NCAA Football News
Injuries are an unfortunate yet inevitable part of football, and the Pac-12 has seen some key players go down during critical moments in the 2014 season.
Some will point to the fact that almost every team has to weather the injury bug, and how you employ the "next man up" attitude will determine how successful a season is.
On the other hand, some injuries have devastating consequences regardless of how well a team may be prepared to handle them.
Nobody is deep at every position across the board, and losing one or two players—even for a lone game—can result in a loss. The most impactful injuries are often those that affect teams at positions of little depth.
Washington State's Connor Halliday is one of the premier quarterbacks in the country, yet his replacement Luke Falk has proven to be more than capable of running Mike Leach's offense.
At the end of the day, we all hope that every player injured will go through a speedy and easy recovery to full health. That's goal No. 1 before everything else.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the most impactful injuries so far this season from an on-the-field standpoint.
All stats via CFBStats.com.
Depending on what situation a college football team is in, the 2014 season is either running out of opportunities or can't end soon enough.
Entering the 12th week of the season, 52 schools have reached bowl eligibility, while another 25 are guaranteed to have their years end without an extra game in a far-off locale. The rest in the middle are still battling, either to lock up a shot at a bowl or stave off elimination.
For those near the top of the heap, it's more a matter of getting into (or staying in) position for a major postseason game, possibly a spot in the first ever College Football Playoff. Overall, nearly every game this week has a bearing on one team's season or another.
Take a look at our Week 12 predictions, as well as our experts' picks on the top games, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.
Last week: 38-12 (.760)
Season: 491-157 (.758)
NOTE: Rankings used for teams are from the College Football Playoff poll.
Florida State is preparing for a rivalry game with Miami while in the middle of an attempt at a third straight ACC title and a shot in the College Football Playoff, where the No. 3 Seminoles will try to repeat as national champions.
So there's little time to reflect on a winning streak that has now hit 25 games.
FSU's last loss came on Nov. 22, 2012 at home to Florida. A week later, FSU won the ACC championship game and hasn't looked back.
Through it all—an Orange Bowl win on New Year's Day 2013, a dominating national title run last season and nine (often) close wins in 2014—the Seminoles have won games.
"Winning is hard," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "Don't ever take it for granted."
But it also begs the obvious question: How much longer can the 'Noles keep it going?
The last three games of the regular season won't be easy, but they're all against unranked teams. FSU plays at Miami (6-3) on Saturday before returning back home to face Boston College (6-4) and finishing with Florida (5-3).
If FSU finishes the regular season perfect, the Seminoles could face a Coastal champion that would be ranked—possibly No. 19 Duke (8-1) or No. 24 Georgia Tech (8-2).
All of FSU's opponents down the stretch have shown improvement. But Miami has been inconsistent on defense and starts a true freshman in quarterback Brad Kaaya.
Boston College matches up well against FSU and is physical on both the offensive and defensive line, but the Seminoles' speed has usually been tough for the Eagles to contend with.
Florida again has a strong defense but has been shaky on offense, although things have turned around under true freshman Treon Harris.
Of those three opponents, Miami has the best chance to pull off the upset with a talented tailback in Duke Johnson and a massive offensive line.
Any of the three could win, but FSU will more than likely be moving toward the ACC championship game 12-0 (and pushing the winning streak up to 28 games).
The ACC's Coastal Division isn't settled yet, but Georgia Tech or Duke would be difficult matchups. Georgia Tech's triple-option offense is a challenge to prepare for in just one week, and the Yellow Jackets are averaging 38 points per game.
Duke is averaging 34 points per game, and coach David Cutcliffe is a creative offensive mind. But another win would give FSU No. 29.
After that? It's too tough to predict how the top four of the playoff will shake out on Dec. 7. But Mississippi State, Oregon, Alabama, Baylor or TCU would be the toughest team FSU has faced.
There aren't enough common opponents for comparison, either. TCU demolished Oklahoma State 42-9 on Oct. 18, while FSU opened the season with a narrow 37-31 win over the Cowboys.
That could be an indication of TCU's strength, but it can also be rationalized that Oklahoma State isn't as good since quarterback J.W. Walsh went down for the season with an injury, or that FSU was still adjusting in Week 1 with five new defensive starters.
Will the streak be a burden to FSU? Larry Coker, who won 24 straight games at Miami from 2001-02, said he doesn't think so.
"I wouldn't say that the team really felt that much pressure on a week-to-week basis," said Coker, now the coach at Texas-San Antonio. "It was more the fact that the players did a great job having the mindset each week that they felt like they couldn't be beaten."
Each week, FSU players insist they have focused on the opponent and are not necessarily playing to extend a streak. But what they've done isn't lost on a senior like left tackle Cameron Erving.
Erving played for Moultrie (Georgia) Colquitt County, a program that he said had losing seasons until his senior year in 2009. Once the winning began, Erving loved it. And he didn't want to go back to losing, of course.
"Then I got here and we lost four games (in 2010)," Erving said of his redshirt season. "Since I've been here, I've lost 10 games. So I don't want to go back to doing that. I don't want to go back to mediocrity."
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Ask any Nebraska fan who the Huskers' true rival is. I'd be willing to bet that nine out of 10 would say Oklahoma. If you're not familiar with the history of Nebraska and Oklahoma, that may seem like an odd answer.
After all, the two programs stopped meeting annually after the Big Eight became the Big 12 in 1996. After that, the two were scheduled to play twice every two years. It just never was the same.
Since then, Nebraska has been seeking its next rival. While in the Big 12, Colorado was the likely replacement for Oklahoma, but it never felt the same as when the Huskers faced the Sooners. But Nebraska is now a member of the Big Ten, meaning the search for another rival has started all over again.
