NCAA Football News

Ball Boy at Bowling Green vs. Northern Illinois Game Shows off Great Hands

Red Lightning set the standard for ball boys, but soon he will join the ranks of past college football legends. As with all legacies, there must be a changing of the guard.

When Bowling Green and Northern Illinois faced off Friday night, a mysterious new ball boy prodigy caught a glimpse of screen time and made the most of it.

He's clearly been watching Odell Beckham Jr. highlights lately.

[YouTube, h/t Reader Ethan Brown]

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Will TCU Make College Football Playoff?

The closing statement has been heard in Fort Worth. Now, after clinching a share of the Big 12 crown with a 55-3 victory over Iowa State, the No. 3 TCU Horned Frogs await the final verdict.

Given how the College Football Playoff committee has operated each week, Gary Patterson's team should start preparing itself for good news.

Earlier this week, the 12-person board elected to have the Horned Frogs leap over an undefeated Florida State squad in the rankings—an unforeseen move that also showed how TCU has become the committee's darling.

Playoff chairman Jeff Long cited FSU's struggles with lesser opponents. After all, the 'Noles needed second-half rallies during their last three contests to outlast teams with a combined 19-16 record.

Laura Keeley of the Raleigh News & Observer objected, supplying a voice of reason amid the surprising shift.

With that being said, while the 34-30 win over Kansas raised a few questioning eyebrows, it was really the only time TCU had a lapse against an inferior foe. The Horned Frogs hammered Oklahoma State by 33, Texas Tech by 55 and Texas by 38.

Plus, Patterson and Co. earned a trio of victories over the Big 12's top teams, defeating No. 4 Oklahoma 37-33, No. 20 West Virginia 31-30 in Morgantown and No. 7 Kansas State 41-20. TCU's success in those conference battles impressed the committee more than a three-point loss to Baylor hurt the Frogs.

And then, Iowa State happened. The No. 3 team's closing statement wasn't particularly convincing early on.

The Horned Frogs, favored by five touchdowns per OddsShark, stumbled into a 17-3 halftime lead, with seven points resulting from a perfectly executed double pass.

In Florida State's defense, each first-half struggle was opposite a program that has qualified for bowl season. None of Miami, Boston College and Florida is especially dangerous, but each is not terrible, either.

TCU, on the other hand, hobbled by Kansas—the second-weakest Big 12 foe—and Iowa State through 30 minutes. The lackluster performance in the latter game nearly sparked a debate: Are the Frogs simply a big-game team that encounters difficulty bringing the same intensity level to matchups they're expected to dominate?

The second half against the Cyclones, however, answered that question. Scratch that, a 31-point third quarter reminded the nation what TCU was capable of doing.

With more than 12 minutes remaining in the final frame, the Horned Frogs held a dominating 55-3 lead and provided little reason to be downgraded in the polls.

How exactly can the committee drop TCU behind FSU—and ultimately playoff—following such an impressive day? They propelled the Frogs over an undefeated Florida State team prior to the final outing, so it's borderline unreasonable to think Baylor can jump both TCU and the 'Noles.

Additionally, the question of whether Baylor deserves the spot continues to linger, though that answer may appear completely obvious following the Bears' matchup with Kansas State. Nevertheless, Baylor's head-to-head win seems to carry little relevance at this point.

Ultimately, the Frogs must let that chip fall where it may. In coach speak, TCU controlled what it could control, which was its on-field performance during the regular-season finale.

It's clear that right now, the Horned Frogs are playing better football than Baylor, and the four-team playoff is intended to showcase the best football.

TCU has seemingly proven itself worthy of a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff, considering the committee's recent track record. The Frogs just need to hear the final verdict, and it will likely be a positive one for the co-Big 12 champions.

 

Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

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SEC Championship Game 2014: Alabama vs. Missouri Live Score and Highlights

Alabama 7, Missouri 0—Early 2nd Quarter

Alabama is one win away from punching its ticket to the inaugural College Football Playoff.  Even with a loss to Missouri, it's still possible the Tide could make the four-team field, but it would be a significant risk considering the plethora of potential one-loss conference champions waiting just outside of the current Top Four.

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SEC Championship 2014: Biggest Keys to Victory in Alabama vs. Missouri Battle

On paper, the Missouri Tigers don’t have a chance to beat the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2014 SEC Championship Game.

After all, Missouri lost to Indiana, got blown out by Georgia and played a tissue-soft conference schedule that missed most of the formidable SEC West opponents. Alabama is the closest thing to a dynasty we have seen in college football the last 10 years and has the inside track on a College Football Playoff spot.

However, they don’t play the games on paper. Read on for a preview and some of the biggest keys to the SEC Championship Game.

 

Alabama vs. Missouri

Date: Saturday, Dec. 6

Time: 4 p.m. ET

TV: CBS

Live Stream: CBS Sports Live 

Odds: Alabama -14.5, via Odds Shark, as of Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET

 

Keys to Victory

Missouri Pressure vs. Alabama Offensive Line

Line play is always one of the most overlooked keys in any football game, and that will be no different during the SEC title clash.

The most interesting aspect of this game will be Missouri’s defensive line against Alabama’s offensive line. The Tigers led the SEC with 40 sacks this season, largely because of Shane Ray and Markus Golden. Ray finished atop the SEC leaderboard with 14 sacks, while Golden tallied nine sacks as well.

