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Cold Hard Fact for Monday, January 6, 2014

Fact: With Auburn taking a 7-3 lead with 3:07 left in the first quarter, Florida State trailed in a game for the first time since September 28 vs. Boston College. 

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Fact of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: Ralph D. Russo

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Cold Hard Fact for Monday, January 6, 2014

Fact: Auburn's Tre Mason scored on a 12-yard reception in the first quarter to give the Tigers a 7-3 lead over Florida State. The first team to score a touchdown has won each of the past five BCS National Championship Games. 

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Fact of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: ESPN Stats & Info 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Football: Charlie Strong Already Seeing Political Challenges in Austin

Legacies of a coaching career are almost always defined by wins. For new Texas coach Charlie Strong, it's about winning and fitting in. 

Strong hasn't coached a single down of football for the Longhorns, or finalized a recruiting class, yet there are already concerns about how he "fits" with his new job. He's not known to be the glad-hander or back-slapper like his predecessor, Mack Brown. Strong is an intense coach whose first and only interest is football; all other obligations are frivolous. 

Yahoo! columnist Pat Forde wrote as much on Sunday when Texas announced Strong's hire. 

For all his on-field credentials, he is a complete misfit for the spotlight that accompanies the Texas job. Strong hated dealing with both the small media following at Louisville and the modest core of boosters who were important to the program.

There's nothing modest about Texas, including the egos of those behind the scenes. Appearing on ESPN Radio-San Antonio Monday afternoon, Texas booster Red McCombs expressed his dissatisfaction with athletic director Steve Patterson's hire. 

The first thing to acknowledge for contextual reasons is that McCombs says he was shut out of the hiring process by Patterson. 

McCombs is selling Strong's credentials so short it's insulting. In four years at Louisville, a program that failed to have a winning record during the Steve Kragthorpe experiment, Strong compiled a 37-15 record. Strong led the Cardinals to back-to-back bowl wins, including last season's Sugar Bowl over Florida. The quarterback whom he recruited, Teddy Bridgewater, is likely to be one of the top picks in the upcoming NFL draft.

Strong proved his mettle as a position coach, and later as a defensive coordinator, at Florida. He was a part of two BCS National Championship teams in 2006-07 and 2008-09. 

His resume is just fine. 

But McCombs would rather have a coach, ESPN NFL color analyst Jon Gruden, who hasn't recruited a high school kid since his days as a wide receivers coach at Pitt—22 years ago. 

Whether McCombs is right or wrong about Strong matters little, though. He's a high-profile and outspoken member of a group of people who have money to give. And Patterson just alienated him. 

This is Patterson's first and most critical hire and he's going all in for it. It's a completely new direction, too. Strong is the anti-Brown, personality-wise. Maybe that's what Texas needs to return to a championship level. For Patterson's sake, for Strong's sake, that better come to fruition. 

How long it takes Strong to get the program to that level is another important factor. The attractiveness of the Texas job is that it has every available resource to be successful. By that same consideration, however, there are no excuses not to be. 

Texas is also a unique job because the politics and media circus surrounding it are magnified. If nits are really being picked, Strong's first encounter of that came in the 36 hours or so of media coverage leading up to his hire. 

Whether Strong can handle the additional responsibilities remains to be seen, but if his opening press conference Monday was any indication, he'll be able to hold his own. 

Granted, every coach in the history of existence has "won" their first presser, but Strong showed he was not the introverted, awkward man in front of the cameras he's been made out to be. Though clearly a bit uncomfortable at first, Strong eventually opened up with honest, thoughtful answers. He even threw in a few jokes. 

During one response, Strong spoke about maintaining success by using the classic brick-building analogy, where a program is built brick by brick. Strong's first brick was getting through the press conference. His next may be coming face-to-face with McCombs. 

 

Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval

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Power Ranking Pac-12 Football Coaches by Recruiting Skills

A better conference than given credit for, the Pac-12 is an interesting league to cover. Each head coach in the conference bases a great deal of his recruiting efforts in the talented state of California.

However, several schools have the ability to nationally recruit. Navigating the Pac-12 recruiting trail can get tricky, but the league does have several great recruiting head coaches.

USC has a new leader who has proved he can recruit out West, while Washington's new head coach needs to earn his stripes. Plus, the two schools in the desert have better recruiting head coaches than many think.

