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ESPN College GameDay 2014: Week 14 Schedule, Location, Predictions and More

The Game, Egg Bowl and any other host of epic season-ending showdowns were candidates for the Week 14 edition of ESPN's College GameDay.

In the end, all pale in comparison to the Iron Bowl.

The broadcast took to Twitter to announce the decision:

This time it is personal between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers. One year removed from Chris Davis turning the world of college football on its head, Nick Saban's team is back on top and in the driver's seat to the College Football Playoff.

Auburn appears down going into Saturday but is quite dangerous and more than capable of an upset two years in a row.

Get ready, as the game of the year may reside at the Iron Bowl yet again.

 

ESPN College GameDay: Week 14 Info

Date: Saturday, November 29, 7:45 p.m. ET

Location: 
Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Watch: ESPN 

Live Stream: WatchESPN

 

Preview and Prediction

At face value this one does not have the usual flair that comes along with the Iron Bowl.

Thank the Tigers for that, as Gus Malzahn's team has crumpled as of late, losing two of its last three. The lone win came over Samford. Defense has been a season-long issue for Auburn, as the numbers clearly illustrate:

In fact, the problem is most apparent against SEC opposition.

Over the course of their last five SEC games, the Tigers have allowed a minimum of 31 points, which has predictably produced three losses in that span. Perhaps the most important loss to key in on is a 34-7 shellacking at the hands of Georgia in which the Auburn defense surrendered 289 yards and three scores on the ground.

That is music to the ears of Saban's run-first Crimson Tide. Alabama averages 204.9 rushing yards per game. T.J. Yeldon has 758 yards and six scores on the ground, while complement Derrick Henry has 682 and seven trips into the end zone.

Try not to forget about quarterback Blake Sims, though.

This year marks Sims' first rodeo in the Iron Bowl as the starter, but his 279 rushing yards and five touchdowns on the ground suggest he will look to exploit the Tigers on the ground as well—never mind the fact he completes 62.1 percent of his passes and has 2,676 yards and 20 touchdowns to four interceptions.

For his part, though, Sims is expecting a major game from his lead back, as captured by Charlie Potter of alabama.247sports.com:

It stands to reason, then, that the Auburn offense will once again be tasked with picking up the slack. Quarterback Nick Marshall certainly has the talent to do just that—and just so happens to tout the exact skill set that gives Alabama defenses problems.

Marshall is a threat through the air and on the ground. His 1,859 passing yards and 15 scores that complement another 731 yards and 11 scores on the ground can attest to that.

It also helps to explain why Auburn has a quality clutch gene:

The problem is, Marshall and lead back Cameron Artis-Payne (1,405 yards, 11 touchdowns) need to keep the game close for those quality late-game numbers to actually matter.

Saban's team is uncannily explosive in comparison to prior years. It averages a healthy 35.0 points per game, although it did muster just 20 in Death Valley and 25 against Mississippi State.

Auburn is set to give Alabama its best shot, so a close final score makes plenty of sense. But Yeldon is a lock to go for more than 100 yards and control the tempo of the game. Alabama's sheer desire to exorcise the demon that is last year's heartbreaking loss will propel the team at home, as safety Landon Collins suggested in the week leading up to the showdown.

"It shows up on the TV every now and again, and it breaks our heart every time," Collins said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "In one second they took our whole chance away of winning anything, and definitely it rewinds in my head. Definitely it will rewind in my head constantly throughout this week."

So long as Sims takes care of the football, the Crimson Tide will be able to hold off the Tigers. Alabama is on a hot streak right now that no team can halt, especially not in Tuscaloosa.

Prediction: Crimson Tide 28, Tigers 24

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Picks Week 14: Odds and Spread Predictions for Top 25 Teams

Familiar names and faces litter the top of the college football polls, but Week 14 promises to ensure that more than a few tumble down the boards.

So it goes for rivalry week to close the season. While a team such as Ohio State is perhaps not in much danger against Michigan in The Game, the Iron Bowl promises to be another classic to watch no matter what as Auburn looks to play the spoiler against the top team in the land.

How Las Vegas feels about each contest is interesting, as this week more than any other can be counted on as one to bet upsets.

With that in mind, below is a full look at the slate and upsets to roll with to close the season.

 

Week 14 Point Spreads and Picks

All odds courtesy of Odds Shark and current as of November 27. Updated College Football Playoff poll can be found here.

 

Teams on Upset Alert

Florida State

The Florida Cup will be Will Muschamp's last game in charge of the Florida Gators, so bettors should keep a keen eye out for an upset special against the shaky Florida State Seminoles. 

Jameis Winston and his offense have been anything but reliable this season outside of ranking 12th in passing. Last year's Heisman winner has 3,125 yards but just 19 touchdowns to 13 interceptions.

Now, Winston has been clutch, but he can only bail out a struggling defense so often:

The fact that the Seminoles are so sloppy on the defensive side of the ball is of great concern against the rush-happy Gators.

Muschamp's team averages just about 200 rushing yards per game on the ground. Both Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor average better than five yards per carry this season and have six touchdowns apiece. Do not forget about the quarterback, either, as new starter Treon Harris has 250 yards and three scores on the ground already.

A triple-headed monster in terms of rushers is the last thing the Seminoles need to face at the moment, especially one week removed from allowing Boston College to gain 240 yards and a touchdown on the ground. 

If Jimbo Fisher's defense cannot get off the field on third down, it matters little how clutch Winston is this year. While it seems unlikely, circle this one in red ink as an upset special just in case.

 

Wisconsin

The battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe is rarely this special.

As NFL.com's Bryan Fischer points out, this is a major occasion for one of college football's most historic rivalries:

The Wisconsin Badgers are one of the nation's best teams this year, but an unfortunate loss to LSU to start the season and a strange upset at the hands of Northwestern back at the start of October put the team in a precarious position in the Big Ten West.

Melvin Gordon is the star of the show, of course. The Heisman candidate now has 2,109 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns this season on an 8.3 per-carry average while leading the nation's third-ranked rushing attack.

The problem is, Gordon's productivity does not always equate to comfortable wins. Just last week he rushed for 200 yards and two scores, but the Badgers only got a 26-24 win over Iowa.

That is bad news against this Minnesota Golden Gophers team. Not only did it take down that same Iowa team 51-14, it almost upended Ohio State and just upset Nebraska, 28-24. 

"This is what we have been working for all year," offensive lineman Zac Epping said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "Whoever wins gets to go to the Big Ten championship game, and everyone is excited for it. We get to battle for the Axe. It's going to be a hell of a game."

The Golden Gophers surrender just 22.5 points per game on average and held Nebraska standout back Ameer Abdullah to 98 yards and a score. 

With so much on the line and the teams seemingly somewhat going in opposite directions, Minnesota pulling out a road victory to advance to greater heights would not be that big of a surprise. 

 

Stats and information via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

 

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Alabama Football: Lane Kiffin's Dark-Horse Stars Down the Stretch

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — By now you know all of the big names. Blake Sims. T.J. Yeldon. Amari Cooper. Derrick Henry.

They are the pieces that have carried the Alabama offense this far in the season, that have put Alabama in position for a national championship.

But as the year progresses, so too do things change personnel-wise. Players get injured or go through peaks and valleys. The lineup on the first snap of the season is almost always different than the lineup on the last.

For Alabama, if you’re looking for two breakout players down the stretch, look at wide receiver ArDarius Stewart and running back Tyren Jones.

Both have seen an uptick in snaps and playing time through a couple of injuries. And both could be the stars of tomorrow that start that ascent in the final games of 2014.

Kenyan Drake’s injury against Ole Miss left several specific holes on Alabama’s offense that, combined with a few other situations, has given Stewart and Jones their opportunities.

