NCAA Football News

Camellia Bowl 2014: South Alabama vs. Bowling Green TV Info, Spread, Time, More

Saturday is a day of firsts at the inaugural Camellia Bowl, which sees the South Alabama Jaguars make their first-ever bowl appearance in their sixth year of existence.

While perhaps not as impressive, South Alabama's opponent, Bowling Green, wound up in first place in the MAC East with a 7-6 record.

The scoreboard should be active when these two get together Saturday night. Both prefer different approaches but fill the stat sheet in impressive manners all the same.

For one team, the Camellia Bowl is a way to make a serious proclamation and build for the future in one swoop.

 

Different Preferences, Same Results 

Joey Jones' Jaguars love to run the football on the majority of their plays. The philosophy works, as the team ranks 48th in the nation with an average of 182.6 yards per game on the ground.

Senior back Kendall Houston leads the team in rushing this year with 652 yards and a score on a 4.9 per-carry average. Xavier Johnson is not far behind with 417 yards and a score, while even senior quarterback Brandon Bridge gets in on the action on a regular basis and has 254 yards and three scores.

Bridge can take care of business through the air, too, as his 1,648 yards and 14 touchdowns to six interceptions shows.

Counteracting the methodical Bridge-led offense is one of the nation's fastest attacks. Bowling Green averages 29.8 points and 427.8 yards per game. Collegiate fans in general will recall when the Falcons ran a season-high 113 plays in a 45-42 upset of Indiana.

James Knapke leads coach Dino Babers' offense, but his 2,805 yards and 13 touchdowns to 12 interceptions were enough to get him replaced late in the season.

The spread-it-out attack tends to favor the ground game out of necessity, which is fine, considering Travis Greene has 908 yards and 10 scores, Fred Coppet has 694 and six and Andre Givens has 474 and eight.

The obvious dynamic to watch, then, is whether South Alabama can keep Bowling Green off the field.

 

Righting the Ship

There is a lot to like about what both of these teams have accomplished this season—minus their ability to finish.

The Jaguars lost four of their last five to close the season and almost missed out on bowl eligibility in the process. Jones' team will need to overcome this factor, not to mention the hurdle that is playing in a first-ever bowl game.

For his part, though, Babers does not buy into talk that suggests Saturday's opponent will be just happy to go bowling, per AL.com's Tommy Hicks: "I don't know about that. I would imagine they'll try to put some stars in other people's eyes. They'll be really excited, they'll be in front of their family and their home fans. I think that there's no doubt they're going to be ready to go.''

Bowling Green is certainly the more experienced of the two teams, but the season-ending stretch was downright embarrassing. The Falcons lost their last three contests, including a MAC Championship blowout at the hands of Northern Illinois, 51-17.

The team that can put woeful recent performances behind them figures to end the season on a happy note.

 

When: Saturday, December 20, 9:15 p.m. ET

Where: Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, AL

Television: ESPN

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 53.5
  • Spread: South Alabama (-3)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

Quarterback play is quite a concern for Bowling Green, especially against a South Alabama defense that only allows an average of 25.8 points per game. 

For comparison's sake, the Falcons rank 109th in the nation due to an average of nearly 34 points per game allowed.

The notion that the Jaguars will be ill prepared for such a prolific contest is incorrect considering major showdowns against Mississippi State and South Carolina this season. The offense's grind-it-out mentality with a relentless amount of effective rushers will eventually wear down the Falcons and produce a win for the first-timers.

Prediction: South Alabama 24, Bowling Green 20

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

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Georgia Football: Final 2014 Positional Grades for the Bulldogs

The Georgia Bulldogs finished the 2014 regular season with a 9-3 record and second place in the SEC East. It was not the finish they wanted, as they will play Louisville in the Belk Bowl, but there was more good than bad when looking back at the season.

There were players who stepped up on both sides of the ball. And the good thing about it is the Bulldogs won’t lose too many players for next season. So the players who contributed this season along with the newcomers for next year will make them a favorite to win the SEC East.

Here are the final positional grades for the Bulldogs.

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Pittsburgh Football Head Coach Search: Latest News and Speculation on Position

With Paul Chryst headed to Wisconsin, the University of Pittsburgh has begun its search for a new head coach.

Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph will serve as the interim head coach for the time being, but KDKA-TV's Rich Walsh has a pair of names already on the school's radar:

Head coach at Marshall for the past five seasons, Doc Holliday has led the Thundering Herd to consecutive 10-win seasons, including a 12-1 showing this year fueled by an explosive offensive attack. He has over 30 years of coaching experience at the collegiate level and is widely regarded as one of the top recruiters in the nation. 

He has been especially successful recruiting in the southeast corner of the country and could potentially extended Pittsburgh's pipeline. 

"It’s just been a great area for us. I love South Florida kids," he said, via The Palm Beach Post's Dave George. "They’ve got big ol’ hearts, they love football and they’re extremely tough.”

Pat Narduzzi, the defensive coordinator at Michigan State, has been a candidate to leave for a head-coaching job for several years now. 

Coming to Lansing with Mark Dantonio in 2007, the 48-year-old has established the Spartans as one of the most physical, dominant defensive teams in the country. They have been in the top seven nationally in yards allowed per game in each of the last four seasons, per Sports-Reference.com

Pittsburgh has typically been a good defensive team over that span as well, but Narduzzi would bring a culture and toughness that is rare. 

Ultimately, it's two very different targets for Pitt, and it's a decision the school needs to get right. The Panthers have had a ton of turnover at the position since 2010, and athletic director Steve Pederson was just let go for an inability to find the right leader. 

Don't be surprised if Pitt takes its time with this one. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

3 Ohio State Players Alabama Recruited Who Will Be Key in Sugar Bowl Matchup

Ohio State and Alabama haven't met on the field since January 2, 1995, when the Crimson Tide beat the Buckeyes 24-17 in a heated Citrus Bowl matchup. But the two programs battle on the recruiting front every year, as Urban Meyer and Nick Saban pursue a number of the same elite high school prospects. 

There are three players, in particular, who were recruited by Saban who wound up joining the Buckeyes—and that trio will play a huge role in Ohio State's upset bid against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

 

Vonn Bell

As a 5-star safety out of Rossville, Georgia, Vonn Bell was one of the most highly recruited players in the 2013 class. The ball-hawking defensive back had offers from some of the top programs in the country—namely Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Notre Dame and Texas.  

