NCAA Football News

David Beaty to Kansas: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Kansas has reportedly chosen Texas A&M wide receivers coach David Beaty to fill the program's vacant head coaching position. He previously had brief stints with the Jayhawks as co-offensive coordinator in 2011 and receivers coach in 2008-09.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports reports Beaty was informed he's the choice:

Feldman also notes the growing success of Kevin Sumlin assistants:

This will mark his first head coaching gig at the collegiate level. He takes over for Clint Bowen, who filled in on an interim basis for the final eight games after the dismissal of Charlie Weis.

While it may take some time for Beaty to establish his coaching identity, the one area where he's made an impact is on the recruiting trail. He spent the past two seasons as the coordinator of that effort for the Aggies.

Being able to attract top-end talent has been an issue for the Jayhawks in recent years. That helps explain why they haven't had a winning season since 2008. It's an area where the program should see rapid improvement under Beaty.

His main focus at the outset will probably be on offense. As his bio on Texas A&M's official athletic site notes, he had success helping develop players on that side of the ball while at Kansas in the past:

While at KU, he helped receivers Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe develop into NFL caliber players. Meier received All-Big 12 accolades in 2008 and 2009, while Briscoe was an All-American and first-team All-Big 12 pick in 2009. In 2008 five different KU players produced a total of 15 100-yard receiving games. Among the school records set by KU wide receivers in 2008 were season receptions, game receptions, season yards, game yards, and season touchdowns.

Kansas needed a new direction after the failed stays of Turner Gill and Weis. Beaty should be able to create a new identity for Jayhawks football by excelling in the recruiting battles they have otherwise lost recently.

Risk comes with his lack of head-coaching experience at this level. But the program is in a position where it can afford to swing for the fences—a major boost is needed after an extended stretch of lackluster performances.

 

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What Jim McElwain Must Pitch to Florida's Top Target, 5-Star OT Martez Ivey

Now that Jim McElwain has been pegged as Florida’s new head coach, his most important task is to hit the recruiting trail in hopes of improving a Gators class that currently ranks No. 62 nationally.

Among the first calls McElwain is bound to make is to the nation's top overall prospect in the 2015 cycle—5-star offensive lineman and Sunshine State native Martez Ivey.

While McElwain’s tenure as the head coach at Colorado State—where he went 22-16 over the past three seasons—is what allowed him to flash onto Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley’s radar, it's his tenure as Nick Saban's offensive coordinator at Alabama from 2008 to 2011 that will be his biggest selling point for luring top talent to Gainesville.

During his time in Tuscaloosa, McElwain helped guide the Tide to a pair of national titles in 2009 and 2011.

In that span, he helped recruit and coach an offensive line unit that is considered to be one of the best groups ever assembled, as noted by Don Kausler Jr. of AL.com.

McElwain's experience helping mold eventual first-round draft choices such as James Carpenter, D.J. Fluker and Chance Warmack is likely to get Ivey’s attention.

Another one of the stars of those units in Tuscaloosa—former three-time All-American and current St. Louis Rams lineman Barrett Jones—lauded McElwain for his ability as a teacher of the game.

"He has a special ability to put things in terms that guys can understand," Jones told ESPN.com's Chris Low. "He's also great at getting guys to buy into the system and understands how to put guys in positions where they will be successful. He's an awesome coach and an even better guy."

Testimonials such as the nuggets from Jones are sure to help McElwain convince Ivey that he is the coach who can help him reach his immense potential at the college level.

Ivey admits that his knowledge of McElwain's history is limited, as he explained to GatorBait's Dan Meyer (subscription required):

I don't really know much about him. I know he was at Colorado State and I know he averaged 470 yards per game and I think 21st or 23rd in the nation on defense or something like that. The 470 yards, averaging that per game at Florida, that would be a big plus for him offensive wise. You want to be in an offense where you’re going to have success with the ball, gaining yards and scoring touchdowns.

It's no secret the Gators offense was mediocre under Will Muschamp. McElwain's biggest task will be to reshape that side of the ball and get the Gators back to employing an explosive and balanced attack.

Using his previous experience in the SEC, McElwain knows that task begins with building a formidable offensive line unit.

Landing Ivey—who also told Meyer he will make a visit to Gainesville to meet the new staff before he decides—is a critical piece to jump-starting his efforts to get the offense in gear.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Auburn Football: Ranking 10 Best Tigers from 2014 Regular Season

AUBURN, Ala. — While Auburn players, coaches and fans will look back on 2014 as a disappointing season of "what-ifs," it was not a complete disaster for the defending SEC championship squad.