First, Drake is probably the fastest guy on the team, and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin noticed. Kiffin used Drake in creative ways to get him involved. Never was this more evident than his 87-yard touchdown pass to open Alabama’s win over Florida.

To replace that speed, Alabama has turned to Stewart.

“ArDarius Stewart is a fast, explosive guy who got to play a little bit more (against Mississippi State), and we've been trying to play him all year long,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “He is a guy, to me, that can make explosive plays, and hopefully the experience that he gets and that he is getting is going to help him realize the importance of paying attention to detail, doing the little things right that he needs to do to be able to have success as a player, because he certainly can be a guy that could make plays for us and be a great complement to some of the other players that we have who are making plays for us.”

With receiver DeAndrew White dinged up, Stewart got his first career start against the Bulldogs and was a part of the offense from the get-go. On the first play of Alabama’s second series, Sims missed Stewart on a long ball that drew a pass interference. On the last play of the first quarter, Stewart couldn’t come down with a one-on-one deep ball near the end zone.

He ended up catching two passes in that game for a total of 25 yards, but the message was clear: Alabama wants to use him as a deep threat.

Stewart may not be able to jump back in the mix this week, though. He didn’t participate much in practice this week, and Saban called him “very questionable” for this game.

The other place the Drake injury hurt Alabama is running back depth.

Yeldon is the workhorse, and Henry is the power spell back, but behind those two, Alabama didn’t have any proven options, where Drake previously was a change-of-pace back out of the backfield.

So when Yeldon got hurt against LSU, Alabama turned to Jones.

Jones was a 4-star out of Marietta, Georgia, in 2013 but redshirted his first year on campus. He’s gotten into games that were out of hand late this season, but against No. 1 Mississippi State, he found himself the third running back in a rotation that was used to limit the stress on Yeldon and his hobbled ankle.

Jones didn’t register on the stat sheet but was in on pass protection several times, high praise from a coach who demands perfection in blocking from his running backs. He was the No. 2 running back against Western Carolina, with Yeldon resting as a precaution, and went for 75 yards on 11 carries.

Saban wouldn’t quite shower Jones with the praise that he did for Stewart, though. Jones was suspended after the Tennessee game and didn’t play against LSU. He’s still very much learning how to be a complete player on and off the field.

“We’ve always thought that Tyren has really good ability,” Saban said. “Sometimes it just takes guys a little time to mature, you know in terms of learning how to do things how you need to do them so that you can be a successful player on the field.

“I talked about being exact, lots of times we get guys here who have had quite a bit of success, and they’ve never had to pay attention to detail, and it takes a little while for them to get where they need to be, not only on the field but off the field, and have the kind of discipline they need to have a chance to be successful. Tyren’s come a long ways this year and he’s doing things a lot better and playing well for us. He played very well in the last game, and we have a lot of confidence in him.”

Still, it’s clear which running back the staff trusts most right now behind Yeldon and Henry.

As Alabama enters this final stretch of the season—a tense Iron Bowl rematch, a possible SEC Championship Game berth that could lead to the inaugural playoff—it will pull out all of the stops to ensure the 2014 season is a memorable one.

Don’t be surprised if those plans include two new offensive weapons.

 

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

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Why Ohio State Is Better Suited to Stop Devin Gardner, Michigan This Year

When Ohio State and Michigan met last year, Devin Gardner and the Wolverines offense looked unstoppable as they piled up 603 total yards and 41 points. 

On Saturday, the two teams are set to reunite for another chapter in one of college football's greatest rivalries. And this time around, the Buckeyes are primed to shut the Wolverines down.

Michigan, which needs a victory over Ohio State just to become bowl eligible, has struggled immensely this season. In their first year under offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, the Wolverines rank 114th in total offense and 112th in scoring. They've failed to reach 17 points in six of their 11 games and rank dead last in the Big Ten (and 119th nationally) in turnover margin

Gardner has regressed this season as well, which has been a big factor in the meager rankings listed above. The fifth-year senior has thrown for just 1,663 yards with eight touchdowns and 14 interceptions. In his last two starts against Northwestern and Maryland—teams that rank outside of the top 50 in passing yards allowed—Gardner completed just 50 percent of his throws for 215 yards and three interceptions.

But a projection of Ohio State's dominance this Saturday isn't based solely on Michigan's offensive woes. In fact, the Wolverines went into last year's game riding a historically poor stretch of offensive performances—yet against the Buckeyes, they rolled.

Why will this year be different? 

After Ohio State's 2013 season ended with a trio of horrendous defensive performances (against Michigan, Michigan State and Clemson), Urban Meyer made some changes.

The first adjustment came in the coaching staff when the Buckeyes brought in Chris Ash from Arkansas to be the co-defensive coordinator alongside Luke Fickell. Ash installed his aggressive 4-3 scheme, eliminating the zone coverages that offenses picked apart in favor of more man-to-man looks and press packages from the secondary.

That transition has paid off favorably for Ohio State. While the Buckeyes won't be confused for Alabama anytime soon, they've made drastic improvements defensively—especially against the pass. Last year's team ranked 110th in pass defense, allowing opposing teams to throw for 260 yards per game. This year's squad is only surrendering just 182.5 yards through the air, which ranks 15th nationally

Young players such as Eli Apple, Tyvis Powell and Vonn Bell, combined with the savvy leadership and playmaking ability of senior cornerback Doran Grant, have the Buckeyes operating at a high level. And with Bednarik Award finalist Joey Bosa coming off the edge, opposing offenses have had a much tougher time moving the ball against Ohio State this year.

That's bad news for Gardner and the Wolverines. The Michigan quarterback dissected the Buckeyes' leaky pass defense last year, throwing for 451 yards and four touchdowns (and no interceptions). But Gardner's top pass-catcher in that game—Jeremy Gallon—has graduated, and top running back Derrick Green is out for the year with a broken clavicle. 

All of that added up suggests Michigan is walking into a bad matchup against Ohio State this Saturday. But to the Buckeyes' credit, their taking this Wolverines offense very seriously. 

“We don’t wanna have something like what happened last year happen again, so I think we’re going to prepare really well for this game,” linebacker Joshua Perry said, according to Patrick Maks of Eleven Warriors. “Guys are going to take it really seriously."

 

All stats via NCAA.com.

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

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Young LSU Football Team Shows Future Is Bright vs. Texas A&M

LSU head coach Les Miles can finally smile. 

Miles' young talent came of age in a 23-17 victory over Texas A&M. The Aggies might have been on the wrong end of a controversial no-call late, but they should not have been in the game in the first place. 

LSU bludgeoned Texas A&M in the box score.

The Tigers rushed for 384 yards, which is the most ever for Miles against SEC opposition, per LSU's Todd Politz (h/t The Advocate's Ross Dellenger). They won the time of possession battle by over 22 minutes in the process, as Miles' offensive line took over the pace of the game. 

The high-powered Aggies offense only accumulated 228 total yards. Quarterback Kyle Allen threw for only 144 yards and could never get into rhythm.  

True freshman sensation Leonard Fournette was the biggest beneficiary of LSU's dominance at the line of scrimmage, as he rushed for a career-high 146 yards and a highlight-reel touchdown.

The Tigers' biggest star on defense was true freshman safety Jamal Adams. Adams co-led the team in tackles with eight and made an open field tackle to force an Aggies punt deep in their own territory. Fournette's bulldozing touchdown run would come four plays later.

Fournette and Adams might be teenagers, but they were men among boys against the Aggies. They also had help.  

