandy has managed to compete with much lesser resources.

According to, in 2011, six of the eight highest recruiting budgets were in the SEC. While Vanderbilt is a private university and doesn't have to reveal its numbers, it was likely spending about half of what the big boys doled out.

In 2013, Vanderbilt beat three of those six big spenders in Georgia, Tennessee and Florida.

While Penn State has the largest alumni association in the country and a stadium that holds upward of 108,000 fans, Vanderbilt Stadium has a capacity of around 40,000, and the Commodores are set to play in just the seventh bowl game in their history.

They're second-fiddle in their own state to the Volunteers.

Vanderbilt's elite academic standards don't make things any easier for a head football coach, making Franklin's accomplishments even more astounding. In 2013, only 12.7 percent of applicants were accepted to Vandy.

Franklin is a fiery, young, offensive-minded coach who has managed to win under vastly limited circumstances. Despite coaching at a university that views athletics simply as extracurricular activities, Franklin has went toe-to-toe with the big boys. 

It's time he gets a shot at running a big-time program with big-time facilities. 

It's time for Franklin to become the head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions.


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College Football: Predictions for Final 3 Bowl Games

It will be a heavyweight showdown in the Rose Bowl on Monday night as Florida State and Auburn will battle it out in the final BCS National Championship Game.

While the nation waits to see if Florida State can finally end the SEC’s streak of seven consecutive national titles, there will be two more bowl games this weekend as well. 

Vanderbilt will play Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl and Ball State will look to win its first bowl game in school history against Arkansas State in the GoDaddy Bowl. 

With the 2013-14 college football season coming to an end, here are predictions for the final three bowl games: 



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Orange Bowl 2014: 10 Things We Learned from Clemson vs. Ohio State

The No. 12 Clemson Tigers bounced back from their season-ending loss to South Carolina in the Discover Orange Bowl, beating the No. 7 Ohio State Buckeyes in a 40-35 shootout Friday night.

The Tigers handed the Buckeyes their second loss in as many games, capping the worst possible ending for Urban Meyer's squad after Ohio State set a school record with 24 consecutive wins over the past two seasons.

Fueled by a lethal offense, Dabo Swinney's team could not be stopped as the Clemson Tigers claimed their first victory in a BCS bowl game.

Here's 10 things we learned from Clemson's five-point victory over the Buckeyes.

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Bleacher Report's Expert Predictions for the 2014 BCS National Championship

It's finally here, you guys. After thousands of games over nearly five months we are left with two teams and one game for all the marbles. The last BCS National Championship game will pit college football's most dominant force, Florida State, against its Cinderella story, Auburn, in the Rose Bowl with the last ever BCS Championship on the line.  

Read on as Bleacher Report's crack team of experts tell you who will take home the crystal football. 

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Dabo Swinney, Clemson Get Orange Bowl Revenge, but What's Next?

As the final seconds ticked away in No. 12 Clemson’s 40-35 Orange Bowl win over No. 7 Ohio State Friday night, Dabo Swinney ran amok on the floor of Sun Life Stadium, looking for people to hug.

Clemson’s excitable head coach was especially animated on this night, and with good reason: His team had secured a victory that exorcised demons that had haunted his program on a number of levels.

The Tigers’ first-ever Bowl Championship Series win served as a huge boost into the offseason. It clinched back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time in program history. And it means that maybe, just maybe, people will stop talking about the 2012 Orange Bowl.

A 70-33 whipping at West Virginia’s hands (the Mountaineers piled up the most points in college bowl history) turned Clemson into a national punchline, one that was revisited repeatedly over the last month, to the Tigers’ chagrin.

No more. The shame of losing to the Mountaineers (who are 11-14 since that fateful night) was replaced with a program-enhancing win over Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes, who entered 24-1 over the last two seasons.

“Two years ago, we got our butts whipped all over this field,” Swinney told ESPN sideline reporter Maria Taylor afterward. “We’re 22-4 since that night. I can’t tell you how proud I am of our team and our staff. We found a way to win tonight.”

