NCAA Football News

Bowl Games 2013-14: Most Intriguing Matchups on Remaining Slate

The overflow of college football bowl games makes it tougher to weed out the meaningless games from those that matter.

Given how saturated the market is with enough games to ensure that nearly every team gets to play and virtually every company gets to sponsor one, the aggregated product becomes stale—unless you're truly excited for the GoDaddy Bowl, BBVA Compass Bowl and Flint Michigan Mega Bowl, in which case, I'm glad you can maintain a positive outlook.

There's still time to kill before reaching the big bout, and many of the appetizers offer up superb competition and healthy doses of intrigue. After all, the main event isn't the only event.

Let's take a gander at a couple of the more interesting showdowns before reaching the season's grand finale.

 

Rose Bowl: No. 5 Stanford vs. No. 4 Michigan State (Wednesday, Jan. 1 at 5 p.m. EST)

Old-school football fans, this one is for you.

Those who enjoy hard running and debilitating defense will appreciate watching Stanford and Michigan State duke it out in a contest of two of college football's top runner-ups. 

While Stanford finished its schedule with two losses, its tough slate impressed the BCS. The Cardinal defeated seven ranked opponents (at the time of their games), including an Oregon squad clashing for the No. 2 spot at the time.

Stanford's defense, which derailed a seemingly unstoppable Oregon attack, ranks 10th in the FBS with 18.6 points allowed per game. On the other side, Tyler Gaffney leads the way with 1,618 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns.

Gaffney must poke holes in an indelible Spartans defense that allows just 2.7 yards per carry. Luckily for him, Michigan State will be missing linebacker and team captain Max Bullough, who was suspended by the team. As Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde pointed out, that makes Stanford's game plan all the more clear.

According to USA Today's Joe Rexrode, Stanford's offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren believes the Spartans will miss Bullough's leadership more than anything in the Rose Bowl.

He's an outstanding football player. The thing they're going to miss, judging by the film, is he looks like a coach out there. He's making this check and that check. In terms of performance, they've got other people who can step in and play football. I think they'll probably miss his leadership. I think they'll miss some of his checks at the line of scrimmage.

Even without Bullough, this matchup will be decided by defense. Don't expect too much scoring, which could lead to a close bout and thrilling conclusion.

 

Orange Bowl: No. 12 Clemson vs. No. 7 Ohio State (Friday, Jan. 3 at 8:30 p.m. EST)

But hey, some of us prefer a good old shootout. There's nothing wrong with admiring an offense's ability to seamlessly carve through the opposition.

The Orange Bowl features two premier quarterbacks in Tajh Boyd and Braxton Miller, who have pride to earn and NFL draft stocks to boost.

Boyd, a senior, has more riding on this game with his collegiate career concluding and the NFL calling. He has completed 67.3 percent of his passes and produced 38 total touchdowns, but he was last seen surrendering two interceptions in a loss to South Carolina.

Despite missing time early in the season, Miller has compiled 2,893 total yards (1,860 passing, 1,033 rushing) along with 22 passing touchdowns, 10 rushing scores and just five interceptions. But he also limped to the finish line as a passer, completing 14 out of 36 pass attempts for 234 passing yards combined in his last two games.

Expect a fast-paced slugfest on Friday night between two teams that were standing tall before suffering recent defeats.

 

BCS National Championship: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Auburn (Monday, Jan. 6 at 7:30 p.m. EST)

In the grand scheme of things, this is truly the only game that matters.

The other battles are consolation prizes created to draw ratings and make more money for schools and companies to not share with the players. This one (brought to you by the kind folks of Vizio, so I guess it's for all the TVs) at least decides the champion.

In an unexpected swerve, top-ranked stalwart Alabama squandered its spot at obtaining its third consecutive championship after SEC rival Auburn pulled off a last-second miracle. The Tigers will instead represent the conference juggernaut on the grand stage.

They'll face the Florida State Seminoles, who ended the season as the only squad still holding an unblemished record. Jameis Winston leads a dynamic offense that scored 53 points per game.

Winston and Co. will get their points, so the game boils down to how Florida State can stymie the nation's top-rated rushing attack. Led by Tre Mason, Auburn leads the FBS with 335.7 yards per game through the ground, but Florida State yields just 3.1 opposing yards per carry.

The Tigers can't rely on returning another missed field goal for a touchdown, so it'd be best for them to avoid a shootout akin to their matchup with the Crimson Tide. Nevertheless, that's probably the necessary path to victory during the national championship.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Chick-Fil-A Bowl 2013: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

When the No. 21 Texas A&M Aggies (8-4, 4-4 SEC) square off against the No. 24 Duke Blue Devils (10-3, 6-2 ACC) in the 2013 Chick-fil-A Bowl on Tuesday, the battle for supremacy will be fierce.

Texas A&M has lost two straight games heading into this bowl matchup and is looking to find redemption. Losing to SEC juggernauts like LSU and Missouri is nothing to be ashamed about, but the Aggies have not found enough consistency on defense to be a viable championship contender.

Duke was destroyed by the Florida State Seminoles in the ACC Championship Game, and the program will be looking to bounce back against a struggling Texas A&M program. The ensuing battle should be one for college football fans to thoroughly enjoy.

Here are all the details for Tuesday’s bowl game, betting information, injury updates and a full prediction.

 

When: Tuesday, Dec. 31 at 8 p.m. ET

Where: Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, Texas

Television: CBS

Live Stream: CBS Sports Live

 

Betting Lines (via Vegas Insider)

Over/Under: 75

Spread: Texas A&M (-11.5)

 

Duke Injury Report (via USA Today)

 

Texas A&M Injury Report (via USA Today)

 

How Will Johnny Manziel React?

Sophomore quarterback Johnny Manziel may enter the NFL draft this offseason, and his announcement is expected before the matchup with Duke, according to head coach Kevin Sumlin on ESPN Radio.

If Tuesday really is Manziel’s last college football game, how he performs will be under intense scrutiny.

He is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation and leads Texas A&M in passing and rushing. While he was unable to repeat his performance as a Heisman Trophy winner, his 3,732 yards and 33 touchdowns through the air and 686 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground in 2013 are still incredible.

The Blue Devils have been stingy on defense, allowing only 24.7 points per game, but the program proved against the Seminoles that the defensive unit is susceptible to the play of dual-threat quarterbacks.

If Johnny Football is leaving for the NFL, he’s going out with a bang.

