NCAA Football News

Holiday Bowl 2013 Arizona State vs. Texas Tech: Live Score and Highlights

The highest scoring game so far in the 2013 bowl season produced 93 points. That record might be in jeopardy when the potent offenses of Arizona State (10-3) and Texas Tech (7-5) clash in the National University Holiday Bowl at 10:15 p.m. ET Monday in San Diego.

The Pac-12/Big 12 tussle has traditionally been one of the more entertaining pre-New Year's Day bowl games, and this year's matchup should be no exception. Even though both teams are coming in off losses (with Texas Tech riding a five-game skid following a 7-0 start), the long layoff and extra time to tinker with schemes should make for plenty of fireworks.

ASU won the Pac-12's South Division, but then fell 38-14 at home to Stanford in the conference championship game on Dec. 7. Tech's last outing, on Nov. 28, was a 41-16 setback at Texas.

The game is being shown live on ESPN, but stick with us here for real-time updates, analysis and commentary, not to mention plenty of pics, tweets, GIFs and video from Qualcomm Stadium.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

BCS National Championship 2014: Biggest X-Factors for Auburn and Florida State

Auburn and Florida State will bring plenty of star power to the BCS National Championship, but some under-the-radar players will tip the outcome.

X-factors can swing games because stars are supposed to deliver huge performances. When (not if) Jameis Winston and Tre Mason carry their respective offenses at the Rose Bowl, it will surprise no one.

Rather, the guys who step up to complement or counter the greats around them deserve notice. With one game deciding the final BCS champion, an unexpected career night can earn a given player and his team a place in college football history.

 

Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State

Fun fact: Did you know that the Seminoles, sporting the 2013 Heisman winner under center, bother to run the ball?

It's true, because Devonta Freeman provides the perfect support to Winston's aerial attack.

At 5'9", 205 pounds, Freeman is an absolute load to bring down, capable of pounding the ball between the tackles or bouncing outside and punishing smaller defenders. That physical running style has earned him a hard-fought 5.3 yards per carry this season, as well as 13 rushing touchdowns due to his red-zone proficiency.

He can also catch the ball a little bit out of the backfield, tacking on 19 catches for 257 yards and another score to his 953 yards on the ground. If that weren't enough, he's superb in pass protection, bringing the same mean streak from his run game to make him an every-down back.

That makes him an excellent safety valve for Winston. If Auburn can manage to bother Winston, Florida State has a dependable second option it can fall back on.

 

Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn

You might think the Tigers have a potent passing game, since you associate Auburn with this play:

However, that's by no means the case. Nick Marshall joins Mason as one of two 1,000-yard rushers on this Auburn team, but he has thrown for just 1,759 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. Auburn does not want to get into a shootout because gunslinging is not its signal-caller's strong suit.

Against Winston, balancing the offense with some effective passing will be necessary to keep up. That means Marshall is going to need help from Sammie Coates.

It's a major red flag that Auburn's leading receiver only has 38 catches, but he has maximized those opportunities, turning them into 841 yards and seven touchdowns. He's 6'2", but the sophomore has the speed to beat the secondary deep and the strength to shake off defensive backs trying to take him down.

Auburn must have that dimension in its game to win, and Coates is one of the few Tigers who can offer it.

 

Telvin Smith, LB, Florida State

While Winston put his physical gifts to work on the offensive end, Telvin Smith has anchored the defense with experience and a nose for the ball.

The senior linebacker weighs just 215 pounds, but that hasn't stopped him from making plays all over the field. Smith leads the Noles with 61 tackles, has gotten into the backfield for 4.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks and has picked off three passes, two of which he has returned for touchdowns.

That pedigree makes the task of him tracking down Mason, who is only 10 pounds lighter than Smith, less tenuous than it might have been otherwise. But even at his small size, Smith has the relentlessness and the tenacity to take on and take down the Heisman nominee.

Smith's passion is infectious, and the more big plays he makes, the more Florida State is going to get fired up. Auburn's blockers need to get to the second level and keep him away from the ball-carriers, or else the Seminole defense could overwhelm the Tigers.