They overcame a pair of Tajh Boyd interceptions. Fifteen penalties for 144 yards, including multiple infractions that extended Ohio State drives. It was the kind of night where a missed point-after try by super-reliable senior kicker Chandler Catanzaro fit right in.

“We tried to find some ways to lose this,” Swinney said. “But we’ve got a lot of heart on this team.”

Clemson likely secured a top-10 finish when the final polls come out Tuesday morning, which will serve as a special achievement given 2013’s roller-coaster nature. The Tigers rose as high as No. 3 before absorbing a 51-14 home whipping at the hands of BCS national title game participant Florida State, and climbed back into the top 10 before ending the season with a 31-17 loss at South Carolina, their fifth consecutive loss to their archrivals.

When the Orange Bowl matchup with Ohio State was announced, ESPN’s Rece Davis called the Tigers’ 10-win season “hollow.”

A win over the Buckeyes, who were ticketed for a matchup with FSU before losing the Big Ten title game to Michigan State, was crucial in changing that perception.

It is Clemson’s third top-10 win in its last 14 games, joining the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl win over LSU and the season-opening win over then-No. 5 Georgia.

Plus, it doesn’t hurt when Swinney gets to take an extra swipe in his ongoing war of words with South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier.

“We just became the first team in the state of South Carolina to win a BCS bowl game,” Swinney said on the Orange Bowl trophy podium, an obvious callback to Spurrier’s comments about “winning the state championship” following the Gamecocks’ Capital One Bowl win over Wisconsin.

All night long, Clemson showed heart and resilience. The Tigers grabbed an early 20-9 lead, but despite dominating the first half, they trailed 22-20 at halftime. Ohio State built that lead to 29-20 midway through the third quarter, and the Tigers looked to be in trouble as they punted the ball away.

But OSU senior wideout Philly Brown muffed the punt at his own 33, with linebacker Spencer Shuey recovering.

Three plays later, star junior wideout Sammy Watkins high-pointed a 30-yard touchdown catch that cut the lead to 29-27.

On the ensuing drive, freshman safety Jayron Kearse picked off OSU junior quarterback Braxton Miller at the Buckeyes’ 38. Clemson responded with the go-ahead touchdown, with Boyd finishing the drive with a three-yard touchdown to junior Martavis Bryant, who made a juggling grab that gave the Tigers a 34-29 lead.

Ohio State responded with a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped by Miller’s fade pass to senior tailback Carlos Hyde, but they had nothing for Boyd and the Tigers’ offense.

Clemson put together a 75-yard drive of its own that covered every inch of offensive coordinator Chad Morris’ playbook, including a 3rd-and-goal throwback to tight end Stanton Seckinger for the eventual winning touchdown.

Boyd threw a silly interception to Ohio State’s C.J. Barnett with 1:17 to play, but it was sandwiched around a pair of turnovers that Clemson forced from Miller’s hands.

Clemson forced four Ohio State turnovers on the night, which made up for the two interceptions that Boyd threw in his final collegiate game.

Boyd was electric, completing 30 of 39 passes for 370 yards with five touchdowns. He added 127 rushing yards, including a 48-yard touchdown run.

Watkins, who is a likely top-10 pick in April’s NFL draft, put on a virtuoso effort in what was likely his final collegiate game; he will announce a decision Tuesday. He caught 16 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns, setting an Orange Bowl record for receiving yardage and winning game MVP honors.

“We persevered through a lot of situations,” Boyd told ESPN as Watkins sat beside him. “This is his last game in a Tiger uniform as well.”

Watkins’ decision to forgo his final college season wouldn’t be surprising: Swinney said multiple times this season that he believes the star receiver is a top-10 draft pick.

Other decisions will be more intriguing. Junior defensive end Vic Beasley was among the top 10 nationally in both sacks and tackles for loss and has received a second-round NFL draft evaluation. He said in December that he was “leaning towards” leaving if he received a first-round grade.

Bryant, who had two athletic touchdown grabs Friday, is also considering leaving. He told the Charleston Post and Courier that he’d announce his decision Saturday.