But in the end, it was a three-horse race between Ohio State, Alabama and Tennessee. Bell spurned the SEC schools in favor of the Buckeyes, announcing his decision on national signing day.

According to Ari Wasserman of The Plain DealerMeyer told Bell and his brother Volonte that the Buckeyes and the Tide would be meeting on the field soon:

"We were talking to Coach Meyer, and me and Vonn were just standing there when he said, 'Vonn, if you go to Alabama you're going to be seeing me anyway.' Then he said, 'You might as well ride with us to the game.'"

Now that Meyer's prediction has come to fruition, Bell will be pivotal to Ohio State's defensive efforts on New Year's Day.

The Buckeyes will be tasked with stopping the nation's best receiver in Amari Cooper, and while much of the responsibility will fall on senior cornerback Doran Grant, Bell will be the safety net on the back end. 

The true sophomore has played very well in his first year as a starter, ranking second on the team with 78 tackles. He's also tied for the team lead in interceptions (five) with Grant, according to Ohio State's official website. If he's successful in helping bottle up Cooper, the Buckeyes will have a great shot at beating the Tide.

 

Ezekiel Elliott

Saban and Alabama never officially offered Ezekiel Elliott a scholarship. That may come back to haunt the Tide in the Sugar Bowl.

A 4-star running back out of St. Louis, Missouri, Elliott garnered a lot of attention when he ran for an incredible 2,155 yards and 40 touchdowns as a high school senior in 2012. Schools such as Florida State, Georgia, Notre Dame, Texas and Wisconsin all threw their hats in the ring, but Elliott only truly entertained offers from Ohio State and Missouri

With national signing day approaching, there was a report from Steve Wiltfon of 247 Sports that Alabama was pushing for Elliott with a last-minute offer. Zach Clark of Land-Grant Holy Land later clarified that no offer had been made and that Elliott's mother, Dawn, chalked the whole thing up as a "miscommunication." 

That was a big win for Ohio State, because Elliott is currently fueling the Buckeyes' 10th-ranked rushing offense

Pegged as the starter at the beginning of the year, Elliott has thrived as Ohio State's featured back. The sophomore leads the team with 1,402 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, and he's only getting better. Against Wisconsin's second-ranked defense in the Big Ten title game, he ran for 220 yards and two touchdowns on just 20 carries. 

With J.T. Barrett sidelined, the Buckeyes will likely use the run game to get backup Cardale Jones settled in. Elliott will have to play well for the Buckeyes to accomplish that. 

 

Joey Bosa

Two years ago, Joey Bosa was just a 4-star defensive end out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Today, he's one of the most feared and respected defenders in college football.

Bosa's offer list would indicate most schools knew he was a special talent. Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Michigan and Notre Dame all made a run at the pass-rushing specialist, but he committed to Ohio State 10 months before signing day and stuck with his pledge despite tons of pressure from southern schools. 

Five games into his collegiate career, Bosa had already cracked the starting lineup at Ohio State. He was named a freshman All-American by The Sporting News and CollegeFootballNews.com after a phenomenal first-year campaign.

He's been even better as a sophomore. Bosa currently ranks fifth nationally with 13.5 sacks and is tied for fifth with 20 tackles for loss. He was named a consensus first-team All-American on Wednesday—the first Buckeye to accomplish that since 2008. 

He's also come up clutch when the Buckeyes needed him most.

On the road against Penn State in late October, Ohio State's playoff hopes were on the verge of being snapped by a motivated Penn State team. The Nittany Lions had rattled off 17 unanswered points in the second half to force overtime, and an exhausted Buckeyes squad looked doomed.

Ohio State managed to gain a 31-24 lead in double overtime, and with one more chance to tie the game, Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg dropped back in a desperate fourth-down situation. That's when Bosa stepped up, breaking free in the backfield to seal the victory with a game-ending sack. 

"Not discarding anybody else, but you kind of expect how good a player Joey Bosa is, you kind of expect him to make a play and go win the game," Meyer said, according to Eric Seger of The Ozone. "That’s how talented he is."

The Buckeyes could certainly use a few game-changing plays from Bosa against Alabama.

 

All recruiting information via 247 Sports. Unless otherwise noted, all stats via NCAA.com.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UConn vs. Duke: Score and Twitter Reaction from 2014 Regular Season

Ryan Boatright did everything he could to lead a scrappy UConn side past No. 2 Duke on Thursday night. But every time the senior guard and the Huskies posed a problem, the Blue Devils had the answer.

Despite 22 points and six rebounds from Boatright, Duke fought off UConn, winning 66-56 at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. All five starters scored in double digits for the Blue Devils, led by Tyus Jones (21 points), Jahlil Okafor (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Amile Jefferson (11 points, 13 rebounds, two blocks).

A game after scoring 40 points and pulling down 12 rebounds against Coppin State, Amida Brimah was held scoreless against Duke, barely playing due to foul trouble throughout.

Despite being just a freshman, Justise Winslow put the importance of a win over a team like UConn into perspective, per Duke's Twitter account:

For the Blue Devils, it was business as usual this season, though they did set a new record for the school in the process, per ESPN Stats & Information:

It's a testament to Duke's talent that UConn held it to just 30 points in the first half—frustrating Mike Krzyzewski's squad with its style of play—yet it was the Blue Devils who led by five heading into the locker room. It was far less than Duke has been accustomed to scoring per half this year, however, as ESPN Stats & Information tweeted:

Dana O'Neil of ESPN has more on how the Huskies kept Duke out of rhythm:

Along with that quickness, UConn did a great job of pressuring the ball and double-teaming Okafor every time he had an offensive opportunity. It was a testament to UConn's defense in the first half that it was regularly able to stymie Okafor early in the game despite Brimah's absence.

It was a rough half for the Huskies center, as Josh Newman of The Asbury Park Press tweeted:

UConn quickly tied the game in the second half, but Duke got hot after that, going on a 15-2 run to take a 45-32 lead with just under 13 minutes remaining. That run included this monster dunk by Okafor, as illustrated by SportsCenter on Twitter:

That had Bomani Jones of ESPN musing about Okafor's future in the NBA, as the Duke star is the current favorite to be the top overall pick in next year's draft.