However, Alabama’s offensive line is the best in the conference and allowed only 11 sacks the entire season. Cam Robinson and Co. will have to slow Ray and Golden down so Amari Cooper and the Alabama receivers have enough time to get open downfield.

One way to neutralize a talent gap is with consistent pressure. A few sacks can force the Crimson Tide into 2nd- and 3rd-and-long situations, which would also take the rushing attack out of the picture. 

Matt Hayes of Sporting News and Eric Edholm of Yahoo Sports both had complimentary things to say about the dominant Missouri defensive line:

If the Tigers can get consistent pressure on Blake Sims, this game could go off script.

 

Backfields

Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry are the SEC running backs who make the most headlines in this matchup, but Missouri’s Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy are incredibly dangerous in their own right.

ESPN Stats & Info compared the two combinations, and the statistics are much closer than many would guess:

The running game will serve a different purpose for each team. Alabama will use Yeldon and Henry to force Missouri defenders closer to the box, which will open Cooper up for the big play downfield off play-action passes. It’s hard enough to stop Cooper as it is without devoting extra defenders to slowing down the run.

The run game will also slow down the pass rush for just a second if the Missouri defensive line has to hesitate to help with the run. With Ray and Golden pinning their ears back and attacking Blake Sims, every second counts. 

As for Missouri, it will use the run to shorten the game as the underdog. The most effective way to stop Yeldon, Henry and Cooper would be to keep them on the sidelines while the Missouri offense does its work, so if the Tigers can consistently move the chains and keep the clock running, it will greatly improve their chances at an upset.

 

Amari Cooper

Cooper is arguably the best player in the country and single-handedly swung the Iron Bowl. Auburn made the mistake of covering him with one defender on a number of occasions, and the end result was 224 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He finished the regular season with 1,573 receiving yards and 14 touchdown catches.

Stopping Cooper is much easier said than done, but a team can’t beat Alabama if it lets him go off. Florida Atlantic gave up 189 receiving yards and a touchdown, Florida gave up 201 yards and three touchdowns, Texas A&M gave up 140 yards and two touchdowns, Tennessee allowed 224 yards and two touchdowns and Auburn saw its Iron Bowl chances slip away.

Cooper also saves his best performances for the biggest moments. In three games against Auburn, an SEC title game and two bowls, he is averaging 144.2 yards and has nine touchdowns.

Missouri cornerback Aarion Penton discussed the matchup, via Tod Palmer of The Kansas City Star.

“He’ll be the best guy I’ve played against by far," Penton said. "He’s a very elite player and everything he does makes him elite. But that’s why I came to this school, to face people like him. It will be a great challenge.”

No argument here.

Prediction: Alabama 31, Missouri 14

 

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College Football Week 15: Live Scores, Highlights and Reaction

Keep it locked right here as we bring you live College Football Week 15 coverage!

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ACC Championship Game 2014: FSU vs. Georgia Tech Live Score and Highlights

The Florida State Seminoles and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are set to do battle in the ACC Championship Game. It will take place at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the game will air at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Florida State is the only undefeated team in the FBS, but it's been hanging on to that by a thread. One of the reasons the Seminoles have struggled to win easily is the play of quarterback Jameis Winston. The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner has thrown 11 interceptions in the last five games and has thrown only eight touchdowns during that span.

Winston and the Seminoles are going up against a Georgia Tech team that got a huge boost last week when it beat archrival Georgia for the first time since 2008.

The Yellow Jackets rank first in the ACC in scoring and rushing offense. They have three players who have rushed for over 675 yards, including quarterback Justin Thomas, who has 861 yards and five touchdowns.

Be sure to come back here when the game kicks off for the latest scoring updates, highlights and analysis.

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Mike Singletary Goes a Little Bonkers on 'College GameDay' Set

Mike Singletary, how the cameras have missed you.

When Lee Corso picked No. 9 Kansas State to beat No. 6 Baylor on set of ESPN's College GameDay on Saturday, the former San Francisco 49ers head coach/longtime NFL assistant took some aggression out on the eccentric Corso. Singletary had a College Football Hall of Fame career at Baylor.

Later, after Singletary picked Iowa State to upset the No. 3 TCU Horned Frogs, the commentators around him couldn't contain their laughter.

[YouTube, SB Nation]

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Big Ten Championship 2014: TV, Live Stream, More for Wisconsin vs. Ohio State

The Ohio State Buckeyes are trying to find a way to sneak into the inaugural College Football Playoff but have a tough final test, taking on the Wisconsin Badgers in the 2014 Big Ten Championship Game.

At 11-1, the Buckeyes are currently on the outside looking in for the playoff picture. They currently sit at No. 5 behind teams like the Florida State Seminoles and TCU Horned Frogs, hoping for a slip-up so that they can try to win their first national title since 2002. Meanwhile, the 10-2 Badgers are trying to spoil Ohio State's chances while helping running back Melvin Gordon with his Heisman Trophy resume.

It won't be easy for the Buckeyes, but the Big Ten Championship Game will have major playoff implications, so a number of teams will be keeping an eye on Ohio State during Saturday's game.

 

Game Info

When: Saturday, December 6, 8:17 p.m. ET

Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis

Watch: Fox

Live Stream: Fox Sports Go

Betting Info: (via Odds Shark)

  • Over/Under: 52.5
  • Spread: Wisconsin (-3)

 

Storylines to Watch

Cardale Jones Trying to Bring Buckeyes to Promised Land

Few players in Ohio State history have ever had as much pressure put on them as redshirt sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones. Originally the third-string QB, injuries to Braxton Miller and, most recently, J.T. Barrett have forced Jones to start under center with a chance for a spot in the College Football Playoff at stake.