 

Chris Davis, CB, Auburn

Again, you might not know everything Chris Davis can actually do on a football field if you have only seen this:

Yes, Davis returns punts, which made him an appropriate choice to position deep on that field-goal attempt. In addition to that instant classic against Alabama, he is averaging 20.1 yards on 14 punt returns, one of which he also took back for a touchdown. 

But his biggest impact comes on defense, where he makes outsized contributions for a cornerback. Lining up at the nickel, he is constantly making plays in the middle of the field, leading the Tigers with 65 tackles and tying Jonathon Mincy with 11 pass defenses.

His do-everything approach to the secondary will be vital against a Florida State offense that stretches opposing DBs to their breaking point. If Davis can hold up, he can help Auburn get the upper hand it needs on the No. 1 team in college football.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tim Tebow Is Making the Right Decision Becoming an Analyst

Tim Tebow is returning to college football.

It isn't exactly the comeback he had in mind, but the former Florida Gators and Denver Broncos starting quarterback will officially join the SEC Network, according to Nate Scott of USA Today.

The two-time SEC Champion will join a new show on the SEC Network called "SEC Nation" as an analyst. Tebow confirmed the reports as he tweeted his feelings about the situation on his official account:

After being cut most recently by the New England Patriots, Tebow has been given offers by an Italian league team and KISS's Arena Football League team, but has yet to sign another contract in the NFL.

Tebow will begin his new position with ESPN starting on Jan. 6 as part of its coverage of the BCS Championship Game. While it certainly isn't what Tebow or his fans wanted, the return to college football as an analyst is the best decision for the 26-year-old quarterback.

During his, thus far, short four-year career in the NFL and four years with the Gators, Tebow proved he had an immense knowledge of the game. Though his physical play on the field at the NFL level was often criticized, his understanding of football at the college level led to him winning the 2007 Heisman Trophy.

Tebow's previous tweets revealed that he hasn't given up on his dream of once again becoming a starting quarterback in the NFL, and Adam Schefter of ESPN tweeted that there is a clause in his contract that kept his options open to returning to the league:

While the jokes about Tebow likely will not go away, the fact that he knows the game of football is not debatable. The former Gators quarterback who won not only the Heisman but also a national championship with the team, knows how the SEC and college football as a whole work.

Whether or not he ever returns to the NFL to pursue a career as a starting quarterback, his return to college football is not only a great decision for the SEC Network, but for Tebow's career as a whole.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Arizona State vs. Texas Tech: Top NFL Prospects to Watch in Holiday Bowl

The 2014 Holiday Bowl pits No. 16 Arizona State against Texas Tech on Monday, Dec. 30, but it really won't be much of a competition.

The 10-3 Sun Devils should have no problem disposing of the 7-5 Red Raiders. ASU's No. 9-ranked offense will have a field day against a Red Raiders defense that checks in at No. 90 in the nation. Most of the bowl games feature quality matchups, but this one will certainly miss the mark.

Regardless, there are plenty of top NFL prospects featured in the Holiday Bowl that will be looking to make a good impression in their last on-field audition prior to the NFL draft in May.

Sure, pro days and the NFL Scouting Combine await them in the future, but production in games is ultimately what teams should be judging before making their selections. Look out for the following prospects to leave their marks on the game.

 

Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State

Marion Grice was the epitome of a dual-threat weapon for Arizona State this season, as the senior running back showed his versatility by posting solid numbers both on the ground and in the air.

He just missed out on a 1,000-yard rushing season, totaling 996 yards on 191 carries, 14 of which resulted in touchdowns.

In the passing game, he and quarterback Taylor Kelly established great chemistry and took advantage of defenses through checkdowns and plays in the middle of the field. Grice had 50 catches for 438 yards and six touchdowns.

He rarely carried more than 20 times per game this season, but in the four games he did, his lowest rushing total was 84 yards against Wisconsin. While that number may seem low, he made up for it by finding the end zone four times. Always active in the passing game, Grice failed to top 100 total yards just three times this year.

In the late second or early third round, Grice can be a quality pick for teams in need of running back help.

 

Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech

Tight end Jace Amaro was unbelievable this season for the Red Raiders. He hauled in 98 passes for 1,240 yards and seven touchdowns, with 36 catches, 445 yards and three touchdowns coming against teams in the AP rankings.