Missed offensive opportunities and sloppy defensive play might have been the downfall to Auburn's once-promising season, but the Tigers were still loaded with championship-caliber talent at several positions.

Several of those players lived up to those high reputations in 2014, and a few lesser-known Tigers joined in to put up impressive numbers in unexpected ways.

Despite an 8-4 record, head coach Gus Malzahn and his staff—which will go through a major change this offseason with the hiring of a new defensive coordinator—have several things to build off of as Auburn looks to get back to Atlanta next season.

With Auburn waiting to hear its postseason fate this weekend, let's take a look back at the top Tigers from the 2014 regular season.

Begin Slideshow

Bowl Predictions 2014: TV Schedule, Live Stream Info and Projections

In a mere days, the inaugural College Football Playoff will be set.

So far it appears the committee has entertainment value in mind rather than actual adherence to ranking criteria, but who can complain about a showdown featuring Jameis Winston and the Florida State Seminoles against Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide.

All right then. Believe it or not, the stage for a wealth of other bowl games will be set, too. Dak Prescott and the Mississippi State Bulldogs and others are out of the running but still have one last contest on the year.

What the committee is hoping will morph into the best stretch of sports this year is set to begin.

 

2014-15 Bowl Game Schedule

Live Stream: Visit WatchESPN.com for live streaming of games on ESPN/ABC networks, and check out CBSSports.com for streaming of the Sun Bowl.

Bowl schedule information courtesy of ESPN.com.

 

CFP Projections

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Florida State

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 TCU

Championship Bowl (in Arlington, Texas): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 Oregon

 

Breakdown

Geography seems to reign supreme when it comes to the CFP.

Florida State and Alabama in New Orleans? That sounds oddly familiar to the title game most wanted to see last season.

Yet here things stand. The Seminoles just dropped in the latest batch of CFP standings because, well, they won their 28th consecutive game:

Sounds strange, right?

Truth be told, the eyeball test is a serious portion of the equation whether the committee wants to admit it or not. The Seminoles now have close encounters with a number of teams this year and have won each of their last three contests by no more than five points—all against unranked teams. 

Winston has not exactly helped things either, as ESPN Stats & Info points out:

Remember, though, this potential showdown between the first and fourth seeds hinges on Alabama's ability to overcome Missouri and Florida State to fend off Georgia Tech in their respective conference championship games.

Provided that happens, this is one heck of a matchup. Winston and his team's late-game heroics against the nation's No. 5 defense that allows just 16.9 points per game begs for attention.

What swings things in Alabama's favor, though, is the fact that the team has the weapons to exploit a shaky Seminoles defense. Blake Sims has 2,988 yards and 24 touchdowns through the air and leans on Heisman Trophy contender Amari Cooper, who has 103 catches for 1,573 yards and 14 scores.

That same disparity exists in the projected Rose Bowl between the Oregon Ducks and TCU Horned Frogs.

TCU gets in so long as it overcomes two-win Iowa State. The committee has already made it quite clear that a Baylor or Ohio State cannot jump the Horned Frogs despite what would be stronger season-ending wins.

This, of course, sets up must-see offensive fireworks:

Trevone Boykin leads the Horned Frogs with 3,254 passing yards and 26 scores through the air. He is one of the nation's best dual-threat quarterbacks, too, with 598 yards and eight scores on the ground.

That sets up a showdown with Marcus Mariota, who seems to be the Heisman favorite with his 3,470 yards and 36 touchdowns by air and 636 yards and 11 scores rushing. 

For Mariota, the next week and change is a way to put to bed any lingering doubts about his tenure with Oregon, which has so often ended in an upset around this time of year. The Ducks are on a tear, though, with only Arizona left to upend before this potential matchup. A new sense of leadership from Mariota has certainly helped things.

“That’s something that we’ve kind of talked about for a few years now in regard to my leadership and how I can use my voice as an influential tool,” Mariota said, per ESPN.com's Chantel Jennings. "For the most part it was me being more assertive. … I really feel that I’ve come a long way in that sense.”

That will prove to be a deciding factor against the Horned Frogs, right along with a defense that has been better as of late, holding four of its last six opponents to 20 points or less. 

This in turn sets up a No. 1 vs. No. 2 scenario, not that anyone would complain about an Alabama-Oregon showdown.

The Alabama defense certainly has the wherewithal to slow Mariota and the Ducks, although it is a notion the CFP surely wants to see put to the test.

Perhaps more important is the discussion as to which offense can stay hot on a neutral site. Odds are that goes to the Ducks.