Things would only get worse for UConn with about nine minutes remaining, as Brimah had to check out of the game after picking up his fourth foul. The Huskies continued to battle, however, cutting the deficit to 57-51 with just under four minutes to play.

That was as close as they would get, however, as Duke smartly ran down the clock on each possession and made key shots down the stretch. Despite UConn's grit and determination, the more talented team simply won out.

The Blue Devils next face Toldeo on Dec. 29, a game they should win easily. Each victory for the Blue Devils gets Krzyzewski one step closer to a pretty remarkable milestone, as he is now seven wins away from 1,000 for his career. 

Should Duke win its next six contests, Coach K would have the chance to reach the mark against Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals on Jan 17. That's a game no self-respecting basketball fan would miss, and given Duke's 10-0 start to the season, it would hardly be surprising if the Blue Devils were still undefeated going into it.

UConn, meanwhile, next faces Columbia Dec. 22. The Huskies will be looking to right the ship, as they've now lost four of their last five games.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Foster Farms Bowl Betting: Maryland Terrapins vs. Stanford Cardinal Odds, Pick

The Stanford Cardinal will be playing close to home when they square off against the Maryland Terrapins in the Foster Farms Bowl at Levi’s Stadium on December 30. The Cardinal are 4-1 against the spread in their last five bowl appearances and will be taking on a Maryland team that is looking for its first postseason victory since 2010.

 

Foster Farms Bowl point spread: The Cardinal opened as 13-point favorites; the total was 47.5. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 32.0-23.2 Cardinal

 

Why the Terrapins can cover the spread

The Terrapins had the same regular-season record this season as they did in 2013, when they finished the year with a 31-20 loss to the Marshall Thundering Herd as three-point underdogs in the Military Bowl. However, last year they dropped four of six down the stretch before facing Marshall and did not even appear in a bowl game in 2011 or 2012.

This season, Maryland came up with a pair of road wins in its last four games to become bowl eligible, beating the Michigan Wolverines and Penn State Nittany Lions as underdogs both times. Even though the Terps lost their regular-season finale at home to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, they have not dropped consecutive games all year.

 

Why the Cardinal can cover the spread

This may not be one of Stanford’s better teams compared to the last few seasons, but David Shaw remains one of the best head coaches in the country and will have his players ready to play in this bowl game. The Cardinal finished the regular season strong with road wins against the California Golden Bears and UCLA Bruins, who were six-point favorites and lost 31-10.

They will not have to travel far to Santa Clara and should have more of a home-field advantage than most teams at this time of year because the school is so close. Stanford’s competition in the Pac-12 was better as well, giving the team another edge of not only playing better teams but beating them to get here.

 

Smart Pick

Shaw has taken over where former Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh left off with the Stanford football program. He has done a good job despite losing several big-time players recently. Ironically, this game will be played at Harbaugh’s home stadium with the San Francisco 49ers, and that can only work in the Cardinal’s favor.

Stanford's familiarity with the surroundings should not be underestimated, along with the experience the players have gained while participating in some bigger bowl games over the past few years. Maryland’s first year in the Big Ten went better than expected but still did not prepare this team to beat an opponent as good as Stanford in this spot.

For that reason, bet the Cardinal to take care of business in its own backyard and cover.

 

Trends

  • Stanford is 17-8 straight up in its last 25 games.

 

Note: All spread and odds data powered by Odds Shark. Follow us on Twitter for injury updates and line move updates.

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Belk Bowl Betting: Louisville Cardinals vs. Georgia Bulldogs Odds, Analysis

The Louisville Cardinals will be going for their third straight postseason victory when they meet the Georgia Bulldogs in the Belk Bowl. The Cardinals have won their last two bowl games, and they are 4-1 straight up and against the spread in their past five. The Bulldogs have dropped three of their last four bowl games SU and ATS and will be facing a team other than the Nebraska Cornhuskers for the first time in three years.

 

Belk Bowl point spread: Bulldogs opened as seven-point favorites; the total was 56. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 45.7-38.0 Bulldogs

 

Why the Cardinals can cover the spread

Louisville played well down the stretch under head coach Bobby Petrino, winning three in a row and covering the spread in two of those games. Two of the team’s three losses came as an underdog visiting the Clemson Tigers and hosting the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles.

The Cardinals have gone 9-1 ATS in their past 10 games as underdogs, with the lone loss during that stretch coming against the Seminoles, who were 3.5-point favorites at Louisville and won 42-31 after trailing 21-0 early in the second quarter. That is also the only setback by the Cardinals since star wide receiver DeVante Parker returned from a foot injury. Parker totaled 35 receptions for 735 yards and five touchdowns in just five games with Louisville going 4-1.

 

Why the Bulldogs can cover the spread

Georgia has split two games against Nebraska in its previous two postseason appearances, losing to the Cornhuskers 24-19 as an 8.5-point favorite in last year’s Gator Bowl. The Bulldogs had high expectations heading into this season following that loss, and they won three of four down the stretch both SU and ATS after suffering a surprising 38-20 loss to the Florida Gators as 12-point chalk on November 1.

Georgia also fell to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 30-24 as a 10.5-point favorite in their finale to snap a three-game winning streak and lost to the South Carolina Gamecocks 38-35 as 8.5-point road chalk in their SEC opener. The Bulldogs were favored in every game this season, so oddsmakers obviously like them too and expect them to come through here.

 

Smart pick

Parker’s presence has been a huge boost for the Cardinals and could be the difference in this game. He was a projected first-round NFL draft pick before the season and may still be picked that high after tearing it up in the last five games of the season. While his return has certainly helped Louisville, the loss of running back Todd Gurley put a dark cloud over Georgia’s season, both during his suspension and then again when he blew out his knee.

The Bulldogs managed without him due to the emergence of freshman running back Nick Chubb. But if the Cardinals can contain Chubb, they will have a great shot to not only cover the spread but also win the game outright. Bet on it.

 

Trends

  • Louisville is 21-4 SU in its last 25 games
  • Georgia is 5-2 ATS in its last seven games

 

Note: All spread and odds data powered by Odds Shark. Follow us on Twitter for injury updates and line move updates.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Longhorn Network Will Air 5 Hours of Bevo the Steer Roaming on a Ranch

Yule logs? Not in Texas! 