The NFL today loves big-play tight ends. Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Vernon Davis and Jordan Cameron are some of the top playmakers for their respective teams, and it's their potential in the vertical passing game that makes them such big threats to opposing defenses.

Chris Steuber of CSNPhilly.com praises Amaro's natural talents:

Whether he's in the slot or on the perimeter, Amara has the ability to exploit a defense with his natural receiving skills and vision. If Amaro decides to cash in on his breakout season, he could land in the first round...

Late in the first round would be the perfect spot for Amaro. The New England Patriots are a natural fit considering their love of the two-tight-end set, but there are various teams that will likely be enamored with this player's ability to stretch the field from the tight end position.

With a big game in the Holiday Bowl, Amaro might even find himself within the top 20 on draft day.

 

Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State

Need help in the trenches? Then look no further than defensive tackle Will Sutton. The 6'1", 288-pound tackle is a candidate to go sometime in the second round because of his explosiveness on the defensive line.

Sutton is deceptively quick for such a compact player, and his relatively shorter size allows him to get through gaps in the offensive line that bigger defenders would have difficulties penetrating. 

He posted 44 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and one interception on the season as a result. Brandon Chatmon of ESPN.com points out just why those numbers are down from last season, however:

He's returned, added the weight and kept most of his quick first step, but teams have keyed in on him more than they did last season—which is why his numbers are down.

Sutton has the quickness to play defensive end if he sheds some weight, but that's not to say he can't be a successful DT in the NFL.

As a second-round value selection, NFL teams would be smart to pick up the ASU product.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alamo Bowl 2013 Oregon vs. Texas: Live Game Grades, Analysis for the Longhorns

Texas 7, Oregon 10—1st Quarter

Case McCoy puts Texas on the board with a one-yard sneak to cap a seven minute drive. Malcolm Brown has already carried it 13 times for 60 yards.

Follow this page for live updates and the grades for Texas' positional units after each half of play.

Be sure to follow the box score at NCAA.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

10 Best New Year's Day Memories of the BCS Era

New Year's Day is the pinnacle of college football, and though the two best teams have squared off several days later in recent years, January 1 is the one day you don't want to miss.

The Rose Bowl is the highlight of the day, and it's usually surrounded by several intriguing SEC-Big Ten matchups along with a second BCS tilt later at night.

Given the sheer number of great players and great teams coming together in one, glorious, 12-hour span, madness is going to happen. And what a journey the special day has taken us on throughout the BCS era.

If you're a fan of a team fortunate enough to play on New Year's Day, you probably have your own set of memories that stand out above any other. But we've collected some of our favorites over the past 15 seasons, and they're now part of college football lore.

So take a look at the 10 Best Memories from New Year's Day games in the BCS era, and feel free to share some of your own as well!

 

All stats via ESPN unless otherwise noted.

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The Top 25 College Football Stadiums to Visit Before You Die

Behind every great college football team is a great college football stadium.

Whether it’s the 12th Man of Texas A&M or the atmosphere of Death Valley for LSU, most of the game’s best teams benefit from having one of the best game-day experiences in the nation. Fans are screaming, the place is packed, and even the most uninterested attendant will have a great time.

But no stadium is built equally.

Fortunately, B/R has compiled a list of the top 25 stadiums to visit before you die.

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Tennessee Football Recruiting: 9 Players to Watch in High School All-Star Games

It's high school all-star game season, and coach Butch Jones' third-ranked Tennessee football recruiting class will be well-represented. Future Volunteers will be all over the field in the two major postseason games, as well as in two more that you'll be able to watch.

Six Vols commits were invited to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and two more will participate in the Under Armour All-America Game.

The Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl will feature three UT commitments, and the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl will have at least seven future Vols playing.

This is a public relations dream for Jones, a salesman who is trying to get his message out to difference-makers who can help turn around the program. Having their names and the "Power T" flash across living room screens all over the country is a big recruiting tool.

It also doesn't hurt that so many Tennessee commits will be in the ears of their peers, telling them all about the Vols.

Let's take a look at the UT commitments and targets you should watch in the upcoming games.