Quarterback Anthony Jennings atoned for an early interception with 226 yards of total offense. Freshmen receivers Malachi Dupre and John Diarse combined for 70 yards receiving and a touchdown. 

Adams was helped in the LSU secondary by another strong performance from cornerbacks Tre'Davious White and Jalen Collins. Middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith wreaked havoc up the middle.

The Tigers' win on Thursday assures them a non-last place finish in the SEC West, which is a major sigh of relief for Miles. A winless November would not have been a good look. He now gets a nice boost on the recruiting trail and in the bowl selection process.

Yet the win represented something even more in the long term. The Tigers have the talent to make another run at an SEC Championship.  

Expectations were too high for LSU to begin with, a team heavily reliant on first-year starters. After a disastrous 0-2 start in SEC play, a final regular-season record of 8-4 is par for the course. 

Every player mentioned so far in this piece will be back next season, which is scary for the rest of the SEC. Sure, the Tigers will have to make major changes on the offensive line. But every other position should be better next season. 

Miles has been dealt pocket Aces. It is up to him if he can get maximum value out of his hand.

Unfortunately for LSU, Alabama's Nick Saban holds the other two Aces in the deck. Auburn's Gus Malzahn, Arkansas' Bret Bielema and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin have plenty of chips they can shove into the middle next season as well.

It will be tough, but LSU can win the SEC in 2015.

The Tigers' young talent is as good as any. It is now up to Miles to get them ready. 

 

Stats, rankings and additional information provided by cfbstats.comESPN.com and LSU Sports Information. Recruiting information provided by 247Sports.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower.     

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LSU vs. Texas A&M: Game Grades, Analysis for the Tigers and Aggies

The LSU Tigers came away with a 23-17 win over Texas A&M at Kyle Field on Thanksgiving.

The Tigers dominated the Aggies, but they only won by six. Part of the reason is the red-zone offense wasn’t as strong. They also missed two field goals and made too many mental mistakes. But the Tigers defense was able to shut down the Aggies, who were fortunate they only lost by six.

So the Tigers finish the regular season at 8-4 while the Aggies finish at 7-5. This was not a crucial SEC game, but this was a game to see where both programs are headed in 2015. The Tigers are on the upward trend, while the Aggies have some questions that need to be answered.

Here are the game grades and analysis for the Tigers and Aggies.

 

Passing Offense

Once again, Anthony Jennings was not great through the air, but he was good enough to manage the game. He only threw for 107 yards, but he did throw a touchdown pass late in the first half. Jennings is a guy who can make the right decisions. But he’s not going to be the guy who gives the Tigers 250-300 passing yards and three touchdowns per game consistently.

 

Running Offense

However, the reason for the lack of the aerial attack was the run game, which was the best it’s been all season. Jennings rushed for 119 yards, Leonard Fournette rushed for 146 yards, and Terrence McGee added 74 yards. The Tigers just ran at the young Aggies front seven, and they never backed down. Once the run game for the Tigers gets going, they are a hard team to beat.

 

Passing Defense

The Aggies got a taste of why the Tigers are one of the pass defense teams in the country. Kyle Allen only threw for 144 yards because guys like Tre’Davious White and Jalen Collins were all over the receivers. Allen was able to hit on 17 of his 27 passes, but as soon as the receivers caught the ball, the secondary was all over them. It was one of the best efforts by the linebackers and secondary for LSU.

 

Running Defense

The Tigers were just as strong stopping the run, as they only allowed 84 yards on 21 carries. LSU did have a hard time trying to stop Trey Williams, but he only got the ball four times. Kendell Beckwith and Kwon Alexander both had seven tackles, and they were key in containing guys like Tra Carson and Brandon Williams. But the Aggies aren’t known for running the ball effectively anyway.

 

Special Teams

Both kickers for LSU missed key field goals, which would have given them six more points and a double-digit win over the Aggies. That is something that needs to be corrected moving forward because with the games in the SEC mostly closely contested, Colby Delahoussaye and Trent Domingue can’t miss key field goals. Jamie Keehn was solid with his punts, and Fournette was able to average 17 yards per kick return.

 

Coaching

Les Miles had a good game plan going into this matchup. He knew that he could run the ball against the Aggies, and it worked to perfection. The one thing he needs to work on is making sure his team can get more touchdown drives instead of field goals. They were able to score on four consecutive drives, but this team is too talented to settle for more field goals than touchdowns.

  

Passing Offense

It was not a great day in the office for Allen. He was accurate with his throws, but the secondary for LSU got after the receivers as soon as they would catch the ball. However, that was when Allen was throwing it short. When he made some deep throws, it seemed to work a little better. But LSU is good with man-to-man and zone coverage; Allen was lucky to have 144 passing yards.

 

Running Offense

The one thing the Aggies should have done is give the ball to Trey Williams more. He scored on a 41-yard run and got a 20-yard run later in the game. Brandon Williams and Tra Carson don’t have the speed like Trey Williams, which is why they only rushed for a combined 35 yards. But the Aggies like to throw the ball a lot more than running it.

 

Passing Defense

The defense has been suspect for the Aggies all season long. But they did a great job limiting Jennings to only 107 yards in the air. The defensive backs were all over Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre, who are both legit deep threats. The one player that stood out was De’Vante Harris, who had six tackles and one interception. That performance was big for the group because they have been torched all season long.

 

Running Defense

The run defense for the Aggies has seen better days, even though there have not been many good days for them. They gave up over 380 yards on the ground because the running backs and offensive line for LSU punched the Aggies in the mouth and never responded.  Defensive lineman Myles Garrett needs to be more aggressive at the point of attack. He’s a great edge-rusher, but his run defense needs to be better next season.

 

Special Teams

Josh Lambo was able to make his only field goal, Drew Kaser averaged 45 yards per punt, and the return game had an average night. However, Speedy Noil did fumble a kick return late in the second quarter, which led to points. The special teams was OK, but the Noil turnover was costly. They also had an opportunity to block an LSU field goal in the second half, but the defender missed it.

 

Coaching

Kevin Sumlin should have matched speed on speed with the Aggies. Trey Williams should have gotten more snaps, receiver Josh Reynolds was nonexistent, and Noil almost was a non-factor had it not been for his touchdown grab late in the game. But then again, the Aggies had the ball for only 18 minutes, and the defense was out on the field way too much. The team is still young, so Sumlin is doing a good job getting his players to compete, but they have to execute much better if they want to win the SEC West next season.

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TCU vs. Texas: Game Grades, Analysis for the Longhorns

The Texas Longhorns were totally overwhelmed by TCU on Thanksgiving Day, falling to the Horned Frogs by a 48-10 margin.

Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes will shoulder most of the blame for the loss for his five turnovers, including two that were returned for scores. The sophomore was booed by the home crowd and will need as much bowl practice as he can handle to get over this one.

But, if Texas had a decent offense, this one might have been manageable thanks to the defense. That's saying something when you look at the night Quandre Diggs had.

 

Game Grades for the Longhorns

Passing Offense

Can you believe Tyrone Swoopes threw for 305 yards and two touchdowns less than two weeks ago? He just looked out of sorts the entire night, playing his worst game of the season by far.

If there's a bright side in this one, it's wideout Armanti Foreman. The freshman turned in another big play for this offense, this time taking a screen pass 73 yards for Texas' lone touchdown of the game. He'll be Texas' No. 1 receiver next season.

 

Rushing Offense

The offensive line was completely overmatched by the TCU front, which blew up several plays before the ball was even handed off. There was nowhere for Johnathan Gray or Malcolm Brown to go.

Swoopes actually led the team with 61 yards on 15 carries, but most of those came against a prevent defense in the first half. Take away those 44 yards, and the Longhorns averaged 1.4 yards per carry.

