NCAA Football News

College Bowl Picks 2014-15: Predictions for Playoffs and More Top Matchups

Sunday marked a day college football fans everywhere had been waiting for years to finally come. Yet somehow, many were still left unhappy with the results of the first ever College Football Playoff bracket.

The committee released the latest Top 25 rankings with Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State in the Top Four. Meanwhile, programs like TCU and Baylor were left on the outside looking in but will still face worthy opponents in two notable bowls.

While the Rose and Sugar Bowls will garner the most attention, there are quite a few other selection committee bowls.

Prior to the start of the postseason matchups, here's a look at predictions for the playoff and other top matchups.


Playoff Breakdown

Regardless of the controversy surrounding the teams that made the playoff, every team is worthy of its ranking. That makes predicting winners in both semifinals an arduous task.

Luckily, there is a full season of results to reflect on when trying to pick who will make the national championship game.

One player who has made a statement every time he's taken the field this season is Amari Cooper. The Alabama receiver has torched each opponent this season, solidifying himself as a Heisman Trophy contender alongside Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.

ESPN Stats & Info notes Cooper's production this season:

Along with quarterback Blake Sims, the tandem has been one of the main reasons for the Crimson Tide earning the No. 1 ranking. Cooper's electric play has also caught the eye of OSU coach Urban Meyer, via Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News:

Facing an Ohio State team that loves to keep the ball on the ground, Alabama will need to make the most of every offensive opportunity. Having a player like Cooper to take the top off the Buckeyes defense will be the difference to put Bama through to the national championship.

As for that other Heisman contender, Mariota is looking to cap off a special year with a national title. He has a chance to not only dethrone Jameis Winston for the Heisman, but also end Florida State's winning streak.

FSU coach Jimbo Fisher addressed the matchup between the two notable quarterbacks, via Marty Smith of ESPN:

Going against Florida State in the Rose Bowl, Oregon is coming off a huge victory over Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship Game. The revenge game for the Ducks was led again by Mariota, who finished the day with 346 yards from scrimmage and five total touchdowns.

Much like Cooper, Mariota has paced his team all season with phenomenal numbers, via Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:

By the end of New Year's Day, only two teams will stand with a chance to win the title. Given their sensational play this season, those programs will be Alabama and Oregon.

A matchup featuring two of the most dynamic players in the country will undoubtedly be a must-watch title game. Coming off two blowout wins in their conference championships, expect plenty of offensive fireworks from these teams in the final game of the season.


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

Whether or not Notre Dame is in national title contention, the program remains nationally recognized as a historic football powerhouse. That allure helps Fighting Irish recruiting efforts extend far beyond regional borders on an annual basis.

Brian Kelly and his staff have repeatedly stockpiled talent on national signing day, and they're well on their way toward another impressive haul of prospects. Notre Dame currently holds 21 commitments in its 2015 class, per 247Sports.

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


Latest News

Monday, Dec. 8

Nearly six months after landing former Michigan defensive back commit Shaun Crawford, Notre Dame may be making inroads with another Wolverines pledge. The team is expected to send assistant coach Mike Elston to Dayton, Ohio, for an in-home visit with 4-star safety Tyree Kinnel, according to Steven Lorenz of 247Sports.

The 6'0", 205-pound playmaker picked up an offer from the Fighting Irish in September, about three weeks after he extended a verbal commitment to Michigan. The Wolverines' 2015 class is in shambles, currently made up of just six committed players.

Kinnel remains a member of the group but could be more willing to explore options elsewhere given the instability in Ann Arbor. Notre Dame is wise to remain on his trail and should get a good sense of how he's feeling when Elston, a former Michigan linebacker, sits down with the secondary standout.


Top Targets and Commitments

Monday, Dec. 8

Notre Dame pledge Crawford is a late addition to the Under Armour All-America Game, per Tom Loy of 247Sports. The 5'9.5", 170-pound Ohio cornerback collected a state championship at St. Edward High School this past weekend, when he also formally received an invitation to the star-studded event.

