NCAA Football News

USC Coaching Carousel: Top 10 Landing Spots for Clancy Pendergast

The prolonged quiet surrounding Clancy Pendergast's future at USC was disconcerting.

Ed Orgeron hardly grunted a syllable before Pat Haden officially replaced him with Steve Sarkisian following the UCLA letdown. After neutralizing Fresno State and their nation-leading passing attack, however, it seemed as though what happened in Vegas actually stayed there...abandoned at the buffet to ultimately be replaced by Justin Wilcox.

CBSSports' Bruce Feldman broke the imminent news that Sark's man from Washington is in, and USC's one-year defensive coordinator is out. With the forte of this new regime being offense, one would imagine stability and proven success being prioritized and maintained on the other side of the football. Incoming coaches package their staffs like an elementary school dodgeball draft at recess, but Pendergast's 5-2 scheme resurrected a Trojans defense that couldn't tackle a Song Girl or Stanford Tree in 2012.

Rather than reflecting on the emergence of Su'a Cravens and All-American Leonard Williams, or on his players' 35 sacks and No. 2 red-zone defense, Pendergast will now spend his New Year's Eve asking himself "Where to next?"

From his Super Bowl berth with the 2008 Arizona Cardinals to this 2013 campaign, the Phoenix native remains an unpublicized commodity who still struggles to maintain a job. Whether at the collegiate or professional level, his resume should warrant high demand and a hand-picked breakout opportunity.

In lieu of Bowl casualties and the NFL's upcoming Black Monday, let's reward Pendergast with interviews stemming from the pool of coaching vacancies readily available today.

Which defensive coordinator (or head coach) opening is hypothetically the best fit for him? Which would be the ones wisest to explore?

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Sugar Bowl: Power Ranking the Top 10 Plays of the BCS Era

The Alabama Crimson Tide will take on the Oklahoma Sooners in the final Sugar Bowl of the BCS era in the 2013-14 bowl season.

While the two crimson clubs will look to break into the list of best Sugar Bowl plays since the 1999 tilt between Ohio State and Texas A&M—they'll have to make an impressive effort to do so.

From the 2000 Sugar Bowl national title game to the 2013 upset by Louisville over Florida, the Superdome (and briefly the Georgia Dome) witnessed some incredible plays by squads fighting for BCS victories.

Click on for the list of the 10 best Sugar Bowl plays of the BCS era.

 

Note: Only actual Sugar Bowl games were considered, leaving the 2008 and 2012 national championship games out of consideration.

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Dontavius Russell to Auburn: Tigers Land 4-Star DT Prospect

Auburn received a commitment from one of the top defensive linemen in the 2014 class as Dontavius Russell has decided to join the Tigers.

Russell, himself, announced the decision on Twitter:

The Carrollton High School star originally committed to Georgia, but reopened his recruitment following the excitement of this year's Iron Bowl, according to Mike Herndon of Al.com. After taking some time to think it over, he finally made the switch. 

This is good for his new team as Russell is the 11th-best defensive tackle in the nation, plus the No. 140 prospect overall, according to 247 Sports' composite rankings.

The most impressive aspect right now is his overwhelming size, standing at 6'3" and 300 pounds. He already has the pure strength to outmuscle almost any offensive linemen his age and shed blocks with ease. 

Additionally, Russell has a great deal of explosiveness off the ball that allows him to burst through the line and penetrate into the backfield. Even when he does not make plays, he can still ruin the offensive game plan.

Of course, there are certainly areas to improve for just about every player coming out of high school, and Russell is no different. Chad Simmons of Scout.com provides insight on the defensive tackle's weaknesses:

He can improve his pad level though. He pops up a little too quickly at times. He is a better run stopper, but he can get penetration and help collapse the pocket...He can work on his flexibility and his lateral quickness.

Still, most of this is fixable over the next few years with coaching and practice. You cannot teach size or athleticism, which Russell already has plenty of, and this will ensure a great deal of success at the next level.

He even has the potential to play on Sundays if he is willing to put the work in to improve. Until then, he will simply try to help out his new team and try to get on the field as soon as possible. 

Auburn already had a strong recruiting class, but Russell's potential to be an anchor on the defensive side of the ball could make it one of the better classes in the country.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Fans Create Nick Saban Angel on Top of Christmas Tree

It's well known that Nick Saban is beloved in Alabama, but these fans took it to another level. They placed Nick Saban's face on an angel that topped their Christmas tree.

Perhaps Saban's recent contract extension with the Crimson Tide brought this family some extra cheer. 

If one was to walk into this household, there is no mistaking who he or she would think was responsible for the success of the Crimson Tide!

