NCAA Football News
With Notre Dame's bowl prep underway, Brian Kelly now begins the delicate dance of balancing the present with the future. With the Irish opening up as 17-point favorites over Rutgers (one of the biggest point spreads of the postseason) in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Kelly and his coaching staff have the opportunity to prepare their football team for the immediate task at hand, while also getting work for young players who'll be key to the team's success next season.
While the Irish return the nucleus of this year's team, key veterans will need to be replaced. Let's take a look at five redshirt freshmen who'll have the opportunity to step in and become contributors.
Michael Deeb, ILB
6'2", 242 pounds
Many expected Deeb to be an early contributor, the product of a college-ready physique and the ability to play on special teams. But the Irish coaching staff decided to save a year of eligibility, rolling with fifth-year seniors Carlo Calabrese and Dan Fox in a trio with junior Jarrett Grace.
After Grace went down with a season-ending broken leg against Arizona State, seldom-used veterans Kendall Moore and Joe Schmidt joined the rotation. While Moore's play likely earned him a fifth year, neither look to be long-term answers next to Grace in the starting rotation.
The knock on Deeb coming out of high school was his athleticism, looking more like a run-stuffing bruiser than a guy who can cover running backs in space. But if Deeb can show a nose for the football and grasp the intricacies of Bob Diaco's defense, there's a job opening that's there for the taking.
Torii Hunter Jr., WR
6', 178 pounds
Hunter suffered one of the worst injuries you could imagine—a non-contact injury at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, where he broke his femur during practice before the exhibition game and just weeks before Signing Day. Of all the Irish freshmen receivers that impressed this year, before the injury, it was Hunter who looked like the one most ready to contribute.
That didn't happen, with a setback in the healing process forcing Hunter to back off his aggressive rehabilitation schedule. Yet as the Irish look to replace TJ Jones as the one constant among the team's talented stable of receivers, Hunter is the type of player who's capable of doing a lot of different things very well.
Hunter made the travel roster against Stanford, likely as a reward for a lot of hard work during a freshman season spent getting healthy. And with a crowded depth chart of young talent, and another impressive group signing this February, Hunter can use these 10 practices before the Pinstripe Bowl and spring drills to work his way into the rotation.
Doug Randolph, LB
6'2", 233 pounds
Randolph's season also ended before it began, with Brian Kelly announcing that the outside linebacker would undergo corrective shoulder surgery in August. It was an injury that he brought with him from high school and wasn't the only reason that Randolph was held out of competition this season.
Randolph came into Notre Dame looking more like an athlete than a football player, starring on the lacrosse team at Woodberry Forest High School and moonlighting as a pass-catcher as well as a pass-rusher. At 6'2", 233 pounds, he lacks the ideal size to play at the Cat linebacker position, so seeing if Randolph can slide inside might be a worthy offseason experiment.
Unlike Deeb, Randolph looks like the type of athlete who's comfortable in space, though he also showed a knack for rushing the passer in high school. The Irish could use a player with both those traits, so after a year of watching and learning, Randolph is a true wild card heading into next season.
Malik Zaire, QB
6', 208 pounds
The redshirt can finally come off. For Irish fans clamoring to see Zaire this season, Kelly came clean late this season, admitting that the intent was to keep Zaire off the field all along, rolling the dice with Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix. Of course, any chance of Zaire playing in 2013 was pushed back when the freshman came down with mononucleosis this fall, keeping him out of practice for the season's first month.
Kelly has doled out hints at what he expects to happen next year, all but naming Zaire and Golson as the two men battling for the starting quarterback job come springtime. That means that if Andrew Hendrix returns, he'll likely be leapfrogged by the redshirt freshman, a sign that perhaps Hendrix's time in South Bend is over.
Whatever Kelly says now, it's foolish to think that anybody but Golson will be the team's starter next season. Besides, what Zaire can actually do remains to be seen. He was a smooth operator in the option as a high schooler but only showed signs of being a capable passer during his senior season.
But for the first time in Kelly's tenure in South Bend, the offense will finally have quarterbacks capable of executing the team's core offense, with Zaire's dual-threat ability a welcome (and long-awaited) addition to the depth chart.
Greg Bryant, RB
5'10", 204 pounds
That Bryant's freshman year didn't go according to plan is hardly a death sentence for a player who's just too talented to stay off the field. At a finely chiseled 204 pounds, Bryant has the physical makeup of an NFL running back and elite skills as both a runner and receiver.
Fighting through a crowded depth chart will be easier with Bryant back at full strength after undergoing the same surgery that Louis Nix had on his knee. With Cam McDaniel and George Atkinson entering their senior seasons, Bryant's injury saved him a year of eligibility, positioning himself perfectly for three seasons as a potential 1-2 punch with Tarean Folston.
