NCAA Football News

Sun Bowl 2014: Odds, Schedule and Prediction for Arizona State vs. Duke

The 2014 Sun Bowl features a devilish faceoff between Arizona State and Duke. Both teams fared well during the regular season, earning 9-3 records; however, a few tough games took them out of contention in their respective conferences.

The Sun Devils boast a well-balanced offense that ranks 19th in the nation, scoring an average of 37.0 points per game. Although, the team's defense has been rather inconsistent, putting together strong performances against Stanford and Utah but collapsing against UCLA and Arizona.

The Blue Devils have been winning games due to a sturdy defense. Ranked 21st in the nation, Duke is allowing an average of just 20.6 points per contest. Unfortunately, an inconsistent offense led to a couple of late-season losses against Virginia Tech and North Carolina.

Arizona State is coming off a loss against Arizona and will be looking for a bounce-back victory, while Duke won its season finale against Wake Forest and will attempt to ride that momentum to a Sun Bowl title.

 

Viewing Information

When: Saturday, December 27

Where: Sun Bowl in El Paso, TX

Time: 2 p.m. ET

Channel: CBS

Live Stream: CBSSports.com

Betting Info (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 65
  • Spread: Arizona State -7.5

 

Preview and Prediction

Senior quarterback Taylor Kelly will get the start for the Sun Devils Saturday against Duke, marking the last time he will take to the field for Arizona State. Kelly missed three games earlier this season, but he still managed to throw for 1,874 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions on the year.

Kelly should be looking for some redemption in the Sun Bowl, as he was benched during the team's regular-season finale after completing 13 of his 22 passing attempts for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Although, the quarterback didn't get much help from running back D.J. Foster, who averaged just 2.6 yards per carry in that contest.

Foster's had a bit of a roller-coaster season, starting red hot and rushing for more than 140 yards in each of his first three games; however, he eclipsed the century mark just one more time on the year. Still, much of his value comes in the passing game, as he's caught 59 passes for 646 yards and three scores.

Although, if this offense is going to get moving, it must force-feed wide receiver Jaelen Strong. The junior pass-catcher has been phenomenal this season, accumulating four games of more than 100 receiving yards and totaling 75 receptions for 1,062 yards and 10 touchdowns despite missing one contest.

Duke has been very good against the pass this season, ranking 34th in the nation and allowing an average of just 204.0 yards per game through the air. The Blue Devils have also limited opponents to a total of 12 passing touchdowns in 12 games, making this secondary a very formidable opponent for Kelly and Co.

The Blue Devils don't have the most prolific offense in the nation, ranking 81st in passing yards, 46th in rushing yards and 44th in points scored, but senior quarterback Anthony Boone has protected the ball much better this year, lowering his interception total down to seven, compared to tossing 13 in 2013.

While his interception total dropped, so did his completion percentage. He's connecting just 56.9 percent of the time, and he's amassed 2,507 yards and 17 touchdowns. Boone will have his hands full against an Arizona State team that loves to blitz, ranking seventh in the nation with 39 sacks on the season.

Duke's offensive line has been very good against the pass rush this season, allowing just 13 sacks; however, the team will be tested by a defense that loves to dial up exotic blitz packages. Expect Boone to circumvent the pressure with plenty of underneath routes to speedy wide receiver Jamison Crowder.

The Blue Devils have a very strong defense; however, it's difficult to trust in that unit due to its inconsistent play over the back half of the season. Arizona State has plenty of offensive weapons capable of moving the chains and putting just enough points on the board to come away with the win.

Prediction: Arizona State 30, Duke 24

 

All team statistics and rankings courtesy of NCAA.com and current as of December 26.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Holiday Bowl 2014: Odds, Schedule and Prediction for Nebraska vs. USC

The 2014 Holiday Bowl should be one of the most exciting non-New Year's Day games of the season, as a prolific USC aerial attack takes on Nebraska's punishing ground game in a potential shootout that shouldn't have trouble captivating the nation.

Nebraska is led into the game by its 17th-ranked rushing attack. The Cornhuskers have been an extremely well-rounded team this season; however, they suffered a disappointing conclusion to their regular season, dropping games to Wisconsin and Minnesota before just barely edging Iowa in the finale. That led to the firing of head coach Bo Pelini.