Finding that rivalry can't be forced, though. That's what made the announcement of the new Freedom Trophy Nebraska and Wisconsin will play for so interesting. Even more interesting was what Wisconsin director of athletics Barry Alvarez had to say about the trophy.
"Trophy games are part of the tradition of college football, and I’m thrilled that we’re going to be introducing one into our rivalry with Nebraska,” Alvarez said, per Huskers.com.
Hearing the word "rival" from Alvarez made many question whether or not it truly was one. Twitter was filled with fans wondering just that.
So, are Nebraska and Wisconsin rivals? The answer is not yet. However, with time, it's possible.
First and foremost, having both programs in the West Division of the Big Ten helps. Playing every year will benefit a potential rivalry. Even former Nebraska head coach and athletic director Tom Osborne acknowledged that.
“If you don't play every year, you probably don't have a true rivalry," Osborne said, per KETV.
And that's not the first time Osborne has been vocal about rivalries. When Nebraska first joined the Big Ten, many assumed Iowa would be the natural rival for the Huskers. Osborne felt it wasn't that easy.
"As far as rivalry, it seems like a lot of people are saying [Iowa] will be a rivalry, this is natural and so on," Osborne said, per The Gazette. "But rivalries usually occur when you don't declare them rivalries. They occur over time."
Time truly is essential. After all, Nebraska and Oklahoma had met for 71 straight years. Within that time frame, some of the biggest games took place, including the "Game of the Century."
It's not just history, either. Both teams in the matchup do have to live up to certain expectations. If one team is constantly better than the other, a true rivalry will be hard to come by.
"There has to be a certain level of excellence on both sides," Osborne said about Iowa, per The Gazette. However, that statement also relates to Nebraska and Wisconsin.
If nothing else, just listening to the players speak proves the Huskers and Badgers aren't rivals just yet. When asked about this very topic, sophomore safety Nate Gerry turned down the idea, per Huskers.com:
I personally don’t see any game as a rivalry game. Eleven people are lining up against another 11 people. You just play football. If we put our mind right and apply our rules to what we have to do it will be a good football game. I don’t really see any game as a bigger game than the other.
Time and excellence can change that perception. Now that Nebraska and Wisconsin will face off every single year, the likelihood the two will begin building a rivalry is good. However, it's not something that can be forced.
After all, the best rivalries in sports have never been declared. They've been built.
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After a two-game road swing, BYU is back at home this weekend to host UNLV. The Cougars beat the Rebels in 2010, 55-7, which was the last meeting between the two teams.
BYU had a bye week after its win over Middle Tennessee, its first victory since September 20th. UNLV comes into this Saturday's game on a three-game losing skid and boasts a 2-8 record on the season.
The Cougars will be bowl eligible if they win this weekend, but what will it take to beat their former Mountain West partner? Read on to find out.
Date: Saturday, November 15
Time: 5 p.m. MDT
Place: LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, UT
Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM)
Spread: BYU, -23.5 (via OddsShark.com)
Texas head coach Charlie Strong has been labeled as a disciplinarian. Critics have questioned if he's too strong for Texas and if his approach will cause him to lose his locker room.
Those critics were silenced when a locker room video hit social media following the Longhorns' 33-16 win over then-No. 23 West Virginia.
The video showed the Longhorns lifting their head coach in the air and Strong crowd surfing after the upset win over the Mountaineers:
"I just walked in there and they just grabbed me," Strong said of the impromptu celebration.
But what was seen in the video was something more than a team pumped up about a win. It was visible proof that the Longhorns have bought into their leader.
"It was fun to see," senior wide receiver John Harris said. "You don’t really see too many coaches get lifted up by their players. It shows the level of respect we have for him and how much of a player’s coach he is.”
People have to earn the respect of others, and it typically does not happen overnight. It may have taken several months for the Longhorns to embrace Strong's tactics, but his work is gradually paying off.
Strong wants his players to succeed both on and off of the football field. Education is a priority for the coach.
He requires the Longhorns to attend every class and sit in the front two rows. If a player were caught skipping class, punishment from strength and conditioning coach Pat Moorer would follow.
Moorer is one of the more intimidating people in Austin and there's a good possibility that a lot of the team does not want to be on his bad side. However, players have started to recognize the positive benefits that have come from Strong's rule of being attentive in class.
"I feel like Coach Strong has changed my life," senior linebacker Steve Edmond said. "I really never cared much about school, but ever since he got here, my grades have been coming up. He made me feel more like a man rather than a kid. Coach Strong will make you grow up, make you accountable and he's going to make sure you do everything right."
In terms of success on the football field, Strong believes team chemistry is a major component in winning games. For that reason, the team, assistant coaches and Strong moved into the dorms during fall training camp.
"I didn't like it," senior cornerback Quandre Diggs said of the dorm life. "But at the same time, it was something Coach Strong felt was right."
One could assume Diggs was not the only player to feel this way, but the Longhorns are now seeing the rewards that came from being confined in the dorms with their teammates.
“Moving us in the dorms for training camp and having us around each other more helped," senior safety Mykkele Thompson said. "I don’t want to sound cliche, but it’s like a brotherhood. We really care about each other. When you know someone cares about you on the field, it makes you want to play even harder."
Strong's first year has had its ups and downs. The Longhorns have lost a handful of key starters to season-ending injuries, have a lot of inexperience on the offensive side of the ball and are .500 with only two games remaining in the regular season.
But the team has continued to fight through adversity and has shown gradual progress every week.
