The college football bowl schedule is to football fanatics a bountiful feast upon which to harvest during the winter holiday season.
With 35 amazing games packed into 17 days, it's almost too much football.
Actually, never mind. If we're being honest, it's the perfect way to cap off what's been an amazing season of college football. This Smörgåsbord of gridiron goodness will satisfy even the most rabid sports fan.
Here's a look at when and where you can catch every game, along with predictions for each one:
2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston will lead the Florida State Seminoles against Nick Marshall, Tre Mason and the Auburn Tigers in the 2014 Vizio BCS National Championship Game—the grand finale of the 35-game bowl schedule.
As pointed out by ESPN's SportsCenter, Winston will be the ninth Heisman winner to play in a BCS National Championship Game, but it hasn't worked out particularly well for the eight men who proceeded him:
After missing out on a title shot, Ohio State received a nice concession prize with an invite to the Orange Bowl, where the Buckeyes will take on the Clemson Tigers.
This game will feature plenty of offensive fireworks, as both teams feature top quarterbacks in Braxton Miller and Tajh Boyd, who are capable of taking games over.
Alabama was another team that had a legitimate title shot before getting knocked off by Auburn in the Iron Bowl. As the No. 2 team in the SEC, the Crimson Tide were an easy pick for the Sugar Bowl.
If you believe the oddsmakers, it could be a huge blowout victory for Nick Saban's club against Oklahoma, as noted by The SEC Logo:
But the Sooners weren't favored to beat their in-state rival Oklahoma State Cowboys, either, and they won impressively to close out the season.
The Fiesta Bowl should be a fantastic game, with the high-scoring Baylor Bears taking on UCF. Bryce Petty is the quarterback most fans recognize, but UCF's Blake Bortles is being hailed by at least one NFL team as a potential top-10 pick, as CollegeFootball 24/7 reports:
Michigan State and Stanford will slug it out in the Rose Bowl.
Both teams favor an old-school approach to the game, featuring punishing running games on offense and brick-wall defenses. A final score of 3-2 isn't out of the question.
There are plenty of other terrific non-BCS bowl games, too.
Oklahoma State against Missouri in the Cotton Bowl will be fun to watch. Both teams feature potent offenses and underrated defenses. NFL draftniks will be tuned in to this one, too, because of guys like Kony Ealy and Michael Sam, who are potential first-round picks.
From the opening salvo of four games on Dec. 21 to the finale in Pasadena, Calif., at the BCS National Championship Game, the schedule is packed full of big game after big game. It's going to be a blast, so soak it up as best as you can before the long offseason.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78
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Here we are in the midst of Alabama dominance, and the Auburn Tigers—intra-state rival of the Crimson Tide—will play for their second BCS National Championship in four years when they meet No. 1 Florida State in the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 6.
Gus Malzahn led the Tigers to the crystal football following the 2010 season, only to leave for the head coaching job at Arkansas State in 2012. Not coincidentally, his former team fell into the abyss.
After a 3-9 season and the first 0-8 conference campaign in school history in 2012. Malzahn was brought back as the Tigers' new head coach, and 12 wins and one loss later, he finds himself back on college football's biggest stage.
To call this run surprising would be an understatement. It's downright magical.
But has it been as magical as the 2010 season?
With eventual Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton taking the snaps, the Tigers came out of nowhere in 2010 to reel off 14 consecutive wins en route to the title—six of which were by seven points or fewer.
Which team is better? Running back Tre Mason told B/R during last week's Heisman Trophy media event that the 2013 team is better than the one led by Newton in 2010.
Is he right? Let's take a look.
Comparing Auburn's 2010 offense to the 2013 edition is like comparing filet mignon to a bone-in rib-eye—both are quality choices, and you can't go wrong either way.
This latest version of the Auburn offense has been a run-first, run-second and run-third attack led by quarterback Nick Marshall that has absolutely punished the opposition to the tune of 335.69 rushing yards per game. The Tigers attempted the fewest passes per game in the SEC (19.8) and have thrived on passing efficiency created by their ability to consistently pound the rock regardless of how many players stack the box.
Despite the existing perception that they were more multi-dimensional, the 2010 Tigers weren't all that different.
They only attempted 21.1 passes per game, but had 44.8 more passing yards per game. The trio of Newton, freshman running back Michael Dyer and sophomore running back Onterio McCalebb thrived under Malzahn, as each topped the 800-yard mark on the ground.
So who has the edge on offense?
It'd have to be the 2010 Tigers.
While Malzahn's current crop has been relentless on the ground, Newton's team was much more polished through the air and able to open it up more effectively when called upon. Granted, the sample size for this year's Tigers is a bit different, since their ability to move the ball on the ground has reduced the instances in which Marshall has been forced to open things up.
Like the offensive side of the ball, the defenses for the 2010 and 2013 Tigers are remarkably similar. In fact, the 2010 Tigers gave up 259.3 passing yards per game, which is the exact number the 2013 Tigers are currently surrendering.
Both gave up a lot of yards but got the job done when it counted most. The way they went about it, though, was a little bit different.
Auburn was phenomenal in the red zone this year, leading the SEC and finishing seventh in the nation in opponent red-zone touchdown percentage at 47.92 percent. Sure, it allowed 423.5 yards per game in the regular season—the third-worst mark in the conference, but it buckled down when it counted most.
The strength of this year's defense is up front, where defensive ends Dee Ford, LaDarius Owens and Carl Lawson lead a talented rotation that goes eight deep, allowing the Tigers to stay fresh for a full four quarters.
That was the same method that helped the 2010 Tigers be successful.
But unlike this group, the power was in the middle of the defensive line. Nick Fairley—the 2010 Lombardi Award winner—had 11.5 sacks on the season and was joined by Zach Clayton and Mike Blanc up front to help shut down the run.
Often viewed as more of a punch line than a power, the 2010 Tigers actually led the SEC in rush defense, giving up just 109.07 yards per game on the ground.
The ability for both teams to stay fresh is a big reason that they've been so successful in the fourth quarter. Auburn is only giving up 4.8 points per game in the fourth quarter this season, which is good enough for 21st in the nation. In 2010, it gave up 4.1 points per game in the fourth quarter—15th in the FBS.
The edge on defense goes to the 2010 Tigers due to their ability to consistently shut down the run. No matter how you do it, one foundation of football that won't change regardless of offensive innovation is that you have to run the ball and stop the run.
The 2010 Tigers were elite run stoppers.
Defense doesn't win championships anymore—"just enough" defense wins championships. Both of these teams had "just enough" defense, but the precarious nature of the 2013 defense that bends but rarely break puts it behind the 2010 Tigers, who were stout against the run all season long.
Both special teams units for these teams have been solid, but the edge in this department goes to the current group of Tigers.
Kicker Wes Byrum was reliable in 2010, hitting 77.3 percent of his field goals, including the game-winning 19-yarder to beat Oregon 22-19 in the BCS National Championship Game.
Cody Parkey hasn't been as reliable this season, hitting 73.7 percent of his attempts. But three of his five misses have come from 50 or more yards. From inside 50, he's been as solid as a rock.
What sets these two teams apart on special teams is punt returns, as Chris Davis leads the SEC with an average of 20.14 yards per return with one touchdown, not including the 109-yard missed field goal he returned for a touchdown to beat Alabama 34-28 as time expired. Quindarius Carr—Auburn's primary punt returner in 2010—only managed 5.68 yards per return.
An extra 15 yards per possession is huge for any offense, especially one as dynamic as Auburn's.
Make no mistake, the two teams are similar. Eerily similar, at times.
Teams forced Newton to beat them with his arm at times in 2010, and he did it. To Auburn's credit in 2013, Marshall hasn't been forced to do that all that much.
What sets the 2010 team apart, though, is its defense.
Both teams buckled down when asked, but the 2010 team led by defensive tackle Nick Fairley was consistently stout against the run and forced teams to be one-dimensional.