Showing patience and not losing faith seem to be among the most important things for Bryant at this point, with the frustrations of under-delivering after considerable recruiting hype likely weighing on the young player. But Bryant's opportunities are coming, even if his arrival is a year later than many expected.
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You won’t hear anyone on the Michigan Wolverines say it, but nobody is all that happy about playing in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Dreams of playing in the Rose Bowl evaporated in the midst of a 1-4 collapse that left the team in the depths of the Big Ten Legends Division.
To make matters worse, rivals Ohio State and Michigan State, who met in the Big Ten Championship Game, are both ranked in the top ten nationally while Michigan exited the rankings during its epic November collapse.
This isn’t what fans were expecting.
But, the flip side of that analysis is that the team is two plays away from a 5-7 record and missing a bowl entirely.
The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl doesn’t have the allure or the prestige of a BCS game or New Year’s Day bowl, but it does come with the added benefit of 15 additional practices to get ready for next season.
Publicly, Michigan coaches are preaching patience.
Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison told the Detroit News, “We feel very strongly the young men we recruited in the two or three years are the right young men, and now it’s getting experience. You can’t put a price tag on these 15 more practices where you can become a smarter football player.”
But, experience doesn’t seem to explain all Michigan’s problems on offense.
The Michigan offense hummed against Ohio State and Indiana but disappeared versus Iowa and Michigan State. It’s hard to reconcile the wide variations in performance. Add anemic performances versus Akron and UConn, and offense seems to have been a mystery all season long.
Is offensive coordinator Al Borges using this team’s talent correctly, or is he too focused on implementing his system?
The offensive line struggled rotating nine players through five positions and next season loses its two most consistent players to graduation.
Is offensive line coach Darrell Funk developing players to fill these gaps? Does Michigan have the talent on its roster to field an adequate offensive line next season, or does Hoke need to break with tradition and recruit some junior college players to protect quarterback Devin Gardner?
Hoke needs to prepare his team for their bowl game; the last thing Michigan needs is another loss. But most importantly he needs to evaluate whether the problem with his team stems from a lack of experience or the result of bad coaching.
Michigan was inconsistent for much of the season, but no could have predicted the train wreck that happened in November.
But those losses have made next season do-or-die for Hoke: his fate at Michigan hangs in the balance.
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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The 2013 season was a roller coaster season for second-year head coach Hugh Freeze. After going on several winning and losing streaks, the Rebels won seven of the first ten games, only to lose the final two against Missouri and Mississippi State.
You might call this year a sophomore slump as Freeze hopes another round or two in recruiting will have Ole Miss back as a perennial top 25 team.
Similarly, Georgia Tech jumped out to a 3-0 lead only to hit a wall in the passing game. This team relies heavily on the triple option as QB Van Lee was only able to pass for three touchdowns over the last nine games. The final game with Georgia, even in a loss, should give Tech plenty of confidence that they can play well with an SEC opponent.
These two teams were founding members of the SEC but have only played each other three times, with Ole Miss winning the last matchup in the 1971 Peach Bowl. The Music City Bowl is a preview of the future matchups between the schools in 2017 and 2018.
Continue reading as we evaluate the individual units in this rare meeting between Ole Miss and Georgia Tech.
The Pac-12 comprises one of the most talented and exciting conferences in the nation.
An eclectic mix of offensive capabilities and innovation is married together with tremendous passion and support from 12 loyal fan bases. Not to be outdone, there are multiple defensive standouts with the capabilities to impact immensely on the next level.
The 2013 season was a very competitive year for the conference. Both the North and South divisions were ultimately decided by one game each. The play throughout the season lends credence to the notion that the Pac-12 should be regarded as one of the best leagues in college football.
Without further ado, let's take a look at my all-conference team for the Pac-12.
*Note: The piece includes the best player at every position, along with a few honorable mentions.
Remember when Jadeveon Clowney was one of the preseason front runners for the Heisman Trophy? Or when college football's most prestigious award was Marcus Mariota's to lose? Feels like a long time ago doesn't it? With all the votes in and the Heisman Trophy ceremony coming up at 8 p.m. ET Saturday in New York, Bleacher Report caught up with seven voters and, naturally, we had some some questions for them.
B/R: What's the most important factor in deciding your vote?
Voter 1: Player who made his team something it otherwise would not have been.
Voter 2: Individual performance over the course of the season.
Voter 3: Consistency is a must. Also must play best in biggest games
Voter 4: Outstanding season statistically, but strength of competition and character of the athlete, are important.
