NCAA Football News

College Football Bowl Picks 2013: Predictions for Best Remaining Non-BCS Games

There have been six bowl games played thus far in the college football postseason, so as the holiday action on the gridiron continues, there are still plenty of marquee matchups to look forward to.

And those don't even include the BCS bowls. A number of ranked teams will be doing battle within the next couple of weeks and should make for some compelling entertainment.

Below is a look at the best non-BCS games left on the schedule and predictions for them, along with a list of picks for every remaining contest.

Note: Team statistics are courtesy of NCAA.com. Individual defensive statistics were obtained via CFBStats.com.

 

Chick-fil-A Bowl (Dec. 31, 2013): No. 21 Texas A&M vs. No. 24 Duke

The good news is that sophomore sensation Johnny Manziel has had some time to recuperate from putting the Texas A&M program on his back.

Manziel succeeded in compensating for a horrendous defense for much of 2013, but his performance dropped off in the final two contests—both Aggies losses.

As if the outlook couldn't get any worse for the No. 105-ranked Texas A&M defense, freshman middle linebacker Darian Claiborne won't be making the trip to Atlanta's Georgia Dome due to a suspension.

Duke is no cakewalk, either, because the Blue Devils—the loss in the ACC title game to No. 1 Florida State aside—have improved a ton this season and have enough weapons on offense to be a force in this game.

Wide receiver Jamison Crowder (96 receptions, seven touchdowns) is a dynamic punt returner in addition to being an amazing target for QB Anthony Boone.

However, with the time Manziel has had to mend and with this being his last chance at making an impression on NFL scouts, expect the Johnny Football legend to grow in one (probably) last virtuoso performance in an Aggies victory.

Prediction: Texas A&M 38, Duke 31

 

Capital One Bowl (Jan. 1, 2014): No. 9 South Carolina vs. No. 19 Wisconsin

Speaking of top-flight prospective NFL players getting their last chance to impress evaluators, that goes for some notable players in this bowl game and obviously Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

The 6'6", 275-pound freak of an athlete has had a bit of a lackluster 2013 campaign (35 total tackles, three sacks and one forced fumble). This matchup presents a chance to go out with a bang.

NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah weighed in with a Dec. 9 piece discussing the top bowl games NFL scouts will be keeping an eye on:

Now that he's had time to rest and heal, will Clowney show improved effort? I'm not that concerned about the drop in Clowney's production. He still puts his imprint on every game because opposing teams devote extra resources to slowing him down. However, I am a little concerned about the up/down motor he's displayed.

Not only is Badgers QB Joel Stave deceptively elusive, but he also has one of the most consistent, sizable offensive lines protecting him. Plus, Stave has the electric running back tandem of Melvin Gordon and James White to hand the ball to.

A big loss for South Carolina is that of Damiere Byrd, the team's second-leading receiver who averaged 17.6 yards per catch on 33 receptions this season.

The onus will be even more on Gamecocks running back Mike Davis to carry the load offensively, but Wisconsin has the sixth-ranked rush defense in the country, while USC's is 33rd.

Given the depth of the Badgers backfield with White, Gordon and even freshman Corey Clement (515 yards, seven TDs), this physical Big Ten foe has all the elements to knock off its SEC adversary in Orlando.

Prediction: Wisconsin 24, South Carolina 20

 

Cotton Bowl (Jan. 3, 2014): No. 8 Missouri vs. No. 13 Oklahoma State

Until the SEC Championship Game loss to Auburn, Mizzou hadn't lost a game all season with senior James Franklin under center.

That game wasn't Franklin's fault, either, because he was unable to play defense and threw for 303 yards and three touchdowns while running for 62 yards and another score.

There is a bit of a geographic advantage for the Cowboys, who will have the benefit of closer proximity in playing at the Dallas Cowboys' NFL stadium.

Oklahoma State is coming off a crushing loss in Stillwater to Oklahoma, though, so it will be interesting to see how Mike Gundy's bunch responds to the adversity.

The inconsistent accuracy of Cowboys QB Clint Chelf showed itself against the Sooners, and he won't have a much easier time when he goes up against the likes of Kony Ealy, Michael Sam and a terrifying Tigers front seven.

Mizzou got lit up on the ground by Auburn and will be eager to prove itself on this grand stage and justify its status as still being a top-10 team—even after this massive turnaround catalyzed by head coach Gary Pinkel.

