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Cold Hard Fact for Monday, January 6, 2014

Fact: Auburn is 9-0 this season when leading after three quarters. The Tigers are up 21-13 on Florida State heading into the fourth quarter during the BCS National Championship Game. 

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

Source: @RoseBowlGame

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Texas Football: Texas Can't Expect Charlie Strong to Be the Next Mack Brown

Charlie Strong took to the microphone on Monday for his first press conference as head coach of the Texas Longhorns.

The former Louisville head coach discussed his goals for the program and how he plans to build it back up to the national stage. He even touched on what it was like to take over for Mack Brown. Strong was genuine, affable and firm in his commitment to the 'Horns.

Whether you watched all 41 minutes of Strong's morning with the media or Burnt Orange Nation's highlight video, one thing is obvious.

Charlie Strong is no Mack Brown.

Even though he says all the right things, Strong is clearly out of his comfort zone. He stumbles through his first public appearance, seemingly counting the seconds until he can get out of there. He even admitted to the crowd, "I was just hoping that I brought this cold weather with me and that it would have blocked some of these media coming here today."

Now contrast that to the man who coined, "Come early, be loud, stay late, wear orange." Brown comes off as an old friend shootin' the breeze with you in his living room. That was his world, and he owned it even through the dark times.

And Texas has to be OK with that.

Because Strong's value will go way beyond how he presents himself and the program to the world. Expecting him to be the next Brown just isn't reasonable.

First of all, Strong truly wants to be at Texas. Faced with a question about not being Texas' first choice, he simply replied, "I could have been the 15th choice and would still be so happy to be the head football coach here."

Good luck getting an answer like that out of Nick Saban or Jon Gruden.

Billionaire donor Red McCombs may abhor the fact that Strong isn't a marquee name. The boosters, who have rewarded Brown's friendship with the utmost support, will have a lot to get used to. The Longhorn Network has to adjust its programming schedule.

But the move to a coach like Strong is exactly what Texas needs. He is all about the game, stating early in his press conference, "I was told I'm a football coach first." Later, he delved into his recruiting plan: "We will close the borders and make sure Austin is the state capital of college football."

This is talk that the two-time national champion can back up. He coached eight All-Americans as a defensive coordinator at Florida, and he turned former quarterback Marcus Smith into a first-team All-American defensive end at Louisville. Not to mention the Cardinals' 23-3 record over the past two years.

Once Strong begins to put his stamp on the program, the higher-ups will overlook the skipped promotional shoots and see the behind-the-scenes coach as the worker he is. Moreover, they will see him as the cure for what has ailed the program over the past four years.

Charlie Strong is just not the next Mack Brown. He's not the president of the American Football Coaches Association, and he probably won't be offered a job as a TV personality.

Strong will, however, be the man behind the turnaround at Texas.

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Cold Hard Fact for Monday, January 6, 2014

Fact: With a 21-10 halftime lead over Florida State, Auburn's win probability is 82 percent. 

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

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Florida State's 'Red Lightning' Goes Hard at BCS National Championship Game

Florida State ball boy Frankie Grizzle-Malgrat, aka "Red Lightning," caught the nation's attention earlier this season. During the BCS National Championship Game, Red Lightning was back in action.

Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston took off with the football, and Red Lightning was right behind him hustling down the sideline. Red Lightning was there to help Winston up and get the ball to the ref quickly:


Hat tip to Nick Novak and Will Frasure for the find.

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Cold Hard Fact for Monday, January 6, 2014

Fact: Florida State, down 21-10 to Auburn, trails at halftime for the first time this season. 

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

Source: NBC Sports

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Gutsy Fake Punt Leads to Florida State's First TD Against Auburn

For most of the first two quarters of the BCS National Championship Game against Auburn, nothing went Florida State's way. A gutsy fake punt in their own territory led to the Seminoles' first touchdown of the game.

Down 21-3 late in the second quarter, Florida State faced a 4th-and-4 from its own 40-yard line. The Seminoles took a chance and were rewarded. Karlos Williams picked up seven yards on the fake punt to keep the drive alive.

Devonta Freeman finished the 11-play drive with a three-yard touchdown:

The touchdown made it a 21-10 game.

Oddly enough, some people called the fake punt. Coaches—Boston College's Steve Addazio, Pittsburgh's Paul Chryst and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin—in ESPN's BCS Film Room thought something was up:

Hat tip to The Big Lead's Stephen Douglas for the video.

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Nebraska's Bo Pelini Tweets at Fake Account

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini has a pretty good sense of humor, as a recent tweet shows. 

ESPN's Darren Rovell provided an awesome tweet, which also shows what Pelini is talking about, on Sunday:

Parody account @FauxPelini now has more followers than @BoPelini pic.twitter.com/EwKY1VL4rw (H/T @turyasz, @HeyDaveA)

— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) January 6, 2014

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Auburn Uses Beyonce, Jay-Z, Kim Kardashian and Ron Burgundy to Call Plays

Play cards are always fun to look at. Auburn's play cards for the BCS National Championship Game against Florida State are filled with stars.

The play card above features Jay-Z, Beyonce and Kim Kardashian.

But wait, there's more!

Another play card adds Ron Burgundy to the mix:


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5 Teams Still in the Hunt for the No. 1 2014 College Football Recruiting Class

Many college coaches claim they do not pay attention to recruiting rankings. While that may be true for some of them, recruiting rankings are still a big deal to fans and analysts.

With the 2014 recruiting cycle almost over, the race to finish first in recruiting is starting to take a more permanent shape. Some schools are just about done with recruiting, while other programs can still move up the rankings since they are still waiting on elite uncommitted recruits.

A trio of SEC teams have their eyes on the No. 1 slot, while a school in the Big Ten will not go down without a fight. Plus, an ACC school is also in the mix.

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Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel Spotted Together at BCS National Championship Game

ESPN's Tim Tebow and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel were spotted next to each other at the BCS National Championship Game on Monday.

We can only hope that Tebow and Manziel will go out partying together after the game.

It looks like the two quarterbacks eventually became buddies, via @SBNation:

ESPN's Keri Potts was kind enough to tweet out a picture of the two high-profile icons.

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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

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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 

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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

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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

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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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