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Cold Hard Fact for Monday, January 6, 2014

Fact: With a catch in the 1st quarter, Florida State wide receiver Rashad Greene became the first Seminole wideout to gain 1,000 yards in a season since Anquan Boldin in 2002. 

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Fact of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: Corey Clark

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Cold Hard Fact for Monday, January 6, 2014

Fact: If Auburn wins Monday's BCS National Championship game, the state of Alabama will have won the last five college football National Championships.

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Fact of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: BCSFootball.org

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jenn Sterger Cheers on Florida State at BCS National Championship Game

Jenn Sterger—the former New York Jets sideline reporter who became a household name during the Brett Favre scandal—is cheering on her alma mater tonight. The Florida State grad is excited her Seminoles are playing the Auburn Tigers in the BCS National Championship.

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Brent Musburger Can't Remember Who He Is at BCS National Championship Game

ESPN's Brent Musburger has had his share of awesome moments on the air. Add impersonating his television partner to that list.

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Metro Los Angeles Is Happy Alabama and Oregon Aren't Playing in BCS Title Game

 Many college football fans have wanted to see the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Oregon Ducks face off in the BCS Championship Game in the past couple of seasons. Don't count Metro Los Angeles in that group.

Before it sent the above tweet, Metro Los Angeles sent out a tweet welcoming Auburn and Florida State fans:

 

Good afternoon, Auburn and Florida State fans and welcome aboard! I bet all fans can agree this is a lovely photo. http://t.co/Oif4s1hhjj

— Metro Los Angeles (@metrolosangeles) January 7, 2014

Alabama and Oregon would be a great contrast of styles, but the transit system is satisfied with the matchup it got.

 

Hat tip to USA Today For The Win's Laken Litman for the find.

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Georgia Football Recruiting: Are Dawgs Targeting the Right Players?

As Bulldog fans continue to grapple with a disappointing 2013 campaign, many have concerns moving forward.  While many of these fears center on the coaching staff, some worry about about the existing and future depth chart.  More precisely, some wonder if Georgia is targeting the right players in recruiting.

If the past week's high school all-star games give any indication, the answer may be grim.

In the Under Armour All-America Game, committed tight end Jeb Blazevich registered just two catches for 17 yards while defensive tackle Lamont Gaillard skipped the action altogether.

A few days later, Georgia commits offered an equally uninspiring effort in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.  Star running backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb combined for just 13 yards rushing on six attempts and Jacob Park, an early enrollee, connected on just one of his eight pass attempts while throwing for six yards and one interception.

While it would be foolish to read too much into the performance of young athletes in all-star games, the lackluster showing does highlight the very concern that cripples the enthusiasm of many Bulldog fans.  These games may be showcases in nature, but they are the truest reflection of FBS football that most of these young talents see during their high school careers.

The relatively poor performances of Blazevich, Michel, Chubb and Park underscores the theory that Georgia's highly touted recruiting classes aren't performing to expectation at the collegiate level.

 

High School Competition

The jump from the high school gridiron to the college game is not an easy one.  There's a reason (or perhaps a hundred reasons) why no freshman won the Heisman Trophy prior to 2012.  The most impressive high school seniors rarely dominate as freshmen in college.  The size, speed, strength and knowledge of the competition increases by too steep of a degree.

That being said, some athletes see higher levels of opposing talent prior to arriving on campus and are therefore better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.  By virtue of demographics, a larger high school is more likely to fill a roster with high quality athletes than a smaller school.  

In that regard, the transition for tight end Jeb Blazevich may be a lengthy one.  A product of Charlotte Christian School, Blazevich hails from an institution that is home to just over 1,000 students from kindergarten through grade 12.  His high school team competes in the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association, a league created specifically for small schools.

Within that context, the near-term expectation for Blazevich should be tempered.  While he may develop into a truly elite tight end, he'll have to first master the speed and strength of the nation's best athletes in the SEC.

 

Big Game Mentality

Another criticism of recent Georgia teams is a lack of big-game success.  When individuals fail to collectively shoulder the responsibility of performing at the highest level when the spotlight is brightest, results disappoint.  Over the past few years, that has been the case for Georgia football.  

Should the statistically insignificant showings of Michel, Chubb and Park further discourage Georgia fans looking for brighter performances?  The short answer is no.

These all-star games offered a brief glimpse of how these players perform under pressure, but the games themselves were shrouded in unique circumstances.  Both the Under Armour All-America Game and the U.S. Army All-American Bowl are played with minimal practice, a limited playbook and very little prolonged significance.  Players enjoy these games for the opportunity to play, not necessarily as an opportunity to win or build toward a greater cause.