Auburn's appearances in the title game following the 2010 and 2013 seasons indicate that football is changing. A potent offense coupled with just enough defense is enough to make any team elite. Auburn had just enough defense in both seasons.
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College football power is a fluid hierarchy. Just ask the Auburn Tigers. This time last year, Auburn was reeling from a 3-9 season and a winless campaign in conference play. Now, first-year head coach Gus Malzahn has the Tigers preparing for the BCS National Championship Game.
The SEC East is no exception to the ever-changing tides of college football. Missouri rose from the rubble in 2013 while Florida declined and South Carolina won 10 regular-season games for the third straight year.
What do all these pendulum swings mean for the Georgia Bulldogs?
The Rise of Missouri
Missouri’s taking of the division championship was wildly unexpected after the Tigers’ disastrous entrance into the SEC in 2012. To be fair, injuries were a major factor last season, but it’s still awfully difficult to understand how a team that was simply mired by health issues failed to win more than two conference games. Case in point: A Georgia squad that was equally devastated by injuries this season still managed to rack up five SEC wins.
Nonetheless, the athleticism, speed and (at times) power that Missouri played with in 2013 proved not only that the Tigers could compete in this league but also that they could contend. That’s a scary proposition for both Georgia and the rest of the league.
The on-field implications of this newly strengthened Missouri team were immediately felt as a depleted Georgia squad failed to find success in every phase of the game against Missouri in a 41-26 loss in October.
And future ramifications of Missouri’s rise to prominence may prove equally challenging for the Bulldogs. Missouri has already picked up three commitments from the state of Georgia for the 2014 recruiting class. Most notably, Nate Brown, a 6’3” receiver, is heading to play for coach Gary Pinkel and the Tigers. The 4-star recruit is going to play ball 700 miles away rather than for the in-state Bulldogs.
The Decline of Florida
In some ways, Florida’s struggles in 2013 were predicated by issues in 2012. Lost in an 11-win season that saw the Gators drop just one regular-season game (a 17-9 loss to Georgia) were a number of ugly trends.
The Gator offense under then-coordinator Brent Pease was stagnant for much of the season, and put a tremendous amount of pressure on an elite defensive unit. While the Gators survived against several Top 25 opponents in 2012, wins against the likes of Tennessee, Bowling Green, Louisiana-Lafayette and a bad Missouri team were thoroughly uninspiring.
Like Georgia, the Gators also experienced an inordinate amount of injuries this year, but many of their problems (namely, the offense) were exposed in 2012 but overlooked. And while head coach Will Muschamp is making steps to right the ship (he fired Pease after the season), he’s yet to prove himself as a consistently capable head coach.
The Gators are just 13-11 in SEC play under Muschamp, and he’s yet to defeat the Georgia Bulldogs. For the first time since the early 1990s, the Bulldogs truly have the upper hand over the Gators.
Steve Spurrier, a constant thorn in the Dawgs’ side, just won’t go away. The Bulldogs defeated South Carolina for the first time in four tries in 2013, but the Gamecocks still weaseled their way ahead of Georgia in the divisional standings by year end.
While South Carolina loses several stars this year (quarterback Connor Shaw is a Gamecock legend and Jadeveon Clowney is likely a Top 5 draft selection), Spurrier has continued to build depth in Columbia, and the program seems built to contend for years to come.
The most immediate threat for Georgia is the Peach State talent that South Carolina continues to poach. Over the past three signing classes, the Gamecocks have signed 30 players from the state of Georgia. They already have three commitments from the state for the class of 2014.
Where Georgia Fits
Until knocked off, Missouri, the league’s newcomer, remains king of the SEC East. With a number of weapons returning on both sides of the ball, the Tigers look to be formidable once again in 2014, and the way they handled Georgia (and almost everyone else in 2013) puts them in the leaders’ spot.
Fortunately, the Bulldogs find themselves in favorable position relative to the other contenders in the SEC East. Georgia returns considerably more on both sides of the ball than South Carolina in 2014, and Florida is very much behind the curve relative to the other power players in the division.
For Georgia to make strides toward another SEC East Championship in 2014 and put a stranglehold on the division moving forward, however, three things must happen.
First and foremost, Georgia must lock up in-state recruiting. It does not serve the Bulldogs to have the state’s best talent playing for these other challengers.
Secondly, Georgia must continue to win a majority of games against the regions upper echelon. Taking two out of three games from Missouri, South Carolina and Florida will always put the Bulldogs in contention.
Lastly, Georgia must fight off bottom-feeders. This year’s loss to Vanderbilt (a program on the rise, but a program that has not posted a single 10-win season in its history), hurt the Bulldogs as much as any setback. The Dawgs can ill-afford to handicap themselves with losses to the likes of Vanderbilt, Tennessee or Kentucky.
Accomplishing these three things opens the door the SEC Championship Game, and once that opportunity arises anything is possible—even the loftiest of coach Mark Richt's goals.
Last summer, Richt acknowledged to Jeremy Fowler of CBS Sports that although he is most proud of the impact he's had on lives, he has other aspirations. "I'd like to have a national championship and a couple more SEC titles," he said.
While that may seem unrealistic for an 8-4 team, rising back to the top of the SEC East may make that a possibility.
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The last four seasons of Mack Brown's tenure at Texas can make it easy to forget about all the good he's done in Austin.
Brown took over a divided program in 1998 and went on to become the second-winningest coach at Texas, just behind Darrell Royal. From 2001-09, the Longhorns won at least 10 games every year. Brown put dozens of players in the NFL, coaching All-Americans and national award winners.
And he did it all without the NCAA putting the program under the microscope.
Brown had some memorable moments during his 16 years at Texas. He'd like one more by beating Oregon in the Alamo Bowl.
It would bring to mind Bobby Bowden's last game as Florida State's head coach during the 2010 Gator Bowl, when the longtime head coach planted the spear in the field during pre-game festivities. The Seminoles went on to beat West Virginia 33-21.
What were some of Brown's most defining moments at Texas?
Brown's Locker Room Speech After Texas' 2006 National Championship
Brown's six-minute post-game speech after the Longhorns defeated USC 41-38 in the Rose Bowl for the BCS National Championship was inspiring. But it was his final message to his team that merited reflection.
"I don't want this to be the best thing to ever happen in your life," Brown said. "You promise me...you're a great citizen, a great role model, a great father and a great leader for your family."
It was signature Brown, a coach who cared about his players and what they did with their life long after they hung up their cleats.
Texas' 20-13 Win Over Nebraska in Lincoln in 2010
Texas' only losing season under Brown came in 2010, one season after playing for another BCS National Championship, when the 'Horns went 5-7. As forgettable as that year was, Texas did one thing worth remembering: beating Nebraska in Lincoln.
This was the Cornhuskers' final season in the Big 12 before leaving for the Big Ten. It was also a chance for redemption for the heartbreaking and controversial 13-12 loss the year before in the Big 12 title game. With the 'Horns on a two-game losing streak, and with the 'Huskers ranked No. 5 in the country, it was as good a time as any to stick it to Texas.
No dice. Texas won 20-13 and Brown finished with an 8-1 record against Nebraska. The 'Huskers were nothing like the program they once were under former coach Tom Osborne. Still, Brown owned them.
Texas Sends Texas A&M to the SEC on a Sour Note
The Longhorns may not have been a Big 12 power over the past four years, but they certainly knew how to spoil a going away party. With Texas A&M heading to the SEC, and with the future of the rivalry in serious doubt, Texas twisted the knife one final time.
Longhorns kicker Justin Tucker—he of the 61-yard field goals—hit a 40-yarder as time expired to give Texas the 27-25 victory.
The Aggies went on to have instant success in the SEC, and A&M is the hotter program right now, but that one's going to sting for a while.
...But Not Before Paying Tribute to Fallen Aggies in 1999 Bonfire Collapse
This really isn't a "best" moment, nor is it one limited to just Brown. In fact, it didn't even result in a win for the Longhorns. Nevertheless, it was one of the most powerful scenes in college football over the past 20 years.