 

Passing Defense

Once again, the Texas pass rush did its job its pressuring the opposing quarterback. Trevone Boykin was far more uncomfortable than the box score will show, lofting several ill-advised passes downfield.

Unfortunately, the Longhorn defensive backs just couldn't make a play on the ball, finishing with one interception on no less than four chances. Quandre Diggs will be sick when he watches the game film after dropping a pick and getting routinely out-muscled by Josh Doctson.

 

Rushing Defense

The Texas front wore down late, which is to be expected when the offense can do nothing with the ball. Sure, TCU ripped off a couple of garbage-time runs and scored touchdowns on short fields, but nobody's watching this team and then saying the defense is the problem.

 

Special Teams

Nick Rose's 47-yard field goal is far outweighed by Cameron Echols-Luper's 53-yard punt return and Diggs' muffed punt. Those two plays added 10 points to TCU's total, which is inexcusable when you're trying to upset a Top 5 team.

 

Coaching

How much blame belongs to the coaches versus the players? Young quarterbacks are going to make mistakes no matter how much you coach them, and inexperienced offensive lines will get pushed around. The coaches also can't catch an interception for the defensive backs.

That said, you would have liked to see more of an effort to manufacture touches for guys like Foreman and Daje Johnson. It'd also be great if special teams played a mistake-free game some time before Comet 67P passes by our planet again.

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Nebraska Football: Pelini's Progress at Nebraska Eerily Similar to Callahan's

Nebraska football fans know that seasons—and careers—turn on fine margins. Even coming off a number of bad losses, Nebraska was still just a few plays away from making that next step. One play going the wrong way in a championship game, keeping Nebraska from finally winning that elusive conference title.  A fumble by a wide receiver at the end of a critical game costing Nebraska a much-needed win. If both of those plays go the other way, the status of the Nebraska program looks very different.

Boy, that Bill Callahan guy was close, wasn’t he?

I know, the opening of this column sounds like Bo Pelini’s near-misses, against Texas (and Oklahoma, really) in the Big 12 title game and last week’s loss to Minnesota. But Callahan, the man who has become a cartoon villain among many Nebraska fans, has a resume that looks eerily similar.

Conference title near-miss? In 2006, Nebraska faced Oklahoma for the Big 12 title. Midway through the third quarter, the score was 14-7 and Nebraska had Oklahoma in a third-and-long inside its own 5-yard line. With the statistical advantage on both offense and defense, a stop for the Blackshirts on that play gives NU the ball with great field position, momentum and a clear chance to get the conference title monkey off its back. A win in that game puts Nebraska back on the map in Callahan’s third season, potentially changing the trajectory of the program. A stop on that third down goes a long way toward that win.

Instead, Paul Thompson hits Jermaine Gresham for a 35-yard completion and converts the first down. The Sooners end up with a 99-yard touchdown drive and squeeze the life out of Nebraska, 21-7.

A late-game wide receiver turnover costing Nebraska a much-needed win? Look back to 2006 again, when Nebraska faced No. 5 Texas. With 2:23 left in the game, Nebraska held a 20-19 lead and had the ball, looking to get its first win over the Longhorns since 1999. But Terrence Nunn, after hauling in a Zac Taylor pass, lost a fumble to Texas’ Aaron Ross.

Texas drove the short field for a field goal, and Nebraska’s last-second comeback fell short, leaving NU once again coming oh-so-close to a huge win.

Of course, the analogies aren’t perfect. Pelini’s loss to Texas in 2009 was probably closer to glory than Callahan’s loss to Oklahoma in 2006. Pelini’s loss to Minnesota this year is almost certainly worse than Callahan’s loss to the No. 5 rated Longhorns in 2006.

Most importantly, Pelini is not Callahan—although his “I haven’t forgotten how to defend the run” quote after the 2011 win over Wisconsin, per Huskers.com, might hang around his neck in the same way Callahan’s “I’m doing an excellent job in every area” quote did in 2007, via the Lincoln Journal-Star. Pelini has never missed a bowl game—indeed, he’s never won fewer than nine games in a season. Up until last week, he had not lost consecutive conference games since 2009.

The point is that football seasons turn on fine margins. We remember Callahan’s four years at the helm in Lincoln as an unmitigated disaster. And, given how the 2007 season ended, there’s good reason to look back in horror at what unfurled under his leadership.

But the smoke from the blazing hulk of 2007 can obscure how close Callahan came to turning the metaphorical corner at Nebraska. Much like Pelini, Callahan was fingertips (literally, with Nunn’s fumble) away from a career-defining moment.

The fact remains, though, that those moments never happened, that corner never got turned. Being close to greatness isn’t greatness, just as being part of an entourage doesn’t make you a star.

Callahan had four years of getting close before a seven-loss season (along with near-universal loathing for his boss, former athletic director Steve Pederson) cost him his job. Pelini has had seven years. He’s had the same agonizingly-close brushes with glory as Callahan—along with the hide-the-children debacles on national television.

What Pelini hasn’t had is a seven-loss disaster like Callahan did in 2007. Whether that’s enough to keep him for year eight is up to current athletic director Shawn Eichorst.

 

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

Or you can use the Twitter machine to follow @DblExtraPoint.

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TCU vs. Texas: Score and Twitter Reaction

The fifth-ranked TCU Horned Frogs took one step closer to a possible College Football Playoff bid on Thanksgiving, beating the Texas Longhorns 48-10 in Austin.

If TCU was going to slip up and remove itself from Top Four consideration, then it likely would've been on Thursday, with the Horned Frogs taking on an improving Longhorns squad on the road. Texas entered on a three-game winning streak, making visible strides under head coach Charlie Strong.

The Horned Frogs not only needed to win but to do so convincingly to impress the selection committee. That kind of pressure has proved too much for some teams in the past.

That wasn't a problem for TCU.

"We're a pretty chill team when it comes to, like, not getting stressed out," center Joey Hunt said before the game, per Fox Sports Southwest's Jeff Caplan. "I mean, we're an intense team, but we don't get stressed out from other stuff like that."

Head coach Gary Patterson compared TCU's current situation to watching news television.

"It doesn't frustrate me at all," he said. "I don't even pay attention. You can't pay attention to it. You turn the channels, it's kind of Democrat and Republican, it just depends on the news channel you listen to, which is the bias. So for me, I watched it, flip."

The Horned Frogs responded brilliantly after their lackluster performance against Kansas Nov. 15, building a 20-3 halftime lead on Texas and never looking back.

Trevone Boykin didn't quite look like himself, throwing for 233 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in addition to 50 rushing yards. BuzzFeed's Joel D. Anderson joked that Boykin might've needed a new software update:

Josh Doctson came to play for the Horned Frogs, giving Boykin a steady target in the passing game. He led the team with seven receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown.

TCU was also successful on the ground, rushing for 135 yards on 31 carries. That was in stark contrast to Texas, which gained 90 yards on 36 carries. Malcolm Brown went for 29 yards, while Johnathan Gray totaled zero on 11 carries.

That didn't help quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, who never looked comfortable. He threw four interceptions on the night.

The Longhorns started the game slowly and never kicked into a higher gear.

Two field goals from Jaden Oberkrom in the first quarter put TCU ahead 6-0.

After Oberkrom's second, Texas began putting a solid drive together. The Longhorns crossed the 50-yard line for the first time and moved the ball down to the TCU 39. Then Gray lost 10 yards, and Swoopes fumbled, with Horned Frogs defensive tackle Terrell Lathan recovering and returning it for a touchdown for a 13-0 TCU lead.