USC's potent passing game has torched plenty of squads in 2014, capping off the regular season with a decisive 49-14 victory over Notre Dame. Although, the Trojans have been inconsistent this year, collapsing in all phases of the game against Boston College, Arizona State and UCLA. Consistency will be necessary to close out the year with a win over a tough Nebraska team.

So, will the high-flying Pac-12 squad best the ground-and-pound style of the Big Ten representative? As we await the answer to that question, here's a look at the game's viewing information, updated odds and final prediction.

 

Viewing Information

When: Saturday, December 27

Where: Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, CA

Time: 8 p.m. ET

Channel: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Betting Info (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 62
  • Spread: USC -7

 

Preview and Prediction

Nebraska has been riding senior running back Ameer Abdullah all season long. The talented ball-carrier rushed 237 times for 1,523 yards and 18 touchdowns, averaging 6.4 yards per carry on the year. However, his production dropped off significantly over the season's final four games, as he eclipsed the 100-yard mark once and scored one touchdown in that span.

Abdullah was part of the Heisman discussion early in the season, eclipsing the 200-yard mark three times and scoring 14 rushing touchdowns in a five-game span. Unfortunately, he was set back with a knee injury the following week against Purdue and didn't appear to be back in form until the final game of the season.

The Cornhuskers must get Abudllah going early and often against a very good USC defense that ranks 27th in the nation against the run, allowing an average of 132.5 yards per game. Still, the Trojans have been exposed by a strong running game before, and rest assured Nebraska is closely taking a look at how Boston College managed to rack up 452 rushing yards on USC.

USC's recipe for success will be maintaining a balanced offense that features both quarterback Cody Kessler and running back Javorius Allen.

Kessler has been one of the nation's most prolific signal-callers this season, completing 70.7 percent of his passes for 3,505 yards, 36 touchdowns and four interceptions. He concluded the regular season in a big way, torching Notre Dame for 372 passing yards and six touchdowns.

Much of Kessler's success can be attributed to wide receiver Nelson Agholor. The junior pass-catcher has been putting on a clinic all season long, racking up 97 receptions for 1,223 yards and 11 touchdowns. He finished his season with a bang, eclipsing the 100-yard receiving mark five times in his last six games.

This passing offense will be tested by the Cornhuskers. Nebraska boasts the nation's 26th-ranked pass defense, allowing an average of just 196.3 yards per game. Although, some of that can be due to playing in the run-heavy Big Ten, as Nebraska is also allowing an average of 12.33 yards per completion.

Still, getting Allen going out of the backfield will be necessary to help open up passing lanes for Kessler. Allen is averaging 5.3 yards per carry this season, rushing 250 times for 1,337 yards and nine touchdowns. A dual-threat back, he's also racked up 40 receptions for 442 yards and another score.

Stopping the run isn't a strong suit for the Cornhuskers, as they rank 77th in the nation and allow an average of 176.5 yards per game on the ground and 4.67 yards per carry. If Allen can get off to a hot start, the Trojans offense will be difficult to slow down.

While both of these teams are dynamic in their own right, the upper hand here has to go to USC. The Trojans are the more well-rounded of the two teams, and their versatility will prove to be the difference-maker in the Holiday Bowl.

Prediction: USC 38, Nebraska 28

 

All team statistics and rankings courtesy of NCAA.com and current as of December 26.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Independence Bowl 2014: Odds, Schedule, Prediction for Miami vs. South Carolina

The 2014 Independence Bowl features two of the nation's most enigmatic teams in Miami and South Carolina.

The Hurricanes have produced a roller-coaster season, looking great in games against Duke, Cincinnati and Virginia Tech, but struggling in contests against Georgia Tech, Virginia and Pittsburgh. Miami rode a solid running game and defense through most of the season, but it fell apart late, losing its final three contests and finishing with a 6-6 record.

South Carolina earned a preseason top-25 ranking, but that didn't last long after a Week 1 drubbing at the hands of Texas A&M. Still, the Gamecocks managed to produce several good performances this season, highlighted by a 38-35 victory over Georgia. This has been a solid offensive team this year, but it's defense has given up plenty of points en route to a 6-6 standing.

