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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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Texas A&M Football: Who Are Remaining Candidates for Aggie DC Position?

Texas A&M football head coach Kevin Sumlin dismissed defensive coordinator Mark Snyder on November 28, per Jerry Hinnen of CBS Sports. The Aggies have been searching for the right defensive coordinator to fix their struggling defense since that date, and they have a number of qualified candidates still available. 

The fact that multiple coaches have been hired in the past couple of weeks has whittled the potential list down some. Former Florida head coach Will Muschampaccepted an offer to return to Auburn as the defensive coordinator, per Brandon Marcello of AL.com. 

Missouri defensive coordinator Dave Steckel took over the Missouri State program as its new head coach, per Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports. Former Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini decided to return to his Ohio roots and took the head coaching job at Youngstown State, per Sam Cooper of Yahoo Sports.

There is no definitive timetable set for when the Aggies will announce their new hire. Sumlin and the football administration seem intent on taking their time to ensure they make the correct hire.

This is a look at some of the top candidates remaining for the Texas A&M defensive coordinator position.

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Predictions & Preview for the Biggest Recruiting Day of 2015 Thus Far

National signing day is still more than a month away, but fans and schools around the country will catch a glimpse of the madness yet to come on Friday when four recruits rated 4 stars or higher will announce their commitments. 

The standouts scheduled to announce include 5-star linebacker Malik Jefferson, 4-star linebacker Ricky DeBerry, 4-star all-purpose back Nyheim Hines and 4-star athlete DeAndre McNeal.

With the quality and quantity of prospects making their decisions known, Friday will easily mark the biggest day of this recruiting period to date.

Think of it as an appetizer before the feast that will commence.

But who are the main players for these studs and where will they land? 


Malik Jefferson

Jefferson is the nation’s top outside linebacker prospect, and he will enroll at his school of choice in January to get a head start on his college career.

The 6’3”, 215-pounder, who was recently announced as the winner of the Butkus Award, has Baylor, LSU, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M and UCLA among his final group. 

However, his recruitment appears to be coming down to an in-state tug of war between old rivals in the Longhorns and Aggies—with the Bruins being a potential sleeper.

Considering that he rushes the passer off the edge and drops into coverage against running backs or tight ends with equal fluidity, Jefferson is the rare linebacker prospect who can stay on the field for three downs on the college level.

Regardless of where he lands, Jefferson is a special talent who can fit into any scheme thanks to his versatility.

While this his been a back-and-forth tussle between the Aggies and the Longhorns, the Aggies have the upper hand with current momentum on the recruiting trail. With Kevin Sumlin and his staff pushing for a second consecutive top-five class, adding Jefferson would seemingly cement the 2015 class as one of the nation's top groups.

Prediction: Texas A&M


DeAndre McNeal 

Considering that Jefferson and McNeal are prep teammates at Poteet High School in Mesquite, Texas, there is a strong chance they continue to play together at the next level.

In fact, according to Taylor Hamm of GigEm247 (subscription required), McNeal has stated his intention for he and Jefferson to attend the same school.

The 6’2”, 228-pounder, who accompanied Jefferson on a visit to UCLA last weekend, told Ryan Bartow of 247Sports (subscription required) that playing wide receiver instead of linebacker will play a big role in his decision.

He stands out as a jumbo receiver on offense who can overpower smaller defensive backs and make tough, athletic plays over the middle of the field. 

The loss of Texas A&M receivers coach David Beaty—who left to take the head coaching job at Kansas—is a negative for the Aggies.

However, Given that Sumlin’s offense has always been one that is friendly to receivers, the Aggies still have a lot of positives to pitch with the big-bodied pass-catcher.

Prediction: Texas A&M


Ricky DeBerry

DeBerry is perhaps the hardest to read in terms of pegging a favorite of the prospects announcing on Friday. 

In December alone, he’s received visits from the staffs at Michigan State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Alabama and Penn State, per 247Sports

Of that group, Bob Stoops and the Sooners are the only school without multiple pledges at linebacker in the 2015 cycle.

In fact, the Sooners have zero linebacker commitments. 

At 6’3”, 240 pounds, the U.S. Army All-American is one of a handful of 2015 prospects who are ready to make an immediate impact in college from a physical standpoint.

While schools such as Virginia and Tennessee are also involved with DeBerry, the Sooners seem to have the most momentum heading into DeBerry’s announcement.

Prediction: Oklahoma


Nyheim Hines

According to Bartow, it will be an ACC battle for Hines—with N.C. State and Virginia Tech neck and neck leading up to his decision. 

He visited Blacksburg last weekend and came away impressed with what he saw, per Bartow

The 5’9”, 187-pound spark plug is one of the nation’s fastest prospects with a recorded time of 4.34 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

As a junior, Hines rushed for 3,137 yards with 49 touchdowns while averaging more than 10 yards per carry. 

He’s also a potential matchup nightmare for defenses as a receiver coming out the backfield.

While the Hokies have some late momentum, Dave Doeren and the Wolfpack have done a great job with in-state prospects in this cycle as of late. 

Expect that trend to continue.

Prediction: N.C. State


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


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Michigan Risking Huge Embarrassment with Gigantic Jim Harbaugh Offer

Sometimes you arrive at desperation logically. Panic becomes the only sensible move.   

That's the best way to describe why Michigan is going so far overboard in trying to land Jim Harbaugh as its new football coach, after he already told the Wolverines no. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that Michigan is offering Harbaugh a six-year contract at $8 million a year, which is more than 10 percent higher than the $7.16 million that current NCAA highest-paid coachNick Saban makes and 60 percent more than Harbaugh's current $5 million yearly salary.

My first thoughts: desperation. Never going to get him. Going to end in embarrassment. Exactly the right play.

That Michigan feels it would take a ridiculous offer to interest a superstar coach who should have an emotional connection to the place shows just how far Michigan has fallen.