According to San Antonio Express-News/Houston Chronicle writer Mike Finger, the Longhorn Network has a special plan for Christmas Day:  

Yes, Bevo roaming the ranch and doing Texas Longhorn steer stuff will be set to music: 

When you're a Longhorns fan, nothing beats seeing Bevo enjoy a nice Texas-sized Christmas. 

[Twitter, h/t SB Nation]

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida State Football: Ranking 10 Best Seminoles from 2014 Regular Season

No. 3 Florida State is currently hard at work preparing for the tall task of taking on No. 2 Oregon in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.

With a trip to the national championship on the line against either Alabama or Ohio State, let's take a look at how the Seminoles navigated through an undefeated season to earn a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

To do so, let's break down the top 10 FSU players (in no particular order) from the regular season.

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25 Players Who Should Think Twice Before Declaring for 2015 NFL Draft

We are approaching the end of college football season, which means juniors and third-year sophomores have begun to announce their NFL intentions.

A record 107 underclassmen declared for last year's NFL draft, but according to Rand Getlin of Yahoo Sports, at least one source thinks that number might be "dwarfed" in 2015.

But not all who enter the draft are wise for doing so. Some go undrafted. Some fall to the sixth or seventh round. And others who might have gone high are still not maximizing their potential.

This list includes a combination of all three, with a focus on the second and third.

It does not include players who stand nothing to gain by returning. It does not include players who have no shot at getting drafted and know it. It only includes players who have a legitimate case to declare but could improve their stock by staying in college.

Sound off below and let us know who else you would add.

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The Top 10 Plays of the Year in the Pac-12

As we continue our review of the 2014 Pac-12 season, it's time to have a look at the very best plays we saw from both sides of the ball.

Whether it was a quarterback making a dazzling escape from pressure, a running back putting the moves on for extra yards or a defender changing the tide of a game, the Pac-12 saw it all in 2014.

When you think of the best plays you saw, the first priority should be on the "wow" factor. Did it make your jaw drop? Did you call a buddy to make sure they saw it?

The second priority should be timing, as in when the play occurred with regards to the score, opponent and magnitude of the game. A perfect throw-and-catch to win a game against a great team can sometimes be better than a one-handed grab in the second quarter with the score already out of hand.

Finally, you have the luck factor. Not Stanford's former quarterback, but plays that are so unbelievable even with a ton of skill involved.

Using that criteria, let's take a look at the top 10 plays from the Pac-12 in 2014, and be sure to leave your favorites in the comments!

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Ohio State Football: Joey Bosa's Crazy History with Nick Saban

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Joey Bosa still remembers his first scholarship offer.

It was the summer of 2010 and the 15-year-old man-child had just wrapped up a breakthrough season at Fort Lauderdale's storied St. Thomas Aquinas High School. Like many other elite prospects, Bosa hit the camp circuit in hopes of being noticed by college coaches.

Along with his father, former Boston College star and Miami Dolphins first-round pick John Bosa, Joey headed to Tuscaloosa, Alabama—a lengthy 765 miles away from their home in South Florida.

But the family trip to the Yellowhammer State proved to be well worth the distance, as Joey soon found himself face to face with the reigning national champion Crimson Tide's head coach after an introduction that he'll never forget.

"I had no shirt on because we just had camp, so I was [shivering] with a little towel," Bosa recalled, mimicking his cold sweat. "[Saban] called me up and I had no idea what it was going to be about...you're 15 years old and you're sitting in his office and he clicks his button that automatically closes his door.

"It was a super nice door."

Once Saban's Batcave-like door shut, he extended an offer to Bosa to join what would become a budding Alabama dynasty.

Excited with the prospect of affiliating himself with the Crimson Tide before the start of his junior season of high school, Bosa and his father headed to the local Buffalo Wild Wings, where they contemplated accepting the offer.

"I almost walked back and committed that day," Bosa said. "But we flew home and thought about it."

Bosa would have fit right in at Alabama, another 4-star prospect on a roster that he described as "just freaks all around." The Crimson Tide's 2013 class contained six 5-star players and 15 4-star prospects, giving Saban the country's top crop of recruits for that year.

But upon arriving back in the Sunshine State, Bosa opted to allow his recruitment to play out.

Over the course of the next calendar year, the 6'5", 270-pounder received offers by virtually every big-name program in the country, including the likes of Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Michigan and Tennessee.

It was Ohio State, however, which ultimately won the race for Bosa's services, with Urban Meyer and then-defensive line coach Mike Vrabel securing a commitment from the nation's 37th-ranked recruit in April 2012.

The rest, as they say, is history, as Bosa has since emerged as one of the country's most dominant players in the first two years of his college career.

After bursting onto the scene with 7.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for a loss in his freshman campaign, Bosa was nothing short of spectacular in his sophomore season.

A unanimous All-American and the Big Ten Defensive Player and Defensive Lineman of the Year, he tallied 13.5 sacks and 20 tackles for a loss while helping lead the Buckeyes to the first ever College Football Playoff.

When Ohio State takes the field for the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day, Bosa will find himself opposite the man who offered him his first scholarship behind automatic architecture.

Bosa and the rest of OSU's second-ranked 2013 class has undoubtedly played a key role in closing the gap between the Buckeyes and the Crimson Tide, who have won three of the last five national championships and enter the national semifinal ranked as the CFP's top team.

"There's a reason that they've been No. 1 for so many years and won as much games as they have," Bosa said of Alabama. "Obviously we're going to have to prepare a little different for this one."

But according to Bosa, preparation is going to be the only difference in the outcome of the battle in Bayou. "Personnel definitely isn't a problem when we look at the matchup," he said. That's because Ohio State has been on a roll of its own lately on the recruiting trail, despite Meyer's style differing from Saban's.

"Coach Saban's a little more intimidating. He doesn't joke around much," Bosa said. "Coach Meyer will joke around a little bit."

Bosa won't be the last member of his family whom Saban and Meyer battle over, as his brother, Nick Bosa, is a 5-star defensive end in the 2016 class with offers from both OSU and Alabama. "Everyone is," Joey joked when it was mentioned that the Crimson Tide are recruiting his younger brother.