Barrett suffered a broken ankle last week against Michigan that ended his season, but he has a lot of confidence in his backup.

"Cardale is a great player," Barrett told Austin Ward of ESPN.com. "I honestly feel like if I wasn't starting this year, Cardale would have done the same things I did this year. Cardale is that talented. He definitely can do it."

Jones has only thrown 19 passes during his career at Ohio State, but the expectations are high for the 6'5'', 250-pound quarterback. He'll have a tough task going against Wisconsin's defense, however, as it's allowed just 156.6 yards per game and 10 total passing touchdowns while sacking opposing quarterbacks 35 times.

Even if the Buckeyes are able to win, they'll likely have to hope for a team in the Top Four to lose this weekend in order to make it into the playoff. However, the Buckeyes can't focus on that right now, especially Jones, who will have to find a way to lead Ohio State to possibly their biggest win of the season.

 

Melvin Gordon Looking to Build on Heisman Resume

Even though they aren't playing for a spot in the playoffs, the Badgers are still trying to add another big win before bowl season. At the same time, their offense will be trying to assist Gordon as he attempts to become the first Heisman Trophy winner out of Wisconsin since Ron Dayne back in 1999.

The numbers this season for Gordon have been eye-opening, with the junior running back rushing for 2,260 yards and 26 touchdowns while averaging 8.0 yards per carry. It's not like he's been putting these numbers up against weaker opponents, either, as ESPN's Joe Schad pointed out just how impressive his numbers have been against winning teams.

Gordon still has some tough competition for this year's Heisman thanks to some terrific seasons from Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota and Alabama Crimson Tide receiver Amari Cooper. The award may be Mariota's to lose, however, as he has put up 47 total touchdowns while throwing just two interceptions.

But Gordon still has a chance to tighten up the race with another big game on Saturday. The Buckeyes have given up 145.6 rushing yards per game along with 21 touchdowns on the ground, but they have yet to face a running back quite like Gordon.

He may not be the Heisman front-runner right now, but another huge game for Gordon could have the voters thinking twice before writing Mariota's name down.

 

Prediction

There's a very small sample size for Jones at quarterback, and although that may be an advantage for the Buckeyes, it's going to be really hard to put in a backup quarterback in a conference championship game and expect everything to run smoothly.

Wisconsin's defense has allowed just 16.8 points per game, ranking fourth in the nation. The Badgers are a physical team heading into Saturday with plenty of momentum thanks to seven straight wins, and they're looking to get revenge on Ohio State after last year's 31-24 loss.

All eyes will be on Ohio State's offense, but the real battle will be on the other side of the ball. If Ohio State's defense can find a way to contain Gordon, then they'll at least give Jones a chance to lead his team to a win.

But I can't see the Buckeyes stopping Gordon. He's one of the more talented runners I've watched play in college, combining speed, acceleration and balance to hit holes at the line of scrimmage before breaking away for big gains. Gordon will have a handful of those runs, and I expect Wisconsin's defense to make things difficult for Ohio State.

Prediction: Wisconsin 28, Ohio State 20

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ACC Championship 2014: TV, Live Stream and Projections for FSU vs. Georgia Tech

The Florida State Seminoles will be looking to keep their 28-win streak, as well as their chances of making the College Football Playoff, intact with a win against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Saturday in the 2014 ACC Championship game.

Despite going 12-0 this season, the Seminoles are just No. 4 in the nation behind the Alabama Crimson Tide, Oregon Ducks and TCU Horned Frogs. A loss on Saturday could end their hopes for a second straight national title, but a win would likely secure a playoff berth. As for the Yellow Jackets, they'll be looking to take down their third consecutive ranked opponent after beating Clemson and Georgia.

Although they're undefeated, the Seminoles have had some close calls recently, winning their past three games by a total of just 12 points. The Yellow Jackets could end up being their toughest test of the season, and a Florida State loss could cause a major shake-up in the playoff standings.

 

Game Info

When: Saturday, December 6, 8 p.m. ET

Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina

Watch: ABC

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Betting Info: (via Odds Shark)

  • Over/Under: 61
  • Spread: Florida State (-3.5)

 

Storylines to Watch

Triple Option Will Challenge Florida State's Defense

Few teams in college football still run the triple-option offense, but the Yellow Jackets have found ways to succeed with it. Their offense ranks fourth in the nation with 333.8 rushing yards per game while also scoring 37.2 points per contest.

Florida State's defense is filled with NFL-caliber talent, but even the best defenses can struggle when having to go against a completely different type of offense. The Seminoles have allowed just 3.7 yards per carry this year while forcing around two turnovers per game.

Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher talked about planning against the triple option according to the Associated Press via ESPN.com, saying:

It's a whole different perspective of how you have to defend their offensive attack. It's going to have to be a complete gameplan overhaul as far as different things you do. Everybody had a certain way they play that. You have your plan, you know what you do. We work on those things in the offseason when you have to play teams like this and then you try to implement based on what they do.

The defensive front seven for the Seminoles will have to remain disciplined against Georgia Tech's offense, because any slip-ups can result in big plays on the ground or through the air. The Yellow Jackets could struggle to pass the ball with leading receiver DeAndre Smelter out with a torn ACL, so sophomore quarterback Justin Thomas will have to be extra careful with the ball when passing.