All rankings and statistics courtesy of the 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Alamo Bowl 2013 Oregon vs. Texas: Live Score and Highlights

Keep it locked right here as we bring you live coverage of the Oregon Ducks and Texas Longhorns in the Valero Alamo Bowl!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Capital One Bowl: Wisconsin Has Chance to Make National Statement Against SEC

Wisconsin has traded the familiar sights of Disneyland and the Rose Bowl for Disney World and the Capital One Bowl, yet its goal is still the same—make a national statement. 

In each of the last three Rose Bowls, the Badgers proved they could compete with anyone. That's all well and good, but in college football close doesn't count for much, and Wisconsin failed to win all three attempts at the Rose Bowl. 

It lost to No. 3 TCU in 2011, No. 5 Oregon in 2012 and No. 6 Stanford in 2013. 

So, as No. 9 South Carolina stands in front of them at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando on New Year's Day, don't expect the Badgers to be intimidated in the least. 

Do expect them to be hungry to go out winners for a change, after seeing the last three senior classes leave empty-handed. According to Tom Mulhern of the Wisconsin State Journal, it's all the motivation guys like James White need heading into the Capital One Bowl.

Since I’ve been here, I haven’t won a bowl game and I really haven’t done much in a bowl game...It’s definitely important for me and the rest of the seniors to go out here and work hard and put on a great performance.

Wisconsin has been close to breaking through the glass ceiling of being considered an elite team for four years now.

It now has an opportunity to put itself on the map in its next two games, as they also take on LSU to open 2014.

But Wisconsin must take care of part one before it worries about part two. 

That's a task easier said than done, especially when you look at the matchup between the efficient Gamecocks' quarterback Connor Shaw and UW's secondary. 

It's a fact not lost on Badgers secondary coach Ben Strickland, according to Tom Mulhern of the Wisconsin State Journal

As a whole, we have to be different to win this ballgame...We can’t just line up and play and expect for those guys on the offensive side not to pick us apart. So, we’ve got to be different in what we’re doing from a scheme standpoint (and) a different mentality approach as well, to make sure our kids are locked in and ready to execute at a high level.

Wisconsin's season finale against Penn State didn't go the way anyone wanted in the cardinal and white, as the Badger secondary gave up 339 yards and four touchdowns through the air. 

Yet statistically speaking, the Badgers have been one of the best teams in college football against the pass. They rank sixth in passer efficiency (105.22) and 12th in passing defense (192.7 yards per game) nationally. 

Additionally, this unit has given up just 12 passing touchdowns on the year—tied for the lowest in the Big Ten with Michigan State.

Connor Shaw and the Gamecocks present a whole different level of challenge though, as they will be just the fifth opponent Wisconsin has faced to rank in the top 50 nationally in passing. 

Shaw comes in with 21 passing touchdowns to just one interception, so the Wisconsin secondary will need to be on the mark in order to make part one of their statement a success.

Wisconsin's chances against the South Carolina passing attack could come down to a very intriguing matchup between wide receiver Bruce Ellington and UW's standout freshman cornerback Sojourn Shelton. 

Shelton's first year saw him get named honorable mention All-Big Ten by the media, and for once the 5'9" corner won't be tasked with covering a much taller receiver, as Ellington is all of 5'9" himself. 

If Shelton can shut down Ellington, it makes the game much easier for the rest of his teammates and the big goal just that much more likely—getting to 10 wins. 

Hitting that mark for the third time in four years won't hurt Wisconsin's chase for nationally elite status either, and even for the seniors who are departing it's an important goal. 

"This game is very important to us," said senior linebacker Chris Borland. "Getting a 10th win against a great team would say a lot, validate a lot. Our last performance wasn't us." 

Getting that 10th win would not only tie this senior class for most wins in a four-year span, but also could serve as a launching point for bigger things ahead. 

Wisconsin capping off one season with a win against a top SEC foe is one thing, but doing that and taking on LSU to open its next season is a task that will make the nation sit up and take notice.

Now all that's left is for Wisconsin to go out and win both of those games. 

Do so, and the Badgers will not only have back-to-back wins over top SEC foes but the respect that comes with it. 

 

*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. You can follow Andy on Twitter: @ andycoppens.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: Which QB Will Start in 2014: Devin Gardner or Shane Morris?