Both of these teams are coming off losses, and each would love to finish their respective disappointing seasons on a high note by winning the Independence Bowl.

 

Viewing Information

When: Saturday, December 27

Where: Independence Stadium in Shreveport, LA

Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

Channel: ABC

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Betting Info (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 61
  • Spread: Miami -3.5

 

Preview and Prediction

If Miami is to come away with a big win against South Carolina, it needs to get running back Duke Johnson going early and often. He's been the team's offensive catalyst this season when given the opportunity.

On the season, Johnson has carried 218 times for 1,520 yards, an average of 7.0 yards per rush, and 10 touchdowns. A viable receiver out of the backfield, he's also reeled in 33 catches for 370 yards and three additional scores.

Consistent production has made Johnson so valuable this year, as he's averaged no less than 4.5 yards per carry in any single contest. Unfortunately, his usage hasn't been as consistent. He rushed just 18 times while quarterback Brad Kaaya attempted 45 passes in a 35-23 loss to Pittsburgh to end the regular season.

Considering South Carolina owns the nation's 107th-ranked run defense, allowing an average of 214.4 rushing yards per game and a total of 28 rushing touchdowns, the Hurricanes would be wise to ensure Johnson gets a very healthy workload.

Gamecocks quarterback Dylan Thompson has been a little erratic this season. He's thrown for 3,280 yards and 24 touchdowns, but he's accompanied those numbers with 11 interceptions. The senior struggles more when asked to pass more often, throwing eight interceptions in the seven games he attempted 37 or more passes.

Making matters worse for Thompson, Miami owns the nation's 10th-ranked pass defense, allowing an average of just 184.1 yards per game through the air. While Miami has been solid against the run as well, ranking 38th in the nation in that category, South Carolina needs to get its ground game going to circumvent a strong secondary.

The Gamecocks have two very talented backs in Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds. Both are averaging at least 5.0 yards per carry this season, and considering the strengths and weaknesses of its upcoming opponent, South Carolina should be aiming to produce more of a run-heavy offense on Saturday.

This one all comes down to the matchups. The way things currently stand, Miami appears more capable of exploiting South Carolina's weaknesses than the other way around. Expect a big day from the Hurricanes backfield, as they take the Independence Bowl.

Prediction: Miami 31, South Carolina 24

 

All team rankings and statistics courtesy of NCAA.com and current as of December 26.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pinstripe Bowl 2014: Full Predictions for Boston College vs. Penn State

There won't be any baseballs on the field at Yankee Stadium on Saturday.

Football will be played in The House That Ruth Built this weekend, as Boston College squares off against Penn State in the 2014 New Era Pinstripe Bowl. The field made the successful transition from baseball to football, as the Nittany Lions' official Twitter account posted:

This year's installment of the Pinstripe Bowl features two teams with two competing strengths. The Eagles run the ball extremely well. The Nittany Lions defend the run extremely well—better than anyone else in the country, in fact.

Will the Eagles be able to muster any offense if Penn State can shut down the run game? You'll have to tune into the game to find out. In the meantime, check out some predictions below.

 

Penn State Will Stifle Ground Game

Penn State was tops in the country against the run, allowing a measly 84.6 yards per game. Despite BC's success on the ground (251.8 yards per game), one would think that it'd lead to an alteration of the game plan heading into play.

Andy Gallik, a senior offensive lineman, told Spencer Fordin of MLB.com that the Eagles will stick to the same strategy that got them here in the first place:

"We're going to run the ball just like we always have. We're going to run it right at them, and we feel like that's how we're most comfortable and most effective. That's going to set up passing situations where Tyler Murphy is going to make a lot of plays for us. It's going to be a really tough game."

BC has run for over 3,000 yards as a team this season. Averaging 5.1 yards per carry and scoring 29 touchdowns, seven different ball-carriers have contributed to the offense's success.

Leading the way is Murphy, a senior who thrives as a dual-threat quarterback. He rushed for 1,079 yards and 10 touchdowns while averaging 6.4 yards per rush. 

But Jon Hilliman is also a threat, having scored 12 touchdowns in as many games.

Regardless, no team in the country is better prepared to face the Eagles' run game than the Nittany Lions.