Voter 5: Find the best player. I am not the most important to his team or concerned with where his team would be without him.
Voter 6: Performance against the best competition.
Voter 7: Is he college football’s best player? How does he impact his own team? How does he perform in the biggest moments?
B/R: Which Heisman Trophy winner was the biggest over achiever?
Voter 1: Eric Crouch (2001)
Voter 2: Eric Crouch (2001)
Voter 3: Jason White (2003)
Voter 4: Tim Tebow (2007)
Voter 5: Declined to state
Voter 6: Doug Flutie (1984)
Voter 7: John Cappelletti (1973)
B/R: Who is the greatest Heisman Trophy winner ever?
Voter 1: Robert Griffin III (2011)
Voter 2: Cam Newton (2010)
Voter 3: Barry Sanders (1988)
Voter 4: Barry Sanders (1988)
Voter 5: Barry Sanders (1988), Herschel Walker (1982), Roger Staubauch (1963)
Voter 6: Charlie Ward (1993)
Voter 7: Archie Griffin (1974, 1975)
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South Carolina drew Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl, and the Badgers will be no easy team to play against despite the lowly state of the Big Ten.
This game will be a pound-for-pound heavyweight fight between two hard-nosed football teams looking to run the football. A battle for toughness will be at stake, where South Carolina looks to continue the SEC's prowess as the nation's top conference by taking down a stout Wisconsin squad.
With Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and James White and South Carolina's Mike Davis, the ground-and-pound will be the storyline of the matchup.
In a game that is certain to have banged-up players and bruising from playing at 110 percent and landing huge hits, who will prevail?
Here are four things we need to see in the Capital One Bowl.
Penn State can certainly be proud of a 7-5 campaign in 2013.
With a roster depleted of scholarship athletes in addition to having to break in a true freshman quarterback—albeit a very talented one—the Nittany Lions regressed only slightly in the win column while continuing to push forward through unprecedented sanctions.
In his first two years as a head coach at any level, Bill O'Brien has compiled a respectable record of 15-9.
A rather young team, Penn State will only have to replace eight starters next season—four on offense and four on defense. This should serve them well as O'Brien and his staff continue to rebuild the roster.
Here's a look at the state of the program following the completion of the 2013 season, with a glimpse towards the future.
Since taking over as the head coach of USC football, Steve Sarkisian has made clear his intentions to implement a no-huddle offense in Troy.
That decision has excited many on the football team, according to Sarkisian, who spoke candidly with fans last week about his plans for the offense. With the change to the offense, Sarkisian has said that all positions will be open come spring ball.
And this has led to an interesting development in Troy.
Backup quarterback Max Wittek said on Tuesday that he will not transfer from USC, according to Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News:
After meeting with Sarkisian and discussing how truly "open" positions would be, Wittek evidently feels confident enough in his chances to stick around at least one more semester and vie for the starting job.
Wittek, Cody Kessler and Max Browne spoke with Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times about the makeover the offense is about to get, and all three expressed positive thoughts about the change.
Incumbent starter Kessler could do particularly well with a no-huddle look at USC and said that he's "very excited" to quarterback a spread offense, which he also ran at Bakersfield's Centennial High.
Similarly, freshman Max Browne could have success in Sarkisian's offense based on prior experience with spread offenses. He, too, could legitimately compete for the starting job:
Freshman quarterback Max Browne said the new offense was similar to the one he ran at Skyline High in Sammamish, Wash., where he operated almost exclusively from the shotgun and pistol formations.
"I think it suits me and all of the quarterbacks," Browne said.
And then there's Wittek, the prototypical pro-style quarterback who has a cannon for an arm, but isn't particularly fluid in the pocket. Still, he told Klein he thinks he can fit into the new scheme: "I think I can move around well and do what's asked."
But given his limitations, is Wittek making the right choice in sticking around?
Kessler has left a reasonably good taste in the mouths of USC fans after his growth and development in 2013. He is the better suited of the two redshirt sophomore quarterbacks to excel in an offense with spread elements. This season, we saw Kessler show agility in and outside the pocket, which suggests that he has the skill set to run Sarkisian's offense.
In Wittek's limited starts at the end of the 2012, we didn't see anything resembling mobility. On the contrary, he is pretty statuesque in the pocket, typical of conventional, pro-style quarterbacks. Both Kessler and Browne have experience in a spread offense, and thus will face a more gradual learning curve come the spring.
Since Kessler got the job back in August, there has been speculation about Wittek transferring. He was asked about it during fall camp, and punted away the question evasively:
It's obviously in USC's best interest to keep Wittek in the ranks, as Browne would be the only reserve quarterback available without him. Then again, it might be in his best interest to seek greener pastures with a different program, one where he is able to put his many talents on display.