Harbaugh is now willing to think about it, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. That would be great if I believed it for one second. No, it's a far better bet that he is using his alma mater as leverage for a few weeks until the NFL season ends, the San Francisco 49ers dump him and other NFL teams come after him. Now they can see how much it will take to get him.

I'm suspicious, too, about who leaked the news. If it was Harbaugh or someone from his camp, wanting NFL teams to know, then Michigan should already know it's being used. If it was Michigan, well, that's pathetic. It's an announcement to the world that Michigan can still be considered by the hottest coach in the country, like it wants all the kids in school to know that the popular girl is considering its invite to the prom. There's currency in that.

Either way, Michigan doesn't seem to be denying the report.

And it's just such a curious thing that Harbaugh is so hot. Every time a big opening comes up, Harbaugh's name immediately is leaked. Oakland Raiders, New York Jets, Chicago Bears. Michigan. Everyone wants this guy.

Everyone except for the guy who has him. And he can't wait to get rid of him.

Harbaugh has a shelf life. You love him when you get him because he's such a great coach and he instills discipline and toughness. And he wins. But he's sort of a prickly football genius who thrives on challenging people, pushing their buttons and making them uncomfortable.

In the pros, players are recyclable. And if they don't get along with Harbaugh, they can be dumped. In college, you can't just do that. And if Harbaugh makes everyone around him, including co-workers, uncomfortable, how will he do with Michigan's big alumni and boosters, and all those players' parents? What a mess.

So how can I say that Michigan is doing the right thing by going for him with such outrageous money?

Let's call is justifiable panic. The place is in a freefall and has no idea what it wants or needs. It tried to modernize by hiring Rich Rodriguez as the coach, and then started trying to force him out as soon as it shook his hand to welcome him. Then it went the traditional Michigan Man route in Brady Hoke, who failed miserably.

What's left? Tough love. Michigan is not a national program anymore. The Big Ten is slipping from national relevance overall, other than Ohio State and maybe Michigan State.

I've heard calls in Michigan for the Wolverines not to worry about name recognition in a coach, and to worry instead about building things slowly, and over the long term, like Mark Dantonio did it at Michigan State.

That is a different animal. Michigan is still trying to stay within shouting distance of the national stage. Get the wrong guy again, and that's over. It might never come back (see: Nebraska).

If getting a superstar coach is part PR, then fine. There is nothing wrong with PR. Michigan needs to think one way: How will we land the stud high school quarterback in Florida or Texas or wherever? Those kids are going to high-powered, fast-paced offenses in warm weather. They don't know who Bo Schembechler is. And everyone is on TV now, so Michigan has lost nearly all of its built-in advantages just for being Michigan.

Do you know what these kids do know?

Jim Harbaugh.

Michigan needs a big-name coach right away. It needs a reason for people to look at the Wolverines before everyone starts forgetting they're there at all. One of the big reasons Ohio State has kept its name while the entire Midwest fades is that Urban Meyer is its coach. Every recruit knows who he is.

Harbaugh has been to the Super Bowl, has developed Alex Smith at quarterback. He also worked a miracle at Stanford, taking a smart-kid team and turning it into a blood-and-guts place. No way would anyone have thought that would work there.

Meanwhile, all the other big-name coaches keep saying no to Michigan. Les Miles, Sean Payton, TCU's Gary Patterson, who got a contract extension out of Michigan's interest in him.

Reality sets in. Options run out. So Michigan took another run at the Big One. If it pulls this off, then Harbaugh will likely turn Michigan around quickly. But his shelf life will still be an issue. The clock is always ticking with him.

On the other hand, what if he turns down the job? What if he's only using Michigan as leverage? How will it look if Michigan couldn't even get a local boy to take the job as the richest coach ever?

Well, Michigan can deal with that later.

This is the time for panic.


Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report. He also writes for The New York Times and was formerly a scribe for FoxSports.com and the Chicago Sun-Times. Follow him on Twitter @gregcouch.

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Who Are the Biggest Sleeper Recruits in the 2015 Class?

We all know about the big-name college football recruits, the guys who are atop the big boards and discussed by head coaches across the nation. But some players out there are under the radar and don't get much publicity.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee reveal their sleeper recruits in the video above.

Who is your sleeper? Check out the video and let us know!

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How South Carolina Can Round Out Strong 2015 Class and Finish in Top 10

Steve Spurrier and his South Carolina Gamecocks have hit the recruiting trail hard thus far, scooping up top-tier talent to address some of their pressing needs. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee break down the class and what type of impact these recruits will have on the South Carolina program.

Has Spurrier done enough to bolster the Gamecocks roster? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why College Football Playoff Expansion Won't Be Happening Anytime Soon

ATLANTA — Proponents of College Football Playoff expansion are like kids on Christmas this holiday season.

They've ripped the wrapping paper off the gift, but before they open the packaging and play with the toy, they've moved on to unwrap the next present.

Here we are in mid-December, with the inaugural national semifinals and College Football Playoff National Championship Game looming, and calls for expanding the four-team playoff have already started.

ESPN.com polled 103 FBS coaches, and 44 percent of them were in favor of the postseason expanding to eight teams. That's not surprising, as bonus money would probably be due to most or all of those in favor if they earned a playoff spot.

President Barack Obama even chimed in on the side of eight teams on The Herd with Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio earlier this month, via AL.com. "[Expanding to four] was the right thing to do," he said, "and I suspect it'll end up being eight teams, and that'll be just about right."

If you're hoping for the playoff to be expanded anytime soon, you're going to be disappointed this holiday season.

It's not happening. Not for this generation of college football players, anyway.

"It's a four-team tournament for 12 years," College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock told B/R. "There hasn't been any discussion in our group about expanding."

Preservation of the regular season has been a top priority of the College Football Playoff selection committee, and nothing that took place this season has suggested that an expanded playoff and the relevance of the regular season can coexist.