 

Jameis Winston Must Avoid Turnovers

Opposing defenses have done a better job of containing Jameis Winston this season compared to his Heisman-winning freshman year. After throwing 40 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions in 2013, Winston has throws just 21 touchdowns with 17 interceptions in 2014.

The turnovers have been especially concerning as of late for Winston. Over the past five games, Winston has thrown 11 interceptions, including three games with more than one. ESPN Stats & Info pointed out that no quarterback has helped his team win the national championship with more than 15 interceptions in a season.

Georgia Tech's defense is no stranger to forcing turnovers, either. This season, they've forced opposing quarterbacks to throw 16 interceptions while averaging 2.3 forced turnovers per game.

Florida State may want to consider establishing the run game to put some of the pressure off of Winston. Freshman running back Dalvin Cook will have to carry the load on the ground with Karlos Williams out due to a concussion according to ESPN College Football.

Cook may only be a freshman, but he's emerged as a productive back, running for 728 yards and seven touchdowns on just 124 carries. If the Seminoles are going to keep the Yellow Jackets on their toes, Cook will need to help them maintain offensive balance.

 

Prediction

A lot will come down to what Georgia Tech can do offensively against the Seminoles. Florida State can expect plenty of running plays, but they must be prepared for when Thomas keeps the ball and tries to throw downfield.

Fortunately for the Seminoles, they have some terrific players in their secondary in P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby. Both are expected to be selected in the 2015 NFL draft if they declare, with Williams potentially going as early as the first round.

On offense, Florida State still has plenty of weapons for Winston to throw to, as well as a promising young running back in Cook. Rashad Greene and Nick O'Leary have become two of Winston's favorite targets, and both should find themselves open from time to time throughout the game.

At this point, the Seminoles are likely tired of being overlooked, especially considering that their last loss came in November of 2012. Winston may have taken a step back statistically, but the rest of the roster is filled with players that will likely be playing at the next level in the near future, and Fisher should have them ready to prove to the nation that they're still one of the top teams in the nation.

Prediction: Florida State 35, Georgia Tech 20

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TCU Scores 55-Yard Touchdown off Double Pass Trick Play vs. Iowa State

The No. 3-ranked TCU Horned Frogs didn't take long to make a statement against Iowa State on Saturday.

Just five minutes into the game, the Horned Frogs were facing a 1st-and-10 on their own 45-yard line. After taking the snap, quarterback Trevone Boykin threw a backward pass to wide receiver David Porter, who in turn tossed it back to Boykin after drawing a bevy of defenders toward his side of the field.

With a slew of blockers leading the way, Boykin ran it up the sideline for a 55-yard touchdown.

[Vine]

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SEC Championship 2014: Alabama vs. Missouri Live Stream, TV Info and Projections

The SEC's quest to make a ninth straight national title game appearance depends on one game. No. 16 Missouri takes aim at top-ranked Alabama in the 2014 SEC Championship Game, looking to play the spoiler role.

Much more than that is on the line for Gary Pinkel's Tigers, however. In its second consecutive trip to Atlanta, Missouri has proved it belongs. But with a victory over mighty Alabama on the biggest stage, the Tigers would shockingly win their first SEC title in just their third year.

Alabama is also no stranger to this stage, making its fourth appearance in the conference title game in the last seven seasons. But despite the Tide going on a furious late-season surge to get back to No. 1, it would all come crashing down with a loss Saturday afternoon.

The early December showdown in the Georgia Dome boasts massive implications each season, and 2014 is obviously no different.

 

When: Saturday, December 6

Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta

Start Time (ET): 4 p.m.

TV: CBS

Live Stream: CBSSports.com (cable provider may be required)

 

SEC Championship Game Predictions

Tigers' Air Game Stays Hot vs. Suspect 'Bama Secondary

Missouri's biggest strengths in 2014 have been anything but the passing game, but quarterback Maty Mauk and his lengthy wideouts have come up big when it's mattered most.

That came in the Tigers' final three games, all must-wins to get to Atlanta. Mauk shook off a woeful start to the season by tossing it around for at least 230 passing yards in all three games, the last of which came against a formidable Arkansas defense.

Pinkel, like many others, has been impressed with Mauk's resurgence, per Sports Illustrated's Zac Ellis:

Mauk isn't the best of downfield passers, but receivers Bud Sasser (65 catches, 904 yards) and Jimmie Hunt have combined for 16 touchdowns on the year. We saw what Nick Marshall—an improving, but not elite, passer—was able to do against Alabama's secondary by throwing for a whopping 456 yards.

Will Mauk have that type of day statistically? Not nearly. But Missouri will make it a priority to test the Tide secondary early on, and it will keep the Tigers in the game early.

 

Tide Will Neutralize Missouri DEs By Pounding Rock

Alabama will go up against perhaps the best pass rush it has faced all season, as defensive ends and potential first-round draft picks Markus Golden and Shane Ray come off the edge for Missouri.

Nick Saban lauded the duo as Alabama prepared for the game, per Gabe DeArmond of Rivals.com:

Fortunately for the Tide, they have just the type of offense to neutralize even the most formidable of edge-rushers. 

T.J. Yeldon has been a force in recent games, racking up more than 200 yards and three scores in his last two outings combined. While he can find the holes for big gains, Derrick Henry is a more-than-capable second option to pound it inside and wear down the Tigers defensive front.