Furthermore, the concerns surrounding poor all-star game performance quickly disappear within the context of the entire career of one of Georgia's commits.

Sony Michel ran for 98 yards and three touchdowns on just 13 carries in the 5A Florida State Championship in 2013.  Afterwards his offensive coordinator, Mario Perez, acknowledged to Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald that he pulled Michel out of the game early because, "There are certain players that transcend the program and take programs to a higher level.  Sony Michel has been that guy for American Heritage."

Unfortunately, Nick Chubb and Jacob Park were much less impressive in the waning moments of their high school careers.  Chubb was held to just 71 yards on 19 carries in a season-ending playoff loss.  Park threw four interceptions in the South Carolina State Championship.

 

Impact Moving Forward

Ultimately these factors (both good and bad) fail to outweigh the importance of a recruit's commitment to the program after he arrives on campus.  Some of Georgia's most talented players (Isaiah Crowell, Washaun Ealey, Nick Marshall, etc.) have failed to meet the expectations of the program and as a result been forced to finish their careers elsewhere.

To the contrary, less highly regarded prospects, like current wide receiver Chris Conley, embraced the film room, the weight room and the playbook and found ways to contribute early and often for the Bulldogs.

The 2014 Georgia recruiting class is shaping up to be similar to most in that it is laced with talent.  But, what will set this group of athletes apart is the effort they put in on and off the field.  Those contributions can make a poor all-star game showing a forgotten detail.

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Every Pac-12 Team's Biggest Concern This Offseason

Following the national championship game between Florida State and Auburn, fans will be vaulted into a long offseason devoid of any meaningful college football. For those concerned only with the goings-on of the Pac-12 conference, that darkness crept over life as we know it following Stanford's loss to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl.

But while the shirts, jerseys, hats and tailgate supplies are tucked away to gather dust for the next seven months, coaches and players are entering a part of the year that is crucial for future success.

The bulk of the offseason work will come during spring and fall camps, when coaches identify players who seem ready to take the next step and land a bigger role on the team. Key seniors always need to be replaced with promising young talent. With most teams, glaring issues, such as a weak rushing attack or a secondary prone to giving up the big play, need to be addressed.

Whatever went wrong in 2013 needs to be focused on leading in to the 2014 season, because if you aren't improving, you're getting worse. So out in Pac-12 country, where the conference enjoyed a mostly successful season, what are teams concerned about?

We're taking a look at the biggest issues each Pac-12 team must address this offseason in order to be prepared for the next chapter of college football.

 

All stats via ESPN unless otherwise noted.

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Every Pac-12 Team's Biggest Concern This Offseason

Following the national championship game between Florida State and Auburn, fans will be vaulted into a long offseason devoid of any meaningful college football...

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Alabama's AJ McCarron Rooting for Auburn in BCS Championship Game

The Auburn Tigers broke the hearts of AJ McCarron and the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2013 Iron Bowl, but the quarterback is pulling for his in-state rival to beat the Florida State Seminoles in the BCS Championship Game on Monday.

The above tweet was an explanation of a previous tweet that McCarron sent out, which showed he was rooting for the Tigers:

Let's go Auburn!!!!! Bring it back home. I will be rooting for my boys @TreMason21 & @NineORhino wish u boys the best of luck. #RTRWarEagle

— AJ McCarron (@10AJMcCarron) January 7, 2014

Of course, McCarron's girlfriend, Katherine Webb, graduated from Auburn. Webb also showed her support for her former school:

Warrrr Eagle HEY! #SEC

— Katherine Webb (@_KatherineWebb) January 7, 2014

Webb has supported McCarron and Alabama in the past. Now the quarterback has a chance to return the favor and root for his girlfriend's alma mater.

The state of Alabama has won the past four championships. McCarron has state pride, but it is still tough for some Crimson Tide fans to handle.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Power Ranking Big 12 Football Coaches by Recruiting Skills

The Big 12 has undergone radical changes over its recent seasons. Mack Brown is no longer the head coach at Texas. Baylor is one of the best teams in the country. Texas Tech has legit confidence. Plus, Oklahoma State is now respected on the recruiting trail.

Recruiting in the Big 12 has always been competitive, and that continues today. As a head coach in this league, you and your staff must be willing to do your best to lure talented players to your campus.