The game takes place Jan. 2 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, and it is nationally televised. Crawford joins fellow Fighting Irish commits Brandon Wimbush (quarterback) and Justin Yoon (kicker) on the roster.

Crawford, rated 13th nationally among cornerbacks in 247Sports' composite rankings, was a key pickup for Notre Dame in June. He pledged to Kelly less than a month after decommitting from Michigan.


Recruit ratings and information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Butch Jones, Tennessee Agree on New Contract: Latest Details and Reaction

Tennessee has reached an agreement with head football coach Butch Jones on a new contract that runs through 2020 and will pay him $3.6 million annually, the school confirmed in a release.  

Tennessee athletics director Dave Hart commented on the new deal in the release:

'When you are rebuilding a program, you face many challenges in order to change the culture,' said Hart. 'A tireless effort is required from the entire organization. The most critical piece of the puzzle is leadership, and we have the right man leading our football program. Butch Jones has reenergized our fans base and is an outstanding ambassador for our university. He and his staff have recruited at a very high level in an effort to restock our talent base, and we have made great strides academically since his arrival. He possesses a unique skill set, and I value our relationship personally and professionally. The terms of the agreement extend the contract by two years through the 2020 season, at $3.6 million per year.'

Jones also discussed his new contract at Tennessee:

'I am very honored and grateful to be the head football coach at the University of Tennessee, and I understand what this program represents,' said Jones. 'This has been a complete team effort as we continue to rebuild and restore the Tennessee football program to the standards and expectations that we all have. I'm extremely appreciative to Dave Hart, Chancellor Cheek, and our entire administration for all the support they have given us, and I am also thankful for the loyal support from the best and most passionate fan base in the nation.'

Following the announcement, Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports weighed in on the new contract for Jones:

Jones recently completed his second regular season with the Volunteers. The team made a one-game improvement to finish 6-6, earning bowl eligibility for the first time since 2010. They won three of their final four games to reach that plateau.

The extension also comes as the Michigan native was a rumored target for the Wolverines following the departure of Brady Hoke. If nothing else, that speculation increased the urgency for Tennessee to lock Jones in with a fresh contract.

Randy Moore of Inside Tennessee asked the veteran coach why he felt coaching the Vols amounted to a dream job and provided his reply:

I wanted to go into a situation, take over a program that had great resources, great leadership from the administration, a tremendous fan base, a vision, a standard in expectation, a tradition of winning and facilities but maybe they're struggling in some areas where we could maybe go in there and help win. Obviously that fit the Tennessee profile. So, there was a number of reasons of this being a 'dream job.' But, yeah, just TV and following the Vols and all the great players that have played here.

Although the strides made on the field have only been incremental so far, the recruiting success points toward further advancement in the coming years. Tennessee had a top-10 class in 2014 and is on pace for another strong showing in 2015, based on 247Sports' team rankings.

Recruiting against other SEC powerhouses is a difficult task. But Jones, who previously enjoyed success at both Central Michigan and Cincinnati, has been able to lean on Tennessee's tradition to start bringing in the next wave of stars.

It may take another year or two to fully complete the process. Clearly the school seen enough progress to give Jones the boost now with hope things continue to trend in the right direction.

The Volunteers have been stuck around .500 for the past seven years. Getting back to a point where they are consistently in the Top 25 and then eventually fighting for a spot in the College Football Playoff is the ultimate expectation.

With a new contract in hand, it's now up to Jones to make it happen.


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Texas A&M Recruiting 2014-15: Latest News, Rumors and Commit Updates

Texas A&M has taken charge as the hottest college football team in terms of recruiting the Lone Star State. Head coach Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies are rolling toward another star-studded class as national signing day nears.