A stout rushing attack alone won't be enough to completely neutralize Ray and Golden, but add Amari Cooper's short passing game dominance, and the Tide will be awfully tough to contain. Blake Sims will get the ball out of his hands early and use his legs to outrun the speedy rushers when needed. 

 

Alabama Will Blow it Open Late

Even in the midst of his worst game in an Alabama uniform, Sims rose to the occasion when he was on the verge of being benched, leading the Tide to a dominant second half to outlast Auburn in the Iron Bowl.

That will give him and the Alabama offense just the confidence they need to execute the game plan to perfection as the game drags along.

Missouri's scary pass-rushers won't have the same impact in the final two quarters, as Alabama's downhill rushing attack and short passes will have them winded. Mauk will find some success early, but the Tide will draw up some extra pressure later in the contest to keep him on his heels.

It will result in a familiar sight—Saban and Co. hoisting the SEC championship trophy en route to a potential national title.

Prediction: Alabama 41, Missouri 24 

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Bowl Projections 2014: Preview and Predictions for Biggest Matchups

Oregon has one ticket to the College Football Playoff secure. Keep in mind that the CFP is just one facet of a lengthy bowl season, though.

One batch of CFP rankings is all that stands between now and almost a month of electric action as the best teams in the nation square off in a number of bowls. The perfect complement to the holiday season, those teams that miss out on being one of the final four still have plenty to play for in bowl games.

Below, let's take a look at the full upcoming slate and nail down some of the most likely encounters soon to be set in stone.

 

2014-15 Bowl Game Schedule

Bowl schedule information courtesy of ESPN.com.

 

Orange Bowl

Georgia Tech vs. Michigan State

This one goes out to fans of traditional offenses and gritty defenses.

The Michigan State Spartans came up short this season in the Big Ten, but a top defense once again assures that the program will get a major bowl. Even if Georgia Tech upends Florida State in the ACC Championship, it will not be enough to propel the Yellow Jackets to the CFP.

Thanks to gaudy rushing attacks, fewer ideal matchups exist in terms of strength versus strength matchups this bowl season:

For Michigan State this encounter is a reward for bouncing back after a loss to Ohio State with three consecutive wins, capped off by a 34-10 trouncing of Penn State.

"I don't think there's any question we'll be chosen," coach Mark Dantonio said, per The Associated Press (via ESPN.com). "With Georgia losing. With UCLA losing. We're up there in the top 10, for sure. That should get us to one of those bowls. That was our goal. When we had to bounce back, that was our goal."

It is also an opportunity for the Spartans to prove losses this year were mere flukes.

The defense ranks 14th in the nation with just 19.9 points allowed per game. But both Oregon and Ohio State scored more than 40 points. Georgia Tech is certainly capable of this number thanks to the nation's fourth-ranked rushing attack and the fact quarterback Justin Thomas (16 touchdowns, four interceptions) can go up over the top for big gains.

Keep in mind that Michigan State has surpassed 40 points in a game six times this season. Given how proficient Dantonio's offense has been, even limited offensive touches against the clock-control attack of Georgia Tech will produce a win.

Prediction: Spartans 33, Yellow Jackets 23

 

Fiesta Bowl

Arizona vs. Boise State

This one seems rather predictable especially now that the Arizona Wildcats did not beat Marcus Mariota and the Ducks for a second time this season. 

ESPN's Ted Miller put it best:

It is understandable if the nation is somewhat asleep in regard to Boise State. The Broncos average 40.8 points per game, good for the ninth-ranked offense. Quarterback Grant Hedrick has 3,232 yards and 22 scores. Back Jay Ajayi has 1,619 yards and 24 scores.

But the Broncos ran through a cupcake schedule with the only real opposition being Ole Miss to start the season—the Rebels rolled to a 35-13 victory.

Still, the Broncos match up well with Arizona, a team that was just blown away by Oregon in 51-13 fashion. But the young Wildcats, led by quarterback Anu Solomon and tailback Nick Wilson, both freshmen, average nearly 35 points per game and have wins over Oregon, Utah and Arizona State.

It creates an environment that is prone to boatloads of points. It is difficult to imagine how an Arizona defense that was just exploited stops Ajayi, though. In a recent win over Utah State he rushed 27 times for 229 yards and five touchdowns.

How Arizona keeps up with that is difficult to comprehend.

Prediction: Broncos 36, Wildcats 30

 

Peach Bowl

Ohio State vs. Mississippi State

Different circumstances but similar disappointments seem poised to lead these two away from the CFP. 

Ohio State lost Braxton Miller earlier this year, derailing what should have been a Heisman-contending season. J.T. Barrett stepped in and had that sort of campaign for himself, but suffered a season-ending injury, too.

Now everything falls on the shoulders of the inexperienced Cardale Jones, which is more than enough to knock the Buckeyes out of the CFP.

Mississippi State did not suffer a major injury under center. But former Heisman hopeful Dak Prescott has been unable to pull more magic out of his hat as of late in the competitive SEC. The Bulldogs lost two of three, the losses being a dud against Alabama and a blowout at the hands of Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl.

Regardless of whether or not Jones can provide a spark and lift the Buckeyes over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship, this seems like the logical spot for the team. Mississippi State's elite defense will need to deal with an unknown element under center, and Ohio State's unit will need to solve the riddle that is one of the nation's best dual-threat players.

Most important of all, though, is the endless Big Ten vs. SEC battle. In this one, the team not starting a third-string quarterback figures to win out.