Cornerback Justin Gilbert is a great player, but the Cowboys' 86th-ranked pass defense is a sign of their overall shaky secondary. Gilbert alone won't be enough to account for the Tigers' plethora of sizable targets in L'Damian Washington (6'4", 205), Dorial Green-Beckham (6'6", 225) and Marcus Lucas (6'5", 220).

Combine that with the balance provided by Franklin's mobility and running back Henry Josey (13 rushing TDs), and the Tigers have too much firepower for Oklahoma State to keep up with.

Prediction: Missouri 35, Oklahoma State 17

 

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Marshall vs. Maryland: Preview and Prediction for 2013 Military Bowl

Everything was going great for the Maryland Terrapins until Oct. 5. That's the day the team was blasted 63-0 by the Florida State Seminoles. The Terrapins were 4-0 heading in but left Tallahassee, Fla., with a dented record and pride.

The team lost three of its next four games but still managed to finish 7-5 and found its way into a bowl game.

The Marshall Thundering Herd's season didn't have as many bumps—though it didn't include a date with the No. 1 team in the nation. Head coach Doc Holliday led his team to a 9-4 record. The Thundering Herd won five of their last six games to earn them a spot in the postseason.

Marshall and Maryland will try to end their seasons on a winning note at the 2013 Military Bowl from the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md.

Here's the viewing information and some deeper analysis into the matchup.

 

When: Dec. 27, 2:30 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN

 

Players to Watch

Rakeem Cato, QB - Marshall

The Conference USA Player of the Year is an explosive dual threat. He's thrown for 36 touchdown passes and run for six. 

He's the conductor of the Thundering Herd's well-balanced attack. Marshall scores 43 points per contest and its running game is ranked 22nd in the nation, while the passing game is ranked 21st.

Cato's ability to orchestrate this attack and maintain a fast pace is key. As he goes, so goes Marshall.

 

Marcus Whitfield, DE - Maryland

Whitfield has 3-4 outside linebacker written all over him. He's explosive off the edge and has recorded nine sacks this season.

The senior will be charged with getting pressure on Cato and disturbing the Thundering Herd's rhythm. If he can get into the backfield regularly, he'll impress scouts in his final game for the Terrapins and give his team a chance to win.

 

Key Stat

Turnovers

In Marshall's nine wins, the team is plus-eight in turnover margin. In its four losses, it is minus-six. That's a drastic difference and proof that teams must take the ball away to slow this offense down.

Maryland's chief objective should be forcing takeaways to disturb the flow and confidence of Marshall's offense.

 

Prediction

Cato and Marshall are just too explosive for Maryland. The Terrapins defense hasn't held a team under 20 points since September. There's little reason to believe the team has what it takes to stop Marshall's attack.

Over the last eight games, Maryland is scoring just 20.1 points per game. Without a ton of firepower, Maryland can't keep pace with Marshall.

Thundering Herd win 40-27.

 

Stat references per CFBStats.com

 

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Max Bullough Suspended by Michigan State for Rose Bowl vs. Stanford

With a huge game looming for the Michigan State Spartans, senior linebacker Max Bullough has been been suspended by the team for the Rose Bowl game against the Stanford Cardinal for violating team rules.

ESPN college football insider Brett McMurphy reported the suspension late on Dec. 25 in what was a huge surprise for Michigan State football fans:

As a senior leader of the defense, Bullough's suspension was a shocking blow to the team.  Matt Charboneau from The Detroit News tweeted out his reaction to the suspension:

The decision to suspend Bullough clearly says a lot about Mark Dantonio and the way he runs his program, as Scout.com's Mike Wilson pointed out:

Kevin Gehl of WLNS-TV provided a statement from head coach Dantonio on the suspension:

The Spartans have allowed just 12.7 points per game this season, which ranked fourth in the nation, also allowing just 248.2 total yards and 3.9 yards per play. But the loss of Bullough is a tough one, as he's had 76 total tackles with 9.5 of them going for a loss this season.

Of course, with this being his senior year, the suspension could hurt his NFL prospects as well. CBS Sports has Bullough as its 170th overall player and No. 9 inside linebacker for the 2014 draft, while Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller ranks him as his No. 6 inside linebacker and 126th overall player on his latest big board.

SI.com's Chris Burke still believes that Bullough has a future in the NFL:

Regardless, this is obviously a major loss for the Michigan State defense heading into the Rose Bowl against such a tough opponent, but the team will have to find a way to make up for his absence.