And as Saban learned last time, it'll take more than the push of a button to seal the deal.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Why Fiesta Bowl Matchup of Arizona vs. Boise State Will Be Best Bowl Game

The paths teams take to get to their bowl games often make for intriguing and entertaining anecdotes. For Arizona and Boise State, the stories are a part of why their meeting in the Fiesta Bowl should make for the most exciting and enjoyable non-playoff matchup of the postseason.

"Neither team probably expected to be here before the season," wrote Brandon Huffman of Scout.com.

At this time last year, Arizona was preparing for a late-December trip to Shreveport to play in a game few people not associated with the teams in the Advocare V100 Bowl cared about. Getting to seven regular-season wins for a second straight season was a huge step forward under coach Rich Rodriguez, who was tasked with rebuilding a program that had fallen on hard times.

Boise State, meanwhile, was in a state of flux as longtime coach Chris Petersen had moved to Washington. The school had already hired former assistant Bryan Harsin to take over, but the Broncos' trip to the Hawaii Bowl to face Oregon State would be overseen by interim coach Bob Gregory.

Now the Wildcats (10-3) and Broncos (11-2) are meeting in one of the most high-profile bowl games in this year's lineup, a place Arizona hasn't been in 20 years and where Boise's greatest postseason achievements have occurred.

Boise's rise from upstart lower-tier program to a perennial power reached its peak after the 2006 season, when it was among the first "BCS Buster" teams from non-power conferences to make a major bowl. The Broncos used trick plays to help knock off Oklahoma in overtime in the Fiesta Bowl that season and three years later beat TCU in another Fiesta Bowl.

Arizona played in the 1994 Fiesta Bowl and posted a 29-0 win over Miami (Florida) that led to Sports Illustrated picking the Wildcats No. 1 the following season. Instead of building on the previous season's success, Arizona went 8-4 and had only one season with more than eight wins between then and 2014.

"The Broncos actually provide something of a name-brand target, given their success over the last decade-plus," Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports wrote.

Arizona is almost playing the role of Cinderella, while Boise State gets to take off those glass slippers and don the villain's black hat, a role reversal that only adds to this game's storyline.

Look across the 2014 bowl lineup, and you'll see a lot of stinkers—games that pit a pair of 6-6 teams or ones where at least one (if not both) schools have little interest in being there.

Do you think Arizona State and Duke want to be in El Paso for the Sun Bowl when a month ago both were in line to win their divisions and play for conference titles? And it's no surprise South Carolina is struggling to sell tickets to its Independence Bowl matchup with Miami, especially since the Gamecocks began the season in the Top 10 and had played in Florida-based New Year's Day bowls the previous three years.

But Arizona and Boise? Not only are they thrilled to be spending New Year's Eve in the Phoenix area—the weather, alone, will aid that—but their fans figure to snatch up every available seat.

"From a ticket standpoint, I think we're going to a full stadium and an exciting game," Fiesta Bowl Executive Director Mike Nealy told the Arizona Republic's Jeff Metcalfe.

A pair of overly motivated teams plus a packed house equals a big game—lack of playoff ramifications be darned.

And we haven't even gotten to what the teams will bring to the field.

Both are in the top 30 in total offense—Boise is 14th, Arizona tied for 27th—with balanced attacks that each feature a 3,000-yard passer, a running back with 1,200-plus yards and a deep receiving corp.

Boise scored 50 or more points five times in a seven-game stretch prior to beating Fresno State 28-14 for the Mountain West title. Arizona was blown out by Oregon for the Pac-12 championship, but prior to that the Wildcats had scored 42 in back-to-back games and only failed to reach at least 26 points one other time.

The scoreboard will get a workout in Glendale, which is often a great indicator of a must-see game when there's nothing really riding on the outcome.

"When we don't have an invested interest in one team, sometimes we're just looking for more visceral excitement, like tempo and big plays," wrote Bill Connelly of SB Nation, who ranked Arizona-Boise State as the fourth-best bowl in terms of excitement and No. 8 overall in how watchable it will be.

The defensive comparison isn't the same. Boise ranks 40th in yards allowed, and Arizona is seventh-worst among the 78 teams playing in bowl games.

But the Wildcats make up for it with arguably the best individual defender in the country. Sophomore linebacker Scooby Wright—a unanimous All-American who won the Bednarik, Lombardi and Nagurski awards—either leads the nation or is in the top three in four statistical categories.

Outside of the fans of the teams involved in a bowl game, there has to be a hook to get casual viewers interested. Announcers will do their best to make you feel like you really want to get pumped when Bowling Green and South Alabama play Saturday night in the Camellia Bowl, but it takes more than hype.

Arizona and Boise State want to be there. They both have something to prove, and they are the kind of teams that can make this an instant classic—or at least make it fun to watch them try.

  

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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Michigan Fan Makes Jim Harbaugh Video Featuring Matthew McConaughey Voiceover

Given that Jim Harbaugh is a "Michigan man," Wolverines fans want to make sure the San Francisco 49ers coach knows it's OK to come back home.

In fact, "sometimes you gotta go back to actually move forward."

One fan has gone so far as to create a recruitment video in hopes of persuading Harbaugh to return to Michigan, where he excelled at quarterback before his first-round draft pick in 1987. The fan used a Matthew McConaughey Lincoln commercial for the voiceover to appropriately set the scene.

Regardless of whether Harbaugh takes the Michigan job, there's no doubt that Wolverines fans are going all out in their efforts to lure the high-profile coach to Ann Arbor.

[YouTube, h/t College Spun]

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USC Football: Whether He Stays or Goes, Leonard Williams Has Made His Mark

All-American defensive lineman Leonard Williams isn't ready to declare himself eligible for this spring's NFL draft, but the USC star is not announcing a return for his senior season in 2015. 

Following the No. 24-ranked Trojans' dominating win over Notre Dame to cap the regular season on Nov. 29, Williams said he needed time to weigh all factors before making his decision. 

Nothing has changed in the days since, though popular opinion is that one of the most remarkable defensive players in recent Pac-12 history is headed for the pros. 

If he stays or goes, Williams has already left an indelible mark on USC football. 

He garnered Most Valuable Player honors for 2014 at Wednesday's team banquet, per USCTrojans.com—just one more honor to add to the growing list of accomplishments. 

The lineman's junior campaign—and perhaps collegiate career—concludes Dec. 27 when the Trojans face Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. 