Some Big 12 head coaches excel at this, while some don't.

 

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BCS National Championship Game: Defense Will Key Florida State to the Title

It seems like there is one phrase that always comes up when we talk about championship games in any sport, but especially in football.

"Defense wins championships."

Tonight when Florida State and Auburn take the field for the 2014 BCS National Championship, most eyes will be on the offenses. For Florida State, that means Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and an offense that led all of college football by averaging 53 points per game. For Auburn, it means Tre Mason and the No. 1 ground attack in the country that punished teams for an average of 335 yards per game on the ground.

If you look at predictions for the scores, you see these insane numbers. Seventy, 80, maybe even 90 combined points will be scored in tonight's game. Those numbers are possible and even probable in today's world of college football. With uptempo offenses and poor defenses, we have now become accustomed to watching track meets on the field.

Even Alabama, a team that featured such a stifling defense over their last two national championship wins, gave up 45 points to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl just a few days ago.

This new world of college football is all about scoring. The team who has the ball last now generally is the winner.

Tonight will be different though, and it will be because of the defense of Florida State.

While Jameis Winston torches an Auburn secondary all night that has allowed points in bunches to any respectable offense, the Seminole defense will come out and take Auburn out of their game.

The Tigers love to run the football. They are first in the nation in yards gained on the ground per game and rank 107th in the nation in passing offense. This is a recipe that has proved successful all season, but will prove disastrous tonight.

Why?

Auburn will not be able to run the ball effectively against the Seminoles' front seven.

The Tigers will come out on their first few possessions Monday night and attempt to run the ball, and they certainly will have a little success, but not much of it. Meanwhile, while the Tigers struggle to run the ball in the first quarter, the Seminole offense will be throwing passes all over the field against a hapless Auburn secondary.

After falling behind early, Auburn will stick with their game plan of running the football just like they did against Alabama, a game which they of course came back to win. But there will be no rally tonight. The Tigers will continue to struggle on the ground while the relentless Florida State offense continues to rack up points against the Auburn defense.

The Tigers will eventually be forced to start throwing the football, but it will not go much better for them.

There will be no tipped Hail Mary miracle pass tonight, no Chris Davis returning a field goal for a miraculous touchdown, no rolling of palm trees in Pasadena.

This night will belong to the Seminoles for one reason.

Defense wins championships.

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BCS National Championship 2014: Live Game Grades, Analysis for FSU

Florida State (13-0) has a shot at its first national title in 13 years when it faces Auburn (12-1) in the BCS National Championship Game at 8:30 p.m. ET Monday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

The Seminoles last played for a championship in 2001, losing to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. Since then the program took a bit of a backspin, but under coach Jimbo Fisher the old tradition of winning big has returned.

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, the most prolific freshman quarterback in FBS history, comes into the game with 3,820 passing yards and 38 touchdowns, and he'll face an Auburn team that is ranked No. 104 nationally in passing defense.

The game is being shown live on ESPN, but check back here at halftime for our grading and analysis of Florida State's first-half play. Then, immediately after the game, look for our final grades and commentary on how the Seminoles fared.

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BCS National Championship 2014: Auburn vs. FSU Live Score and Highlights

The undefeated Florida State Seminoles are set to battle the one-loss Auburn Tigers for the crystal football tonight in Pasadena, Calif.

Kickoff for the final BCS National Championship game is 8:30 PM ET on ESPN, and this is a game that is sure to deliver on the hype.

Florida State has been the most dominant team all season, and as the BCS era comes to a close, the ‘Noles will aim to end the SEC’s streak of seven consecutive national titles.

Auburn’s complete turnaround from a year ago will be talked about for many years to come, as nobody expected this type of success from the 2013 Tigers. Sure, they had a few lucky bounces go their way, but make no mistake about it, the Tigers deserve to be here.

Nick Marshall and Tre Mason head up a very talented rushing attack that could make life difficult for the FSU defense.

Will Jameis Winston suffer a Heisman hangover and flop on the biggest stage? Or will the freshman phenom put on a show like he has all year?

Keep it locked here at Bleacher Report as we provide live score updates, highlights from the game and much more!

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BCS National Championship 2014: Live Game Grades, Analysis for Auburn

This is it. It's time for the BCS National Championship game between the Auburn Tigers and Florida State Seminoles.

Auburn is looking to make it eight-straight titles for the SEC, while Florida State is looking to put the ACC back on top for the first time since 1999.