"Regular-season football is the best thing we have going for us in college athletics," Hancock said. "Nobody wants to erode that. There is a tipping point, beyond which the postseason would begin to draw life out of the regular season. Nobody knows what that tipping point is, but it's not four. We know that. It could be eight, and it could be 16."

If the playoff expanded to eight, it's unlikely it would be approved by the conference commissioners unless their conference champions were guaranteed automatic bids. That would almost certainly include one spot for the best team out of the "Group of Five," which would be Boise State this season.

Does an 11-2 Boise State team that's ranked 20th deserve a shot at the national title this year? Of course not. What about a Wisconsin team that won the Big Ten in 2012 with an 8-5 record and finished 4-4 in the conference? Nope.

The goal of the College Football Playoff should be to reward excellence, not grant access. Expanding to eight would favor access over excellence and permanently change what the goal should be.

A team that isn't deserving of being in the discussion getting hot and winning the title is far more detrimental to the sport and the regular season than a team that is deserving getting left out every once in a while is.

While the cries for expansion have been loud, they didn't come as a shock to Hancock or anybody associated with the College Football Playoff.

"It's not surprising," he said. "Within a couple of days of making the announcement about the playoff in June of 2012, people were already saying that it has to be more. Here we come out and have given folks the playoff they've been wanting, and they already wanted more."

Even though the quest for an expanded College Football Playoff will fall on deaf ears for the next decade-plus, the interest the four-team playoff has generated for college football fans and casual fans who simply tune in for the biggest games is good for the sport.

"It's a sign that people love the game," Hancock said. "They want more college football. There's just so much passion for it."

Could television dollars and ratings change the perception among the sport's powerbrokers before the end of the 12-year contract? Absolutely. 

The same tipping point in the fight to preserve the regular season would still exist regarding the value of regular-season television contracts, which skyrocketed under the old BCS structure. Scarcity of games in the postseason is a big reason why that interest and the dollars that come along with it exist in the first place.

College football just got a new toy, and it's going to play with it for 12 years.

Enjoy it for a little while before tossing it aside and moving on.


Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Urban Meyer Has Tim Tebow Speak to Buckeyes Ahead of College Football Playoff

As the Ohio State Buckeyes prepare to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl for the inaugural College Football Playoff, coach Urban Meyer is doing everything he can to make sure his team is ready for the game.

On Wednesday night, Meyer had one of his former players—University of Florida legend Tim Tebow—come speak to his team.

It probably isn't a bad idea to have Tebow give the team a pep talk leading up to a huge game. Tebow did win two national championships and a Heisman Trophy during his Gators career. Oh, he also delivered one of the most memorable postgame speeches in recent memory.

[Urban Meyer]

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Semifinal Preview: Will Florida State Slow Down Oregon's Stellar Offense?

Florida State has had close games all season, and they have a good defense to thank for keeping them in most of those games.

Oregon's offense is one of the most potent in the entire country, though.

These teams square off for a shot at the national championship in the Rose Bowl on January 1. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer break down the national semifinal game. 

Who will win? Oregon or Florida State?

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bowl Games Schedule 2014-15: Full College Football Postseason Slate and Picks

The initial College Football Playoff may overshadow the rest of bowl season, but there are going to be plenty of marquee showdowns that serve as enticing appetizers.

From a nationally ranked Utah team playing on the first day of the bowl season to clashes between Michigan State and Baylor, TCU and Ole Miss and Mississippi State and Georgia Tech, there is plenty to look forward to outside of the two playoff showdowns.

With that in mind, here is a look at the schedule and predictions for the entire bowl season.


Bowl Season Opening Day Game to Watch: Air Force vs. Western Michigan

Western Michigan and Air Force are not exactly unstoppable machines when it comes to postseason play. The Broncos have never won a bowl game in five tries; the Falcons have lost five of their past seven.

Something will have to give this season.

Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck discussed the privilege of playing Air Force, according to STATS LLC, via ESPN.com:

It's an honor ever to play against a service academy. You talk about a true team—Air Force, Navy, Army...when those teams play, they play for their country, they play for each other. Our team can learn a lot from [the Air Force] football team.

Air Force makes no secret of what it wants to do on offense. It was eighth in the country in rushing yards per game and 118th in passing offense, largely because of the triple-option look it gives on nearly every play. 

The Falcons had nine players tally a rushing touchdown on the season, but it was running back Jacobi Owens who was most effective, with 1,082 rushing yards. Quarterback Kale Pearson contributed 758 rushing yards of his own and managed to throw for 14 touchdowns to just three interceptions when he did air it out.

Most passes came as a reaction to defenses committing too many defenders into the box in an effort to slow down the triple-option attack.

Western Michigan’s defense was a respectable 37th in the country against the run on the season and should be able to at least prevent the Air Force rushing game from completely dominating. That will help the Broncos get the ball into the hands of their formidable offensive attack.

Brent Briggeman of The Gazette of Colorado Springs noted that the experience on Western Michigan’s defense will help in the preparation for the triple-option look:

Granted, the Broncos will have two weeks to prepare for this game, but it's not like they were doing any offseason prep work for the Falcons. They had to formulate a game plan in a hurry, then hope they could simulate it with some degree of accuracy on the practice field.

It should help Western Michigan that its defensive leaders are veterans. On a roster largely dominated by freshmen and sophomores, the five leading tacklers are juniors and seniors.

When the Broncos have the ball, they bring a much more balanced attack to the table than Air Force.

Quarterback Zach Terrell threw for 3,146 yards and 23 touchdowns and finished third in the country in yards per pass (9.53) and 16th in total QBR (76.5). Throw in running back Jarvion Franklin’s 1,525 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns, which was third-best in the nation, and it is no wonder opposing defenses had so much trouble stopping the Broncos.