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Jackson Jeffcoat Is NFL-Ready After Facing Adversity with the Texas Longhorns

With the regular season completed, the 2013 fall graduation class commenced, and an Alamo Bowl battle ahead with the Oregon Ducks, senior Jackson Jeffcoat is NFL-ready after fighting adversity throughout his collegiate career as a member of the Texas Longhorns football team.

In four years, Jeffcoat suffered three devastating injuries and 20 painful losses. Or is it three painful injuries and 20 devastating losses?

Whatever the adjective may be, the noun is adversity.

While on the "40 Acres," Jeffcoat had three defensive coordinators. He's found recent success under Greg Robinson. He made adjustments with Manny Diaz. And he spent his first year with Will Muschamp, the defensive coach that recruited him.

In his freshman year, Jeffcoat played in the first six games. He recorded half-sack in the season opener against Rice. His first full sack came three weekends later in a shocking home loss to UCLA. Then came the Oklahoma game.

Jeffcoat had been making an impact on the defensive front. Though down 21-10 in the fourth quarter, the Longhorns were in fingertips' length of grabbing the momentum and making a comeback. It was 3rd-and-20, and the Longhorns defense made a huge stop.

But Jeffcoat's emotions got the best of him. See embedded video.

The freshman was flagged for a late hit on an Oklahoma lineman well after the play. Even though Jeffcoat's hot temper was quickly cooled by the Texas coaching staff (one of the last times it would be seen in his career), the Longhorns lost momentum and the game. 

Four games later Jeffcoat suffered his first injury that would cost him the next four. It was a sprained ankle, something that had bothered Jeffcoat while at Plano West High School. The injury suffered in a win over No. 5 Nebraska subtracted depth from a well-balanced defense littered with NFL prospects.

Jeffcoat faced his first setback while the team severely failed to reach expectations. A 5-7 season record brought changes to the Texas coaching staff that went to the BCS National Championship in the year before.

In his second year, Jeffcoat welcomed new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. It took time for the defensive end to adjust to Diaz's defensive style. In the seventh game of the season, Jeffcoat recorded his first sack.

From then he made huge strides.

He went on to record six sacks in the next six games and had 10 tackles against Missouri. But two games later, he ruptured his left pectoral muscle in the historic 27-25 win over Texas A&M.

It was his second collegiate injury, yet it didn't slow him down. With a bum shoulder and surgery looming at the end of the year, Jeffcoat picked up two sacks in a Holiday Bowl win against California showing his true grit, what the NFL is made of.

He then underwent a procedure to fix the shoulder in January 2012, reported by Christian Corona of SportsDay DFW. Around the time of surgery, the defensive end tweeted.

He understood adversity. It wasn't going to be an easy road ahead, but the man could handle it. The man did handle it.

The third season had arrived for the 6'5", 245-pound then-junior from Dallas, Texas. He was flourishing in 2012, recording four sacks in six games. He even recovered a key fumble for a touchdown in a matchup against Geno Smith and the West Virginia Mountaineers (see embedded video).

But in the next game, the Sooners slowed him down. And in that defeat, the Longhorns lost Jeffcoat to another shoulder injury, this time a right pectoral rupture, according to a team press release. His third injury in as many years. He was out for the remainder of the season.

Jeffcoat was projected preseason to go in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, per NFL analysts Rob Rang and Dan Brugler of CBS Sports, highlighted in a July 2012 article by Christian Corona of SportsDay DFW. Surely Jeffcoat was NFL-ready. But the injury was another step back, and Jeffcoat would return to school for his senior year.

In three years with the Longhorns, Jeffcoat had three injuries, and the team lost 16 losses. He could have packed it up and transferred. Look at former Longhorn quarterback Garrett Gilbert from the 2009 recruiting class. He left the program after a shoulder injury ended his third season in Austin.

After the struggles and injury, Gilbert decided to transfer. A statement was released by Gilbert and reported by Chuck Carlton and Kate Hairopoulos of SportsDay DFW saying, "I just think I’m at a point in my life where I need a fresh start."

Jeffcoat faced that same adversity. But he stayed put in Austin further highlighting his mental toughness and physical strength for NFL scouts to take note of.

"Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records," William Arthur Ward.

Now with one game remaining in his senior year, Jeffcoat has 73 total tackles and 12 sacks.