Following a bonfire collapse in 1999 that killed 12 Texas A&M students, the Longhorn Marching Band paid tribute to those whose lives were lost during a halftime performance. A&M went on to win 20-16.
Brown said during his resignation press conference on Sunday that the bonfire collapse was one of his two biggest regrets as a coach.
"This is probably the toughest week I've ever had to coach. It was such a distraction," Brown said at the time of the game (via ESPN.com). "But whenever I started to feel sorry for myself, I also thought of the parents and friends of the victims."
Texas Beats Oklahoma 45-35
Few of the Red River Shootouts between Brown and Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops were actually competitive one way or the other. From 2007-10, however, no Red River game was decided by more than 10 points.
Perhaps no win for Texas in the series was bigger than defeating the No. 1 Sooners in 2008, 45-35. The game had everything: a Top-5 matchup, quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy and momentum swings. Eventually, it had a controversial outcome, too, when Oklahoma, not Texas, was selected to play in the BCS National Championship.
Texas' 36-20 win over the Sooners in 2013 was the biggest upset in the rivalry, but the 2008 edition of the game was a classic.
Nothing will top Texas' 2006 BCS National Championship over the mighty Trojans. However, if the 'Horns can somehow beat Oregon, it will likely go down as the next-best moment in Brown's lengthy career in Austin.
The storyline would be perfect. Brown the embattled head coach who finally resigned, pulls out an impressive victory as a double-digit underdog in his final game. You couldn't write it any better.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. Follow him on Twitter @BenKercheval.
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CLEMSON, S.C. — You can count the number of on-campus practices left in Tajh Boyd’s collegiate career on one hand.
You can also count the number of games left in Boyd’s collegiate career on one finger.
Boyd’s time as Clemson’s starting quarterback, along with his collegiate career, is winding to a close. The No. 12 Tigers’ Jan. 3 Orange Bowl showdown against No. 7 Ohio State will be his final college game.
It seems the perfect time to ask: What is Boyd’s legacy at Clemson?
Is it defined by his 58 Clemson and ACC single-game, single-season and career records that take up an entire page in Clemson’s game notes? His Top-10 victories over Virginia Tech, LSU and Georgia?
Or is it his 1-5 record against chief rivals South Carolina and Florida State?
Regardless, Boyd has one final chance to burnish his legacy against the Buckeyes. He is well aware of what that entails, not only for him, but for his younger teammates who he’ll leave behind once the Sun Life Stadium clock hits triple-zeros.
“You always want to end your season on a high note,” Boyd said. “For the seniors, it’s a legacy thing, but for the guys coming back who’ll still be here, it’s a building thing, too. We looked at last season and that bowl game as a building block into this season.
“As much as you want to win this game for the last game, for all that, it’s much bigger than that. It’s for those guys coming back too and those guys having momentum heading into the offseason. I think it’s very important.”
When Boyd started the second half of the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium on New Year’s Eve 2010, Dabo Swinney’s Clemson tenure was at its nadir.
The Tigers trailed an average South Florida team before a half-empty stadium. The Bulls eventually built a 31-13 lead that a late Boyd-led rally couldn’t overcome in a 31-26 defeat.
Boyd’s first official half as a college starter was Billy Napier’s last as Clemson’s offensive coordinator. Napier was fired three days later, replaced by an unknown first-year college coach named Chad Morris.
With Boyd under center, Morris’ hurry-up, no-huddle offense brought Clemson to the kind of heights it hadn’t seen since the end of the Danny Ford era. The Tigers have won 10 games in each of the last three seasons for the first time that has happened since 1987-90.
They won the 2011 ACC championship (the program’s first league title since 1991) and also shared the ACC Atlantic Division title last season.
Boyd is the ACC career leader in touchdown passes (102), combined passing and rushing scores (127) and passing efficiency (154.2). He is second all-time in the ACC in passing yards (11,526) behind N.C. State’s Philip Rivers and is also Clemson’s career leader in total offense to go with his 17 300-yard passing games and numerous 400-yard games in total offense, among his other records.
He is a 2012 AFCA first-team All-American, the 2012 ACC Player of the Year and a two-time first-team All-ACC quarterback.
With a victory over Ohio State, Boyd can tie Rodney Williams as Clemson’s winningest quarterback ever with 32 victories as a starter.
This spring, Morris will watch over a three-way battle to replace Boyd between highly touted freshman DeShaun Williams, talented rising sophomore Chad Kelly and steadily rising senior Cole Stoudt.
No matter the winner, replacing Boyd won’t be an easy task in terms of talent and leadership at Clemson.
“The next guy that comes in, because there will be another guy, has got huge shoes to fill,” Morris said. “Not just how he handles his play on the field, but off the field. To me, that’s the sign of what Tajh has meant to this university and this program. He truly has been the face of this program and this university.
“And take all the records aside, out of the equation, the way he approaches people, the way he deals with everyone is really special and really unique, because that’s not the case everywhere. Not only are you going to have to perform on the field, but you’re going to have big shoes to fill off the field.”
However, Boyd’s performance against his key rivals has left something to be desired. After posting a 35-30 win over Florida State in September 2011, Clemson has gone 0-5 against the Seminoles and South Carolina with Boyd under center.
In 2011, Boyd completed just 11-of-29 passes for 83 yards with a touchdown and an interception in a 34-13 loss to South Carolina. Last fall, he completed 11-of-24 passes for 183 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in a 27-17 defeat. On Nov. 30, he completed 19-of-27 passes for 225 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions in a 31-17 loss to the Gamecocks.
Clemson has now lost five consecutive games to South Carolina, its longest-ever losing streak to its rival, a fact that doesn’t sit well with the Tigers’ fan base.
Last fall, Boyd completed 20-of-36 passes for 237 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, but still lost to Florida State, 49-37, in Tallahassee. With the Seminoles in town for the ACC’s biggest game in recent memory back in October, he was terrible. He completed just 17-of-37 passes for 156 yards and an interception in a 51-14 defeat, adding a key early fumble which was returned for a touchdown.
Following a stirring 25-24 Chick-fil-A Bowl win over LSU last season, in which Boyd threw for 350 yards and led a fourth-quarter comeback victory, he seriously considered declaring for the NFL draft as a likely second- to third-round selection.
Instead, he returned to chase a national title and a Heisman Trophy run.
Neither happened, although Clemson made its second BCS bowl game in three seasons, replacing the Seminoles as the ACC’s Orange Bowl representative.
Boyd says he has no regrets about how his final season unfolded.
“Maybe I did lose some money, maybe I didn’t,” he said. “Who knows, I could still go out there and maybe be the No. 1 pick. At this level, it’s like, as you go through life, one of the biggest things you don’t want to deal with is regret. I’ve never wondered what could have happened. That’s the biggest thing. I’ve answered questions that, if I’d have left, I’d have never figured out. I think I made the perfect decision.”
Beating Ohio State can’t change Boyd’s performances against his rivals, and a loss won’t erase his mark on Clemson’s program or the record books. However, it is a final chance to leave a great impression in the minds of Tiger fans, as well as NFL executives, who’ll be evaluating him for the 2014 NFL draft.
Ohio State is a marquee program coming off its first loss since 2011 and a near-miss of the BCS national title game, a team Boyd says “you don’t play often.”
“You want to play Southern Cal, Ohio State, Michigan, Oregon, Bama, those five schools are teams everyone wants to go out and compete against,” he said. “That’s going to be fun.”
And of course there is the not-small shadow cast by Clemson’s last trip to South Florida, a 70-33 loss to West Virginia in the 2012 Orange Bowl.
“It’s hard to forget it,” Boyd said. “Some guys (afterward) were like, writing on my Instagram, writing on my Twitter. About every week, I had to block a 70-33. You don’t forget it.