Mariota and Co. have one loss on the season, which wound up coming at the hands of an eventual 10-2 squad the Ducks will encounter again in the Pac-12 title game.

Meanwhile, Alabama has struggled with mobile quarterbacks who enjoy rolling out of the pocket to extend plays. Auburn's Nick Marshall is a good example of this thanks to his 456 passing yards and three scores in the Iron Bowl.

The point is, it is tough to imagine even the Crimson Tide slowing Mariota this season. If the playoff was tomorrow, Oregon takes the whole thing.

Prediction: Oregon 28, Alabama 24

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

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

Florida State continues to flirt with missing the College Football Playoff as it heads into the ACC title game against Georgia Tech on Saturday night. 

Jameis Winston and the Seminoles have won 28 games in a row, but the last three have been decided by no more than five points apiece, all against unranked opposition the team was projected to blow away with ease.

Meanwhile, a gaudy Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets rushing attack has birthed five consecutive wins, the last two coming against ranked opposition the team was not necessarily supposed to overcome.

The writing is on the wall. Should Florida State lose Saturday, everything goes up in flames. Should it not win in convincing fashion, it might produce the same result.

Everything rides on Saturday's outcome.

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

Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC

Television: ABC

Live Stream: WatchESPN

 

Preview

It did not have to come to this for the Seminoles.

Jimbo Fisher's team built this house of expectations on its own, though. Last season en route to the title, the team never trailed in the second half of a game before the ACC title game and won just one game by fewer than 27 points.

The Seminoles have won six games by single digits this year.

Much of the blame falls on the shoulders of Winston. He has 3,250 yards and 21 scores through the air, but 17 interceptions. Four of those came last week against the Florida Gators, an encounter the Seminoles almost lost, 24-19.

As ESPN Stats & Info points out, Winston's turnover numbers cast a serious cloud over just how far the Seminoles can go:

But that is getting ahead of things. These Yellow Jackets are not something to overlook.

In fact, Paul Johnson's rushing attack figures to feast on a Seminoles defense that cannot help but stay on the field and allow lengthy chain-moving drives.

Just a peek at Florida State's defensive numbers versus the nation's fourth-ranked rushing attack tells the whole story: 

Georgia Tech's talented stable of runners is no fluke, no product of a weak schedule. Just last week, the Yellow Jackets rushed for 399 yards and three scores against then-No. 9 Georgia, a team that still ranks 19th in the nation with an average of just 333.3 total yards allowed per game.

Keep in mind that the team's leading rusher happens to be sophomore quarterback Justin Thomas, who is also a threat as a passer. His 1,460 yards and 16 scores can attest to that, as can his trio of games this season with three or more scores through the air.

For Fisher, this is perhaps the toughest adjustment his team will make all season.

"It's a whole different perspective of how you have to defend their offensive attack," Fisher said, per the Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "It's going to have to be a complete game-plan overhaul as far as different things you do. Everybody had a certain way they play that."

To say Winston and Co. need to make the most of every drive is a dramatic understatement. 

Georgia Tech's best defense is its offense, which keeps opposing offenses off the field. Believe it or not, this is a major advantage for the Yellow Jackets on Saturday, as the team leads the ACC with a plus-11 turnover margin. The defense has forced a whopping 17 takeaways over the course of its past five outings.

In other words, Winston's propensity for sloppy turnovers this season is a bad sign against a defense that forces plenty and commits few while in control of the tempo and clock.

To make matters even worse, lead back Karlos Williams, who has 609 yards and 10 scores on the ground this season, will miss the contest.

The saving grace for Florida State is twofold. For one, Fisher's team is downright more talented top to bottom. That is not a slight toward Georgia Tech in any way, rather just the lay of the land.

Two, Winston and the Seminoles have a propensity for late-game efficiency that nets wins. A game such as this will never get out of hand for one side or the other thanks to Georgia Tech's clock-chewing attack, which means Winston will always be within reach of an epic comeback or extending the lead late.

In the biggest challenge of Florida State's season to date, expect the Seminoles to come up big late.

Again.

Prediction: Seminoles 20, Yellow Jackets 17

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

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Nebraska DE Takes Selfie with Raccoon, Kills Animal After Being Bitten

"It was a raccoon selfie gone completely wrong."

Let these words from Jack Gangwish set the table for one of the weirder stories you'll hear today.

Gangwish, a defensive end at Nebraska, says he ended up killing a raccoon after being bitten by the animal while trying to take a selfie.

The 21-year-old junior told his story to the Lincoln Journal Star's Jonathan Edwards (h/t Dr. Saturday's Nick Bromberg).