Terrell will look for wide receivers Corey Davis and Daniel Braverman early and often, considering Davis led the MAC with 12 touchdowns and was second with 1,232 receiving yards, while Braverman was sixth in the league with 912 receiving yards.

Air Force’s defense finished 101st against the pass this season, which could be a serious problem against Terrell, Davis and Braverman.

The Falcons may be able to put some points on the board with the triple-option, but Western Michigan’s defense is set up to stop Air Force much more effectively than Air Force is set up to slow down the Broncos' aerial assault. 

That will make the ultimate difference in this game

Prediction: Western Michigan 34, Air Force 20


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Jim Harbaugh Is 'Absolutely' Worth $49M to the Michigan Wolverines

According to Arizona CBS affiliate reporter Joe Pequeno and NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, Jim Harbaugh was offered just under $50 million by the Michigan Wolverines to become their new head coach. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer debate how quickly Harbaugh could turn around the Michigan football program if he was hired. 

Is Harbaugh the right guy for Michigan?

Watch the video and let us know!

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College Football Playoff 2014-15: Stat Projections for Top Players in Semifinals

Heisman winner Marcus Mariota and a host of college football's top stars take center stage at the inaugural College Football Playoff this January.

One semifinal matchup features the last two Heisman winners, as the surging Oregon Ducks collide with the still-undefeated Florida State Seminoles and polarizing quarterback Jameis Winston.

The Sugar Bowl boasts the powerhouse Alabama Crimson Tide and Heisman finalist Amari Cooper. Nick Saban meets old foe Urban Meyer and an Ohio State Buckeyes team that has experienced arguably the most adversity of the four.

No bigger stage now exists for these players, many of whom are set to move on to other pastures, including the NFL. A peek into the past might reveal how each of the biggest names will rise to the occasion.


Rose Bowl

Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

There is little doubt Mariota will shine against the Seminoles.

Just how bright is the question in need of an answer.

Mariota threw for 3,783 yards and 38 touchdowns to two interceptions with another 669 yards and 14 scores on the ground. The result was one of the biggest Heisman victories in history, as ESPN Stats & Info captures:

It is hard to quantify just how great Mariota performed this season, which goes twofold for what he can do against the Seminoles.

The Honolulu native threw for at least three touchdowns seven times this season and stepped up in some of the biggest games of the year. He posted three total scores against Michigan State, four against Stanford, six against Oregon State and five against Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship.

Now add in the fact the Seminoles rank 30th in terms of points allowed per game. A strong rush will get Mariota out of the pocket, but he is comfortable on the run after his offensive line suffered plenty of injuries this season.

Translation—the Seminoles will be unable to slow Mariota.

Prediction: 360 Pass. Yds., 4 TD, 1 INT, 65 Rush Yds., 1 TD


Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

Little separates Winston and Mariota this year, but what does is crucial.

Winston is the owner of 3,559 yards and 24 scores, but his 17 interceptions stick out in a sore manner. The Bessemer, Alabama, native posted five multi-interception games this season, although the Seminoles never lost.

Late-game heroics took center stage for the Seminoles this year, the main instigator usually being the man under center. Up-and-down numbers or not, the Ducks seem to believe their experiences against the air-raid offenses of the Pac-12 have them in a good position against last year's Heisman winner.

"I think playing in the Pac-12 helps you playing against a guy like Jameis," cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu said, per Tyson Alger of OregonLive.com. "You have to go in and out through great quarterbacks that make great plays. They don't turn the ball over very much."

The problems are twofold, though.

One, few quarterbacks bring what Winston does on each snap. Two, Ekpre-Olomu—by far Oregon's best defender—was lost for the season after injuring his knee in practice, per ESPN.com's Chantel Jennings.

Winston will have a big game, win or lose. Just watch for the majority of the flashy numbers to come in the second half.

Prediction: 275 Pass. Yds., 3 TD, 2 INT


Sugar Bowl

Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

An Ohio State defense that allows 21.2 points per game on average will in no way slow Cooper.

Cooper not only led the Crimson Tide in receiving this year, but he also just about did it on his own. That is only a slight exaggeration, too. The Heisman finalist caught 115 passes for 1,656 yards and 14 touchdowns. Alabama as a whole caught 268 for 3,653 and 30, with the next closest receiver on the list being DeAndrew White—who caught 37 balls for 439 yards and four scores.

SEC Network puts things into perspective:

It should go without saying that the man shows up in big games.

He roasted Mississippi State with eight catches for 88 yards and a score. The Iron Bowl against Auburn was his Heisman moment with 13 grabs for 224 yards and three scores. Missouri never stood a chance in the SEC Championship, thanks in part to his 12 catches and 83 yards.

The point is, Cooper might just shine the brightest of all big names in the semifinals. Ohio State is physical in the secondary, but so is most of the SEC.

Prediction: 9 Rec., 145 Yds., 2 TD


Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

With Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett out of the frame, there is just not a big enough sample size to throw Ohio State sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones to the fire.

Sure, Jones was strong in the Big Ten Championship against Wisconsin with 257 yards and three scores, but who wasn't? Wisconsin could have stayed on the buses and put up a better fight in the 59-0 loss.

Sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott makes the offense churn. Elliott ran away with the starting gig this year on his way to 1,402 yards and 12 touchdowns on a 6.5 yards-per-carry average. He not only ran for 220 yards and a pair of scores against Wisconsin, but he also breached the 100-yard mark seven times this year and scored in nine games.

Feel free to make that eight and 10, respectively.

Elliott is perhaps the most talented back the Crimson Tide will have faced this year, the lone exception being LSU's Leonard Fournette.

Observers cannot know if Elliott's effort will be enough to win, but they can at least bank on a major showing from one of the nation's best backs.

Prediction: 25 Rush, 145 Yds., 1 TD


Stats and information via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.


