NCAA Football News

Texas Longhorns Band Pays Tribute to Mack Brown at Alamo Bowl

The 2013 Valero Alamo Bowl against Oregon will be the final game of Texas head coach Mack Brown's career, so the Longhorn Band decided to pay tribute to the coach by spelling out his name on the field during halftime.

Brown is nearing the end of his 16th season as coach of the Longhorns. He led the team to a BCS National Championship in 2006.

Thanks to @LukeFritz64 for the photo, and hat tip to ESPN's Darren Rovell for the find.

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Oregon's Josh Huff Celebrates TD with 'Show Me the Money' Gesture

Receiver Josh Huff is playing his final game for the Oregon Ducks, and he is on his way to going out with a bang against the Texas Longhorns in the Alamo Bowl.

The senior celebrated his 16-yard touchdown late in the first half by doing the "show me the money" gesture.

Quarterback Marcus Mariota perfectly executed a shovel pass, and Huff did the rest:

Huff's touchdown marked the first time the Oregon offense found the end zone all night, but it gave the Ducks a 20-7 lead heading into halftime.

Of course Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel made this celebration popular earlier this season.

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Chick-Fil-A Bowl 2013: Top Storylines Heading into Texas A&M-Duke Clash

The No. 21 Texas A&M Aggies will square off against the No. 24 Duke Blue Devils in the 2013 Chick-Fil-A Bowl in what figures to be an exciting matchup featuring two struggling teams looking to right the ship.

Texas A&M (8-4) closed their season on a two-game losing streak. LSU and Missouri bested them in those two games, but the Aggies had been firing on all cylinders in weeks prior. All four of the Aggies' losses came against the four Top 25 teams they faced this season, and they'll be looking to buck that trend against Duke.

The Blue Devils are coming off a blowout loss to the Florida State Seminoles in the ACC Championship Game. At 10-3, Duke put together one of its best seasons in school history on the gridiron. Their other two losses came back-to-back against Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh, but they did take down Virginia Tech and Miami—both ranked teams at the time.

This matchup figures to be one of the more exciting games of the bowl season. Be sure to tune in at 8 p.m. ET on New Year's Eve on ESPN, and pay attention to the following storylines while viewing.

 

Johnny Manziel and Mike Evan's Last Go-Around

Gil Brandt of NFL.com reports (via Will Brinson of CBSSports.com) that Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans will leave Texas A&M to declare for the NFL draft following the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

Manziel will likely be a top 10 selection in the draft (the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 3 and the Minnesota Vikings at No. 8 are potential landing spots), while Evans could easily go in the top 15 after Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins is off the board.

With this bowl game being their last go-around in an Aggies uniform, expect the two to go out in style. Manziel and Evans worked well together through the entirety of the season, and Duke will likely fall victim to a few big plays over the top of their secondary.

At 6'5", Evans has the ability to out-jump nearly every defensive back matched against him. Couple that with his deceptive speed to get behind the back of those defenders, and you've got yourself the complete package.

Expect Duke to throw two defenders at him at all times. If he makes plays, then the Aggies' chances of winning go way up.

 

Manziel's Last Audition for NFL Squads

In what will be Manziel's last audition for the NFL, look for him to exploit the Blue Devils' defense.

Duke coach David Cutcliffe told the Associated Press (via SportingNews.com) just what he expects from last year's Heisman winner:

He's an outstanding quarterback...He's not just an athlete. He beats you in a lot of different ways. Certainly he's got a great receiving corps. His ability to create plays is second to none. In my lengthy career I really haven't seen a player that creates and ad-libs as well.

Even though Duke appears prepared for the challenge, Manziel may still prove too much to contain. If they try to limit him through the air, he'll kill them on the ground. Needless to say, the opposite also holds true.

A poor showing in this bowl game could very well be the difference between Manziel going No. 3 to Jacksonville or later on in the first round. Several teams are in the market for quarterbacks in the first round, but there's no doubting the fact that Manziel would like to hear his name called earlier rather than later.

 

Can Duke Continue Successful Season?

Duke put together arguably its best season on the football field. Their 10-3 record was highlighted by wins over Virginia Tech and Miami, but losing against Florida State in the ACC Championship Game is currently the low point.

While their team peripherals were average across the board (they rank anywhere from No. 47 to No. 62 in terms of passing yards, rushing yards, points allowed and points scored), their consistency as a team is what propelled them to new heights.

Duke is new to this kind of stage, but playing against the Seminoles likely helped them to gain some needed experience.