Of course, if Wittek were to lose out in the spring, he would still have plenty of time to transfer before fall camps begin.
However the chips ultimately lay, Sarkisian will have his work cut out early when he starts coaching duties next spring, and he must make decisions that will have lasting implications on at least one major position.
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When a program goes through the kind of transition that the Oregon Ducks did after the 2012 season, there will be questions regarding the state of the team.
After a 2-2 finish in their last four games, the Ducks missed out on an opportunity to make a BCS bowl for a fifth consecutive season.
Mark Helfrich guided the team to a fast start, but it all came crumbling down in early November after his first loss as a head coach.
What could Helfrich and the staff have done differently in 2013 to help the season end the way in which they had hoped?
Maybe it has been too easy for the Ducks or maybe they paid too much attention to those who said Stanford is the only Pac-12 team capable of beating them.
Either way, the Ducks looked like they didn't care very much in the loss to the Wildcats. Arizona lost three of its final four games. The only win came in blowout fashion against then-No. 5 Oregon.
Being a first-time head coach, maybe Helfrich didn't get the vibe from his players that they felt they deserved something they hadn't earned. Maybe he did and didn't think it would matter with two average teams left.
Either way, the intense focus and the "win the day" mantra made famous by his predecessor Chip Kelly seemed to fade further into history with each passing week. Kelly made it a priority to teach his players about how to answer questions from the mediay. Helfrich needs to follow suit.
Prior to the loss at Stanford, and with an 8-0 start that had Oregon sitting at No. 3 in the BCS, junior running back De'Anthony Thomas told reporters that scoring 40 against Stanford shouldn't be a problem. He should have been off limits to the media or at least schooled on what to say from that point on.
A bounce-back win against Utah, combined with Stanford's loss to USC the following week, gave the Ducks control of their own destiny in the Pac-12 North.
It didn't last long, as the lack of discipline and sense of entitlement seemed to grab a hold of the previously unstoppable Ducks. If something was done to combat the lack of focus, it wasn't enough.
The wheels fell off the following week when the Ducks traveled to Arizona. Leading up to the game, two of Oregon's most experienced leaders gave the Wildcats plenty of motivation while giving away the Ducks' mindset.
Thomas and senior wide receiver Josh Huff made comments to the media about how the Ducks don't care about going to the Rose Bowl. They believed that they deserved a shot at the BCS title.
The problem was they truly believed it. The Ducks came out flat against the Wildcats and played as poorly as any Oregon team has in a game since a 38-8 loss to BYU in the 2006 Las Vegas Bowl.
The Oregon team on the field for the final four games was a far different team than the one that dominated their first eight opponents. The one thing that didn't change was was the amount of penalties they committed, which is another problem stemming from a lack of discipline.
The Ducks finished the season ranked 119th in the country with an average of 7.91 penalties per game. Of the 95 penalties they committed on the season, 28 of them came in games against Stanford, Utah and Arizona.
By November, a championship team should have learned how to limit penalties to a normal level. The Ducks never figured it out, and it continued to haunt them until the end of the season.
Utilizing weapons correctly
Thomas has been one of the most dynamic playmakers in college football over the past three seasons. Some of his biggest plays have come when he was lined up as a running back, but that doesn't allow him or the team to maximize the talent of the Oregon roster.
Thomas was solid at running back to start the season, but he wasn't the same after returning from an ankle injury that kept him out for over a month. When he did return, running backs Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner had established themselves as stars.
The two backs are both bigger and stronger than Thomas, while Thomas is better in space.
After being unable to control the line of scrimmage against Stanford, the staff should have adjusted and sent Thomas on some deep routes to take advantage of the speed he possesses.
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Postseason All-Conference teams are silly.
The Associated Press released its annual All-SEC team, voted on by members of the media. And, as always, there was much debate over who got snubbed.
Voting for teams such as these are hard. Writers barely have time to write their own stories, much less watch and evaluate ever player on every team.
Linemen are the hardest to evaluate. There are few stats and news articles to quickly look up on them. Name recognition and popularity mean plenty when choosing them.
LSU defensive tackle Ego Ferguson learned the hard way. Ferguson only earned "Honorable Mention" for his efforts this season. His teammate, Anthony "Freak" Johnson, made Second-Team All-SEC.
Notice the word "Freak" attached to Johnson's name. It helped distinguish himself amongst others by a nickname alone. He made multiple preseason All-American teams.
But Johnson's play did not live up to expectations this season.
Ferguson was far from spectacular for most of the season, but he was better than Johnson.