Thanks to Laken Litman of For The Win for the find.       

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

2015 No. 3 RB Jordan Scarlett Commits to FAU over FSU, Miami and Florida

The final frenzied stretch toward national signing day 2014 is just underway, but we've already been served with a stunning development in the 2015 recruiting cycle. Elite running back prospect Jordan Scarlett committed to Florida Atlantic on Friday, according to 247Sports reporter Luke Stampini.

The 4-star University School (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) star spurned several marquee BCS programs by pledging to the Owls. He holds offers from Florida, Alabama, Miami, Florida State and Auburn

Scarlett is rated the nation's No. 3 running back and No. 42 overall junior prospect in 247Sports' composite rankings. His decision will be viewed as a major head-scratcher by many, but the recruit has personal ties to the FAU program.

University School head coach Roger Harriott resigned this week, per Dieter Kurtenbach of the Sun Sentinel, accepting the role of running backs coach at FAU. He didn't waste any time making an impact in his new position, pulling a pledge from one of Florida's premier prospects.

Scarlett, a 5'10", 197-pound playmaker, provides a dynamic building block for the Owls' suddenly revitalized recruiting efforts. Former Arkansas assistant Charlie Partridge took over the program in mid-December and continues to piece together his coaching staff.

Although FAU currently holds a verbal commitment from Scarlett, the team must wait 14 months for him to sign a national letter of intent. Don't expect the heavyweight programs to pull off his trail in the aftermath of this unexpected development.

At the very least, it creates recruiting buzz around the Owls that didn't exist before. One of the Sunshine State's most coveted players just told the big boys (Hurricanes, Seminoles, Gators) that he's headed to Conference USA.

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BCS Years in Review: 2003, Nightmare of Split National Championship

Part 6 of a series: Over the next few weeks, I will be reviewing each of the 16 seasons since the Bowl Championship Series came into existence in 1998. Here is a look back at who got lucky, who got robbed, what could've been, what should've been and other controversies of the day. The series will appear throughout December and January.

Part 1: 1998, A New Beginning for College Football

Part 2: 1999, FSU Ends Michael Vick's Quest for Perfection

Part 3: 2000, FSU-Miami Sows Seeds of Controversy

Part 4: 2001, Nebraska Fiasco Rocks College Football

Part 5: 2002, Controversy On-Field Mars Perfect Ending

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The epic Miami-Ohio State showdown in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, even with the attendant controversy at the end of the game, gave the BCS a huge sigh of relief. "The system works!" went the battle cry.

No, it didn't, and most certainly in the 2003 season, when the BCS was met with catastrophe—the very scenario the system was created to avoid: a split national championship.

In its first five years of existence, while there were disagreements and debates about certain teams' merits to be included in the championship game, there had never been a case where the BCS champion was deemed unworthy or not been crowned by the Associated Press, which maintained its independence.

But in 2003, it all happened. Going into the final weekend of the season, three teams were vying for two spots in the Sugar Bowl. USC had one loss—at Cal in triple overtime, 34-31. As did LSU—to Florida at home, 19-7. No. 1 Oklahoma was undefeated going into the Big 12 title game against Kansas State.

Even before the games were played on that final Saturday, word was that the Sooners would stay No. 1, even if they lost the game.

The computers favored Oklahoma by a wide margin, and since all other major conference teams besides USC and LSU had at least two losses, Oklahoma would not drop to lower than No. 3 in the human polls. Put it together, the Big 12 title game was a mere exhibition with very little riding on it.

And the Sooners played like it, getting pasted by Kansas State, 35-7. After LSU beat Georgia in the SEC title game and USC romped past Oregon State, as expected, the Trojans ascended to No. 1 in both polls, while the Tigers moved up to No. 2.

In the penultimate BCS standings, USC had a comfortable lead on LSU (6.90 vs. 8.43). The Trojans were ranked higher in the human polls and computer rankings and also had better strength-of-schedule ratings. The expectation was that USC would play Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl with LSU left to howl.

But then Boise State beat Hawaii in the final regular-season game of the season in the middle of the Pacific.

Say what?

Exactly right, that's what happened. Combined with Syracuse's 38-12 pasting of Notre Dame, the Tigers got enough of a boost to nudge out USC by .16 of a percentage point, getting Oklahoma as their date, while the Trojans were left with a Rose Bowl berth against No. 4 Michigan.

A confluence of events made this happen, and all of it came from BCS's meddling with its standings:

1. Eliminating margin of victory from all computer formulas: This completely unnecessary step was taken gradually, out of an irrational fear of teams running up the scores to impress computers. By 2003, all BCS computers had agreed to abide by this restriction, in some cases reluctantly.