Shane Morris stepped in for the injured Devin Gardner for Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl but who will start at QB for the Wolverines in 2014?

Gardner was solid at QB in 2013, throwing for almost 3,000 yards and 21 TDs. He was also a threat on the ground, racking up 11 rushing TDs. Morris saw action in two other games this season in addition to starting the loss to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. 

Watch Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee predict who will start at QB for the Wolverines in 2014. 

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Tech Fake Punt May Be the Worst Attempt Ever

The element of surprise can help a team win a game. When it doesn't work, however, it can turn into an ugly play.

Late in the second quarter of the Music City Bowl on Monday, Georgia Tech tried to trick Ole Miss with a fake punt. It wasn't a terrible call on 4th-and-11 given that it came on the Rebels' side of the field. However, the execution was as bad as it gets.

Punter Sean Poole got tripped up by the turf monster before he even got to the line of scrimmage, and Ole Miss took over on downs.

The Yellow Jackets were fortunate that the Rebels missed a field goal on the ensuing drive, keeping their deficit to 13-7.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alamo Bowl 2013 Oregon vs. Texas: Live Game Grades and Analysis for the Ducks

The Oregon Ducks and Texas Longhorns are currently locked in a battle in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

1st Quarter: Oregon 10, Texas 7

For full stats, go to NCAA.com.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Connor Cook's Journey from the Bench to the Rose Bowl

Connor Cook's journey from platooning also-ran to Rose Bowl starter began where it so nearly ended: on the sideline of the field at Notre Dame Stadium.

Trailing the Fighting Irish 17-13 with just over two minutes on the clock, head coach Mark Dantonio benched his sophomore starter, opting to let senior Andrew Maxwell lead the all-important drive. Maxwell started for Michigan State's woeful offense in 2012 and won the job out of fall camp, so it wasn't an out-of-left-field decision.

It also didn't work.

Maxwell's drive went backwards, petering out the same way Michigan State's offense had all afternoon. The Spartans lost their first and only game of the season that day and appeared to be mired in a vicious cycle of quarterback mediocrity. But then someone finally stepped up. And Cook made sure it was him.

"After the Notre Dame game, I had a meeting with Coach Warner," Cook told Josh Slagter of MLive.com, referring to offensive coordinator Dave Warner. "He just said you can be so much better if you just take your time, don't rush and go through your progressions and trust your offensive linemen."

"I was getting more comfortable in my role."

That last part became clear. Jilted by Dantonio on the biggest stage, Cook looked within himself to get better instead of lashing out or sulking. Two weeks later, on the road in the Big Ten opener against a very good Iowa defense, Cook was a different quarterback entirely. The Spartans gained more than 400 yards and won by 12 points.

The quarterback controversy was over.

It didn't stop there, either. Michigan State's offense kept getting better each week. Against all odds, it suddenly turned into a competent and competitive outfit. Under Cook's renewed guidance, it has moved the ball well enough and scored enough points to run the table in the Big Ten...without winning a single game by fewer than 10 points.

There were some bumps in the road along the way, no doubt.

Cook and the offense stalled at home against Purdue on Oct. 19, scoring just 14 points against a team that allowed 55 on three different occasions this season (and generally couldn't stop a nosebleed upside down). The defense needed to save MSU with a shutout, which is precisely what it did.

But those hiccups have been few and far between. Bad as it was, the no-show against Purdue appears to be the exception that proves the rule. In their other eight conference games, the Spartans have gained 6.33 yards per play. 

Clemson, which is widely regarded as one of the best and most explosive offenses in America, averaged 6.28 for the year.

More important than numbers, though, Cook has stepped up when his team needed it most. Stages don't come much bigger than the Big Ten Championship Game, which was played in the NFL confines of Lucas Oil Stadium and directly impacted the national title hunt. All Ohio State needed to do was slow down Cook and the Spartans offense. If it could, it would play for the ultimate prize.

It couldn't.

Cook played the best game of his career against the Buckeyes, helping the Spartans gash OSU's defense for 438 yards and 34 points. He finished with 304 passing yards and was named the game's MVP. Afterwards, he preened around the field with a thick red rose in his mouth, grinning from ear to ear and jesting with the crowd. He was finally at ease.