If that Saturday night in San Diego is indeed the last time Williams wears USC cardinal and gold, it's fitting. He would then go out in the same game that launched 2009 Heisman Trophy finalist and one of the premier defensive linemen in recent memory—and a Nebraska Cornhusker coincidentally—Ndamukong Suh.  

Indeed, Williams' tenure at USC can be favorably compared to the careers of predecessors like Suh, Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald, Washington's Steve Emtman—some of the best defensive linemen the college game has had to offer in the last two decades. 

In certain ways, Williams stands out from the past elite at his position. 

Williams is a new breed of defensive lineman. With his 6'5" frame, Williams looks like he would be as comfortable playing on the low post for USC basketball coach Andy Enfield as he is on the line for coordinator Justin Wilcox. 

Williams certainly has the versatility for it—he played both on the interior and at end throughout his USC career, excelling both as a pass-rusher and run-stopper. 

And perhaps most impressive is that he did so battling injury for much of the last two seasons. 

Head coach Steve Sarkisian had to limit Williams' participation in practices for stretches of the 2014 campaign, the result of a shoulder injury that required surgery last offseason and an early-season ankle injury.

The ankle flared up in the Trojans' Week 2 win at Stanford. All Williams did that afternoon was make 11 tackles and sack Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan. 

"Quite honestly, an amazing performance," Sarkisian said. "Never mind having an injured ankle, for a defensive lineman to have 11 tackles and a sack is a great accomplishment." 

It's no wonder, then, that the NFL is high on Williams. 

B/R NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller ranks Williams No. 5 on his most recent big board. CBSSports.com pegs him No. 2 overall. 

Thus, the choice may be an easy one. Moreover, Williams has little left to prove individually.

Perhaps the Heisman is an attainable goal, but when I asked him about the award earlier this season, he shrugged: "Well, I'm a defensive tackle," alluding to the difficulty defensive players have competing for the quarterback-dominated award.   

But as a member of a team? That's another story. 

"All these what-ifs," Williams said in summary of the 2014 season. 

One more win in Pac-12 play would have sent Williams and the rest of the Trojans to the conference championship game for the first time since its inception in 2011. And given USC lost two league games in the final minute, it's evident the program is on the brink. 

"We have potential," he said. "Now that we have scholarships again, USC is going to be back to dominance.”

Williams may not be around when that happens, but his name will certainly linger around the program for years to come.  

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of CFBstats.com

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Inside the Crazy Life of an Interim College Football Head Coach

Imagine someone handing you the keys to a Ferrari. You're free to take it wherever you wish, driving it as hard or as cautiously as you feel necessary. The only stipulation is that these privileges can—and likely will—be revoked at any point no matter how well you drive.

Come to think of it, that's not the only fine print. Your old car—the one that drove just fine before this dream scenario fell into your lap—might not be yours by the time this is over. It may be broken down and sold for parts when this is all said and done, which is something you'll need to consider at some point. Maybe you already are.

It's the opportunity of a lifetime, although you can't help but wonder what's down the road. Deep down you realize this may not end well, but you really have no choice but to jump in and drive.

And, man. Look at that car.

Welcome to the life of Dave Baldwin, conductor of one of the nation's most potent and surprising offensive attacks, interim coach at Colorado State and proud driver of a new dark green Ferrari, at least for the time being.

"There are a lot of things going on," Baldwin told Bleacher Report. "But that's what the coaching world has become."

It is both an honor and a shock to the system to be promoted internally in the month of December. There is nothing routine about this regular arrangement, although the situation has become familiar nonetheless. The Silly Season—better known as college football's frenzied hiring and firing stretch—has turned this time of year into a spectacle of sorts.

We track planes. We crash message board servers. We obsess over Twitter rumors, each seemingly more outlandish than the next. We search for the biggest names and best fits. We play armchair athletic director, trying to serve as the sport's unofficial matchmaker.

What we often breeze right past, however, are the teams (and the people) that are left behind. For every school hiring who hopes he is his program's savior, there's a roomful of players and coaches trying to process their goodbyes.

For every Florida, there's a Colorado State. There are always two very distinct, personal sides to every hire.

"I certainly knew it was coming," Baldwin said on the coaching change. "I had communications there. When it happened, how long it took and the circus involved around it, I didn't know. But when it finally happened, we knew it."

Jim McElwain's departure from Colorado State wasn't a clean break. While both sides appeared to leave on positive terms, the discussions regarding the buyout in McElwain's deal prolonged the inevitable breakup.

Eventually both schools found a middle ground to the tune of $7 million, an incredible sum that the Rams stood their ground on. Once Florida agreed to the terms, McElwain departed for Gainesville after an emotional goodbye with his 10-win team.

"We all wished him luck," Baldwin said. "At the same time, we had bowl practices to get prepared for."

That's when Colorado State handed the journeyman Baldwin a team and the interim tag. After a brilliant season—one that resulted in nine consecutive wins thanks in large part to the nation's No. 12 total offense—the play-caller of such production got the call. Given his long history in the sport, the Rams couldn't have picked a better person.

Offensive coordinator/QBs coach Dave Baldwin (@CoachBaldwinTD) has been named interim head coach. #CSURamspic.twitter.com/0sD7x41DR5

— CSU Rams Football (@CSUFootball) December 4, 2014

The 59-year-old began his career at Granada Hills Charter High School (Calif.) in 1978. By 1981, he was coaching the wide receivers at San Jose State. By '85, he had worked his way up to the same title at Stanford.

After bouncing around the West Coast, Baldwin landed his first head-coaching gig at Cal State Northridge in 1995, where he spent two seasons. He then coached San Jose State from 1997 through 2000, where he beat Stanford three times in four seasons and came away with a win over TCU—the nation's No. 9-ranked team at the time—during his tenure.

Since leaving San Jose State in 2000, Baldwin has held assistant jobs at Cincinnati, Baylor, Michigan State, New Mexico and Utah State before arriving at Colorado State in 2012, where he served as the offensive coordinator.

"He's a teacher before he's a coach," Colorado State running back Dee Hart told Kelly Lyell of The Coloradoan. "He'll kind of try to tell you how to do it before hollering at you and yelling at you and stuff like that. He's a really good guy that I think fits this program."