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College Football Bowl Picks 2014: Game Predictions for Every Matchup of Season

The most exciting bowl games are not always the ones that have the biggest names attached to them.

Fans are heavily anticipating the first-ever College Football Playoff with matchups between Oregon and Florida State and Alabama versus Ohio State. However, each game has close to a double-digit spread, according to Odds Shark.

However, there are plenty of battles outside the two biggest that feature plenty of talent and a potentially close matchup. This makes it hard to predict, but the games will certainly be fun to watch. 

Here is a full breakdown of the bowl schedule with picks for every game. I also take a deeper look at some of the more underrated competitions to watch.


Top Bowls to Watch

Alamo Bowl: UCLA vs. Kansas State

The storyline of this game will be the battle between two talented quarterbacks making a final start at the collegiate level.

UCLA star Brett Hundley is preparing to enter the 2015 NFL draft, but he still has a lot to prove, as noted by Bryan Fischer of NFL.com:

He might be among the most divisive players scouts will look at over the coming months—some scouts see star potential, others see a potential bust. His last performance was a clunker against a good Stanford defense, costing his team a trip to the Pac-12 title game, so pressure is on to prove he's making the right decision to come out with a good game against a solid Kansas State team.

On the other side of the ball will be Kansas State senior Jake Waters, who is unlikely to have much of a pro career but can still make a major impact in this one. With the ability to make plays with his arm and his legs, he finished 12th in the nation with a Total QBR of 77.7, just ahead of Hundley.

He is also helped out by the play of senior receiver Tyler Lockett, who has amassed 44 catches for 669 receiving yards and four touchdowns in the last four games. That's a good season for a lot of people.

While UCLA has its own playmakers like Paul Perkins, Kansas State has a much more consistent defense and should be able to slow down the Bruins throughout the game.

Hundley will be the one auditioning for scouts, but Waters will end his career on a high note with a win in the Alamo Bowl. 


Peach Bowl: Ole Miss vs. TCU

TCU and its fans might be disappointed by the fact it is not competing for a national championship in either the Rose Bowl or Sugar Bowl, but there will be a serious test ahead in the Peach Bowl.

While the Horned Frogs have the No. 2 scoring offense in the nation behind talented quarterback Trevone Boykin, things will not be easy against an Ole Miss defense that has been dominating opponents all year long.

After shutting down Mississippi State in a win at the Egg Bowl, Rebels coach Hugh Freeze was proud of his team's effort.

They're pretty good. They are going to get some yards. They have all year, against everyone, and they've scored some points. But at the same time I'm not surprised because we are No. 1 in the country in scoring defense and been pretty stingy in giving up points in the redzone.

Ole Miss finished the year with the top defense in the country, allowing just 13.8 points per game.

Even if TCU is limited to well below its average of 46.8 points per game, the team will probably only need to score in the 20s to beat an offense that has struggled at times this year. Quarterback Bo Wallace has at least one interception in four of the last five games and often gets little help in the run game.

The Horned Frogs have a talented defense that is often overlooked, but it will be able to play a big role in this one as the surprise season ends on a high note.


Russell Athletic Bowl: Clemson vs. Oklahoma

This might be a bowl of disappointment because both teams were expecting more from this season, but there will still be a lot of action in this battle of talented opponents.

For Oklahoma, a lot of the success will depend on the health of the backfield. Starting quarterback Trevor Knight, who missed the last three games of the season, should be healthy for the bowl game. Bob Przybylo of Scout.com notes the team has seen a difference lately:

Running back Samaje Perine, who rushed for an NCAA-record 427 yards against Kansas, is also questionable after spraining his ankle in the final game of the year against Oklahoma State.

If these two players are healthy, the Sooners can do a lot of damage.

Of course, Clemson comes back strong with a defense that ranked seventh in the nation with just 17.6 points allowed per game. Star players like All-American Vic Beasley have the ability to affect the game on their own.

The problem is the Tigers are dealing with their own injuries at quarterback, as noted by ESPN:

Cole Stoudt will play better with some extra practice time, but Clemson will struggle overall offensively as Oklahoma earns the victory for the Big 12.


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Bowl Games 2014-15: Postseason Schedule, Predictions and More

College football fans are advised to spend time with their families now because starting Dec. 20, there are 38 (39 if you count the yet-to-be-determined national championship) bowl games on tap for a glorious few weeks of pigskin action.

Here is a look at the entire postseason schedule and predictions for every bowl game before digging into a preview of the contest to kick the whole thing off.


Bowl Season Opener: Nevada vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

New Orleans is home for Louisiana-Lafayette, and the New Orleans Bowl has become a place of comfort and familiarity. In fact, the Ragin' Cajuns have won the past three New Orleans Bowls and will look to make it four against the Wolf Pack.

Look for plenty of red in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in what should be a home game for Louisiana-Lafayette.

On the flip side, Nevada has lost six of its last seven bowl games although it hasn't played in the postseason since the 2012 campaign.

When Louisiana-Lafayette has the ball, the Wolf Pack need to be aware of the rushing attack. Running backs Elijah McGuire (1,165 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns) and Alonzo Harris (737 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns) spearhead the efforts on the ground, but quarterback Terrance Broadway (646 rushing yards) can get involved as well.

The Ragin' Cajuns were a disappointing 102nd in the nation in passing offense, though, so expect plenty of ball control and running attempts in this one, especially since Nevada's defense is 79th in points allowed per game and 81st against the run.

It is important to note that the Wolf Pack finished 11th in the country in turnover margin, so it wasn't all bad on the defensive side.

Nevada will counter with a strong rushing offense of its own, led by quarterback Cody Fajardo's 937 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Running backs Don Jackson (932 rushing yards and seven touchdowns) and James Butler (620 rushing yards and five touchdowns) are also critical contributors for an attack that ran for 223 or more yards in each of the final five games and finished 32nd in the country in rushing yards.