"This wasn't the first week where we heard people say negative things about us as an offense," said Cook, according to CBSSports.com. "I think we were underdogs in the majority of the games we played this year. It really didn't affect us."

Au contraire, Mr. Cook. Being an underdog could not have affected you more—both as a team and as an individual. The moment you were benched at Notre Dame, the second Maxwell's drive came up short, both you and your offense were cast aside as frauds. Since that moment, you have proven to be anything but.

That can't be a coincidence.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Rose Bowl 2014: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

The 2014 Rose Bowl features two of the nation's most respected programs, as Stanford (11-2) and Michigan State (12-1) will compete in "The Granddaddy of Them All" on Jan. 1 in Pasadena, Calif. 

Stanford carries a three-game winning streak into the upcoming contest, having knocked off conference rival Arizona State in the Pac-12 Championship Game to earn a trip to the Rose Bowl.    

Michigan State was nearly flawless in 2013, losing but one game to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish early in the season. The Spartans have rattled off nine straight wins since then, most recently taking it to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. 

Participating in a BCS bowl game comes with its perks and challenges. Here's a look at a few players and coaches from both teams enjoying a gorgeous day at Disneyland, which is right around the corner from the Rose Bowl:

Long before the whistle blows for the opening kickoff, however, those happy smiles will turn into game faces. It's going to be a slobberknocker of a contest, as the two teams both feature punishing defenses and powerhouse running games. 

Here's a look at when and where to catch the action, along with betting information and injury reports for both teams. 

 

When: Wednesday, Jan. 1, at 5 p.m. ET

Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.

Watch: ESPN

Live Stream: Watch ESPN

Betting Lines (via Covers) 

  • Over/Under: 42.5 points
  • Spread: Michigan State (+6.5)

 

Team Injury Reports (via USA Today)

 

How Will Michigan State Handle Stanford's Offense Without Max Bullough?

Michigan State's defense finished the regular season ranked No. 2 against the run (80.8 rushing yards allowed per game) and was the No. 4-ranked scoring defense (12.7 points allowed per game). 

Senior linebacker Max Bullough had a lot to do with both numbers. He's the face of the defense, and the Spartans have relied on him time and time again in 2013 to come up with big plays in critical situations.

Unfortunately, he was suspended by the team for the Rose Bowl, as noted by Brett McMurphy of ESPN:

To say the news came as a shock would be an understatement. Matt Charboneau from The Detroit News was stunned, noting Bullough was the last person he expected it would happen to:

Kyler Elsworth—a fifth-year senior—will start in place of Bullough, per Josh Slagter of MLive.com, but he's accumulated just 22 total tackles in his career at Michigan State. Needless to say, the Spartans aren't likely to be as stout up the middle with him in the lineup.

Head coach Mark Dantonio would argue that point, however, per Slagter: "It's not one individual, it's our system."

It won't take long to see if Dantonio's "system" is up to the task, as Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports suggested:

Stanford comes into the game with a no-nonsense offense that averages 210.9 rushing yards per game (No. 22 in the nation). Led by Tyler Gaffney, the Cardinal offense will relentlessly attack Michigan State's front seven with a physical, power running game. 

 

Prediction

Michigan State isn't the only team with a dominating defense. 

Stanford's defense has been known to shut down opposing offenses, as was clearly illustrated in early Nov. when the Oregon Ducks scored just 20 points in a losing cause. 

Spartans running back Jeremy Langford will bang his head up against the brick wall that is Stanford's front seven time and time again—to no avail. Inside linebacker Shayne Skov leads a stingy unit that ranked No. 3 against the run—right behind the Spartans. 

On the other side, Gaffney will find room against Michigan State's depleted front seven, helping the Cardinal move the chains on offense and control the clock. 

It's going to be an ugly win, but a win nonetheless for Stanford at the 2014 Rose Bowl.

 

Final Score 

Stanford wins, 23-20.

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Rose Bowl 2014: Nation's No. 1 Defense Could Bring out the Best in Kevin Hogan

Stanford’s offensive game plan is founded on a steady workload from running back Tyler Gaffney, but establishing the rush against the nation’s top-ranked run defense will prove especially challenging.