If Watkins and Bryant leave, the Tigers would lose their top two receivers from 2013, leaving rising senior Adam Humphries, junior Charone Peake (recovering from a torn ACL) and rising sophomores Germone Hopper, Mike Williams and T.J. Green on the roster, as well as a trio of highly regarded freshmen in Demarre Kitt, Artavis Scott and Kyrin Priester.

And who will throw to them? Boyd leaves huge shoes for his successor to fill: Fifty-eight Clemson and ACC single-game, single-season and career passing records, including the ACC’s all-time passing yardage mark.

Highly touted freshman DeShaun Watson will enroll later this month and compete with steadily rising senior Cole Stoudt and rising sophomore Chad Kelly for the job in spring practice, but it will be difficult for the eventual victor, whoever he is, to match Boyd’s presence, poise and resilience in the pocket.

And with the coaching carousel revving back to life as Texas and Penn State fill their openings, offensive coordinator Chad Morris’ name is certain to be bandied about as a top candidate. He makes $1.3 million annually as the nation’s highest-paid assistant and has said repeatedly that he’s willing to wait for the right situation, but that just might come his way in the next month.

An offseason of change and uncertainty lies ahead for Swinney and Clemson.

And while Friday night was another step toward solidifying the Tigers’ status as one of the nation’s elite teams, keeping that status and improving it will be even tougher.

Connect with Greg on Twitter @gc_wallace

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Under Armour All-American Game: 6 Things We Learned from Contest

It's never good to jump to football conclusions based on one game, but the Under Armour All-American Game offers a unique opportunity to see high school's best recruits all take the field at once.

Most of the BCS' major programs were represented at the game, with participants committed to teams ranging from Alabama to Arizona.

When the dust settled, we were left with a few takeaways from an interesting showcase.

Watch out for the following players, among others, over the next few years in the NCAA.

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Cotton Bowl 2014: Clint Chelf Falters Again on Big Stage, Costs Cowboys Game

If success was somehow awarded in gut punches, Oklahoma State would be the undisputed king of college football and quarterback Clint Chelf would be the Heisman Trophy winner. 

For having 10 wins, perhaps no team lost more heartbreakers in 2013 than the Cowboys. The Pokes were 19 seconds away from playing in a BCS bowl when Oklahoma connected on a game-winning touchdown in the Bedlam rivalry to end the season. An end-of-game fumble returned for a touchdown resulted in the Sooners winning 33-24, but the damage was done. 

Oklahoma would go to the Sugar Bowl with an at-large berth, stunning Alabama 45-31; Oklahoma State watched its conference title hopes slip away. 

The Cowboys also dropped a head-scratcher of a game to West Virginia, 30-21, in September. A mixture of turnovers and special teams blunders for Oklahoma State contributed to the loss, and the Mountaineers (4-8) won just one game the rest of the season. 

Similarly, a series of mistakes cost the Pokes in a 41-31 loss to Missouri on Friday night in the Cotton Bowl. 

Chelf threw two picks and lost a fumble with under a minute remaining, which was returned 73 yards by Mizzou's Shane Ray for the game-sealing touchdown. Chelf played well in the second half of the regular season, highlighted by the 49-17 win over Baylor in November, but he's had his share of turnover issues as well. 

Against the Tigers, one Chelf interception came on an ill-advised throw on the run when he could have scrambled for positive yards. He also missed a few wide open receivers, including Josh Stewart on a fake bubble screen. 

Though the Cowboys finished with 548 yards, things didn't really pick up until the fourth quarter. That's when Chelf and running back Desmond Roland found success in the ground game. As has been the case in the past couple of months, when OSU's offense was able to run the ball, the rest of the offense opened up and the points followed. 

For the majority of the game, though, the Pokes were stagnant on offense. Roland had a hard time getting going—head coach Mike Gundy briefly switched to Jeremy Smith and Rennie Childs to try to find a spark—and Chelf couldn't find open receivers. 