It'll be interesting to see how they fare against Manziel. Jameis Winston lit them up in the ACC title game, but Manziel is not the same offensive threat. He's still a great quarterback, but there's a reason Winston won the Heisman this year and Manziel didn't.

Containing Manziel is the key. If they can do that, they'll win the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

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Bishop Sankey Officially Announces He Will Enter 2014 NFL Draft

The allure of the NFL has captured another Washington Huskies offensive player. 

Just a couple of days after tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins announced he would forego his senior season, dynamic junior running back Bishop Sankey did the same on Monday night, Dec. 30.   

ESPN's Joe Schad has the news:

Former Washington star quarterback (and now former coach) Marques Tuiasosopo was quick to offer his words of encouragement for Sankey:

Standing at 5'10" and weighing 203 pounds, the junior out of Spokane carved up defenses in 2013.

Despite receiving just four carries in a blowout against Idaho State and tallying just 22 rushing yards in a dreadful team performance against Arizona State, he finished with 2,174 total yards from scrimmage (1,870 rushing) and 21 total touchdowns. 

He led the Pac-12 in rushing attempts, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and yards from scrimmage, and before the poor outing against the Sun Devils on Oct. 19, he was generating buzz as a dark-horse Heisman contender. 

Sankey does a good job of staying behind his blocks and exploding through the holes, and as he showed off in the Fight Hunger Bowl, he has some impressive elusiveness:

CBS Sports ranks Sankey as the No. 3 running back and No. 54 overall prospect, but the general consensus seems to be that he is destined for the third round. 

According to the junior himself, via the Seattle Times' Adam Jude, he received a third-round grade from the NFL draft evaluation board.

“It’s pretty much what I expected,” Sankey noted of the grade, per Jude. 

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller agreed with the evaluation, giving Sankey a No. 94 overall ranking with the concern that he "doesn't break tackles or pick up yardage after contact and will struggle to find openings once in the NFL."

No prospect comes without weaknesses, however, and Sankey—as he has shown over the past two productive seasons—has the potential to become one of the best running backs out of this class. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Sugar Bowl 2014: Key Storylines for Alabama vs. Oklahoma

Two of college football's most storied programs will clash on Thursday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) in New Orleans when the No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1) face the No. 11 Oklahoma Sooners (10-2) in the 2014 Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Coaches Nick Saban and Bob Stoops also have some high-profile history against each other, as Saban's LSU team beat Stoops' Oklahoma squad in 2004 in New Orleans for the national title. So, what does Thursday's big BCS showdown have in store?

Here's a look at three of the top storylines heading into the contest.

 

Alabama Trying to Rebound against Upstart Oklahoma

These two teams enter the Sugar Bowl on opposite ending notes to the regular season.

Alabama had bigger aspirations of a national championship until their heartbreaking 34-28 loss to the Auburn Tigers in an all-time classic Iron Bowl. Oklahoma, meanwhile, defeated Oklahoma State 33-24 in an entertaining Bedlam rivalry game, but it still enters this tilt as a massive underdog.

As of Monday afternoon, VegasInsider.com pegged Alabama as a 16-point favorite, giving the Sugar Bowl one of the biggest spreads of any bowl game this winter.

Cliff Kirkpatrick of USA Today recently spoke to Alabama head coach Nick Saban and some of his players about how they're approaching this contest after the Iron Bowl disappointment:

"I think for all of us, it's sort of a respect thing," tight end Brian Vogler said of the Sugar Bowl. "We want to go out and prove to people that we're one of the best teams in the country. ... We may not be in the national championship, but we are in a BCS game, and we have a (chance) to show people our abilities."

While Oklahoma certainly faces an uphill battle against one of the nation's most complete teams, the Sooners were underdogs heading into Bedlam against OSU but rose to the occasion to pull off a victory. It's been a while since either of these teams have played a game, but it will be interesting to see if there are any lingering affects of the regular-season finales.

 

Sooners Riding Strength of Running Game

If there's one area where Oklahoma can feel confident heading into the Sugar Bowl, it's the rushing attack.

The Sooners ranked 18th nationally, averaging 235.8 yards per game, behind bell cow Brennan Clay (913 yards, five TDs). Oklahoma's attack took a big hit in November when second-leading rusher Damien Williams was dismissed from the team, but the Sooners still have some big threats on the ground.