Because of this, Oklahoma's four-touchdown debacle was weighed the same as a road loss in triple overtime. Since the BCS neglected to remove the voters' eyeballs, the polls appropriately knocked the Sooners down to No. 3. But the computers overwhelmingly still went for Oklahoma.

2. Keeping strength of schedule (SOS) as a component: Strangely, with all the tweaking in the first five years, the BCS never touched this.

First of all, it's hardly an objective tool, almost as arbitrary as the human polls. The formula being used was a poor imitation of the RPI (used by the NCAA basketball selection committee) and called for an absurd division of 25 to produce the SOS number. Besides, all computer rankings have formulas for strength of schedule of their own, so at the very least, it's redundant. 

3. If you can't beat them...tank them: Notre Dame was routed by the Trojans, 45-14, in South Bend, so the Irish returned the favor...by getting blown out at Syracuse on the final Saturday of the season. Notre Dame's loss dealt USC's SOS rating a fatal blow. That, combined with Boise State's win over Hawaii, another team beaten by USC earlier in the year, catapulted LSU over USC.

The Tigers, by beating Georgia for the second time in the season, saw their SOS rating jump from 54th to 29th, while USC's held at 37th. LSU edged USC by .30 of a percentage point in the SOS ratings, the difference it needed to seal its hold on the No. 2 spot.

 

For the record, USC played at Auburn and Notre Dame and played home games against Hawaii and BYU while LSU faced Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana Tech and I-AA Western Illinois at home and Arizona on the road. Just how LSU's schedule could be considered to be among the top 30 in the country showed the flaw in the SOS ratings.

At the end, USC impressively defeated Michigan, 28-14, in the Rose Bowl and held on to the No. 1 AP ranking and a share of the national championship. In a rather sloppy and uninspired game, LSU defeated Oklahoma, 21-14, for the BCS title—though not without one last bit of drama.

Despite a mandate to vote for the BCS title game-winner No. 1 in the final poll, three coaches (Oregon's Mike Bellotti, Illinois' Ron Turner and South Carolina's Lou Holtz) broke the contractual agreement and cast their No. 1 ballots for USC.

Nick Saban's Tigers got their half of the title but were quickly forgotten as USC romped to the BCS title games the following two seasons. The general acknowledgement that the Trojans won "back-to-back" national championships in 2003 and 2004 left many LSU fans embittered for quite some time.

Final BCS Standings: 1. Oklahoma, 2. LSU, 3. USC, 4. Michigan.

Alternative Methods

Using post-2003 formula: 1. USC, 2. LSU, 3. Oklahoma 4. Michigan.

Using 1998-2000 formula: 1. USC, 2. LSU, 3. Oklahoma, 4. Michigan.

Likely four-team playoff: USC vs. Michigan; LSU vs. Oklahoma.

If there were another game, then USC-LSU would've been the natural "real" championship game. And it could have happened (read on).

 

Controversies

The Snub of Miami (Ohio): After losing the season opener to Iowa, 21-3, junior quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led the Red Hawks to 12 consecutive victories, beating Bowling Green for a second time in the Mid-American title game. Bowling Green, incidentally, lost only three times—twice to Miami and once at Ohio State, 24-17.

But despite a No. 11 ranking in the BCS standings, Miami never had a chance for an at-large berth. Even though the Red Hawks were "eligible," they received no consideration from the four BCS bowls and ended up finishing a 13-1 season by routing Louisville in the GMAC Bowl.

Until before the 2006 season, a non-BCS school had to be ranked in the top six for a guaranteed spot in a BCS bowl game. Under congressional pressure and with the advent of a separate BCS National Championship Game, the standard for "mid-major" schools were relaxed to guarantee a spot for any team in the top 12. Too late for Miami and Big Ben, though.

The Texas Shaft: Despite being ranked No. 5 in both polls, the Longhorns were shut out of a BCS bowl berth thanks to Kansas State's upset victory over Oklahoma.

With the Big 12's two slots already spoken for, Texas had to settle for the Holiday Bowl, where it was beaten by Washington State. But a year later, the 'Horns managed to avoid a return trip to San Diego by being engulfed in yet another BCS controversy.

Ironically, after being the BCS victim the first two years of its existence, Bill Snyder's Wildcats finally made its BCS bowl debut by earning the Big 12's automatic bid. K-State lost to Ohio State, 35-28, in a wild Fiesta Bowl.

The Extra Game: On Jan. 9, 2004, Ted Waitt, CEO of Gateway Computers offered a $31 million package for a national championship game between USC and LSU. Despite vocal support from both schools, the NCAA did not consider the offer.