With or without linebacker Max Bullough, who was suspended for Wednesday’s Rose Bowl last week, Michigan State’s stingy play from its defensive front is enough to require Stanford head coach David Shaw and offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren to adjust.

The Cardinal’s strategy Wednesday could start with quarterback Kevin Hogan to set up the workhorse Gaffney. The junior is playing in his second Rose Bowl, an impressive accomplishment for any quarterback.

Though he’s spending New Year’s Day playing in Pasadena, Calif., for a second straight season, Hogan’s brief career has had “peaks and valleys,” as Shaw described in the coach’s press conference on Monday.

“He’s never had a bad game,” Shaw said. “He’s been great some weeks…he’s been good some weeks. You never judge a game on one or two bad plays, which every quarterback is going to have.”

Hogan encountered one of those games with a bad play or two during Stanford’s last trip to Los Angeles, and they happened to come at inopportune times. He threw a red-zone interception in the Cardinal’s Nov. 16 loss at USC. A touchdown on the possession would have sealed a Stanford win, and perhaps been enough to earn the Cardinal a spot in the BCS Championship next week.

Still, Shaw said he’s pleased with Hogan’s direction, which the coach said “is upward,” citing changes the staff made to the game plan down the stretch of the regular season. Those tweaks were evident in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Hogan is coming into the Rose Bowl off one of those great weeks—perhaps the best of his time at Stanford. He went for 277 yards passing and another 24 rushing, and threw for a touchdown. And he did it all against the aggressive pass-rush defense of Arizona State.

The rushing yards are particularly noteworthy. Hogan isn’t used as a traditional dual-threat quarterback in Stanford’s power-based offense. Nevertheless, his ability to take off running can be an X-factor for the Cardinal.

He rolled off big gains against Oregon, as well as in both wins over Arizona State. Hogan will need to be light on his feet and quick to react to opportunities against the aggressive Michigan State pursuit.

Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi has confounded and frustrated one offense after another in the Spartans’ run to the Big Ten championship. Bullough is unavailable, but Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said in his press conference Monday that Darien Harris and Kyler Elsworth will handle middle linebacking duties. Neither are exactly slouches filling in for Bullough.

And while the Spartans run-stop defense commands the most attention, attacking Michigan State with the pass is no walk in the park, either. Hogan’s primary big-play weapon, junior Ty Montgomery, could draw high-level NFL draft prospect, Darqueze Dennard.

That makes the return of a fully healthy Devon Cajuste to the lineup all the more important for Stanford. Cajuste was central to Hogan’s performance against Arizona State, and the big man will again be a crucial component of Stanford’s passing offense.

Shaw said Gaffney’s performance this season “has taken a ton of pressure off” Hogan. But in the Rose Bowl, it may be Hogan who is taking Michigan State’s pressure off of Gaffney.

Kyle Kensing is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Power Ranking the Top 10 Plays in BCS Championship History

With the 2014 BCS Championship Game just days away, it’s time to take a stroll down memory lane.

There have been 15 BCS Championship Games to date. Seven of those games were decided by 11 points or fewer.

Dynasties were made and broken. Underdogs rose from obscurity to the forefront of the college football landscape.

A lot of times, these moments came to fruition on just a single play.

Join B/R as we countdown the top 10 plays in BCS Championship Game history.

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Michigan Needs Soul Searching, Better Coaching to Get Back to B1G's Elite

Did anyone get the number of the truck that ran over Michigan in its 31-14 loss to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl? 

If so, please report it to Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon and head coach Brady Hoke, because they sure didn't have a clue on Saturday night. 

That was just a microcosm of the issues the Wolverines faced all season long; and as Michigan goes through assessments and self-evaluations in the offseason, they need to go further and do some serious soul-searching after limping to a 7-6 finish this year. 

That soul-searching needs to start with the coaching staff and continue right down to man No. 125 on the roster, because from top to bottom this team wasn't very good in 2013. 

Surprisingly, Devin Gardner's season may have been the highlight of 2013 for the Wolverines. He finished the year completing 60.3 percent of his passes for 2,960 yards and had 21 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. 

While Gardner's performances weren't always rock solid, it is a foundation for this team to build off of. 

Up front, well that's a whole different story, and it's where the soul-searching and better coaching need to happen. 