Most fans love watching the fat-guy touchdown, but Fox Sports Southwest's David Ubben felt that the 6'5", 280-pound Lathan needed a little more girth to qualify for that honor:

According to Mark Cohen, TCU's assistant athletic director for media relations, Lathan's TD was the first from a Horned Frogs defensive lineman in six years:

The strong start was in keeping with the way TCU's started most games this year. It doesn't waste any time in putting points on the board, as noted by the Big 12 Conference:

Texas trimmed the deficit to 10 points, 13-3, after a 47-yard field goal from Nick Rose with seven minutes and 56 seconds to play until halftime.

Boykin responded a little over six minutes later with a four-yard touchdown pass to wideout David Porter. At that point, Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News questioned whether the Longhorns had already dug themselves into too deep of a hole:

Truth be told, Texas didn't play poorly in the first half and managed to outgain TCU 144-137. According to Travis L. Brown of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Horned Frogs were on pace for their worst offensive performance of the season:

Two turnovers, one of which went for a touchdown, and going 3-of-10 on third down didn't help the Longhorns, however. They also managed just 69 rushing yards in the half, which is poor for a team averaging 154 yards a game on the ground. Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman in particular praised the TCU defense for stopping Gray and Brown:

After an uneventful third quarter, both teams exchanged scores to start the fourth.

Boykin gave the Horned Frogs a 24-point advantage following a 22-yard TD pass to Doctson.

His score was negated 50 seconds later by Texas wideout Armanti Foreman, who caught a quick bubble screen and then scampered 73 yards to the end zone. The freshman was seemingly gone in a flash, as illustrated by Fox College Football:

While that score did bring the Austin crowd back into the game and build some momentum for the Longhorns, Texas couldn't add anything else. Meanwhile, TCU scored three more times late to pile on the misery for the Longhorns.

The final score belies the true nature of the game somewhat, but the Horned Frogs were unquestionably deserving winners.

There's still some doubt as to whether TCU can make the playoff even if it wins out. The Horned Frogs have to hope that Ohio State doesn't leapfrog them in the event the Buckeyes win the Big Ten. A one-loss Mississippi State could also remain in the Top Four even without a conference championship.

The most TCU can do is win all of its games. It wraps up the regular season next Saturday against Iowa State.

Even with the defeat, 6-6 Texas remains bowl-eligible, which is a nice accomplishment for Strong in his first season. The Longhorns are clearly a work in progress, and a bowl win would be a nice way for them to wrap up the 2014 season and build momentum for 2015.

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LSU vs. Texas A&M: Score and Twitter Reaction

In a Thanksgiving night matchup between two SEC teams desperate for a strong finish to the season, LSU took down Texas A&M, 23-17, at Kyle Field. The game was decided by a questionable call late, but the Tigers come away with a huge Thanksgiving victory.

LSU Football's official account provides a look at the result and reaction from College Station:

Scott Rabalais of The Advocate also noted what the win meant for the LSU program:

Anthony Jennings didn't have a great all-around game, but was effective on the ground. The Tigers' signal-caller finished just 12-for-21 for 107 yards, one touchdown and one interception, but his career-high 119 rushing yards paced the offense.

Gabe Bock of SportsRadio 1150 noted how historic the performance was for the dual-threat quarterback:

Outside of Jennings, freshman Leonard Fournette also made a huge impact with 146 rushing yards and a memorable touchdown scamper. After weeks of being stymied offensively, Fournette and Jennings carried the team in a difficult environment.

For the Aggies, Kyle Allen went 17-for-27 with 144 yards, one touchdown and one controversial interception. That touchdown pass went to Speedy Noil, who reached the end zone for the fifth time during his freshman campaign.

SportsCenter gives a look at Noil's score and subsequent celebration:

The first half was barren on the offensive side for Texas A&M outside of one early drive. Trey Williams had just one rush in the first quarter, but he took it to the house form 41 yards out to give the Aggies the early advantage.

However, TexAgs notes how well the offense performed outside of Williams' huge run:

LSU finally got its offense going in the second quarter after being shut down in the opening frame. Leonard Fournette provided the spark for the Tigers with a bruising rush that showed off not only his speed but also his physicality.

The SEC Network passed along video of the powerful run:

LSU coahc Les Miles offered his thoughts on the impressive freshman following the game, per James Haralson of 1045 ESPN:

His touchdown run was his longest in the first half, finishing with 75 before heading to the locker room. It was also a massive moment for the underwhelming offense, via ESPN Stats & Info:

Jennings also recovered from throwing an early pick by rushing for rushing for 94 yards and a 10-yard touchdown throw to John Diarse. That second touchdown alone gave the Tigers their highest point total Oct. 18 against Kentucky.

Despite the offensive woes over the last several weeks, Jennings planned on attacking the Aggies through the air. The sophomore spoke about his approach prior to the game, via Tiger Droppings:

The Tigers would add a field goal before the half and another in the third quarter, but weren't able to put the Aggies away. Allen was able to drive Texas A&M down the field for a field goal and Noil's touchdown reception.

Down by six points on the final drive, Allen had a chance for a big moment that was ended by a questionable call. On third down, an LSU lineman appeared to be offsides when Allen heaved the ball down the field and was picked off.

Allen appeared to think he had a free play and went for the jugular, but the pick stood for Jalen Collins as Texas A&M fell in tragic fashion. Rabalais and Brent Carney of KXAN offered their thoughts on the pivotal play:

Moving forward, both teams will now wait to find out which bowl will ultimately select them. With the two programs wilting down the stretch in the SEC West, they'll prepare for the future to compete for the title next season.

By virtue of its win, LSU finishes the regular season with an 8-4 record and a chance at a good bowl game. Though it wasn't the season the Tigers hoped for, having extra time to practice for young players like Fournette will improve the team in the future.

For the Aggies, dropping to 7-5 is a tough pill to swallow after a solid start to the season. However, the program still has a bowl game coming up and a chance to get Allen more accustomed to the offense to thrive next season.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Michigan Football: Could a Win over Ohio State Save Brady Hoke's Job?

Brady Hoke lost any hope of controlling his destiny when Michigan fell to Maryland 23-16 last week. The loss dropped Michigan below .500 and pinned the team’s bowl hopes on beating Ohio State in the season finale.

Michigan travels to Columbus for the 111th edition of “The Game” traumatized by a disappointing season marked by turmoil both on and off the field.

Unlike the classic games of yesteryear, this season’s clash will have no impact on the Big Ten title race. Ohio State (10-1, 7-0 Big Ten) has already clinched the Big Ten East division while Michigan (5-6, 3-4 Big Ten) needs a victory over Ohio State to be bowl-eligible.

Michigan has limped through another mediocre season under Hoke that shows all signs of being his last.

Win or lose versus Ohio State, Hoke’s microscopic chance of survival now depends on the availability of possible replacements. Michigan needs to get the next hire right after the Rich Rodriguez fiasco and Hoke’s disappointing tenure.

Fans can scream for Hoke’s ouster, but another mediocre hire could do more damage than his return for another season.

Michigan’s quest for a top coach is hampered by uncertainty in its athletic department. New interim athletic director Jim Hackett will evaluate Hoke after the season and has the power to dismiss him. However, it’s unclear if any top coaching candidate would risk working for a temporary leader.

Hackett has done nothing to dismiss the notion that he’s a candidate to be the permanent athletic director, but for the moment, interim still means temporary.

According to Doug Lesmerises of Northeast Ohio Media Group, Michigan's top candidates include John Harbaugh (Baltimore, NFL), Jim Harbaugh (San Francisco, NFL) and Les Miles (LSU, SEC). Any of them would be greeted with enthusiasm by Michigan fans hungry for a return to national prominence.