"The guys have hung in there. We've made our way through some difficult times. I think what happens is you grow together, character begins to grow, you get an attitude and a chemistry amongst the team and everybody's there for each other," quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson said. "You just find ways to win football games and keep working and keep growing. They understand we're in a process. The seniors have been excellent in leading us and the younger players are following."
Strong's short tenure at Texas has been defined by a strict culture change. The first-year head coach is often labeled as a "my way or the highway" type of coach, and the dismissals of nine players for violating his rules only add to that image.
But there is a method to his madness, and the Longhorns are finally rallying around their head coach.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter @Taylor_Gaspar.
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If the college football season ended today, there is no doubt that Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota would win the Heisman Trophy. Not only is Mariota tearing apart the Pac-12 with his arm and legs, but he’s carrying the Ducks toward a sport in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
The question right now isn’t whether Marcus Mariota is the Heisman Trophy front-runner at this point of the season, but rather can anybody catch him?
According to Bovada (via Odds Shark), Mariota is currently a 1-5 favorite to win the Heisman. To put that into context, the odds of the second player on the list, Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, are 13-2. In short, the bookmakers believe that Mariota is far and away the best player in the country and will win the award.
Can Mariota finish the job and lead his second-ranked Ducks to a Pac-12 title and a spot in the CFP? Let’s take a look at his season so far and analyze what he needs to do from here on out to win the award.
After Mariota and the Ducks took down Michigan State 46-27 in the season's second week, it was clear that the Oregon quarterback was a lock to get an invite to New York, at the very least, as long as he stayed healthy. Regardless, there were a couple things that he needed to accomplish in order to secure an invite, as I chronicled back in September.
The first thing I thought Mariota needed to do to win the 2014 Heisman Trophy was to throw for 3,500 yards and score 35-plus touchdowns. Moreover, based on the averages of the past nine quarterbacks to win the award, Mariota needed to throw 35 touchdowns and run for at least 10 touchdowns. Not only is Mariota on pace to equal those numbers, but he's likely going to surpass them.
Here are Mariota's stats through 10 games this season:
Here’s a breakdown of the last nine Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks and how Marcus Mariota’s 2014 season would compare based on his projected stats through 13 games.
*Projected stats based on 13-game schedule
While everyone believed that Mariota was a top-flight college quarterback at the start of the season, there were questions about whether he could finally lead the Ducks to a Pac-12 title game. In order to win the Heisman Trophy, Mariota was going to have to be a better player and leader in order to win the most coveted award in college athletics. That meant he had to beat his Achilles’ heel: Stanford.
Mariota emphatically marked Stanford off his Heisman checklist with a resounding 45-16 victory. The redshirt junior quarterback was fantastic as he went 19-of-30 for 258 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another 85 yards and two more touchdowns.
Mariota took down Stanford, is on pace to match the statistics of past Heisman Trophy winners and has been the leader of a Ducks team that has already clinched the Pac-12 North.
So what else does Mariota need to show the Heisman voters? He needs to show them he can close the door in November and help the Ducks win their last three games of the season—including the Pac-12 championship.
But, for now, Mariota has a sizeable lead in the race. Want proof? We’ve got it.
Where Mariota Stands Now
While the bookmakers in Las Vegas are certainly confident that Mariota is going to win the Heisman Trophy, it’s important to look at writers from various sites in order to get a sense of what the Heisman voting community is thinking.
Taking a look at ESPN’s Heisman Watch, it’s clear that the 10-member panel has Marcus Mariota well-ahead of the pack. Mariota received eight of the 10 first-place votes as well as two second-place votes. Out of a possible 50 points, Mariota earned 48.
Coming in second is Dak Prescott who earned the other two first-place votes. He was followed by Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin and Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper.
Graham Watson of Yahoo Sports has the same top-five candidates as ESPN and Sports Illustrated, but he has Mariota first followed by Gordon, Boykin, Prescott and Cooper in that order.
Needless to say, there’s a clear-cut top five, and Marcus Mariota sits atop almost everyone’s poll. However, is there a chance that Dak Prescott could jump Mariota if he plays an outstanding game against Alabama and leads his Bulldogs to victory? Chip Patterson of CBSSports.com wonders the same thing.
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is pulling away in the Heisman Trophy race, if you judge such things by the updated information released by oddsmakers. Mariota's odds moved past even money already and have continued to improve as the Ducks defeated Stanford and Utah in back-to-back weeks. Now listed at 1/5, it seems Bovada agrees with CBSSports.com in Mariota's chances to win the award if Oregon makes the College Football Playoff.
But what about Dak Prescott? Mariota won't have the stage Mississippi State's star quarterback has in the final weeks of the regular season at Alabama and Ole Miss. The type of voters who demand "Heisman moments" will have a close eye on Prescott in each of these contests, hoping for a performance that will solidify their decision. Oregon does not have a game of that magnitude left until the Pac-12 title game but that could be a good thing. As we saw with Everett Golson and Nick Marshall this week, a quarterback's Heisman chances take a sizable hit with a loss of any kind.
As of right now, all six of CBSSports.com's Heisman pundits have Mariota leading their poll. It’s possible those rankings may change if Prescott has the game of his life against Alabama, especially when you consider how dominant the Crimson Tide have been at home this season.
Mariota likely won’t have the chance to make a huge splash on a national stage until the Pac-12 Championship Game. The best-case scenario for Mariota’s Heisman hopes would be for the Ducks to take on No. 6 Arizona State in a clash of one-loss teams.
If both Oregon and Arizona State have one loss coming into the title game, it will essentially act as a College Football Playoff quarterfinal with the winner grabbing a spot in the actual playoff on Jan. 1.