 

Prediction

As much as Duke deserves credit for a defense that has masked the offensive deficiencies of a rebuilding program, the Aggies offense led by Manziel is one of the most dangerous in the country.

Texas A&M averages 350.9 yards passing per game and has shown consistency through the air. Johnny Football has become known for his scrambling, but his pass-first mentality is at the root of the Aggies’ success on offense.

The program also amasses a respectable average of 187.3 rushing yards per game, but with more defenses focusing on Manziel’s mobility by assigning a defender to spy him, that game plan will open up the Blue Devils to concede big plays in the secondary.

Add in Duke’s inability to find consistent success in running or passing the ball, and the Aggies will rack up enough points to secure a monumental victory for the program and for Manziel’s confidence if he decides to enter the NFL draft.

Final Score: Texas A&M 44, Duke 24

 

*All stats via CFBStats.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Sun Bowl 2013: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

When the No. 17 UCLA Bruins (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12) square off against the Virginia Tech Hokies (8-4, 5-3 ACC) in the 2013 Hyundai Sun Bowl on Tuesday, Dec. 31, the battle for supremacy will be fierce.

UCLA is looking for its 10th win of the season for the first time since 2005. The Bruins have racked up three losses this year, but each came against a currently ranked team (Oregon, Stanford and Arizona State).

Virginia Tech has four losses of its own (Alabama, Duke, Boston College and Maryland), including three of the last five matchups this season, and looks to be playing with far less chemistry than UCLA.

If the Hokies can’t put together their best game on both offense and defense, the Bruins will steal the show on New Year’s Eve and walk away with a huge Sun Bowl victory.

Here are all the details needed to watch Tuesday’s bowl game, betting information, injury updates and a full prediction.

 

When: Tuesday, Dec. 31 at 2 p.m. ET

Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga.

Television: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

 

Betting Lines (via Vegas Insider)

Over/Under: 47

Spread: UCLA (-7)

 

Virginia Tech Injury Report (via USA Today)

 

UCLA Injury Report (via USA Today)

 

Defense Reigns Supreme

For the college football fans that love hard-nosed defensive football, the battle between UCLA and Virginia Tech is exactly what you’re looking for in a bowl game.

The Hokies are ranked fourth in the nation allowing just 269.6 yards per game to opponents and have remained in contention in the ACC throughout this season on the shoulders of the defense. While Virginia Tech’s offense struggled to find consistency, the defensive unit has stepped up to carry the burden.

The Bruins have been just as strong this season, allowing just 24.1 points per game and 221.1 yards passing in the pass-happy Pac-12. UCLA is coming off a 35-14 victory over USC that helped prove how dominant the team can be on defense, and confidence is high for the Bruins.

Allowing only six points in a victory over Virginia on Nov. 30 has helped the confidence of a struggling Hokies team, but UCLA has a far more talented offensive unit than Virginia Tech has squared off against with the Cavaliers and the rest of the ACC.

 

Prediction

The main difference in this matchup will be head coach Jim Mora and his game plan for the marquee bowl.

With sophomore Brett Hundley having a great season as one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation—racking up 2,845 yards passing and 22 touchdowns with another 587 yards rushing and nine touchdowns—Mora realizes the Bruins can and will capitalize on the mistakes that Virginia Tech will inevitably make.

These defensive battles are usually won by the team that protects the football better.

Hundley has amassed only nine interceptions this season and has leaned heavily on running the ball to do much of his damage. The offense is predicated on the rushing attack, and UCLA has done a great job avoiding turnovers.

Add in the fact that freshman phenom Myles Jack is rumbling out of the backfield—the linebacker was put in as a running back during a series of injuries and exploded for four touchdowns against Washington on Nov. 15—and the Bruins offense has the weapons to neutralize the Hokies defense.

Virginia Tech’s defense will keep the score close, but UCLA will walk away victorious.

Final Score: UCLA 24, Virginia Tech 17

 

*All stats via CFBStats.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Chick-Fil-A Bowl 2013: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

When the No. 21 Texas A&M Aggies (8-4, 4-4 SEC) square off against the No. 24 Duke Blue Devils (10-3, 6-2 ACC) in the 2013 Chick-fil-A Bowl on Tuesday, the battle for supremacy will be fierce.

Texas A&M has lost two straight games heading into this bowl matchup and is looking to find redemption. Losing to SEC juggernauts like LSU and Missouri is nothing to be ashamed about, but the Aggies have not found enough consistency on defense to be a viable championship contender.

Duke was destroyed by the Florida State Seminoles in the ACC Championship Game, and the program will be looking to bounce back against a struggling Texas A&M program. The ensuing battle should be one for college football fans to thoroughly enjoy.

Here are all the details for Tuesday’s bowl game, betting information, injury updates and a full prediction.

 

When: Tuesday, Dec. 31 at 8 p.m. ET

Where: Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, Texas

Television: CBS

Live Stream: CBS Sports Live

 

Betting Lines (via Vegas Insider)

Over/Under: 75

Spread: Texas A&M (-11.5)

 

Duke Injury Report (via USA Today)

 

Texas A&M Injury Report (via USA Today)

 

How Will Johnny Manziel React?

Sophomore quarterback Johnny Manziel may enter the NFL draft this offseason, and his announcement is expected before the matchup with Duke, according to head coach Kevin Sumlin on ESPN Radio.

If Tuesday really is Manziel’s last college football game, how he performs will be under intense scrutiny.

He is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation and leads Texas A&M in passing and rushing. While he was unable to repeat his performance as a Heisman Trophy winner, his 3,732 yards and 33 touchdowns through the air and 686 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground in 2013 are still incredible.

The Blue Devils have been stingy on defense, allowing only 24.7 points per game, but the program proved against the Seminoles that the defensive unit is susceptible to the play of dual-threat quarterbacks.

If Johnny Football is leaving for the NFL, he’s going out with a bang.

 

Prediction

As much as Duke deserves credit for a defense that has masked the offensive deficiencies of a rebuilding program, the Aggies offense led by Manziel is one of the most dangerous in the country.

Texas A&M averages 350.9 yards passing per game and has shown consistency through the air. Johnny Football has become known for his scrambling, but his pass-first mentality is at the root of the Aggies’ success on offense.

The program also amasses a respectable average of 187.3 rushing yards per game, but with more defenses focusing on Manziel’s mobility by assigning a defender to spy him, that game plan will open up the Blue Devils to concede big plays in the secondary.