“A lot of players (now) were in that game and they’re still here. You know the type of mentality, and we’ve made improvements in all aspects, the players, the coaches, how we organize and get ready to structure things. I’m excited about it and I’m ready for the matchup.”
What does the Orange Bowl mean to Boyd? It’s the chance to leave a lasting impression. First and final impressions are never forgotten, and with the Buckeyes on the other sideline, Boyd has a shot at a very impressive last call at Clemson.
“I think it’s more so a chance for me to go out on a high,” he said. “Playing on a big stage, playing in a BCS bowl, two of the three years, it’s awesome in itself, but we need to come out here and win a BCS game.”
* Unless otherwise noted, all quotes in this article were obtained firsthand.
Connect with Greg on Twitter @gc_wallace
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The last year of this BCS system has to go out with a bang, and that is exactly what will happen.
Unlike last year's debacle of a national championship that came about when Alabama demolished Notre Dame, Auburn and Florida State will actually provide us with an entertaining game.
That matchup managed to crack my below list, and it is not alone. Check out three games I expect to provide memorable and close finishes.
Matchup: No. 4 Michigan State (12-1) vs. No. 5 Stanford (11-2)
This game will not be for all football fans. There aren't going to be a lot of highlights, flashy plays or points from this one.
There will be quality and hard-hitting football.
Both of these teams excel in the trenches. The key battle in this matchup will come when Stanford has the ball and goes to work with its physical rush attack.
The Cardinal's 23rd national ranking in rushing does not do them justice. They don't hit for a lot of big plays; it's just a steady diet of positive gains between the tackles.
That won't be easy in this game. The Spartans lead the nation having allowed just 80.8 rushing yards per game.
Both of these teams are in the top 11 in the nation in points allowed, and both will look to grind out the clock and control the ball, but only one team can win.
Stanford will edge out the Spartans in this one. Although their defense is not quite as stout, the Cardinal have a more balanced and effective offense.
Prediction: Stanford 17, Michigan State 15
Matchup: No. 12 Clemson (10-2) vs. No. 7 Ohio State (12-1)
This game is going to provide all the points that the Rose Bowl does not. Both of these offenses will be able to overwhelm the opposing defenses. That is thanks in large part to the quality play at quarterback both of these teams enjoy.
Ohio State's Braxton Miller and Clemson's Tajh Boyd give this game what is arguably the best quarterback matchup of all the bowls.
Miller combines with running back Carlos Hyde to give the Buckeyes the nation's fourth-most prolific rushing attack. Boyd and Clemson get their yards in a more vertical fashion.
Along with wide receiver Sammy Watkins, Boyd led the Tigers to the 12th-best passing attack in the nation.
These defenses are not terrible, and both are in the top 21 in points allowed. They are certainly vulnerable, however. That much was evident as Michigan toasted the Buckeyes for 41 points, and Clemson allowed Florida State to score 51.
I'm siding with the Buckeyes in a game where the last team to have the ball wins. With Ohio State's running game, they will have more control of time of possession, and that will pay off in the closing quarter.
Prediction: Ohio State 45, Clemson 42
BCS Title Game
Matchup: Florida State (13-0) vs. Auburn (12-1)
Florida State had a dominant season. Led by the nearly flawless play of freshman Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, the Seminoles scored the second-most points in the nation. That is not as good as their defense. Florida State led the nation in points allowed.
I don't think Auburn is going to lose any sleep over the Seminoles' imposing stats. The Tigers' accomplishments come in the form of big wins over excellent teams. With wins over Alabama and Missouri in their last two contests, playing this game will just feel like the natural progression of their season.
For Florida State, it is a sudden escalation in competition.
Auburn is not going to be able to stop the Florida State offense. The Seminoles have too many athletes, and Auburn is not winning with its defense.
It is winning behind the nation's most prolific rushing attack.
Running back Tre Mason and quarterback Nick Marshall will be tasked with wearing down a Florida State defense that allowed just 3.14 yards per carry this season.
Still, Auburn has rushed all over quality defenses. The Tigers almost hit 300 yards rushing against Alabama.
I expect Auburn's strong offensive line to leave the Seminoles overwhelmed. Although Florida State will have plenty of success on offense, that won't do the 'Noles any good as Auburn controls the ball in the fourth quarter and pulls out a close win.
Prediction: Auburn 38, Florida State 34
Stats via CFBStats.com.
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Editor's note: This is the sixth installment in Bleacher Report's CFB 250 for the 2013 season. This signature series runs through December, with National College Football Lead Writer Michael Felder ranking the best players at every position. You can read more about the series in this introductory article. See the CFB 250 page for more rankings.
This season began with Jadeveon Clowney as the clear-cut No. 1 at the 4-3 defensive end position, but is that where he finished on this list?
In a world where quarterbacks dominate the landscape, there is a premium placed on being able to make his life difficult. For most teams, that means using defensive ends to apply pressure off the edge in hopes of disrupting the quarterback’s timing and creating sack opportunities.
For the B/R CFB 250, we looked at the pass-rushing ability of defensive ends, as well as their play against the run. The goal, of course, was to put together a comprehensive list of players who could not only get to the quarterback but were also capable against the run. If there were any ties, the edge went to the player we would rather have.
Keep in mind, these 4-3 defensive ends are being rated on their performance in college, not NFL potential. But to see where they may go in the NFL draft (whether they are eligible in 2014 or later), check out Bleacher Report draft expert Matt Miller's projections at the end of each player slide.
Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien has already constructed a solid 2014 recruiting class. Yet with less than two months remaining until National Signing Day, there are still some needs that have to be addressed.
Still, there's work to be done. Here's a look at the three biggest questions Penn State needs to answer before February 5.
Will Penn State add another offensive lineman?
Penn State needs to replace four contributors on the offensive line from 2013.
John Urschel, Adam Gress, Ty Howle and Garry Gilliam have all graduated. Urschel and Howle started consistently, while Gress and Gilliam rotated at both tackle spots.
With having to replace all those players, the Nittany Lions would ideally like to get someone who can contribute immediately. That someone could be junior college offensive tackle Kareem Are.
At 6'6" and 320 pounds, Are has the size needed to play the tackle position. He's scheduled to announce his choice on Wednesday, according to Tom VanHaaren of ESPN.com.
If Are doesn't pick the Nittany Lions, they'll have to push harder for local product Alex Bookser. A 4-star recruit according to Scout.com, the offensive tackle has already taken official visits to Penn State, Ohio State and Tennessee. He'll visit Pittsburgh in January.
Bookser might not be a candidate to play right away like Are, but he has the upside to be a multi-year starter wherever he goes.
Right now, Are appears to be Penn State's best shot at adding an additional offensive lineman for 2014.
Can the Nittany Lions get another defensive player?
Penn State could possibly add not one, but two defensive players before National Signing Day.
One of the bigger areas of concern for O'Brien and defensive coordinator John Butler is the secondary. The unit is scarce on both numbers and talent. Penn State already has two cornerbacks and a safety committed to its 2014 class. Safety Shawn Boone could be another addition.
The Florida native is a 3-star recruit as ranked by Scout.com. According to Dieter Kurtenbach of the Sun-Sentinel, Boone is ready to make his college decision next month. Penn State is one of his two finalists.
Boone holds offers from the likes of Florida State, Ohio State and Tennessee. Top schools see potential in him, despite being Scout.com's 119th-ranked safety in the class.
Another player who has Penn State high on his list is linebacker Melvin Keihn. He took an official visit to State College back in November. Per Mike Farrell of Rivals.com, he's inching closer to a decision, and the Nittany Lions are in the mix.
Landing either Boone or Keihn—or both—would add needed depth at two key positions. With the slight increase in scholarships, Penn State has the flexibility to do so.
Defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi is likely out of the picture at this point. After Holley's commitment on Tuesday, Penn State now has three defensive tackles in its 2014 class.
Can O'Brien afford to redshirt Michael O'Connor?