The team aims to take a necessary step up the SEC ladder, and the acquisition of premier prospects from Texas and beyond is paramount in that effort. Top 2014 pickup Myles Garrett set a conference record for sacks as a freshman, while classmate Speedy Noil quickly emerged as a key downfield target in the passing game.

Texas A&M currently holds 21 commitments in its 2015 class, per 247Sports.

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


Latest News

Monday, Dec. 8

DeAndre McNeal is down to five collegiate options less than two weeks shy of his scheduled decision date. The 4-star athlete, who lines up at receiver and linebacker, released his top-five list Sunday and included the Aggies:

The 6'2", 228-pound prospect plays at Poteet High School in Mesquite, Texas, where he is often overshadowed by teammate and top-ranked linebacker Malik Jefferson. The Aggies would love to make it a package deal and land both players when they announce collegiate commitments during a Dec. 19 ceremony.

McNeal, who is also considering Texas and Texas Tech in his home state, is projected to sign with Alabama by 36 percent of experts in 247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions. Texas A&M follows with 25 percent.

He is expected to land on defense at the next level but just enjoyed the finest offensive season of his career. McNeal caught 35 passes for 836 yards and 12 touchdowns, adding 380 yards and 11 scores on the ground.


Top Targets and Commitments

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Bowl Games Schedule 2014-15: TV, Live Stream Info and Projections

Whether you're competing for the national championship or you're in the GoDaddy Bowl, everyone wants to end the year on a high note.

This year's bowl season is loaded with interesting matchups from top to bottom, each game containing its own unique storylines. Some might appear to be one-sided on paper, although you can be certain no players are stepping onto the field without believing they have what it takes to win.

The only question remaining is which teams will come through with strong enough efforts to add bowl victories to their resumes.

Here is a look at the complete bowl schedule with predictions for each game and a breakdown of some of the better matchups of the season.

All games can be viewed online courtesy of Watch ESPN


Top Games

Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. Florida State

No matter who you thought should've been the four teams in the College Football Playoff, the official matchups are about as exciting as possible.

Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher was quick to see the appeal of the Rose Bowl battle between his team and Oregon, via Andrew Greif of

It's what college football is all about. That makes for great TV and great competition and what it's all about. Getting the best against the best. Oregon is a national brand-name team. They have earned that right, the team is recognized all the way across this country. ...Florida State is a national brand-name. When you put two quarterbacks like that, brand names like that as far as college football it's what the playoff was designed to do. 

In addition to the competition between the two top programs, this game will also feature two of the most well-known players in college football as quarterbacks of each team. Last year's Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston will try to have a good showing for the Seminoles while the Ducks are led by this year's Heisman favorite, Marcus Mariota.

This game is certain to be a good one with two teams that simply know how to win. However, Oregon has been red hot during the second half of the year, winning eight games in a row by double digits while topping 40 points scored in each.

The Ducks offense is too good to stop, and this game could be a stepping stone to a national championship.


Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Ohio State

Ohio State was the last team in the playoff field, earning the fourth seed over Baylor and TCU. There is no denying the fact that this was due to its 59-0 blowout over a very good Wisconsin team in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Although he got a lot of help from his teammates, Cardale Jones was fantastic at quarterback for the Buckeyes, throwing three touchdown passes in the win after replacing the injured J.T. Barrett. This was actually the third option coming into the year, with Braxton Miller expecting to be the starter before going down in the preseason.

Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated noted this as a reason the squad is still in contention for a national championship:

Unfortunately, it will be extremely difficult to keep this going against Alabama and its No. 4 scoring defense in the nation. The front line will be able to slow down the run, putting more pressure on Jones and likely causing plenty of mistakes.

With Blake Sims playing well lately and always capable of finding Amari Cooper down the field, the Crimson Tide's offense will be able to run up the score and earn an easy win in the national semifinal.


Peach Bowl: TCU vs. Ole Miss

Although TCU might not be competing in a playoff game, it will at least be involved in one of the most intriguing bowls of the season.