Add in Duke’s inability to find consistent success in running or passing the ball, and the Aggies will rack up enough points to secure a monumental victory for the program and for Manziel’s confidence if he decides to enter the NFL draft.

Final Score: Texas A&M 44, Duke 24

 

*All stats via CFBStats.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Sun Bowl 2013: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

When the No. 17 UCLA Bruins (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12) square off against the Virginia Tech Hokies (8-4, 5-3 ACC) in the 2013 Hyundai Sun Bowl on Tuesday, Dec. 31, the battle for supremacy will be fierce.

UCLA is looking for its 10th win of the season for the first time since 2005. The Bruins have racked up three losses this year, but each came against a currently ranked team (Oregon, Stanford and Arizona State).

Virginia Tech has four losses of its own (Alabama, Duke, Boston College and Maryland), including three of the last five matchups this season, and looks to be playing with far less chemistry than UCLA.

If the Hokies can’t put together their best game on both offense and defense, the Bruins will steal the show on New Year’s Eve and walk away with a huge Sun Bowl victory.

Here are all the details needed to watch Tuesday’s bowl game, betting information, injury updates and a full prediction.

 

When: Tuesday, Dec. 31 at 2 p.m. ET

Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga.

Television: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

 

Betting Lines (via Vegas Insider)

Over/Under: 47

Spread: UCLA (-7)

 

Virginia Tech Injury Report (via USA Today)

 

UCLA Injury Report (via USA Today)

 

Defense Reigns Supreme

For the college football fans that love hard-nosed defensive football, the battle between UCLA and Virginia Tech is exactly what you’re looking for in a bowl game.

The Hokies are ranked fourth in the nation allowing just 269.6 yards per game to opponents and have remained in contention in the ACC throughout this season on the shoulders of the defense. While Virginia Tech’s offense struggled to find consistency, the defensive unit has stepped up to carry the burden.

The Bruins have been just as strong this season, allowing just 24.1 points per game and 221.1 yards passing in the pass-happy Pac-12. UCLA is coming off a 35-14 victory over USC that helped prove how dominant the team can be on defense, and confidence is high for the Bruins.

Allowing only six points in a victory over Virginia on Nov. 30 has helped the confidence of a struggling Hokies team, but UCLA has a far more talented offensive unit than Virginia Tech has squared off against with the Cavaliers and the rest of the ACC.

 

Prediction

The main difference in this matchup will be head coach Jim Mora and his game plan for the marquee bowl.

With sophomore Brett Hundley having a great season as one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation—racking up 2,845 yards passing and 22 touchdowns with another 587 yards rushing and nine touchdowns—Mora realizes the Bruins can and will capitalize on the mistakes that Virginia Tech will inevitably make.

These defensive battles are usually won by the team that protects the football better.

Hundley has amassed only nine interceptions this season and has leaned heavily on running the ball to do much of his damage. The offense is predicated on the rushing attack, and UCLA has done a great job avoiding turnovers.

Add in the fact that freshman phenom Myles Jack is rumbling out of the backfield—the linebacker was put in as a running back during a series of injuries and exploded for four touchdowns against Washington on Nov. 15—and the Bruins offense has the weapons to neutralize the Hokies defense.

Virginia Tech’s defense will keep the score close, but UCLA will walk away victorious.

Final Score: UCLA 24, Virginia Tech 17

 

*All stats via CFBStats.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: Grading Quarterback Shane Morris Versus Kansas State

Freshman Shane Morris appeared in only four games all season (5-of-9 for 65 yards and one interception) before being pressed into the starting role in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl because of an injury to quarterback Devin Gardner.

Gardner was injured during the Ohio State game allowing Morris to take all the practice repetitions with the first team during bowl preparations.

How did he do in his first collegiate start?

Begin Slideshow

Michigan Football: Grading Quarterback Shane Morris Versus Kansas State

Freshman Shane Morris appeared in only four games all season (5-of-9 for 65 yards and one interception) before being pressed into the starting role in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl because of an injury to quarterback Devin Gardner.

Gardner was injured during the Ohio State game allowing Morris to take all the practice repetitions with the first team during bowl preparations.

How did he do in his first collegiate start?

Begin Slideshow

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl 2013: 10 Things We Learned in Michigan's Loss

Early on, the Michigan Wolverines appeared ready to score some points. 

But as the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl progressed, the offense stalled, failing to score a touchdown until the fourth quarter of Saturday's 31-14 loss to the Kansas State Wildcats. 

Fitz Toussaint's five-yard score did little to lessen the blow of what was easily one of the Wolverines' worst showings of 2013. Needless to say, it wasn't the ideal way to end an otherwise sad season. 

Lessons taught, lessons learned. And we'll do it Michigan style. 

Begin Slideshow

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl 2013: 10 Things We Learned in Michigan's Loss

Early on, the Michigan Wolverines appeared ready to score some points. 

But as the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl progressed, the offense stalled, failing to score a touchdown until the fourth quarter of Saturday's 31-14 loss to the Kansas State Wildcats. 

Fitz Toussaint's five-yard score did little to lessen the blow of what was easily one of the Wolverines' worst showings of 2013. Needless to say, it wasn't the ideal way to end an otherwise sad season. 

Lessons taught, lessons learned. And we'll do it Michigan style. 

Begin Slideshow

Michigan Loss Puts a Ton of Pressure on New Year's Day Success for Big Ten

No pressure at all for the four of you representing the Big Ten on New Year's Day—just go 4-0 against the SEC and Pac-12; it isn't that hard.

That's exactly the task facing the Big Ten if it wants to guarantee a winning bowl record this season. 

After a 31-14 loss by Michigan to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl on Saturday, the Big Ten's back is against the wall, sitting at 0-2 to start the bowl game season.

It's been a struggle to get to .500 or better for the conference in the past—and that was without digging itself an 0-2 hole. 

The last time the Big Ten started this bad in bowl season was in 2008 and hint, it didn't end well.

The Big Ten finished that bowl season a lowly 1-6, with Iowa beating South Carolina in the Outback Bowl for the only win. 

All that's facing the Big Ten this time around is the proposition of beating the No. 5, No. 9, No. 16 and No. 22 teams in the country on New Year's Day. 

You'd be forgiven for being more than skeptical about the proposition of that happening, especially after witnessing what Minnesota and Michigan have put on the field in consecutive nights. 