For nearly 40 years, Baldwin has coached football and traveled all over the country in order to do. He has seen the highs, lows and long hours that come with working in this business.

Even for him—someone who has seemingly seen everything—this presented a much different challenge. Still, it was a challenge he willingly embraced.

"The first priority is always the student-athlete and how you're going to take care of them," Baldwin said. "I accepted this so we could keep these students in the same basis that we needed to win a football game. That's why we play. We want to win; we don't want to just be competitive."

With Colorado State locked in to play Utah in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl this coming Saturday, December 20, Baldwin had little time to mull over the departure of his former boss and friend. But before any practice, recruiting meeting or bowl prep could take shape, Baldwin met with his players.

There were no radical changes to the plan. There were no new philosophies shared. This was not the time to begin tinkering with the system.

"You're 10-2 for a reason," Baldwin said.

Still, the meeting was necessary. A new voice—the new voice, albeit a familiar one—had to be heard.

"I walked into the meeting and told them that this is status quo," Baldwin said. "This is your football team. You got us to be 10-2. No head coach called a play, no head coach made a tackle. It was you as a unit that understood what we had to do and followed through, and these coaches are still here to do the same."

So they went to work, just like always. On the field, the team made the most of bowl practices. Off the field, it confronted a critical time in the academic calendar.

Practice times and schedules had to be managed—and in some cases shortened—due to finals. And while his players mixed in their playbooks with their studies, Baldwin continued to recruit, a seemingly impossible task given the circumstances. It was a challenge he embraced head on.

"Even though we didn't have a coach, we had two recruiting weekends and they were very successful," Baldwin said. "You're still trying to recruit in that short period."

When he wasn't selling potential future players on the program, Baldwin was ironing out the necessary details of the weeks to come. Things like practice schedules and game plans for the No. 22 Utes took a backseat, at least initially, for the simple but necessary items.

When will the team travel? What will we do for meals? How many buses do we need? And what time should curfew be?

It's not just a matter of bringing a team together or ensuring that the necessary game plan is implemented. Simply getting to where you need to be is a tremendous undertaking, one an interim coach has to navigate in a sea of change.

"There are more hats you put on," Baldwin said. "But when they asked me to do it, I was excited about it."

Regardless of the circumstances attached, there is euphoria in being called upon to lead a 10-win football team, especially for a coach who has explored all depths of the success threshold over the past few decades.

At the same time, Baldwin is not oblivious to the elephant in the room: Even after one of the most successful seasons the program has ever had, no job is safe. Not his or anyone else's on that staff, even after all the success they experienced. And as planning for the bowl game has transpired, the work behind the curtain—out of sight and out of mind—has also unfolded.

This is the cruelest aspect of a cruel profession—a reality that no matter how much you accomplish, it still may not be good enough.

Although Baldwin is the head coach of the team now, the interim tag is being utilized for a reason. It doesn't mean it can't (and won't) morph into something more stable and long term—and he's doing everything in his power to ensure that it does—although oftentimes that is not the case for coaches thrown into a similar situation.

"The insecurity of 10 coaches maybe not having jobs all of a sudden starts to set in," Baldwin said. "I'm fighting to keep a job here, and of course I want this job. I fought to get it. At the same time, you're trying to communicate and talk to people on the outside for other jobs just in case."

"Just in case" is a phrase all college football coaches know exceedingly well. It's why there's far more at stake than the possibility of a bowl win over a ranked opponent, an opponent Baldwin called "the best football team we've seen to date."

Coaches are trying to gauge their football futures. Families are putting their lives on hold, hoping they don't have to change schools, leave friends and change area codes. Lives are being impacted well beyond team meetings all because of one significant departure.

And yet, it is in the nature of the profession to put all distractions in the rear view for the people you've spent long hours with all season and for some much longer. It's the reason they signed up for the job in the first place.

Being an interim coach is a thankless exercise in nature, although these coaches aren't seeking applause. In many ways, they're acting out of instinct.

Baldwin, like every other interim coach this bowl season and beyond, will press on with the utmost appreciation of the opportunity he's been handed and a watchful eye on what's ahead. He will drive until he's told to stop, if he's told to stop, which is the only speed he has ever known.

"They asked me to do it, and I'm representing Colorado State University," Baldwin said. "I'm representing 114 young men who gave us a fabulous season. It may be ho-hum to a lot of people, but I have an opportunity to tell these players I want to continue on what you've done.

"That's special for me."

 

Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All stats courtesy of CFBstats.com.

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Urban Meyer Will Once Again Reload Ohio State Roster with Top-10 Class

Ohio State has been one of the biggest surprises in the 2014 college football season. The Buckeyes' success can surely be sustained with the 2015 recruiting class coming into Columbus.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer discuss how the Buckeyes can continue to build on their success with recruiting.

What kind of season will the Buckeyes have in 2015?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Best Remaining College Football Head Coaching Candidates

Much like the toy store shelves in the days before Christmas, the selection is starting to thin out in terms of top-notch head coaching candidates for the dwindling number of remaining FBS college football openings.

With Paul Chryst leaving Pittsburgh for Wisconsin, the current openings are Chryst's old job with the Panthers—one that has turned over numerous times in the past few years—as well as Colorado State and Michigan. Others could come open, either after bowl season or when a seated head coach leaves for another gig.

The candidate pool isn't nearly as thin, but with many of this offseason's vacancies getting filled either by  assistant coaches or coaches from outside FBS—new hires include coaches from Division III and the high school ranks—the notable names floating around are few.

Here's a look at the best remaining FBS head coaching candidates, along with potential jobs to which their names have been linked.

Begin Slideshow

Bo Pelini Went Way Too Far with Vulgar, Anti-Nebraska Administration Rant

By now, you'd think former Nebraska coach Bo Pelini would have security guards frisk everyone in the same room as him for a recording device. Or he just doesn't care. It's probably the latter. 

Pelini was fired by athletic director Shawn Eichorst on Nov. 30 following a 9-3 season that, once again, fell short of higher expectations. But whereas Eichorst made the final decision, Pelini was intent on having the final say. 

The Omaha World-Herald obtained audio of a 30-minute rant by Pelini while he met with Huskers players on Dec. 2 at Lincoln North Star High School. Pelini has since been hired as the head coach at Youngstown State. 