Jeff Roberson of The Ole Miss Spirit details what the two teams bring to the table:

Ole Miss does have three losses this year, but the squad still only allowed 13.8 points per game to lead the nation. This includes allowing just 17 points each in wins over Alabama and Mississippi State.

The problem is that Bo Wallace has been inconsistent at quarterback this season and things have only been worse without injured receiver Laquon Treadwell. This will hurt the Rebels' chances of winning even a low-scoring battle.

Meanwhile, TCU has one of the best offenses in the nation behind Trevon Boykin. If it wasn't for a 61-58 loss to Baylor, this team would likely be playing for a national championship.

The Horned Frogs will try to prove the committee made a mistake by sending a message with a win here.


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College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

Given its prestige and tradition, Notre Dame is one of the few schools who have the ability to recruit the entire country instead of focusing on a territory close to its campus 

Brian Kelly and his staff may have seen the 2014 season spiral as the Irish have lost five of their last six games after a 6-0 start, but that hasn’t slowed their efforts on the recruiting trail. 

In particular, Kelly hit the state of California hard last week offering four of the Golden State’s top juniors and one of its top sophomores.

The Irish offered a trio of 4-star receivers in Brandon Burton, Tyler Vaughns and Dylan Crawford plus 3-star defensive end Olowule Betiku

Additionally, 2017 4-star athlete Darnay Holmes was also tendered by the Irish.

Burton—who plays at powerhouse Serra High School in Gardena, California—was excited to receive the offer from Notre Dame, per Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports.

"They are very high on my list," Burton told Wiltfong. "It's a great program, great academics. It's a great young team with a ton of potential."

The Irish have had success recruiting skill players in California recently—including luring tight end Tyler Luatua in the 2014 class and having a pledge from 2015 4-star receiver C.J. Sanders.

Betiku—who also picked up an offer from Penn State last week—is a prep teammate of Burton’s that has offers from schools such as Arizona State, Florida State, Oklahoma and UCLA among others.

Given the amount of work the Irish staff is putting in on the West Coast, it’s clear that Kelly’s staff has identified California as an important territory for their future efforts on the recruiting trail.


Michigan State Goes on 2016 Offer Spree

Both Notre Dame and Michigan State were the newest schools to enter the race for 2016 4-star defensive end Terrell Hall, according to Adam Friedman of Rivals.

In addition to Hall, Mark Dantonio offered five other 2016 prospects who are all slated to play defense in college.

The Spartans tendered 4-star safety Damar Hamlin—who also received an offer from Duke—and 4-star cornerJoshua Dunn.

Kyle Goblirsch of Gophers247 reports that 4-star linebacker Carter Coughlin earned an offer from Dantonio. Also, Demetric Warren of VarsityPreps notes that the Spartans also offered 4-star defensive end Isaiah Chambers.

Finally, 2016 4-star athlete Kyle Davis—who is committed to South Carolina—was also offered by the Spartans.


Texas offers 2016 Florida OL

Texas head coach Charlie Strong has had a tremendous amount of success recruiting in the state of Florida dating back to his days as an assistant at the University of Florida.

Last week, Strong and his staff offered one of the elite offensive line prospects in the 2016 cycle—4-star Sunshine State product Parker Boudreaux.

Boudreaux—who was also one of the first recruits to pick up an offer from new SMU head coach Chad Morris—has nearly 60 offers to his credit before he begins his senior season.

The 6’5”, 282-pounder is a candidate to become a left tackle at the next level.


Mississippi State Offers Trio of Underclassmen

With it’s 2015 class sitting on 29 pledges, Mississippi State has been aggressive in pursuing prospects in the 2016, 2017 and even 2018 classes.

Dan Mullen and his staff offered 2016 4-star receiver Freddie Swain, per Ryan Bartow of 247Sports. Bartow also reports that the Bulldogs joined West Virginia in offering Swain’s teammate and 2018 athlete Jalen Patterson.