However, it has happened in the past. The last time the Big Ten had a winning record in a bowl season was the 2009 season—a season in which it took down the No. 7, No. 9, No. 12 and No. 15 teams in the country to get to 4-3 in bowl games.

Big Ten fans are hungry to get back to the top of the mountain in college football, but efforts like that of Michigan against Kansas State do more harm than good. 

Sure, these are meaningless exhibition games, but in college football you are only as good as your reputation says you are, and bowl games equal reputations earned these days.

Michigan had its opportunity to start proving its (and the Big Ten's) critics wrong against K-State on Saturday night.

Instead, for the second time in the past four seasons, Michigan will finish the year 7-6 and head into the offseason in search of a missing run game and defense. 

The Wolverines allowed the Wildcats, a team coming in averaging just over 220 yards passing, to go off for 271 yards and three touchdowns through the air. K-State quarterback Jake Waters went an ultra-efficient 21-of-27 with the three TDs on the night. 

Offensively things were even worse, with the Wolverines mustering just 65 yards rushing on 15 carries—despite attempting the jet sweep and two double reverses. 

One was left wondering exactly what took place during all those extra practices bowl games afford teams. 

Nothing was working, and that extended to freshman quarterback Shane Morris, filling in for the injured Devin Gardner, who finished the game 24-of-38 for just 196 yards and an interception. 

It added up to the second straight dismal offensive effort from a Big Ten team to start bowl season.

The hopes of gaining any ground on the rest of the conferences rest squarely on the Big Ten teams running the New Year's Day gauntlet.

Good luck Iowa, Michigan State, Nebraska and Wisconsin—because it's on you to reverse that trend on January 1, 2014.

If the start of bowl season is any indication, though, it could be another long offseason in Big Ten country. 

 

*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

Michigan Loss Puts a Ton of Pressure on New Year's Day Success for Big Ten

No pressure at all for the four of you representing the Big Ten on New Year's Day—just go 4-0 against the SEC and Pac-12; it isn't that hard.

That's exactly the task facing the Big Ten if it wants to guarantee a winning bowl record this season. 

After a 31-14 loss by Michigan to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl on Saturday, the Big Ten's back is against the wall, sitting at 0-2 to start the bowl game season.

It's been a struggle to get to .500 or better for the conference in the past—and that was without digging itself an 0-2 hole. 

The last time the Big Ten started this bad in bowl season was in 2008 and hint, it didn't end well.

The Big Ten finished that bowl season a lowly 1-6, with Iowa beating South Carolina in the Outback Bowl for the only win. 

All that's facing the Big Ten this time around is the proposition of beating the No. 5, No. 9, No. 16 and No. 22 teams in the country on New Year's Day. 

You'd be forgiven for being more than skeptical about the proposition of that happening, especially after witnessing what Minnesota and Michigan have put on the field in consecutive nights. 

However, it has happened in the past. The last time the Big Ten had a winning record in a bowl season was the 2009 season—a season in which it took down the No. 7, No. 9, No. 12 and No. 15 teams in the country to get to 4-3 in bowl games.

Big Ten fans are hungry to get back to the top of the mountain in college football, but efforts like that of Michigan against Kansas State do more harm than good. 

Sure, these are meaningless exhibition games, but in college football you are only as good as your reputation says you are, and bowl games equal reputations earned these days.

Michigan had its opportunity to start proving its (and the Big Ten's) critics wrong against K-State on Saturday night.

Instead, for the second time in the past four seasons, Michigan will finish the year 7-6 and head into the offseason in search of a missing run game and defense. 

The Wolverines allowed the Wildcats, a team coming in averaging just over 220 yards passing, to go off for 271 yards and three touchdowns through the air. K-State quarterback Jake Waters went an ultra-efficient 21-of-27 with the three TDs on the night. 

Offensively things were even worse, with the Wolverines mustering just 65 yards rushing on 15 carries—despite attempting the jet sweep and two double reverses. 

One was left wondering exactly what took place during all those extra practices bowl games afford teams. 

Nothing was working, and that extended to freshman quarterback Shane Morris, filling in for the injured Devin Gardner, who finished the game 24-of-38 for just 196 yards and an interception. 

It added up to the second straight dismal offensive effort from a Big Ten team to start bowl season.

The hopes of gaining any ground on the rest of the conferences rest squarely on the Big Ten teams running the New Year's Day gauntlet.

Good luck Iowa, Michigan State, Nebraska and Wisconsin—because it's on you to reverse that trend on January 1, 2014.

If the start of bowl season is any indication, though, it could be another long offseason in Big Ten country. 

 

*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

Michigan vs. Kansas State: Score, Grades, More from 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

The Kansas State Wildcats brutalized the remains of a Michigan Wolverines program that had a terrible calendar year via a 31-14 blowout in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. on Dec. 28.

The Wildcats amassed 420 total yards to the Wolverines' 261, primarily behind the arm of quarterback Jake Waters, who put up a 21-of-27 line for 271 yards and three scores. Receiver Tyler Lockett was the main beneficiary with his 10 catches for 116 yards and three touchdowns:

Not a bad outing overall for a duo hardly recruited or given a chance before joining the Wildcats, as Stephen Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette illustrates:

Michigan was unable to get anything going offensively behind the arm of freshman quarterback Shane Morris, who started in place of the injured Devin Gardner. Morris had little help—the Wolverines managed a pathetic 65 total rushing yards and a 4-of-11 mark on third down.

As expected against a woeful Michigan defensive unit, Kansas State had few issues on third down, going 7-of-11. This allowed the Wildcats to control the clock with more than 35 minutes of possession.

This disparity was apparent from the opening drive, as the Wildcats jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, abusing the habitually bad Wolverines defense en route to a 14-3 score through one quarter. The aforementioned Lockett was the star of the show, catching both touchdowns from Waters.

One Lockett score came from six yards out after a 14-play drive to open the game, while the other came from 29 yards away after a quick five-play drive. ESPN summed up the opening quarter nicely:

The second quarter was more of the same, as kicker Matt Wile was the leading scorer for the Wolverines yet again with his 26-yard field goal. It was Lockett catching yet another touchdown with 4:30 remaining in the second half that put the Wildcats up 21-6 entering the half:

CBS Sports put it best:

As did ESPN's Chantel Jennings, who summed up Michigan in the first half quite well:

The third quarter is likely when most changed the channel, not because of the game getting uglier in a blowout sense, but because nothing of merit happened. Michigan punted twice and the Wildcats missed a field goal and lost a fumble—all of which had no impact on the outcome of the game.