If Mariota is able to put on a show in a game of that magnitude, the trophy is his.
Mariota's Trophy to Lose
We’ve established that Marcus Mariota is the Heisman front-runner and that if he’s able to lead the Ducks to victory in their next three games the race will be officially over. But one thing that is often overlooked when considering the Heisman Trophy is the person and not just the player.
The Heisman Trophy “recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work,” according to the Heisman Trust mission statement.
No one has been more superb on the football field this season, but perhaps more importantly, Mariota by all accounts is a sportsman, a good person and a man with integrity.
For a moment this season, the Heisman Trust “erroneously omitted” the words “with integrity” from its mission statement during a redesign of its website, according to Sports Illustrated.
While the words may have been omitted (they’ve since been re-added), there may be no more important words in the Heisman Trust’s mission statement. Moreover, there may not be a player in the country who exemplifies integrity better than Marcus Mariota.
I don’t know if Marcus Mariota is going to save the Heisman, but if he does win the award as anticipated, he will have certainly earned the award based on his performance on and off the field.
At this point in the season, Mariota is playing the role of Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie Catch Me if You Can. The only difference is there’s no Tom Hanks in this version of the movie to run Mariota down.
Sure, the Ducks could lose, and the dream could go up in smoke. But that’s on the Ducks. No one is going to chase Mariota down for the Heisman Trophy. It’s his to take and his alone.
Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise stated. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise stated.
Jason Gold is Bleacher Report’s lead Oregon writer. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheSportsGuy33.
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Even with a proven head coach and returning talent, TCU football was not expected to make this much noise. Not this fast. And yet, with only three games left in their season, the Horned Frogs have a real shot at taking the national title home this year.
Texas Christian University had a very bumpy entry into power-five competition, as noted by Mark Ross in Athlon Sport's spring football preview.
So why have things turned around so quickly, and how are they a threat to win it all? Here are the main factors contributing to a potentially deep postseason run for the Purple and White:
TCU Can Win Pretty or Ugly
Squeak by in a tight contest? Yep—those types of games are on their resume.
Defeat an offensive squad in a shoot-out? Sure, they can do that, too. We all witnessed how TCU overwhelmed Kansas State in Amon G. Carter Stadium, as chronicled by B/R featured columnist Sean Frye. The 82-27 destruction of Texas Tech (which set a school record for most points ever scored in a game) already proved TCU's explosive capabilities.
What sets the Horned Frogs apart from many contenders is the 31-30 victory over a wily West Virginia on the road.
After making a statement by upsetting Oklahoma, then barely falling to Baylor 61-58 in a glorified Waco track meet, the Horned Frogs could have overlooked the Mountaineers and stumbled in Morgantown. The resolve TCU has shown to this point in a better-than-expected Big 12 validates a No. 4 ranking by the CFP Committee.
Horned Frogs Offense Now Strength of Team
Since the beginning of the new millennium (when Gary Patterson took over as head coach), TCU's calling card has mostly been defense. Outside of LaDainian Tomlinson and Andy Dalton, the Horned Frogs have been historically categorized by sound fundamentals and scrappy play—the quintessential underdog out of the Mountain West Conference.
For the past few years amongst Goliaths in the Big 12, the David approach has simply not worked. This is why Doug Meacham from Houston and Sonny Cumbie from Texas Tech were brought in during the offseason to rejuvenate a stagnant offense.
The results have been monumental.
According to sports-reference.com, last year Texas Christian only had one rusher total over 500 yards, and their leading receiver in touchdowns amassed just five scoring catches.
By the time TCU finishes feasting on the Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence, backs Aaron Green and B.J. Catalon and quarterback Trevone Boykin should all have over 500 yards on the ground. To date, the Horned Frogs also have two wideouts with seven touchdown catches on the season in Deante' Gray and Josh Doctson.
Boykin is New York Bound
The development of signal-caller Trevone Boykin has been a wonderful thing to behold. The former wideout/running back has flourished under the quick-tempo spread attack implemented by the new regime.
Because play calls have been made simpler and therefore easier to relay and repeat at the line of scrimmage, Boykin's natural instincts and athleticism take over on a much more consistent basis. This has led to spectacular plays such as the leaping score against Kansas State that caught the attention of the NFL, as listed by Mike Huguenin.
Trevone Boykin is the catalyst for the now high-powered Horned Frog offensive attack. Rangy receivers and a slew of speedy backs round out the unit, but he is their leader and main playmaker. With 23 touchdowns and over 2,600 yards through the air, the Dallas native has performed well enough in big moments not only to have his team prime for a playoff berth, but also to have solidified his position as a Heisman Trophy finalist.
TCU has one more serious test left in Texas on Thanksgiving Night. By getting past the Longhorns, the Horned Frogs will be in the driver's seat to snatch a Sugar Bowl bid, meaning that they would be just a few quarters away from taking the big prize home.
Get ready to pucker up, big boys—it just might be time to acknowledge a new prince at the party.
Unless otherwise noted, all additional statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com.
Ariel Bedford, a freelancer from Florida, is a contributor with Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @mpcmi.
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Josh Rosen isn't your typical individual.
Rosen was once a nationally ranked tennis prodigy. On his mother's side of the family, he's related to industrialist Joseph Wharton—known for (among other things) the famed Wharton School of Business.
His father—nearly an Olympic figure skater in the 1970s—is now a spine surgeon. His mother captained the Princeton lacrosse team. Rosen is no slouch in the classroom, either. He possesses a cumulative 4.3 GPA.
Based on his lineage, one would assume he could virtually do anything he wanted. Fortunately for UCLA, he also plays football.