BCS formula review: With no audible criticism of its formula—thanks to having two, and only two, undefeated teams in 2002—the BCS for the first time in four years maintained the same formula with only a slight adjustment to decrease the value of a "quality win."

This little-known adjustment actually threw some extra fuel on the controversy because LSU would've gotten an extra .40 points with its victory over Georgia, giving it a much more robust final lead of .56 over USC.

 

Final analysis: Just how close was the LSU-USC spread? Had one of the four computers that ranked LSU No. 2 and USC No. 3 switched places for those teams, the Trojans would've gotten the coveted No. 2 BCS slot by .01 of a percentage point.

Or, if the Tigers had not made the quantum leap from 54th to 29th in the SOS rating in the space of one week—let's say they finished 34th instead, then USC would've been ahead by .04 of a percentage point. Yes, had any of the teams that USC played won one more game or any of LSU's opponents lost one more game, then it would've been a different outcome.

But still not a just outcome.

LSU was not undeserving of a spot in the BCS title game. That's not the issue at all. The "correct" result should've been a USC-LSU title game in the Sugar Bowl. The team that didn't belong obviously was Oklahoma, which failed to win its own conference after getting blown out in the Big 12 title game—in fact, a game that was not as close as the four-touchdown spread suggested.

An easy remedy could've been found, as early as 2001, after Nebraska somehow secured passage to the BCS title game without even winning its division, let along the conference.

The old bowl alignment was always arranged to match conference champions in the most prestigious bowls, and therefore a pre-requisite of winning one's conference should not have been unreasonable for teams vying to play in the BCS title game. In all, three nonconference champions played for the BCS title in its 16 years of existence.

But the BCS refused to insert this one amendment—throughout its entire history and extending into the new College Football Playoff.

After the catastrophe of 2003, when the No. 1 team in both polls was denied a place in its title game that resulted in a split championship, the BCS was forced back to the drawing board and smashed it up. A brand-new formula was concocted to appease an increasingly angry and skeptical public.

The formula overhaul, however, would not save the BCS from another controversy in 2004.

 

Follow on Twitter @BCSGuru

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Every SEC Team's Highlight of the 2013 Season

It’s been quite the 2013 college football season in the SEC.

Surprisingly, Alabama was left out in the cold for the conference title game. Instead, the two teams participating in the game—Missouri and Auburn—combined for just two SEC wins in 2013.

It’s been that kind of year for the SEC this season.

Join B/R as we look at the highlight of the 2013 season for all 14 teams in the conference.

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Texas Bowl 2013 Syracuse vs. Minnesota: Live Score and Highlights

Syracuse - 0 

Minnesota - 0

Mid-First Quarter 

Bleacher Report will provide live in-game analysis and scoring updates, so stay locked in here.

Want your voice to be heard? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Penn State Football Recruiting: Updates on 2014 Commits and Targets

Penn State's 2014 recruiting cycle got a lot more exciting in September when the NCAA announced that the Nittany Lions would be able to take an additional five prospects in this class than was originally expected.

Since then, head coach Bill O'Brien and his staff have gone from trying to utilize 15 to 18 spots to being able to decide if they should take a full class this year or save some scholarships to use on next year's class.

With this year's recruiting cycle in the closing weeks, the Nittany Lions are willing to add a few more players if they fit the right need. In other cases, they seem content with the guys they already have in the fold.

The way it's shaping up, this 2014 recruiting class is going to be stronger than expected and will join the 2013 class to create a strong foundation going forward, as Penn State continues to re-gain its lost scholarship numbers. 

If you're a Penn State football fan or a fan of college football recruiting, look no further for a complete rundown of Nittany Lion targets, commitments and analysis.

Note: All stats and ratings are from 247Sports.com unless otherwise stated.

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5 Potential Candidates to Replace Nick Aliotti as Oregon Defensive Coordinator

Through three different head coaching regimes and various tweaks to the program’s identity, one constant was defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti. Replacing the 15-year Ducks assistant, whose retirement was announced Friday, is the biggest challenge head coach Mark Helfrich faces in his young tenure, and it's a potentially era-defining decision.

Aliotti molded Oregon’s defense in recent years to complement the up-tempo offense that has been the program’s calling card. The next Ducks defensive coordinator must strike a balance between the speed, depth and athleticism that defined Aliotti’s groups with the nastier, more powerful defenses that win conference and national championships.

To that end, the university athletic brass is ready to make a sizable financial commitment to the search, 247Sports' Justin Hopkins reports.

Aliotti reportedly has his suggestion. B/R has a few names in mind, as well.

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