"A guy like (Eichorst) who has no integrity, he doesn't even understand what a core value is," Pelini told his players on the audio tape. "And he hasn't understood it from the day he got here. I saw it when I first met with the guy."

That's one of the few quotes without an F-bomb. 

Pelini did what disgruntled employees across the country wish they could do everyday: mouth off about their boss—or former boss, as the case may be—in front of people who will listen.  

Interestingly, Pelini's rant wasn't a yelling match. Rather, the World-Herald describes Pelini as speaking "conversationally, seldom raising his voice." How Pelini spoke to his players hardly matters, though. What matters, as Tom Shatel of the World-Herald opines, is that Pelini dragged them into an ugly situation whether they wanted to be involved or not. 

If Pelini felt he was at war with NU, why put the young men in the middle of it?

Do any of those players really care about his relationship with his athletic director? How many of them care about the A.D. or chancellor? Not many.

In a statement obtained by the Lincoln Journal Star, Nebraska noted the alleged comments as another reason to move on: 

If these comments were, indeed, spoken by Mr. Pelini, we are extremely disappointed, but it only reaffirms the decision that he should no longer be a leader of young men at Nebraska. His habitual use of inappropriate language, and his personal and professional attacks on administrators, are antithetical to the values of our university. His behavior is consistent with a pattern of unprofessional, disrespectful behavior directed by Mr. Pelini toward the passionate fans of Nebraska, employees of the university and, most concerning, our student-athletes. This behavior is not tolerated at the University of Nebraska and, among many other concerns, played a role in his dismissal.

This isn't the first time Pelini has been recorded going on a profanity-laced tirade. Last year, an audio recording surfaced of Pelini blasting Nebraska fans and media in 2011. However, that was a private moment of frustration recorded without Pelini's knowledge. This is different; Pelini knew exactly what he was doing even if he didn't know he was being recorded. Chances are, he's not about to apologize for it. 

There's something to be said about a coach who speaks his mind, loves his players and doesn't give a single damn about what others think of him. That's Pelini. He's a player's coach, that's well-documented. When he was fired last month, players past and present took to Twitter to vent their frustrations.

Former Huskers great Ndamukong Suh even said that Nebraska's problems started higher up than the head coach's office.

That may be true. Pelini may be right about Eichorst, and there are probably players who agree with him. That doesn't mean the rest of the players who may not have an opinion need to be put in a situation where they have to take sides. That's the unfair part. 

Furthermore, none of that changes the fact that Pelini and Eichorst could never successfully coexist. Venting about it certainly doesn't get Pelini his job back. If anything, it throws up a red flag for Pelini down the road if he ever wants to get hired by a major program again. 

Pelini isn't a victim, if for no other reason than that term is thrown around far too loosely. Was Pelini unjustly fired? There are arguments to be made on both sides, but they are meant for another conversation. 

Ultimately, though, Pelini was probably fired a year too late. The marriage was never going to last, so cutting ties, however awkward, was the right call. It's over. What's unfortunate is that the ill will toward one another has been drawn out as long as it has. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football.

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Alabama Football: Jalston Fowler the Ultimate Unsung Hero During Tide Career

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — There was a time when Jalston Fowler thought none of this would be possible.

After sustaining a knee injury against Western Kentucky in the second game of the 2012 season, Alabama’s big, bruising running back considered leaving football altogether, with a painful rehab in front of him.

“I mean, back when I was in a relationship with my girlfriend, she had to just keep me going, keep me positive through the whole thing,” Fowler remembers over two years later. “Family and friends, too. Now that I look back on it, I'm happy that I didn't.”

Now, Fowler—or “Nudie,” as Alabama coach Nick Saban and his teammates call him—is one of the most versatile players on the Alabama offense. The ever-smiling Fowler is a fan favorite who was voted a team captain by his teammates. The Prichard, Alabama, native earned his master’s degree over the weekend.

He’s been the unsung hero for Alabama during his career, and his story is one that has even made Saban reflect on his famous “process.”

“When I see guys like Jalston Fowler who have matured and progressed here from sort of being a young guy coming in that had a lot of ability but now has matured into a fine young man who has graduated, has goals and aspirations for himself, does things the right way, affects other people in the right way, that’s what makes me believe the process works,” Saban said before the 2014 season.

“When you have guys that haven’t been in the program that make some mistakes, do the wrong thing, you get frustrated. But when you see the guys that have been here and gone through it, you see how they’ve matured through the years and what they’ve become, it really makes me feel like, ‘Hey, the process works.’”

Fowler was recruited to Alabama as a running back, but carrying the ball won’t be what he’s remembered for.

In 2013, his first season back from his knee injury, then-offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier used him primarily as a fullback and an H-back. He was a lead blocker for T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake but was at his most effective as a receiver.

His signature play was a play-action swing pass on the goal line that he executed to perfection. He caught a touchdown against Texas A&M in 2013 that sealed the win in one of the biggest games of that college football season.

Fowler’s stat line from that year reads seven catches for 15 yards...and five touchdowns.

When Lane Kiffin was hired, he—like he has for so many players on this roster—found even more creative ways to use the 6’1”, 248-pound Fowler’s talents.

Fowler has lined up just about everywhere on the field except under center.

He’s carried the ball a handful of times. He’s played the fullback/H-back role, lead-blocking again for Alabama’s stable of running backs. His signature play hasn’t gone anywhere, catching two scores on the goal line.

But Fowler has been split out wide on a number of occasions. It’s mostly been as a decoy or as a blocker on screens for faster players like Amari Cooper or DeAndrew White.

Take this stat from TideSports.com’s D.C. Reeves from the SEC Championship Game:

So it’s clear that Kiffin has found a multitude of uses for Fowler. In the spirit of Christmas, Kiffin, as Fowler explains, is “just having a little bit of fun with the offense, with all his toys.”

So which toy is Fowler?

“I'm the big dump truck,” he says, once again flashing that contagious smile.

Fowler hasn’t made the eye-opening plays that Cooper or Yeldon routinely make, but he’s beloved by his teammates all the same.

He’s played a small role for a big guy but a role that has been critical nonetheless. And he’s earned recognition from his teammates because of it.

“Jalston's a great teammate, great leader,” Derrick Henry said. “When we get in the game, it's easy for him. It's nothing he can't do. That's what we expect out of him.”

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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