The next tier of rumored candidates lack the sizzle of a Harbaugh but may be more realistic options. One name that continues to bubble up is Greg Schiano (former coach of Tampa Bay and Rutgers), who has announced his intention to return in coaching.

Other names rumored to be on the Michigan’s radar include Jim Mora (UCLA, Pac-12) and Bret Bielema (Arkansas, SEC).

Whether Hoke is fired now or later depends on whom Michigan can get to replace him. If Michigan can’t get a top candidate lined up, Hoke may survive at least temporarily. The program cannot afford another bungled coaching search.

In 2006, Michigan and Ohio State entered The Game as the top-ranked teams in the nation. Ohio State triumphed 42-39 in a classic matchup between the longtime rivals. Since then, Ohio State has maintained its status as an elite program while Michigan has crashed and burned.

Michigan’s next coach will face intense pressure to restore luster to a program that has fallen on hard times. Academically, Michigan has prided itself on having top programs that compete with the Ivy league.

Another bad coaching hire, and its football program might end up better suited for the Ivy League.


Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand.

Follow @PSCallihan.

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LSU Football: Leonard Fournette Setting Tone for 2015 Heisman Trophy Run

World, meet LSU running back Leonard Fournette. Leonard Fournette, meet world.

Get to know each other, because you're going to see each other a lot.

Fournette's first touchdown run in the 23-17 win over Texas A&M was Herschel Walker-esque, as he plowed through safety Howard Matthews en route to the end zone. The true freshman from New Orleans, who came in as the country's top-ranked recruit, finished the day with a career-high 146 yards and the one touchdown.

Then when his team was up three points with just over five minutes to play, Fournette iced the game as he ripped off a 43-yarder that set up the final field goal and, more importantly, drained the clock.

Fournette came to LSU with slightly unrealistic expectations.  Les Miles went so far as to compare him to NBA legend Michael Jordan during SEC Media Days in July, according to ESPN.com. It seemed crazy at the time, especially considering Fournette would join a backfield that included established backs Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee.

It didn't matter. The Heisman was still a stated goal for Fournette, and he made that abundantly clear before his first career game.

"I'm planning on winning a Heisman my freshman year and hopefully, a BCS championship. I can handle it," he told Jacques Doucet of WAFB in August.

When Fournette struck the Heisman pose after his first career touchdown in the Sam Houston State game, the hype train started.

As the season has gone on, Fournette has become more of the feature back. The 6'1", 230-pounder has earned more than 20 carries in three games since Oct. 11.

Thursday night's performance versus the Aggies was the exclamation, and it served as the tone-setter for Fournette's 2015 Heisman Trophy run. 

Remember "the hit" from former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney in the 2013 Outback Bowl? Fournette's demolition of Matthews is the sequel. It's going to be seen on highlights, promos and previews for the next nine months, to a point where by the time toe actually meets leather against McNeese State in the 2015 opener, it'll be as played out as Jameis Winston crab leg jokes.

That's a good thing for Fournette.

If a running back is legitimately going to spring the Heisman upset and unseat a quarterback for the quarterback-driven award, he needs that kind of hype and attention—even if it gets annoying for the general public to see the same play over and over.

Hilliard and Magee will both be gone next season, and the inconsistency at the quarterback position all season from Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris suggests that, at the very least, LSU will be very run-heavy until one takes the next step as a passer.

That means more responsibility for Fournette with the eyes of the world watching.

Jackpot.

Only two running backs have won the Heisman since 2000 (Reggie Bush in 2005 and Mark Ingram in 2009), and Bush had to return his after the NCAA came calling. If there's any running back who can break through that glass ceiling, it's Fournette.

He has the size, speed and skills to be a superstar, and now he'll have the hype to be a contender from Day 1.

 

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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The College Football Rivalry That We Miss the Most

Thursday afternoon, the state of Texas pulsed with anticipation for a great night of rivalry college football.

Across the state, Texas and Texas A&M fans prepared for gridiron excitement as they chowed down on turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and candied yams, awaiting the evening’s results.

At 6:30 p.m., that excitement built to a crescendo as the Longhorns and Aggies kicked off…in stadiums 107 miles apart, with Texas hosting TCU and A&M hosting LSU.

That, sadly, is the state of one of college football’s best rivalries. It now exists only on parallel tracks, in separate leagues, like divorced spouses who’ve remarried and moved to new neighborhoods.

Texas and Texas A&M still share the same state, but they share little else these days. A&M’s move to the Southeastern Conference following the 2011 season ended the rivalry, and there are few signs that it will be renewed anytime soon.

“I was sad to see it go,” said former Texas quarterback and current Bleacher Report analyst Chris Simms, who won three of four starts against the Aggies from 1999-2002. “It’s one of the best rivalries in all of sports in general. It’s a shame that on Thanksgiving weekend, one of the best rivalries sports has to offer doesn’t exist anymore.”

Every year from 1915-2011, the Aggies and Longhorns faced off in the regular-season finale, always on Thanksgiving weekend, sometimes on Thanksgiving night or the following day. But no matter the exact day, it was always important. While Texas dominated the series overall (holding a 76-37-5 lead), the rivalry galvanized the state, divided families and friends and drove intense conversation and acrimony.

However, something deeper bubbled beneath the surface. As longtime Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls puts it, “A&M is like the little brother that big-brother Texas liked to bully around.”

The acrimony bubbled over in early 2011 when Texas announced a partnership with ESPN to launch the Longhorn Network, a first-of-its-kind 24-hour network devoted solely to Texas sports with a 20-year, $300 million contract.

By July, the ill will between the two schools led to Texas A&M’s agreement to bolt to the SEC, a move that became official in September 2011.

“Ill will doesn’t begin to describe it,” Bohls said. “That’s the understatement of grand proportions. Many, if not most, Aggies will blame the Longhorn Network and Texas arrogance and inability to share conference monies equally as the reasons for the exodus of A&M, Missouri, Nebraska and Colorado. The LHN was just the catalyst.”

In Bohls’ eyes, “A&M was running from something as much as to something,” noting the Aggies’ added exposure in the SEC and Johnny Manziel’s Heisman Trophy in 2012 but adding that A&M could find less success in both football and basketball than it did in the Big 12.

“At least the Aggies took responsibility for themselves, chose to stand on their own two legs and no longer be bossed around by Texas,” he said.

A&M’s departure for the SEC meant that 2011’s game was the final scheduled meeting between the two sides: Texas kicked a final-play field goal to score a 27-25 victory.

There are no games currently scheduled between the two rivals. Per FBSchedules.com, Texas’ nonconference slate is full through 2018 with one game scheduled for 2019, while A&M’s non-league schedule is full from 2015-17 and 2019 with a marquee game against Clemson the only game scheduled for 2018.

Last November, Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin (who has since left for the same job at Missouri) said he is open to resuming the rivalry eventually.

“There's no reason why we shouldn't play each other, if we want to,” Loftin told Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle. "I think (Texas) will at some point in time feel like it's the right thing to do as well, and we'll get there."

Texas is certainly open to the idea. In March, new Texas head coach Charlie Strong told CBSSports.com's Jeremy Fowler he’d “love to play” the rivalry.

“(Texas fans) will tell you they don’t miss it,” Bohls said. “But the school will put an Aggie lowlight on its Jumbotron to big cheers, so that to me suggests they still care enough to mock an opponent. I think the same goes for A&M. I still think it’s a rich rivalry that should be mined in the future.”

In Simms’ eyes, A&M is missing the perfect opportunity to take the lead in the rivalry while Texas rebuilds, gaining ground in-state in the process.