Kansas State broke the boring second-half stalemate via an Ian Patterson 22-yard field goal with 8:09 remaining in the fourth quarter.

From there, things got a bit interesting—but not for the Michigan faithful brave enough to remain in attendance or watching from home.

Morris made his first mistake of the day with a throw into traffic that was tipped, intercepted and returned 51 yards by Dante Barnett. Two plays later, Kansas State's John Hubert rumbled into the end zone from one yard out to make it 31-6.

Michigan then awoke from its slumber to score its first touchdown of the game via a Fitzgerald Toussaint three-yard score, bringing the contest to its final, 31-14.

 

Key Player Grades

Jake Waters, QB, Kansas State: A

Lockett will steal the majority of the credit for the big win, but major kudos goes to the Wildcats junior signal-caller.

Waters entered the game having completed under 60 percent of his passes on the year with 15 touchdowns to nine interceptions. He looked like a drastically different player against the Wolverines.

The Michigan defense tends to do that for quarterbacks. But that is not to take anything away from Waters, who put up an exclamation point on what was a rather dull season.

 

Shane Morris, QB, Michigan: B

Poor Shane Morris.

No matter how well the freshman performed, the shadow of Gardner was simply going to be too much to live up to—even in a win.

But major props should go to Morris in his first-career start. He tallied an 24-of-38 day for 196 yards and an interception. He was even the team's leading rusher with his 43 yards on four carries. ESPN put it best:

Not a bad start to a collegiate career, but simply not the end result the Wolverines had hoped for when they named Morris the starter.

 

Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State: A

What more can be said about Lockett at this point?

The junior was the star of the show and the primary reason the Wildcats were not only able to exploit the Wolverines consistently, but to win the game.

Not a bad way to end the year for the star wideout, who should ask his quarterback for a share of that MVP award.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan vs. Kansas State: Score, Grades, More from 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

The Kansas State Wildcats brutalized the remains of a Michigan Wolverines program that had a terrible calendar year via a 31-14 blowout in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. on Dec. 28.

The Wildcats amassed 420 total yards to the Wolverines' 261, primarily behind the arm of quarterback Jake Waters, who put up a 21-of-27 line for 271 yards and three scores. Receiver Tyler Lockett was the main beneficiary with his 10 catches for 116 yards and three touchdowns:

Not a bad outing overall for a duo hardly recruited or given a chance before joining the Wildcats, as Stephen Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette illustrates:

Michigan was unable to get anything going offensively behind the arm of freshman quarterback Shane Morris, who started in place of the injured Devin Gardner. Morris had little help—the Wolverines managed a pathetic 65 total rushing yards and a 4-of-11 mark on third down.

As expected against a woeful Michigan defensive unit, Kansas State had few issues on third down, going 7-of-11. This allowed the Wildcats to control the clock with more than 35 minutes of possession.

This disparity was apparent from the opening drive, as the Wildcats jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, abusing the habitually bad Wolverines defense en route to a 14-3 score through one quarter. The aforementioned Lockett was the star of the show, catching both touchdowns from Waters.

One Lockett score came from six yards out after a 14-play drive to open the game, while the other came from 29 yards away after a quick five-play drive. ESPN summed up the opening quarter nicely:

The second quarter was more of the same, as kicker Matt Wile was the leading scorer for the Wolverines yet again with his 26-yard field goal. It was Lockett catching yet another touchdown with 4:30 remaining in the second half that put the Wildcats up 21-6 entering the half:

CBS Sports put it best:

As did ESPN's Chantel Jennings, who summed up Michigan in the first half quite well:

The third quarter is likely when most changed the channel, not because of the game getting uglier in a blowout sense, but because nothing of merit happened. Michigan punted twice and the Wildcats missed a field goal and lost a fumble—all of which had no impact on the outcome of the game.

Kansas State broke the boring second-half stalemate via an Ian Patterson 22-yard field goal with 8:09 remaining in the fourth quarter.

From there, things got a bit interesting—but not for the Michigan faithful brave enough to remain in attendance or watching from home.

Morris made his first mistake of the day with a throw into traffic that was tipped, intercepted and returned 51 yards by Dante Barnett. Two plays later, Kansas State's John Hubert rumbled into the end zone from one yard out to make it 31-6.

Michigan then awoke from its slumber to score its first touchdown of the game via a Fitzgerald Toussaint three-yard score, bringing the contest to its final, 31-14.

 

Key Player Grades

Jake Waters, QB, Kansas State: A

Lockett will steal the majority of the credit for the big win, but major kudos goes to the Wildcats junior signal-caller.

Waters entered the game having completed under 60 percent of his passes on the year with 15 touchdowns to nine interceptions. He looked like a drastically different player against the Wolverines.

The Michigan defense tends to do that for quarterbacks. But that is not to take anything away from Waters, who put up an exclamation point on what was a rather dull season.

 

Shane Morris, QB, Michigan: B

Poor Shane Morris.

No matter how well the freshman performed, the shadow of Gardner was simply going to be too much to live up to—even in a win.

But major props should go to Morris in his first-career start. He tallied an 24-of-38 day for 196 yards and an interception. He was even the team's leading rusher with his 43 yards on four carries. ESPN put it best:

Not a bad start to a collegiate career, but simply not the end result the Wolverines had hoped for when they named Morris the starter.

 

Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State: A

What more can be said about Lockett at this point?

The junior was the star of the show and the primary reason the Wildcats were not only able to exploit the Wolverines consistently, but to win the game.

Not a bad way to end the year for the star wideout, who should ask his quarterback for a share of that MVP award.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Michigan's Promising Season Never Materialized

After nearly suffering an embarrassing defeat to Akron in September, Michigan's All-American offensive lineman Taylor Lewan broke down what it means to be a Wolverine football player.

"This is your job," Lewan told the media. "You came here to be a student-athlete. You go to school, get your degree and win Big Ten championships. If we prepare like we did this week, we won’t win another game."

After that narrow escape, Michigan was still 3-0 with those Big Ten Conference title hopes alive and well. But whether it was due to poor preparation, a lack of talent or subpar coaching, they would fall well short of the league crown.

Michigan's 31-14 season finale loss in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl to Kansas State was a fitting end to a promising season that just wasn't to come to fruition in Ann Arbor.