Gangwish told Edwards he was driving around the outskirts of Lincoln, Nebraska, when he saw a "cute" raccoon on the side of the road. He then did what anyone else would do, stopping his pickup truck and wrangling the animal into an Instagram-optimized position.

Gangwish has since deleted all tweets regarding the raccoon incident. We have preserved some of them via screen shot. First off we have his tweet of the selfie.

Unfortunately, wild animals have little appreciation for the finer subtleties of self-captured glamor shots, and the raccoon responded by biting Gangwish on the calf.

Knowing he would need to have the raccoon tested for rabies, Gangwish grabbed a crescent wrench from his truck and attempted to "subdue" the animal. Unfortunately, wrenches are not butterfly nets, and Gangwish ended up bludgeoning the animal to death.

"It was death by crescent wrench," Gangwish told Edwards. 

It should be noted that rabies tests involve euthanizing an animal and removing its head for neurological testing. So capturing the raccoon, in this case, would've only delayed its inevitable demise.

Gangwish later tweeted out several now-deleted messages regarding the incident. He wrote that football might already cause the symptoms of rabies and dubbed himself "THE COON WHISPERER."

Get ready to coach the "Coon Whisperer," Mike Riley. And don't tell him you used to work with beavers.

 

Follow Dan on Twitter for more sports and pop culture filigree.

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Rich Rodriguez Gets the Last Laugh over Michigan

The irony was almost too much to handle. On Tuesday, Michigan officially announced what had been expected for some time: the firing of head coach Brady Hoke.

Earlier in the day, the coach whom Hoke replaced four seasons ago, Rich Rodriguez, won the Pac-12 Coach of the Year award after leading Arizona to a 10-2 record.

On Friday night, the No. 7 Wildcats will get a chance to beat Oregon for the second time this season in the Pac-12 Championship Game. A win over the Ducks could very well launch Rodriguez's team into the first College Football Playoff.

Rodriguez, of course, was fired as Michigan's coach in January 2011 after three seasons and a 15-22 record. He wasn't a great fit in Ann Arbor and it's impossible to know if he would still be the coach of the Wolverines today.

However, the benefit of hindsight suggests that he was fired too soon.

That's not to say the problems weren't numerous. The lack of a quality defense/defensive coordinator led to Michigan being ranked 107th in points allowed per game in 2010. 

Rodriguez never beat Ohio State, losing all three games against the Buckeyes by an average of 25 points. He only made the postseason once with the Wolverines: a 52-14 loss to Mississippi State, which was the worst bowl loss in program history.

There were also the NCAA sanctions over practice time for which the school received three years probation. Rodriguez was additionally hit with a "failure to monitor" charge.

Still, Rodriguez believes to this day that the program was close to turning a corner.

"People say, 'Why didn't it work?' Maybe it was going to. Maybe we didn't just get a chance to see it through," Rodriguez told Ted Miller of ESPN.com in October.

He may be on to something. Hoke went 11-2 and beat Ohio State in 2011, his first season at Michigan, with Rodriguez's players. Since then, Michigan's win total has declined each year, ending in a 5-7 effort this season. The Wolverines still fall short on a regular basis against Ohio State and Michigan State.

Maybe Rodriguez was never going to get Michigan back to the glory days. It's possible to be a great coach and not have the right situation or support to get things done.

Here's what is known, though: It sure wasn't going to be Hoke.

The fit between Rodriguez and Arizona is far better. Arizona isn't Michigan on the traditional scale of great college football jobs, but at the same time, the landscape of the sport is undeniably different.

Michigan, Florida and Nebraska have fired coaches in the same year that teams like Arizona and Baylor have experienced remarkable success.

There's also a lot to be said for the current situation in Tucson. Rodriguez enjoys a great relationship with his boss, athletic director Greg Byrne. The school has made a commitment to football and upgraded facilities. The expectations, while high, aren't unreasonably so.

With only 20 seniors, Rodriguez has a fairly young team. Arizona's best football should be ahead of it. There's also great chemistry with the Wildcats' coaching staff. Many of Rodriguez's assistants were with him when he was the head coach at West Virginia.

"As much as the award says Coach of the Year, it's really a staff of the year and players of the year," Rodriguez told Pac-12 Networks, "I think I have the best staff in the country both on and off the field."

Michigan, meanwhile, is in search of a new coach and athletic director after the disaster that was the Dave Brandon era. According to Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated, it could be a while before a new coach is named:

Michigan is still a premier job. Rodriguez is still a great coach. Just because it didn't work out between the two, even though it could have, doesn't make those statements any less true.