According to Josh Edwards of TheCatsPause247, Mullen and his staff also offered 2017 4-star linebacker Markail Benton.

With the Bulldogs making some noise on the national scene this season, Mullen’s staff has hit the recruiting trail aggressively in hopes of capitalizing on that exposure.


Best of the Rest


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



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College Football Playoff 2014-15: Updated Odds, Predictions Against the Spread

The first inaugural College Football Playoff is finally set, but not without its fair share of controversy and second-guessing.

With a 59-0 drubbing of Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, Ohio State was able to climb from sixth all the way to the fourth and final spot. The problem? That snatched the Big 12's championship aspirations, with both Baylor and TCU seemingly duking it out to get into the playoff.

But as the Horned Frogs and Bears head to the Peach and Cotton Bowls, respectively, the focus will soon shift back from the what-ifs to the matchups at hand. And, boy, are they scintillating. 

Let's take a look at the CFP schedule, including odds and predictions against the spread for both semifinals.


Note: Bowl information per; odds according to Odds Shark and updated as of December 7 


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

Florida State dominated everyone en route to last year's national championship appearance. This time around, the Seminoles are still undefeated but will hardly scare the No. 2 Oregon Ducks as they descend upon the Rose Bowl.

The matchup pegs the top two quarterbacks in college football against each other as Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston will do battle, which SportsCenter showed:

By the time New Year's Day comes, it's very likely that Mariota will have a Heisman Trophy along with Winston. Mariota entered the final weekend with massive 1-10 odds of winning the trophy, per Odds Shark

But while the quarterbacks will most likely be tied in the Heisman count when kickoff comes, they stand on very different teams—much to the demise of the defending national champions.

Ever since Oregon's shocking home loss to Arizona, the Ducks have been all business, beating their last seven opponents by 18 points or more. Meanwhile, Florida State's well-documented issues on the field have had the 'Noles in four straight games that went down to the wire—three against unranked foes.

Florida State's defense has been able to make timely plays to give Winston chances to win games, but that won't be the case against Mariota. Turning the ball over isn't in his vocabulary, having thrown just two picks all year.

Oregon's offense will get hot early and blow this one open. As things get embarrassing for the Seminoles, they will fight back, but not enough to cover the spread. 

Prediction: Oregon covers the spread, wins 41-30


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

The Ohio State Buckeyes got the final CFP spot they so desperately wanted, and now they will have to buck a painful trend in recent program history.

In both the 2007 and 2008 seasons, the Buckeyes entered the BCS championship game as the top-ranked team only to fall to SEC foes—first Florida, then LSU. But now, it's Ohio State as the underdog against the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide.

Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer—on the SEC's side of one of those championship games—admitted his tape studying of Alabama is yet to come, but he lauded bruising running back Derrick Henry, per Bleacher Report's Marc Torrence:

As for Alabama head coach Nick Saban, he's quite aware of what Meyer's teams are made of after their battles when he coached Florida, per Bleacher Report's Ben Axelrod:

Perhaps the biggest X-factor in the game is still somewhat of an unknown. Ohio State freshman quarterback Cardale Jones had a magnificent game in his starting debut against Wisconsin, leading Ohio State to a 59-0 win when the Buckeyes were pegged to lose.

With a huge arm and speedy targets like Jalin Marshall and Devin Smith, the Buckeyes should stretch a susceptible Alabama secondary that allowed big play after big play from Auburn and Missouri. 

That will keep it close, but not even Ohio State's much-improved defense will be able to hang with the likes of Blake Sims, Amari Cooper and T.J. Yeldon for four quarters. However, the Buckeyes will scratch and claw until the end, and a growing line in Vegas will end up being too large as Alabama wins a one-score game.