They've allowed just 247 rushing yards in their past three contests. That's largely because of three stalwarts on the defense, as Rich Thompson of the Boston Herald writes:

"Mike Hull, the Big Ten linebacker of the year, is the central nervous system of this elite unit. Hull led the Lions with 134 tackles with 10.5 for a loss. [Head coach James] Franklin employs a 4-3 defensive formation and Hull is flanked on the second layer by sophomore Brandon Bell and junior Nyeem Wartman."

The linebackers will prove instrumental to Penn State's success against BC on the ground. While BC's stellar offensive line will work to block off the oncoming defensive linemen, it will be up to the linebackers to find holes and get into the backfield.

Of course, a linebacker also must be left to spy on Murphy, as he'll take off on plays that aren't designed runs. He takes what the defense gives him, and his ability to adapt to pressure is unmatched by most in the nation.

But the linebacking unit of Penn State is a surer bet than BC's run game. A general rule of thumb is that defense wins championships. The Nittany Lions aren't playing for anything too prestigious on Saturday, but their defense will carry them in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Look for them to hold BC far below their season average of 250-plus yards on the ground.

 

Neither Team Will Score Over 21

Penn State's defense isn't the only suffocating unit in this matchup. We'd be remiss to not give BC any recognition.

As the accompanying graphic shows, BC's defense also ranks highly. The Eagles aren't as well-rounded as the Nittany Lions, but the unit is still one of the stronger ones around. That means offense will be at a minimum.

Let's go back to Penn State's defense for a moment. Assuming the team successful stops the run, the only worry is Murphy as a passer. That's something he's just pedestrian at. He completed just 56.9 percent of his passes on the year for 1,526 yards, 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Shutting down the run forces BC to pass, and the Eagles won't be able to win if that's the case. Murphy is a talented athlete, but he's not the type of quarterback you can lean on to win games with his arm.

He isn't capable of making all the passes required of a top-notch quarterback. Keep him in the pocket, and you'll find success as a defense.

On the other side, Christian Hackenberg has been even more unimpressive. He completed only 54.4 percent of his passes for 2,606 yards, eight touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Granted, he spent most of his time scrambling around because his young offensive line had problems preventing pass-rushers from getting into the backfield.

Neither Hackenberg nor Murphy scream "difference-maker" as a quarterback.

Assuming BC holds its own against the run game of Penn State—who only averaged 103.7 yards per game on the ground—this could very well be a game decided by a defensive score.

 

Prediction

All things considered, this is going to be one heck of a game.

There's a place for offensive shootouts, like the one we saw in the 2014 Bahamas Bowl between Western Kentucky and Central Michigan.

But a matchup that pits two defensive powerhouses together will always have a place during bowl season. Penn State and BC are two of the more well-known programs in the country, and they'll put on a show for those in attendance and those at home.

Hackenberg and Murphy are not good passers, but it'll ultimately come down to which quarterback can make the throws necessary to sustain drives and score touchdowns.

Hackenberg's tendency to throw multiple interceptions in a game (something he did five times this season) puts Penn State at a disadvantage. All it takes is one score to win a game, and it's clear that BC's persistence running the ball will eventually open something up in the passing game.

All Murphy needs to do is convert on a few passes here and there.

Prediction: Boston College 17, Penn State 16

 

Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @kennydejohn 

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Military Bowl 2014: Odds, Schedule, Prediction for Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech

Expect to see a big clash of styles when the Cincinnati Bearcats face off against the Virginia Tech Hokies in the 2014 Military Bowl.

Cincinnati enters the contest with a 9-3 record and riding a seven-game winning streak. The Bearcats struggled at times on the defensive side of the ball throughout the season, but their offense carried them through, scoring at least 34 points in six of their last seven games.

Virginia Tech hasn't been able to get much going on the offensive side of the ball this season, but it has been very sound defensively, allowing an average of just 20.4 points per game. While the Hokies just barely made the postseason at 6-6, their crowning achievement in the regular season came in the form of a 35-21 victory over Ohio State.

Will Virginia Tech's defense continue to step up, or will Cincinnati's offense rise to the occasion? Before we receive the answer to that question, here's a look at the game's viewing information, updated odds and final prediction.