A month ago, the answer was yes. However, that was before quarterback Tyler Ferguson announced that he's transferring, as reported by CBSSports.com. Now, the decision on whether or not to redshirt incoming quarterback Michael O'Connor is a difficult one.
O'Connor committed to Penn State back in June, even though Christian Hackenberg had just arrived on campus. With Hackenberg cemented as the starter, it appeared O'Connor would redshirt in 2014. This would give him two years of playing time once Hackenberg graduated.
Injuries can happen at any moment, so Penn State needs a suitable replacement to step in if Hackenberg goes down. If O'Connor is redshirted, O'Brien might not have that luxury.
Last week, Penn State extended an offer to signal caller John Wolford. He recently flipped his verbal commitment from East Carolina to Wake Forest, according to a report from Florida Times-Union writer Justin Barney, yet will still take an official visit to State College.
Adding Wolford would give Penn State three scholarship quarterbacks for 2014. This would make the decision to redshirt O'Connor a bit simpler.
If the Nittany Lions can't add another quarterback, they might have to burn O'Connor's redshirt. If they don't, the backup would either be D.J. Crook or Jack Seymour. Both players were run-ons in 2013.
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After the 1963 Sun Bowl, it took the Oregon Ducks 26 years to get back to another bowl game. After finally making a return to the postseason, the once dormant program has become one of college football's best.
Starting with a 1989 Independence Bowl win over Tulsa, the Ducks have enjoyed a quarter century of success. A date with the Texas Longhorns awaits in the upcoming Valero Alamo Bowl, meaning the Ducks will have been to 21 Bowl games in the past 25 seasons.
After appearing in back-to-back January bowl games following the 1994 and 1995 seasons, Oregon was left out of the postseason in favor of Cal in 1996, despite a head-to-head win over the Golden Bears. In the 16 seasons since being passed over by the Aloha Bowl, the Ducks have missed the postseason just once, which came after a 5-6 season in 2004.
While the Ducks have gone bowling with regularity, they haven't always been at their best in the postseason. Through last season's Fiesta Bowl, the Ducks have gone just 9-11 in their past 20 bowl games.
Things have gotten better over the past six seasons, as the Ducks have gone 4-2 in the postseason since 2007. Regardless of how many bowl wins and losses they had, the past four seasons made up the best four-year run in program history, as the Ducks ended each season by playing in a BCS bowl game.
After losing to Ohio State in the 2010 Rose Bowl and Auburn in the 2011 BCS National Championship Game, Oregon won back-to-back BCS games. Wins in the 2012 Rose Bowl and the 2013 Fiesta Bowl helped improve Oregon's record in BCS bowls to 3-2.
The Ducks have had some great bowl wins in the past quarter century but have also suffered some bad postseason losses. Here is a quick look at some of the postseason highs and lows of the past 25 years.
1989 Independence Bowl
In the current state of Oregon football, a win like this wouldn't even be on the radar. In 1989, just making the postseason was an accomplishment of epic proportion.
In its long-awaited return to the postseason, head coach Rich Brooks guided Oregon to a 27-24 win over Tulsa in the Independence Bowl. The win was the second bowl win in a row for the Ducks, but there were 26 long years between the two wins.
It was just the third bowl win in program history, but it put Oregon football on the right path by renewing interest in the program and making people take notice.
1995 Rose Bowl
The Independence Bowl put eyes back on the program, but the Rose Bowl berth took it to a whole new level. Winning the Pac-10 was huge for the program, but more importantly, the success of the 1994 season kicked off what is considered to be the modern era of Oregon football.
The Ducks were overwhelmed by No. 2 Penn State, 38-20. Clearly, the loss wasn't the ideal outcome, but the foundation for the future of Oregon football had been set before the game was even played.
The Ducks have missed the postseason just twice since the 1995 Rose Bowl and have become a fixture in the rankings.
2002 Fiesta Bowl
Not only were the Ducks left out of the BCS National Championship Game in favor of Nebraska, but they were passed in the BCS standings by two-loss Colorado after the end of the regular season.
The Ducks took offense to the BCS snub and pounded the No. 3 Buffaloes, 38-16, in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated.
The way it worked out was probably the ideal situation. Instead of ending the season with a probable loss to a legendary Miami (Fla.) team, the Ducks walked away with the program's first January bowl win in 85 years.
The win gave the Ducks national respect and left people wishing the Ducks would have been the team to get a shot at Miami. It also made the need for changes to the BCS system impossible to ignore.
2012 Rose Bowl
After winning the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game, the Ducks advanced to the program's sixth Rose Bowl. After losing its previous two Rose Bowl appearances and its last two BCS games, Oregon put those streaks to bed with a thrilling 45-38 win over Wisconsin in a record-breaking Rose Bowl.
Prior to the 2012 game, it had been 95 years since the Ducks were able to call themselves Rose Bowl champions. After finally claiming a victory in "The Granddaddy of Them All," Oregon's critics could no longer point to the fact that the Ducks had a trophy case void of a Rose Bowl trophy less than nine decades old.
It also evened Oregon's overall record in BCS games to 2-2 and gave the Ducks more credibility as they continued their run towards the top of the college football world.
Bad Bowl Losses
2002 Seattle Bowl
In 30 games from the midway point of the 1999 season, through the first six games in 2002, the Ducks went 27-3. After starting 6-0 in 2002, the Ducks lost five of their last six games to end the regular season.
Despite having a very winnable game and a huge geographic advantage over a 6-6 Wake Forest team, Oregon barely showed up in the Seattle Bowl.
The Ducks allowed 497 total yards and gained just 290 yards of their own en route to an embarrassing 38-17 loss.
The loss ended Oregon's win streak in postseason games at three and was the first of what became four consecutive postseason losses between 2002-2006.
2006 Las Vegas Bowl
Oregon started the year 4-0 and moved to 7-2 after a home win over Washington. Then, the wheels of the season started to wobble, and the Ducks lost their last three Pac-10 games.
The wheels completely fell off against BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Ducks failed to score until the fourth quarter and ultimately lost the game, 38-8. BYU dominated Oregon by gaining 548 total yards compared to just 260 for the Ducks.
The Cougars finished 11-2 and were a very good team, but Oregon had the talent to win the game going away. They played like they didn't care about being there, and it showed, as they played undisciplined and sloppy football in their worst bowl performance of the past 25 years.
Oregon has been matched up with Big 12 opponents more than any other conference in the past 25 years. They have a winning record against the league in seven matchups, highlighted by wins over Colorado and Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl and victories over Texas and Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl.
The Ducks have faced Big 10 opponents in bowl games on five occasions in the past two decades. They split a pair of Sun Bowls with Minnesota, lost Rose Bowls to Penn State and Ohio State and beat Wisconsin in the 2012 Rose Bowl.
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When Brian Kelly looks back at the issues that plagued his football team in 2013, he'd be wise to focus some of his attention on the running game. A season after riding Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood to Notre Dame's most efficient season running the football since the Holtz era, the Irish ground game all but disappeared.
Bouncing between George Atkinson, Cam McDaniel, Amir Carlisle and Tarean Folston, the running game showed flashes of brilliance but failed to take hold this season. And while the entire depth chart at running back is set to return unchanged (both Will Mahone and Greg Bryant will be healthy heading into spring practice), the ground game's renaissance will be sparked by a player not even at the position.
Everett Golson's return brings back the perfect triggerman for Brian Kelly's spread offense. After losing its balance with Tommy Rees at the helm, Golson is the perfect welcome present to a new offensive coordinator that'll be named sometime after the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
The offensive numbers from the last two regular seasons give us the first clue as to how Golson will revive the ground game. While points are up slightly this season, the Irish are far more reliant on the big play in the passing game. Notre Dame has managed to more than double its touchdown passes (27 up from 13), but interceptions have done nearly the same (13 up from 7). Moreover, the Irish have lost almost 50 yards a game on the ground, and rushing touchdowns have plummeted (Only 10 after scoring 22 last season).