Statistics are not always an accurate indicator of a defensive lineman's play. But the huge gap between Ferguson and Johnson is tough to ignore.
Ferguson was far more active getting off blocks and making plays.
Johnson's numbers are poor. LSU did not have the depth at defensive tackle like in years past, which makes his lack of production even more startling considering his high volume of snaps.
Johnson was the better pass-rusher, raking in two more sacks than Ferguson. Johnson's quickness makes his "swim" move difficult for offensive linemen to block.
But both Ferguson and Johnson were inconsistent in getting to the quarterback. They are too powerful to have not pushed the pocket more frequently.
Ferguson was also more fundamentally sound. On double-teams, he was better at holding at the point of attack. While Johnson made more plays behind the line of scrimmage, he often got pushed around too easily.
LSU's last game against Arkansas was an accurate indicator of how their seasons went.
On a 3rd-and-1 in the fourth quarter, Arkansas ran a simple run to the left. Ferguson stood up First-Team All-SEC center Travis Swanson at the line of scrimmage, peeled off the block and made the tackle for the critical stop. LSU was losing, so forcing a punt was critical.
Johnson jumped offsides four times over the course of the game. He was also pushed around by the Razorbacks offensive line.
The duo had an above-average season, but it was not entirely their fault. All levels of LSU's defense were mediocre. They also had average backups, forcing them to play more snaps.
Ferguson was an overall better defensive tackle and deserved Second-Team All-SEC over Johnson. "The Freak" should be thankful for the preseason hype that surrounded him.
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Bowl season generally means two things: the coaching carousel and bowl game preparation.
For the Texas Longhorns (8-4, 7-2), they will be dealing with both on tremendous scales.
For the second consecutive season, the Longhorns will travel down I-35 to play in the Valero Alamo Bowl. But the recent headlines regarding Mack Brown possibly stepping down from his head coaching post after 16 years will provide a whole new carnival.
In 2012, fueled by a strong second-half comeback, Texas was able to knock off Oregon State 31-27.
But in less than three weeks, Texas will encounter No. 10 Oregon (10-2, 7-2) and its massive offense.
We saw the Longhorns sneak away with a win last year, but the challenge appears to have increased tenfold with the Ducks flying into San Antonio for the December 30 contest.
In preparation for what figures to be a matchup nightmare for the Longhorns, here are five things that Texas has to have against the Ducks.
Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes were one win away from playing for a national championship in 2013, but those dreams were dashed by Michigan State in the Big Ten title game.
Ohio State will look to bounce back in an Orange Bowl matchup against the Clemson Tigers, but beyond that, what lies ahead for the Buckeyes in 2014?
With Meyer at the helm, Ohio State's outstanding recruiting should lessen the blow of losing key seniors and a couple early departures to the NFL. The College Football Playoff will debut next season, and the Buckeyes will have an experienced defense and a dangerous offense for a potential national title run.
Here's the state of the program heading into the 2014 season.
The Miami Hurricanes' first postseason game since 2010 will pit "The U" against the Teddy Bridgewater-led No. 18 Louisville Cardinals.
Squaring off in the Russell Athletic Bowl, the 9-3 Hurricanes will face Bridgewater, who is touted as a top prospect for the 2014 NFL Draft, and the 11-1 Cardinals.
Louisville brings a premier squad to Orlando, Fla., so Miami will be tested both offensively and defensively.
If Al Golden's team is going to emerge victorious, the 'Canes must do certain things on both sides of the ball to give themselves the best chance to win.
The Offensive Line Protects Stephen Morris
Similar to his junior campaign, quarterback Stephen Morris recovered from his mid-season struggles, hitting his stride as the season came to a close.
And the biggest reason for this success is his massive offensive line.
During the final four games of 2012, Morris completed 66 of 110 passes (60 percent) for 1,131 yards, 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions. This year, Morris is 76-of-132 (57.6 percent) for 1,213 yards, nine scores and two picks.
In addition to being tied for the fourth-most 30-plus yard gains (31) and fourth-most 40-plus yard gains (15), Morris has completed a pass of at least 50 yards in nine of 12 games.
But Louisville doesn't allow explosive plays, ranking in the top 25 of every yard range for opposing passing plays (e.g. 10-19 yards, 20-29, etc.) according to CFBstats.com. Additionally, the Cardinals have allowed just 17 touchdowns (eight passing) to its opposition all season.
That's it. Seventeen.
The Hurricanes have a stable of pass-catchers, but the Louisville pass-rush tends to not let receivers have time to get deep. Led by Marcus Smith and his 12.5 sacks, the Cardinals lead the nation with 3.25 per game and are tied for the second-most with 39 total.