Prediction: Bulldogs 27, Buckeyes 24

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified

 

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Alabama vs. Missouri: Preview and Predictions for SEC Championship 2014

One more barrier stands before Alabama stamps a ticket into the College Football Playoff. After navigating the sport's toughest conference all season, the Crimson Tide must finish the job off against the Missouri Tigers in the 2014 SEC Championship Game.

A year removed from getting its title chances dashed by Auburn, Alabama can reclaim the SEC crown by upending No. 16 Missouri, which rode a six-game winning streak to the top of the SEC East. For such a marquee bout, a clear consensus has emerged.

Michael Casagrande of AL.com rounded out predictions from several pundits from five major media outlets. Of the 34 experts, only one (Sports Illustrated's Thayer Evans) predicted Missouri to pull off the upset. You can also add in a clean sweep of four Bleacher Report experts siding with the Crimson Tide.

There's no fun in assuming a result beforehand, but Nick Saban's explosive offense certainly gives his club an edge in Georgia.

 

When: Saturday, December 6, 4 p.m. ET

Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta

Television: CBS

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark): Alabama (-14.5)

 

SEC Championship Preview

Looking at each team's resume, it's easy to see why Alabama gets credited with such a massive upper hand heading into Saturday's bout.

After suffering a six-point road loss to Ole Miss, the Crimson Tide bested four juggernauts from the crowded SEC West. That included a victory over then-No. 1 Mississippi State and last week's redemptive win over Auburn. Now, the college juggernaut is firmly back in the driver's seat.

Ranked No. 20 in scoring offense and No. 5 in defense, Alabama has outscored opponents by a 19.8-point margin. Missouri, meanwhile, sports a 8.9-point average of victory. Only one of its last seven triumphs came by more than 10 points.

Each side wields a stout rushing offense, and the Tigers especially will need a huge outing from junior Russell Hansbrough. That won't come easy against an adversary relinquishing 2.9 yards per rush.

The seal separation stems above the ground. Quarterback Maty Mauk has played the game-facilitator role well enough for his team to get this opportunity. Saban even complimented his upcoming opponent, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Dave Metter.

Yet Missouri's passing game lags greatly behind the colossal favorite, averaging 92.7 fewer yards per game through the air. Mauk has backpedaled during his second season, averaging a mediocre 6.3 yards per passing attempt with a 53.5 completion percentage. Georgia fans showing up to their state-hosted clash will recall the time he fired four interceptions during a 34-0 loss to the Bulldogs.

On the other side, a usually conservative Alabama offense has generated ample excitement, accumulating 241 points over the past six games. Expected to keep the seat warm for Jacob Coker, Blake Sims has instead delivered 9.1 yards per passing attempt during a stellar senior year.

For that, he owes a seismic amount of credit to pass-catching vacuum Amari Cooper, who ascended up the Heisman Trophy leaderboard with 13 catches for 224 yards and three touchdowns against Auburn.

Per ESPN Stats & Info, the NFL-bound junior is rewriting Alabama's prestigious record book.

Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel admitted to Metter that nobody stands much hope of shutting Cooper down.

Through 12 games, the wideout has reeled in at least eight catches 10 times, but the other two games at least offer a glimmer of hope that even the greats have off days. Yet he is responsible for a resounding 42 percent of the team's passing plays, and the player with the second-most receptions (DeAndrew White) has just 33 catches to his credit.

The transcendent talent turns an otherwise traditional battle into a potential deep-ball brigade for Saban's squad. A usual day for Cooper directs Alabama in the right direction, but those glamorized trenches will still affect the outcome. Missouri can't trade touchdowns with Alabama, so it must disrupt Sims' pocket.

As shown by ESPN's College GameDay's Twitter account, things go well for the Tigers when they successfully pressure the quarterback, but the Crimson Tide rarely lets that happen.

Forget three sacks, opponents have collected only 11 against Alabama through a dozen games. That impenetrable offensive line holds the key to exposing a team that wouldn't remain standing if forced to run the SEC West gauntlet. 

They score a lot more points. They allow slightly fewer ticks on the scoreboard. The Crimson Tide are simply better. Look for them to prove deserving of the No. 1 national rank with a convincing win on Saturday.

Prediction: Alabama 30, Missouri 17 

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The Wisconsin Badgers Are Looking for Their Fourth Big Ten Title in 5 Years

If the 10-2 Wisconsin Badgers defeat the 11-1 Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2014 Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, it will be the Badgers' fourth Big Ten title in five years.

The Badgers shared the 2010 Big Ten crown with the Buckeyes and Michigan State in 2010 and went to the Rose Bowl. Then in 2011 and 2012, the Badgers won the first two Big Ten Championship Games by defeating the Spartans and Nebraska respectively.

In the 2011 game, the Badgers beat Michigan State 42-39 in a very exciting contest that went back and forth in heart-stopping action. Quarterback Russell Wilson was the MVP of the game, as he threw three touchdown passes.

In the 2012 contest, the Badgers destroyed Nebraska 70-31 as Wisconsin rushed for a whopping 539 yards. Running back Montee Ball was the MVP, as he ran for 202 yards and had three touchdowns.

Current Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon had 216 yards rushing and one touchdown in that game against the Huskers on just nine carries.

Last year, the Buckeyes were in the title game but lost to the Spartans 34-24.

The Badgers won the West Division this year by beating their closest competitors (Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota) in their last three games of the regular season.