Prediction: Alabama fails to cover spread, still wins 31-24

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NCAA Football Playoff 2014-15: Full TV Schedule, Odds and Projections

If you set the controversial arguments aside and take the first ever College Football Playoff for what it is, there's no denying the two semifinals offer everything a fan would want.

There's the Rose Bowl, which pegs last year's Heisman Trophy winner in Jameis Winston against the likely 2014 Heisman winner in Marcus Mariota. Take a gander across the bracket, and you'll find Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer looking to put the Buckeyes' recent SEC woes in the past against the conference he coached in some four years ago.

That only scratches the surface of the storylines set to unfold throughout two semifinal matchups that show exactly why this new format was created—to give four worthy schools the chance to duke it out against each other.

Let's take a look at the full television schedule for the CFP games, and everything else worth knowing. 

Note: Schedule per; odds according to Odds Shark, as of December 7


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

Given the prestige of the Oregon and Florida State football programs over the course of recent history, it's pretty amazing that January 1 will mark their first ever meeting.

As ESPN Stats & Info noted, it's long overdue:

But while the programs will be meeting for the first time in the Rose Bowl, that's not really what will have the folks talking entering this high-flying matchup.

Instead, it's the matchup of quarterbacks that will likely peg two Heisman Trophy winners against each other. Reigning champion Winston faces this year's hopeful Mariota—the winner keeping their national title aspirations alive.

Winston vs. Mariota has undoubtedly grabbed the headlines in the hours after the announcement, but Sports Illustrated's Martin Rickman noted another appetizing matchup under the radar:

While the two offenses have similar star power, the Ducks and Seminoles could not have finished their respective seasons differently. Florida State is still undefeated, but well-documented struggles have led to each of its last four wins coming by five points or fewer. The Citadel, Wake Forest and Syracuse are the only foes the 'Noles have beaten by more than two scores.

On the other hand, Oregon has been an absolute wrecking ball, outscoring every one of its last seven opponents by 18 or more. A once-suspect defense is also coming to play, having held Arizona's prolific offense to 13 points in their rematch in the Pac-12 title game.

The Seminoles defense has had to force big turnovers to get here, which Mariota simply doesn't give up with only two picks on the year. Meanwhile, Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu leads a Ducks secondary that will feast on Winston's growing interception problem.

Despite the undefeated record, Florida State has shown that it might not belong here. Oregon will leave no doubt of that, although the Seminoles won't go down without a fight.

Prediction: Oregon 41, Florida State 30


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

For all of the beating Ohio State has taken against SEC foes in national championship games over the last few decades, how sweet would it be to supplant the conference's flagship program in the first ever playoff?

It would be more than sweet for Meyer's Buckeyes, but nevertheless unlikely. Top-ranked Alabama has already seen its nine-point line grow to double digits since the announcement, per Odds Shark

Of course, the mighty Crimson Tide would probably be decent-sized favorites against any team with the way they've closed out the season. They held on in must-wins over then-No. 1 Mississippi State and Auburn, before hounding Missouri in the conference title game.

They will be going up against an Ohio State team fresh off a 59-0 beating of Wisconsin, but the Buckeyes will trot out freshman Cardale Jones—who, to his credit, played magnificently against the Badgers—against the stingy Alabama defense. That's not the ideal position for Jones to be in, as's Spencer Hall alluded to:

There is one aspect that could help him, which is the lack of film Nick Saban and Co. will have on the youngster, as Aaron Suttles of The Tuscaloosa News points out:

Despite his inexperience, Jones' big arm should be able to take the top off the Tide offense similar to the success Nick Marshall had in the Iron Bowl. But Alabama's defensive front will create too much havoc for the young quarterback to deal with, forcing some errant throws that the Tide will snatch for big turnovers.

Meyer has worked his magic before in these moments and should do so again with ample time to prepare for a susceptible Alabama defense. But Blake Sims' increased consistency and a multifaceted running game will have 'Bama winning a close one.

Prediction: Alabama 31, Ohio State 24

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