The Wolverines gave up a long touchdown drive to open the game and trailed the entire contest. KSU quarterback Jake Waters gashed Michigan, finishing 21-of-27 passing for 313 total yards and three touchdowns.

Meanwhile the Michigan offense struggled mightily, rushing for just 65 yards—40 of which came on one run by backup quarterback James Morris late in the fourth quarter when the game was already decided. Outside of that run, Michigan's rushing attack did very little.

That failure to produce on the ground was a recurring theme for the Wolverines this season, and it played a major role once again in the defeat to the Wildcats.

The loss also moved UM back to No. 2 behind Notre Dame in all-time winning percentage, as CBS Sports' Tom Fornelli tweeted:

That just further soured a season that once carried so much hope.

Michigan's aspirations were at their highest in Week 2. The Wolverines posted one of the biggest wins of the early season, taking down Notre Dame in front of a record crowd at the Big House.

That win vaulted them into national contention. They seemed destined to tangle with Ohio State at season's end for the Big Ten crown—a game that looked like it might also carry national title implications for both teams.

But then Akron happened. A week later, Connecticut happened and UM again needed a late rally to top a pedestrian opponent.

All of a sudden, the national title contender that beat the Fighting Irish was gone.

A few weeks later, the Wolverines suffered their first loss—a 43-40 overtime defeat to Penn State. That road defeat wasn't the end, but it was certainly the beginning of the end. Michigan dropped five of its last six games, topping only Northwestern in overtime. 

The stretch also included consecutive games with negative rushing yards against Michigan State and Nebraska. That lack of both push up front and protection for quarterback Devin Gardner would prove to be the Wolverines' biggest downfalls.

Those weaknesses showed up throughout the season and in the bowl defeat to K-State. And after months of woes up front, the whole season ended as just one big "what if?" 

On one hand: What if the ball had bounced in Michigan's favor a few more times?

Four of the Wolverines' regular-season losses came by four points or fewer, including a heartbreaking 42-41 defeat to archrival Ohio State. Looking at the season from that angle, Michigan was oh-so-close to being in Big Ten title contention.

On the other hand: What if Michigan had lost those close games to Akron and Connecticut?

Through that lens, the season could've been much worse—the Wolverines could've finished 5-7 and out of a bowl completely.

Michigan was supposed to compete for a Big Ten title. Gardner, Lewan and others were to lead the program to prosperity.

But for a multitude of reasons, that didn't happen.

And now, more and more fingers will be pointed at head coach Brady Hoke and his regression over his first three seasons. 

For Hoke, there is some hope for the future. Gardner will return in 2014, as will the majority of the UM defense. With plenty of key players coming back, Michigan will again bring promise into its season.

However, in 2014, the Wolverines must translate that promise into production, or it could cost Hoke his job.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Michigan's Promising Season Never Materialized

After nearly suffering an embarrassing defeat to Akron in September, Michigan's All-American offensive lineman Taylor Lewan broke down what it means to be a Wolverine football player.

"This is your job," Lewan told the media. "You came here to be a student-athlete. You go to school, get your degree and win Big Ten championships. If we prepare like we did this week, we won’t win another game."

After that narrow escape, Michigan was still 3-0 with those Big Ten Conference title hopes alive and well. But whether it was due to poor preparation, a lack of talent or subpar coaching, they would fall well short of the league crown.

Michigan's 31-14 season finale loss in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl to Kansas State was a fitting end to a promising season that just wasn't to come to fruition in Ann Arbor.

The Wolverines gave up a long touchdown drive to open the game and trailed the entire contest. KSU quarterback Jake Waters gashed Michigan, finishing 21-of-27 passing for 313 total yards and three touchdowns.

Meanwhile the Michigan offense struggled mightily, rushing for just 65 yards—40 of which came on one run by backup quarterback James Morris late in the fourth quarter when the game was already decided. Outside of that run, Michigan's rushing attack did very little.

That failure to produce on the ground was a recurring theme for the Wolverines this season, and it played a major role once again in the defeat to the Wildcats.

The loss also moved UM back to No. 2 behind Notre Dame in all-time winning percentage, as CBS Sports' Tom Fornelli tweeted:

That just further soured a season that once carried so much hope.

Michigan's aspirations were at their highest in Week 2. The Wolverines posted one of the biggest wins of the early season, taking down Notre Dame in front of a record crowd at the Big House.

That win vaulted them into national contention. They seemed destined to tangle with Ohio State at season's end for the Big Ten crown—a game that looked like it might also carry national title implications for both teams.

But then Akron happened. A week later, Connecticut happened and UM again needed a late rally to top a pedestrian opponent.

All of a sudden, the national title contender that beat the Fighting Irish was gone.

A few weeks later, the Wolverines suffered their first loss—a 43-40 overtime defeat to Penn State. That road defeat wasn't the end, but it was certainly the beginning of the end. Michigan dropped five of its last six games, topping only Northwestern in overtime. 

The stretch also included consecutive games with negative rushing yards against Michigan State and Nebraska. That lack of both push up front and protection for quarterback Devin Gardner would prove to be the Wolverines' biggest downfalls.

Those weaknesses showed up throughout the season and in the bowl defeat to K-State. And after months of woes up front, the whole season ended as just one big "what if?" 

On one hand: What if the ball had bounced in Michigan's favor a few more times?

Four of the Wolverines' regular-season losses came by four points or fewer, including a heartbreaking 42-41 defeat to archrival Ohio State. Looking at the season from that angle, Michigan was oh-so-close to being in Big Ten title contention.

On the other hand: What if Michigan had lost those close games to Akron and Connecticut?

Through that lens, the season could've been much worse—the Wolverines could've finished 5-7 and out of a bowl completely.

Michigan was supposed to compete for a Big Ten title. Gardner, Lewan and others were to lead the program to prosperity.

But for a multitude of reasons, that didn't happen.

And now, more and more fingers will be pointed at head coach Brady Hoke and his regression over his first three seasons. 

For Hoke, there is some hope for the future. Gardner will return in 2014, as will the majority of the UM defense. With plenty of key players coming back, Michigan will again bring promise into its season.

However, in 2014, the Wolverines must translate that promise into production, or it could cost Hoke his job.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Miami Football: Canes Offense Goes out with a Whimper in Russell Athletic Bowl

Miami went into the Russell Athletic Bowl knowing it'd have its hands full with Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

What the Hurricanes didn't see coming—an absolutely suffocating performance, courtesy of the Cardinals defense.