 

Viewing Information

When: Saturday, December 27

Where: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, MD

Time: 1 p.m. ET

Channel: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Betting Info (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 51
  • Spread: Cincinnati -2.5

 

Preview and Prediction

Quarterback Gunner Kiel has been the driving force for the Cincinnati offense this season. He's completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 3,010 yards, 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this year, leading the Bearcats to the nation's 12th-ranked passing attack.

Kiel is surrounded by a deep receiving corps, as Mekale McKay, Shaq Washington and Max Morrison have all accumulated more than 40 receptions this season. The reliable Washington leads the group in catches with 61, while McKay has been more of a big-play threat, leading the team with 690 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

Cincinnati's passing attack is very potent, but it will be severely challenged on Saturday. The Hokies own the nation's 15th-ranked pass defense, allowing an average of just 186.8 yards per game through the air. One big reason for the team's success against the pass has been a phenomenal pass rush that has accumulated 46 sacks this year, ranking second in the nation.

Although, Cincinnati's offensive line has been very good in pass protection this season, allowing just 16 sacks, so expect a big battle in the trenches in the Military Bowl.

If Virginia Tech is going to generate offense, it must be through the air. The Hokies haven't been able to get anything going on the ground this season, and their best hope remains on the arm of quarterback Michael Brewer.

The junior signal-caller completed 59.5 percent of his passes for 2,598 yards and 17 touchdowns this year; however, he's also tossed 14 interceptions. Although, 10 of those picks were thrown over his first five games, and he showed better ball security over the second half of the season.

Cincinnati has been dreadful against the pass this year, ranking 109th in the nation and allowing 266.3 yards per game, as well as 21 passing touchdowns in just 12 contests. They're coming off a 38-31 victory over Houston after allowing 360 passing yards to Cougars quarterback Greg Ward Jr.

While the Bearcats have been prolific at times on offense this season, going up against a Virginia Tech defense that ranks 16th in yards allowed and 18th in points against won't lead to many points. Meanwhile, Brewer and Co. have the ability to completely take advantage of Cincinnati's porous secondary, gain an early lead and maintain it with solid defensive play.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Cincinnati 24

 

All team statistics and rankings courtesy of NCAA.com and current as of December 26.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Sugar Bowl 2015: Individual Matchups to Watch in Alabama vs. Ohio State

Many are expecting Alabama to cruise to victory over Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. However, the outcome of this highly anticipated showdown will come down to a few key battles.

While football is a team sport, each person on the field has to do his job to help win a game. In a tough matchup like this one, a few players have an even bigger role to take on the tough challenges of All-Conference players at just about every position.

These players in particular will have to do their jobs to help their team win in the College Football Playoff.

 

Cam Robinson vs. Joey Bosa

Joey Bosa might just be a sophomore, but he has been one of the most dominant players in college football this season.

Senior Bowl director Phil Savage had great things to say about the Ohio State defensive end:

Meanwhile, Bleacher Report's Ben Axelrod noted that most of the country agrees with the player's abilities on the field:

Along with tackles Michael Bennett and Adolphus Washington, Ohio State has one of the best defensive lines in the nation. This will be a serious challenge for all of Alabama to try to handle in the Sugar Bowl.

While right tackle Austin Shepherd will see a lot of Bosa, the real challenge will be whether freshman Cam Robinson can live up to the challenge on the left side of the line. The Louisiana native has done a great job of protecting Blake Sims' blind side to this point, but stopping Bosa will be another story.

If he can't contain the All-American, the Crimson Tide will have a tough time moving the football in this one.

 

Devin Smith vs. Landon Collins

Ohio State doesn't always have the most consistent offense, but it can score in a hurry with a big play from out of nowhere. In a lot of cases, Devin Smith is the one coming through with a long touchdown.

Smith finished the Big Ten Championship Game with three scores, each of which going at least 39 yards. Although he only has one game of more than four receptions, he has an incredible eight catches for over 40 yards on the year.

If he is able to break a few of these against Alabama, the Buckeyes will be able to keep up on the scoreboard.

The person capable of stopping this is Crimson Tide safety Landon Collins. While he likely won't be lining up directly opposite Smith, he will need to cover the field to prevent any open opportunities down the field.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller believes he has this ability:

Collins will have a lot of responsibilities in this game, but one of the safety's biggest jobs will be to keep anyone from getting any easy touchdowns.