Now, senior Brandon Linder and the Miami offensive line have only allowed Morris to be sacked 11 times this season, so Smith and Co. will not be waltzing through the line of scrimmage.
But clearly, blocking the Louisville linemen is not an easy task, either.
When Morris has time to make a good pass, the 'Canes O-line is obviously directly responsible for it. The senior gunslinger has been heating up lately, so he must continue to make the correct reads and proper decisions.
One mistake against the Cardinals could result in a 14-point swing—something Miami may be hard-pressed to overcome.
Miami Utilizes its Healthy Receivers
After Phillip Dorsett suffered a slight MCL tear against North Carolina, Stacy Coley stepped up in his absence. But the trio of Allen Hurns, Dorsett and Coley was rarely used on the field at the same time early on.
Christina De Nicola of Fox Sports Florida notes Dorsett expects to be 100 percent for the bowl game. The receiving corps is finally completely healthy, and Coley will now get an opportunity to play alongside the veterans.
Dorsett's presence cannot be understated, considering the junior ran a 4.29 40-yard dash this summer (h/t The Miami Herald) and constantly stretches the field. He fried the vaunted Florida secondary for a 52-yard touchdown and North Carolina for a 68-yard gain.
Because his speed demands attention from safeties, Dorsett opens throwing lanes underneath for receivers on crossing routes or Clive Walford on a seam.
What's more, Hurns and Coley were both on hot streaks as the regular season concluded. Over the last four contests, Hurns caught 27 passes for 548 yards and two scores, while Coley racked up 647 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns.
The receivers are at full strength and on a roll, so they must repeatedly test the Louisville secondary.
Defense Needs to Contain Bridgewater Right Away
During the first quarter, the Cardinals have outscored their opponents by a staggering 90-points (96-6).
Since the Hurricanes started the year with a 7-0 record, the Miami defense has allowed 518.6 yards and 37.6 points per game.
That combination is a major reason why the 'Canes lost three of their final five games. It doesn't matter in which quarter Miami concedes those points, because nearly 40 points per outing is, well, awful.
So what will the Hurricanes do when they face a true All-American-caliber quarterback? Bridgewater has completed 70.2 percent of his passes, thrown for 3,523 yards and tallied 28 touchdowns to just four interceptions.
He ain't exactly just average.
Florida State had likely Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, but the Seminoles' running game destroyed Miami. Of course, Rayshawn Jenkins and Deon Bush each intercepted a pass, so Winston was not mistake-free, but the 'Noles star threw for 325 yards and a score.
Winston led five touchdown drives, and Bridgewater is more than capable of doing the same.
However, the Hurricanes' defensive unit must try to make Louisville settle for a few field goals instead of allowing six-pointers. Plus, if the 'Canes force the Cardinals to punt more than it did to Florida State (once), Miami's offense is talented enough to recover.
But against Bridgewater and the Cardinals, that is often easier said than done.
Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.
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For Nebraska football fans, Michigan State’s win over Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship was exciting but also just the slightest bit galling. After all, it was a five-turnover performance by Nebraska against Michigan State in Lincoln that opened the door for the Spartans to win the conference title.
So what must Nebraska do to walk through that door, bring home the Stagg Championship Trophy and put a number after the lonely “1999” on the West Stadium sign for conference titles? Here are five things that need to change for Nebraska to lift that trophy in December of 2014.
All stats from cfbstats.com.
A wild card in Florida State's recruiting class is 4-star athlete Treon Harris. He's a versatile player who has a bright future in Tallahassee.
Head coach Jimbo Fisher will have to huddle with his coaching staff before Harris' arrival in northern Florida. Yet, the group could fight over which side of the ball the talented prospect plays on.
Harris' potential, along with having several career options on the field, warrants a more in-depth look.
When you win at least 10 games per year for eight seasons in a row, success is measured differently. That's why folks around Blacksburg, Va., have become frustrated with the Virginia Tech Hokies.
Last season's 7-6 debacle of a campaign was viewed as an aberration by most. Changes on the offensive coaching staff would fix things, and the Hokies would be right back in the Top 10.
Not so fast.
Tech finished 2013 with an 8-4 record, but it was who the Hokies lost to that bothered fans the most. The Hokies lost conference home games to Duke and Maryland. No, folks, this isn't basketball. Yes, Duke was a great story this season, but Virginia Tech should never lose to Duke in football—especially in Lane Stadium.
So, on the surface, 8-4 is a good record. Some schools would be happy playing UCLA in the Sun Bowl. Not Virginia Tech, nor should it be.
Here is a look at the state of the Virginia Tech program as we near the end of the 2013 season.