Chris Murray of the Reno Gazette-Journal noted just how effective the Wolf Pack have been in the running department:

Louisiana-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth also talked about Nevada's offense, according to STATS LLC, via ESPN.com:

"They're an outstanding team. They can run it, they can throw it and they play good defense. They are a very multiple team on offense and they spread the ball a lot of different ways to a lot of different people. (Fajardo) does a great job in distributing the football."

There may be some concern with Nevada's offensive attack because of its tendency to get too one-dimensional, just like Louisiana-Lafayette's. After all, the Wolf Pack only threw for 197.8 yards per game, which was a decidedly mediocre 94th in the country, and that could be a problem against a Louisiana-Lafayette defense that is much better against the run than the pass.

The Ragin' Cajuns finished 44th in the country against the run but a dreadful 120th against the pass. 

While the statistics may favor the running game for Nevada, Fajardo did throw for 2,374 yards and is capable of making plays through the air if needed. That should especially be the case against the Ragin' Cajuns' vulnerable secondary. Hudspeth discussed Fajardo in particular, via Tim Buckley of The Daily Advertiser:

There are plenty of similarities between these two teams that struggle on defense but run the ball effectively. This will likely be a close game to kick off bowl season, which makes it even more difficult to overlook the battle-tested factor when projecting the outcome.

Nevada knocked off Washington State from the Pac-12 and only lost to Pac-12 South Division champion Arizona by seven points. What's more, the Wolf Pack beat BYU and came within one score of both Boise State and 10-2 Colorado State.

Louisiana-Lafayette, on the other hand, was crushed by the three teams of note on its schedule in Ole Miss, Boise State and Louisiana Tech. It also had an ugly loss to an Appalachian State squad that is far removed from the one that stunned Michigan in 2007.

Nevada has played better against more formidable competition this season and will get big plays from Fajardo, who is responsible for 101 total touchdowns in his college career, down the stretch. Look for the Wolf Pack to edge out the Ragin' Cajuns in the fourth quarter of a high-scoring affair. 

Prediction: Nevada 35, Louisiana-Lafayette 31


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Texas Coaching Staff Will Face Tough Task Replacing Defensive Stars for 2015

The Texas Longhorns defense was one of the brighter spots on the team in 2014. One could make a reasonable argument that the reason Texas is bowl-eligible is because of its defense.

The Longhorns offense has done little to assist its defense this season. Texas ranks No. 33 in the nation in scoring defense and has allowed an average 23.3 points per game in 2014. Meanwhile the Longhorns rank No. 101 in scoring offense and have averaged 22.6 points per game.

Some critics may say head coach Charlie Strong and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford inherited solid players, which is why the defense is so good. That's a fair assessment to a certain extent, but the team the coaches inherited ranked No. 73 in scoring defense in 2012 and No. 57 in 2013.

Nobody can overlook the changes Strong and his defensive staff made this season. The defense is more fundamentally sound and does not make many mental mistakes or miss many tackles compared to recent history.

But Strong and Bedford will face a tough test in finding a way to continue the unit's progress and replace the stars from 2014.

The Longhorns will likely lose six starters in 2015, all of whom have played since arriving in Austin. But the position group that will lose two impactful players is linebacker.

Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond led the Longhorns with 260 combined tackles in 2014, and the drop-off in experience next season is difficult to ignore. 

The Longhorns will have a handful of linebackers on campus, but only one has significant experience as a starter. Peter Jinkens has a lot of experience playing at Texas and will likely gain more in 2015. Who will be on the field with Jinkens is unknown.

The Longhorns received a verbal commitment from Rivals.com 4-star linebacker Cecil Cherry earlier this week. Cherry is a physical player who has the potential to be a difference-maker on the field. 

If Cherry continues his progress, the linebacker position could be stout. But it's going to take more than two players to keep the defense progressing.

The losses of defensive backs Mykkele Thompson and Quandre Diggs and defensive end Cedric Reed and the potential loss of defensive tackle Malcom Brown will be significant.

The positive news for the defensive line is the Longhorns will have Desmond Jackson and Hassan Ridgeway to help with any fall-off from departures. But defensive backs coach Chris Vaughn and Bedford will need to find reliable replacements for Diggs and Thompson.

Is the talent on campus? Possibly. But replacing two four-year starters is not an easy task. Also, the leadership Diggs provided may not be replaceable.

Diggs previously said he expects defensive back Duke Thomas to step up and take over as a leader. Thomas has a lot of playing experience from 2014 but will need to lead his team next year. 

Ultimately, the Longhorns have a variety of potential replacements for the departing stars, but it would be foolish to say Texas will automatically be as good or better on defense next season.

Although Bedford and Strong will have their work cut out for them in 2015, the positive news for Texas fans is the coaches have a lengthy track record of putting together and recruiting stout defenses.


Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

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Nebraska Football: Pelini's Last Act One of Selfishness and Childishness

Nebraska football fans thought the dismissal of Bo Pelini and the hiring of Mike Riley was the end of a tumultuous relationship between Pelini and the outside world. They thought wrong.

Nebraska football fans heard news of another surreptitious recording of Bo Pelini uttering profanities, this time during his half-hour meeting with the team on Dec. 2 after his firing. A transcript of the recording, obtained by the Omaha World-Herald and described in an article by Dirk Chatelain, said that for “the majority” of the recording, Pelini complained about Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst.

More accurately, he stood in front of a group of college kids and called Eichorst names.

“I didn't really have any relationship with the A.D.,” Pelini said. “The guy, you guys saw him (Sunday), the guy is a total p---y. I mean, he is. He's a total c--t.”

One of Pelini’s prime complaints about Eichorst was his lack of public support for Pelini: “I don't even really know what those guys do—and I said ‘Hey, you know what, if (Eichorst) ain't gonna do his job, if he doesn't have the balls to go out there and support me, to support these kids, support this program, then do me a favor and get rid of me.’"

