Feed aggregator

Idaho Potato Bowl 2014: Western Michigan vs. Air Force TV Info, Spread and Time

Neither the Western Michigan Broncos nor the Air Force Falcons will leave the 2014 Idaho Potato Bowl disappointed.

Call Saturday's spectacle in Boise a turnaround bowl. Western Michigan and Air Force won a combined three games in 2013 before each improved in the win column by a seven-game margin.

These teams didn't rely on padded schedules to become bowl eligible. Notable victories helped them achieve program-best turnarounds. Western Michigan knocked off MAC East champion Bowling Green, while Air Force took down Mountain West contenders Boise State and Colorado State.

Contrasting styles collide Saturday in what is sure to be a memorable offensive display by both sides. Enthusiasts of the traditional ground game and the Air Raid offense both will want to catch this one.

 

Air Force's Grounded Ways

Troy Calhoun's team cares little for the pass, which is why senior quarterback Kale Pearson has all of 162 attempts on the season (14 of which went for scores).

Pearson comes in second place on quite a lengthy list of potent rushers Air Force deploys in any number of ways in a given contest:

This allows the Falcons to rank eighth in the nation in rushing with an average of 272.2 yards per game on the ground. Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck understands the unique challenge Air Force presents on each down, as captured by Brent Briggeman of The Colorado Springs Gazette:

If you can stop the run you've got a chance in any game. They've got a heck of a quarterback and their skill players can really run. It's not necessarily like playing Navy where it's 90 percent of their offense, with Air Force it's about 70 percent triple option and they can throw it as well. So we've got our work cut out for us.

Western Michigan figures to have problems with the approach. The nation's 39th-ranked defense lost notable encounters with potent rushing attacks this season.

Northern Illinois had its way on the ground with the Broncos, running for 196 yards and three scores on a 5.8 per-carry average in a 31-21 win. Toledo upended Western Michigan 20-19 by way of 234 yards and a score on a 6.5 per-carry average.

The key to success for Air Force is obvious, not that the Falcons would change their approach either way.

 

Quarterback Turnaround

The saving grace for Western Michigan in Saturday's game, other than plenty of time to prepare for the triple-option attack, is the improved play of sophomore quarterback Zach Terrell.

Terrell completed just 53.0 percent of his passes last year with eight touchdowns and interceptions. He personifies the turnaround bowl, as his completion percentage has jumped to 70.0 along with 3,146 yards and 23 touchdowns to 10 interceptions.

Over the course of this impressive turnaround, Terrell posted seven multi-touchdown games and his completion percentage dipped below 62.5 in just two contests.

Of course, Terrell has help. Freshman tailback Jarvion Franklin rushed for 1,525 yards and 24 touchdowns on the year. Corey Davis caught 70 passes for 1,232 yards and 12 scores, while fellow wideout Daniel Braverman caught 79 for 912 and six.

This sort of air efficiency can do much to counteract Air Force's ball control, although the Falcons have a reputation for their run defense.

To upend the Falcons and cap off an outstanding year, Terrell will need one more electric performance.

 

When: Saturday, December 20, 5:45p.m. ET

Where: Bronco Stadium, Boise, Idaho

Television: ESPN

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 57.5
  • Spread: Air Force (-1)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

The Broncos have never won a bowl game, a streak that seems set to continue for at least one more season.

Air Force has won five of its last six and is 9-0 when rushing for at least 198 yards. Thanks to the efforts of Pearson and others, that number seems like an obtainable benchmark based on how the Western Michigan defense has performed against elite rushing attacks this year.

Saturday's showdown will by no means be a blowout, but Terrell cannot seize the first bowl win in program history from the sidelines.

Look for Air Force to grind it out on the ground late.

Prediction: Air Force 24, Western Michigan 20

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

New Mexico Bowl 2014: Utah State vs. UTEP TV Info, Spread, Time and Injury News

The Utah State Aggies can identify in many ways with their 2014 New Mexico Bowl opponent, the UTEP Miners.

Utah State coach Matt Wells knows all about rebuilding a program and looks to use Saturday's bowl encounter as a way to turn things around. His Aggies were on the wrong side of a 50-19 blowout at the hands of Boise State their last time out.

The Miners have new life under coach Sean Kugler, as a 7-5 campaign gives the team a chance to win its first bowl game since 1967.

The teams tout opposite strengths, so a war of wills is in the cards for observers who want to see two programs put everything on the line in order to continue an upward climb.

 

Strength vs. Strength

Forget the ugly loss to Boise State for a moment.

The Aggies are a superb defensive team. They tore through the West division of the Mountain West Conference thanks to a defense that ranks 21st nationally with an average of just 20.8 points allowed per game.

Much of the credit goes to linebackers Zach Vigil and Nick Vigil, brothers who combined for 261 tackles, 35.5 tackles for loss and 16 sacks. Waters continues to do much in the motivation department in an attempt to get the brothers and the rest of the team ready for the Miners, as captured by Stats LLC, via ESPN.com:

I can promise you, we're very, very hungry. The comment that I always make to the team is you're only as good as your last game. Your body of work, your resume, is the last video that you put out there. For Utah State and everybody in this program, (the last game) wasn't very good. It wasn't up to our standards. We have a great desire to go and end this thing right.

To ensure the last game of the season is a good one, the Aggies defense will need to overcome a Miners rushing attack that ranks 34th nationally with an average of 212.7 yards per game.

The Aggies wear down opposing defenses with a number of names, chief among them sophomore back Aaron Jones. That said, quarterback Jameill Showers is not far behind on the list:

A potent and diverse offense means the Miners stand a good chance of breaking a five-bowl losing streak. All the attack needs to do is move past one of the nation's top defenses, easily the best unit the Miners have encountered all season.