Let's take a closer look at three key areas where Golson's return will change Notre Dame's running game for the better.
If there's one area where the Irish will improve almost immediately, it's third-down conversions. At first glance, it doesn't appear that Notre Dame took that large of a step backwards, with the Irish converting 42 percent this year, down just four percentage points from last season. But for all the clamoring for the Irish to find a big back who can pick up the key third-down conversions, Golson rejoins the team and immediately becomes their best option.
- Golson (2012): 30 rushing attempts on third down. Converted 15 for 1st down (50 percent).
- Team (2013): 50 rushing attempts on third down. Converted 18 for 1st down (36 percent).
- Golson (2012): On 3rd-and-short (1-3 yards), converted 10 of 14 attempts (71 percent).
- Team (2013): On 3rd-and-short (1-3 yards), converted 17 of 34 attempts (50 percent).
Of course, Golson's rushing statistics included sacks. When you look at Tommy Rees' third-down stats, you get a better idea of just how good Golson was. Rees rushed four times for -29 yards, with three of those attempts being sacks.
One formation that killed the Irish offense early this season was the no-back, empty-set grouping. According to Bill Connelly's Football Study Hall, it's a formation the Irish used better and more efficiently than just about any other program in the country with Golson at the helm.
The team that combined no-back frequency with effectiveness the best might have been Notre Dame. The Irish were known mostly for their defense, but even against the strong defenses listed in the above sample (Michigan State, Stanford and Alabama), they were tremendously effective from the no-back set. Quarterback Everett Golson was just 14-of-32 passing for 178 yards overall versus Michigan State, but from the no-back, he was 9-of-14 for 122 yards. (That means he was 5-of-18 for 56 otherwise.) In the first half versus USC, Golson was 7-of-13 for 115 yards from this look. Hell, even against Alabama, he was more successful in the no-back (5-of-8 for 71) than he was in other formations (16-of-28 for 199).
Compare those numbers with Connelly's analysis of Rees' performance in the no-back formation, with rock bottom coming against Oklahoma.
The Irish went to an empty backfield 60 percent of the time on passing downs with almost no payoff whatsoever. Rees is the polar opposite of "run threat," so all 15 snaps from an empty backfield were passes. Oklahoma sent five pass rushers at Rees 10 of 15 times and had reasonable success: Rees was 4-of-10 for 64 yards and was picked twice, once for a touchdown. A third incompletion was broken up by a defensive back, another was tipped at the line and another was overthrown by a pressured Rees. Unable to scramble effectively to buy time, Rees found his options limited and his accuracy wanting.
And on top of that, the five times where Notre Dame went to a no-back formation and Oklahoma didn't blitz, Rees went 0-of-5, throwing passes well downfield (average length: 15 yards) with tiny to nonexistent windows for success.
You can't expect the Irish to stop running empty sets as long as Brian Kelly is coaching the Irish. But you can expect to see some diversity with Golson back in charge. Not to mention some competency.
Running at Tempo
After four seasons of talking about it, Golson's return finally allows Brian Kelly to move the offense at tempo. With Golson providing a more than capable zone-read quarterback, the playbook's natural run checks can be utilized, letting the Irish attack opponents quickly.
That will open up running lanes that didn't exist this season. That means more opportunities for George Atkinson to show his elite speed and Tarean Folston to run against a defense that'll need to read first and then react.
The Irish offense did move up tempo this season a few times, but Kelly let us in on the difficulties that come with the "Call it and Haul it" system that's just not able to mask some of Tommy Rees' deficiencies.
"We had been trying to settle on a few plays that we really felt like Tommy could handle well without putting us in a position where we had to check anything," Kelly said after the USC game.
"I didn’t want to check anything with him, and I didn’t want to be in a position where he had to pull it. And that’s not easy. So we settled on some plays, a cluster of plays that we felt were going to be good for us. I thought the tempo worked well, and I thought he played well."
Golson still needs to show a complete grasp of the system after spending the past season in academic exile. But if he's able to get this offense playing closer to the warp speed that exists at Oregon or Auburn, it'll be a huge breakthrough for the running game.
*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. Follow @KeithArnold on Twitter.
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When No. 1 Florida State takes on No. 2 Auburn on Jan. 6 in Pasadena, it will be a battle of two prolific offenses, each anchored by a Heisman Trophy finalist. The defenses of the two schools are noteworthy as well, but in this piece, it'll be a comparison of the offensive attacks between the two schools; how they match up, how they're different and who holds the edge in each.
Who is the biggest threat to score points?
Florida State enters this game as the No. 2 scoring team in the country, averaging 53 points per game, right behind Baylor, who scores 53.3 a game. They've earned 90 touchdowns, the most in the country, and have failed to score over 40 points only one time this season, when they were held to 37 by their rival Florida Gators.
"When you turn on the film on both sides of the ball, the thing that jumped out to me is speed, super fast," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said to al.com. "They've done a great job recruiting. They've got a whole lot of good players. It's not a coincidence they're the No. 1 team in the country and undefeated. Nobody has even come close to them."
Auburn comes in as the 12th-ranked scoring offense, averaging 40.2 points per matchup. They've gone over 40 three times this season, scoring 62 against Western Carolina, 55 against Tennessee and 59 against Missouri in the SEC Championship.
Though FSU may have a weaker schedule, nobody in the country has put up more points than the Seminoles as easily as they have. They're 28 points from setting the NCAA record for points scored in the season, and that can't be overlooked.
Edge: Florida State
Who has the deadlier rushing attack?
Florida State has benefited from three talented running backs this season, getting huge contributions from juniors Devonta Freeman, James Wilder Jr. and Karlos Williams who have combined for 32 touchdowns this season. Freeman is 57 yards away from becoming the 'Noles' first 1000-yard rusher since Warrick Dunn in 1996.
Auburn, on the other hand, has the nation's top-ranked rushing attack spearheaded by Heisman Trophy finalist Tre Mason, who with 2,137 yards has already broken Bo Jackson's all-purpose yard record of 1,859. The Tigers average 335.7 yards per game on the ground, and have accumulated 46 touchdowns.
"Gus does a tremendous job," FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said in a teleconference, "because like I say they can handle on the speed sweep, they outflank you, they have great receivers and motion guys that way, they can run the ball inside with great power and the quarterback can run it and play action off of it, which is like a four‑headed monster ‑‑ you talk about a three‑headed monster, they have a four‑headed monster and they have an excellent offensive line."
Who has the better pass game?
Led by Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, Florida State has the 14th-most passing yards per game in the country with 322 along with the 4th-most by completion, averaging 15.62. They've scored 40 through the air, with 38 of those coming from Winston. In terms of passing efficiency, they're the top-ranked team in the country, with a score of 178.29.
Auburn's passing attack is led by Nick Marshall, who is noteworthy for converting to running back from corner. With 169.9 yards per game, they sit at 107 in terms of passing yard rankings, though they're No. 18 in terms of yards per completion with 13.87. As for passing efficiency, they're No. 25, with a score of 151.02.
Edge: Florida State
According to vegasinsider, the over/under for FSU-Auburn currently sits at 65.5, so Vegas anticipates a high scoring matchup, and with two offenses that are deadly in their own way, it's not hard to see why.
In the end, it's easy to see that the stats tip in favor of Florida State, who has both threats in the rushing and passing aspects of the game, rather than Auburn who mainly relies on the run game.
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Part 3 of a series: Over the next few weeks, I will be reviewing each of the 16 seasons since the Bowl Championship Series came into existence in 1998. Here is a look back at who got lucky, who got robbed, what could've been, what should've been and other controversies of the day. The series will appear throughout December and January.
After two years of relative calm, controversy exploded on the BCS in Year 3. For the first time, a team's presence in the BCS title game was called into question, and the criticism went unabated even after an undefeated champion was crowned.
But if anything, this was a self-inflicted wound.