This was, of course, the same Eichorst that didn’t fire Pelini after his infamous "Coach Chickenbleep" (note: language NSFW) press conference after the 2013 Iowa loss.

Of course, this wasn’t the first time Pelini has been stung by a leaked audio. Last year, Deadspin released an audio tape of Pelini angrily berating Nebraska’s “f-----g fair-weather" fanbase after a comeback win over Ohio State.

Perhaps a bit of advice may be in order. If people are referencing a recording of your embarrassing and profanity-laced tirade, and you have to ask which one they are referring to, you’re probably doing something wrong.

In all honesty, there was probably some merit to Pelini’s complaint about a lack of public support from the top brass at the university. (Former Nebraska player Scott Shanle did point out on Twitter how little that should probably matter to the players.) And with two separate releases of damaging and embarrassing audio tapes, the conspiracy theorists will have free reign to craft scenarios about Nebraska brass setting bugs to catch Pelini.

At the end of the day, though, that’s not the point.

Pelini is a 47-year-old man. He’s been one of the most influential leaders in the lives of the players on his team, players who were shell-shocked to learn that their coach had been fired. They’re looking to Pelini for leadership, for guidance on how to handle a traumatic event in their lives.

How does Pelini respond?

He spends “the majority” of the last meeting he will have with his players venting his spleen, airing his grievances, painting himself as the noble hero in the story dragged down by the “f-----g lawyer" and saying he would “rather f-----g work at McDonald’s than work with some of those guys.”

There is no introspection on what Pelini might have done differently. There is no advice to his players on how to handle the situation other than a perfunctory do-what-you-want suggestion and an admonition to call him.

Nope. Pelini’s team was a captive audience for the final act in this seven-year drama. As a result, perhaps we shouldn’t be so self-righteously stunned that one of those players recorded and leaked the audio of that final act.

Steven M. Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star called Pelini’s rant to his players “selfish,” which is the perfect adjective. Sipple went on to defend Pelini in a way, reflecting that the job consumed Pelini, making it impossible for him to continue.

The job consumed Pelini? Or Pelini allowed the job to consume him?

“I've been at LSU, I've been at Oklahoma, I've been to these other places. ... The scrutiny, the negativity, it ain’t like that everywhere,” Pelini said to his team.

With all due respect, that’s nonsense. LSU coach Les Miles is under unremitting pressure in Baton Rouge, and he’s won a conference title and a national title. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops feels the heat in Norman—again, with one more national title ring on his finger than Pelini has.

But, again, that’s beside the point. It doesn’t matter whether Pelini was justified in his complaints about Eichorst and the Nebraska brass. What matters is Pelini—after having more than enough time to marshal his emotions and compose his thoughts—chose to teach his players that the way to handle adversity is by dropping c-bombs about another adult in an ostensibly closed-door setting.

It was the same lesson he taught his players when he swung his hat at the referee during the Iowa loss in 2013. It was the same lesson he taught his players when he called out the “f-----g fair-weather" fans whose devotion paid for his salary and the palatial facilities in which the football team operated. When the going gets tough, Pelini should have taught in those moments rather than lashing out blindly.

Bo Pelini had many good qualities and characteristics. He did a lot of good things for a lot of people—there is little doubt about that.

But when push came to shove, Pelini was incapable of responding to pressure and adversity like an adult.


For a different look at Nebraska football, check out The Double Extra Point.

You can also use the Twitter machine to follow @DblExtraPoint.

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Marcus Peters Reportedly Choked Washington Assistant Coach During Argument

The Washington Huskies dismissed talented cornerback Marcus Peters from the team in November after multiple reported run-ins with the coaching staff, according to The Seattle Times' Adam Jude..

NFL.com insiders Daniel Jeremiah, Bucky Brooks, Charles Davis and Lance Zierlein published a treasure trove of inside information on Wednesday about some of the 2015 NFL draft's top prospects. One anecdote about Peters states that he choked a Washington assistant.

"The veteran scout said he witnessed one argument escalate into much more; Peters grabbed the assistant coach by the throat and started choking him, the scout reported," says the NFL.com report.

This corroborates a report from December 6 by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Bob McGinn, who shared a similar quote about an altercation Peters was allegedly part of.

"He tried to strangle a coach on the sidelines," said a scout. "Then they let him back on the team and he did it all over again. Try selling that to your head coach."

Peters, who reportedly declared for the draft on Tuesday, as noted by Yahoo Sports' Rand Getlin, was referred to in the NFL.com report by one NFC East scout as the top cover corner prospect in 14 years.

But a story such as Wednesday's account is insalubrious for Peters' already questionable public image, and it won't quiet the off-field concerns about him.

It will take some serious convincing on Peters' part to persuade an NFL franchise to draft him on Day 1, should the surfacing of his alleged physical altercation from multiple sources prove to be true. Falling in the draft may be the hard lesson Peters needs to learn.

Kyle Bonagura of ESPN.com (subscription required) notes how his colleague, draft expert Todd McShay, still has Peters chosen in the opening round in his first 2015 mock, though:

That Peters has so much raw ability and was still kicked off his college team is quite alarming, especially if he got violent with a coach, as has been reported. A stable, winning organization will be the environment Peters likely needs to thrive in the pros.

It's difficult to say how much Peters' stock will be harmed, though, because the NFL values cornerbacks as much as ever with how often teams pass in the modern era. Given Peters' skill set, he probably won't tumble past the second or third round unless he has another mishap away from the gridiron.

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New Mexico State's Pascal Siakam Fools Referee with Unbelievable Flop

This could go down as the best (or worst) flop we've ever seen. 

During the Baylor-New Mexico State game on Wednesday night, Bears forward Rico Gathers made an interior move, only to be met by the Aggies' Pascal Siakam. 