Then, there was 34-yard field goal that kicker Ben Grogan missed as the kick bounced squarely off the top of the right goal post. Though the placement of the ball is actually quite impressive in retrospect and probably could never be duplicated on another try, the fact remains it counted for nothing. 

For what it's worth, Oklahoma State committed a delay of game penalty which moved the attempt to 34 yards from 29. 

The Cowboys, who rank tied for 90th in the country in penalties per game, also racked up 100 penalties yards on 10 infractions. Fifteen of those yards came on a defensive pass interference call that wiped out a pick-six by Tyler Patmon for the Pokes. 

"I felt as if both guys were competing for the ball,” head coach Mike Gundy said via The Oklahoman. “I didn't really see the pass interference.” 

It's hard to point to just a few things that decided the game, but the combination of Grogan's missed field goal, the negated pick-six and Chelf's fumble inside the Mizzou 30-yard line are three events that really hurt the Cowboys. 

The miscues certainly weren't limited to Oklahoma State, however. The Tigers had three turnovers of their own. It wasn't a particularly clean game. But, in that vein, the Cowboys have been one of the best teams in college football in forcing turnovers, ranking fourth in turnover margin.

Known for offense and big plays, Oklahoma State actually relied on its defense in 2013. First-year defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer has coached up one of the best defensive groups in Stillwater, if not the best, in recent memory. The Pokes were especially good at two things: swarming to the ball and taking it away. 

Highlighted by cornerback and Thorpe finalist Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State's defense, especially its secondary, could play with anyone, anytime, anywhere. 

Friday night, Oklahoma State's defense played well enough to win despite giving up 34 points. It's definitely odd that, in a year when Oklahoma State's defense consistently played at an elite level, its offense didn't. 

It's that backwards narrative which could make 2013, a season of what-ifs, even more gut-wrenching for Oklahoma State. 

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Oh What a Night, Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl Give Us Best Night of Bowl Season

Friday night was an evening built for multiple televisions, a full fridge and an extra set of eyeballs. And if you were functioning with only one screen at your disposal, hopefully your remote-control skills was up to par.

This was, without question, the most exciting, most exhausting night of the college football bowl season. There were 147 points in 120 minutes and 2,013 combined yards, a strange, gargantuan and fitting tribute to the year that was. 

The action at the Cotton Bowl and the Orange Bowl was relentless, chaotic and a pleasurable conundrum to have in terms of viewing options. Starting these two prestigious bowls at nearly the exact same time didn’t seem like the brightest idea as the night fired up.

In the end, however, it worked out brilliantly. 

The Cotton Bowl was the first game to kick off, but it was also the last to finish. This was a product of a rough start, as early returns were not for the faint of heart for either Missouri or Oklahoma State.

Offensively, both teams struggled. It got better, though, much better.

After sputtering through the better part of three quarters, the fourth quarter morphed into a touchdown buffet. The two teams combined to score 41 points in the final 15 minutes, although the last seven proved to be the most significant.

With Oklahoma State down just three and driving with a little more than a minute left in the game, the Cowboys looked poised to tie up the game or take the lead, but linebacker Michael Sam knocked the ball out of quarterback Clint Chelf’s hands. 

Missouri defensive lineman Shane Ray grabbed the ball and took it 73 yards the other way.

This play locked up a thrilling 41-31 win for the Tigers, capping off an unexpected season for a team that was nowhere near the radar of most college football fans before the season began. This, of course, called for a little celebratory dancing from the team's head coach.

While it would have been enough in and of itself, the Cotton Bowl finish was just a nightcap. Getting there included the Orange Bowl conclusion, a game that reached emotional swing capacity.

Like the Cotton Bowl, it didn't come with the best of starts. The night felt like it would be over early, as Clemson jumped out of the gates fast and showed no signs of slowing down. Ohio State battled, however, and two second-quarter Braxton Miller touchdowns gave the Buckeyes the lead at half.

From there, Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins went to work, playing in what was likely his final collegiate game. Watkins finished with 16 catches for 227 yards and two scores, one of which was a pretty 30-yard score late in the third quarter.