Some of what happened in the run game and with Gardner's struggles can be placed on a young interior of the offensive line, but by season's end Michigan was still tinkering with its lineup and none of the youngsters had really stepped up to the plate. 

Michigan's run game never got going in 2013 and it ended with a whimper as well, going for just 65 yards in the loss to K-State on Saturday. 

The bad news is that after three weeks of practice, the players felt confident heading into the game and believed they had worked out any issues up front. 

Following the game, running back Derrick Green was at a loss for answers, according to Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com

I don't have an answer. ... (Offensive coordinator Al) Borges was calling plays that he felt would be the most productive. And if it wasn't plays for me, then it wasn't (to be). I felt like he had some good play calling.

The good news is the Wolverine players acknowledge what took place and expect more out of themselves, according to Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com

"At Michigan, running the ball's a big part of it," Green said. "I hope (we can fix it). Me and De'Veon are going to come back next year real strong and we'll get it done."

As much as it's on the players, it also speaks to the lack of development that took place from Week 1 to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. 

Youth can only be an excuse for so long, and by season's end that excuse doesn't hold water. Either there's improvement or not and in Michigan's case there was none in 2013.

Unless the offensive line and the coaching staff figure some things out in the next eight months, it won't matter what kind of talent is behind them—this team will continue to struggle. 

Ever since Brady Hoke's first year, where the Wolverines won 11 games and the Sugar Bowl, we've heard the talk of how Michigan was back. 

Instead, Michigan have failed to live up to expectations of fans or their preseason rankings for two years in a row. 

Before the 2012 season, Michigan was ranked No. 8 in the country, only to finish the year as the No. 24 team with a modest 8-5 record.

This season was more of the same, as the Wolverines started the year ranked No. 17 in the country and wound up with that 7-6 record and unranked in the latest polls.

With results like that, it's time to ask an important question about just where this Michigan program really is.

Has Michigan become just another program in the Big Ten?

A string of less-than-stellar records would suggest that the Wolverines are in danger of becoming just that, if they weren't already. 

Consider this tough fact for a moment: 

Bo Schembechler version 2.0 isn't likely to walk through the Michigan locker room doors any time soon—he's a once in a lifetime type of a coach, but the recent string of results should have many longing for the days of Lloyd Carr.

You know, the man who was fired because he failed to get to a Rose Bowl for three years in a row and went a horrible 27-11 in his final three years in Ann Arbor. 

Those seem like the good old days considering where the program is right now. Through the first three years of Hoke's regime, the Wolverines have a 26-12 record and haven't sniffed a Big Ten championship.

If 27-11 wasn't good enough for Lloyd Carr, Hoke and Co. better come up with something better than average next season or it could be trouble for him in Ann Arbor. 

The coaches need to look in the mirror and start figuring out how to get the most out of all the talent coming aboard this program. There's certainly no lack of highly touted recruits coming to Michigan.

After three straight years of top-20 recruiting classes (according to 247sports) its time to see that talent produce on the field and that's where coaching comes in. 

Talent only gets you so far and in big time college football its coaching and putting players in positions to be successful that makes all the difference. 

Michigan's coaching staff would be wise to figure out its identity quickly heading into next season, something it never did in 2013, otherwise 2014 could be another long, painful season in Ann Arbor. 

 

*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tar Heels Coach Larry Fedora Celebrates Bowl Win with 'NaeNae' Dance

Coaches dancing in the locker room after a victory never gets old.

North Carolina coach Larry Fedora joined the "NaeNae" craze by breaking out the dance in the locker room after the Tar Heels' 39-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bearcats in Saturday's Belk Bowl.

Thanks to UNC Tar Heel Athletics for the video, and hat tip to College Spun's Matt Lombardi for the find.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Rose Bowl Warns Auburn Fans Not to Toilet Paper Palm Trees

Auburn fans are known for toilet papering trees after big wins, but Tigers fans traveling to Pasadena for the BCS National Championship Game should think twice before they roll the palm trees outside the Rose Bowl—if Auburn wins.

The Rose Bowl made it quite clear that it will not allow the trees surrounding the stadium to be turned into Toomer's Corner: 

Hat tip to College Spun's Tyler Moorehead for the find.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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