What happened next has to be seen to be believed. Siakam went to body up on Gathers, but he flopped so emphatically as he initiated contact that the officials called an offensive foul on Gathers. 

As you can see above, Gathers so much as brushed Siakam! However, the call remained, and Gathers was called for the charge. 

Basketball is a great game, but it's shameful when flops like this are rewarded.


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Nebraska Football: How Bowl-Game Win or Loss Would Impact Huskers Moving Forward

A lot has changed for Nebraska in a short period of time. From the firing of one coach to the hiring of another, it's been a roller coaster for the Huskers.

The 2014 season isn't over for Nebraska either. The Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27 is quickly approaching. How will the Huskers fare? As reported by Hank Shaw of Reign of Troy, ESPN isn't feeling too confident about Nebraska defeating USC.

During its Bowl Mania Special, ESPN gave the Trojans 31 confidence points (with the most confident pick being 38). That made USC the eighth most confident team during the bowl season.

What does that mean for Nebraska? A lot is riding on the outcome of the Holiday Bowl, whether the Huskers want to admit it. Newly hired head coach Mike Riley won't be coaching in the bowl game, but the result could have an impact on the start of his tenure with Nebraska.

A win would obviously propel the Huskers forward in 2015. After a disappointing end to the 2014 season, with losses to Michigan State, Wisconsin and Minnesota, Nebraska's shot at a Big Ten title quickly vanished. For Riley, a win in San Diego could get the 2015 campaign for the Big Ten championship off on the right foot.

Plus, a win could help make the 2014 season feel less disappointing. USC head coach Steve Sarkisian realizes that.

“They’re 9-3, and they’re probably looking at two of those games thinking, geez, we could have won those two and we’re sitting at 11-1 playing for a Big Ten championship,” Sarkisian said, per the Orange County Register's Michael Lev. “I know they’re going to be hungry, ready to play.”

Defeating USC in the Holiday Bowl may not vindicate Nebraska's three losses and the failure to reach Indianapolis, but it definitely could help. That momentum and attitude gained from a victory could make preparation for the 2015 season stronger for Riley and his crew.

A loss, on the other hand, wouldn't necessarily ruin the offseason for Riley. As a new coach he has a fair amount of momentum going from that alone. On the other hand, for the players a loss could mean less playing time in 2015.

For Riley, the bowl-game practices have been his first opportunity to see his team in action. The bowl game itself will give him an even better understanding of what he has to work with. Will Tommy Armstrong be the starting quarterback again in 2015? How will the offense look under Riley? Even more importantly, what will Riley do with the offensive line?

The questions are endless. The performance against USC will likely shape Riley's plans for the offseason. As for the time being, Armstrong is focused on the task at hand and the staff who will be coaching, per the Omaha World-Herald:

We’re going to play our game; we’re going to do what we always do. We’re not trying to make a statement. We’re just trying to go out there and have fun, and we’re going to enjoy this last game with our coaching staff.

That's the right approach for now. However, Armstrong needs to be aware of the possibilities. A poor performance in the Holiday Bowl could have an impact on his future as the starter. That goes for plenty of players on Nebraska's team right now, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

Additionally, recruiting could be affected by the outcome of the Holiday Bowl. A win over the Trojans could definitely build some extra interest in the Huskers. As Riley works to complete his staff, the extra momentum from a win in the bowl game could give some recruits currently on the fence the extra nudge needed to say yes to Nebraska.

Ultimately, a win would get the Huskers off to a strong start with Riley. A loss would prove just how much work is ahead for the new staff.

The 2014 season could have been very different for Nebraska. The outcome was not what any Huskers wanted. Looking ahead, the Holiday Bowl result could be the beginning of a better outcome for Nebraska in 2015.

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Liberty Bowl Betting: West Virginia vs. Texas A&M Odds, Analysis, Pick

West Virginia, back in a bowl after missing out last season, is just 5-6 straight up and 3-8 against the spread over its last 11 bowl appearances. Texas A&M, playing in a bowl for the sixth consecutive season, is 3-0 SU and 2-1 ATS over its last three bowls.

The 7-5 Aggies take on the team that replaced them in the Big 12, the 7-5 Mountaineers, in the 56th edition of the Liberty Bowl Monday, December 29 in Memphis, Tennessee.


Liberty Bowl point spread: The Mountaineers opened as 3.5-point favorites; the total was 66.5. (Line updates and matchup report)


Odds Shark computer prediction: 34.6-34.5 Aggies


Why the Mountaineers can cover the spread

The Mountaineers lost five games this season, but they gave Alabama a good battle and easily covered as three-touchdown underdogs. They also lost on a field goal at the buzzer to TCU and by a touchdown to a pretty good Kansas State team.

West Virginia also handed Baylor its only defeat of the season, a 41-27 upset in Morgantown in October—and the Bears had a good case to make the College Football Playoff. So the Mountaineers managed to pay out this season against some of the top teams in the entire country.


Why the Aggies can cover the spread

The Aggies bolted out of the gate this season, winning their first five games and putting up some huge offensive numbers in the process. They then lost their way a bit, suffering three straight defeats. Texas A&M then won two straight, including an upset at Auburn as a 23-point underdog, and while the Aggies lost their last two games, the first came by seven points against eventual SEC East champion Missouri, and the second came by six points against LSU.

Texas A&M ranks 33rd in the country in both total offense and scoring (34 points per game), and freshman quarterback Kyle Allen, who took over the starting spot from Kenny Hill, compiled an 8-3 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions in his last three games.


Smart Pick

West Virginia holds edges on both offense and defense, and even though starting quarterback Clint Trickett may not play as he recovers from a concussion, backup Skyler Howard showed what he's capable of when he threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns, without an interception, in the regular-season finale against Iowa State. So the smart choice here is with the Mountaineers.



  • West Virginia is 4-2 against the spread in its last six games.
  • Texas A&M is 2-5 straight up 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.

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