The Buckeyes won the East Division in convincing fashion and were only threatened by Michigan State, who they defeated earlier this season 49-37 in East Lansing.

The Badgers won their three most recent Big Ten titles under head coach Bret Bielema, who is now at Arkansas. This will be the first opportunity for head coach Gary Andersen to win his first title.

Likewise, head coach Urban Meyer of the Buckeyes is looking for his first Big Ten title as well. The Buckeyes have gone 24-0 under him the last three seasons in the Big Ten, but they were ineligible in 2012 and lost in the title game last year.

Andersen and Meyer know each other well, as Andersen was an assistant coach under Meyer at Utah in 2004. Andersen was the defensive line coach for that team, which went 12-0 and won the Fiesta Bowl.

Meyer moved on to Florida in 2005, where he won two BCS National Championships before moving on to Ohio State.

Andersen left Utah in 2009 to become the head coach at Utah State, where he was for four seasons before becoming the head coach at Wisconsin.

Although Wisconsin has dominated recently in winning Big Ten championships, Ohio State has been the overall king of the conference this past decade.

The Buckeyes have won or shared six Big Ten titles over the past 10 years. The Badgers are next with three won or shared championships.

The game on Saturday night looks to be a close one, which has been the case for the Badgers when they have faced the Buckeyes under Meyer.

The Buckeyes defeated the Badgers in overtime, 21-14, in 2012 at Madison. Bielema was the head coach of the Badgers then. In 2013 under Andersen, the Badgers lost 31-24 to Meyer and the Buckeyes in Columbus.

The Buckeyes come into the title game being ranked 11th overall in offense in the nation, while being ranked 19th on defense.

The Badgers meanwhile, are ranked 21st in offense and a sparkling second in total defense.

The Buckeyes lost their starting quarterback J.T. Barrett to a broken ankle last week in their game against Michigan, and he will be very difficult to replace.

Barrett was putting up phenomenal numbers this season before his injury. Barrett had thrown for 2,834 yards with 34 touchdown passes versus 10 interceptions.

Barrett also ran for 938 more yards and 11 touchdowns.

Barrett will be replaced by Cardale Jones, who is also an exceptional athlete like Barrett. The problem is his lack of experience. It's tough to perform well on the big stage when your first start is in a championship game atmosphere against an exceptional defense.

Jones has only attempted 17 passes all season, but did throw two touchdown passes without throwing a pick. Jones has also rushed for 206 yards.

The big name for the Badgers is Gordon. Like Barrett, Gordon has put up some amazing stats that definitely deserve consideration for winning the Heisman Trophy.

Gordon has rushed for 2,260 yards, which is the best mark in Wisconsin history, as well as the best all-time record in Big Ten history. No. 25 also has 26 rushing touchdowns.

Gordon is a threat in the passing game as well, as he has 17 receptions for 151 yards and three more scores.

Bottom line, expect another close football game on Saturday night. This may be a cliche, but the team that makes the biggest plays and has the fewest mistakes will win this contest.

The Buckeyes lost their biggest playmaker last week when Barrett was injured, while the Badgers still have the explosive Gordon.

The Buckeyes are also starting a quarterback who is making his first start ever in a title game.

The advantages seem to be lining up for the Badgers.

Whether that means that Wisconsin will win their fourth Big Ten title in five years is another story. That will be determined late on Saturday night in Indianapolis.

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Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech Agree to New Contract: Latest Details and Reaction

Georgia Tech announced an agreement with head football coach Paul Johnson on a four-year contract extension through 2020. He was previously signed through the 2016 season.

The Yellow Jackets confirmed the new deal on their official site. It comes on the same day they are set to face off with Florida State in the ACC Championship Game. The release included comments from athletic director Mike Bobinski about the decision:

I'm pleased to announce an extension of Paul Johnson's contract. This extension reflects our confidence in the solid foundation Coach Johnson has built for the future success of our program, which reaches beyond the field and includes increasingly strong academic achievement.

I look forward to Paul Johnson's continued leadership of our football program and am excited about the possibilities in the years ahead.

"I am excited that we were able to work out a contract extension," Johnson added. "I appreciate the support of our fans, students and alumni during my time here. My family and I are looking forward to being a part of Georgia Tech for a long time."

Johnson has led Georgia Tech to a 10-2 record to bring his career mark at the school to 58-34 across seven years. The team has qualified for a bowl in each season with him at the helm.

The Yellow Jackets have also steered clear of the popular spread offense approach that's taken over both the collegiate and pro games in recent years. Instead, Johnson and Co. have stuck with the run-heavy triple-option to great effect.

Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press summed it all up in a unique way:

Although he was under contract for two more seasons, this is the time of year when the college football coaching carousel begins to heat up. Getting any potential distractions out of the way before bowl preparations begin is a positive.

A lot will depend on the outcomes of championship Saturday, including the team's clash with the Seminoles, but an Orange Bowl appearance seems likely. That would be a nice accomplishment for a team that didn't receive much preseason hype.

Georgia Tech is clearly pleased enough with the continued progress to lock Johnson up for the foreseeable future.

 

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College Football Playoff 2014: Updated Rankings and Bowl Predictions

Championship Saturday is finally upon us, and the nation's top teams have one last chance to prove to the College Football Playoff selection committee they are deserving of a spot in the inaugural playoff. While many are eligible, few are worthy and only four get in.