Comparing that to Longhorn greats in their last year: 31 more tackles and a half-sack more than former All-American and NFL Pro Bowler Brian Orakpo; five more tackles and three more sacks than second-round pick and current Oakland Raider Lamarr Houston; 36 more tackles and three more sacks than the current Vikings defensive end Brian Robison; and three tackles less and 3.5 sacks more than current NFL veteran and former first-team All-Big 12 defensive end Cory Redding.

Jeffcoat also racked up the end-of-the-season awards. He was named an Associated Press first-team All-American; he won the co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year; he earned a first-team All-Big 12; he was elected as a Walter Camp first-team All-American; and he was named winner of the 2013 Hendricks Award given to the best defensive end in the country.

But the statistics and honors earned don't stack up close enough to the strength and knowledge that Jeffcoat gained during his time in Austin. He was able to accomplish all the accolades in a stellar senior season after fighting off three aggravating injuries from the three years before. While some players diminish in the face of adversity, Jeffcoat fought it and won.

And finally, Jeffcoat graduated from the University of Texas in three-and-a-half years as he announced the outstanding accomplishment via Twitter.

As an early graduate, the Wonderlic test should be a breeze for Jeffcoat come the 2014 NFL combine.

If there's anything to take away from Jeffcoat's career filled with adversity at the University of Texas, it's that he's ready to make the next leap to the NFL gridiron.

Jackson Jeffcoat is currently projected by CBS Sports and NFL Draft Scout to go in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft. With a solid Alamo bowl and a strong NFL combine, he could boost himself into the first round.

 

Stats via Texassports.com

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Michigan Football: Why Landing Malik McDowell Is Imperative

For college football coaches, winning recruiting battles on their home turf is essential. There are very few things that frustrate coaches and fans alike more than losing elite talent to an out-of-state suitor, and the logic makes sense. 

With national signing day looming on the horizon, there's one recruit Brady Hoke and co. have to land: defensive tackle Malik McDowell of Southfield, Mich.

The 4-star recruit (and 33rd overall, according to Rivals.com) has great size at 6'7", 290 pounds, and as this film against crosstown rival Cass Tech shows, he's rock solid against the run and can get in the backfield in a hurry. The Wolverines rank 28th in the nation in rushing yards allowed, and while they've done a decent job slowing down opposing runners, adding a player like McDowell could propel them to the next level. 

Allen Trieu of Scout.com describes McDowell as having "a rare combination of size and athletic ability. He's a pure playmaker, disruptor and pass rusher. He has to continue to develop, but has an elite set of tools." Speaking of pass-rushing, the Wolverines could use a little help on that front. 

They rank just 69th in team sacks this season with an average of 1.9 per game, and they've been even worse in team tackles for a loss, where they currently rank 85th. They've consistently struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks without a blitz, which has to be a major concern for Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. 

If Michigan can snag McDowell, he'd join fellow 2014 defensive tackle and 4-star recruit Bryan Mone of Salt Lake City, Utah. Weighing in at a whopping 338 pounds with surprising lateral mobility, Mone and McDowell could become a menacing tandem in the middle.

The existing interior of the defensive line that will be battling for playing time next year is made up of nose tackles Ondre Pipkins and Richard Ash and defensive tackles Willie Henry, Ryan Glasgow, Henry Poggi and Chris Wormley. It's worth noting that Mattison's base defense, a 4-3 under, does have a nose tackle while a standard 4-3 doesn't. 

Defensive end Frank Clark will be the most tenured member of the defensive line in 2014, with him and Taco Charlton likely seeing the majority of snaps on the ends. 

They'll be a very young bunch in the middle, but a standout like McDowell could make a significant impact right away.

McDowell would also add much-needed depth to the defensive line and soften the blow of losing Da'Shawn Hand to Alabama. His commitment to Michigan would also move them up a few spots in the national recruiting race; ESPN.com (subscription required) currently has their 2014 class ranked 10th. Recruiting doesn't always directly foreshadow success, but Ohio State (subscription required) currently sits in the fifth spot. Surely the Wolverines staff would love to leapfrog them. 

As you'd expect, McDowell has a long list of major programs chasing his services. He's already visited Alabama and Florida and has scheduled visits to Ohio State, LSU and Florida State in January. Michigan State is also high on his list.

The good news for Michigan fans is that 247Sports.com's "Crystal Ball" feature gives the Wolverines an 82 percent chance of McDowell choosing Michigan. There's no doubt that landing McDowell would be a huge offseason win for the Wolverines. 

Don't miss the chance to watch McDowell in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 4 in San Antonio, Texas. 

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