As a senior, Rosen has led his team to a 9-1 record versus very tough competition. He's thrown for 21 touchdowns and 2,217 yards. Rosen has also completed passes at a 63.8-percent clip.
The signal-caller signed with UCLA back in September. With Brett Hundley likely leaving after this year, the addition of Rosen is massive.
He will compete with the likes of Jerry Neuheisel, Asiantii Woulard and Aaron Sharp for the starting job. Based purely on physical tools, Rosen looks to have an advantage.
He's slated to enroll in January—enabling him to participate in spring football. This aspect will only help Rosen in his quest to start as a true freshman. He'll be able to get acclimated to college in general while also getting a leg up on conditioning and learning the playbook.
Rosen's arm strength is absolutely phenomenal. He's capable of making throws to every spot on the field. His picture-perfect form also lends himself to having outstanding mechanics. While not Michael Vick or Johnny Manziel running the football, Rosen is athletic enough to scramble for positive yardage.
Perhaps most impressive, he's able to go through his progressions when the first option isn't available. As seen in this footage, Rosen effectively keeps his eyes looking downfield.
Rosen has even become one of UCLA's top recruiters. He's been a constant visitor on campus and for the games in the Rose Bowl. He recently visited officially for the game versus Arizona.
Elite wide receiver prospect Ryan Newsome also visited the same weekend. He spoke to Scout.com Director of Recruiting Brandon Huffman about the trip (subscription required) and had some very interesting things to say about Rosen.
"It was good spending time with Josh. I call him a nerd because he's such a smart guy. He spent the whole time telling me why to come to UCLA. He said he'd be happy wherever I go but he really pushes the Bruins hard."
When looking at the situation next year, it sets up very nicely for the eventual successor to Hundley.
UCLA returns its entire offensive line next year. Although the unit struggled immensely to begin this season, it has since played very well—from both a pass protection and run-blocking standpoint. Simon Goines will also return from injury. Goines had started at right tackle as a true freshman.
The Bruins also return leading rusher Paul Perkins and a full complement of wide receivers—led by Jordan Payton and Thomas Duarte. The offense will be experienced for the first time in quite a while.
For the reasons mentioned above, Rosen (or whomever starts at quarterback next season) won't be pressured to come in and become a difference-maker right off the bat. The starter will have the luxury of leaning up against an expected strong rushing attack.
The combination of an impressive skill set, strong leadership qualities and considerable intelligence makes Rosen a truly special player. It would be a bit surprising if he didn't start next year for UCLA.
He's that good.
The significance of landing him cannot be minimized in any way. Prior to Hundley, UCLA has had been plagued by instability and inconsistency at the quarterback position dating back to the days of Cade McNown. This fact has contributed greatly to the mediocre feel around the program for years.
Landing a 5-star prospect at a premium position is a huge deal.
Jim Mora and his staff can only hope "The Rosen One" will lead the program to new heights.
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Numbers never lie. And for the Virginia Tech Hokies, numbers tell the story of why Tech is 4-5 on the season and facing an uphill battle to be bowl-eligible for the 22nd consecutive season.
As the losses continue to mount, Virginia Tech's run of 10-win seasons seems like a distant memory.
In a year that began so promising with the Hokies' upset win over Ohio State in Week 2, Tech has stumbled to a 2-5 record since that monumental victory.
Injuries and youth have no doubt played a large part in VT's struggles. However, an inconsistent quarterback, porous offensive line play and a struggling defense have all contributed to the worst season since 1992, when Virginia Tech won just two games.
Here are the five most telling statistics that have led to Virginia Tech's disappointing 2014 season.
At 4-5, the Virginia Tech Hokies are off to one of their worst starts since the 1992 season. That also happened to be the last time the Hokies failed to play in a bowl game.
While the Hokies have struggled this season, it's not exactly uncharted territory for Tech. Just two years ago, the Hokies started the season 4-6 and rallied to win their final two games to become bowl-eligible. Tech ended up winning that game and finishing the 2012 season with a record of 7-6.
At the time, a six-loss season felt like an aberration for the Hokies. After all, Tech replaced several stars from a team that came so close to winning the Sugar Bowl the season before.
Instead, the 2012 season began a trend for the Hokies.
This season's team can blame youth and injuries, and rightfully so, but that won't change the record. For the Hokies to go bowling and continue the nation's second-longest active bowl streak, these three things must happen.
Top-ranked Mississippi State takes on its biggest test of a sensational season Saturday, traveling to Tuscaloosa for a highly anticipated showdown with Alabama. The Bulldogs aim to keep momentum moving forward toward a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff and eliminate an SEC powerhouse from contention in the process.
Head coach Dan Mullen and Heisman Trophy contender Dak Prescott have become the faces of this season's surprise storyline in Starkville, spearheading a 9-0 start that features wins over conference foes LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn. Mississippi State may be looking to prove its pedigree on the field this weekend, but the team has already established itself as a force to be reckoned with on Alabama's recruiting trail.
Mullen, a longtime Urban Meyer assistant, has spent the past decade delving through SEC territory for promising prospects. Though Auburn and Alabama will always win more recruiting battles than they lose on their home turf, Mississippi State continues to make inroads creating a pipeline.
The Bulldogs hold 2015 commitments from three of the top 15 Alabama products in 247Sports' composite 2015 rankings, the highest success rate for any squad beyond state borders.
Minor High School cornerback Maurice Smitherman, rated 12th on that list, didn't land a scholarship offer from Alabama or Auburn despite multiple campus visits. He believes Mullen and Mississippi State are smart to swoop in and secure players like him.