 

Ezekiel Elliott vs. Reggie Ragland

The pressure is certainly on quarterback Cardale Jones in this game, but the Ohio State offense runs through Ezekiel Elliott. Going into the bowl game, he has 1,402 rushing yards on the year, including 220 in the Big Ten game.

Buckeyes offensive line coach Ed Warinner explained his thoughts on the young running back, via Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated:

All the ingredients were there. We just had to wait and see what happened. [...] 

He was very talented and explosive, but he was obviously young and, playing wise, inexperienced. We had to see how he would handle those situations -- the week-to-week grind and the physical stress that puts on you.

It will take the entire front seven to help contain Elliott in this game, but Reggie Ragland will be the one expected to do the heavy lifting. The linebacker might not have the same press as past Alabama defenders like C.J. Mosley or Rolando McClain, but he still ranks second on the team with 88 tackles.

Ragland has the ability to cover sideline to sideline, and he has to prove it to slow down the rushing attack and keep the Buckeyes off the scoreboard.

 

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

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Rose Bowl 2015: Individual Matchups to Watch in Oregon vs. FSU

 

While dozens of players will help decide the 2015 Rose Bowl, a few key performances will make the real difference in this one.

Florida State and Oregon have taken different paths to the national semifinals, but there is no denying the amount of talent on both sides of the ball. Many of these players will be competing on Sundays in the future with others being stars at the college level.

This game will come down to which big-time players can win their individual battles to help give their team an advantage. Here is a look at the biggest matchups to watch in the Rose Bowl.

 

Hroniss Grasu vs. Eddie Goldman

Florida State defensive tackle Eddie Goldman was injured against Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game, and it almost cost the Seminoles the game. The Yellow Jackets were able to run all day long without a force causing problems in the middle.

The good news is he should be healthy in the Rose Bowl, which is bad news for the Ducks. 

Of course, one person that can take the tackle out of the game is Oregon center Hroniss Grasu. The second-team AP All-American has been a major part of the team's success this season with his ability to control the offensive line and clear space in the middle.

Unfortunately, he has been out since injuring his foot on Nov. 8. The hope is he can return for the upcoming game and help lead the Oregon offense the way he has earlier in the year.

If only one of these two players is healthy, it will give their team a huge advantage in this one. If both are in the game, however, the winner of this will have a big impact on Oregon's rushing attack.

 

Rashad Greene vs. Troy Hill

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu has been one of the top cornerbacks in the nation for Oregon, but he will miss the Rose Bowl after suffering a knee injury in practice.

As a result, Troy Hill will have to step up to be the No. 1 option in the Ducks secondary. While the senior has been overshadowed by his teammate in the past, he still has the ability to shut down an opponent's best player.

Matt Prehm of 247 Sports thinks Hill has this type of talent:

Still, this will not be an easy task against Rashad Greene. The senior has been one of the most productive players in college football over the past two years, and this season ranks eighth in the nation with 1,306 receiving yards.

Greene has become a game-changing player and a reliable option for Jameis Winston whenever Florida State needs a big play.

Hill needs to find a way to slow down Greene and limit the Seminoles' best option in the passing attack.

 

Marcus Mariota vs. Jalen Ramsey

Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota has put together an outstanding career at Oregon and this season has separated himself from the rest of the country. This year, his efficiency has been through the roof with 38 passing touchdowns and just two interceptions.

Besides his physical abilities, Mariota helps himself by doing his research on his opponents. The bad news is he sees a real challenge in Florida State safety Jalen Ramsey, via Natalie Pierre of AL.com:

I mean, Ramsey, if you just watch him on film is one of those types of guys that will single-handedly turn a drive and stop it. He's a great player, he's gonna make his plays; we just gotta continue to be ourselves and try to execute against those guys.

Ramsey is one of the best defensive playmakers in the nation and he always has a way to be near the football. He heads into the bowl season with 75 tackles, including three sacks and 9.5 for loss. He also makes a huge impact in the passing game with two interceptions and 13 passes defended.

Quarterbacks always have to know where he is on the field in order to be successful.

Mariota is arguably the best player in the nation at any position, but even he can end up struggling if he isn't ready for Ramsey.

 

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

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