Perhaps, the one that will be most effective for the Sooners will be quarterback Trevor Knight, who averaged 84 rushing yards on 13.3 attempts in the final three games of the season while splitting snaps with fellow QB Blake Bell.

Alabama has been exposed by dual-threat quarterbacks this season, as Johnny Manziel accounted for 464 yards passing and 98 yards rushing in a 49-42 win against Texas A&M and Auburn's Nick Marshall ran for 99 more against the Crimson tide in the Iron Bowl.

Clay recently compared Knight to both Manziel and Marshall, per Mike Herndon of AL.com:

With such a mismatch on paper, the Sooners will likely have to get creative in the running game to grind out a victory. Leading receivers Jalen Saunders (56 catches, 654 yards, six TDs) and Sterling Shepard (44 receptions, 540 yards, six TDs) are quality options on the outside, but they shouldn't be counted on to expose Alabama's pass defense, which ranked fourth nationally (166.3 yards allowed per game).

Alabama is also stiff against the run (11th, 108.3 yards allowed per game), but Oklahoma needs to try and attack the Crimson Tide's front seven on Thursday.

 

How Will AJ McCarron's Career End?

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron missed out on a chance to lead the Crimson Tide to their third straight national championship this year, but he still has a chance to wrap up his impressive college football career with another BCS victory.

Entering play Thursday, McCarron already holds school records in wins (36), passing yards (8,632) and passing touchdowns (75), while cementing himself as one of college football's most effective players. This year, he passed for 2,676 yards with a 67.6 completion percentage, 26 touchdowns and five interceptions. It's the efficiency and smart decisions with the football that have enabled McCarron to have such success, as he threw three picks in September and two in a 20-7 win over Mississippi State but has been otherwise spotless.

Aside from his college football legacy, McCarron is also trying to prove that he can translate his skills to the next level, with Alex Marvez of FOX Sports reporting he has an outstanding invite to play in the Senior Bowl:

He might not have the gravitas of Tim Tebow or other past Heisman winners, but McCarron has carved out a nice SEC legacy of his own. The senior doesn't have much to prove at this point, but a win against a talented Oklahoma defense that ranked 22nd in points allowed per game (21.3) would be great for his NFL resume as he prepares for April's draft.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Music City Bowl: Ole Miss Proves It Is Ready to Make a Run at SEC West

Ole Miss didn't make the gigantic leap into SEC west contention in Year 2 under head coach Hugh Freeze, but the momentum of the program is still headed in the right direction.

After a few speed bumps along the way, of course.

The tastes from a three-game losing streak in the middle of the season and a two-game losing streak to close the season were wiped away on Monday afternoon, as the Rebels topped Georgia Tech, 25-17, in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.

Quarterback Bo Wallace completed 22-of-32 passes for 256 yards, 86 rushing yards and three total touchdowns.

In the process, he joined some rather prestigious Ole Miss company.

Bo Wallace sets Ole Miss school record for total yards in a season, eclipsing Eli Manning’s previous record set in 2003.

— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) December 30, 2013

It was a statement win for the Rebels.

Without second-leading rusher Jeff Scott, they sliced and diced the Yellow Jacket defense—which entered as the nation's 22nd-best defense—to the tune of 477 total yards.

On top of that, Ole Miss held the Jackets—which came in with the nation's fourth-best rushing offense (311.67 YPG)—to just 151 yards on the ground.

They're still building. 

Wallace will be back at quarterback in 2014, as will wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and, perhaps, rising senior Donte Moncrief if he doesn't jump early. Sophomore running backs Jaylen Walton and I'Tavius Mathers gained plenty of experience this season when Scott was banged up; and that young and talented defense is only going to get better with another year of work.

Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche—who moved back and forth between defensive tackle and defensive end this season—will get a full offseason to focus on defensive tackle duties, safety Tony Conner came on strong during his true freshman season and linebacker Serderius Bryant should be back for his senior season in Oxford.

Plus, the SEC West is going to be up in the air next season.

If nobody leaves early, Auburn will return all but one player on its offensive two-deep next season; but five seniors off of its defense. Alabama and LSU will be hit hard by graduation and possibly the draft, and Texas A&M will likely have to replace the most dynamic player in college football when Johnny Football exits stage left.

Does that mean Ole Miss will be a favorite?

Of course not.

That'd be a giant leap forward, not the logical next step.

But it took a small step forward this season—a season that included a home win over LSU. Another step forward next season gets them in the discussion, and for Ole Miss, that's a great place to be considering where they were towards the end of the Houston Nutt era.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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