Miami was held to a season-low 174 total yards, unable to get it done through the air, or on the ground. The Hurricanes were an abysmal 0-of-11 on third-down conversions and didn't notch an offensive score until early in the fourth quarter when running back Gus Edwards punched in a meaningless two-yard touchdown.

After self-imposing back-to-back postseason bans and earning their first bowl berth since 2010, the Hurricanes appeared to be ready. Head coach Al Golden and staff had 19 days to prepare, 18 practices to scheme and a roster full of supposedly pent-up kids, ready to relish the opportunity.

Instead, it was the Cardinals and a roster full of Florida-bred players who rolled into Orlando with purpose and passion. Miami couldn't even come close to matching Louisville's energy.

Bridgewater put together a career night, throwing for 447 yards and three touchdowns. Late in the game, the junior all-everything quarterback ran in a score from a yard out on fourth down—an effort to pad the highlight reel and to put an exclamation point on his season, should this be his final collegiate outing with the NFL calling.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes invented new ways to unravel.

Down 16-2 late in the second quarter, Stephen Morris was sacked and fumbled away a gimmie scoring opportunity inside the red zone. A few plays later James Burgess Jr.—another former Miami commit—delivered a crowd-silencing hit on Dallas Crawford. Early in the third, a backward pass and some trickery resulted in a 19-yard loss.

Miami was also stuffed twice on fourth down over the course of the game, giving away both field position and momentum in crucial situations.

Five games after losing running back Duke Johnson, the Hurricanes remain identity-less offensively.

Neither Crawford nor Edwards has been able to carry the load, which absolutely crippled what had been a run-first approach all season. Even worse, the fact that the Hurricanes offensive line—thought to be the team's strongest link—was absolutely manhandled by the Cardinals' front seven all night. 

Miami tried to utilize speed and create some magic with receiver Stacy Coley, but the go-to bubble screen that worked late season was sniffed out early by Louisville. Coley finished with three receptions for 32 yards and was a non-factor, opposed to a scene-stealer.

Allen Hurns did break UM's single-season record for receiving yardage—1,164 yards on 62 catches—but did so in limited action, held to two grabs for 24 yards on the night.

And 10-3 was the revised goal. Instead, it's 9-4 and back to the drawing board. Golden and staff will make the short trek back to Coral Gables with more questions than answers—not because of the loss itself, but in the manner that Miami failed to show up and went down without a fight.

Thirteen games into the season and most of this roster never having seen the postseason, the lack of heart and subpar effort are inexcusable.

Miami has 29 verbal commitments on board for the 2014 recruiting class, and job No. 1 is making sure the Hurricanes staff can spin this loss into a playing-time positive.

Come on down to "The U." We need you. Every position is open. True freshmen, JUCO transfers or fifth-year seniors—get on board and may the best man win.

Miami commit Kiy Hester—a 4-star safety from New Jersey—made it clear via Twitter after the game that he's headed to Coral Gables on a mission in 2014.

Outside of safety, the Hurricanes have glaring holes on the defensive line, which will only get worse as five seniors are moving on. The offensive line will take a hit, too, losing three veteran players.

Morris is also gone under center, meaning that quarterback is wide open in the spring, while Johnson needs some help at running back as he can't shoulder the burden alone.

Miami can't get back what it lost in a lopsided bowl loss against Louisville—but it has to learn from the setback and keep moving forward.

Close strong on the recruiting front, get the right players in the mix, put every position up for grabs and let both competition and increased talent dictate which direction "The U" goes over the next few years.

Follow Chris Bello on Twitter @allCanesBlog.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Miami Football: Canes Offense Goes Out with a Whimper in Russell Athletic Bowl

Miami went into the Russell Athletic Bowl knowing it'd have its hands full with Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

What the Hurricanes didn't see coming—an absolutely suffocating performance, courtesy of the Cardinals defense.

Miami was held to a season-low 174 total yards, unable to get it done through the air, or on the ground. The Hurricanes were an abysmal 0-of-11 on third-down conversions and didn't notch an offensive score until early in the fourth quarter when running back Gus Edwards punched in a meaningless two-yard touchdown.

After self-imposing back-to-back postseason bans and earning their first bowl berth since 2010, the Hurricanes appeared to be ready. Head coach Al Golden and staff had 19 days to prepare, 18 practices to scheme and a roster full of supposedly pent-up kids, ready to relish the opportunity.

Instead, it was the Cardinals and a roster full of Florida-bred players who rolled into Orlando with purpose and passion. Miami couldn't even come close to matching Louisville's energy.

Bridgewater put together a career night, throwing for 447 yards and three touchdowns. Late in the game, the junior all-everything quarterback ran in a score from a yard out on fourth down—an effort to pad the highlight reel and to put an exclamation point on his season, should this be his final collegiate outing with the NFL calling.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes invented new ways to unravel.

Down 16-2 late in the second quarter, Stephen Morris was sacked and fumbled away a gimmie scoring opportunity inside the red zone. A few plays later James Burgess Jr.—another former Miami commit—delivered a crowd-silencing hit on Dallas Crawford. Early in the third, a backward pass and some trickery resulted in a 19-yard loss.

Miami was also stuffed twice on fourth down over the course of the game, giving away both field position and momentum in crucial situations.

Five games after losing running back Duke Johnson, the Hurricanes remain identity-less offensively.

Neither Crawford nor Edwards has been able to carry the load, which absolutely crippled what had been a run-first approach all season. Even worse, the fact that the Hurricanes offensive line—thought to be the team's strongest link—was absolutely manhandled by the Cardinals' front seven all night. 

Miami tried to utilize speed and create some magic with receiver Stacy Coley, but the go-to bubble screen that worked late season was sniffed out early by Louisville. Coley finished with three receptions for 32 yards and was a non-factor, opposed to a game-breaker. 

And 10-3 was the revised goal. Instead, it's 9-4 and back to the drawing board. Golden and staff will make the short trek back to Coral Gables with more questions than answers—not because of the loss itself, but in the manner that Miami failed to show up and went down without a fight.

Thirteen games into the season and most of this roster never having seen the postseason, the lack of heart and subpar effort are inexcusable.

Miami has 29 verbal commitments on board for the 2014 recruiting class, and job No. 1 is making sure the Hurricanes staff can spin this loss into a playing-time positive.

Come on down to "The U." We need you. Every position is open. True freshmen, JUCO transfers or fifth-year seniors—get on board and may the best man win.