One spot within the Top Four appears to be locked up by the Oregon Ducks following their 51-13 drubbing of the Arizona Wildcats in Friday's Pac-12 Championship Game. At the moment, the Ducks are ranked No. 2 overall by the selection committee, but will they stay there when the dust settles after Saturday's action?

Selection Sunday is now just a day away, and we'll soon know which four teams will comprise the 2014 College Football Playoff. Of course, that gives us very little time to speculate, so some predictions are in order. Here's a look at the current CFP rankings, followed by the predicted participants in the Sugar and Rose Bowls.

 

College Football Playoff Bowl Predictions

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Baylor

Don't look now, but Baylor is making a surprise appearance in the Top Four. The Bears own the nation's most prolific offense, accumulating an average of 49.8 points per game. Much of that success has stemmed from quarterback Bryce Petty and a passing game that ranks sixth in the nation.

Baylor received a bit of a scare when Petty was knocked out of the Bears' game against Texas Tech with a concussion; however, Sports Illustrated tweeted some very good news:

Kansas State has a solid defense, but it ranks 56th in the nation against the pass, allowing a total of 2,429 yards and 18 touchdowns through the air over the season. That's not a good sign for the Wildcats, as Petty has led Baylor to at least 48 points in five of the team's last six games.

The Wildcats are coming off a nice 51-point outing against Kansas, but quarterback Jake Waters and Co. are only averaging 36.6 points per game. While that's a very good number against most opponents, it simply won't get it done against the Bears.

Even though Baylor gets the win, it needs help to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. That help will come from Florida State and Ohio State.

The Seminoles have barely been surviving unranked opponents of late, and their defense won't be able to withstand Georgia Tech's triple-option. The Yellow Jackets will earn the ACC crown, and Florida State will miss out on the playoff.

Need another reason why the Seminoles are bound to lose? Jameis Winston hasn't exactly been an efficient passer of late, which doesn't bode well for any kind of late-game heroics, via ESPN Stats & Info:

The Buckeyes really need dynamic quarterback J.T. Barrett in the Big Ten Championship Game. Unfortunately, the signal-caller was lost for the season, so backup Cardale Jones must step in. Expect the inexperienced quarterback to struggle against Wisconsin's fourth-ranked defense, which allows an average of just 16.8 points per game, while Heisman-hopeful Melvin Gordon runs all over Ohio State's defense.

Alabama is much easier to project into the College Football Playoff. Basically, the Crimson Tide need a win and they're in. That will come to fruition against Missouri in the SEC Championship Game.

The Tigers have a fearsome pass rush that has produced 40 sacks this season; however, Alabama's offensive line has been very good as well. In fact, here's a very telling statistic from College GameDay:

Alabama is too well-rounded for Missouri's pass rush to be extremely effective. The team is prolific through the air and on the ground thanks to the talents of running back T.J. Yeldon and wide receiver Amari Cooper. The efficient play of quarterback Blake Sims will keep the Tigers off balance and produce a win for Alabama, securing the No. 1 seed and a berth in the Sugar Bowl.

 

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 TCU

With Alabama claiming the No. 1 seed, Oregon is a lock at No. 2 following its huge 51-13 victory over Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Ducks have looked dangerous throughout the season, but they took it to a whole new level on Friday night.

Quarterback Marcus Mariota was unstoppable against the Wildcats. He scored at will, racking up 313 passing yards and two touchdowns, as well as 33 rushing yards and three more scores. Surrounded by a bevy of weapons, Oregon was as potent as ever, with Royce Freeman rushing for 114 yards and both Darren Carrington and Charles Nelson eclipsing 100 receiving yards.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports tweeted the quarterback's impressive numbers for the season:

Although we all knew Oregon's offense was dominant, its defense was simply outstanding against Arizona.

The Wildcats just couldn't get anything going throughout the entire game, producing just 224 total yards of offense. Running back Nick Wilson could only muster 2.0 yards per carry, rushing 13 times for just 26 yards, and Arizona completed nine of its 26 passing attempts for 113 yards, one touchdown and one interception as a team—69 of those yards came on one play.

Oregon looks as dominant as ever, and Mariota may have secured the Heisman Trophy after his impeccable performance. This team is poised to do some damage in the College Football Playoff.

The Ducks are a sure thing for the playoff, but according to Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, the Horned Frogs aren't far behind:

TCU is ranked third by the CFP selection committee entering Championship Saturday, and it needs a big win over the 2-9 Iowa State Cyclones to secure a berth in the playoff. Luckily, the matchup highly favors the Horned Frogs, so that shouldn't be an issue.

Quarterback Trevone Boykin leads the nation's fourth-ranked scoring offense, averaging 46.1 points per game, against a Cyclones defense that ranks 115th in the nation, giving up an average of 37.4 points. That may be the most lopsided statistic we'll see on Saturday.

ESPN College Football tweeted one big reason for Boykin's success this season:

Looking at the playoff scenario, TCU is in rather good shape with both Florida State and Ohio State losing to their respective opponents. This makes Georgia Tech and Wisconsin the two teams poised to make the biggest leaps up the rankings. Still, both are two-loss squads, and it would take some kind of monumental performance to warrant either surpassing the Horned Frogs in the rankings.

If TCU does what it is supposed to do and blows Iowa State out of the water, there should be no question that it will remain secured in the College Football Playoff as the No. 3 seed.

 

All team rankings and statistics courtesy of NCAA.com and current as of December 6 at 2 a.m. ET.

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