“The way I look at it, they’re wasting precious years,” he said. “They could be dominating the rivalry and kick us while we’re down right now, gain some younger fans as people come up in the rivalry, come into the A&M bandwagon. They have first-round (NFL) picks flying off the boards and we (Texas) couldn’t even get anyone drafted last year.”

For now, both sides have moved on. A&M has hooked up with SEC West neighbor LSU for an end-of-season rivalry, and Texas has faced in-state foes Texas Tech and TCU the past two seasons on Thanksgiving. Although Bohls said those “pale in comparison to the raw hatred and acrimony between the two sides.”

With both teams bowl-eligible this fall but neither close to the College Football Playoff picture, an excellent opportunity exists in the Texas Bowl, which will match Big 12 and SEC foes in Houston. Texas Bowl chairman Jamey Rootes told Zwerneman that a Longhorns-Aggies matchup “would really be outstanding for our fans, our community and the two schools.”

But Chip Brown of Horns Digest said the SEC won’t let the matchup happen because A&M has nothing to gain from a matchup.

“That would be cool,” Simms said of such a matchup. “Maybe fans would sit in the stands, watch a great game and think, ‘What the hell were we doing getting rid of this rivalry?’ There’s too much fun and passion involved with it and a great respect in the rivalry. I felt more hate between Texas and Oklahoma than Texas-Texas A&M.

“There’s respect in-state for a battle to be king of the state. Maybe that would open everyone’s eyes and make them realize that they’re missing out on a great thing.”

College football nonconference scheduling has trended away from home-and-home matchups toward one-off, neutral-site classics, but Bohls has an idea that marries the two.

He says a Texas-Texas A&M matchup every Labor Day at Houston’s NRG Stadium “would be a great way to kick off the season.”

“But I think A&M is content to stay in the SEC and bypass Texas, and Texas feels it stayed in the Big 12 and A&M left, so the heck with them," Bohls said. "It’d be great to have the matchup return. Until it does, a little piece of college heaven dies.”

So on we march with the rivals moving on parallel courses, avoiding each other.

When that happens, college football fans are the real losers.

*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes for this article were obtained directly by the author.

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LSU's Leonard Fournette Runs over Defender on 22-Yard TD vs. Texas A&M

LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette is only a freshman, but he's already making quite the name for himself with runs like this.

In the second quarter against Texas A&M on Thanksgiving in College Station, Fournette used the truck stick to run over an Aggies defender, then found the end zone on this impressive 22-yard touchdown, tying the contest at 7-7.

Here's another angle of the effort:

I'm guessing that we'll be seeing a few more of these kinds of highlights before Fournette's college career is over.

[Vine, h/t Twitter]

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TCU vs. Texas: Live Score and Highlights

TCU 20, Texas 3—Halftime

The Horned Frogs head into halftime with a commanding 17-point over a hapless Longhorn offense that has had two crucial turnovers.

You can catch tonight's coverage on Fox Sports 1, and follow the box score over at NCAA.com.

This page will be updated throughout the action with analysis and highlights. Also, be sure to check back with us after the game to see grades for the Longhorns' positional units.

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Oregon Football: Braxton Miller Is No Mariota, but He Would Be an Awesome Duck

Coming into the 2014 season, Braxton Miller was a legitimate Heisman contender and had hopes of leading his Ohio State Buckeyes to the inaugural College Football Playoff. Unfortunately for him, he suffered a season-ending injury to his throwing shoulder in fall practice just days prior to the start of the season.

He said from the beginning he was going to come back to college for his final season of eligibility. However, J.T Barrett has filled in admirably at quarterback and has the offense running as good, if not better, than last year’s 12-2 squad.

This leaves Urban Meyer with a tough decision and there is an abundance of uncertainty if Miller would even be the starter should he return to Columbus as a fifth-year senior.

Not surprisingly, there has been speculation about where Miller might end up. The one that is most intriguing to me is Oregon, but would Braxton Miller be a good fit in Oregon?

Assuming Marcus Mariota forgoes his senior season of college and declares for the NFL draft, it seems like it would be prudent for Miller to transfer to Oregon for his final collegiate season.

He would be able to do it without having to sit out a season, as it is an NCAA rule that states graduate students can transfer to another school and play immediately. Several players, most notably Russell Wilson, have taken advantage of this rule.

Oregon and Ohio State don’t run the same type of offense, but the quarterback characteristics are very similar. The perfect quarterback in both offenses is an athletic dual-threat guy, someone who can eat up yards effectively as a runner and passer.

Miller thrived in the Buckeyes’ spread option attack for two years, but it was never because of his throwing. He threw the ball decently last year, but he never once topped the 300-yard plateau in a game and completed only 63.5 percent of his passes. He was mostly a runner, rushing for more than 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns.

His stellar running ability is what would make him an instant hit in Eugene. Sure, the coaching staff would have to revise the playbook a bit to fit Miller’s strengths, but it would undoubtedly be willing to do it.

Miller is a rare jewel and a player any team in the country would be lucky to have. Oregon is no exception. Even on a roster as skilled as that, Miller would be a welcome addition.

NFL Analyst Bucky Brooks is one of the many scouts drooling over Miller’s talent. Here is what he said in a past column about Miller.

As a runner, Miller posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, exhibiting a powerful running style that made him difficult to bring down on the perimeter. Miller was unquestionably the most explosive weapon on the field whenever he stepped between the lines; his ability to break off big runs as the triggerman in the Buckeyes' spread offense made the unit nearly impossible to slow down despite opponents' best efforts.

That quote could not be truer. Except for the Michigan State game, Miller was unstoppable in 2013. If he were to transfer to Oregon, he would be an instant sensation.

However, this whole situation hinges on Mariota leaving early for the NFL. If he decides to return for his senior year, Miller would obviously not come to Oregon because Mariota is arguably the best quarterback in the country as well as an Oregon legend.

In a recent article by Mike Huguenin of NFL.com, he listed 10 schools as potential landing spots for Miller if he wants to play quarterback and decides to transfer. Oregon was on that list, and there were some other very interesting possibilities including Auburn, UCLA, Mississippi State and Ole Miss.

This is what Huguenin said about Oregon:

Marcus Mariota could return for his senior season. But if he doesn't, having Miller as a ready-made replacement likely would make coach Mark Helfrich and offensive coordinator Scott Frost giddy. Mariota is more advanced as a passer than Miller, but Miller is a more physical runner, and adding him to the stable of backs already on Oregon's campus -- wow.

From Miller’s perspective, he cannot make a truly bad decision. He would be a solid fit with any school that has an offensive system revolving around a dual-threat quarterback.

Most professional scouts, including Brooks, don’t see Miller as an NFL quarterback, but more as a running back or wide receiver. If Miller decides to switch positions and remain at Ohio State, the Buckeye offense would be absolutely lethal.

Just imagine Barrett and Miller in the same backfield, executing the read option to perfection. They would be nearly impossible to stop, and the thought of such a dynamic duo would make any defensive coordinator cringe.

But if he wants to transfer, Oregon would be the best fit. Miller would instantly jump into a situation where he could easily be successful. He would have a stable of ultra-athletic running backs and wide receivers to work with as well as a team with the necessary talent to contend for a national championship.

For the Ducks, they don’t have a quarterback with Miller’s ability on the roster for next year. He would be the perfect player to bridge the gap between Mariota and Travis Waller, one of the most highly touted dual-threat quarterbacks in the class of 2015 according to 247Sports.

Whether there have been discussions between Miller and the Oregon coaching staff is irrelevant at this point. He would be an ideal fit for the Ducks, and the Oregon offense would be incredibly potent with Miller behind center.