So, who will come out on top?

For full stats, check out NCAA.com.

Be sure to come back here at halftime and after the game as we grade Auburn in its quest for the national title.

 

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BCS Championship 2014: Last-Minute Preview and Prediction for Auburn vs. FSU

Much to the joy of most college football fans, Monday night marks the official end of the Bowl Championship Series. 

Ironically enough, in the BCS' final hurrah, the denounced system got it right with No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Auburn in Pasadena for the national championship. 

"We all complain about the BCS, but isn't it funny how often they get it right," FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said via ESPN.com

Both teams have taken remarkably different paths to the Rose Bowl. 

Looking to end the SEC's reign of seven national titles in a row, the Seminoles have absolutely steamrolled opponents. In 12 wins, they are averaging 53.0 points per contest and giving up just 10.7. In their four games against ranked opponents, they have won by a combined score of 200-35, including a 51-14 drubbing of then No. 3 Clemson. 

Boston College came the closest to FSU, losing by 14 at home back in September. 

Auburn's ride hasn't been quite as succinct. 

Beginning the season unranked and losing in September to LSU, the national championship never even seemed like an option for the Tigers. Then they reeled off nine straight wins, the final three being of the instant-classic material. 

On Nov. 16 against Georgia, Ricardo Louis caught a deflected pass on 4th-and-18 with 25 seconds remaining and went 73 yards for the game-winning score. Two weeks later, Chris Davis returned a missed field goal from his team's own end zone as time expired to beat No. 1 Alabama in the Iron Bowl. The following week, the Tigers beat Missouri, 59-42, in the SEC championship. 

With the way the entire season has gone, the finale is unlikely to disappoint. 

 

Date: Monday, Jan. 6, 2014

Time: 8:30 p.m. ET

Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.

TV: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Odds: Florida State (-10.5), via Covers

Over/Under: 68, via Covers

 

Key to the Game Will Be the Battle in the Trenches

Florida State is so balanced on offense, but when Fisher's squad is able to get the run game going, it is nearly impossible to stop. 

That was evident during the season, as the Seminoles, per teamrankings.com, finished ninth in yards per rush (5.5) and 23rd in rushing yards per game (202.5). Heisman winner Jameis Winston's ability to scramble is part of that, but the 'Noles have three running backs in Devonta Freeman, Karlos Williams and James Wilder Jr. who are all very talented.

Of course, running behind All-ACC first-teamers, such as tackle Cameron Erving, guard Tre' Jackson and center Bryan Stork, tends to make things a little easier. 

As such, Auburn, which gives up a healthy 4.8 yards per rush and 172.3 rushing yards per game (per teamrankings.com) will have its hands full.

As Stork pointed out, though, the Tigers' defense isn't nearly as swiss-cheese-like as the statistics may suggest, via Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel:

"I think they're a great [defensive] front," 'Noles center Bryan Stork said. "They're well-coached. They do what they're supposed to do. They're where they're supposed to be. ... their front is very talented, and there's many of them."

Of course, not only will the battle in the trenches be important in terms of the running game, it will be crucial for Auburn to get into the backfield.

They must make Winston uncomfortable so that the corners don't have to cover for extended periods of time. That job will certainly fall to defensive end Dee Ford, who Rivals' Justin Hokanson notes must have a big game:

No worry for the senior from Odenville, who recorded 8.5 sacks in 11 games and is confident in his ability to track down Winston, per CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman:

There are so many talented skill players in this game, but arguably the most key matchup (the strength of Florida State's offense vs. Auburn's sometimes inconsistent defense) will be won on the inside. 

 

Prediction

This won't be as lopsided as many think. Auburn has continued to get better as the season has worn on, and with a month of preparation time, Gus Malzahn will have some tricks waiting for the Seminoles' defense. 

Combine that with Heisman finalist Tre Mason and Nick Marshall eating up yards and time on the ground, the Tigers will be certainly be able to keep up. 

There's a great chance this one could come down to who has the ball last, but I'll take the Seminoles, who simply have too many offensive weapons. 

Florida State 35, Auburn 31

 

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Jameis Winston Walks into Rose Bowl with Serious Swag

Florida State's Jameis Winston arrived to the Rose Bowl ready for the BCS National Championship game. As he made his way from the bus to the stadium, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner walked with some serious swag.

Monday, Jan. 6, is also Winston's 20th birthday, so the Seminoles quarterback is feeling pretty good entering the game.

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