But for Rodriguez to be named Pac-12 Coach of the Year on the same day that Michigan basically admitted its mistake in hiring Hoke is a form of vindication all the same.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All rankings reflect the College Football Playoff standings. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.

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Pac-12 Championship 2014: Arizona vs. Oregon TV, Live Stream Info, Prediction

Marcus Mariota can only hope that the third time is the charm Friday in the Pac-12 Championship. 

Mariota's Oregon Ducks are losers of two straight against the Arizona Wildcats, a team perhaps closer than most realize to a College Football Playoff berth of its own if the team can make it 3-0 and take Oregon out of the running at the same time.

Oregon has the look of a powerhouse as of late by leaping hurdles that have tripped the team up in the past. All that remains is the most nagging hurdle of all, one that poetically presents itself with the conference title and a CFP berth on the line.

Friday's marquee event is not one to miss.

 

When: Friday, December 5, 9 p.m. ET

Where: Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California

Television: Fox

Live Stream: Fox Sports Go

 

Breakdown and Prediction

Rich Rodriguez's Wildcats averaged almost 37 points per game over the course of the last two wins over the Ducks.

On the flip side, the Wildcats have held Mariota and the Ducks to two of their three lowest point totals in the past two seasons. As Rodriguez is quick to point out, though, some of these jarring numbers boil down to simple luck, as captured by ESPN.com:

If you look back at his stats, he got a lot of yards and big plays, but we got a couple turnovers. Some of it was great individual effort and some of it was a little bit of luck. If you go back to this game or even the game last season, he still got his yards, and he is still going to get his yards and make his plays.

Luck or not, the Wildcats are one of the most dangerous teams in the nation.

Statistically speaking, Arizona is not all that different from Oregon:

Freshman Anu Solomon has been quite the surprise under center for the Wildcats. He has completed less than 60 percent of his passes this season but has 3,424 yards and 27 touchdowns to just seven interceptions.

As the aforementioned ESPN.com writeup notes, Solomon is at his greatest when on the move. He has 76 completions when his feet are not planted, with 1,016 yards, 10 touchdowns and 14 20-yard completions.

Fellow freshman Nick Wilson is an equal in the surprise department. His 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns on a 6.2 per-carry average are a major reason the Wildcats have rattled off four consecutive wins, two of which came over tough ranked opponents (Utah, Arizona State).

As Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated points out, the young team has quite a lot in the balance Friday:

All that digested, the loss to Arizona back at the beginning of October lit a fire under Oregon.

The Ducks have not lost since. Mariota is in Heisman form with 3,470 yards and 36 touchdowns to two interceptions on a 68.6 completion percentage. Freshman back Royce Freeman does not get enough credit for his 1,185 yards and 16 scores on a hefty 5.7 per-carry average.

The defense has played its part, too, holding four of the seven opponents along the winning streak to 20 points or less.

Of note is the fact the Ducks have yet to blink. The past couple of seasons have seen Mariota and Co. falter around this time of year, whether it is against Stanford or some other crafty opponent.

Instead, Stanford was handed a 45-16 loss. A ranked Utah team was on the wrong end of a 51-27 outcome at home. The Civil War saw the Ducks drop nukes in a 47-19 result.

All that remains is a date with the Wildcats.

Mariota has had his fair share of struggles against Arizona. He has three multi-turnover games against the Wildcats, with just three against all other conference opponents combined. But this recent run of form by the Ducks has instilled a sense of confidence that must be contagious in the locker room.

"We're just going to play our game. Arizona did a great job setting and dictating tempo in the last meeting," Mariota said, per ESPN.com. "If we go out and execute to the best of our abilities and execute the game plans that are put in front of us, we should hopefully be successful."

How the Ducks have truly learned from the last encounter will dictate the outcome of Friday's showdown. Arizona limited the Ducks to just over 26 minutes of possession in their first encounter this season by way of 55 rushes for 208 yards and a trio of scores.

This time around, look for the Ducks to get Mariota involved on plenty of rollouts to keep the clock and first-down markers moving. The defense has stiffened as of late and figures to come out in better form than last time around, too.

Arizona has had a jaw-dropping season given the circumstances, and the future as a contender at the top of the conference is secure. But it is one thing to knock off the Ducks with zero expectations and nothing to lose.

Now a young Wildcats team has everything to lose and is outclassed in the experience and talent department against the best player in the nation. In the end, Oregon will pull it out in a shootout.