Bowing more to an ignorant media than any real pressure from public opinion, the BCS drastically changed its formula to retroactively make amends for an outcome it was powerless to change. Instead of defending its method and holding its ground, the BCS capitulated. This knee-jerk reaction would bring far more serious consequences in the years to come and compromise its claim to legitimacy in the system's formative years.
Oklahoma finished the 2000 regular season as the nation's only undefeated Division I-A team and its No. 1 ranking was undisputed. But Florida State, despite ranking No. 3 in both the AP and coaches polls, leapfrogged No. 2 Miami in the final BCS standings to earn a date with the Sooners in the Orange Bowl.
The media went berserk, more so than even Miami coach Butch Davis. The credibility of BCS computers was called into question because it was the computers' preference for the Seminoles that carried the day. The main argument was this: Since both Miami and Florida State each had one loss, and the Hurricanes beat the Seminoles on the field, how could Florida State be ranked ahead of Miami?
The powers-that-be of the BCS panicked, big time. Changes were promised and then carried out in the offseason. The computer lineup was reshuffled to de-emphasize margin of victory. And a dubious "quality win" criteria was added to the formula—as if the existing arrangement wasn't convoluted enough.
But the BCS really should've responded with: "What's the problem?" and vigorously defended the system.
Florida State was a worthy No. 2 team. If you lined up FSU and Miami side by side, plenty could've been said in the Seminoles' favor.
1. Strength of Schedule: Florida State and Miami ranked second and third, respectively, in the strength-of-schedule component in the BCS standings. But upon further examination, that was laughable. (The SoS, parroted from the RPI that the NCAA uses for its basketball selections, would prove to be the most destructive part of the formula—but more on that later in this series.)
Florida State played in a tougher conference (ACC) than Miami (Big East). Its non-conference games consisted of Louisville, Brigham Young, Florida and Miami. The 'Canes played I-AA McNeese State, Louisiana Tech, Washington and FSU, plus Big East cupcakes such as Rutgers and Temple.
2. Losses: Florida State's lone loss was to Miami, 27-24, at the Orange Bowl on Oct. 7. The Seminoles rallied from a 17-0 halftime deficit to take a 24-20 lead late in the game, only to lose on a Ken Dorsey-to-Jeremy Shockey pass with 46 seconds left. The 'Canes' only defeat was a 34-29 loss at Washington on Sept. 9.
3. The Washington Factor: If head-to-head results were so paramount, then maybe Washington should've been ranked ahead of Miami. After all, the Huskies beat Miami and also only lost once—a 23-16 defeat at two-loss Oregon.
4. Margin of Victory: If Washington was discounted because it won lots of close games—eight of its 11 games were decided by seven or fewer points—then the fact that Florida State won its games against a considerably tougher schedule by a wider margin than Miami (38.9 vs. 30.4) should not have been overlooked—and the computers didn't.
5. Historic Precedent: Even before the birth of the BCS, there had been several instances where a team was ranked ahead of another team despite losing head-to-head matchups and possessing the same record. In 1993, Florida State finished ahead of Notre Dame in both polls even though the Irish beat the Seminoles, 31-24, at South Bend. In 1978, USC finished second to Alabama (11-1) in the AP poll even though the Trojans (12-1) beat the Tide, 24-14, in Birmingham, Ala.
The body of evidence is pretty strong in the Seminoles' favor. Their presence in the BCS championship game was easily defensible. The fact that they laid an egg in an ugly 13-2 loss to Oklahoma was immaterial. Miami's win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl—a Gators team that the 'Noles had walloped—was also irrelevant.
One more thing: Even if today's BCS formula, which gives two-thirds of its weight to the human polls, were applied to the 2000 season, you'd still end up with the same result—Florida State would've finished second ahead of Miami (.9493 vs. .9459).
Final BCS Standings: 1. Oklahoma, 2. Florida State, 3. Miami (Fla.), 4. Washington.
Using post-2003 BCS formula: 1. Oklahoma, 2. Florida State.
Likely four-team playoff: Oklahoma vs. Washington; Florida State vs. Miami (Fla.).
A four-team playoff really would've been useful this year, as four teams—all conference champions—clearly stood above the rest.
Notre Dame windfall
The Fiesta Bowl passed on four teams ahead of Notre Dame in the final BCS standings to take the two-loss No. 11 Irish. Virginia Tech, ranked No. 5 with its only loss to Miami, fell just outside of the "Kansas State-mandate" and was ignored. Three other two-loss teams were also swept aside—No. 10 Oregon (because two other Pac-10 teams were already taken), No. 9 Kansas State (they're pretty used to this by now) and No. 8 Nebraska.
The Huskers especially had a beef because they had defeated Notre Dame in South Bend, 27-24, earlier in the season. This occurred at a time when the Irish received a windfall of $13 million per BCS bowl appearance—as opposed to the more balanced payouts in the latter days of the BCS. Notre Dame was promptly exposed as a fraud, as it was annihilated by Dennis Erickson's Oregon State Beavers, 41-9.
BCS formula review: No change to the formula was made between the 1999 and 2000 seasons, but that changed in 2001, as the formula was tweaked or overhauled in four of the next five years.
Final analysis: The changes to the BCS formula prior to the 2001 season would prove to be simply reactionary and solved nothing. While an argument may be made on Miami's behalf, the results of the bowl games really made a case for Washington.
The Huskies went 7-1 in what was easily the toughest conference in 2000 and they beat Purdue in the Rose Bowl. Bowl wins by Oregon State and Oregon gave the Pac-10 three teams in the top seven in the final AP poll. The BCS was rocked by its first real crisis, and another one would erupt the following season.
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Win the last game.
It's a common goal for most college football teams, particularly those that get to play in a bowl to end their seasons. Whether it's for a national title or just to get a fancy trophy and some bragging rights, being able to win the final game of a season always provides a certain level of satisfaction.
Not to mention, a final win is a great accomplishment to springboard off of for the next season.
Winning the AdvoCare V100 Bowl might not seem like the biggest thing in the world, but it's the top priority for Arizona right now. And in order for the Wildcats to beat Boston College on Dec. 31 in Shreveport, La., certain things need to happen.
In his two weeks as the head coach of USC Football, Steve Sarkisian has already been hard at work loading up on new talent. Just last week, USC locked down the commitments of Jonathan Lockett, a 4-star (according to Rivals.com) cornerback out of Mater Dei High School and 4-star defensive tackle Claudeson Pelon from Mesa Community College in Arizona.
Both of these guys were huge gets for USC, especially Lockett, who will join a secondary in desperate need of more talent.
Pelon—who goes by Claude—looks forward to joining the ranks of Troy, where he stands a chance of excelling immediately.
"It’s a great place. It’s a place where I can graduate and the coaching staff is great," Pelon said of USC. "I was going to commit to U-Dub anyway, so it was an easy pick for me to choose USC [after the coaching change]. There's a great environment there, so it was the best fit for me."
And speaking of the coaching staff, Pelon isn't the only one high on Sarkisian and his crew.
USC commit Viane Talamaivao—whom the Trojans flipped from Alabama earlier this fall—has spoken favorably of USC's hire as well:
The 6'4", 275-pound defensive lineman is originally from Orange County, Fla. but has spent the past couple years out West in Arizona. Despite being so far from home, Pelon says staying on the West Coast is the best choice for him.
"I was ready to see some new places and do new things. I just ended up deciding to do something and leave. It's not that I didn’t want to stay [in Florida], but why not Cali?" he said.
The Trojan coaching staff has been known over the years to lure top talent out of the South, with current players like defensive lineman Leonard Williams, wide receiver Nelson Agholor and defensive back Josh Shaw electing to suit up in cardinal and gold.
That fact had an influence on Pelon's decision, as did his preexisting friendships with current players.
"Knowing Leonard and having a relationship with him made it even easier, honestly," Pelon said of USC's All-American defensive end. "Getting his perspective really helped me make the choice."