When the Bulldogs take the field on Jan. 1 to face Nebraska in the Gator Bowl, it will not only be the final game of the season, but it will mark the first look at the 2014 version of the squad.
The reason for that is Hutson Mason will make his second straight start. He will be looking to have a better performance after impressing many folks with his play against Georgia Tech.
Mason has a lot of upside, and he has been waiting patiently for his turn to make a splash. With him being a senior next year, Mason wants to make the most out of his limited amount of action. It started with a great showing against Georgia Tech, and the fans hope it will only get better moving forward.
Here’s a preview of the Mason era.
Though the BCS era generated tons of negative press, it did launch a few underdog programs onto the national radar.
These teams played the role of the BCS buster, the classic “little guy” that got screwed over by “the man.” Their existence at the top of the rankings split the nation into two camps: The people who thought they deserved a legitimate shot and those who contended that they had no business competing with the big boys.
Think about it, were the BCS busters getting shafted by the BCS scheme, or did it land them at a level which they couldn’t have achieved without it?
And what happened after they got to the Promised Land, the place where half the world moaned they deserved to be… in a BCS conference?
Only three non-AQ programs have been extended multiple BCS bids in the 16-year history of the scheme: Utah (2004 and 2008), Boise State (2006 and 2009) and TCU (2009 and 2010).
Utah and TCU leveraged their BCS buster status to earn places in AQ conferences. Though Boise State made a step-up from the WAC to the Mountain West in 2011, it has never earned BCS affiliation.
Here’s a look at the overall results since Utah scored the first-ever BCS bust in 2004.
The trend is clear: After the second bust, the program sticks around in a non-AQ league for one or two more years, moves up to a BCS league, and is never heard from again.
In Boise State’s case, it moved to the Mountain West and continued to win but hasn’t been able to produce another undefeated campaign.
Utah’s 14 losses from 2012-13 marks its worst back-to-back results since going 6-16 from 1976-77. TCU’s 4-8 finish in 2013 is its poorest performance since going 1-10 in 1997 and marks its first bowl-less season since 2004.
Even Boise State has begun to fade, and it’s worth noting that the Broncos have not busted into the BCS since joining the Mountain West. Could it be that its days as the glorified underdog were numbered as soon as it left the WAC?
All three of the original busters put up all-world stats during the apex of their surges.
The next table illustrates the rise, and then the statistical fall associated with a post-bust conference move.
Where Utah has lost a touchdown per game since moving to the Pac-12, TCU has dropped two touchdowns in scoring since joining the Big 12.
The numbers make a strong argument that a BCS buster’s statistical resume—earned in a smaller conference—won’t hold up in an AQ league.
In other words, it answers the question many people asked when the teams found their way into the Top 5 in the first place: Could they do it in a tougher conference?
The statistics answer with a strong “No, they could not.”
Even though Boise State has had better luck maintaining its output, it hasn’t averaged more than 40 points per game since its first season in the Mountain West in 2011.
As the next table illustrates, the trend established in results and offense extends to scoring defense.
After maintaining its defensive prowess in its first season in the Pac-12, Utah has slipped to where it now gives up eight additional points per game.
TCU, the No. 1 scoring defense in the FBS during its Rose Bowl season, has doubled its amount of points allowed in only two seasons in the Big 12.
Again, while Boise State’s results aren’t as extreme, it is giving up more points than it did during its heyday in the WAC.
One of the big selling points for conference realignment—done to improve a program’s standing on the national stage—is improved recruiting.
Here’s a look at the team recruiting rankings for the original busters:
The numbers paint a clear picture: Moving up to a tougher conference does improve recruiting numbers.
Utah hit a high note with its No. 28-ranked class of 2008, Boise State had relative success with its No. 53-ranked class of 2011 and TCU hit the mark in this year’s class of 2013.
In every case but that of the Broncos in 2010, recruiting numbers also jumped after the BCS buster season.
What’s intriguing moving forward is that Utah and Boise State’s numbers have slipped with the class of 2013. In both cases it indicates that despite the conference move, a reduction in success (or wins and losses) will eventually result in a dip in recruiting.
Could it be that, after a 4-8 campaign, TCU is next in line to take a hit in recruiting, regardless of its full eligibility for the upcoming playoff?
Well, Rivals has the Horned Frogs’ class of 2014 ranked at No. 73. If that number holds, it will be TCU’s lowest ranked class since 2008.
The other interesting angle is that while each program enjoyed a recruiting renaissance, they won fewer games. The only reasonable explanation for this is that the negative effect of the conference move was so great that even recruiting gains couldn’t deter it.