Prediction: Ducks 42, Wildcats 38

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified

 

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SEC Championship 2014: Full Preview and Prediction for Alabama vs. Missouri

Alabama has convinced the College Football Playoff committee that it is the best team in the land, but the Crimson Tide will still have to prove it on the field.

While most fans are looking toward the national semifinals already, the squad still has to come through in the SEC Championship Game against Missouri, a red-hot opponent coming in with a six-game winning streak.

The Tigers handled the SEC East this season and will take another shot at the conference title after falling short in a 59-42 showdown against Auburn a year ago.

This matchup seems one-sided on paper and in the minds of oddsmakers, but anything can happen in college football. Here is a look at everything you need to know about the upcoming battle for the most prestigious conference title in the country.

 

When: Saturday, December 6 at 4 p.m. ET

Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta

Watch: CBS

Betting Info: (via Odds Shark)

  • Over/Under: 49
  • Spread: Alabama (-14.5)

 

Competition Upgrade

The reason the playoff committee is so high on Alabama is its strength of schedule after competing in the loaded SEC West. On the other hand, Missouri hasn't faced anywhere near the level of competition this season in the league's other division.

After a bad week for the conference, Bryan Fischer of NFL.com had to clarify the difference between the East and West divisions:

In addition to the fact that Mizzou was in the weaker of the divisions, its two games against the West were against Texas A&M and Arkansas, the two worst teams in the opposite division. Both wins came by seven points.

The only team the Tigers have played in the current Top 25 is Georgia, and that game resulted in a 34-0 loss. 

Missouri came together for an excellent season and the roster is clearly full of talented players. Even Alabama coach Nick Saban admitted to the skill level on the defensive line, via Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com:

These guys are obviously very quick guys that are instinctive, that beat people with their quickness. They're very productive in their system and scheme. They do a good job of executing.

Not many guys have made that kind of an impact with their defense anywhere in the country, in terms of giving the offense negative plays.

This could create a challenge for the Tide's offense at points throughout the game. However, the Tigers simply aren't prepared for a juggernaut like Alabama after facing weaker competition throughout the year.

 

Can Alabama Still Afford a Loss?

While winning an SEC championship is usually the goal for all teams in the conference, Alabama always has a higher purpose of winning a national title every year. If this comes without winning a conference title, so be it.

The question is whether the Tide can lose this game and still earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.

ESPN's Paul Finebaum notes this case is certainly possible according to speculation from Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel:

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight also argues that while a win is almost assured against Missouri (82 percent likely), Alabama still has a 68 percent chance of remaining in the playoffs with a loss. The need to get an SEC team in the semifinals would likely be a drawing point:

The dangerous case for Alabama is if it loses while the rest of the top five — Oregon, TCU, Florida State and Ohio State — win. That scenario would be a nightmare for the committee; it would either have to deny the SEC a slot in the playoff (Missouri and Mississippi State have almost no chance) or bypass a one-loss conference champion such as Ohio State for two-loss Alabama.

Missouri has two losses on the year that includes a blowout against Georgia and a home defeat to 4-8 Indiana. Even a Tigers win shouldn't get them into the playoff.

Call it SEC bias, blame the media or whomever you want, but Alabama still could be alive even with a loss.

 

Prediction

Missouri has a talented set of running backs in Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy, but quarterback Maty Mauk often struggles with his accuracy and it leads to turnovers and stalled drives. This makes it no surprise the offense averages just 28.6 points per game to rank 70th in the country.

Against the No. 6 defense in college football (even after allowing 44 points to Auburn in the Iron Bowl), the Tigers are going to struggle to move the ball consistently.

The underdog will have more success on defense thanks to a great pass rush, but the defense will have no answer for Amari Cooper on screen passes or down the field.

Blake Sims makes mistakes, but he has improved throughout the year and can be trusted in big moments. This game will be nothing but big moments, and he will come through with his best showing of the season.

Alabama will showcase its ability with plenty of explosive plays in the passing game as well as on the ground with T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry. By the time the fourth quarter rolls around, this one won't even be close.

Prediction: Alabama 31, Missouri 13

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

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USC Recruiting 2014-15: Latest News, Rumors and Commit Updates

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian enjoyed one of the most successful signing days in college football last February despite spending limited time recruiting for the Trojans. There's plenty of potential for a repeat performance as he prepares to deliver an encore.

Southern California is an annual hotbed for top prospects, and USC is primed to pick up several key pledges from nearby and beyond state borders. The team currently holds 16 commitments in its 2015 class, according to 247Sports.

Let's take a look at the latest news, top targets and commits for the Trojans.