"He really knows our talent and believes we can actually be the top players in the SEC," Smitherman said.
Current Bulldogs standouts like tight end Malcolm Johnson, offensive lineman Blaine Clausell, linebacker Beniquez Brown and receiver De'Runnya Wilson are former Alabama high school stars who were largely overlooked by a pair of in-state SEC institutions that have appeared in the past five national title games, winning four of them.
Mullen continues to diligently lure talent from Alabama, including six players in this class. Many arrive on campus with a "chip-on-the-shoulder" mentality, helping develop the team's reputation for toughness in recent years.
“We're definitely overlooked in the SEC," Mississippi State receiver pledge Justin Johnson, an Alabama native, said this summer. "That’s going to change, though. We’re all on the same page and committed to making this a special team. People are going to look at the Dawgs differently."
Perception is already shifting for a team that has spent the past four weeks sitting atop national rankings.
Mullen, who arrived at the university in 2008, is the first Mississippi State coach to qualify his team for five consecutive bowl berths. This latest journey is uniquely special and now just a few wins away from a spot in the newly implemented postseason tournament.
"Mississippi State is a great university and has an awesome football program," 2016 Alabama defensive tackle prospect Caleb Tillman said. "Football is No. 1 there."
The 6'3", 265-pound Northview High School (Dothan, Alabama) junior is an emerging star in the SEC landscape. He recently added offers from Mississippi State and Kentucky. He's already built a strong rapport with the team.
"Coach Mullen has great coaches to recruit (Alabama players)," Tillman said.
He's a key target in the next talented wave of prospects Mullen intends to recruit from his neighbors to the east. Mississippi State already holds a pledge from touted Alabama interior lineman Dee Nalls, one of seven prospects who make up a 2016 class that ranks third nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings.
Built predominately with under-the-radar recruits, Mississippi State owns the country's 13th-ranked 2015 class. The program is on pace to secure a top-25 class for the fourth time in five cycles.
"There are some guys in this class who I think are going to be some real sleepers," Mullen told Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com. "Guys who when we go watch their film, we go, 'Wow, this guy is special,' and then you go to the recruiting rankings and he's not ranked very high. There are some of those guys in this class."
Johnson, a leading playmaker at perennial Alabama title contender Hoover High School, could fall into that category. His SEC offers were largely limited despite immense success in a nationally recognized program.
"I think a lot of us are looking to prove other teams wrong when we get to Mississippi State," Johnson said. "We get a chance to do that with a great team that appreciates what we bring to the field."
The Bulldogs may not be done venturing into the neighboring state just yet. Daron Payne, a 5-star defensive tackle who plays with Mixon at Shades Valley High School in Birmingham, tops the wish list.
"We talked about it when (Payne) was down at Big Dawg (Camp)," Mixon told John Talty of AL.com. "He said he really liked it and that it was one of the best camps he's been to so far this summer. That made me really feel good. I think we've probably got a chance to get him."
Kenny Thomas, a 6'6", 330-pound offensive lineman, is another Alabama recruit Mullen's staff will keep its eyes on during the final stretch toward national signing day. For now, the primary focus is on the field.
Another strong performance Saturday would go a long way toward immediate and future success in the recruiting spectrum. It isn't hyperbole to say this matchup means more than any other in Mississippi State history.
The next generation of Alabama prospects will be watching closely.
"I'm looking for a physical test up front because both teams can run the ball," Tillman said. "I'm looking for (Mississippi State defensive lineman) Preston Smith to have a great game and dominate because he's a beast. It's going to be a physical game. No doubt."
This matchup offers the Bulldogs more than just a stepping stone toward playoff contention. A victory would continue to change the narrative for a 119-year-old program.
"I'm expecting an amazing game," Smitherman said. "MSU has been doubted all year, and people are still doubting us. Don't be surprised when it's an upset Saturday once again."
All quotes obtained firsthand by B/R national recruiting writer Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.
Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.
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The 2014 College Football Playoff picture is murky at best, with three editions of the selection committee's rankings released to date. A convoluted Big 12 combined with a one-loss Oregon leapfrogging reigning champion Florida State makes matters all the more complicated.
One could argue that it's too early to look ahead at what the final Top Four will look like. Alas, that's precisely what is happening now.
Ahead of the final stretch of the regular season, a crossroads showdown between two SEC foes in Mississippi State and Alabama will go a long way in determining how everything shakes out.
Below are predictions for which teams will square off in the Sugar and Rose Bowls and a preview of those potential matchups, along with a breakdown of the prospective championship game.
Sugar Bowl: Florida State (1) vs. TCU (4)
The high-octane Horned Frogs offense will keep them just inside the Top Four. Baylor will have a chance to prove itself as playoff-worthy in the season finale, but slotting TCU here means that the Bears fall at home in a pressure-packed game against Kansas State.
Meanwhile, thanks to a rather generous ACC schedule, Florida State continues to claw its way to victories and preserve its perfect record, poising itself to enter the postseason as the top-ranked team in the country.
TCU will not have faced a cornerback tandem quite as formidable as the Seminoles' P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby. Bleacher Report draft expert Matt Miller succinctly explains:
Although the FSU secondary has been a bit leakier than expected in 2014, the defensive backfield will have something to prove against a talented but imprecise passer in Horned Frogs star Trevone Boykin. The playmaking signal-caller completes just 58 percent of his throws.
The experience Florida State has would give it the edge here. Last year's Heisman winner, Jameis Winston, had to overcome poor play early in the national title game to lead the Seminoles to a comeback victory as a freshman.
Although his play has dipped in his past two starts, which have featured five total interceptions, Winston has sparked a rally each time, keeping Florida State undefeated regardless of the circumstances.