This doesn’t mean that TCU and Utah won’t ever settle into their new conferences and win big again. It also doesn’t spell the end for Boise State. Instead, it means that the jump up from a smaller conference to a big boy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Instead of the “Promised Land” it’s more a case of, “be careful what you wish for.”
Not only do the results make you reconsider the future of the most recent BCS buster Northern Illinois and hopefuls such as Fresno State, they speak to the broader issue of realignment.
In other words, what do these trends say about Rutgers and Maryland’s move to the Big Ten in 2014? And, what about Louisville’s move to the ACC?
Though these shifts aren’t from a non-AQ to an AQ conference, what will it do to the level of success each program enjoyed before moving up?
And finally, what impact do the results have on the argument that the FBS level of college football—formerly referred to as Division I-A—should be split into two divisions?
If the top teams in one level can’t compete at the next, should they be in the same broad division in the first place?
And in case you think a split is some kind of far-fetched fantasy, check out what was distributed at a Sept. 2013 NCAA meeting of Division I faculty representatives, according to an Associated Press report on ESPN.
A packet distributed at the session called ‘Principles and Model for New Governance Structure’ suggests that FBS institutions and conferences that are more closely aligned in issues and athletics resources form a new division.
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The 2014 Rose Bowl features two old-school squads in Stanford and Michigan State, and the two programs have bullied opponents into submission all year long. The hallmarks of both teams are impenetrable defense and a relentless rushing attack, and they both feature elite players on both sides of the ball.
Stanford reached the Rose Bowl after winning the Pac-12 Championship Game in impressive style, 38-14, over Arizona State. The Cardinal finished the season with a record of 11-2, having lost tight games to Utah and USC.
Michigan State lost just one game in 2013, back in September when Notre Dame eked out a close one at home. Since that time, the Spartans have rattled off nine straight wins, the latest being their impressive 34-24 victory over (then) No. 2-ranked Ohio State.
It's going to be a physical contest in which every inch will be contested with violent force and only the strong will survive. With that in mind, here's a look at the key players who'll influence this brutal battle one way or another for both teams.
Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford
Kevin Hogan is a competent quarterback, but Stanford's offense is predicated first and foremost by a power-rushing attack led by senior Tyler Gaffney.
Gaffney's been a workhorse for the Cardinal this year, churning out 1,618 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground. He's eclipsed 100 yards nine times and has scored at least one touchdown in 12 of Stanford's 13 games.
He'll need to be at the top of his game during the Rose Bowl, however, as Michigan State comes into the contest with the best run defense in college football. It is worth noting, though, that Ohio State's Carlos Hyde was able to gain 118 yards on 18 carries in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Stanford's offensive line will be an even match against Michigan State's defensive front, meaning it'll be up to Gaffney to make the best of his opportunities.
Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
Like Stanford, Michigan State's offense features a run-heavy approach. Junior running back Jeremy Langford is a stalwart player for the Spartans, and he's accounted for 18 touchdowns this year.
However, when Sparty needed a big game from quarterback Connor Cook in the Big Ten Championship Game, the impressive sophomore delivered in a big way.
Outplaying Braxton Miller, Cook passed for 304 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, spreading the ball around to eight different receivers. He showed tremendous poise under pressure, and if Michigan State is going to take down Stanford, he'll need to do so once again.
Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford
Stanford's front seven on defense is rock solid, but of all the talented men who comprise this group, Trent Murphy stands above his teammates as a potential NFL superstar in the making.
The outside linebacker has racked up 14 sacks this year after notching 10 the year before, and NFL scouts will be pleased that his production has increased every season the past four years.
Not only will Murphy need to apply pressure on Cook, but he'll need to hold the edge on running plays. He—along with Shayne Skov—must play at their absolute best to ensure Stanford's defense isn't gashed for game-changing plays in the Rose Bowl.
Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard will likely be selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft thanks to his elite coverage skills and smooth athleticism.
But, Dennard isn't just a one-trick pony. He is an active and physical defender in the running game who has been an integral part of the team's top-ranked run defense.
When Stanford does decide to throw, however, you can be sure Hogan will know where Dennard is on the field. The lock-down cornerback will be in receiver Ty Montgomery's hip pocket the entire game. If Hogan decides to test Dennard, then nobody should be surprised if he ends up coming up with an interception.
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The senior seasons of many 2014 recruits are coming to an end, but they will be back on the field for various all-star games soon. However, some of them decided to make sure they really went out with a bang with their high school teams.
It's one thing to have a great senior year, but several recruits had seasons to be remembered.
A quarterback in North Carolina who had a fantastic junior year used his senior campaign to add to his mythical status. A running back in California skated for a ton of yards, plus an underrated receiver put up huge numbers.
Note: All stats are via totals at MaxPreps.