Despite Watkins' incredible evening, the Buckeyes were able to respond time and again. Running back Carlos Hyde caught a touchdown to put Ohio State ahead in the fourth. Clemson then regained the lead five minutes later on a Tajh Boyd touchdown pass.

After Miller fumbled on a tough hit—a theme throughout the evening—Ohio State gave the ball back to Clemson with only a few minutes remaining. Only then, Boyd gave the ball back to the Buckeyes with his second interception of the game, giving OSU a chance to win with less than two minutes on the clock.

Only Miller gave it back to Clemson one final time, throwing his second interception of the night and thus ending the shootout. When it was all said and done, and the final bit of momentum was swung in the Tigers direction, Clemson bested Ohio State 40-35.

The "Clemsoning" alarm was silenced.

Head coach Dabo Swinney celebrated the victory slightly different from Gary Pinkle, although the results were equally as impressive. Swinney, often times a verbal jab partner with South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier, unleashed this trolling fury with his postgame remarks:

Dabo says during #OrangeBowl trophy presentation "we're the only team from South Carolina to win a BCS game."

— ESPN ACC (@ESPN_ACC) January 4, 2014

All of the action: the fantastic plays, the fantastic players, the mistakes, the points, the destruction and the trolling occurred during one brilliant evening of football.

This is why you watch, hoping to see the game’s best players perform on the biggest stages imaginable and maybe something unexpected along the way. Rarely, however, do these performances coincide with tight games, and rarely are we treated to multiple showings at once. 

The bowl season can be a mixed bag, often times delivering blowouts and a lack of competitive moments. That has not been the case in recent days, although Friday night’s action somehow topped it all. 

Perhaps the final BCS National Championship will top this remote workout, although it certainly has its work cut out for it.

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Kony Ealy Officially Announces He Will Enter 2014 NFL Draft

Kony Ealy is striking while the iron is hot. He declared for the 2014 NFL draft on Friday, Jan. 3, following the Missouri Tigers' 41-31 Cotton Bowl win over the Oklahoma State Cowboys, per Matthew Fairburn of the Missourian:

The junior defensive end felt the time was right, per Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

It's hard to blame Ealy too much, as he was a force for Missouri on Friday night in Arlington, displaying a strong variety of moves to shed blocks and finding himself in the Oklahoma State backfield on most downs.

Bleacher Report's draft guru Matt Miller couldn't stop raving about the player during the game:

In his most recent mock draft, Miller had Ealy going at No. 11 to the Tennessee Titans. He wrote:

Missouri's Kony Ealy will draw comparisons to Aldon Smith, and they aren't far off. Ealy is long but has strength on his 275-pound frame to attack blockers, runners and passers. He's also versatile enough to play outside the tackle, head-up or even inside as a three-technique on passing downs. That type of do-it-all pass-rusher is what the Titans desperately need next to Jurrell Casey.

The sky appears to be the limit for Ealy, and now that he's declared, he can focus all of his attention on boosting his draft stock.

While he's never going to supplant Jadeveon Clowney as the top defensive end on the board, he can at least work his way into the top 10 and maybe even better than that. The Cotton Bowl has positioned him perfectly heading into the NFL Scouting Combine and Missouri's pro day.

If you haven't watched much film of Ealy before Friday night, make sure to check out some of his highlights because you're going to hear his name a lot in the coming months. This is a player who will likely make an immediate impact when he reaches the NFL.

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Cotton Bowl 2014: 10 Things We Learned from Oklahoma State vs. Missouri

It wasn't a BCS bowl game, but you couldn't tell that from the massive crowd and the on-field intensity seen during Friday night's Cotton Bowl between Missouri and Oklahoma State.

After nearly three quarters of defense controlling the tempo, the offense exploded for both sides, with Missouri coming out on top, 41-31. More than 72,000 people attended the game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, as the old Big 12 rivals made up for lost time with a classic battle.

So much happened in this game we could write about it forever (please don't make us do that!), but here's what we think are the 10 most important things we learned from the 2014 Cotton Bowl.

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