 

Latest News

Friday, Dec. 5

If recent developments serve as evidence, Porter Gustin could soon become the newest member of USC's class. The 6'5", 240-pound linebacker will return to USC this weekend, per Barton Simmons of 247Sports.

Gustin, a 4-star Utah product, also visited campus last week. He ranks among the Trojans' top uncommitted defensive targets and would complement USC commit Cameron Smith well in the linebacker corps.

The Salem Hills High School standout was named a finalist for U.S. Army All-American Player of the Year earlier this week. He is the state leader with 152 tackles, adding 10.5 sacks and two interceptions, per MaxPreps.

Gustin also stars at quarterback, where he's compiled nearly 4,000 total yards and 32 touchdowns this season.

 

Top Targets and Commitments

 

Friday, Dec. 5

USC is one of just five teams still under consideration for coveted tight end Chris Clark. The Connecticut playmaker confirmed his finalists on Twitter earlier this week:

The Trojans are competing with UCLA, Texas, UNC and Michigan for the U.S. Army All-American selection. Clark decommitted from the Wolverines when Brady Hoke was fired but has left the door open for reconciliation. 

Clark rates second nationally among tight ends in 247Sports' composite rankings. The 6'6", 247-pound prospect displays extremely reliable hands and is already developed as a college-ready blocker.

Prior to his Michigan pledge, Clark was briefly committed to North Carolina.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bowl Games Schedule 2014-15: TV Info, Predictions, and More

The first year of the College Football Playoff affects much more than the four teams that make it and the few that miss out, as the championship format influences the rest of the bowl schedule. 

There still remains the chance for two teams from the Big 12—Baylor and TCU—to crack the Top Four, which would bump everyone else in the conference up a few spots. Other squads sitting around the Top 10 could sneak into one of the New Year's Six bowls with at-large bids, which would open things up for their bowl-eligible conference counterparts to make a more preferable bowl than expected.

With that said, most of the championship-caliber teams playing throughout Week 15 should take care of business despite eye-opening tests down the stretch. So where will that leave everyone else?

Take a look below to find out, as projections for every bowl game are made.

 

College Football Playoff Outlook

Diehards of every bowl-eligible fanbase in college football are on pins and needles entering Week 15 as they await news of where—or if—they'll be going bowling. But most of the teams playing on championship weekend have their sights set on a much larger prize.

That's because the first year of the CFP is finally here, and for the first time ever four teams will emerge from the ashes with their championship hopes intact.

But even with days to go until Selection Sunday, there's no telling just how things will shake out.

One thing is clear, however: The committee isn't impressed with Florida State's undefeated record, per ESPN's Joe Schad:

Anyone who has watched the Seminoles this year knows why, as they have looked lifeless in most of their games before doing just enough to win. In fact, seven of their 12 victories have come by six or fewer points.

Their most recent performance was a close win over in-state rivals Florida, which bumped the 'Noles down to fourth behind TCU, who slid up to No. 3. But it's awfully easy to craft a scenario that would see Florida State move back into the third spot.

With an ACC Championship Game showdown against No. 11 Georgia Tech, a win for Florida State would almost certainly bump them above TCU, which plays Iowa State, as Sports on Earth's Matt Brown noted:

But where does that leave the Baylor Bears, who beat TCU head-to-head earlier this season but have failed to move ahead of them into the Top Four?

Well, it would leave Art Briles' crew out of the CFP entirely. The Bears may have knocked off TCU when the two played but have since been topped by West Virginia and haven't posted the all-season resume that TCU boasts, as ESPN's Danny Kanell said (via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Jimmy Burch):

Potentially falling back to No. 4, TCU would likely face top-ranked Alabama—which should dispose of 10-2 Missouri in the SEC title game. Blake Sims and Amari Cooper will simply be too much for the Tigers defense, despite first-round NFL draft picks Shane Ray and Markus Golden coming off the edge.

Ohio State, however, will be left on the outside looking in. Even if the Buckeyes take care of Wisconsin in Saturday's Big Ten Championship Game, it's easy to see them missing out with J.T. Barrett's absence still looming large, per Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde:

There may not be a CFP hopeful with a tougher play-in contest than the Oregon Ducks, who face No. 7 Arizona—the only team that beat them in the regular season—in Santa Clara, California, for the Pac-12 title. But while offensive line struggles doomed Oregon in that first matchup, the Ducks offense is at another level now and will take care of business.

After the Ducks stomp on the Wildcats' remote CFP chances, they will advance to face Florida State—a team that would likely rather remain at No. 4 to play in the more geographically friendly Sugar Bowl. But with a spot in the Top Four, the 'Noles won't have much to complain about.