That's going to count for something once the Seminoles run the regular-season table and set themselves up for another national championship game.
Prediction: Florida State 27, TCU 21
Rose Bowl: Alabama (2) vs. Oregon (3)
This leap by the Crimson Tide obviously comes with the expectation that they topple the College Football Playoff's only No. 1 team in history thus far, Mississippi State, at home this next Saturday.
Alabama can defend the run as well as anyone in the nation and should confine Bulldogs QB Dak Prescott to the pocket, where he'll make mistakes that his counterpart, Blake Sims, won't in Tuscaloosa.
The presence of Prescott will undoubtedly help, but the Tide appear to have his team's number, per ESPN's College GameDay:
As for a potential showdown with the Ducks, Alabama may have more trouble defending the fleeter-of-foot Marcus Mariota, whose dual-threat quarterbacking capabilities are among the best ever seen.
John Middlekauff of Comcast SportsNet is intrigued by Mariota matching wits with Alabama:
The uptempo, balanced attack Oregon throws at opponents is a strong contrast to the Tide's penchant for pounding the rock and wearing their adversaries down. If the Ducks were to strike early and often, it would put Sims in a position in which he'd have to pass often.
Should the likes of Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and others get the chance to pin their ears back and pressure the pocket, Sims and Alabama would be in serious trouble.
Mariota would prove too much to handle even for Nick Saban's vaunted defense, as the potential top signal-caller in the 2015 NFL draft class is likely determined to end his career in Eugene on a high note.
Prediction: Oregon 35, Alabama 24
Championship Bowl: Florida State vs. Oregon
With how important the quarterback position is at all levels of football, what better way to decide this inaugural title format than by having the two best in the country duel it out?
Winston and Mariota are two of the most compelling figures in recent college football history, and it would only be fitting if they were to square off in the Championship Bowl.
Both QBs have overcome issues on the offensive line to still produce on a weekly basis and have shown extraordinary on-field leadership, but they have starkly different playing styles.
While Mariota runs a quick-strike spread attack, Winston is well-versed in pro-style principles and has a lot more responsibility due to the complexity of the Seminoles offense.
But that isn't to say that Mariota isn't smart or a good decision-maker. In fact, he's probably better than Winston in that regard, evident in Winston's 11 interceptions to Mariota's phenomenal 29-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich noted how well the Ducks have responded since Mariota became more of a vocal leader this year, per The Associated Press' Ralph D. Russo, via NCAA.com:
After every play he had to say something to somebody. Great snap. Great route. We did that with Marcus just to get everything going. He is such a good guy it was vastly positive. And it grew into where he could push guys and subtly demand things in a great way. His credibility as a leader in our program is awesome.
In what would likely be a shootout for the ages, Florida State's epic winning streak would finally come to an end, thanks to Mariota, rather than Winston, taking center stage for late-game heroics.
The superiority of Oregon's ground game, combined with cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu doing a passable-enough job on senior Seminoles star receiver Rashad Greene, will be enough to deliver the national championship to the Ducks.
Prediction: Oregon 42, Florida State 38
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We are a few days away from the return of Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, but let’s first take a step back and examine the best freshman seasons in school history. Does Watson—who has 12 touchdowns despite missing almost four games—have the numbers to make an argument for one of the best freshman seasons?
I have put together a list of five Tigers who were impressive in their freshman seasons, ranked from least impressive to most impressive. Let’s start the list.
Welcome to Notre Dame, Everett Golson.
That's likely what this week feels like for Notre Dame's senior quarterback. And while Golson has been in South Bend for a long time—a redshirt season after enrolling early in 2011, a national title game run in 2012 and the much-discussed academic sabbatical in 2013—only now, after his recent struggles, does Golson really know what it feels like to be the quarterback at Notre Dame.
Never mind that Golson's second year as a starting quarterback is actually one of the more statistically impressive seasons in the country. Sure, he's ninth in the country in total offense and fourth in points responsible for. But nobody cares about that.
Not when all people can talk about is his 17 turnovers in the past five games, with the Irish quarterback rightfully wearing the collar for Notre Dame's "Debacle in the Desert," a five-turnover nightmare that saw the Irish give up 28 straight points in just under eight dubious first-half minutes to fall into a 31-3 hole they could never dig out from.
Even with a gaudy 17-3 record as a starting quarterback, Golson finally now knows what it feels like to be in a doghouse that's been custom-built by Irish fans for the team's starting quarterback.
After housing Tommy Rees the past three seasons and Dayne Crist before that, perhaps Golson can now carve his name into the wooden beam (like Brooks and Red in The Shawshank Redemption), joining names like Jimmy Clausen, Brady Quinn, Carlyle Holiday, Gary Godsey, Matt LoVecchio and Jarious Jackson, ad infinitum.
That's playing quarterback for the Irish. And it's something I asked Rees about on Wednesday.
"You know what you’re getting into when you’re the quarterback at Notre Dame," Rees said. "You get a lot of praise, but you also get a lot of scrutiny, right or wrong, that's just the way it is."
Golson has handled that scrutiny like a leader, taking difficult questions after every game as the turnovers piled up. He did the same thing after the loss to Arizona State, the last player to take questions from press looking for an answer, when the rest of the team was looking to get on a plane and escape a nightmare of an afternoon.
Honestly, I think it’s all on me," Golson said after the game. "You play with fire as much as I did today, you know you are going to get burnt eventually. I’ve go to practice to get better, got to clean up in practice. I think that’s where it really starts, in practice."