He can also look to the talented hybrid outside linebacker Morgan Breslin, who also came from the junior college system and has flourished while at USC. He's been injured for most of 2013, but in 2012 he had 62 tackles (19.5 for loss) and a team-high 13 sacks.
Pelon is expected to arrive at USC on Jan. 13. He will be one of the Trojans' four early enrollees. Aside from the athletic prowess he brings, his status as an early enrollee is important because if USC doesn't fill those slots, it loses out on those scholarships going forward.
Like Sarkisian, Pelon will begin his career with Troy in the spring and will have the opportunity to make himself a major player from the outset. Pelon greatly admires the existing defensive line and is poised to contribute to its explosive pass rush.
"Leonard Williams, George Uko and those guys are pretty good," Pelon said. "So why not join an NFL-caliber defensive line with NFL-caliber talent? For opposing lines, they're gonna have to pick their poison of who[m] they want to guard."
That's a pretty accurate assessment from Pelon, who brings to the table a big frame with room for growth and first-step quickness that allows him to get leverage and disrupt when need be. Besides, USC's defensive line is pretty thin as far as depth is concerned, so bringing in Pelon was definitely of crucial importance.
Between now and Jan. 13, Pelon will be going back and forth between Arizona and Southern California, moving his things and getting a feel for his new teammates and new school. He also said that he followed USC a bit this season and admires the way the Trojans handled all the adversity they faced.
The drive and determination USC showed in the latter half of the season makes Pelon feel he will be going to a place where he can contribute to success.
"I have a chance to [do well] and I felt like the opportunity I have been presented with has just been great, honestly," he said. "I’m just happy to be going to Cali. It’s a place where I’ve never been; I’m excited about everything."
All quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise stated.
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LSU snagged a commitment from four-star linebacker Clifton Garrett, of Joliet, Ill., earlier today. The Tigers desperately need a player like him, but it's not necessarily because he has sublime ability.
The LSU linebackers were not good this year.
To be fair, the entire Tigers defense was substandard. The linebackers were certainly not aided by the defensive line or secondary. However, that does not excuse their poor play.
The Tigers' primary linebackers were Kwon Alexander, D.J. Welter and Lamin Barrow. Backups Lamar Louis, Tahj Jones and Deion Jones also played.
The results were mixed. The unit, like the rest of the defense, played exponentially better at home than on the road. But overall, the play was mostly uninspiring.
Welter was expected by many to struggle at middle linebacker. He lived up to those expectations, lacking the athleticism to make plays in space.
Barrow was expected to take his game to another level after having a phenomenal junior season alongside Kevin Minter. Barrow looked sluggish, but his play improved as the season went along.
Alexander is the most talented of the three but did not make the impact like he should have.
Barrow is a senior this season, which opens up snaps for the taking in 2014. This likely helped LSU lure in Garrett.
Garrett could not come at a better time for LSU. The Tigers need defensive playmakers badly. He should add the kind of explosiveness that defensive coordinator and linebacker coach John Chavis salivates over.
Garrett's high school reel shows his ability to diagnose runs quickly. He does not shy away from contact when attacking running plays downhill. He has rare sideline-to-sideline speed, something only Alexander and Jones truly have.
The most difficult adjustment linebackers have to make to the college game is defending the pass. The growth of 7-on-7 tournaments has helped, but spread offenses, in particular, take time for linebackers to defend effectively.
There is not much tape of Garrett defending the pass, so expect there to be a learning curve for him. Spread offenses are tough to grasp for young defenders. He also loves to attack plays aggressively downhill, which is a good thing. But that will change some when he plays dangerous zone read teams like Auburn.
It will take Garrett some time to adjust to the gap in speed of play as he transitions from high school to the SEC. He played his prep football in Illinois, which is not necessarily known as a talent-rich state. But he still should be able to compete for snaps once SEC play gets started.
Next season, Alexander will certainly play a high volume of snaps. But the rest will be up for grabs. Garrett has a chance to do something Alexander did as a freshman—earn a start.
Chavis landed a special prospect in Garrett. Not only does LSU have an elite athlete, all signs and reports point to him being a high-character guy. If that is true, that should certainly help his maturation process.
LSU fans need to remember National Signing Day is still far away. There is still plenty of time for a recruit to change his mind before putting pen to paper. Nevertheless, the Tigers are starting to make major strides in recruiting.
The media always throws the word "good get" or "huge get" when a recruit commits to any school. It gets thrown around too often. Not every prospect is of such significant magnitude. But LSU nabbing Garrett is monumental for a program that needs to replenish elite talent.
Garrett's commitment, LSU's most highly touted 2014 commitment thus far, is step one of a critical cycle. Les Miles desperately needs fresh, top-end talent in order to get back to the SEC Championship Game.
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Since losing to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game, Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes have done nothing but win off the field.
In a 27-hour span, Ohio State landed commitments from two of its top remaining targets in 5-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan and 4-star wide receiver Johnnie Dixon. Those two pledges could spark a huge recruiting finish for the Buckeyes.
Of course, that wouldn't be new for Ohio State with Meyer at the helm.
When Meyer was hired in November of 2011, his recruiting surge lifted a spiraling program coming off its first losing season since 1988. The Buckeyes secured commitments from 10 prospects between December of 2011 and signing day two months later, two of which were rated 5-star recruits with the other eight ranked as 4-stars.
A year later, after guiding the Buckeyes to a perfect 12-0 season, Meyer earned commitments from eight highly ranked recruits (seven 4-stars and one 5-star) in the two months leading up to signing day.
Needless to say, this is the time of year when Meyer thrives.
McMillan and Dixon's commitments pushed Ohio State's 2014 recruiting class to 19 members, which includes three 5-star and 13 4-star prospects. Dixon's pledge solidified the Buckeyes at No. 2 in 247 Sports' class rankings, but a number of top recruits are still high on Ohio State.
With departing seniors and early departures for the NFL, the Buckeyes have room for four or five more prospects in this year's class.
Meyer is making a late surge for two 5-star defensive backs in Tony Brown and John "JuJu" Smith. Brown, a 6'0", 188-pound cornerback out of Beaumont, Texas, is considered a heavy LSU lean, but Meyer has been recruiting him hard. Smith is a standout safety from Long Beach, Calif., but many expect him to sign with the home-state USC Trojans.
Solomon Thomas, a 5-star defensive end out of Coppell, Texas, is another prospect Meyer is trying to land. Thomas has offers from schools such as Alabama, Clemson, LSU, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Oregon, but Stanford has a lot of momentum. He will visit Ohio State on January 31, so Meyer will have a chance to make a great impression right before signing day.
Two prospects very high on Ohio State's radar—Marshon Lattimore and Erick Smith—hail from Cleveland Glenville High School, which is the Buckeyes' biggest in-state pipeline. Ohio State has been favored to land both 4-star defensive backs for much of the recruiting process.
Meyer is also looking to add to his already-impressive offensive line haul. The Buckeyes have secured commitments from 4-star tackles Jamarco Jones and Kyle Trout and 4-star guards Demetrius Knox and Marcelys Jones, but Meyer is still working to land Frank Ragnow and/or Alex Bookser.
With that list of targets, it's clear that Meyer and the Buckeyes are aiming high to close out their 2014 recruiting class. Judging from recent history, though, that shouldn't surprise anyone.
All recruit rankings via 247sports.com.
David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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Bowl games are fun to watch for many reasons. For one, fans get to see their team play one last game in the season before they're stuck waiting the many months until fall football kicks off again.
It's also a chance to see some of your favorite stud players lace up their cleats for their final college game before graduating or pursuing NFL dreams.
However, possibly the most interesting and exciting thing to watch bowl games for is the opportunity for young guys to make a big impression and generate positive momentum as they move towards spring practice.
Which Oklahoma State young guns should you pay attention to when the Cowboys play the Missouri Tigers in the Cotton Bowl? Read on to find out.