However, with so many games that could go either way among the top teams, the only certainty coming down the stretch is that there will inevitably be disagreement as to how it all unfolds.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff 2014: Full Bowl Predictions for Biggest Matchups

In the matter of a few days, history will be made as the first ever College Football Playoff field of four will be set.

That doesn't mean that things are any closer to being figured out as Week 15 approaches, however. Just about every team in the running for a playoff spot will have to take care of business over the weekend, with many of them going up against top competition in conference championship games.

More chaos could be in store, which would certainly make for a fitting ending to a chaos-rich season. Either way, the disagreements and objections to whatever the CFP committee decides upon are inevitable.

With only one weekend separating us from those decisions, let's go ahead and make some predictions as to how everything will unfold.

Check here for the official College Football Playoff rankings.

 

College Football Playoff Predictions

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

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State

National Championship: TBD (semifinal winners)

While no team enters Week 15 with its CFP spot wrapped up, the big focus over the final weekend remains centered around how the final few spots will shake out.

And there's no better debate than that surrounding the Florida State Seminoles, who have fallen all the way to No. 4 despite failing to lose a game. The culprit has been their ugly wins, with seven of their victories coming by six or fewer points.

But with everything on the line in the ACC Championship Game against No. 11 Georgia Tech, Jimbo Fisher's squad will do just as it always does—pull out the victory and remain (barely) alive for a quest to repeat as champions.

A win over the Yellow Jackets will catapult the Seminoles back up to No. 3 over TCU, as the Horned Frogs face a lowly Iowa State team.

Looking for as many style points as they can muster, the Horned Frogs won't have any problem stating their case as well.

As Fox Sports Southwest's David Ubben noted, even an ugly win shouldn't be enough to knock TCU out of the picture:

TCU's playoff spot will come at the expense of Big 12 rivals Baylor, who topped the Horned Frogs head-to-head but have failed to post as impressive of a season overall. Without TCU blowing a 21-point fourth-quarter lead in Waco, Texas, this wouldn't even be a conversation.

The overall result might not be a favorable one for Florida State, which will have to travel to face Oregon in the Rose Bowl instead of a much friendlier geographic matchup against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. But the 'Noles won't have much to complain about by getting into the Top Four after such a questionable season.

As for the other two spots, they will go to the undoubted best two teams in the nation—Alabama and Oregon.

The entire SEC enters the weekend nervous, as an Alabama loss to Missouri would almost certainly end the conference's national title hopes. But that won't be in the cards, as the Tide offense will take it to a Missouri team that has beat just one team over .500 in SEC play over its last two division-winning seasons.

Oregon will have to go through No. 7 Arizona—the only team it has lost to this season. Unlike earlier in the season, however, the Ducks offense has no real weaknesses and should put up the points necessary.

Should both Alabama and Oregon then take care of business in the CFP semifinals, quite the championship game would be set, as NBC Sports' Josh Elliott noted:

No matter how things shake out, it's almost guaranteed that there will be those out there who disagree. The formula simply can't be perfect—not until a larger playoff system is implemented.

It will never be a unanimous decision, but it will be hard to say that the CFP committee didn't get it right if Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and TCU are left standing after Week 15.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Recruiting: 10 Bold Predictions as Season Winds Down

The close of every recruiting cycle usually brings with it a tendency for the unthinkable to occur.

Decommitments, flips, hat tricks and the use of live animals are just a few of the things we’ve seen recruits do in recent years.

The coaching carousel is also in full swing, with the new coaching staffs at Florida and Nebraska sure to pound the recruiting trail in hopes of infusing their programs with new energy.

The 2015 cycle has already produced its share of newsworthy moments, but there’s still plenty of room for more madness to occur in the weeks leading up to national signing day.

Which teams and recruits could produce some hysteria as the season winds down?

 

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Bold Predictions for Conference Championship Weekend

Conference championship weekend is finally here. For an entire season, we've watched, waited, debated and talked about the happenings of the 2014 college football season, and now that we're coming to its denouement, it is as intriguing as ever.

With the College Football Playoff selection committee watching, who’ll step forward in the chase for the final four spots? Will it be a "favorites" kind of weekend, or will it get wild like the 2007 season, one of the craziest in modern history? Who will emerge in the four-team bracket when the inaugural College Football Playoff is revealed Sunday afternoon?

You have questions. We might have answers, and we definitely have predictions. Take a look at our bold predictions for conference championship weekend.

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