Tuesday afternoon, Brian Kelly talked about the team putting the Arizona State game behind itself, something his quarterback needs to do. And after openly acknowledging Golson's mistakes in his postgame recap in Tempe, Kelly was proud of the way his quarterback has handled things.
"I think what's been talked about, the buck stops with the quarterback, right? I think Everett made that pretty clear," Kelly said. "I think he took full responsibility for what needs to happen at that position. I think that's really the most important thing."
Cleaning up his game is the next step. Against a Northwestern defense that's given up just 210 passing yards a game, Golson may be facing a struggling Wildcat team but one that's strength will match up head-to-head with the Irish passing attack.
After seeing his first true on-field adversity, now Golson's job is to turn things around. Rees went through similar situations in his sometimes rocky career in South Bend. And he thinks Golson will come out of it just fine.
"I believed in my ability, believed in the process, and leaned on my teammates and just dove further into football," Rees said. "Ev will handle it fine. Confidence is no issue for him, he’ll bounce back strong."
That's life as Notre Dame's quarterback. And even if Notre Dame's disappointing removal from the College Football Playoff isn't all Golson's fault, it all comes back to the man in the middle of the offense.
"I'm proud of the way he's handled the scrutiny of being under the bright lights of the turnovers," Kelly said. "I said that in the press conference he's responsible for all the turnovers. But that's not to mean that he's to be blamed for all of the turnovers."
A closer look will implicate guys like Ronnie Stanley and Christian Lombard—two veteran offensive linemen who failed to execute blocks on Arizona State's offensive linemen and to turn batted passes into interceptions—or senior tight end Ben Koyack, who has played a lot of good snaps this season but quite a few bad ones last Saturday.
But you don't read cries for Hunter Bivin or Mike McGlinchey taking over the Internet or reasons for Durham Smythe and Tyler Luatua to get a jump-start on their careers now.
The last Notre Dame quarterback to get out of South Bend unscathed will be the first one. So welcome to the club, Everett Golson.
Now get back to winning football games.
*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.
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The most anticipated weekend of college football came and went last Saturday, but don't think for a second that things are about to slow down.
With one-loss Oregon jumping undefeated Florida State in the latest College Football Playoff poll, the selection committee has shown it's not going to follow the same old formula. In other words, every game is a chance to impress, even if a team has one or two losses.
From Mississippi State's showdown with Alabama to a pair of critical Big Ten battles, there's a lot happening in Week 12. Which storylines are the ones to watch? The answers are in the following slides.
The only criteria here is that teams mentioned have to be in the latest CFP Top 25.
While the top two games of Week 12 involve the SEC, that doesn’t mean there aren’t exciting matchups elsewhere across the college football landscape.
Anything can happen on any given Saturday. And as the playoff looms, every game is important.
No. 1 Mississippi State hits the road to take on No. 5 Alabama in a much-anticipated matchup. Dan Mullen has never beaten Nick Saban as head coach of the Bulldogs. Will 2014 be the year he gets revenge thanks to Dak Prescott?
The other major Saturday SEC showdown is the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry, as No. 15 Georgia hosts No. 9 Auburn. The game marks Todd Gurley's return, which could mean bad news for the Tigers. Of course, that’s contingent on the Bulldogs being able to stop Nick Marshall and Co.
In the Big Ten, No. 16 Nebraska looks to gain some respect from the playoff selection committee when the Huskers battle No. 20 Wisconsin. Which Heisman contender will lead his team to victory: Ameer Abdullah or Melvin Gordon?
And in the ACC, two key matchups take place on Saturday. In the afternoon, No. 22 Georgia Tech will host No. 19 Clemson, and at night, No. 3 Florida State hits the road to challenge an unranked Miami (Florida) team hungry to prove its worth with the national spotlight thrust upon it.
Ben Kercheval took back full control of his lead among our experts. What will Week 12 have in store? Who will come out on top?
Let us know your picks in the comments below!
Reminder: Our experts are picking the top five Saturday games against the spread.
Odds via opening lines at Odds Shark.
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Now more than two-thirds of the way through the regular season, enough time has passed that we can give fair grades to the top 10 players from the 2014 recruiting class.
Who has lived up to expectations? Who has surpassed them? Who has not had the season we all had hoped?
To be clear: This article is grading the top 10 prospects from the 247Sports composite rankings. It is not my own subjective ranking of the 10 best freshmen in the country. Grading the 10 best freshmen would be asinine, since all of them—by definition—have been great.
Instead, this piece is looking back at the 10 freshmen with the highest ratings before the season and grading how they've fared in Year 1. The grades were based on production and how they've looked on film and did not give weight to the size of preseason expectations.
Sound off below to let us know which top-10 freshman has had the best debut season.
The saga of Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston took another turn Wednesday, as his previously scheduled student code of conduct hearing has been postponed.
The news was initially reported by Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times:
Rachel Axon of USA Today breaks down how Winston will likely be able to avoid the hearing until after Florida State's football season concludes:
The hearing relates to allegations that Winston sexually assaulted an FSU student in 2012. Although the star signal-caller was not charged with a crime, he was set to face university officials the week of Nov. 17.
According to ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach, the postponement was requested by the Heisman Trophy winner's attorney:
The reason given was so that Winston and his legal team would have more time to prepare, per Baker:
Pushing the hearing back certainly increases the chances of Winston completing the 2014 season.
The Seminoles have just three regular-season games remaining, and they are currently in position to qualify for the College Football Playoff with a record of 9-0.
Florida State could play as many as three postseason games, including the ACC Championship Game and two potential CFP contests.
Discipline against Winston before the end of the season is still possible if he is found to be in violation of the code of conduct when the hearing ultimately does take place, though that remains to be seen.
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