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Oregon Football: Braxton Miller Is No Mariota, but He Would Be an Awesome Duck

Coming into the 2014 season, Braxton Miller was a legitimate Heisman contender and had hopes of leading his Ohio State Buckeyes to the inaugural College Football Playoff...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Oregon Ducks vs. Oregon State Beavers Betting Odds, Pick, Trends

Oregon has ruled in the recent Civil War rivalry with Oregon State, winning the last six meetings straight up, going 3-2-1 against the spread.

The 10-1 Ducks are also two victories away from making the College Football Playoff. However, the 5-6 Beavers would love nothing more than to spoil Oregon's season and become bowl-eligible in the process.

Oregon and Oregon State battle for the 118th time Saturday night in Corvallis.

 

Point Spread: The Ducks opened as 17.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark, but were two points higher as of Thursday. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

College Football Pick, via Odds Shark Computer: 43.1-28.5 Ducks

 

Why the Oregon Ducks Can Cover the Spread

The Ducks have won and covered six games in a row, after beating Colorado 44-10, cashing in as 33-point favorites. Oregon led 30-3 at the half and shut the Buffs out in the fourth quarter, preserving the cover.

So the Ducks, with a win this week and a victory in the Pac-12 Championship Game, would secure a spot in the four-team playoff. Back in September, Oregon only beat Washington State by a touchdown, then lost at home to Arizona.

Since then, the Ducks have beaten UCLA, Washington, Cal, Stanford, Utah and Colorado—four of which will go to a bowl—by an average score of 50-24.

 

Why the Oregon State Beavers Can Cover the Spread

The Beavers have been a disappointment this season, at just 3-8 ATS, but they showed they could still be a pain in someone's behind when they upset Arizona a couple weeks ago 35-27, winning outright as seven-point home dogs.

And the Wildcats just happen to be the only team to beat the Ducks this season. Oregon State suffered a letdown last week, losing to Washington 37-13, but that just puts it on schedule for a rebound this week.

If the Beavers can move the ball with quarterback Sean Mannion, avoid the turnovers and the big plays and ride some home-field emotion, they could give Oregon a scare.

 

Smart Pick

Oregon is playing for big stakes, while Oregon State is playing for pride. In this spot, that might give the Beavers an edge.

Also, while style points still come into play in determining this year's four-team playoff field, the Ducks really only need two victories and they're in. Finally, Oregon State gave Oregon a heck of a scare last year in Eugene, only succumbing when Marcus Mariota threw a touchdown pass to Josh Huff with 30 seconds to go in a 36-35 Ducks victory.

So the smart choice here is with the home dog, plus the points, in spite of its recent 1-6 ATS run in conference home games.

 

Betting Trends

  • The total has gone under in five of Oregon's last seven games on the road.
  • Oregon State is 2-7 ATS in its last nine games at home.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates and get the free odds tracker app.

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Oregon Ducks vs. Oregon State Beavers Betting Odds, Pick, Trends

Oregon has ruled in the recent Civil War rivalry with Oregon State, winning the last six meetings straight up, going 3-2-1 against the spread. The 10-1 Ducks are also two victories away from making the College Football Playoff...

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Which Team Has Been a Bigger Bust in 2014, Notre Dame or Oklahoma?

Back in August, it would have been hard to say which team was more brimming with confidence about the upcoming season: Notre Dame or Oklahoma.

With the 2014 season nearly in the books, it's just as difficult to determine which has been more of a disappointment. Neither team heads into its final regular-season game anywhere close to where it expected to be, and both are in contention for the dreaded "bust" label.

So it goes when one is tabbed as the overwhelming favorite to win its conference and the other was getting plenty of mention as a potential playoff team if it could navigate a rather daunting independent schedule.

But who busted bigger in 2014, Notre Dame or Oklahoma?

Notre Dame's flop is worse, for two reasons: Notre Dame tricked us for two months before crashing hard, and Oklahoma has done this before, failing to meet expectations in several other seasons.

To come to this conclusion, though, it's necessary to look at where these teams started and where they've ended up.

Notre Dame was coming off its first loss of the season when the first playoff rankings came out in late October, having just fallen in the final seconds at defending champ Florida State. Oklahoma had lost twice by that point, falling at TCU and then at home to Kansas State.

Yet the Fighting Irish had a far better national perception when those first rankings were released, somehow gaining more supporters for losing than they had before playing at Florida State.

"Each week has a chance to define Notre Dame's season," wrote Keith Arnold of Chat Sports, referring to a tough November schedule that had the chance to push the Irish into the playoffs even with a loss. The toughest of those contests, on paper, would come Nov. 8 at a rising Arizona State team.

Oklahoma, too, still had expectations that could be met despite the two October losses, because it had the chance to right some wrongs with a Nov. 8 visit from Baylor. The Sooners had never lost to the Bears in Norman and as a result were still major players in the Big 12 race and could still be in the running for a major bowl bid.

But Nov. 8 was the day the dreams truly died for both Notre Dame and Oklahoma. With their biggest games of the season on the docket for that Saturday, instead of moving toward achieving some goals both programs walked off the field wondering what went wrong.

Notre Dame was crushed, 55-31, at Arizona State, a few hours after Oklahoma was run off its own field in a 48-14 loss to Baylor.

Suddenly, the talk of what these teams could accomplish this season turned to discussions of failures, both in terms of on-field performance and coaching effectiveness.

Oklahoma's Bob Stoops has been speculated as a prime candidate to replace Will Muschamp at Florida, where he could get a "change of scenery" that many feel the veteran coach needs. Brian Kelly of Notre Dame, who previously had been linked to NFL openings, has had his name mentioned as a good option for the New York Giants job if it were to come open.

Considering the shortcomings of each team, getting out of town might not be such a bad idea for either.

The similarities between the teams extends beyond what was expected and what hasn't happened. Though both featured talented rosters stocked with notable recruits, the most important player for each offense entered the season as major question marks.

Trevor Knight had a breakout performance in Oklahoma's Sugar Bowl win over Alabama, launching the sophomore-to-be into far-too-early Heisman discussions that ignored the fact he'd only been good enough to start five games in 2013.

With Notre Dame, it was resting its laurels on Everett Golson, a hero in 2012 when he helped lead the Irish to the national title game but someone who hadn't thrown a pass in a live game since January 2013 because of a season-long academic suspension. He wasn't even guaranteed the starting job when training camp began in the summer.

Both quarterbacks have been integral to what their respective teams have done this season, both good and bad.

Knight was effective most of the time, though he struggled in losses to TCU and Baylor and at many points during the season took a back seat to Oklahoma's young and rising running back corps. Knight ended up getting hurt late in the Baylor loss and hasn't played since, yet because of freshman tailback Samaje Perine's rushing his absence has hardly been noticed.

Golson has managed to be both an offensive savior and his team's own worst enemy in the same season, accounting for 37 touchdowns and more than 3,500 yards but also 20 of Notre Dame's 24 turnovers. All 20 of those giveaways have come in the past eight games, after he'd opened with 11 scores in the first three contests and then nearly tied an FBS record for consecutive completions in the same game that he turned it over four times.

Instead of invitations to New York City for next month's Heisman ceremony, Golson and Knight probably won't even watch the event on television.

Looking at all of this, it's easy to see why both Notre Dame and Oklahoma are considered busts in 2014. The only fitting way for this season to end would be for the Irish and Sooners to meet in a bowl game.

As an unofficial member of the ACC, Notre Dame gets to be included in that conference's choices for who will play in its bowl affiliations. Only one of those would be against a Big 12 team, the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 29 in Orlando.

Projections from ESPN and CBS Sports have Oklahoma headed to Orlando, while Notre Dame is pegged to play in either the Belk, Pinstripe or Sun Bowl.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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