Miami commit Kiy Hester—a 4-star safety from New Jersey—made it clear via Twitter after the game that he's headed to Coral Gables on a mission in 2014.

Outside of safety, the Hurricanes have glaring holes on the defensive line, which will only get worse as five seniors are moving on. The offensive line will take a hit, too, losing three veteran players.

Morris is also gone under center, meaning that quarterback is wide open in the spring, while Johnson needs some help at running back as he can't shoulder the burden alone.

Miami can't get back what it lost in Orlando Saturday night against Louisville—but it has to learn from the setback and keep moving forward.

Close strong on the recruiting front, get the right players in the mix, put every position up for grabs and let both competition and increased talent dictate which direction "The U" goes over the next few years.

Follow Chris Bello on Twitter @allCanesBlog.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Russell Athletic Bowl 2013: 10 Things We Learned in Miami's Loss vs. Louisville

The Miami Hurricanes were seeking their first postseason win since 2006, but the Louisville Cardinals hammered "The U" into the ground, sending the 'Canes to a 36-9 blowout loss Saturday in Orlando.

Offensively, Miami had trouble throughout the entirety of the game, failing to convert a single third down. Quarterback Stephen Morris was constantly under duress, and the running game continued to be lost without Duke Johnson.

The much-maligned defense actually played well during the first half, but Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's 447-yard performance can be summed up as a clinic.

After the brutal loss, Miami finishes the once-promising 2013 campaign at 9-4, and a few brutal lessons were learned about the 'Canes.

Begin Slideshow

Russell Athletic Bowl 2013: 10 Things We Learned in Miami's Loss vs. Louisville

The Miami Hurricanes were seeking their first postseason win since 2006, but the Louisville Cardinals hammered "The U" into the ground, sending the 'Canes to a 36-9 blowout loss Saturday in Orlando.

Offensively, Miami had trouble throughout the entirety of the game, failing to convert a single third down. Quarterback Stephen Morris was constantly under duress, and the running game continued to be lost without Duke Johnson.

The much-maligned defense actually played well during the first half, but Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's 447-yard performance can be summed up as a clinic.

After the brutal loss, Miami finishes the once-promising 2013 campaign at 9-4, and a few brutal lessons were learned about the 'Canes.

Begin Slideshow

Russell Athletic Bowl: Louisville Blowout Shows Miami Was Never Elite in 2013

In November, Miami (Fla.) was ranked in the Top 10 and considered a dark-horse national title contender ahead of its clash with rival Florida State.

After the Hurricanes were outclassed 36-9 in the Russell Athletic Bowl by Louisville on Saturday, we're left wondering how this Miami team was ever considered one of college football's best.

The U first faltered in that key tilt against FSU, but it was exposed long before its trip to Tallahassee.

The 'Canes began the season unranked, and after scorching Florida Atlantic 34-6 in their opening contest, they faced their first test against rival Florida.

Running back Duke Johnson starred in that first victory, tallying 186 yards and a touchdown. Even after the first victory, Johnson and Miami remained a bit of a mystery. The production of No. 8 was a given, but it was still unknown just how good this team might become.

As Miami entered its first test, UF was ranked No. 12 and expected to compete for the SEC title. This game, one way or another, looked as if it would set the table for the rest of the season in Coral Gables.

The 'Canes found a way to edge the Gators 21-16, despite being outgained 413-212. That win vaulted them from out of the rankings all the way to No. 16. In one win, they took their dubious outlook and became a legitimate contender in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Since then, that key win has rusted considerably. Florida skidded to a 4-8 finish, losing its final seven games—a stretch that included a loss to FCS Georgia Southern.

After that first "signature win," Miami did its job and just kept winning. A soft schedule benefitted the 'Canes for nearly the next two months. Their ACC contender status took a boost in their league opener, where they dropped Georgia Tech, a Coastal Division favorite.

From then on, Miami kept winning while other Top 10 squads, including Clemson and Missouri, fell to tough opponents. But the way the Hurricanes won showed even then that they weren't an elite team. In consecutive weeks against North Carolina and Wake Forest, they needed touchdowns in the final minute to rally for narrow victories.

But still, with an undefeated record, they climbed to No. 7 before facing the Seminoles. In that game, the 'Canes were finally exposed, as the 'Noles finished what UNC and Wake Forest started.

While that loss vanquished Miami's national title hopes, it also took away its biggest star. Johnson suffered a broken tibia in the loss, sidelining him for the remainder of the season.

The loss of Johnson proved to be a major blow, as Miami compiled three straight losses, averaging only 99 rushing yards in the three defeats.

In those three consecutive weeks, the Hurricanes fell from national title consideration to the middle of the pack in their own division. Duke ended up as the champion of that division after posting the best season in school history.

Eventually, the Blue Devils were annihilated by Florida State in the ACC title game, exposing the Coastal Division as weak.

Miami rebounded with wins over Pittsburgh and Virginia to close the regular season, but the ACC title and a New Year's Day bowl were out of the question.

Still, given its reputation throughout the year, Miami earned a strong bowl opponent in Louisville. The Hurricanes had one final opportunity to show that they were "back" to being a national power.

But in the loss to the Cardinals, it was apparent throughout that the Hurricanes weren't up to par. They were outgained 554-174 and didn't convert a single third down all night in Orlando.

A close loss would've shown that they were worthy of some of the high rankings they received early in the season—but looking at their body of work, that just isn't the case. 

Miami didn't beat a team that finished with more than seven wins.

Now, as head coach Al Golden said afterward, The U will go back to the drawing board, per Christy Cabrera Chirinos, Sun-Sentinel:

We got beat in all three phases. There’s no excuses. We didn’t play well enough. Give a lot of credit to Louisville. They played really well. They executed well. It’s my responsibility. I’m disappointed in our execution in all three phases. As I just shared with the team, despite that, I’m proud of Stephen [Morris] and this group of seniors for what they’ve been through and what they’ve endured in moving this program forward.

Golden's squad will bring Johnson back next year, but its quarterback situation will be in flux with the departure of Stephen Morris.

The good news going forward for The U is on its defense, where it is expected to return several key players, including Tracy Howard, Denzel Perryman and Anthony Chickillo.

With several core players coming back, the Hurricanes will head into 2014 with another promising outlook. But just like this season, they'll have to prove that they're a contender by beating quality teams.

Miami might be several years away from being "back," but the first step will be beating another national contender—something this squad just wasn't capable of doing.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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