 

Foundation for the Future

The implications of Saturday's contest for the UTEP program are obvious.

An eight-win campaign and a historic, rare bowl victory are quite the motivating factors. These things are not lost on Kugler.

"It's been a long time since UTEP has won a bowl game, so the theme going into the year was 'make history,'" Kugler said, per Stats LLC. "We have an opportunity to do that if we win our last game."

Do not underestimate the importance of a Utah State victory, though. This program posted a two-win season as recently as 2007 and is on the upswing since Wells took over and the team joined the MWC in 2013.

The next rung on the ladder? Better recruiting pipelines and consistent contention against Boise State and top teams from other conferences.

"I think it's important to understand that your net may be broader and it may be a little wider that you can cast because of your national visibility," Wells said, per Rick Wright of the Albuquerque Journal. "(But) the bottom line is that our recruiting philosophy isn't going to change."

A loss Saturday is not the end of the world for either program, but a win would signal a continued upswing most around the nation would envy.

 

When: Saturday, December 20, 2:20 p.m. ET

Where: University Stadium, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Television: ESPN

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 46
  • Spread: Utah State (-10.5)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

Look for Utah State to get back to its defensive ways Saturday. 

The run-first approach by UTEP is a product of both strength and necessity, as Showers has completed just 55.7 percent of his passes on the season. Forced into a one-dimensional approach, the Miners will experience issues moving the ball up and down the field against a great unit.

Given current trajectories, UTEP will be in Utah State's shoes in a few seasons. Right now, though, the Aggies are deeper at most spots and can neutralize the Miners' biggest strength. 

The result is a comfortable triumph in front of a national audience.

Prediction: Aggies 27, Miners 17

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Las Vegas Bowl 2014: Utah vs. Colorado State TV Info, Spread, Time, Injury News

The Utah Utes and Colorado State Rams have come full circle to collide in the 2014 Las Vegas Bowl.

The showdown promises to be one of the best pre-Christmas bowls on the slate.

Hard times are outdated for the Utes, a team that bounced back from a 5-7 2013 campaign to win eight games this year. The Rams put on an even more impressive feat with 10 wins this season despite a three-win performance in 2013.

The Rams will be without now-former coach Jim McElwain as he takes over at the helm of the Florida Gators, but one of the nation's best offenses still has the talent to post points on a feared Utah defense.

If there is one game to catch before Christmas Day, this is it.

 

Tailbacks on the Loose

Part of the reason the Rams rank 22nd nationally in scoring offense has to do with the efforts of senior back Dee Hart.

The former Alabama Crimson Tide backup ran wild in his first real opportunity as starter this year and gained 1,254 yards and 16 touchdowns on a 6.7 per-carry average. Those numbers include seven 100-yard performances and touchdowns in as many games.

Utah's junior back Devontae Booker rounds out what may be one of the best backfield showdowns of the year.

Booker resembles something of a bowling ball out on the field at 5'11" and 203 yards. He proved an effective workhorse for the Utes this year, gaining 1,350 yards and nine touchdowns on a 5.1 per-carry average.

What is most impressive about Booker is his blatant refusal to go down. ESPN.com's Kevin Gemmell provided the gaudy numbers:

Booker comes up big when his team needs it the most and actually uses him. He gained 156 yards and a score against UCLA, 229 yards and three scores against Oregon State and 201 yards and a score against USC.

Both Hart and Booker will be in top form Saturday, so the globe is in for a treat.

 

War of Wills

Formerly known as a defensive power, Utah lost that title after a 51-27 drubbing at the hands of Oregon in early November.

Things are not so great from a total stat standpoint anymore, but there are a few key areas in which the Utes excel. 

Led by surefire NFL first-round pick Nate Orchard, the Utes lead the nation in sacks at 4.3 per game and average 8.3 tackles for loss per game. The defense is a large part of the program-wide turnaround coach Kyle Whittingham spoke of recently, per STATS LLC, via ESPN.com:

Seems like every week has come down to the last possession or even the last play at times. We're finding ways to win most of them and that's very encouraging, because the last couple years we were just the opposite of that. We were not finishing and finding ways to win those close games.

Colorado State is no Oregon, but Hart combines with others to form one of the most potent offenses the Utes have seen all season.

Senior quarterback Garrett Grayson has 3,779 yards and 32 touchdowns to just six interceptions so far. His favorite target, sophomore wideout Rashard Higgins, has 89 receptions for 1,640 yards and 17 touchdowns. The next closest player on the list has caught 32 passes.

Higgins missed out on the Biletnikoff Award thanks to Alabama's Amari Cooper, but he has the talent on his lonesome to throw the Utah secondary for a loop.

A fine balance and lethal potency creates a serious issue for the Utes, a defense that has much to prove after recently surrendering 34 points to a 2-10 Colorado team.

 

When: Saturday, December 20, 3:30 p.m. ET

Where: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, NV

Television: ABC

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 57
  • Spread: Utah (-3.5)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

The problem with Colorado State, other than inflated stats thanks to its slot in the Mountain West Conference, is the loss of its head coach. 

It is unknown how Hart and others will respond with offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin running the show, especially against one of the nation's most feared defenses.

Look for Booker to have a gigantic day against the Rams while junior quarterback Travis Wilson (17 touchdowns, four interceptions) continues to take great care of the football. The Utes can use a methodical approach to keep the Colorado State offense off the field, while the opportunistic defense creates even more opportunities to control the game.

Prediction: Utah 28, Colorado State 20

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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.

Begin Slideshow

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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.

Begin Slideshow

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.

Begin Slideshow

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!

Begin Slideshow

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...

Begin Slideshow

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Pages